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THE SCHOONER'S STAGE NAME WAS 'CIRCE'
Last weekend, while hanging on the hook in Newport Beach, my mate and I watched The Lady from Shanghai, starring Rita Hayworth, which I'd taped from TCM. As you may know, much of the action takes place aboard the large schooner Circe as she makes her way from the Panama Canal to San Francisco. There are a lot of scenic shots of Mexico in the movie.
A Google search of 'schooner Circe' turned up virtually nothing. Does any of your staff know what's become of this grand old vessel?
Larry - The 118-ft schooner Zaca was built in 1930 by the Nunes Brothers at their yard in the Hurricane Gulch district of Sausalito. The schooner was so big that they had to lay the keel on Main St. - something that couldn't be done today. Zaca - the Chumash word for 'chief' - was commissioned by Templeton Crocker, a San Francisco bon vivant who was part of the Crocker Bank family. Under his ownership she would make eight scientific expeditions. Just before Crocker set off on one, his mother had a tizzy. "Templeton, surely you're not crossing the ocean in that little thing!" Zaca was acquired by the government during World War II, renamed IX-73, and did patrol duty along the Pacific Coast.
In 1946, following the end of the war, she was acquired by the Tasmanian Errol Flynn and used in several movies. The Lady from Shanghai, shot in 1947, co-starred director Orson Welles and leading lady Rita Hayworth, who were married at the time. We haven't seen the movie, so you'll have to decide for yourself if it was "one of Welles' most brilliant works, and one of the great American surrealist works of art," as one critic wrote.
As for the schooner, movie buff Kevin Jack Hagopian writes, "Much of the film was shot on location near Acapulco aboard Errol Flynn's infamous yacht Zaca, which Flynn maintained as a perpetual floating party. A drunken Flynn often captained the boat during shooting, and his rages and debaucheries put the film hugely behind schedule. When on the first day of work on the Zaca, a camera assistant died of a heart attack, Flynn ordered the corpse sewn inside a duffle and buried at sea. Quietly, the body was put ashore in Mexico and the incident hushed up."
Flynn took Zaca to the Med, where her reputation as the wildest party boat only continued to grow. After Flynn's death in 1959, Zaca deteriorated terribly - and even sunk a few times - in places such as Mallorca and Villefranche sur Mer. In a stroke of good fortune, she was eventually purchased by an Italian art patron named Roberto Memmo, who, among other things, had restored the Renaissance Pallazo Ruspoli in Rome.
Memmo brought 50 of the best shipwrights and craftsmen to Brest, France, for a restoration that required 18 months, 200 tons of Alaskan cedar, miles of caulking, truckloads of teak and tons of bronze. Three architects were hired to refit the interior to be as original as possible. By the time the restoration was completed in the late '90s, she was one of the most spectacular yachts in the Med, a Picasso hung in her salon, and she was berthed at prestigious Port Fontveille in Monaco. So this is a grand yacht that's had a spectacular comeback from near death. It's such a good story that Luther Greene did a documentary of it called In The Wake of Zaca.
Zaca is not to be confused with the
Zaca A Te Moana, a slightly larger schooner from the '90s
that looks similar to the original.
Just after the departure of the Jeremiah O'Brien on her D-Day Seaman's Memorial Cruise, five blasts of the horn were sounded to prevent a collision with a beautiful sailing yacht that was approaching from 10 o'clock. Even after the five blasts, nobody seemed to make an attempt to change course. Many aboard the Jeremiah - including foreign dignitaries, honored military personnel, and several harbor pilots - watched in shock as the yacht's mast barely missed the Victory Ship's bow. We waited for the crunching sound as the boat slid down our starboard side.
Luckily, it was just a very near miss. The skipper of the yacht was then clearly seen raising his arms and shrugging his shoulders to the two ladies sunbathing on the bow. He seemed to be saying, "So what, we didn't get hit."
Capt Patrick Moloney later said he missed hitting the boat by no more than 10 feet, and that the Coast Guard had "gotten the skipper."
Ron - We don't think the Coast Guard
did get the skipper, because about a week later Capt Moloney
came by Profligate and asked
us if we knew the whereabouts of the Swan in question. We didn't.
Moloney was spending that day - as he had several others - biking
around various marinas looking for the boat. We reckon it's only
a matter of time before he finds her.
On a Saturday morning a little more than a month ago, I was returning from a three-mile row on the Oakland/Alameda Estuary in my Maas Aero Single Shell, when I collided head-on with a 30-ft sloop that was under power. Fortunately, this encounter resulted in no serious injuries. Sadly, however, my shell was destroyed. The sailor involved responded promptly by pulling me from the water and returning me to my nearby rowing dock. Two fishermen and a kayaker, who had witnessed the accident, kindly returned the remains of the shell. Lucky? Very! It could have ended differently.
How did it happen? I was inbound approximately 100 feet off the Alameda shore, abeam of Jack London Square. The other vessel involved was at the same location, obviously, only on a reciprocal course. It has always been my understanding that when transiting a channel or a restricted waterway, you treat it as a roadway so that opposing traffic passes portside to. In the case of the Estuary, this would mean that outbound boats would favor the Oakland Shore and the inbound vessels would steer a course along the Alameda side.
The Oakland/Alameda Estuary averages 600 feet wide, and the length of Alameda serves as a roadway to literally thousands of vessels of virtually every size and description. For most of my 74 years, I have been favored to have lived or played on - and, yes, in - the Estuary. During that time I have seen it develop into one of the busiest waterways in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As I write this on a typical Saturday morning, I have counted 30 vessels in the last two hours, the majority of which were outbound and, almost without exception, they have passed closer to the Alameda shore than to the Oakland side. And some have been within 200 feet of the Alameda side. This doesn't leave much room for inbound traffic. Right now four jet-skis and one inboard, with water-skier in tow, are zooming past outbound, and all but one are favoring the Alameda side of the Estuary, and all are travelling in excess of 15 knots. A gaggle of kayakers is hugging the shore.
With such an increase in nautical traffic, the lack of observing safe and sound rules of the road - and courtesy - can only lead to some bad encounters. Before long, it's likely that not just equipment will be damaged. My purpose for writing is to urge all of us in boating - whether it be recreational or commercial - to be more responsible for our actions on the water, for we're certainly not alone.
Jon S. Clendenin
Jon - It's getting more crowded on the water all the time, but we agree, if everyone follows the Rules of the Road and demonstrates a little courtesy, there shouldn't be any problems.
But just one question. We're not suggesting
that you were at fault, but a 30-ft sloop probably motors at
about five knots, which isn't very fast. As such, how is it you
didn't see the boat coming in enough time to change course and
avoid being hit? We don't know how you can 'row defensively'
when you're looking where you've been as opposed to where you're
going, but it seems to us that, like all mariners, you should
be responsible for knowing what's going on all around you.
We are distressed at the news of the apparent murder of Tom and Jackie Hawks of the Newport Beach-based motor vessel Well Deserved by several men who posed as potential buyers.
As dealers for a very well-known brand of long-range trawler yachts, our office enjoyed many discussions with Tom before he retired and while he was still planning his and Jackie's retirement dream. Naturally, we were mildly disappointed to hear they'd found and bought a boat in Mexico as opposed to buying one from us.
Upon returning from their cruise, Tom called to say that he was putting Well Deserved on the market, and offered our office to have the boat as an 'open listing' as opposed to an exclusive listing. An 'open listing' allows the owner to sell the boat to his own buyer. His offer was respectfully declined.
We don't want to put too fine a point on this, but we are led to the inescapable conclusion that the Hawks tragedy would not have occurred had the Hawks relied entirely on the services of any professional yacht broker. Doing that would have given the couple security in the following ways: 1) Sea trials would not have been conducted without a substantial deposit and multiple witnesses to the transaction while in process; and 2) Transfer of ownership does not take place until all the funds reside securely in the broker's trust account.
James - While there may be an element of truth in what you say, we think it's both very small and random. For while there are indeed a number of excellent reasons to give a broker an exclusive listing - particularly on more expensive boats - we don't think eliminating the infinitesimal risk of the boatowners being murdered by phony buyers is one of them.
For those not familiar with the revolting case, after a long cruise to Mexico aboard the 55-ft trawler Well Deserved, Tom, 57, and Jackie, 47, both fitness buffs, returned to Newport Beach and put their boat up for sale. In November of last year, they were reportedly approached by Skylar DeLeon, 25, and Jennifer Henderson-DeLeon, 23, of Long Beach, who said they were interested in buying the Hawks' boat. Skylar claimed to have had made a lot of money as a child actor.
Although the prosecutors haven't released the details of their case, it's alleged that during a sea trial the Hawks were handcuffed, secured to the ship's anchor, dumped overboard, and left to drown somewhere between Newport Beach and Catalina. It's hard to imagine two more cold-blooded murders. You have to wonder what goes through a person's mind when they do something like that. The Hawks' bodies have not been found.
A total of five people have been charged with the murders and are being held without bail. In addition to the DeLeons, they are Alonso Machain, 21, Myron Gardner, 41, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 39.
We can't help but wonder how this crime went down, for, having been a retired probation officer, Tom Hawks had to have more than a little street smarts. Plus, he and Jackie were always well groomed and ran a very tidy ship. As such, we find it hard to believe the Hawks would have allowed such a motley and atypical-looking group of luxury yacht buyers - three young Latinos and two much older African-Americans, none of whom radiated success - to all come along on a sea trial. And if they weren't all aboard, what part did each play in the murders?
With the delayed pretrial hearings set
to begin in July, we expect to get the answers to this and other
questions relatively soon. For if somebody hasn't already ratted
out the others to save his/her own ass, we expect that will happen
soon. Prime candidate? Young Jennifer Henderson-DeLeon, who,
if we're not mistaken, is the mother of two young children.
We love reading Latitude. In fact, it inspired us to purchase a 'cruise ready' sailboat. I keep asking my husband when do we start - cruising that is. I'm trying to convince him that, although we can't take a year or more off quite yet, we could arrange a trip that allows for us to travel back and forth between the boat in Mexico and work here in San Diego. We figure we could take off about two weeks every six weeks. Considering that we've never cruised before, how realistic is such a plan?
Here's the kind of itinerary I'm thinking about: We take three weeks in October/November to do the Baja Ha-Ha, then continue on to Mazatlan. We leave the boat there, then return in December and have about 15 days to enjoy sailing between Mazatlan and Manzanillo over the holidays. We'd return again in early February and have another two weeks. We'd get the boat to La Paz by March, and in late March or early April, we'd make a two-week sail between La Paz and Puerto Escondido. The big question would be how to get the boat back to her San Diego home by early May.
Is this a realistic plan? What else would we need to consider? I gotta convince my husband.
Mary - There's nothing at all unrealistic about your plan. The marinas in Mexico are filled with boats whose owners do exactly what you propose - although most don't even get to spend that much time on their boats. Many folks visit their boats every other month. Also on the plus side of such a plan is having a 'foot in both worlds', which allows you to ease into the cruising life.
Limiting your itinerary to no further south than Manzanillo is wise. You're allowing sufficient time to cover the distances you propose without being rushed. When it comes to timing, we'd highly recommend keeping your boat on the mainland - specifically the Banderas Bay area - for the entire month of March. The water in the Sea is still too cold for swimming at that time of year. We'd save that part of your cruise for April.
The biggest question is what is the most effective way to get your boat home. If we were you, and we still had time commitments back home, we'd end the cruise in the Sea of Cortez by sailing to San Carlos. The folks there will put your boat on a truck and send her back to the States. If you're going to do this, you'll want to make a reservation early because they get booked up. Yes, trucking costs money, but very possibly less money than if you or someone else did the Baja Bash up the coast. It all depends on what weather you'd get.
As for reservations at marinas on mainland Mexico, you'll want to make those early, as several fill up. On the other hand, many folks find boatsitters to watch their boats on the hook in places such as Banderas Bay and Tenacatita Bay, saving themselves a bit of money in the process. Marina slips are one of the few things in Mexico that aren't cheap.
If you go ahead with your plan, we'll
probably see a lot of each other - because we'll be doing pretty
much the same thing. Aren't we lucky to have such an inexpensive
cruising paradise so close?
On page 70 of the May issue there was a letter titled, She Was Swept Right Out The Gate. It was about a female sailboarder who had to be helped by a couple of sailors. I have run a search of our data to look for this case, but had no luck. But I'm hoping you can help me find these gentlemen, as the Coast Guard would like to recognize them with a Public Service Commendation award.
Sir - We hope this letter reaches them
and they contact you.
My heart goes out to Dan Benjamin after reading his harrowing tale of the loss of his beautiful Aerodyne 38 Fast Forward in the recent Singlehanded Farallones Race. Apparently the whole episode began with a spinnaker wrap when the chute collapsed behind the mainsail - the cause of most wraps and twists.
Over 30 years ago, Jake van Heekeren, my most experienced sailing mentor, taught me the easiest and perhaps only way to unwrap a chute without a knife. Once sailing nearly dead-downwind on the opposite jibe, the spinnaker receives exactly the opposite wind influences that caused the wrap in the first place, and the chute miraculously unwraps itself - usually in very short order.
I have used this trick countless times over the years, and it's always worked, both with asymmetrical as well as symmetrical spinnakers. I often sail our cruising J/120 Django shorthanded, and without the crew to run the clew of our big asymmetrical quickly to the new side during a jibe, I encountered a nasty wrap just last week. Jibing to the opposite tack from the one which caused the wrap had it free in about 15 seconds.
My heartfelt condolences to Dan.
The loss of Fast Forward brought home a point to remember. If you are setting a spinnaker, drop your jib rather than furl it. If the spinnaker wraps, the difference of having to deal with a smooth foil or a furled jib with UV protection can make a world of difference in getting that wrap out. I suppose when racing singlehanded it's not so feasible, but with a crew there is no excuse.
Under the heading 'what could have been done' in the case of the loss of Fast Forward, what if the skipper had put out a Mayday right away instead of trying to solve the problem himself? It seems to me he was in a Mayday situation from the outset, and maybe the Coast Guard would have been able to reach him in time to tow him away from the rocky Point Bonita shore.
I know such a thing is easy for me to say in hindsight, and it's only natural to try to solve the problem oneself, but still. I'm sure that every sailor, like me, read this story with great sympathy and a deep sense of loss. Only loss of life could have made it worse.
Michael - The Coast Guard was there
in plenty of time to save the skipper, at which time Fast Forward was still quite a distance from
the rocks. The boat's anchor had been deployed, but was not holding.
We're still a little unclear no why the Coast Guard couldn't
put a big-ass anchor on the thing until a commerical salvage
company could have been contacted. Sometimes the Coast Guard
has rules that prevents them from doing what seems like the common
I started reading your great rag in '94, about a year before I realized a lifelong dream of sailing over the horizon by sailing from Berkeley to Papeete in the '95 Tahiti Cup. After that, I helped deliver the SC 50 Yukon Jack back to San Francisco. It was a doublehanded trip with a broken autopilot to Honolulu, so once we made port I slept for a day.
I can't say that Latitude 'inspired' me, because I'd wanted to sail 'somewhere' since I was a kid, but your magazine certainly added to my inspiration and fantasies. I've hardly sailed since I got back from this voyage, but I picked up a copy of Latitude at Pillar Point a few months ago - and damned if you didn't put the hook back into me! By the way, this doesn't please my non-sailing wife.
But the main reason I'm writing is bad news. The current issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian has an article about overfishing in Mexico, specifically in the Sea of Cortez. Since you regularly sail to and write about this area, I thought you might want to read the article and comment about it for your readers. As the article says, this is a global problem, but the author was hiking in Baja, so he wrote about what he experienced there. As an environmentalist, I can also tell you that this is not a new problem, but lately it's been getting much worse. You can read the article at www.sfbg.com/39/36/news_sea_of_cortez.html.
My current fantasy is to sail from Key West to the Caribbean, but it's possible that I might leave from the Bay Area and work my way down to San Diego to participate in the Baja Ha-Ha before going through the Panama Canal. Only time will tell.
Jeff - Thanks for the kind words. If you're going to take your wife on your fantasy sail, we recommend that it be from the Caribbean to Key West rather than vice-versa. After all, most wives - and husbands - don't care for the nasty 1,500-mile bash upwind.
Even though we're in philosophic disagreement with almost everything the Bay Guardian stands for, we read it regularly because, 1) it's always good to consider opposing viewpoints, and 2) because they make surprisingly clear and effective arguments in support of their positions.
As such, we did read their piece on the environmental problems in the Sea of Cortez. It was a decent enough article, but the author clearly doesn't have a grasp of the breadth, depth, and history of the problem. Folks who really want to learn about the incredible destruction of sea life in that priceless body of water should go to www.seawatch.org. There they will find an extremely detailed site with facts, figures, and gruesome photos. If you care about the great saltwater resources of the world, you'll want to check it out.
Since you describe yourself as an environmentalist, perhaps you can explain something that's always bothered us. A few years ago, when Mitsubishi and the Mexican government wanted to put in a salt plant at Laguna Ignacio on the Pacific Coast of Baja, there was an international uproar, with Hollywood stars crying the usual crocodile tears. The basis of the protest was that such a plant would harm the whales that breed in the lagoon. We always suspected the protest was a little bogus because there's another Baja lagoon with a salt plant where whales have bred for 40 years without an apparent problem.
It's fine with us that the salt plant
was cancelled, but what really bothers us is that such an uproar
could be made over the questionable effect that such a plant
might have on a few whales, while just a short distance away
in the 10,000-times-larger and ecologically more important Sea
of Cortez, a much more obvious and horrible environmental disaster
had been going on for decades, and nobody was saying a thing.
And in comparative terms, there still hasn't been a peep. Can
somebody explain these misguided environmental priorities to
With the summer sailing season upon us, I was reminded of a funny story. Some years back - before GPS and safety-everything - there was this great character here in Newport whom I'll call Eddie. Anyway, a friend and I patched together a fossil of an old boat and made the short trip across the channel to enjoy a Fourth of July weekend at the West End of Catalina. After getting settled, we met up with another friend of ours who was a harbor patrolman living aboard his Bounty II at the Isthmus. He was just coming off a long watch, anticipating a cold beer and some good company. But just then the radio panned that somebody had been shot. All patrols were to respond immediately.
So off the patrolman went, leaving us in the salon to monitor the event by VHF radio. We just couldn't believe a person could get shot at the Isthmus, our peaceful and beloved weekend haunt. Was it a gang thing? A robbery? A marital tiff? When our friend returned three hours later, we got part one of the story.
It seems that Eddie and company were also at Two Harbors for the weekend, enjoying themselves as much as anyone. To add to the revelry, Eddie had rolled his black powder cannon onto the foredeck for reports as required. After a few loadings, the cannon failed to fire. For safety's sake, it was decided it should be left alone for awhile. After a good while more of enjoyment with friends, Eddie decided to reduce his anchor's scope. But just as he bent over at the bow to fool with the rode, his cannon, which was right behind him, decided it was time to fire. He was shot right in the left butt-cheek!
That was funny enough, but a few years later we ran into Eddie and heard part two of the story. After being shot, Eddie had been perfectly willing to head over to town and check into a hospital on his own. But the authorities wouldn't allow it because Eddie and his whole crew had been drinking, and because his wound was pretty serious. So they got him into a shoreboat for the quick trip to the nearby USC marine biolab. Before long, a helicopter picked him up to fly him to a hospital in Long Beach.
It just wasn't Eddie's day, because just before touchdown at the Long Beach helipad, the copter, which they knew was low on fuel, conked out! The rough landing was hard on Eddie's butt and had him howling, but he survived. After his wounds were tended to, he was placed in a semi-private room with another poor guy who, like Eddie, was suspended ass-up from a davit.
"What are you in here for?" Eddie asked.
"I was shot in the ass by a jealous husband," the guy replied.
"That's amateur hour," Eddie responded. "I shot myself in the ass with my own cannon!" This put the other fella in stitches - or rather, made him pop a few. He called for a nurse, but Eddie wouldn't let up, going on with one ass joke after another.
Years later, while helping Eddie move into his new shop, I unpacked a fine bronze powder cannon about 24 inches long. Before my mind could comprehend the significance of what my eyes were seeing, my mouth blurted out, "Hey Eddie, is this the cannon!?"
"Yes it is," he said, "and it left a hell of a scar. Ya wanna see it?" Before I had time to say no, he dropped his drawers right there and mooned the lot of us. It was just about high noon, so I guess we deserved it.
The next day the cannon disappeared forever. But I still can't go through Fourth of July weekend without remembering good old Eddie and the good times at Catalina. Here's to wishing all my fellow sailors a fine Fourth of July and a summer of sailing that will leave more memories - but hopefully none that are a real pain in the ass like Eddie's.
On Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I gathered with fellow boat owners at Marina Village Yacht Harbor for a picnic on the green. From about 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., we shared good company and a bounty of homemade fare.
I had just sold my Grand Banks 36 and wanted to take her out one last time - along with 11 fellow boaters. We left about 8 p.m. for a three-hour tour of the Bay, going across the Cityfront and back. As we entered the Oakland Estuary Inner Harbor, we passed an outbound inflatable Coast Guard Patrol Craft. In a very short time, the Coast Guard boat came up to our port side and ordered me to stop my vessel for boarding.
Upon boarding, the P.O. insisted that I had ignored their siren and flasher - yet none of the 12 individuals aboard had heard their siren or seen their flasher.
I then asked the P.O. the elementary question of why we had been boarded, as in what was the 'probable cause'. I emphasized that the vessel had just received an official Coast Guard Safety Inspection, and the decal was affixed to the appropriate window. The P.O.'s response was that they were on a crew training exercise and the decal didn't mean anything to them.
From the outset, the boarding P.O. was officious, less than cordial, and his demeanor was offensive. Within the first few minutes of the boarding, he stated that they would be accompanying us back to our marina. When I asked what we'd done wrong, he just told me to take the boat back to the slip.
The Grand Banks, by the way, is equipped with every possible safety device, maintained to very high standards, and operated by a very competent and knowledgeable owner. All of the guests aboard at the time of the incident are slip neighbors and experienced boaters based at Marina Village.
One of the first questions I was asked was if the vessel was a 'for hire' vessel. When I said we'd merely been on a voyage with friends, the officer proceeded to ask several of the guests if they had paid for the voyage.
I was also asked if I had consumed any alcohol. I told him that I'd had a couple of glasses of wine earlier in the day.
After docking the vessel, the P.O. twice demanded that everyone but the skipper leave the boat. I was then subjected to a number of sobriety tests. Each time the officer stated that I could refuse the test - but if I did, he would call the Alameda Police. The final sobriety test was a breathalyzer. My blood alcohol level was 0.00.
While I was being given the test, several guests and neighbors observed one or more of the Coast Guard crew looking into drawers and cabinets in the main cabin. They hadn't asked if they could do this.
As a result of the incident, no violations were found and no citations issued!
The question that arises is, of course, whether this is standard Coast Guard behavior and procedure, or was it merely the action of a testosterone-charged, ill-trained crew with a bully coxswain? I think the boating public should be informed of a clear operational policy. If the Alameda Police randomly and without probable cause stopped and searched a vehicle and gave the driver a sobriety test, heads would roll, and rightly so.
If the Coast Guard trains for boarding ops, they should enlist the assistance of the Coast Guard Auxiliary - and not bother the innocent taxpaying boating public. Furthermore, what's the point of the Coast Guard safety certification if it's considered meaningless? As you're aware, this doesn't seem to be an isolated case. Such incidents are becoming commonplace.
I am the skipper of the vessel and invite your response.
Carl - From the outset, we need to clear up an important legal distinction. While it makes no sense to us, the courts have repeatedly ruled that while the police need probable cause to stop and search a car, the Coast Guard doesn't need probable cause - or any other reason - to stop and search a boat. And it makes no difference if that boat is your home. In fact, the Coast Guard can stop and search any U.S.-flagged vessel anywhere on U.S. waters, and anywhere in the world on international waters. We know, because they once stopped and boarded our Big O in the Windward Passage between the Dominican Republic and Cuba. And mind you, they came aboard with automatic weapons drawn, and with three other officers left in the inflatable with their guns trained on us for more than an hour. Furthermore, the Coast Guard can even board U.S. boats in the territorial waters of foreign countries if they get permission - and they almost always get it. We're not sure if it's still true, but back in '96 even the Cubans let the Coast Guard into their waters to board U.S. vessels. The bottom line is don't expect any heads to roll over the boarding of your boat.
Based on your letter, we asked readers of 'Lectronic Latitude if they were getting stopped by the Coast Guard in the Estuary more often than before. We didn't exactly get a conclusive answer, but one reliable marine professional with an office overlooking the Estuary says he sees the Coast Guard picking off boat after boat. He thinks this is completely wrong if they are doing it just to train their new personnel. If true, we'd agree that it's wrong - and furthermore will unnecessarily give the service a black eye. It took a long time for them to recover from the Zero Tolerance fiasco.
On the other hand, and with a greater understanding of the Coast Guard's right to board and search without cause, we think you should view your boarding from the Coasties' perspective. They spot a 36-ft boat on the Bay with 11 people aboard at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. Frankly, that smells like it might be a charter. And when they turn on their siren and flasher, nobody on the boat in question responds and the boat doesn't stop. That's extremely suspicious. Wouldn't you suspect that maybe the captain and all the guests are all smashed or some other funky thing is going on? In addition, ignoring a law enforcement light and siren is a direct challenge to their authority, and there is no way they can let that pass. Finally, you admitted that you'd consumed alcohol earlier in the day.
Was the Coast Guard's behavior over
the top? Based on viewing things from their perspective, you
Per your question in 'Lectronic about whether mariners were being stopped in increasing number by the Coast Guard in the Oakland Estuary, two of my dock neighbors in Grand Marina were stopped by the Coasties for no apparent reason in the last two weeks. And one of them was stopped twice.
All of the stops were in the vicinity of Jack London Square. I was told that the Coast Guard teams were pleasant. In one case, the Coasties agreed to do the inspection in the slip instead of on the water, as the boat had been heading back to the marina. Interestingly, the checks were not consistent. In one stop the head/holding tank valve was checked thoroughly. In another, they didn't ask or even look at the head.
In the case of my neighbor's second stop, he was asked if he'd been boarded for a safety inspection before. He said he had the week before, and produced his inspection report to prove it. But instead of just letting him go, they made him answer a bunch of questions and wait for the Coasties to call in and double-check the authenticity of the document! After that, he was allowed to proceed without an inspection.
The June 13 'Lectronic Latitude wondered if there was an increase in Coast Guard boardings in the Oakland Estuary because the Coasties needed to train more people for Homeland Security. Odd that you ask. I was boarded in the Oakland Estuary on May 29 while motoring my SC 40 Osprey from Marina Village toward the Bay. I'd not been boarded since the '80s or '90s. Back then I'd almost routinely be stopped and boarded whenever I entered the Bay late at night - such as when returning from Santa Cruz or Monterey. In this case the Coast Guard guys were okay. We let them board and continued to motor out the ditch while they checked our safety and other required gear.
The thing that was different about this boarding is that one guy filled out a form and gave me a copy. This hadn't happened during any of my previous boardings, so I imagine that it's either a new thing or, back in the days of Zero Tolerance, they were less interested in the safety and gear inspection parts of the 'safety inspections'.
P.S. Isn't it great that the endless rains have stopped? Good sailing to all!
When we sailed the Antrim 27 E.T. to Cabo, we often ended up in this position of the Antrim 27 Always Friday depicted in 'Lectronic. You asked what they should do to keep from crabbing toward the rocks. I'm sure that owner John Liebenberg knows that they needed to put the rudder on the centerline. This puts enough drag on the rudder to pull the stern over. Then they need to unfurl and backwind the jib to push the bow down. At that point, the boat almost always comes back up.
With regard to what the Antrim 27 should do in that crabbing position, the first thing I would do is blow the vang. Next I'd pray that I could get to my knife and cut the spinnaker tack line or spinnaker halyard. I'd also try to ease up on that tiller because at that sideways angle it's just pushing the stern further toward the sun.
Capt Alan Taylor
Having been in this very same situation as Always Friday aboard Dr. Dennis Surtees' Antrim 27 Abracadabra 2, here's what I'd do and why: On a Ditch Run about four years ago, after gibing through a picket fence and then rounding up near a cement pile daymarker on the river, we were on our side. We were also making good headway - about four knots - towards a piling. I had already dropped the kite - while my mates had a good laugh riding the transom - and I pulled the jib to weather. This induced the bow to fall off. And the bow falling off resulted in the rudder getting a better bite on the water. Within minutes we were back in the race. In all the years of my sailing with Dennis, this was the closest call to doing some serious hull crushing damage when no other boats were involved. We teach this technique in the Junior Program and it's quite effective.
I see that you are encouraging those of us with cruising multihulls to enter the Santa Barbara to King Harbor race on August 5. Will I need to apply for a rating/handicap for this race, and is Vic Stern of ORCA still in charge of that?
Paul - We certainly are encouraging cruising multihulls to do the King Harbor Race. We've done it about the last four years with Profligate, and think it's the most fun race in Southern California. It's typically a light air reach to Anacapa Island, then a little windier reach back toward Zuma Beach, and hopefully there's still enough breeze to make it across Santa Monica Bay to the finish. It's about 80 miles in all, so, if the wind holds, many boats finish before the bar shuts down. Other cool parts are that it's Fiesta Week in Santa Barbara, so there's lots of fun to be had in that town if you arrive a couple of days early. Plus, the Santa Barbara and King Harbor YCs are wonderful hosts. We've always been able to get a berth, but if we weren't able to, both places have tons of room to anchor out.
David Renouf of Yachtfinders/Windseakers in San Diego says he's working on a Crowther 36, Lagoon 380, two Catana 431s, a Catana 471, a Catana 521 and a Hughes 43. He thinks at least five of them will show. Scott Stolnitz will be there for sure with his Switch 51 Beach House, we'll be there with Profligate, and hopefully Blair Grinols will make it with his 45-ft Capricorn Cat.
Vic Stern of ORCA says if the owners
can give him basic measurements, he can get them a rating for
$25. You'd have to be absolutely crazy to miss out on this mess
of fun. Oh yeah, this race is a little unusual in that it starts
on a Friday.
Usually I wouldn't write a letter like this, however, today's small event makes me worry about my safety on the water. Maybe it's common sense that tells me right from wrong, or my experience sailing, or both actually - but it's hard to believe that other people out there have neither!
While doing daily chores on my sailboat this morning, I noticed a couple of underdressed - jeans and Budweiser t-shirts - people get onto a sailboat across the dock from me. The first thing that came to my mind was the tide is already low and still receding - I can't wait to see this! So as they continued pushing off of the dock, I realized that the boat was not moving because it was obviously already aground. But they continued to work together, and I overheard, "Well, if we can just make it out to that flat part, we should be okay." So they made it off!
And as they motored past me, while I was standing just a few feet away, they asked, "Do you think we're gonna make it?"
"I don't think so," I replied. I continued to watch as they made it about 10 feet further when I heard, "Dude . . . we're on the bottom!"
Well, one guy jumped off of the boat and swam up to the dock where his partner threw him a dockline. Now the boat was simply tied up to about 20 feet of dockline with no anchor! I could just imagine was was going to happen when the tide came in - the boat would swing wildly in the wind and crash into somebody's $40,000 boat!
Someone, stop the madness!
Since some of your readers have asked how to set up a boat partnership, I'd like to share my experience. I've had two boat partnerships. They can be a great way to get lots of boating time with less labor and expense. And unless you sail 24/7, 'selling' unused boat time to someone with mutual goals who can help you with the upkeep and payments makes a lot of sense.
My first experience was on a water-ski boat, which I owned with three of my college friends. We were just naïve enough to believe our friendship was all we needed to own a boat together. We didn't write a formal agreement or do much more than buy it and pay the registration fees. This loose arrangement was fine - until everyone moved on to other things like babies and homes. While the other partners said they wanted to keep the boat, it was clear they really didn't want to pay the cost of storage, maintenance, and usage.
I knew I had a problem when a broken boat on a rusty trailer had been parked in front of my home for about 18 months. Eventually I got stuck with about $400 in bills because one of the partners kept "forgetting" to send me a check. I finally realized the winds of our friendship had shifted and it was time to tack. After some hurt feelings, I sold the ski boat and considered it a life lesson. Even the most honest and well-intended people can change their minds or forget what they agreed to over time.
I was determined not to make the same mistakes when I bought my first sailboat, a Newport 20, with a partner. Here are a few things that I feel worked well for us for the six years we owned the both together.
1) Take the time to be sure you have the right partner. I think the most important thing is that you have a meeting of the minds about how the boat will be used and not used. Talk with your partner about what you expect from owning the boat. A dedicated racer will have different needs than a daysailor. This is especially important if you have more than just two people involved.
Since my partner and I had crewed together on other people's boats, we knew what to expect from each other. Racing was not a priority. Daysailing and overnights at Angel Island and the Delta were what we both wanted. Once we agreed to this, it helped to clarify the kind of boat and equipment we should get, and how to set up a schedule for using the boat.
2) Put the agreement in writing. While writing an agreement can be about as fun as short-tacking the Cityfront on a flood tide, the process of writing an agreement forces you to be clear about how the relationship will work. You'll learn a lot about each other by making the effort to put it down on paper. If everyone can't agree to what's on paper before you get a boat, how are you going to agree when there's hard-earned money or labor involved? If the partners are well-chosen, you'll probably find informal ways to settle most disagreements without ever referring to the agreement again. If that's not possible, referring to the agreement may be the least painful way to settle a dispute. Just like sailing the Bay, anticipating what could go wrong before it happens, then deciding how you'll address it, helps take the stress out of the situation.
I've had some experience with writing business contracts, so I drafted our agreement myself. While this worked out for us, if you don't know anything about contracts, and/or there is a lot of money involved, and/or more than two partners, I suggest you make sure an attorney gets involved to ensure you don't get a rude surprise later. Consider it part of the purchase price of a jointly owned boat.
3) One of the key things we agreed to was a 'sunset clause', which called for the boat and equipment to be sold after four years. We did this so there wouldn't be any hurt feelings if one of us wanted to move on to something different. In fact, after four years we mutually decided to keep the partnership going on a year-to-year basis. When my partner was ready to buy a bigger boat on his own, I had the option of buying him out at fair market value or selling the boat and splitting the proceeds. We made a smooth transition. Having a fixed end date also helped us to make decisions on whether or not long-term upgrades - such as painting the topsides - would be appropriate.
4) Be sure you agree on how much time, labor and money each partner will invest. We did our own repairs. If this is your first boat, you might be surprised by what it takes to keep up a boat. On our boat, safety repairs were always addressed as soon as possible. For noncritical maintenance, we'd have a maintenance day about once a quarter to add gear, do simple repairs, and clean the boat. We created a list of ongoing maintenance to be done after every use, and scheduled a haulout every 18-24 months to address any major repairs or upgrades. We used boatyard labor occasionally when we both felt we were in over our heads. By doing our own maintenance on our 'starter boat', we got a real education on everything from boat pox to outboard motor tune-ups. Now that I have my 'real boat', I'm less likely to pay a BMW $90 an hour to do something I can do myself.
5) This brings us to the hard part . . . m.o.n.e.y.! This can be the source of all evil in a boat partnership. Even people with the best intentions can be tempted to put boat-related expenses at the bottom of the priority list.
We agreed to have one partner keep the books - this can be rotated to each partner to balance the work - and issue an annual statement of where the money went. By the way, it's frightening to see how much we actually spent on a 20-ft sailboat over six years. We kept reminding ourselves that it was just 'boat money', not real money.
To keep the accounting clean, we set up a separate joint checking account with just one checkbook held by the business manager. Either partner had the discretion to spend up to a certain amount without approval by the other partner. Higher-value expenses required us to agree or the money stayed in the bank. Here again, having a partner with common expectations helps avoid problems.
Each partner was required to pay a fixed monthly payment for the ongoing maintenance, insurance, loans, equipment and haulout expenses. This made it easy to pace ourselves when we strolled through the boat toy store and saw all the lovely ways we could spend money.
To ensure the partners are treated fairly, I suggest you require each partner to pay up on time by setting a sliding scale penalty. For instance, anyone late in their monthly payment gets fined $25. After 30 days, the fine goes to $50, and to $150 after 60 days. After 90 days, the offending partner relinquishes his equity in the boat to the other partners. This approach keeps everyone motivated to meet their obligations to the other partners, but allows a reasonable 'oops!' factor. One way to avoid minor hassles about late payments is to have all partners pay one month in advance.
While I'm not an attorney, and don't even play one on TV, I'd be happy to share my agreement with anyone interested enough to send me an email.
I've enjoyed reading Latitude from year one, but sometimes it seems you guys are too busy sailing to cover some of the real hidden treasures of the Bay. Your recent revelation that Alcatraz is a floating island was long overdue, and you still don't cover the events at the Red Rock YC. For those who aren't familiar with it, the RRYC is the club inside Red Rock Island. You can see the entrance about halfway up the rock on the south side. Stop by sometime. The view is limited, but it's got a great bar!
In the May issue there was a letter titled Looking For Help On A Boat Partnership. I was a member of a boat partnership in the Bay Area for about five years in the early '80s that was a great success. I had three - and later a fourth - great partners. The partnership cut my expenses down by a third, but I found that I could generally have the boat anytime I wanted to use it. We had a formal legal partnership and amendments drawn up by an attorney. At the time of signing the partnership agreement, the attorney made an interesting statement that turned out to be very true: "A partnership is no better than the partners."
Richard (Dick) Olsen
In the May issue, Jim Rasmussen asked about partnership agreements. Although I'm out cruising, for 15 years I enjoyed the ownership of the Seattle-based Cal 40 Madrugador with four partners. It was an unlikely mix of two cardiologists, two engineers - of which I was one - and a lawyer.
The original syndicate campaigned the boat actively on Puget Sound. The racing program culminated in the Vic-Maui race of 1986, in which Madrugador placed third overall. Although only two members of the syndicate - Dr. Jack Murray and yours truly - participated in the race, the other members generously supported the effort with morale and finances. Inevitably, some partners used the boat more than others, and maintenance chores were self-allocated on a similar basis. The less active members retained full check-writing privileges however.
Sure there were some problems over the years, but even the best marriages have some of those. For example, one partner singlehanding the boat around to the new Elliott Bay Marina managed to motor into the West Point buoy at six knots. Mercifully, the hole he punched in the bow was above the waterline. Then there was the usual rash of groundings, spinnaker sheet-around-the-prop-incidents - one of which split the V-drive casing and trashed the transmission. But all were handled good-naturedly by the syndicate. It really was a comfort knowing that the bills would be divided by five - but it also helped to have good insurance!
Our program worked this way: Throughout the year each partner had exclusive use of the boat for seven days every five weeks, with the understanding that the boat would take part in all major races. The 'skipper' for the week could opt out of the race, but so long as at least one of five partners wanted to do the race, she raced anyway. During the summer cruising months, the boat was converted to cruising configuration and each partner had exclusive use for a two-week period. By coordinating schedules, time spent getting to the prime cruising grounds - Desolation Sound, Barkley Sound, Queen Charlotte Islands, etc. - was minimized by swapping the boat for a car.
After 18 years, the syndicate was still going strong with four partners, two of whom were originals. Turnover had been minimal, with one ex-partner - the attorney - staying on as honorary 'business manager' of the syndicate. Why? Because he enjoyed the company when he was not out on Lake Washington campaigning his Thistle. The replacement partners were mostly found by word of mouth.
Inevitably, the time came when my interests diverged from the other partners. Quite simply, I wanted to go cruising and was willing to take early retirement to do so. Would the partners accept my offer to buy them out? No way, they just loved owning that boat! But they agreed to buy me out per our partnership agreement for the same pro-rated price I had offered them. So we parted amicably. I purchased Hawkeye, a Finnish-built Sirena 38, on Christmas Eve of 1993 and headed south five weeks later.
Would I do a partnership again? You bet - but I would be sure to get a compatible group together with a well-crafted partnership agreement! The Madrugador Syndicate had both and overall was - and is - a most successful partnership.
Update: All but the first couple of lines of this letter were written a few years ago. Twenty-six years after its inception, the Madrugador Syndicate is still going strong - albeit with only one of the original members. The keys to the partnership's longevity, I believe, have been: 1) a compatible group of sailors, 3) a much-loved Cal 40, and 3) a good partnership agreement.
In reply to Jim Rasmussen's letter, his proposed partnership will probably be facing some turnover as the older members retire. It is therefore most important that the Partnership Agreement address this issue. In our case, the age spread was about 10 years. As mentioned above, when I departed to go cruising, the agreement handled the turnover flawlessly and to everyone's satisfaction.
John S. Kelly
Readers - Several readers sent in copies
of their partnership agreements. Nonetheless, all of them encouraged
folks considering partnerships to have their own drafted by an
attorney rather than saving a few bucks to copy somebody else's.
As such, we've decided not to publish any of the agreements.
I followed with interest the story and photos of the Santana 22 YachtSea's wild ride and flipping under the Golden Gate in April. My interest wasn't just because it was a good story, but also because I used to be a partner in the boat.
In fact, I found the partnership through a Classy Classified in Latitude. As a result, I came to regularly sail YachtSea out of Gashouse Cove from February to July of 2004. It was always interesting to take her out, because she had a downwind slip, an outboard that only worked in forward, and didn't have reefpoints in the main. But she gave me all of my first great experiences on the Bay.
I was not an avid sailor when I joined the YachtSea partnership, but soon enough I fell in love with the sport and the Bay. I fell hard enough, in fact, that I quit my office job and started working towards my new life as a professional sailing instructor. But I'll never forget the feeling of YachtSea accelerating beneath me as we reached out of Gas House Cove on a summer evening. I owe that boat a lot, and I hope to see her back on the water soon.
Michael - While not so popular these
days because most people sail larger boats, the Gary Mull-designed
Santana 22 is a San Francisco Bay classic. If we're not mistaken,
the little sloops were so stiff that most of them didn't have
We're writing to report on our trip from Mexico to the Marquesas. We left Mazatlan on April 28 and didn't arrive in French Polynesia until June 5 - some 38 days later! Based on our experience, here's our advice for future Puddle Jumpers:
1) Choose a bigger boat than our 32-ft heavy displacement Dreadnought 32 Novia. As we proved, such a boat can make the passage, but it makes for a long trip - especially if you're cautious sailors such as us.
2) Have more than one self-steering device to call upon. We did - a dinky autopilot - which we had to use after a bolt sheared in our Monitor windvane. Hand-steering is a terrible strain when sailing shorthanded.
3) Have more than one means of generating the electrical power you'll need. For us, it was solar panels. Ours provided enough power for our autopilot, GPS, and nav lights.
4) The biggest danger we faced was fatigue. You have to be very disciplined about getting enough rest - particularly at anxious times when it's not easy to relax.
Here are some facts from our journey. Our best day was 115 miles closer to our destination, while our worst was just 11 miles. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone was a full four degrees wide when we were there. It took us six days to get across, including one of them hove-to.
We lost three buckets and one hat overboard.
The biggest threat of damage to our boat was the several evenings when boobies tried to roost on our masthead tricolor. We tried scaring them off with a catapult loaded with a boiled sweet, but needless to say we didn't come close to hitting any. Cawing and flapping like a demented booby proved to be much more effective in getting rid of them.
James & Anne Perry
James and Anne - Without any disrespect whatsoever, we'd like to offer you some unsolicited advice that would also apply to many other relatively novice cruisers. We're pretty certain that you could make the nearly 3,000-mile crossing much faster, without having to resort to buying a larger and more expensive boat. How? By spending more time learning how to be more proficient sailors, particularly with your particular type of boat.
As we recall, you were novice sailors who only bought your boat last year, sailed her to Mexico, and then did the Puddle Jump in the spring. We don't necessarily think this is too steep a learning curve - as long as you make a very dedicated effort to hone your sailing skills and really learn how to make your type of boat go. We think it would take sailing at least once a week, paying specific attention to how to get the most out of your boat in the whole spectrum of sailing conditions. Being mentored on your own boat would be terrific, as someone could also evaluate your sail inventory.
We know a lot of people don't want to hear this, but the quickest way to learn about boat performance is by racing - even if just informally against similar size and type boats. As you go along together, you can try different trim with your sails and such. As you probably know, America's Cup syndicates spend billions of hours sailing side-by-side trying to figure out how to make their boats go faster. Obviously there is no need to go to that extreme, but if you can figure out how to realize 85% of your boat's speed potential as opposed to 50% of it, it would make an enormous difference - and would have cut many days off your passage.
Admittedly, nobody would expect you to make a record passage. After all, the Dreadnought rates a modest 200 under PHRF, you were sailing shorthanded, cautiously, and you had the boat loaded down. Still, in lots of reaching conditions we think you could have averaged better than 3.3 knots and had a better day's run than 115 miles. The benefits of honed sailing skills are not just speed, although that would make such a trip much shorter and more enjoyable. Such skills also make you more confident and relaxed when the weather gets a little dicey, and possibly could have reduced the fatigue.
Please understand that we're not picking on you, but are just trying to suggest a way in which you - and many others like you - could enjoy your cruising more - and at no cost. It's not hard to learn how to sail your boat more efficiently, and the more you learn, the more pleasurable your passages will be.
By the way, you may have heard that
Harry Heckel, now 89, just finished his second singlehanded circumnavigation
with his Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen.
More on that in this month's Sightings.
From time to time, you've suggested that boats in areas where there is a severe berth shortage be charged more if they don't go out very much and charged less if they go out often. This is very similar to the approach the St. Francis YC uses at Tinsley Island in the Delta. Although I'm not a member of the club, friends who are report that the member rate for a boat left at the island climbs dramatically if the member doesn't come up on the weekends to use it. It seems to work well in ensuring that the Tinsley docks aren't cluttered with boats that are seldom used. While the specifics would probably change, the concept makes sense elsewhere as well.
Eric - We didn't know that, but a St.
Francis member confirmed that you're correct. It makes sense
to us. Hell is going to freeze over before any more significant
marinas will be built in California, yet the boating population
keeps growing. We're going to have to come up with ways to use
the available slips more efficiently. Fortunately, we think there
are some relatively easy ways to do it.
In 'Lectronic you said that you couldn't figure out what Dorothy Darden of the Morrelli & Melvin 52 cat Adagio was doing putting her passport into what looked like an ATM machine at the dock at Friday Harbor, Washington.
The 'ATM' is most likely a NEXUS or CANPASS terminal. These two programs allow U.S. and Canadian citizens to clear through the border between the States and Canada - usually through radio, telephone, or a retinal scanning terminal - at various ports of entry. It's popular among those who cross the border frequently - such as yachties, commuters, and private planes.
Although Dorothy Darden of the M&M 52 cat Adagio may have looked as though she were slipping an ATM card in a machine to get money, she was actually getting a remote clearance from Customs.
I keep my sailboat in the San Juans, and am very familiar with the ATM-type Customs machine in the photo. This machine is located on the U.S. Customs Dock at the outside breakwater of the Port of Friday Harbor. Because the Customs Dock is located a good distance from the actual Customs office onshore, clearance is often handled via a combination of this machine, a dedicated phone, and remote cameras covering the dock.
The procedure is as follows:
1) The ship's master walks to the dedicated phone next to the machine - and nowhere else until cleared! - and speaks directly to a Customs officer in the onshore office. They can see you and your vessel on camera.
2) They ask the usual questions regarding your vessel, your time out of the country, where you've been, whether on business or pleasure, the nationality of the crew, items purchased or received, and what meat and agricultural products you might have.
3) Finally, they ask you to place your passport, photo page up, into the aforementioned machine. It is basically a remote camera/scanner that allows the agents in the office to view your passport on their computer screen. At this point, they usually request to speak with your crew and view their passports as well. I would not be surprised if these photo images/scans are kept on record.
This machine, combined with the cameras, saves the officers from having to walk down the docks - and it's not a short walk - to clear each boat. There is a small Customs shack at the dock, but I rarely see it occupied - especially off season.
A few other notes about the reentry process here:
1) If you are unable to clear in by phone and arrive after normal office hours, you will be required to tie up to the Customs Dock until morning. This dock is on the outside of the breakwater, and there is considerable wake activity - including ferry wakes - which can be significant!. If there is a strong easterly blowing, boats can take a real beating here, so bring lots of large fenders. Better yet, arrive during business hours to minimize the time at this dock. Even though I had a permanent slip in the harbor, I was required to stay overnight at this Customs Dock once when I was late returning from Canada.
2) Until you are cleared in, you cannot leave the vessel. Period! This means no trips ashore, including those to the restrooms or showers. They seem to be serious about this, and apparently monitor the area with cameras.
3) Everyone aboard should carry a passport. Historically, a valid photo ID accompanied by an original -or 'official' copy - birth certificate was supposed to be sufficient, but for the past several years the use of passports has been a kind of de facto requirement for returning U.S. mariners. I have been witness to/overheard several heated exchanges between Customs officers and U.S. boaters returning without passports or with only a state driver's license as ID.
4) Keep a log while out of the country, and record Customs clearance numbers - both those from foreign countries visited and the reentry number issued for the above process. At various times I've been asked for the following by either U.S. or Canadian Customs: a) Vessel registration or Coast Guard documentation number. b) Vessel name. c) Vessel builder and length. d) User Fee decal number. e) Foreign clearance numbers/PIN. f) Ports visited. g) List of duty-limited items. h) List of items purchased or received while out of the country, and their cost/valuation. i) List of fresh foods onboard and their origin (meats, dairy, produce, etc.).
5) Phone clearance is a bit of a moving target. At last query in April, I was told that phone clearance was only available to vessels and crew that have cleared in person since January 1, 2005, and who had been issued a PIN at that time. If crew are now present that were not present at the time the PIN was issued, a physical clearance - Customs Dock stop - may be required.
6) Finally - and this should go without saying - it pays to be courteous and cooperative with Customs agents/officers! On many occasions I have witnessed boaters with attitude bring all manner of woe upon themselves. While I have found the Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor Customs officers to be a very pleasant group, I can assure you that they won't be in a good mood if you cause them to make that long walk from their office to your boat!
7) Phone number for the combined Friday/Roche Harbor Customs office: 360-378-2080
Scott - It seems to us that it would
save a lot of hassle if we just invaded Canada and made it a
dependency of the United States - sort of like Puerto Rico, but
cooler and with more trees. We doubt the Canadians would put
up much of a fight, as many of them - such as Peter Jennings,
Alanis Morrisette, Jim Carrey and Pamela Anderson - seem to have
always wanted to be American anyway.
It would be hard for me to believe that there wasn't some backroom politicking going on in the Latitude offices when it came to deciding which of your many photos to put on last month's cover.
Latitude's reputation and integrity as San Francisco's most popular sailing rag is on the line each and every month. When the fine line between advertising dollars and unbiased reporting becomes blurred - as was perhaps evident in the June issue - I can only assume that you're on the wrong tack.
A. - With so many 'we'll-give-your-product-editorial-coverage-if-you-give-us-an-ad' boating magazines around, we can understand that you might suspect something like that. But the truth of the matter is that we don't have a backroom at Latitude 38, and we don't do deals like that. Never have. Not when we struggled to launch this magazine in 1977 with just $2,000. And after nearly three decades of enjoying some success, we're sure as hell not about to compromise that principle now. If you find that hard to believe, call one of our ad reps and try to arrange such a deal.
Speaking as the publisher, I never ever
worry about the reputation and integrity of Latitude. That's because this magazine was founded
as, and continues to be run as, an art project rather than a
business. That means our editorial content is not for sale and
maximizing profits has never been the ultimate goal. Oddly enough,
we think that approach has been a factor in the modest success
that we've enjoyed. Fortunately, we've been blessed by being
able to do business in an industry and a region where the overwhelming
majority of our potential advertisers realize that editorial
independence means in the long run they'll all get a fair shake.
As such, complaints such as yours have been almost non-existent
over the years.
Your news about the changes for 'domestic clearing' in Mexico is absolutely incredible. We were hoping for some positive changes, but what's happened is more than we could have imagined in Mexico.
As cruisers, it seems that we are conditioned to believe that onerous bureaucracy is our perpetual curse. Based on our experience sailing almost all the way around the world, officials in the French islands are the best, officials in the Latin islands are the worst of the worst, and those in former British islands are somewhere in between.
The unfair thing about the old system in Mexico was that Americans and Canadians with RVs could routinely drive all over Mexico, and to our knowledge, never had to check in and out with any government agency. Why should it have been different for recreational boats?
To confirm, once we have cleared into Mexico for the first time, all we have to do to check in and out of additional domestic ports is 'inform' the port captain - and this can be done informally by telephone or VHF radio. And that there is no further need to check in and out with Immigration and Customs at every port.
We cruised Mexico for 2.5 years before taking off across the Pacific and the rest of the way around the world. During our stay, we held consecutive one-year Temporary Resident Visas. Canadians had a leg up on you Americans in this respect, as the visas were free to Canadians while you Americans had to pay $50 each. Canada had an agreement with Mexico that neither would charge the other's citizens for visas. Hopefully that has not changed for us.
On another front, we are wondering if there have been any changes to the 'port tax' that was assessed to cruising boats in certain Mexican harbors. We take it the $5 night fee you reported charged to a boat in Mazatlan Harbor was a 'port tax'. Is this tax still levied in all ports on the Baja as well as on the mainland?
On our trek around the world, there were only two countries we visited that did not recognize the rights of owners of 'boats in transit' to receive duty-free imported parts and supplies for their boats. The two were both Third World Latin countries - Mexico and Venezuela. The process of importing stuff to both those countries was fraught with disaster. Besides the oppressive duty, it was often necessary to pay mordida to get your shipment. Has Mexico changed in this regard?
Kris & Sandra Hartford
Kris and Sandra - Please, let's be very clear on this: we never said that all you had to do to check in to a domestic port was call the port captain by phone or VHF. In some places - such as Marina San Carlos - mariners have been able to clear out by informing the 'honorary delegate' at the marina office by VHF. But we're not sure this is true anywhere else. So until 'informing' is defined specifically - hopefully before the start of the high season in the fall - do not assume that you can clear in over the VHF.
To review, when you arrive at a new domestic port in Mexico, you need to 'inform' the port captain. In the worst case scenario, you would have to go to the port captain's office and fill out a form with the very basics about your boat and crew. It shouldn't take more than five minutes, there should be no charge, and you should not be required to use a ship's agent. And no, after you first clear into Mexico, you don't have to visit Immigration or Customs again until your last port.
Because port captains are no longer getting paid to process cruisers' clearances, we're told that most of them don't want anything to do with recreational boat paperwork. As such, most port captains are allowing harbormasters to become their 'honorary delegates' and do the work for them. In these ports you can take care of business at a marina office. Always assume that they'll want the basic information about your boat and crew. If you're a tenant of the marina, the marina will probably do this for free. If you're an anchor-out and want the marina to 'inform' the port captain for you, expect to pay the marina a couple of bucks for the service. (It costs $1,000 and requires some training for a harbormaster to become an 'honorary delegate'.)
So even in the 'worst case scenario', domestic clearing in Mexico is infinitely better than it was only months ago. The reports we've gotten from cruisers on the mainland, in the Sea of Cortez, and even the Yucatan, is that all the port captains are pretty much on the same page. There are no fees, no ship's agents required, no further visits to Immigration and Customs, no going to banks, no long waits in line, no taxi trips all over town. No kidding, it's fabulous!
With respect to checking into Mexico for the first time, we haven't heard from many cruisers who have done it because it's the low season. But those we've heard from say it's like it's always been. You visit the port captain to get a paper to prove you've cleared into the country; you visit Immigration to get your visa or tourist card; and you visit Aduana (customs) to get your 10-Year Temporary Import Permit. Then you visit the bank to pay the fees, and finally return to the port captain to prove you've paid the money. Lupe Dipp reports that when she cleared her and J.R.'s Catana 47 Moon And Stars into Mexico for the first time at Isla Mujeres, it cost a total of $75 - not counting J.R.'s visa. We're not sure if that included the $50 for a 10-Year Temporary Import Permit. In any event, Lupe - who is a Mexican citizen - was thrilled at how easy it was.
The cost of a visa for Mexico depends on what country you're from, but in any event is not that much. Most cruisers get 'tourist cards', which are like visas, but are only for those on vacation and are only good for six months. As we recall, they cost about $20/person. Air and cruise ship passengers pay this fee as part of their ticket price.
With respect to API port fees, they are indeed being charged in some developed ports. The $5/night in Mazatlan Harbor is by far the highest we've ever heard of. More commonly - as just outside Puerto Escondido - they are about $1/night. But most places we've been to don't have port fees.
With respect to replacement boat gear, you are supposed to be able to bring it in duty-free if you have a Temporary Import Permit. But this system does not work well in all places. There have certainly been too many instances where cruisers have been ripped off. Having stuff shipped by DHL - particularly if it has to go through Guadalajara - has been particularly risky. And people driving replacement parts across the border have also had problems - even if they had all the correct paperwork. In one case, a cruiser had nearly $10,000 worth of stuff confiscated. Generally it can be done and there won't be mordida or problems, but it varies from port to port. As far as we're concerned, this is Mexico's last Third World-type problem with regard to cruisers.
One last correction. When bringing a
vehicle or RV into Mexico, you always had to pay a fee. But once
inside Mexico, you didn't have to clear in and out and pay fees
each time you visited a new big city. If the requirement of having
to 'inform' the port captain was ever eliminated entirely, vehicles
and vessels would be treated the same.
In spite of the great news about the various port captains who have 'gotten the message' about the new domestic clearing rules in Mexico, it doesn't appear that the port captain in Nuevo Vallarta is one of them. That would explain why the Mexican fellow who used to process ship's papers for cruisers is still walking the docks.
We're currently berthed at Paradise Village Marina, and just had a couple stop by in their dinghy after visiting the port captain in anticipation of a departure tomorrow. They were told by the port captain to come back to his office before it closes at 2:30 p.m. with: 1) A letter from Paradise Marina stating that their bill had been paid, 2) Two copies of the good old Mexican Crew List, and 3) Another copy of the ship's documents.
We asked the couple why, if places like Mazatlan and La Paz are no longer requiring check-in papers (salida) from the last port captain, one would need to get one from the port captain in Nuevo Vallarta? If they return from, for example, Mazatlan and La Paz, where clearing papers aren't being issued, what are they going to give the port captain in Nuevo Vallarta?
I guess I answered my own question about the paper-processing guy walking the docks. Somebody still wants him to have a job.
Unsigned - Under the new rule, skippers are still required to 'inform' the port captain - or his honorary delegate if there is one - of their arrival and departure. The Mexican government did not hand down a definition of 'informing', so port captains have been doing it by themselves.
Based on what we've heard, the port captain in Nuevo Vallarta is sort of a worst case scenario who may or may not be within the law. He's requiring that all cruisers stop by his office, and he's having them fill out the old clearance form, which asks for the basic information about the vessel and the crew. If you read the June Latitude, you'll know that Pete Boyce of the Northern California-based Sabre 40 Edelweiss checked into Nuevo Vallarta after the new rules took effect, and said it took all of about five minutes. So even this worst case scenario is a million times better than the old system, and it's free. And since the port captain is getting no money for doing this, you have to wonder how long he'll want to be bothered once the high season starts. In many other areas of Mexico, we're told port captains no longer want to have anything to do with cruiser paperwork. See Cruise Notes for detais.
You say the paper-processing guy is still walking the docks in Nuevo Vallarta because "somebody still wants him to have a job." That may be the case, but we're not sure how lucrative that job is going to be. After all, the port captain can't make mariners use his services. Some people might still want to use an agent - Boyce did at Barra de Navidad - but we don't think many will.
Marina Mazatlan Harbormaster Antonio Cevallos is an honorary delegate, and he tells us that the port captain is requiring that cruisers fill out a postcard-size form in order to clear in or out. And they keep the bottom of the form to show the next port captain.
Up at Marina San Carlos, you can clear one of three ways. By filling out a small form in the office; by filling out a form on the door if the office is closed; and by calling the office over VHF. This is, of course, what we cruisers would like to see everywhere. As for what happens to a cruiser who has cleared out of San Carlos by radio and arrives in Nuevo Vallarta, we can't say. But since that cruiser would have followed the instructions of the port captain in San Carlos, we can't imagine he/she could be in deep poop. We sure wouldn't worry about it.
We want to remind everyone that Jose
Lozano, who is the Executive Director of the Merchant Marine,
and therefore oversees all port captains, has asked to be notified
if any officials aren't following the directive of April 19.
So if you think you haven't been treated right, send us an email
with the details.
With the June 10 'Lectronic Latitude report on the new check-in procedures in Mexico, it appears that the only thing that has changed from the old system is that you no longer need to visit Immigration. The form that was published - and is used in Mazatlan - is virtually identical to the previous ones, which varied slightly from port to port. However, the requirement for passport numbers is new.
The 'Lectronic reports have indicated that some sort of fee may be charged by some persons other than port captains if they handle the paperwork. Agents can no longer be required, but your piece does not define what an agent is. Is it an 'honorary delegate' of the port captain?
And if your latest report is correct, then your previous reports about the new procedures are seriously wrong - particularly in the matter of check-ins via VHF radio. If your latest report is correct, the long treks to some port captains' offices still seem to be the order of the day. So does paciencia, and tranquilo to all the cruisers who have become overly excited abut check-ins.
David & Sally Jensen
David and Sally - We can't believe what you're saying! If you're the kind of folks who didn't mind having to spend countless hours walking around town to the port captain, immigration, the bank and back to port captain; hoping all the offices would still be open; filling out forms; getting numerous copies of different forms; waiting in line for hours; having to hire taxis; and having to shell out up to $130 per in and out, we suppose it would seem that nothing has changed. But you're certainly in the minority, as everybody else has been raving about the changes. Even at Nuevo Vallarta, where the port captain seems to be dragging his feet a little more than others, folks report that clearing takes about five minutes and is free. If that's not a hell of an improvement, we don't know what would be. In many places, of course, you don't have to go any further than a marina office. And at Loreto and San Carlos, cruisers have been able to clear over the radio.
We don't know where you have cleared in Mexico, but historically most port captains not only wanted passport numbers - they wanted photocopies of the whole darned passport.
We're not sure about every place in
Mexico, but here is where you most surely won't have to make
a long trek: Cabo, La Paz, Puerto Escondido, San Carlos, Mazatlan,
La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, and Zihua. In fact,
if you can name a single place where you now have to make a "long
trek," we'd like to hear about it.
I tremendously enjoyed your comments about breaking PHRF fleets by category of boat-type. We did that here two or three years ago, but our thinking was still a little flawed at the time. We have Sportboats, Open Monohulls, and Cruisers.
The Sportsboats class gets its definition from a formula used by Chesapeake Bay YRA, while the Cruising Class draws upon PHRF of Southern California - with one notable exception. We added a performance limit based on the Performance Factor calculated under SoCal PHRF that equates to SoCal PHRF's ULDB definition. In essence, we don't let a ULDB into the Cruiser class regardless of how she might be equipped.
Now that we've got a few years under our belts, I'd like to see us simplify our system by just bracketing the three fleets using the SoCal PHRF performance factor alone - and toss the CBYRA Sportsboat definition.
Think of the PF as a formula that describes a boat's ability to accelerate, and the PHRF rating as a description of average top speed. The accuracy of the PHRF number would have a bigger impact in a downhill race to Hawaii than PF because tacks are few and far between. However, in a typical short windward-leeward course, the number of minutes it takes to get a heavy cruiser back up to her rated speed after each tack compared to that of a ULDB actually determines the race.
Say we put two identical Porsches with 5 speeds on the track at Laguna Seca - only the car I give you has the gear box jammed so it only has 2nd and 5th gears available. But I have all five. Everything would be identical except coming out of every turn the car with five gears would pull away while accelerating, but the two cars would eventually reach the same top end. At the end of a few laps it would be no contest - even though the two cars had identical top ends.
Good or bad, PHRF really only looks at equalizing the top end speed. SoCal PHRF's Performance Factor hasn't arrived at a point where it can be used to equalize via another type of handicap, but it has proven excellent for grouping boats.
Next time we review our club rules, I'll be suggesting any entrée with a PF greater than 3.5 is a Sportboat, 3.5 down to 2.0 is Open Keel, and below 2 is Cruiser class. You can find PF (listed as Factor) for SoCal's valid list at: www.phrfsocal.org/notice.htm.
Under the new definition, everything from a Hobie 33 and sportier would be a Sportsboat (a Mumm 30 just falls under), Open Keel tops with a Mumm 30 and runs down to a Wylie 38, while a Beneteau 44.7 would head up the Cruiser class. This would definitely fix our present issue of a light Santana 20 with a PF of 2.42 gloating over his win against a Catalina 25 with a PF of 1.42. Oddly, they both rate 222 under PHRF.
Your 'Dry Torugas' cover was the best ever - although I always thought it was spelled the Dry Tortugas. I want to blow it up to poster size and stick it to the bulkhead above the old PC here at home!
I can't help but comment on the interior photo of Bella Via in the Changes piece in the May issue. The Gildersleeve's stash of world charts - in the form of a beach ball with the globe printed on it - is just the all-time greatest reference 'manual' I've ever seen at the helm!
Ray - Compliments on the cover should go to Cherie Sogsti, who took the photograph but wasn't responsible for the misspelling.
As for the beachball globes, they're
actually very common on cruising boats that are making their
way around the world. Folks trace the ground they've covered
on them with felt tip pens, and ultimately they become much-cherished
souvenirs. Such global beachballs come in all sizes - we have
a 36-incher in our office for reference - and are inexpensive.
Your readers are still missing your clear and simple point. The people of Mexico are friendly, but the coast is hostile. People get that turned around to their regret.
We are seeing people sailing here with one year or less of experience. That can work fine coming down the coast, as long as the weather remains good, the GPS works, the autopilot works, the engine works, the watermaker works, the ice-cube maker works, and all the other toys work. We all have to start somewhere, but the Pacific Coast of Baja California is not the place to start.
There were three strandings here in the last 60 days, and four engines were flooded here at Marina de La Paz alone in the last month. How many other disasters and near misses have there been? On the plus side, I have been here a week, and not a single vessel has dragged. That used to be a daily occurrence.
The consensus here doubts that the U.S. West Coast 'graduates' a class of 150 competent new skippers each year, yet the Baja Ha-Ha brings 150 neophytes down each year. It is commendable that you want to introduce so many people to cruising. On the other hand, it's courting disaster. Having met some of the late arrivals here, I have to agree with the negative opinion of the others.
I sincerely hope that you start vetting your Baja Ha-Ha applicants and have the courage to say, apply again next year when you are better prepared."
P.S. Have you considered a northbound rally? That would be a lot more difficult, but a lot more helpful.
Sigmund - Speaking as the Grand Poobah, we hope you don't mind our defense of the Ha-Ha in the face of the annual slam from La Paz.
In the course of 11 Ha-Has to date, about 4,000 people on 1,300 boats have done the equivalent of about 30 circumnavigations. No boats have been lost or dismasted. Only one boat lost a rudder, and only one boat temporarily dragged ashore. Can you name an event with a better safety record?
And that extends to personal safety, too. There has been one fatality in the Ha-Ha, a woman who died of a massive heart attack - despite getting immediate attention from emergency room doctors - while her powerboat was at anchor at Bahia Santa Maria. Last year one participant surely would have died had he not been sailing as part of the Ha-Ha. To our knowledge, the most serious injuries have occurred in bars in Cabo after the event. One fellow fractured his kneecap while trying a tricky dance step at Squid Roe, while another required a number of stitches over his eye after falling off a bar stool. Can you name another event with such a good participant safety record?
Based on these facts, the Pacific Coast of Baja during late October and early November has so far proven to be a wonderful place to gain offshore experience. And historically, it's certainly been less challenging than the 2,000+ mile events to Hawaii, which not only have rougher weather, but don't have any rest stops or safe havens en route. Naturally, all Ha-Ha entrants are warned that good weather in the past doesn't guarantee they won't have to confront the full fury of the Pacific Ocean in the future, but the odds are in their favor.
For the record, the Ha-Ha goes to great lengths to make sure everybody understands their responsibilities and exactly what they are getting into. The liability release states, "The Ha-Ha is a high-risk activity open only to those gladly willing to risk injury and death in the pursuit of adventure." Just to make sure nobody glosses over it or doesn't understand it the first time, that warning is repeated seven times in the same document.
In all honesty, we don't give two hoots what 'the consensus' in La Paz might be. For one thing, far too many longtime La Paz sailors are better drinkers than they are sailors. And you should have vetted your nonsensical statement that the Baja Ha-Ha brings down "150 neophytes a year." Don't you read the skipper bios that appear in Latitude each fall? If you did, you'd learn that many of the Ha-Ha skippers are lifelong sailors, having been preparing to do the event for years, or are doing their second, third, or fourth Ha-Ha. In many cases, Ha-Ha skippers have gone down as crew in previous years. Frankly, we have no doubt that the average skill level of Ha-Ha skippers and the quality of their boats is superior to that of longtime skippers in La Paz.
That said, we'll not deny that there are a number of Ha-Ha skippers each year who are relative novices offshore. But most of them are aggressively in the process of learning how to become better offshore sailors, and skippers certify that at least two people aboard have overnight offshore experience. If you read Changes, you know that for countless West Coast cruisers, now scattered all over the oceans of the world, the Ha-Ha was their first significant passage.
What three boats got stranded and how during the last 60 days in La Paz? Whose engines got flooded and why? And what on earth does this have to do with the Ha-Ha?
No, the Ha-Ha hasn't considered a northbound rally because there are about five good reasons that wouldn't be a very smart idea. But don't let that stop you from trying to start one.
The Ha-Ha folks have received over 120 requests for entry packets in the first six weeks, so like it or not, you should expect that there'll be the normal number of Ha-Ha boats coming down again this year. Gird yourself.
We apologize for the harsh tone, but speaking as the Grand Poobah, we believe in the Ha-Ha, knowing what a terrific event it's been for thousands of people - who, of course, were willing to accept the fact that "the Ha-Ha is a high-risk activity open only to those gladly willing to risk injury and death in the pursuit of adventure."
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