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'ESCAPADE', A TRUE VINTAGE YACHT
I'm glad to hear that the great old 73-ft Rhodes yawl Escapade is apparently going to be restored by somebody. Good on them! A famous vintage yacht like her brings back sea bags full of memories to the many sailors who were lucky enough to crew on her in the old days.
One memory of mine, although it's second hand, came from my father, Ray Wallace, who was navigator of Escapade in the noted '58 Acapulco Race. He actually filmed the demise of the ill-fated 69-ft ketch Celebes and the rescue of her crew. Dad's been gone for some six years now, but as I recall his story and the jumpy old 16mm film, the crew of Escapade did indeed sight smoke off their quarter and motored back to find, to their horror, that Celebes was ablaze amidships and there was no one in sight! They circled, yelled, and scanned the horizon, but still could not find the crew! Using their old AM radio, they managed to contact the Coast Guard on 2182, and were told to both stand by and help search. As the fire on Celebes intensified and there was still no sign of life, the skipper of Escapade decided to motor further south. They soon saw the frightened crew in the distance, waving from the orange liferafts.
The Celebes cook came aboard Escapade with his head bandaged from burns he'd suffered while trying to douse the accidental galley fire. The fire had started when the alcohol stove's flames got out of control and ignited the paint and varnish above the stove. In a matter of seconds the fire was out of control and the crew had to take to the liferafts.
The first few feet of Dad's film shows Escapade's initial approach to Celebes with the ketch intact but with fire and smoke leaping from the main cabin. Nobody was on deck. Next, the crew of the Celebes can be seen in the liferafts alongside Escapade, smiling as they were brought aboard. As seamen are bound to stand by a sinking vessel until the end, the last bit of the film shows Celebes burning but with only her bow above water. The last frames show her slipping beneath the waves to her grave.
Dad told me that when Escapade resumed
racing watchstanding had become a breeze - because they had 25
sailors aboard! Escapade's owner, the cotton farmer Jim
Camp, was a true gentleman yachtsman, so just before his boat
crossed the finish line, he had the crew of Celebes gather
on the bow - so they could cross the finish line first!
Rob - If you ever cruise to St. Barth and have dinner at Eddy's Restaurant - which every visitor to that island should - you'll notice an oil painting of Escapade hanging from the Balinese-style rafters. If you ask what the boat did around the island, the older sailors will give you a knowing smile, but won't say much. But after plying them with 'ti punches and assuring them that the statute of limitations has probably run out on the French Islands, you might hear some wild stories from the old days when the lovely yacht was apparently involved in importing the sticky icky to the island under the cover of darkness.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
You showed remarkable restraint in not
mentioning Longfellow's poem The Wreck of the Hesperus
in your reportage of the recent Singlehanded Transpac entry Hesperus
losing both her factory and emergency rudders. But talk
about tempting the sea gods with such a name! I did a delivery
from Vancouver to San Francisco a few years back aboard a boat
called Tropical Storm. We were pleased to return home
without getting hit by a waterspout.
David - There really wasn't that close a connection, because the Hesperus we reported on is a sloop that was sailing to the tropics in the summer, while Longfellow's Hesperus was a schooner caught in snowy winter weather.
But if anyone would like a cultural moment, we can report that Hesperus is the personification of Venus. Even more interesting is that the ancient Greeks thought Phosphorus, 'the bringer of light', and Venus, the evening star, were two different celestial objects. It took Pythagoras, who famously philosophized that 'you can't step in the same river twice', to realize that Phosphorus and Hesperus were the same celestial object.
COMMERCIALLY BUILT EMERGENCY RUDDERS
I've recently read about the boats that lost their steering either going to or coming back from Hawaii. Several of them still couldn't maintain a course after they fitted their emergency rudders.
I'm in the process of heading on a cruise to wherever, and am interested in emergency rudder systems. Do you know what emergency rudder was used by the boat that had trouble in the West Marine Pacific Cup? Are there any commercially made emergency rudders? A back-up rudder seems important to me, but if I get one, I want to make sure it will work if I need it.
is the best ever!
Larry - Most boats have custom-made emergency rudders, but obviously not all of them were designed or built as well as they needed to be. Scanmar, which builds the Monitor Windvanes right over by you in Richmond, is the only company we know that markets a semi-production emergency rudder.
Given the number of problems and/or failures that people have had with their emergency rudders, we'd like to hear from anyone who's had a successful experience.
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER THING
Thank you for printing Ken Brinkley's letter about the tragic loss of his son. You made it the first letter, which is right where it belonged. Poor man, I couldn't help but feel his pain as I read the letter.
However, I was a little dismayed to read that in the previous issue you referred to a photograph - which you didn't run - as being "too raw." For Latitude!?! I was beginning to fear that without the old curmudgeon in the office every day, the rag was going to be put out by a bunch of politically correct weenies, at which point the only difference between Latitude and Yaaaaaachting would be that you can't use the slick's glossy paper for wiping your ass.
Fortunately, some of the responses to last month's Letters had the old fire in them, so I guess it's going to be all right after all. But maybe we should go back 25 years or so and revisit the topics that were hot back then. For example, I recall a series of letters regarding the effects of eating the stringy parts of bananas - or something like that. The next time the Old Man checks in, ask him if he remembers that thread. Talk about politically incorrect!
In the last couple of issues there have
been references to "vandals" in stories about abandoned
vessels that had been found floating on the ocean - as in "Vandals
stripped everything of value from the boat." I think the
legal term for that is 'salvage'. When a vessel is abandoned
on the high seas, she's pretty much fair game for anybody who
finds her. It's too bad for the owners, but that's been the law
of the seas for a few millennia. So it's a serious decision to
abandon ship. Besides meaning "I'm leaving now," it
also means you've given her up. Of course, if somebody answers
to a higher law and works to get the vessel back to her owner
intact, well, King Neptune will smile upon them, as will the
Mark - Several clarifications - and one big correction - are in order.
First, in the world of sailing, the term curmudgeon is generally conceded to belong to Tom Lewick, the editor and publisher of Scuttlebutt online sailing magazine. If you want to refer to us as the 'Old Man', we won't object, although we think it's a little premature and generally prefer 'The Wanderer' or 'Grand Poobah'. Nonetheless, we thought we clearly stated that we never intended to give up editing Letters or setting the editorial tone of the magazine. As such, the decision not to publish the "too raw" photo was made by the same person who has made all decisions in the history of Latitude regarding what letters and photos go in the Letters section.
"Too raw" actually was a very poor choice of words on our part to describe why we didn't publish the photo. It wasn't 'raw' at all, but simply 'natural'. And much to our dismay, our "too raw" description apparently caused the author of that very fine letter a considerable amount of embarrassment. For that, we're very sorry.
The photo in question was of several women standing on the bow of a nearby boat, with nothing covering their pubic area except profuse - at least by today's standards - pubic hair. The photo wasn't salacious and, in fact, was about as 'raw' as a photo from Nudist Monthly.
Nonetheless, we made the editorial decision not to publish the photo because: 1) it wasn't a very dynamic photo, and 2) because in our opinion, female boobs and butts are fine, as are male butts, as long as the subjects seem to be enjoying themselves. Anybody looking for more graphic photos would make better use of their time mousing around the Internet, as Latitude isn't going there. It's a matter of taste, not political correctness.
As is the case with most swashbucklers, your views on marine salvage are completely in error. Ignoring the dubious moral aspect of profiting from the loss of others, the activities you describe as 'salvage' are actually looting. For example, if you come upon an unoccupied sailboat in the middle of the ocean, she's not yours for the taking - not any more than an unoccupied car along the side of a freeway would be. Just because the owners of boats and cars are no longer on or in them does not mean they've been abandoned.
Even though you might tow an unoccupied boat to shore or otherwise save her, she's still not yours. You can, however, claim reasonable compensation for your efforts, and almost certainly will get it. But remember the rule that's been in effect at Lloyds for ages - "No cure, no pay." So if you fail in your attempt to save a vessel, you're not entitled to any compensation at all.
Depending on the difficulty and expense of a salvage, the compensation due you might well be in excess of what the boat is worth to the owner and/or insurance company. In such cases, you might end up having the title signed over to you. But in most salvage cases, particularly those involving recreational boats, all that is owed is a towing fee.
Furthermore, the principle of the owner's/insurer's property still belonging to them, even after seemingly being abandoned, also applies to jetsam, which are goods thrown off a ship when she is in danger of sinking, flotsam, which are goods that floated off the vessel while she was in danger of sinking or after she has sunk, and even lagan, which are goods left in the sea on the wreck or tied to a buoy so they can later be recovered by the owners. Anyone who collects jetsam, flotsam or lagan must declare it to the Receiver of the Wreck or risk being charged with theft.
Of course, the above principles are only in effect in the few - and rapidly getting fewer - civilized parts of the world. Elsewhere, the salvage laws are superceded by the law of the jungle, which is that 'might makes right.'
IT'S TIME TO CONFESS TO THE JOKE
Just in case some readers didn't get the
joke, you should explain that the photo of the waterfront house
that appeared on pages 112-113 of the August
issue is of a villa on the Italian Riviera and not a new
restaurant on Angel Island. This would prevent people from sailing
all around looking for it.
Mark - What are you talking about? Just
last night we anchored off the restaurant and came ashore for
some Osso Buco a la Ayala Cove. Scrumptious! And Doña
de Mallorca loved her Pt. Blunt Gnocchi in cream sauce.
I've got a report on what's happened to the contributions made to the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run fundraiser from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina last March. As you know, I never give money directly to any organization, but rather ask for their wish list, then buy accordingly.
So far I've purchased the following items for the Casa Comunidad in Punta Mita: gardening equipment, sports balls of all sizes, jump ropes, educational games, cleaning supplies, and shelving. When the special-needs school in the El Pitillal district re-opens, they will be receiving similar equipment, plus stationery. Money has also been set aside for the purchase of medical supplies for the Punta Mita clinic; we are just awaiting a wish list. And when we get that list, we are going to need the help of Latitude, Baja Ha-Ha participants, and other cruisers in purchasing the supplies and bringing them south on boats.
For those folks sailing south and wanting to make helpful contributions to the people of Mexico, candy is always appreciated by the kids, of course, but it would be far more beneficial if you could bring school supplies - crayons, pencils, paper, construction paper, paints and brushes, and so forth. It's also best to hand these materials over to a school of your choice rather than to individual kids. The teacher/principal will see that your donations are distributed fairly.
Toys are also always welcome, especially with Christmas approaching small dolls, soft toys, anything that preferably doesn't require batteries. Bilingual reading books would really help the kids help themselves. It's not necessary to buy anything big or expensive, so check out thrift stores. And to the kids of Mexico, it doesn't matter if a piece is missing from a jigsaw puzzle. Wondering what to do with your old slow computer that you've upgraded from? It would be greatly appreciated in any school.
So many cruisers who arrive in Mexico say
they would have helped if they'd only known what to bring. If
you have any questions, please get in contact with me by email. But remember to
bring your pirate costume for the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker
Run in March. When on Banderas Bay, I can be reached on VHF by
hailing "Teapot Tony" or "Tea Lady."
Readers - We at Latitude
are thrilled to be working with Ronnie in the Pirates for Pupils
fundraiser, as she's honest beyond reproach, and we know she'll
do everything she can to make sure the money is spent as wisely
as possible. After all, when it comes to philanthropy, collecting
the money is just the beginning of the job.
Seafaring custom dictates that vessels visiting foreign ports display a courtesy flag of the country being visited. Chapman and other reference sources provide guidance as to how and where, as it varies according to type of vessel and her status.
The preeminent reason for displaying such a flag is to convey respect for the host country - respect for its sovereignty, its people, and its customs. But take a look at some of the flags being displayed at Mexican marinas! Given the condition of many, respect is hard to find. See the particularly egregious example in the accompanying photograph. All I have to do is take a short dock walk to find more bad executions of the seagoing tradition. Unfortunately, trashed courtesy flags are often paired with relatively pristine American national flags. What's the message there?
I asked an American who has lived and done business in Mexico for many years what he thought a Mexican might feel upon seeing a raggedy Mexican flag flying from an American vessel. His optimistic response was that he thought the Mexican might feel grateful for even a flawed gesture.
I think his reaction offers insight into
the tolerance and kindness of most Mexicans, but I'd hope that
we who enjoy the remarkable cruising grounds and generous hospitality
available to us in Mexico could do a little bit better in showing
respect for our host country.
Steve - We're all for tradition, but don't you think this 'respect' business gets taken a little too seriously? People are always saying they got into a fight with someone else because they weren't shown enough respect. What a bunch of baloney! If the person had any self-respect, he/she wouldn't give a hoot what anybody else thought of them.
It's the same with countries. The smaller the banana republic or African dictatorship, the more medals the leaders and military officers have plastered all over their chests, and the stricter the country is about requiring freshly starched courtesy flags flying from the starboard spreaders of visiting yachts. If a boat from another country came into our marina with a raggedy courtesy flag, our reaction would be, "Man, those folks must really have wanted to come to the States!"
Besides, we think the world is more in need of humor than officiousness. Many years ago there was a South American couple who lived on the hook for a couple of months at St. Barth's Columbie anchorage. The gal wasn't all that cute, but she was fun-loving and mischievous as hell. So if she and her guy had had sex the night before, she'd get up in the morning and proudly replace the French courtesy flag with a pair of her panties. Every guy in the anchorage had the hots for that girl - and checked out her starboard spreaders each morning.
OUR MOST EXCITING CATALINA CRUISE EVER
In late July we did a five-day family cruise to Catalina aboard our Newport 30, and it turned out to be more exciting than we'd expected. We were sitting pretty in the Little Harbor anchorage on the backside of the island on Saturday the 22nd, with bow and stern anchors holding us securely near the East Wall. But having been there since Thursday, we knew the weather might get a little rough.
The weather became particularly unstable during dinner, as a lightning storm was clearly approaching from the southeast. There were three other boats in the anchorage at the time: a large powerboat with a totally drunk crew, a Panda 40, whose crew was having dinner with us, and a Catalina 30. When it became apparent that we were going to take a direct hit from the storm, we stowed everything below and removed the extra fuel from the deck in case the rig got hit by lightning.
Since the 40,000-lb Panda is much more substantial than our boat, and since it has a bimini, we all decided to go over there. I wasn't worried about our Newport 30, as her 30-lb Danforth was dug in well at the end of 90 feet of 3/8" chain.
As the storm approached, my wife took several
pictures - including a breathtaking photo of what was supposed
to be the kids highlighted by a big rainbow. But whoa, check
out the accompanying photo and you'll see that lightning struck
just as she pressed the shutter!
After helping the folks on the Catalina 30 reset their stern anchor, we returned to the Panda and sat back and watched the continuing lightning storm. Around 10 p.m., we saw lightning repeatedly strike the island. Then I noticed black smoke rising from the highest ridge behind the Little Harbor campground. The orange glow grew, and soon flames reached the ridge and spread both east and west across the mountain.
The fire built all that night, and for awhile the smoke was blown down the valley into the campground and through the boats in the anchorage. It became so strong that we had to breathe through wetted hand towels. Eventually we could see the approach of fire crews, and others evacuating the Arabian horses and gear from the ranch above.
We finally returned to our own boat about 1 a.m., but didn't sleep that much, as we arose hourly to check on our anchors and to watch the fire and now distant lightning. At first light, the big choppers and planes started water drops that would continue all day in order to extinguish the flames.
On Sunday we departed for Cat Harbor, the
Isthmus, and finally home. In 10 years of sailing to the island,
it was our most exciting trip.
Scott - We visited Catalina in mid-August, and the summer storm and fire were still the talk of the island. According to officials, the 1,200-acre blaze was started by two lightning strikes, lasted for three days, and took 350 firefighters to contain. The most unusual firefighting equipment were the two big hovercrafts from the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, as they shuttled 16 fire trucks from the mainland to the island. We had no idea the military and fire departments were capable of such cooperation.
OH THAT SHARK BITES WITH ITS TEETH, DEAR
I swim in the Bay, and somebody told me
that a recent Latitude had a photo and a description of
a 10-ft white shark that had been spotted near Oakland. Is this
Marc - One of the workers on the new east span of the Bay Bridge sent us some photos of a sizeable shark swimming below. The photos weren't of very good quality, so we weren't able to run them - or even identify the person in the shark's mouth.
THE FOLLY OF THEIR WAYS - OR ALL OUR WAYS?
I anxiously await every issue of your excellent magazine, although it concerns me that you make almost no mention of global warming. We are at the tipping point, and all of us must do everything we can to try to mitigate this disaster. Promoting 'commuter cruising' - sailors jetting back and forth between their boats in Mexico and their work in California - might not be the best way to go about this, in my humble opinion.
Likewise, we should all try to educate
powerboaters about the folly of their ways. There is nothing
sustainable about boats that rely on fossil fuel for locomotion.
Powerboats could be permanently moored on land and converted
to low-income housing. The time to get this dialogue started
is now - or never.
Rob - When it comes to threats to mankind and the environment, we think climate change runs a very distant second to - and we don't mean to be overly gloomy - the likelihood of significant nuclear devastation. Given such an outlook, you might assume that we'd have a 'what the hell, we might as well burn all the fossil fuel we can afford' attitude. But we don't. After all, there's a small chance the human race won't nuke itself to semi-extinction, and besides, we're against waste on general principles.
Although in our humble opinion it will be many generations before it can be accurately determined if: 1) The current climate change is significantly different than climate changes at other times in history. 2) The change is being caused by human behavior. And 3) that such changes will have more negative than positive consequences. Nonetheless, we're more than willing to act upon the assumption that all three propositions are true. As such, we've been trying to reduce our carbon usage by 10% for the last year, and hope to do much better in the future.
Given the fact that we folks in the Bay Area drive something like a collective 135 million miles a day(!), the most significant contribution the average person could make to possibly minimize effects on the climate would be to drive a very fuel-efficient car. As you might remember, we've pledged to buy a 49 mpg VW diesel - and will do so as soon as the State of California permits them. That will cut a major part of our carbon footprint by 67%.
By the way, we recently drove a small Peugeot diesel rental car in Europe for a few days, and were blown away. It had a lot of zip and was clean, quiet, and comfortable. Such cars would not be suitable for moms who have to chauffeur groups of kids all over, construction workers who have to haul big loads, and others, but they would be more than adequate for most of us. Such cars have to be adequate for Europeans, because they pay $5 to $7/gallon for fuel. Indeed, we hope that our state representative, Cadillac Escalade-driving Progressive Carole Migden, will ultimately be shamed into replacing her Pimpmobile with something fuel efficient enough to demonstrate a smidgen of leadership.
Actually, we think driving extremely fuel-efficient cars - and otherwise conserving energy - is even more important for geo-political reasons. So is the rapid development of other energy sources, such as wind, solar, tidal, nuclear, coal and all the rest. We suppose that most readers are aware that when it comes to energy, the U.S. has the largest reserves of any country in the world, primarily in the form of coal. Perhaps not as many realize that as early as World War I, the German war machine ran on fuel made from coal. The challenges, of course, are to find ways to mine and use coal cleanly and to prevent excessive harmful gases from escaping into the atmosphere. But with technology having reduced automobile pollution by 99% in the last two decades, we're reasonably confident that it can be done.
Of course, the biggest limiting factors on fuel consumption - and therefore pollution - are market forces. The relatively modest increases in fuel prices have already resulted in mariners somewhat modifying their behavior. For example, while at Catalina, we met some friends who had been given permission to use either a friend's 60-ft powerboat or his 60-ft sailboat for a weekend trip to the island. Originally they were going to take the much more luxurious powerboat, but then they realized that it would cost $800 in fuel alone. So they took the sailboat.
With diesel going for $4.21/gallon at Two Harbors, officials tell us that, so far, they've noticed only a small change in boatowner behavior. The smallest powerboats, which are usually owned by first-time and less-affluent boatowners, haven't been coming over in quite as large numbers as in previous years. In addition, some folks with larger powerboats have been leaving them at the island and commuting back and forth by ferry. But for the majority of folks, even those with big motoryachts, there has been little change. But when fuel reaches $10/gallon - which we figure is only a matter of time - we expect the market forces to have a much greater effect on boat-buying decisions and boatowner behavior.
We're not going to tell anyone not to buy a powerboat, but we will mention that they can be very expensive to run compared to sailboats. For example, LaDonna Bubak, Latitude's 'new guy', and her partner Rob Tryon report that last summer's trip aboard their 37-ft sailboat from Seattle to Sitka, Alaska, only cost $500 for fuel, a paltry sum compared to the fuel budget of their friends' 46-ft powerboat: a whopping $20,000! And as the price of fuel continues to rise, one can only imagine that it will have a negative effect on the resale value of motor vessels that suck fuel.
As for your idea of using powerboats for shoreside low-income housing, we think it's half-baked. For one thing, California coastal land is far too expensive for such a use, secondly, such a community would look ridiculous and be inefficient, and lastly, no self-respecting poor person would accept the kind of accommodations mariners drool over. On the other hand, we're all for downsizing. Like a lot of empty-nesters, we'd love to get out of our empty four-bedroom house and move into a nice 750 sq.ft. apartment with a nice view.
Would eliminating 'commuter cruising' have much effect on fuel consumption? We don't think so. A full Boeing 737-4 gets 78 passenger miles per gallon - which in relative terms is even better than a Prius with a single passenger. A passenger's share of the fuel burned for a full flight to Puerto Vallarta, for example, would only be about 20 gallons. Thus if the commuter cruiser flew to P.V. and used his/her boat for three weeks of normal cruising, he/she would probably burn less fuel - and certainly use fewer other resources - than if he/she had stayed home.
On the other hand, we could always save massive amounts of fuel and eliminate a lot of pollution by banning all air travel. The only repercussions would be that everybody in the Caribbean and Mexico would have to come to the United States to try to find work, cities such as New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles and San Francisco would quickly go bankrupt, and the world economy would fall into such a catastrophic depression that even more wars than usual would break out. Otherwise it would be a really good idea.
We think innovation and efficiency,
not denial, are the keys to a hopeful future, and that the leaders
of both political parties have done a terrible job of guiding
the country toward solutions.
I would like a big bunch of class act credits
to fall into the lap of James Coggan, skipper of the Schumacher
40 Auspice, which took third in Class C in this year's
West Marine Pacific Cup. When receiving the award, Coggan acknowledged
the hard work of his crew, the excellent design work of Carl
Schumacher, and the two boats that pushed him and his crew so
hard for the last few days of a very sublime Pacific Cup crossing.
We aboard Dean Treadway's Sweet Okole and, I'm sure, the
crew of Siderno, also appreciated the recognition and
Coggan's act of corinthian sportsmanship.
Bob - We always suspected that Coggan was a nice guy, and now we have evidence. But to tell you the truth, we were pulling for you Sweet Okole folks to do well in the Pacific Cup, and thought you had a good chance. After all, owner Treadway had won overall honors with the boat in the '81 TransPac, and at least once had the necessary competitive attitude. "We're going really light," he once told us before taking off on a Pacific Cup. "For example, while most boats normally would take an apple for each member of the crew, we're just taking one for the whole boat. After all, it's the first bite that's always the most satisfying, and since there are six bites to the apple, we only need one. Think of the weight we'll be saving and therefore how much lighter and faster the boat will be."
It's probably been 20 years since Treadway told us that, but we haven't bought an apple since without remembering it. In fact, when provisioning for the Ha-Ha each year, we always get into a dispute with Doña de Mallorca about apples. She always wants to buy a couple of bags for the 12 crew, but we tell her that, if she'd just listen to Treadway, we'd only have to take two apples.
WHY DON'T THEY USE ROUTING SOFTWARE?
Having read the article on the 2006 West Marine Pacific Cup, I'm mystified as to why the winning boats needed to "toss the dice" in electing to take a southerly - albeit longer - course. With all the technological advances in building materials, design and sails having been embraced by racing sailors, I don't understand why more folks racing to Hawaii don't utilize routing software. Given multi-day - and even multi-week - wind forecasts of greatly improved accuracy, calculating an optimal route for a given type of boat is pure mathematics.
I found a site on the web - www.goflow.com/pacp2006.htm - that predicted the best route for the Cal 40s, and posted it right after the start. I don't know if the crew on the Cal 40 California Girl used the software or were just inspired, but they followed the predicted route almost exactly. Indeed, anyone using such a program would have gotten it right.
Likewise, "Lightning's decision to run 50 miles south of [her] originally planned course" took her right along the course predicted on this website - which led to finishing first on elapsed time and first on corrected time in class and fleet.
The author of the site also claims to have furnished Basic Instinct with pre-race routing, and she ended up second in division and third overall. The pages on the site convince me that these wins were no fluke. In fact, the "surprisingly" northerly course taken by Inspired Environments in the 2004 Pacific Cup was based on the same software, which also predicted Stan Honey's winning route in the 2003 TransPac.
Maybe it is some kind of macho thing about
navigating by seat-of-the-pants or computer-phobia, but it seems
to me that racers who put so much time and money into their equipment,
and time and effort in the race, are foolish to bypass a relatively
inexpensive technological aid that could gain them much better
Arne - We've talked to some veterans of numerous TransPacs and their biggest knock on the program is that the graphics and design aren't very appealing. Some work on that aspect of the software might go a long way in the product finding greater acceptance.
By the way, Tom Akin, the skipper of Lightning, tells Latitude that he and navigator Jeff Thorpe had their route all picked out days before the starting gun was fired, and didn't deviate from it.
LEARNING TO PLAY WITH CATS
Some Latitude readers may know that Nancy and I have agreed to deliver the John Hughes 46-ft catamaran Zephuros from New Zealand to Japan in two stages. The first leg is New Zealand to Fiji, where the boat will be kept in a berth for three months until the seasons become more agreeable for approaching Japan. Once we get the boat situated in Fiji, we will fly back to New Zealand to prepare our Wylie 39+ Flashgirl for a few months of cruising in Tonga and Fiji.
In early November, we'll return to Zephuros for the second leg to Japan, leaving around the 15th of November. The owner may join the boat from Kosrae to Chuuk, which would make for a nice layover in the Caroline Islands. At this writing, our ETA to Japan is between the10th and 15th of December.
Right now we're on our second night at sea. Nancy and I have the midnight to 0400 watch together, which is nice. We met Dave and Anna Fourie, the other couple on the boat, while cruising in Tahiti and Moorea last year. They sail a S&S Hughes 38 and, when not doing this delivery, live aboard and work in Brisbane, Australia.
We departed New Zealand one overcast evening by motoring with both engines. The engines are 20-hp four-stroke outboards that have been cleverly installed so they can be raised or lowered using a halyard. It only takes about 30 seconds to get them into running position.
The breeze came on about midnight of our
first evening, and we knocked out nearly 200 miles in the first
24 hours. It went light about noon, and the angles were such
that we could carry what they call a gennaker. This is an asymmetrical
spinnaker that sets off a housing bowsprit. In about 20 knots
of true wind we were seeing 12 to 14 knots of boat speed.
This cat was built completely of carbon and vacuum-bagged, and the hull and super structure are 30 mm thick. The wave action under the bridgedeck frequently sounds - and feels - like a collision with a floating object. Striking the hull with one's knuckles or a winch handle makes it ring like a bell.
We are getting great new weather information off the Internet at www.metvuw.com as well as www.buoyweather.com. Check them out. NOAA also generates something called 'grib files', which are like very detailed pilot charts. These latter seem pretty accurate. Thanks to Nancy's computer skills, we're getting lots of weather info.
Zephuros has Zen-like simplicity - to the point of the interior being barren. There are no hooks for jackets, there are no strong points on the deck, there are no places below to hang hammocks - or anything - for that matter. The two queen-size berths have no handholds for getting in or out, and it's a 4.5-ft ascent aided with two steps. Nobody has fallen - yet.
Nancy and I are very much enjoying all the room, but when we returned to Flashgirl shortly before leaving, she felt like home to us - and very good! Despite the great speed of this cat - and it is great - I think there is little chance that I will become a multihull devotee.
By the way, readers can follow our progress
by typing in 'Zephuros'.
Readers - It's fun reading the reactions that people like Commodore - who has been sailing the oceans of the world for seven decades - have to catamarans. It's sort of like that of our friend Matthew Sheahan, who writes the fine boat reviews for Yachting World. He recently did a comparison of whether it would be better to cruise aboard a Lagoon 410S2 catamaran or a Beneteau 50 monohull, two boats that cost about the same. We couldn't help but chuckle when Sheahan wrote that, while the catamaran was the "hands-down winner on paper," he would still buy the monohull. It's not easy crossing over to the dark side.
A WEDDING CAKE ON THE BAY
In early August, I helped my friend bring his J/35C back from Half Moon Bay, and while near the Bay Bridge saw a boat that you, in the March 1, 2004, 'Lectronic, described as ". . . a big, fat, 150-ft plus maroon cruising boat that, to our eye, has a striking resemblance to a multi-tiered wedding cake. . ."
This would be the 159-ft Georgia. As far as I'm concerned, she remains remarkably unattractive.
Anyway, we sailed next to them as they crawled along under power up to the bridge, with a girl high up the mast. They were clearly debating whether Georgia's mast was going to fit beneath the roadbed of the bridge. The poor gal up the mast must have drawn the short straw, but she was in luck, as the boat's antennas cleared the bridge by maybe 15 feet.
later docked at some commercial docks by the South Beach YC.
I knew you wouldn't want the chance to see her again.
Guy - In retrospect, we're embarrassed to have written something unpleasant like that about another person's boat. It's like writing that the owner's wife is ugly.
Georgia was built at Alloy Yachts in New Zealand in 1999 for John Williams of Atlanta, and features a 200-ft-tall mast. To our knowledge, this is the tallest mast that's allowed under the Bridge of the Americas in Panama, and is something like a foot taller than the mast on Jim Clark's 156-ft Hyperion - which reportedly made Clark very unhappy. Owners of big boats do care about little things like that.
Anyway, Johnson went on to spend a reported $30 million building the 135-ft J Class yacht Ranger, which has never quite lived up to racing expectations. After that, Georgia, which had been designed as the ultimate family cruising yacht, became the tender to Ranger. For instance, the two boats were tied up next to each other during the St. Barth Bucket a few years ago. After each race, the owner, crew and guests would retire to Georgia for socializing. There was plenty of room for everyone because the string quartet played on Georgia's spacious fold-out transom.
Boats like Georgia seem really huge on San Francisco Bay because all the other sailboats are so much smaller. But everything is relative. At events like this year's St. Barth Bucket, Georgia would have been only the third largest yacht, with a number of other, sleeker boats in her size range.
For folks with 35-ft boats, it must seem as though it would be really great to own what, at the time, was one of the largest sailing yachts in the world. But that's also setting oneself up for disappointment, because as Jim Clark, Joe Vittoria and Tom Perkins proved with Athena, Mirabella, and Maltese Falcon, there's always going to be somebody who will come along and build a boat that's not just bigger, but much, much bigger. Fame is so fleeting.
About the girl up the mast, trust us, they don't pick straws for assignments like that.
According to reports, Georgia was recently sold and is now available for charter in the Pacific Northwest at a base price of $150,000/week.
KEEP IT SIMPLE - WITH CAMERAS, TOO!
Here's my two bits regarding the August letters discussing Fuji digital cameras. Motivated by Latitude's praises of the Fujifilm cameras, we bought a Fujifilm S3000 a couple of years ago. It was a great camera and we loved it!
But being Americans, we know that bigger and newer is better, so we gave our trusty S3000 to a friend entering the digital camera world and got serious by buying a Fuji FinePix S9000, which seemed to have everything. Actually, that new camera had too much - at least for those of us with slipping memories.
Even though I study the manual every time I sit on the crapper, I can't keep all the features straight under the heat of the moment. And I'd never dare take the camera anywhere without the manual.
I've determined that the S9000 is really
a computer with a great lens. Nerdy types will wallow in its
capabilities. Others will flounder. So just a warning to everyone,
it's often better to KISS.
Steve - Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) is great advice for just about every aspect of life. But by now you probably know that almost all digital cameras have two modes, the KISS mode and the 'creative mode'. In the KISS mode, you simply turn the camera dial to the appropriate mode for the kind of shot you want, be it close-up, portrait, landscape, sports, nighttime, etc. If you do that, 96.8% of the time you'll get the best photo possible. Those who fancy themselves to be the next F/Stop Fitzgerald can, if they want, get creative with all the camera's bells and whistles, but will rarely end up with a better photo than the KISS mode. But since digits are free, you could take one in each mode just to be sure you get what you want.
We'd like to remind our readers that we no longer specifically recommend the Fujifilm cameras. We still think they have the best color programs in the business, but their competitors have so narrowed the gap that it's nearly impossible to find a bad late-model digital camera.
For what it's worth, our always-in-the-pocket camera is a Fujifilm E900 that can shoot at up to 9 million pixels. As such, we can use shots from this camera for beautiful two-page spreads in Latitude.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'BORING BIKINI BABES'?
Congratulations to LaDonna Bubak, the 'new
guy' on the Latitude editorial staff, for nailing the
ideal hunkalicious pin-up shot on page 116 of the August
issue. It makes up for at least 100 boring bikini babes.
Keep up the good work - and more, more, more!
Linda - We're not sure if your response
means that women have finally liberated themselves to be able
to enjoy eye-candy as much as men, or have merely become as shallow
I'm in Puerto Vallarta and have decided to go to an all-chain rode for my Santa Cruz 40 Kokopelli. What do you think is the best way to get 300 feet of chain down here? I've heard that you can buy chain in Mexico, but it's of questionable quality. Is it feasible to buy chain in the States and ship it down, or do you get killed with import duty?
P.S. The '04 Baja
Ha-Ha started us off on the cruise of a lifetime. Thanks.
Kevin - We're not sure what type and quality of chain is available in Mexico, but if you couldn't find a brand name and a perfect fit for your gypsy, we'd pass. Our second option would be to pay one of the boats heading south in this year's Ha-Ha a couple of hundred bucks to bring the chain down for you. A third option would be to advertise for someone driving down to bring it in their vehicle. We don't think duty would be an issue in any of these scenarios.
Funny that you write about anchor chain at this time, as we're in the process of replacing the now-very-rusty 250 feet of 3/8" hi-test chain that we've carried on Profligate for the last 10 years. We're still 'in the process' because the driver for a well-known marine vendor showed up at the boatyard with 250 feet of chain - cut into five worthless 50-ft lengths!
HELP FROM FRIENDS
Your Looking Good piece in June's issue that featured Chorus was terrific - thank you. To be completely fair, the rebuilding would not have been such a successful experience without the hundreds of cumulative hours contributed by Bill Riley, Bob Rogers, and Steve Sarsfield. They helped me renovate the damaged hull and decks, contributed unique design ideas, and shared the values of Scott Easom and Gordie Nash. And when it came time to step the mast, Hank Easom told me to come over to his yard. Since he was putting Yucca's new stick in, he thought we should do them at the same time.
What class guys. They, plus the support of my family, are what has made Chorus special.
P.S. My apologies for frowning in the photo.
I was happy as hell, and promise to smile forevermore when on
CAN I PLEASE GET SOME HEP
'Hep' is Southern for help.
I'm a longtime traditional monohull sailor who is thinking of going over to the dark side - yes, a multihull. Since I'm shopping for boats, what better way to do it than on the '06 Baja Ha-Ha?
I don't just want to crew on the '06 Ha-Ha, I want to do it on a different boat for each of the three legs. And I want at least one leg to be on a multihull.
My experience includes three deliveries, 8,000 ocean miles, one season cruising Mexico, the '04 Ha-Ha, and too many Bay and ocean races to count.
I don't get seasick, I carry a small sea bag - okay, I am a girl and therefore must pack my Halloween costume - have good galley skills, a good sense of humor, and fabulous references.
Here's the rub - I don't think I can attend
the Crew Party in October. But I do have a sailing resumé
and photo I can send to anyone who emails me.
Jan - Well, let's see if publishing your letter might hep.
HE PUT HIS LIPOSUCTION EXTRACT WHERE!?
I love Latitude. Always have, always will. I'm writing because, although I've been a reader for years, I've never touched base - even though my wife Sujata and I cruised for three years aboard our Norseman 447 Maajhi-Re. We had a couple of excellent years in Mexico, then cruised across the Pacific, landed in New Zealand in November '04, sold our boat, got residence, and bought a small Kiwi racer/cruiser. All the usual stuff. We love living in New Zealand, as the sailing down here is excellent, the water is clean, and the fish are plentiful. Just don't tell anyone.
Actually, as it turns out, I'm telling everyone. Another ex-pat American and I have launched a magazine, New Zealand Magazine, that's all about New Zealand for North Americans. We cover destinations and travel stuff, but we strive to be much more than a travel mag. Anyway, it can be found in Borders, Barnes & Noble, and so forth. We're having a great time doing this out of a little office in Auckland.
Speaking of New Zealand stuff, I saw the July 26 'Lectronic pic and item on the Earthrace boat. Now there's an interesting story, as Pete Bethune is quite a character. I met him when they were in the early stages of building the boat here in Auckland, and walked through the hulls as they were being vacuum-bagged. It's a serious project, and Bethune has pretty much put everything he has into it. In fact, I believe he sold his home and worked like a dog getting sponsors to make it happen.
Here's the funny thing about Kiwi Pete - even though he's going to try to set a record going around the world in a powered boat, he's never been offshore before. Not in any kind of boat. Already at the point of having adopted some Kiwi mannerisms, I said "Hmmmmmmm," which can mean "Holy shit, you're kidding, you must be out of your mind," or, "I have no idea what significance that may have." (A very handy little expression, "hmmmm".)
Anyway, I was pretty impressed by the fact that the guy had been too busy getting his boat together to go try out the feel of the ocean, to find out if he was prone to seasickness, and to get the hang of handling a boat offshore. Quite like a lot of cruisers, I suppose. And like them, he's just doing it. Good on him!
Pete's seriously passionate about promoting bio-fuels, too. A couple of months ago, when the boat was still in Auckland, he had liposuction on his belly - and turned what was extracted into bio-fuel for his boat. A publicity stunt, of course, but it worked, as he was all over the papers here.
P.S. Latitude's digital
edition is a great move!
A PARTICULARLY GOOD 'LECTRONIC
I read 'Lectronic Latitude everyday, even when I'm travelling to who knows where, which I often have to do. I particularly enjoyed the one on July 19 because I go to England with some frequency and can relate to what you're saying about the sense of maritime history, prices for meals, and everything else. I also enjoyed the bit about Dogbark towing Hesperus into Hanalei Bay because I'm a big fan of the Singlehanded TransPac (we watched the start, and I followed them all the way). These guys are all a bit wacky, but they do have a very special relationship with each other. I also lived in Honolulu for a while, so I knew what you were talking about with the problems at the Ala Wai. Finally, the boobie atop the turtle topped it off. Thanks for the continuing good work.
P.S. We plan to do the Baja
Ha-Ha next year aboard our Catalina 42 Destiny.
John - We're glad you like it. We love doing 'Lectronic - especially when we can find enough time to do it well.
FIRST WORLD SALARIES FOR THIRD WORLD LABOR
My boat is in a boatyard in Grenada for work on the engine, sails, the woodwork and so forth. But I'm having second thoughts about the wisdom of coming here to get the work done.
First of all, the 'professionals' who call the shots and oversee work fancy themselves to be First World experts - and therefore demand high compensation. When we boatowners complain about the costs compared to elsewhere, the response is always the same, "Well, you're not in X country now!" In their minds, this catch phrase somehow justifies very high charges.
And how about the workers? Are they getting fat, First World salaries? Today I found otherwise. With great hesitation, one Grenadian worker confided that he was paid about $1.40/hour for skilled labor. This worker is being billed out to me at $20/hour! Such a whopping mark up seems unconscionable. Understandably, there are some workers here who are disgruntled.
In another example, I was quoted $250 for an engine bracket. It seemed exorbitant, so I took the bus to St. Georges, the capital, and inquired about a shop that could fabricate the part. I was immediately directed to a man who skillfully fabricated the steel part for $28. The 'expert' in the yard was very unhappy about this turn of events, and announced that the locally produced part was inferior. "It's not painted," he groused.
If I had it to do over, I'd go to town and do the same kind of due diligence to find all the workers I needed. These islands are teeming with people who know about boats - especially sailboats. If the quality of this metal fabricator is any indication - and I think it is - I could get all my work done for perhaps 10-15% of what the First World 'experts' extort from cruisers. Naturally, I'd still have to use the yard's lift to haul the boat out and paint the bottom, but it would only be a two-day job, and I could do much of the work myself.
I like the local people who are actually doing the work, basically unsupervised, and they are doing a good job, too. They just are not reaping the benefits for their own work in their own country. The locals are friendly, smart and willing workers, and it's a pleasure to be in their company while the work is being done.
The 'experts', on the other hand, are always complaining about their situation and their latest injury that makes their job such a chore. I suspect these grousers are down here because they could not get away with such bad attitudes in the First World. I have to admit that I don't care for many of the experts, and neither do the much more well-adjusted locals who are forced to work for them for peanuts.
The fault may lie with us boatowners, as we think a 'white face' can do a job better. My recent experiences have proved this wrong.
We cruisers would be striking a blow for justice and improvement of the lives of the local island people if we used a little effort to seek out local skilled boat workers. They are available, and they are very happy to work on your boat - especially when you pay them quadruple what the fancy First World 'experts' pay them.
That $250 part I had made for $28 taught
me an important lesson.
N.W.B.R. - How could somebody living in California possibly believe that you can't get decent work done from someone who doesn't have a 'white face'? If we're not mistaken, there are only about 17 white guys left in the state who do manual labor and, based on our experience in a broad range of fields, they don't often do it as well as Mexicans, African-Americans, Croatians, Lebanese, Vietnamese and people from Arab countries.
But what confuses us is why you believe the locals in Grenada are "forced" to work for others. With the glaring exception of Cuba, it's a free market throughout the Caribbean. During our time in the islands, any reliable skilled local - meaning he/she was competent to work on engines, wood, sails and so forth - could either command a decent salary from an employer or do just fine as an independent. And why would a worker care if he/she gets paid by the owner of a yard or the owner of a boat?
On the other hand, if you serve as the 'general contractor' for all your boat projects, we think you'll soon discover that it's not so easy to find reliable skilled workers in the islands. For if a person is reliable and skilled, they usually have more work than they can handle - and from longtime clients willing to pay premium wages. And if they aren't reliable and skilled, you can find yourself with a real mess - such as the Latitude contributors who reported ending up with a half-rebuilt engine and the 'mechanic' nowhere to be found.
A DIFFERENT VIEW ON THEFTS AND OUTBOARDS
Having been cruising for almost five years in Mexico and Central America, we read with interest Roddy Mac's advice to cruisers about to set sail for those waters.
We would agree that it is prudent to lock things on your boat, however we would not characterize theft as being "rampant" in Central America. We spent a year in Costa Rica, most of it in Puntarenas, and know of only one incident of theft from a boat there. We personally have never had a problem at any of the anchorages or marinas in Central America or Mexico.
As for locks not working very long, a simple application of an anti-corrosive spray will solve the problem of sticking locks. We apply it about every six months, and our locks have worked fine for five years.
We agree with Roddy's assessment of Honda outboards, but would extend it to four-stroke outboards as well. We had lots of problems with our Honda four-stroke, and know of other cruisers who had problems with four-strokes built by other manufacturers. We eventually bought a two-stroke Yamaha in Panama - and love it!
We have a watermaker, and it only died
on us once in five years. But we're careful not to run it where
the water is dirty. We also had a rain catcher made in Costa
Rica, and it works great. While on the hook in Panama's San Blas
Islands, we once caught 120 gallons of water in two days! We
just let the rainwater wash the dirt off for a couple of minutes,
then let the water flow directly into our tanks.
I'm having problems with the harbormaster at my marina. The previous harbormaster put me on the list for legal liveaboards, but in the meantime gave me permission to live aboard. About a year later, when I was at the top of the list to be a legal liveaboard, he gave the next liveaboard slip to a new tenant instead of me. The harbormaster died a short time later, and was replaced by the current harbormaster.
I continued to live aboard for a full year with the harbormaster's knowledge. But in February of this year, I fell behind in the rent. When I got a job as the principle performer in the string section of a local symphony, the harbormaster expressed pleasure - I would even describe his reaction as 'joy'. Nonetheless, he wasn't interested in my taking five months to catch up on slip fees. No, he really wanted me out of the marina. With me behind in slip fees, it was his chance to achieve his objective.
When I failed to sell my boat during two months of record rains, the harbormaster turned off my marina key. Not only did I lose my place to live, but he wouldn't give me access to the houseboat on my dock where I had been practicing for several months - and occasionally giving lessons.
I am a professional musician, and music is my sole income. The actions of the harbormaster had a direct impact on my playing - and therefore my reputation and opportunities for advancement.
I would sue, but have only been able to find one lawyer who is familiar with both tenant rights and the applicable Admiralty law and California law, and I didn't have the $2,500 he required to take the case on a contingency basis. He said he was virtually certain that I would win.
Now that my car is repaired and I could sell it to pay for the lawyer's out-of-pocket legal expenses, he is full up with other cases. In addition, I have exhausted all of the charitable law options in the East Bay.
I wanted to prevent my boat from being sold, and intended to move it to a place where I wouldn't be billed $35/day - an arbitrary rate for being behind in the rent.
From a legal standpoint, I suppose the worst thing the harbormaster did was to take my boat's rudder prior to a lien even being recorded at the DMV. I discovered that the rudder was gone the morning I planned to leave. Apparently the harbormaster took the rudder because he was afraid that I was going to disappear with the boat.
I finally got the rudder back from his office with the help of the local police. But it wasn't easy, as the harbormaster argued with them, then stalled and stalled before finally handing it over to me.
If you want all the details, I wrote them out for my Public Defender. You see, I was arrested for trespassing on the dock where my boat is berthed when I attempted, for the second time, to move it. Before I cast off, I discovered there was no prop. Perhaps it corroded off.
I thought that maybe if your readers knew of the situation, I might get some assistance. And maybe the harbormaster would be thrown in jail - or at least lose his job to teach him a lesson.
My boat is going up for auction, but I'm hoping to postpone it with an injunction. If I can do that, I'll have a better chance of selling my boat. Unfortunately, the harbormaster has interfered with my injunction effort as well. What's more, he's lied to the police.
I kept a record, have notarized photos
of bad deeds, and kept my advising lawyer updated as the events
'Paul' - We've given you a fake name and left out the name of the marina because, frankly, we don't have the time or interest to delve into the minutia of the dispute and the veracity of your accusations. Nonetheless, we'll give you our perspective on the whole mess.
We realize that, as a musician, you may tend to think more lyrically than logically, but is it not possible for you to recognize that your being so far behind in slip fees - not the harbormaster - is the real cause of all your problems?
We could understand your falling behind in slip fees if the country was going through very difficult economic times or if you lived in France or Germany where unemployment rates are so terribly high. But in relative terms, these are actually quite good economic times in the U.S., there's virtually no unemployment in Northern California, and $10/hour jobs go begging. If you were to work 60 hours a week - like illegal immigrants and small business owners are accustomed to doing - you'd quickly have enough money to pay for your slip for many months, giving yourself a chance to try to make a living as a musician and an instructor.
The fact that your only income comes from being a musician is a choice that you make, but only you can decide whether it's more important to you than being able to provide for yourself. When we were young, we wanted to be a gigolo, pro surfer or Indian chief. Unfortunately, nobody was interested in paying us to be any of those things, so we had to start banging on a typewriter. If you can't provide for yourself through just music, maybe you need to diversify your efforts.
We're not saying all this because we're hard-hearted, but because we're trying to liberate you. To our way of thinking, there's nothing more important in this world than taking personal responsibility for one's actions and being self-reliant. For if you can't do those things, you lose control of your life, and end up having to talk with lawyers and having to try to squeeze money out of the government. The one thing we've learned in life is that there are no bigger ways to waste time then by trying to get lawyers or the government to do something on your behalf. So we say cut your losses and get on with your life. We're speaking, of course, as someone who can't carry a tune.
THE BEST TIMES TO GO THROUGH THE CANAL
We want to take our boat, a Farr 58, to the Caribbean. Our plan is to depart Santa Cruz in the fall of '07, sail south and through the Panama Canal. Then, instead of sailing across the Caribbean Sea against the trades, we want to sail up the western Caribbean, to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. We would then sail around the west coast of Cuba to Florida, and eventually on up toward the Chesapeake Bay and New England for the summer. Towards fall, after the end of hurricane season, we would sail south to the Caribbean for the winter.
We are in no hurry, and might take a couple of years to get to the East Coast. But we want to pick the right time to sail north from the Panama Canal. We have no interest in sailing through hurricanes. And we do want to spend some time along the coast of Belize.
Our cutter-rigged Farr design is well-found and weatherly. Although we've both been sailing for a long time, we haven't made many ocean passages. We did, however, charter a large monohull in the Eastern Caribbean for two weeks this spring, and had a lot of fun and no problems.
Would you advise such a trip, and which
month is the best to go through the Canal? The western Caribbean
waters appear shallow from what we have learned so far. What
are the hazards? What are the best books to buy? Any advice would
be greatly appreciated.
Neil and Fran - It sounds like a terrific plan to us. With any luck, you won't be needing much of your Farr's great upwind ability, but unless you have one of the Farr 58s with a 6-ft Scheel keel, the deep draft might occasionally be limiting.
Here's our overview of what you'll be looking at: The season from Mexico down to Panama is November through May. In the summer, the weather is far too hot and rainy for pleasure cruising, and along mainland Mexico there is also the threat of hurricanes. So your options for summer are as follows:
1) Keep the boat in a marina in Mexico that offers good protection from possible hurricanes - and most of them do. 2) Put the boat in storage in El Salvador, Costa Rica or Nicaragua. Alas, given your boat's draft, we're not sure you'll be able to safely cross the bars to get into the lagoons where the marinas are located in El Salvador. The problem with Costa Rica and Nicaragua, both of which have good marina facilities, is that they get hit by more summer lightning than almost anywhere in the world. A number of boats get zorched each year. 3) Sail down to Ecuador, where the summer weather is like springtime, and there is little or no rain. This has become a more popular option in recent years. 4) Sail through the Canal, and either keep your boat at the new Shelter Bay Marina on the Atlantic end of the Canal, or a marina in Bocas del Toro. 5) Sail through the Canal and spend the summer at Cartagena. You can get that far across the Caribbean without beating your brains out sailing into the trades, and it sets you up for a nice reach up the western Caribbean the following season. It's also a great city. 6) Lots of boats spend the summer up the Rio Dulce on the Caribbean side of Guatemala. Unfortunately, your boat will draw too much to enter the river, even at high tide.
The bottom line is that, while there is nothing to stop you from transiting the Canal at any time of year, the most popular times are at the end of one cruising season - May or June - or the beginning of the next - October to December.
We haven't personally cruised the western Caribbean, but we know that shallow water can be a problem. In addition, there are a lot fewer good places to visit than many folks expect. For example, there's nothing really worth seeing on the Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Indeed, the only two stops most people make prior to getting to the mostly shallow Bay Islands of Honduras and Belize are Isla Providencia and Isla San Andreas. North of that, you've got the Yucatán coast of Mexico, which is also shallow, but nonetheless features the popular stop at Isla Mujeres.
Assuming that you left your boat anywhere from mainland Mexico to Ecuador to Cartagena for the summer, you could resume your cruising anytime from October to December and leisurely enjoy whatever parts of Central America you hadn't gotten to the season before. You could also visit the western Caribbean before getting far enough up the East Coast of the U.S. by the following summer to avoid the likelihood of being whacked by a hurricane.
Probably the most common itinerary is for people to spend a winter and spring cruising Mexico, then leave the boat somewhere in Mexico for the summer. The following year they do Central America and the Western Caribbean, continuing up the East Coast of the U.S. for the summer cruising season, then heading down to the Eastern Caribbean in the fall. By the way, the draft of your boat is going to somewhat limit where you can go in the Chesapeake Bay.
The dicey thing about getting from the East Coast to the Eastern Caribbean is that hurricane season doesn't end in the Atlantic until December 1, by which time the cold winter storms may have started howling. While there are a number of strategies for getting from the East Coast to the Eastern Caribbean, the most popular is probably a variation of the West Marine Caribbean 1500, which leaves Norfolk for the British Virgins this year on November 6. But mind you, there is a much higher probability that you'll get thrashed in that run to the tropics than you would in the Ha-Ha run to tropical Mexico.
The interesting thing is that if you absolutely insisted on it, you could do almost all of these routes without having to make any overnight passages. Not that we'd recommend it.
There are all kinds of books on the places you intend to cruise to, and you can find them in chandleries and from vendors of nautical books. However, the latest and often best information you'll be getting is from cruisers you meet who have just come from where you want to go. But don't be rigid. Cruisers are notorious for "not making any plans, and sticking to them" - and it's a good idea.
By the way, if anybody who is very familiar with the Western Caribbean would like to write up a brief review of the best places to stop in that area, and the restrictions on draft, we'd very much appreciate it.
AFTER I YELLED, HE TOOK A SMALL BREATH
Kirby and I cruised Mexico aboard our Ericson 32 Lena between '89 and '99, but eventually became anxious to check out the Atlantic. So we outfitted our Freedom 35 Tobias in Maryland last winter, with plans to explore the Eastern Seaboard. We're currently in Nova Scotia.
While in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, recently, we spent the day sailing aboard the British Virgins-based Leopard 45 catamaran Seabbatical with Ron Bokenfohr and his family. While having an onboard cocktail that evening, we heard a cry for help, and looked to see someone who appeared to be struggling in the water.
It only took half a minute before we were
in our dinghy and on our way, but before we could reach him we
could see that the struggling had stopped. As we got closer,
all we could see was a man floating face down in the water -
one of the most horrible things we've ever seen.
Paula, Steve's wife, had already called an ambulance and was waiting with blankets. She jumped into the dinghy with us and we headed for shore. During the trip ashore, we were able to get the man to tell us his name and identify himself as a local. He also told us that he had been pushed off a boat and couldn't swim! He did have shoes on, but it was still pretty hard to imagine him being pushed off a boat. Within minutes of reaching the dock, the paramedics were there to take over.
The young man recovered enough to walk, with some assistance, up the ramp to the waiting ambulance. Fortunately, his face hadn't been underwater very long, and he was going to be fine once his body recovered from the shock and ingestion of saltwater. I think the four of us were more shook up than he was! Kirby and I certainly didn't sleep too well that night!
It wasn't until late the next day that we learned that our young man had ended up in the water "by his own choice." It made us understand why he seemed embarrassed and didn't want to look at us.
We are now in Mahone Bay, which is just
another little piece of northern paradise. We shop each day for
fresh-from-the-farm veggies and wonderful French baguettes, and
go to the local coffee house/used book store to do Internet.
Life is good when you're cruising!
THE SAME WONDERFUL CLIMATE AND SCENERY
I enjoyed your Blog of The Sea of Cortez article, but since Steinbeck's book is probably out of print, I wondered how many readers caught the pun in the title? Erle Stanley Gardner's Land of Shorter Shadows also was a good book on the early Baja.
In the early '60s I started flying down there in small planes, fishing at the various camps from Mulege to Cabo, and took my own Cheoy Lee Offshore 50 down in '72. It will be hard for current sailors to visualize the surface changes - although you are correct in saying the rocks and water have remained the same.
The Blog certainly stirred memories of the earlier days of cruising in the Sea. I had some familiarity with the area from my fly-in fishing trips, but cruising information was mostly limited to Leland Lewis' Baja Sea Guide, which had been published the year before. La Paz and Cabo were connected by mostly paved road, but the road north to the border had not been improved, so there were no travel trailers on the beach. The fiberglass pangas and big outboard motors had not been introduced, so there were very few local fishermen other than guys on shrimp trawlers, the shark fishermen - who also caught a lot of turtles (Caguamas) - and subsistence fishermen. Fuel and water was obtained in Cabo from the fish cannery pier, and it required two or three people to handle the boat while the fuel was being taken on.
We were the only boat in both Frailes and Muertos anchorages on our way north, so it was quite adventurous. There was nobody on the beach at all, and at Frailes my anchor fouled what had to be a very old anchor of about 250 pounds. My deckhand and I finally got it up with blocks and tackle, and were able to tie it off to unwrap our chain. We then cut the rope and let it drop. We could have used a few more cruisers that morning.
La Paz was a charming little city back then, and everything was just a short walk. We anchored off the main wharf and left our dinghies unattended on the beach. Most of our provisions were bought at the mercado. There were about 6 to 12 boats around the harbor, but we preferred anchoring at Pichilingue. We were the only boat there on Christmas Day of '72 - until late in the afternoon when a schooner from Fort Bragg came in. The lady on the schooner needed a small item to complete her Christmas dinner and came over with a fresh-baked loaf of bread to borrow whatever it was she needed.
We proceeded north, and part of the time
were alone at Partida, and other times there would be one or
two other cruisers. I am writing this without checking my log
book, and I do not remember all the stops we made on our way
to Mulege, as I have visited most of them on later trips. However,
we did stop at Amortejada as well as Salina. The salt works were
still being used, but not very actively.
We anchored just inside Conception Bay as close to Mulege as we could, and met our friends who were flying in. There were no other cruisers around Mulege at the time we were there. We then started south, fishing and cruising as we went. One anchorage was at Pulpito, which as I remember was about opposite the south end of Conception Bay. The yellowtail were swarming, and we caught and released them until we were exhausted.
I do not recall seeing or meeting any other boats until we were again close to La Paz. So, as was reported in the Blog, the country itself has remained the same, but to see it as it was, you have to blot out all signs of humanity for several days at a time. Of course, without all the fishermen who are there today, the waters were just teeming with fish and the bird life that thrived on the fish.
With so few other boats, when we did happen to share an anchorage, it was an exciting event. I remember making friends with the crew of a shark fishing boat. One day we went out with them to help bring in the sharks they'd caught in gill nets. It was still legal to catch and eat turtles back then, so we barbecued one of the turtles on the beach. The procedure was to butcher it, leaving a lot of the meat attached to the shell. You'd then prop the shell up facing the fire, and allow the reflected heat to cook the meat. I didn't much care for the meat, but some people liked it. Turtle was a popular item on most restaurant menus at the time.
We also met a shrimp boat that had broken an outrigger at sea. The crew was struggling to repair it, and I thought they might appreciate a drink, so I came close to them and held up a bottle of scotch. They waved back, showing an interest in it. The seas were pretty rough, so I put the bottle in a five-gallon bucket, and had Steve Hersey, my crew, pass it to them with the boat hook as I eased my bow in as close as I dared. They grabbed it and filled it with huge shrimp - some as much as six inches long - and passed it back. Steve now has his own boat in either Mazatlan or San Carlos, and is preparing to go further south.
I've been down to the Sea several times
since, the last two times being in 2000 and 2002, and have seen
the changes to the present situation. It is, of course, much
more crowded now, but it is also much easier to enjoy the same
wonderful climate and scenery, so it all balances out.
Ernie - The only thing we're bitter about is that the organized environmental groups have done so little to protect the once-spectacular Sea of Cortez fishery. They made a gigantic deal about preventing a salt plant - like the one that had been operating up the coast for 50 years - at Laguna San Ignacio. But to date have been MIA when it comes to saving the thousand-times-more-important Sea of Cortez. Shame on them.
BAJA AS IT IS AND WAS
I love the Baja as it is, and don't want to be one of those 'You should have seen it in the good old days' guys.
Reading your Blog of The Sea of Cortez article, I found your comment about Steinbeck being able to recognize the area between La Paz and Puerto Escondido to be very interesting. Several times in recent years I have thought that he would hardly recognize the area. I say this because I think Steinbeck was focused on what was in the water and, as you pointed out, that part has changed dramatically.
I first ventured down the peninsula in the summer of 1970. The road was a one-lane dirt trail, and it took 10 days of hard driving to reach La Paz. The unforgettable thing about that trip is that every time we were camped by the Sea or had it in sight, it was literally teeming with life! We almost never looked at the water without seeing schools of dolphins or various unidentified fish, huge jumping rays, and so forth. We helped a shark fisherman run his net and collected several sharks, ate oysters harvested in five feet of water, and scooped up little clams in our fingers. While in La Paz, a charter boat skipper came to our camp and sold us on a day of marlin fishing. We were barely out of the harbor before we caught a 135-pound fish and had a much larger one on the hook.
In our state of ignorance 35 years ago, I'm sure we contributed to the Sea's decline.
In the summer of '72, I joined a friend in sailing across the Sea from the mainland to Bahia de Los Angeles via the Midriff Islands. Once again ignorance prevailed. We sailed in a South Coast 22 with five gallons of fuel and a AAA road map for navigation. We rode out a chubasco at sea, were swept around by 6-knot tides, but generally had a grand time. But this time the sea life was even more amazing. At most anchorages we routinely saw sharks swimming around the boat. I don't remember which island it was at, but we saw 150 plus - and I counted them - shark carcasses lying in perfect rows with the fins and fillets cut off.
We never went an hour without seeing a huge manta ray jump from the sea, then send up a great white splash when it hit the water. One island appeared to be on fire with turbulent black smoke rolling out of an inlet. As we approached the island, we decided the cloud was insects. Finally we got close enough to discover that we were actually watching a flock of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pelicans. The birds were feeding on a school of some kind of fish. Each bird would dive, then fly in a big circle, and dive again. I will never forget it. Near the peninsula we approached within a few yards of a whale we could not identify. It appeared to be basking and barely responded to our presence.
We were the only sailboat in the bay at Bahia de Los Angeles. A few hundred yards from shore we sailed along with a huge ray and a whale shark swimming in tandem near the surface. Feeding, I suppose. The shark was much longer than our 22-ft boat. When I got too close, he dove under the boat, and the long tip of his tail came in the cockpit. It brushed across the top of my thigh like sandpaper.
On shore, some gringos had set up a scallop processing plant. When pangas came in loaded practically to the gunnels with scallops, someone would ring a bell and all the women in the village would come down to clean them. They were stored in small refrigerated trucks until there was a full load for the drive to the States.
I heard somewhere that Mexico has allowed big factory ships to harvest in the Sea. I wonder if anyone really knows the reason(s) for the decline.
On that first trip I hooked up with the
old 135-ft bluenose schooner Goldfield. She was owned
by a couple of merchant mariners who used her primarily as a
party retreat. She was later moved to Guaymas, and then I lost
track of her. Have you ever heard of her and her fate?
Lonnie - We think the reason for the decline in sea life in the Sea of Cortez is that there are close to 100,000 hooks lowered into it each night. Greater protection is way overdue.
As for the Goldfield, we're sorry to report that we have no idea what's become of her or where she might be.
SUCCULENT SONJA, MEET RINGWORM RON
Thanks for publishing your 'eight bells' for Hal Schell, a genuine River Rat and Delta booster.
As just one of many to have called Hal a true friend, I'd like to pass along a brief glimpse of his life and influence up here in the Delta. Some years ago, Hal and a few fellow Rats were sitting in a local watering hole discussing the boating scene and how the larger and more lofty Bay Area yacht clubs probably wouldn't allow River Rats such as themselves to be members.
"No problem," declared Hal, "we'll start our own club!" After it was agreed that it couldn't have the words 'yacht club' at the end, the Rats settled on Super Secret Ship Club. Hal was installed as Commodore, and a round was hoisted to confirm the choice. Hal insisted the SSSC should have no charter, no clubhouse, no meetings, and just one rule. Prospective members would have to recite the words 'Super Secret Ship Club' rapidly 10 times in a row in front of the commodore, preferably after they'd had a few sundowners.
As word of the SSSC got around the Delta,
Hal and the other members decided they should be identified by
the wearing of purple 'wind breakers' - Hal no doubt meaning
the pun. The color purple was probably chosen because it suggested
robes worn by ancient secret societies.
An unofficial gathering of the Purple Jackets was held in early spring of each year. Members would bring their boats to a secret river location where Hal would host an SOS (Shit On a Shingle) feast. More widely known as creamed chipped beef on toast, SOS remains popular with sailors and soldiers the world over. Hal's version of this gray, gruel-like concoction truly lived up to its name!
Hal's primary vision of a Delta 'yacht
club' was simply for people to have fun on their boats. His extensive
writings on the California Delta followed a similar philosophy,
whether he was writing about being on the river or on the pavement.
As such, he lured many to explore the Delta's history, beauty
and boating opportunities. Come to the Delta and help celebrate
Hal Schell's love of the unique merging of California's
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