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ANYONE WILLING TO BE A SHARKBAIT TESTER?
The Wanderer/Publisher of Latitude, through Latitude, has had a powerful influence on me. The magazine helped me maintain the gumption I needed to prepare my 27-ft boat for a singlehanded trip to Hawaii and back - and then actually do it. That was 10 years ago in July. I'll forever be indebted for that assistance. I've long since sold the boat, but Latitude is still right up there with the L.A. Times as far as my favorite reading material is concerned.
On another subject, my friend and I have a surfboard wax company called Sharkbaitsurfwax, and we need a little help developing a tropical water temperature - above 80° - surfboard wax. I know that some of your readers are surfers as well as sailors, and I suspect that some of those sailor/surfers may soon be headed to warmer climes. Sharkbaitsurfwax is seeking a few surfers who would be willing to test out our tropical temp surfboard wax and give us some feedback. In exchange, they'll receive free surfboard wax and an official testpilot sharkbaitsurfwax T-shirt. For more information, email us.
Thanks for a great magazine and I wish you a long, long, happy life, where the best is always yet to come.
Dan - Thanks for the extremely kind words, but you're the one who deserves the credit for your achievement. With respect to that long and happy life, we hope we spend some of it riding waves. We carry three long-boards on Profligate, but haven't gotten to use them as much as we'd hoped.
As for surfboard wax testers, I'm sure you'll get plenty of response. If you want some reviews from the Caribbean, we can put you in touch with the very active surfing crew on St. Barth - if you don't mind a review in French.
One suggestion: The cheddar-like color
and the wedge shape of one of the wax samples you sent to us
looks so much like a wedge of cheddar that late one night our
son put a slice on a water biscuit and took a bite. Our son isn't
sure how the wax will work on boards in the tropics, but says
it's delicious! Do you have any idea how many calories are in
In response to a letter in the April issue, you put out a request for 'weird, Bermuda Triangle-type' experiences that readers might have had while sailing in sleep-deprived and other altered states. What follows is my personal experience with auditory hallucinations while singlehanding.
In May and June of 2000, I sailed my 1965 Columbia Defender 29 Soñador singlehanded from San Carlos, Mexico, to Hilo, Hawaii - with a stop in Cabo to clear out of the country and wait out Hurricane Aletta. I logged 3,265 nautical miles on that 30-day voyage.
Prior to my crossing to Hawaii I had a lot of singlehanded and crew miles, some of them bluewater, but it was my most ambitious trip, so the issue of sleep was one of my main concerns during the run-up to the voyage. I read all the usual books, entertained several scenarios, and spoke with other singlehanders on this subject. The common answer was "don't worry about sleep, it will work itself out." This proved to be the case, and it's the answer I give others who are curious or concerned about how to handle this important issue.
I had also read about the subject from the usual suspects - Slocum, Henderson, and other singlehanders - and had an open mind about anything I might experience.
My trip from San Carlos to Cabo was long - six days and 422 miles in order to cover a rhumbline distance of just 325 miles. The additional miles came from having to tack and drifting backwards while becalmed. Several nights in the middle of the Sea of Cortez it was so calm that I dropped all sail, switched on the anchor light, and slept for eight hours straight. I may have gotten up once or twice to answer the call of nature and look around, but I never saw another boat or sign of life, and slept until daylight.
While there was some minor exhaustion after a particularly long and rough night running with a Norther, nothing out of the ordinary happened on this leg - other than there being the sailor's normal lot of having either too little or too much wind.
The leg from Cabo to Hilo took 24 days, and once out of sight of land, I never saw a ship, boat, fish, or any living thing - except a juvenile boobie which showed up in evident distress in mid-ocean, spent about 24 hours perched on the cabin top, then took off again.
I didn't talk to any other vessels, but I did have an SSB and participated in several cruisers' nets. I received weather advice from Don on Summer Passage, and made near-daily health and welfare calls to Dave Smith, a close friend who lives aboard the C-45 Total Eclipse in Mission Bay, San Diego. He was my shoreside contact, and kept my wife and friends apprised of my position and situation. As such, I wasn't totally devoid of human contact. To this day, I only half-kiddingly credit those calls to Dave as preserving my sanity - which I may not have had a firm grasp of to begin with, according to some, for undertaking such a challenging trip in the first place.
I bring all this up because I'm not convinced that exhaustion and/or sleep deprivation are the sole agents of hallucinations. I think that a sort of sensory deprivation plays a part as well, because of the small and finite world you inhabit aboard a small boat - but also sensory overload or disorientation from the constant and sometimes violent motion that's involved. I think the minimal human contact provided by the radio may have helped give my mind focus or an anchor point to normalcy.
At any rate, I kept myself busy and slept - day or night - when I felt the need. Sometimes - such as during nighttime squalls or near the shipping lanes - I would get sleep in brief 15-minute spells, then pop my head out the hatch for a peek around. Other times I would crash hard and sleep for hours, waking naturally to a change in the wind or the boat's motion, or to sunrise after many hours of sleep.
I tried to maintain my log and position every two hours, and started out with a small kitchen timer and alarm set to that length of time. I soon found the alarm was unnecessary, as I woke naturally after an appropriate period for the situation at hand - whether it be minutes or hours. Often I would wake naturally within a minute or two of the scheduled position-taking or 'peek around' time - a remarkable testament to the internal clocks of humans. I did not, for the most part, feel sleep deprived - except under more extreme conditions when multiple sail changes had left me exhausted.
According to a private journal I kept in addition to the log, the first indication of anything weird or curious occurred only a week out of Cabo. I slept in the V-berth, head forward, as it was the easiest position to fall into, was the safest 'nest' in rough going, and it also allowed me to see out the companionway to keep an eye on the windvane or watch for sneaker squalls from aft. The sound of rushing water on the hull was fairly loud, but it lulled me to sleep - not that it was needed! - or woke me when there was a change in boat speed or weather conditions.
My journal notes that while I was laying there, the sound became less like rushing water - and very much like the background noise at a cocktail party. A murmuring of many voices. At the time, I ascribed this to exhaustion or that weird half-asleep/half-awake condition. I soon noted this sound seemed to intensify over several days, and in fact, while laying there well-rested and wide awake in broad daylight, it became even more like listening to a room full of people. I could hear distinct words and phrases, even snatches of sentences between people, yet couldn't quite lock on to a particular conversation and follow it for very long. One conversation would drift away and another would rise in volume. This would continue as long as I lay there.
I noted in the journal that this was obviously some sort of auditory hallucination, and kiddingly called it "disturbing voices from Davy Jones' locker, possibly drowned seamen?" I also noted that other sailors had actually had 'company' aboard - Slocum among them. I also wondered who knew what really went on out there in the middle of nowhere?
From that point on, there were usually several remarkable - in the nautical sense of the word - incidents a day, not apparently tied to any state of alertness or exhaustion. In fact, most occurred while I was well-rested and going about my daily routine in broad daylight. These included exceptionally distinct noises that were totally out of place - yet so real that I was forced to investigate.
For example, I could be out in the cockpit, and I would hear a phone ring down in the cabin. There was nothing aboard my boat with the capability to ring, but the sound was so clear I actually went below to look for it. Finding nothing, the sound ceased as I paid active attention to it. At other times I would be sitting below reading and hear my name being called outside. This startled me so much the first few times it happened that I would rush on deck expecting to see a boat pulled up beside me - hardly likely a thousand miles from shore, but the sound had been too real to be dismissed. Sometimes it was more than my name, as in, "Mike, better come up here," which - thinking of Slocum and his 'helmsman' - was disturbing and a bit scary. None of these calls signalled any danger or trouble, but I certainly was reluctant to ignore them, even realizing they were almost certainly hallucinations.
Other noises that occurred frequently - and again, I stress that nearly all of these incidents were in daylight, not while I was sleeping or resting - included the sounds of children playing, dogs barking, engines running, horns blowing, and various forms of ringing or buzzing, and clacking like a typewriter. I want to restate these noises were clear, distinct, and loud enough to startle me while reading or attending to sail trim or other work. (For the record, I had no 'mood-altering substances' of any type aboard, not even a beer, and was completely sober in that respect the entire time.)
By this time I was quite amused by these occurrences, and since I was clearheaded and well-rested for the most part, I was able to observe myself and the noises objectively. I found it a very enlightening peek into our minds and how we perceive - or think we do - reality. It was fascinating, and I found myself observing myself almost like a bystander at times.
As a final comment, a slightly humorous incident marked the end of my trip. I had by that time learned to ignore most of the noises, so I no more rushed below to 'answer the phone' - although to the very end when somebody called my name or a dog barked, I at least looked out a port - you never know! Anyway, within a day or two of Hilo, I heard the distinct sound of machinery in the distance. I'd heard it before and learned it was just another manifestation, so I dismissed it and continued reading below at the settee with my back to the open companionway. The sound continued to grow in intensity, and when it became nearly deafening, I was forced to get up and look - and saw a large Navy helicopter approaching very low and fast! The chopper was only a couple of hundred feet off the water and coming up from behind, an unexpected direction since there was nothing but thousands of miles of ocean behind me. The chopper passed over low enough for a wave from the crew, and continued on towards the Big Island.
Since my hallucinations up to that point had been confined to the auditory, I was reasonably certain that the helicopter had been real. But I couldn't be sure. I later heard on the VHF that the Navy was conducting exercises in a large restricted offshore area that I had recently passed through. But I never saw any ships or heard any radio traffic at the time.
To this day, I recall how fascinating and 'real' I found the ongoing auditory hallucinations over those three weeks - it was enough to make me question how firm our grasp is on 'reality'. Or, in fact, what reality is to begin with, and if our interpretation of 'reality' is based on our perceptions. I think there's more 'out there' than can be easily explained - perhaps we only are privileged to experience a narrow band.
That said, if I'd come on deck in response to one of those incidents when my name was called and seen the pilot of the Pinta at the helm - as did ol' Joshua - I'm not sure what my reaction would have been. Although most would dismiss Slocum's incident as part of his delirium, who knows? As Don Juan said to Carlos Castañeda, "there is the known, the unknown, and the unknowable."
After arriving in Hawaii, I sold my Defender 29 and flew home - without apology. I also founded the Columbia Yacht Owners Association (CYOA) in 1997, and published C-Nuz, the association newsletter, for a number of years.
Mike - Having interviewed numerous singlehanders, we can tell you that visual hallucinations are as common as auditory hallucinations. Singlehanders halfway to Hawaii commonly see breakwaters, locomotives and wheat fields - things that can't possibly - can they? - be there. With this month's unusually large Singlehanded TransPac fleet, we think you'll agree that there's going to be a whole lot of hallucinating going on in the Pacific.
Having spent a lot of our university
time in philosophy classes pondering reality, it's not something
we recommend thinking too much about. For one thing, once you
know your mind has played tricks on you, how can you ever trust
it? And how can any of us know that what we're perceiving right
now isn't some realistic-seeming dream that we'll wake up from
in 10 minutes or 10,000 years? Trust us, you enjoy life more
if you assume that what seems like reality really is reality
- even if you're occasionally wrong.
Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's Mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery to Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after her stop in New York. It would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico.
But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York, much less Vera Cruz. She hit an iceberg and sank, and the precious mayonnaise cargo was forever lost. The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great that they declared a national day of mourning, which they observe to this day. That day of mourning occurs each year on the 5th of May and is, of course, widely known as El Sinko de Mayo.
Stuart Lee Kiehl
Readers - Mr. Kiehl is a Professor of
New World History, Emeritus, at Santa Rosa JC.
In the May issue of Max Ebb, Lee Helm, America's ageless student, offers the usual baseless condemnation of the mizzen mast. Among a number of recognized authorities not sharing her view is the author of Heavy Weather Sailing, Adlard Coles, who states in his book that the only reason he did not have a yawl during his racing era was the rating penalty they incurred. However, he did own a couple of yawls. It was his practice, when sailing shorthanded in snotty weather, to drop the main and sail under 'jib and jigger'.
My own venerable Offshore 40 Tsaritsa did 8.2 knots under a working jib and mizzen the day I took delivery of her. More recently, while on a trip from San Diego to Guadalupe Island, Tsaritsa managed to maintain a consistent 7 to 7.5 knots under a 110% genoa and her mizzen. Admittedly, in both cases there was a lively breeze, but certainly not in excess of 25 knots.
Besides providing a place for hanging an awning or holding the vessel head to wind at anchor, as noted by Lee, the mizzen permits the making or taking in of sail without the use of an engine - unlike the practice common to bobtailed vessels. It is amusing to be aboard one of these bobtailed versions when its lonely main is to be set or dropped. First the engine must be started, then there are shouts of, "Hold her into the wind for Crissake!" This graceless behavior is almost unheard of aboard a properly handled yawl.
Besides the obvious advantages of the yawl rig is the appearance of such vessels. Again referring to Adlard Coles, he states the yawl gives the look of "a little ship" - an aspect of ownership affording much satisfaction.
I have no doubt that a deluge of protests regarding Lee's feeble arguments will soon appear on your screens.
Pete - Alas, your letter amounts to the totality of the "deluge."
When it comes to aesthetics, we think a pretty yawl is second only to a sweet-looking schooner - and the Offshore 40 yawl in particular is a very lovely yacht. When the wind gets up, sailing under 'jib and jigger' is indeed a nice option, as you're allowed to do away with the cumbersome main altogether. In fact, last winter we saw none other than the venerable Don Street sailing Lil' Iolaire into the Gustavia, St. Barth, inner harbor, under 'jib and jigger' in a strong breeze. They looked good and were in complete control.
On the other hand, you have to ask yourself why hardly anybody designs boats with mizzens anymore. Having owned a ketch, we think we know. They require another mast and boom, another two sails and a sailcover, and more winches and rigging. It's not cheap and clutters up the boat, and it's not the most efficient sail plan. When sailing, it requires that you set and strike another sail. Finally, if you're using the mizzen staysail, the coolest sail of all on a yawl, it's a Chinese fire drill when you have to jibe because you have to douse the whole thing in order to be able to set the tack on the other side of the backstay.
Most sailors love the look of a yawl
- particularly when somebody else owns her. For their own boat,
they prefer the simplicity and efficiency of a sloop.
There is something very, very wrong when the Coast Guard can and will fine you heavily for even a minor spill of oil, when they have the legal authority to sink a 60-ft boat with perhaps thousands of gallons of fuel and oil aboard. The environmental effects are obvious, and I would have to say this is another glaring example of our government's hypocrisy with regard to environmental policy. Why couldn't they have motored that boat they seized with drugs to shore and given it to someone rather than sinking it? Towing isn't the only way.
Doug - It's not exactly hypocrisy, because as a society we often authorize the government to do things that individuals aren't allowed to do - such as incarcerate people, assess taxes, establish an army, and so forth.
It's our understanding that the Coast Guard offers to let the country that flagged the seized vessel motor her back to shore, and when not too far offshore, will sometimes do it themselves. But it's on a case-by-case basis.
You also have to remember that large Coast Guard vessels are major resources on specific missions. The Coast Guard has to evaluate the 'cost' of taking that resource offline in order to save a boat and eliminate a small diesel spill. Introducing diesel to the ocean is never a good idea, of course, but 1,000 gallons sunk to the bottom of the ocean 110 miles offshore is not going to cause an environmental catastrophe. And it's not as though it's done often.
The Coast Guard isn't being vindictive
with drug smugglers, as they'll do the same with innocent pleasure
yachts that, for one reason or another, have to be abandoned
in the middle of the ocean and become hazards to navigation.
The feature on the L-36 design brought back sweet memories - and tears.
George Griffith sold his Cassandra to Bart Henderson, who sold her to me in 1971. With dozens of UCSB students as crew, I sailed her for 17 years out of Santa Barbara. I made over 50 trips to San Miguel Island, probably 75 to Santa Cruz Island, three trips to San Francisco, and many others to the south. I sailed her hard, but she never failed me.
However, in the late '80s she began to leak between the strip-planking. The ribs, all sistered, were clearly weakening. I thought the boat might open up like a venetian blind on a dark night in the Santa Barbara Channel, so I gave her to the University of California. They sold her to a young man who moored her off Hamilton Cove on Catalina. In December 1997, a Santa Ana came through and she broke loose. In 30 minutes she was match sticks.
My next boat was the Cal 40 Antara (now John Boy). She was great, but for me she always lacked the lightness and responsiveness of Cassandra. I never raced my L-36 against a Cal 40, but I'm sure she could have done well. Cassandra was an amazingly comfortable cruising boat. Her quarter berths were luxurious compared to the 'torpedo tubes' on a Cal 40, and her other berths were more spacious, too. She also had a long and dry cockpit. On both Cassandra and Holiday, the foredeck was big enough to hold a nine-foot skiff.
I never should have given Cassandra away. I should have put the boat in the yard in Santa Barbara and had Sugar Lindwall rebuild her. But there is no point in dwelling on past regrets; at least the memories are great!
You asked for input from sailors with experience in Hawaiian waters in February, so I thought I'd put in my two cents' worth.
I grew up in Hawaii and have sailed among the islands since the late '50s. I also ran a ketch out of Hickam Air Force Base in the early '70s doing daysails and interisland charters. In the '80s, I cruised interisland and lived aboard almost every winter/spring.
As I recall, the original question presented to Latitude was whether it would be a good idea to plan a week-long charter cruise in Hawaii during the month of February. 'No' would be my short answer. Based on my experience, the weather is too unsettled there at that time of year to count on getting a good week. Time and time again I see people come out to the islands and go home disappointed because it rained every day or nearly every day and because the weather was so humid.
From November through April, the Trades - most out of the northeast or eastnortheast - are much less predictable and reliable, and we get 'Kona weather'. During the Kona weather the winds tend to be southerly and light - sort of similar to the thermal winds seen in parts of California. It's a light offshore at night, and in the early morning it starts to blow onshore as the land heats up. When the trades do blow, they're less predictable than during the summer. Furthermore, they can blow quite hard over a long period of time.
From November through April, the Islands are also subject to 'Kona storms'. Typically these last one to two days and bring southeast to southwest winds at between 25 and 40 knots. Occasionally it blows harder and they last longer.
Another thing to remember about sailing in Hawaii between November and March are the swells that can come from the north and west. There's a reason Hawaii is famous for its surf in the winter, and that surf can be deadly. Particularly dangerous are 'sneaker' or 'wraparound' waves which can catch even those with local knowledge - myself included - off guard.
During Kona storms the south facing sides of the Islands become lee shores, and many anchorages and harbors are untenable or impossible to get into. But if you go around to the north side of the Islands and there's a big swell, you may have to stay too far offshore to find much of a lee. Lying hove to in a 40-knot southerly with a three-mile fetch in a 15-25 foot north swell is . . . well, you get the idea.
In March, April and early May, the odds of having to deal with a Kona storm and a north swell diminish greatly. However, March and April often bring very strong trades. In May, the south swells start rolling in, creating another potential hazard.
Having said this, I love the Hawaiian Islands and think they make for great, if challenging, cruising the year round. But I do think that visitors would have a better chance of an enjoyable cruise if they allowed more time in the winter for scheduling flexibility or cruised in the summer months. One distinct advantage of cruising Hawaii in the summer is that you can sail to the north side of the islands without fear of north swells. There is some spectacular scenery and a few very nice anchorages - similar to your 'dog holes' on the Northern California coast - to enjoy along the north shores.
I enjoyed your 'Lectronic Latitude photos and text on Panama. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life, 1952-1971, before coming up to California to attend college. We lived on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side, and dad, a graduate of Cal Maritime Academy, was a Canal Pilot.
More recently, my brother Pete was a partner with Rob Moore, Latitude's Racing Editor, in the Olson 25 E Ticket when their Spooge Syndicate was class champion. Pete and his family left Manzanillo on May 2 for the Marquesas aboard their Swan 48 Sirona.
I'm currently landlocked in Sacramento with a non-sailing wife, but one day I hope to get back on the water. By the way, your photos of Gatun Lake were a blast from the past, as that's where I learned to sail at age six on a Sailfish. I later sailed El Toros until dad got a 17-ft daysailer during my teen years.
Bo - We appreciate the kind words. Colon
may not look like it did when you were growing up, but we liked
Panama and her people. In fact, Panama - at least in the dry
season - is the answer when people ask where to go for terrific
cruising with hardly any other boats around.
For anyone who might be thinking of shipping a boat home from Mexico - or anywhere else - with Dockwise Yacht Transport, our experience with them might be helpful.
Last fall we read in Latitude about Mark Purdy of Tango and about a dozen other boatowners who contracted with DYT to have their boats shipped to the U.S. from Australia - only to have DYT fill their ship in New Zealand, and leave those in Australia stranded. Because of this, and after reading their contract, we almost opted for doing the Baja Bash, followed by the equally unenjoyable bashes up the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. But since DYT's timetable fit our schedule almost perfectly, we signed up and crossed our fingers.
After signing with DYT, we had to devote a considerable amount of time dealing with their often-vague and uncoordinated requests for undefined information. We'd never experienced anything like it. The initial requests - for payment, contact phone numbers for loading/unloading, and vessel dimensions - that were transmitted from their home office in the Netherlands in January were appropriate.
We promptly responded by email and Federal Express. But as time went on, additional requests became repetitious, as if our past correspondence had never been received. Often the most confusing requests came from an individual we'd never heard of and apparently at a different office. Generally these requests contained the canned requests we'd already complied with - plus one additional request which appeared to be merely a different translation of a prior request.
For example, we received requests for the "hull plan," a "yacht datasheet" and "full specs on the boat." On one occasion they asked for the latter two items in the same email! Since it had previously been established that the overall length, width, and draft would be sufficient for the "hull plan," I was a bit confused as to what they wanted in the "yacht data sheet" and "full specs on the boat." Yet each of these requests carried a statement inferring that if everything wasn't complete, we'd lose our reservation and forfeit our deposit! Natually, this increased my level of frustration.
At that point I received a request from their West Coast representative for a copy of my vessel document and proof of cargo insurance. While on a quick trip home to Seattle, I faxed copies of those documents to the DYT's Fort Lauderdale office - since the guy in San Diego provided me with nothing but a cell phone number. Simultaneously, I sent the guy in San Diego an email advising that if the fax was not received to contact me ASAP, as I was soon headed back to the boat and would be anchored at San Juanico, a part of the world without phones or faxes. A little over a week later I finally received an email from him saying they still didn't have my "required documents."
After repeated whining and sniveling on my part, the lady from their Breda, Netherlands, office told me that in my case their database system had not been properly updating the other databases. She apologized, saying that she had spoken to their man in San Diego, that he would be handling everything from that point on, and that all was OK.
But eight days later I got an email from a woman I'd never heard of stating: "STILL OUTSTANDING: 85% BALANCE, PROOF OF CARGO INSURANCE, COPY OF YACHT'S REGISTRY, CANADIAN CUSTOMS FORM." Wonderful! Now that I'm anchored north of Loreto in the middle of nowhere, DYT is claiming that I hadn't paid them and, three weeks before shipment, was asking me to find Canadian Customs forms and also prove to them I paid four months before. After a few emails passed between my father and me - him digging through records and making trips to the issuing bank - he pulled things together and proved we had signed for the certified check and on what date it had cleared the bank.
I was still concerned about the request for Customs forms and a few other things, so I asked my father to call their guy on the West Coast and talk to him. I couldn't call because there wasn't a phone in San Juanico. Dad didn't get much out of the DYT guy other than his admitting their self-updating database was not infallible. He said he'd send me a detailed email, but almost three weeks later he still hadn't responded to me!
I sent an email to our insurance agent asking him to re-fax the proof of insurance to DYT's Florida office. At the same time I sent an email to Mr. West Coast, telling him of the re-fax and requesting confirmation of receipt. With all the problems we'd been having with DYT, Dona and I decided to cut our visit into the Sea of Cortez short and return to La Paz in order to have phone and fax capability available to us.
Upon our arrival in La Paz, we met up with many other confused boatowners who planned on shipping their boats with DYT. One of the boatowners said that some woman in DYT's Florida office said all boats in Mexico had to obtain and surrender Mexican Temporary Import Permits. But Mexican Temporary Import Permits are not required if the vessels don't stay in Mexico for more than six month. Yet this woman in Fort Lauderdale was throwing another snag into the already ambiguous, tumultuous, and expensive permitting process that their clients were being required to follow.
We discovered that one of our fellow shippers had a stack of Canadian Customs forms, supplied by Mr. West Coast, for distribution to whomever he might meet. The only thing I can imagine is that Mr. W.C. must have wanted this to be a surprise, because neither he nor any of the other DYT offices made an effort to share this information with any of the other 23 owners who were going to load their boats. How thoughtful!
I filled out the Canadian Customs Forms, faxing them along with our Vessel Documentation to DYT's Vancouver Representative. (DYT actually offered an office number, a fax number, and an address for that office!) Once again, I copied and asked Mr. W.C. to acknowledge receipt by DYT. I realize that faxing this stuff to everyone other than the guy who's supposed to be in charge of my shipment seems a little awkward - and it is - but all we'd ever been given was his cell phone number. No fax number, no address, no nada. I'm not sure if he operates out of his car or if this is only a part time job for him, but he's sure not customer/consumer oriented.
From our standpoint, we'd now dealt with five different people via email and one locally in La Paz - none of whom seemed to communicate with one another. At this point we still hadn't received an email negating DYT's request for shipping charges. It was frustrating to say the least! Pounding our way north from Cabo San Lucas to Cape Flattery wouldn't have been the most fun we'd had in the last year, but we were beginning to believe that pounding our heads against DYT's wall of incompetence may have been worse.
From a purely customer service point of view, it should be a simple matter for DYT to create a methodology whereby the customer understands exactly what the shipping company requires, and communicate this months before any of the information is actually needed - maybe even as the contract is signed and/or payment is made. Regarding the operational side of DYT, we were sure hoping they were more competent than their marketing/sales division - or we were going to be unhappy campers. At this point we felt as though we'd been dragged through a knothole and wouldn't do it again.
May Day, May Day - May 1, 2004, Bowen Island, Canada: Our perspective has changed completely. The loading of our Nordhavn 40 Free Flight and 23 other yachts at La Paz was well-organized and, even with mechanical problems from a few in our fleet, the ship's captain made a few changes and things went very well. Their computer model required some boats to go bow in and others to back in. With the assistance of a shoe horn, we got it done. Most of us had fenders touching other boats on all four sides while divers welded the supports into place prior to refloating the mother ship. In spite of a few customer-created glitches, all this was accomplished in about three hours!
My 'Baja Bash' on Aero-California took less than two hours on an aged DC-9 at 31,000 feet, and the ride was smooth as glass. Dockwise Express #12 stopped in Ensenada, picked up four other boats bound for Vancouver, and arrived in Vancouver 10 days after her departure from La Paz.
Unlike our previous communication problems with DYT, the receiving broker, Pacific Northwest Ship and Cargo Services, kept us fully informed as to our boat's estimated arrival/unloading times, even including maps and driving directions to the pier. We couldn't have been better informed or treated better.
One boat in our 'fleet' had a dead battery upon arrival, but the ship's crew was ready with a charger and two boats stood by to assist if necessary. It was a class act all the way, and the unloading was completed in less than an hour.
Given the opportunity to do it over again, I wouldn't hesitate. But I'd book through someone having more of a vested interest in making our experience pleasant. I could be wrong, but going through an agent who probably receives a commission would probably provide more personal services - or at least allay any fears one might have. Also, I now know what is required, so I'd ignore the repeated requests for more of the same. I would have had what I needed three days prior to sailing, and let them sort things out.
Al & Dona Holmes
Readers - Al and Dona left out some important information - such as how much the delivery cost. Over the phone, Al explained that you pay by how much space your boat takes. The list price for their 39.9 by 14 footer was $9,500, but they got a 10% discount for booking three months in advance. Discounts of up to 20% were available to those who booked and paid three to five months in advance. They also had to pay an additional $750 for cargo insurance.
According to Dona's estimate, the ratio
of sail to powerboats on the delivery ship was about 65-35. A
number of boats were in the 30-ft range, while the largest was
80 feet. The ship was packed to the gills with about 28 boats.
Can you ask reader's if they recall a product named 'The Boater's Friend', possibly from as long ago as the '80s? The product was an external urinary device that women could wear sailing. The little crotch-shaped plastic cup had a funnel connected to a leg bag to collect urine for times when high seas made using the head difficult or impossible. I hope someone can help me locate these folks, because I'd like to joint venture with them for another application of the product. Thanks for your help.
Betty - That product was advertised in Latitude many years ago. We think it was called the Sani-Fem. And as we recall, it was a body-conforming plastic funnel that allowed women to pee like a man - in other words, standing up. However, we don't remember the leg bag for collecting urine. When the product no longer was available, women continued to inquire about it - sort of like when the sponge suddenly disappeared.
Whoa! We just Googled 'Sani-Fem' and
it turns out they are still available - but they don't have any
bag - at outdoor recreation stores. As REI describes it, "The
device permits women to urinate while standing - indispensable
when surrounded by a field of poison ivy or hideous public toilet
seats!" They sell for $23.50 and come with graphic instructions
on how to use them.
Do you have any information about the new no-wake law in the Oakland Estuary? I know there were discussions with the City of Oakland and Alameda regarding a no-wake zone. I also know my powerboat dock neighbor at Grand Marina received a ticket for violating the no-wake law on Opening Day.
However, when I motored out of the Estuary, I couldn't find any no-wake signs or buoys - except for right in front of the marinas where they have always been. It's certainly not clear where the no-wake area actually is. I checked the USCG Web site, but nothing was mentioned.
To a 'rag man', this is all academic, of course, but it would be nice to know if there is a no-wake zone in the Estuary.
Paul - There is no 'new' no-wake law in the Estuary, it's just that people and businesses who have been having their property damaged have been complaining more to Oakland and Alameda officials, so more citations are being issued. Call it increased awareness and enforcement.
To review, it's California state law that no boat - not even an inflatable that doesn't throw out a wake - can go faster than 5 mph - about four knots - within 200 feet of a floating dock. There don't have to be any signs to indicate this; boat operators have to know the law. In addition, no matter where you are, you're always responsible for your wake. If you're 500 feet from a houseboat and send out such a wake that it knocks all the dishes onto the floor, you gotta buy new ones. There is nothing new about any of this.
Speaking of the Estuary, a while back
somebody wrote in to complain that there was a roped-off area
of water at the Encinal Terminals, saying everyone should have
access to it. Like some other properties along the Estuary, this
was originally land that was dug out, and although it's water,
it's still private, not state property. Boaters and kayakers
who go in those areas are technically trespassing.
We finally have a happy ending to the trials with our injector pump which, you may remember, caused us to be late to the start of last year's Ha-Ha. Readers might find it interesting in that it demonstrates how complicated it can be to solve some engine problems.
The Problem: In normal conditions our 88-hp Yanmar diesel would power up to 3,400 rpm under the load of our 20-inch Max Prop on our Tayana 52. But we experienced a problem with the diesel auxiliary not powering over 2,000 rpm under the same load. The max output without load is 4,200 rpm.
The First Occurrence: We had no problem motorsailing into heavy weather coming down from Anacortes, Washington, to San Francisco at 2200 to 2800 rpm - with 3,400 rpm on demand when we crossed breaking bars. On the delivery from San Francisco to Newport Beach, we ran at 2,600 rpm until Point Conception, at which time we slowed to 2,000 rpm for six hours. When we tried to speed up again, the diesel would not go over 2,000 rpm, even under full throttle. And the turbo would not spool up.
The Diagnostic Decision Tree: We quickly ran through our simple skills without results. Through the efforts of a series of professional diesel mechanics, we created the following diagnostic flow for debugging this problem. Some of this was so simple, yet creative, it was worth taking notes.
Suspected Problem - Restricted Fuel.
Step #1 - Visual inspection to see that there was plenty of fuel in both tanks.
Step #2 - Visual inspection to see that the fuel filters didn't have air or contamination.
Step #3 - Replace filters. Still no change in power.
Step #4 - Run engine off one gallon day tank connected to hose from the top of the secondary filter. Still no change in power.
Step #5 - Replace secondary filter again. Still no change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Overpitched Prop.
Step #1 - Replace Max Prop with fixed 3-bladed prop that was originally shipped with boat. No change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Restricted Air Flow
Step #1 - Remove exhaust pipe from engine and run under load. Still no change in power.
Step #2 - Visually inspect turbine vanes by removing air breather. Turbine spooled freely. Still no change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Lift Pump Failure
Step #1 - Hook up fuel straight to the injector pump by bypassing all filters and lift pumps, and using a small electrical pump. Still no change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Bad Injector Pump
Step #1 - Remove pump and bench test at specialty shop. Tested to specs.
Step #2 - Reinstall injector pump. Still no change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Bad Vacuum to Governor
Step #1 - Visual inspection. Hose all right.
Step #2 - Blow into hose. No air leaks. Still no change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Bad Injectors
Step #1 - Remove and POP test at mechanic. Tested all right. Still no change in power.
New Suspected Problem - Bad Compression
Step #1 - Test each cylinder while injectors removed. Tested all right @ 380 PSI.
New Suspected Problem - Bad Injector Pump
Step #1 - Remove and replace with new pump from Yanmar. Engine ran at 2,500 rpm and turbo spooled up. But still cannot achieve full power under load.
New Suspected Problem - Overpitched Prop
Step #1 - Remove fixed 3-bladed prop and replace with Max Prop. Full power at 3,200 rpm. Finally!
The lessons we learned:
1) At each step, the mechanic thought he had the problem solved. The injector pump "never fails," and it tested OK. A mechanic did say sometimes they test OK but don't work under real load conditions - which are apparently hard to replicate on the bench. In any case, that was our problem. We exhausted every other avenue before buying another injector pump because it cost $1,600 - plus airfreight. We also had to wait for a second replacement pump because the first one arrived with a hard failure.
2) I always thought that boats that don't make the Ha-Ha or start late were guilty of not trying hard enough. Well, we airfreighted two injector pumps, and the first replacement one was bad. We drove to FedEx to pick it up. We airfreighted the fixed 3-bladed prop to try it in place of the Max Prop. We had two divers replace it while Beach Music was tied to the Balboa YC, as there wasn't time to have the boat hauled. We used four different mechanics to repair the engine because we had to move to San Diego before the problem was fixed in order to make the start. After all this effort and expense, we still had to start two days late - but we did catch the fleet at Turtle Bay in time to make the beach party. In the future, I will have new-found respect for other boats with technical problems - rather than assuming they didn't try hard enough to make the start.
3) Perseverance, time and money ultimately brings results.
Having been in Mexico for the season, we agree that cruisers down here are obsessed with the weather. Even those who were groomed by the strong winds on San Francisco Bay seem pretty timid.
We've been enjoying Profligate's reports from the Caribbean.
Kirby & Pam Coryell
Kirby - That's a diagnostic tree that would be good for a whole lot of diesel woes. Thanks for sharing it.
I have seen the term 'long-distance sailor'
used several times, and would like to know your definition.
William - It's a completely subjective term. Here at Latitude, we'll consider anyone who takes their boat 1,000 miles from home to be a 'long distance sailor'. But to be a 'bluewater sailor', a person would have to cross an ocean - or at least half the Pacific. Kirby Coryell in the previous letter, for example, would fit our definition of both. He's done two Ha-Has that have taken him more than 1,000 miles from home, and a doublehanded TransPac.
SHE CAN WORK, BUT I'M STAYING RETIRED
The final chapter in most sailing stories begins with the words "The sea was angry that day, my friends." Oddly enough, my tale ends with, "Oh sh-t, honey, come look at this!" My wife Cherie's exclamation woke me from my nap on the deck of our sailboat in the Santa Cruz Island sunshine, and I tumbled down the companionway to see what the problem could be. It was bad news all right.
When we left the San Francisco Bay Area over a year earlier to live and cruise on our 42-ft sailboat, we had sold, donated, or just given away the house, cars, winter clothes, and other assorted stuff, and moved aboard the boat for our big adventure. We had planned to gradually, over many years' time, work our way down the California and Mexican coasts and join the hundreds of other cruisers enjoying Margaritaville-land. At that point, we had gone as far south as San Diego for several months before returning to cruise in the Channel Islands National Park off the Southern California coast. We had shared hundreds of evenings of boat drinks and fresh-caught fish dinners with other cruising boats in exotic coves, bays and marinas, we'd seen unbelievable displays of sea life, and were happily learning the lyrics of a Jimmy Buffett song.
Now this was about to change, all because one friend at Cherie's old office had our SSB radio email address, and because the little squealer had given it to one of the members of the Executive Committee where she used to work. Cherie's startled expletive and my interrupted nap were caused by an email offering her the Executive Officer job at her old company! The rest of the story can be summed up quickly - it was an offer too good to refuse.
The years after my retirement from the Sheriff's Office had been interesting. Through a mix of good luck, moderate toil and just plain serendipity, beginning in 1997 I worked as the business manager for two different law firms in the Reno area - one with corporate headquarters in Las Vegas, and one which spun off from the Las Vegas firm when the Reno partners bought out the Northern Nevada business. During this time, I continued indulging my love for sailing and Cherie, and I kept a 30-ft sailboat at Lake Tahoe for several years. I had always been intrigued with the idea of sailing away to explore the world, and in 1999 we sold the Tahoe boat and bought a bigger, ocean-capable boat that was on San Francisco Bay. Thus began the era of preparing for our cruise, which is when cash registers all around the Bay Area rang merrily.
In early 2002 it was time to go, so we cast off the docklines and headed south with a little fleet of three other boats. When we eventually hit the Mexican border, the fleet kept going south, while Cherie and I settled in to cruise Southern California. Then came that email.
But that was then and this is now. The boat is back on San Francisco Bay. We bought a hou$e in Reno, car$s, clothe$s, and all that stuff. (When Cherie negotiated her new contract, she told the board, "Imagine standing in your kitchen with every cabinet and drawer open. Turn in a circle and everything you see, I don't own. Now do this in every room in your house, wearing sandals, shorts and a T-shirt, because that's the only type of clothes I have to wear to work.")
Now I divide my time between Reno and our boat in Alameda. God bless Marina Village Yacht Harbor for putting us back almost into our old slip! Cherie's job entails a lot of travel, and I'll tag along when she goes somewhere interesting. When I meet her business-world people, I'm often asked, "So, what are you going to do now?" After 21 years of being a cop - well, if anything above the rank of lieutenant can really be called being a cop - and five years of herding lawyers, I'm staying retired!
Rod & Cherie Williams
I'm on Michael Finney's volunteer staff
at Channel 7, KGO-ABC. I've been reading about the problems shipping
stuff to Mexico via the DHL for several issues now. I'll make
some enquiries with their corporate headquarters and their media
public relations person this week and see what they say. Generally,
we get pretty good responses when Channel 7-ABC calls. I'll keep
Denny - It will be interesting to see what DHL has to say. For even if the real problems are with aduana, it's their reputation that's taking a beating. And other than to Mexico, it's been our experience that DHL does a fine job.
If you like fine sailing, snorkeling,
and boogie-boarding around a clean and safe island with a French
flair - and you aren't on a tight budget - you should have a
great time at St. Barth. However, the island has a very different
personality during the Christmas to end-of-April high season
than during the rest of the year. Once the high season is over,
as is the case now, the island becomes much quieter, all the
great yachts have gone on to the Northeast or to the Med, many
of the restaurant employees have gone to the South of France
to take busier jobs, and there's just not the same buzz. But
hey, it's still a terrific place with some wonderful people.
I'm moving to lovely St. Barth's to take a job as a webmaster there while I begin work on a book and possibly an on-line writing career. I leave in June, and my future boss says I'll eventually want to buy a boat - which sounds great!
Looking at what rent is going to cost on the island, I'm now wondering if I shouldn't consider buying a boat to live aboard there. I have very little sailing or boating experience, so I am beginning my research with you! Of course, I'm hoping to learn a lot from other boatowners while there, too.
Is there anything you can tell me about what to look for when buying a boat down there? I would need to buy something on payments, and I'm nowhere near rich, but my boss says lots of folks just want to get rid of boats and I won't have a problem buying one. Is that true? Are there great deals to be had? Also, how should I look for financing for a purchase like this? Will some owners finance? Since I will be working for a French company on a French island, will I have to get a French loan? Hope these aren't the dumbest questions you've ever received!
Also, I'm am trying to find some inexpensive way to ship my household belongings to St. Barth, and it occurred to me that you might be able to recommend a private party or budget barge?
Kimberly Ann Kubalek
Kimberly - You'll be arriving at St. Barth during the low season, so you'll be able to find plenty of places to rent. That's far preferable to feeling that you have to buy a boat right away when you don't know anything about them. After all, it would be silly to make such a major commitment not knowing if you'd like living aboard. As such, we suggest you give it a try by renting a boat to liveaboard. Our old captain Antonio has a Tartan 41 on a mooring in a great location that he and his family just moved off of, and he might - we have no idea - be willing to rent her out. Ask after him at La Marine Restaurant, Le Select, or just about anywhere around the harbor, and tell him we sent you. It being the off-season, we're sure there are other similar opportunities, both on the water and on the land. Having both lived ashore and on a boat at St. Barth, we found the latter to be far preferable. Yes, it's a little more difficult at times - such as trying to take bags of groceries out to the boat during a heavy squall - but the very good times more than make up for it. In any event, make sure you're all set before December, at which time all the seasonal workers return and the demand for inexpensive places to live becomes extreme.
You can send all your stuff to Miami
and have it delivered to nearby St. Martin. Just contact any
of the marine freight forwarders there. But it sounds to us as
though you're about to make a big mistake. Life on St. Barth
is very simple, the living spaces are small, and your material
needs are almost nil. So all you really need to bring down is
a computer and a couple of bikini bottoms, and you're good to
go. The last thing you want to do is bring all your Portland
crap to the island.
The April issue Max Ebb story Spilling the Beans, inspired me to share my discovery of how to prevent seasickness - and one might not need virtual reality goggles and a full-motion flight simulator. A day on a boat in the Bay might do just as well.
I've sailed a fair amount on San Francisco Bay and felt nothing. I've sailed some on the Pacific Ocean and always felt uneasy, succumbing to 'input-discharges' on three occasions. However, on a recent week-long charter in French Polynesia, sailing interisland in strong winds and high waves, I felt no seasickness at all. It was like sitting home in my living room.
What prevented me from being seasick was spending the first 18 hours anchored by and sailing between Raiatea and Tahaa, two islands both inside of a common reef. That period of continuous but gentle motion prepared my brain's gyros for the roller coaster rides on the ocean. It was wonderful. I didn't know it could be so good.
So my recommendation to sensitive sailors who are going to be sailing on the ocean is to spend a day on the Bay first.
William - Easing oneself into ocean
conditions can't hurt. However, we've seen many instances in
which it wasn't enough to prevent people from tossing their cookies.
I have just a few comments on Satphones following your comments on Globalstar and Iridium in 'Lectronic.
The problem with Globalstar's network - you couldn't get any calls through from southern Mexico to the Eastern Caribbean, and then only sporadically in the Eastern Caribbean - is that when your call is routed, it goes from your phone up to a satellite and down to Globalstar's closest ground station. If the satellite cannot communicate with both your phone and the ground station at the same time, your call will not go through. This is why Globalstar is restricted to within a few hundred miles of the coast, and only around developed parts of the world.
The Iridium network - which I've been using on my voyages for the last couple of years - is able to route calls between satellites if necessary. So if the satellite cannot communicate with a ground station while communicating with your phone, it will bounce the call through another satellite which can communicate to a ground station. This is why Iridium works in the Arctic as well as 1,000 miles from shore. It's also why the military has contracts through Iridium - which is part of the company's fiscal stability versus the competing Satphone technologies.
Globalstar does have some upsides. I believe it supports higher data rates and probably has better voice quality - if you can connect a call through! I believe the Globalstar and Iridium services are priced similarly.
We used our Iridium phone all over the Caribbean - it worked great in San Blas, the Caymans, the other places we visited, and hundreds of miles offshore on passages.
Greg - We were aware that Globalstar uses 'bent pipe' technology, which means at best it doesn't work more than 200 miles offshore. But what chafes us a little is that the map on their website showing the coverage area clearly indicates their phones should work along the coasts of Central America and Panama, as well as Colombia and Venezuela, and in the Eastern Caribbean. Of all these areas, we and others only got coverage in the Eastern Caribbean, and only sporadically. When the calls went through, the quality was phenomenal. But in those areas it rarely did. As such, we regret that we hadn't purchased an Iridium phone, which has much-improved sound quality and almost universal coverage.
Like regular cell phones, Globalstar
and Iridium have phones in different price ranges and minutes
on different plans that always seem to be changing. But the prices
seem to be coming down. If a cruiser were not going beyond Mexico,
we'd say pick the best between Globalstar and Iridium. If going
beyond Mexico, Iridium is the only choice.
I'd like to respond to the May edition letter from Gary Albers of Ishi. Although we have far less experience than he, we felt your "familiarity breeds contempt" comment was right on regarding his feelings about Mexico. He's spent many seasons there - perhaps one too many.
My husband and I have been coming to Mexico since the early '90s, mostly on dive trips, but also on High Noon, his first boat, when we sailed her from San Diego to San Carlos in '94. We cruised her on vacations, and she stayed in San Carlos until '99 when she was trucked back to San Diego. We bought our current boat, Dunamis, in 2001, and sailed to Mexico with the 2002 Ha-Ha. We have been here ever since, other than last summer to visit family. We intend to spend several more years before deciding on our next destination.
Unlike Albers, we felt that there were far more cruisers this year than last - and that belief was supported by other sources. He claimed that the nets were begging for people to check in. Well, I'm the net controller for the Amigo Net on Wednesday mornings, and recently we were trying to find ways to shorten it. So many cruisers wanted to check in that it was averaging 90 minutes, and several times exceeded two hours! Don on Summer Passage, who provides a weather report to the Amigo Net, said that in all of his years cruising Mexico and providing weather, there has never been a net to rival the popularity of the Amigo Net. It's not that there are fewer cruisers on the nets like Albers claims, it's just that cruisers have their favorites - and the Chubasco or Southbound nets might not have been them.
As far as the Mexican population being less friendly toward Americans because of our foreign policy, we couldn't disagree more. We have found the Mexican people to be extremely warm, friendly, helpful - and totally unconcerned about America's involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan. We have made many friends in the local population with whom we remain in contact with via email. We have had a few question us about our involvement in Iraq, but more out of curiosity than the need to express a political opinion.
This year we were faced with repowering while in La Paz. Needless to say, we spent almost the entire winter in La Paz, where there is a very active cruisers' net. Off and on derogatory comments would surface about how the Mexican people "hated" Americans and how we were "uninvited guests" in their country. As we met some of the people making these comments, we began to understand why they would feel hated or uninvited - and believe you me, it wasn't because they were Americans. In others who felt this way, we found that it was simply an irrational fear based on something someone else told them or an old preconceived notion.
We asked our Mexican mechanic if it was true that Mexicans hated the Americans. He said, "We treat you how you treat us." Perhaps Albers was seeing a reflection of his own dislike of the current administration and its foreign policy. Personally speaking, we're here so as not to get embroiled in those issues, and haven't found them to be any reason for being disliked or mistreated.
We certainly hope that Alber's comments do not deter anyone from visiting Mexico - or anywhere else, for that matter. Mexico is a wonderful country full of people who are intelligent, friendly, hard-working and anxious to meet us and experience a little of our culture, too. As Latitude stated, the biggest problem down here is the ridiculous policy pertaining to checking in and out of ports. But even that is becoming less of a hassle, and pressure is being applied to try to change things for the better.
Dotti & Dick Olsen
Dotti and Dick - We've said it a million
times, and we'll say it again - Mexico is by far one of the finest
cruising areas in the world. In addition to the people being
extremely warm and friendly, it has a wide variety of cruiser
attractions, it's quite safe, and if necessary, can be cruised
on an extremely low budget. Given the generally mild conditions,
and the generally good but inexpensive health care, there are
few places in the world more suited to retirement cruising. Viva
When our children were young, my wife and I would take them out on occasional daysails. Sometimes it would be just the four of us, and sometimes friends would come. But although my wife tried, she never really liked sailing. And once the kids got old enough to carve out their own interests, carving out the time to go sailing was really hard. So I turned my attention to building and using small boats. At this point I'm not sure whether I prefer building or sailing. They offer different thrills, but are both great.
This worked better, but in the end I still had to choose between sailing - or rowing, or paddling - and spending time with my family. It seems to me that unless both parents like sailing, it's hard to find the time to get out on the water. Recreation these days has a lot to do with whatever sport my children are involved with. Both of my boys, now 11 and 13, play baseball, which is nearly a full-time operation between February and July. Occasionally, we go camping, and I always tow a boat along. I have a 15-ft shallow-draft catboat that is big enough for all our gear, and admirably serves as a movable diving platform or means of exploring shallow places. We don't really go sailing to sail; the boat is the means by which we get around for a day of swimming or fishing or snacking.
Although I never really gave up sailing, last year I decided that the time had come to really get back to the sport that I love. I bought a Carl Schumacher-designed Alerion Express 28, which should arrive in the Bay Area in early June. I plan to race one-design as often as I can, but I will mostly get out to do Beer Can races in the Estuary. The choice of boat is significant: it was designed and rigged to be sailed singlehanded or with short crew, no spinnakers allowed for one-design racing, it has a small diesel, and, of course, it's a really pretty boat. With such a simple and comfortable boat, I'm hoping that my wife and my children will join me - if only for the lazy evening sail in the Estuary. And who knows, maybe the boys will even find that they like to sail after all.
John - Congratulations on your new boat,
it's a design we've always admired. Everyone and every family
goes through different phases, where at times some recreational
activities are more compatible with their lives than others.
It's nice that your life seems to be entering a stage where,
with your kids entering a more independent phase, you can indulge
in your interest in sailing. We think you're going to enjoy it
more than ever before.
My wife and I are looking at a 41-ft trimaran. Our question is whether there are any negatives about cruising on a tri versus a cat? Is one better than the other, and if so, why?
Rene & Pam Yruretagoyena
Rene and Pam - Never having owned a trimaran ourselves, we put your question to South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, multihull designer Chris White, who built and for many years cruised a 52-ft trimaran of his own design. Last year White took ownership of a new South African-built Atlantic 55 cat Javelin, also his design. He is also the author of The Cruising Multihull. Here is his response:
"The recent cat-mania has pushed trimarans into the background as cruising boats. This is unfortunate, because a well-designed trimaran has lots to offer as an ocean-going home. The single greatest negative when comparing a trimaran to a catamaran is that on the basis of accommodations per foot of boat length, the catamaran almost always has more living space. But this cuts two ways. How much interior space do you really need?
"You start your inquiry be saying, 'My wife and I . . .' Well, most cruisers are primarily buying the boat for 'my wife and I' - which usually means a boat to accommodate two with occasional guests. Do you need or want to have four toilets to clean - which is what comes with the standard catamaran layout these days? I don't even have four toilets in my house! Do you need berths for eight to 10? Hopefully not. I don't want to condemn catamarans. After all, I now own one - and a trimaran, too, for that matter - but for mom and pop cruising, trimarans often have all the interior a couple needs. And because they have less interior, and normally one less rudder and one less engine than a cat, trimarans cost less to build and maintain.
"Another negative tris have compared to cats is that the tri will usually have greater overall beam for a given length. While cruising, this normally isn't an issue since most of the time you're anchored. But if the tri is so large that the overall beam gets above 30 feet, haul-outs can be hard to find.
"On the positive side, trimarans often have nice sailing qualities. Because they are not crammed full of all the aforementioned stuff as most cats, they tend to be lighter and consequently faster than cats. Trimarans offer a more sensitive - even sensual - response to the helmsman, and can be more fun to sail as well. Windward performance is usually good to excellent. Depending on the design, the trimaran is not likely to suffer the "underwing slamming syndrome" that plagues many low bridgedeck catamaran designs. This means that in rough water the tri often is kinder to the crew.
"Another positive aspect of tris is that they can often be bought at very reasonable cost. While the secondhand market for trimarans is much thinner than for monohulls or catamarans, occasionally there are some choice items. The older crop of Pivers and similar designs have pretty much self-destructed by now, and I'd steer clear of all the pre-epoxy wooden tris. After the mid-1980's, most tri's were built in wood/epoxy (WEST System), and these are, if well-designed, generally very long lasting structures. A few were professionally built, but most were owner constructed. Some of the best trimarans I've seen were owner-built - as well as some of the worst. Get someone who really knows multihulls to survey any trimaran that you might be considering.
"As for designers, a good bet is
to look for trimarans designed by Brown, Cross, Crowther, Marples,
Newick - and, of course, White."
Over 20 years ago while living in Alaska, my parents built Askari, a 45-ft trimaran. It took seven years to build in our backyard because of their full-time veterinary practice. Most of my childhood memories include the 'boat barn' and the ever-present smell of fiberglass and epoxy on my folks' clothes and skin.
Askari was launched in Anchorage in 1984, at which time she was black with red and orange trim. My parents rigged her up for commercial fishing in Southeast Alaska. They later sold Askari and built a more traditional fishing vessel.
I believe they sold the Askari in Anacortes, Washington, in the late '80s. If anyone knows anything about her current whereabouts or owners, I'd love to learn more of her travels and adventures, mostly as a gift to my dad. I can be reached at by email.
I noticed two errors in the May issue. First, the photo on page 46 is of Waikiki Beach, not the Honolulu Harbor entrance.
Second, on page 118, you write that the 173-ft Salperton is the largest sailing yacht ever built in New Zealand. I was in Auckland this year where I saw Tiare, a 180-ft sailboat that had been launched in March by Alloy Yachts. So she's a little longer.
It was still a great issue. I've subscribed since 1983. Aloha.
Bob - We blew the last-minute Waikiki photo caption. Sorry, we'll try to do better in the future.
As for Salperton and Tiare, we were just a bit behind the curve. When the 172-ft ketch Salperton was launched by Alloy in 2002, she was the largest boat ever built in New Zealand. But when the 178-ft sloop Tiare was launched this March, also by Alloy, she took the title by six feet. As we understand it, both boats were designed by Dubois. The rumor is that the latter's slightly longer length and lack of a mizzen mast are in order to be able to accommodate a helicopter on the aft deck. With a carbon mast that towers 208 feet above the water, Tiare is the tallest possible boat that will be allowed under the Bridge of the America's at the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal.
was in St. Barth this winter, we were told that she cost $19
million - "about 40% of what she should have cost because
the Kiwi currency is so cheap."
I have a dilemma - which I don't think is unique to me. My old VHF is an Icom M-127 with DSC distress capability. When I bought the radio four years ago, I registered my contact information. I know the DSC works, because the installer accidentally activated it, and I got a prompt phone call at work from the Coast Guard.
Fast forward four years, and I'm upgrading my VHF and would like to sell or give away my old VHF - but I can't find a way to change the distress contact information. I don't want the Coasties to call me when the new owner has a problem. I've searched the Web, emailed the ITU, emailed Icom, and read everything on the Coast Guard Web site, but am none the wiser. It's apparently possible to register through Boat/U.S., as that's how I registered my new radio, but it's not possible to change an existing registration through them.
The Coast Guard has enough distractions without trying to answer distress calls with bad contact information. Can you help with a solution?
P.S. The radio upgrade is prompted by my intending to participate in the Ha-Ha this fall!
Russ - We're not surprised you've had trouble figuring out how to change the registration, because, unlike the EPIRB registration, the one for DSC is a real mess. Furthermore, it seems as though one's Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) can be registered by any one of at least four agencies, the FCC, Maritel - which apparently goes in and out of operation, Ceto, and BOAT/U.S. You'd think a single registry would make sense, wouldn't you? When we asked Sandy Wills at BOAT/U.S. how to change the registration, he told us you have to go back to the agency with whom you first registered - assuming that you know who that is and that they are still around. Wills agreed that it's ridiculous, and blames the FCC for coming up with an idea and not figuring out how to implement it. In any event, call Wills at (800) 563-1536 and he'll try to help you out.
If anyone else has better information,
we'd sure like to hear about it, because you might not be the
only ones with this problem. The Coast Guard, based on our many
phone calls, is clueless about the whole thing.
I recently experienced some minor controversy regarding the proper display of Yacht Club Officer's Flags. It seems that it is common practice to display the Commodore, Vice Commodore, Rear Commodore and Fleet Captain - in that order - from starboard to port - assuming the "gaff points aft" - from the club flag pole. I was amazed, however, when I started searching for some protocol, tradition, common practice, or some precedent when it comes to other officers' flags. I have been unable to find anything regarding proper display of any of the other flags, like Director, Secretary, Treasurer, Port Captain, Staff Commodore, etc. Is there some protocol somewhere or is that left to the individual clubs to establish their own protocol? If anyone knows I'd love to hear from them by email. Please don't bother with opinion - I've got an overabundance of that already!!
Tom - Maybe one of our readers could
help. God knows we can't, as one of our many shameful character
defects is that we're probably the least formal and unprotocol-ish
beings on the face of the earth. It's wrong, we know, but we
haven't been able to do anything about it. During our recent
anniversary cruise of the Caribbean, we used the French flag
as a courtesy in nine different countries - eight of which don't
salute the Tricolor when it's raised.
It would be great to see an article on the unavailability of guest berthing around San Francisco Bay. I recently bought a Corsair 24 trimaran, and with a race coming up this weekend, had nowhere to launch my boat and keep my truck and trailer overnight, as well as nowhere to berth the boat for Saturday evening. I've spent all week working on this.
I'm horrified to see this happening - has the Bay Area become so crowded that after 20 years of sailing in this beautiful location I can't use my boat for more than an afternoon daysail?
I cancelled my plans to race this weekend, and am off to Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay for the weekend, as I've run out of options around San Francisco Bay. Granted, I have a trimaran, but with the ease of folding her amas to the main hull, I wouldn't think it would be such an issue.
It would be great if you could do a little reseach into this, and report on what's happened to our nice Bay in the last few years. By the way, I started out with a 22-ft trailerable sailboat and never had a problem staying anywhere with a couple of days notice to marinas.
Lehel - We don't understand. An F-24 can be launched from a hoist or from a launch ramp, and there are plenty of both around the Bay Area. Just for fun, we called up Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, and they said two folding tris had been launched from their facility the previous weekend. And they, like most places with ramps, have parking for trucks and trailers.
As for overnight berthing, almost every yacht club that hosts a race offers the option of at least rafting up at their club.
We think you should call the F-24 class
association and find out what all the other F-24 owners do.
I'm the owner of a Bruce Bingham-designed 49-footer, which was apparently built in Santa Barbara in 1983. In order to get tax exempt status in the European Community, I require proof of build - something that I don't have. Do you have a contact address for Bruce Bingham or his company? Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Alexander - We've looked and asked all
around for Bingham, but can't find him. Maybe one of our readers
can help. On the other hand, maybe somebody knows about a 49-footer
that was built in Santa Barbara in '83. There couldn't have been
many of them.
I'm assembling a contact list of all Cal 40s in the Bay Area. I'm in contact with several owners, but I still spot others around the Bay and would like to get in touch with them.
I'm also wondering if any other Bay Area Cal 40 owners would be interested in getting the fleet together for a visit one day this summer. Possibly at Angel Island in late July or August for a raft-up. It would be great to compare ideas, experiences and inspiration for these great boats over a BBQ and a beer. I would be willing to coordinate dates and venue if there is interest.
Readers - As many of you know, the Cal
40 class got a huge boost last summer when, on the design's 40th
anniversary, they had the only one-design class in the TransPac.
I sailed as a crewmember in Ha-Ha II, and as a skipper in Ha-Ha 10. I'd like to start by saying thanks to Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler and her crew, the unsung heroes of the Ha-Ha.
Next, I want to offer some tips. Looking at the entry list for several years, I've found the typical Ha-Ha entry is:
- about 41 feet long
- has a crew of four
- has a lot of freshly-installed, brand-new systems and components to enhance creature comforts.
My unscientific observation is that the average time for the fleet to transit each leg is getting shorter because the sailing and powering speeds of the average boat is getting faster. So what about smaller boats with shorthanded crews - those of us in the 35-ft and under classes, the left-hand side of the bell curve, the boats that depress the average? How can we overcome the disadvantages of having generally older, heavier, smaller and slower boats? I think the answer is attitude - and offer the following tips:
Eight Simple Rules For Ha-Ha Happiness In Short-Handed Small Boats
1) Be Prepared. Sure it's a Boy Scout cliche, but it got that way for a reason. The wrinkle here is the attitude that practice and seamanship are way more important than gizmos. You can read about and equip a boat with all the right stuff, but it does you no good if you can't use it at 0300 on a moonless, sleep-deprived night in a near gale. Here's a radical idea. One or two months before departure for San Diego, stop installing and start sailing. Try for at least two overnight passages for shakedown cruises. Give yourself enough time to overcome the improvements and build up confidence in all the new stuff. This rule is the most important one because it helps you arrive at the starting line relaxed and confident. And while in San Diego, avoid the temptation to make that 'one last improvement'.
2) Accept the fact that you are probably going to power. A lot. Make sure that you can power at least 500 miles nonstop, without refueling. The engine, fuel supply, drive train and cooling equipment all need to be bulletproof. How can this be a valid rule when the longest leg is only 360 miles from San Diego to Turtle Bay? Consider that there is a time limit for each leg, and that the starting time is fixed. And that you might have to take the weather as it comes. There might be too much wind, too little wind, it might come from the wrong direction - it might even be just right! Consider also that it's time-consuming to obtain fuel in Mag Bay. Add to that the possibility of no wind at all on one or more legs. The exception to this rule is, if you've got the moxie to drop out of the Ha-Ha along the way. In that case you can wait out bad weather and not have to power.
3) Know the best tactic for your boat when the course made good is dead downwind. If you and your shorthanded crew are spinnaker buffs and your self-steering can handle it - that's doubtful - or you don't mind hand-steering, more power to you. Tacking down wind is another possibility.
4) Self-steering is one of the most important pieces of equipment on the boat. Take lots of spare parts and cater to its needs. One boat we met at the Cabo fuel dock had three autopilot drive units onboard, could predict the unit mean failure rate, and replace one in any conditions. It also doesn't hurt to use a system that is at least one size up from what the manufacturer recommends. That certainly worked very well for us. Due to Rule #2, you can't depend solely on a windvane.
5) Accept the fact that you are unlikely to finish first in the fleet, and that there is no practical advantage to arriving first at any of the destinations anyway. Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria and Cabo San Lucas all have huge anchorages. If you must have a slip in Cabo, sign up early. We got a slip, but it was not worth the hassle, heat, still air, tourist touts, cold showers or the crowded laundry at the marina. You can experience all those things and not pay for the privilege by anchoring out. Going too fast only tires out the crew and increases the chances of breaking equipment.
6) Sleep is your friend. Shorthanded crews should not count on partying until Cabo. Rest stops are for R&R - rest and repair.
7) Your ground tackle and anchoring technique should be impeccable. Nights at anchor are for sleeping, not anchor drills.
8) Excess toys take up valuable space and slow you down. Shorthanded crews are seldom bored. While on passage, sailing the boat, standing watches, getting lots of sleep, and cooking and cleaning up give you plenty to do. Take the books for sure, but think three times about other diversions.
Think positive. Slip, port and fueling costs in Southern California and Cabo are climbing and are, of course, proportional to boat size. Smaller boats can take advantage of simpler systems, less maintenance, fuel economy and lower overall costs.
Bill - For the last three or four years, the average size of a Ha-Ha boat has been 44 feet, and the average number of crew has been four. Your interest in small boats in the Ha-Ha inspired us to see how many 30-ft and under boats finished the event in its first 10 years. See this month's Sightings for the complete list of these boats.
Thanks for the small boat tips. May we comment on them?
We agree, during the last two months before the Ha-Ha, it's more important to hone one's sailing skills than it is to add another creature comfort. Make sure you know, for example, how to reef your boat on a dark night so you'll be comfortable and confident if the wind and seas come up. But we think it's equally important for small boat crews to have a spinnaker or gennaker and know how to use it in light, downwind conditions that are likely to be most common. Small boats need these downwind sails more than big boats, and because small boat chutes and gennakers are small, they're easier to handle. Besides, this is the sail you're going to use a lot later on in Mexico.
We think having fuel for 500 miles is overkill - and unnecessarily weighs the boat down. It's possible to buy fuel at Turtle Bay 360 miles down the track, and if you run low on the 240-mile leg to Bahia Santa Maria, you'll be able to buy some from one of the big boats for the remaining 180 miles to Cabo. Besides, we can only recall one leg out of the 30 Ha-Ha legs so far where there wasn't any wind for an entire leg. For what it's worth, a Cal 25 did one of the early Ha-Has and only carried about 12 gallons of fuel. If someone does run out of fuel, all they have to do is channel the Pardeys, who have sailed their small and engineless boats all over the world.
Since most Ha-Ha legs are dead downwind, it's important to know how to get the maximum VMG to leeward. Even if you're going to fly a spinnaker or gennaker, make sure you know how to sail deep, not just fast. If you don't have any experience doing this, get a racer to go out with you and demonstrate for an afternoon. If you're not going to be carrying a chute/gennaker, perfect your wing-on-wing technique, which you'll probably want to use at night anyway.
A lot of autopilots fail because they're tortured to death. Make sure you're always sailing with the boat balanced, otherwise you might as well be beating on your autopilot with a hammer. Rather than carry a boatload of expensive spares, we think it's better to get one that works right before you take off. Supersizing the autopilot is never a bad idea.
A small boat is not going to finish first in the Ha-Ha fleet. But big deal, as the goal of the Ha-Ha is not to be the fastest, but to have the safest and most pleasurable trip to Cabo. Yes, there is plenty of room to anchor at all the stops, particularly for small boats. When it comes to berths in Cabo, it's easier to fit in a 29-footer than a 50-footer.
Adequate sleep is indeed the sailor's friend, and fatigue is the enemy. Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler - who thanks you for the kind words - strongly urges that every boat have at least three crew. It's easier on everyone. Ha-Ha parties in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria never run late because everyone knows it's a long trip, and that the time and place to party - and maybe have a drink or two - is Cabo.
It's easy to anchor almost everywhere
in Mexico. Nonetheless, make sure you have adequate gear and
know how to set your hook well. It's a bummer to wake up in the
What has happened to Latitude being available here in Hawaii? We decided to spend a year here after coming over from the Puerto Vallarta area. Life has been good, but there haven't been any Latitudes since the March issue. Today West Marine told us they had no idea what was going on. Help!
We've been staying at Keehi Marine Center since November, which is when the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor condemned all those slips and asked all the transients to leave. Other than the noise of all the airplanes taking off overhead, it's a very friendly place.
We'll start our return to California at the beginning of August, and will then return to Mexico.
Bill Yeargan & Jean Strain
Bill and Jean - We deliver two bundles
to Ala Wai Marina on Ala Moana Blvd, and another to Ko Olina
Marina. The deal is that it's so expensive to ship such thick
magazines to Hawaii that we can only do it if somebody picks
up the freight cost. The West Marine store used to do it, but
when they tried to get reimbursed by customers, the customers
balked, so they dropped out.
What, no mention of this year's Newport-Ensenada Race? It hardly seems fair, as it was our best performance ever with my 52-ft cat Afterburner. We won first overall on elapsed time (for the third year), first overall on corrected time, plus the same honors in class and some other trophies. Our more than five trophies put our tiny Pierpont Bay YC in first place among yacht clubs for the number of trophies won.
I wouldn't have mentioned this if we didn't read 'Lectronic Latitude all the time.
Bill - Congratulations on the terrific
performance! We try to cover all we can in 'Lectronic, but the
editor was halfway between Antigua and Panama and didn't catch
the news. We'll try to do better when you do the Santa Barbara
to King Harbor Race in August, and next year's Ensenada Race.
I'm responding to the letter last month asking whether a racing boat that hits an island must do a 360° penalty if the island is a mark on the course.
If you run aground right next to the island, then you haven't actually hit the island - at least as I would interpret it. The most reasonable definition of an 'island' only includes the part that's above water.
If you do manage to hit the island above the water, then unless you have hit some object "attached temporarily or accidentally" to the island (or in the case of Alcatraz, one of the mooring chains) then you do have to do a 360° penalty.
Here's the applicable rules from the ISAF Web site:
An object the sailing instructions require a boat to leave on a specified side, and a race committee vessel surrounded by navigable water from which the starting or finishing line extends. An anchor line and objects attached temporarily or accidentally to a mark are not part of it.
31 TOUCHING A MARK
31.1 While racing, a boat shall not touch a starting mark before starting, a mark that begins, bounds or ends the leg of the course on which she is sailing, or a finishing mark after finishing.
31.2 A boat that has broken rule 31.1 may, after getting well clear of other boats as soon as possible, take a penalty by promptly making one complete 360° turn including one tack and one gybe. When a boat takes the penalty after touching a finishing mark, she shall sail completely to the course side of the line before finishing. However, if a boat has gained a significant advantage in the race or series by touching the mark she shall retire.
For the reader who inquired about videos explaining the racing rules, I don't know of any offhand. But a Google search of 'Racing Rules of Sailing' and 'Software' led me to www.wbbc.wellington.net.nz/links.htm, which points to some computer animations.
We have 70-gallon stainless steel water tanks on our 1986 Passport 40. Unfortunately, they are pitted. One is leaking so we're in the process of having a new one fabricated. In doing some investigation of the possible cause of the failure, some are saying that we should never use chlorine to disinfect the water in the tanks because it causes the stainless steel to deteriorate. Do you have any experience with this problem? What do other cruisers use if not chlorine?
Jane - We're not familiar with the problem
because until we got a watermaker, we only drank bottled water,
and now that we have a watermaker, we don't need to treat the
water. Perhaps some of our readers have an answer.
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