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GRATEFUL DESPITE WHAT HAPPENED
I was temporarily shipwrecked and then nearly murdered in southern Mexico in early April. Now my boat has a bad leak and I'm having trouble trying to figure out how to fix it.
I've been at sea with my Gozzard 32 cutter since August. I started with a circumnavigation of the Channel Islands, then headed south to join the Ha-Ha, and continued on to mainland Mexico and beyond.
I stopped briefly at Salina Cruz in southern Mexico on February 10 to get fuel. When I returned to sea at 4 p.m., it was blowing 20 to 25 knots and, when I rounded the point, I ran smack into a Tehuantepecker blowing about 60 knots. In addition, there was a very strong northward current and six to eight-foot seas just seconds apart. I reduced sail to just a double-reefed staysail and, with the engine on to make headway, continued on about 2.5 miles offshore. But after taking a couple of waves over my transom, the engine died. I later found that water had gotten into the fuel vent and eventually migrated into the engine.
Without the engine, I lost headway, and the wind and current began to push me rapidly toward the shore. I tried to set the anchor, but it didn't hold. I ended up being blown directly onto Playa Bahia De Ventosa at 7:30 p.m. My boat was trapped by the breakers and was tossed back and forth by each wave.
After assessing the problem and trying to pry my sailboat off the beach, I concluded that I was going to need some help. I put out a Mayday on VHF 16, and was able to speak with the Marinero Capitan in Salina Cruz. He told me that they wouldn't be able to help me until at least 7 a.m. the next morning. Until then, I was on my own, period.
During the night I had two encounters with the locals. The first group consisted of four men who, while I was below attempting to get things back in order, helped themselves to my bike, which had been lashed to the deck. The second group, consisting of three men, was much more aggressive. They jumped aboard with knives and machetes, and I found myself literally fighting for my life. They cut me up pretty good, so I bled like a stuck pig. I finally managed to temporarily fend them off, at which time they regrouped on the beach to plan a second attack. Fortunately, I had enough time to go below and pull out an old shotgun — for which I unfortunately had no shells.
I hurried back out into the cockpit, from where I could hear their voices on the beach. I waited till they got close enough to hear before cocking the shotgun so they could hear the loud and distinctive sound. As soon as they heard me cock the empty shotgun, they turned and beat feet. I was sure relieved, but still had to tend to my wounds and clean up the blood — which was everywhere.
The Marinero Capitan's launch showed up about 9 a.m. the next morning, and their first attempt to pull my boat off the beach failed miserably. Then the Mexican Army showed up with some Navy Seals. They built a bridle around the boat and said they'd be back with the launch at high tide to try again. True to their word, they returned at high tide, but after several failed attempts, it looked as if I would be spending another night on the beach. Then suddenly my boat pulled free, and she and I were on our way through 8 to 10-ft waves and back into deep water!
The marineros towed me back into Puerto Salina Cruz. They and the Mexican Army did such an excellent and professional job helping me, I am grateful to them beyond words, and that's a fact!
I, nonetheless, still had a major problem at low tide because the bumpers on the pier didn't go down far enough to protect my boat. I had to use my legs against the bumpers to keep my boat from crashing into the cement pilings and/or having the rigging get smashed. This went on for about two days, until the chief engineer of the Atlantico, a very large tug, noticed my predicament. He brought over some tires and rope, which provided protection for my boat at low tide. This happened just before Salina Cruz got hit by another three days of 60-knot winds. I am also grateful to the chief engineer of the tug, for without the tires and rope, my boat would have been destroyed.
I'm currently in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, allowing me to heal and to track down a leak. It ended up coming from a lightening grounding plate located about eight inches from the bottom of the keel. One of the 2 3/8-in bolts was sheared off during the grounding, allowing water to enter the keel and then into the bilge. The only other damage sustained was some worn off bottom paint. Considering the beating the boat took. I was the only one who sustained serious damage. I have been sailing for the last 25 years and have never seen a sailboat fair so well in the conditions it was subjected to, period. Truly, this sailboat is absolutely amazing in its hull construction.
Meanwhile, I'm still alive.
WHAT ARE YOU CALLING 'OBSOLETE'
I was absolutely stunned at the quote made by a Coast Guard Petty Officer Russ Tippets in the February 21 San Francisco Chronicle with regard to lighthouses in and around the Bay Area. He called them "obsolete" and said, "They are no longer relevant in today's maritime realm."
As a longtime ocean sailor and mariner, I can think of nothing more relevant than a lighthouse to mariner safety — especially if one is returning to port in a storm with damaged electronics. Maybe Petty Officer Tippets' view of the Coast Guard is that it has morphed into a kind of police force that spends their time and money racing around in inflatables carrying weapons and harassing boaters. I still hold the view that the Coast Guard is dedicated to maritime safety.
I would like to see the Coast Guard issue a statement saying that lighthouses are officially considered not obsolete.
Based on just reading the headlines, we think a lot of people got the impression that the lighthouses are suddenly going to go dark. That's not the case, they are not going away — just control of the lighthouse structures themselves will change. The but Gate National Recreation Area (part of the National Park Service) will have control of the lighthouses at Point Bonita, Alcatraz, Point Montara and the smaller structures — which were primarily foghorn stations, although they were lit at night — at Lime Point (under the north tower of the Golden Gate) and Point Diablo (about a 1/2 mile farther west). Not because the GGNRA has any more money for upkeep and maintenance than the Coasties — which was basically zilch — but because they are interested in eventual restoration of these structures and opening the big ones to the public.
We travel the coast from San Francisco Bay to mainland Mexico and back every year, and in the process pass probably two dozen lighthouses. Yet thinking back, we're somewhat surprised to realize that these lighthouses play almost no role in our navigation. To be sure, they are pleasant signposts along the way, and provide physical confirmation of our general whereabouts, but give very limited information compared to our main navigation tools, which are GPS, radar, depthsounder and the good ol' Ouija board.
THERE'S NOTHING AS COMFORTING OR USEFUL
In my opinion there is nothing that remains as comforting and genuinely useful to a helmsman as a good old-fashioned lighthouse to confirm and enable entry into a port at night.
Two years ago we sailed the Kauai Channel Race on a moonless night. We arrived at the double-hairpin Nawiliwili Harbor channel — the finish was inside the harbor — at 4:30 a.m. under scattered overcast without moon. How dark was it? Dark enough so that even the lowest light setting our mast-mount instruments was bright to the point of distraction. But it was blowing 25+ knots, and we were doing 12 to 15 knots.
I, for one, do not believe lighthouses are out of date, and I know many other sailors and professional mariners who feel the same.
With regard to boats having to race through a double hairpin at night to finish at Nawiliwili, it's hard to imagine how much a lighthouse helped. We remember being there for the finish of the first Pacific Cup, and many of the skippers were confused trying to come in — even though they were no longer racing.
THE OVERWHELMING MYSTERY OF EXISTENCE
With regard to the January Changes titled 'Pyramid Blues at Lake Atitlan' by Antonia and Peter Murphy of the Pt. Richmond-based Mariner 36 Sereia, I have a few observations and questions of ordinary madness.
1) Contrary to what Antonia claims, several restaurants in San Marcos do serve meat. I like the one in the town square near the school. Of course, you would have to dine with the locals. If they were there for a month — sorry, 28 days — they would have seen these places. But if they had seen the restaurants, they would have had to contrive another excuse to kill the turkey — and possibly forgo the indulgent advertisement for themselves.
2) Las Piramides Meditation Center is best enjoyed by those who are interested in personal growth. In addition to the known benefits of yoga and meditation, Las Piramides further offers explanations of tarot, numerology, astrology and more. It's quite the grab bag — kind of like a college survey course. I find these subjects provide an expanded vocabulary to lend expression to the perception of life in the face of the overwhelming mystery of existence. So even just on an aesthetic level these subjects are satisfying. As a supposed novelist, Antonia might be interested in that kind of mind expansion. Or perhaps not.
3) Chati, the principal spiritual teacher, who owns and operates the center, is a kind, funny, knowledgeable Mayan. She is involved with community affairs, and she’s initiated progressive projects in the community that benefit others. She never pushes her beliefs, she just shares them. While not all of my beliefs are reflections of hers, I could see her value to the community and her deep involvement in a committed life. It certainly provides for a great contrast to Antonia’s paean to poo and pee.
4) Antonia claimed that people hated her, but they probably just found her obnoxious — and for good reason, if her portrayal of her and Peter's behavior is accurate. Although often tolerated, boors are seldom welcome.
5) Why did they kill the turkey, the only sentient being who would drink with her? If she's not careful, she'll have to start wearing a porkchop around her neck. Again.
6) Some folks travel to expand their experience and understanding, others to confirm their prejudices. Why does Antonia travel?
7) If the couple don't care for New Age interests, why did they go to San Marcos? Would they go to Las Vegas and complain about the gambling? They could have stayed in San Pedro or Pana, where the atmosphere is more attuned to their antics and perceptions.
8) As a self-described novelist, is Antonia writing the Great American Novel or the great Ugly American novel? Will it contain ripped bodices and heavy cherry-tipped breasts? Or the integration of poo, pee and thee? Sounds like a title.
I also thought the article about the Philippines a few months before by the owner of the catamaran Cadence was full of B.S. too.
Nonetheless, thanks for the excellent magazine. Although I'll be walking through Southeast Asia for the next year, I look forward to returning to the United States to get a boat and go cruising.
One of the things we like about both Antonia and Frank is that they get right in there and mix it up with the local people, poking their noses into everything and, in Antonia's case, even being a little obnoxious. And just because they don't suffer from the progressive disease of necessarily assuming that primitive cultures are the most advanced, they obviously have an affection — no matter what Antonia might have written tongue-in-cheek — for the people they'd been around. Even those who prescribe pee to cure the sick.
(By the way, Antonia is certainly a better person than we are, for if we heard someone telling others that they could cure HIV by drinking pee — or by having sex with virgins, as is common in Africa — we wouldn't be so circumspect. We doubt that we'd be able to stop ourselves from delving into what would no doubt become a heated discussion about the nature of murder.)
Why did Antonia and Peter kill the turkey? For the same reason you're going to walk through Southeast Asia — to become more experienced and wiser. We'll bet you a nickel that the couple learned more from that experience — on any number of levels — than did most of the people who attended the New Age seminars. Indeed, if everyone had to kill an animal to get meat, we think they'd give some serious thought to becoming vegetarians.
Despite the fact that we're not much into New Age stuff — not since the late '90s when a clairvoyant used to solicit our uninformed opinions about what dot com stocks to recommend to her clients — we bet we'd get on fine with Chati. For if she's as knowledgeable and wise as you say, surely she'd appreciate the importance of being able to see the humor in oneself and one's beliefs.
OCEAN WAVE DATA RULE OF THUMB
I enjoy going out the Gate for a daysail, but always worry about the wave conditions. Last April I learned that when there is a heavy run-off from the Delta, the ebb is significantly greater than advertised, and the resulting waves can be pretty nasty.
I have taken to reviewing the offshore buoy data to try to figure out which wave height/frequency conditions are good, fair or lousy. I'm having trouble figuring this out. Is there a rule of thumb that can be used when reviewing ocean wave data to tell when it would be best to stay at home? Based on the reported average wave height and frequency, what combination would indicate that the conditions might be dangerous for small sailing craft — such as a 30-footer?
I've heard that 'square waves' — when the height and frequency are the same, such as nine-ft waves every nine seconds — are trouble. But in looking at the offshore wave data, those conditions are fairly common.
It's always a disappointment to get outside the Gate and find that the conditions aren't what I expected.
Jim — First let's be clear on the nomenclature. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), swells are what are caused by distant wind and eventually break on beaches, while wind waves are what are caused by localized wind.
Nine-ft swells every nine seconds would indeed be awful. And yes, it's not uncommon outside the Gate, which is why you don't find as many boats out there as you do between Newport Beach and Catalina. In general, the greater the swell period — or time between swells — the less rough it will be. Consider the extremes. If you have 10-ft swells every two seconds, it would be like being in a washing machine. But if you had 10-ft swells every 14 seconds — which is about as long a swell period as you're going to find — the swells would be large but gentle rollers.
We don't know of any rule of thumb, but if the swell period is any less than 10 seconds, you'd better hope the swells aren't more than two or three feet high.
Surface conditions, however, often can't be characterized by just the swell size and period, for wind and wind waves can also be major factors. If the wind is strong enough — say 20 knots — and it's been blowing for awhile, you're going to get sizeable wind waves on top of the normal swell. Unfortunately, the wind and swell don't always come from the same direction. If both are sizeable and running at 90 degrees to each other, you're going to wish you were back in your berth. Fortunately, many weather buoys, such as the Lightbucket, provide a detailed wave summary that includes significant wave height, swell height, swell period, swell direction, wind wave height, wind wave period, wind wave direction, average wave period and wave steepness.
When sailing outside the Gate, there are even more things to evaluate than the wind strength, swell period, and wave height, namely the tidal flow. The difference in surface conditions between a flood and an ebb can be very dramatic. And if you go past Land's End, you also have to keep in mind that there are shoals all around the entrance to the Gate, so if there's a big swell running, particularly during an ebb, the waves are likely to be steep or even breaking.
If you're new to sailing, all this might sound a little intimidating. But once you understand it, it makes sailing a lot more fun because you can usually select the intensity of conditions you want to play in. For example, if you know what you're doing, you can have a great time surfing in swells and chop that have been greatly accentuated by a strong ebb flowing over relatively shallow water. Folks in places like Newport Beach, Marina del Rey and San Diego would kill to be able to do fun stuff like that.
The bottom line is that you have to be prepared for everything when you sail outside the Gate — including more fun than sailors have anywhere else on the coast.
WE MADE SOME FOOLISH ASSUMPTIONS
You had it all wrong with regard to the March 9 'Lectronic photo of the junk-rigged boat on her side in San Blas. The day I need help from Norm Goldie to enter San Blas Estuary — or anywhere else, for that matter — will be the day I quit sailing and take up knitting or maybe sitting around in a zocalo somewhere blowing smoke. If you have a better way to clean a prop in water that you wouldn’t swim in than careening your boat, please advise. Believe it or not, careening has been the way boat bottoms have been accessed and cleaned since before Travel-Lifts and rails. And we careened the boat next to the anchorage in the estuary, not at the entrance. While I’m sure there were nothing but good intentions on the part of the cruisers and photographer who were thinking there was a ‘situation’ with Bu’Kwiis when the photo was taken, we were actually just enjoying the sights from the fort at San Blas while waiting for the tide to drop. By the way, the cleaned prop gave me an extra half knot.
You suggested that the boat on her side might have been the British Columbia-based Bellavia because of the unusual on-deck hydraulic windlass. But my Bu’Kwiis is actually a steel Gazelle hull with a modification of the junk rig on Bellavia. Bu’Kwiis has a 510-sq- ft foresail of the Hasler/McLeod design, and a 450-sq- ft Colvin designed fanned sail — both fully battened junk sails. Bu’Kwiis’ keel has been deepened by six inches to about five feet to compensate for the higher center of effort on the sail plan. She has a full-length keel but no skeg. I have careened her three or four times before, but this was the first time since I deepened her keel. When careened, the water reaches the ports, but they don’t leak so it doesn’t present a problem.
I sailed Bu’Kwiis from British Columbia to Mexico in ‘04 after an extensive refit, which included adding hydraulics, widening the foredeck, reinforcing the hull to accommodate the unstayed masts, adding the fully enclosed bimini and so forth. By the way, the deck-mounted, reel-type hydraulic winch is used on our British Columbia fishboats and, of course, Bellavia. My boat has spent the last couple of summers on the hard in Guaymas, and will do so again this year.
Steve — Our apologies. We received nothing but the photograph and went ahead and made some foolish assumptions. We'll try to do better in the future.
CAREENING DO'S AND DON'TS
In the 'Lectronic photo and write up about Bu'Kwiis being careened in the estuary at San Blas, I’m a bit surprised that the skipper deliberately tipped his boat away from shore, thus putting more of the topsides underwater, as well as seeming to be broadside to the shore and potential waves.
You asked if any of your readers have careened their boats. The accompanying photo shows my Catalina 30 LaBoo careened in Desolation Sound, British Columbia. No matter if your boat is careened deliberately or accidentally, the first order of business is to remove your yacht club burgee and home country ensign. For instance, we replaced our Canadian flag with our visitor's U.S. flag. Heh, heh!
After replacing the shaft zinc, we scrubbed the hull as far as possible. Once we were back afloat, our boat speed was half a knot faster.
Bob — There is no doubt in our mind that the skipper of Bu'Kwiis knew exactly what he was doing. His careened boat wasn't going to be subject to any waves while up the San Blas Estuary.
UPHILL OR DOWNHILL — WHICH IS BEST?
Maybe it’s a 20/20 hindsight kind of thing, but the initial ‘Lectronic report on what was believed to be Bellavia running aground did look like an act of careening. How else would one explain the slope of the beach in the background and the tidy decks?
But that’s not what I’m writing about. I have what might be a stupid question. Assuming one has a choice over a seaward or landward careening, which is the best? Bu’Kwiis seems to favor washing the ports. Why is that?
Craig — We suppose there could be a number of reasons, but when you careen the boat 'downhill', more of the bottom is exposed, which would make it possible to get to the prop easier and longer.
IT ALLOWS US TO WORK IN RELATIVE COMFORT
In the December issue there was a letter that asked if it was possible to heave to with just a main up. You responded that typically a foresail is backed to maintain balance.
Having been caught out on the open ocean several times in winds between 45 and 60 knots, we've been able to heave to without having a headsail set. Our Pacific Seacraft 40 has both a roller furling jib and staysail, and we've found that, in high winds, the furled headsails provide sufficient pressure to offset either the triple-reefed main or trysail.
That being said, if someone is thinking of going offshore, the best thing they can do is go out and practice heaving to in varying wind and sea conditions to find out what works for their boat.
By the way, when things are getting boisterous at sea, we frequently heave to prior to going forward just to stop the seas from breaking over us. This allows us to work in relative comfort and safety.
Becky and Chris — The feedback from your firsthand experience is much appreciated.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
We are planning to do the '08 Baja Ha-Ha with friends from Europe. Do you know the dates yet?
Ed — The Ha-Ha folks don't come out of hibernation until May 1, but before crashing for the winter, they announced that the dates for the Ha-Ha 14 would be October 28 through November 10 this year.
Although Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler hasn't made an announcement yet, based on past history, we'd expect Ha-Ha 15 to be from October 26 through November 8, 2008.
YOU DON'T KNOW YOUR LENNON
In his response to a letter by John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing, the editor said that he didn't think that John Lennon was responsible for the line about "life is what happens when you're making other plans."
The actual quote is, "Life happens to you while you're busy making other plans," and indeed comes from the John Lennon song Beautiful Boy. Just thought you'd want to know.
Annie — Thank you for the correction. We spent so much of the '70s and '80s banging on the Latitude keyboards that there are gaping holes in our knowledge of pop culture.
DHL vs JIM DIXON — IT'S A NO-BRAINER!
We're anchored here at La Cruz on Banderas Bay, Mexico, having just spent five weeks trying to get parts for our Pathfinder diesel. Thanks to Bruce at Base Auto Parts in Oxnard, there was no delay in locating the parts and having them shipped to us. The hang-up came after that.
We had the stuff shipped DHL, whose customer service told us that the part would be delivered on a Monday and that the charges would be about 650 pesos or roughly $58. But when the delivery man showed up with the parts at Philo's Music Studio and Bar in La Cruz, he wanted $1,880 pesos — nearly $170 — for just $75 worth of parts. We had him take the parts back to the DHL office in Puerto Vallarta so we could get things sorted out the next day.
When we got to the office, we were told that we'd either have to pay the $650 pesos in duty, or take it up with Customs in Guadalajara. Having not had an engine for three weeks, we needed the parts badly, so we paid the exorbitant duty. We then opened the package to be sure everything was there and, you guessed it, the main part was missing! So it was back to square one.
We got on the morning net and asked if anyone could recommend a better way to get parts to Banderas Bay. Dick Markie, Harbormaster at Paradise Village Marina, said that a lot of cruisers had good luck with Jim Dixon of San Diego, and that he could be reached by email.
We first called Bruce at Base Auto Parts to let him know that he needed to find another head gasket for us. We then called Jim Dixon, who said if we had the part mailed to him, he would have his contact carry it to Tijuana, pay the duty there, then put it on Alaska Airlines to be flown directly to Puerto Vallarta. Dixon would e-mail us the tracking number, and we were to pick up the part at Areo-MexExpress at the P.V. airport. Once we had the part, we were to pay Jim via Pay Pal for the duty, shipping and his fee.
Well, everything went exactly as Dixon said it would. We had our new part within five days of contacting him — with no hassles and no extra expense! Our many thanks to both Bruce and Jim, both of whom went out of their way to help us.
John and Debbie — For what seems like forever, just about everything shipped through the Guadalajara Airport has been held hostage by the banditos in the Customs office. Their goal in life seems to be to try to make life as difficult as possible for cruisers. Fortunately, officials like that seem to be a dying breed in most of Mexico.
Dixon's service seems to be a great way to get around the Guadalajara problem. We're also told that UPS now flies directly to Puerto Vallarta, where Customs officials have a reputation for being very reasonable. If anybody else has any firsthand experience, we'd love to hear from you.
I FELT EMPATHY FOR BARNES
The recent plight of Newport Beach sailor Ken Barnes, whose ketch Privateer was capsized and dismasted on his way to Cape Horn, and who was rescued from a spot 500 miles off the coast of southern Chile, struck a responsive chord in me. I was once also on a sailboat that was disabled as the result of a storm, and we crew found ourselves about the same distance from land as did Barnes.
2) His comments and reaction to the dismasting of his boat seem to point to the fact he was not prepared to make temporary repairs to get himself to port for further repairs. Of course, even if he could have jury-rigged a sail plan, he didn't seem to have an emergency rudder.
3) Based on the storm he experienced, and the one I experienced crossing the Atlantic in '86, there is no sailing in Southern California that can prepare a sailor for a real storm at sea. There just aren't any storms here.
Twenty years ago, I joined the skipper of a 50-ft cutter to doublehand across the North Atlantic to Gibraltar. Our voyage was fairly normal except for the fact that the boat would not self-steer, so one of us had to be at the wheel at all times. Everything was fine until the day we heard the words 'tropical depression' over the short wave radio. It was passing over the coast of the Carolinas and traveling due east — right for us. Since we were still 1,500 miles away, we had several days to think about it. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
As the leading edge of the storm became visible to us, and looked unimaginably evil, we sat in the cockpit in awe. I recall saying to each other, “What the hell is that?” It would blow 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots, and the swells were 12 feet. An astonishing thing about the storm was the noise — the roaring of the wind and rolling seas was beyond any experience that I've had.
During the storm we had to steer down the face of each wave — fortunately we were running with them. I can recall having to make a steering adjustment both at the first lift of the wave and then again at the bottom of the wave. We had some great surfing, often catching a wave that allowed us to ride down its face. After 24 hours, the winds calmed down.
The constant working of everything on the boat caused some trouble, as the next day our propeller shaft coupling parted and the shaft slipped aft. So far aft that it jammed the rudder and let water flow into the boat around the displaced propeller shaft. This meant we couldn’t steer and the boat was slowly filling with water! It was low on the scale of possible disabilities — until we realized that we were 500 miles from land. So we quickly got to work with the pump to keep the boat afloat, and then found a way to pull the propeller back in the boat so we could steer her.
I felt empathy for Barnes when I realized that he was about the same distance from help as we had been. But at least we were warm, while he was freezing, and there were two of us, so we could alternate between being on watch and resting. And as astonishing as it was to me, the storm we went through was only about half the strength of the one that wiped out Barnes' boat!
Chuck — We don't mean any disrespect, but what do you mean you were "low on the scale of possible disabilities?" The two worst things that can happen to a boat are not being able to keep water out and not being able to control the direction in which she is moving.
We don't mean to be disrespectful a second time, but winds blowing a steady 25 and gusting to 35 knots are not — at least by the Beaufort scale — a storm, but rather a near gale. Those conditions can be found often — in fact, too often for northbound boats — along the Central Coast of California during the spring and summer. Come to think of it, a near gale is what participants in the annual Coastal Cup Race fantasize about.
The Beaufort scale defines a storm as Force 11, or winds of 64 to 72 knots. For what it's worth, while the speed of the wind in a storm is double that of a near gale, the forces with which it blows are actually four times as strong. To be sure, 30 knots is a lot of wind, but 70 knots is an entirely different ball game.
Here's a fun fact. The Beaufort scale was created by Irishman Sir Francis Beaufort in 1805, and the initial scale of 0 to 12 was not based on windspeed, but rather on the effects the wind had on the sails of a man of war. For example, Force 12 was "that which no canvas could withstand." Now for the fun part. In 1946, the Beaufort scale was extended to include Forces 13 to 17. While these were later dropped in the rest of the world, they are still used in Taiwan and mainland China, both of which are commonly subject to typhoons.
IT DOESN'T END UNTIL YOU'RE BROKEN OR DEAD
My letter is in response to the sorry-ass state of affairs that surrounds the whole Ken Barnes episode, in which he had to be rescued at considerable effort and expense after his Gulfstream 44 ketch was dismasted off South America.
I am a mountaineer cum sailor. When I started climbing, I took risks that would have caused 'experienced' mountaineers to quiver — and I quiver thinking back on those days. There was an element of luck and balls involved with those first climbs. There always is when you are dealing with objective hazards — which can be found in the mountains or at sea. In a matter of a few short years, I was ticking technical routes in the Himalayas and Alaska. Armchair mountaineers that I met were always flustered with my success. Those weak souls couldn’t stand the thought that some balls and a little luck could get me to the top of climbs that they wouldn’t even consider.
And you know what? Had I ever failed dramatically, as Barnes did, they would have been raising the same bullshit claims: “not enough experience,” “I told you so,” “how dare he,” blah, blah, blah. Or, "See honey, it's better that I decided to install those cabinets instead of actually sailing — just like you said!"
Hey, guess what, armchair sailors — which would include anyone who is looking past Barnes' spirit and balls, and those who are trying to look/feel better in light of his failure — yeah, Barnes' failure sucks, but it is more glorious than anything you chumps could ever even dream of.
I have nothing but praise for a guy like Barnes — he risked his life, his boat, and apologized because others became involved (of their own volition). That's a man with a spirit for adventure. The world is a bit short of people like him.
In the off chance that Barnes himself isn’t tired of reading this shit, I would remind him that Moitessier was shipwrecked twice, bro, penniless and heartbroken. We all know he came through. It doesn’t end until you’re dead or broken — and there are far too few of us left for a warrior like yourself to call himself broken.
Steve — You expressed yourself very well, and we're with you.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST WOOD BOATS?
We're happy to report that our good friend and neighbor Pierre-Alain Segurel has returned to the Bay Area. You may remember that his boat, the Islander 36 Phileas Fogg, was T-boned while at anchor in Turtle Bay during the last Ha-Ha. The boat that hit him was an American-owned sportfishing boat with nobody on deck. The resolution is now in the hands of the insurance companies. But how do you compensate someone for the loss of their home and dreams? All of us wish Pierre-Alain a speedy return to the boating life.
We also want to know what Latitude has against wooden boats? One reason we decided to stay with wood is that, if you shop carefully and know what you are looking for, you can get a whole lot more boat for the money. And you can't beat an old boat for personality and warmth.
We are the proud owners of San Souci, 1943 Block Island Cow Horn — see Creighton Smith's letter in the March issue — that was built at the William Bennett Yard in Newport Beach. She's 42 feet overall, 33 feet on deck and has a beam of 12.5 feet. Since she was built during the middle of World War II, we can only speculate on how she was finished and launched. But it's rumored that she was used by the Navy along the Southern California coast during the war, and sometime in the '50s competed in the TransPac. We know for sure that she’s been up and down the West Coast and in and out of San Francisco Bay for the last 60 years. She’s also had a stint in the South Seas and up to Alaska.
It's true that San Souci is lacking in amenities — she doesn't even have an ice box — but we see that as just having fewer systems to maintain. It also means that we have a very low energy footprint. Our monthly electric bill is $11, in part because we don't have a television. We spend about $8/month on our diesel heater, and $7/month on propane because we use the stove all day. But we do spend more money on paint than most boatowners.
Soon we’ll be turning left and heading out the Gate. A wooden boat is the only way we could realize our dream.
PERSON-O-PERSON ALIVE, HOW GREAT IS THAT!
I look forward to each and every page of Latitude 38, and time and again find Max Ebb’s section to be my favorite.
Lee Helm and Max bring so much to the sport/lifestyle. For example, in your February issue Lee brought forth the term “seapersonship.” I mean, person-o-person alive, how great is that! When I told my friend Norperson about the article, he was happy to hear that wopeople are making meaningful changes within the English language. I have to agree with him, it’s the age of the Woperson, they’ve been held back and personhandled for much too long.
My Grandmother for example, who was born in Personchester, England, left the oppression of English society behind and came to America in the late 1800s. Aboard ship she met a gentleperson named Personferd Newperson, he played the persondolin. They fell in love, married, and settled down in Personhattan, New York. There they raised 13 children. At 57, Grandma died of severe peoplestral cramps.
After her passing, Grandfather bought a one-way train ticket and rode a Pullperson car out West. When he arrived in Oakland, his baggage was nowhere to be found. It seems his goods were not listed on the train’s personifest. He arrived with only the shirt on his back. This did not detour his enthusiasm for life, nor did it diminish his sense of personhood. He took small jobs, saved his money and soon bought his own fishing boat. He knew no more about fishing than the Person in the Moon. The first year was a tough one. Few fish were caught, and the nets mostly came up empty or with just a few squid or a Person-o-War or two. The story has it that he once jumped into the cold water to free a Personta Ray that had gotten into his nets. That’s the sort of seaperson he was. He was a kind huperson being, an enviropersontalist, a credit to personkind.
Once again, I want to thank Max, Lee and the rest of the crew for the many hours of enjoyment they serve up each month.
Latitude is by and large the greatest, I thank you for all the information and enjoyment your efforts bring.
L.D. — We think it's women, not children, who are the hope for the future of the world. Nonetheless, we're still not in favor of over-the-top politically correct speech.
IT'S FUN TO SEE THE BIG BEASTS
We're so glad you posted the photo of the 310-ft schooner Eos in 'Lectronic and Latitude. We saw her a couple of weeks ago anchored off Norman Island here in the British Virgins, but couldn't see her name and didn't know who she was. A few days later we read your report in 'Lectronic.
By the way, it's seems that Eos and the 451-ft motoryacht Rising Sun have become fast friends, as we have seen them anchored together off Jost van Dyke and again at Salt Island.
It’s always fun to see these big beasts.
Lynn and John — Those "big beasts" — particularly the motoryacht versions — have become so wildly popular that you have to get in line for a couple of years to buy one. The ultra rich no longer want to settle for their own island, they want to be able to have their own island anywhere they want it in the world, complete with all the ultra comforts of their own home. Officials and developers in places from St. Thomas to La Cruz to the Northeast United States have come to recognize what tremendous economic engines each of these yachts is, so they are rushing to approve and build extra large facilities to cater to them. The only downside is that the carbon footprint per person of such yachts is as embarrassing as owning a private 767 jet.
FILLING IN THE BLANKS
To fill in the blanks on the tragic loss of three lives when the Voyage 440 Catshot flipped on a delivery from San Francisco to Seattle in December, it appears that two of the three crew were picked up in San Francisco. It's my understanding that the older man was a 79-year-old truck driver from South Dakota. I don't know about the other, but the English captain was about 50 and a severe diabetic, but had perhaps as many as 10 years experience with the South African Marine Rescue Service.
I've learned that during the storm of December 11, the gusts may have been as high as 150 knots. And sustained winds of over 100 knots were recorded along the coast.
This storm was forecast well in advance and was expected to be the worst of a series of storms that battered the coast last fall. Failure to know the storm was coming would have been negligence. The boat and the area of maximum storm intensity arrived at about the same time and place, almost as if it had been planned. In my opinion, having the boat there amounted to near suicide. There is no way to sugar coat it — an experienced captain putting his boat in that position is plain guilty of negligence.
With regard to the matter of the cat maybe having to make it to Seattle in time for the boat show, that doesn't make sense because the show wasn't scheduled to open for about six weeks. It's no more than a week's run from San Francisco to Seattle, which would have left five weeks for layovers due to bad weather. I took a Nordhavn 46 motoryacht up the Oregon/Washington coast during late November. That boat sat in Crescent City for three weeks because of weather concerns. When an opening of several days appeared, we were able to run up to Cape Flattery without incident.
The weather conditions along the Oregon/Washington coast can be brutal in the fall and winter, and sometimes the spring, but it's only brutal when there's a storm coming. We run boats along that coast all winter, just not during storms. With modern weather forecasting there is almost no excuse for getting caught unaware. Note that I said almost no excuse.
The worst storm conditions on earth probably exist in the belt around Antarctica, and South Africa lies on the edge of that belt. I figure the captain, having had experience with that stuff, might have thought he could squeeze by and make it to Seattle without stopping. That was a bad assumption.
Mike — We prefer not to speak ill of the dead, particularly when nobody knows for sure what happened on Catshot. Nonetheless, it seems all but inexplicable that a captain and crew would have put themselves directly in the path of a brutal storm that had been forecast far in advance.
Incidentally, if we remember correctly, calculations indicated that 100-kt winds would flip the 110-ft Playstation/Geronimo even if she had no sail up.
VON KÁRMÁN VORTEX STREET
On February 16, an approximately 40-ft cat flipped in huge seas about 200 miles northeast of Bermuda. Despite having to cling to the overturned cat and/or being in the cold water for close to nine hours, both crewmen survived, although the skipper expired about the time a rescue helicopter arrived. The incident is somewhat reminiscent of what happened to the Voyage 440 catamaran Catshot that was found, after a tremendous storm, overturned on a beach in Oregon in early December without any sign of her crew.
The question I ask is if a Von Kármán vortex street could have saved the capsized catamarans?
[Editor's note: A Von Kármán vortex street is a repeating pattern of swirling vortices caused by the unsteady separation of flow over bluff bodies. A vortex street will only be observed over a given range of Reynolds numbers, typically above a limiting Re value of about 90. The range of Re values will vary with the size and shape of the body from which the eddies are being shed, as well as with the kinematic viscosity of the fluid. They are named after the engineer & fluid dynamicist, Theodore von Kármán, who taught at Cal Tech.]
First, let's be sure we're using terms the same way. For me, 'heave to' means the boat is kept at an attitude of about 50 degrees to the wind. That 50-degree angle seems to be important in the generation of the protective slick upwind. Headway is stopped and the vessel is making a drift at a rate of half a knot to two knots to leeward, straight downwind. At that angle of heading, the flow around the hull and keel is stalled, and a turbulent wake will appear on the weather side. This turbulent wake has the effect of smoothing down breaking seas on their approach.
The scientific name for the turbulent field caused by the hove to vessel, with or without a para anchor set, is a Von Kármán vortex street.
I quote from the Pardey's Storm Tactics Handbook: Modern Methods of Heaving-To for Survival in Extreme Conditions: "I have sat on deck during Force 10 winds and watched while almost Pipeline-like waves toppled onto our slick, then crumbled into heavy foam coming close to the boat. Yet the same Pipeliners, with their overhanging crests, kept their shape and power as they broke fore and aft of where our boat lay. To write this on paper does no justice to the drama of watching the slick sap the power of the waves."
Although a boat produces its own Von Kármán vortex street, the parachute anchor, upwind some 300 feet or so, also produces a vortex street, so the protection from breaking waves is far better than without the parachute anchor.
The fourth edition of Drag Devices Data Base by Victor Shane has a lot of case histories of multihulls in storms for those who need additional opinions besides those reported in detail by the Pardeys.
Another good reference is Earl Hinz's Heavy Weather Tactics Using Sea Anchors and Drogues. He spent a lot of page writing about the need to have the para anchor and the boat about one wavelength apart.
One more thing. I have not been misled into thinking that a bigger sea anchor would be better than one that is the correct size for your boat. The generation of the protective Von Kármán vortex street depends on the boat drifting slowly — quite slowly actually — straight downwind. Too large a chute, too slow a drift and, hence, no protective Von Kármán vortex street.
John — We don't think there is any way to know if the Von Kármán vortex street could have saved either cat. In the case of Catshot, nobody knows exactly how or when the cat came to be upside down. For all we know she was flipped while hove to trying to benefit from a Von Kármán vortex street.
In the case of Haley, crewman Kevin Klinges of Ketchum, Idaho, reported that several hours before they flipped, a wave that was easily 45-ft high broke on the back of the cat, nearly flipping her then. So presumably the wave that did flip her several hours later was either bigger, steeper or somehow caught the cat in a more vulnerable position.
The question we have is whether or not a drogue could successfully be deployed and maintained in such a position for a long period of time. After all, the chafe and strains have to be incredible in such conditions, even assuming a wave didn't break on top of the cat. And in the case of Haley, they'd successfully endured the huge seas for nearly two days before they flipped, so for a long time their strategy of running with it had been successful. If we recall correctly, neither of the two cats that survived the Queen's Birthday Storm in the South Pacific in '94 had hove to. Battered and without steering, they simply bobbed on the surface during the maelstrom.
Of course, different strategies would probably work better for different cats — and monohulls. In the case of Profligate, our strategy would be to run with it for absolutely as long as possible. Maybe that's because we're old surfers and because we made sure the bows are high out of the water and have lots of volume. A delivery crew got caught with her off Pt. Sur in 45 to 55-kts of wind and 23-ft seas a few years ago. While they wanted to continue to motor into the wind and seas at half a knot, we insisted that they turn around and run with it. According to skipper Bruce Ladd, as soon as they did, life became a lot better. They were able to 'sail' under structure alone at 5 to 12 knots with the autopilot steering, and the crew soon ceased to be seasick. They were partially pooped once. We suppose it's possible at some point for the waves to become too steep to ride down, but our job is to make sure we and/or her crew never find themselves in that situation.
In the case of the Leopard 45 'ti Profligate, we'd probably prefer to lay to a sea anchor.
TURN IT OFF, LIVE IT UP, GO SAILING
I’m sitting in the cockpit of Catspaw reading the letters in the March edition and laughing. How ironic that I am reading letters regarding sailing with strange men, towing dinghies, whether to have televisions aboard or not, whether to take dogs sailing, and so forth.
I’m not really singlehanding this weekend because I have Gracie and Grey along as crew. Gracie is a rescued Border Collie mutt, and Grey is a rescued cat who has been run over by a car and rebuilt. ($$$!) For everyone's information, titanium plates in your pelvis won’t mess up the compass.
Gracie barfed four times in the cockpit during our three-hour sail from Alamitos Bay to Newport Beach. We had steady sevens the first hour of that trip, even while towing the hard dinghy. We didn't lose the dinghy either. Grey stayed below and glared at me, but no barf this trip.
The animals usually both get sick the first day out, but after a night onboard they are fine. We’ve done trips up to three weeks in length with no problems. Gracie would rather pee and poop ashore, but will use the foredeck if we’re stuck onboard. Grey, of course, uses the cat box at his leisure. The point is that they are happy to be with me 24/7, and easily adjust to life onboard. All 30 feet of it.
I'm anchored at the south end of Lido Island as part of a Women’s Sailing Association cruise. Our group became members of the Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA) last year, and have about 50 members — including male Significant Others. A large percentage of the gals own their own boats, so there are lots of great people to sail with year round. There's no need to sail with creeps. Check us out at www.sailingchicks.com.
I still have a television in my house, but I don't think it works. No worries, as I haven’t watched the tube since 9/11. I put television in the same category as drugs, credit cards, and crap on the internet. They all steal from your life. Oh, and microwave ovens, too.
I never want to go home after a sailing adventure, no matter if it's two days or two months. Everything seems so silly when you get back to our world.
You can sure use up a lot of energy on meaningless things if you let yourself slip. How about all the people living in houses where an association tells them what color paint they can use, what plants they can plant, what type of house numbers they can use, and what kind of light bulb they can put in the front door socket? Get a grip. Bless all the folks in the Caribbean with their crazy house colors!
Sunday night I’ll send this off and re-up for the Classy Classified for my boat — I want to move up to a Cal 40. Since I don't have a laptop on the boat, I can focus on being out here. Monday I’m off to do a Moorings charter in the La Paz area with my pals for a week. Ain’t life great?
Hey out there — turn it off, live it up, and go sailing. "Life’s too short to stay in your slip!”
THE BEST ARTICLE I'VE EVER READ IN LATITUDE
The Forty Five Days In The Tropics was the best article I've ever read in Latitude. Perhaps it's because the subject matter — putting a catamaran into a charter management program in the Caribbean — is so relevant to what I'm thinking of doing. Thank you for writing it. But a few questions, if I may.
1) Can you give me a big picture of the financials involved? For example, you indicated that the purchase price for 'ti Profligate was $270k, and that you paid for it via a refinance of your house. I would probably do the same. If you paid all cash, then you obviously have no loan payments to make. If you put X dollars down, there would obviously be some amount of debt to service. When you say you might even make a small profit, is that with or without the debt service?
2) How many other expenses do you think there will be?
3) What happens after three years? It seems that you’ll be forced to take your boat out of charter. Do you expect to place it in yet another charter company, or will you seek to sell because the boat may no longer pay for itself? I'm aware that companies like The Moorings will keep a boat in their program for five years, and that a few companies will keep them for up to eight years. Then what?
I’m 6’4” and hate to bang my head and shoulders, so the idea of a cat with that kind of headroom at the front of the salon seems like the way to go. The cat also seems like the way to go because I don't like heeling over for hours at a time.
I just turned 52 and, having been in law and real estate for a while, want to get out of the biz. I'm very seriously considering retiring. Right now I own a powerboat that I berth opposite the Marina Green. I used to sail, but it was hard getting my wife to join me, as she was more comfortable on the powerboat.
But once again, you made an extremely compelling argument to have fun while you're still able to.
Anonymous — Yacht management companies have very different policies. For example, The Moorings has a program that will guarantee you a certain amount of monthly income — even if your boat is never chartered. That's fairly low risk, so we suspect when all things are considered there is also a fairly low rate of return on the investment.
We put our used Leopard 45 cat in an entirely different program at BVI Yacht Charters. We get to use our cat as much as we want whenever we want, and we get 70% of all charter income. However, we also have to pay for berthing, insurance, clean-up after charters, repairs and so forth. Our assumption is that, since we're taking a greater share of the risk — we're going to eat it big time if terrorists attack airlines or some drunk charterer puts the cat on a reef — we probably have the potential for a better return on our investment.
Almost all yacht management companies will show you projected — not guaranteed — financials. We suggest that you contact them for a copy, and to find out if they want any more boats in their fleets. But as we said, we know boats and we know the Caribbean, so we're going to have to see a profit — beyond our substantial use of the boat — before we're convinced there is one. And because we always assume the worst, we've braced ourselves for the chance that we may have to replace an engine and the boat will be out of service for several months, really stunting income.
Having said that, we can report that, despite not coming into service until very late in the season, 'ti Profligate is already booked through BVI Yacht Charters for two weeks a month for March, April, May and June, plus for another eight days in November. We certainly have no complaints with a start like that. And if they somehow manage to squeeze another week in both May and June, we might even dance a little jig. Late summer and fall are the low season, of course, when the prices drop and business falls off significantly.
The bottom line is that we don't know how it's going to work out financially, but plan on letting you know a year from now. We can also tell you that if you suggest something like that as an 'investment' to a Suze Ormand or a Bob Brinker, you'd be booked for murder, because they'd die laughing. But we doubt you're modeling your life on theirs.
When we mentioned that we intend to have the cat in the program for just three years, it's not because she'll necessarily be forced out, but rather because by that time we think we'd like to have a similar arrangement with a cat in the Med, the East Coast of Australia, or Thailand. But who knows, maybe we'll keep her in the Caribbean. According to our agreement with the charter company, we can cancel our arrangement with three month's notice, provided sisterships can be found to take care of the charters that had been booked for her. And, frankly, we don't know how long the company will allow our boat to be in their program. We assume it's as long as she's popular with customers which, in the case of Leopard 45s, Caribbean charter all-stars for years, is going to be quite a long time.
There will be lots of charter outfits represented at the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Oakland in April, which means it would be a great opportunity for you to investigate and compare programs.
WE USED A ZODIAC AS A LIFERAFT
I’m responding to Jean Winter, who wrote for advice about what kind of liferaft to buy when going cruising.
You may recall that my Morgan 45 Painkiller sank on April 30, 2000, when 120 miles north of Cartegena in the Caribbean Sea. We didn't have a liferaft to get into, but used a Zodiac Yachtline RIB for that purpose. Since that incident, I’ve attended many of the major boat shows around the country and spent a lot of time with liferaft vendors. Before buying a liferaft, I think Winter needs to ask herself the following questions:
1) What kind of cruising will I be doing? Warm water, cold water or both. The answer to that will tell her what type of floor — single layer or double layer — she should get.
2) Do I want a canopy? Based on my experience, the answer to that should always be 'yes'.
3) How many tubes? The more tubes, probably the safer and drier the liferaft.
4) Hard canister on deck or valise down below?
5) But the most important question is, what is the maximum number of people who might ever have to get into the liferaft. Everyone needs to know that a 'man', as in a 'four-man liferaft', gets four square feet. How big is four square feet? If you have an average size 14-year-old around, sit him/her on their bottom and wrap their arms around their legs, and he/she will occupy about four square feet. If you're bigger than a 14-year-old, as most adults are, that's nowhere near enough room. In fact, the three of us who had to survive in Painkiller's RIB occupied about 20-sq-ft.
Liferaft buyers also need to ask themselves how long they would be comfortable sitting on their bottom with their knees toward their chin with their arms wrapped around their legs. If the answer is "not very long," they might need to increase the number of 'men' their raft will hold. My guess is that a couple would want to have a minimum of a six-man liferaft.
Also, should I ever find myself in the position again to have to use a liferaft, I’m going to:
1) Light off the 406 EPIRB/GPS early;
2) Call the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center in Miami on my fully charged Satphone;
3) Tie my RIB next to my double-walled, double-tubed, canopied, water-ballasted, eight-man (for a crew of three) liferaft;
4) Be wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a big floppy canvas hat securely fastened to my head, along with my polycotton pants and my reef-runner shoes.
5) Have lip and skin protection — and plenty of it — along with my jugs of water, food and other supplies.
6) While I’m waiting for help to arrive, I’ll double-check my flare gun and the three dozen shells that will go with it. The 18 we had last time were almost not enough.
7) I'll make sure that my fully charged handheld VHF is tied on to something secure, and make sure everyone is wearing a signal mirror, whistle and has a strobe light on their upper arm.
One last thing: The dollars and cents math on survival gear is simple — if you need it and don’t have it, your family will have to hold a memorial service rather than throw a party on your next birthday. But if you have what you need, chances are they'll get to host another birthday party. As for the extra cost? Well, you’ll be around to get a job if need be to pay for all the safety stuff you bought.
Readers — Having had to go through a life and death experience in an inflatable on the rough Caribbean Sea, Landmann knows what he's talking about. When he says that a six-man liferaft is about right for three people, we couldn't agree more. You have to remember that if you need to get into a liferaft, the sea conditions are likely to be very rough as opposed to like those in a swimming pool.
The other thing to remember is that, if you have an EPIRB, Satphone, VHF and lots of flares, you shouldn't have to spend too long in a raft, and therefore the chances of your survival are greatly increased. This is a far cry from when we started Latitude 30 years ago, when it wasn't unknown for cruisers who lost their boats to have to spend weeks, if not months, in liferafts waiting to be rescued or die. Articles were written about how to do things like give pee enemas to ward off dehydration.
I EVEN OFFERED TO PAY FOR NEW MOORINGS
With regard to the Angel Island mooring screw up, you guys are right in saying, "considering how long it took for them to install the new field in the first place, we aren’t holding our breath.”
The Ayala Cove mooring field has been dangerous for a long time:
— See the letter to Latitude from Louk Wijsen of Noordzee on page 60 of the October '01 issue.
— See Kim Haworth's December '01 About the Bay column in Bay and Delta Yachtsman.
— One of our crew fell in the water, having been unable to easily secure a line.
— Sue Robba, a friend of ours, got her leg badly scraped while attempting to secure a line.
— My European stainless-steel version of the 'Happy Hooker' is useless on these moorings, although we were able to use these tools on two large Swans in Europe/Med.
Based on these '01 items, I called the Park Service and offered to pay for new moorings — the tripod heads are $75 each — but they were too busy spending $300K+ to make the top of Mt. Anne Livermore politically correct and could not afford my offer.
It seems to me that they have done a hi-tech bureaucratic overkill, which will make Ayala Cove even more dangerous for the many novices who try to moor there. There is absolutely no need for flotation devices on the underwater mooring lines, as the heavy chain works perfectly. And if they 'rotate' the field, it will become a most uncomfortable anchorage, with large side swells at all times, leading to gear failure. Boats must be tied up pointing toward Richmond to survive the wakes from passing Bay traffic.
If experienced sailors require a diver to moor in Ayala Cove, then please omit the stop from your annual Cruising the Bay recommendations.
The only good news is that the Park Service will re-install the tripod tops, so Happy Hookers might work again. White tires are a nice plus, but not essential.
Mike — To be clear, the Department of Boating and Waterways was responsible for the new mooring field, not the Parks Department. In fact, Parks notified DBW as soon as the issue with the floats came up but it took a few days to get the official word to close the field until repairs could be made. To DBW's credit, they fast-tracked the project and the field was reopened within two weeks. Now the moorings are not only user-friendly but environmentally-friendly as well. Check out Sightings for a full report on the new mooring field.
IT'S OUR PLEASURE
Back in September of '03, I wrote to ask if you knew anything about a boat I was thinking of buying for my first boat. It turned out that I didn't get the boat. And it seems like centuries ago, for since then there have been two more children, two more graduate degrees, and symmetrically enough, two more boats.
But I thought this would be a nice time to compliment you on the steadfast support and encouragement that you’ve given me since that autumn. Four years ago I was lucky if I didn’t accidentally hank the jib to a shroud — something I actually did on a rental at Whiskeytown Lake. Ah, the humiliation! But although I'm hardly a weathered seaman, I now find myself becoming the sailor that I've always wanted to be. I'm taking the Coast Guard Auxiliary's Basic Coastal Navigation course at Dana Point. In addition, I now have a Pacific Seacraft 25 at Dana Point, and am bringing her back to bristol condition as quickly as I can make it down to the marina. And, when I can’t get down to the ocean from Lake Arrowhead, which is where I now live, I sail my Cape Dory Typhoon on the lake.
For these past years I have been an avid reader of Latitude. Nowadays I make sure that I pick up an extra copy for my neighbor across the street here in Lake Arrowhead, no matter if I'm at West Marine or Minney's, getting the next bit of gear for Valaskjalf, my Typhoon, or Sjöstrøm, my Pacific Seacraft 25. You folks are a wonderful, blessed group of people for whom I am deeply grateful, and I want to thank you for working so bloody hard.
Jonathan — It makes our load a little lighter to know that people like you appreciate what we do.
WE'VE JUST CAUGHT THE 802 BLUES OURSELVES
We've just learned of the clipping issues you've had with your Icom 802 SSB radio. We'd recently installed one on AnamCara, and this morning it started to clip like yours does.
Nonetheless, we are currently underway from Las Hadas to Barra and are loving life. Rocketeer is still waiting in Alamitos Bay for our return this summer so we can cruise the Channel Islands.
By the way, we have married our two boats and are expecting our new Hylas 54RS to be delivered in the fall of '08. She'll spend her first year out of California cruising from British Columbia to Mexico.
Jerry and Susan — We're sorry to hear about your radio problems. We're told that powerboats have far fewer problems with 802s than do sailboats because they have less clutter to interfere with the antenna. While it's not likely to be a solution, it might be worth carefully going over your antenna and ground set-up, as poor set-ups are what cause the 802s to clip. They do that to protect 'backwash' from the antenna that would otherwise destroy the transmitter. We will have more on this issue as it develops.
Congratulations on the new boat coming down the pipe. As for your "loving life" comment, that's the sentiment we got from an overwhelming number of cruisers when we were down in Mexico for the season. And they weren't just loving life — but LOVING LIFE!
MORE ICOM PROBLEMS
I think the problems with the Icom 802 are pretty well documented already. I was on friend's boat in Fiji this summer — he and his wife are circumnavigating aboard their Hylas 49 — when he mentioned that they not only had problems with their Icom 802, but so did many of the other cruisers they'd met along the way. He brought his 802 back to Icom over the holidays for service. He's back aboard now, but I haven't heard whether or not the radio is working properly. I've also heard that the problems are limited to the early 802s.
Graham — For what it's worth, our non-functioning 802 was purchased in October of '05. Based on what we now know, later 802s have the same problem in certain installations as do earlier ones.
MAYBE IT'S THE MICROPHONE
Four boats equipped with Icom SSB radios had failures during the last Singlehanded TransPac. The symptom was clipped transmissions that became increasingly worse until finally the units wouldn't transmit at all. Replacing the microphones fixed the problem.
Mark — Your report is both interesting — and a little spooky. We don't know of any other cases where the clipping problem has anything to do with the microphones.
CORROSION ON THE CONNECTIONS?
The symptoms you described in 'Lectronic Latitude for the problems you are having with your Icom 802 SSB radio — "clipped transmissions and very limited range" — are almost always the result of corrosion on power connections. It may be that the 802 is somehow more susceptible to this type of problem than the Icom 710.
Paul — We're aware that corrosion is frequently the culprit when there are electrical and/or electronic problems, but we don't think that's the problem in this case. For one thing, we've had three radio professionals check for things like corrosion, and they didn't find anything. Furthermore, there have been cases in which Icom 802s were swapped out with Icom 710s, and the 710s worked fine. We are following the situation carefully and will report as soon as we know more.
SO IT'S NOT JUST ME?
I'm also having problems with my 802. My boat has a steel hull, so the experts tell me that I should, because of favorable grounding, have great transmitting power. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I've had my installation checked out on several occasions by very knowledgeable amateur radio operators.
Gosse — Normally, steel boats would be expected to have better grounding. Ironically, the boat that convinced Icom that there was a problem with the 802s, David Masters' Endeavour in La Paz, is steel. Nonetheless, her antenna set up had a terrible SWR which made it almost impossible for his unmodified 802 to work. More from him a few letters down.
WE HAVE NO TROUBLE RECEIVING
We purchased an Icom 802 in '05. We haven't tried to use it much, but when we have, we haven't had any problem receiving transmissions from long distances. Unfortunately, we're only able to transmit for short distances.
MINE WORKS FINE
I have the Icom M802 and an AT-140 tuner, using a separate 12 AWG antenna wire — and haven't had any problems at all. Icom says that the clipping occurs due to a high SWR. High SWR usually indicates a less than ideal RF ground, or perhaps an antenna problem. For insulated backstays, this could be a bad GTO connection. It's really handy to keep a Yaesu YS-60 SWR meter onboard. This measures radio SWR and output power, and can be used to optimize the RF ground and antenna.
John — Thanks for the good tip. We're glad that your 802 works fine, but have to caution you that a disproportionate number of 802s that have the clipping problem developed it after working fine for period of time. See the following letter for an example.
MINE FAILED IN TAHITI
My Icom M802 failed almost two years ago while in Tahiti — with exactly the same symptoms as described with the 802 on Profligate — after almost two years of reliable operation. I used to be a radio engineer, so I did some measurements to characterize the problem before shipping it back to Icom.
Here's a copy of the letter that I sent to them:
"This radio (IC-M802, serial number 01864) has an intermittent transmit power problem. With a power meter attached to the antenna port, I observed that the output power often starts at full (approximately 150 watts), then drops after a few seconds to about 5 to 10 watts, then randomly cycles up and down every few seconds. Sometimes the transmit power will stay at full for up to a minute, but more often it drops out after just a few seconds. This happens on low, medium and high power settings, and all across the frequency band. I have checked the radio’s installation carefully, and also tested the radio in another M802-equipped boat, with the exact same test results."
Icom repaired the radio under warranty, although the one-year warranty period had expired several years before. They told me the problem was caused by dirty connectors between circuit boards that was caused by "smoke contamination." I never had any smoke on the boat, so that made no sense. The radio worked fine after the repair for two years, at which time I sold the boat.
It sounds like this is a common failure mode for the M802.
SAME PROBLEM WITH OUR 802
Our new Icom 802 has also exhibited some of the signal clipping problems that you've experienced. We have been in contact with the Icom service department, and they are very aware of the problem. They are fairly confident they have come up with a fix. We are currently in La Cruz on Banderas Bay, and just shipped our unit to Washington for the fix. This way we'll have a properly functioning radio for our crossing to Hawaii in April. Our plan is to return to Berkeley in July.
David Masters of the La Paz-based Endeavor has been working most closely with Icom's engineers on the problem. Here's a copy of an email I received from him in February:
"Good news on the M802. The guys from Icom were down for another three days, and it looks like the problem with the M802 is pretty well cornered. We tested a number of antennas, several tuners, and even installed a 710-RT to compare performance. We got consistent performance through a wide range of frequencies. The mod-2, in which they replaced a very small resistor and capacitor on one of the boards in the 802, seems to fix a very large portion of the clipping problem. Icom tells me they can fix all the clipping, but the radio would work exactly like the 710. I prefer what I have with my 802, and will soon explain my take on it.
Initially, it looked like there was still a small residual problem on Endeavor in the 8MHz range. We tested all kinds of things over a two-day period to try and iron it out, but just couldn’t find the problem — although it seemed clear that it was something outside the radio. Swapping tuners, swapping cables, and swapping the 802 for a 710 didn’t make any difference. Everyone was very frustrated.
The Icom guys left, we moved Endeavor to the other end of La Paz and — magically — the clipping problem was much reduced. We are currently thinking that there was something either in one of the other boats at that end of town, or in the surrounding area, that was causing our headache. SWR — standing wave ratio — for 8MHz in our two days of frustrating testing was between 1.7 and 2.5 — which is very high. SWR for 8MHz at this end of town has consistently been 1.1-1.2 for the last two days — although we did have a short period where it was back at 1.7. I’ll keep you informed of any progress we have in tracking down this gremlin.
I’m currently getting reports of clear signals for all of the frequencies I’ve been using. Weather guy Don Anderson of Summer Passage reports that he can still detect a light clipping on 8122 from me, but my signal is definitely usable. Now that I'm out of the marina, I haven't heard anyone else report that I am clipping. I’m also getting much quicker connections to SailMail, and much higher connection speeds for both uploads and downloads. I’m happy with this fix.
Of interest to some, we had a chance to compare the M802 and the M710 side by side. The rap is that the 802 clips while the 710 never clips. This is true, but read on. Both performed as predicted by the Icom engineers. When faced with high SWR, the M802 keeps output power high — above 100 watts — and clips off the potentially damaging voice peaks. This causes the clipping effect. The unmodified M802 is overly sensitive, and does this too readily in some installations — mostly on sailboats with backstay antennas. The M802 with the mod-2 does a good job, clipping only in pretty extreme circumstances, but still keeping up substantial output power.
The M710 — we tested the M710RT — deals with elevated SWR differently. Rather than clip off the peaks, it pulls back the power overall to protect the output circuitry. The result is that there is no clipping, but the output power drops to about 30 watts at high power and stays there. The result is no clipping, but a much weaker signal — only about one-third of the output power compared to the 802.
Given the tradeoff, I’m personally happier with the M802 approach — assuming the radio has the mod-2. Even with high SWR in the test situation, the mod-2 was putting out plenty of power with much reduced clipping. We had no problem getting through and carrying on a conversation with other stations, and nobody had trouble understanding us. The trade-off is between a strong signal and slight clipping in unusual situations with the modified M802 and/or a two-thirds reduction in output power and no clipping in the same unusual conditions with the 710. I would rather have the full power of the 802 than the reduced power of the 710, especially as we plan to head off to South America soon.
I’m certain that not everyone will see the trade-off the same way, but I am opting for the output power. There are also several improvements that have been made between the 710 and the 802 that make the M802 easier to use."
That's the end of Master's report. I hope it helps.
Greg — Thanks for all the very helpful information. The report from Masters on Endeavour is excellent, and we think it lays out the situation pretty clearly, making a difficult subject easy to understand.
We had a very pleasant and informative conversation with Rodney Grim, the head tech guy at Icom. There are only two things we found a little funky with his explanation. First, the business about the 802 clipping problems usually being associated with boats that use backstays for antennas. Profligate doesn't have a backstay, let alone a backstay antenna. Even more troubling is that our 802 — as well as others — have worked fine, and then in as little as 30 minutes began to suffer from severe clipping problems. Are we to believe that our SWR suddenly turned much worse in 30 minutes?
EAR EBOLA PREVENTION
I read about the problems — "ear ebola" — that surfer/sailor Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Swell has had with her ears. I'm not a surfer, but as a diver I used to have a similar problem with my ears. But I haven't had a problem since I adopted the following two practices:
1) I irrigate my ears every month with a solution of water (75%) and hydrogen peroxide (25%). To do this well, you need an ear syringe — available in just about every pharmacy — for sucking up the solution and then squirting it into your ears. Let the solution sit in your ear for a few minutes, during which time you'll hear some fizzing as the hydrogen peroxide attacks the wax in your ear. Repeat this about four or five times, then vigorously irrigate and flush your ear with warm water. It’s easiest to do this in the shower. This process also eliminates wax build-up in the ear.
2) After each dive, I fill each of my ears with a solution that is 50/50 white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. I let it sit for five minutes, my head cocked so the solution fills one ear at a time. The vinegar is kind of smelly, but it dissipate in a short time. The theory behind this is that the vinegar alters the pH in your ear, killing all the nasty bugs feasting on the poopy saltwater in your ear. The rubbing alcohol makes your ear dry faster and more completely.
It’s the continuous 'water-logging' that causes the cells lining the ear to swell, which opens tiny spaces on the lining so bacteria can start festering. Following the two steps I outlined above each time you come out of the water might seem a little onerous, but the results are well worth it.
David — A surfing mishap blew a hole in our left eardrum so many years ago that it prevented us from being shipped off to Vietnam. We were told never to swim again, but found that doing something similar to what you suggest kept our brain lining from repeatedly getting infected. Nonetheless, since neither of us is a doctor, we highly recommend that Clark — and anyone else thinking of trying such cures — clear them with a doctor first. After all, what might be good for one kind of ear problem may be bad for another.
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