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PART OF THE RICHMOND BRIDGE ALMOST HIT US!
Would you like to hear about a piece of the Richmond - San Rafael Bridge that fell and came within 30 feet of hitting our boat on the afternoon of July 19? It seemed big and heavy enough to possibly have sunk our boat. Whatever it was had been severed from the bridge by a bridge worker in a trolley working under the bridge but over the water. We suppose we should have called someone, but we didn't. We would like to find out what it was, because it looked pretty important.
Readers - A couple of weeks after we received this letter, we got a call from the Cal Trans supervisor of the paint crew that had been working on the Richmond Bridge that afternoon. He explained that there had been a "minor accident" on the bridge that resulted in a Racon navigation unit falling into the water. Racon units are mounted on all the bridges in the Bay Area as aids to ship navigation - and are expensive.
Anyway, the Cal Trans supervisor said that a sailboat reportedly circled the unit a couple of times, and one of the paint crew thought they might have even hauled the Racon unit onto their boat. Alas, the paint crew couldn't see the name of the boat or provide a more precise description of the vessel other than "a big sailboat." By the time the Coast Guard arrived, the sailboat was long gone.
Recognizing our civic duty, we put the
Cal Trans paint supervisor in touch with Gary Storms, who presumably
passed along the unfortunate news that the Racon unit was now
on the bottom of the Bay.
Would you please add my name to your list of West Coast circumnavigators? Although I live in Vancouver, B.C. I began my circumnavigation in Golfito, Costa Rica in March of '93, and returned to Golfito in April of this year. During the circumnavigation, I sailed to 61 countries and visited 19 others by land. It was truly a fantastic experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Well, almost every minute of it!
I want to thank the 16 wonderful crewmembers who helped me during various legs of the trip around. And I want to say a very special thank you to my long-suffering husband, who put up with my absences, did most of the boat maintenance, and crewed for a lot of the coastal sailing.
P.S. I've enjoyed copies of Latitude whenever I can get them, as they are fun to read and informative.
Gillian West, Captain
Gillian - Congratulations on your achievement.
Of course, we'll be happy to add your name to the list - but
we would need to know what kind of boat Khamsin
is. Our West Coast Circumnavigator's list is ongoing, so if anybody
completes a circumnavigation, we'd love to know about it.
Less than five years ago, we purchased what appeared to be a beautiful - but not so inexpensive - universal anchor swivel by 'XYZ' Stainless from our local chandlery. Since then, we've used the anchor swivel about 25 times, but never in strong winds.
While recently doing a casual survey of the bow of our boat, I noticed - with a bit of shock - a hairline crack in the swivel, right where the nut and anchor shank connect! Glad to have noticed the crack while at the dock - rather than discovering our boat drifting around an anchorage and into other boats - I placed a call to 'XYZ' Stainless to inform them of the unexpected problem. There was only an answering machine, so I had to leave a message.
After three weeks of not being called back by 'XYZ', I called again, as I was about to take the boat out again. Once connected with an employee, I explained the failure of the critical part. He paused and then said, "Unfortunately, there is only a one year guarantee on that part."
"Is that the best you can do?" I replied.
"Unfortunately, yes," he said.
If that's the best that 'XYZ' Stainless can do, then I plan to do better - short of a recall. I certainly expected a different response/interest/concern from 'XYZ'! I work in the health care field and would never dream of shrugging off any concerns that my patient voiced in such a casual "I'm-not-responsible-nor-concerned" manner.
The chandlery we purchased the swivel from said they no longer carry the product because of similar customer complaints. In fact, one skipper who berths his boat in our marina lost his anchor because the swivel broke.
The attached picture is a view of said item after we removed the shackle from the swivel and its frozen nut. I must admit that I loved the looks of the universal swivel - but not enough to place us, our vessel, or anybody else in jeopardy.
An Unhappy Consumer
Readers - We've changed the name of the company in the letter for reasons you'll soon understand, and of the author, to eliminate what we expect would be embarassment. Here's the response of the president of the company to the unhappy consumer:
"We acknowledge receipt of your letter, but take great exception to the views expressed in it, as well as in your conclusions. The photo that purports to show a Suncor Stainless Swivel (S0190-X013), clearly depicts the opposite: a very poor copy of our patent pending anchor swivel! We have seen these copies before, as they are or were marketed by several importers in the USA and are widely available. In contrast to the very poor quality anchor swivel shown in the photo, Suncor's swivel is made from 17-4PH material, that is superior in strength to the (probably) 304 stainless used in the copy. This selection of material combined with far superior manufacturing techniques result in a Breaking Load of 15,000 lb for that size swivel, obviously far in excess of what the copy swivel could withstand.
"Furthermore you have accused us of having a 'one year warranty'. Again you are completely wrong with that! All our printed catalogs (on every single page!) and marketing material are clearly marked with 'Lifetime Warranty'. What you, in effect, have attempted, is to make Suncor cover a warranty for a product not produced by us.
"You could have clearly found out from our catalog or the Internet website that the Suncor swivel is materially different from what you have on your boat, but it appears to us that you did not take this very basic precaution to ensure that your story is correct in every respect."
NEGLECT OF ALA WAI REACHES TRAGIC STATE
[Editor's note: The following letter was first published in the Honolulu Advertiser and then sent to other sailing publications.]
I've been sailing across the Pacific on the TransPac Yacht Race to Honolulu since 1975. In fact, I haven't missed a race since. And I have always been a huge supporter of the race, and especially of the wondrous welcoming aloha from everyone in Hawaii to each of the competing boats as they arrive - no matter the time of day and night - at the Diamond Head finish line and Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
And what welcomes they were! There were host families for every boat who provided mai-tais, pupus, and endless warm hospitality. And the boats were berthed in a line, in order of finish, along 'TransPac Row'. The socializing and the spirit of aloha were endless, and inevitably lured us back for the next race and the next great experience.
But what has happened to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor? It seems to be vanishing before our very eyes! This year there was no TransPac Row. In fact, when the sailors on this year's near-record 75 boats arrived at the Ala Wai at the end of the 100th anniversary of the first race, they found that the Ala Wai had gone to seed. Some docks were condemned, and others were falling apart. For the first time, there wasn't enough room for all the arriving race boats, so they wound up having to raft in bunches. It's not the most pleasant way to berth at the end of a 2,200-mile race.
It's a sad state of affairs that the great state of Hawaii has let the single most important and prestigious marina in the North Pacific decline to such an inglorious state. What could be a great tourist draw, what could be a source of pride for all Hawaiians, what could be another feather in its crown, what could bring meaningful tourist dollars to Honolulu and to Hawaii, has been neglected to the point of tragedy.
I write as one who knows the state more than a little. I first came to the Hawaiian paradise in 1939, and always returned out of love. Sometimes I came back as a tourist, sometimes as a businessman, as the owner of a local television outlet for many years, and, of course, as a competitor in the TransPac. It pains me greatly that the government has been so remiss in recognizing the importance of the Ala Wai. I'm very much afraid that if the harbor is left to deteriorate further still, Hawaii will be diminished, and the world-renowned TransPac Race, initiated by King Kalakaua, will suffer. We would all be the poorer for it.
Please, for all of us - visiting sailors, local sailors, and all the proud citizens of Hawaii - fix the Ala Wai!!!
Roy E. Disney
Readers - Regular readers of Latitude know that we've been ranting about the shameful decline of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor for years. Sometimes government-owned marinas are well run, but often they aren't. For whatever reason, the Ala Wai is the worst-run major marina we've seen anywhere in the world - and it's been deteriorating at an ever-increasing rate in recent years.
The Ala Wai could and should be the gem marina of the Pacific. The yacht harbor area could be a great facility not just for sailors, but also surfers, kayakers, fishermen - and just about everyone else who has an interest in ocean access. And it should be able to pay for itself. But under current state mismanagement, the Ala Wai minimizes rather than maximizes ocean access for both residents and visitors. It's an outrage.
For decades now, the state has proven it's been unable to even break even with the harbor despite having a monopoly on a much-wanted commodity. As such, they should get out of the harbor management business by accepting the best bid to have the harbor renovated and managed by a private concern. But as you'll read in the letter after the next, the state's harbor blundering hasn't been limited to the Ala Wai.
We made numerous attempts to get a comment from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is in charge of the small harbors, but were unsuccessful. But even that process was a revelation. Of all the people we talked to in search of a comment, only one of them sounded as if they had a pulse. Several others were either "on vacation," "not working that day," didn't answer the phone, or put us on hold for an eternity. We hadn't experienced such bureaucratic apathy since we visited Cuba 10 years ago.
ALA WAI'S WOES SIMILAR TO OTHERS
Mr. Disney's comments regarding the conditions at Ala Wai Yacht Harbor are indeed tragic, but far from unique. There are other marinas - such as the San Francisco Municipal Harbor - that are in similar disrepair. A common thread is that they are both owned and managed by the public sector.
The government owns many assets, from parking garages to golf courses, which are managed by concessionaires. These companies are experts in their field and offer us, the taxpayers, the highest return on our investment. In addition, these companies are held responsible for properly maintaining and insuring our property.
Unlike private marinas, government marinas don't carry insurance, so they have little worry about ever-increasing insurance premiums. More to the point, there's even less regard for getting tied up in litigation due to their negligence. If someone falls through a dilapidated dock, too bad, just get in line with all the other folks who are suing the government - and who must be prepared for a long battle. While government-owned marinas don't spend much money on dock maintenance, they seem to have plenty of funding for the attorneys. In fact, the attorneys are already on the payroll.
I applaud Mr. Disney's plea for the repair of the Ala Wai, yet I fear that until there's a wholesale change in how this and other similar marinas are managed, history will only repeat itself. The taxpayers will fund the repairs, the marina will deteriorate again, and so on.
Finally, if you're in the marine industry, you know the sport can't survive without attractive, safe, and functional marinas that can be enjoyed by all participants. If you do not make your voice heard on this issue, it will only serve to accelerate the decline of our sport.
NOTHING WOULD GET DONE WITHOUT THE FEDS
I've just read the August issue letter about the deteriorating condition of the Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu. Well, I have an update about the state-run, 389-berth, Keehi Small Boat Harbor down by the airport.
I've recently seen changes for the better at Keehi. For instance, during the past month they have cleaned up the parking lot by getting rid of derelict vehicles, drug dealers and homeless people. So now it's easy to find a place to park. I have also noticed that quite a few of the old boats are gone and that more slips seem to be available. There are also boats with notices posted on them notifying the owner that he/she is behind in slip fees. So maybe some of those boats will be gone before long, too.
I have also seen Conservation Officers and the Sheriff deputies patrolling the parking lots in the evenings, sometimes with two officers in each vehicle. At one time the 700 Dock gate had been jammed so it couldn't be locked, allowing anybody and everybody access to the docks all night long. I'm told a lot of people who weren't slipholders used that access. The gate can now be locked.
Last month I noticed that renovations had started on the restrooms, and that new cement was being laid in the area of the phone booths. So now you won't have to stand in the mud while making a phone call.
Yesterday, I received a letter from the state saying that some of the repairs to Keehi are federally mandated for the handicapped, so walkways are being widened, parking set aside for the handicapped, and other things of that nature.
The really good news is that today I noticed that they were repairing some of the broken wooden planks on the docks.
I remember reading an article in a local newspaper last year about the poor condition of the harbors. It said that most slipholders wouldn't mind an increase in slip fees as long as the fees went back into the harbor for maintenance rather than being siphoned off for other state projects. The really sad part is that, according to a financial report, it seems the Harbors budget was cut some time ago, so I don't really expect that we'll ever get back the docks that were declared unsafe and torn down. So if we ever decide to live aboard full time, we'll have to move into a private marina.
Tony (last name withheld)
Tony - Nobody should get their hopes up for Keehi - or any other state marina in Hawaii - because the situation is actually worse than you make it seem. Keehi Harbor Agent Kenneth Chee told Latitude that none of the improvements are being done voluntarily by the state of Hawaii, but are actually being done under threat of fines by the feds so that the facilities come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. All the money for the work, by the way, is coming from the feds - your and our tax money - because Hawaii isn't chipping in anything.
With Keehi having been overshadowed by the catastrophe that is the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, we didn't realize how bad things were there too. Chee tells us that half of the slips on 200 dock have been condemned, all of the slips on the 100 dock are down, and there are nothing but pilings left at what once was the 600 dock. The bottom line is about 100 of the original 389 slips - or nearly 25% of the harbor - are unusable and therefore don't generate any badly needed revenue!
Of course, it's not as if these slips would generate much revenue anyway, as the slip rate - despite a 50-boat waiting list - is a ridiculous $3.50/ft/month! This means that Hawaii, which has just about the highest cost of living of any state in the Union, has about the lowest slip fees for state-run marinas. Heck, slip fees are even higher at the five marinas on the Rio Dulce in impoverished Guatemala!
Here's the thing that we've never been
able to figure out about state legislators in Hawaii: Are they
too dumb to recognize that there is a correlation between the
amount of money charged for slip fees and what's available for
maintenance? Or are they too dumb to do the obvious and raise
the rates? Or is it that they just don't give a damn? If it's
not one of the three, we can't imagine what it could be. But
there's one thing we're sure of; for the sake of everyone, Hawaii
needs to get out of the marina business.
The story of the sinking of the Davidson 50 Great Fun sounds oddly familiar. My wife and I were driving near the Santa Cruz beaches on a cold November day in 1983 when we noticed a sailboat and two Coast Guard boats about a quarter mile from the harbor entrance. We were surprised to see any boats out there because a recent storm had left the Santa Cruz Harbor with its usual winter sandbar, and the storm swell was producing breaking waves across the harbor entrance.
At first it appeared that the sailboat had lost her rudder, because every time a wave picked up her stern, she would turn sideways. It was later, when the boat was inside the harbor, that we realized she was half full of water and that the force of the water inside the boat moving to the bow was what caused her to turn.
The Coasties got the boat under tow, and seemed to slow and wait for a lull before entering the harbor through the breaking surf. I don't know what the depth was at the sandbar, but it was obviously quite shallow because the sailboat laid over on its starboard side as the Coast Guard boat pulled her over it. When finally secured to the guest dock, she only had a foot or two of freeboard remaining. We were shocked when we realized it was Great Fun, which, at the time, was one of the hottest racing boats in the United States.
I don't remember the details of the skipper's story, but I believe it was that the boat was being delivered from San Francisco to Monterey. While motoring south into the storm swells she began taking on water. The course was changed and a call for help was placed. Thanks to the Coast Guard, Great Fun survived to have many more happy and successful years of racing.
Larry - As we recall, there were two things about the incident that struck many observers as being a little funky. First, only a short time before, Great Fun had nearly sunk by the Lightbucket in peculiar circumstances with only one person aboard. And second, why in the world would anybody have their IOR racing machine taken to Monterey in November?
CALL THE ONES THAT ADVERTISE IN LATITUDE 38
I'm a subscriber and wonder if you might be able to solve an insurance problem for me. The only insurance I'd like to get for my boat is third party liability insurance. The Europeans don't seem to have any problem getting it, but I've been having trouble trying to find it in North America. In fact, in North America you have to pay an arm and a leg for it, since you have to buy whole-boat insurance, which is about 10 times as much as third-party only. Any ideas on how to proceed?
Isolde - We think a good way to proceed would be to call the insurance companies that advertise in Latitude 38. We contacted the first one we came across paging through the last issue - Mariner's General in Newport Beach - and Craig Chamberlin told us that Mariner's can get third-party coverage through Progressive Insurance for a couple of hundred dollars a year - assuming that the boat isn't wood, is in reasonably good shape, and isn't quite as old as the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria.
For what it's worth, Peter Lewis, Progressive's founder and CEO until last year, also enjoys boats. Having made a pile of money insuring high-risk drivers that nobody else would touch in the mid-'90s, he refit a 255-ft ocean-going tug as a yacht and christened her Lone Ranger. He's taken this spectacular yacht - which comes complete with a Seaplane, an F-27 trimaran, and all the toys you can imagine - all over the world. The only scary thing is fueling up, as she holds 50,000 gallons of diesel.
Now age 71, Lewis may not be the wild
man he once was. But according to a profile in Fortune magazine from the mid-'90s, an investor
told Lewis he had a great company, but knowing how important
he was to it, asked how his health was. Lewis is reported to
have responded, "Well, I really don't know because I don't
believe in doctors. But No. 1, I feel fine. No. 2, I swim a mile
every day. And No. 3, I'm single, so I get laid all the time."
In addition to being an atypical CEO, Lewis has donated big money
to the legalization of pot, and has said that he doesn't think
car insurance should be mandatory. In terms of freethinking and
free-talking, he's right up there with Ted Turner.
You may remember us from the Irwin 37 Lady Ann, as we were boat neighbors in Schoonmaker Yacht Harbor, both before our '98-'02 circumnavigation and for a short time afterwards. I am writing with a request.
While we were in Sri Lanka, we met a lovely young family. Ekka, the father, drove a tuk-tuk, and gave us invaluable help around Galle. He invited us to his home, where his wife prepared a beautiful meal, and our kids played with their small son. We were very worried about Ekka and his family after the December 26 tsunami and upon hearing about all the damage in Galle.
After making efforts to track him down, we received an email from Ekka yesterday. He and his family are safe, as they were able to run to high ground in time. But he sent us a photograph of his house - it's nothing but pieces of walls and rubble. And they now have a baby daughter, too. Ekka lost his tuk-tuk in the tsunami, so he is renting another one to make a living. He said that an Englishman helped them while they were in the refugee camp by buying him a small piece of land. He now needs help to build a modest house.
We would like to help Ekka and his family, but knowing the system in Sri Lanka, we're afraid to send anything by mail. So we wonder if there are any cruisers in that area who would be willing to receive a care package - including cash - and find Ekka to deliver it to him directly. That's the safest way we can think of that will make sure the help gets to him.
We can be reached by email.
Andrea, Willie, Scott (13) & Ellen
Willie and Andrea - We'll put the word
out. Knowing the incredible corruption in the Third and Developing
Worlds, and the terrible inefficiencies associated with traditional
aid organizations, we understand your desire to find an alternative
way of helping.
I'm a longtime fan of Latitude, having grown up in L.A. and spent 10 years in San Francisco. Although 'they' say that the Pacific Northwest is one of the world's top cruising destinations, the holy grail for me is Mexico and beyond. After all, it rains up here. A lot. About 10 months of the year.
So I've spent about the last three years preparing our Malo 39 - the 'other Swedish boat' - for cruising, and my wife and I live aboard. I may have an opportunity to take early retirement next year, which would allow me to leave this wonderful but very wet and very crowded place. I have two questions:
First, how much does it really cost to cruise in Mexico? I know, I know, it depends on the crew, whether you anchor out, the age and condition of the boat, etc. I already know what it costs to keep a boat up, and don't expect that will change in Mexico and points beyond. We have set our boat up for independent living, and prefer anchoring out, so we would probably spend 75% of the time on the hook. That said, we love a party and the good life, and at least one of us is fluent in Spanish, and we hope to engage the locals in a more meaningful way than we have in our past travels.
The bottom line is that we'll have about $2,500 a month cash for daily living for the two of us. This doesn't count other money we have set aside for boat repairs and insurance - that's a separate pot. So, what kind of cruising life will that buy us in Mexico?
Our second question has to do with all those pesky hurricanes. Where do people go? Or do they just sail around and take their chances? One hopes that with a good breakwater, concrete floats, and proper preparation, a boat would be all right in a marina - but that is leaving a lot to risk. My wife insists that we head south beyond the hurricane zone by June 1 - is that what most prudent folks do?
There are a lot of 'experts' out there full of advice - and other things - but we have always enjoyed the reports and insights published in your magazine, and appreciate the straight answers you provide.
Gary - If you only spend a week a month in a marina and don't overdo it in tourist bars and restaurants, you can cruise like kings in Mexico for $2,500 a month - and still have $1,000 to $1,500 left in your pocket at the start of the next month. If you reread our recent interview with Blair and Joan Grinols of Capricorn Cat (May 2005 issue), you'll see that they figured they cruised on about $600 a month in personal expenses for both Mexico and the South Pacific. And it wasn't because they were trying to live particularly inexpensively, but were just living the 'into it' cruiser life. As they noted, you can buy 30 pounds of fruit and vegetables for $10, and there are many places you can stuff yourself for $5 a person. You can't eat that inexpensively at the Four Seasons or Carlos 'n Charlie's, of course, but you can do so in non-touristy restaurants all over Mexico, and those places tend to be much more interesting places, too. Just to be on the safe side, we'd set aside maybe $1,500 for personal expenses, but you'd still have quite a bit left. It's certainly possible to spend more than $2,500 a month on personal expenses in Mexico, but you'd have to work at it.
As for engaging the locals, that's as simple as pie. You just smile and start a conversation, and from there you can take it as far as you want to go. Unlike here in the States, where making money is so important and people can be cold, the people of Mexico are warm and naturally care more about personal interactions. They are very friendly and caring.
As for the "pesky hurricanes," virtually nobody cruises mainland Mexico during the summer hurricane season, but primarily because it's so rainy and humid. However, people do continue to cruise in the Sea of Cortez. In a typical summer, the waters off Mexico are hit by a number of tropical storms and hurricanes. The vast majority of them, however, start offshore and head to the northwest - which is out to the open ocean.
In the last 25 years, we can't remember a hurricane that did significant damage to boats on mainland Mexico. We say this partly because we can't remember a marina ever suffering a direct hit - other than San Blas a few years ago, but there weren't any recreational boats there at the time. The other thing is that many of the marinas along the mainland aren't right on the water, but are relatively well-protected from open water and the real danger, which is big waves. Ixtapa, Barra Navidad, Marina Vallarta, Paradise Village Marina, Nuevo Vallarta Marina, Mazatlan Marina, Marina El Cid - all of them are located up channels and around corners from the open ocean.
Unlike on the mainland, quite a number of folks cruise the Sea of Cortez or stay on their boats in La Paz or Puerto Escondido during the summer. On average, the Sea of Cortez gets hit by a hurricane every other year, but most of the time they have missed the cruising areas. But marinas have been hit. Cabo has had a couple of direct hits with 100-knot winds, but thanks to the protection, no boats were damaged. La Paz has been hit hard twice in recent years, which were the second and third times in about 25 years. There were many boats that were badly damaged in Marina de La Paz, which, at the time, didn't have the protection it has now. Others were damaged while on the hard. But there was little damage to boats in marinas with good protection. The new Costa Baja Marina just outside of La Paz looks as though it would be an excellent place to ride out hurricane force winds, as does Marina Palmira.
Puerto Escondido has always been a popular place for cruising boats in the summer. A number of boats were driven aground there by hurricane-force winds a few years ago - but this didn't happen to a single boat with crew aboard. On rare occasions, hurricanes still have enough steam to make it all the way up to San Carlos on the mainland side. Usually the only boats that are damaged are the ones anchored out and unattended. By the time hurricanes get halfway up the Sea of Cortez, they've usually lost most of their steam.
We would have no qualms about leaving Profligate in any of the aforementioned marinas during hurricane season. If your wife is still worried, we suggest she contact each of the marinas and find out the last time they've been hit. Yes, there is risk, but we think it's very, very small. In fact, we'd be much more concerned about our boat being hit by lightning in one of the mainland marinas.
Our advice to you would be to enjoy the great and inexpensive cruising life in Mexico during the winter. Come May, we'd suggest putting your boat in a marina on the mainland, or heading up into the Sea of Cortez. If you went into the Sea, we'd still put the boat in a well-protected marina for at least the months of July, August and September. During those three months, we'd take a 'vacation' from cruising. With all the money you had left over from your $2,500/month winter budget, you could take a vacation from cruising in South America, Australia, Europe - or maybe even back in the States.
The bottom line is that $2,500 a month might seem like a pittance in the more expensive cities in the States, but in Mexico and most of the developing world, it can be a small fortune. And you can take that to the bank!
If any other veteran cruisers would
like to add their two cents on how much it costs per month in
personal expenses to cruise in Mexico, we'd love to hear from
We sailed Dream Caper, our 42-ft Fontaine-Pajot catamaran, in the '03 Ha-Ha and then around Mexico. For the summer of '04, we left our cat on the hard in San Carlos. Upon our return, we continued south, arriving in El Salvador in May of this year. We left Dream Caper afloat in Bahia Del Sol for the summer, and are now back in Marin.
A reader wrote in asking about dental work in Mexico. Unfortunately, I had to have a lot done, but fortunately, I was able to get it done in Mexico, where I found well-trained and competent dentists. Furthermore, their much lower prices allowed me to save a bundle over what the treatments would have cost here in the States. Here's my history.
In October of '04, I had a root canal done in San Carlos, and had two crowns replaced. In January of '05, I needed a root canal on another tooth, and had this and another crown done in Puerto Vallarta. After experiencing pain in the same tooth as the Puerto Vallarta root canal, I went to a dentist in Huatulco. He gave me antibiotics to relieve the swelling and pain until I returned home, and recommended that I see an endodontist.
When I got back to Marin, my endodontist advised that I needed a redo on the root canal - at a cost of $1,700, but with no guarantees as to the outcome. So I consulted with my Puerto Vallarta endodontist, who told me he'd fix the problem if I returned. So in early June, I returned to Puerto Vallarta for one night. It turned out that my tooth had cracked and needed to be pulled, and I would then need a bridge or implant. I opted for the implant.
A week later, I returned to Puerto Vallarta, where a specialist endodontist from Guadalajara, in cooperation with the Puerto Vallarta endodontist, pulled my cracked tooth and installed an implant. This took about two hours. After three months, I will return to Puerto Vallarta for a crown.
The dentist I saw in Puerto Vallarta who referred me to the endodontist was Dr. Adan Noel Michel Brixon, who has an office downtown. He did the crown after the root canal. Many cruisers and other travelers go to Dr. Michel, who speaks excellent English. While in the waiting room, we had a nice visit with frequent Mexico cruisers, Blair and Joan Grinols of the then Vallejo-based 45-ft Capricorn Cat.
My Puerto Vallarta endodontist is Dr. Benjamin Valle Vargas (Unident Office), whose office is located very close to the airport at Marina Vallarta. He also speaks excellent English. His office is very modern, with x-rays on computers. My implant procedure was conducted in the strictest of sanitary conditions - I was very impressed. I will return to him for my crown after the implant sets. The dentists in San Carlos, Huatulco, and Dr. Michel in Puerto Vallarta have less modern offices, but also do very fine work.
I have to admit that I was concerned - even a little afraid - before my first visit to a Mexico dentist, Dr. Hiram Martinez, as he was identified as "the one behind Rosa's Cantina." But as he was very competent, I quickly relaxed. All of the endodontists also perform regular dental work, had assistants, and followed up by telephone - to my cellphone on the boat - to see how I was doing after the procedures. I was also impressed by the way these Mexican dentists used anesthetics. In each case the anesthesia was effective in eliminating the pain of the procedure, but avoided the puffy numbed lips and cheeks that lasts for hours after a visit to my dentist in the States.
Prior to my first root canal and crown in San Carlos, I called my endodontist and dentist in Marin, and found it would cost more than $1,400 for a root canal and $1,200 for a crown - a total of more than $2,600, plus the cost of airfare to return home. By having it done in Mexico, the cost was only $500. I'm not sure of the cost of an implant in the States, but I believe they are a minimum of $5,000 per tooth.
The way I figure it, I saved $8,872. As I said, I'm very pleased with all of the dental work I've had done in Mexico. Ever since, I have suggested to anyone who is interested that Puerto Vallarta is a great place to vacation - and get quality dental work without going broke.
My husband Steven Stecher and I will be back aboard Dream Caper cruising in Central America until March 2006, at which time we plan to do the Puddle Jump to the South Pacific.
Portia - Thanks for the excellent information.
By the way, we love your name, as it looks Italian but sounds
like a German sports car.
In a recent 'Lectronic, you wondered if readers thought naming a big powerboat Lucky Sperm was in poor taste, and what other names might be in the same category. Lucky Sperm was down here in the British Virgins this past season, and I thought the name was a bit much, too. As I recall, the people aboard looked like the money had been inherited recently and they were going to spend it all whether they wanted to or not.
As for other tasteless boat names, how about Passing Wind? There's one of those sitting here at the dock. Other provocative boat names, although funny, are: AFTICA, an acronym for Another F--king Thing I Can't Afford. Or, the one that always got me in trouble at Customs and Immigration for being a smart ass: I Wonder.
Peter Whitney, Captain
Peter - Since you're in the Caribbean
a lot, you've probably seen the large motoryacht named Porn Star, reportedly in honor of the owner's
wife, a former star in the X-rated segment of the film industry.
We suppose there are two types of men in the world, those who
would be very proud to be married to a porn star, and those who
would be very ashamed of the same thing.
I was rather disheartened to read your caption under the photo of Lucky Sperm: ". . . more evidence that just because a person has a lot of money doesn't mean he/she also has good taste."
Could it be that Latitude 38 has been taken over by a bunch of conservatives in Marin? Worse yet, a bunch of snobs? Ones who feel it necessary to provide negative comments on something like a boat name like Lucky Sperm? The same ones who have been known to occasionally publish pictures of bare-chested ladies in their good - usually - rag? Let's see. Lucky Sperm. Bare-chested ladies. I fail to see the problem in either case.
C'mon, guys and gals, it's a free country, but since when did Latitude start becoming the connoisseurs of good taste? It seems like you're the purveyors of nonsense in this case. So what if a person wants to celebrate the fact that perhaps they feel a bit lucky? The name of a boat is just the name of a boat, and having a boat is about having fun and enjoying life.
And just what does Profligate mean that's so different from Lucky Sperm? Both names are conversation pieces, and both are meant in fun. Just like my boat's name - which I didn't think up, but decided it was good enough to keep! So lighten up! Criminy!
By the way, what exactly does Profligate mean, anyway?
Tad - To answer your questions in order.
1) Latitude/'Lectronic hasn't been taken over by anybody, as
evidenced by the fact that the same person - the owner - is writing
editorial responses as when we started publication 28 years ago.
2) Being a snob sounds like a lot of fun, unfortunately, we can't
think of anything we have reason to feel snobby about. 3) We
don't see any connection between photos of women wearing 'fair
weather gear' and raunchy boat names - except photos of women
can also be tasteful or raunchy. 4) We probably wouldn't have
bothered to comment on Lucky Sperm
except that just about everybody on our boat - about a dozen
- and several others were grossed out by it. 5) The name of a
boat is much more than just the name of a boat, as some really
can be repulsive. For example, when we were about to launch our
catamaran, a tipsy powerboater tried to insist that we christen
her - please skip to the next letter now if you don't want to
be completely grossed out - Wet Pussy. (We warned you
to skip to the next letter!) If you didn't think less of a guy
who had a boat with such a name, you'd be in the minority. 6)
The primary meaning of Profligate is 'ruthless spendthrift'
- which we think is most appropriate.
I think the really scandalous thing about a boat named Lucky Sperm is that it's not bombast or bluster - but true! After all, wouldn't we all like to have been born wealthy! I'm jealous. I have images and fantasies of being able to do anything I want at any time and forever! When I see that name, I think of utter freedom. Being unfettered. Not having a care in the world.
Yes, the name shocked me the first time I saw it, but it certainly made me curious. But it's true. I think you forgot that when you criticized it, and it's significant. Maybe you're jealous as well.
Emmanuel - When we found out the real story behind the boat being named Lucky Sperm, it changed our opinion - at least somewhat. Details to follow.
As for your assumption that everyone would like to have been born wealthy so they could do anything they wanted at any time, you've got to be kidding. While being born into great wealth might sound like fun, the reality is often quite different. For many people, being an heir to a large fortune is a burden that stunts ambition and makes it difficult for them to lead fulfilling lives. If we were to wish anything on our kids, it's not a billion dollars, but rather intelligence and passion. That way, if they really wanted a billion dollars, they could make it themselves. But at least they'd be smart enough to know that having everything you wanted all the time would only be heaven for a very short time. After that, it could be hell - especially for those who didn't earn the money themselves.
SHE'S FROM CLIMAX, TOO
I was told that while Lucky Sperm's homeport is Climax, Pennsylvania, she belongs to an heir to the San Francisco Chronicle.
ON THE TRAIL OF THE LUCKY SPERM
I can confirm that Lucky Sperm is owned by Cam Theriot, an heir to the Chronicle - and a neighbor of mine! I think your original comment was accurate, that just because somebody has money doesn't mean they have good taste.
After spending about two weeks looking at Lucky Sperm at the guest dock at Pier 40/South Beach Harbor, I learned the following: The Lucky Sperm and the horseshoe logo stand for a stallion owner who has bred multiple champions. The proceeds from the 'donations' financed the boat.
The most unique and, maybe tending to the unusual side of boat names, is one I saw at San Leandro Marina on a houseboat - We Be Havin' Thangs. I think this outranks Seaducer, Knotty Gal, A Little After Five, etc.
Paul - Geez, we wish you hadn't told us that because: 1) It makes perfect sense. How could we have been so stupid not to have put sperm, horseshoes and breeding together? And 2) It's actually sort of a clever name - a double-entendre and dually appropriate.
Nonetheless, we still think it's too
gross for general consumption. Something like Lucky S would have been better. Then when somebody
asked what the 'S', little 'fish', and horseshoes all had in
common, the owner could wait until everybody had a cocktail or
two before dinner, then share the reasonably funny reason why
he named his boat what he did.
There is a red power boat at Barnhill Marina on the Alameda Estuary named Sailing Sucks. I think he's jealous.
Grant - Given the recent increases in
the price of fuel, we bet he's even more jealous than ever. We
were down in Catalina in August and overheard the owner of a
30-ft sportfishing boat complaining to another that it now costs
him $300 in fuel alone for a weekend trip from Newport to Catalina
and back. Ouch!
My nomination for tasteless boat names is Breaking Wind.
P.S. Thanks for printing my inquiry about the schooner Zaca. You sure came up with a lot of great information.
The most tasteless - and also ubiquitous - boat name: Wet Dream.
One sailboat I used to see in the Long Beach vicinity was named Passing Wind.
It's no surprise, but the two most tasteless boat names I've ever seen were on powerboats: Breach Berth and Grandpa's Wet Dream. Those are pretty sleazy!
I hate the following names: Wet Spot and Wet Dream.
The coolest boat name - for a change - is Flying Patio Furniture.
Charlie - We like that name, too, but
the one that really impresses us for being clever is Gruntled.
There was a period when many American boatowners christened their boats with Polynesian-sounding names. The names could rarely be found in any Polynesian dictionary, but the trend persisted - producing such memorable names as Comana Wanna Lay You and the like. In response to this trend, there was a boat in Newport named the Lani-Ru. It seemed like a nice name . . . until you spelled it backwards.
Timothy - There were also a number of boats that were given Oriental-sounding names. Who, for example, could ever forget Fujimo, which, unknown to the average person, actually stood for a divorce proceeding: 'Fuck you Jane, I'm Moving Out'.
I BELIEVE MY BOAT WAS ATTACKED BY A DOLPHIN
I have to comment on Suzanne Pew's account of our dolphin experience with Birinci Mevki in Mexico as reported in the July Changes. My theory is slightly different than Dr. Defran's, who says he doesn't believe we were attacked by a dolphin.
I was indeed standing at the forward end of the port side of the cockpit when this very large dolphin came up, almost touched the boat, then veered off. 'What's going on?' I wondered to myself. 'I'm glad we didn't hit it.' I know how intelligent dolphins are, that they have very good sonar, and that they usually keep a foot or two away from a moving boat - even when playing with it.
Right after being glad we didn't hit the dolphin, we did hit something very solid but soft. My Rawson 30 shuddered and almost stopped. Then John couldn't move the tiller, and we saw what turned out to be pieces of fiberglass-covered foam in a swirl behind the boat. The rudder freed up enough to get us into Sweet Pea Cove. John dove down and found a large chunk was gone from the bottom edge of the rudder, and the shaft had been bent out of the gudgeon.
My theory is that the two dolphins were mating, hence their attention was on things other than approaching boats. It is known that male dolphins get very aggressive when annoyed, and I certainly would have been annoyed had I been interrupted in 'the act'. So I think he whacked my rudder and took a chunk out of it. As I understand it, during mating the male is upside down under the female. It may be a rare occurrence, but I think my explanation of a dolphin attacking my boat makes the most sense.
Have any other cruisers had any physical contact with angry dolphins?
I was shocked to read that James Moore, a so-called "professional" yacht broker, would use the tragic murder of Tom and Jackie Hawks for the self-serving purpose of selling his services. How sad. It sounds like sour grapes to me.
Every time I think of that tragedy it brings tears to my eyes. One could only imagine what went through their minds as they were allegedly being handcuffed to the anchor knowing what was coming next. I think Latitude's response to Moore should have been less congenial.
Readers - For an update on the five
accused of murder in the deaths of cruisers Tom and Jackie Hawks,
see this month's Sightings.
It's a gruesome story.
Having done my second Baja - and California, and Oregon, and Washington - Bash from Cabo San Lucas to Victoria, British Columbia, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I say pick your weather and sail the windshifts.
For what it's worth, sailing my 40-ft catamaran Pantera north from Cabo in April of 2004 worked much better than my northbound sail in May of '02. I believe this was due to the Pacific High moving northeast in summer and 'squeezing' the continental Low that increases as the desert warms up. Although two trips is hardly much of a data base, instead of the 25-30+ knots which I had almost daily going north in 2002, 15-20 knots was more typical in 2004, except for seven days spent in Bodega Bay.
During both trips and all the way from Cabo to Victoria, it was my general experience that the day would start with a long starboard tack in predominantly northerly winds. Around midday, as the land heated up, the wind would often shift 30-40 degrees to come out of the northwest. After sailing for a half hour into this header, I would tack to port, occasionally making good 70° between tacks through the daylight hours. This was very important, because I often experienced 1-1.5 knots of adverse current. If you're only making good 7-8 knots, a knot-and-one-half is a lot to lose. The slower the boat, the more important this is - and probably explains the 'bash' in Baja Bash. After all, if your boat won't sail well upwind, you motor - often into a steep chop that is relatively more closely spaced than tacking into it. The motion under sail, as everyone knows, is much better than motoring. As my 40-ft catamaran Pantera only has a 9.9 hp Yamaha, motoring into strong headwinds is not an option for me.
Since my return to Victoria, I noted some debate in Latitude on the windward capability and comfort of multihulls. I must admit that in my entire life I have spent no more than 30-40 hours sailing monohulls. I have, however, sailed upwind in 20-25 knots of wind close alongside Santa Cruz 50s and 70s in the Swiftsure Race. My vote for a good combination of speed and comfort is long skinny hulls, high stability, low windage, an efficient rig and foils. While a lightweight multi has a lively motion, unlike a lightweight mono, it seldom pounds. When Pantera pounds, I slow down by pinching up - a good thing - and reducing sail to limit speed to 8-9 knots. Even so, stacks of CDs sit on my un-fiddled galley counter without falling over. With my cat, preparation from anchor to 'Bash' requires nothing more than closing the ports and hoisting the sails. Enough said.
Pantera is once again headed south - which means no windward ability will be required! I'll likely enjoy a quick trip to Central America for the winter with stops in Mexico to visit friends. But what would a trip to Mexico be without doing the Baja Ha-Ha? I only have two problems. First, I need a guarantee that there won't be another nuclear winter-type forest fire in San Diego again this year like there was in '04, and I need paying crew to help out with expenses. A couple of independently wealthy Playmates would be nice, especially if they have some sailing skills. Seriously, at the moment I have room for three and perhaps four crew, be they singles, couples, male or female. I'm thinking $100/day plus food and drink sounds reasonable. Bahia de Tortuga. Bahia Santa Maria. Cabo. I can't wait to hook up with everybody once again.
Bob - That you've twice sailed your cat all the way from Cabo San Lucas to Victoria, British Columbia - nearly three times the distance of a normal Baja Bash - is something that impresses us to no end. It's genuinely a tribute to you and your cat Pantera. In fact, we'd love to publish more details - such as how many days it took, how much VMG you made to Victoria each day, and so forth.
As for the debate over the pointing ability, it's always been between racer/cruiser catamarans and racer/cruiser monohulls. To our thinking, Pantera is at the very edge of not really being a cruising catamaran. In any event, we'd be very interested in knowing how many degrees Pantera tacks in. We haven't seen a cruising cat that can do it in less than 105°, but suspect your nearly-racing cat might do significantly better.
For folks interested in doing a very
sporting Ha-Ha - and not that interested in having lots of space
or headroom - we think a ride on Pantera
would be a blast. But far be it for us to judge what might be
reasonable in a 'shared expenses' situation.
Since Profligate is a beamy catamaran and travels all over the place, I think you might have the answer to my question. Where on the West Coast - especially in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Mexico - are there boatyards that can haul catamarans with a 25-ft beam?
Stuart - Profligate has a 30-ft beam, which limits the number of places she can be hauled. To date, we've hauled her at Napa Valley Marina in Napa, Channel Islands Boatyard in Oxnard, Vacamonte Boatyard in Panama, and at Island Water World in Sint Maarten. We also know that David Crowe hauled his cat Humu-Humu, with its 34-ft beam, in Mazatlan, and that a Lagoon 55, which has a beam of 30 feet, was hauled at Vacamonte in Panama.
We're told that Knight & Carver is the place to haul bigger cats in San Diego, and we're sure there are places in the Pacific Northwest - although we don't know any names. However, since Duetto has five feet less beam than Profligate, there may be other possibilities. We'd start by calling KKMI in Richmond, Ventura Boatyard in Ventura, Long Beach Shipyard in Long Beach and Driscoll's in San Diego.
Interestingly enough, Profligate has been lifted out three different
ways. At Napa Valley she goes out on a rail that supports the
bridgedeck alone. At Channel Islands, she goes out on a hydraulic
lift that also supports the bridgedeck alone. In Panama she went
out - against our wishes - resting on her two hulls. In St. Maarten,
a crane lifted four straps around her two hulls. The latter was
our favorite method.
Having owned - or been owned by - a few boats over the past decades, it's finally time to get that good - used - boat for bluewater cruising. We've poured over brochures, talked with brokers and boatowners, walked the docks and sailed on and read nearly everything we can get our hands on, but we still think we're missing information about boats current and past. Are there any reputable Web sites or bulletin boards along the line of Consumer Reports where we can get good information?
We've been reading Latitude for nearly as long as it's been around - we even subscribe first class just so we don't miss an issue - and think it's the best, and not just because you'll take off the wall questions like this one.
Steve - Sorry, but we're not familiar with any sites or bulletin boards that we feel offer particularly good boat-buying advice. And we've seen plenty that we thought offered irresponsible advice.
One reason is that there is such a variety of boats available. We think your first job is to limit your choices. Having sailed for years and owned boats, certainly you must have developed a preference for the type of bluewater boat you want, be it a retired racer, a racer/cruiser, a more traditional moderate-to-heavy-displacement boat, or a multihull. Second, you need to determine how much money you want to spend. And finally, you need to identify what you're really going to do with the boat. Answering these 'big three' questions should narrow your search considerably, at which point we suggest you interview owners of boats that seem attractive to you. One of the best places to do this is in Cabo San Lucas at the end of the Ha-Ha, because you'll see a heck of a variety of cruising boats in one place.
The good news, it would seem to us,
is that there are a tremendous number of terrific used boats
available in just about every category and in just about every
price range. And compared to the price of houses in California,
they are dirt cheap, too. In fact, anybody who has owned a house
in California for the last five years could easily use the equity
that has built up to buy a great cruising boat and go cruising
for the next five years. And in many cases, they could keep their
house and rent it out to pay for the remaining mortgage. For
a lot of Baby Boomers, this would seem to be pretty much the
last best time to go cruising.
I know you were being humorous when, in the July 20 'Lectronic, you reported that "researchers have found that a major source of chemical contamination in the Arctic has not been human activity after all, but bird droppings. It was found that the chemical pollution in ponds frequented by seabirds can be many times higher than in nearby regions."
The full story about seabirds being the source of all that Arctic pollution is actually very interesting - and should be a concern. Because it really is we humans who are the source of that pollution through an interesting series of mechanisms.
When we humans release pollutants in temperate or tropical climates, the warm weather helps evaporate them into the atmosphere. Atmospheric circulation carries the stuff to arctic climates, where the cold temperatures cause it to precipitate out of the atmosphere and fall on land and sea. Essentially, the planet is working just like a whiskey still concentrating alcohol at high levels at the tap, except that it is concentrating pollutants in arctic regions. As such, the Arctic Sea has higher concentrations of some pollutants than temperate or tropical seas.
Once the stuff is there, especially in the sea, it enters the food chain and bioaccumulates. At every step up food webs, there are higher concentrations of pollutants in fish. Sea birds, which eat those fish, are at a very high trophic level, so they get the highest accumulation within their bodies. There are now two levels of concentration of the pollutants: the global still, and bioaccumulation in seabirds.
Now we get to the part you alluded to. Those seabirds nest in very high concentrations on cliffs above coastal plains with ponds. Those ponds gather the guano from all the nesting birds. And this is a third level of accumulation: when the contaminated seabirds congregate, they bring pollutants from broad swathes of the arctic oceans to very small local areas, and excrete them into those ponds.
So, the ponds sit at the top of a three-stage accumulation mechanism for concentrating the pollutants that we humans produce. The birds don't cause the pollution, they simply help to concentrate it at very high levels in those tiny ponds.
Why such a concern? Those ponds, teeming with life from all the bird fertilizer, are major contributors to arctic ecosystems. If the accumulation of pollutants harms the ponds, we harm ecosystems on a broader level. To my knowledge, we don't yet know if that is happening.
Lee - We were indeed being humorous about the birds being the real source of pollution in the arctic, and thank you for your complete explanation. What to do about such pollution is, of course, a much greater problem. After all, we can't realistically live without many of the things that cause pollution, yet many birds, animals and humans can't live with excessive amounts of the stuff. Unfortunately, we suspect it's not going to be all that easy for the world community to find a healthy and happy medium.
Nonetheless, there are certain places where birds and mammals really do seem to be the sole source of pollution - such as Campbell Cove State Beach, which is on Bodega Bay. According to Heal The Bay, which monitors California beaches, Campbell Cove was the fourth dirtiest beach in California last year, and in 2003 it was the second dirtiest, having 200 times the minimum safe levels of E. coli bacteria. Initially, it was thought the usual suspects - humans - were responsible. But after a $500,000 two-year study, it was determined that the bacteria came from the poop of sea lions, seals, pelicans, raccoons, dogs, deer, seagulls - but not humans.
In addition, there are places - such as the Santa Barbara Channel - where much of the air and water pollution is natural, seeping up through the ocean floor.
Of course, when it comes to the sum
total of pollution, and especially the more severely toxic stuff,
we humans are significantly more responsible than birds, animals,
and Ma Nature in general.
It's a sorry and inaccurate cliché that the two happiest days of boat ownership are the day the craft is bought and the day she's sold. For me, the day my unfinished 26-ft catamaran lurched out of my parents' backyard in the back of a U-Haul truck brought a sense of relief. For nearly a decade my folks cajoled, coaxed, and hounded me to remove the Ed Horstman-designed hulls I had started building in 1989. So in 2004, much to my dad's delight, I placed an ad in the Latitude Classy Classifieds offering the foam/fiberglass hulls for a pittance of the $7,000 I had invested.
One interested buyer was an articulate and witty man who lived near my folks' home in Clovis. He inspected the hulls, then called me in Sacramento and asked for the hulls free of charge. He might have gotten them had he intended to finish the original design. Instead, he wanted to use them as amas for a 26-ft monohull he planned to convert into a trimaran. Weeks later his face was splashed across the national media, for he was Fresno resident Marcus Wesson, who was arrested - and was later sentenced to death - for killing nine of his children, including some he fathered with his daughters.
The run-in with Wesson abated my dad's insistence on selling the hulls for several months. Then earlier this year, I learned he had taken my - well his - reciprocating saw during a visit to see the granddaughters. I soon got the call I expected. Either I get my hulls out of his backyard or he'd see which blades worked best on fiberglass.
So last June, my hulls reappeared in the Classy Classifieds, this time free to the first taker. The second caller fit the bill: "My husband wants them. How soon can I get them?" Then the Willits resident added, "He's wanted to do this his whole life and can't wait to get started once he's out." Out of Soledad State Prison, that is. His crime had been running from the police. Why? "He was being stupid." I didn't press any further, as visions of Marcus Wesson and my elderly parents flashed through my mind. But everyone needs a break and a fresh start, right? So I called two of my burliest buddies and we met her at my folks. We loaded up the hulls and waved as they drove off.
My relief was multifaceted: fears/concerns were unfounded; the hulls are finally off to someone who just might see the project through; and I no longer have to permanently borrow power tools capable of halving a hull. Since I never got to meet the new builder - he didn't get out until August 18 - and I know he's an avid Latitude 38 reader, I wish to bid him fair winds and speedy construction. And if you're thinking of a name to grace the stern, I have a suggestion: Second Chance.
Craig - Does it come as any surprise that sailing magazines - which celebrate a lifestyle of unusual freedom - are very popular with people who are incarcerated?
By the way, your boat name recommendation
recalls the inspired series of names used by the late Colin Case:
Felony (which was destroyed
on the rocks at Pt. Bonita during the deadly Doublehanded Farallones
Race of '92), Second Offense, and Recidivist. The
only one of Case's boats that didn't fit the series was National
Biscuit, the company from whence came much of his wealth.
I read the August issue 20 Years Ago This Month item about rock star Simon Le Bon and 23 others being aboard the 77-ft Drum that rolled - because the 14-ton keel came off - during very windy conditions in the 1985 Fastnet Race. Despite the fact that many of the 24-person crew ended up in the water, and that Le Bon, his younger brother, and five others were trapped down below for 40 minutes, all were rescued without major injuries.
I had designed Drum in anticipation of the upcoming Whitbread Around The World Race.
In the original Sightings piece from 20 years before, Latitude speculated that the keel had come off because of inadequate design specification - a speculation that was repeated when you reprinted the original piece. I'd like to make it clear that it was determined that the problem wasn't with the design specification, but rather with the welding of the aluminum fabricated keel. Ron Holland Design has had complete confidence in continuing to successfully design keels following this same system.
Ron - Thanks for the clarification. It's too bad that the Drum sailors who returned for the 20th anniversary Fastnet had such very light weather conditions for the reunion race aboard what is now known as Arnold Clark Drum.
As many readers know, Ron Holland spent
more than a little time around San Francisco Bay some 25 years
ago, and was catapulted into design fame by the 40-ft Imp he designed for Dave Allen of Belvedere,
a boat that is considered a landmark design because of her incredible
performances at the Admirals Cup in England and the SORC in Florida.
New Zealand native Holland later moved to Ireland, where in subsequent
years he has become perhaps best known for designing mega sailing
yachts - such as Joe Vittoria's 247-ft Mirabella. His
office is currently at work designing the 190-ft ketch Ethereal
for Bill Joy, one of the Northern California founders of Sun
Microsystems. Joy intends to make her the world's most eco-friendly
yacht. Check out this and other Holland projects at www.ronhollanddesign.com.
I'm having a hard time getting information about the Golden Gate 30 - aka Bodega 30 and Farallon 29/30. I'm writing to you in particular because you mentioned this design in an editorial response about good cruising boats under $100,000 - and it's about the only mention I could find on the Web. So far, I've found out that the boat was designed by William Blains, who is also unknown on the Web. How else can I find out about the boat's cruising ability?
Claude - If we're not mistaken, the Golden Gate / Bodega / Farallon was - like the similar-looking Nor'West 33 - designed by Chuck Burns. We're not familiar with William Blains.
Ray 'Sea Gypsy' Jason, who writes for Latitude from time to time, has been cruising his Farallon 30 for God-knows-how-many-years. You might email him for his input.
Our impression is that the 30-footer
is a performance full-keel design that was built very sturdily,
but is not as roomy as some boats of the same length. But don't
hold us to it.
Concerning Dedalus Hyde's recent article on using biodiesel in marine engines, I have about 2.5 years of experience I can share.
I have one of those 49 mpg diesel Volkswagens Latitude's editor mentions wanting, an '03 VW Beetle TDI that I've run on 100% biodiesel (B100) since it was new some 21,000 miles ago. (This, incidentally, was against VW of America's warranty.) Although I don't get near the 49 mpg potential of the vehicle - I mostly drive my kid's and my own butt around hilly, stop-and-go Marin County - it easily pushes over 40 mpg in freeway driving and I average about 38 around town. I pay $3.35/gal for biodiesel from a local co-op that gets it delivered from Yokayo Biofuels (www.ybiofuels.org) in Ukiah. It's worth noting that at almost $3/gal for gasoline these days, I'm still doing significantly better economically speaking than I did in my '98 gas-engined VW Beetle, which averaged about 22 mpg.
At about the same time in early '03, I started burning 100% biodiesel in my 40-year-old Perkins 4-108 aboard Pearl, my '77 Islander 36 sloop. As readers may know, biodiesel is blendable in any proportion with regular petroleum (#2) diesel. No engine conversion or modification is required.
There are, however, several important caveats to using 100% biodiesel, or even a blend greater than 20%. Indeed, if you don't take into consideration these important points, you could be very disappointed in your biodiesel experience. However, I consider the many benefits of using biodiesel in a marine environment - more on these in a moment - to be well worth it.
First and foremost, biodiesel is a much stronger solvent than petroleum diesel. As such, it eats rubber components much faster than petrodiesel. The neoprene gasket between my fuel tank sender and the tank turned to gooey mush after about a year of exposure to biodiesel. If your fuel lines are more than five or six years old, they're probably made of something that will dissolve quite rapidly with biodiesel. The most biodiesel-impervious material for this purpose is Viton, which costs $3/ft for 5/16" hose, but will pretty much never have to be replaced.
Also, because it's such a strong solvent, biodiesel is going to release every bit of sludge that's accumulated in your fuel tank over the years, which will immediately clog your secondary fuel filter. My tank was a mess long before I began burning biodiesel, and I had 'polished' the fuel several times before switching, so it wasn't as big a problem for me. I had also installed a dual-bowl Racor filter system with a vacuum gauge as well, which I highly recommend. You can 'see' the filters clogging by the increased vacuum pressure in the gauge, and it's a great feeling to have this feedback as well as the ability to switch filters by flopping a lever while underway.
Biodiesel is also more viscous than petroleum diesel, which isn't much of a problem here in sunny California, but could be in colder areas where gelling of the fuel can stop it from flowing much sooner than petrodiesel. I also burn a little more fuel using biodiesel than petroleum diesel - biodiesel has 5-10% fewer BTUs/gallon - but since I burn so little fuel overall in the sailboat, I hardly notice.
At one time there was a marine biodiesel fueling station on the Bay in Alameda, but because of the problems associated with its high solvency properties - and higher price - they stopped selling it. When you're out for a cruise, feeling good about burning an eco-friendly - or friendlier - fuel, and suddenly your boat stops moving, you need a tow, and the mechanic blames it on "bad fuel," you're probably not going to keep using it. It's all a matter of expectations and education.
Now for the good news - and why I burn the stuff, despite the costs and aforementioned caveats.
First of all, biodiesel is a much cleaner-burning fuel than petrodiesel in almost every respect. There's far less soot, which means far less cleaning of the hull by my exhaust hose thru-hull. Then there's the smell - I burn fuel made from recycled fryer oil - mostly soy oil in the U.S. - which tends to smell a little like the kitchen of the restaurant from which it came. It's not what I'd exactly call pleasant, but it's a far cry from the stinky petroleum-based stuff I used to burn. When there's a little tailwind, it makes a big difference.
Also, biodiesel has a much higher flashpoint than petrodiesel. While it's true that diesel #2 doesn't generally burn if you put a match to it, it will burn - very hot - if it gets ignited by something a bit hotter. Biodiesel just doesn't. I remember doing a little test with my 12-year-old son - nothing like setting something on fire to please a 12-year-old - in a couple of tuna fish cans. We put a small butane torch to both diesel #2 and a very small amount of biodiesel. The #2 caught fire immediately and burned black like kerosene - which is its neighbor on the alkane scale. But the biodiesel just smoldered and smelled like a kitchen fire. That's not to say it won't burn under enough heat, but it's much safer than diesel #2 in this respect. For me, this alone justifies using it on the boat.
Another factor is the smell of the fuel itself. Again, it's not Chanel #9, but compared to diesel #2, it's like a walk through a rose garden. Even more significantly, it has essentially zero VOCs and is thus is much easier on your hands as well. Changing the primary on my 4-108 requires losing about 8 ounces of fuel into an absorbent pad - and my hands - every time, and the difference in the resulting smell in the boat and on my hands is huge.
Biodiesel also has higher lubricity than petrodiesel. As such, longer term, biodiesel-burning engines have less wear - which has been routinely documented. But the amazing thing is the short-term benefit. My 4-108 is noticeably quieter at idle, and will idle at lower rpms, when burning biodiesel! It still shakes and roars like an 18-wheeler at its cruising speed of 2,000 rpm, but it's nice when coming dockside to be a few dB down. (I should note that you should be even more aware of your lubricating oil condition when burning biodiesel, as mixing of the raw fuel and the oil can cause the oil to gel - so keeping it clean is still very important.)
Finally, there's the eco/biofuel/foreign-petroleum-dependency/'guilt-free' argument for using biodiesel. Frankly, given the above advantages of using the fuel, this isn't necessarily at the top of my list. But it's hard for me to feel guilty burning 20-25 gallons a year of any fuel on the boat. Of course, it still puts carbon into the atmosphere, but like any biofuel, at least it's recent carbon - carbon absorbed by the crops that produced it in the last few years, not those from a few hundred million years ago.
Alas, availability and cost are still the two factors that will prevent all but nuts like me from using biodiesel in their boats. And if you've got a dozens-or-more-gallons-per-hour powerboat, you're not going to be fueling it from jerry jugs, period. But biodiesel's popularity is increasing, and hopefully in the future we'll begin to see 10-20% (B20) blends of bio- and petrodiesel become more common (the effects of blending are nonlinear in terms of both emissions and smell, by the way, so you get a strong benefit from even a low blend).
Readers interested in contacting me about my biodiesel experience can email me.
Eric - Terrific information, thank you
The July cover with the photos of Lydia and Pegasus is the best I've seen yet on Latitude! You can feel yourself trying to stand straight at a 45 degree angle. Many, many thanks.
Steve - We're glad you liked it. Although
we often get soaked in the process, one of our greatest pleasures
while creating Latitude 38 each
month is shooting drama tic photos on the Bay. This one was taken
by Managing Editor John Riise.
As a member of the Ha-Ha Class of '04, I find Sigmund Baardsen's negative comments about that event to be all wet. What an education I got from the Ha-Ha - followed by the Run to Paradise to Banderas Bay, Philo's at Thanksgiving, Rick's at Christmas, the Banderas Bay Regatta, and then putting two boats on the hard at Marina Seca! What experience and knowledge I gained.
I also love La Paz - but won't be influenced by someone who doesn't get away from the dock too often.
I read with interest the letter in the July issue referring to the use of a beachball globe as a record of routes sailed. I didn't know about that back in 2000, when I furnished a Space Shuttle crew with one for their on-orbit interviews. We were mapping the world on that mission - I was the Payload Communicator, and talk about learning your radio protocol! - and the ball was useful to show the orbital paths they flew. Note the dark lines drawn on the globe with a Shuttle model floating above it. That's Kevin Kregel, our commander, and Payload Specialist Gerhard Thiele making sure the earth doesn't float out of the picture.
By the way, while the mission mapped most of the land area of the earth in 3D, a side benefit is a map of all the coastlines - accurate to about 10 meters! I'm trying to get that out to the public, as I'm well aware that coastlines and islands can be misplaced on older maps and charts. I've plotted the GPS tracks of some of our charter trips onto the Shuttle maps, and they lay down quite well.
Dr. Tom G. Farr, Deputy Project Specialist
PS: If you run the picture, please credit
NASA and include the image number (s99e5259.jpg), as folks can
get it directly from NASA that way.
Recently, the editor of Latitude wondered why the ecological community mounted such a big campaign to prevent a relatively benign salt plant from being permitted at Laguna San Ignacio, while for decades they've seemingly done nothing to save the Sea of Cortez, an infinitely more valuable ecological resource. I'd like to take a crack at answering that question.
The San Ignacio salt project proposal caused an uproar because it could be represented as a new threat complete with villains - Japan and the government - and things to save - whales and a United Nations-designated preserve. It also had an easy solution: Scream a lot and get it stopped.
This is the kind of high-profile target favored by ENGOs (Environmental Non-Government Organizations - to make it appear as if they are doing something for the money people give to them to do something. What I liked about it was the orchestrating by the World Wildlife Fund and others, and Grupo de Cien (mostly Mexican intellectuals who wouldn't know the rear end of a whale if one sat on them). Their full-page ad in the New York Times was a masterpiece, postulating that desalinization - i.e. taking the salt out of the water (sic), would cause the waters in the lagoon to become fresh so the baby whales would sink and drown! This amazing science, was picked up as fact by some "science writers," and was passed on to the flat earthers by the always obliging press. Anyway, the project was killed, and the ENGOs claimed to have once again saved the whale from extinction by the ever-evil Japanese.
Saving the Sea of Cortez is a different kind of animal. As the editor of Latitude observed, the problem has been going on since the '60s. At that time, along with expanding big boat fisheries for sardines and shrimp, FAO and Mexico began an artisanal fishing development program. The Mexican government granted permits to private entrepreneurs, set up Fishery Cooperatives, and provided both groups with credit to obtain pangas, outboard motors, fishing gear and pickup trucks. Thousands of people relocated to the coastal areas of Baja and the Sea of Cortez. The result was very satisfactory in terms of production. The problem was that there was little management data collected, no quotas on catches for finfish and sharks, and little oversight or enforcement of permits.
As one might expect, the fisheries were mostly exploited at rates that were not sustainable over the long term. Overexploitation was exacerbated by a more than doubling of the population in Mexico - and the U.S., where much of the table fish went - and the construction of the TransPeninsular Highway down the Baja. Today, the problems are to reconstruct some idea of what was removed and to develop management strategies to allow stocks to rebuild - or at least be fished on a sustainable basis - and provide some alternative employment for people in the coastal communities.
The big NGOs like World Wildlife Fund, the Packard Foundation, PEW, the Nature Conservancy, and their smaller Mexican counterparts recognize the problem - but the solution is not simple. Unlike San Ignacio, the NGOs cannot solve the problem by demanding and getting a simple prohibition. One cannot just put a stop to fishing.
Nonetheless, the NGOs have pushed for Marine Protected Areas and strict regulations - but do not seem concerned by the resultant social impact. The activist NGOs need quick solutions, and have little interest in working out long-term solutions. The private NGOs - like PEW and Packard - are better in that they are not dependent on checks from little old ladies and pennies from school children for their support. However, I was at one meeting for the Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto, where a question was raised about what to do with the fishing communities. Even the private NGOs said, "They (the fishermen affected by park regulations) will just have to do something else."
Unfortunately, the thousands of fishermen and their children and grandchildren in the coastal communities have no obvious means to do "something else" to make a legal living. Retraining and creating jobs takes time, and have other attendant problems. They are not the kind of headline-grabbing, fun and spectacular activities - like stopping Mitsubishi, or saving the whales - that get donations pouring into the coffers. And that, in my cynical opinion, is why, Seawatch aside, you do not hear much about the fate of the Sea of Cortez.
Frank - We hate to be cynical, but we think your explanation hits the nail on the head.
GET A POOPER SCOOPER AND USE IT
Don't you just love it when you're settled in some nice cove, then someone ferries their dog to the beach, and then doesn't pick up after it? I've seen this happen on numerous occasions in Cherry Cove on Catalina. The irresponsible dog owners far outnumber the responsible ones. Come on folks, get a pooper scooper and use it.
Dennis - The problem isn't unique to Southern California. There's a beach in the middle of Schoonmaker Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, and several prominent signs state that dogs aren't permitted. Yet everybody in the world - and their brother - brings dogs to the beach. Either these people are all blind and have seeing-eye dogs, or, more likely, they believe that laws don't apply to them - a common Marin County state of mind. This behavior is almost as comical as the bicyclists who absolutely insist on riding in the middle of a car lane rather than the bike lane the city just spent a small fortune setting aside for their safety and pleasure.
GOOD SERVICE GETTING PARTS TO MEXICO
I snapped the gears on my windlass in Huatulco, Mexico, in February. So I moved over to the protected paradise of Marina Chahue in the next bay and took a berth.
With the help of Mike Tosse at Svendsen's Boatyard in Alameda, I ordered replacement parts from Imtra Marine in Massachusetts. A week later, they arrived in Toluca, a suburb of Mexico City that is the site of the main clearinghouse in Mexico. Three days later, they were shipped to Crucesita where, with a little help from Enrique, Marina Chahue's fostering manager, I picked them up. DHL had acted as my clearing agent for a nominal fee. Even though I had a 10-Year Import Permit, I still had to pay a 17% Customs fee - which I may have gotten waived had I travelled all the way up to Toluca.
In any event, I want to thank DHL, Imtra, Mike and Enrique for their good service.
DERELICT STILL FLOATING 45 DAYS LATER
On July 18, we, the crew of the Swan 53 Incredible, participating in the Centennial TransPac from Los Angeles to Honolulu, passed within 100 yards of the derelict Newporter 40 ketch Kamera. Her main mast was down, and she was drifting with nobody aboard. We snapped a few photos, noted our midday position as 25.54N x 134.34W - which was close to the halfway point on the 2,225 mile race. We also notified the Alaska Eagle, the communications vessel for the TransPac, of the abandoned boat's location so other yachts racing might watch out for her.
Having done that, we wondered what happened to the boat and her crew. We guessed that they were rescued after the dismasting and the boat was set adrift. But why, where and when?
Two days further into the race, one of our crew was reading the July issue of Latitude - and amazingly, all our questions about the derelict boat were answered! For in the Sightings section, the End Of The Line article described how William Peterson, while singlehanding from Panama to San Francisco to complete a nine-year circumnavigation, lost his main mast in 25 knots of wind about 800 miles southwest of San Diego. Thanks to his EPIRB and the U.S. Navy, he was rescued. The damaged but still-floating 48-year-old ketch was allowed to drift rather than be scuttled. Peterson had assumed that his boat would soon sink because she had been taking on water, and there was no way to keep bilge pumps working after the batteries ran dead. Nonetheless, 45 days after he had to leave her, she was still floating - and had drifted over 1,000 miles.
By the way, this letter to the editor is being sent by email via our Iridium sat phone while we are still four days out of Honolulu!
IF I WERE SAILING FROM THE EAST COAST . . .
In a response to a letter last month, you advised readers Randy and Ellen Hasness to get to the Caribbean from the Northeast by joining the West Marine Caribbean 1500 Rally to Tortola. This, as opposed to going south on the InterCoastal Waterway.
I'm sure the West Marine Rally is a wonderful event, but having done the Intercoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Miami twice, I can tell you it's also a wonderful trip. In fact, I can recommend it to anyone who has the time, as it offers a very interesting variety of experiences.
And rather than bypassing the Bahamas as one would do on the 1500, taking the 'Thorny Path' through those islands is something that I can really recommend. You're right, it involves some upwind work, but it's not really that thorny. Having sailed both in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, I know they are both wonderful, but if I could only do one again, it would be the Bahamas.
The trip to the Caribbean through the Bahamas is similar to the trip down The Ditch in that the pace at which you travel can dictate the quality of enjoyment. But then, what sailing experience isn't like that? Also, a trip just to the Bahamas is an extremely worthwhile endeavor. If I were sailing from the East Coast to the West Coast, I wouldn't miss the Bahamas. You can visit a different anchorage every night. It's not better than offshore sailing, just different.
P.S. Thanks for forwarding to me your wonderful mag while I was in Antarctica last winter.
John - We very much appreciate your opinion. Anybody else want to weigh in on the best way to get from the Northeast to either Florida or the Eastern Caribbean?
PITFALLS TO CRUISING WITH A FURRY FRIEND
My girlfriend and I are planning the big cruise, with a 2007 departure date for Mexico, the South Pacific, and points beyond. We're planning on taking our (currently) four-year-old Sheltie with us. It seems like a tremendous pain in the rear to go sailing with a dog, but she's part of our family, and we can't bear to leave her behind.
I've found no end of people to give me advice on cruising, but, sadly, none has ever cruised with a dog. Hopefully, you and/or your readership can help. Aside from the obvious hair problem associated with this particular breed, what are the great pitfalls of cruising with a small dog? Is her presence on board going to be a problem when visiting various different ports? How does one go about housebreaking (boatbreaking?) an adult dog who is used to just 'going outside'? I expect she'll get seasick, but can I expect that she'll ever get over it? Are there other major pitfalls to cruising with a furry friend?
P.S. Latitude is a tremendous resource.
Andrew - We're not the best qualified to answer your cruising-with-a-dog questions, so we'll throw it out to our readership. We can tell you, however, that once cruisers get to the South Pacific with cats or dogs, there are significant issues with them being allowed on shore - or even on boats tied up to docks. In some cases, there are lengthy quarantines required and considerable expense. We're sure we'll get some good info on the subject in the next month or two.
AN INAPPROPRIATE COMPARISON
I was very pleased to read Carole Bradfield's account of her experience selling their catamaran to the John Walton family. John was indeed a very special sort of guy, truly a class act.
Here's another story about him: I served as a pilot with the 195th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam (6/68-6/69). One of our primary missions was to support 5th Special Forces Group, Project Sigma, moving teams into and out of Cambodia as well as inside of Vietnam. John Walton was an A Team Green Beret. From a family of privilege, John probably could have figured out a way to stay out of anything - but instead he became a Special Forces Medic and earned the Silver Star in the battle of Ashau Valley, in August 1968.
Far less impressive is the letter from Ian Farrier, who seemed to try to capitalize on the tragedy of John's recent death and his business relationship with him in order to plug his designs. Farrier then tries to link the fatal accident rate for light airplanes to the capsize rate for his boats - which I believe is too much of a stretch for any reasonable comparison - except marketing. Based on my 38 years in aviation, Farrier's statistical analysis is UFO-grade out-there.
But wait, there's more. My wife and I attended the San Diego Boat show in the late '80s with the intent of buying a Corsair F-27 trimaran designed by Farrier. We met Ian, listened to him for a bit, and then left for dinner to talk. I remember two things from our chat over dinner. First, that we decided not to buy a F-27. Second, that my wife said, "He's a bit too full of himself."
It looks like he still is.
Mark - We don't know Farrier personally,
but we'd hesitate to be too harsh on him, as technically inclined
folks often don't have the most polished PR and sales skills.
We have some comments on Jim and Sue Corenman's comments on the loss of boats in a storm that hit the northbound fleet from New Zealand this year. As was usual for May, there were lots of boats - 30 to 40 - sailing between New Zealand and Tonga/Fiji at the time. No lives were lost, but a couple of boats that had been anchored at Minerva Reef were lost.
As the Corenmans say, weather forecasting is now amazingly thorough, and Sailmail makes it possible for many yachts to get the best and latest weather info onboard - no matter where they are in the world. We have come to count on the grib file forecasts, and place a lot of weight on information contained in them. In fact, we'd be lost without them - although they don't always accurately predict local weather conditions, which we've found are often contrary to the predictions for the wider area.
But I thought the Corenmans were a bit rough on the slower boats, which might leave on a 12-day passage with a good forecast - and still get caught with a low cell that started to develop after the boat left port.
Nor do the Corenmans touch on the issue of peer pressure, where a rally, race, or a cruise has a set date for starting, and they want to leave on schedule - even in the face of a questionable forecast. In fact, I think this is a bigger issue, as the herding instinct tends to make people ignore what their own good sense might be telling them about an upcoming weather window. Considering the possibility that forecasters are being somewhat on the safe side - I didn't say 'alarmist' - and probably predict more low cells than actually show up, means that there is often a chance of scary weather included in the long range forecast.
However, the Corenmans are absolutely spot-on that boats should be able to withstand 50 knots of wind and 12-ft seas. Most Kiwis will tell you that on any passage to or from New Zealand, one should count on getting smacked at least once. Further, getting caught in Minerva Reef during bad weather is just bad seamanship. You only need a day or two of warning to be able to get out of an anchorage and get to sea when a storm is coming to a place of dubious protection.
I notice that the Corenmans are now living in Friday Harbor. What a wonderful place. We miss it dearly.
Readers - A number of years ago, Fred made a passage from the South Pacific to New Zealand in which many boats were caught in a very bad blow. While he and Wings made it, several sailors and boats weren't as lucky.
We do have to disagree with him, however, on how badly rally and race organizers want to start their events on specific dates despite questionable forecasts. While weather delays are a great inconvenience to everyone, races and rallies are often postponed because of them. This was the case last year in a May event from New Zealand to Tonga, in last year's Caribbean 1500, and in a big transatlantic race two years ago.
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