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AN UNUSUALLY HAPPY ENDING TO A HA-HA
We had the pleasure of sailing in the 2006
aboard Andrew Vik's Beneteau 38 Sea Fox. After planning
this trip for about a year we were very excited when, this past
month, it finally came to fruition. We would like to share our
story because our experience was truly an adventure of a lifetime.
Jennifer and Fredrik - Congratulations!
With a reasonably long ocean passage under her belt, do you think
that Jenny might be interested in doing the Puddle Jump for her
I'm sitting in a cushy chair here in California getting my first chemo treatment. Across from me is a man who is also getting chemo. But he's on his last treatment, and is talking about sailing around the world aboard his Portland-based Catalina 42. He says a circumnavigation is something he's wanted to do his entire life, and it's taken cancer to motivate him to actually do it. How lucky is that, living through cancer to be able to start your dream?
It's ironic for me to be sitting across from a man who is ending his cancer treatments to go cruising, as my husband and I have been lucky enough to have cruised for six years and 25,000 miles before I had to start my treatments. As the blood-red Adriamycin flows into my veins, I close my eyes and listen to the man's stories of how he is going to sail down the coasts of Oregon and California to San Diego and start his trip with the Baja Ha-Ha. I smile at remembering it wasn't that many years ago that I told my friends that I was retiring, that my husband of 20 years and I were selling our home and all our possessions, and we'd be taking off on the adventure of a lifetime. And what an adventure it's been! Did I really see all those beautiful places, meet all those incredible people from all walks of life, experience things that most people can't imagine? Yes, I did!
I was one of those who said that I was going to follow my dream - and did. It wasn't easy, as it meant that I would be sailing away from my five children and three grandchildren, as well as all our friends. But we sold our six-acre place, got rid of our horses, cattle, dogs and cats, and auctioned everything else off lock, stock and barrel. After a big bon voyage party, off we went. Instead of continuing a career in which I was my own boss, I became the captain's first mate, and moved into accommodations that were a heck of a lot smaller than our former home.
Do I have any regrets about my decision to go cruising? No. Actually, it would be more accurate to say "hell no!" I missed my children, of course, but thanks to SailMail and coming home at least once a year, it wasn't as bad as it might have been. But I'd go cruising again in a heartbeat.
So how did I end up here with this blood-like substance flowing into my arm, a process that leaves me very sick and losing my beautiful, long blond hair? Like hundreds of thousands of other women - and men - I have breast cancer. I assumed that I would be about the last person to get it, as cancer doesn't run in my family, I haven't smoked, I eat healthy foods, I exercise and, except when we run into bad weather, I've had little stress in my life.
Every year when I came home, I had a mammogram. This year they saw something, did a biopsy and it tested positive. We did a lumpectomy and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. They found more cancer. The next course of action was a mastectomy of one breast, a lymph node dissection, and reconstruction. Because my cancer is very aggressive, I need chemotherapy. I will be taking Heceptin, a new drug that targets my HER-2/neu-type cancer for about a year. So here I sit, getting the first of three chemo drugs that I will be taking for the next 18 months while I dream of my life sailing the Pacific.
For those of you with dreams, remember that they can't come true without your health. So take good care of yourself and get regular medical check-ups. After telling my story to our Aussie friends, one of them went back to Oz and got a mammogram. She learned that she had breast cancer also. Luckily they found it early, so she won't have to have a mastectomy.
I will return to my life at sea, as this cancer is just a little detour in my life. In the meantime, I'll get to see my children and grandchildren, and my husband and I will be getting another little place with horses. As they say, "when life sends you lemons, make lemonade."
For those of you who just started out with the Ha-Ha, I say "Good on ya," like they say Down Under. For those of you who are dreaming about doing it some day, enjoy every day!
I hope that my story can help somebody
else. Please ladies, get your mammograms!
ONE OF THE GREATEST SAILING ACHIEVEMENTS
Last month Frenchman Lionel Lemonchois sailed the 60-ft ORMA trimaran Gitana II to a new La Route du Rhum record. He covered the 3,510-mile St. Malo, France, to Guadelupe, French West Indies, course in just 7 days, 17 hours - an average of 19.1 knots.
This was one of the greatest sailing achievements
in a very long time. The guys who race these 60-ft trimarans
are true geniuses, being able to singlehand purebred Formula
One boats across the Atlantic Ocean at speed. I admire these
sailors and are proud that they are French. Where are the Americans?
Jean - We couldn't agree with you more. Averaging 458 miles a day singlehanded, Lemonchois would have covered the San Francisco-to-Oahu West Marine Pacific Cup course in about 4.5 days. Although 60-ft ORMA trimarans have been around for awhile, and have a history of being subject to complete destruction in very heavy weather, in our opinion they are the most exciting class of boat in the world. As for their skippers, they are some of the most brilliant and courageous sailors ever. As Americans we're sort of embarrassed that we are so far behind the French in this area of sailing.
PROHIBIT KITE AND BOARDSAILING?
I'm responding to J.C. Martin's November letter titled Kiters, Boarders, and Bubbly-Sipping Sailors, in which he defined kiteboarding and sailboarding as two separate activities. He also made the argument that kiteboarders should be restricted due to the high number of them that require assistance in making it back to shore, while sailboarding should have no limitations because of the relatively small number of them that need assistance.
In 2005, statistics show the U.S. Coast
Guard recovered 78 sailboarders and 65 kitesurfers who had launched
from either Crissy Field or Fort Baker. This statistic invalidates
Martin's argument, and should open a discussion about prohibiting
both activities in the area due to: 1) The high number of boarders
and kiters who require assistance, 2) The resources and personnel
hours expended by the U.S. Coast Guard, 3) The navigational problems
boaters and kiters pose to both recreational and commercial traffic.
Amy - The idea of prohibiting kite and boardsailing seems draconian to us. We recognize that there are safety issues that need to be addressed, but the last thing we'd like to see is kite and boardsailors being given the boot from the best parts of the Bay.
I HOPE MY SPRING LINES WRAP IN YOUR PROP
My letter is to the scum who stole the spring lines that help keep our trimaran tied to the dock. You know who you are, and I suspect that you're enjoying yourself in Cabo at the moment. Fortunately for us, we take our boat out fairly regularly, so we discovered the loss of our springs before the bow line chafed through on the piling. The springs you 'liberated' from our boat are what keep her from moving forward on her side-tie - where the bow line can chafe on the piling - or moving backward and bouncing against the transoms of the cat behind us. Those spring lines weren't just for decoration or put there by some crusty sailor being overly cautious by using more than two lines to tie up his boat. The shape of our trimaran, the way we fit our side-tie and good seamanship require that we use a bow line, a stern line, and fore and aft springs.
While I have extreme confidence in the splices I put into those lines myself - and trust me, if I'm walking the dock in Puerto Vallarta this spring and you're using them to hold your boat to the dock, I will recognize them - I hope that you use them as a snubber on your anchor, and some night when it's blowing 50 they part suddenly with a nice rocky shore right behind you. Or maybe the end of one of the springs will fall off your boat and wrap your prop shaft. I know the splice will hold, so either the shaft will bend or the cleat will pull out. If I'm lucky, both will happen.
Anyway, I sure hope you read this and think about it each time you use those lines. Was stealing the lines to save $50 really worth it?
P.S. Having done a quick loop through the
Pacific, we're back in Pt. Richmond, landbound once again.
Readers - If Don sounds a little rocky, it might be because the theft of the spring lines put at risk the trimaran his family built and sailed around the world twice.
I CAN'T LEAVE CALIFORNIA FAST ENOUGH
Of all the places I've been in the world, Southern California is the most inhospitable to visiting mariners. Ft. Lauderdale is a close second. In a large part it's because the Coast Guard shirked its responsibilities in the '80s by not taking control of the anchoring laws and regulations of the federal navigable waters.
Back in the early '80s, there was a woman in Stewart, Florida, who risked having her boat confiscated by almost singlehandedly fighting off the most ridiculous anchoring ordinance ever, legislation that had been concocted by the elected clowns of Stewart. Eventually, this group joined with one in California, but neither was heard from again.
At the time, the Commander of the Coast Guard announced that it was their intention to shirk their responsibilities of regulating the federal navigable waters of the U.S., falling back on excuses such as they were "too stretched out" because of having to conduct drug interdictions. Nonetheless, they still seemed to have plenty of time to harass ordinary citizens. Interestingly enough, it appears that in Washington state, at least, the Coast Guard also has the time to be the state's tax collectors, making sure even federally documented vessels have paid their state boating sticker taxes.
The bottom line is that, because there is no federal authority regulating anchoring, every little podunk town, village and hamlet in America has now created their own set of anchoring regulations. There is no rhyme or reason to many of them, no continuity from one place to the other, and no way for the traveling mariner to know if he will be able to find shelter at a destination in order to sleep. In addition, the enforcement agencies in the various places often 'enforce' nonexistent local ordinances, as well as real ones. As such, they serve as the town bullies to get transient mariners to move on.
Some may say that the problem is just with the local officials, but I say 'bull' to that! It was the local resident lame-brains who elected the lame-brain officials who wrote the anchoring ordinances! And yes, it does reflect on all of you Californians, as it tells visiting mariners: "We don't like you, we don't want your business, we don't want you around." Anyway, I got the message, and can't leave California soon enough!
Our greatest enemy is not the terrorists
of the world, but our own politicians and civil servants, both
Republican and Democrat. Our forefathers warned of this but,
alas, we as a nation have ignored their warning.
Ken - It would have been very helpful if you would have stated which changes you would like to see in which places. Based on our considerable experience moving from port to port in Southern California, we think that, overall, the local governments are reasonably hospitable to transient mariners - including those on budgets. For example, there are low cost/no cost places to anchor, moor or berth for two weeks or more at Santa Barbara, Oxnard, all the Channel Islands, Marina del Rey, Newport Beach, Dana Point, and San Diego. The exceptions are Ventura, Long Beach and Oceanside, where the prices are a little higher - but nothing like comparable urban centers on the East Coast.
TRYING TO PRESERVE MEXICO'S NATURAL WONDERS
I'm a regular reader of Latitude
and usually find it to be lots of fun, as you have great articles
about exotic places and adventures at sea. And during the past
few years, I've been impressed by what you've published about
Americans trying to help preserve what's left of Mexico's declining
fisheries. This is why I was surprised and discouraged when I
read, on page 198 of the November
issue, the letter from a Canadian
woman providing tips on how to buy illegal lobster on the Baja
The writer mentioned about always leaving
something "para los niños." Why don't
we think about leaving them with an intact eco-system?
Bob - The Cedros to Punta Abreojos lobster fishery is currently worked by about 500 fishermen belonging to nine fishing cooperatives and spread over 10 villages. Legislation for the fishery was first drawn up in the 1940s, during which time fishing rights were allocated to cooperatives. The fishery is managed by the Sub-Delegation of Fisheries in cooperation with the National Fisheries Institute and government research bodies. Management involves a combination of limited entry, strict delineation of cooperatives' fishing areas and community-based self-regulatory measures. Regulatory measures in place include area closures, minimum legal size, fishing gear restriction and protection of gravid females. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is approximately 1,300 tonnes. Ninety percent of the lobster is for export to Asia, France and the United States, while only 10% is sold domestically, mainly to restaurants.
Your basic assumption seems to be that the red rock lobster (panulirus interruptus) fishery of Baja - like that of the abalone in California - is in great danger. According to the experts such as the World Wildlife Foundation, you couldn't be more wrong. In April of '04, the WWF announced that Baja's red rock lobster fishery was the first Latin American fishery, and the first fishery in the developing world, to be recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label as a sustainable fishery. In order to have achieved that status, it had to pass a rigorous, independent review for compliance with global criteria for sustainable and well-managed fisheries - meaning that "their seafood product was caught in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner, helping solve, not contribute to, crises facing the world's fisheries."
To us, this means when some pangañeros come to you and offer lobster - as happened to Profligate the minute she entered Turtle Bay during this year's Ha-Ha, and has happened to us each of the 20 or so times we've taken our boats to Mexico - the potential victim is not the lobster fishery itself, but rather some nearly infinitesimal bit, say 1/5,000,000th, of the cooperative's share of income from the fishery. For what it's worth, we didn't buy the lobster offered to us and, indeed, we haven't bought any for many years.
During each Ha-Ha, we explain to the fleet that the only legal way for a non-Mexican to have a lobster in their possession is when it's on a plate in a restaurant. But we're not dumb or blind, so we know that each year there are a number of sportfishing guys, cruisers and other mariners who do buy or trade for the bugs on the Baja coast. While this is against the letter of the law, there are three reasons we don't lose a lot of sleep over it: 1) The fishery is not in danger; 2) The quantity is all but negligible; 3) Most important of all, there is a long and deep bond between all who go to sea, and trading and bartering between cruisers and pangañeros is often a way of expressing friendship and respect.
The author of that letter you refer to is Shari Bondi, who was born in Canada and did some cruising. A number of years ago, she married a Mexican fisherman and settled down at Ascensión village, which is just south of Turtle Bay. It's our impression that Bondi has been a sort of one-woman Canadian Peace Corps volunteer in that area, busting her ass to improve the lives of all those who live in and around Ascensión. If you want to second-guess or disagree with the comments of a community volunteer on the scene in Ascensión from your place in Cupertino, it's your right, but we thought her comments were worth hearing.
What to do when offered lobster in Mexico? We suggest asking for fresh tuna or dorado instead, as both are legal and taste better than lobster.
In a distantly related topic, we're please to announce that Greenpeace has finally dispatched one of their ships to the Sea of Cortez to try to help preserve the many fisheries there. This is a really important endeavor, and we wish them the best of luck.
WE'RE NOT SAYING IT CAN'T BE DONE BUT . . .
I own a 1981 Catalina 25 with a tiller,
swing keel and standard rig. I'm wondering if you folks know
of anybody who has sailed one of these from San Diego to Hawaii.
Larry - No, we don't know of anybody. But if you called Frank Butler at Catalina Yachts, we're pretty sure he'd tell you that the 25 was designed and built for relatively protected waters, not ocean crossings.
PURE SFB SEASMANSHIP
Regarding the skipper sailing Macondo through the crowd of recreational boats anchored for the Fleet Week Air Show, I've got to agree that it was a fine piece of sailing on his part. On the other hand, it was pure SFB seamanship.
We were also on the hook in the front row in the center of the north side of the box for that event. The tide changed from flood to ebb in about 10 minutes, and pretty soon we had a 3.5 knot current pushing our speed log. Boats were dragging all over the place, fiberglass was getting crunched here and there, and the freshening breeze was kicking up a pretty good chop against the current. I was standing at the helm chewing on a rib and watching the chaos in the fleet when I looked over my shoulder and saw this guy sailing Macondo under spinnaker alone. He was doing a commendable job of weaving through the crowd, passing within Grey Poupon reach of us and the tiny skiff that had anchored to our port.
So what's the big deal? As a competent skipper, he was clearly able to tell which of the boats he was bearing down on were anchored and which were trying to hold station against the tide. And, of course, his many years of old salt experience allowed him to know which of those skippers holding station were paying attention to him and who might have been a little distracted. And finally, he knew his boat and his crew and, should it actually have become necessary to make an evasive maneuver that would have put him beam-on to the current and wind, he clearly had a plan for managing his only sail in the 20-knot gusts without losing control.
I have nothing but admiration for sailing skills, but the first rule of seamanship is to try to avoid situations that might take all of your seamanship skills to get out of. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.
By the way, having completed our circumnavigation
aboard Manu Kai, Jen and I have sold her to a delightful
guy who is fixing her up for a voyage to Fremantle, Australia,
which will be her new home. We are now dirt dwellers, and are
bumming boat time from friends while planning our next adventure.
Harley - Since we didn't see the incident in question, it's hard for us to comment intelligently - other than to make the general observation that sailors have dramatically different 'comfort zones'. For example, sailors with lots of racing experience think nothing of passing within 10 feet of other boats while at speed and having to continuously monitor the courses and possible abrupt course changes of a dozen or more other boats in close proximity. Indeed, it's these things - along with almost always having to be ready to make sudden major changes in course - that make racing so much fun. Non-racers think this is complete insanity, of course, and prefer much larger comfort zones. Since Fleet Week is a non-racing event, it seems to us that those sailing in and around the gathered recreational boat fleet should have recognized and respected the preferences of the non-racing majority.
A REAL CHARTER FROM HELL
You asked for reports about "real charters from hell."
"Better than new" was the description of the boat we were going to charter from a private party in La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. The price was incredibly reasonable for seven days in that gorgeous setting (red flag #1). We had looked into getting a boat from the larger charter companies but, after speaking to the owner of this boat, decided that it sounded too good to be true (red flag #2). After traveling awhile in Baja, we arrived in La Paz, found a small hotel near the marina, and went for a stroll to see the boat. If memory serves us correctly, we were to be the first charter of the season. We found the boatyard/mooring area and looked everywhere for the "bristol condition, better than new" sailboat. But all we could locate was a sailboat encrusted with bird-droppings floating amidst the wrecks of a previous hurricane (red flag #3). Maybe you see a theme here. We wish that we had.
We met with the owner the next day, and he explained that he'd been too busy to have the boat cleaned, but assured us that she'd be in perfect condition for the start of our charter the next day. He also told us there would be a dinghy with a great motor, as well as two sea kayaks. So off we went to the CCC market to provision.
On the morning of our scheduled departure, the owner was still working on the boat with two maintenance people. The boat had been cleaned, and we spent some time going over systems and equipment, such as the engine and electronics. We were so excited about the upcoming charter, we failed to ask many of the right questions. We loaded the boat with food, beer and wine, and headed out. It was a beautiful day to sail, and we ended up in a picture-perfect anchorage. Everything was right with the world - or so we thought.
Going below to make up the spacious master cabin aft, we found that, in their zeal to clean the boat, someone had neglected to close the large hatch over the aft cabin berth. As a result, all the bedding and cushions were soaked. But no matter - the sun was out, cocktails were flowing, we were on holiday and the cushions and bedding were drying in the sun (red flag #4).
That evening one of us went below to use the forward head and found someone had beat us to it! In fact, maybe a party of four had beaten us to it. Of course, it was plugged up and the macerator pump didn't seem to want to work (red flag #5). We managed to fix it somehow, but the odor did linger longer than we would have liked.
The next day we enjoyed the anchorage by snorkeling, kayaking, hiking on the island and lounging in the sun. But in the middle of the night we awoke feeling as though we were rounding Cape Horn. But we had no way to find out what the weather was doing because the VHF didn't work! The wind was blowing over 30 knots, big rollers were coming into the anchorage and we were on a lee shore. Going forward to check the anchor before starting the engine, we discovered that there were no spreader lights or anchor light. Hell, there weren't any lights at all on the exterior of the boat. We set up an anchor watch for the rest of the night and were happy when morning came.
(When we finally returned the boat to the owner, we learned that he had disabled all of the running lights and the anchor light. He didn't want the boat used after dark because it was too dangerous!)
Having survived the night, we decided to sail north as the winds had shifted and become more favorable. The sun was out, making all concerns of the night fade away - as did the wind a short time later. So we started the engine for our trip to Isla San Francisco. After motoring for a couple of hours, an alarm on the control panel suddenly sounded. The engine was overheating (red flag #? - too many to count by now). John headed below to find the problem and, fortunately, the engine compartment was big enough to allow him to wade right in. He checked the raw water strainer then noticed that the pulley on the water pump was MIA. Oh shit! Figuring it must still be around, a diving foray was made into the rather dirty-looking bilge. It seems there was an oil leak, too.
Sure enough, the pulley was down in the most remote corner of the bilge. Luckily, the shaft was OK, but it was missing the keeper nut for the pulley. John found a couple of nuts in a locker and got the pulley back on. But now there was no way of adjusting the arm on the pulley. So after a lot of cussing, swearing and blood-letting, the engine started. All the while, Cyndee was having a wonderful time on deck luffing along in a three-knot breeze, wondering how we were going to get into the next anchorage without an engine or lights. It was already getting dark. Did we mention that the depthsounder - a valuable navigation device when entering anchorages with shallow areas - had also gone on strike?
We got into the anchorage and did exactly what Jack Sparrow would have done - celebrated getting there with a healthy dose of grog all around. The only excitement that night was when a boat next to ours dragged their anchor, so we decided to start the engine and move. John went forward to pull up the anchor and discovered the windlass didn't want to work. After getting a little exercise pulling up the anchor by hand, we moved and were soon comfortable on anchor watch once again.
As usual, the next day we had a wonderful time exploring, kayaking and hiking. We took the dinghy for a spin and discovered that it wouldn't run over 1,000/rpm. And that there weren't any oars. No worries, we got back to the boat in time for sundowners.
Fresh water is always important on a charter, and, luckily, we had ample bottled water, as the boat's freshwater foot pump didn't work, meaning we had no access to the water in the tank. Tracking down the problem, we found that one of the hoses on the pump had come loose, so every time the pump came on, the water would fill the bilges. At least that explained why the bilge pump kept coming on. We also found that the water heater wasn't working, but we fixed that, too. We weren't worried, however, as we knew how to heat water and had also brought a solar shower. Besides, we're old climbers and have spent ample time living in less luxurious conditions.
After a couple of days in this anchorage, we decided to head back south toward La Paz. We could see the wind was strong outside the anchorage - remember, there was no VHF for weather or communication - but we did have our own GPS with barometric and charting functions. Having previously discovered that the sails had no reef points, we decided that it would be safest to motor south. We tentatively nursed the engine, frequently adding vital fluids. During the four-hour trip we were joined by dolphins that played in the large swells behind us. That night we reveled in a secluded, beautiful anchorage. As we toasted the sunset and later howled at the full moon, we easily forgot all the problems of the week. We could have stayed out there forever.
Back at the charter base - and we use that term loosely - the next day, the owner swore none of our problems had happened. All the problems had to have been our fault, etc, etc. We did more travelling in Baja by car and arrived home wonderfully rested and changed. Now - not quite two years after our charter from hell - we can prove that the trip really did change us. We have sold everything we don't want, the house is on the market, and, as soon as she sells, we're out of here on our boat. The Web link for our house is www.greenhomesforsale.com; click on the house in Terrebonne. The sooner we sell it, the sooner we can be out there.
It may have been the charter from hell
but it was a great trip too, and we managed to find a piece of
John and Cyndee - Based on your report, you did have a genuine charter from hell. But thanks to your positive attitude, you overcame it to have a great time. Congratulations.
By the way, the blow you got at the island that night was almost certainly a normal coromuel, something you clearly should have been warned about. They come up at night after the most beautiful days and fizzle out the next morning just when you think you're going to have a fine sail. As for the VHF, there is no weather service you could have tuned into for a forecast, although you might have been able to get one via a cruising boat.
WHY DOES THE PUBLIC HAVE TO KNOW?
While I enjoy 'Lectronic Latitude and Latitude 38,
I feel compelled to say that your 'Lectronic report
on the grisly details of the unfortunate demise of the Thomas
and Jackie Hawks was out of line. Why, pray tell, does the general
public have to know that Mrs. Hawk was trembling while signing over
their boat and was desperate to be able to see her grandchild?
I am a veteran and a cruiser, and I don't see the need to
publish every soldier's last words and the grisly details
of how each one of our soldiers passed away over in
far off lands. I would implore you to rise above sensationalistic
journalism and stick to what might help people avoid the Hawks situation.
David - We didn't publish anything that the L.A. Times and other respected mainstream publications didn't publish. As gruesome as the testimony was, it explained how and why the murders happened, and demonstrated that the alleged perpetrators seemed to be devoid of even the most minimal human feelings. We don't think the coverage was comparable to reporting the last word's of every dying soldier, as deaths are expected in wars, and this was something entirely different.
THIS ONE IS FOR MAX EBB
What a surprise to see our boat Surprise used as a centerfold in November's Max Ebb feature. But wait, it's almost as though she was presented as a posterchild for eco-terrorism!
We couldn't agree more that the Rolex stickers for the '05 Big Boat Series seemed to have some design flaws in that they often came apart and fell off after a few races. Those of us on the foredeck kept finding bits of green vinyl everywhere. Our research indicated that it was the water, not the wind, that caused them to shred. But, based on our non-scientific observation, the stickers represented a small fraction of the litter that was deposited in the Bay during the series compared to spinnaker cloth. Perhaps there should be a referendum on banning spinnakers.
By the way, were the Rolex stickers improved for this year's Big Boat Series?
Regarding the second theme of Max's November article, is it doubly politically incorrect to sail with shredded stickers and an all-male crew? We think Surprise was a poor choice of boats to illustrate the topic of GI, or Gender Inequality, as she sailed with a crew of six women and seven men. Melinda Erklens drove, Liz Baylis called tactics, Sally Honey trimmed, Sarah Deeds did the halyards, Sutter Schumacher trimmed, and Stella dela Vega was on the bow. We finished second in our division after a close race with perennial winner Scorpio. I say that crew weight is highly overrated but talent is not.
is off to the south to start cruising. Our trip will take us
to Mexico, the South Pacific and New Zealand. We left our stickers
behind, so people will have to follow us via www.sailblogs.com/members/surprise/
Steve - The Rolex stickers failed again at this year's Big Boat Series.
CATALINA/CANADA - THEY ALMOST SOUND ALIKE
I'm anchored here off Puerto Los Cabos, 15 miles east of Cabo San Lucas, reading the November Latitude, and some things are now becoming clear to me. When I first spoke to the Grand Poobah to ask permission to enter my Flicka 20 in the Baja Ha-Ha - even though the minimum length for boats is 27 feet - he asked about my sailing experience. "I have a Flicka that my son and I have sailed from Stockton to Catalina and back, and we had winds to 48 knots on the nose while heading north around Point Conception," I replied. The Poobah consulted with the Honcho of the Ha-Ha, and my entry was accepted.
When someone told me that I'd been mentioned in Latitude, I read the article that mentioned my extensive offshore experience. "Who, me?" I thought to myself. Assuming that it was just part of the Grand Poobah's humor, I let it slide. But that should have been clue #1.
I got clue #2 at the Ha-Ha award ceremony, when the Poobah mentioned that I'd sailed the Pacific Northwest. "Hmmm," I thought to myself, "San Francisco is in the western part of the North Pacific, so okay."
Clue #3 came when I was reading a November letter from the owner of a Coronado 25 who wanted to enter next year's Ha-Ha, and the Poobah's response was that I'd been allowed to enter the Ha-Ha because of my passage to Canada and back. That's when everything became clear, because I guess Catalina and Canada sound a little bit alike.
A few tidbits from our Ha-Ha. Matt Gardner, my crew, broke a tooth eating tortilla chips on the second leg. He's very excited about it because, as a self-employed artist, he couldn't have afforded to have that kind of dental work done in the United States. But since it happened in Mexico, he's taking a wonderful bus trip to La Paz where he expects to get the tooth fixed at a fraction of stateside prices.
After anchoring here at the breakwater of Puerto Los Cabos - which still doesn't have an opening to the sea - the marina security yelled at me and a couple of other skippers to leave. That would have driven most mariners away, but not us. I motored close enough to yell to the security folks that I knew Jim Elfers, harbormaster at the yet-to-be-opened marina. It's true, as I'd met him in San Diego prior to the start of the Ha-Ha while he was signing his new book, The Baja Bash II. When I purchased a copy of his book, I'd asked him if he'd take a look at my boat to see if he thought she was ready. He looked her over, said she looked fine - and said that I could anchor inside of the Puerto Los Cabos Breakwater when I got to the cape.
After I mentioned Elfers' name to the security folks, they got on the two-way radio. I assumed they were calling for reinforcements, but I guess I was wrong. The skippers of our three boats got into a dinghy and went ashore, at which time the security folks started walking away. We caught up with them at the marina office. Elfers wasn't there, but a security official and I were given a ride in the bed of a truck to the main security office. Gabriel, the second in command, asked if I knew Elfers personally. I showed him my copy of the book he autographed and said, "Yes." Gabriel, who was very professional and pleasant throughout, said that we could anchor where we were for two nights.
Gabriel also told us about a local restaurant called The Fish Store. We all had a wonderful meal there and then accepted a ride back to the anchorage from our waiter, who I think was also the owner. He was very interested in us, as we were the first of what will surely be a lot of skippers and crews to arrive by boat in the coming years. Puerto Los Cabos is going to be a wonderful stop for anyone heading from Cabo to La Paz. Tomorrow we are going to do a little exploring in the area with the same gentleman from the restaurant serving as our tour guide. What a wonderful place and what wonderful people!
I'm sure glad I was allowed to enter the
Ha-Ha, as it was one of the best experiences of my life. The
people I met in the fleet, the advice I received, the hammerhead
shark we caught and ate, and everything else was fantastic. The
bottom line is that the Grand Poobah, the volunteers from Latitude,
the people in the Ha-Ha fleet and the people of Mexico are the
best! I encourage anyone considering doing the Baja Ha-Ha to
just do it!
Randy - That's pretty funny, our hearing Canada when you said Catalina. When we pitched your case to Lauren Spindler who, as the Honcho of the Ha-Ha, has to make all major policy decisions, she asked several times whether you had sailed to Canada and back. When we replied "yes," she said that was good enough for her. In reality, we think it would have been good enough for her that you sailed your 20-footer from Stockton to Catalina and back.
Anyway, we're glad that you were able to participate and had such a great time. As for your making friends with the owner/waiter of the restaurant, and his giving you rides and tours in his car, that's typical of Mexico and is just one of the many reasons why it's such a great place to cruise.
WHOSE FAULT WAS IT IF THEY DIDN'T LIKE IT?
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the Ha-Ha folks for a very well-run event. Latitude and the volunteer Baja Ha-Ha staff made every effort to make sure that all boats were accounted for and arrived safely at Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria and, finally, Cabo. All of the parties were great, giving us the opportunity to make a lot of new friends that we will stay in contact with during our extended cruise.
I'd also like to say that the Poobah's description of Cabo was right on the money. We can't wait to get out of here! But we can't leave yet because we are waiting for some mail to catch up with us.
We plan on crossing to Mazatlan and then working our way south to be in Z-town for Zihua Sailfest, summer in Puerto Vallarta, then continue south next fall to Central America and through the Canal.
If anybody didn't have a great time on
the Ha-Ha, it was their own fault. Thanks once again.
Mike and Marylyn - Thanks for the kinds words - and the wahoo - but we have to remind everyone that Latitude is merely one of many sponsors of the Ha-Ha, which is a completely independently owned and operated event. True, the Grand Poobah, Assistant Poobah and Chief of Security all work for Latitude, but they are merely unpaid volunteer holdovers from the days when Latitude did own the event.
We can't exactly remember how we described Cabo, probably "a cheesy tourist hellhole." While it might seem like that to folks who have sailed down the nearly uninhabited coast of Baja, it's actually a somewhat unfair description. After all, Cabo does serve a purpose in that it provides Americans with a pretty nice place for a quick vacation and Mexico with a big source of income. It's just a shame that the tourist center had to be located at Cabo, which is one of the most naturally beautiful places in Mexico.
If you're planning to summer over on your boat in Puerto Vallarta, you may want to talk to others first. Unless you love heat, humidity and lots of rain, you might want to think twice about it.
WE'VE GONE TO THE DOGS, BUT ARE STILL YOUNG
In October of last year, the four of us set sail from Emeryville for Mexico aboard our Freeport 36. Our four consisted of Mark, who is from California and who thought he was about to fulfill his cruising dream, Kali and Darwin, his two wonderful dogs, and me, a Belgian native doing my best to be good crew and not suffer from seasickness. We'd been working on the boat for eight months and living on her for five months getting her as ready as possible for the journey south. Our plan was to cruise down to the Canal, do the transit, then turn either right or left. As it turned out, our cruising dream lasted two full days.
During our brief time out on the Pacific, we watched with pain in our hearts as Kali and Darwin suffered. They would stand in the cockpit for 12 hours straight, paws spread wide, panting, unable to move, eat or drink. It turns out that the ocean is no San Francisco Bay.
Upon reaching the safe harbor of Monterey, we made the decision that Kali and Darwin's happiness was more important than Mark's cruising dreams. So in five weeks time, we sold our fully equipped Islander Freeport 36, bought an '02 Ford F-350 pick-up, purchased a secondhand camper to go into the bed of the truck in Arizona and did our travelling overland.
We've been on the road for almost a year
now and have visited many wonderful places and met many wonderful
people in Central America. Mark even managed to catch a ride
as a line handler aboard a yacht transiting the Panama Canal.
We also camped on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez and the Caribbean
coast. It sure was easier on the dogs, as all we had to do was
open the door and let them jump out. There was no need to get
the dinghy ready first. There's also less maintenance needed
on a truck than a boat.
Liesbet - Different folks, different strokes. We'd have given the dogs away long before we'd sell our cat.
BEST SPEED WAS WITH AN EMERGENCY RUDDER
You asked for reports on firsthand experiences with the construction and use of emergency rudder systems. I was part of the crew of the Newport 30 Waterpick in the '92 West Marine Pacific Cup, and we lost our rudder about 400 miles from Hawaii. We deployed our emergency system and not only sailed the remaining miles to Oahu but actually recorded our fastest speed of the trip while using it.
My business is repairing broken fiberglass boats, so it was decided that I would be delegated to design and construct the required emergency rudder system for the Pacific Cup. The process began with a discussion among the owner and crew as to what kind of design we wanted. Did we want an emergency rudder that would allow us to continue to race or one that would just eventually get us to Hawaii? If I remember correctly, that question was first posed by Dan Newland.
It was decided that we'd build a cassette-style - think of the rudder shape as a giant Laser daggerboard - rudder system. The board would drop into a trunk that would be secured to the transom with large - huge, actually - pintles and gudgeons. The trunk is fitted to the transom at the dock and is carried on the boat for the duration of the race.
The trunk was fabricated of fiberglass with foam stiffeners laminated onto its sides. The rudder was a two-inch-thick foam board carved into a crude foil shape, wrapped in a fiberglass shell, and finished with epoxy. The hardware was custom made by a metal shop to my design.
Deploying the rudder system was easy. We removed the lashings securing the trunk, lowered the board into place, attached the tiller and resumed racing.
If somebody only desires to eventually get close to their destination, the design could be much less robust. There are other options to consider. For several years, Paul Kamen has promoted his design of a 'soft' rudder which, upon inspection, looks to be more than capable of steering a vessel. And there were any number of small transom-mounted emergency rudders visible on Pacific Cup boats that were no doubt custom made. The Scanmar system Latitude mentioned looks like a very reasonable design to me, and the cost is well in the range of realistic value. The Scanmar rudder actually looks to be large enough that it might be reasonable to expect some performance. And at the last Pacific Cup seminar series, Jim Antrim had a drawing - along with construction suggestions - for a generic emergency rudder.
The questions everyone needs to ask before selecting an emergency rudder system are: 1) What are the performance goals of the system? 2) How many dollars are to be dedicated to the system? And 3) how long does it need to last?
There are also a couple of considerations everyone should take into account. For example, if you are using a back-up rudder, it either means the ship's rudder is gone or, far more likely, it's bent and frozen in place. In our case, the rudder blade spun on the shaft, meaning the blade would swing from side to side as the stern of the boat shifted over every wave. This had a tremendous effect on the balance of the emergency helm, as the two rudders ended up working against each other.
Secondly, as emergency rudders are commonly well aft of the ship's rudder, the helm will have a significantly different balance. The system on the Newport 30 had so much weather helm that, at hull speed, we needed to rig lines to the end of the tiller and lead them to sheet winches in order to hold the load! So you can imagine the loads on the hardware for the emergency rudder. These factors need to be considered during design and construction. Remember that you'll really want the system to work but you'll never really get a chance to test it under realistic conditions.
I hope my perspective is useful. Thanks
for your work on the magazine, as it's a constant source of fresh
Mel - Thanks for the kind words, but
it's because of so many great contributors such as yourself that
the magazine works. Your report on emergency rudders was very
informative. For example, we never would have remembered that
an emergency rudder located further aft would have such an effect
on the helm and require the hardware to be so stout.
In a recent issue you asked if there were any emergency rudder steering systems other than Monitor's SOS System. We at Hydrovane International build a self-steering system that is dual purpose - it's both a self-steering system and a 'ready to go' emergency rudder system.
With the windvane in the neutral setting, the Hydrovane tiller and rudder function - and feel - just like you were steering a dinghy. For racers, we offer the system without a drive unit and vane, leaving it with a big balanced rudder operated directly by its own tiller. Because the rudder is semi-balanced, it takes little effort to control - although a tiller extension, designed for such, is helpful.
Many owners put a small tiller-style autopilot on the Hydrovane tiller to round out their self-steering needs and add to their steering redundancy.
While at the Southampton Boat Show in England last month, I was met by an old customer on the first day. He had a big smile on his face and said that he wanted to kiss me! I wouldn't let him, of course, but I delighted in his story. The owner of a well-found Rival 41, he had encountered wild seas in one of those areas where changes in coastline and continental shelf can produce chaotic conditions even when there is no wind. Something broke that caused him to lose his steering, so he immediately tried to install the emergency tiller. For some reason he couldn't get it on or it wouldn't work. With his fear escalating, he suddenly remembered his Hydrovane. Grabbing a pump handle, he stuck it in the designed 3/4" hole on the Hydrovane tiller. Voilá, he had steering again! He was then able to steer his boat back home. Without the Hydrovane, he would have been in serious trouble. While at the show we heard several other similar stories and have posted them on www.hydrovane.com.
On another subject, after the Southhampton Show my wife Karen and I took a small holiday in the South of France. While there, we discovered the Régates Royales in Cannes, where 180 wooden boats raced for a week. It's hard to believe that there are so many classic yachts in existence, let alone assembled for such a week at a place like Cannes. The fleet included a large Dragon fleet, a good collection of 6, 8 and 12-meter boats, four of Eric Tabarlay's Pen Duicks and other yachts. But the really impressive boats were the really big ones, with impeccable bright work - but no lifelines. None! Many of these were sloops and schooners with topsails. Each day this entire fleet headed out the narrow gap in the harbour for the day's racing. What a sight and what a buzz!
We subscribed to Latitude
for years, and it's still the only sailing magazine that each
of us has to hide from the others. You are the best. Credit to
your humble editor/publisher and his busy keyboard.
John - Thanks for the kind words, but Latitude is a total team effort, from all the great readers and contributors, to all the dedicated and hardworking folks here in the office.
Racing classic yachts - the bigger the better - is the thing for Europeans to do in the Med. Americans, too. Before having the 289-ft Maltese Falcon built, Tom Perkins restored the 1915 135-ft Herreshoff schooner Mariette and campaigned her relentlessly with great style in the Med. Currently, a couple of San Diego sailors you might have heard of - Dennis Conner and Doug Peterson - race their classic wooden yachts in the Med. The classic yacht season is a long one in the Med, starting in April with the Palmavela in Majorca and finishing with the Voiles de St. Tropez at the end of September. For details, visit www.cim-classicyachts.org.
THE NEXT STEP IS A MEDIATOR
I need the help of the sailing community. Sixteen months ago, my then-girlfriend gave birth to a really great little boy. Anyway, she turned out to be a pretty rotten egg. We're now separated, the boy is with her and she fails to meet her temporary visitation obligations. I haven't been able to see or hold my boy for 30 days now. The next step is mediator and then court-decided custody.
I have a big boat, I have a great crew and I am going cruising. I'm in Puerto Vallarta now and expect to make Panama by the end of December. Anyway, my attorney gives me no chance of convincing the mediator, and later a judge, that my boy would benefit greatly by both being with his dad 24/7 for several weeks at a time on a boat in Panama, then with his mom several weeks at a time back in California.
All of this would necessarily depend on the boy who, as expected, has become clingy to his mom. But he and I get along fine just a few minutes after she disappears, and I know I can make him a happy camper with stars, whales, radar, lights, reading in the cabin, meeting other young kids - the whole nine fathoms.
I'm not sure what I need but it would be
a big help if sailors of stature could write something to help
convince the judge that my plan is a good one. I have yet to
meet anyone born to a boat who thinks my idea is a bad one so
this is my pan pan call on my son's behalf.
Name Withheld - As much as we like to support fellow sailors, as a divorced father we have to say that your proposal is not a good one. The most vulnerable and innocent individual in this unfortunate situation is your son, so everything should be done with his best long-term interests in mind. You obviously love your son, but we don't think you realize how difficult it is for a single parent - even with a big boat and crew - to raise a young child on a boat, let alone in a place like Panama where life is much less convenient and the weather can often be oppressive. We won't soon forget being anchored off the Panama Canal on Profligate a couple of years ago at 10 a.m., not moving one bit, and having sweat pouring off our face and making puddles on the salon table.
Further, as one who has spent far too many hours on long airplane flights, we can assure you that your idea of shuttling your young son back and forth between Northern California and Panama every three weeks makes no sense whatsoever. The last time we checked there were no direct flights between San Francisco and Panama, and going via either L.A. or Miami takes forever. Would you really want your son to do that 17 times a year and you do it 34 times a year?
The idea of you and your 16-month-old son spending 24/7 together might sound wonderful, but ask any single father and he'll tell you that the reality of caring for a 16-month-old 24/7 is tremendously satisfying but also a monumental load. After just a couple of days, we're pretty sure you'd do just about anything to split the parenting honors/obligations with your ex-girlfriend - assuming she's not a crackhead or something.
We think one of the most despicable things that a mother can do is take children out of the area to prevent fathers from realistically being able to see and be with them on a regular basis. But if you take your son to Panama for three weeks at a time, wouldn't you pretty much be doing the same thing? Children need to be with their mothers and fathers as much as possible, and to make it all but impossible for your son to see his mother on a regular basis certainly wouldn't be in his interest. Which is why your attorney is right, no judge or mediator would ever approve of such a plan.
We think we have a better suggestion. Cruise your boat in Mexico - mainland in the winter, the Sea in the summer - rather than in Panama. And then, rather than shuttling your son back and forth between Northern California and Mexico, just you shuttle back and forth every couple of weeks. You'd save a fortune in plane tickets, and the flights from P.V. are only three hours. In addition, when you are with your son in Northern California, it wouldn't have to be the bone-wearying 24/7 for three weeks at a time, but hopefully more of a half and half arrangement with the boy's mother.
The thing we most regret in our life is that our kids had to go through the pain of their parents getting divorced. But one of the things we're most proud of in our life is that their mother and we have done everything we could to make their pain as minimal as possible. We're no Dr. Phil, but for the sake of your son, see if you and your ex can't work out something that puts your son's interests first. It's hard and it will take time, but you can do it - and still enjoy some cruising, too.
CRUISING WITH A YOUNGSTER
My wife and I are seriously contemplating a one-year cruise with our now four-month-old daughter. We would base our itinerary on the suggestions in Latitude's First-Timers Guide to Mexico.
We haven't bought a boat yet, but our idea is to buy one, bring her to the Bay, then stay with friends in Marin until we can move aboard. After outfitting and sea trials, we would then harbor hop to Southern California at a leisurely pace and wait for the start of the '07 Ha-Ha.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated
but we mainly are interested in what others who have cruised
with small children have to say. I have lots of racing and cruising
experience on the Bay but only minimal coastal experience. My
wife has no experience but she's young, fit and adventurous,
so I'm confident that she'll be a fine mate six months from now.
I've also considered bringing a helper - possibly from a Crew List Party - to train me
in offshore sailing. Our budget and life philosophy require a
smallish boat, probably less than 30 feet. Is that too small
for the 3.5 of us? I know that you could write a book on the
subject, but do you have any thoughts?
Dear Folks - Every year there are families who do the Ha-Ha with infants so hopefully they and others will write back with their opinions on your idea of a one-year cruise with a child who will be 16 months old at the start. But until then, we're going to give you our two cents worth.
You certainly can cruise Mexico with a boat 30 feet or less but bigger, up to about 35 feet, is usually a lot better, particularly for a family. Forget hoping to find a mentor or crew willing to share a small boat with three others, one of whom is an infant. Some inexperienced person might be willing to give it a try but they aren't going to stick around, so it's just going to be the three of you.
It's worth remembering that an infant is going to have a limited enjoyment of most of the activities that make Mexico special - sailing, swimming, surfing, fishing, exploring, making friends - and will remember very little of the experience. Based on what we've seen, it's kids from about 5 to 14 who really have the great times and benefit the most from cruising. Indeed, we think most American kids 5 to 14 would benefit greatly from growing up cruising rather than in the States.
As a father and a husband, you know your primary responsibilities in life are the health and welfare of your child and wife. As such, we think you - and, ideally, your wife - need to have some offshore and cruising experiences to decide whether such a trip is something you really want and are ready to do at this time. It's certainly possible that it is, as we do know people who cruised with their children since they were infants and said that, while it wasn't easy, they really like the fact they got to spend almost all of the early years together as a family.
Our bottom line recommendation is you'd probably be better off waiting until your child is five to go cruising, as it would give you a few years to save up for a slightly larger boat, get yourselves some valuable firsthand offshore experience and give your child some time to grow so that she'd really be able to benefit from the experience. We have no doubt that you could start next year but think you'd enjoy the experience much more if you waited another three years.
YOU SHOULD'VE PLAYED THE LOTTERY THAT DAY
I just wanted to acknowledge a few people in the marine industry who helped to make so many cruising dreams a reality. I just returned to Northern California after delivering my boat to San Diego in preparation for Baja Ha-Ha XIII, and want to give kudos to Scott at Alameda Prop for a professional and timely job on the new folding prop; Pete at Mariner's Boatyard for being so accommodating; Roger and Angel at Farallone Yachts for taking care of all the last-minute details; Warren for his excellent finish work; Jason at Argo Yacht Rigging for his professional workmanship; Sally at Pineapple Sails for her extra effort in getting the new spinnaker - complete with graphics - finished just in time for our departure.
And, of course, I must thank Latitude for the obvious - but especially for the recent Crew List Party at the Encinal YC. My good friend David Hammer and I were looking for a third person for the trip to San Diego. While at the party, I recruited Angela Tierra, a 29-year-old nurse who will be heading to the South Pacific in April with her husband Ciel. Angela was looking for some additional offshore experience and proved to be a delightful addition to our crew.
When we arrived in San Diego we were fortunate
enough to find a slip at the Police Docks on Shelter Island.
What's more, I can't say enough good things about the staff in
that office. Especially Emily who, when we asked about a mail
box, volunteered to drop our mail at the post office on her way
Garry - On behalf of everyone, thank you. In addition to all those you named, we know much of the marine industry busted their butts to help Ha-Ha boats get to the starting line on time.
By the way, if you arrived at San Diego
in late October and managed to get a slip at the Police Dock,
you're one lucky dude. Maybe you ought to play the lottery more
A few months ago you asked people to explain why they gave their boats the names they did. Because my last name is Drake, I christened my Columbia 45 Golden Hinde after my forebearer, Admiral Sir Francis Drake. True, Drake had no children, so I'm not a direct descendant. Nonetheless, he was the forebearer of all mariners in the same way that Columbus was.
Drake was the first skipper to circumnavigate the world. You can read all about it in The World Encompassed, by his nephew, who was also named Francis Drake. There is a lot of misunderstanding about Drake's exploits because they are usually taken out of the context of the times. For example, he is considered a pirate, especially by those of Hispanic descent. Spanish mothers have often told their children that if they are bad, Draco the Pirate - the Caribbean version of the bogeyman - will get them.
However, the historical context is fascinating, as it includes such historical figures as Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots, King Philip of Spain, and featured such events as Henry starting the Church of England and the Pope excommunicating him for doing it. It culminated with Philip sending the Spanish Armada to England to reclaim his throne. Drake and John Hawkins were among those sent to destroy the armada, but a 1588 storm in the English Channel beat them to it.
During this Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604, Queen Elizabeth gave Drake a commission to attack and loot any of King Philip's ships he could find. After looting Spanish coastal towns in the Caribbean and South America, Drake rounded Cape Horn and sailed up the Eastern Pacific. Disguising the Hinde as a lumbering merchant ship by using mattresses as drogues, he slowly caught up to a Spanish treasure ship affectionately known to the Spanish as the Cacafuego - or 'shitfire'. Drake cut loose the drogues at the last second, captured the treasure and sailed westward around the world until he got home.
Since Magellan had died in the Philippines, Drake became the first commander to sail all the way around the world. In today's dollars, the treasure he took would be worth $500 million! Once back in England, Drake gave Queen Elizabeth her share, paid his crew and used his share to purchase Buckland Abbey. The extended family ran out of heirs in 1937, so the Abbey is now maintained by the British National Trust.
I knew little of this history when I bought
my boat, but kind of hoped that I was somehow related to Sir
Francis Drake. Despite the fact I named my boat Golden Hinde,
subsequent research proved that I wasn't a real descendant, but
I'm still proud to carry the name of Drake's vessel on my own.
Douglas - It's interesting that you mention Drake and those times, as for the last few weeks we've been reading Arthur Herman's 650-page To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World. Despite being a very detailed book, it reads easily and continually entertains us. We thought we had a decent grasp of English, European and world history but once we read this book, we realized how ignorant we were.
With regard to Drake's legacy, Herman writes: "Drake had launched the golden age of European piracy, an era still remembered for its swashbuckling buccaneers, bloodthirsty corsairs, sunken Spanish galleons - and slave traders in the Middle Passage. Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, and their French, Dutch and Spanish counterparts learned to raid where they pleased under the flag but outside the control of their national governments. By triggering the collapse of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the New World, Drake had opened a "war of all against all," in which life was "nasty, brutal and short." Yet out of the anarchy would eventually come Europe's new colonial empires, including England's, and a new world order. Drake's example was instantly taken up by a rising generation of English seamen. From 1589 to 1591, no less than 235 privateering vessels sallied forth from English ports."
Thus ends this month's history lesson.
IS IT POSSIBLE WITH JUST A MAIN?
Shortly after the six Ocean 60s started
the Velux 5 Oceans singlehanded around-the-world race from Bilbao,
Spain, they ran into very rough weather in the Bay of Biscay.
A widely distributed photo showed Bernard Stamm of Chemimees
Poujoulat in the heavy seas, hove to with a main up in 70
knots of wind. So, is it possible to heave to a 70-footer under
Mo - The classic concept of 'heaving to' is strapping the main in tight, backwinding the jib and just drifting. But sometimes the term is more broadly used to denote just about any method of stopping forward progress for the purpose of rest and/or safety.
Based on the sequence of photos, and news reports, it's our understanding that Stamm, one of the world's most accomplished singlehanded sailors, was on the foredeck attempting to set his storm jib when the photos were taken. Why else would he be on the foredeck in such conditions? Whether he was attempting to do this in order to heave to in the classic manner, or to resume racing under much-reduced sail, is something we don't know.
The Open 60s are very specialized light boats, with narrow bows, beamy transoms and daggerboards, so they may behave entirely differently than normal boats in such conditions. But for most boats, we think a backwinded jib is necessary to keep the boat in a relatively constant angle to the wind.
NOT QUITE AS DANGEROUS AS BAGHDAD
Regarding Liz Clark seeking information about whether or not it would be safe for her to take her Cal 40 Swell cruising on the Pacific Coast of Colombia, I can report that the port of Buenaventura offers perhaps the best bouillabaisse in the hemisphere. However, a female skipper of a private yacht should avoid this container and fishing port - and the rest of the Pacific coast of Colombia as well. Landfall at Guayaquil, Ecuador, would be much safer.
Why? To the largely underemployed male population of the Pacific Coast of Colombia, many of whom already claim assorted wives and girlfriends, a blonde gringa is considered fair game. In a country where romantic skullduggery is a national pastime, some of these characters would not resist an opportunity to test their version of charm on a young single woman. One of the reasons is that American movies have convinced them that American women are 'easy'. In addition, violence is so endemic in rural and coastal Colombia that it's rarely even reported outside of the country.
Colombia's Pacific Department of Chocó, while maybe not as dangerous as Baghdad, is the equivalent of an American Wild West in the day, with the almost 100% black population living in poverty. Both the FARC guerillas and the AUC paramilitary maintain well-organized and well-financed organizations in Chocó. Both are recipients of extortion money from legitimate businesses, the drug mafia, as well as kidnapping-for-ransom schemes.
Kidnapping for profit is a growth industry in Colombia. When my Colombian wife and I left the country in 2000, after living there for 10 years, the going ransom rate for kidnapped nationals was $100,000 U.S. - and ten times that for foreigners. It was a practice the guerillas baptized as the pesca milagrosa - to the great chagrin of the Catholic church. The normal method was to set up a roadblock on an isolated stretch of highway, stop any and all vehicles unfortunate enough to be in the area in search of a 'big fish' - much as the disciples had done in Jesus' day. Ecopetrol, Colombia's national oil monopoly, uses a sliding scale pegged to its management structure to set ransom payments for its employees - as agreed upon by FARC!
During my first visit to beautiful Tayrona Park, near the Caribbean town of Santa Marta, my girlfriend and I befriended an American who told of a horrible experience there. He was pinned down on the beach, a machete at his throat, while several men serially raped his girlfriend at his side. The couple had been foolish enough to camp out on the beach. In addition, several park managers have been murdered by the drug mafia.
Any female skipper venturing into a Colombian port town should be accompanied by two well-built males - one to escort her while provisioning and one to guard the boat. An alternative I've used when withdrawing money from Colombian banks is hiring two policemen as guards. Contrary to the situation in many of the neighboring Latin countries, Colombia's national police are an educated and honorable force. They have standing orders not to solicit tips or bribes in excess of the value of a soft drink - although a captain once hit me up for a two-liter bottle of soft drink!
South of Buenaventura is Isla Gorgona, a former prison colony that's been turned into a national park. And near the southern port town of Tumaco is Isla de Gallo, where Pizarro once made a stand. Visits to either of these ports should be limited to daylight hours. Unless advance arrangements could be made for a berth at the naval facility, any overnight stay with a boat is likely to result in unwanted visitors. The likelihood of trouble would increase with the length of the stay.
Except for around Cartagena, yachting activity in Colombia is limited to the navy's use of captured drug vessels for cadet seamanship training and recreation.
It gives me no pleasure to report these facts, but I feel obliged to warn the sailing community of the particular dangers that await them in Colombia, a country peopled by some truly heroic individuals. The country is also the home of one-time Indy 500 champ Juan Pablo Montoya and pop rocker/UNESCO spokesperson Shakira.
P.S. I sold my Irwin 30 Grasshopper
in Cartagena in '93.
Readers - According to various Web sites, Colombia has the highest rate of kidnapping for ransom in the world. In '05, the country averaged about 45 such incidents a month. However, it's the rich and business people who are the targets, not average people. In addition, the rate of kidnapping is said to have dropped recently, as there is a semblance of peace in the 40-year-old war between the guerillas, the government and the paramilitary groups.
The downtown areas of big cities in Colombia are said to be quite safe but, outside of the main tourist areas, the risks escalate rapidly. Travelling on even major roads at night is a very bad idea. A taxi driver taking us from Baranquilla to Cartagena, which are on the Caribbean coast, made us lie low in the passenger seat for the duration of the three-hour trip so our pale face wouldn't be seen. According to Lonely Planet, the areas of Colombia that are most dangerous include Chocó - which is on the Pacific - Putumayo and anywhere east of the Andes.
The consensus seems to be that the Pacific Coast of Colombia is absolutely a 'no-go' area, particularly for a gringa with a boat. While Cartagena is widely considered to be safe, we're compelled to remind everyone that, three winters ago, John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing was robbed at gunpoint while motoring his boat through an admittedly remote part of Cartagena Bay. In addition, there have been a handful of very violent attacks on cruisers at anchorages to the northeast of Cartagena. What makes it so disturbing is that quite a few other cruisers have travelled this coast without any problems.
Colombia is a lot like Oakland. They both have lots of great areas and plenty of wonderful people who are held hostage by a minority of really bad folks.
OUR THOUGHTS ON RECENT TOPICS
When it comes to waiting to retire to go cruising, I remember my last day as an Emergency Room RN at the Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City. I asked God to please not send me another patient younger than me - I'm in my late 40s - having a heart attack. I guess that God was busy that day and didn't have time to listen but at least the guy survived.
People are less likely to have major health issues while they are young so I say don't wait, cruise as soon as you can. Rent that Bay Area house and buy the boat. When you feel you are too old to continue cruising or don't want to cruise anymore, use the huge equity that you've built up in your house to buy something in a more reasonably priced area.
About liferafts. We left San Francisco aboard Lyric in December of '98. It was a great time for surfers, as the waves were huge. We learned about 'square waves', which is when the height and period are the same. In other words, eight-foot waves at eight-second intervals. The commercial guys wouldn't go out in that stuff and neither would we.
After being stuck in Monterey - not a bad place to be stuck - for nine days, we got a weather window. Unfortunately, the window slammed shut off of Piedros Blancos. We could see rain on the horizon and the VHF weather channel was reporting a fast-moving low approaching Piedros Blancos with winds to 50 knots and seas to 30 feet. We headed offshore and hove to. All night long I kept thinking that we should have bought a better quality liferaft.
Mexico was great. We spent the first season in the Sea of Cortez and left the boat in storage in La Paz. We returned to California for the summer and fall to work. In the winter, we returned to La Paz, goofed around a bit and left Bahia de Muertos on December 31 for a new millennium crossing to Mazatlan. At midnight, our Garmin GPS went down - but then came right back up. Morning found us motoring across a flat sea. I was asleep and Judy was chopping vegetables when the a voice over the VHF told us to stop our engine and be prepared to be inspected. It was the Mexican Navy. They were very nice and their first inspection of the millennium was brief.
We did mainland Mexico that year but, frankly, we wished we'd stayed up in the Sea. We left our boat in La Paz again for the summer and wound up living in our motorhome in San Diego and then buying a house in Crescent City. Our boat languished in La Paz, where she survived three hurricanes with minimal damage. When we returned, we found the bottom paint had been sand-blasted for us by tropical storms.
We managed to get back to our boat in November of '04 and moved her over to Marina San Carlos and Marina Seca. We sold our RV this year and had a trailer built for the boat. We recently trailered Lyric from San Carlos to Crescent City, and she's now in our backyard.
I had some reservations about the trailer before making the trip, thinking the rear jack-stands were too high. And they were. While I was removing one of them in order to have it modified, it slipped and pivoted on its lower bolt. It acted like a guillotine on the middle and ring fingers of my right hand.
The folks at San Carlos Marina had an ambulance to me quickly and I was rushed to the clinic in San Carlos, where an orthopedic surgeon ordered me transported to a hospital in Guaymas. We stopped for X-rays on the way. Once at the hospital, I was met by the surgeon and the anesthesiologist, both of whom spoke English. I want to thank them, the nurses and the ambulance crew for being so professional and giving me such good care. The doc managed to save the middle finger but had to complete the amputation of the ring finger. I look at the overall result as a new and improved me, as I now have 10% fewer fingernails to trim.
In closing, I would like to recommend Marina Seca as a great place to haul out. The office staff and yard crew were great and the prices were reasonable.
One thing that I wouldn't recommend is
Treadmaster non-skid. It didn't hold up well in the Mexican sun,
as it started to fail after just one season.
A VIETNAM SERVICE RIBBON WILL BE ON MY BOAT
I read Brett Jones' letter in the October issue of Latitude, the one where his family got into a squabble with a guy named Mel on a Westsail 32 while in Ensenada. The more I thought about the letter, the more it pissed me off, because Jones referred to Mel as a "twisted Vietnam vet."
I wasn't present when the incident occurred and I don't know Mel. Maybe he is twisted, maybe he isn't. But what I do know is that using "twisted" and "Vietnam vet"' in the same phrase - as though they go together - offended me. And I feel reasonably confident in saying that it likely offended my brothers and sisters in arms who also may have read it.
If Mel is, in fact, twisted, at least the propensity was there before he ever visited Southeast Asia. To infer that service in Vietnam is equivalent to being anything other than a Vietnam vet is a disservice to 3.5 million U.S. veterans who served there. I'm surprised that Mr. Jones would even make the implied assumption, as he adamantly objected to his family and friend being characterized as "a hippie group," preferring "cruising family."
When I sail south next year, you will see a bumper sticker-style reproduction of the Vietnam Service Ribbon on the stern of my boat. I hope that doesn't make me twisted.
P.S. Latitude, especially the editorial
remarks, is the best.
Mike - We hate to disagree with you after you've said such nice things about our editorial remarks but we don't think using "twisted" and "Vietnam vet" in the same phrase means they necessarily go together. After all, would saying "twisted banker" or "twisted car mechanic" mean that all bankers and all car mechanics were crazy? We don't think so.
We know plenty of people who served in Vietnam who went over normal and were no different when they came back. But we also know that there is a certain percentage of the millions who did serve over there, who saw or experienced such psychologically devastating things that they've never quite been the same since. Our hearts go out to them and their families.
FROM A PIRATE TO A HOSPITAL SHIP
In 1979, I purchased Dulcimer II, a Hans Christian 34. I always believed that changing a boat's name was unlucky but Dulcimer II? So we renamed her Red Rover. Most people assumed it was a reflection of the color of my hair - and the color of the hair of my two sons. It was a little deeper than that.
James Fenimore Cooper wrote the sea novel, The Red Rover, about Lt. Henry Ark's search for the infamous pirate Red Rover. Red Rover escaped from the Royal Navy due to his allegiance to the Colonies, but later renounced piracy and became an honorable patriot. Tennyson also wrote about Red Rover, and it was the name given to the first U.S. hospital ship.
Don't get me wrong, we still crack up when
the crew of passing boats chant, "Red Rover, Red Rover come
SO LONG TO THE ALA WAI FUEL DOCK?
Hawaii's Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) and Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) are up to no good once again. Last August they tried to evict 171 boaters from their docks in the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, forcing Governor Linda Lingle to step in with creative solutions to keep the boaters from being displaced.
On November 17, we found out that the DLNR and DOBOR now want to drive the fuel dock out of business by revoking their operating permit, then reissuing it - but no longer allowing the perfectly good 16 moorings that have always had to go along with the permit. The fuel dock survives on the income from the little convenience store and laundry, fuel sales and most of all from the mooring fees. By eliminating the current moorings and evicting the tenants, the entire business will be forced to close. This would have a huge adverse impact on the local boating community, as the fuel dock is the only fueling facility with gas, diesel, propane and sanitary pump-out on the south side of the island of Oahu.
Additionally, many who live in and around the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor depend on the little convenience store and laundry. The 16 poor boaters moored there - and I am one of them - will be forced to find mooring elsewhere. However, when I called all the marinas on this side of the island this morning - including the state-run marinas - there were no openings. If the DLNR is successful in revoking the permit, the harbor will lose a valuable asset, and good boaters will lose their moorings.
The DLNR has not given a reason for this
action. We have a grassroots movement going and hope we can stop
Bill and Jean - As we've been saying for years, it would be in everybody's interest - boatowners, taxpayers, surfers - if the state of Hawaii got their incompetent booty out of the marina business by turning over the entire Ala Wai to a private developer who would tear the whole darn thing down - except the Waikiki and Hawaii YCs - and start all over again. To redo the Ala Wai a little bit at a time would be a big mistake - but would be in keeping with the state's quality of facility management.
But to be honest, we have mixed feelings about the possibility of liveaboards in the Ala Wai getting the boot. It's our understanding that for years liveaboards, determined to hang on to their ridiculously below-market berth rates, have been among the biggest obstacles to any of the much-needed changes to the harbor. If this is another case of a small special interest group raising a big stink so they can continue to pay $160/month to live on prime Honolulu waterfront and impede much-needed harbor improvements, we're not on your side.
TAKING A TAXI DOESN'T MAKE SENSE
Latitude's response to Mike Giraudo's November letter about The Tarnished Jewel of Petaluma was disappointing. The charm of cruising to Petaluma is getting to the turning basin and therefore being in very close proximity to the town, restaurants and the Petaluma YC. It's also visually stunning. The suggested alternative of going to the Petaluma Marina and taking a taxi or dinghy to town just doesn't make sense. (Crossing below the D Street bridge has never been a hassle; the operators are very cooperative and punctual).
Let's hope that the city of Petaluma
can come up with some improvements in security so that we can
all continue to cruise to Petaluma and enjoy such a delightful
Peggy - We're hoping with you.
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