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HIS PUREBRED SANK IN A CLOUD OF BUBBLES
Having read about the troubles boat owners have been having with sea lions in Newport Beach reminded me of Monterey, where they are also a problem.
We'd sailed in to get diesel one time, and had to use a boat pole to encourage one of the creatures that tourists find so charming to get off the dock cleat so we could untie our docklines. I suggested to the dock attendant that he could use a dog to keep the sea lions off the docks.
He told me that the same idea had occurred to him, and he talked to his friend who owned a prized Chesapeake Bay retriever into helping out. Aware of the laws against harassing sea lions, they carefully planned out the experiment so as to use the dog to scare away the seals, but - and this was very important - not create a scene and attract any spectators. The morning of the experiment was clear and calm. Just as they suspected, the prized dog was shaking with enthusiasm when he spotted one monstrous beast spread out, covering the dock. The dog charged down the dock, lunged at the seal and grabbed its blubbery flank. The men had never heard anything like the piercing wail the sea lion emitted.
But before they could pull the dog from its grip on the sea lion, the sea lion dragged the beautifully groomed dog down the dock and jumped into the water. After letting out one last bloodcurdling screech, the seal dove down into the deep - with the prize dog still hanging on!
Incredulous, the owner stood stunned as he watched his very expensive purebred disappear in a cloud of bubbles. For what seemed like an eternity, they stared at the water. By this time they were not alone, as the cries of the sea lion had attracted scores of people lining the upper dock. Finally, the dog popped to the surface, sputtering and coughing. The men dragged her the rest of the way back on the dock.
The dog was so dazed and weak-kneed that she couldn't even shake the water off herself - until another sea lion swam by. Seeing the sea lion, the dog bolted up the ramp and ran toward the parking lot, her tail between her legs, her master in pursuit.
So it was back to the drawing board for the dockmaster. As for mariners, it's back to the boat hook.
Grady - As one writer in the Pacific Northwest noted, sea lions now seem to have the 'upper flipper' when it comes to a comparative legal standing with humans. Of course, sea lions aren't the only animals in that situation.
While we were in Mexico in November, a mother turtle came up on the beach in the middle of the night and laid 95 eggs in the sand in front of a completed condo project. When Katie, a young girl living in the complex, discovered the eggs the next morning, she also noticed some nearby workers salivating at the thought of a huevos de tortuga breakfast. So Katie called the local detachment of Mexican Marines, and they, armed with automatic rifles, guarded the eggs until some folks from the local turtle protection agency could pick them up. When the eggs hatched, a third of them were brought back to the same site for 'relaunching'.
We later related the good news to the
owner of a beachfront palapa restaurant. He smiled weakly, and
said such things are both good news and bad news. Huh? He pointed
down the beach, to a palapa restaurant-sized hole in a string
of palapa restaurants. "A turtle came up on the beach there
one night a few years ago and laid some eggs," he explained.
"Because she did, it became an environmentally-protected
area, and nothing can be built there. That means the owner of
the land is out hundreds of thousands of dollars. As such, when
an owner of undeveloped land sees a turtle come ashore, he/she
is under tremendous financial pressure to make sure that no eggs
are laid on his/her property. So maybe the policy isn't the best
solution for the property owners or the turtles."
I've been a fan of Latitude for many years, and am newly back to sailing with a Catalina 30. When I bought the boat, she had the world's worst name. The partners who owned her before me, a couple of attorneys, had christened her Sueya. As a non-litigious sort, I'm going to be renaming the vessel. I'm told there is a ceremony/procedure that needs to be followed, and 38 has directions. Can you help?
P.S. I'm rechristening my boat Rocinante, after Don Quixote's horse - as well as Steinbeck's camper truck.
John - If you look under features you'll find info on a well-tested denaming ceremony.
That said, we think the only really important thing is that you have a lot of good friends in attendance and that there be lots of laughter. Mocking the solemnity of such occasions, having everyone come in costumes and spilling lots of champagne would all seem to be proper.
We salute you and all other non-litigious
sorts. We think you're America's unsung heroes.
I just had to get my two cent's worth in regarding unusual boat names. Two of my favorites were on boats in Oxnard's Channel Islands Harbor, where I kept my boat while I was waiting for my Santa Cruz slip to open up. There was a beat-up Irwin 42 named Sailbad the Sinner - and she looked appropriate for that purpose. Also appropriate was a go-fast Olson 30 named Hot Ruddered Bum, perfect for this time of year.
Perhaps my favorite is a boat here in Santa Cruz named Phucifino, which most people think is a romantic spot in Italy. I still get a chuckle out of it each time I sail out of the harbor.
Van - If memory serves us correctly,
Phucifino really is a lovely small anchorage between San Remo
and Portofino, Italy, and was somewhat scandalously named after
one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. But we could be wrong.
I would like to add to a recent letter titled Extending The Green Flash. The author of the letter said that by slowly rising, one can see the green flash at sunset multiple times. But I'm here to tell you that it will also work in reverse. Yes, the green flash is visible at sunrise as well as sunset, and for the same reason.
Watching a sunrise on a beach on the east side of Molokai, we saw the green flash while standing erect. Then we bent down to waist height and saw it a second time! Then we dropped to our knees and saw it a third time!
A commercial pilot I know says that he does the same thing by either dropping in elevation at sunrise or ascending in elevation at sunset.
Fred - Color us a little skeptical.
We've seen single green flashes at sunset plenty of times, but
never a green flash at sunrise. And we've looked. We've also
never seen multiple green flashes. Has anybody else seen a green
flash at sunrise?
Although we live in Reno, we've been sailing our boat out of Vallejo quite a bit recently. For example, we had a terrific sail two weeks ago. There's something really nice about coming down from the colder-than-hell mountains and getting out on the Bay for a day or two. After all, a 65° day on the Bay seems like paradise compared to 22° in Reno.
Rog - You seem to have captured the
essence of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity in that last
The accompanying photograph was taken during our shakedown cruise on the Bay last October. The shakedown was actually of my wife Carly, who is an avowed hater of sailing. She says it's because of the rigmarole of getting ready, and especially the strong wind and cold temperatures. She likes what she calls 'magazine sailing', which is the kind of sailing she sees on charter boats in places closer to the equator.
However, I finally convinced her to take a precious week-long sail and just gunkhole around the Bay. We went from the Vallejo YC to the Marin YC to the San Francisco YC, to the Golden Gate YC, to the Ballena Bay YC, to Treasure Island, to Emeryville, and back to Vallejo.
The accompanying photograph is of the best day during a week of many wonderful days. We were southbound at 2.1 knots east of Angel Island. We had the entire Bay to ourselves that morning, and trimming the sails just didn't seem that important.
Boats that are 'looking good' on the Bay are usually hot machines with well-trimmed sails that are heeled way over and have a bone in their teeth. But even though our boat was none of these when the shot was taken, she was indeed, 'looking good' in terms of relaxation.
Jack Vetter & Carly Hegle
It didn't surprise me that Sea Ya, a Newport 30, lost her keel after going aground in shallow water near La Paz. When I worked in a boatyard and hauled a Newport 30, extra support had to be added under the turn of the bilge. If it wasn't, the hull would start deforming, as it would settle and the keel would 'rise' toward the waterline! It seems obvious to me that the hull was too thin in the area of the keel, or perhaps not enough support had been designed into the keel-to-hull web.
I've never sailed on a Newport 30, but friends who own one tell me they can, on certain occasions, actually feel the keel move from side to side.
The 'Lectronic item about the Newport 30 Sea Ya being lost in La Paz, and all the wonderful help the owners received from the cruising community there, reminds me of when my Newport 30 Sambita was put on the rocks at Puerto Escondido. That was thanks to Hurricane Marty in the fall of '03. My insurance company ordered us not to touch her until a decision could be made about what to do with her. By the time they finally made a decision, the boat had been totally stripped by thieves. The engine, fuel tank, wires, cables, tubing, drawers, screws - everything but the mast was taken. My wonderful boat with repairable damage to the hull was reduced to a wreck. The insurance company ultimately sold her for $300.
Here's the kicker. According to reports from the folks at Puerto Escondido who were trying to protect her, the culprits were members of the cruising community at La Paz! Go figure.
That wasn't the first boat I lost at Puerto Escondido. In the '80s, I bumped into the Wanderer, who had just trailered his Cal 25 Absquatchalato from the Bay Area to Puerto Escondido. I helped him launch her. Two days later, I lost my Excaliber 26 Amity on the rocks at Little Candeleros. We saw photos of her in Latitude the following month.
It's impossible for me to pick three favorite parts of Latitude. The magazine is so intelligent, topical, balanced, interesting, practical, useful and fun, that in my opinion it represents a high-water in the publishing industry. And I have non-sailing friends in New York who read 'Lectronic Latitude just for fun! The personal connection between the publisher and Latitude is integral and essential, so please don't ever let it slip away.
Lonnie - Thanks for the very kind words.
You won't believe this, but just the other day we were flipping
through some of our 500,000 black and white proof sheets - and
we came across the photo of you and Amity
two days before she went on the rocks. Amazing, no?
Recently, a number of people have been writing to say that they've been able to sail quite well on just 'X' dollars a day - by never going to local restaurants, always cooking their own food on their boat, never taking a tour of a city, and so forth.
I'm retired and live on a fixed income, and therefore my funds are limited. However, I don't think I would enjoy a visit to a foreign country if I ate only my own cooking while staying on my own boat. I can't see coming back from some exotic country, having people ask me how the food was, and having to tell them I didn't know because I only ate burritos on the boat. Nor would I like to come back and say I didn't know anything about the interior of the country because I hadn't taken any tours. No, not even though I could also say, "But by golly, our expenses were just $1/day. Whoopee!"
Chartering from Sunsail and The Moorings, I've been to about a dozen countries, and some of the fondest memories were of eating at a nice restaurant at the end of the day. And, again, I'm on a limited budget. Obviously there has to be a balance, but it sometimes seems that there's a competition to see how little one can spend on a vacation. Just another point of view.
Kudos on the brief article about it being legal to motor in Aquatic Park! For many years I heard urban legends about the rules, so long ago I called the Park ranger to get the straight story. Few people would believe me, especially when I turned on our sailboat's motor when getting ready to anchor, or letting it idle in case we had problems with the wind. It's kind of amazing to have read Latitude cover to cover for decades, and this was the first time someone wrote in about it. Well done!
(Mr.) Leslie D. Waters
Leslie - We don't know anybody who vacations or charters on an ultra-low budget such as a couple of bucks a day - in fact, we don't think it can be done. The folks who have been writing in about sailing so parsimoniously have been cruising. And we believe them when they say their lives have been more interesting for not having a bigger budget. But as much as we enjoy such articles, we realize that most people have to be pretty young to cruise like that, and that type of cruising is certainly not for everyone. Ourselves included.
We're glad you liked the item about
the rules about motoring in Aquatic Park, but, for the record,
it's actually the second time we've written about it.
I am surrounded by poverty. No, not the curious indigenous Kuna Indians of the isolated San Blas Islands who idly paddle by in their dugout canoes. Nor the street-smart adolescents stalking the city corners of San Salvador, hungry, palms upturned looking for an easy buck. No, I am poverty. At least I have been officially so informed. And the paperwork confirms it. The Winship family is cruising in poverty.
Spring blossoms with renewed life each year, birds return from their long winter migrations, and April 15 - tax day - swings like a relentless pendulum through our lives. It's then time to bare souls and pocket books to the high accountant. So, like a responsible citizen, I have religiously completed our tax forms and sealed them in their dedicated envelopes for posting. Vibrant postage stamps handpicked from Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica adorned over half of the entire face of those drab casings.
Admittedly, those packets contained pretty slim pickings. Having been cruising on our little catamaran for the past five years throughout the southwestern Caribbean, we have been gratefully unemployed. No nine to five. No two-hour commutes on the train. No paychecks, either.
All right, I'd better confess right now to a single lapse of forms-manship. After a few years of double goose eggs on my W-4, filling in line 12 with a big fat nada, I figured there wasn't any point. I'd made no wages, and my interest income from my buddies at Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan were laughably below the reporting limit. So it seemed that I was wasting my time filling in the little shaded boxes when the last line always rounded to zero. Nothing owed, nothing to be refunded. Even the handy booklet said that if I earned below the set poverty level, I didn't have to file income taxes. So that one year, I balled up all the tax papers and sent them to the circular file. Rather than use the envelope and stamp to send the useless forms to the I.R.S., I saved them for a letter to my mom. I felt rejuvenated.
It took the bureaucratic grind mill about eight months to determine that I was AWOL. They were missing my measly 1040 form in what must have been a Mt. Everest of paperwork, and they knew it. It's kind of impressive. Soon the manhunt was on.
A businesslike form letter was churned out and directed to my mailing address, 3,000 miles from my actual hideout. The purpose of the letter was to enlighten me of a possible oversight on my part - and a chance to make amends and be friends once again. "Failure to file by February 7" - already three weeks past - "would lead to severe penalties, interest on back taxes, and confiscation of personal property." They made no mention of blood yet.
I responded within three months of the postmarked date - mail moves a bit slower here in paradise - that according to their printed instructions, I didn't need to file due to my diminutive income level. Through a volley of correspondence they concluded that this was true. However, I would first have to verify that I hadn't generated income above the specified limit. In order to provide evidence of this, I would have to file the income tax forms in question - thereby establishing that I hadn't had to file what I'd just filed. These are people you don't want to mess with.
I resurrected the necessary forms and sent them into the black hole of the I.R.S., postmarked from Panama. I hope someone there is saving the ornate postage stamps depicting the anniversary of the Canal. I was granted a silent reprieve, as the I.R.S. stopped sending threatening letters to abduct my firstborn. I was free once again. Impoverished, but free.
The stigma of poverty hasn't sunk in on our two children yet. But how will I explain to them that living on our sailboat isn't the rich life we have taken it for? Or that we're still able to enjoy lobster twice a week? How do they feel about the fact that dad doesn't work and mom doesn't work? Hell, nobody around us works! They are retired doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, engineers and entrepreneurs - all unemployed. Some are young couples or families taking time to explore the world, spending time together - all unemployed. Fine role models I have surrounded my young family with! Luckily, we are just beyond the reach of Child Protection Services.
Having learned my lesson, I will never forgo completing my tax forms with the column of zeros it so richly deserves. Don't tell anybody, but this poverty thing ain't so bad. I might even file early this year.
If you had $50,000 to spend on a bluewater cruiser, what boat would you buy?
Steve - We have no idea. To a large extent it would depend on what boats were available and at what price. But we can assure you, there are many fine cruising boats out there in the $50,000 range.
You also need to remember that what
might be a great boat for us might be the wrong boat for you.
For example, at 6'4", one of our priorities would be a boat
with more than average headroom, whereas if we were shorter,
it wouldn't. In addition, we have a greater preference for performance
than comfort, and it might be the opposite for you. Similarly,
we don't like to do boat maintenance, so we'd look for a very
simple boat. You, on the other hand, might love gear and upkeep.
The most important thing is to buy a boat that suits your needs
and desires, and always go with quality.
I'm considering switching from a monohull to a catamaran and would appreciate your advice. I own a 42-ft cutter that I sailed around Mexico for a couple years, and we sailed her from Puerto Vallarta to Kona this summer. But now I plan to be in Polynesia for a while, and could use a little more speed for the long distances, a little more room for comfort, and something a bit more user friendly for the girls.
My concern is the relative difficulty of finding a space to leave a boat that's more than 20 feet wide for a couple of months at a time while I return to the States - which is how I cruise. Do you find this a problem with your boat? Would it be a major concern in Polynesia?
Mark - Our experience has been that something always works out. It's never been a problem for us in Mexico or the Caribbean because there are so many places to anchor there. If we needed to return home, we'd just have somebody boat-sit. Given the spaciousness and comfort of a cat, there's rarely a problem finding qualified volunteers.
When writing about cats in a December letter, Randy Sparks reported that the owner of the 47-ft cat Delphinus, which he cruised aboard, didn't even have problems finding berths in Central America and the Caribbean - not that they wanted them very often.
If there's a problem with finding space
to leave cats in Polynesia, we've not heard about it, but some
readers might have better information.
A reader wrote in asking about rounding Cape Mendocino. I did it about a dozen times last year on various deliveries, all but two of them going north. Part of the reason it's difficult is that you have to go so far west to avoid Blunts Reef. That buoy is about five miles offshore.
Here are some tips I learned on my trips that might help others:
1) Don and Reanne Douglass' Exploring the Pacific Coast by Fine Edge Publishing is the best text on the coast.
2) Weather north of Cape Mendocino is substantially different from that found south of the Cape. It can literally be blowing 40 knots south of Cape Mendocino, and only 15 knots north of Eureka.
3) Call the National Weather Service in Eureka with any weather questions. They're open 24 hours a day and are always happy to hear from folks who are out there on the water. Their number is (707) 443-6484.
4) Dial-a-buoy is also very helpful, with near real-time weather updates. You have to know the five digit buoy number. For example, 46213 is Cape Mendocino, and 46026 is San Francisco.
5) For some reason the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego put a weather buoy off Mendocino last year. See: http://facs.scripps.edu/surf/mendocino.html.
6) Cape Mendocino is 50 miles north of Fort Bragg. If you run into rough weather just before the cape, you can anchor in Shelter Cove, which is about 15 miles to the south, without having to backtrack. Shelter Cove is an open roadstead anchorage and can be rolly, but it's sheltered from prevailing northerly winds.
Finally, look for an article in the November
issue of Power Cruising Magazine (sister publication to
Cruising World) on Fort Bragg. Lying 125 miles north of
the Golden Gate, Fort Bragg makes for a great sea trial destination
for folks thinking about serious cruising.
In the December issue, veteran cruisers Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of the Beneteau 500 Pizzaz offered the following advice to new cruising couples: "We don't care how long you've been married, when you live together 24/7 in a relatively small space, the changes are huge. It's almost like starting a new relationship, as there are so many new things that you'll learn about each other."
Their comments were right on target.
However, we don't think they really know what living together 24/7 in a relatively small space is really like, as they have a 50-footer for the two of them. They should try a Nor'Sea 27 with eight feet of beam. Having been married for 49+ years, the two of us spent two years cruising Sunchaser II, our Nor'Sea 27, in Mexico for two years. Countless people asked us how we managed it. We told them that we loved what we were doing and we loved the person we were doing it with.
Our 'togetherness period' was from '95 to '97, after which we sold her. We also sailed Sunchaser III, a Golden Hind 31, in the Millennium Ha-Ha. We've since sold that boat, but are now back on the water with our recently purchased aft-cockpit Nor' Sea 27. We will be sailing north next May to Long Island Sound from Annapolis, Maryland.
Together again 24/7 - we can't wait.
Jerry & Jan Tankersley
We came to San Carlos from Mulege in June intending to spend three days here. We've been here for five months. But with winter coming on, we're heading south where it's warmer. But we really like the area.
I just finished reading the Emerald Jane article about the Lagoon 55 that was lost in French Polynesia. I have a correction and some thoughts.
You had a chartlet of the wrong Manuae Atoll accompanying the article. There are two Manuae Atolls in the South Pacific, one in the French Iles Sous Le Vent group, and one in the Hervey Group in the Cook Islands. You incorrectly showed the latter. The atoll that Emerald Jane ran into is roughly circular, seven miles across, and has no pass going into it - which is why very few cruisers stop there. We spent several very pleasant weeks at Mopelia (Maupihaa), which is 43 miles to the southeast of Manuae and has a pass. This is where the famous German World War I raider Sea Adler was lost.
Not to throw stones, but my thoughts are that this very experienced captain was negligent in not keeping a good watch in a very dangerous situation. You carefully explained that he had already experienced GPS to chart errors of six miles - we've seen even eight-mile errors in some islands of Papua New Guinea - that it was dark, and that they knew they were not safely past the reefs of Manuae. Yet both the skipper and his wife were below when they hit the reef. I don't see how they can be "still mystified" about what went wrong. They weren't watching.
As to the comments about being sent north by currents, their GPS would easily provide them with a cross-track error that would have allowed them to clearly see any northward drift. Their radar was on. In our experience, radar will normally show a reef a mile or two - or even more - away. They had all the tools and six pairs of eyeballs. They just didn't have enough prudence.
I'm sorry that the family on Emerald Jane had such a rotten experience. I'm also sorry that their boat was fully insured. Maybe if they had a half million riding on the come line, they would have paid more attention. I sometimes think that insurance leads to reduced diligence.
Their story reminds me of another yacht that was lost in 1992 in this area. Rabba Abba left Tahiti for Pago Pago, and ran into the only bit of hard stuff on their rhumb line - little Rose Island, to the southeast of American Samoa. They set off their 406 EPIRB and were picked up the next day. When we next saw them, they were in New Zealand looking to buy a new boat with their insurance money.
We took our two kids out of high school and sailed the Pacific for four years, coming back to the West Coast via Hong Kong, Japan and the Aleutians. It was a wonderful experience. It's really unfortunate that the four kids on Emerald Jane had the unfortunate experience that they did.
Jeff & Freda Thompson
Jeff and Freda - We think your comments about John Silverwood, owner/skipper of Emerald Jane, are too harsh and verge on being unnecessarily personal. After all, not only was the Silverwood family's boat destroyed, John lost his leg! Given the fact that he's reminded of what happened nearly every hour of every day, we don't see the need to pile on.
We agree that the cause of the accident was almost surely some combination of collective operator error and lack of vigilance. But for God's sake, people are human and make mistakes. In some cases the mistakes are small and relatively harmless - such as our publishing a chartlet of the wrong Manuae Atoll. And sometimes the mistakes are much greater, such as driving a boat onto a reef. And sometimes they are really horrific, such as when a bus driver or pilot makes an error that claims scores if not hundreds of innocent lives.
The loss of the Emerald
Jane was not horrific, but reinforced the necessity of careful
navigation, suspicion of GPS units corresponding with the charts,
and the need for constant vigilance. We're just sorry that the
lesson had to come at such a great cost to the Silverwood family,
and John in particular. Frankly, we don't understand why you're
not a little more sympathetic to the family, and it's baffling
to us that you would regret they had insurance to cover their
loss. After all, it's absurd to think that the Silverwoods might
have navigated less carefully that fateful evening because they
We're writing about the failure of Dockwise Yacht Transport to honor their advertised promises of "customary and reasonable" delivery of vessels under their contract, and wish that other cruisers be fully aware of the risk.
My wife and I have been cruising from California to Panama for over two years, and have never experienced the kind of frustration which we had in dealing with this company. Their ship, Dock Express 12, was originally scheduled to be in Golfito, Costa Rica, on/or about October 22nd. After numerous date changes, it was rescheduled to finally arrive on/about November 25 to 27th. Because of this extreme lateness in shipping, about six boats here have encountered additional expenses for moorage fees, the hiring of persons to load boats on DYT because the owners had to return to the States for personal and business commitments, and penalties for having to change the dates of airline tickets.
After collecting from $15,000 to $31,000 in shipping fees from the owners of these boats, no discount from the prepaid fees was offered by Dockwise Yacht Transport to aid in offsetting the additional expenses. There was some talk that the ship was late because of an equipment failure the company hadn't responded to in a timely fashion. This seems to have been exacerbated by the fact that the company apparently found an opportunity to load later scheduled vessels on the same ship, thus affording them additional profit from their original schedule.
One professional skipper has been waiting in Golfito for delivery of a boat loaded on Dockwise in St. Thomas 2.5 months before! And yes, Hurricane Wilma hit Florida, but we're aware that the ship should have left the port in Florida at least five days before the hurricane even got that close.
Perhaps not all persons who have had their boats shipped with Dockwise have experienced such an extreme case of inefficiency, but it has been common for Dockwise to be from four to 10 days late on their schedules.
I submit this information so others may be aware of these problems, and also to protest the total lack of concern Dockwise has shown to customers who have suffered from such situations. As the result of this extreme and inexcusable delay of approximately four weeks, my wife and I had no choice but to return to the United States prior to the actual arrival of the DYT ship. Obviously, we had to hire a person to load our boat/home on the Dockwise ship - whenever it does arrive.
Please withhold my name as there may be pending legal action.
Name Withheld - While we're sympathetic to your dissatisfaction with Dockwise, it's tempered by the fact that the company clearly issued the following warning in their scheduling section: "All dates are approximate dates and without guarantee. Accordingly, any damage, delay and/or additional cost such as, but not limited to, cost made in relation to travel arrangements and berth arrangements, shall not be reimbursed."
You might have an uphill battle overcoming that stipulation in court.
However, we do know that a couple of
years ago some U.S. boat owners in Australia felt they really
got screwed by Dockwise. According to them, they paid to have
Dockwise ship their boats back to the States. But when Dockwise
managed to fill their ship in New Zealand first, they left the
boat owners in Australia high and dry. These customers weren't
very happy, as their rather substantial plans had been destroyed,
and they incurred significant expenses. Nonetheless, some of
them still shipped their boats home on Dockwise many months later.
How about a Northern California summer get-together for those of us who are planning on doing this year's Ha-Ha? It could be somewhere in the Bay or up the Delta. It would give all of us a chance to meet others who will be sailing down the coast, compare schedules, and share tips and cruising ideas. A few of us from the Sacramento area already get together from time to time and talk about stuff. I'm sure this will continue - and possibly expand a bit as we bump into more folks who are planning on doing the Ha-Ha.
I crewed aboard Bright Angel in 2003, and Jellybean in 2004.
Pat - If enough potential Ha-Ha participants
are interested, we could hold a Ha-Ha Preview here in Northern
California. It would be similar to the Second Annual Ha-Ha Preview
and Potluck we'll be holding the evening of August 12 at the
bandstand at Two Harbors, Catalina. So if anyone is interested,
or has a great idea about where to hold such a function in the
Bay Area, let us know.
In response to your request for any information on clearing procedures that seem to contradict Mexico's new Ventanilla Unica process, we'd like to report what we experienced on the Caribbean side.
We arrived at Isla Mujeres from Honduras in November of 2005, and were informed that we must use an agent. He charged us $75 - in addition to the normal fees for tourist cards and the port captain, which have to be paid at the bank rather than the Ventanilla Unica, in what was supposed to be one-stop fashion. This was just for the check-in.
The checkout involved another $75 for the required agent plus another fee for the port captain. I tried to do my own checkout, but the port captain informed me that it was the law that I had to use an agent for the process of checking in and out. When I told him that I understood that this was no longer the case, he told me I would have to go to Cancun, a half-hour ferry ride, to make my payment to the bank there. At that point I gave in and went with the agent.
Another boat we were traveling with checked in at El Cid Marina south of Cancun, and had to pay $150 U.S. to an agent to check in and out there. This fee was negotiated down from $190. Then they had to pay the fees at Isla Mujeres, a few miles to the north, all over again.
It certainly seems that clearing is being done differently on the Caribbean coast of Mexico than on the Pacific Coast.
Bill & Cynthia Noonan
Bill and Cynthia - We can't be positive, but it sure smells like corruption to us.
You might recall there was a big meeting in Mexico City on April 25 & 26 of last year, during which Jose Lozano, Executive Director of the Merchant Marine and head of all port captains in Mexico, reiterated the details of Reglamento 69, which is what changed the 'domestic clearing' procedures. (Ventanilla Unica is merely a term that refers to all official offices needed for clearing being relocated in one building - such as happened in Ensenada.) Later on, Lozano confirmed that no mariners could be required to use an agent, not even if they were clearing into Mexico for the first time. In addition, Lozano said he wanted to be informed if any port captains were not in compliance with the new rules and regulations.
Further suggesting that you cruisers on the Caribbean coast of Mexico have been getting the shaft is the fact that we haven't heard of any cruisers on the Pacific Coast of Mexico who have been compelled to hire an agent. And believe us, veteran cruisers on the Pacific Coast are ecstatic that they no longer have to do that - or go through the old clearing song and dance, handing out big wads of money as they go. See the photo of Teal and Linh Goben dancing on the 'roof' of their Williams 41 trimaran Savannah? They are doing that because they figure the new clearing regulations will save them over $1,000 in fees this year, as compared with last year.
As for the boat that had to pay at both El Cid and at Isla Mujeres, unless there is some misinformation, that's outrageous. But it doesn't entirely surprise us, as Lupe Dipp, the Mexican owner of the Catana 47 Moon And The Stars, said the people at Isla Mujeres tried to screw her out of money, too. She threw a fit.
In any event, we've reported both problems
to Tere Grossman of the Mexican Marina Owner's Association, and
hope she can get some action from Lozano in Mexico City. You
can reach her directly by
email. You can help everyone by fighting what certainly
appears to be corruption.
Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion about Latitude 38 - which is that I love it! Please keep up your influence as a P.B.I. - Professional Bad Influence. I started reading my dad's copies of Latitude when I was about 12 years of age, and now look what's happened to me! I'm 36 and still look forward to each issue. In addition, my wife and I have had our 1967 Islander 37 Adelante on the hard at Napa Valley Marina for six months doing a major refit. We're looking forward to splashing her in the spring and returning to our home port of Loch Lomond. In a few years, we're hoping to escape Telecom Valley by sailing south for a few years. So maybe we'll see you all in Cabo or Z-town. But thanks for the corrupting influence.
John, JoAnn & Donnie Bamberg
Here's my two cents worth on Latitude. I read your rag cover to cover - with the exception of the charter section. I go to the Classy Classifieds first, starting with used equipment, dinks, multihulls, and then randomly go through the rest. Next I go to Calendar, then progressively continue front to back.
When I'm done, I start all over again, this time to look at the display ads. My favorite is KKMI and their 'Herb Crane' column. I've hauled my Islander 37 at KKMI three times on the basis of their ad in Latitude. By the way, I bought my boat through the Classy Classifieds, too.
But I'm dying to know who Max Ebb is. While at an Encinal YC marine swap meet a few years ago, I looked up and saw someone photographing the meet from a staircase. Imagine my surprise when I opened Latitude the next month to see my mug staring into the lens of the camera in Max's article on marine swap meets! But to save my life I couldn't remember what the guy who took my picture looked like!
My hat is off to your incredibly hard-working staff. There isn't an American glossy subscription rag that can fill your sea boots!
Steve - Thanks for all the kind words. We found it interesting that some of the respondents to our survey - which was posted on 'Lectronic Latitude - listed the display ads as among their three favorite parts of Latitude.
Since the beginning our arrangement
with Max Ebb has been that he need not reveal his identity. So
we have no idea who he is.
I gotta say that the Latitude interviews are the best damn articles I have ever read in any of the seven sailing magazines I have subscribed to. They are so good that I read them to my whole family, and they are interesting enough to actually engage my teenagers.
Keith - Thanks for the kind words. Until
the recent survey, we hadn't realized how much readers enjoyed
the interviews. Now knowing better, we're going to have one almost
Thanks for allowing me to respond to your reader survey about my most and least favorite parts of Latitude. You also invited comments. My comment is that you seem to be getting more conservative in your old age. The fun-time coverage of parties and cruises where folks get loose seems to have dropped off in recent years. You're not getting prudish, are you?
A friend of mine who knows you says that you caught so much crap about showing a breast or butt in the magazine that you've backed off. It's a shame if you did, because that's part of the fun of having a sailboat - especially up in the Delta where we sail.
Keep up the good work - but continue to have fun. We do, aboard Mermaid Hunter, our Hunter 37 cutter.
Dave - It seems to us that our readership has become more conservative with age. In the early years, we got quite a few photos of women who happily went topless while sailing, and we published them. In recent years we've published fewer such photos - but only because you readers haven't been sending them in. What's the problem?
Fortunately, there's an easy way for us to prove we're not afraid to publish such photos. You send us a nice shot of your topless crew having fun in the Delta, and we guarantee we'll publish it. Now don't chicken out on us, because we're not going to chicken out on you.
Of course, we could always just grab
a couple of floozies from a bar who don't know a windlass from
a windvane, plop them on the bow of a boat tied to a dock, and
call it a cover. On second thought, we couldn't do it, that kind
of stuff is just too lame for our taste.
I always take a fistful of Latitudes with me when I travel down to Baja's Bahia Concepcion, which I do two or three times a year by truck. As you're well aware, when I pass them out, the cruisers light up like a donkey in an apple orchard. I've even been known to accept an ice cold Pacifico cerveza in appreciation for such deeds!
Say, maybe the 'best/strangest thing' you've ever been offered for a Latitude in a foreign port should be the subject of another poll.
I read Latitude cover to cover and it's fabulous the way it is. So don't change a thing. I even read the display ads and Classy Classifieds - even though I'm not in the market for a boat right now.
Thank you for the article last year on cruising to Napa over the Fourth of July. I did it for the first time last year and found it to be a very pleasant change of pace. I was even able to sail much of the way back down the river. Now I just need to perfect my bow and stern anchoring technique, and to remember not to leave Vallejo on the way back with a new moon and 25 knots blowing against a maximum ebb. San Pablo Bay can be quite a washing machine for my little boat!
Question: Does any other boat owned by the publisher of a sailing magazine get more miles put under her hull, year in and year out, than Profligate?
Dave - Thanks for the kind words. Publishers of sailing magazines are often more into business than sailing, so we don't think any of their boats come close to the number of miles we put on Profligate each year.
When it comes to editors, Andrew Bray of Yachting World in England has probably done the most sailing on his own boats. Beginning way back in the '60s, he's done singlehanded and doublehanded races across the Atlantic and to the Azores, around Britain and Ireland races, and many other significant passages.
It just so happened both Bray and we did the '95 Atlantic Rally For Cruisers on our own boats. At the time, he had some kind of 39-footer and we had our Ocean 71 Big O. After the ARC, we both decided to build new boats - and they couldn't be more different. A sensible Brit, Bray had Rod Humphries design him a 42-ft fast cruiser named Firefly. We're sure he spent endless hours going over every detail of the boat - only to have the boat's only head turn out so small that it could only be used as a wet locker! He grieved over that and other custom boatbuilding problems in print. We, on the other hand, being typically much less sensible Americans, built the colossal 63-ft catamaran Profligate, the antithesis of Firefly. As different as our boats are, we and Bray did share a common belief - electric halyard winches are wonderful!
launch, Bray has sailed across the Atlantic twice, has had his
boat in the Caribbean for two seasons, and at last word keeps
her on England's South Coast. Profligate has made eight
trips to Mexico and back, one to the Caribbean and back, and
is sailed relentlessly in California during the summer. While
we're certain Bray doesn't get to sail his monohull as much as
we do our cat, we don't think there's a sailing editor who can
match the number of hours he's spent sailing his own boats. And
frankly, we think that love of sailing comes across in the pages
of Yachting World, our favorite sailing glossy.
I'm planning a trip to the South Pacific next year and would like to prepare by taking some classes in diesel maintenance. I've done some research on the Internet, but couldn't find much. I was wondering if you guys had some contacts. I am interested in taking these classes either in the Bay Area or Los Angeles.
Ivan - If you had read the display ads in Latitude - instead of wasting your time with the silly Internet, which is certainly just a passing fad - you'd have seen that there have been a number of classes in diesel maintenance. Just off the top of our heads, we can remember that both KKMI in Richmond and Nelson's Marine in Alameda have at least one class during the summer, and List Marine in Sausalito offered another in the fall just before the start of the cruising season. And we're sure there will be more. By the way, the people who have taken these classes tell us they've found them to be very helpful.
And don't forget, we just ran a story
on diesel maintenance in our August
I read your comments about sailing to Hawaii in the Letters section of the December issue. You were correct when you told a reader that it's impossible to get a slip of any kind in Lahaina Harbor. There's a 25-year waiting list - unless you can work a scam to get certified as a commercial fisherman.
The Lahaina YC does have some moorings, however, and they can be used for a short time with the club's permission. The club itself is located halfway between Bubba Gump's and Cheeseburgers In Paradise, and always welcomes members of other yacht clubs.
Mala Wharf, about a 10-minute walk from the 'high life' of Lahaina, is about the best place to anchor in the area.
As long as either the trades are blowing or the wind is calm, both Lahaina and the Mala Wharf area are decent places to be. But all bets are off when the Kona - or onshore winds - crank up. Each time one of those hits, we usually see two or three boats end up on the reef or beach. There's still one boat on the Lahaina reef as a result from a Kona on Halloween in 2004.
Pete - Maui certainly isn't the most
welcoming place to visiting sailors. On the other hand, wow,
what a spectacular view of the cane fields, valleys, and peaks
when sailing off Lahaina and the rest of the lee of the island.
I have just read the latest comments about the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu, and agree that money and politics are large factors in the facility becoming so run down that parts of it have had to be condemned.
But I think there's another reason for the problems: the state getting stuck with having to clear away wrecked boats. Just this year I have read about and seen four groundings, and just today heard about another grounding that spilled 4,000 pounds of fish. I have also seen two boats that sank at the dock, two that sank on mooring balls, and another up north that sank at the dock.
But guess what? I believe that only two were pulled off by the owners before they broke up. Since the other owners didn't have insurance, they signed the boats over to the state, and the state had to pay to remove them. The only way the state could be reimbursed is if the owner wanted to get another boat to put into a state marina.
So instead of the money being spent fixing docks, it's spent cleaning up after people who don't want or can't afford insurance. In case anyone thinks not many boat owners don't have insurance, I've heard talk around the docks that one of the reasons some boat owners don't want the Ala Wai to be run by a private company is that they would require all the boats to have insurance.
What's really sad for me is that after 18 months of working on my wife to get her to agree to liveaboard once again, which means I could get a bigger boat, I find that there are now waiting lists for larger boats at every marina - even the private ones. By the time I get a slip, I'll have one foot in the grave - or a wife who will have changed her mind.
Tony - Having to drag a couple of grounded
boats off the bottom and to the trash bin each year is peanuts
compared to the real problem at the Ala Wai - which in our opinion
has been decades of incompetent management on a grand scale by
the State of Hawaii. Only now are there whispers that the state
is thinking about getting out of the marina business, at least
on some of the islands. It can't come a moment too soon, both
for taxpayers and mariners, for in terms of what could and should
be, we think the Ala Wai is the worst-run marina we've seen anywhere
in the world.
After crewing on a friend's boat in the 2005 Ha-Ha, we departed Cabo San Lucas for La Paz, where we had left our boat. Upon arriving in La Paz, we spent a few days getting our own boat ready for cruising. Then, with a forecast of 15 knots from the northwest, it seemed like a good time to leave for Mazatlan on the 230-mile crossing. So we took off in the company of some of the other Ha-Ha boats.
When we got to the top of the Cerralvo Channel, which is only about 20 miles from La Paz, we were greeted by some sloppy waves. Our boat was doing fine, but it was uncomfortable and none of us had to be anywhere. So we turned back to the Ballandra anchorage. We weren't the only ones to turn back. Friends with a Nordhavn trawler, with a complete stabilization system, had left a couple of hours before us. After rolling their boat to 35 degrees, they decided to turn back, too.
We spent several days in the anchorage waiting for the Sea of Cortez seas to settle down. When they did, and when there was another forecast of 10 to 15 knots from the northwest, we headed for Mazatlan once again. By dark, we could see flashes of lightning over Baja, but we didn't worry because we had a forecast for clear weather. Maybe we should have worried, because over the next few hours we watched the lightning and some very black clouds be attracted to us like iron to a magnet.
The cell was easy to track on the radar. It came right to us and then hovered overhead for several hours. The clouds glowed like a fluorescent light starting up. We still only had about 10 knots of wind, and about two minutes worth of rain. Then the cell finally moved on.
Being a little cautious, I stayed up most of the night even though it wasn't my watch. I finally knocked off about 5 a.m., but two hours later awoke to our friends talking about the weather. Marcia was taking photographs, and I heard her say, "These waterspouts are cool, I bet you get to see them all the time."
Yes, on both sides of our boat we could see multiple waterspouts - and black and angry-looking clouds at a very low altitude. They showed up well on the radar again, and we managed to navigate between the cells. As we did, we watched the waterspouts form and dissipate. Then the storm slowly drifted away.
The weather forecast for that morning called for light and variable winds. Having motorsailed most of the night, by mid afternoon we had 10 to 12 knots of wind on the beam and were making five knots toward Mazatlan. We arrived at that city having no further weather problems.
This is our second year down here in Mexico, and we have already crossed the Sea of Cortez several times. Usually it's pretty mundane, but you always have to be cautious.
Rob and Linda Jones
Rob & Linda - The Baja to mainland
crossing of the Sea of Cortez seems to be capable of some surprises,
particularly during November and December. We remember a Central
California family that did a circumnavigation with a DownEast
45 schooner. They told us that the worst weather they ever had
was a surprise storm between Cabo and Mazatlan. And just last
year, Mark Dneppe, a veteran of several Singlehanded TransPacs,
told us he really got spooked by a big thunderstorm while crossing
between Cabo and the mainland. We're not experts, but it seems
to us that, while it's generally a reasonably nice or at least
predictable sail from Cabo to the mainland - Profligate had a
beautiful crossing in mid-November - you have to be alert to
the possibility of some wild weather that wasn't forecast. Fortunately,
it's only a little over 200 miles, and you can generally run
off if it gets nasty.
The letter from Leonardo Cerrito of Zao was quite a tale. It prompted me to do a search on the Internet, and I actually found a March '05 newspaper article about his case in Panama. I had it 'translated' from Spanish by Babelfish, but it came out pretty fractured.
I also found a Leonardo Cerrito as a signee on a web petition to free Slobodan Milosevic. So he must be quite a character. But if he was so broke that he couldn't afford a dinghy, how did he pay all the exorbitant bribes while in the slammer?
I also found it interesting that you published his story without any editorial comment.
Dave - There was no way for us to confirm
the veracity of Cerrito's story, and he's indeed a character,
so we thought we'd just lay it out there and let everyone make
what they would of such an 'alternative' cruising adventure.
The letter from the Italian, Leonardo Cerrito of Zao, who was the victim of thieves and pirates in Haiti and unwarranted incarceration in Panama, wasn't a letter but rather a book! It certainly had to be a most distressful experience for him, of course, but apparently the thieves didn't make off with his computer. Or his ability to look for freebies.
Last month's missives also had some more stories from cruisers who had problems clearing into Mexico. What a kettle of fish. In one surprising recent story, a couple from Canada only had a few problems getting their paperwork completed. Apparently Mexican officials don't like gringos - just our money. If the Mexicans want gringo business, they ought to treat us better. I solved this problem years ago - by not going to Mexico anymore. There is nothing I need from Mexico. But if I did, it's only as far away as downtown. In fact, there's a Mexican restaurant in town that is so authentic that even the water is bad. Just kidding.
On a more serious note, I occasionally hear a complaint on the marine radio about somebody having a "stuck mike" - as though the person with the stuck mike is going to hear anything on the radio. I have yet to find a good way to let the offending party know he's causing a problem.
Gary - The Cerrito letter was certainly long enough to be an article, but we only had room for it in Letters, so it was either cram it in that section or leave it out. We decided to cram it in, in large part because it's unlikely that you'd ever find such a Dostoevsky-ish letter like his in any other sailing magazine. But the truth is that when you get far enough 'out there', you come across more than a few guys who are living Leonardo Cerrito-type existences and having Leonardo Cerrito-type misadventures. So we thought it was important to publish it.
We also ran the letter because, while we don't know exactly what to make of Cerrito's story, we're pretty confident that he's indeed pretty much down and out. So who knows, we thought maybe some reader would be touched enough by his passion and his predicament to send him something to help him get his boat back sailing once again. It wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen.
As for Mexico, yes, some of the officials could be more helpful and the procedures more consistent and streamlined. But geez, you're going to let little obstacles like those prevent you from enjoying a good adventure? If you think the big loser in your not visiting Mexico is Mexico, we suggest you get a second opinion from the hundreds of cruisers who are spending the season down there.
THE WAY TO GET THINGS DONE IN MEXICO
Based on our four years experience cruising in Mexico, I have a few words of advice for Norman Conrad, who in the December Letters reported the problems he had clearing into Ensenada: Turn around right now, Norman, and head back to the States. You are going to hate Mexico; you are going to find nothing but frustration at every turn; you will dislike the lazy and shiftless people; and you will take great pleasure in spreading venomous tales about your excruciating travails in this backward land. Do the entire cruising fleet a big favor and get the hell out of Mexico!
I have been in line behind people like you on an unfortunate number of occasions when it is just embarrassing to be an American. You come to the office completely unprepared, without bothering to learn the most basic facts about the clearing procedure or what you will need to complete it. You haven't taken the time to learn a single word of Spanish, and you think poorly of the official who, in his own country, doesn't speak English. You expect the Mexican officials to provide you with copies of your documents and, from the tone of your letter, I would be willing to bet you do it all with an attitude of arrogant superiority.
There is only one way to get anything done in Mexico, and that is with a good word and a smile. Believe me, it works. Patience is not just a virtue south of the border, it is a vital necessity. Simple civility will almost always produce positive results, while arrogance and ire will almost always result in precisely the sort of experience you described in your letter.
So Norman, mentally flip me the bird if you will. It seems an appropriate gesture for someone of your ilk.
Jimmie - Good words and smiles are indeed the keys to fewer problems in Mexico, but we think you're being way too hard on Mr. Conrad, who was primarily guilty of having gone into that Ensenada clearing office with North American expectations. Sure. he got a little frustrated, but no real damage was done, and he's wiser now. That's one way to learn, and it's part of what makes cruising fun.
Nonetheless, we also believe that the Mexican government is not without fault. They dearly want North American mariners and their money to visit Mexico, so much so that they built a special building with the intent of making clearing much easier. Don't you think they should have spent a few pesos extra to put up a sign - yes, in English and Canadian - to explain what is required? And even a few more pesos to hire a Wal-Mart style greeter to answer questions which English-speaking visitors might have? Because tourism is so beneficial to their economy, we don't think it's too much to ask for Mexican bureaucrats to be half as welcoming as the people of Mexico.
WHY AN AUTOPILOT WOULD SUDDENLY TURN 90°
In the December issue, Roland Larson reported having an experience where the compass on the boat he was on suddenly and inexplicably swung 90° to starboard, and the autopilot similarly changed course. He wanted to know if it's happened to anybody else.
I'm no expert, but I've 'been there, done that' on several boats. And yes, it's quite disconcerting to have your boat suddenly turn 90°, no matter if you are sailing into a strong wind, motoring in a narrow channel, or sailing near several islands.
A 90° turn by an autopilot is caused by a wiring problem, usually in the fluxgate quadrature circuit. Most autopilots use a fluxgate compass, which is actually composed of two sensors mounted at right angles to each other. The two sensors are needed to determine which quadrant is being detected - northeast versus southwest, for example. So one of these sensors is called the 'quadrature sensor', and its purpose is to resolve the 90° differences. If this signal fails, the autopilot will often turn 90°. The resulting corrective steering actions can often restore the connection, in which case it would work just fine once again.
The real solution? 'Wiggle and clean' the wires from the fluxgate just where they go into the control unit. Make sure the ground, including the shield, is properly connected. Regular inspection and maintenance of this wiring is often overlooked.
If somebody was really concerned about such 90° changes in course happening again, they should replace the fluxgate sensor - aka 'brain surgery' - or the entire fluxgate unit.
If such a turn were caused by an external magnetic disturbance, as opposed to a wiring problem, it would have also registered on Roland's main magnetic compass and on a hand-bearing 'hockey puck' compass. GPS systems do not use magnetic fields, so nothing would have happened to that. Even if there had been a large metallic object underwater, it's extremely unlikely that it would have caused a 90° change of course. And the locals would know all about it.
A nuclear submarine would also have been an unlikely cause of the change of course because such subs are designed to be almost undetectable.
There are other things that would cause an autopilot to steer a poor course - although usually not 90° off. They are:
Insufficient 12-volt power. An autopilot should have its own high-amp circuit to the battery as opposed to sharing one with the electronics, lighting, ignition, and other circuits.
Sharing the electricity source with a high-wattage stereo system.
Poor electrical grounding on the power circuit to the autopilot.
A real local magnetic anomaly - such as an undersea power cable in the Oakland Estuary near Jack London Square.
Magnetic items - cars, cans of soup - stowed in the locker next to the fluxgate compass.
Tony and Judi Hitchings asked you about some places to do a multi-week bareboat charter sometime in late June, July and early August. You recommended a number of great places, but left out chartering in the Strait of Georgia, which can be done out of either Vancouver or Comox, British Columbia. Destinations from either of these spots could be Desolation Sound, Princess Louisa Inlet, or the Gulf Islands.
For 11 days last September, I led a four-boat charter with 25 members of our sailing club, starting in Vancouver and using Sunsail boats. We went up to Princess Louisa Inlet, and it was lovely. In a few years we intend to return to cruise Desolation Sound. If the Hitchings could manage a two to three-week trip, they could do both Desolation Sound and Princess Louisa Inlet in one go.
Everyone doing charters in these areas
needs to remember that the tidal range can be as much as 18 feet
and the currents tricky. If you go aground, it's going to be
on rock. So do your research. There are great guidebooks.
Thanks for all your efforts on the Baja Ha-Ha. It was my first run south - aboard my friend's Norseman 447 Sensei - but it definitely won't be my last. And I sure liked partying with the Ha-Ha folks at Squid Roe!
Tim - We're glad you had such a good
time. There were two Islander 36s in the last Ha-Ha, and we hope
there will be even more in the 2006 event.
I'm a three-time veteran of the Ha-Ha, and am planning to do the event again this year with my Islander 36. Some of my crew - poor souls - still work for a living and therefore need to plan ahead. What are the dates of the event?
Noble - Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler has announced that lucky Ha-Ha 13 will start from San Diego on October 30. That means boats should arrive in Cabo on November 9. The beach party will be the next day, and the awards ceremony the following night.
The October 30 date means there will be a full moon during the stop at Bahia Santa Maria. Some folks tell us they are planning a midnight assault on the summit. And according to Antonio Cevallos, head of the Marina Mazatlan project and former big player in the Mexican sardine industry, a full moon also means there will be stronger than normal winds. In fact, he guarantees it.
Although it's still nearly 10 months
away, we're getting the sense that Ha-Ha 13 might be the biggest
ever. So many skippers who have done the event before - such
as Eugenie Russell, captain of J/World's J/120 - tell us they
plan to do it again. And there's a big buzz among first-timers,
too. So it could be big.
I had hoped to see some coverage of the exciting Knarr end-of-the-season racing, with the championship coming right down to the wire in the last race. The Knarr fleet has great sailors and is cohesive and healthy. In addition, it has a fine history on the Bay, and shares a great tradition with the Knarr fleets in Scandinavia.
I'm sure I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know. So I do hope that you will tell me why end-of-the-season Knarr coverage, with the championship at stake, was absent from your racing pages.
Karin - We wish the answers to all questions were so simple. Latitude, like all publications, has limited editorial space and resources with which to cover an unlimited number of stories and events. We have no choice but to pick and choose. As such, sometimes there will be Knarr coverage, sometimes there won't. You'll note, for example, we feature the Knarr class in this month's Seasons Champions article. Wait a minute, the Knarr season champion is Hans Williams . . . he wouldn't by any chance be your son, would he?
It's also helpful to have an idea of where 'your' sailing story fits into the big picture relative to Latitude's readership and advertising base. We're big fans of racing and realize that the Knarr fleet is among the most prestigious on the Bay. Nonetheless, we have to temper that understanding with the knowledge that if 100,000 people read the last issue of Latitude, at least 99,750 of them didn't feel shortchanged that there wasn't any Knarr coverage. If you refer to the results of the reader survey on editorial that appears in Sightings, the Racing Sheet, although superbly written, is the least read of any regular features.
Over the years, Latitude has provided what we consider to be stellar coverage of local, national and even international racing. Most of that was due to the excellent work of Rob Moore, who up until recently was our Racing Editor. In addition to being a fine racer, Moore was on a first-name basis with all the top sailors on the West Coast and most of them in the rest of the country, too. He raced on some of the top boats nationally and internationally, flew on the owner's jets, was on the local PHRF committee, and basically was as hard-wired into the high end of yacht racing as anybody. Alas, after 18 years, he has moved on to pursue other interests.
Just as the 49ers couldn't hope to immediately replace a quarterback like Joe Montana with the next guy wearing a football uniform, we at Latitude don't have any illusions of being able to replace Moore's intensive and sophisticated coverage. On one hand, that might not be so bad. Reviewing our racing coverage of the last several years, we feel that perhaps we've been remiss by not doing a better job of helping newer sailors find their way into racing, and by not providing coverage of the lower and more middle level fleets. There have been complaints that we've featured the same sailors and same boats too frequently, and that our coverage has too often consisted of stories that could be summarized as 'rich guy wins yacht race'. As such, our readjusted goal will be to get more sailors into racing - even at the beer can level, to also recognize those who compete at less than the grand prix level, and to increase our coverage of 'everyman' races, such as the Doublehanded Farallones. A more balanced mix, as it were.
Based on the results of the reader survey,
we've also come to the realization that such intensive racing
coverage as in the past required an unsustainably disproportionate
amount of our editorial resources. As such, our ongoing race
coverage is going to be more heavily dependant on the assistance
of the Yacht Racing Association, yacht clubs, and other organizations
that put on races. We're looking forward to working with everyone,
believing that we can provide the kind of coverage our readers
- and particular our racing readers - would like to see.
I know that the publisher of Latitude went to Cal, but I was nevertheless disappointed not to see any December issue mention at all of the 2005 version of the Big Sail match-race regatta between Cal and Stanford. The event was held on November 15, the Tuesday before the Big Game. The conditions were unusual - eight to 12 knots from the east - with a strong ebb, but perfect.
The regatta was hosted by St. Francis YC and sailed right in front of the club. This allowed a large cheering section - with both Oski and the Tree, as well as members of both school's bands - to participate. The event was truly one of the highlights of Big Game Week, and was covered by three television stations. The spinnakers - featuring the Cal and Stanford logos - were very photogenic on such a beautiful day.
Although they would lose the Big Game later in the week, Stanford won the Big Sail overall by a score of 4-1 to claim this year's bragging rights. The Stanford Varsity Sailing Team, skippered by Brian Haines, went 3-0 over Cal. The Cal Young Alums, headed by Seadon Wijsen, took their race, while the Stanford Master Alums, lead by Dick Enersen, prevailed in its event.
It was a great day and a great event. We hope Latitude can cover it next year!
Jaren Leet, Regatta Developer
Jaren - As we explained to Karin Williams
in the previous letter, there is no way that our staff members
can be on hand to cover every regatta every year. But with a
little help from regatta heads such as yourself, there's a darn
good chance we can get some coverage in the magazine. We're thinking
a nice color photo of the Cal and Stanford spinnakers would look
great in next December's issue.
My favorite part of Latitude is the Coast Guard reports - which you usually cut short or eliminate for 'lack of space'. But there always seems to be room for tons of race coverage.
The Coasties reports are always interesting - and always remind us mariners how easy it is to do something stupid and ruin a good day on the water. They were very educational.
Mike - We loved the Coast Guard Watch reports. In fact, years ago we convinced Capt. Larry Hall, Commander of Group San Francisco, to have his staff put them together. We agree they were very educational and did a great job of showing how much the Coast Guard did for mariners.
Unfortunately, the Coast Guard changes
group commanders on a regular basis, and with each successive
commander, there seems to have been less interest in providing
such information. Nevertheless, we'll see if we can't get them
to resume that coverage.
After getting beat up several times doing the Baja Bash from Cabo back to California, I have discovered one small shortcut - or at least an escape from the heavy northerly swells that haunt the Baja coast. But this route is absolutely not for the amateur or the faint of heart.
There is a southerly entrance to Magdelena Bay called the Canal de Rehusa (from the Spanish verb rehusar, to refuse), located under the headland of Punta Tosca. I have never seen this passage discussed in any of the guidebooks, but it is used regularly by the commercial fishing fleet. I can assure you of its reliability and benefits - even though it presents a formidable face of breaking surf as you approach from the south. The surf breaks in two separate patches, and you may pass between them by following the Canal de Rehusa.
Let me stress that this 'backdoor' entrance to Magdelena Bay should not be attempted by the average amateur mariner, and should never be attempted without a reliable radar and chartplotter. But with these two instruments confirming the reliability of the other, good seamanship will see you through. In my own case, I hold a Coast Guard license to 350 tons and have 35 years of professional experience.
Using this passage allows the mariner to hug the coast, which is almost always more benign than the outer waters, and avoid having to overhaul Punta Tosca, which is one of the four very windy headlands of the Baja. It also opens a new world of discovery. But take warning, because if it's blowing outside, it will be blowing inside. In addition, there is a considerable fetch inside Magdalena Bay, which is big, and the waves are steep in water that's as shallow as 10 feet. But you get none of the bone-jarring swells of the waters outside. The inside waters are effectively buoyed with day markers. If you go all the way north to San Carlos for fuel, you'll have to pay a 'navigation fee' for this buoyage.
And just for luck, it's better to call it Magdelena Bay, not 'Mag Bay'. The bay is named after a saint who is particularly revered by Mexicans.
Before condemning this excellent passage out of hand, I hope you will allow some response from readers who may have used it. After all, the Baja Bash is a trying affair, and we need all the help that we can get.
Stan - You neglected to mention where you recommend exiting back out into the Pacific. We assume you'd suggest coming back out some 30 miles to the NNW at Punta Entrada. However, if you're ballsy enough to run the Canal de Rehusa, why not go the 80 or so miles north on the inland waterway up past Puerto Lopez Mateos and then head back out? Bob Hoyt of Mag Bay Outfitters tells us there is 11 feet of water over the bar. Of course, we don't know exactly where that 11-ft depth might be.
For anyone considering any such shortcuts, we urge you to first go to Google, 'maps', then 'satellite', and then zero in on this stretch of coast. The overhead views are excellent, and they give you a good idea of the hazards and navigation challenges.
We're not going to condemn this 'backdoor' entrance outright, but will note that there are some good reasons to be cautious. First, GPS - and therefore chartplotters - aren't the most reliable navigation devices in Mexico. Their accuracy varies from chart to chart, but in many cases they are off by miles. As such, until the accuracy could be confirmed in the Canal de Rehusa, we think chartplotters would be a greater hazard than aid.
Second, because of the tremendous amount of water inside Mag Bay, there is the potential for very strong currents at the narrow Canal de Rehusa entrance. Not having local knowledge could put your boat in danger. We remember being on the hook in Cabo in the early '80s when there was a mayday issued by Dr. Ed Diethrich's Phoenix-based C&C 61 Triumph. Her Kiwi delivery crew had anchored under Pt. Tosca for the night seeking relief from the strong northwesterlies. The next thing they knew, strong tidal currents from the Canal de Rehusa had put them aground. As the tide continued to go out, the big yacht was left high and dry. Although the crew figured she was lost, luck was with them. When the tide came back in, she floated free, and was able to resume her passage to California.
Lastly, the summer hurricanes off Mexico's Pacific Coast have the ability to make tremendous changes in the location and depth of the bars. As such, we wouldn't assume that because the channel was in one place one year meant that it would necessarily be in the same place the next year. The Arch at Cabo San Lucas, for example, is in deep water some years, and some years you can walk all the way around it from Lover's Beach and not get your feet wet. Nor would we trust the channel markers.
As such, every skipper has to evaluate the risk/reward factor of such shortcuts, knowing that if they get into trouble, it's unlikely any help would be available.
In the past we've had at least one report
from a boat that navigated this 'inside passage'. Anybody done
I saw the December 2 'Lectronic item on the Uli brand Hypalon inflatable 'surfboard' that Diane and Ken Day are carrying aboard their Mao Ta 42 Aquarelle while cruising Mexico. It is, of course, a gimmick.
However, if your readers are interested in very lightweight carbon fiber boards that are really hot, I direct you to www.bisect.com for information on the Pope Bisects. These boards range from 6'10" to 10', and are real surfboards. Karl Pope of Ojai has been making them for over 25 years.
I have such a board, and, while they are not cheap - as much as $2,000 for the biggest board with all the accessories - they are the real deal. I also have a Yater-designed 10-footer that weighs 17 pounds. It's also made of carbon fiber and has a unique locking system that makes it feel like a one-piece board. You can get such boards with single and tri fins - whatever you want.
The Pope boards come with a padded bag and shoulder strap for storage and/or carrying around. Pope designed them for airplane travel, but it's perfect for a boat.
By the way, having had all the wax melt off the board when it was stored in the hot port bow, I've switched to using the nonskid available at any surf shop.
Scott & Cindy Stolnitz
Scott and Cindy - In '03, we and Ha-Ha vet Chris van Dyke of the Portland-based Spirit Wind did a bunch of surfing together around the Punta Mita area of Banderas Bay. He had a 10-ft Pope Bisect, and it made a lot of sense because he needed to store the board on his Valiant 40. His wife, also named Chris, probably wouldn't have been too happy with the clutter of a full-size board. Chris reported that he was very happy with the way the board performed, and we watched him get some great rides with it.
We surfed a 10'6" Mickey Munoz-designed Surf Tech Ultra Glide made out of Divinycell and epoxy. It's sort of comical to imagine such a diminutive surfer - and a fellow catamaran owner - as Munoz shaping such a massive board, but we like it. Since we have a cat, we didn't need a board that breaks down to half its full size. Given you have a cat, and the cost of the Bisects, would you buy another?
We wouldn't dismiss the Uli board as a complete gimmick. In fact, it's probably about as much of a legitimate surfboard as the Pope Bisect is truly portable. We were surprised by the quality of the Uli, and can imagine situations in which it might be a first choice. Check out the entire line at www.uliboards.com.
As surfing sailors surely know, Clark Foam of Southern California, which was supplying a monopolistic 90% of all polyurethane foam blanks to manufacturers, suddenly and somewhat inexplicably closed down. The industry is in a turmoil, as it may be many months before blanks are again available. Some surfers have reportedly rushed out and bought a handful of boards while the supply lasts, boards that have been jacked up in price 10 to 30%.
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