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CRUISING REPORT - MY BONEHEAD MANEUVER
I absolutely love your magazine, particularly because you are intent on reporting the facts while having fun. Here is a factual tidbit that might be of interest to fellow cruisers.
On Friday night of Labor Day Weekend, we sailed from South Beach Harbor in San Francisco to Napa. Then on Sunday, five of us cruised back down through Mare Island Strait and turned into San Pablo Bay on our way back toward San Francisco. The wind was very light, but we were in no hurry, so we were happy to sail at about two knots over the ground. As we crossed the narrow shipping channel, we noticed a ship coming up from the Carquinez Strait. I know that the ship had the right of way and that we needed to move. But one of our crew advocated that we didn't need to turn on our motor, but could rather tack away. Which we did in the very light wind.
Well, the pilot on the ship blew his horn seven times in a row, so we turned on our motor and quickly got out of the way. The ship did not have to change course or reduce speed. When passing, somebody on the ship turned on the ship's loudspeaker and yelled something like the following: "Are you aware that it's illegal for you to be in this channel? You have committed a felony. I will not turn you in this time, but if I see you again, you will go to a federal penitentiary!"
We were a tad indignant - or at least dumbfounded - and debated whether the guy was telling the truth. We observed at least three other sailing vessels in the same channel. We continued on our way, ending up off McNear's Beach, becalmed. We went swimming and otherwise messed around, having fun. The deal was that we were determined not to turn on the motor, and arrived back at South Beach at 9 p.m.
But the question of whether the guy was right still bothered us. So we looked it up in the Code, and yes, it appears that he's correct. Some 700 pages into the document is 33 C.F.R. Part 165, which indicates that boats aren't permitted to enter the channel. What's more, there are a whole bunch of additional regulations regarding how close a recreational boat can get to a ship, certain requirements regarding "High Interest Vessels" - yes, HIV! - and what other channels may be entered or crossed.
Perhaps you guys can do an article on these regulations. I really had no idea about their scope, and have sailed around just trying to have fun. For example, we anchored in Clipper Cove last year only to find out that the anchorage was illegal. But I've always observed the Latitude admonition: Stay away from commercial ships in the Bay - period. Apparently, this is not enough. Anyway, thanks again for your great magazine.
Name Withheld So I Won't Go To Jail
N.W.S.I.W.G.T.J. - Thanks for the kind words. There was no need for you to page through the many pages of the Code of Federal Regulations, for if you look on your Small Craft Chart #18652, you'll see the following notation in bold letters: "San Pablo Shoal. Vessels drawing less than 20 feet are not permitted to enter or cross over the Pinole Shoal dredged channel." Anybody who has done any of the many races that take boats across San Pablo Bay is familiar with this rule, as it's specifically pointed out in every race instruction. Enter or cross the channel in a race and you'll almost certainly be protested by a competitor and thrown out of the race.
If you look a little closer at the chart, you'll see that there is good reason for the prohibition. Ships have nowhere to go outside that narrow channel. So if some small boat got becalmed or ran out of gas in the channel, the pilot on the ship is screwed, for he's got to decide whether to run the little boat down or run the ship aground outside the channel. Since there is plenty of room on both sides of the channel for recreational boats, there is no reason for a pilot to ever have to face that decision.
Having said that, we'll be the first to admit that plenty of recreational boats do break the law by going into or crossing that channel, but rarely when there is any ship traffic. And yes, we'll confess we've done the same thing several times, but only when there wasn't a ship in sight. But it's a bad habit to get into, as when other boats see you doing it, they naturally might assume it is permitted. While we're certain the Coast Guard wouldn't have sent you to jail for your violation, we expect you understand that the guy on the ship who yelled at you had more than a little reason to be cranky.
To our knowledge, the Pinole Shoal dredged channel is the only one that small boats can't be in or cross. There are a few other places - such as the munitions pier up by Port Chicago - that you have to keep a certain distance from, and since 9/11, a series of rules have been instituted about keeping certain distances from various kinds of ships. But if you give ships plenty of room to maneuver everywhere on the Bay, and stay out of the Pinole Shoal dredged channel, you shouldn't have any problem.
And thanks for the suggestion about
doing an article on the rules of the road and other good things
to know about the Bay - such as where ships commonly make sharp
turns. Perhaps the boat show issue at the start of each season
would be the best time.
If you had a maximum budget of $50,000, what boat would you recommend for the high seas?
Steve - As much as we'd like to give you a precise answer, it's too subjective - sort of like asking us what kind of woman you should marry. In addition, "for the high seas" isn't very specific. Does that mean you want to do a nonstop circumnavigation, cruise the Pacific for five years, or mainly hang around on the hook in Mexico and Central America? You may want a different boat for each of these purposes.
The nice thing is that there is an enormous variety of boats to choose from that would fit your needs. You could choose from a great number of retired racing boats, which might be bare bones but would go like hell. You could get one of the very many racer/cruiser production boats, such as an Islander, Catalina, Hunter, Cal, Columbia or Ericson - of which there are many. Or you might prefer more of a traditional cruising boat, such as a roomy Westsail 32 or an Aries 32.
And you don't have to spend $50,000 if you don't want to. In last month's Classy Classifieds, there was a Columbia 8.7 (29 feet) with a newly-rebuilt diesel for $10,600. We don't remember the guy's name, but there was a novice sailor from Santa Cruz who cruised one from here to the Red Sea before he took ill. There's a Cal 27 - like Twiga, which Steve and Marja Vance of Dana Point circumnavigated aboard for seven years - for $8,500. How about a Yamaha 33 for $25,000? Foster Goodfellow and Sally Andrew of Alameda spent about a dozen years sailing theirs from the glaciers of Alaska to the glaciers of New Zealand. There's a Cascade 36, which had already circumnavigated, as have several sisterships, for $45,000. How about a Cal 39, a sistership to Thistle, which Duncan McQueen of Los Osos took around the globe? Here are some other inexpensive yachts from Latitude's circumnavigator's list that have been sailed around the world: Rawson 30, Irwin 37, DownEast 32, Piver 32.5, Yorktown 40, Columbia 24, Bodega 30, Olson 30, Rival 36, Cape George 31, Islander 34, Columbia 34 and Dreadnought 32. C&C has made some fine yachts, too. In last month's Changes, Ken Hellwell reported buying the C&C 38 Topaz for $32,000 from Robert Peterson of San Francisco, who'd done a six-year circumnavigation with her. Hellwell then did a 4.5-year trip around the world with the same boat. You might even be able to find a banged-up Cal 40 in that price range, and certainly a rock-solid Westsail 32. The problem is not a lack of capable boats, but of you finding out which one appeals to you and suits your purposes. Remember, of course, that some of these boats may need further investment to be ready to go around.
Where can one see lots of older model
boats in one place? How about Cabo San Lucas right after the
end of the Ha-Ha? There will be more than 100 different models
between 25 and 63 feet, all with owners aboard no doubt willing
to give current reviews of their boats. What a unique opportunity!
The only problem is that few, if any, of them will be for sale.
Fuel and related issues seem to be all you talk about these days. First the West Marine fuel filter, which we discussed last month, and now you'd like me to do a photo demonstration of how to pour fuel from the new 'environmentally-friendly' fuel jug into a fuel tank?
Here's an experience that will explain how I feel about the fuel jug. I bought a Tahoe-compliant Mercury four-stroke, 4 h.p. outboard for my family's Rhodes 19 on Fallen Leaf Lake. While picking up the engine, I also bought one of the new CARB-compliant fuel cans - since that's all you can buy in our West Marine stores. I believe it was a Specter two-gallon model, #2590750. I took the engine and gas jug to the lake, installed the engine - and spent the next 20 minutes trying to fill it from the low-pollution gas jug. I spilled fuel in the lake, on my clothes, into the bilge of the boat - all over the place! Try as I might, I could not burp the pressure out of the can, pour it, and stop it at the right moment. It was impossible. As the Mercury outboard has the option of a remote tank, I believe that's the only way to safely, cleanly, and legally fuel the outboard in California.
When I mentioned the problem to Scepter, they sent me a non-compliant, non-super-complicated spout, which worked all right. The only problem is that the jug, by law, can't have a vent on it, so the fuel surges.
I don't know what to do about this problem. I sincerely think that CARB, as with the MTBE mess, created a much larger problem than they solved. I consider myself an environmentalist, but I honestly can't see how these jugs reduce pollution.
Readers - If a tech expert such as Chuck
Hawley can't pour from an 'environmentally-friendly' fuel jug
without making a mess, how are the rest of us mere mortals supposed
to do it? We say 'back to the drawing board' for CARB.
Recently I read of the couple who put together an annual illegal cruisers rally to Cuba, where people loaded down their boats with goods for humanitarian aid. Although I also read of - and deplore - our government's decision to prosecute them, I'm interested in other ways people have used their boats and their travels to help people in the countries they visit. I'm not above a little illegal activity, but the benefit has to correspond to the risk.
We would like to take off cruising now that we have the boat - Tutto Bene, our Beneteau 38s5 Pacific Cup vet - to do it in. We only need any adequately good cause to motivate us. The Admiral's world view hesitates to allow extended time to pass without some contribution to the common good.
Jack Vetter & Carly Hegle
Jack and Carly - When it comes to Cuba, we can't decide whose policy is more counterproductive: the Bush administration policy that won't let Americans freely visit Cuba, or the Castro regime's policy that won't allow Cubans to freely leave the prison-like island. As such, when we took our boat to Cuba, we had no compunction in defying the U.S. government's wish that we not visit Cuba, and the Cuban government's prohibition against us giving aid to individuals, as opposed to the corrupt central government. Screw 'em both! However, that was 10 years ago. Given today's deteriorated relations between the U.S. and Cuba, we believe potential risks of trying to bring aid to Cuba might exceed the potential rewards.
The good news is that, no matter where you cruise outside of the United States, there is plenty that you can do to help - as other cruisers have long been doing. Off the top of our heads, for Mexico alone we can think of the cruiser efforts such as Subasto in La Paz, Loreto Fest in Puerto Escondido, the Chili Cook-Off at Paradise Marina, the Spinnaker Cup for Charity in Banderas Bay and the Zihua Fest in Zihuatanejo. Hundreds of cruisers have worked at these events to raise tens of thousands of dollars for truly great causes. The great thing is that, unlike in the United States, just a little money goes a long way in Mexico and the rest of the Third World, especially since, in most of the events listed above, very little, if any, money goes to administrative overhead. In addition, there are many other individual and small group cruiser programs that go unnoticed or don't seek publicity.
Further south in El Salvador, there was a big cruiser program to help build housing for earthquake victims that went on for several seasons. In French Polynesia, we know of cruising optometrists who distributed used eyeglasses in the remote islands - and, ironically, pissed off the government in Tahiti in the process. In addition, there have been countless cruising doctors who have given exams, treatment and supplies to patients in impoverished communities.
The truth is that most active cruisers
are intelligent and energetic folks who soon feel a desire to
help out the communities they visit. And when you leave the United
States, Lord knows you'll quickly see that the Third World needs
all the help it can get. If you're still looking for useful things
to do, the general areas of health, education and the environment
are three places to start.
If you were one of the Latitude 38 crewettes contacted by a skipper who omits any mention of his name or his boat, and who uses an email address of "public_computer" when looking for a female crew/mate/partner, what would your reaction be? Here's how his ad read:
"Ever wanted to just leave it all behind??? Take off and sail away?? Find small islands and trade items with the locals?? I do and I am looking for female crew/mate/partner. I am 40, white, clean cut professional (Sienfeld lookalike) and have been in/on boats for 30 yrs. I hold a master 100 ton and plan to sail from Galveston, TX, to warm places. If you are interested, real and serious about sailing away, join me. Please reply if serious, Thank you. Extra points if you do not smoke, but it's not a deal-breaker if you do."
Please don't use my name, but I'm on the Crew List and am understandably curious whether the secretive author of the attached email is protecting something more fishy than just his identity - or is truly an enlightened man "interested, real and serious, about sailing away" with an older woman?
Name Withheld By Reasonable Request
N.W.B.R.R. - A guy who doesn't give
his name, his boat's name, or even a personalized email address
- and can't even spell Seinfeld correctly? Come on, there's no
way you want to respond to something like that. Knowing who you
are dealing with is the first step in protecting yourself. Take
the following letter for a good example of a reasonable amount
Every 20 years my wives have decided to give up sailing, and I have had to find a new shipmate/hostess. So here I am again. A few years ago some mature ladies wrote in saying they felt discriminated against, as a lot of the hormoniac captains were using their boats as pogey bait and only looking for bikini babes. So maybe some of those ladies would be interested in contacting me by email.
While I was born about 78 years ago, by a quirk of nature I am still healthier and stronger than most middle-aged men. And my sense of adventure is intact. I have a very nice Cheoy Lee Offshore 50 ketch, which I have cruised across the Pacific, to Hawaii, and to Mexico numerous times, including on the Ha-Ha.
I am looking for a lady who has also beaten the calendar, likes sailing, and would like to join me for local sailing and my eighth trip to Baja. The main destinations this year will be La Paz and Mazatlan. A personal relationship is possible if lightning strikes, but we all need friends in the meantime. I will also be taking a third crewperson, and will consider any replies from interested crew. I also have a crew ad in the Classy Classifieds.
Your reply to Hans Bakker's letter regarding Bullies On The Bay was accurate in its facts, but his complaint that commercial shipping behaves arrogantly toward recreational boating was not as unfounded as you implied. For many years, I was a merchant marine officer. Later, while pursuing law and doctoral studies, I worked summers on coastwise tankers. That enabled me to ship out only during summer recesses. These tankers entered and left San Francisco Bay almost weekly. Most of the captains were licensed to do their own bar and inland piloting. A few old-timers enjoyed annoying sailing vessels, and never missed an opportunity to squeeze a sailboat or sailboat race, often while giving hateful commentary. The regular bar pilots on other ships mostly refrained from such misconduct, even though some clearly preferred to hang on the whistle rather than make a minimal course change. I was on the bridge of a freighter when one of these professionals intentionally endangered a fishing and sailboat near the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, which infuriated the captain to the point that he formally recorded it in the log.
Furthermore, in my more than 30 years of sailing the Bay and California coast, from that perspective I have witnessed unnecessary disregard or game-playing by commercial shipping as well. Mr. Bakker had a point.
Louk - If you say it was your experience that there were some old-time tanker captains who enjoyed bullying sailboats on the Bay, we're not going to doubt you. After all, bullying is a fairly common human shortcoming when one person has a great advantage over another, and it is not limited to people working on the bridges of ships. For example, we remember the guy with the party fishing boat about 10 years ago who used to bully all the racing boats by anchoring directly in their path at nearly every mark. And when sailboarding was new, we can remember many exasperated sailors who tried to bully novice sailboarders off the Bay. And we won't even mention the bullying that sometimes goes on between powerboaters and kayakers.
Of course, what do you think the ratio is between recreational boats violating the rules of the road by interfering with shipping and ships that bully recreational boats? We'd estimate it to be something like 100 to 1. If anyone doubts it, we invite them to stand on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge some weekend afternoon and observe some of the foolish and illegal moves made by skippers of recreational boats. The most common problem is recreational boaters who see things only from their very limited perspective rather than understanding that they are but one part of a much larger picture, a picture which a ship's pilot extends several miles ahead. In recent issues of Latitude there is plenty of evidence to support the notion that ignorance and poor judgement on the part of recreational sailors is all too common: the guys who foolishly tried to sail over the towline between a tug and a barge, the sailor ignorant of the rules of the road who flipped off the bar pilot beneath the Golden Gate and, in this issue, a well-intentioned skipper who didn't realize that small boats are always prohibited from the dredged channel at the Pinole Shoal.
Here's our message to fellow sailors: We've sailed the Bay thousands of times over 30 years and can't recall ever having a problem with a ship - probably because we've always found it so easy to give them plenty of room to navigate. If anyone doesn't understand why this is necessary, they should contact the Coast Guard for a copy of their Sharing The Bay video.
In any event, Louk, we're glad you at
least somewhat came to Mr. Bakker's defense - because as you'll
see, you were the only reader who did.
I had a thought as I read Hank Bakker's letter in the September Latitude: "What a fucking moron!"
I had to read Hank Bakker's letter twice to realize that he was being serious. My mouth hung open in disbelief. Mr. Bakker seemed to be saying, "Screw the rules of the road, I'm gonna have fun!" I can't believe that somebody could rationalize such poor seamanship. To make matters worse, you published his diatribe! But on reading your response and then rereading Mr. Bakker's comments, I understand why you did. Kudos.
Mr. Bakker's arrogant and dangerous attitude is shared by a small subset of sailors in the Bay. You did an excellent job of pointing out the technical and safety issues. I'd like to add one more point. Officers and crews of freighters, tugs, and fishing boats are aboard to make a living on the water. When I learned to sail some 30 years ago, the skipper gave me some good advice: "Keep out of the way of a fellow making his living. We're playing and he's feeding his family." There is no race or dinner date so important that we should risk someone's life, limb or livelihood. This is as true today as it was back during the Nixon Administration.
In the last issue of Latitude you did a great job of explaining to Hank Bakker the reality that we sailors have to share the Bay with - and sometimes give way to - ships and large commercial traffic. You even suggested that he was a "dummy" for not knowing when he had to give way to ships. To call him a dummy understated the case. His comments and attitude - such as flipping off the bar pilot when he himself was in the wrong - suggest that Bakker has sailed way beyond Dummy Island and has run aground on Brain Dead Shoal.
In July of 1981 (vol. 49, p. 107), you published some pictures that were taken from the bridge of the tanker American Sun, which showed an Islander Peterson 40 flying a spinnaker on a collision course with the tanker's bow. The accompanying article, written by the ship's mate, highlighted the reason for the regulations that require sailors not to interfere with the navigation of ships. That article described the emergency response that the tanker's skipper had to take, a response that jeopardized the safety of his crew. If reprinted, those photographs would give every reader the frightening view from the ship's perspective. These pictures clearly showed that a large ship cannot easily avoid the misdeeds of small boats.
Why do I remember those pictures, the article, the date, the volume number, and the page number? Because I was on the foredeck of that sailboat, Those pictures reminded me of how it felt to look straight up at the center of a huge ship's bow, hearing the rush of the water around her bulb, and wondering if we would be drowned under the enormous hull or ground into bits by the prop. The photo that couldn't be taken from the ship - because we were hidden under the bow - would have shown our broached boat pinned on her port side, lying still beneath the immense gray bow of the oncoming tanker. As the ships bow flair had cut off our wind, the wave against the bow bulb picked us up and spun us 180 degrees - thank you, God! You can see the results in picture #4. Why our kite or our standing rigging didn't foul somewhere on the tanker's bow and drag us against the hull and underwater is something that remains a mystery to me.
What is not a mystery is that the wind direction changes dramatically as it passes around the flanks of a large ship. In other words, the wind that sailors experience when they are well clear of a large ship will not be the same wind that they get when in the lee of its bow. Hence, our broach after picture #3. These rapid changes in wind direction can easily put a sailboat in a position where the skipper quickly loses control and can no longer avoid a collision with a ship.
Bakker also made the claim that it was easy for a big ship to stop or avoid small vessels. The laws of physics suggest that it takes infinitesimally less energy to make a major course change on a small boat than it does to make even a minor change to either the speed or the direction of a large ship. But why confuse Bakker with reality? If you reprint the photos, perhaps they'll convince Bakker to change his views - before they condemn him, his family, and his friends to be ground into bits under the hull of a large ship.
Mike - We'd forgotten about those photos,
which are quite dramatic. The quality is poor, but the subject
matter is so compelling that we've decided to run the series
of them in this month's Sightings.
Having had a friend die as a result
of being run down by a ship has always reinforced our decision
to give ships plenty of room to maneuver, as well as to try to
anticipate any changes they might make in course.
Those of us here in the tropics are seeing some problems with laminated Spectra mainsails. Ours failed after three years and 15,000 miles, which included lots of night sailing and having the sail in storage for two summers. And we always covered our sail when it wasn't being used. The problem is that the cloth is delaminating and becoming extremely weak. After talking with other sailing friends around the world, we have heard enough similar stories involving different sailmakers and cloth companies to believe that ours isn't an isolated problem.
On a related note, we have also had a lot of trouble with sail rings webbed on with Spectra. Both a genoa clew and a spinnaker head had the webbing rip in moderate use and conditions. We loved the performance of the Spectra main, but have replaced it with a Dacron sail. We hope this helps someone headed to the tropics avoid a sail problem.
Jim Forrest & Jeanette Denby
Jim and Jeanette - Sailmaking has evolved tremendously over the last 20 years, with the development of different fabrics and sailmaking techniques. Early in the evolution of some of the techniques - such as the laminating of Spectra and other high-tech fabrics - there were problems, most of which seem to have been solved.
For instance, John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing reported that his relatively old laminated Spectra mainsail began to delaminate shortly after he arrived in the tropical waters of the Caribbean last year. He opted to replace it with a Dacron main - and quickly came to regret it. In less than two months of sailing in windy Caribbean conditions, his new main had lost all its shape. Profligate, on the other hand, has had a laminated Spectra main for four years. Despite heavy use in the tropics and frequent use in apparent winds over 25 knots, it's been bulletproof and shows no signs of impending failure. In other words, buying a sail for cruising in the tropics is not quite as simple as "Dacron is good and Spectra is bad."
Because of all the choices, buying a main can be a relatively complicated, as well as expensive, proposition. As such, we recommend that anyone considering buying one consult with a sailmaker. Getting a second opinion isn't a bad idea either.
BUY PRESCRIPTION DRUGS SOUTH OF THE BORDER
A reader requested information about buying prescription drugs in Mexico, but not wanting to be arrested. The problem starts with the definition of prescription drugs. What they are in the United States is not the same as in Mexico. There are few drugs in Mexico that require a doctor to prescribe them, and those are generally narcotics and some cardiac medicines. There are others, as I have seen a list, but I never needed any of them so I don't know which ones they are.
In any event, the drugs Ms. Wilson was arrested with are all available over the counter. If there is a law about having too many, I've never run across a farmacia that would limit the amount. I certainly have had larger amounts in hand or at home, and have sometimes been given large amounts at Seguro Social after a visit with our doctor.
For those who want to visit Mexico, try to determine whether the particular drug is available here - almost all are, including the new ones - and buy your major supply here rather than paying the outlandish prices in the States. Even drugs under patent are far cheaper here, and if one can do with generics - and usually there is no reason one cannot - the savings are very large. For example, Proscar here is about half the cost of what it is in the States. Zocor is about $100 for a month's supply here, which I suspect is considerably less than in the U.S. Generic oral hypoglycemics for diabetics are probably a tenth of the U.S. cost, and one doesn't need to feed the doctor's kitty to buy them.
The least expensive farmacias here in La Paz are ISSSTE and Fenix, and the best place for generics is the Farmacia Similares chain, where everything is inexpensive and available.
I know there are lots of scare stories about counterfeit drugs here, but after 16 years I have yet to run across any. I suspect they are no more common here than in the States, where they do exist. Much of the scare tactics seem to be generated by the FDA and the 'ethical' pharmaceutical industry, both of whom I believe ought to be ashamed of their actions.
Ellis - Thanks for the information.
Stories about Americans looking to buy less expensive drugs in
Mexico have been all over the news recently, as a number of Americans
- and some Mexican pharmacists - have been arrested for having
drugs that weren't prescribed by Mexican doctors. So Americans
heading to Mexico need to bring prescriptions along with their
drugs, and if they buy them in Mexico, think twice about buying
them without a prescription from a Mexican doctor. This seems
to be an evolving situation, so people about to travel to Mexico
need to keep up with the story.
My husband and I enjoyed the Baja Ha-Has in 2000 and 2002. But both times after the event I had difficulty filling my four prescriptions - even at large pharmacies such as Sam's Club in Mazatlan. I was only able to purchase the exact brand, and sometimes I couldn't find the exact same dosage. The rest were generics or what I was told "would do the same thing." Unfortunately, I purchased one of the "don't worry, it does the same thing" medicines - and almost fainted while boarding a bus. The medication I got was not 'slow release' as I was accustomed to, and hit me all at once!
The next time I plan a trip to Mexico, I will ask my doctors for samples - with written prescriptions - and plead with Blue Cross to extend my vacation allotment.
There was a letter in the September issue from a Mr. Hale titled My Granddaughter Now Wants a Tug. I'm wondering if you could help me contact him, because I manage Foss operations here on the Bay, and I'm deeply concerned that one of our tug skippers is alleged to have made a vulgar gesture in response to a request to slow down on the Estuary. Any help with this matter would be greatly appreciated. I can be reached at (510) 307-8762
Tim - We don't have a contact for Mr.
Hale, but we're sure he reads this magazine and will give you
a call. We're impressed that you take his complaint seriously.
In the last issue of Latitude you had an interesting, if not sad, story about the two Spanish gentlemen who bought a sailboat and wanted to sail back to Spain. As the broker of record in the transaction, I would like to shed a little more light on this story.
Many people rendered assistance to these gentlemen in addition to the two that were mentioned. Scott Brear of Ballena Bay Yacht Brokers donated many days in assisting with problem-solving, equipment installation, and financial contributions. Steve Walters of Emerald Lady spent many hours doing Spanish translation. I personally bought them a new GPS when theirs failed at the 11th hour. There was no transactional requirement for any of the above rendered assistance. Additionally, as an experienced cruiser, I continually tried to impress upon these gentlemen that it was still hurricane season, that they needed vessel registration in some country, that they should not take crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec so lightly, and that they were ill-prepared for undertaking such a voyage.
The final comment that I have about this misadventure is that Latitude incorrectly stated that the boat's "engine sprung a leak," perhaps giving the impression that the engine was in poor condition. What happened, in fact, is that they installed a new oil filter incorrectly, ignored the low oil pressure alarm that resulted, which caused the engine to lose oil and eventually seize.
Hopefully, when these two return from Spain to begin their voyage, their many friends in the Bay Area will be able to provide sound council that will assist them in making a safe voyage home.
Lenard - Thanks for the clarification about the engine problem and the help that Bi and Pincho received from you and other local sailors.
We feel it was a case of divine intervention that these likeable guys had the engine problem that caused them to delay their voyage. Passion is a wonderful quality, but without some common sense and experience it can lead to serious problems. It's easy for novices to delude themselves with grandiose plans. When we started publishing Latitude more than a quarter of a century ago, there was a guy named Tiger who ran around raising money for a proposed circumnavigation. After a shockingly small amount of planning, he took off one day - and the boat was back in the berth the next. "I didn't realize that the water was so much rougher outside the Gate than on the Oakland Estuary," he explained. When passion collides with reality, it often results in a change of plans.
Bi and Pincho remind us of Antonio, who was also from Galacia, and was the captain on Big O on and off for many years. He bought a Van der Stadt 45 in Fort Lauderdale for a brother-in-law in Spain, and after working on her for six months, put her in the water and set sail for Spain without a shakedown. Of course it was hurricane season, and he and his girlfriend got caught in one. They survived, but barely. If you'd like, we can arrange to have Antonio try to talk just a little bit of sense into the guys when they get back. Incidentally, Antonio also lived in Panama for awhile and has a knack for getting to know people in high places. As such, he may have some Latin insight into how to create a boat registration out of thin air.
If Bi and Pincho's ferro hull was built
well enough, and if they've got guts and are quick studies, we
think they'll make it to Spain. It just won't be anywhere near
as simple, easy or inexpensive as they imagine.
Thank you for writing and publishing the article about Bi and Pincho, the two Spaniards who are trying to put together a boat here in the Bay Area to sail back to Galacia, Spain. I am the Alameda metalworker who was mentioned in the article as helping them. It was absolutely heartbreaking to them - and everyone who was helping them - when the engine seized from oil starvation just five minutes before they sailed off.
I'm a retired pilot, flight instructor, and was a farrier - horseshoer - at racetracks for 20 years. I started an architectural metalsmithing shop five years ago after my dream of a flying career faltered.
After doing some initial work on Bi and Pincho's boat, I realized what it is about them that I respect so much. Apart from having a great sense of humor, they have a passion for life that should be a model for the rest of us. Who among us would sell everything they own, fly to a foreign country, and then sail halfway around the world in a boat that is unproven outside the local bay?
When the engine failed, Bi and Pincho were devastated. They were low on money and decided to fly back to Spain to try to raise enough money to repair the boat. The weekend before they left, my wife and I decided to show them some American hospitality, and took them home for a couple of days of R&R. What a gift these two guys are! My boys, 12 and 10, fell in love with them. It was a joy to watch them, at the unspeakable hour of 6 a.m., playing soccer by bouncing a basketball on their heads! My Spanish-speaking Mexican neighbor later asked if I had two Italians - he'd heard all the laughter and noise - in the house. He hadn't understood the Spanish. Anyway, my wife took them to her ranch in Half Moon Bay to visit her horse, and then to Pescadero and Memorial Park to see the redwoods. Bi and Pincho were completely blown away, having never seen such big trees. Needless to say, we have adopted our Spanish friends as family.
I am going to be removing the engine from their boat and will try to locate a replacement. I am seeking technical assistance and advice from any source you might have regarding this project. The boat has been taken out of the water and is now on the hard at Nelson's Marine. Bi and Pincho plan on returning in six months to attempt to get underway once again.
Tim - We're glad Bi and Pincho's trip
has been postponed for six months. For if they leave in February,
it won't be hurricane season, and they shouldn't have too much
trouble getting to Panama. Assuming they get through the Canal
by late spring, they might find a decent weather window across
the Caribbean, which would put them in a good position to join
all the Caribbean boats headed downwind across the Atlantic to
Europe. In our opinion, it would have been foolish and irresponsible
for them to have left in September - as anyone can tell by the
number of hurricanes that have been roaring off the coast of
Mexico since then.
My wife and I would like to do more coastal cruising, but find it difficult to make a decision to exit the Gate and turn left or right based on a weather forecast that covers the huge area from Pt. Arena to Pigeon Point. And, as we've discovered, the San Francisco Bay Area creates its own weather system that doesn't help predict what the weather is like 'outside'.
Looking for more information, we attended a recent workshop hosted by the weather folks at Monterey, but they admitted that they don't have a 'model' for mariners to use and are, practically speaking, more concerned with forecasting the winds at the local airports than the winds and waves 30 miles north or south of the Gate. Do you have any suggestions on making an informed 'go or no go' decision, or should we just plan for 40 knots and press on?
Jim & Joan Bueto
Jim and Joan - What the weather is like inside the Bay will absolutely not tell you what the weather is like out in the ocean. In fact, longtime sailors like Robert Flowerman will tell you that the general rule is that if it's blowing inside the Gate, it's light outside - and vice versa.
If it's really blowing hard in the ocean, it almost certainly will be quite rough from Point Arena to Piedras Blancas. So NOAA's all-in-one forecast for those waters makes a lot of sense. Sometimes they'll note differences to the north or the south. In addition, we'd always check what the coastal buoys are reporting. Pay particular attention to the wave period. If it's over 12 seconds, it's going to be pretty nice. If the period is eight seconds or less and there is any kind of sea or swell, you probably want to stay inside the Gate. Real Time Wind reports, found at http://sfports.wr.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/wind/windbin.cgi, are also excellent. However, they cover only a limited area outside the Gate, and wind conditions in the afternoon are likely to be very different from what they were in the morning. But we think it's worth checking out.
Cruising up and down the Northern California
coast will make you much better sailors, but it's often not the
most enjoyable cruising experience in the world. We don't know
what your work/children situation is like, but if at all possible,
we'd highly recommend that you try to make a big effort toward
a two- to three-week late summer/early fall cruise to and around
Southern California. Cojo, Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands,
Catalina and Newport - it's mostly warm, gentle and lovely down
there, and you can get away as much as you'd like. It's very
much worth the effort, even if you have to hire somebody to deliver
your boat home so you get to spend the maximum time possible
down there. In fact, we enjoyed those waters so much last month
that we were even considering hosting a SoCal Ha-Ha next summer.
Then we regained our senses - our plate is already too full!
We just read your article on the problems between skipper Barbara Rozalska and her crew aboard Nootka Rose while sailing from New Zealand to Hawaii. It was very interesting.
We met Barbara at Musket Cove in Fiji, and have to say that we were concerned about her safety. She came by our boat looking for crew, but mentally seemed to be all over the place. We couldn't believe she'd made it to Fiji in the first place. We really felt for her, but couldn't really give a very high recommendation to potential crew who asked about her. We felt she needed a captain to sail the boat for her, so we were delighted to read that a former crewmember will be sailing the rest of the way home with her.
People who singlehand or shorthand their boats need to be capable - and not dependent on picking up crew at each stop. This may sound like an obvious statement, but there are a lot of people out here trying to live the dream who are totally dependent on finding competent crew. As the owner of a boat and the captain, you are responsible for your crew, not the other way around. If you can't make a journey yourself, then you certainly should not be taking on crew who don't know much about sailing, but are just looking for adventure. We don't know how many times we've heard stories like that of Nootka Rose, and some of them have ended in tragedy.
To be fair, we've seen some real 'winners' in the crew category as well.
Brett Thompson & Mike Crawford
Readers - To review, last month a fellow with lots of cruising experience, and who had crewed with Barbara before, said he thought she was a pleasant and competent skipper, and that he was delighted to be sailing back to Canada with her.
As for Thompson and Crawford's general point about being able to handle one's boat before taking crew, we couldn't agree more. In fact, one of the primary considerations in our selling the heavy Ocean 71 ketch Big O and acquiring the much lighter catamaran Profligate was that the latter is easy to singlehand while the former was difficult to sail shorthanded. There's freedom when you go cruising - as long as you're not dependent on crew.
WHERE TO STAY IN CABO AFTER THE HA-HA?
My husband and I will be crewing aboard Mike and Kay Heath's Nautic Saintonge 44 Finisterre in the Baja Ha-Ha this October. When we arrive in Cabo November 4th or 5th, my husband and I would like to stay in a resort or hotel for a couple of nights before flying back to the States. We would like to stay somewhere close to where the Baja Ha-Ha dinners and parties will be held. Do you know, or know who would know, where in Cabo these events will be held? Can you recommend any resorts or hotels in Cabo?
Nora - The Poobah will make this answer general to benefit as many people as possible. Most of the fleet should arrive in Cabo on the afternoon or evening of the 4th. Although it's not an official event, it's common for Ha-Ha participants, decked out in their Ha-Ha shirts and hats, to just about take over the Squid Roe bar and cut loose a little.
On the morning of the 5th and 6th, the Ha-Ha net will be based out of the Baja Cantina, which is just up the walk from the fuel dock at the back of the Plaza Las Glorias Hotel. Many Ha-Ha folks stop by to tell stories, buy T-shirts, and just hang out.
The beach party on the 5th runs from about noon until 9 p.m., but is most popular from about 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Ha-Ha folks never know where the beach party will be held until the day before because the palapa places where they are held sometimes get washed away by the hurricane surf of September and early October. But normally it's held within a very short distance of the Hotel Melia on the beach.
The awards party - the Ha-Ha is way too casual to have an awards dinner - is the last event of the Ha-Ha and starts at 6 p.m. on the 6th in the beautiful parking lot - now paved! - of Marina Cabo San Lucas. It lasts about two hours, which leaves a lot of night left to enjoy yourselves.
There are lots of places to stay in Cabo and the Cabo area, none of them perfectly central to all the action. The Hotel Melia, near the beach party site and overlooking the anchored boats and The Friars, is quite lovely. It also has a nice bar in the swimming pool. For folks who want more upscale, private, romantic places to stay after being on a crowded boat, there are places like the Twin Dolphin, Hotel Cabo San Lucas, and others that are several miles to the east, or the hotels Sol Mar and Finnesterre that face the Pacific. Both of these require taxi rides to Ha-Ha events, but there aren't that many events, so it's not that inconvenient. For traditionalists such as ourselves, there's nothing like the original: the Hotel Mar de Cortez. It's inexpensive for Cabo and has that Cabo Viejo vibe you can't find anywhere else. On the other hand, the rooms are very basic and the beds are not the most comfortable in the world. All in all, we recommend that folks check out the accompanying map and get on the Internet to do a little research to find the place that suits them best.
A word on plane tickets. Flights home
on Sunday are very crowded, and inexplicably, often times one
way fares cost more than round-trips! So either make your reservations
immediately or try to fly out on Monday or Tuesday. For those
who want to look around, it's only about 90 minutes by bus to
La Paz, which has its own airport for flights to California.
A little before noon on September 6, we were returning to the Estuary from China Camp on our Sabre 34 Kokopelli. We were towing our inflatable dinghy - at least we were in the beginning. A quarter mile past the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, we discovered that the dinghy was no longer behind us. We turned around and retraced our path while calling on VHF 16 to see if anyone had spotted it.
The Coast Guard told us that a MacGregor 65 had reported the dinghy as adrift, and had taken it in tow. We saw the MacGregor towing our dinghy about a mile ahead to the north, and were able to contact her on channel 16 and make a rendezvous south of The Brothers.
In the excitement of recovering our dinghy from the kind couple on the MacGregor, we didn't adequately thank them for their help. We hope they read this letter and know that we are very grateful and wish them fair winds and following seas.
Martin and Nancy Thomas
From time to time, I notice letters in your columns suggesting ways to avoid taxes of this kind or that. I wonder if you and your readers stop to consider what taxes are for? They pay for fire and police services, Coast Guard rescue crews, roads, street signs, navigational aids, emergency medical services, public parks, schools and other things. As a public school teacher, I wish more tax money was used for schools.
I've met plenty of folks who bitch about paying taxes, but never anyone who doesn't want at least some of these services. I certainly have plenty to say about misplaced priorities in the way my taxes are spent and the inequity in the ways they are assessed - including the fact that wealthy folks, probably including many boatowners - are often paying less than their fair share compared to middle-class working folks such as myself.
I admire people who get involved in politics in an effort to change those spending and taxing priorities. But I find very little to admire in the attitude that taxes are to be avoided by any means possible - especially among those who can certainly afford to pay them. And I admit, I assume that anyone who has a recreational boat that's not his/her primary residence is in that category.
I guess I wouldn't mind if people who complained about paying taxes were willing to swear that they will never call on the Coast Guard for emergency rescues, or the fire department to put out a fire, or ask for a traffic light to be installed, a street to be paved, a waterfront park or public dock to be established or maintained, or for your children or your neighbors' children to be given educational opportunities beyond those you can personally provide.
I just thought it would be nice to see just a little bit of this perspective in response to the fanatical tax dodgers who write in - even though it won't make me any new boat-owning friends. I'm perpetual crew - no boatownership for me.
Laura - We're not going to let tax policy become an ongoing thread in Letters, but since you asked, here's the way we look at it. But mind you, we're not fanatics, and we realize that a great number of readers may hold opposing views.
We'd be happy with the current level or even higher taxes - but only if we thought the money would be intelligently spent, and that we taxpayers were getting a good bang for our tax buck. But we don't believe that would be the case or has been the case for a long time. After all, even the casual reader of the Chronicle can't be unaware of the massive amount of waste, corruption, and fraud - to say nothing of raw stupidity - demonstrated by all branches of government from local to federal. After all, these days it's routine for cities, counties, and school districts to be unable to account for tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and for low-level employees to simply waltz off with a couple of million dollars. And we suspect that only a small fraction of them get caught.
We support laws that require the presidents of corporations to be responsible for their corporation's tax returns - and to face long jail sentences if the returns are fraudulent. Similarly, we support legislation that would also jail government officials who can't account for all expenditures under their control. After all, if such officials aren't competent or honest, they have no business being public servants. If the government wants tax support from the general population, we think they're going to have to demonstrate a much greater degree of accountability - and start putting more than a few public officials behind bars.
In addition, we'd be remiss if we didn't tell you what you probably already know - that government employees have a growing image problem. For, rightly or wrongly, a lot of people in the private sector believe that too large a percentage of public employees are some combination of grossly overcompensated, lazy, incompetent or primarily interested in working the system rather than serving the public.
How do they get that impression? When we first started cruising in the early '80s, we became friends with a guy who used to cruise his Irwin 37 in Mexico all winter, every winter. Since he was relatively young, we asked him if he was a trust fund baby or what. He replied that he was a San Francisco fireman. We asked if he was on disability, but he said no, that he was full time. When we asked how he could possibly be a full-time San Francisco fireman if he spent his winters cruising in Mexico, he explained that it was quite easy under the union rules. Not only did he get full time pay, he got overtime too! While we were happy for him on a personal basis, we thought it was a terrible deal for San Francisco taxpayers - and goes a long way towards explaining why that city is a couple of hundred million dollars short of a balanced budget.
Over the years it seems that things haven't gotten any better for taxpayers. For instance, it was recently reported that the County of Marin is going to grant its employees retirement at age 50 with something like 98% of their pay. We had a laugh when one supervisor explained they were doing this so the county could "save money." If that was going to save money, why didn't they really give taxpayers a break by letting county employees retire at age 40 at 150% of their pay?
The other thing to remember is that government can't continually keep increasing the tax burden without negative consequences. The greater the tax burden, the greater the incentive for individuals and businesses to find ways to alleviate that burden. We at Latitude, for example, could follow the lead of other publications and move the base of our operations to Nevada. Because of the different tax laws in Nevada, this would result in tens of thousands of dollars ending up in our pockets rather than in the California state treasury. We're not going to do it, but by not doing it we are left at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses that have taken or will take that option.
We, like a lot of other people, would
feel a lot better about paying taxes - even higher taxes - if
we believed the money went to worthy causes, and if the productivity
of government and government workers was even half that of the
Earlier this summer a good sailing friend moved away to London. She wouldn't be able to sail there, so I set about compiling a CD mix of songs to remember our good times by. It went over great - we had a fabulous evening on the boat drinking fine wine and singing - badly - the lyrics to the entire marina one night.
I just finished publishing the set as an iMix on the iTunes site. Here is the list of titles and credits: If I Had a Boat, by Lyle Lovett; Into the Mystic, by Joe Cocker (they didn't have the Van Morrison version at the iTunes store); Southern Cross, by Crosby, Stills & Nash; Jamaica Farewell, by Harry Belafonte; My Ship, by Cassandra Wilson; Son of a Son of a Sailor, by Jimmy Buffett; Sloop John B., by The Beach Boys; Blue Bayou, by Roy Orbison; Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, by Jimmy Buffett; and San Francisco Bay Blues, by Eric Clapton.
If you paste this URL into a browser, it should kick up the mix and give you a link to purchase it: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPublishedPlaylist?id=109529. If this link doesn't work for you, anyone can buy the songs individually through iTunes. [Webmistress's note: We were not able to get this link to work.]
I thought I'd pass this along because it was something of a mind-wrenching challenge for me to summon up titles of sailing songs, and thought there might be others out there who are interested in a good list of sailing and boat-related songs. (Sailing, by Christopher Cross, was deliberately not included as I've always suspected he wrote that song while looking at a postcard photo.)
Stephanie - Terrific! Anybody else with any suggestions? But please, no more Jimmy Buffett songs, as we could include half his catalog, and most sailors have all his stuff anyway.
We have three contributions. First,
Back to the Island by Leon Russell. For our money, it's as evocative
a sailing song as has ever been recorded. Second, Panama by Van
Halen. We have no idea what the lyrics about driving down a highway
with pistons burning up has to do with a song titled Panama,
but it's a rockin' song and Panama is a great cruising country,
so what's not to like?
We were participants in the 2003 Baja Ha-Ha, and had a wonderful experience. In fact, we've encouraged many of our friends to participate in upcoming Ha-Has. In addition, we want to suggest that people don't postpone opportunities to do the Ha-Ha and go cruising for too long. Why? Because some people, unfortunately, don't get very many chances.
We'd like to use this letter to pay tribute to our dear friend Scott Majors, who crewed on our Endorphin in the Ha-Ha, but who tragically passed away of cancer on August 18. He was just 42.
We met Scott eight years ago in the Vallejo Municipal Marina. Mary and I had just bought our first sailboat and we had the good fortune of keeping her just a few slips away from Scott and his wife Liz's boat. Later, and for many more years afterwards, our boats were in adjacent slips. Over time, we learned that Scott and his wife were married on an Islander 36 in Hawaii, and saw a green flash on their wedding day. It was the inspiration for them naming their Islander 36 Green Flash. You may recall publishing the story of how their boat was stolen from the Vallejo Municipal Marina and ultimately beached and holed off Half Moon Bay. They soon purchased another Islander 36, which they also christened Green Flash.
Scott and I worked on our boats day after day, as we were both preparing to go cruising. Unfortunately, Scott was unable to finish the preparations on his boat in time for the 2003 Baja Ha-Ha. Fortunately for Mary and me, he was able to crew for us along with Richard Pfand. Scott never gave up on his dream, and that trip was a dream come true for him. He lived every day like there was no tomorrow. Scott touched many people's hearts, not only in the marina, but in the boating community and along the way down the coast to Mexico. He even donated his old boat engine to fellow Ha-Ha'ers Jaspar and Flocerfida Benincasa of the Las Vegas-based Columbia 34 Flocerfida. Thanks in part to Scott, the couple are now halfway to the Phillipines.
Scott will be missed by everyone who knew him, especially his close friends in the boating community. So if you think this may not be the right year to live your cruising dream, remember that there won't be an unlimited number of tomorrows. Fair winds, Scott, we love you!
P.S. We arrived home with our boat on September 7 after nearly a year of cruising in Mexico. We fell in love with the people and the country.
Ron & Mary Wilson
I read with dismay the September letter to the editor concerning the allegations - now apparently dropped - of double collecting mooring fees at Two Harbors, Catalina. Let me say that my visits there are frequent - perhaps 20 times a year - and in the past 16 years I have never - ever! - been hit up for a second fee. Sometimes the afternoon boat has asked if I've already paid for my mooring, but I've never been asked to show a receipt. Further, none of my friends who frequent the island have ever complained of being double-charged.
On the contrary, those Harbor Patrol folks have helped me on many occasions. The allegations almost make me feel as though someone has insulted my family!
In the last issue a reader included an email regarding an alleged scam for double collecting mooring fees at Two Harbor, Catalina. For the past seven summers, I have sailed to Catalina about six times per year, often renting a mooring for three or four nights per trip, usually at Two Harbors. While I don't for a second believe the Harbor Patrol is running any kind of scam, it does appear that the frequency of being checked for a receipt after check-in has increased significantly in the last two years.
Before I became aware of the allegations, I really didn't take great care with my receipts, in part because I'd never been asked to show one. But since early last summer, after my mooring neighbor told me he'd been double-charged for a week's stay, I've been careful to save the receipts. It's a good thing that I have, because twice last year and this year I've been asked to prove payment.
When asked for a receipt, I've always respectfully provided it. Notwithstanding the pencil and paper system in triplicate, I have also asked if a central system - such as at the front desk of a motel - exists that indicates at any given time which moorings are occupied and paid for or reserved for the next day. All I've been told is that "it's just a busy place." It's unclear to me why this would be the case, because each time I check in the Harbor Patrol officer radios my boat and mooring information to the central office. Thus, there is no material difference between checking into a motel room and a mooring. And when was the last time somebody knocked on your door at Motel Six and asked for proof of payment? Further, without a central master list that easily shows what spots have been paid for or reserved, how can the Harbor Patrol determine which moorings are open and available at any given time?
I'm uncertain if there has been a change in management at Two Harbors. All my Visa receipts used to say Doug Bombard Enterprises, but they now indicate different entities. While Doug Oudin, the head guy at Two Harbors, clearly knows his stuff and has always been extremely polite and professional, it appears that lately he is spending a lot more time driving a shoreboat - a job previously performed by less experienced employees.
I can't stress enough that I don't believe there is any organized double-charging at Two Harbors, but based on my own experience those on moorings are being asked to show receipts more often than before. While I will undoubtedly continue my diligence in saving my receipts, being required to hunt them down so frequently just seems unnecessary - and something that could easily be avoided with minimal effort and expense on the part of the Harbor Patrol. Perhaps this is something they can work on over the slow winter months.
In any case, I plan on continuing my enjoyment of a truly special place for years to come.
Richard - It was seven years ago that Bombard Enterprises left and was replaced by Two Harbors Enterprises. In 2002, Two Harbors Enterprises signed a 20-year lease with the State Lands Commission to continue the current arrangement.
Many folks don't realize it, but the operations at Avalon and Two Harbors are separate - and the one based out of Two Harbors is much larger. Avalon is in charge of just 348 moorings, and in the summer months their turnover is only about 50%. Two Harbors Enterprises is in charge of 12 coves - including White's and Emerald Cove, to name two of the better known - and have a total of 720 moorings. And their rate of turnover is much greater than at Avalon.
Why not a motel-like computer system at Two Harbors? Doug Oudin reports that they are slowly working toward it, but there are inherent problems. For one thing, there can't be one central registration desk at which to check in, because some coves - such as White's - are as far as eight miles away from the Two Harbors base. Furthermore, land obstructions mean there is no radio contact between places like White's and Emerald Cove with the base at Two Harbors. As such, the 12 coves under Two Harbors' control are run as anonymous entities on most days - but on Thursday nights and Monday mornings, the Harbor Patrol people from those coves come to the Two Harbors base to be updated on what owners have reserved their moorings for which of the following days.
When a guest mariner uses a mooring for the night, the money is paid, there's a triplicate receipt, and the reservation is entered by hand in the cove's reservation book. With so many moorings changing hands so quickly and so many boats coming at peak times, sometimes the Harbor Patrol guys can't keep entries in the folder up to date with those in the triplicate receipt books - which is why the afternoon shift will sometimes ask if a boat has paid or to see their receipt.
We're told that the problem the individual from the Seal Beach YC thought he had, turned out not to be a problem at all. Unfortunately, the original allegation got out, and once it did, it couldn't be retracted.
If you take a mooring at Catalina, it's simple to put the receipt in your chart table. That way you have proof that you paid. If you have any problems - which we're confident you won't - see the folks at the bases, either at Avalon and Two Harbors.
We've said it before and we'll say it
again, we've visited Catalina many times in the last three years,
and think all the Harbor Patrol and other personnel do an absolutely
outstanding job. They have a great attitude, are extremely friendly,
and are quick to help.
On August 25, Tonya and I, aboard our Prout 37 cat Amazing Grace, decided along with Dick and Judy on Corazon and Dave and Carolyn on Que Tal, to head up to Vee Cove on the north end of Isla Carmen in the Sea of Cortez. As the name indicates, it's a narrow but spectacular cove in which to anchor. Having a cat, we anchored furthest in, in 14 feet of water. I dove on the anchors before we took the dinghy to some caves for exploring.
After hosting the radio net that night, we sat on deck and watched the almost nightly show of lightning from the direction of the mainland. Normally these come from the east over toward the Baja side, but never quite arrive. Dick on Corazon said he thought this storm was moving our way. We agreed, but figured it would pass to the north of us. After a night swim, I was back on the boat again, when Dick again wondered if we should think about moving to a better spot. In retrospect, we should have left right then, but we all stayed up and watched the show.
By midnight we could pick the storm up on radar. We took all our sidescreens off and made other preparations, but we should have run out of that narrow cove. The storm hit us like a ton of bricks. The next five hours were like an E-Ticket ride combined with a nightmare. We didn't see more than 41 knots, but the real problem was the associated swells pouring right into the V-shaped cove, which caused them to stack up. We ran the engine for four hours, trying to keep some pressure off the anchor. Tonya watched the GPS like a hawk to make sure we were not dragging, but from time to time had to come up for air because the motion below was extreme. It was like being in a Maytag washer on full agitate!
Take my word for it, the best thing we could have had in a situation like that was great ground tackle - and lots of room. We didn't have the latter, as we were pinned, with cliffs on both sides and rocks just off our starboard transom. The waves were rolling into the cove and bouncing off the sides. At times, we were straight, sideways, and even backwards to the waves. I would steer with both the motor and the drive leg to try to keep us heading into the swell.
The wind started to abate at 4:30 a.m. and the swells backed off about 6:30 a.m. We'd made a mistake by not leaving, and could have lost our boat, but lucked out. Not so lucky was the 40-ft wood boat Water Witch out of Port Townsend with Doug and Louise aboard. At 2 a.m. they put out a Mayday, saying they were on the rocks about a mile from us and abandoning the classic yacht. Trapped and unable to raise our anchor in such a tight space, I radioed back that we'd respond as soon as we could, but it would be after first light.
At first light we upped anchor and went over to La Lancha to try to help. The best sight was seeing both Doug and Louise on top of the rocks looking all right. Water Witch, however, was on her side on a very rocky beach. Dick and I went ashore as another boat arrived and anchored. Que Tal was still behind, as they were having to deal with a dinghy that had been punctured in the storm. When Dick and I got ashore, we found both Doug and Louise cold and in some shock, but in reasonably good shape. We brought them out to Amazing Grace, where Tonya had coffee, dry clothes and hot soup.
Dick took Corazon offshore to try to make radio contact, as the mountains of the island were blocking communication to the Loreto area. Chris from Ventana went back to Water Witch with me to see if a salvage was feasible. But Water Witch was a 55-ft wooden boat, and all the planks and beams were busted on the starboard side. We gathered the easily removable items from deck and started running them back to the two boats. I brought Doug back to try to find his ship's papers, but we never could find them.
Several blasts from an air horn had us rushing back to Amazing Grace. Tonya said the immediate forecast called for more lightning storms and soon. We had to leave for a safer spot. As we were heading for Puerto Ballandra, we saw a 24-ft blue panga heading in the direction of the stricken Water Witch. We all figured that if we didn't get back to the wooden sloop soon, she'd be stripped of all her gear. Anchored at Ballandra, about 10 miles from Water Witch, we tried to assess the situation.
When the Mexican Navy showed up in the cove, we flagged them down. We did not know it at the time, but they had been radioed by the blue panga that we were worried about. Anyway, we explained our concerns, and they promptly offered to take some of us back to the boat to get more equipment. Doug, Dave from Que Tal, and I loaded the dinghy on the bow of the panga and we were off. Let me tell you, the Mexican Navy's new super pangas have two 200-hp outboards - and they move. In no time we were back at the site, where we tied to Water Witch. We got everything we could topside, but there was still a lot belowdecks. We removed all canvas, sails, anchors, the windvane and whatever tools we could. All the equipment was in super shape because Doug had done a six-year restoration and refit before sailing to Mexico.
After several hours, we headed back to Ballandra and put all the gear on the beach. Just after dark, we got a call from Two Can Play saying there were some locals on a panga looking for Doug and us. They came over and introduced themselves, and told us their normal landing on Isla Carmen was in the same cove as Water Witch's resting spot. Theirs was the blue panga we'd seen earlier in the day and had suspected was going to strip Water Witch. The lady in the panga was the head of the Nature Conservancy on Isla Carmen, and in charge of environmental studies. One of the gentlemen was the general manager of the local sportfishing fleet. It was they who alerted the Navy about Water Witch's trouble, and had instructed everyone else to keep clear so the salvage could proceed! They were friends, not thieves!
Initially we thought that Doug might be in deep doo-doo as there were about 20 gallons of diesel remaining in Watch Witch's tank. All the rest had been removed. The folks on the panga said "no problemo" - and asked how they could help! They offered to help salvage what they could and store it on the island for Doug. As it turned out, Doug donated some solar panels and a wind generator to them, and they were ecstatic. They offered to strip what they could of his personal belongings until he could go over and see what he wanted.
The attitude of both the Navy and the locals was beyond belief. Above all, they were concerned for Doug and Louise's loss, and for their well-being. Their next concern was to help mitigate the loss. After being down here almost three years, the more Mexicans we meet, the more amazed we are. They are truly warm and kind - as long as you don't put on some attitude.
The next day Dennis and Susan on Two Can Play, and Dick and Judi on Corazon picked up all the rest of the gear from Water Witch, and we all motored back to Puerto Escondido. Jim on Sparta already had several options for storage, and offers of places for Doug and Louise to stay. We all took turns unloading at the dinghy dock. Helping were Mike from La Otra, John from Pelican, Jim from Sparta, and others from the Hidden Port YC gang. They ferried all the gear by truck and van to a nearby safe storage spot. We then all exhaled and tried to relax, recover and reflect.
Doug is already thinking about how he can return to Mexico, perhaps on a smaller boat. He may have been knocked down, but he's back up and thinking about the future. Louise wants to continue cruising, and has another ride starting this fall in Central America.
In the midst of all of this we heard over the radio that our friend John of Why Not, a Gulfstar 50, had grounded in Candeleros, damaging the rudder and skeg. Fortunately, he was able to power off without more damage. All in all, it had been a nasty little storm!
Readers - Here's an unusual sidelight to the loss of Water Witch: On July 28, Doug Tiffany, owner of Water Witch, sent a letter to Steve Taylor, Secretary of the Cruising Club of America. He explained that back in the '70s he stopped by Sausalito where he visited the famous 33-ft engineless gaff cutter Stornoway that Al Petersen had singlehanded around the world from 1948-1952. For his achievement, Petersen was awarded the prestigious Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America.
Tiffany went on to report that on his way to Mexico last year, he saw Stornoway again in Sausalito, but this time she was "a complete wreck," her bowsprit broken off and her port quarter stove in. He explained that having been told the boat was abandoned, he did something he would never normally do - he went aboard. Stornaway was a wreck inside also, but on the bulkhead was the Blue Water Medal from 1952! Tiffany, seeing the condition of the boat, and having befriended Petersen's widow Marjorie back in the '70s, decided to take the medal for safekeeping. His letter to Taylor was to explain that he'd taken it and to ask where he should send it.
Taylor forwarded Tiffany's letter to Bob Van Blaricom of Tiburon, who is the Chairman of the Blue Water Award Committee, and who had been a longtime friend of the Petersens. Van Blaricom responded that he was thrilled Tiffany had removed the medal, as Stornaway had sunk, then been raised only to be demolished at the Army Corps of Engineers in Sausalito. Dana Hayden, son of sailing legend Sterling Hayden, who had lived on Stornoway for several years, had gone looking through the debris for the medal - but was unable to find it because Tiffany had removed it.
On August 31, Tiffany wrote the following to Van Blaricom: "I'm afraid the Blue Water Medal is lost. Two days ago I lost my boat in a chubasco in the Sea of Cortez. The wind is from the south at this time of year, and I'd felt safe with the north exposure. But I was wrong. Water Witch would be salvageable, but I don't have the resources, so I stripped as much as I could with the help of the cruising community. I had no insurance, so I'll be licking my wounds for awhile."
To which Van Blaricom responded, "The missing medal is a trivial matter compared to the loss of your boat. Anyway, I'm sure Al Petersen, sitting up there on the edge of a cloud, would be pleased to see that his medal disappeared in a dramatic stormy wreck rather than in an ignominious demolition and burial in the county dump."
So if anybody snooping around the remains of Water Witch finds the Blue Water Medal, it would be totally cool if they sent it back to Van Blairicom, who lives at 679 Hawthorne Drive, Tiburon, 94920, and who can be reached at (415) 435-3488.
As for you Doug, if it's true you're
looking for a small boat to return to cruising in Mexico, and
if you find one that could use a Yanmar 52 hp diesel, we might
be able to help.
Strange though it might sound coming from the eastern side of the Greenwich meridian - I live in Eastern England and sail from Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Sailing Club - Latitude 38 is the first place I look at in cyberspace when I connect to the Internet. I always find something interesting, and learn a few things too. The latest update is as absorbing as I have come to expect - but for one small thing. The description of the 18-ft skiff as the most temperamental sailboat might not be far from the truth, but I bet the latest International Moth designs would give it a run for its money. Just take a look at www.rohanveal.com to see what they are getting up to.
John - We're flattered that you look to Latitude first in cyberspace. Thank you.
As for the International Moth, you have
to realize that the difference between sailing in California
and England is that we Yanks prefer bigger boats, and compared
to you Brits do very, very little small boat sailing. As such,
when California sailors hear the word 'moth', they think of something
that flies out of old blankets rather than a high-performance
I just bought a Catalina 25 with a wing keel, which I intend to trailer to Cozumel, Mexico, where I own property. The purchase and sale did not take place in California, and I will not bring the boat into the state. The question is what country would it be best for me to register the boat and trailer in. She's currently registered in Oregon.
David - We can't think of any advantage in registering the boat and trailer anywhere but the state of Oregon. When you get to Mexico, you'll probably need to get a 10-year Import Permit.
Update: Hammer has just returned from
Cozumel where he met a man who had three boats registered to
his Mexican corporation, and who said it had been very expensive
and involved a lot of red tape.
I'm planning on keeping my 39-ft sailboat in Ensenada for several months before moving her further south. Can you recommend marinas there and mention what I might expect to pay for berthing? The same information for San Diego would be great as well.
Jesse - We wish we had better news for you, but slips are few and far between in San Diego, and are quite expensive in Ensenada. Check the September 29 edition of 'Lectronic Latitude for the latest information on pre-Ha-Ha slips and anchorages all the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
HOW ABOUT THAT BOW LADDER DESIGN?
In your July issue, Laurie Pane wrote an extensive letter covering many varied topics. What piqued my interest was his mention of having solved "the climb-down-to-the-dock-over-the-pulpit-problem" by designing a ladder that hung off the pulpit with a folding leg to brace it off the bow. Pane further stated that he would be happy to provide design details. I'm very much interested in seeing if such a ladder would work on our boat, as I think bow anchoring is an excellent solution if the proper method of boarding can be devised. My husband and I plan to leave for extensive cruising in a few years.
Shannon - We know that Laurie reads Latitude every month, so hopefully we'll be able to publish the bow ladder design next month.
TO HELL WITH THE IDIOT ON THE SAILBOAT
In the September issue, you asked what we readers would do if we were on the bridge of a ship heading under the main span of the Richmond Bridge and a sailboat blocked our path so that our only two choices were to run down the sailboat or swerve to miss the boat and possibly knock down the bridge and kill people who were on it.
When I was going through Air Force flight training in 1950, part of the ground school studies were devoted to leadership. One lecture, on ethics, still remains clear in my mind. The instructor set up this situation: A military truck filled with armed soldiers is speeding down a steep mountain road to the war zone. As the driver rounds a corner, he suddenly sees a child ahead and has no time to stop. He has to make a quick decision to drive over the child and continue on his mission or swerve and only possibly miss the child, but probably fly off the side of the road and kill many of the soldiers.
The class debated every which way about the proper course of action, but without consensus. At the end of the lecture, we asked the instructor which course of action was most ethical. His answer: There is no right answer. The exercise was presented to let us know that a time will come when our options would be limited and none of them would be pleasant.
I've decided - and this is with weeks of deliberation whereas the bar pilot on Pacific Highway only had seconds to react - that I would have maintained my course and speed, and to hell with the idiot in the sailboat. As it was, only the bar pilot's spectacular skill of hard right then hard left rudder saved the day. The probable loss of this sailboat operator, as compared to the much larger potential loss of life from a direct hit on the Richmond Bridge, made it an easy choice.
I hate to say it, but even as a sailor, if the guy driving the ship had to choose between running down one dumbass skipper who ought to know better or ramming the San Rafael Bridge, the sailboat skipper should be toast.
As a retired Coastal Guardian, I can say that if I had been at the helm of the Pacific Highway when the sailboat blocked a clear path beneath the main span of the San Rafael Bridge, that sailboat would have been toast. I might have felt bad afterwards, but there is no way I would have put all the innocent people on the bridge at risk. Nature has a way of culling stupidity out of the gene pool, and this might have been one more attempt.
But where, I wonder, were the Coast Guard sea marshalls who are normally on a ship's bridge when it leaves or enters our major seaports? Part of their current mission is to prevent a ship from being used as a weapon to attack our bridges and other infrastructure.
Ron - Based on the response we received, everyone was in favor - if there was no other option - of running down the sailboat rather than hitting the bridge. But naturally nobody wants anybody to get hurt, let alone killed, and fortunately, there's a very simple way to do it. Let's all understand and follow the rules of the road, one of the most important of which is to give large vessels plenty of room in which to maneuver. After all, it's so easy to do.
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