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January 2012

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SOMALI PIRATES AND VOLVO RACERS

I wonder what, if anything, is (was) being done to make sure the Volvo racers will be safe as they sail through 'pirate alley' in the Arabian Sea on their way from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. The Volvo guys would probably be hell to catch at the speeds they sail, and there's safety in numbers, but can you imagine the ransom the pirates could demand?

Byron Jacobs
'Ale Kai, Beneteau 393
Sequoia YC

Byron — The thing we can't imagine is what kind of 'safety in numbers' there would be when the bad guys have AK-47s and you and the other members of your fleet only have flare guns. But no worries, as the safety issues for the second leg of the Volvo were carefully considered in advance by the race management, and they believe they've come up with the best way to keep the racers from being added to the more than 1,000 hostages seized by the Somalis this year — and abandoned by the international community. The plan is for the six entries to sail to an undisclosed destination short of 'Pirate Alley', where they will be loaded onto a ship, taken almost all the way to Abu Dhabi, and then dropped off for a final sprint to the finish.

The solution begs the question, of course, of what happens if Somali pirates hijack the ship carrying all Volvo boats.

For those not familiar with the Volvo Ocean Race, it began life in '73'-'74 as the Whitbread Round the World Race, a very daring event for that time in the history of sailing. The first running was won by Sayula II, a Swan 65 owned by Ramon Carlin of Mexico, who had relied heavily on Irving Loube of the St. Francis YC for advice on preparation. The last two races under the Whitbread name — the '97-'98 and '01-'02 races — were won by San Francisco sailing greats Paul Cayard and John Kostecki, on EF Language and Illbruck Challenge respectively. Whitbread 60s were used for both of those events.

The Whitbread became the Volvo in '05-'06 and remains thus. The apex of the event's history was in the '80s, when they had 29, 15, and 23 entries respectively in the three races during that decade. The last four Volvos haven't seen double digit entries, as interest has been siphoned off for such things as the America's Cup, the Vendée Globe, and the multihull assaults on circumnavigation records.

THAT'S A LOT OF HOT AIR

After reading LaDonna Bubak's Leading Lady article, I read further into the November issue of Latitude 38 and discovered her Diesel Engines for Dummies article. In reading it, I noted the importance she placed on cleaning or changing the air intake filter. I always understood that a clean air filter was important for both gas and diesel engines, so imagine my surprise when I went to change the air filter on my 51-hp Yanmar 4JH2-E diesel engine and couldn't find one. I went to the Yanmar dealer where I bought it and they told me this engine is not designed to have an air filter. The air intake cowling looks as if it should have a filter for it, but I'm told that Yanmar does not make an air filter for this engine. I know that Yanmar is a good brand of diesel, but can this be right? No air filter at all? Seems weird to me.

Bruce Munro
Princess, Sabre 402
St. Francis YC

Bruce — No need to worry about your engine or the quality of Yanmar engines. Sausalito engine guru Tom List tells us that not all diesel engines have air filters: "Diesels used in agriculture or in cars and trucks often are used on dusty roads, which can damage the inside of an engine. Dust is very abrasive and will score the metal, but boats don't normally have a lot of dust. Virtually nothing in the marine environment will damage a diesel engine, except water — even cat hair will go through just fine." In fact, List says that the less restricted the air intake is the better because diesels need a tremendous amount of air to function.

List notes that some Yanmars and Perkinses don't have air filters, but use "rodent screens" instead. "The holes in the Perkins' screen are the size of a pencil lead, which is huge for a filter, but they get clogged up pretty easily with lint. Just remember that the denser the filter on the air intake, the more cleaning it will need."

HOW PRACTICAL ARE BATHTUBS ON SAILBOATS?

I'm shopping for that larger sailing vessel that will be our liveaboard home when I retire. My co-pilot prefers baths over showers. So I'm wondering whether a bathtub is practical when cruising around the world. We plan to spend more time on the hook than in marinas. While I would love to provide my co-pilot with all comforts possible, adding a bathtub to the list of amenities greatly reduces the number of boats available on the market. I would be interested in hearing feedback from fellow sailors!

Randy Dinger
Compass Rose, Hunter 34
Seattle, WA

Randy — Terrific question. Latitude's Ocean 71 Big O had a bathtub, but in the 12 years we owned her, we can only remember using it twice. Once was while sailing across the Atlantic with the chute up after we found out that we'd hardly used any water during the first half of the passage. The second time was during an Antigua Sailing Week, and yes, there was a woman and a bottle of champagne involved. But most of the time we used the tub for storage.

But we're very interested in hearing from those of you out there with boats with a bathtub. How often do you use it, and what are the issues, if any?

For the record, Randy, the proper term is 'Admiral', not 'co-pilot'.

I WOULD GO HOBO FIRST

On our way to Mexico we stayed in San Diego a bit longer than intended because of the warm welcome of the marine community and to catch some of the America's Cup racing. It was a terrific stay — except for one thing.

Although Jim and I cruise modestly on a Dana 24, we both love sailboat racing, and I have always enjoyed the America’s Cup. The beauty of the old traditional J-boats awes me, and the sheer speed and drama of these new AC45s is breathtaking. I love seeing all the country flags emblazoned on sails, and we enjoyed talking with a friendly rigger for Team Korea on the downtown Broadway Pier.

I sailed to Newport, Rhode Island, for the Cup races in '74, '77, '80, and '83. Although I didn’t attend races in San Diego, Perth or Europe, I always found the race crews in Newport friendly and easy to approach — especially if you were on the water. Good views of the boats with their famously curtained keels, and of the racing, were also easy to find. The title America’s Cup, though named for a magnificent yacht, implies that it’s a people’s race in spite of some of the fancy trappings.

One November day during the match races in San Diego we chose to see the aircraft carrier Midway, because access by water had been all but prohibited. We figured the bow of this extraordinary museum ship would be a great vantage point to view the racing, after a tour of the whole ship, of course. Surely there would be plenty of room for anyone who wanted to see the races.

Well, the entire bow was filled with large white tents marked 'Louis Vuitton VIP' that blocked the view. Ribboned VIP walkways leading to the tents also blocked the starboard side deck, which was the only other place aboard where there was a decent view — although not of the finish line. I hope Louis Vuitton paid enough for this privilege to support the Midway’s maintenance for a long, long time.

After a fabulous morning touring the carrier, I walked up to two tall uniformed guards standing near the tent at the bow, smiled and asked, “What’s the deal here, is it possible to come in to see the race?”

One of the guards — all of whom wore red uniform shirts with the word ELITE emblazoned in large white capital letters — raised his chin, looked down at me and said, “No. You have to know someone. You can’t get in. You have to be invited.” The italics do not exaggerate the words or the way they were spoken.

“I heard it costs $500 to get in, is that true?” I asked, ignoring his rudeness.

“No comment,” he said, and then looked away.

“Really, no comment? I just asked what it costs, that’s all,” I replied, but he ignored me. Perhaps I should have said, "Have you people not heard about Occupy Wall Street? A little sensitivity training might be in order here." But there was no point in pursuing it, so without further comment I walked away.

However, when I went to join Jim on the port side deck, which was open to the public, the Elite guardsman actually left his post and followed, staying behind his ribboned space in front of the tent, but keeping his eyes on me. It felt creepy, so I left the port side deck. But then, because I resented the intimidation, I decided to cross the ribboned VIP walkway to the starboard side deck, where a few people who’d also braved the crossing were gathering. 'Go ahead and stop me', I thought. 'You evidently don’t own the side deck.' He didn’t stop us, and from there we watched the races without seeing the finish line.

I know there were other public access spots we could have tried, and I know Elite is a security contractor, but my beef is with the attitude and Louis Vuitton's apparent corporate endorsement of same.

The entire America’s Cup Village was peppered with these unsmiling, intimidating-looking Elite guards at every gate and entrance. They were so numerous at the outdoor bar, where the public was supposedly welcome to enjoy a party, that the tone was chilly in spite of live bands onstage trying to liven things up. To their credit, most of the other guards were friendly, but only if you approached them first to ask a question like, “Are we allowed in there?” The overwhelming visual was an army of big, unsmiling, red-shirted Elite guards everywhere — even in front of the souvenir shops. We didn't go into the shops because, with all the guards, it became tiresome figuring where we were and were not allowed. Who needs that?

So much overt exclusivity finally overcame my sense of humor, which was restored only on the ride home when our taxi driver claimed that Benjamin Franklin was an extraterrestrial alien. I know the America’s Cup needs sponsors with deep pockets, but the Louis Vuitton Company could not have made its “Elite” point more succinctly. So I will now make mine:

Dear Louis Vuitton,

There could come a time when you have the last piece of luggage on the planet offered for free, but I would go hobo before I’d use it.

Sincerely,
Karen Sullivan

I hope the America's Cup folks can improve on their relations with the general public.

Karen Sullivan & Jim Heumann
Sockdolager, Dana 24
Port Townsend, WA

Karen and Jim — It seems to us that you've identified one of the main challenges of the America's Cup, which is how to cater to the elite without pissing off the masses. It's a fine line to sail.

DORITOS, THE MID-OCEAN SNACK

We've always been suspicious of the claim that 10,000 containers are lost off ships and into the ocean each year. We've made 12 open-ocean passages in excess of 1,000 miles each, and have never seen anything bigger than a small log, let alone a container.

We searched the internet, and it appears to us that the 10,000 container statistic is just a repeated claim with no factual statistics to confirm it. We went to the World Shipping Council site, whose members represent 90 percent of global shipping capacity, and they state that the 10,000 number is grossly excessive, and that there are no comprehensive statistics kept for lost containers

We once met a guy who was a mate aboard a container ship, and we asked him about lost containers. He told us that he's only seen it happen a couple of times, and that "those suckers sink real fast — unless they're full of kapok!"

When Jean and I are at sea, the only containers we worry about are beer-related.

Bill Yeargan & Jean Strain
Mita Kuuluu, Irwin 37
Honolulu

Bill and Jean — You certainly can't always believe everything you hear or read. Just before the Super Bowl in '93, a coalition of women's groups held a press conference in Pasadena where various statements were made that got the ball rolling for the urban myth that Super Bowl Sunday is "the biggest day of the year for violence against women." While it has been proven to be untrue, that myth, like many others, endures.

We did some quick search on the web and found a wide disparity in the number of containers supposedly lost each year. The Through Transport Club, which is said to insure 15 of the top 20 container lines for container losses, put the number at fewer than 2,000 a year. They do say, however, that it may take 57 days for a 20-ft container to sink, and 183 days for a 40-ft container to sink — although the variables are tremendous.

On the other hand, an article in the esteemed National Geographic put the number at 10,000 a year, as did something called Singularity Hub. The latter reported that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has been investigating containers that fell from the Med Taipei offshore of Monterey in February of '04. Because one of the shipping containers was found inside the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, the shipping company was fined $3.25 million — to fund MBARI's current research on containers. The irony is that MBARI, according to Singularity Hub, discovered that the single container found inside the Sanctuary is now covered with ocean organisms. "It looks like a miniature reef." So maybe the environment could benefit from lots of outdated containers being dropped into the ocean for use as artificial reefs. It's something we've always believed.

The best-known recent loss of containers occurred on October 5, when the 774-ft Rena, carrying 1,400 containers, ran aground at Astrolabe Reef off New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. At present the ship is listing badly and appears to be broken in half, yet only 38 containers have fallen into the ocean. But given the ship's precarious position, many more may follow. At this point the leaking of the ship's oil has been a bigger environmental problem.

A more humorous loss of containers occurred back in '06, when some containers full of Doritos fell off a ship and broke open off the Eastern Seaboard. It wasn't long before thousands of bags of still crunchy "seasoned tortillas" Doritos washed up on North Carolina's Outer Banks, attracting countless treasure hunters.

AND NOW, FROM THE SARAH SILVERMAN SCHOOL OF COMEDY . . .

Latitude's coverage of the re-opening of the investigation of the drowning of Natalie Wood at Catalina reminds me of an oft repeated sick joke of the time: What kind of wood doesn't float? Natalie Wood.

I was living in L.A. at the time, and recall just feeling a hollow emptiness upon hearing of her death, and how sad the whole affair was.

Larry Radcliffe
Ladies Choice, Catalina 27
Pt. Richmond

Larry — You're right, that joke's pretty nasty. It's right up there with the one where Natalie asks Robert if she can have a drink, and he responds, "Yeah, just don't go overboard." By the way, the investigation that was re-opened with great fanfare seems to have quickly gone quiet.

A SALOON BY ANY OTHER NAME . . .

Latitude's 'Lectronic ditty on Natalie Wood prompted this memory of mine: Years ago in the saloon of the 100-year-old Elbe river pilot schooner Wander Bird, several of us were gathered when a non-sailor among us called the room we were in the 'salon.' Author/actor/sailor Sterling Hayden turned to the guy and boomed, "It's a saloon, mister. The main public room aboard a vessel, whether booze is served there or not, is called a saloon. A salon is where women get their hair done."

The better vintage nautical lexicons agree.

Brooks Townes
Port Townsend, WA

Brooks — Consider for a minute what Wikipedia says about the etymology of the words 'saloon' and 'salon'.

"A saloon is a kind of bar particular to the American Old West. Saloons served customers such as fur trappers, cowboys, soldiers, gold prospectors, miners, and gamblers. The popularity of saloons in the 19th Century American West is attested to by the fact that even a town of 3,000 residents, such as 1883’s Livingston, Montana, boasted 33 saloons. Among the more famous saloons were First Chance Saloon in Miles City, Montana; the Holy Moses in Creede, Colorado; the Long Branch in Dodge City, Kansas; the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada; and Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon in Langtry, Texas. Many of these establishments remained open 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

A salon, on the other hand, comes from the French word for living room, which was "a place where intellectuals, artists and politicians gather to converse."

As a result, Latitude uses 'salon' or 'saloon' depending on the kind of boat in question. If a boat is home to gamblers, miners and cowboys — or sailors who behave like members of those professions — we'll say their boat has a saloon. But if the boat is owned by someone more intellectual, we identify her main quarters as a salon. Except, of course, on the nights when they get rip-roaring drunk and behave like miners, cowboys and gamblers.

More seriously, we use 'salon' simply because it requires one less keystroke from our tired fingers.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

Your comment, in an editorial response to a letter, that you heard a conversation during the Ha-Ha in which one skipper advised another that he’d come within a half-mile of him, and was too close for comfort, was somewhat taken out of context. There were several such conversations, and I was part of one of them.

In our particular case, the boat in question had been four or five miles behind us, and steadily gaining on a collision course bearing. It was night and quite dark. When they came within a quarter of a mile, we began to have a conversation on the radio. When the skipper of the approaching boat said, "I think we'll be okay, we have you on radar and AIS," I thought to myself, 'You think? I want you to know.

The other skipper asked if his being within a quarter of a mile was too close. Given that based on their relative bearing, they were going to overtake us and/or run us down, and that it was dark, I responded in the affirmative. I asked if they were going to change course. I didn't get a reply. Then another crewmember got on the mic, and I asked them if they were motoring, and without a steaming light. They didn't answer my question, but said they were changing course. Issue resolved.

In the past several Ha-Ha's there have been many close encounters at night. There is no reason to get within half a mile of another boat, or to cut across the bow of another boat when within 100 feet. It's a big body of water out there, and there is ample room for all of us.

R.F.
Bay Area

R.F. — A curious thing happened the night before we went to press, something that made us decide to use your initials rather than your full name. The 'thing' is that by wildly improbable chance the skipper of the boat you were on hailed us from a restaurant in La Cruz as we were walking up the street, nearly out of earshot. After about half an hour of lively conversation, the incident of the boat supposedly 'coming too close' came up. We hate to say it, but the very experienced skipper and his wife vehemently denied that the other boat had come anywhere near too close. Further, the skipper and his wife cited a variety of reasons — including what they felt was your periodic inability to stand a proper watch, and the whole unfortunate incident involving the forward head — that they felt that they couldn't in good conscience sign the Coast Guard form you gave them asking to verify your sea time. We're sorry to say that the bottom line is that your captain and other members of the crew completely disagree with your evaluation of the situation.

LIKE IT OR NOT, WE ALL HAVE A 'COMFORT ZONE'

What is it with you people with this 'comfort zone' crap? When I'm at anchor and some boat is headed right at me, do you think that I should wait until the boat gets within 10 feet to find out if the skipper is a Super Sailing Stud or the Village Idiot before I start to worry? I think that behavior is rude, if not worse.

Back in '97 I was at anchor in Oak Harbor, Washington, for Whidbey Island Race Week. I was peacefully enjoying dinner when I heard the panicked scream: "Turn right! Turn right!" As I looked out a port, I saw that one of these hot dogs was less than two feet from my boat. If people want to pass nanometers from each other, they should do it on the race course, not in the anchorage.

I have lived on my Tangram since April of '97, and was hit while at anchor in both '97 and '98. Both times I heard the same old 'comfort zone' bull.

Duane Funke
Tangram, Colvin Gazelle 42
Newport, OR / At anchor, Sausalito

Duane — What do you mean by the "same old 'comfort zone' bull"? You seem to think that a 'comfort zone' is some kind of mythical mumbo-jumbo concept, when it's merely the minimum distance other skippers should keep their boats from your boat for you to feel comfortable. In your case it might be 50 feet, 100 feet, 150 feet — or for all we know, a mile or two.

Every sailor seems to have a different comfort zone. It's been our experience that the more skilled a sailor is, the more comfortable he/she is with other boats getting close. Assuming, of course, that the operator of the other boat knows what he/she is doing. For example, because Profligate is a cat, we're almost always assigned end-ties in marinas. So when the local yacht clubs have beer can races, the boats often come close to us. In normal conditions, we're comfortable with well-sailed smaller boats coming to within 10 or 15 feet before tacking away, and larger boats and less well-sailed boats a somewhat greater distance. Personally, we think it's fun to watch boats being handled well, and because we know how easy it is to control boats, we're not worried about it. It's the non-racing boats that concern us more.

We expect that your 'comfort zone', as well as that of most other sailors, is substantially greater than ours. And we're not for a second suggesting that there is anything wrong with it. But for the record, when you're at anchor, how far would you prefer that boats under sail stay away from your boat? Whatever it is, we'd have no problem complying with your wishes.

ALL THINGS CANADIAN

I can't believe that the publisher of Latitude thinks that basketball was a Canadian invention. Having been born and grown up in Ludlow, Massachusetts, I know that it was invented in nearby Springfield, Mass, the 'Home of Basketball'.

Doña de Mallorca
Profligate, Surfin' 63 Catamaran
Punta Mita, Mexico

Doña — While basketball was invented at Springfield College, the inventor was Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith of Almonte, Ontario, who had graduated from McGill University in Montreal. Since 'Compromise' is our middle name, let's just agree that basketball was invented by a Canadian in America.

ANOTHER LEGEND BITES THE DUST?

Canadian Alexander Graham Bell did not invent the telephone. Bell and his future father-in-law, a powerful lawyer in Boston and Washington, D.C., bribed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office so they could see the patent application for the telephone that had just been filed by Elisha Gray. This is thoroughly documented in The Telephone Gambit, a very convincing book written by Seth Shulman in '08 while at MIT. Bell did a lot of interesting things, but the lawyers put him in a position where he unfortunately did not stand up and be truthful.

Eric Arens
I Can't Remember, International 14
Berkeley

Readers — Respected science journalist Seth Shulman spent a year at MIT doing painstaking research of patent applications and politics regarding the invention of the telephone. Reviewers say he's written a riveting book with convincing circumstantial evidence that Bell didn't invent the key ideas for the telephone. We haven't been rocked like this since Al Gore's confession about the internet.

INSPIRED BY AN ELECTRICAL PANEL

I don't know if singer Jimmy Buffett is related to Canadian Joshua Slocum of Spray fame, but I can name one famous but highly-overlooked Canadian sailor/singer — Gordon Lightfoot. Although he's widely known for his ballad 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald', his sea-related repertoire also includes 'Ballad of Yarmouth Castle' and the much more cheerful 'Christian Island', which in my opinion perfectly captures the essence of cruising.

What most do not know is that Lightfoot has also commissioned and owned several wooden sailboats. In fact, Endless Wire, the title of one of his albums, came to him after he looked at the electrical panel of a boat he had under construction.

Bill Willcox
Faith, Scandia 34
Hong Kong (just me, not the boat)

Bill — Love that title! We've always thought of Lightfoot as a very talented artist, but unfortunately one who is usually as gloomy as a grey winter day in Canada. Buffett, on the other hand, is normally as cheery as the blue water and bright sunshine of the Caribbean. It's a personal preference, but when it comes to entertainment, we prefer to be uplifted rather than bummed out. But enough of this all-things-Canadian thread.

IT REALLY WAS BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

The December 7 'Lectronic satellite photo of the dust storm that swept across central Baja around Thanksgiving was amazing! As I told my wife, I hadn't seen a dust storm like that since I was in Iraq.

And yes, there were a number of us cruisers in the middle of it. We were Bashing north on our boat Alias, and had arrived in Turtle Bay late in the day. There was almost no wind when we got there, but it picked up during the night. Someone with a working anemometer reported that it blew up to 37 knots inside Turtle Bay on November 26. We didn't take any photos, but the air looked as though there was dirt-colored fog. We were there with the Berkeley-based Liquid and about a dozen southbound boats. The funny thing is that, while it was blowing hard in Turtle Bay, boats that took off and headed south reported that it was only blowing about six knots outside.

We left Turtle Bay the evening of the 26th when the wind was still blowing 10-15 knots in Turtle Bay. But it was light outside for us, too. In fact, we motored the 300 miles to Ensenada in almost zero wind.

P.S. It had been so windy in Turtle Bay that we paid a panga driver to take us ashore rather than launch our own dinghy. (No, we don't tow it anymore, but that's another story.) I had run out of cash, but Enrique came to the restaurant with his credit card machine and let us charge more than our fuel bill to get 'cash back'.

John Fluno
Alias, Hylas 47
Santa Rosa

Readers — As San Francisco Bay sailors know, wind that gets squeezed — such as when it comes through the Gate — can greatly accelerate in speed, then die off only a short distance away. A similar phenomenon occurs below the canyons in Southern California when Santa Ana winds are blowing. You might be in 10 knots when sailing along the hilly coast, then be hit by 30 knots when sailing in front of a canyon. In the strongest Santa Ana conditions, the gusts blow all the way out to the Channel Islands and even beyond.

THE HARD WAY TO GET A MOCHA IN MEXICO

Ours was one of the several boats that left Turtle Bay just in time to sail directly through the sandstorm you reported in the December 7 'Lectronic. I can assure you it was at least as dramatic on the water as it was in your satellite photo.

I don't recall these conditions being forecast before we left Turtle Bay, but perhaps my memory slips, as it's been a blustery, cold endurance test most of the way down the Baja coast for us. On the water it looked like photos I've seen of sandstorms in Baghdad. The horizon was indistinguishable brown haze, much as you see in Southern California Santa Ana conditions — times 10! Sand was clearly visible streaming offshore, so we knew there was wind ahead. But what we experienced were alternate bands of nearly dead calm and then suddenly 20+ knots of wind as we passed by the various canyon slots — even when well out to sea on a straight line for Mag Bay. The folks on Lorelei tried ducking into Asuncion, but it was even worse there. They spent one night standing anchor watches in 30+ knots and left at first light.

We're now in San Jose del Cabo. We did a saltwater washdown of the boat in Mag Bay, but here's where the boat is getting her first freshwater washdown since the sandstorm. The water coming off the boat is mocha-colored.

Steve
Desolina, Wauquiez Pretorien 35
Long Beach

A LADDER SOLUTION

"Emergency exit ladders like this FloatStep unit can literally be a lifesaver, but not many marinas have them," as you noted in the November 28 'Lectronic Latitude, is a problem easily solved. Any marina with a liveaboard slip could make a $400 FloatStep — at DIY pricing — a required condition for tenants to live aboard. Since this would not add expense to marina owners or managers, it might be a risk-free crusade to work at.

John Foster
Blueberry, Nonsuch 22
San Francisco Bay

John — It sounds like a step — pardon the pun — in the right direction, but only a partial solution. After all, not all marinas have liveaboards, and in many marinas the liveboards are grouped in certain areas. Plus, as you'll read in the next letter, sometimes a ladder isn't an adequate solution.

IS A DOG BETTER THAN A LADDER?

Before taking off cruising, I used to live on my Gulfstar 41 Someday in Brookings, Oregon. We were closed up and below reading one night a few years ago when my dog Mandy suddenly became quite agitated, then barked at me while looking at our gangway hatch. When I removed the boards to let her out, I heard a thin voice calling for help. We rushed from the boat to find an elderly man in the water and hanging onto the dock across from my boat. I pulled him from the 50° water without his being able to help himself at all.

At first, the man was unable to stand, and his speech was so shaky and breathy that I couldn't understand him. I helped him into my warm boat, got him out of his clothes and into the shower, and provided some dry clothes. He came around fairly quickly. Initially, I'd insisted that I call for medical help, but he was able to talk me out of it. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have taken the chance.

The man told me that he'd come down to check up on his boat, and had fallen into the water. He started to swim, but only made it a short distance — about 50 feet — to a finger, then handed himself the length of the finger to a ladder. Once there, he was unable to pull himself out of the water. He estimated he'd been in the water about 10 minutes when Mandy and I got to him, and said he didn't think he could have lasted much longer.

My point is — as several of us discussed at a subsequent Chetco Cove YC session — unless the port was willing to put a ladder at the end of each and every finger, or at the very least, every alternate one, ladders would be of little effectiveness. No matter if it's summer or winter, the waters in the Pacific Northwest are debilitatingly cold. By the time most people reached a ladder, they'd be too cold to use it to pull themselves out. Swimming several hundred yards is not a problem for the average swimmer in warmer climes, but in 50- to 60-degree water, it takes a very good swimmer to make it more than 50 feet if he/she has clothes and shoes on.

I support the idea of safety ladders in marinas, but they do have limitations. I leave the swim ladder on my boat down most of the time, just in case. An even more effective emergency out, in my opinion, is leaving my inflatable in the water. If I'm able to get to it, it's easy to enter from the water.

Bill Nokes
Someday, Gulfstar 41
Panama / Chetco, Oregon

Bill — We agree with you, there is no guarantee that people who have fallen into the water would be able to pull themselves out. So maybe there needs to be a bell or whistle for summoning help that can be attached to every such ladder.

An inflatable that's easier to get into than climbing up a ladder? It must be a brand with small tubes.

MAKE IT BLINKING NEON

In reference to Captain Chris Larsen's letter in the December issue stating that more dock ladders in marinas could prevent more tragedies, I'd like to suggest one way many of us boatowners might contribute to safety in our marinas. My boat's fold-up swim ladder attached to the stern rail is always secured to the rail with a highwayman's hitch — aka a slip knot — tied in half-inch red line. Its bitter end sports a figure-eight knot, and dangles within a few inches of the water's surface. I don't think my swim ladder has ever been deployed in an emergency, but I feel good knowing it's at least available should a situation arise.

With the extra attention being paid to this topic, I'm thinking I should look into adding a sizable black-on-yellow 'Ladder' sign, perhaps even lit by a solar-powered night light.

Paul Brogger
Mid-Life Cruises, San Juan 28
Olympia, WA

Paul — We think your ideas are good ones. The question is going to be how aware people will be of your ladder and/or other ladders, and whether they will physically be able to reach one and pull themselves out.

"WE DON'T WANT TO COME IN WITH GUNS BLAZING"

I volunteer with a local nonprofit overseeing a Bay Area watershed. One of the issues in the watershed is docks in disrepair, meaning docks that have broken up over the years and are now littering the creeks and Bay, and which will eventually litter the ocean. There are also some pretty sad-looking boats in the area.

Our group really wants to clean up the area, but we don't want to come in with guns blazing and give the owners of these docks and boats any ultimatums. We want to work with them to help repair docks if possible, and get boats hauled if the owners cannot repair them so they can be used. Alas, we have a limited budget.

Although I haven't sailed in years, I love Latitude. I love reading the stories people share with your magazine, and remember your article on the boats being cleaned out of Clipper Cove at Treasure Island. I thought you might be able to give me the names of some organizations, or some ideas on how we can work with the dock owners and residents to clean our creeks before things get worse.

You don't need to publish this letter, as I'm mostly looking for information.

Anonymous
San Francisco Bay

Anonymous — Not giving people ultimatums on their property, be it their docks or their boats, is a smart move. A lot of the docks that were built decades ago are indeed now falling apart. We've seen it up and down the Napa and Petaluma Rivers, in the Delta, at Bel Marin Keys, over in the East Bay, down along the Peninsula, in San Francisco — just about everywhere. A lot of the failing docks are behind homes, but there are commercial marinas with broken docks, too. If there were a better economy and more demand for slips, the marinas could better afford to replace them, but we don't see that happening soon.

To be honest, we don't know what the solution is. Repairing or replacing the docks would be a major expense that few homeowners can afford in this economy. Perhaps an even bigger problem is that the owner would have to get permits from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) which, as we understand it, would open them up to all kinds of public comment from people who think any minor dock renovation should be mitigated by the owner's having to pay for the removal of what's left of the Berkeley Pier. So we suspect 9 out of 10 dock owners would rather have a spinal tap than lay themselves bare to the BCDC and every sanctimonious activist in the region. If you want to make big strides in solving the problem, get the time, cost, and effort of permitting streamlined.

But to be honest, we haven't noticed that dock planks are that much — if any — of a litter problem. They're organic, and like the tons of unprocessed wood that flows down the rivers and into the Bay and ocean each winter, degrade relatively quickly.

What's not going to degrade quickly are the countless number of mostly smaller fiberglass boats that were built 30 to 50 years ago. Many are all but abandoned, with the owners only continuing to pay the slip fees because in the short term it's less expensive than paying to have the boat cut up and thrown into a dumpster. There have been state programs to pay to have some fiberglass boats scrapped, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to what would be needed to achieve your goal. Then, too, what you and members of your organization might see as a "sad-looking" boat may be a beauty in the eye of her owner, one that embodies a lifetime of wonderful memories of sailing with spouses, children and friends. There is no way that you'd want to take that from them, is there?

MY TENTH — AND FINAL! -— BAJA BASH

Thanks for the December 5 'Lectronic item on the Baja Bash. Please note that I was helping my friend Van Anderson, who is the owner of Sunday Morning, bring his boat home from Guaymas via Cabo in June of last year. At the time we were hoping that the last of the prevailing northwesterly winds and seas would have passed, but no such luck. We had strong northwest winds and adverse current all the way. In fact, it even freshened to 20-25 knots at night.

The worst washing-machine experience we had was just off Ensenada, when it took us all day to get from Punta Banda to just beyond Todos Santos. We were making less than three knots of VMG. The Mexican Navy came by to check us out, but given the rough conditions, thought better of trying to board us. It wasn't until after 13 days at sea that we reached our final destination of the Customs dock in San Diego. It was my 10th and truly final Baja Bash.

But I'll sail south again in a heartbeat!

John L. Cahill, M.D., crew
Sunday Morning, Tayana 42
San Diego

DISAPPOINTMENT ON BOTH SIDES

I was disappointed by the mean-spirited rebuttal to my letter in the December Latitude. We carry PFDs, EPIRBs, and fire extinguishers on our boats, but seldom ever use them. Why ridicule an honest suggestion of throwing a can of pepper spray into a lady's purse for personal protection when leaving a marina in Mexico? What can it hurt? Mexico is what it is.

You do your readers a disservice with your overly optimistic assessment of the country's security.

John Ragozzino
Cazador, Hunter 43
San Diego

John — We're sorry if you thought our response was a little over the top, but we thought your suggestion that sailors carry pepper spray every time they leave a marina in Mexico was both over-the-top mean-spirited and ignorant. The truth of the matter is that there are areas outside a number of California marinas that are much, much more dangerous than the worst area outside any marina in Mexico.

It's almost impossible for cruisers in Mexico to convey how ill-informed so many Americans are about personal security in 'cruiser Mexico'. If a Mexican told you he wouldn't dare go to Belvedere or Pacific Heights or Atherton because of crime in Northern California you'd think he was nuts, wouldn't you? Well, that's exactly what every cruiser down here feels when people like you say they shouldn't leave places like Marina Vallarta, Marina Paradise, the Marina Riviera Nayarit, Grand Marina Barra, Puerto Los Cabos, Marina de La Paz, Costa Baja Marina, Marina El Cid, Marina Mazatlan, Las Hadas Marina, San Blas Marina, or any of the other marinas in Mexico, at night or without pepper spray.

The truth is that one of the very best things about cruising in Mexico is that cruisers feel so safe walking around at night to go to restaurants, to listen to live music, or to just take in the air. You don't get any stink eye from wannabe punks and thugs, but rather warm smiles and endless good vibes. No traffic either. If you don't believe us, just ask someone who has actually been cruising down here. Yes, there is terrible violence inland among narco gangs, but as we said last month, it hasn't been happening in 'cruiser Mexico'. So when we made the ridiculous comment that we're more afraid of getting eaten by a polar bear in Mexico than being a victim of narco violence, it wasn't that much of a joke.

By the way, if some narco has an AK-47, your can of pepper spray isn't going to help at all.

BOB WILL FOREVER BE 'BIG DADDY'

The November Sightings regarding the demise of Leading Lady was indeed sad to read. Bob Klein spent countless hours on that old girl. Just about every day I pulled up to the Richmond YC in the '80s, I'd wander down to visit with Bob as he worked on the endless to-do list. Even then, 40 feet of aluminum IOR warhorse was a handful to maintain.

You could certainly fill a book with the wonderful stories that countless sailors remember from their days on the water with Bob. For me, it was a trip out the Gate for one of the miserable ocean races Bob seemed to love so much. As we exited the Gate, every wave seemed to get bigger and more square. I was new to the area, and while I trimmed the main I guess I kept muttering "Jeeeezus Christ!" as we sailed over what seemed like a small mountain range. Much to my relief, all the boats in front of us turned around and the race was called off. Naturally, Bob and Leading Lady were the last to quit. As I raced on big boats on the Bay for the next decade, the one thing I could count on if Bob saw me was a friendly "Yoo hoo!" followed by an inquiry if I'd seen any "J-C waves" that day.

Bob was a huge part of my sailing and personal life. As I enter my 50s, I realize just how young he was when we lost him. He was a great man with a bigger-than-life personality. He really was — always will be — the "Big Daddy"!

Rob Anderson
Moscow, ID

WARHORSE OR WORLD CRUISER?

Paul Kamen’s Sightings comment on the Peterson Two-Tonner Leading Lady is all wet. He wrote, “But she was a design from the dark years of the International Offshore Rule (IOR). In this market I can understand why she’s not worth having as a cruising boat.”

I contend there is an alternative to the scrap heap. Back in '68, Sparkman & Stephens produced an all-aluminum 49-ft IOR thoroughbred by the name of Bay Bea. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this boat would be the flagship for many successful all-aluminum competition boats of that era — including Leading Lady. It was the success of Pat Haggerty's Bay Bea that inspired the construction of sister ships Scaramouche, Bandit and Aura. As for the ability to cruise such boats in comfort, safety and speed, the Dutch-flagged Aura has just completed a world circumnavigation, and the crew gave 'high fives' to this amazing vessel.

As a recipient of the donated Bay Bea, we have been encouraged by Aura’s impressive “Aurand the World” success to hasten the restoration of Bay Bea. We would welcome all those who would like to be involved in preserving part of America’s yacht racing history. It really does take a village sometimes.

Todd Frye
Director, Bonneville School
of Sailing and Seamanship
(801) 404-0098
info@bonnevillesailing.com

Todd — Historic Bay Bea was designed and built in the late '60s when yacht racing was switching over from the Cruising Club of America (CCA) racing rule, which had encouraged traits such as long overhangs and split rigs, to the IOR rule, which increasingly rewarded bumps, tumblehome and pinched sterns. In other words, hull shapes that were tortured for the purpose of making the IOR rule think they were slower than they really were.

As originally built in the early days of the IOR, Bay Bea was more than a very good boat. But as you must have learned, in an attempt to keep up with the changes in the IOR rule and newer boats better exploiting the rule right off the drawing board, owner Haggerty had to keep modifying Bay Bea, doing such things as adding rule-fooling bumps — made out of Bondoed-over ping-pong balls! — to sufficiently torture the hull. As the founder of Texas Instruments and later principal owner of the renowned Palmer-Johnson yard in Wisconsin that had built Bay Bea, he had the means to do it. Leading Lady, on the other hand, was designed a decade after Bay Bea by San Diego's Doug Peterson, who more than anyone had figured out the IOR rule, and who knew how to shape hulls to the best effect. Leading Lady was one of the later IOR boats optimized for the rule, which is what Kamen meant about her being from the "dark years of the IOR."

As for Bay Bea's sistership Aura having just completed a circumnavigation, we're sure it was "comfortable" — as comfortable as a flush-deck boat could be. We know people who have done long cruises on boats that started life with flush decks — including the 79-ft S&S aluminum legend Kialoa III, and the Serendipity 43s Wings and Scarlett O'Hara. Trust us, flush deck boats aren't anywhere near as ergonomically pleasing as boats with houses and proper cockpits.

We wish you the best of luck with restoring a 49-ft aluminum racing boat from the '60s, but you might want to think twice about putting too much money into her. After all, rebuilding such an old aluminum boat — in Provo, Utah, of all places — might not be getting your organization the biggest bang for its sailing buck. Not that you asked for our opinion.

A 26-YEAR-OLD VET'S TAKE ON THE HA-HA

If you’ve followed Latitude over the past couple of years, you’ve probably read about some of my sailing adventures. I'm an Iraq vet who spent a month in an induced coma before sailing to Hawaii on a Bounty II that lost her rudder. I then rallied and sailed in the last Singlehanded TransPac on the Mt. Gay 30 Warrior's Wish, which lost her keel on the way home. I'm a huge fan of Latitude, so when the publisher asked me to write a brief article on the Ha-Ha from a young person's perspective, I was honored. I'm writing this while standing watch on a Baja Bash delivery back to San Francisco. The air is still warm, there’s a full moon out, and I’m still in a post-orgasmic state of brown skin, a recovering liver, and a wandering spirit and mind that only a cruise to a tropical destination can deliver. Anyway, here is how it went down for me:

My buddy Tony had bought the Kaufman 47 Knot Tied Down during the summer, so when he invited me on the Ha-Ha, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been doing a ton of racing over the past couple of years, but not much cruising, so I was especially interested in the change of pace. I arrived in San Diego about five days before the start of the Ha-Ha to help Tony finish up some last-minute chores and tidy up the boat before Ken and Phil, our other two crew, flew in from the Bay Area.

The adventure and our debauchery started with the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party in the parking lot of the West Marine Superstore in San Diego on a grey, gloomy Sunday afternoon. It’s amazing how much energy and enthusiasm there is when you cram 503 cruisers into a small space. Some were there to start a two-week vacation, some were there to start a season of cruising, and some had just retired and were there to begin the realization of a life's dream of untying the dock lines and sailing to distant ports.

Given a classy and hospitable send-off from San Diego by local and regional officials, the Ha-Ha fleet set off on Monday morning under grey skies. There is no better feeling than sailing out of port, turning south, and throwing up a spinnaker. Due to light winds, the Grand Poobah called for a 'rolling start', where boats could motor with no time penalty. But the four of us on Knot Tied Down hoped to sail the entire way to Cabo, so despite very light wind, we shut off our engine before the starting line and started under spinnaker. It wasn't until we passed to the west of the Coronado Islands that we really got the boat moving. As the breeze picked up and the skies eventually cleared, we made our way south, still carrying the chute — and even catching some members of the fleet who had motored during the first hours.

One of the big highlights of our trip was the fishing. Ken, our fishing guru, took charge by rigging up the hand lines and cedar plugs. He yelled "Fish on!!” for the first time on day three. Over the course of the next two hours, we hauled four yellowfin tuna aboard. This was enough for us to gorge on sushi and tuna steaks — and still bring more than 40 lbs of fish ashore for the gatherings in Turtle Bay.

On our third and final night of the first leg, we decided to douse the spinnaker in the building breeze. Carrying a 150% genoa, we were still moving along well. In fact, we became massively overpowered just before the finish line, and decided to reduce sail. Alas, after two turns on the furler, we couldn't get the sail in any more, nor could we unfurl it. That meant we had to drop it. With no other option, I cut the furler line and manually unreaved it from the furler. This allowed us to completely unfurl the sail and then douse it. Being a rigger by trade, I helped Tony lead the furling line back more efficiently, and we had no more problems for the rest of the trip.

Turtle Bay was epic! First there was the very fast-paced baseball game at the local stadium in which everybody got to bat a bunch of times. Then there was quite a bit of partying for us younger Ha-Ha folks at several bars, such as they are in the village. But the real gem was a surfing safari on our second day there. Fifteen of us younger Ha-Ha participants piled into two pickup trucks with 10 boards. Then two locals drove us up and over dirt roads, desert trails, and an airport runway to the local surf break. Conditions were absolutely ideal, and everyone had a great time, including surf instructor Cori Raffaelli from Sayulita who showed everyone how it should be done. The 6’10” surfboard I'd bought just for the trip turned out to be a wise investment.

Once we were surfed out, we made our way to the huge beach party at the northeast part of Turtle Bay. There was music, beer, potluck food, fresh fish, volleyball, girls in bikinis — and even the 38-ft catamaran Younger Girl — on the beach. Scores of us enjoyed a great bonding experience as we tried to get the cat headed into the fortunately small waves and deeper water. Even though we were unable to refloat her, it was great group fun — and she got off undamaged with a higher tide a short time later.

After a number of cervezas that night, I faced an unforeseen challenge: finding Knot Tied Down in a harbor full of sailboats with matching anchor lights. I spent over three hours in a panga, often looking for my boat, but often having to ride the panga back and forth to the pier to pick up more passengers. It was very disorienting. In the end, I was 'that guy' who never did find his boat. I’m pretty sure that it had everything to do with the matching anchor lights and nothing to do with my having had a couple of tequilas with my beer. After sharing a cup of coffee with me, a local named Miguel was nice enough to lend me his sleeping bag. So I spent the night sleeping under the stars on the pier.

We started the second leg in light breeze again, with the chute up. The breeze remained light for much of the 240 miles to Bahia Santa Maria, although it built enough near the end to provide idyllic sailing conditions. Because I'm young, I jumped into the water just before the finish line, and while hanging onto a spinnaker sheet, took a pretty neat video with my Go Pro. You can see it by visiting the November 7 'Lectronic.

By the time the fleet reached Santa Maria, everyone had found friends and formed small cliques. We partied the nights away at anchor, ate heaps of fish, enjoyed another mass beach party, and had another couple of days of playing in the surf. It seemed to me that it was at Bahia Santa Maria that a true sense of community had developed, with all kinds of people embarking on new adventures and traveling to new places together.

The first day of the leg to Cabo was great, but then the wind went light. We floundered around before finally throwing in the towel and firing up the big diesel, eliminating our chances of being 'Soul Sailors'. But there was a feverish level of excitement aboard Knot Tied Down, as there were still two great parties to come at a world-class destination.

The beach party on Friday and awards ceremony on Saturday were spectacular, if a bit bittersweet for me. While most of the fleet was headed up into the Sea of Cortez or across to the mainland, Tony and I were headed north to get the boat back to Alameda. Saying goodbye to friends, whether new or old, is always difficult. But after the Ha-Ha, I was left with nothing but inspiration to cruise further, and with good memories from a great adventure.

The Grand Poobah told me he appreciated having younger people in the fleet, and said he hoped more young people would do it in the future. I couldn't agree more. In fact, he's holding the first two spots on next year's roster for Heidy Gross, a cute 30-year old female from Southern California who hopes to sail her Pearson Vanguard 32 Que Suerte (see page 80 to find out more about Heidy's philosophy on cruising), and me, a 26-year-old rigger from Alameda. I'll be going on my Albin Cumulus 28 Chippewa after having sailed my second Singlehanded TransPac aboard my Moore 24 101.

The Ha-Ha is a killer event, with lots of great people to meet, great parties, fantastic scenery and sailing, and enchanting stops in a beautiful country. If you’re young and have a cruising boat, or just want to crew on someone else’s boat, consider this your invite. Let’s make the next Ha-Ha the best one ever. I hope to see you in San Diego next October 29 for the start of Ha-Ha XIX.

Ronnie Simpson, Crew
Knot Tied Down, Kaufman 47
Alameda

Readers — In a coincidence, the morning we added this letter we woke up to see Ronnie Simpson on some television program about people who by all rights probably shouldn't be alive any longer. We're glad he's still with us.

We certainly hope next year's Ha-Ha will be the youngest ever. For those who think cruising has to be expensive, there were four boats entered in last year's event that cost less than $10,000. We don't want to underplay the possible risks in doing a Ha-Ha or the work involved in getting a boat ready, but if you're an experienced or even just eager sailor, it's possible to do the Ha-Ha and a whole season in Mexico on a very simple boat for much less than you might imagine. As in about $10,000, and having a boat to sell when it's over.

PUNTA MITA IS A CELEBRITY HOTSPOT

The day after I read an item in 'Lectronic reporting that celebrities were buying waterfront property at Punta Mita on the tip of Banderas Bay, there were news headlines that Muammar Gaddafi's son al-Saadi had been trying to get a fake Mexican passport, buy property there, and hide out. You guys are on the ball!

David Hume
Planet Earth

David — Let us clarify things a bit. This all came about because Virgin America had just inaugurated nonstop service from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta, so they were pushing all the best magazine quotes about Punta Mita. We decided one of the quotes would be good for spicing up our report on the Banderas Bay Blast, the fleet of which raced to Punta Mita and spent one night there. To be honest, the quote about Punta Mita becoming the "hottest spot in the world for celebrities" has to be tempered by the fact that the quote came from Harper's Bazaar rather than more influential magazines such as Vogue or Vanity Fair, and that some of the celebrities mentioned included Kim Kardashian and Charlie Sheen, considered by many to be celebrity trash.

Anyway, it was by pure coincidence the story broke the next day that Mexican authorities had arrested Canadian resident Cynthia Vanier in Mexico City, along with two others, for allegedly conspiring to smuggle Saadi, the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s soccer-loving son, and his family to Mexico, get them phony Mexican passports, open up bank accounts, and buy them property in Punta Mita. There have been conflicting reports on whether the real estate deals actually went through. Vanier, a mother of two who operates a well-regarded mediation company in Canada, had been in Tripoli last summer with Gary Peters, the CEO of a Canadian company that provided security for the late Libyan dictator. Vanier returned from Libya and wrote a report that many people considered to be suspiciously one-sided in favor of the late dictator. Saadi is currently in Niger.

TAX ASSESSORS CAME THROUGH IN NOVEMBER

When we passed through California from Seattle in '00 enroute to Mexico and beyond, we found ourselves in Chula Vista Marina in November when the tax authorities came through for a list of boats to be assessed with personal property tax on the January 1 'tax day'. We left the marina and the country before the end of the year and 'tax day', but that didn't stop the county from trying to collect the tax. It took an enormous amount of time and effort to get the tax bill reversed. The whole experience with the tax authorities was not pleasant, but the biggest problem, which took years to correct, was the damage to our credit report. So it was a little premature for Latitude to advise those Canadian cruisers that they have nothing to worry about. Eh?

We're currently at Johor Baru, across the river from Singapore, in possibly one of the best marinas that could be found anywhere. And the rent is free! I only pay for the electricity I use. Thanks to a neighboring boat owned by a local billionaire, the security here is first class. In fact, the local police come to the dock several times per day to check up. Singapore is only a short bus ride away but, as you know, it's a complete contrast to the situation one encounters in Indonesia and Malaysia.

P.S. We love Latitude. Keep up the good work.

Lawrence Page
Moonfire, 70-ft custom ketch
Edmonds, WA / Currently Singapore

Lawrence — Thanks for the kind words. We think that the county assessors are easier on foreign transient boats these days, but we suppose everyone should check just to be sure.

WINTER IN FIRELAND

After nearly nine years afloat — including a circumnavigation via San Francisco in the '80s with our Albin Vega 27 Tarka the Otter, and our current voyage from Cape Town to Japan via the Beagle Channel and Straits of Magellan aboard our Vancouver 27 — my wife Jenny and I have made many Bay Area sailing friends. We're always interested in picking up copies of Latitude 38, the most recent being snagged at the Marianas YC in Guam.

As we recall, Latitude allows authors to do their own short book reviews. In view of this, we think our Bay Area sailing friends might be interested to learn that I've just published Winter in Fireland, a book about our adventures in the far south. We write about voyaging from Cape Town, South Africa, to Japan via the Patagonian and Chilean channels. While this meant we didn't have to round Cape Horn, the Patagonian and Chilean channels are among the most inhospitable places on the planet to be on a boat, and parts of them are still uncharted. My book is all about ultra off-the-beaten-track cruising in the high latitudes on a small boat, which I try to put into historical context. The cover photo was taken by Klaus Hauessler of Ludus Amoris. Hauessler's was the only sailboat we encountered in the four months we spent in the Chilean Channels. We're told that Bosun Bird, our 27-footer, is one of the smallest vessels ever to have transited these waters.

After emerging into the Pacific again at Puerto Montt, we sailed to New Zealand via Easter Island, and subsequently to Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun is rather an odd cruising destination, as every bay and nook has an artificial harbor that precludes anchoring. Japan is nonetheless fascinating, and we have been the object of astounding hospitality. Since our arrival in Kagoshima in April, we have met only two foreign 'resident' yachts and one transient yacht. We are currently at Suma Yacht Harbour near Kobe, at the east end of the Inland Sea. We intend to continue on to Alaska in the spring of '12.

Readers interested in sailing to Japan — an obvious route home to the West Coast from the South Pacific — should not hesitate to contact us for more info at bosun_bird@yahoo.ca. An illustrated account of our adventures, as well as notes on sailing in Japan, can be found at www.bosunbird.com.

Nick & Jenny Coghlan
Bosun Bird, Vancouver 27
Victoria, BC

Readers — What Nick didn't have room to say is that he and Jenny were born in the United Kingdom, but moved to Argentina in '78. After moving to the west coast of Canada, Nick joined the Canadian Foreign Service, which resulted in his and Jenny's being given assignments that included Mexico City, Bogota (Colombia), Khartoum (Sudan), and Cape Town (South Africa). While in Sudan, they were able to maintain their sailing skills by racing steel Khartoum One-Design dinghies at the junction of the Blue and White Niles, where the Blue Nile Sailing Club has its headquarters aboard HMS Melik, Lord Kitchener's former gunboat. After their posting in South Africa, the couple bought a stout Vancouver 27 to replace their Vega 27, as they wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of sailing back to Patagonia via the Roaring Forties. On their way to Japan in '07, they stopped in Tahiti, where Nick accepted a two-year diplomatic assignment in peaceful Pakistan. Subsequently the couple continued on to the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Japan.

Given the life that Nick and Jenny have led, we can't imagine he had much trouble thinking of things to write about. As the couple are no longer kids, the book will no doubt appeal to older folks who are thinking about making long ocean passages with rather small boats.

COCONUT CRABS AND BLACK TIP SHARKS

I can almost go with gently rubbing the tummy of one of those huge coconut crabs to get him to stop pinching me, but is that the same technique you use to keep from getting hurt by black tip sharks?

John Boye
Tom Thumb, Havsfidra 25
Brookings, OR

John — Call us chicken, but our shark technique, unless we're with an expert, is to stay out of the water. For those who might be curious what this letter is all about, it stems from the following December 7 report in 'Lectronic:

"Among the most interesting animals that cruisers encounter for the first time in the South Pacific is the coconut crab. Check out the one — they are typically blue — being held up by Randy Ramirez of the Stockton-based Mariah 31 Mystic at Suwarrow Atoll in the Cook Islands a few months ago. Big, isn't it? The largest land-living arthropod in the world, coconut crabs can weigh as much as nine pounds and have a leg span of three feet. They don't usually reach mature size until 40 to 60 years of age. Yeah, some of them live long enough to qualify for social security. Want to win a bar bet? Except in infancy, coconut crabs are terrestrial and don't have gills. As a result, they drown if they are immersed in water for more than an hour! Unlike coconut crabs, blacktip reef sharks, which are also common at Suwarrow, can stay underwater forever.

"Despite the crab's name and the fact they are almost always found in the vicinity of coconut palms, the staple of a coconut crab's diet is fleshy fruits, nuts, tortoise hatchlings and dead animals. It's also been speculated that coconut crabs ate the remains of missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart, then hid her bones in their burrows. But yes, coconut crabs do eat coconuts. Sometimes they find a coconut on the ground, cut it to a husk nut, take it up to 30 feet high in a tree, then drop it in hopes of cracking it open. How do they get down from the tree themselves? Sometimes they intentionally free-fall from heights of as much as 15 feet. Other times coconut crabs find coconuts on the ground, and over a period of days use their claws to cut holes in the nut to get at the contents.

"Coconut crabs have no known predators other than other coconut crabs and hungry humans such as Ramirez. The fact that coconut crabs have lots of meat, are considered a delicacy, and are thought to be aphrodisiacs, means they are now rare in some areas where they previously thrived. But they still thrive in the Cooks. When a coconut crab pinches a human, it will do the pit bull thing and not let go. If you gently rub a pitbull's stomach with some light material, it will keep biting you. But coconut crabs are complete sensualists, so if you gently tickle their undersides with something soft, they will loosen their grip."


 

 

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