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NOTHING BUT THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH
I need an honest answer to an honest question.
Can a single 60-year-old guy with an Islander 30 and years of
sailing experience go cruising on a Navy pension of $910/month,
deposited directly, as his sole income?
Charlie - Here's the truth, soldier, we hope you can take it! Things like your age, the method by which money gets deposited in your bank, and your marriage status are irrelevant to how much it costs to cruise. The simple truth is that if you get $910/month, and you're both a little handy and parsimonious, you've got enough money to cruise comfortably just about anywhere but the States, the South of France and Sardinia. You can still do it in those places, too, but your quality of life won't be as grand as your neighbors aboard the 200-ft yachts.
However, with $910/month you can cruise Mexico, Central America and Ecuador, and darn near live like a king. It will require that you mostly dine with the locals instead of at Carlos 'n Charlie's, that you live on the hook in one of the fine anchorages instead of in a crowded marina, and that you be able to diagnose and repair a burned-out lightbulb rather than hire an expert to do it for you, but you can do it. In fact, on an income like that you'll even be able to take great inland trips to the cool mountains or back to the States during the hot summer months. Medical and dental care in places like Mexico isn't that expensive either. A gringo friend stepped on a nail recently, so he stopped by a clean and well-lighted local clinic. The treatment cost $2 - not a typo - and the medicine was free. Just like Blue Cross, right?
Some people have a hard time getting their heads around it - probably because it sounds too good to be true - but if you own your boat, you can enjoy a wonderful cruising life in Mexico on less than the poverty level here in the States. Not only that, the people and the weather are warmer in Mexico. If you don't have strong family ties or other commitments keeping you in the States, you've got to be nuts not to engage in a little 'globalization' of your own.
I FEARED FOR MY LIFE NEAR PT. BLUNT
Is it ever safe to sail inside the Pt. Blunt buoy off the southeast tip of Angel Island? I'm well aware that it is a restricted area for all races on the Bay, as is the buoy off Alcatraz. But it's my recollection that about 10 years ago, George Sayre's Knarr struck a rock close to the buoy and took on so much water that he was forced to ground his boat on the shore to await rescue by the Coast Guard. I haven't actively raced in many years, but it seems that the present buoy is further out from the island than it was before.
I bring this up because I recently did a mid-week sail with a close friend, an experienced senior sailor, aboard his 23-ft boat. There was no wind and smooth seas, so we motored around Angel Island, intending to anchor for lunch on the eastern shore. It was early in a strong ebb, so I presume it was pretty close to high tide. I objected strongly when it appeared the skipper intended to pass well inside the mark. He told me that he was the skipper, it was his boat, and that I should keep my opinions to myself.
If the distance between the nearest visible rock and buoy is 300 feet, I guess we passed within 100 feet of the rocks. Frankly, I feared for my life, as there were no other boats on the Bay to render assistance. However, it was high tide and we were moving quite slowly as a result of the strong ebb. We passed without incident, had a nice lunch, and then a great sail once the wind came up. He never explained why he chose to go inside the buoy. It probably only saved us 5 to 10 minutes.
Is it good seamanship to sail into a restricted
area with known hazards capable of sinking your boat - even though
it is probably safe due to the actual tide and seas? How do you
handle it when you think your skipper is taking unnecessary risks
and chooses to ignore your warnings? Does anybody know what's
under the water between the buoy and shore at Pt. Blunt? A single
rock, a few rocks, a rocky shoal?
Bill - There are buoys on the Bay that we've sailed inside of many times - including the one at Belvedere's Peninsula Point, the one at Pt. San Pablo, and even the one at Angel Island's Pt. Stuart. We have never, however, sailed inside of the Pt. Blunt buoy because the way the point comes out suggests to us that there could be underwater hazards. It means we've had to make several heavy air jibes we would have preferred not to in order to stay outside the buoy, but that's life. Fortunately, some readers know more about Pt. Blunt than us, and their responses follow.
What to do if you think a skipper is putting your life in danger by entering a restricted area? Fletcher Christian had the answer - mutiny!
BEWARE OF 'THE PINNACLES' INSIDE OF PT. BLUNT
I was a deckhand on various boats out of
Berkeley during my high school summer years. When the striped
bass were running, we'd sometimes fish right in close to the
rocks at Pt. Blunt. More than once I remember bumping a rock,
about 50 yards southwest of the point, that the skipper referred
to as the 'Pinnacles'. Prior to the Yacht Racing Association
(YRA) making Blunt a restricted mark, I recall many races where
we sailed inside of the buoy to get out of the flood. If you
sailed too close in, you got into a softer breeze. If you sailed
too far out, the flood would slow you.
IT SOUNDED LIKE A CANNONSHOT
I crewed in the Big Boat Series in the
late '70s, and the boat I was on was just ahead and to leeward
of the S&S 50 being skippered by San Francisco sailing legend
Tom Blackaller. We passed outside the Pt. Blunt buoy, but Blackaller
stayed inside. It was breezy, as usual, and when they hit a rock,
the boat came to a full stop. It was an aluminum boat, and the
bang of contact sounded like a cannonshot. Good times.
THE BOSS ISN'T ALWAYS RIGHT
A few years ago, my wife and I were out
with my boss aboard his Valiant. When it became clear that he
was going to attempt to sail inside the Pt. Blunt buoy, I asked
if we should go in there. "I do it all the time," he
said. Right as he finished speaking, the boat came to a stop
with a loud THUD. We had struck a rock. Fortunately, the chop
lifted us off and we were on our way again.
MAYBE KIALOA CRUSHED THE ROCK
During a Big Boat Series many moons ago, the 80-ft maxi Kialoa was tacking up along Angel Island just ahead of those of us aboard the 72-ft Windward Passage. Kilroy and the boys on Kialoa knew they had to leave Pt. Blunt to starboard, but they took one last tack in and - BONK! - they hit a rock and stopped dead. With everyone on Passage grinning slightly, we sailed on - only to misjudge the ebb on the Harding Rock buoy. BONK! We put a hole in the boat big enough to stick your head through, and Kialoa sailed on by as we rerounded. Their crew were outright laughing at our predicament, which made us so mad that we ground them down and nipped them at the finish line. Anyway, there are definitely rocks inside of the Blunt buoy.
For many years I was the captain on the
Larkspur ferry, and I did a lot of cringing watching sailboats
cut between the buoy and land. But I never saw any of them get
hung up. Maybe Kialoa crushed the rock the buoy is supposed
Readers - While it's obvious that some boats have made it safely between the Pt. Blunt buoy and shore, others haven't. We don't know about you, but we're going to play it safe.
TWO HUMANS AND TWO DOGS IN SEARCH OF A CAT
Here is yet another letter from that "weird" couple with their two unsalty dogs. As I mentioned in a previous letter, having aborted our cruise after a couple of days and sold our boat because of concerns that our dogs wouldn't be happy, we spent a year travelling by truck through Central America. After finishing our overland trip in Panama, we returned to Austin to sell our truck with the plan of relocating to Belize. But oddly enough, our truck took much longer to sell than our boat did. During the three-month wait in Texas, we had plenty of time to think - and for Mark to realize that he was dying to get back on the water. And what better way to accomplish this than with our own boat?
Since we tried a monohull, we decided that a catamaran might be the solution. We figure that a cat could make life a lot happier for the dogs, and will be easier on my seasickness. I have to admit, just doing research on cats and looking at the photos online got us pretty excited. Nonetheless, as you can imagine there is a risk that even a catamaran won't work for our dogs and us. So before investing a huge amount of money in another boat, we decided that it would be wise to do a trial on a cat.
The reason I'm writing is to try to find
somebody who would be willing to give the four of us - Mark,
myself and our two dogs - a trial ride on their catamaran. Anywhere
from the coast of Texas to the East Coast would work out fine
for us. This would be a huge favor to a stubborn young couple
such as ourselves and our two beautiful and friendly dogs. Whoever
would do this would no doubt earn lots of good sailing karma.
We can be reached by email.
Liesbet - Given that catamarans have so much more space for their length than do monohulls, and because they sail flat and roll less at anchor, and because most have transom steps that are easier for animals to climb, they are inherently more canine friendly. We can recall that Michael and Layne Beatie of the Santa Cruz-based Miki G had two big dogs they cruised with from California to Florida aboard their Gemini 105 catamaran. It looked a little tight to us, but seemed to work out pretty well. Last month we noticed that John Haste of the Perry 52 cat Little Wing arrived back in Banderas Bay with a beautiful new Husky. The dog seemed very happy - and why not, it was as though it had its own small country to guard over.
LEAVE SOMETHING TO THE IMAGINATION
I vote 'no' on the question of whether or not the picture of Lisa Zittel should be used for the cover of Latitude 38. Your cover girl leaves nothing to the imagination - it's a very unladylike pose. I'm sure that you will recall two charter company advertisements that ran for a long time. One had a photo of a girl sitting on a beach with her back to the camera. Even though she wasn't wearing a top, it left a lot to the imagination! The other ad also had a photo of a girl, but she was on the bow, looking away from the camera, partially covered by a sarong. Again, it left a lot to imagine, drawing the viewer to the photo and giving him something to think about. But the photo you proposed for your cover is strictly 'take it or leave it'. So if you want to start putting pretty girls on your cover, leave something for us to think about.
P.S. My current boat is my third and last.
Yes, I named her after myself, as my wife has no use for it and
I don't have a girlfriend.
Robert - We appreciate your opinion, but are a little confused about this imagination stuff. You're not supposed to be imagining anything. After all, Lisa, the cover girl, is married. And so are you! Our cover realistically depicts the healthy, active, fun, sailing lifestyle as enjoyed in Mexico, which is exactly what we intended. And the "healthy, active, fun" business is absolutely key. There's another sailing magazine that specializes in having women on their covers who are, unfortunately, usually posed to look about as wooden and out of place on a sailboat as a cigar store Indian. We like to think we did better than that.
We also have to inform you that you're the only person who voted against the photo of Lisa being on the cover. Among those who enthusiastically voted in favor were nearly as many women as men, Lisa's father- and mother-in-law, and even her father. Actually, her dad preferred the shot in which she was cleaning her feet off the transom of the boat. For those who didn't see it in 'Lectronic, here it is.
The image of a whale impaled on the bow of a large ship in February's Changes reminded me of my own close encounter with a whale last October. I was motorsailing north from Pillar Point in 8 to 10 foot seas, about five miles west of Sail Rock. I'd just been getting comfortable after tacking, and was looking west to eye some of the bigger seas off my beam - when I suddenly spied a black shape from the corner of my eye. It was a 35-ft humpback whale crossing directly in front of me, a little more than a boatlength away.
After a momentary shock thinking that it was some rocks - which aren't out there, of course - I glanced down at the drawer in the cabin where I keep my camera. Instantly realizing there was no time to capture the whale on film, I looked up again to see a tail fluke as wide as my boat rising up just half a boatlength in front of me. I put the tiller down, and the magnificent beast disappeared behind my sails. When the patch of water I had been about to run over came into view over my starboard coaming, it was all glassy and turbulent, just as you'd expect when a big fish is swimming away hard.
Whales navigate by sonar. Is there such
a thing as a deaf whale?
Xenon - We're not whale experts, but it's our understanding that only toothed whales, as well as orca and bottle-nose dolphins, use echolation - which is sort of like sonar - for hunting and navigation. Baleen whales, such as humpbacks and blues, primarily use their 'songs', which usually last for about 10 minutes and can be heard as far as 100 miles away, for communication. How they can 'sing' without vocal cords is a mystery.
We assume that you're wondering if your noisy boat was only able to get so close to that whale because the whale was deaf. We don't believe this was the case, because encounters between whales and boats are so common. There are several contacts in every Baja Ha-Ha, and, if you travel around Banderas Bay, where whales are everywhere from December to March, they never make any effort to get out of the way. Apparently, whales don't feel threatened by the approach of large objects making diesel-like noises.
Years ago there were attempts to create noise-makers that would encourage whales to get out of the path of vessels. To our knowledge that technology was never successful. Some cruisers resort to playing loud music in the presence of whales, and report that hip-hop is what makes whales turn tail the most.
AS THE WAVE PERIOD LENGTHENS, YOU GET MORE DANGEROUS CONDITIONS
Your response to an April inquiry on how to predict safe wave conditions outside the Golden Gate is not correct. I live in this area and mountain bike the Marin Headlands on a daily basis. I have seen extremely large waves breaking out as far as the eye can see on days when the winds were light. This normally happens in the period from January through March, although it admittedly is a rare event. The condition that causes these killer waves is not so much the height of swell, but the period. As the period lengthens and approaches 20 seconds, you have a very dangerous condition. This is when the folks at Mavericks make the phone call for their yearly big wave surfing contest.
There is much more energy present in a long period swell than a short, choppy swell. The area from the Golden Gate to the Farallones is still on the continental shelf, even if you're not in the Potato Patch or South Shoal. You may remember the large sailboat that went out on one of these killer days, pitchpoled, and was lost in front of the Cliff House. I saw them go out. If a local resident hadn't watched the incident unfold and called the Coast Guard, all five crewmembers would have perished.
Contrary to your advice, people should
not go outside the Gate when there is a swell period in the 15
to 20-second range. If they do, they are courting an encounter
with a wave with their name on it.
Tony - Nonsense. Are you really suggesting that if people sail out the Gate when there is a swell period of 20 seconds but the swell is only 1 foot that there will be a wave with their name on it? And would you rather be sailing in a 10-ft swell at a period of 5 seconds or 20 seconds? Or a 20-ft swell at a period of 5 seconds or 20 seconds? For any given swell height, the longer the period, the less dangerous the sea condition is going to be.
While a very long swell period is generally a good indicator of relatively benign sea conditions, one obviously can't ignore the size of the swell. It goes without saying that, even with a 20-second period, a 20-ft swell is something to be avoided - although not as much as a 20-ft swell at 10-second period.
Does anybody knows of a company that has
used, or will consider using, bamboo for the cabin sole? Since
bamboo is a renewable resource and currently used in homes very
effectively, I was wondering if it has been incorporated in boats
Randy - Funny you ask now, because we were just in Mexico visiting Tabu, the spectacularly beautiful new Farr 44 cruising boat built by Richard and Sheri Crowe of Newport Beach. Tabu's cabin sole was so unusual and gorgeous that we had to ask what kind of wood it's made of. "Bamboo," said Richard. Gorgeous and renewable - what a great combo. Sheri told us that bamboo is being offered on the Hylas line of boats, and there may be others.
While I'm sure that Crystal Wind had the fuel problems that forced her skipper to ultimately request help from the Mexican Navy during a recent Baja Bash, as reported in the April Changes, I don't think it's so obvious what the source of the bad fuel was. The skipper naturally assumes that he'd gotten bad fuel in Turtle Bay a short time before. But as a veteran of over 100 Baja Bashes, I think there could be other explanations.
I'm not saying that nobody has ever gotten bad fuel at Cabo, Mag Bay or Turtle Bay, but you'll find that almost everyone who has fuel problems after one of those places is heading north, into the seas, instead of south, with the seas. And in the over 100 Baja Bashes that I've done with sportfishing boats, I've never gotten bad fuel in any of those places or had a fuel problem. The same cannot be said for the sailboats I've done Bashes with.
Why might there be a difference? I think it's because sportfishing boats get used on a regular basis, and they pound hard in pursuit of fish. Algae, water and sediment don't get a chance to accumulate in the tanks. In addition, almost all sportfishing boats have large Racor or similar fuel filter systems, the filters of which get changed regularly. In the cases of sailboats that I've taken north, many of them hadn't been used much or in rough weather. While some sailors are good about changing fuel filters, others - such as myself - might hesitate if a filter only has 50 hours on it at the start of a trip.
In addition, sailors tend to think that having their fuel polished means they have clean fuel and clean tanks. But fuel polishing is only good for particles that are suspended in the fuel. In order for tanks to be really clean, all the fuel has to be pumped out and the tanks have to be opened up and physically swabbed out. And unless there is access to every nook and cranny, dirty fuel gremlins can hide in inaccessible corners of tanks and then break loose when bashing into big seas.
And just because a sailor finds water in his tank doesn't necessarily mean it came from the fuel sold by a vendor. Mariners need to check where their fuel fill is located, and that it's truly watertight. In addition, how many of us know where the fuel tank vent is located? Some manufacturers put such vents in the worst possible locations, so that when your boat is playing 'Victory at Sea' during a Bash and is periodically half-submerged, it's possible for Neptune to be peeing into the vent.
I've had to turn back with sailboats at nearly the same spot as Crystal Wind started to have problems. I think it's partly because once you go north of Turtle Bay, it's generally calm up to Eugenia and in the lee of Isla Cedros. But once you leave the north tip of Cedros, you have to cross the large but not very deep Vizcaino Bay, where ground swells combined with windchop can make for rough going - at least until you make it the 30 or so miles to the 1,000-fathom curve. In fact, you tend to get slammed most of the time until Punta Baja.
There are several things that can be done to help sailors making the Bash avoid problems. Although I've never used one myself, I recommend using a Baja Filter to make sure the fuel you take on is clean. I also recommend installing a second Racor-type fuel filter with a quick switch valve, so if one filter gets clogged you can throw a lever and make the other one active. In addition, try to make sure the boat's tanks are as clean as possible before starting north.
You also want to change filters before hitting rough weather, and have plenty of spare filters. By plenty, I mean more than you could ever possibly need. The spare filters should be kept in Seal-A-Meal vacuum bags so moisture and humidity don't get to them. But be careful not to use too much vacuum pressure or you will collapse them. And use 10 micron filters, not 2 micron.
By the way, boats just don't have fuel problems south of the border, as many boats heading north from San Diego have had to turn around because of similar problems. I don't claim to be an expert, as after 40 years on boats I'm still learning and trying different methods of eliminating fuel problems that can make bashes dangerous and unpleasant.
By the way, when Lupe and I were in Bocas
del Toro, Panama, with our Catana 47 Moon and Stars,
we met the owners of a 90-ft by 40-ft power catamaran. They invited
us aboard and we accepted. What a big mistake! When Lupe returned
to our cat, so small by comparison, she announced that we'd have
to get a bigger cat. When we started shopping for cats two years
before, she wanted a Catana 58. But with the help of the publisher
of Latitude, I was able to talk her out of that. Well,
at least I thought I had. Having seen that big powercat, Lupe
wants what she wanted in the beginning. As a result, we've put
our Catana 47 up for sale and hope to take delivery of an F/P
60-ft Eluethera catamaran late this year. If it all comes to
pass, we'll have our work cut out for us, for we'd be selling
the house in Puerto Vallarta and moving aboard the new boat.
At least we'd get to spend a lot more time on the boat and sailing.
In any event, Moon and Stars is advertised in Latitude
38, so having just completed our long and leisurely cruise
from Florida to Puerto Vallarta, she's likely to have other happy
new owners soon. Actually, it seems like Latitude is responsible
for a lot of things in our life. For it was through Latitude
that Lupe and I met six wonderful years ago.
SKIPPERS BEHAVING BADLY?
In the Letters section of the March 2006 issue, Barbara Brown of Los Angeles wrote a very negative letter about me. Since the subject hasn't completely gone away in all that time, here's my rebuttal:
In December of '05, I wanted to sail my Hunter Legend 34 to Puerto Vallarta, but I needed three people aboard to satisfy insurance requirements. So I allowed Ken, a friend, and Barbara, to do the trip with me. It had been Barbara's lifelong dream to do an offshore passage, and she could cook.
The night before we left San Pedro, I had a last safety meeting with my crew, at which time I stated that my number one rule was that nobody was to leave the cockpit at night without wearing a safety harness. I think this is a reasonable rule and, in fact, is a requirement or strong recommendation for many sailing events.
We had an uneventful trip until 20 miles north of Turtle Bay, when I discovered that both water tanks were bone dry. I've sailed over 50,000 miles in my life, and this was the first time it had ever happened. I don't think it was me who used up all the water, particularly since Barbara, in her letter to Latitude, claimed that I "stunk like a goat." When my fiancée and I are aboard, showering every other day, the same amount of water lasts 2.5 weeks.
Barbara complains that I slept six hours at a time and she never slept for more than 2.5 hours. I took the middle of the night watch so that, when Barbara got up at 6 a.m., she could make breakfast. Then she and Ken would be in charge of the boat until I got up again about noon.
I was accused of using bad language. Barbara would violate my number one rule, by leaving the cockpit in the middle of the night without a safety harness on to go the bow, a glass of wine in her hand, to watch the dolphins. Twice I asked her nicely to return to the cockpit. Unfortunately, the only language she would respond to was guttural.
One time I relieved Barbara from the helm and noticed a big puddle of red fluid in the cockpit sole. I was really worried because I figured that I must have a major hydraulic leak. Then I remembered that I don't have any hydraulics on the boat. I don't drink and neither does Ken.
As for the much-talked about foul weather gear, I've made seven trips down the Baja coast and six trips back up, all between the months of November and April. Every time it's been extremely cold at night, and you need foul weather gear to keep the moisture off the clothes you are wearing beneath. So I bought Barbara Atlantis knock-offs from West Marine. Her sea boots came from Big 5 Sporting Goods. With proper undergarments, the foul weather gear and boots combo do a good job.
When I got to Puerto Vallarta, I called my son to let him know that I was still alive. He asked me why I'd kicked Barbara off my boat in Cabo and stolen her passport and all her money. What?!! My boat papers prove that Barbara arrived in Puerto Vallarta aboard my boat.
It's not like I don't know how to get along with crew. Back in '68, I sailed across the Atlantic to St. Lucia with a go-go dancer. We had a great sail and no problems.
The only reason that I'm responding to all this nonsense is to demonstrate it's not just crew who have problems with skippers, as skippers can have plenty of problems with crew. Having said this, that trip to Puerto Vallarta was one of the easiest sails I've had to Mexico. And the sailing technology these days sure makes it easy to get from point A to point B. In fact, I figure this will allow me to continue cruising well into my 70s.
By the way, I enjoyed Bill Taylor's History 101 of the Sea Wolf Ketch that you ran, and was glad to learn that he's still kicking. It was back in '68 or '69 in Bequia's Admiralty Bay that we used my gaff schooner to step the main mast on his Hillard 40. I thought I did the first ever Antigua Sailing Week in '68, but you report that it was in '62. Well, it was still a riot! In '69, the schooner Lord Jim was chartering out of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins along with another 15 or 20 fine wood yachts. I lived there at that time doing maintenance on charter boats. What a great era!
I careened my 51-ft LOA gaff schooner up
the estero in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. But since I wanted her
upright, we set her up against an old wooden pier. When careening
a boat you need two things that you didn't mention - a good tide
and a good pair of boots that won't come off in sticky muck.
Then the only other things required are patience waiting for
the tide to go out, at which time you work like hell, then hope
like hell that all goes well at the next high tide.
Readers - We feel like Judge Judy trying to adjudicate some petty squabble on television. Both Barbara and Tom made damning accusations about the other, often throwing in little tidbits that are as irrelevant as they are nasty, and generally failing to respond to accusations made about them. The bottom line is this: There are situations in which the skipper and crew don't get along because neither one of them tries hard enough, but there are also cases where the skipper is almost entirely to blame, and other cases where the crew is almost entirely to blame. What happened during the cruise of Tom, Barbara and Ken? We weren't there, so how the hell would we know?
The more people sail, the more they tend to get along on boats. It's not that there are less 'oil and water' situations, but that experienced sailors - like our glorious world leaders - know the importance of avoiding conflicts.
THAT WAS NICE, BUT . . .
I was inspired to write about the picture of the burning boat in a March 'Lectronic and the April issue of Latitude 38. When Patricia, my wife, and I were looking through the March issue, we came across the photo of the burning boat. I said, "This sure looks like a Morgan 51." She took one look and said, "Oh my God, that's Relentless!" The caption says that the burning boat was a 45-ft ketch but, in fact, she was the Bay Area's own Morgan Out-Island 51 Relentless. She had been berthed at Pier 39 for the last 12 years or so, and before that had been based out of Alameda. She formerly had a blue hull with her name in large red letters on both sides.
Patricia and I tried to buy Relentless about 15 years ago, but couldn't swing it. But we did get to sail around the Bay on her with her owner at that time, and took a lot of photos. Those pictures were hung up all over our house, talismans of another lifestyle and better times to come. In the meantime, we bought another sailboat, a 37-ft Chris Craft Apache that my wife named Kemosabe. Over a period of six years we restored the boat to better-than-new condition. In fact, one Fourth of July Latitude's Wanderer showed up at the Napa Valley Boatyard and took a photo of Kemosabe that appeared in the next issue.
But all during the time we worked on the Apache, we still held onto our dream of one day owning a boat such as Relentless. There were times that we almost lost hope, but we'd look at the photos on our walls, and we'd be reenergized. When we finally completed our restoration of Kemosabe, we took her out for a 10-day sail. "That was nice," my wife said when we got back, "but we need a Morgan Out-Island 51 if we're going to do any long-term cruising."
So she started searching. Lo and behold, she found that Relentless was on the market once again. I went to Pier 39 and spent most of a day crawling through her, doing my own survey. She had been neglected for years, and it showed. I made a low-ball offer that was turned down. We were heart-broken that Relentless had fallen into such disrepair that it would take more time and money than we wanted to invest to bring her back to life.
Our search for a Out Island 51 continued, and we finally found another one, Valhalla, in New Jersey. We worked out a deal and had her trucked out here last year. She has a few issues, but basically is in good condition. About that time - naturally - the owner of Relentless contacted us and offered her to us at our original low-ball offer. We loved Relentless, but there was no way we could justify having two Out Island 51s - in addition to the other six boats between 9 and 45 feet that we own.
Relentless was eventually sold to a fellow from Poland who, if we remember correctly, is named Bernie. He originally travelled from Poland to San Diego to buy an Out Island 51 there, but she was sold by the time he arrived. So then he found Relentless in San Francisco. He worked out a deal to buy the boat, but told us it had been more money than he'd wanted to spend. In fact, he was wringing his hands over all the work she needed and how much it was going to cost. He told us that he decided to sail down to Mexico in hopes of getting the work done for less money.
We kept looking in 'Lectronic to see if there was any mention of Relentless sinking or having to be rescued - the boat was in that bad condition. Bernie apparently made it to Mexico and was working on her when the fire broke out. He told us that the boat represented his life savings, so we would assume that the poor guy lost everything in the fire. He'd previously told us that he'd worked his entire life to fulfill his dream of sailing a big boat around the world.
We still have pictures of Relentless in our house, and plan on changing a few interior features on Valhalla to match the way Relentless had been. It took months for us to quit calling our own boat Relentless, and even longer to decide not to rename our Morgan that - especially after Bernie abandoned the name. Although Relentless is gone, and even though we have a better Out Island 51 that we are very happy with, we still have a soft place in our hearts for her.
I want to also take this opportunity to
thank the Wanderer and Latitude for keeping up our hopes
- over all these years - of getting the right-for-us boat, and
maintaining our dream of casting off and going for it. We are
on the home stretch of our plan to head out, and hope that we
can be a part of next year's Baja
Mark and Patricia - It's remarkable how passionate people can become about boats and sailing dreams. As for Bernie, we sure hope something works out for him. Maybe he'll end up sailing around the world in a smaller boat than he thought, but find it just as fulfilling.
IT'S NO PROBLEM GETTING A TIP IN LA PAZ
With regard to the report that a ship's
agent in Puerto Vallarta wants to charge boatowners $400 to get
a Temporary Import Permit (TIP), we had a very different experience.
We got ours in La Paz shortly after last year's Ha-Ha. Including
the fairly long cab ride from Marina La Paz to the government
office in Pichilinque, it cost us two to three hours of time
and about $75 U.S. The officials were competent and friendly,
and did a very efficient job of handling a long line of cruisers
who spoke little or no Spanish. Anyone who applies for a TIP
should remember to bring copies of all the important boat and
clearing documents, and be aware that the Banjercito only accepts
Readers - The next bunch of letters are all about TIPs. We're running a selection of the responses we received because they demonstrate a basic truth about Mexico - that things are done differently in different places. While the cost of the TIPs is reported to be pretty much the same everywhere, you'll see that the process varies greatly, from a few clicks on a computer to a multi-day procedure that requires the inspection of your boat.
SOME FISH TACOS WITH YOUR TIP?
We got our TIP in Manzanillo in February.
It cost about $50, but took two days to complete because our
boat had to be inspected and photos had to be taken. But there
was a bonus - riding around with fellow cruisers and being introduced
to the Sonrisa taqueria. Yum!
THE NICE FELLOW TOOK PHOTOS OF MY ENGINE
I got my import permit in January of this
year at the Aduana (Customs) office in Manzanillo. I had tried
to get it online, but the site wouldn't accept my credit card.
I took all my records with me to Aduana, as there is no posted
info about what officials want to see. A very nice young man
took the information that he required, made copies, then drove
me back to my boat, which was anchored off Las Hadas, in his
pickup. We dinghied out to our boat - which made him very nervous
because he doesn't know how to swim. Using his camera, I took
pictures of the boat from all angles, including interior shots
and a shot of the engine and boat numbers. He then gave me directions
to the Banjercito, and told me to go there the next day after
11 a.m. When I got to the bank, I paid 575 pesos to the teller
and received my permit. All in all, it was a very interesting
Readers - Based on the responses we received, Manzanillo is the only place you are required to have officials inspect your boat and take photos to get a TIP. Why they feel this is necessary - when it's obviously not when getting a TIP online - is beyond us. Nonetheless, we'd probably put Manzanillo at the bottom of the list for places to get a TIP.
It's noteworthy that Bisgrove specified that the person from the Aduana office was "a very nice young man." One of the most dramatic changes we've noticed in Mexico in the last few years is the increase in the professionalism on the part of civil servants and government employees. They all seem to be good-looking, well-dressed, and eager to help. Some U.S. civil servants should take note.
JUST HALF AN HOUR AND $50
We got our 10-year permit in La Paz in
November of last year after the Ha-Ha. We went out to Aduana
at the ferry terminal in Pichilinque, where the process took
about half an hour and cost $50. Instructions on how to get a
TIP are available from Marina de La Paz.
I GOT MINE IN 2.5 HOURS IN MAZATLAN
I did the Baja
Ha-Ha last year, but didn't get my TIP until February in
Mazatlan. It was easy. I took a short bus ride to the Banjercito,
provided them with all my boat documentation and clearing papers,
paid them 585 pesos, and had my permit in about 2.5 hours.
GETTING MY TIP ONLINE WAS EASY AND QUICK
We did the Ha-Ha last year, and had a great
time, too. Prior to sailing down, I got our TIP online. It cost
$55 and only took about four days to arrive in the mail.
FEDEX DELIVERED OUR TIP IN JUST FOUR DAYS
We got our TIP online at www.banjercito.com last October before leaving
San Diego. I went online on a Saturday, and completed the form
and paid by credit card. Our permit was delivered to us by FedEx
the following Tuesday. Talk about service! And it only cost $45.
We recently returned to Mexico by car, and were able to get our
TIP for it at the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix. Once again, the
price was $45.
ONE TIP PER PERSON?
I recently got a 10-year TIP in Ensenada,
for which I paid $49. It might be worth noting that a person
can only have one TIP in his/her name at a time. If you want
to get another permit for a second boat, the first one needs
to be cancelled. In my case, I imported the boat for the owner,
as it was going into the Gran Peninsula Boatyard. Gran Peninsula
is now part of Baja Naval, which recently took over the commercial
Synchrolift that operated as Industrie Naval. It's a first class
operation. The boat I got a TIP for is a familiar sight to San
Francisco Bay sailors, the California Spirit, a 100-ft Westport
that has been doing charters on the Bay for almost 20 years.
IS THERE REALLY A LIMIT OF ONE PER PERSON?
When we came down with the Baja
Ha-Ha, we paid $50 for our TIP at the just-opened Banjercito
in Cabo, plus another $3 for some other fee. We later brought
down a J/24 for the J/24 Worlds that were held out of Paradise
Marina, and paid the same price for her TIP in Nogales. There
seemed to be a problem with our getting a TIP for two boats in
Mexico, but thanks to a pile of official-looking letters, they
let us do it.
Readers - Here's another truth about Mexico: If officials in one place won't give you what you want, be patient, as they will sometimes change their minds. Alternatively, try to get the license or permit elsewhere. It's been our experience that some Mexican officials take pride in issuing permits or licenses that other officials have declined to give.
JUST $50 IN SAN CARLOS
We just had our 34-ft boat trucked to San
Carlos, where it cost $50 to get our TIP. If someone in Vallarta
is charging $400 for the permit, they must be smoking funny cigarettes.
Jim - The only possible explanation we can think of for an agent in Puerto Vallarta charging so much to get a TIP is that it's not a port of entry and/or it doesn't have a Banjercito, which would mean that the agent would maybe have to arrange for the paperwork to be done somewhere else, such as Mazatlan. But even if this were the case, would it not be more ethical for the agent to recommend the boatowner simply get the permit himself/herself at a port of entry and spend the other $350 on a big fiesta?
To review, there are three reasons to get a TIP: 1) They make it legal for the owner of a boat to return to the States without his/her boat - not that anybody has enforced the law in years. 2) In theory, boatowners with a TIP are allowed to import replacement engine and boat parts duty-free. Unfortunately, many custom's officials aren't aware of or don't respect this provision, so it's often no help at all. 3) Many marinas say they won't admit boats that don't have a TIP - although they often don't enforce their own rule either.
Our recommedation is to try and get a TIP online prior to leaving for Mexico because it's the least expensive and most convenient method. But if you can't get the website to work, don't sweat it, as you can pick yours up in Ensenada, Cabo, La Paz or Mazatlan. Just so there is no confusion, all TIPs issued now are for 10 years, and you only need to get one, even if you take your boat back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico every year.
YOU GET THE GREEN LIGHT TO CONTINUE SOUTH
I have a possible job opportunity in Costa Rica, starting in a year or so. I just finished a four-year restoration of my Calkins 40 cutter and am wondering, if I did the Baja Ha-Ha, would it be wise to continue on south? At a casual pace, of course.
My boat has been completely rebuilt, and all the systems are new - engine, electrics, sails, rigging and so forth. I had planned on spending a few years in Mexico, but if this job comes through, I'll have at least five years of work in the Golfito area of Costa Rica.
By the way, the huge Bahia Escondida Marina
project in Golfito has hit a small glitch. Some of the fill imported
for grading was shit, and now they are going to have to fix it.
But the Tico foreman was really excited to describe the scope
of the project, as it's going to be big! They're at least four
years out from what I can see, but what a beautiful bay. Gulfo
Dulce is a sailors' paradise, with steady winds and no swell.
Plus, it's huge.
Joe - We presume you're asking if it would be wise, in terms of weather, to continue south to Costa Rica following the conclusion of the Ha-Ha in early November. The answer is yes. You'll want to watch out for the very slim possibility of an out-of-season hurricane off the south coast of mainland Mexico, respect the Gulf of Tehauntepec, and be aware that you might get slapped around by Papagayos, but it's the time of year to make that trip.
Developers say the Bahia Escondida project will consist of 400 hotel and condo rooms and a 217-slip marina. For comparison, Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta has just under 200 berths, and the new marina in La Cruz will have over 400 berths. Bahia Escondida is selling the berths, starting at $225,000 for a 50-footer. Thank God there are good places to anchor. But then Bahia Escondida, the old Chiquita Banana site, is next to the legendary Pavones surf spot, said to be home to the world's longest lefthander.
ONE YOUNG MAN WAS DETERMINED TO RESCUE US
About 15 years ago, we had occasion - the key to the prop sheared just as we started the engine to enter Agate Pass here in Puget Sound - to lay our Westsail 32 Chaika on the beach. We pulled this off by sailing over to an anchorage for the night, and, after scrutinizing the tide tables and charts, found a perfect beach nearby in the entrance to Port Madison. We sailed over on the morning high tide and anchored in six feet of water, one more than Chaika draws. After first touching bottom, we ran a line from the masthead to the beach to insure that Chaika would lean toward shore.
Replacing the key on the propeller took only minutes. We spent the rest of the day on the beach waiting for the tide to come up, having to fend off continual offers for help and expressions of sympathy for having dragged anchor and gone aground. One young man, yelling instructions from the beach as the tide refloated us, was so determined to rescue us that we finally had to give up trying to explain that we had done it on purpose and just ignore him.
We had always wanted to try careening,
and were pleased at how straightforward it was. Our boat sat
on the turn of her bilge, and her high freeboard prevented any
water from getting on deck or even into the scuppers. We laid
her to port as we were concerned about diesel leaking out the
air vent on the starboard side. If we had laid her on the other
side, it would have been necessary to have clamped off the diesel
'CAREENING' A MULTIHULL
I saw in 'Lectronic that you were seeking information from people who had careened their boats. The accompanying photograph illustrates what I suppose might be called multihull-style 'careening'. My 40-ft Pantera carries four dismountable and telescoping aluminum tripod stands, and each year I put the stands in place and beach her at high tide. Then I prep the bottom that day, and apply the antifouling the next day.
The photo actually just shows a quickie careen. During a lunch stop on the beach in the Sea of Cortez, we scrubbed the bottom and did a little beach clean-up.
The ease of 'careening' a multihull is
just another benefit not available to owners of tippy boats.
Note, too, my boarding ladder between the trampolines.
Bob - That's a terrific feature of which we're very envious. That's not something that could be done with Profligate - or a lot of other cats - because she doesn't have any protection for her props. Our Leopard 45 charter cat 'ti Profligate, on the other hand, could be beached without a problem because she has protection for both her rudders and her props.
By the way, we've also seen photographic evidence of a 35-ft trimaran having been 'careened' in Cat Harbor on Catalina a few years ago. We're here to tell you that if anybody else does that, they can expect to find themselves in unusually hot water for that island.
PROMISING CHANGES AT SINGLAR
I want to first thank everyone involved in making the 2006 Baja Ha-Ha event a memorable one. My brother Bruce and I left Port Townsend aboard Far Fetched in early June, and spent two months on a shakedown cruise in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, reaching points just north of Desolation Sound. We headed down the coast from Washington to San Francisco in early August, and then harbor-hopped down to San Diego, arriving the last week in October for the Baja Ha-Ha festivities. Then we sailed to Cabo with the '06 Ha-Ha fleet. It was a dream come true - a full moon to steer by, dolphins off the bow, warm weather, and the great company of the other cruisers. Next for us was the Sea of Cortez for a winter of exploring. As the name of our boat implies, we have many great tales to tell, but that's for later.
Since Cabo is way too expensive, we started heading north to La Paz buddyboating with Randy Ramirez on the Flicka 20 Dulcinea, the smallest boat ever to have sailed in the Ha-Ha fleet. On our way up to La Paz, I think our two boats became the first ever to anchor inside the outer breakwater at the site of the new Los Cabos Marina, which was still under construction. Randy "had connections" with somebody at the project or we wouldn't have been able to do it.
When we got to La Paz, we spent several weeks at Costa Baja, a first class facility, which is the benchmark of the marinas we've seen in Baja so far. January found us in Puerto Escondido, and we had our first experience with Singlar, which operates the 11 marina facilities developed by Fonatur, the Mexican tourism development agency. While it was nice to have the fuel dock there, the overall marina - actually a mooring field - lacks amenities and was soon to be lacking even boats when their price increase went into effect. This left all of us anchored in the 'Waiting Room' just outside Puerto Escondido, scratching our heads and wondering, "What is Singlar thinking"? And by price increase, I don't mean just on the mooring balls. They want to charge for cars in the parking lot, slap a surcharge on fuel, and charge a fee to use the fuel dock - as was written up in the February issue of Latitude 38. By comparison, Costa Baja in La Paz, a first class facility with real docks, water, electricity, internet to the boats, access to swimming pools and exercise rooms, and a shuttle into town, was considerably less expensive!
A dozen or more anchorages north found us crossing over and anchoring in San Carlos in late March, where Randy was having Dulcinea hauled. He had been joined by his girlfriend Tanja and her two cats for the latter part of his voyage, and they were getting ready to head north to complete the purchase of a bigger boat. I guess they needed a bigger boat so the cats would have more room to roam. Tanja's car was at the ferry terminal in Santa Rosalia, so we offered to take them across on our way up to Bahia De Los Angeles. This brought us to our second Singlar experience, as we are currently berthed in their new marina in Santa Rosalia.
I can't say enough good things about the Singlar staff at their Santa Rosalia facility. If you have a need or concern, the staff will address it in a friendly manner. And you can't walk through their facilities without getting a smile and wave from at least one of the staff. As for the marina itself, while it's just starting up, it has most of what we cruisers need and expect from a marina - including docks.
But what really impressed us, and led us to believe there will be some positive changes in Singlar's future, was the visit yesterday of the new Director General of Singlar, M.C. Gerardo Ferrando Bravo. Santa Rosalia's Operations Director, Carlos A. Cota Bareno, told me Gerardo had assumed his new position just the previous Tuesday, and was already out visiting Singlar's marinas to have a firsthand look at their operations. During his visit, he took the time to walk the docks and talk to us yachties about our perceptions about Singlar, and our concerns - including about their price structure. Ferrando attended Stanford University, and his command of English is excellent. I felt that his questions and comments were both to the point and sincere. The local staff is very hopeful about this change in leadership, but only time will tell if the pricing becomes more cruiser friendly.
And speaking of being impressed, we also
recommend Santa Rosalia as a destination. It's the first town
north of La Paz on the Baja side where you can berth your boat
and walk into town to provision, visit an Internet café,
or have a meal. The town has an interesting history, decent stores
and restaurants, and is very clean. It also has a famous church
designed by Gustave Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. And
don't miss the bakery.
Steve - Thanks for the kind words about the Ha-Ha, but also about the changes at Singlar. As most Latitude readers know, Fonatur has spent a lot of money by building some excellent infrastructure for mariners in 11 locations in and near the Sea of Cortez including San Felipe, Puerto Peñasco, Santa Rosalia, Puerto Escondido, La Paz, Topolobampo, Mazatlan, San Blas, and Santa Rosaliíta among others. The problem is that the prices at Puerto Escondido, the only Singlar facility that's been in operation for more than a year, have been - as Albert reported in his letter - absurdly high. That's why Puerto Escondido, which, prior to Singlar, was almost packed with boats, is almost empty, and why the 'Waiting Room' anchorage, which is free and just outside of Puerto Escondido, is packed with boats. Having graduated from Stanford, we like to think that Singlar's new Director General knows that it's foolish to have new facilities go to seed because you've priced your customers out of being able to use them. Marina facilities in Mexico aren't cheap, but mariners have proven they are willing to pay even relatively high prices for facilities. They've also proven they are not interested in being gouged, which Singlar has attempted to do in the past.
IT WAS LIKE GODZILLA VERSUS BAMBI
It's a pleasure to pick up a copy of Latitude 38 - whenever I can remember to tack my old '55 Ford pickup to the local West Marine store and pick one up. I enjoyed reading the April issue Calendar section reprint of Latitude's coverage of the first Singlehanded Farallones Race back in April of '77, the one in which Bill Lee drove the then-brand new 67-ft Merlin to a 3.5-hour victory over the second boat, Paul Silvka's Piver 30 trimaran Harmony.
On my early passages around the Pacific in the mid '70s aboard my Piver 46 Antigone, my family and I sailed, off and on, alongside Slivka and his family aboard Harmony. Cruising was great fun in those days - cheap, challenging, and sometimes crazy. We were all out to see the world from the decks of our homebuilt plywood multihulls before the whole world looked like Los Angeles. While we didn't get to see all of the world, we didn't miss much in the Pacific. Seven more years on my one-off 40-ft trimaran Sugar Blues took care of most of the places that I'd missed.
From our cruising together, I do remember Slivka talking about his second place finish in that first Singlehanded Farallones Race. Perhaps the haze from duty-free rum made me forget the caliber of the first place boat, but at the time it's more than likely that I had no idea who Bill Lee or Merlin were. Besides, I was more intent on trading a t-shirt for something my wife and two kids could eat. We were cruisers.
If there was a controversy surrounding multihulls in those days, it was lost on us. We were too busy having fun. Antigone, my Piver 46, survived 40,000 miles in the Pacific, but was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in St. Croix in '89. Of course, Hugo got 700 other boats too, and by that time I'd gotten 18 good years out of her, so I'm not complaining.
I saw that in the original article you reported that Harmony came in "nearly 3.5" hours after Merlin. Granted, Bill Lee did a marvelous job of singlehanding his 68-ft boat, but, considering that Paul's Piver was a homebuilt tri with the old V-hulls and didn't have a centerboard or daggerboard, I would have been tempted to write that she arrived "a mere 3.5 hours later."
I used to see Slivka, now a marine surveyor, when I would spend seasons in Brisbane aboard Sugar Blues. Then a few years ago, he got me a year's ride around the Pacific aboard Pat's Cat, a very fast 48-ft Schionning-designed catamaran. That was a unique experience aboard a great boat. The development of multihulls since the early days is amazing, but I was struck by the fact that I couldn't have afforded the cat - even if Pat had given it to me! The first time it came time to replace the $15,000 main, I wouldn't have been able to afford it.
Many of us old geezers look at our time cruising in the '70s and '80s as something special. I am reminded of Thomas Tata, a 15-year-old Marquesan, who swam out to visit us aboard Antigone in Taipivai. We became good friends and spent many hours listening to him play Polynesian songs on my old guitar. Some 18 years later he swam out to my next tri, Sugar Blues, picked up the same guitar, and played reggae and country music.
Our message to all those who will be making
their first passage through the South Pacific is that it will
still be magical. So go kick the anchovy right in the teeth and
tell the docksiders, "We sing a song you've never heard."
DON'T BELIEVE ONE MAN'S RANTS
My husband and I recently purchased Neptuno's Restaurant and Bar at Las Islitas Beach on Matachen Bay in Mexico, which is both home to many local fishermen and a popular stop with cruisers. We're originally from Canada, but have been in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past few years working with the Department of Defense. What we saw and experienced in those countries left us needing a change of scenery and a quieter way of life.
Since coming to San Blas, we have met many locals who have opened their hearts and homes to us. We experienced the full extent of their goodwill during the busy Easter holiday, the busiest time of year on the beach in Mexico. People from the other ramadas, who in theory were our 'competition', stopped by and offered any kind of help we might have needed, from food and supplies, to change, to temporary employees. It was amazing, and showed us just how wonderful the people of Mexico are.
Because of our location, we also had the pleasure of meeting cruisers who anchored off our restaurant - and they've been great, too. But suddenly, all the cruisers stopped visiting. Then a Canadian cruising couple stopped by to inform us that a gentleman by the name of Norm Goldie, who is originally from New York but who has lived in San Blas for many years, had been telling cruisers to stay away from our establishment! Goldie apparently claimed that we didn't have proper licensing and that we were taking jobs away from the local people. It was very upsetting because neither of the accusations were true, and they were being made by a man we'd never met. But after all we'd seen in the Middle East, my husband and I agreed that we wouldn't get into a squabble.
But on March 11, Eduardo, a local fisherman who is also a friend, came to our home to ask for help. He told us that Goldie had sent an email to Greenpeace to complain that local fisherman didn't have licenses to fish the waters near and around San Blas. For reasons that are still unclear to us, the Mexican government hadn't issued fishing licenses to the owners of small vessels, although they had still allowed them to fish. But Eduardo was understandably upset, stating that Goldie had singlehandedly taken away the livelihoods of the entire village, the population of which relies on their daily catch to survive.
Eduardo asked us to join a protest the next day in Tepic, the state capital, where the issue would be taken up with the government. My husband and I agreed that we would. After all, it's one thing for somebody to try to destroy the business of people like us who could afford such a loss, but we couldn't stand by and watch a gringo do something that would take food from the plates of the families of subsistence fishermen.
So on March 12 we sat in a government meeting room while more than 100 local fishermen from San Blas asked for the right to make a living for themselves and be able to feed their families. Justice was swift. In less than two hours the locals had regained the right to fish. The fishermen later addressed the problem of Norm Goldie among themselves and with us. We were told that this man has attacked the character and businesses of the good people of San Blas for many years. We had been unaware of the problems and mischief this man has caused until person after person came before us to voice their concerns. The locals told us that this man from Brooklyn has called them thieves and liars, and had used his radio to divert cruisers from their businesses to other businesses, getting kickbacks for doing so.
We have no way of knowing if all the accusations
are true, but because of the meeting in Tepic, Goldie got a lot
of apparently unwanted attention in the newspapers and on television.
And the local people have apparently had enough, as they've asked
the government to look into his status, and hope that he will
be deported. San Blas and the surrounding area is filled with
hard-working and trustworthy people who have gone above and beyond
to make my husband and me feel welcome. We are proud to call
these people our friends and neighbors, and trust anyone who
visits here will feel the same. We hope that cruisers will not
take the ranting of one man as truth, and still frequent this
beautiful place in the world, and our restaurant.
Ray and Marcel - Oh no, not again! Over the years, we've been everything from a friend to an enemy of Goldie's, who seems to be his own worst enemy. There is no denying that he's helped a lot of cruisers, but he's also infuriated many, many others, who either haven't wanted his help, thank you, or felt he was sticking his nose in other people's business. One of the biggest furors took place about five or six years ago, when the clearing regulations were different, and it was unclear whether cruisers anchored in Matachen Bay needed to clear with the San Blas port captain and whether they had to hire a very expensive ship's agent to do the clearing. Many cruisers told us that Goldie would get on the radio, pretend to have some sort of quasi official status with both the U.S. and Mexican governments, and threaten those who hadn't checked in. Goldie became a reason that many cruisers bypassed San Blas for a number of years.
About a year ago, we were forwarded a copy of a San Blas newspaper that featured a front page headline saying that Goldie had been charged with illegally having antiquities and other things, and said he was in big hot water. Nothing big, apparently, came of it.
As he's old and in declining health, we have no idea why Goldie continues to get involved in such squabbles. Like you, we think he means well, but just can't get it straight. In any event, the next time we're anchored in Matachen Bay - a bay with a spectacular jungle backdrop - we'll be sure to stop at Neptuno's.
A NEW STANDARD FOR CATAMARANS?
Corky - You're trying to apply logic to a merely serendipitous situation. We and 10 or 15 other folks, most of whom had done the Banderas Bay Regatta, decided it would be fun to do a daysail on Profligate from Paradise Marina to Yelapa and back. The sailing conditions were lovely on the way back - as they usually are on Banderas Bay - so we put the kite up and were giving everyone a chance at the wheel. We really enjoy sharing Profligate with others like that.
As we were sailing along, we got to thinking that the covers of the recent Latitudes had been looking kind of similar, and that something entirely different would be nice. So we asked Lisa Zittel if she'd mind posing while standing atop the seagull striker with the spinnaker in the background. She jumped at the opportunity, and the result is this month's cover. Alicia, Lisa's crewmate in the recent regatta, also expressed interest in being photographed and maybe appearing in the magazine. Since, in addition to having worked on boats like the 100-ft canting keel racing sloop Maximus, Alicia is also a big-time surfer, we decided to have her pose in a 'hanging five' stance on the transom. It's as simple as that. A boat sailing on Banderas Bay, a couple of gals who enjoy being photographed, and the tortured mind of a sailing magazine publisher straining to come up with something different for the cover. No new traditions, no establishing anything, no proper this or that. By the way, all aspects of the shooting were conducted in carefully controlled conditions by professionals on a closed course. Do not try them yourself.
YOU DON'T HAVE RESPECT FOR ANYTHING HAM
With regard to your problems with your Icom 802 SSB, operating a marine SSB radio without SWR meter is like operating a marine diesel without oil pressure and coolant temperature gauges. Besides, at no time have you mentioned your antenna and RF ground systems, which are the life blood of your HF signal. Incidentally, ham model radios all come with built-in SWR and power-out meters, but you don't seem to have too much respect for anything ham.
Besides, as the Dear Leader of over 100
boats in the Baja Ha-Ha,
many of them relative novices, you should be ashamed of yourself
for not having a back-up radio and tuner. You can pick up an
Icom M700 for relative peanuts, especially because this
trusty workhorse does not support Pactor controllers.
Peter - Not having an SWR meter for an SSB radio is not at all like not having oil pressure and coolant temperature gauges. Those gauges warn against conditions that will cause the destruction of the engine - which is why they are found on all diesels. An SWR meter doesn't do anything to prevent damage to a radio - which is why they don't come as a standard feature. An SWR meter is much more analogous to a tachometer on an engine, and we all know it's easy to live without a tachometer.
We've always had plenty of respect for ham radio operators, although we've never agreed with those who insisted that learning code ought to be part of the licensing process. We viewed learning code as a waste of time and hazing on the part of some 'ham nazis' - a belief reinforced by the fact that the requirement to learn code has been dropped. On the other hand, we could see the merit in a test requiring that HF operators understand the basics of HF radio before getting a license. That would make sense because, unlike learning code, it would tend to improve radio operation and etiquette, and wouldn't be forgotten the next day.
Although we're going to carry a backup SSB in future Ha-Has, we're not the least bit ashamed for not having carried a backup in the past. All Ha-Ha entrants are clearly advised that the event is only "for skippers and boats who would have sailed to Cabo even if the Ha-Ha didn't exist," and that the event is absolutely not an offshore handholding service. In other words, each entry always needs to be prepared to complete the course on their own. Indeed, while the Ha-Ha recommends that all boats have an SSB, they are not required, and about 35% of the fleet does not carry them. But because there are so many boats, and the legs are relatively straight and short, it's rare that anyone is ever out of VHF contact with less than a half dozen boats. (For what it's worth, we've made a number of trips to Mexico on our boats with nothing more than a VHF.)
The other reason an SSB backup is not necessary was clearly demonstrated in last year's event. Within minutes of our Icom going down, Bill Finkelstein of the Valiant 50 Raptor Dance immediately stepped in and took over net responsibilities. He did a great job with the roll call, weather reports and all the rest. If he hadn't been there, others could have filled in.
Since you and others have questioned the qualifications and the procedures used by those who troubleshot the 802 on Profligate during the Ha-Ha and later in Puerto Vallarta after it had supposedly been repaired by Icom, we hope the following letter to Icom will suffice:
"While on the Baja Ha-Ha last November, I was asked to help diagnose a problem with the relatively new Icom 802 radio aboard the mothership Profligate. The issues were a very weak signal, clipping of the audio, and, when we tuned the radio, it would go to 'Thru' mode, indicating that it did not tune.
"I diagnosed the system using an SWR meter, an Icom IC706Mk2G, and an AH4 tuner. We tested the RF cable from the radio to the tuner, and tested the Icom-supplied 10m tuner cable from the radio to the tuner with an ohm meter. Both were fine. The antenna, a 23-ft whip, worked fine with the 706MK2G and the AH4.
"We made an adapter cable and used the AH4 with the M802, and all worked fine. We used the IC706MK2G with the AT140, but it did not tune, just like the M802. So we concluded that the AT140 was bad.
"The owner returned the radio, head and tuner for repair. Icom tested it, upgraded it to current ECOs, and returned it. The repair paperwork states that the AT140 tuner was tested with the radio. I recently reinstalled the radio on Profligate. Guess what? We had the same problems as before. The tuner did not tune!
"I tested the cables again, and all were good. So I borrowed an Icom AT140 tuner from another boat located in the marina, installed it, and the radio worked fine. Again, it pointed to a bad AT140.
"When the owner called Icom service to explain what happened, he was told that the problem was still with his installation and not with the tuner! Apparently, your tech support folks don't believe that anyone else is capable of diagnosing issues with the system. Icom makes great products. The M802 is a great radio. You do not need this type of negative press.
"Who am I? I am part of the Winlink development team that indirectly sells a lot of marine SSB radios. And I own seven SSBs myself. For 13 years I was a vice president of engineering at Qualcomm, where I ran the engineering department that developed the Globalstar satellite system as well as the OmniTrack mobile satellite system. Prior to that I was VP of Engineering at Linkabit, Inc., where I developed commercial and military communication systems. During my seven years at the U.S. Naval Laboratories in San Diego, I did ELF, VLF and HF propogation research. I've also been a licensed ham radio operator for over 30 years."
It was signed Tom Lafluer of the San Diego-based Swan 53 Mistress.
ICOM SHOULD HAVE A SHOP IN MEXICO
We have an Icom 802 on our boat in Mexico and, luckily, we haven't experienced any clipping problems yet. But we are waiting for them to start.
The reason we're writing is that we feel
Icom should have a radio shop in Mexico that could
do the necessary repairs. It's a huge hassle to lug that large
radio base back to the U.S. And it's also a huge hassle to get
it through Customs upon return. Icom has major mud in their eyes
over this - especially after refusing to believe anyone actually
had a problem. That's our two cents' worth.
Chuck and Linda - Returning all or part of the 802 package from Mexico to Icom in Washington is indeed a pain, and requires some fast talking with Customs in Mexico in order to avoid duty. We know, because we've had to bring all or part of our 802 back twice.
There is some disagreement as to whether 802s that have been working fine need to get the modifications - now up to Mark III - or not. We suggest you contact your HF radio retailer - and hope they are SSB experts - for advice.
If you find yourself in an emergency and your 802 starts clipping, we're told that the problem may be less severe on some frequencies than others. In addition, Jim Corenman tells us that if you speak in a monotone, with as few vocal peaks as possible, there will also be less clipping. In the case of our radio, we had no problems with reception.
As for Icom opening a repair facility in Mexico, we doubt that's going to happen.
I THINK THE 706 MK2 IS BETTER
With regard to the discussion about whether
people would be better off to buy an Icom 710 or Icom 802, I
use an Icom 706 MK2. It's about a third the price of the others,
and based on my experience, a superior radio. It's not marinized,
but my 15-year-old radio has only had to be serviced once, mostly
because of a degrading plug. It cost $135 to repair. I have traveled
across the Pacific with the radio, and when I'm asked "How
copy?" the common response is "You're booming in."
I've opened the radio to allow VHF and ham use as well. It's
a different way to do things.
Readers - It's our understanding that, when modified and working properly, the 802 is the best of the Icom radios because it's the most powerful and has the most features, but that the less expensive Icom 700 series does 99% of everything a cruiser needs, and very well. They are less expensive, too. However, as mentioned above, not all of them have Pactor capability, which is critical for those who want to use SailMail. Consumers need to contact an HF radio retailer, preferably one who is a specialist, to determine the correct SSB for one's needs.
SO CLOSE TO CRUISING HE CAN TASTE IT
We sold the office and escrow closes soon. I'm an 'employee' for the next 5.5 months, and then we're out of here. Both my parents passed away in the last three months. What a tragedy and mess. My dad had really been looking forward to sailboat rides in the sunny South Pacific.
With regard to the Icom 802, you should ask Shea Weston, one of the premier SSB radio guys on the coast, about my experience. The one I have now works fine, but the first 802 radio and AT140 tuner I got were lemons. I was completely frustrated trying to figure out why they didn't work, so I swapped them out with a friend's. That's when I learned that both the radio and tuner were bad. I sent a long letter to Icom. They didn't argue, just replaced both pieces. I haven't had any problems since. But the saga had gone on for 18 months.
Our last official big project is our awning,
which will be up in a few days. Our new AIS receiver is fabulous,
but the new Leisure Furl boom is perhaps the best upgrade of
them all! To replace the lost sail area from having to raise
the boom - because of the bimini - we just extended the boom
2.5 feet, and didn't lose any sail area at all. My wife now raises,
lowers, and reefs the main by herself in less than five minutes.
Our new and larger 525 watts of solar panels really puts out
the juice - 20-30 amps at peak sun in 12 volts.
Scott - The message about it taking 18 months to get your radio right, even with the help of an SSB professional, is that folks who are going cruising need to get all their gear installed and tested in real life situations as far in advance of taking off as possible. We know this is almost never done, but it's a goal to shoot for.
Speaking of goals to shoot for, two of your recent improvements ring a bell with us for Profligate. We can't wait to finally get a big bimini for the cockpit, which would make life much nicer in the tropics, and we're eager to make a major investment in solar power. There's a lot of sun in the tropics, and it's been crazy of us not to use it to keep our batteries charged, run our refrigeration system and so forth. A simpler and easier way to set and strike the main and, even more important, avoid having to take the mainsail cover off and put it back on, would also be terrific improvements. But you can't have everything.
WE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A VHF
When we cruised in 'the old days', we didn't
even have a VHF. Can you imagine? As for your having replaced
a perfectly good SGC SSB with the newer Icom, 'if it ain't broke
. . .'
Readers - About 25 years ago a San Jose couple went cruising aboard one of Robin Graham's old boats and wrote a series of articles for us under the title Innocents Aboard. Wanting a 'pure' cruising experience, they took off without a VHF. It was the first thing they bought when they arrived in Cabo.
A MARK III MODIFICATION ON THE 802
We recently received a copy of the following email from David Masters aboard his yawl Endeavor in La Paz. His boat has more or less been the major test site for Icom techs with regard to the Icom 802.
"Icom engineers have come up with a more sophisticated modification for the M802, and we just finished testing it aboard my yawl Endeavor. The 'Mod3' has a lot more changes than the previous ones. Some might recall that the 'Mod2' involved changing a resistor and adding a capacitor - which cured almost all the problems. Although the radio was totally usable, there was still a little clipping on some frequencies.
The 'Mod3' involves swapping out some parts, adding some parts, and rewiring some circuits. It's definitely a more complicated and thorough fix than the previous two. We tested it this morning, and talked with Don on Summer Passage on 4,6,8 and 12MHz. We couldn't get the radio to clip. We even took a manual tuner and drastically detuned the antenna so that the radio was seeing a very high SWR. It still didn't clip. In addition, it also maintained a very high power output. Don reported a good signal and good voice quality. This is the fix people want, as the problems seem to have been totally eliminated.
Rodney Grim, the tech guy at Icom, tells me that 'Mod3' is going to be the new factory fix, and that all the new radios coming off the line will have the fix - although I'm not sure when this will start.
Don of Summer Passage deserves a big 'thank you' for all the recordings he made that documented the 802 problems, which were a critical piece in getting this problem addressed. Rodney Grim at Icom also deserves thanks for working this problem through the bureaucracy and keeping Icom's attention focused for the last six months while the problem was identified and finally resolved."
The email was signed David Masters.
Readers - The good news is that the 'Mod3' fix seems to be the real deal. Jim Corenman of SailMail tried a 'Mod3' on his 802 and told us that it seems to have fixed all the problems. For more on the 802s, and whether or not it makes more sense to buy a 710 instead, see this month's Sightings.
I CAN DO FAKEYS AND OLLYS . . . CAN YOU?
Thanks for the photo of us and our short report on our new cat and Belize in Latitude. For us, it seems as though we've finally achieved star status! All our sailing friends are asking for autographs. Well, not quite, but we really enjoyed it.
We saw the letter in 'Lectronic from Mark and Liesbet, and their dogs Kali and Darwin, and just wanted to say that: 1) We think that Placencia is awesome. So, of course, we immediately started looking for property. And 2) We agree with their assessment of our new cat. Former dog parents - we had golden retrievers K.C. and Hobie - we can relate to their dilemma of wanting both to have dogs and to cruise. Our dogs passed away - happily of old age - just as our kids were starting to steal the show. While our dogs loved the water, they weren't keen on sailing.
If Mark, Liesbet and their canine crew end up spending time in Placencia, we would highly encourage them to hook up with a jungle guide named Percy in Monkey River Town. We got to know him, his family, and a number of the fewer than 200 residents of the village. Those folks survive at the mouth of the Monkey River, just south of Placencia, by running tours upriver, teaching, and raising environmental awareness about their jungle. And Percy is a phenomenal guy.
In fact, we're in the process of putting together a program to adopt Monkey River Town's only school, to donate school supplies and set up pen pals for the kids there with kids in our schools here in Pleasanton. Back in the day, Monkey River Town was a waypoint for the transfer of bananas brought downriver to be loaded aboard ships for transport to various ports for trade. But a hurricane and later an epidemic all but wiped out the village. By the time an even meager recovery had begun, a highway had been built and all the bananas were being shipped by truck. Today Monkey River Town has no running water, and electricity a few hours a day if the generator is working. Nonetheless, the residents are some of the happiest people we've ever met. They don't have TV, they don't have the Internet, but they do have lots of nature.
It was really cool watching our kids interact with the locals. My 10-year-old son was trading stories, such as, "I've got a really cool skateboard and can do fakeys and ollys . . . can you?" To which the local kid replied, "I can do a standing back flip and free dive to 40 feet, and hold my breath for three minutes. How about you?" And so on and so on. The experience was a real eye-opener for my well-protected and a bit spoiled offspring!
If anyone is interested, here's our short list of favorite anchorages in southern Belize:
1) Ranguana Caye - A totally awesome place and by far our favorite. It offers beautiful snorkeling, great fishing, and all three of the locals are fabulous. 2) Nicholas Caye - We anchored in 10 feet of water behind the barrier reef that drops to 3,600 feet. There's a fabulous wreck just east of Hunting Caye in less than 10 feet of water and great snorkeling. 3) Lime Caye - The southernmost point in the Sopadilla Cayes. It has a nice beach and friendly locals. We missed Seal Caye on our return, but hear that's fabulous, too.
Anyway, be sure to tell Mark and Liesbet
that they're more than welcome to keep an eye on our cat Hope.
We're headed back next year over the Christmas holidays, at which
time maybe we can meet in person.
CLEVER LITTLE ASIDES
Latitude 38 is usually informative and entertaining. But I just don't get the publication's gratuitous jabs at "government" such as those that appeared in the current article about the screw-up with the Ayala Cove moorings.
"As so often happens with government-run projects . . ." the reporter notes, "there were delays and postponements . . ." And don't hold your breath about getting a quick fix because "we're talking about government agencies here . . ."
If there is some kind of government lapse
or malfeasance in this case, it might be useful to know who's
at fault and how much it's costing us. But I suspect that the
writer was more interested in making a clever little political aside
than presenting useful factual information. And private organizations
never have annoying or costly screw-ups, do they? Maybe the writer
should read up on Halliburton, Enron, PG&E, the phone company,
Phil - See if reading the next letter changes your mind.
COMING TO YOUR RESCUE WITH A CRACKED HULL
Does the government drive you as nuts as it does me with the spectacular way in which they waste taxpayer money?
If you read the article in the April 17 New York Times, you know that, in 2002, the Coast Guard, Lockheed and Northrop entered into the 'Integrated Coast Guard Systems' partnership to modernize and manage a $24 billion Coast Guard fleet of ships and airplanes over the next 25 years. And you know that, so far, it's been a total disaster.
The partnership has worked on three classes of ships so far, all of which have had problems. The largest is the 123-ft patrol boats, all eight of which got $100 million renovations. Unfortunately, shortly after they were launched they developed large cracks in the hulls and decks! The ships were so unseaworthy they had to be taken out of service! When it was learned that it would cost another $50 million per ship to repair them, they were permanently retired.
Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard said that the so-called Deepwater program had "stumbled" because the Coast Guard and contractors had put more emphasis on trying to honor a construction schedule than worrying about the cost and performance of the ships being built. As if the important thing was not that the ships would float, but that they be 'completed' on time.
But what really infuriates me is that Allen then said, "We relied too much on contractors to do the work of government." What he should have said is that the Coast Guard, and other members of government charged with watching over the spending of taxpayer money, completely failed to live up to their responsibilities. When a private owner has a large private yacht built, he always has one or more rep(s) overseeing the work and costs. Where was our government in overlooking the expenditure of taxpayer money in this case?
Despite the disastrous start to Deepwater,
a spokeswoman for Integrated was quoted by the Times as
saying the program's failures and comments of the Admiral didn't
mean there would be any significant changes, and that Lockheed
and Northrop would continue to build ships, aircraft and communication
systems for the Coast Guard. What do you think of that?
Michael - We think that if average citizens ever came to realize how stupidly and irresponsibly their tax money was being spent on the state and national level, there would be a revolution that would make what happened in France in 1789 look like a tea party.
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