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July 2009

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TO REQUIRE A PERMIT IS TOO RESTRICTIVE

Having read the minutes of the Treasure Island Development Agency's (TIDA) proposal requiring permits for boats to anchor at Clipper Cove, in order to "welcome all types of boaters while mitigating some of the abuse of the cove," I have some comments:

• Where there are permits, there are inevitably fees. Providing staff, paperwork, systems, enforcement and review for those permits will cost money.

• The proposal to require a permit after 24 hours is too restrictive. The problems at Clipper Cove are caused by a few boats, often unattended, that stay for significantly longer than 24 hours — weeks, months and even years. The problems at Clipper Cove are not caused by weekend visitors, and TIDA has not shown any reason that these mariners should have to get permits.

• I didn't see any mention of the maximum time TIDA would allow boats to stay at Clipper Cove. If it was only two weeks, it seems the simplest solution would be to not require permits at all.

• If I were writing the rules, I'd establish a permit-free period of two weeks. Such a time period would have the side benefit of making enforcement simple. Authorities could swing by the cove once a week to see who was still there after a week. If a boat was there after a third visit, a note would be left on the hull. After a grace period, enforcement would proceed.

• One of the agenda items said owners getting permits would need to “prove the seaworthiness of the vessel." If TIDA wants to get into that business, the standards would need to be very clear on enforcement. Marinas avoid having to deal with it by requiring evidence of insurance for boats that stay more than a few days.

• If stays beyond two weeks were allowed, I think that a permit, a check of holding tanks, and proof of insurance would be appropriate — especially as the island develops.

• A true public guest dock at Clipper Cove would also be a fantastic improvement. When the marina is redeveloped, that should certainly be considered.

August Zajonc
San Francisco

August — We think we have a simpler and more cost-effective plan — and lord knows there needs to be more simplicity and cost-effectiveness in government operations. The Latitude plan is that there should be no permit required to anchor at Clipper Cove on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights. This would make life easy for 95% of the people who use the cove, as most people think it should be used. Those who wanted to anchor on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights could do so, but they'd have to sign up online in advance or at the TIDA office, and they wouldn't be allowed to sign up for more than two Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights a month. This would allow most mariners generous use of the cove, but would eliminate the cove's being used as a private storage area/dumping ground for what are often derelict vessels.

Such rules would be useless without enforcement, of course. Nobody leaves cars on the side of freeways for a simple reason — they know it's going to cost them big time. The same financial consequences need to motivate the people who leave boats at Clipper Cove for long periods of time. In order for this to be ultra cost-effective, volunteers could patrol the cove — as they do at permitted anchorages in San Diego. (By the way, in several of those anchorages requiring permits, the permits are free.) And such patrolling wouldn't have to be frequent to be effective — as long as violators took a big enough financial hit when they got caught anchoring illegally.

Another reason we like our plan over a traditional permit process is that it would require the least government work. That's good, because fees from such permits wouldn't come close to paying even one government employee.

WE AVOID IT ALTOGETHER NOW

We were very happy to read the article in the latest issue of Latitude regarding Mirian Saez and TIDA's attempts to clear the derelict boats from Clipper Cove. This situation has gotten completely out of control, with these boats permanently moored in the most desirable spots in the cove. We used to love our stays on the hook, but lately have avoided the area altogether. We also found the photograph accompanying Latitude's article to be ironic, as all three of the boats behind Ms. Saez in the photograph — including the sunken boat — were there when we visited a year ago. Please continue the good work!

Rod & Cherie Williams
Azure, Catalina 42
Alameda

Rod and Cherie — Great news! As of late June, many of the offending boats had been removed. Mirian Saez also reports the Treasure Island Bar & Grill is open and ready to pour.

NO PERMITS FOR CLIPPER COVE

Based on the June article in Latitude, I want to thank Mirian Saez of the Treasure Island Development Agency (TIDA) for her concern about the neglected boats that have become both an eyesore and a hazard at Clipper Cove. It's with great alarm that we've watched the steady deterioration of Clipper Cove ever since the Navy closed up shop.

But we're apprehensive, because the result of most governmental actions is that everyone is punished as the result of the improper actions of a few. We feel the imposition of permits for what is — and should remain — a free anchorage is abhorrent, and would set a dangerous precedent. The most important thing that TIDA can do is promptly remove the derelict boats and return Clipper Cove to its original pristine condition — without adding any governmental red tape. No permits!

We have great memories of Clipper Cove, as our son was conceived at anchor there. Neither he nor we feel that it is appropriate to add anything more than an 'anchor’s aweigh!' to all our future visits.

Stu Jackson
Catalina 34 Int. Association Secretary
Piedmont

Stu — Finally, somebody who seems to really care about getting things done at Clipper Cove! We're in favor of limited permitting, as outlined above. Ms. Saez is considering it — along with other proposed plans.

DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ

I hope my latest 'lesson learned' might be instructive. I waited until 12:30 a.m. the night before the Singlehanded Farallones Race to enter the waypoint coordinates in my handheld GPS. When I sat down to program them, I thought about how good a few hours of sleep would feel before the race. So to save time, I entered the waypoints that I found in Exploring the Pacific Coast San Diego to Seattle, by Don Douglass & Reanne Hemingway-Douglass, rather than coordinates from paper charts.

I enjoyed beautiful sailing conditions the next morning. When I got to #1 Buoy, I set a course for Middle Farallon, with the intention of approaching a bit high of Southeast Farallon so I could quickly reach down and around the island once it came into sight. But as I followed my waypoint bearing of 198°, I soon began to notice that other boats were sailing an altogether different course, one that was taking them considerably higher. Unfortunately, I didn't give this too much thought.

A while later, I glanced at my GPS and noticed that it was reporting my distance to Middle Farallon as just over 40 miles! This also failed to register at first. But then my brain stirred — the Farallones are only 25 miles off the coast! Something had to be wrong with the coordinates I'd gotten from the cruising guide. Following a short tantrum, I went below to find my position on the chart plotter — and discovered that I was well southwest of the Lightbucket and was, in fact, headed WSW to the continental shelf. My corrected course was 265°, forcing me to point into the prevailing NW breeze in order to reach Southeast Farallon.

Thanks to a benign sea state, I was finally able to round South Farallon and finish the race, but I feel that I should remind fellow novice navigators not to blindly trust published waypoint coordinates, in this case, coordinates published in Exploring the Pacific Coast San Diego to Seattle. That guide lists a coordinate for Middle Farallon that, according to Google Earth, appears to be a location well offshore of Pigeon Point!

The cruising guide in question boasts of "1,200 tested GPS waypoints." When I mentioned that fact to a cruising buddy, who religiously checks all published waypoints on paper charts, he sarcastically replied that the guide didn’t claim that all the waypoints were tested, just 1,200 of them. Uh, yeah. You live and you learn.

Michael Rosauer
Flying Baby, J/100
Sausalito

Michael — We regret to say that it's not just the waypoints you can't trust in that cruising guide. We were sent a review copy, and while paging through it, were surprised to discover that it's 55 nautical miles from Newport Beach to Catalina, at least according to the chart on page 76. A cruising guide with incorrect waypoints and inaccurate charts is not very helpful — and could be dangerous.

KONGS AREN'T THE ONLY CULPRITS

While I didn’t have a failure with a Kong anchor swivel like John and Gilly Foy of the Alameda-based Catalina 42 Destiny, I almost had one with a similar universal anchor swivel made by Suncor. As Geoff Eisenberg, CEO of West Marine, correctly pointed out in his long letter in 'Lectronic, problems with such things can be traced to either mechanical failure or operator error. As a past president of a design and engineering firm in Silicon Valley, I've found that operator error is the more difficult design problem. After all, the mechanical attributes of materials are well known and documented, but "people do the darnedest things."

I discovered the problem with my Suncor anchor swivel at the end of the season while putting my boat to bed. One of the screws that held the swivel to the chain had backed out. I'll never know how close I came to having the same experience as John and Gilly, but I now visually inspect the swivel every time I raise my anchor. I believe it would be a good practice for everyone.

Steve Albert
Far Fetched, Beneteau Oceanis 390
Grants Pass, OR

Steve — We're a little unclear on what 'operator error' you think the Foys might have made. After all, this is not a case where they bought hammers, hit each other over the head with them, and then claimed the hammers were negligently designed because they'd gotten hurt. The Foys report that they'd inspected their swivel at regular intervals, and anchored as though they were using shackles that the Kong swivel was made to replace. Having done both of those, we think the blame rests at the feet of Kong.

Indeed, we think it's incumbent upon Kong to: 1) make it clear that perhaps their product is subject to failure in certain side loading situations, as some have suggested, and 2) advise the consumer of the need to inspect their product each time the anchor is raised. The downside of doing this, of course, would be that they'd probably sell fewer units. But what's better, selling a few more units or knowing that your product might cause the loss of a boat — and maybe even lives?

We also found it alarming that when West Marine tested the Kong swivels, not all of them lived up to their advertised safe working loads. Given the critical role of an anchor swivel, we find this very disturbing.

A D-SHACKLE PREVENTS SIDE-LOADING

I'm writing in response to the reported failure of a Kong anchor swivel on the Catalina 42 Destiny in Mexico, and Latitude's subsequent request for information regarding possible other failures of Kong swivels. When we bought our Taswell 49 Tardis in '00, she came with a 44-lb Bruce anchor — and a swivel identical to the Kong swivel pictured in the May 15 'Lectronic. I say "identical" since I can't remember for certain if it was a Kong or one of the other brands using a similar design. I had never used a swivel of this type before, but it seemed solid after a cursory inspection, so I focused on the many other things that I had to deal with.

Before leaving on our first big trip, which would involve a lot of anchoring, I inspected the ground tackle closely — and noticed that the two flanges of the swivel on the anchor end had spread apart to the point that the bearing pin was held by only 75% of the thickness of the flange. Clearly the swivel was on its way to failure, so I removed it and went to West Marine to find a replacement.

While at the store, I struck up a conversation with the tech regarding the swivel issue, and he said, "Let me guess, this swivel was attached directly to either a Bruce or a Delta anchor." I asked him how he knew. He proceeded to explain that a swivel of this type must not be attached directly to anchors with fixed shanks — such as Bruces and Deltas — since any side load on the swivel will tend to spread the flanges as it torques on the shank, especially if the anchor is set in such a way that it cannot pivot to align itself with the new direction of pull. While there seemed to be no mention of this on the swivel packaging, the tech did point out the specs on the package, which show the breaking loads in the side direction are 2.5 to 4 times lower than in the main working direction.

Given this information, and the fact that I was also in the process of upgrading my anchor to an 85-lb Delta, I told the tech I would need another swivel that does not have this limitation. He said I could use a traditional swivel, but said that there was a simple solution to the problem. He explained that a Kong swivel was perfectly compatible with a Delta or Bruce — with the addition of a D shackle placed between the anchor shank and the swivel. What this does is allow the swivel to turn independently of the anchor shank, and thus stay in alignment with the direction of pull of the anchor rode. This completely eliminates the torquing forces between the shank and the swivel flanges that cause the flange spreading. It also allows the swivel to work in the 'strong' direction. It should be noted that CQR owners do not need to worry about this, since not only do the anchor shanks on CQRs pivot, thus keeping the pull direction in line with the swivel, but they also have a D shackle welded to the shank where the swivel might otherwise attach.

It should be noted that, in the photo, the Foys' anchor swivel was attached directly to the anchor — something that is commonly done. Clearly this did not lead to the failure of their swivel, since the anchor end of their swivel is still attached. More than likely, the screw — which cannot be pinned — backed out, which I agree is a potential weakness of the design.

Like other Latitude readers, I'm interested in finding out what they learn about their swivel failure. One thing I do know, however, is that I see Kong type anchor swivels attached directly to Delta and Bruce anchors all the time. I have even seen two with flanges spreading equal to what I'd seen on the one that I had. I often point this out to dock neighbors, and even complete strangers, in the hopes of saving them grief later. I hope this letter serves the same purpose.

Jamie Rosman
Tardis, Taswell 49
San Diego

Jamie — It seems to us that Kong has a responsibility to make it very clear to consumers that its product has different safe working loads depending on which way the anchor may be pulled.

You make a very good point about the problem of anchor swivels being attached directly to the shanks of certain kinds of anchors. But unless we're mistaken, the sole purpose of an anchor swivel is to eliminate the need for a clumsier D-shackle that would either have a hard time fitting — or not fit at all — through the boat's anchor chain hawse pipe. If you needed to add a D-shackle, why would you waste the money on a superfluous anchor swivel?

FOYS' KONG DIDN'T FAIL DUE TO SIDE-LOADING

I'm very interested in the reports about Kong and other brand anchor swivels. Only a few weeks ago I was in a West Marine store looking for a replacement swivel for my anchor. My surveyor had told me that the standard U-shaped design swivels on most boats could be prone to failure because of side loads. But from the photo of the Foys' Kong swivel in 'Lectronic, the failure looks to have been due to a pin failure, not side-load. The screw pin on the Kong unit looks to me to be a design failure, so I'm still looking for a new swivel. After all, boatowners don't need another expensive piece of critical hardware that requires frequent maintenance.

Bruce Adornato, M.D.
Amelia, Krogen 42
South Beach

I'LL BE WATCHING

I had a problem with my Kong swivel, too. I bought the swivel rated for the size of my boat, and used it in Mexico for one season. After the wind had blown for 30 knots for two days, I raised the anchor — and noticed that the forks were bent outward! I replaced the Kong swivel with a shackle. At the end of the season, I brought the Kong back to West Marine, and they refunded my money.

I figured that because the length of my boat was at the upper end of what Kong recommended for the swivel, I should have gone a size up. So I bought the next larger size. I didn't have a problem with it last season, but I must admit I'm a little concerned and will be watching a little closer this year.

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46
Mexico

Jerry — The problem would be that the next time you want to "watch" the new swivel is in the middle of the night when it's been blowing 30 knots and for some reason you just can't sleep.

ONE OF THE MOST SURPRISING LETTERS EVER

With regard to the hex head bolt that secures the pin in the Kong anchor as seen in the photograph by John and Gilly Foy, it appears to me that it came out. There is no easy way to 'mouse' the bolt as you would do with a traditional shackle. I tighten mine real tight, then wrap the stem of the swivel with duct tape.

Steve Chamberlin
Surprise, Schumacher 46
Pt. Richmond

Steve — We have nothing but the highest respect for you as a sailor, seaman and boatowner, and we know the effective uses for duct tape are legion. Nonetheless, it boggles our mind that you'd even suggest using duct tape to help prevent the backing out of the pin on such a swivel. We've been guilty of more than a few shaky jury-rigs in our time, but we'd never consider using duct tape for something frequently used underwater such as that.

The theory behind such pins is that they won't come out because they are under tension. Apparently the science is solid, but we were nonetheless a little skeptical when we bought our Ultra Swivel, a version similar to Kong's, from Randy Boelsems of Quickline in Huntington Beach. While the Ultra Swivel appears to us to be a superior product in terms of design and manufacturing, we still expressed skepticism about the pin's being held in place solely by tension. The next time we saw Boelsems, he presented us with an updated Ultra Swivel, one equipped with a retaining screw to keep the counter-sunk pin in place. He said the change was not because it would hold the pin in place any better, but just because non-science folks such as ourselves would think it would. And you know, he was right, at least in our case.

That said, when it came time for us to swap out the swivels, it was a bear to remove the pin that had been held in place only by tension and some Loctite. (By the way, what possessed the manufacturer to put blue Loctite in an opaque blood red tube?)

For West Marine CEO Geoff Eisenberg's very long and interesting response to the failure of the Kong swivel, visit the May 20 'Lectronic. For the results of their testing, see the June 12's 'Lectronic.

KEEP AYALA COVE OPEN!

Is there anything more stupid than to close Angel Island, as has been proposed by the Governor? After all, we’re talking a money-making park that is already paid for! What’s more, it’s an historic treasure that provides a variety of recreational activities for all ages and all income groups. And think of all the money that’s recently been invested — $350,000 to landscape the top of Mt. Livermore, $15 million to refurbish the Immigration Station, and the installation of new moorings. And it’s not like the campsites or roads are in anything but fine condition.

If Angel Island is closed, my guess is that it will never be reopened because the restart costs will be in the tens of millions of dollars. They’ll need to restart all the utilities, do landscaping, retrim the eucalyptus trees that are fire hazards, and so forth.

What I expect will happen is that two- and four-legged ‘transients’ will take over the island. The deer will multiply, the raccoons will again swim across the Strait, Native Americans will again go hunting for acorns and stage sit-ins as they did at Alcatraz, and there will be fires “of unknown origin.” And there will probably be people toting modified AK-47s and doing all the other things that happen in the run-down neighborhoods of third world countries — one of which we’ve now become.

Speaking of Alcatraz, why can’t we sublet part of Angel Island to the Red & White fleet, as we do at Alcatraz today? I say keep Ayala Cove open!

What’s happening now makes me want to sink my boat, quit the yacht club and move to Salinas. But this is still 'Mexifornia', and still under the control of the movie actors and high-paid bureaucrats in Sacto.

Mike Chambreau
Impetuous, Cal 34
Los Altos

Mike — One thing that’s been more stupid than the suggestion to close Angel Island has been all levels of government spending beyond their means. It’s as if our representatives maxed out all our credit cards to throw the greatest frat party ever, but now it’s 4:30 in the morning, and they're hungover as hell, can’t find their pants, and don't have a cent left to get a taxi home. The day of reckoning seems to have arrived in the Golden State, and it's going to hurt bad. But the sooner we face up to reality, the less pain there will be.

But given your opinion on the fate of Angel Island and other parks, why in the world would you want to sell your boat? That would be like the pilot of a plane throwing away his parachute because his engines quit. If so many parks are going to be closed, the ones that remain open will be packed to the gills. That means folks who have boats will be about the only ones with nearly unlimited recreational opportunities in the Bay Area. You’ll still be able to anchor for the afternoon, the night or even the week at places such as Clipper Cove, the lee of Angel Island, Aquatic Park, the lee of the Tiburon Peninsula, Sausalito, Belvedere Cove, China Camp, and all the local rivers, as well as the Delta. If you own a boat, you’re going to be one of the lucky ones.

We’ve been to many uninhabited and unpatrolled islands in third world countries, and we haven’t had any problems at any of them. So we don’t share your fears about Angel Island. As for two-legged transients taking over, we doubt it. After all, the only reasons the Indians left Alcatraz was because it was too damn cold and inconvenient. And who knows, a return of a more wild and natural Angel Island for a while might be a good thing.

PERMANENT DRAWBRIDGE CLOSURES

I am a shop steward for Union Local 342 representing the drawbridge operators & mechanics, pump station personnel and traffic signal personnel. It's extremely important for everyone living in Alameda County to be aware that Gov. Schwarzenegger plans to sign a budget that permanently takes away the 3 cents/gal gas tax revenue that normally goes to cities and counties. This money — which comes to $20 million a year for Alameda County — is what pays for the Public Works Department. Without this money, traffic signals and roads won't be repaired, flood control will be shut down, and most important to local boaters, all of the drawbridges on the Oakland/Alameda Estuary will be permanently closed and all the personnel laid off. The bridges will not open for vessels at all.

Obviously the Coast Guard will have something to say about it, but the word from Daniel Woldesenbet, the Deputy Director of Public Works, is that the bridges will be shut down because there will be no money to pay the operators. There is funding until July 1, but that's it.

I have been informed that an official seniority layoff list is being made in preparation for layoffs later this month. I have also been given a copy of the official layoff procedure for my review. So this is real. Alameda County is actually being forced to dissolve their Public Works Department. Let the boaters know!

Dave Kelly
Shop Steward Local 342

Readers — In an era when the average government worker makes $77,000 a year, we at Latitude — and we think most other taxpayers — are interested in what we pay our civil servants to do various jobs. As such, we wrote the following response to Kelly:

"Very interesting letter. Given that the state has limited funds, it would be interesting to know how much it costs in terms of labor to keep the bridges open. Are the bridges manned 24 hours a day? How much is a bridgekeeper paid, including benefits and retirement? What skills are required to do the job? How much traffic is there? What about limiting the bridge openings to twice a day?”

Kelly responded as follows: “The bridges are operational 24 hours a day, and opened between 95-125 times a month. Given the budget problems, all options are being considered, including limiting openings, automation and no midnight openings. The Tidewater Sand & Gravel Company, which is inside the High Street Bridge, is not very happy with these ideas, as their vessels need to move with the tides, and the tides change every day. They would have to locate elsewhere. As you might expect, many people who keep their boats on the Estuary past the bridges feel that they should be able to go sailing whenever they want. That would no longer be possible under some of the newly suggested procedures. As for the whole benefit package for bridge operators, I’m not sure what it all comes to, but as a frame of reference, they are at the lower end of the wage scale, along with laborers, in Alameda County."

We have some problems with Kelly's response. First, when a shop steward tells us he doesn't know how much a bridge operator makes in salary and benefits, our bullshit alarm starts clanging and just won't stop. We can only assume the bridge operators make so much money that Kelly was too embarrassed to reveal that information. It's our feeling that if the state is ever to become solvent again, what should be close-to-minimum wage jobs can no longer be paid for as if they were careers. And mind you, we make a distinction between those who push a button or throw a lever to operate a bridge and those who do maintenance and repairs.

Even if it turns out that legislators and city officials don't want to prioritize expenditures so there is money to operate the bridges full time, we don't think it would have to be a catastrophe. For instance, the bridges could be operated by volunteers under the supervision of entities such as yacht clubs. We think a lot of old geezers would love to run the bridges for free. In fact, there could be two on duty at a time keep each other company and to make sure nobody falls asleep. And as is done in many other places — including the Delta — bridge openings could be limited to several times a day during summer weekends, and less often than that during weekdays and in the offseason. As for Tidewater Sand & Gravel, they wouldn't have to relocate if they'd just be willing to pay a fee to have the bridge opened when they needed it. In relation to the value of each load, a $100 fee would be insignificant.

The old 'normal' was that we Americans could expect to have just about everything we wanted when we wanted it. The new 'normal' is that we're going to have to give up some things. How much or how little we're going to have to give up will be almost entirely dependent on how successful our elected officials and government agencies can be at eliminating waste and corruption. The only problem is that there is almost no incentive for them to do either. Bridge up!

DON'T EXPECT LETTERS TO DO ANY GOOD

I doubt that writing to the state to protest cuts and closing of parks such as Angel Island will do much, although I suppose it's worth a try. What I think we're seeing, and what we'll see for the rest of the year, is a state-wide version of the 'pothole syndrome', where government, faced with budget cuts, will cut those programs that are most visible and most likely to inconvenience taxpayers. But the thousands of employees hired in the last decade, when all the parks were still well kept, will be the last to go. We all need to see through the fake press releases and know that a giant bureaucracy is fighting for its life and will stop at nothing to avoid the sort of layoffs that have been common in the private sector.

Michael Kennedy
Conquest, Cal 40
Southern California

Michael — We couldn't agree with you more. As long as the State of California continues to pay one retiree $498,000 a year as a pension, it's proof to us that either there isn't really a budget crisis or that our legislators have mixed-up priorities. After all, what's more important to them, paying half a mil a year to a former city manager who is under indictment for embezzling public funds, or funding programs for "the children?"

By the way, we recently read a couple of mirthful suggestions for how to improve government: First, raise revenues by taxing all campaign contributions at the 50% level. Sort of a 'gas bag' tax. Second, require all elected officials to wear uniforms with patches listing their sponsors, with the patches being relative in size to the amount of money the politician received from any one company or special interest group. In other words, let's have our legislators dress like NASCAR drivers so we know who they're really working for.

ONE MORE HARD SPOT IN THE BAY

In your June Sightings piece about the important rocks on San Francisco Bay, you missed one of the more dangerous ones — the 'Berkeley Reef'. The nasty rock is located northwest of the Berkeley Marina, about a third of the way to Brooks Island. Normally just below the surface, it's exposed only during extreme minus tides. The rock itself sits just east of the flashing green marker (FL G 2.5s 13ft 3M “1”). This light can appear to be quite dim at night, and is very easy to miss among all the background lights.

Greg Davids
Pura Vida, Hylas 47
Berkeley

IF ONLY I COULD READ LATITUDE ONLINE . . .

I just read the Changes article titled Murder in the Land of Smiles, about the killing of Malcolm Robertson aboard his and his wife's 47-ft sloop at a remote island in southern Thailand. I have spent time in Thailand, and I couldn't understand how this rare and unfortunate incident could have happened. I wanted the details, and there they were in your Changes article. I have always enjoyed your editorial opinions, but being here in Singapore, don’t have much chance to keep up. But kudos to you for an accurate report on the incident.

Douglas Walling
Calliste, Bristol Channel Cutter
Monterey / Singapore / Sebana Cove

Douglas — If people only read the headlines — that three teenagers swam out to a yacht and murdered the owner — they would have missed all the facets in what was a rather complicated — albeit tragic — story.

It's easy to keep up with
Latitude as all our editions are now available free, online and in magazine form. And the photos look spectacular. Just go to www.latitude38.com and click on the 'Download the Magazine' button.

ANDY COSTELLO DID THE RIGHT THING

Maybe the race committee for the Vallejo Race should have texted and Twittered the new Chevron Long Wharf restricted area to the participants, for it seems people can’t or don’t want to read the multiple pages of race instructions. Maybe there is an attention span issue, because I thought giving the restricted area its own paragraph and printing it in red would be enough to call attention to it. It has been known for a while, by those that work on the water, that the Chevron Long Wharf is protected by a restricted zone. Apparently most sailors, especially racing sailors, do not keep informed of the various new rules. There are restricted areas around large ships and military ships, set up after September 11th. That might be something Latitude could include in an additional article or paragraph in Sightings: keeping sailors informed on the new rules and various restricted areas.

But I want to give credit to those who crossed the zone, realized their mistake, and dropped out. Andy Costello on the J/125 Narrow Escape (now renamed Double Trouble) was one of those who demonstrated great sportsmanship by doing so. I wish the others had also. We racing sailors shouldn't have to rely on protests to get people to do the right thing. Policing ourselves, especially those in the racing community, might keep the Coast Guard from making more rules to protect us from ourselves. Or worse, make it illegal to do the things that we enjoy.

Steven Bates
Wind Blown Hare, Wylie Wabbit #29
Richmond YC

QUITE THE OPPOSITE IN SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

In response to the June 17 'Lectronic, in which it was reported that many boatyards in California seem to be offering lower prices for haulouts than they did last year, I can report that no such thing is happening here at South Lake Tahoe. In fact, the new owners of the marina have raised the rates for a forklift launch from $10/ft to $18/ft! In addition, there is now a mandatory $30 fee to inspect boats for quagga mussels. As a result, it will cost me $480 to have my Coronado 25 put in the lake. The only other option would be for me to drive my boat over Emerald Bay Road to the North Shore, as none of the boat ramps on the south shore have enough water. I'm bummed.

Alan Johnson
Coronado 25
South Lake Tahoe

YACHT ENSIGNS AREN'T LEGAL OUTSIDE THE U.S.

After reading the June 12th 'Lectronic item about flags on boats, I recalled that the yacht ensign is not legal outside of U.S. waters. So, I looked up the subject in Wikipedia and found the following:

"A special flag, looking like the national flag and ensign, but with a fouled anchor in a circle of stars in the canton, was created in 1848 as a signal flag to be used by U.S. yachts. This was not intended to be an ensign, but was intended to be used as a signal flag by a yacht to declare itself exempt from customs duties. However, many boaters started using this as an ensign, and eventually the government announced that they would accept this practice for boats in United States waters; but the national flag was still the only ensign allowable in international or foreign waters.

“The existence of the Yacht Ensign in United States law (46 U.S.C. Section 109) was repealed by the Vessel Documentation Act of 1980 (Public Law 96–594). This leaves the national flag as the only allowable ensign for United States yachts (and other vessels). Nevertheless, the old yacht ensign is still widely used by boaters continuing a tradition which dates back to the 19th century. This is a legal option for undocumented vessels in United States waters, which are not required to wear an ensign. The states of Arkansas, Maryland, and Washington have each adopted flag protocols which provide that the U.S. ensign 'and the U.S. Yacht Ensign, with a canton of 13 stars, are interchangeable on all types of recreational vessels while in national waters.' Similarly, the United States Power Squadron's guide to flags and flag etiquette, prepared in consultation with the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, New York YC, and others, provides that the flag may be flown on recreational boats of all types and sizes instead of the national ensign in domestic waters.”

Ed Johnson
Dakota, Hunter Passage 42
San Francisco

Ed — We're trying to wrap our minds around the concept of a yacht ensign not being "legal" outside the United States. After all, the officials in all the foreign countries we've sailed to wouldn't be able to distinguish an ensign from a national flag — or give a dang what was flying from the back of a small yacht. In fact, none of them seem to care if a boat even has a name and hailing port on her. It's been nearly three years since we had Profligate painted, and we never got around to putting her name or hailing ports back on. Nonetheless, not one official in Mexico or the United States has said 'boo' about it — not even Homeland Security. We will, however, have corrected the problem before this issue hits the streets.

SMOKE ON THE HORIZON

As both a sailor who maintains cruising boats on both coasts and as a member of the State Bar for almost three decades, including almost a decade as a California prosecutor, I have been following the Bismarck Dinius prosecution with more than a passing interest.

Somewhat like Will Rogers, all I know about the case is what I have read about it in the print media and on the internet, as well as what I have seen in Dan Noyes’ reports on KGO-TV. Given my lack of first-hand knowledge of the case, I have tried to reserve judgment about the propriety of Mr. Hopkins’ prosecution of Mr. Dinius, as well as Mr. Hopkins’ failure to pursue the prosecution of Mr. Perdock. That notwithstanding, if the factual allegations contained within Mr. Dinius’ June 12th Motion for Recusal — particularly the suppression of exculpatory evidence — are true, it would appear that Mr. Hopkins' conduct in this case may be disturbingly similar to now-disbarred District Attorney Mike Nifong’s misconduct in the notorious rape prosecution of members of the Duke University lacrosse team.

I would suggest that, as was done in the case of Mr. Nifong, Mr. Hopkins’ conduct in this case be referred to the State Bar for examination and, if there is a finding of prosecutorial misconduct, disciplinary action ensue. I am somewhat surprised that KGO and Mr. Noyes, who routinely confront regulatory agencies with instances of suspected unlawful activity, have not pursued this avenue of inquiry and potential resolution of the issue of the propriety of Mr. Hopkins’ conduct in this prosecution.

Moreover, given the notoriety of this case, I am also surprised that the Lake County Grand Jury, in its civil, governmental oversight capacity, has not initiated an inquiry into the propriety of Mr. Hopkins’ treatment of both Mr. Dinius and Mr. Perdock. If the residents of Lake County are as outraged about Mr. Hopkins’ handling of this prosecution as the print media would lead one to believe, all it would take is a request for such an inquiry to be made to the presiding judge of the Superior Court or to the foreperson of the Lake County Grand Jury to initiate such an action.

There may not always be fire where there is smoke, but common sense dictates that one should ensure that nothing is amiss when a black cloud of smoke persists on the horizon — the time may have come to bring this matter to the attention of both the State Bar of California and the Lake County Grand Jury.

Timothy G. Cronin
State Bar of California No. 91778

Timothy — And what about the State Attorney General's Office, which gave the ok to the way the Lake County D.A. decided to handle the case? We'd like nothing more than for Attorney General Jerry Brown to brief us on who in his department approved of the Lake County D.A.'s decisions and why. We desperately want to believe that the supposed safeguards in the system do prevent corruption, but our confidence is slipping away by the day.

I DONATED TO DINIUS' DEFENSE FUND

I sent the following letter to Mr. Bismarck Dinius: "I've enclosed a small check for your defense fund. Your case, as reported by Latitude, confirms my long-held opinion that the rate of criminality in the law enforcement community exceeds that in the general population."

Ralph Deeds
Birmingham, Michigan

Ralph — We hate corruption — such as we believe has occurred in Lake County — with a passion. Nonetheless, we still believe that the majority of people in law enforcement are decent people trying to do what can be a difficult and dangerous job.

Readers — You can contribute to the defense fund for Bismarck Dinius through Paypal — his ID is
bismarckdinius@comcast.net — or by sending checks made out to Bismarck Dinius, with “Bismarck Dinius Defense Fund” in the memo section, to Sierra Central Credit Union, Attn: Brian Foxworthy, Branch Manager, 306 N. Sunrise Ave., Roseville, CA 95661.

IT'S NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO GET INSURANCE

In the last issue of Latitude, a reader complained that it was impossible for people with pre-existing health conditions to get health insurance. That's not true. All carriers who offer health insurance in California are required, by law, to provide a policy class for people with pre-existing conditions. You must apply and be denied health insurance three times, after which you are placed in a pool. Would this be the premiere-type health insurance? No, it would not. However, it would provide catastrophic coverage for those who want to take personal responsibility rather than be the recipient of another government bailout or hand-holding.

Kevin R. Kelly
Santa Cruz

Kevin — Thanks for the heads up. Given all the squabbling about health care coverage and health insurance, combatants rarely state the obvious — which is that the easiest and cheapest way to bring health costs under control would be for all Americans to follow basic diet and exercise guidelines. It's the old truism that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In fact, we don't think any government officials, politicians, or lobbyists should be allowed to express their views on the subject without first admonishing everyone to eat and exercise more responsibly.

DROP THE POLITICS & GET BACK TO SAILING

May I suggest that you drop the discussions about politics, other peoples' salaries, the availability of health insurance, who is a more responsible person and such, in favor of articles on sailing in all its forms?

There are thousands of sailors, and thus thousands of ways to enjoy boating. Trying to figure out who does it best is about useful as arguing about which is the best book in the world.

The June Letters contained two diatribes, parts of which were rather defensive and not very informative. For instance, why do you have to explain why you prefer the Caribbean over the South Pacific? You are free to enjoy whatever you like, and so is every other sailor. If anyone feels compelled to attack your way of living, ignore it and enjoy another sunset.

Anneke Dury
Freedom, Offshore 52
San Francisco

Anneke — In normal times we wouldn't be so political, but these aren't normal times. We think it's critical that as many people as possible become more aware of government waste and corruption. After all, when a local city manager does things like have a gang member relative get paid $75,000 a year to repair parking meters, or when a certain group of $100,000-a-year cops say they can do their job in 15 minutes a day, we think people need to know about it and decide whether they think their tax dollars are being spent wisely. So yes, we think it's our civic responsibility to use a little space to wave the red flag in an attempt to prevent this country from pulling a first world version of a Zimbabwe.

We want to emphasize that we're not whining on our own behalf. We've got a paid-off boat and could be content with the simple sailing/surfing life in the tropics. Our concern is with the legion of hardworking people in the private sector who, despite their decreasing numbers, are being asked to shoulder the ever-increasing costs of an entitlement population and an ever-more inefficient and corrupt government. We're also whining on behalf of the next generation, who will have no option but to revolt.

Finally, no, we didn't have to justify why we like the Caribbean better than the South Pacific. We ran that letter specifically because we, unlike you, thought our response — that not all cruisers prefer primitive destinations — was informative. And while we thought our response was more offensive than defensive, we'll try to do better in the future.

SHE DEVOURED THE LATEST LATITUDE

We took our newest 'crewmember' for her first sail on our Farr 44 Confetti this past weekend. We didn’t realize the latest edition of Latitude that we had on board would interest her more than the sailing!

Danielle Dignan & Dan Zuiches
Confetti, Farr 44
San Francisco

Danielle and Dan — We're delighted to know that we're reaching the younger sailing audience, and that they're eating our stuff up. (Online note: If you would like to see all the great photos in Letters, download the entire magazine — photos and all — here.)

WHO NOT TO BE

I'm writing in response to Gary Cyberspace’s June letter, in which he referred to Liz Clark and her plea for funds in disparaging terms, and in which he referred to the publisher of Latitude as "an old fart." In response, I wonder what his real last name is. I would guess 'Dick'. So for the sake of argument, let's call him Mr. Dick.

So, Mr. Dick, you’d have us more closely watch the way you live? We should watch Dick write snotty letters. We should watch Dick call the publisher an old fart. We should watch Dick belittle philanthropy. We should watch Dick make a fool of himself. To anybody reading, my advice would be, "Don't be a Dick!"

Bill Landon
Summer Delight
Boise, Idaho

Bill — As both we and Liz Clark are more public figures than most, it's only fair that we be prepared to accept whatever criticism — well intentioned or not — is directed our way. As Gary's criticism was of the level you'd expect to hear in a trailer park, we hope it didn't bother Liz. We know that it didn't bother us.

FIREARMS ON BOATS IN MEXICO

Does the Latitude editor who answered the No Name Because of Subject Matter letter about the advisability of taking firearms to Mexico — and who said not to — and the editor who told writer John Daigh that those defending against pirates should be armed, know each other?

I spent 20 years — from late '85 to late '05 — living in Mexico aboard our 50-ft steel ketch Inspiration. We spent most of the time near La Paz. For all of that time we had firearms aboard. We had two .30 caliber revolvers and a 12-gauge shotgun. The pistols were kept hidden in drawers and the like. The shotgun was in a locked cabinet near the main companionway. Although we were boarded several times, we were never asked about firearms. And naturally, I never volunteered that information. I also had a homemade 'machete stopper' so I could fire light loads of 12-gauge shells from my steel flare pistol.

While in Mexico, I met with and discussed firearms with several other cruisers. We all agreed that we 'did not have firearms aboard.'

Soon after arriving in La Paz, I joined Club Gavilanes, a local hunting, fishing, and target shooting club. The club welcomes foreigners. I also took the data on my firearms to the local Mexican Army office and registered them with the Mexican government. The sergeant who registered my firearms didn't have the slightest interest in how or where I got them. Registering my firearms took a bit of reconciliation on my part, as I am a life member of the National Rifle Association. I, of course, oppose gun registration in America, but Mexico is a different country, and does not have the same freedoms that we do.

William F. Steagall, Sr.
Inspiration, 50-ft ketch
Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard

William — We know that it can be legal for cruisers to have guns on boats in Mexico, but there are hurdles and there can be lots of red tape and problems. There can even be extended time in a Mexican jail. Consider the case of John Peerson, the 48-year-old U.S. captain of the multi-million yacht Reel Screamer. While on his way from Costa Rica to Miami earlier this year, he stopped at Mexico's Isla Mujeres to wait out some bad weather. The Mexican authorities boarded the yacht to search for drugs. When they were about to search, Peerson says he informed them that the owner kept a pistol, rifle, shotgun and ammunition on the boat as protection against pirates and thieves. The authorities weren't impressed, and threw Peerson in jail. Peerson spent a lot of money and 127 days in a Mexican slammer before a lawyer got things cleared up. No matter if it was a misunderstanding, we'd not risk 127 days in a Mexican jail just to be able to have guns aboard our boat. By the way, at last word the yacht still hadn't been released.

OUR NEW BABY BEING BORN IN SOUTH AFRICA

My wife and I wanted to share this photo of our new Knysna cat, which is being built for us in South Africa. She’s 49 feet by 26 feet. That’s too big, but we’ll be living aboard full time. We’ll be sailing her up from South Africa in December. I’d been thinking of cats for several years, but didn’t become serious until my daughter and I did that sail from Vallejo to Sausalito aboard Profligate.

Tim Mahoney
San Francisco

Tim — Welcome to the cat club! Based on the experience of others, we think the only things you’ll find “too big” about your cat are keeping her clean and finding berths for her. Beyond that, we think you’ll quickly get used to maneuvering her and you'll love the spaciousness. We do, however, urge you not to make your plane reservations to South Africa too far in advance. Because cats are so much larger than monohulls of the same length, cat builders the world over are notorious for delivering them late — oftentimes many months late.

SEEING THE BLUES

I always perk up when you mention whales, as you did on your 'Lectronic report on Profligate's Baja Bash in late May. But I wonder if you actually saw blue whales instead of gray whales, as this is the time for blue whales to come north. In addition, they are much larger — up to 80 feet — have a small dorsal fin, but don't have barnacles. Grays, on the other hand, are only about 40 feet long, don't have a dorsal fin, but do have lots of barnacles. I suggest that you take a whale guide on your boat so you'll know what you're seeing — such as the thrill of a highly endangered blue whale, the largest animal ever on earth!

P.S. I love Latitude!

Esta Lee Albright
Valkyrie, Ranger 26
Monterey

Esta Lee — We're embarrassed that having seen so many whales over the years we've never taken the time to learn to identify the different types. But based on your description, we believe that we must have seen blues, as they were by far the biggest whales we've ever seen, and they had no barnacles. And they were spectacular!

It's still disturbing to us that we sailors don't have a surefire way of warning whales of our approach, as on several occasions we didn't see these behemoths until they were not more than 100 yards ahead of us. After all, the second to last thing we'd like to have happen is ram into and injure one of them. The last thing we want to happen, of course, is for one of them to get angry at our hitting them and thrash our cat to pieces.

DO YOU HAVE TO OWN A BOAT TO DO THE HA-HA?

My wife and I have been regular readers of Latitude since the mid '80s, when we started sailing and doing extensive coastal cruising. Thanks for all your hard work, because reading Latitude is almost as much fun as sailing. Unfortunately, we've been out of sailing for the past 10 years for a variety of reasons — kids getting seasick, being involved with school activities, and so forth. But with the kids grown and out of the house, we've been considering getting back into it. The Baja Ha-Ha has always looked like fun, but our perception is that it's only for people starting a long cruise. While that’s a possibility for us some time in the future, we don't own a boat now and aren't even ready to buy one. But we've read that some of the Latitude staff have done the Ha-Ha a number of times, implying that you don't have to be starting a cruise to do it. We're interested in the logistics of doing a Ha-Ha if we aren't starting a long cruise. What is the typical time away from home, and is it necessary to have your own boat?

Don Murphy
Boatless in Ventura

Don — The Ha-Ha is open to anybody who wants to do it, not just folks starting a long cruise. Each year about 10% of the Ha-Ha boats return to California within a month. About 20% are commuter-cruised, meaning their owners leave them in marinas in Mexico, then fly back and forth as business and other obligations permit. About 30% of the Ha-Ha boats cruise Mexico for a season before returning home in the spring. About 20% of them spend more than a season in Mexico. And about 20% of them continue on to Central America or across the Pacific.

As for the Ha-Ha itself, this year's starts with the West Marine-sponsored Ha-Ha Kick-Off and Costume Party on October 25, and ends with the awards ceremony in Cabo 13 days later. For folks with very limited time, they can join their boat on Monday morning in San Diego for the start, then fly home 10 days later upon arrival in Cabo.

You don't need to have a boat to do the Ha-Ha — just crew for somebody else. If you're looking for crew positions, we suggest you visit the Crew List section of www.latitude38.com.

THEY RAISED THREE KIDS ABOARD

I have a couple of additions for the June issue letter from Don and Nancy Chism, who have been out cruising for 32 years now aboard their Westsail 32 Bag End, and who wrote you from the Seychelles. You must have misunderstood their email, because they spent their first 12 years living aboard at Petri Yacht Harbor near the Antioch Bridge, not at the Antioch Marina. I know because my boat was berthed in the same marina for a good part of the time they were there. Even more impressive than their living aboard a Westsail 32 for 32 years is that they raised three children from kids to teenagers while living aboard.

I’ve also noted that the ‘Over 30 Club’ includes boats that have been in the same family for over 30 years. In that case, David Crabtree, my son, and I would qualify, as I purchased our Catalina 22 as a new boat in ‘73, and transferred ownership to him 30 years later in ‘04. We’ve sailed the boat together from the beginning, and still sail her together, often with friends.

Sam Crabtree
Catch The Wind, Cal 39
Presently in La Paz

SIMILAR VALUES

I want to comment positively on the publisher of Latitude's description of his values, as expressed in his response to a letter in the June issue. Even here in Oregon I get a lot of ribbing because I drive a 20-year-old Mazda 4x4 — pretty much required for our steep property — that I bought about five years ago for $650, and our family van — an '88 Ford Aerostar — that we bought from the wrecking yard for $600 a couple of years ago.

I'm just glad that there are others who feel the same as we do — that there's a lot more to life than money and 'things'. Our boat is an old Ingrid 38 that was built by Bluewater Yachts in '88. We haven't gotten to sail her nearly enough, but as tomorrow is my last day of employment with the government, maybe we'll get to go out more often. And yes, it was my choice to no longer work for the government. So now I'll get to do what's most important to me, which is to spend time with my wife and five children.

Tim Clauson
Seven C's, Ingrid 38
Winchester Bay, Oregon

Tim — Just to be clear, we're not against 'things' — as long as those things are 'big bang for the buck' boats, surfboards, dual-purpose motorcycles and the like — as we believe they are the necessary tools for new adventures and ongoing personal challenges. An equally important quality of these 'things' is that they can be shared with others. It's probably a character default of ours, but we just get no kick from luxury or comfort. If other people love big houses, fancy jewelry, designer clothes, fine furniture and new luxury cars, we suppose it's good for the economy, but we just don't care.

MORE DOGS ON CATS

I'm a long time 'Lectronic reader and devour the print version of Latitude whenever we get out to San Diego to go sailing. Anyway, I read a teaser about a couple who tried cruising with their two dogs and had a rough go of it. But things changed when they bought a cat. I tried to find the full story, but to no avail.

My wife and I just bought a '02 Alwoplast Crowther 47, and thought the article might be helpful. If you could send a link to it I would be most appreciative.

Jason Mart
Francis Mae, custom 47-ft cat
Broad Ripple, IN

Jason — We're surprised that you weren't able to find anything about Mark and Liesbet Collaert or the Tobago 35 Irie, as they check in fairly regularly. To recap, they took off cruising from San Francisco aboard a Freeport 36 monohull, and after less than two days decided that their beloved dogs Darwin and Kali, both Australian shepherd mixes, couldn't take it. They immediately sold their boat and did extensive land-travelling in Central America. But that didn't satisfy Mark's hunger for sailing. So they bought a Tobago 35 on the East Coast, and recently made it as far as St. Martin in the Caribbean. Kali and Darwin love sailing flat and all the room on the cat. Alas, Kali developed a tumor and had to be put down in Puerto Rico.

In any event, you can contact Liesbet at www.itsirie.com. We're certain that she'll enthusiastically share her thoughts about dogs on cats with you. And congrats on your new boat! We had no idea they were building cats such as her in Chile.

SUGGESTIONS AND ENCOURAGEMENT NEEDED

I'm hoping for some advice on an educational voyage I'm preparing to do to southern Mexico. As background, I’ve been living aboard a ’64 Cal 30 while getting my Environmental Science Masters at UC Santa Barbara. I anchor right off the beach, which is just steps from the Environmental Science building, and literally row to campus each day. Despite the ups and downs of the student liveaboard experience, I'm keen to sail around the world, and figured I’d better get started now.

I was lucky enough to get an Ambassadorial Scholarship from Rotary — a big thank you! — to study in Huatulco, Mexico, next year. This gives me the perfect excuse to raise anchor and go. One of my dreams is to do environmental education for kids, so my vision is to connect school kids in California and Mexico through my voyage, helping them learn together about the coastal impacts of climate change, which has been my area of study. I’ve partnered with Waterkeeper Alliance to stop at schools en route, such as at Bahia Magdalena, Loreto, and a few mainland harbors.

I'm looking for help in finding information about resources for a trip such as the one I'm planning. What would be a good strategy for a 28-year-old budding adventurer-educator in this economy? Or more generally, what approach would you take: going after gear donations, sponsorships, or just doing it on a shoestring? I’m planning to depart towards the end of the year. My boat needs improvements of course, and I’d love to make it all-solar, and have good communication and media gear.

Actually, a trimaran would be the perfect vessel for taking kids out when I visit ports. On that note, if anyone has a cruise-worthy trimaran they’d like to see go around the world on an educational cause, look no further. I should be setting up tax-deductible status soon. Suggestions, or just plain encouragement, would be hugely welcomed from the sailing community.

I can be reached via email and you can see updates at www.KIRIvoyage.com.

Kristian Beadle
Santa Barbara

Kristian — Your frugal living quarters while studying at UCSB bring back fond memories. During our second year there, we lived in a Volkswagen bus and took all our showers in the dining hall where we worked as a cook. But living aboard a Cal 30 on the hook around the corner from Isla Vista Beach — we're impressed! We anchored our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary there many years ago, and damn near rolled our brains out!

As one alternative-living UCSB guy to another, the best advice we can give you is do your trip on a shoestring as opposed to hoping to get money from other sources. As all of the executives of companies that accepted TARP funds will tell you, it wasn't worth taking the money from the government. And as any writer here at Latitude will tell you, the hardest articles to write are those where you feel even slightly indebted to someone.

Here's something else that you might not want to hear. Taking a boat down to Huatulco to teach kids about the effects of climate change sounds like an expensive and inefficient way of doing it. If you travelled by land, you could visit 10 times as many schools. And just about anywhere in Mexico, you could find cruisers to take the kids out for an educational sail.

If you really want to sail around the world, we suggest you make that your overwhelming goal. And you'll find that countless opportunities will spring from it. As reported in last month's Changes, Jack Molan of San Carlos was able to buy a structurally sound Searunner 34 tri in Mexico for just $20,000. If you worked your ass off for a year or two while living ultra simply — as you seem to be doing already — you could have your tri and be free to do whatever the heck you wanted with it.

DELIVERY SKIPPER BLUES

As was the case with several other skippers in the Ha-Ha, I paid to have our boat delivered back to San Diego from Puerto Vallarta. True to reputation, the trip was a genuine bash. But my purpose in writing is to share our experiences with the two very different delivery crews. The first was a human relations disaster, while the second was a delightful surprise.

We hired a relatively new professional skipper in Puerto Vallarta to take our boat all the way to San Diego. We interviewed him at length, and met with the owner of the motoryacht he usually runs. Everything looked good, including the skipper’s local crewmember who would come along. The two had worked frequently together on other motoryacht voyages. We agreed to a daily rate, including a reduced rate for layovers. The written contact also made provisions for paying the return airfare for both crew.

I accompanied the two professionals on the first leg to Mazatlan with the understanding that I would probably leave the boat there or in Cabo. I wanted to be sure they were comfortable with the boat and her systems. The leg to Mazatlan was rather typical, with headwinds of 15-25 knots with 4- to 6-ft seas. The local crew member was sick for the entire trip, and I wasn't feeling too well myself. The skipper managed the leg mostly on his own and did a fine job. After all, this is what I expected.

There was, however, a problem when the bilge alarm went off one night. It could have been a false alarm or water could have actually been filling the bilge. The skipper was happy to look at the deep bilge, and not seeing much water, blew off the alarm. I insisted that we inspect every bilge area and every thru hull to be certain that it was only a false alarm. The skipper, who'd only had 12 hours on the boat, was outraged that I would question his judgment and experience. It turned out that the float was tripping because of the wild pitching of the boat. But the incident left a bad mark on our relationship.

There was another bad incident at night when the skipper was on watch. The autopilot went off because of low battery power. I later determined that it could only have been caused by the skipper's accidentally hitting a toggle switch that takes the alternator offline. He wasn't completely to blame because the switch is located in a very bad place. Nonetheless, he refused to take any responsibility. Accidents happen, but the incident caused the skipper to believe the autopilot was flakey and the alternator bad. In 14 subsequent days of bashing, neither belief proved to be true.

When we arrived in Mazatlan, the skipper was professional enough to sit down with me for a review of the first leg and discuss what we could do better. I was impressed with his candor. He indicated that the local crew was very unhappy because I had not given him enough work. The fact is, I'd felt uncomfortable asking crew to do 'donkey work' and did it myself. So I assigned him some lower level chores, we shook hands and I went off to the shower.

When I returned about 45 minutes later, the skipper and crew had cleared out. They hadn't even left a note. About 36 hours later I was able to track the 'professional' skipper down via email. He said he left the boat because she was “grossly unsafe,” based on his doubts about the autopilot and alternator. He made no apologies for going back on his word, and for not telling me that he was leaving.

I felt it was proper to pay him for his one day plus a pro rata day for the extra few hours worked. This caused a major problem. The skipper, who would only speak via email, claimed that even part of a day should earn an entire day's pay. He further said that if I didn't pay him what he demanded, he would cause me extreme trouble by “requesting harbormasters in every port in Mexico to stop the boat on its way north." In the end, I paid him in full because I could not take the chance, however slight, that he really could cause trouble. It had been the delivery experience from hell, and we'd only covered about 1/10th of the distance to San Diego.

After a three-day delay, I was introduced to Mark Meadows and his wife Emelie. They own an Ericson 38, have lots of travel experience around the world, and were very keen to try out the delivery experience. They had the right attitude and seemed to communicate well together. After a comfortable trial leg from Mazatlan to Cabo, they had demonstrated enough collective competence that I felt very comfortable with their doing the Bash by themselves.

Sure enough, for 12 days they drove my boat up the Baja coast into 25- to 35-knot winds and 8- to 14-ft seas. Even weatherman Don Anderson had recommended that they wait. As is usually the case, my boat, a Nauticat pilothouse motorsailor built in Finland, performed very well. But the crew took a thrashing. To their everlasting credit, they carried on with only two stops — even though I continually advised that they might want some more rest from the seas. They managed themselves and the boat extremely well for a couple who had never undertaken the Bash.

Sure, water entered the boat through openings that I never knew existed. After all, she had her sidedecks submerged a good bit of the way. It is probably important to point out that — as the couple quickly recognized — their own production boat would not have been able to make headway in those conditions.

Here are the lessons that I learned:

1) Always have a written contract —which I did — but make sure that every possible issue is covered.

2) Pay by the mile rather than the day. In the beginning, it seemed as though this would be 20% more expensive, but having paid by the mile would have cost me less — and there would have been no arguments about partial days.

3) Make sure you understand exactly what specific skills and experience the delivery crew has, and what they could fix without outside help. Tough questions must be asked so you develop the right expectations.

4) Beware of hiring powerboat crews to deliver a sailboat — even if yours is a powerful motorsailor such as mine. My first crew, having come from a powerboat, had trouble adjusting to the very different motion and size of my boat.

5) Think carefully before going along with your hired crew. Most delivery skippers don't want the owner aboard.

6) Establish general parameters for the delivery, but let the delivery crew be flexible to match the conditions. While my second crew was able to cope with rather rough conditions, I certainly would have holed up for better weather to reduce wear and tear on the boat.

I was very lucky to have Mark and Emelie deliver my boat. They were extremely professional in every aspect — and they had guts well beyond my expectations!

Scott Irvin Brear
Samantha, Nauticat 38 Pilothouse Ketch
San Francisco

ABC — ALWAYS BUY CABBAGE

We've enjoyed reading Latitude for many years, so when you asked if any sailors still keep logs, we decided it was time for us to respond. Ever since about '84, we've kept a log for every day that we've spent aboard the three boats we've had in the Sea of Cortez. The boats included our Columbia 23 Yegua, our Catalina 27 Coriolis, and our current boat, the Cape Dory 30 Stork. We've managed to use the boats a month or two of each winter. We've batted all around the Sea of Cortez on these boats, have loved them all, and have had many really good times — and a few rough ones.

We use the logs to keep track of the names of people we meet and their boats. We also make trip notes, sometimes including sketches, about anchorages, odd rocks, reefs, and shoals that we discover, and bearings on landmarks so we can avoid the dangers when we return. We have included similar notes from other sailors when we believe their reports about such things.

Our log also includes entries about things like tricks for cooking food in the limited fashion available to us. And thanks to our log entries, we've evolved a pretty good way of baking bread in a pressure cooker. The log also enables us to remember ideas we come up with for solving many boat-related problems.

When in an anchorage, we will usually note the bearings of landmarks, so we can tell if the anchor is dragging and so we'll know the way out if we have to leave at night for some reason. We also make notes about shore hikes, expeditions, and stuff we did in towns along the way.

Sometimes we'll note mysteries that arise while cruising. For example, every few years someone asks Latitude about the clicking noises you often here at night while at anchor. After the last round of this, we looked for, and found, an entry from our log from ‘85, where we noted that it must be "billions of baby barnacles biting on the bottom of the boat."

We also use the log to remind ourselves about how to best provision. For example, the ABC rule, which stands for 'always buy cabbage'. There is plenty of other unprintable doggerel as well. We also note the daily barometer reading, wind and wave conditions, and motor maintenance information as well as major boat projects that were undertaken.

You will notice a common thread here of helping to remember things. For as the years go by, it becomes harder for us to remember exactly what happened at a given time, or during an incident — to say nothing of when it happened. Our log, with a bit of searching — which is always fun — gives an account of what we thought about something at the time it happened.

Curiously, neither of us is particularly systematic or anal about the way we have kept our boats. We have the best we can afford in the way of sails, rigging, anchors, motors and so forth, but we've used our boats hard and don't worry too much about the cosmetics. As such, it's somewhat surprising that we've been so consistent about keeping our log.

Johnny and Pam MacArthur
Stork, Cape Dory 30
Taos, New Mexico / San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

ARE WE BUSTED AND GOING TO JAIL?

I have been an avid Latitude 38 fan for decades, and read your magazine from cover to cover each month. I normally agree with your political stances. Being a former employee of the State of California, I also remain frustrated with the sometimes corrupt, incompetent and inefficient departments that exist at all levels of our government.

But in reference to your response to the "Going It Alone Is Very Rough" letter, I wanted to comment on the 23 prison guards who made over $200,000 last year. As a retired Correctional Sergeant, I can assure you these 23 are not part of the 30,000 rank and file officers. The average officer, with some overtime, now makes about $50,000 a year. After taxes, pension, union dues and other deductions, the monthly take home pay is modest — and often less than the family median income in many California counties. At these salaries, I understand that being a prison guard is now one of the most sought after jobs in the State — but that hasn't always been the case.

Your statement that "'Who said working for the government wasn’t as lucrative as it is easy?" should be rephrased. There is nothing easy about being a prison guard. Each day that I walked into Soledad Prison, I said a prayer that I was going to walk out. When I started my career 25 years ago, Soledad was a very dangerous Level 4 facility. I could fill the pages of a book thicker than Latitude with endless stories of assaults, stickings, rapes, suicides and homicides that I responded to. The system runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While most people were enjoying Christmas dinner, or Super Bowl Sunday or sleeping at home with their loved ones, I was often at work, in the middle of the night, dealing with gang bangers and low-lifes. Easy and lucrative? I don't think so. I earned every red cent that I was paid. The carrot at the end of my stick was a pension, which I paid into — and also earned!

It was my choice to work for the California Department of Corrections, where I could make a living, with good medical benefits, and provide for my family. There is nothing easy or lucrative about being a Correctional Officer! They work in a dangerous environment, with the scum of the earth, and get little credit for their role as peace officers while providing a valuable and unseen contribution to our society.

Like the publisher of Latitude, I'm an old surfer. After two tours of duty in Vietnam with the Navy, I moved from San Diego to Hawaii in '70. When I landed on Oahu, I had only the clothes on my back, my surfboard and $150 in my pocket. I ended up in Kona, where I worked as a bartender and dive master. I then transitioned into charter fishing, skippering the 40-ft Lei Aloha. I led this life for nearly a decade before getting a real job with the CDC in the mid '80s. I have owned a Swift 40 and Catalina 33, and my wife and I hope to get another boat in San Diego some day. I also own the record for the biggest black marlin caught in Hawaii.

Jim Hunter
Sun Lakes, Arizona

Jim — We couldn't agree with you more that being a prison guard is an unpleasant and dangerous job. As such, we can't imagine that anyone would begrudge $50,000 a year to correctional officers who actually came into contact with prisoners. But when you're talking $50,000 a year, aren't you talking about a salary from ages ago? While having dinner at Marin Joe's about two years ago, we sat at the counter with a guy who was a prison guard at San Quentin. When we asked him what it was like, he said his "real job" was actually owning and running a used car lot in Sacramento. He told us that he just worked at San Quentin because, by putting in three 12-hour days a week, he could make well over $100,000 a year and get great benefits and a great pension. We're not sure it works out for the taxpayer, but we sure admire the guy's drive and ambition.

Confused about the conflict between what he and you said about guard salaries, we did some Googling. While we couldn't come up with any exact salaries for prison guards, we did find this recent statement in the Sacramento Bee: "The state’s first comprehensive survey of public safety workers shows that the maximum pay of California’s state correctional officers is nearly 40% more than that of their highest-paid counterparts in 10 states and the federal government. The state Department of Personnel Administration survey issued this week also shows that when total compensation is considered — everything from medical insurance to retirement benefits — state correctional officers beat the median top pay of the out-of-state groups by nearly 29 percent." Maybe it wasn't like that when you were working for the state, but it seems like today's correctional officers are kickin' it.

About 10 years ago we met a woman who said she was paid quite well, thank you, for teaching at San Quentin — including English to none other than Charles Manson so he could get his college degree. As one old surfer to another, we'd rather see the state spend more of its limited resources teaching English to children than lifers. And being an eye-for-an-eye supporter of the death penalty in clear cut cases, we wonder how much money the state could have saved for other programs if Manson had only been executed promptly about 30 years ago.

A TRAIN RUNS THROUGH IT

Regarding the 'Lectronic item about being hauled at Knight & Carver in National City and having trains come right through the middle of the yard after working hours, it's not unique. Up at the Seaview Fairhaven yard here in Bellingham, every boat that's hauled out has to cross the BNSF main line. And trains come through all day, including four Amtraks. I know what you mean about nocturnal switching -— the Brits call it shunting — as I live just above a yard — though hopefully not for much longer.

Geoffrey Harris
Bellingham, WA

I WAS ECSTATIC TO FIND THE WHOLE MAG ONLINE!

Mine is a long story of how a guy from Toronto got hooked on your magazine. What's relevant is that I was a serious reader until West Marine stopped distributing it in Annapolis. When I found the complete magazine online, I was ecstatic! But there was no Max Ebb. Why is that? Thanks for all your wonderful editions. You write the book on real publications for sailors. I’m not angry, only envious that you are out of reach.

Rex Bradley
Tiger Regis, Edel 8.1
Annapolis

Rex — Thanks for the kind words. We no longer distribute in Annapolis because it costs so much to send the hard copy editions across country. But as you've discovered — and we hope everyone else does — complete issues, and in magazine form, are available for free online. And yes, a complete issue includes Max Ebb. We don't know how you missed him.


 

 

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