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SHOULD I GO NORTH TO SOUTH OR THE OPPOSITE?
I plan to do a two-month bareboat charter in the Eastern Caribbean between mid-January and mid-March of next year. If we're going to cruise between the Virgin Islands and Grenada, which is the best direction: north to south or south to north? My main goal is to minimize upwind sailing as per the old saying 'Gentlemen don't sail to weather'.
I'm talking to charter brokers, but if anyone knows of a three-cabin sailboat for chartering during that period, let me know.
P.S. Twenty-five years ago I picked up a copy of Latitude while sitting in the bathroom of a vacation rental at Stinson Beach. I was instantly transfixed, but it was another 18 years before that led me to take sailing lessons and become a member of Tradewinds Sailing Club in Richmond. Since then I've been on 8 or 10 charters - including Greece last May - and I sail the Bay a couple times a month. I would like to compliment you on creating a very unique and wonderful journalistic product. There is nothing quite like Latitude in the magazine universe, and probably very few magazines that are held in such affection by their readers.
Howard - Thank you for the very kind words.
The trip you've planned sounds fabulous. The very reliable easterly trades in the Eastern Caribbean have a northerly component more frequently in the winter and a southerly component more frequently in the summer. As such, we'd recommend sailing from the Virgins to Grenada. Nonetheless, the trades will still vary to come out of the ENE to ESE depending on the day and week, and playing the shifts will pay huge dividends in your speed and comfort. Fortunately, weather forecasts in the region are plentiful and accurate.
You're especially going to want to wait for a shift to the ENE or better, as well as moderating winds, when crossing the 90-mile Anegada Passage between the British Virgins and St. Martin. That's because the passage requires quite a bit of easting, which can be difficult to get in the often strong winds and adverse currents of winter. The last thing you want to do is take off for St. Martin in ESE winds, because you'll never come close to laying St. Martin, and the last thing you want to have to do during the Caribbean winter is claw upwind against the reinforced trades and current. Fortunately, Virgin Gorda, the closest of the British Virgins to St. Martin, is a great place to wait for the right weather window.
It's similarly important to wait for such northerly shifts and moderating winds when crossing from St. Barth to Antigua, the most easterly place on your cruise, or Montserrat to Antigua. Once you reach Antigua, you should be reaching for the remainder of your cruise.
Playing the windshifts will not only be important for making fast and pleasant passages, but also for choosing safe and comfortable anchorages. Indeed, it can make the difference between being miserable and having the cruise of your life. By the way, check out this month's Changes for Captain Mark's report on his recent 40-day Walkabout on a charterboat in the Caribbean.
(Ed. note - For the record, Senior Editor Andy Turpin, who lived in the Caribbean for 10 years and sails there annually, refuses to go along with the above recommendation. "What you been smokin' mon?! You've got it backwards," he was heard to say, arguing that, even if the winter trades go ENE, it would still be a beat to close reach, at best, from the Virgins across the Anegada Passage to St. Martin and most of the way to Antigua - not to mention there's a two-knot westbound current. Starting in the south, however, even if you had to sail close hauled from Grenada north to Bequia or perhaps St. Vincent, you'd generally be on a reach or deeper the rest of the way to the Virgins.)
MEMORIES OF THE '80 SOLO TRANSPAC REMAIN VIVID
I've been sent a copy of Latitude with the letter from John Hill about the 1980 Singlehanded TransPac, a race I competed in aboard my Gulf 40 Yankee Tar. The editor asked whether any of us have knowledge of other entries. We all know that Dan Byrne of the Valiant 40, who two years later became one of the few Americans to do a singlehanded around-the-world race, passed away in '91 after losing out to cancer. And Michael Harding of Challenge also disappeared over the final horizon. I don't know what happened to the others.
I finished the race in just under 22 days, a few hours after the official deadline. I was new to singlehanded ocean racing, and with my 30,000-lb sloop loaded up for a trip to the South Seas, was not much of a competitor. Yankee Tar did well in a breeze, but since I hadn't studied meteorology, the art of reading weather maps was a blur to me, as was the critical importance of the location of the Pacific High. So I made the major mistake of turning too soon, and plowed right into the very light winds of the High. In fact, I spent 6.5 days wandering around in the High before I was able to escape.
Prior to the race Singlehanded TransPac vet John Carson had repeatedly advised me to "go south until the butter melts." But I misinterpreted the high seas weather report, which said there was 12 to 15 knots of wind directly west of me, so I took the bait. The next morning the wind disappeared.
I carried no electronics except a VHF radio and a Ham radio to give me the high seas weather reports. I couldn't use the Ham for communication because I didn't have the proper license. Or the know-how. I navigated with my compass and a sextant, as there was no GPS or even SatNav back then.
The experience of being out there on my own, coping with the sea and myself, is a memory which has never grown old. Its lessons have come back to me again and again.
I was very lucky to arrive in one piece at the end of the race because the overcast had prevented me from getting anything but a quick morning sun sight the day before entering the Kauai Channel, so I was navigating off the null of a portable radio for the last day-and-a-half. There was a stiff gale with 40 to 50-knot gusts in the Kauai Channel that last night, along with angry 18-ft seas. Sometimes the seas would pick Yankee Tar up, push the rudder out, and throw her down sideways, causing water to be scooped up into the cockpit. But mainly she handled it well under the vane.
I hadn't slept prior to my arrival in the Channel, and when I though I was about 15 miles out from my intended landfall at the Kilauea Light, I was desperate for even just a five minute nap. I wanted to set the kitchen timer to wake me, but remembered that all the books had repeatedly warned of the necessity of staying vigilant when close to land.
Before lying down for five minutes, I forced myself to climb up the companionway hatch - which I had locked against the seas - to take a look around. Before I turned my head more than 90 degrees, a big white light swept across me. It was the Kilauea Light! It was about 20 degrees off my port bow. I'd been on course, but was closer than I thought, and was heading right for the rocks!
I quickly had to decide whether to turn around or try to sail higher into the wind and heavy seas to try to clear the point. I chose the latter. Yankee Tar, carrying a double storm jib and a triple-reefed main, came up to weather, took the seas into her teeth, and made it around Kilauea Point at 2:30 a.m.
By this time the race committee had closed down operations, so when I finally saw what looked like the lights of Hanalei Bay, just west of that high plateau, I tacked back and forth across the entrance in powerful seas for several hours until Peggy Slater got on Channel 16 at 6 a.m. and said she was coming out on Hanalei Flyer to guide me in. That's such a long story that I won't get into it, but suffice it to say that Slater and Don Keenan, Hanalei Flyer's owner, couldn't find me for nearly an hour in the steep seas. In fact, they mistook a crewed Santa Cruz 50 that had tried to head to Nawiliwili for fuel but had to turn back, for me. They chased that boat while Slater forbad me to enter Hanalei Bay - even though I could see the red buoy. Our conversation on Channel 16, recorded by a fellow contestant at anchor in Hanalei, was funny - if you weren't on a boat outside the bay.
I finally did get into Hanalei nine hours too late to be an official finisher. I was also wet and 20 pounds lighter than when I left San Francisco.
Three months later I took off for the South Seas with a couple of friends, stopping at Tahiti and the other lovely Society Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Great Astrolabe Reef, and finally home three years later by way of Hawaii. I went over there one more time, but in the last 10 years I haven't done enough sailing to call myself a sailor. I've been busy touring on dry land to every crotch, armpit and breast bone of America, working in theaters. I'm 81 years old now, but you never know what's going to happen next.
My regards to everyone who is still around.
Readers - The star of many films - he played Deep Throat in All the President's Men - and television programs, Holbrook is perhaps best known for having done over 2,000 one-man shows playing Mark Twain, including runs on Broadway in '66, '77, and '05.
His letter brings back powerful memories of those early Singlehanded TransPac years, prior to the availability of electronic navigation and easy long-range communications. We remember that Bill Collins of Berkeley was presumed lost in the first race, but only because he sailed past Kauai before realizing his mistake. In later races, a few competitors came ashore only to discover they'd landed on the wrong island! The Singlehanded TransPac is still a very challenging event but, given modern electronics, it's nowhere near as challenging as in Holbrook's day.
THE HOT-SHOT GOT A LITTLE TOO CLOSE
After spending the weekend up the coast, we sailed back into San Francisco Bay on Labor Day - and had our first real excitement of the trip just before the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a lot of traffic on the water between Point Cavallo and Mile Rock, including the tug Heidi L. Brusco pulling a dump scow outbound, and the huge container ship Ludwigshafen on her way in. It was late afternoon, the wind was blowing 15 to 25 knots, and the sailboarders and kitesailers were out in force, swarming about like angry hornets. The pilot of the containership sounded his horn again and again to try and get these guys to give him a clear path in, but they seemed to totally ignore him.
Then there was a report on the radio that a kite sailor was down in the channel under the bridge. This is right outside the Coast Guard Station at Horseshoe Cove, so they were on the scene in a hurry. Nonetheless, the containership was only a few hundred yards away, and the pilot was trying to get Vessel Traffic Service to help him figure out which side of the channel he should favor.
A few moments later, the captain of the Heidi L. Brusco was on the radio announcing that he had a kitesailing kite tangled on the scow he was towing! Getting out our binoculars, we were able to confirm that there was a large bit of blue cloth tangled up on the barge. Apparently this hot-shot kite sailor got a little too close - okay, a lot too close - to the dumpscow, tangled his rig, and found himself swimming in the shipping channel right under the bridge.
As far as we know, everybody came out all right - at least this time. But many of these board and kite sailors are really nuts, as they seem to enjoy playing chicken with the big ships. It's only a matter of time before one of them gets sucked under a ship and turned into hamburger. These guys have to be giving the bar pilots nightmares. After all, the smallest gear failure or sudden lack of wind would make these guys sitting ducks for the big ships.
My wife feels that these kite and board sailors should not be allowed to play in the shipping channel. And the analogy she makes is apt: "We don't allow skateboarding on the freeway, so why should we allow kite and board sailors to play in shipping traffic?"
And there certainly is precedent for prohibiting all recreational traffic from crossing a ship channel. (I hope most sailors know this is the Pt. Pinole Channel in San Pablo Bay.)
In general, I'm against unnecessary rules and restrictions, so if it could be clear to the sail and kiteboarders that any consequences would be their own fault, I wouldn't mind if things stayed how they are. But in our over litigious culture, that probably wouldn't be allowed.
And I don't mean to pick on kite and sailboarders. I should also mention that in our last trips on the Bay, I've had skippers of larger sailboats that were overtaking me expect me to keep clear of them! And others who were apparently confused about which is starboard tack.
P.S. In the incident with the barge, the Coast Guard asked the skipper of the tug if he would slow down so they could run out to the barge and release the snagged kite. This was certainly nice of them. But why can they do something like that, but not put a tow line on my boat unless it's a life and death situation?
Bill - We also assumed that the kite and board sailors must drive the bar pilots nuts, but the last time we asked a bar pilot, he assured us that the kite and board sailors around the Golden Gate are so good they haven't been a problem. The answer kind of surprised us because, as you pointed out, it would only take a minor bit of gear failure for a board or kite sailor to be ground into shark-pleasing chum pieces by the prop of a ship or tug.
We can report that on several occasions in the most recent Big Boat Series, skippers had to turn or jibe abruptly - and dangerously - in order to avoid downed sailboarders. We really love kite and board sailors, and we believe there is plenty of room on the Bay for all mariners. Nonetheless, we think it would be wise if they gave other less maneuverable marine traffic a little more space. If things ever get far enough out of hand, we presume that the Coast Guard will step in and restrict board and kite sailors. But we hope it doesn't come to that, and even more that somebody doesn't get killed to bring it on.
LOOKING FOR THE ORIGINAL OWNER
My wife Hayley and I left San Francisco Bay to do the '02 Ha-Ha - and haven't been back since. But 'Lectronic and Latitude - which are both great - always remind us of the great friends and great times we had back in the Bay Area. To quickly update our old friends, Hayley and I continued on south after the Ha-Ha, went through the Canal, and sailed up to the New York area - and into a delicate condition. Hayley gave birth to our son Wyatt in '04, and Amelia turned up a little over a year later. In fact, she's celebrating her first birthday with a sail on Long Island Sound.
I have a favor to ask. If anyone knows how to get in touch with David Hurley, the original owner of our Bristol 40 Limerick, and former member of the St. Francis YC, I would appreciate if they could have him contact me by email. Thanks.
CELL COVERAGE IS SPOTTY ON THE WATER
In the August issue there was a letter from a singlehanded sailor who kept a strobe, whistle, and mirror in his PFD in case he needed help. You replied that you thought it made more sense to carry a cell phone and a VHF radio.
A waterproof VHF is nice, although propagation from a VHF stub antenna at wave height is liable to be quite poor. Cell coverage is spotty on the water, even if the phone is dry. Neither of those two items will quickly alert someone in your immediate vicinity - who are the ones in a position to help - that you need assistance or to tell them where you are.
Xenon - We suppose it all depends on how close you are to receiving antennas for cell phones and VHF transmissons, and what the sea conditions are like. If you're in very rough seas, we don't think any of the aids would help - except a strobe at night.
Antennas for cell phones and VHF radios are generally placed as high as possible for maximum possible reception, and most places we've been - including along much of the length of Baja - cell phone reception has been surprisingly good. And in places such as San Francisco Bay, Catalina, and along the Southern California coast, it's excellent.
It is probable that VHF propagation might be limited or wiped out by being so low or by rough seas. We'll try to remember to do some testing when we get back to tropical waters.
HOW LONG DO PEOPLE CRUISE?
We're out cruising at the moment - members of the Class of October '04 - and would like to know if you have any statistics on how long folks continue to cruise. We've read many of your articles talking about the folks doing the Baja Ha-Ha, the Puddle Jump, but what do they do after that? Based on our experience, maybe less than half of the people who do the Ha-Ha do the Puddle Jump. And when we got to New Zealand, the number of cruising boats that had started with us in North America dropped like flies. We'd guess that over half quit in New Zealand.
Do you have any idea of how many folks continue past New Zealand? We'd guess only about 10% of North Americans. Granted, there are tons of cruising folks in Fiji right now, but most of them aren't folks who came from California in the fall of '04.
We're just curious.
Richard & Jen Eaton
Richard and Jen - We're sorry, but we don't think anybody keeps track of stuff like that. About the closest we can come, is to report that 169 boats did the Ha-Ha in the fall of '04, but only about 50 did the Puddle Jump the following spring. That's probably a typical ratio of Ha-Ha to Puddle Jump boats in any given year. However, that doesn't mean that all the other Ha-Ha boats quit cruising. A good many of them stay in Mexico for a year or more before continuing on, or simply stay in Mexico for good, and/or become longtime commuter cruisers. Others become Southbounders, a larger group than the Puddle Jumpers, who ultimately head to Central America, Panama, and from there east or west. There are also groups of cruisers who sail back to California for the summer to refill the kitty and modify their boats prior to another trip to Mexico and/or beyond. Still another group sails from Mexico to Hawaii and then perhaps Alaska. But we have no idea how many there are in each category.
It doesn't surprise us that you've seen a lot of cruisers swallow the anchor in New Zealand. That they got there means that almost all of them cruised Mexico and all across the South Pacific, usually taking nine or 21 months to do it. For a lot of folks, that's all they have the time and money for, while for others it's satisfied their cruising dreams.
New Zealand is a logical place to stop cruising because it's at the end of the South Pacific Milk Run, for which there is no obvious next step. Continuing on to Australia, Asia, and perhaps the rest of the way around the world requires a major new commitment, and it will leave California cruisers a very long way from home. In addition, once a boat is in New Zealand, it's a long and pretty hard trip all the way back to the United States, and would usually involve going by way of the same places that were visited before. As such, lots of people decide to sell their boats in New Zealand or Australia - assuming that the exchange rates are favorable - or have them shipped back to the U.S.
If we had to make a very wild guess, we'd say that in any given year, the number of Ha-Ha boats that continues to cruise decreases by 50%. So if there were 140 boats that went last year, 70 of them are still cruising or at least still outside of California. By next year there will only be 35 of them out, and the year after that maybe just 17. But again, it's just a wild guess on our part.
HOW ABOUT A 'SEMI-CLEAN SWEEP'?
The statement in the September issue that the Santa Cruz 52 Lightning made a 'clean sweep' in the '06 West Marine Pacific Cup is incorrect because she was not the first boat to finish the race. The Contessa, the Swede 55 sailed by Shawn Throwe and Neil Weinberg in the doublehanded division, finished several hours ahead of Lightning.
Latitude described the proper order of finish in the August article on the Pacific Cup. Other than that gaffe, it was a well-written article. By the way, The Contessa also sailed well south of the layline.
Garry - Perhaps we should have written that Lightning won a 'semi-clean sweep' - in that she had the fastest elapsed time, corrected out first in class, and corrected out first in fleet.
And without taking anything whatsoever from the fine sailing of Throwe and Weinberg, we're going to ask you to consider a few facts and then decide for yourself whether you also might have a problem with The Contessa denying Lightning a clean sweep:
1) Although three feet longer than Lightning, The Contessa took three full days longer to complete the same course.
2) The Contessa only corrected out 24th in fleet - albeit first among the doublehanded boats. Lightning corrected out first.
3) Twenty of the 42 boats in the Pacific Cup fleet - including one boat half the length of The Contessa - had faster, often days faster, elapsed times.
Based on the above facts, doesn't it seem to you that the only reason that Lightning didn't win first-to-finish honors is that the race committee had The Contessa start earlier than perhaps she should have simply because they wanted the doublehanded fleet to all start on the same day?
We want to repeat that we don't want to take anything away from the fine achievement of Shawn Throwe and Neil Weinberg, and will always recognize them as having been the first boat to finish the '06 West Marine Pacific Cup, but do you see our point? We welcome all comments on the subject.
WHAT'S THE STATUS ON FED AND STATE BOAT TAXES?
Could you explain the current tax laws that would apply when purchasing a U.S. Coast Guard-documented vessel outside the United States and then bringing her into California? Our understanding is that there is a 1% federal sales tax that applies the moment the boat enters U.S. waters, as well as 8.75% California sales tax if the vessel is brought into the state within one year of the initial purchase.
Is this correct? If so, is there any time limit after which the federal tax doesn't apply? Does leaving the vessel out of California for more than a year eliminate the California sales tax burden? Can you recommend any other articles or advisors on this matter?
P.S. Thank you for your fantastic magazine and the excellent information and advice you provide each month. We've learned so much about any number of things that we otherwise would have had to learn the hard way, so we eagerly look forward to each month's articles and Letters.
Robb - If the boat was foreign built and had never been brought into the United States, you wouldn't owe federal tax, but you would owe import duty and some other little fees that would add up to about 1.8% of the value of the boat. It's just a one-time fee, but, until it's paid, it will always be owed. If the boat had already been brought into the United States, the one-time duty and fees would already have been paid - just pray that the owner who did this gave you a receipt for paying the duty. If the boat had been built in the United States, no duty would be due.
If you bring the boat - no matter if built in the United States or some foreign country - into California less than a year after you buy her, you will owe state use tax, a tax that can vary between 7.3 and 8.2%, depending on which county you live in. However, if you can demonstrate that the boat was bought for use outside of California for at least one year before you brought her into the state, you shouldn't be liable for that sales tax. But make sure you keep all the relevant paperwork and records.
Prior to '04, you only had to keep the boat outside of California for 90 days, and meet some other relatively simple requirements, in order not to owe the tax. But in '04 the California Legislature passed SB1100 to close this supposed tax loophole. The legislation had a sunset provision that this year was to have returned the law to the pre-SB1100 requirement of having to be out of the state for just 90 days, but in July the Legislature decided to extend the provision for yet another year. You might remember that when the federal income tax was first instituted, it too was supposed to be only temporary. No matter if your representatives are Republican or Democratic, they love to collect and spend your money! It's not clear if closing the supposed tax loophole has resulted in the state collecting more tax money, but we can tell you that the marina owners in Mexico are very delighted with all the money the California Legislature has directed their way. For while boats used to have to stay out of the state - usually in Mexico - for three months to avoid sales or use tax, now they have to stay in Mexico for an entire year.
Just to make sure you don't run afoul of tax law problems, we suggest that you consult an attorney who specializes in this area of law. But we don't recommend any in particular.
HARD LESSONS LEARNED ON PROFLIGATE
In a June letter, I commented on cruising gear that I wouldn't do without. Among these was a modern day watermaker. Just as with indoor plumbing in a land home, it's possible to do without a watermaker on a boat - but it would certainly make it less enjoyable.
You disagreed, and remarked that while Profligate has a wonderful Spectra watermaker, because of frequent trips to marinas, you only found it necessary to use the watermaker during a six-month trip from California to the Caribbean and back, and when you have a dozen or more people aboard for events such as the Ha-Ha.
I doffed my hat to you and agreed to disagree.
Fast forward to the July issue, and Carol Baggerly's letter on the lessons she learned being a member of the Profligate crew doing the Baja Bash. Among the lessons Ms. Baggerly cited learning were:
"7). That I can go for seven days without washing my hair!
"8) If you haven't bathed in eight days, a cold shower on a windy deck feels great!"
My inquiring mind needs to know, what gives? I could understand holding back on the cherries, Captain, if one box was all that you had, but to make the crew go without bathing for an entire week while in possession of a wonderful watermaker sounds like grounds for mutiny. How did you avoid being tossed into the lifeboat?
Jerry - Doña de Mallorca was the captain for that Baja Bash - as she is for most deliveries - and she knows that Profligate is an editorial business machine with a very busy schedule. So deliveries aren't pleasure cruises, they are jobs to be completed as swiftly as possible. As such, when our quick spring editorial tour of the Sea of Cortez was completed and the Wanderer got off in La Paz to get back to work, de Mallorca wasn't going to waste any time getting the boat back to California.
We know Profligate had plenty of water when she left La Paz, because we were there as the combined 250-gallon tanks were topped off. And had we been on the delivery, we almost certainly would have stopped at Cabo for a last tropical swim and shower before starting the Bash. But de Mallorca doesn't mess around when there is work to be done, so once a delivery starts, she's all business. For example, two years ago, she and her crew brought Profligate 2,800 miles from Panama to San Francisco in just 19 days, making just one overnight stop and five four-hour fuel stops in all that time.
This year's Baja Bash wasn't the worst ever, but Profligate can be a lively boat when trying to cover ground quickly directly into the wind and seas. And when you do this 24 hours a day for several days in such conditions, it's sleep, not showers, that is most desired. So when they stopped in Turtle Bay, it was to refuel, crash, and then get moving again at first light. We don't know why Carol didn't take a shower in Turtle Bay, because there was water, and because she could have had a steaming hot inside shower. It's true that de Mallorca has some pretty strict rules when she's captain - nobody is allowed to sit down or read while on watch - but we're sure she didn't deny anybody a hot shower. We just assume that Carol was too exhausted to take one.
WHAT ABOUT WATER IN MEXICO?
While in the process of prepping our boat for the Ha-Ha, we started thinking about water. I didn't really want to spend all the money necessary for a watermaker, and had planned on hauling drinking water back to our boat via collapsible jugs. Then I started thinking about water filtration, and wondered if any of the systems out there would do the trick of making tap water in Mexico safe for drinking on the boat?
There are essentially three ways of purifying water: 1) Filtration using charcoal-activated filters; 2) Reverse osmosis (super-filtration); and 3) Ultraviolet light. The reverse osmosis is just too costly, and I'm not even sure if it's able to filter out whatever it is that makes the tap water in Mexico disagreeable to us gringos. Do you know if the other two methods, which are easier on the pocketbook, are suitable? I think you can get a good UV or activated charcoal system for around $500. If this would work, it might be a good way to go. I would imagine that you can get water pretty much anywhere, and as long as you have plenty of tankage, you could stay away from cities and such for a couple of weeks before needing to refill.
Patrick - In our view, there are only three sensible solutions for obtaining drinking water for your boat in Mexico. The first is to fill your tanks with tap water from marinas. In some marinas this water will have been purified, in others it won't. While there are cruisers who drink this water without any problems, it's not an option that we would recommend. (Some folks do use the ultraviolet filter systems to filter the tap water coming into your boat, but such systems are about $500 not counting installation, the filters are pretty expensive, and obviously it would only work if you're getting your water from a tap in a marina.)
A second solution is to buy bottled drinking water for consumption and cooking, and use regular tap water for showers, washing clothes, and all other purposes. We've taken our various boats to Mexico about 20 times, and have employed this system about 17 of those times. This system is obviously very simple, and involves nothing more than the cost of the water bottles and hauling them down to your boat. You'll be surprised at how little purified water you consume, and hauling the bottles of drinking water to the boat has never seemed to be much of a bother to us - especially since we often pay the check-out kids a few pesos to do the hauling for us.
The third system is a watermaker. These units are really great, particularly if you need large amounts of purified water, have the energy to run them, and are willing to do the maintenance - which is almost nil with many of the newer models. But for simplicity's sake, we often go an entire season without even firing up our watermaker. Based on the 'use it or lose it' theory it might be a bad idea, but that's what we've been doing.
By the way, if you were to buy a watermaker, why would you filter tap water as opposed to water from the good old Pacific Ocean, which is not only more conveniently available, but which probably has a lot fewer microbes?
No matter what methods you employ to get the purest possible cooking and drinking water on your boat, don't be under the illusion that it will prevent you from getting turista. If you spend any time in Mexico, you will get turista, and you will feel as though you're going to die for a day or two. Last year the Grand Poobah got hit with it like a ton of bricks not five minutes after the Ha-Ha Awards ceremony was concluded. Two hours later, he couldn't have lifted his head off his bunk had his life depended on it.
Our theory is that, as time goes on, you develop an immunity to turista. However, this would be contradicted by the fact that from time to time Mexicans get it. Their favorite remedy? Your favorite soda mixed with baking powder.
THE NORM IS TO SPLIT THE COSTS
Please let people know that the Latitude Crew Lists are not a commercial advertisements page to help people goldbrick on boats. I believe the norm is to pay your way for food, diesel fuel and berthing fees - in other words, share the costs for the fun of the adventure.
I have been searching the Crew List for some time now, but don't give a damn if the respondents have a 100-ton master's license. If I wanted hired crew, I would look in the paid advertisements for such, and would expect to pay for your airfare and such. So don't freeload on the Latitude Crew List Web site, you cheapskates!
Doug - When it comes to who pays the bills on a sailing adventure, there are so many variations that we'd be reluctant to say there is a norm.
At one extreme, there are situations that are all but charters, where the crew chips in a certain amount per day or per trip, and/or pays a percentage of all immediate expenses.
(By the way, it's our understanding of the law that a boatowner can accept as much money and/or valuable consideration from guests as he wants, and they won't be considered 'paying passengers', unless the money and/or valuable consideration exceeds the expenses of the trip. However, before acting on this, you'll want to get confirmation from your legal advisor and insurance agent, as it could have expensive consequences. Can pro-rated boat payments, insurance, and berthing be considered 'expenses'? It's a very gray area of the law, so proceed with caution.)
If there was anything like a norm, we'd guess it would be that the owner of the boat pays for all the expenses - except for the transportation of the crew to the boat and home after the adventure, and except for food and drinks while ashore. It would also not be unusual for crew to split the cost of food.
At the extreme other end of the spectrum is the owner who happily pays for all transportation, food, drink, crew dinners and drinks ashore, crew shirts, and even flights for romantic interests of the crew to meet the boat at the final destination.
Then there are many variables. Is the owner and all other members of the crew relatively green, while one member of the crew is very experienced and has been brought along to mentor everyone? In that case he might be paid or have to pay fewer expenses, while the other crew members pay full shares. Arrangements may also depend a great deal on the size and condition of the boat, and how badly others are dying to be part of the crew.
When it comes to the Latitude Crew List, our concern is not what type of arrangement might be wanted or made, but simply that both parties be absolutely clear about the expectations from the outset. Leading someone on would be the worst behavior.
If we might be so bold, we'd like suggest that you refrain from using charged descriptions such as 'goldbrick' and 'cheapskates' to describe others. There are less hostile ways to describe people looking for situations other than the one you are offering, ways that would present you in a more favorable light.
RAFTING BY SCRAP CRAFT
I'm an intermediate level sailor who is extremely interested in living aboard and crewing on other boats. I was wondering if you knew anything about the Floating Neutrinos sailing vessel Absolute Absolution, which is currently on Lake Izabel in Guatemala, having sailed across the Atlantic. I'm thinking about joining them as crew for their next adventure, which is after hurricane season. As such, I was hoping that you guys could direct me to some books that will teach me about the basic physics of sailing and more about Benouli's Principle.
For those who don't know, Absolute Absolution is a unique sailing raft made from recycled buoyant materials (foam). Because it floats on top of the water rather than in it, it's much different from a boat. I'm wondering what the disadvantages of a 54-ft twin-hulled raft that weighs 3,000 pounds and has two 30-ft masts might be when compared with a regular boat. I assume that steering would be more difficult.
I was also wondering if you could direct me toward any literature about the wind patterns around the world. I am curious about how the wind patterns are affected by latitude, the time of year, hurricanes, currents, tides, and so forth. And finally, do you know of any work-trade programs where I could learn to build a sailboat?
Ripley - People are often impressed by westward Atlantic crossings, but they can often be among the easiest in the world. Bombard crossed the Atlantic in a little inflatable, Klepper did it with a small inflatable kayak, and all sorts of Frenchmen have done it with either beach cats or sailboards. One guy 'swam' across, a woman did it with a 24-ft sailboat without any sails, and yet another man did it clinging to a mooring ball. If you can stay alive and your 'vessel' can stay afloat, there's nothing more certain than that you'll eventually get to the Eastern Caribbean from the Canaries.
It seems to us that what you really need is to learn some seat-of-the-pants sailing, so we say forget the books and just get out there and do it. A little 8-ft El Toro on Lake Merritt or other protected waters will teach you all the basics, and if you pay attention, a whole lot more. From there you can spend a few bucks more with organizations such as the Cal Sailing Club or many yacht clubs, and pick up a whole lot more experience and knowledge. You'll also want to do a bit of rough weather sailing outside the Gate so you don't make the new mariner's biggest mistake - underestimating the power of the ocean.
The thing that we wouldn't like about being on a raft is that you'd have so little control over what happens to you. Back in the '70s, George Siegler, who later founded Survival & Safety and started the Singlehanded Farallones Race, built a big raft and tried to drift from San Francisco to Hawaii with several other adventurers. A few days into their trip the raft was, somewhat predictably, flipped in big seas off Pt. Sur. Siegler and his crew insisted on continuing, and got to within 60 miles of the Islands before the military pulled the plug by rescuing them. Had Siegler and his mates been in almost any kind of sailboat, they could have actively taken steps to prevent being rolled over - and probably would have been having a blast surfing their brains out.
If you joined the Neutrinos, we're sure that you would have a hell of an adventure - assuming that you survived. And if you didn't get caught in the continental shelf shallows of Panama when the trades were blowing in the 40s, you'd have a good chance of surviving. But before committing, you might want to ask yourself what your real interest is. Is it rafting, adventuring of any sort, sailing, extreme sailing, pleasure cruising - or being part of an eco-awareness publicity stunt? If you're really committed to the concept of 'sailing scrap across the ocean', and understand the potential dangers, by all means go for it. But might you not be happier scraping together $10,000 and buying the cruised-more-than-halfway-around-the-world-by-two-local-teachers Islander 36 that was recently advertised in 'Lectronic for $10,000? We sure as hell would, but maybe that's just because we prefer to have more control over our boat and our lives. And because sailing to places such as Ibiza, Elba, Capri, Sicily, Malta, Corfu, Hydra, Ios, and Knidos sounds a lot more appealing to us than drifting to wherever the winds and currents takes that raft.
At the most basic level, the winds of the world are caused by the heat of the tropics trying to equalize out with the cold of the poles. This generally results in wide bands of westerlies in some latitudes and easterlies in other latitudes. In ancient times - like 10 years ago - mariners used to rely heavily on pilot charts, which purportedly showed the percentage of the times the wind blew from what direction at different times of year, and how hard it blew from those directions. There were also charts that showed the sailing ship routes for different parts of the world at different times of the year. These are still good references for the general weather patterns, but nowadays most mariners rely on things like GRIB files and Internet weather resources such as www.buoyweather.com, which give seven-day weather forecasts for anywhere in the world for about $70 a year. These sources of weather information are to the pilot charts what Google is to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
IT'S NOT THE MONEY, IT'S THE WATER
The Baja peninsula coastline is a rather squiggly critter, but I'll put my money on the fact that it meanders 1,300 miles between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas. The limiting factor on the possibility of large scale development is not money, investors, or customers, but water.
There isn't sufficient rainfall in Baja to replenish the aquifers. The aquifers at San Quintin and Ciudad Constitución, two of Baja's biggest, have been drawn down to frightfully low levels. Folks are not going to dock at a marina where water is rationed to a few gallons a day. Golfers would be unwilling to play on sandlot courses, and I cannot imagine a condo owner doing without grass or trees.
With regards to the controversy over whether or not to drive at night in Mexico, my excuse for not doing it is that my night vision isn't good enough for a safe journey. Could it be that folks who swear night driving isn't hazardous in Mexico simply have better night vision and faster reflexes?
Jim Elfers comments about Mexico's Highway 19 between Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos being dangerous. It certainly reflects what I found to be true when I lived near Cabo. Even though I drove that 80-kph speed-limit road at just 50 kph, I still managed to whack two steers who darted out from behind chaparral at full speed and halfway across the highway. Lucky for me, both times I was able to skid down from 50 kph to near walking speed before I soundly thumped them. I had a full welded grill guard on my pickup that saved me from radiator woes. Starting in '95, I personally decreed that Mex 19 between Todos Santos and San Lucas is the most dangerous stretch of highway that I have ever suffered.
David - Here are three reasons we don't think that declining aquifers will be a severe obstacle to growth on the Baja Peninsula: Exhibit A is that Marina Cabo San Lucas has made all its own water ever since it was built. Exhibit B is that a number of cruisers have bought into an 18-unit condo project at Punta Mita, a complex that can meet all its water needs through its own desalination unit. Exhibit C is that entire cities the world over have found water desalination to be cost effective.
HELP THE OZONE BY NOT EATING ORGANIC CATTLE
That was a great response you gave in the September issue to the guy who was concerned about fuel consumption, global warming, and so forth. Like you, I have been an advocate of diesel engines for some time now. Of course, I got to know them intimately when out cruising, when I developed a close relationship with Mr. Yanmar. I currently own a diesel pick-up, which, even though it's a big old hog, still gets 20 miles to the gallon.
I was looking for diesel-powered cars, and came to find out that the State of California, in its infinite wisdom, has outlawed them. Now the dealers have waiting lists for diesel-powered cars which have 7,500 or more miles on them, for they can be brought into the state.
You mentioned that you would like to buy a 49 mpg VW diesel when the state of California allows them. Do you have any inside information when that might be? It makes so much more sense to me to put small efficient diesel engines in cars rather than the complicated drive trains and battery banks that hybrids require. They both get about the same mileage, but the diesel engines last forever.
Years ago I was inspired by an article in Latitude about boats running on soy diesel. I was in San Diego at the time, and the America's Cup was going on. So, armed with a grant from the Soybean Farmers of America, I went around to all the America's Cup syndicates to push for the use of soy diesel in their tenders. I didn't get any takers.
Dave - Talk of coincidences. Starting in late August, California gas stations had to sell much cleaner burning - and slightly more expensive - 'ultra low sulfur' diesel. This will not only greatly reduce the diesel particles in the air, but will also pave the way for auto manufacturers to introduce a wide variety of diesel-powered passenger vehicles to the state that couldn't previously meet California's tough exhaust standards.
General Motors, for example, immediately announced plans to sell a full-size turbo diesel pick-up that will have a 25% fuel savings. BMW, Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler and Ford also have diesels in the works for the California market. These won't be the old-style diesels, as they will be quieter, smoother, and deliver more punch at low speeds than gas engines. And, they will rival the hybrids in fuel economy. Now, if somebody could just develop either fuel-efficient diesel engines to power airliners - ha, ha, ha - or devise low-cost teleportation, we'd be free of carbon guilt.
We know this is somewhat off-subject for a sailing magazine, but we can't emphasize enough that such vehicle fuel savings - up to 70% - are as crucial to the world's geopolitical situation as they are to the environment. As we write this, crude oil prices have dropped over 20% in just two weeks. Want to see them drop another 25%? All you have to do is get yourself and all of your friends to use diesel vehicles that are from 25 to 70% more fuel efficient than the big gas guzzlers. If everyone - or even just a whole lot of people - were to do this, it would shift the economic burden of oil back onto our Middle East and Venezuelan oil producing 'friends'. Everyone knows that the U.S. is addicted to oil sold to us by our enemies, but far fewer people appreciate that these enemies are as much or even more addicted to our oil revenues. Since the economies - and precarious social orders - of sworn adversaries such as major oil-producers Iran and Venezuela are almost entirely dependent on oil revenues, if we Americans were to suddenly eliminate a significant percentage of the demand, they'd have no option but to sell fuel to us at what would have to be much lower prices in order to meet their financial obligations. In addition, their international clout would be greatly reduced.
Unfortunately, we're pretty sure the American public has neither the understanding nor resolve to pull it off, but with the proper leadership from Republicans and Democrats - fat chance of that - a real difference could be made. For instance, the savings from the elimination of this 'enemy fuel tax' could be used to finance a hell-bent program to become energy independent.
And in our last word on the subject of climate change, those who care would do well to not only start driving a diesel, but to cut way back on meat-eating as well. According to scientists - and we're not making this up - cattle farts account for about 70% of the world's methane, and methane is 30 times more toxic to the atmosphere than is the CO2 that is normally blamed for so much climate change. Ironically, organic cattle, which eat a lot more grass, fart more often than non-organic cattle, and thus organic meats are to be especially avoided. Just for fun, we're going to try to reduce our meat intake to the equivalent of two hamburger patties a month. We're going to do it for fun, and to see if we're capable of living on as little meat as the typical Cuban.
Now, back to your regular sailing programming.
MEXICANS TAKE GREAT PRIDE IN THEIR PERSONS
I have to say that your September Letters response to Steve Howard on the subject of courtesy flags in foreign waters was perhaps a tad over the top. Leaving aside the increasing decay of both style and grace in this country that your words would seem to justify, we are still left with the unfortunate comparison of Mexico to a "banana republic or African dictatorship." The letter was specifically about Mexico and I wonder, given your years of experience there, if you really meant to draw such an analogy.
The Mexican people have very little in comparison to the lifestyle most of us enjoy, and especially those of us who can afford to dally about their country in a yacht. What they do have is their self-respect. They take great and justifiable pride in their persons, in their heritage and in their country. Is it too much to ask that a visiting yacht display a small token in recognition of their sovereignty? Is it such a burden that this token be clean and properly displayed?
And please, think for a moment about living in a world where everyone, "wouldn't give a hoot what anyone else thought of them." I think it might be a pretty scary place.
Jimmie - In the course of making our point, we used extreme examples, and would never consider Mexico to be like a banana republic or African dictatorship. For example, when President Fox or President-elect Calderon make appearances, they wear subdued dark suits without the ornamentation of 289 or so medals, badges, and other trinkets on their chest that some heads of insignificant countries mistakenly think prove how important they and their country are.
If you read our First-Timers Guide to Cruising Mexico, you'll note that we say personal appearance is very important in Mexico, even more so than in the United States. If you visit official offices well groomed and wearing a clean shirt, long pants, and a real pair of shoes, you'll certainly be treated with more respect than if you arrive unkempt in a dirty T-shirt, filthy shorts, and flip-flops.
The difference between one's personal appearance and the appearance of one's courtesy flag on the starboard spreader of one's boat is that the latter is virtually never seen by any officials. We can't remember the last time any Mexico official looked at - or would have had an opportunity to have seen - our courtesy flag.
It's sort of like the yellow Quarantine flag that tells Customs and Immigration officials that one's boat is ready for processing. Did you fly one when you entered Mexico and when you returned to the States? If you did, you're one of the very few. Of course, if that's all you did, you'd still be waiting for processing, because neither officials in the U.S. or Mexico pay any attention to those flags. In the U.S., you've got to call Immigration and Customs on the phone; in Mexico you've got to go to their respective offices.
There's also the issue of flying courtesy flags properly, which not very many mariners do. As you probably know, you should only hoist the courtesy flag of a country to replace the Quarantine flag after you've finished checking in. Which means, of course, that it's improper for boats in the Ha-Ha to fly the Mexican courtesy flag until they've cleared into Mexico - which they most likely won't do until they get to Cabo.
We respect the point you are making, agree that the decay in style and grace is a shame, and admire mariners who observe proper nautical etiquette - at least to the extent that we understand it. Nonetheless, when it comes to showing respect to a country and a people, we think there are far more effective ways than with a spanking-new but seldom seen or understood little flag flying from the spreaders of a boat.
THE NEW A-8 ANCHORAGE ORDINANCE
On October 6, a newly revised San Diego Anchorage 8 ordinance (#4.36) takes effect. The most objectionable item in the new ordinance is the requirement that each permittee submit a $2,500 security deposit against the possibility that the permittee's vessel would have to be towed and/or impounded.
Despite legal advice to the contrary from the Department of Boating and Waterways and the California State Attorney General's Office, on September 5 the San Diego Port Commissioners voted to incorporate the deposit requirement with complete ambivalence.
The commissioners were told that this action was in violation of the 'California Public Trust Doctrine'. Their response was that, while they may indeed be sued in the future, they could easily handle it when the time comes.
The current stakeholders in the A-8 long-term free anchorage in South San Diego Bay feel that this new requirement is not only discriminatory, but is also punitive to a class of mariners who have been good stewards of their vessels while anchored in the 82-acre roadstead while awaiting their name coming up on a marina's waiting list.
In addition, there are no services or facilities at A-8 - no mooring balls, no electricity, no fuel stations, nothing that would justify such a large deposit. It would also seem that simple liability insurance, which would indemnify the Port, would not be acceptable to them, although it is acceptable to just about every marina in the area.
Therefore, a class action suit will be filed with the appropriate court on October 7 seeking an injunction to stop the ordinance from taking effect. The suit will need an attorney after filing to follow through on the action, which will additionally seek punitive and other damages.
All California mariners are encouraged to join the suit, as it will affect those who wish to stop by San Diego in the future and want to freely anchor in the South Bay without unnecessary encumbrances.
Charlie Ellery, U.S.M.M. ret.
Readers - For more on the A-8 anchorage situation in South San Diego Bay, see this month's Sightings.
HOW DO I GET BACK FROM JAPAN?
Could you give me information on how I can get from Japan to San Francisco by boat or ocean liner? I would really be grateful.
I came to Japan on the assumption that I would teach English, either as an assistant or in some other capacity. Due to my long career in music, I suggested that if this wasn't possible, I could teach music from the basic level to the graduate level. I have the references and resume.
Unfortunately, the job I was supposed to get here was fraudulently misrepresented, and once I got here other locals advised me not to take the job. I could see the problem right away, and have been since looking for other honest employment. But Mito is a small city, and I haven't had much luck.
Japan is a magnificent country. I love it and wish to stay, but my situation in Mito has been terrible.
Christopher James Hume
Christopher - We've heard of unscrupulous people luring beautiful young American women to Japan with promises of 'modeling' careers that turned out to be something else entirely. But falsely luring male English instructors to the land of the Rising Sun is a new one on us.
There are no ocean liners or cruise ships that do the Japan to West Coast of United States run for several reasons. First, it's a very long trip - about 10,000 miles. Second, the weather stinks, as it's overcast, if not rainy, almost the entire way. Third, there is almost nothing to see.
Since it's a lousy route for cruise ships it means it's an even worse route for sailboats. If you read the last issue of Latitude, you know that it took Japanese singlehander Kazuo Murata 96 days to make it here from Japan aboard his 26-footer, and it took Italian Alessander de Benedetto 62 days to make it aboard his 19-ft catamaran. While other cruisers have made it faster, nobody would describe the trip as a pleasure cruise.
Thanks to the direction of the wind and currents, it's particularly difficult to return to the West Coast under sail from the Far East. Your best option is to scrape together enough money to buy a plane ticket to San Francisco. If you still wanted a trip on a cruise ship or small boat, take one to Mexico; you'll be much happier.
WE PUT TOGETHER OUR HA-HA PROGRAM IN 40 DAYS
Our family - My wife Kary and I, and Sally, 10, Kappy, 8, and Seneca, 7 - are so bummed that we won't be able to be part of the Baja Ha-Ha again this year. But we thought you might want to post a photo of Rocket in order to encourage a few more entries.
Too many fine older racing boats - such as Santa Cruz 50s like our Rocket - stayed tied to their docks too much when not being raced. But we put our Rocket to good use last year, both in the Ha-Ha and with our family of five living aboard in Mexico for almost a year of cruising. And we proved that you can put such a program together in just 40 days.
We will definitely miss the wonderful life at sea this year, but will follow all of the Ha-Ha fleet south through 'Lectronic and Latitude. And we'll look forward to seeing the Ha-Ha volunteers and Profligate in future years when we head south again, or hopefully west.
Carl - We remember crossing jibes with you folks on the afternoon of the second leg of the Ha-Ha. You and Rocket looked so sweet that several of our crew remarked that a SC50 would make a great boat for performance cruising. And then six months later we crossed paths again at Evaristo in the Sea of Cortez. Great memories to be sure. Maybe next time it will be at Cook's Bay in Moorea.
Thanks for thinking of encouraging more Ha-Ha entries but, with over 180 paid already, we're set for the year.
BAD THOUGHTS ABOUT ANOTHER PERSON'S BOAT
I've read that Bill Joy, the high-tech guy at Sun Microsystems, is having his first boat built, a Ron Holland 190-footer at Royal Huisman. She's pretty good-looking, too - compared to that barge Falcon that Tom Perkins has.
David - A few times in the last 30 years we've made negative comments about other people's boats, but have always come to regret it. It's in very poor taste, like saying their children are ugly.
To a large extent aesthetic judgements are subjective, but not entirely. For example, when you describe Maltese Falcon as a "barge," you're factually wrong. The nature of a barge is something that is functional, rectangular in shape, beamy with no sheer, and designed to make the maximum use of its volume. Not a single one of those characteristics applies to Falcon, which is elegant, has a very rounded superstructure and a nice sheer, has the length-to-beam ratio of a single catamaran hull, and a volume that has been utilized with great restraint. Barges are also slow and unable to propel themselves, while Falcon just won the Perini Navi Regatta in Sardinia - despite the fact she displaces 1,240 tons and the wind rarely blew over six knots.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with not caring for the design of a boat as unique as Falcon, and we can see how her appearance might come as a shock to those more accustomed to traditional designs and rigs. But when thinking negative thoughts about a boat, it's always good to ask yourself whether you really dislike the boat - or actually have personal issues with someone else's achievements and success.
The 52-year-old Bill Joy, the so-called 'Edison of the Internet', retired from Sun Microsystems, a company he co-founded, in September of this year. He is now a partner in the venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. That's Perkins as in Tom Perkins of Falcon.
Joy's new boat Ethereal is being designed by Ron Holland, who spent some of his formative sailing and designing years in the Bay Area. The 190-ft Ethereal is based on Bruce Katz's Holland 141-ft Juliet, a boat that has spent time on San Francisco Bay, and on which Joy has done quite a bit of sailing. If you're a long-time reader, you may recall that several times over the years we've remarked that, in our opinion, Juliet, along with the 135-ft Alejandra, are the two most beautiful large sailing yachts we've ever seen.
However, you may want to keep in mind that there are two very different ways to view and evaluate boats - one is from a distance, the other from onboard. Almost all the Perini Navis ever built have had an upper level cockpit or much more, which we'll admit tends to make them appear a little top-heavy from a distance when compared to lower and sleeker-looking traditional yachts such as Juliet. But were you to spend some time aboard a Perini or other yacht with an upper level deck, we'd bet you a dollar that you'd be gobsmacked by how spectacular the view and sailing are from up there. It's similar to when we went from our low and lovely Ocean 71 ketch Big O to our Surfin' 63 catamaran Profligate, which has a house that towers 13 feet above the surface of the water. The cat might look a little odd to monohull sailors, particularly when viewed directly on the beam, but once you get aboard and enjoy the commanding view and never needing to wear foul weather gear, you might have a hard time returning to a cave-like monohull. It would be like giving up a South Beach penthouse apartment with a spectacular view of the Bay for a unit on the second floor.
For those keeping track, the really big boats that have been financed by the riches extracted from the technology mines in Silicon Valley belong to Larry Ellison, Tom Perkins, Jim Clark, and Bill Joy. Ellison's flagship, of course, is the 450-ft motor-yacht Rising Sun, and he may also still own the stealth-looking 192-ft Ronin. His sailing fleet consists of lord knows how many BMW/Oracle America's Cup boats. Perkins owns the 289-ft Falcon and the impeccably restored 122-ft motoryacht Atlantide, having sold his previous Perinis and the fantastic 1916 135-ft Herreshoff schooner Mariette. Clark owns the 295-ft clipper ship Athena, built by Huisman, which, although six feet longer than Falcon overall, is somewhat smaller in all other respects. If we're not mistaken, Clark continues to own the very handsome 156-ft Frers-designed Hyperion. And then there's Joy's new boat, which won't be completed for a year or so.
In a way, we view these boats as the last of an era - or at least we hope they are. As everyone knows, we humans - particularly we Americans - have been living through a time of ever-increasing excess - in cars, homes, boats, food, and just about everything else. We're not extreme environmentalists, and in fact we might be the last people in the world who aren't 100% convinced that the current climate changes aren't within historical norms and/or might not be a good thing overall. Nonetheless, we think that perhaps we Americans need to start entering the era of what might be called enlightened restraint. In the past, bigger was always better, and magnificent stuff was built just because it could be. As much as we love spectacular creations of man - including huge yachts - and as much as we think people should be able to do whatever the hell they want with their money, we don't think 'bigger is better' is a sustainable concept.
We don't have any problem with Maltese Falcon, which was started about seven years ago, and built from a hull that had been sitting idle for about a dozen years. She's a very innovative boat and, while some may not care for her look, there is no denying that she's spectacular. In fact, if you get a chance, page through the huge feature on her in Boating International, as the interior photos really do her justice.
However, if someone were to come to us today and announce they were going to build, from scratch, a new 300-ft yacht, our reaction would be to wonder if they really needed quite so large a yacht.
Bill Joy's new boat, the design of which was started several years ago, is meant to be an "ambassador of green," and features all sorts of eco-friendly systems. Since she was started years ago, we're happy to give her a 'pass' too. But if somebody else were to propose the same boat today, we'd again have to wonder if a yacht 20% smaller couldn't be adequate. After all, how seriously can you hope to be taken as an environmentalist if you own such a large yacht? The only way we can imagine it is if you and your venture capital partners fund a company that is able to use the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen entanglement principles to develop low cost public teleportation, thereby saving all that jet and car fuel that is causing climate fluctuations. Alas, we don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.
WE'RE FROM THE GOVERNMENT, AND WE'RE HERE TO UNDERMINE OUR OWN AUTHORITY
Here is a very brief summary of part of Canada's proposed new regulations for boat sewage. All vessels in Canadian waters would:
1) Maintain a 'Sewage Record Book' or log. All transfers of sewage, even just from a head to a holding tank, would have to be recorded. This would include the vessel's location at the start and finish of the transfer, including the ship's speed, the amount of sewage transferred, and so forth. It would require a record of each use of the head.
2) All discharges of treated sewage would be prohibited within three miles of the nearest land, and all discharges of untreated sewage would be prohibited within 12 miles of land - except into "a reception facility," meaning a pump-out station. This would hold true even where the nearest pump-out station was over 100 miles away. By the way, there are no Type II MSDs made that meet the treated sewage requirements.
These requirements would effectively convert all of British Columbia into a no-discharge zone, with a grossly inadequate number of pump-out stations. The fine for violating these regulations? One million dollars.
Boating interests, yacht clubs, and others are trying to convince Transport Canada to amend the proposed regulations. So far all the proposals have been rejected. We are hoping that a large public outcry will cause them to reconsider.
It reminds me of Ronald Reagan's quote that the most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."
John - If the Canadian government were wise, prior to proposing such legislation they would have provided clear and conclusive proof of why it was necessary, and offered reasonable and affordable solutions to the problems it creates for mariners. As is stands now, we imagine the boating public believes that the proposed legislation is a solution to a problem that largely doesn't exist, and that it represents a massive and unwarranted intrusion into mariners' privacy. The net result? Overwhelming non-compliance on the part of mariners and a lack of respect for authority. Well done, legislators!
By the way, how long before you Canadians require swimmers, surfers, and divers to wear diapers to prevent them from peeing into the ocean?
WE'RE A CRUISING FAMILY, NOT A HIPPIE GROUP
When reading the June issue Changes, I noticed an item by Bob van Blaricom that seemed to refer to an incident that happened to my family on our boat in Ensenada. The item was obviously written by one of those typically uptight cruisers who assumes they are better than everyone else and think they always know what's going on.
For one thing, this UFO sighter aboard Tootsie indicated that there were two ferro-cement sailboats involved in the fracas when actually there was only one - my dark blue 73-ft schooner, not a ketch, Onceaginn. The other boat was the Westsail 32 Floriencia, which is made of fiberglass.
We're not a "hippie group," but rather a cruising family that bought a boat and repaired her ourselves. It's taken a lot of work over a period of three years, and we've still got more to do.
The antagonist in the incident was Mel, the guy with the Westsail, who I consider to be a twisted Vietnam vet. It's my understanding that he's been kicked out of every port he's been in, and has been permanently banned from Catalina Island. In addition, he's had his VHF confiscated several times by the Coast Guard for blatant misuse, foul language, and threatening Coast Guard and Homeland Security agents. And that was just in San Diego.
What happened in Ensenada is that Mel became so enraged that I wouldn't work on his Westerbeke diesel that he proceeded to terrorize my family while my crew Jeremiah and I were in town. He charged my boat in a drunken rage and began throwing cherry bombs at my 12-year-old daughter LeeAnna and my better half, Sarah McElroy. I heard the cherry bombs going off while I was in town, and some friends told me there was a problem at my boat. So Jeremiah and I rushed down to our inflatable and began rowing out to Onceaginn as quickly as possible. While on the way, Bob, an American friend, came by with his dinghy to pull us out toward our boat faster.
After Mel threw another cherry bomb at my boat and girls, he noticed us approaching. He turned his rigid inflatable toward us and rammed us broadside at full throttle. Both Jeremiah and I were knocked into the water, at which point Mel circled back and tried to run us over! But this time he came so close that I was able to surge up, grab the back of his shirt, and pull him out of his dinghy and into the water. Bob then helped Jeremiah and me into his dinghy. Mel managed to grab a line trailing from his dinghy and sped off. As he left, he kept yelling that he was going to kill us all.
Someone called the Mexican Navy, and they came to our boat and Mel's boat to take a report. Mel settled down over the next several days, but we decided we didn't want to get attacked again, so we returned to San Diego to wait out the hurricane season before heading south.
The moral is be careful out there, because Mel is still on the loose. He's supposedly heading to Costa Rica.
We'd had a wonderful time for the eight months we were in Ensenada until that drunken fool showed up. The locals treated us like family and with respect - in fact, more respect than shown by the close-minded cruising gringos with more money than boat savvy or brains. Anyway, fair winds and following seas to all the real sailors out there. We'll see the rest of you at the docks you rarely leave.
Brett - Our apologies for not publishing your version of the incident until now, as we misplaced your letter in our computer. We've been unable to contact Mel for his side of the story, but in fairness have to report that another skipper who has shared an anchorage with you describes you as "something of an anarchist."
As for Bob van Blaricom, he's about the nicest, most accomplished, down-to-earth sailor you'd ever want to meet. His report was no doubt affected by the fact he didn't have the best view of the incident and was later given some erroneous information by others in the anchorage. Had you the opportunity to meet him in other circumstances, we're certain you'd like him.
By the way, we checked out your Web site at jonesonwater2.bravehost.com, and got a kick out of First Mate Sarah McElroy's description of the spontaneous beginning of your adventure:
"It all started in Lilliwaup in December of '03, when Brett and I were sitting on the couch watching television. He said, 'Hey baby, you wanna buy a sailboat and see the world?'
"'Sure, whatever,' I replied somewhat sarcastically. The next morning I went to wash my face in the bathroom sink, but to my surprise the bathroom soap had already been packed by Brett's high-spirited daughter LeeAnna. In just three days Brett and his computer skills had lined up two sailboats as possibilities. There was a 55-ft ferro-cement schooner in San Diego that needed work, and a turn-key 45-ft Spray replica in Louisiana. We decided on the schooner and were in San Diego a week later. We arrived with less money than we expected, but the yacht broker told us that if we offered one-quarter of the asking price, he could almost guarantee that the owner would accept it. Brett had really been set on trading the custom Harley he'd just built for the Spray because it was closer to where we wanted to start our adventures from, but we bought the schooner anyway. It's been three years of work, but we should be headed south this winter."
SAIL DAY IN B.L.A. FOR INNER CITY KIDS
In late July, six cruising boats based in Bahia de los Angeles, Baja, for the hurricane season, hosted 15 boys and girls and six adults for an afternoon sail on the bay. The kids were down from Hoover High School in San Diego for a five-week educational program with an emphasis on marine sciences, the environment, and community service. It was organized by Aquatic Adventures (www.aquaticadventures.org). Hoover is an inner-city high school, and the goal of Aquatic Adventures is to supplement programs in schools where budget cuts have reduced coverage of the sciences.
The skippers of all six boats anchored off the dinghy landing at Guillermo's at 1 p.m. and then dinghied in to meet the guest crews. Once the crews had been ferried out to the boats, the 'race' was on. We aboard Nakia raised anchor under sail, and were first to lead the fleet out from the village on a close reach toward Isla Cabeza de Caballo. Once there, we tacked toward Isla la Ventana. When it was time to return, most skippers had their crews set spinnakers for the downwind run back to the village. It was a beautiful sight to see six boats sailing as a fleet on the bay.
The kids were encouraged to help raise and lower sail, jibe and tack, and even drive the boats. We told them a bit about the cruising lifestyle, and they had many wonderful questions. After the boats anchored, everyone jumped into the warm water for a refreshing swim before being dinghied back to the beach. We were fortunate to have a perfect day for the event, as it had been preceded by days of thunderstorm activity and was followed by strong southeasterlies from Tropical Storm Emilia.
We can't say enough about how terrific this event was. The students were enthusiastic, inquisitive, and just a delight to have on board. And it's always refreshing for jaded old salts to experience the thrill of sailing through the eyes of appreciative youngsters.
We'd like to extend a big thank you to everyone who was involved. There was Stan, M.J. and El Gato Gale aboard SolMate who got the ball rolling along with us; John and Linda aboard Nakia; Jay, Janice, and bad dog Buster who picked up the idea and ran with it. Also Lance, Jo, and guard puppy Rocky of Ceilidh, and Darrell and Rita of Overheated, who rushed north from Santa Rosalia to be here in time. There was also Genie, Vicky, Fiona-6, and good dog Clipper of Caravan, who called us on the VHF and asked to be included, and even Larry and Jackie of Liberty, who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute because of engine problems. And finally, there was Larry and Lois of Rancho Pacifico, who are land-based for most of the year, and who threw the great parties that brought everyone together in the first place!
Linda Hill & John Gratton
Linda and John - Well done to all of you who participated! And, we might add, to all the other cruisers who donate their time and energy to many other worthwhile causes and projects in so many foreign countries. So many cruisers retire to go cruising, but after a few months get irresistible itches to help the local folks out.
180,000 HOOKS IN THE SEA OF CORTEZ EVERY DAY?
Knowing that Latitude has such a wide following, and that you love Mexico and the Sea of Cortez, made us think that you would be interested in getting the word out about new plans for devastating gill-netting in the Sea of Cortez.
The problem is that the Mexican government is apparently going to allow longliners in the Sea. Mike McGettigan, the founder of Sea Watch, reports, "New proposals by CONAPESCA (Mexican Fisheries) and backed by the United States-based Defenders of Wildlife will devastate the already overfished stocks of dorado, billfish, sharks and turtles in the Sea of Cortez. Juan Carlos Cantu, the Mexican representative of the United States-based NGO Defenders of Wildlife, has worked out an agreement with the commercial fishermen of Canainpesca that would allow longliners into the Sea Of Cortez. Up to 200 longliners, 6,000 miles of longline, and 180,000 hooks could be in the Sea of Cortez on any given day! These proposals must be stopped immediately!"
If you go to the Sea Watch Web site, www.seawatch.org, you can learn all about the policies that are contributing to the devastation of the fisheries in the Sea of Cortez.
Chuck Houlihan & Linda Edeiken
Chuck and Linda - We haven't seen McGettingan in a number of years, but in our estimation his Web site does the best job of showing some of the terrible things that have been and are happening to the fishery in the Sea of Cortez. Please take five minutes and see streaming video of all the abuses they have documented. We encourage everyone to not only become involved, but to prod the much larger - and long conspicuously absent - environmental organizations to lend their influence to this incredibly important natural resource.
IT MIGHT'VE BEEN THE VOYAGER OF THE WHULGE
We recently made a sail from Richmond to Tiburon. As we approached Angel Island, I noticed a semi-submerged backpack in the tide line. We came about and managed to grab the backpack. Judging from the crustaceans and grass growing on it, the thing had been in the water for a while.
I was surprised at how heavy it was. The backpack was so round that the kids thought there might be a skull inside. Nonetheless, I waited until we docked to investigate further. When I did, I discovered some clothes and some pharmacy receipts that suggested the owner of the backpack might be HIV positive. It crossed my mind that he/she might have been despondent and jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge while wearing the backpack.
When evening came, we left the dock, minus our kids, in company with Laurie at the helm of her Swan 38 Truant. I was below while Brian stood watch. To make things interesting, the compass wouldn't work. But we figured we could dead reckon our way home.
But as we passed Angel Island, a low fog rolled in through the Gate and we began going around in a circle. Laurie and I started to get a bad feeling. It occurred to us that the backpack might have something to do with it - so we threw it back into the Bay! And you guessed it, as soon as we did, the fog lifted and we made it home just fine.
Our lessons of the day? A compass is a must, and be careful what you might pick up from the Bay.
Neil - Having not had any paranormal experiences since levitating from the floor of an East Oakland pizza parlor in 1971, we tend to think there are usually logical explanations for things that initially strike some people as unfathomable. Unfortunately, you've provided us with precious little in the way of factual information about your incident.
For example, what exactly do you mean when you say the compass "didn't work"? Was the needle merely stuck pointing to the west when it should have been pointing to the east, or was it something much more lively, such as the needle flying around in irregular circles as though guided by the hand of an invisible descendant of the Voyager of the Whulge? Was the compass feature on your GPS also not working?
You were similarly nonspecific about the boat beginning to go "around in a circle." Was it a full circle, or was it just a start of a circle - as could easily have been caused by crossing a tide line? Did you do any investigating to try and discover any logical reason for the boat turning? For example, was anybody tugging on the arm of the person at the helm? Or, if the boat was on autopilot, was anybody leaning on the '10 degrees to port' button? Did you see if there was any change if the helmsperson was replaced or the autopilot turned off or on? It's surprising what can be learned from basic troubleshooting such as that. On the other hand, we suppose your boat's bow could have been nudged by the Raccoon Strait Monster, the as yet unseen distant relative of the Loch Ness Monster.
Of course, the fact that the fog backed off as soon as you threw the backpack back into the Bay would seem to be incontrovertible evidence that something truly weird was going on - were it not for the fact that the same thing happens there about 320 evenings a year. Now if one of your crew had spontaneously combusted, then you really would have gotten our attention.
All we can say is we hope there wasn't anything valuable in the backpack you tossed back into the water without carefully examining the contents.
YOU SHOULD SEE THE TRAIN STATION IN MONACO
It was interesting to read your comparison about how dynamic Monaco has been making great strides with their waterfront and marina, generating huge revenues, while Honolulu's Ala Wai Yacht Harbor has been allowed to deteriorate so badly that many of the slips have had to be condemned and revenue opportunities lost.
It just so happens that my mom just returned from a trip to Monaco, and she said that there is a big multi-story garage in at least part of the new breakwater. Apparently, the engineers built the garage, then sunk it in place. It sounds crazy, but you should see the train station Monaco built into the side of a cliff. Real estate is at such a premium there that practically all new construction is vertical. It's like cramming a few million people into Tiburon - all of them with their own Ferraris.
Jim - We not only saw the train station while in Monaco, we took a photograph of it. And it's not only real, it's spectacular!
How can Monaco, whose population of 32,000 lives in an area less than two miles by one mile, be able to afford such a magnificent but difficult-to-build train station without the residents being assessed any income tax? Simple, the government knows how to get the most out of what assets they have. Forget the Casino de Paris, the Principality's economy thrives because of tourism. And no matter if you have $20 or $2,000 to blow, Monaco really is a fun place to visit.
The way we see it, if the Hawaiian Legislature would turn over the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor to an intelligent marina developer and manager, the Ala Wai could become such a cash cow for the state that it would be heard mooing all the way from South Point on the Big Island to Niihau in the northwest. Not only that, but taxpayers, mariners, surfers, fishermen, joggers, and sunset-watchers would all have better facilities.
But we think big and have an even better solution. As USA Today reported on September 15 in a front page story, many cities in the United States, fed up with their government employees, are hiring private companies to run all but their fire and police departments. Given the desultory reputation of the state of Hawaii government, and the widespread dissatisfaction with the influence of state employee unions, would the citizens of Hawaii not be better off if the entire state government - minus the fire and law enforcement - were turned over to a private company? Judging from the state's monumental mismanagement of the Ala Wai, it hardly seems that a private company could do worse.
One thing is for sure, if the dynamic and daring visionaries in Monaco were in charge of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, it wouldn't be the marina slum that the State of Hawaii has allowed it - and its other small boat harbors - to become.
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