Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Letters' Index Letters
January 2013

Missing the pictures? See our January 2013 eBook!
Bookmark and Share

WHAT COULD GO WRONG AT INVINCIBLE ROCK?

Latitude asked about hazards in the Bay besides 'little Alcatraz' that many sailors may not be aware of. I nominate Invincible Rock, which is located about a half mile south-southwest of the Brothers, just outside the shipping channel near buoy '16'.

Invincible is surrounded by water depths of 50 feet or more, but rises precipitously to a charted depth of 7 feet. At very low or negative tides, it is a significant hazard to deep-draft sailboats, whose owners may be blissfully unaware of its presence. It's doubly dangerous because it's in an area of strong and confused currents caused by the highly variable bottom contours, and shifting winds due to the proximity of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. As such, it's very easy to think 'what could go wrong?', because you're just outside a deepwater channel.

Bill Kinney
Fetchin' Ketch, Northstar 40
Marina Bay

Bill — Count us among those who have no doubt sailed over Invincible Rock not knowing what was only inches beneath our keel. It is interesting that Invincible Rock and Whiting Rock are so close to the shipping channel.

EIGHT BELLS FOR CHRIS CORLETT

I was sorry to hear about the passing of Chris Corlett, an institution in the world of Northern California sailing, who recently died in his sleep of natural causes.

Sailing with Chris was unlike sailing with anyone else. His normally boisterous demeanor would become hushed, he would get very focused, and he was unflappable. He would not tolerate yelling or drama on the boat.

He recently told me that his most gratifying sailing experience was in the recent Pacific Cup he did with his son, Jesse. He was so proud of his son, whom he called a "natural."

Working with Chris made me understand what a really good guy he was. He truly cared about doing the right thing — a concept that is sometimes lost in today's business world. Even if it made his life more difficult, he would try. And Chris was always the first to crack a joke and the one who laughed the hardest at it afterward.

Allison Lehman
Alameda

Readers — In the November 28 'Lectronic, we recalled, as best we could, the much talked about man-on-man sailing battles in the late '70s among Chris Corlett, John Beery and Tom Blackaller in the Oakland Estuary. John Selbach has filled us in on some of the details.

"I was there for the race between Chris Corlett and John Beery, from Mariner Square to the mouth of the Estuary and back on Santana 35s. It was a big deal because Chris was a rock star, but Beery had literally written the book on sailing. The bet was for $1,000, which was chump change for Beery, who owned Mariner Square, but a lot for Corlett, who was broke. Since Chris didn't have enough money, he sold half of his bet: $250 to me and $250 to another guy. A bunch of us followed the two boats around the course, and Chris trounced Beery. It was embarrassing. Chris and I were always friends, and I always admired the fact that while he was a rock star, he was never too good for the average sailors on whose boats he sometimes sailed when they needed to win races."

Selbach tells us that Corlett acquired the nickname 'Poodle' for his habit of checking out any new race boats on the Bay. "When a new race boat would show up in the Bay Area, Chris would hunt her down, then carefully check out every aspect of her, from the keel chord to the way the thru hulls were faired to the block placement. He sniffed around these boats so much that he was given the name Poodle."

If anybody remembers the details of the Blackaller and Corlett race in the Estuary, we'd like to hear about it.

HEAD FIRST INTO THE TRASH CAN AT LUCKYS

I sailed with Chris 'Poodle' Corlett heaps of years ago in the good old days of IOR racing. I didn't see him for a long time, and then just a couple of years ago he saw me in a Lucky store. "Bird!" he shouted. "It's my buddy Bird!" He then gave me a hug, picked me up, and dumped me head first into a garbage can adjacent to the checkout stand. He was laughing hysterically. I was, too. It was nice to see him again, because if you knew Chris, that was his way.

Jonathan 'Bird' Livingston
Punk Dolphin, Wylie 38
Pt. Richmond

Readers — Ages ago, when we primarily knew Chris by his reputation as about the best young helmsman in Northern California, he dragged us to a doctor's office on Oakland's Pill Hill. "This doctor owes me a lot of money for kicking butt with his boat in the Nationals back on the East Coast," Corlett explained, "and I need to get some of it."

As we recall, Chris barged right through the reception area with a big smile, and took up station in one of the doctor's waiting rooms. "What are you doing here?!" asked the horrified doctor when he entered the room. Chris had some great wisecrack of a response, so the poor doctor was stuck in a battle between wanting to laugh hysterically and desperately trying to maintain the decorum necessary for a doctor's office. Every time the doctor came up with an excuse why he couldn't pay Chris right then, Chris would loudly tell another joke, and the poor doctor would once again have to try to stifle his laughter. Chris was a good tactician.

SUMMER AT THE ISLANDS WON'T BE THE SAME

The tragedy of Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III's death near Santa Cruz Island after being rammed by a panga from Mexico brought reminders of narco violence from the streets of Mexico to our front porch. We'll probably still make our trip to the Channel Islands this summer, but the knowledge that we'll be vacationing in a favorite transfer point for drugs and human smuggling will be unnecessary ballast for my conscience.

As sailors, many are unaware of the extent of environmental damage done by narco traffickers on land. Erosion, stream diversions, wildlife kills from illegal pesticides, and littering in wildlands ­— all on a massive scale — are the collateral damage from this country's war on drugs. Add this to the thousands of lives ruined by throwing marijuana users into prison.

Readers need to be aware of the craziness being perpetrated in the name of justice. As with alcohol, prohibition of pot makes it marginally less available — but at a huge environmental and social cost. We all need to do what we can, where we can, to decriminalize marijuana.

Cliff Smith
Carola, Young Sun 35
Pt. Richmond

Cliff — If you're suggesting there isn't and hasn't been massive narco violence and human smuggling in California prior to the recent panga invasion, you've not been reading the papers. While narco murders are way down in Los Angeles, experts say the human trafficking is way up. And drug murders in Oakland are up something like 20% over last year.

We're going to be anchoring at the Channel Islands this summer, just as we have been for the last bunch of summers. And we're not going to be worried about narco and human smugglers. After all, smugglers don't want to mix with us any more than we want to mix with them. The tragic case of Senior Chief Horne — he was posthumously promoted — was unusual, because he identified himself as law enforcement, putting the two individuals in the panga in what they perceived to be a desperate situation. And desperate people do desperate things. Horne died as a result of being hit in the head by a prop after being knocked overboard in a collision between the two boats. We don't think the bad guys intended to kill him. Not that it makes Horne any less dead or his family any less alone.

We think the last thing the United States needs is more unproductive stoners, but we also agree that the war on drugs has been a monumental failure. What high school students can't score any kind of dope they want on a few hours' notice? The only thing that the war on drugs has been successful at is creating massive government employment — Homeland Security, the FBI, the Border Patrol, all the police and sheriffs, the district attorneys and their staffs, the taxpayer-funded defense attorneys, the judges and all the court staff, the astronomically compensated prison guards, and on and on. Of course, had drugs been legal all along, these people wouldn't have needed to be hired, and the unemployment rate in California would be about 50%.

OFFSHORE PEMEX STATIONS INDEED

In the December issue, Latitude's erudite response to a letter about pangas possibly smuggling drugs all the way from the Guatamalan border to California ended as follows:

"This leads us to believe that either these pangas don't go all the way to the border, or there are some unlicensed offshore Pemex stations."

According to the December 12 New York Times, "The authorities in San Diego said last year that they had found a boat equipped with a GPS device, which led them to a cache of fuel drums tied to buoys 50 miles offshore."

Ken Katz
Aab, 15-ft Minuteman catboat
Washington DC

Ken — Thanks for the heads-up; that was news to us.

As we understand it, the panga in the accident that killed Coastie Horne at Santa Cruz Island was not itself a smuggling vessel, but a refueling vessel.

HARBOR HOPPING IN THE WINTER

Having not lived in the Bay Area for the last 30 years, I don't remember what the weather is like there and farther south along the coast during the winter. I ask because we'd like to sail to Mexico from Alameda sometime in December or early January. Do you think we'll be able to find a safe weather window to hopscotch south?

I know that where we've lived — the Pacific Northwest — we wouldn't want to sail on the Pacific during those winter months.

Ron Odenheimer
Cetacean, Tayana 37
Portland, Oregon / Currently Alameda

Ron — If you're patient, we're confident that you'll be able to find the weather windows necessary for a safe trip south. Commodore Tompkins once grabbed a gal and our Olson 30 Little O, and set sail from San Francisco to Cabo. He said they had to contend with some southerly winds off the central coast of California, but never got a drop of water on deck the entire trip. With an Olson 30, that's saying something.

While the California coast is swept by northwesterly winds most of the year, in the winter it's generally either storm fronts from the south or more likely calms. Indeed, make sure you carry enough fuel, because you'll have to do a lot of motoring. We remember that it once took our old friend Christian about nine days to sail his engineless 26-footer from San Francisco to Morro Bay.

But do watch out for storm fronts. You can take that from Jack van Ommen of the Naja 30 Fleetwood. Jack has visited about 50 countries while sailing most of the way around the world over the past decade, but his voyage darn near ended before it started in a strong winter southerly a few miles south of Monterey. Fortunately, the Coast Guard came to his aid and towed him back to port.

And please remember that even if there is no wind, you must nonetheless be on the lookout for huge winter swells when in anything near shallow water. The shallow waters outside the Gate, for example, must be treated with the utmost respect. We've written enough reports of boats getting rolled and mariners getting killed out there in the winter to last us a lifetime. The entrances to harbors such as Santa Cruz and Morro Bay can also be extremely dangerous when there's a big swell running. So dress warmly and pick your window carefully.

Once you get south of the border, you can expect stronger winds down the coast of Baja than during the Ha-Ha. But you should have a good ride, and by the time you get to Cabo, you'll be living in your Speedo — if you're into that kind of thing.

FOR PETE'S SAKE, GIVE US SOME HELP!

I'm 54 years old and have lived aboard my boat with my wife in Pete's Harbor in Redwood City for 20 years. I'm asking for help to keep Pete’s Harbor from being privatized and turned into a walkway.

A multinational developer from Denver has purchased all the property, and is evicting all the residents — on land and on the water — in order to build luxury apartments. As far as I'm concerned, neither the voters of Redwood City nor Pete’s Harbor have been given an adequate opportunity to participate in the decision-making process leading to the destruction of our unique marina community.

Pete and Paula Uccelli created Pete's Harbor through 60 years of hard work for the boating community of San Francisco Bay. Pete's Harbor has a rich history and a deep connection with the people of Redwood City — and the residents of the harbor in particular. Pete's is a marina open to all, with a restaurant and meeting place, and public bathrooms. It's a great place to walk dogs, launch kayaks, feed ducks, look at boats, have children play, and observe numerous species of wild animals and migratory waterfowl. But thanks to the plans for 411 luxury apartments and condominiums, as well as spaces for 88 cars, and boat slips that will only be available to tenants, we marina tenants received eviction notices that say we must be gone by January 15. We have a core group of people, including an attorney who filed an appeal on November 13, to fight this. The City Council has 90 days within which to hear the appeal, but a specific meeting date has yet to be set. But even if the appeal staves off a decision, Ted Hannig, owner Paula Uccelli’s attorney, says the remaining tenants will still be evicted come January 15.

Interestingly enough, part of the harbor is leased from the State Lands Commission, and will have to be transferred. Again, the public has been left out of this process.

When all is said and done, it looks as though 13+ acres will be developed and privatized — to a 12-ft walking path that will be considered part of the Bay Trail. The resulting three- and four-story megalith of concrete and cars will be within the tidal flood plain, as well as within view of the Don Edwards San Francisco Wildlife Refuge, which is currently undergoing restoration.

We need lawyers, funds, and representation to negotiate a better plan, one that includes the residents and approval of the city. What we don't need is legal 'loopholing' for profits, or removing a public place that residents and visitors have enjoyed for the last 60 years.

Buckley Stone

Buckley — We wish you and your group the best of luck. At this stage of the process, you're going to need it.

SAVE FREE SANTA CRUZ HARBOR ACCESS

The proposed $10 fee for the 'free' hand launch ramps in the Santa Cruz Harbor is a bad idea for many reasons.

The hand launch docks near Dock FF and Dock A have always been free. To charge a $10 per-use fee will eliminate the only affordable, safe access point to the harbor and the Monterey Bay. Launching kayaks, SUPs, outriggers, and small boats from nearby beaches simply can't be done most days. These docks are a frequently used and treasured public asset, and should remain free.

To avoid paying the $10 fee, many users may choose to illegally launch their kayaks or SUPs from Seabright or Twin Lakes beaches, which are to either side of the harbor entrance. The notorious shorepound at these beaches would put the public at risk of serious injury.

Those who do choose to drive over to the Harbormaster’s Office on the opposite side of the harbor to pay the $10 fee would then go ahead and just launch from the boat launch right there. Therefore, there will be more boats, kayaks, SUPs, etc., launching from a boat ramp meant for actual boats near Leo’s Nautical Treasures. This would be dangerous.

Rather than paying the $10 per vehicle launch fee, many hand launch boat/kayak/SUP/etc. users will park in the Seabright neighborhood just outside the harbor parking lot, and then walk/roll their watercraft down to the hand launch dock at Dock A near Aldo’s Restaurant. This will increase harbor users' negative impact on the Seabright neighborhood.

There is also the economic benefit. Users of the hand launch docks regularly spend money at harbor businesses before and after their use of the docks. Kayak fishers stopping by Leo’s or Bayside Marine for bait, tackle or snacks before heading out to fish; SUPers for a bite to eat at one of the harbor restaurants after paddling; and small boat race groups hosting large post-race get-togethers at a harbor restaurant. And more. The free hand launch docks simply bring more people to the harbor, making the harbor a busier, more relevant economic hub.

In addition, the port is trying to apply launch ramp rules intended for real boats to things like kayaks and SUPs, and without giving proper notice. Please join me in protesting this move by visiting saveharboraccess.wordpress.com.

Carter McCoy
Santa Cruz

Readers — We're not experts on the details and nuances of the situation in Santa Cruz, but philosophically Latitude believes that ocean access should be considered a human right. In the case of swimmers, surfers, kayakers, SUPers, and other low-cost users, ocean access should always be free. And 'free' means not disguising fees with wildly inflated parking charges.

If anyone has noticed that local and state governments have been instituting all kinds of new fees and raising old ones, it should come as no surprise. These governments are not only broke, they made wild pension promises to public employees that can't possibly be met. As a result, the forecast is for decades of increasingly bitter squabbles over money.

TO SEND OR RECEIVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

We were running down the east coast of Australia from the Whitsundays to Sydney before a 20-knot northerly with a reefed main and the #3 wung out on a pole. It was about 3 a.m. and pitch black — of course — when, with almost no warning, we got hit by a 30-knot Southerly Buster. While trying to get the mess sorted out, one of the crew fell down and was injured. Then the AIS went off.

The signal was from the 600-ft bulk carrier Mississippi, and her closest point of approach (CPA) was going to be just a few feet. Just what we needed! I hailed the ship on 16 and got an immediate response. I advised the ship that we were a sailboat and were currently having difficulty maneuvering, and asked if she could please change course to port to go astern of us.

The Mississippi complied, and I saw her range lights widen, which allowed me to get back to getting Cheyenne organized. A bit later I checked on Mississippi's position. She was much closer and her range lights were directly in line.

"Oh shit!" I thought, but then I realized that she knew we were there, and had changed course a second time to make sure that we were all right! It was a good experience and another lesson in how valuable AIS is.

Alan Blunt
Cheyenne, Whiting 49
Los Angeles

Alan — We're big believers in AIS. In fact, if we had to choose between an AIS and radar, we might have a mental breakdown trying to make such a difficult decision. Fortunately, we have both.

The big AIS debate seems to be whether to get an AIS unit that transmits and receives, or one that just receives. Many sailors think they need to both receive and transmit. We're fine with a unit that just receives, as we believe it's our responsibility to stay out of the way of shipping, not vice versa. The other issue is that there were so many Ha-Ha boats transmitting AIS signals in the first couple of hours after the start that the AIS graphic interface on our unit was useless. Because of this, we think the units should be reserved for bigger commercial vessels.

By the way, we assume that the Mississippi didn't sneak up on you, and that you'd known she was coming when she was at least 25 miles away. AIS is great for situational awareness.

GREAT HOPE WAS LOST

I have information for John Amen, who wrote in asking what happened to Great Hope, the scale prototype for George Kiskadden's 67-ft schooner New World.

In the early '80s, New Hope was purchased by my friend Tom Reynolds, an athlete and waterman from Tiburon and Santa Cruz. Tom, who is no longer alive, kept New Hope on a mooring that he built himself and placed in Cowell Bay, which is to the west of the Municipal Wharf in Santa Cruz. I was there the day Tom launched the mooring from the deck of Great Hope.

Tom would routinely paddle out to Great Hope, leave the paddleboard on the mooring, and then go sailing. After owning and sailing Great Hope for many seasons, Tom eventually sold the boat to another local surfer, who kept the boat on the same mooring.

Since Cowell's was a fairly exposed anchorage, there was always some concern that New Hope might be vulnerable to early- and late-season storms. I believe that it was in the mid-'80s that she chafed through her bow line, allowing her to be blown into the wharf and then onto the beach. As I recall, she was a total loss.

I know about this because I was a lifeguard for the City of Santa Cruz at the time, and I kept my boat, the Santana 20 Flexy-Flyer, moored near New Hope during the summer months.

Those were great times, and while Great Hope was a bit tender due to her narrow beam, she was a very responsive and much-loved boat. I certainly miss those times, and thank John Amen for giving me a reason to write about them.

Andrew Ward
Santa Cruz

"A NEW BRAKING SYSTEM FOR SAILBOATS?"

I've have been boating for a few years, mostly in canoes. Recently I've been sailing a Balboa 26 on Mission Bay in San Diego, and I'm having a great time. But I hope you can answer a question about the Oracle AC72 catamaran.

It looks to me that the bow of Oracle's cat — and that of the others — is upside down, meaning that bottom is the farthest forward. I thought the object of the bow was to cut through the water and stay on top. The bows on the AC72s cut into the water, which seems as though it would make them dive into the swell. Is this some kind of new braking system for the sailboats?

Robert Yaussy
Lusty Lady, Balboa 26
Mission Bay

Robert — Good question. We overheard Lee Helm and Max Ebb discussing the subject, and we believe Max has recounted that conversation in this month's issue. Meanwhile, our resident expert in naval architecture had the following explanation:

"The reverse bow rake has less resistance in waves, which is why they are sometimes called wave-piercing bows. It also saves weight in the ends, which is critical. The downside is that such bows don't keep the decks as dry as if they had a forebody with conventional flare and bow rake. But this style bow is nothing new — see pottery pictures of ancient Greek ships, Dreadnought battleships, the 110 class sailboat, bulbous bow container ships, and A-Class 18-ft catamarans."

While not common, the reverse bow rake has shown up on some cruising catamarans, including a couple of Morrelli & Melvin 65s built by Westerly Marine of Santa Ana. Speaking of which, shortly after one of these cats was launched two years ago, we met up with the captain in Cabo. When we asked how the unidentified owner liked his new cat, the captain said he didn't. The cat had sailed so fast that she had scared the daylights out of him. The boat was for sale for a long time. But in October we saw her in a boatyard in San Diego, where the new owner was apparently undertaking an expensive redesign of the salon.

THE HONOR IS OURS

Having returned to the cold, gray Pacific Northwest, I find myself unable to focus. My mind keeps wandering back to my adventure on the Hylas 42 Coyote during this year's Ha-Ha. Although I've done a handful of Pacific crossings, the Ha-Ha had to be the best two weeks I've ever spent on a sailboat. Words cannot express how awesome it was to spend time with a group of like-minded people with a common goal. There were random acts of kindness, generosity, and sincere caring everywhere. I can only hope this won't be my only Ha-Ha.

I'd like to thank the Grand Poobah, Andy 'Puddle Jump' Turpin, Doña de Mallorca, and the rest of the Ha-Ha team for organizing the event. I'm sure there are days of work involved that participants such as myself don't know about and that are never mentioned.

Each morning during the Ha-Ha I looked forward to the 7:30 a.m. roll call and net, not only to keep track of the other boats, but to hear what words of wisdom the Poobah had for the fleet. His wit, knowledge, and especially patience, were a great way to start the day. I didn't miss a single net.

The Ha-Ha shoreside activities, such as the various parties and the baseball game were awesome, as they gave me a chance to put faces to the voices and boat names I'd heard on the radio. I met some amazing people who are now good friends.

Life is all about timing, and hopefully one day I'll be able to do the Ha-Ha on my boat. But I didn't want to wait until then to express my sincerest thanks.

Gary Souza
Caravella, Southerly 23
Puget Sound

Gary — Thank you, but please, you've gone way overboard with the praise.

Studies show that people get the most happiness for their money when they spend it not on cars, jewelry, furniture, or any of that junk, but on adventures. And that they get the biggest bang for their buck when they share these adventures with others. We think that largely explains the success of the Ha-Ha — not that we'd planned it that way.

Organizing and running the Ha-Ha is an exhausting endeavor that takes more time, energy, and worry than people imagine. That said, it's also the most rewarding thing we do all year, and it's an honor to be the Grand Poobah.

"WOULD YOU STILL CHOOSE THE RIB?"

A hearty 'thank you' to the Wanderer, 'Banjo Andy' Turpin and Doña de Mallorca for shepherding last November's Ha-Ha fleet. It was my first, and I did it as crew on Tamara Lee Ann for Doug and Tamara Thorne.

I followed Tamara Lee Ann's progress home via their SPOT messaging system. Doug made it back to the St. Francis YC two weeks out of Cabo San Lucas. He apparently missed the Thanksgiving window by a couple of days, so it was a Bash all the way!

After the Ha-Ha, I asked you about what type of masthead light you had on Profligate, as it's one of the brightest I've ever seen. You told me that it was a Luna Sea, and I thank you for that. But I have another question.

Years ago, after my Morgan 45 Painkiller sank while sailing across the Caribbean, you and I corresponded about safety-at-sea issues such as whether it would be better to get into a RIB or a liferaft if you had to abandon your boat. At the time, you had come to the same conclusion as I, that a RIB was a perfectly fine solution for coastal cruising such as the Ha-Ha. Do you still feel the same way, or have you upgraded the offshore stuff on Profligate? Just curious.

Ron Landmann
Minden, Nevada

Ron — We're delighted that you enjoyed your first Ha-Ha, and hope that you can make it for next year's 20th anniversary edition.

We've always carried both a liferaft and an inflatable on Profligate, but given our druthers, we'd almost always want to get into the hard-bottom inflatable. But this is a personal choice, and is not something that we are recommending to anyone else.

Part of our reasoning is philosophical. We hate the thought of having to sit in a liferaft, unable to do anything to try to help ourselves. If we can get into our 12-ft hard-bottom inflatable with 12 gallons of fuel and a couple of gallons of water, we feel it would give us hope and options. For instance, with propulsion, we think we could better withstand rough seas in a hard-bottom inflatable than in a liferaft. At least until the fuel ran out. And if we were to see a ship or another vessel on the horizon, we'd be helpless in a liferaft, while with a 15-hp powered hard-bottom, we might be able to get much closer so we could be seen, if not drive right up to the vessel.

The downside of hard-bottoms for liferaft purposes is we're not sure a 12-footer could safely carry more than four people in rough weather, and they offer no protection from the elements. But no matter if we're sailing from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta, or Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas, we'd rather get into the hard-bottom than a liferaft.

Our Leopard 45 catamaran 'ti Profligate, which charters in the British Virgins, does not carry a liferaft because all the destinations are so close and there are hundreds of other boats around, often within yelling distance. But when we take 'ti across the Anegada Passage, which is an often nasty 120-mile long patch of water, our 12-ft inflatable is our only option. We're cool with that, in part because it's a pretty busy stretch of water.

But as nobody knows better than you, if your boat sinks from beneath you, the key to survival is to get picked up, and get picked up quickly. Thanks to EPIRBs and the AMVER system, which as we recall are what got you rescued, and devices such as the Iridium satphone and the SPOT Messenger, mariners have more than one option these days. When it comes to Profligate, we have all three of these rescue devices, to say nothing our of SSB and VHF radios.

AFTER 2O YEARS, 2,500 PEOPLE

I'm just wondering when we can register for the '13 Ha-Ha. I haven't seen anything on the website yet. Is there a limit to the number of entries? Is it true that singlehanders aren't allowed?

Jamie MacDonald
Ellare, Ted Brewer 37
Vancouver B.C.

Jamie — At the conclusion of each Ha-Ha, the staff goes into hibernation until May 1 of the following year, at which point the details of that year's event are announced. The next Ha-Ha is expected to start on October 28, although because of changes in Mexican immigration law, it may have to start one day earlier. We'll let you know as soon as we know.

This year's Ha-Ha will be the 20th — or platinum — anniversary. After roughly 2,500 mostly West Coast boats and mostly West Coast sailors, it's hard to believe there is anyone who hasn't done the Ha-Ha. Nonetheless, we're expecting a big fleet this year, and hope that you'll be part of it. When the economy was roaring, we had as many as 200 paid entries a year. We don't expect to match that anytime soon, so we wouldn't be concerned about any limit to the number of entries.

Singlehanders are not allowed in the Ha-Ha. The problem is that all three legs are relatively straight lines, so we feel it would be irresponsible to have so many boats on the same course without someone on watch every minute. During the night of the last leg of last year's Ha-Ha, we counted over 50 sets of running lights at the same time.

LIQUID DRAMAMINE DOES THE TRICK

In the November issue Adam Scheuer wrote about hoping to find a cure for his wife's susceptibility to seasickness. As a longtime mariner, I suffered from being seasick, too, Regular Dramamine would put me to sleep, ginger made me sick, and wrist bands didn't work, nor did anything else. At least until I discovered Dramamine in the liquid form. Although it did not require a prescription, I had to buy it at a pharmacy.

I know that everybody is different, but for me the secret was to put a small amount on my tongue before we left the marina or on a trip where I might get sick. Every couple of hours after that, I'd put a few more drops on my tongue. The liquid form allowed me to control the amount I needed to keep from getting sick.

Eventually, I no longer got seasick at all. I still have a full outdated bottle of the liquid Dramamine in my medicine chest in case a guest may need it.

I would suggest that Adam's wife talk to the person behind the counter at her pharmacy and try a bottle of liquid Dramamine. She may have to experiment on the amount she needs, but she might find that she only needs a very little at a time.

Marlo Ann Smith
Marlo Ann, Nordic Tug 37
Port Orchard, Washington

Readers — Thanks for the tip, Marlo Ann. But we want to remind everyone that the '60s are long past, so please don't take in excess of recommended doses, and don't share medicines.

VITAMIN C FOR COLDS AND MAL DE MER

A few years ago, you printed a letter from a medical doctor who recommend Vitamin C for mal de mer. He suggested taking 2000 mg before leaving, 2000 mg on departure, and so on. It works very well for me and my friends.

Jean-Marc Rolland
Newport, Oregon

Jean-Marc — We were born skeptical, so we can't help wondering if it's the placebo effect rather than the Vitamin C that is preventing you and your friends from getting seasick. In the interest of science, you might want to substitute some sugar pills for your friends' Vitamin C before you go sailing in rough weather the next time. If they don't get seasick, we suppose you can infer that it's not really the Vitamin C that's helping. If they do get seasick, let's not tell them the experiment was our idea, okay?

HIT BY LIGHTNING MORE THAN YOU KNOW

In the December Cruise Notes, it was reported that Greg and Debbie Dorland's Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade had been hit by lightning twice in three years. She's actually been hit more than that.

I met and then sailed with the French crew who delivered Escapade to her original owner in Monterey. According to the delivery captain, Escapade — that wasn't her original name — had been hit by lightning and suffered electrical damage when they were northbound off Costa Rica. To my knowledge, this would give Escapade the distinction of being hit by lightning three times. Given her history, hopefully the third time was the charm needed not to be hit again.

Shaun Patrick
Planet Earth

Shaun — We recently received the following report from Greg and Debbie:

"We are now on Escapade in Fort Lauderdale, cleaning her up after the latest refit. But we're still fighting with the insurance company over some issues, so we'll probably be doing some cruising in the Bahamas rather than the Eastern Caribbean this winter. While lightning strikes of sailboats are a rarity in California, they almost seem like the norm back here. We've heard of a number of boats that have also been hit three times. One boat that got hit in Marsh Harbor the day we did got hit again while on the way to Lauderdale for repairs. The Lauderdale outfit Just Catamarans has had six lightning-struck boats to repair this season, ours included. We like all our new electronic equipment, but we don't need to get it replaced every year. We really miss our early days with Escapade in Mexico, and will really miss the relaxing times we had with her in St. Barth last winter."

A number of boats were damaged by lightning in Banderas Bay this summer — including boats more than 100 feet away from the boat that got hit by the actual bolt. Even for those with insurance, it's a real pain to replace all the electronics.

AM I BEING PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE OR WHAT?

I loved the November 30 'Lectronic photo of the catamarans anchored at Ensenada Grande, just north of La Paz. That precise spot — with the white cross just above the upper frame of the photo — was always my favorite. And I do appreciate Latitude.

I last wrote to you to point out that asking cruisers to report how inexpensively they can cruise Mexico wasn't necessarily a good thing for international relations. Having spent the best part of the '90s in La Paz watching cruisers bring their own beer to beachfront bars or pools so they could enjoy free chips and salsa, it began to annoy me. Your stories, while great, send a not-so-subtle message that bad behavior is all right in Mexico.

My case in point with the most recent 'Lectronic was your report about the Wanderer being stopped for speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, and not having current registration for his car — and that 'taking care of it' cost you less than a parking ticket would in San Francisco. I'd say you were lucky they didn't impound the car. You sure you didn't commit the other sin of slipping the cop a $20?

After a story in the San Francisco Chronicle today about the planned increases in U.S. health insurance policies, your additional crack about a border fence was especially poignant. You might be right that the fence will soon be to be needed to keep gringos out of Mexico rather than Mexicans in Mexico — especially if the analysts at Goldman Sachs are correct and Mexico becomes the world's fifth biggest economy by 2020.

And be sure to mention to Doña de Mallorca that I hope she is paying the IVA for the rents on condos.

Dane Faber
WAFI, Vagabond 38
Sausalito

Dane — The '90s were so long ago, and cruising and cruisers were very different back then. For instance, Mary Shroyer told us that when Marina de La Paz was new, she and Mac used to open the doors of the restrooms in the morning and there would always be drunk guys covered in their barf passed out on the toilets. Mary told us that hasn't happened in years.

We're not sure what kind of lowlife cruisers you hung around with in La Paz in the '90s, but no matter how frugal our cruising friends are, they don't bring beers into establishments to snack on free goodies. Nor would we have let them. Furthermore, we think it's exceedingly insulting for you equate thrift with theft. Indeed, it's often been our experience that the less affluent cruisers integrate more fully with the locals than do very wealthy cruisers.

By the way, you may want to skip this month's Cruise Notes, for there is a short item on a Northern California sailor who has been happily cruising in Mexico for years on — gasp! — $300 a month.

We reject your thesis that our editorial comments have sent "not-so-subtle messages" about "bad behavior" to fellow cruisers. There's no more link between articles about thrifty cruising and stealing snacks in Mexico than there is between drinking milk and doing meth. And if you're going to whinge about the few ultra-budget cruisers who might have been attracted to Mexico by our articles, haven't they overwhelmingly been offset by the more than 2,500 Ha-Ha boats we've brought south? As well as the tens of thousands of free-spending friends the owners of these boats have had come down to visit them? Or the many charity events that we've put on? If you're going to be the critic, perhaps you should outline what you've done for Mexico.

As for our breaking the law in a friend's car, it's true. It's also true that we came to a friendly stalemate with the police officer along the side of the highway. We wanted to give the officer our license, at which point we would have taken the ticket, and cleared up the matter at the police station the following day. Which, we might add, is what we always recommend that cruiser-drivers do. Alas, we'd misplaced our driver's license. After about five minutes of mulling over the problem, the officer, who clearly hadn't stopped us looking for mordida, suggested that perhaps it would be best if we just pay the fine right there. So we did.

We've been cruising in Mexico since '77, and this was only the second time we've paid what might even remotely be construed as mordida, and it was only because of the circumstances. Had we not, we and the officer might have died of old age along the side of the road. That said, we're glad that the practice of mordida has been on the decline in Mexico with the increasing professionalism of government workers. Nonetheless, if you think that the cultural custom of greasing the skids has disappeared entirely, you either no longer live in Mexico or you're out of touch.

By the way, it was very thoughtful of you to remind Doña de Mallorca of her business obligations. She has no idea what she'd do without your help.

The one thing we can agree on is that the cove where the three cats were anchored is stunningly beautiful. We're pleased to report that it hasn't changed since we first visited it by boat 36 years ago.


ADIOS TO FM3S

For the past five years, I've been spending a good part of every year living on my Passport 40, Freyja, up and down the west coast of Mexico. I got an FM3 shortly after arriving in Mexico. When I went to renew it in Nuevo Vallarta this year, my agent told me that the rules had changed, that there were no more FM3s, and that the cost to get the new equivalent document had increased to about 5,000 pesos — about $400 — plus her $75 fee. Apparently the new visas can be for anywhere from one to four years, but you have to buy the extra years, and they're not cheap.

She also told me that once you enter Mexico on your old FM3, you can’t just convert to a normal tourist visa, but that you have to leave the country and then re-enter on a tourist visa — and at the same time surrender your FM3. I can’t vouch for the 100% accuracy of this information, but it is an accurate repetition of what was told to me by the Nuevo Vallarta immigration agent.

The new law was passed in '11 but had an effective date of November 9 of last year. The main thing to take away from this letter is that there have been some very substantial changes in the immigration laws, and that each individual needs to check for themselves to see how they will be affected.

Ian Macrae
Freyja, Passport 40
Mexico

Ian — You're correct that there are big changes underway with Mexican visas, and there is tremendous confusion on the part of officials, agents, and those looking to get or renew visas. You're also correct that there won't be any more FM3s. As of early December, our FM3 was in the process of being replaced with some kind of multi-year visa, the details of which remain a mystery. Since we had to return home, we had to pay about $40 to get a permit leave Mexico.

When in Mexico, it's good to be patient. So we'll just have to see what happens.

THE BAD BOY OF TURTLE BAY

When it came to pass that we'd have to leave our Hans Christian 38 Tillie in Turtle Bay during our post-Ha-Ha trip back up the coast of Baja, I was offered help by a local panga operator named Ernesto. He wanted money, of course, so I gave him $25 to sleep on a filthy couch in his home overlooking the beach. I sort of needed to do that because the taxi to the bus terminal on the main Baja highway left at 3:10 a.m.

After the three-hour drive to the bus terminal, I discovered that while I'd been dozing at Ernesto's, somebody had rifled my pack and taken some cash and my passport. Fortunately, I had earlier taken the precaution of hiding my green card and some cash on my person.

But this incident leaves a bad taste in my mouth about Turtle Bay. This is particularly true since I'd given other family members some clothes, which they said they needed.

Would I return to Turtle Bay? I doubt it. I was planning to send them some stuff from the U.S. to help them out, but not now, as it seems their thievery knows no bounds.

Barry Foster
Tillie, Hans Christian 38
Portland, Oregon

Barry — We're sorry to hear about your misfortune, but how did you get hooked up with Ernesto, who has been the well-known bad boy of Turtle Bay for eons?

That said, we don't like to hear you make wild generalizations — "their thievery knows no bounds" — about the people of Turtle Bay. When the Ha-Ha first started stopping there in '94, we weren't sure what kind of reception we would get. They have always been wonderful. Now, 19 years and nearly 10,000 Ha-Ha participants later, yours is the first complaint of theft that we've ever received.

We take that back. About 10 years ago one Ha-Ha crewmember got on the VHF radio and ripped the people of Turtle Bay because someone had come on his boat and taken his wallet and money. A day later the 'victim' — and this is to his credit — got back on the radio and sheepishly admitted that his wallet and money hadn't been stolen after all. He'd just forgotten that he'd hidden them in his shoe.

We're sorry that you had a bad experience in Turtle Bay. Had you told us about it early enough, we think we might have been able to talk to the right people to get your passport and money back.

We will return to Turtle Bay. We love those folks.

THIS LETTER BROUGHT TO YOU BY RED BULL

I just read that there were 13,000 emergency room visits last year associated with energy drinks. But they're legal.

I used to think that Red Bull was an alcohol drink, not suitable for kids. It turns out that it's just caffeine and B vitamins. So I'm thinking maybe it's not an appropriate sponsor for junior sailing. They certainly have the money to throw around.

Tom Woodruff
Palawan III, S&S/Derecktor
Falmouth, Maine

Tom — We fail to see the problem. Nutritionists say Red Bull has no more caffeine than a single cup of coffee and less sugar than a bottle of fruit juice. Which is probably why it's been approved for sale in 164 countries around the world, including all 27 of the sometimes-finicky countries in the European Union. Red Bull sold 4.6 billion cans of the stuff in '11, making it the most popular energy drink in the world. But it still had less than 40% of the market, and it has a Monster hot on its trail.

But more to the point, if Red Bulls were responsible for 40% of the energy drink hospital visits, that would come to one out of every 250,000 of their consumers. And since more than half of the energy drink hospital visits are associated with alcohol and/or drug abuse, that figure would drop to less than one in half a million. And what percentage of those do you think were idiots who drank five of them at once?

We've never consumed a Red Bull or any other energy drink, so we don't have a dog in this fight. But speaking of cats and dogs, do you know that 20% of the population is allergic to them? That would seem to make those domestic pets a much greater health concern than Red Bulls.

DON'T GET US STARTED . . .

We finally got Internet here in Bundaberg, Australia, and I decided to check out the latest 'Lectronic. I want to comment on the experience that Scott and Donna Hansen of the Hawaii-based Tripp 47 Celestial had at Fanning Atoll in the Republic of Kiribati.

We on Idefix made an unplanned stop at Fanning on the way from Honolulu to Niue, and we had a great experience there. But I'm surprised that a couple of circumnavigators would dare leave port without a departure clearance (zarpe). Things must've been very different when they circumnavigated in '89. I was warned that we'd be asked for the previous port's clearance in every port, and sure enough, we were. We've always had it ready, and all our customs encounters have been as smooth as silk.

I find it unfair for Donna to single out Kiribati for threatening them with a fine for showing up zarpe-less, when I would expect the same reaction from any of the Pacific countries. But perhaps they know something I don't?

Thanks to a bit of research, the clearance and anchoring fees were no surprise to us, and we found them pretty reasonable compared to those of some other places. Australia's $330 quarantine inspection fee is particularly egregious.

Kiribati is an extremely poor country faced with an incredibly challenging geographical situation, and I feel that sailors hailing from the wealthiest country in the world should approach such places with a lot of generosity.

Our experience at Fanning was wonderful and, like the Hansens, we wish we'd been able to spend more time there, meet more of the people, and learn more about their precarious existence on this beautiful atoll. Unfortunately, our limited water, food, and fuel supplies meant it was time to move on. I really wish that we'd been able to come with goods to trade with the locals, but that's pretty much impossible on an Olson 30!

It's true that the United States — thankfully — doesn't require a departure clearance, and therefore doesn't publish any official procedures for obtaining it. It took us a bit of research and a couple of conversations with other cruisers to figure out that we had to print out form CBP 1300, fill it out, take it to the customs office, and get them to stamp the form. The only hiccups were locating the customs office and having to pay for a new customs decal because I didn't have my existing decal number with me. We showed up five minutes after the official closing time, but the customs officers were kind enough to give us our clearance.

Fanning is a fascinating and beautiful place, and only a couple days' sail from Hawaii. Sailors who want to go off the beaten path should give it a try — but do your research and come prepared!

Adrian Johnson
Idefix, Olson 30
Seattle, Washington

Adrian — In the November 21 'Lectronic, the Hansens reported that they arrived at Fanning Atoll — where they'd previously had a great experience — after 4 p.m. on a Monday. Since the Fanning officials are so overworked, what with having to check in a boat every couple of months, no wonder they felt the need to charge for overtime. But welcome to our island! The $20 for anchoring was more than reasonable, of course, as it was for several months. But what was with the threat of a $500 fine — about one-third of what the average citizen of Kiribati makes in a year — for the Hansens' not having a zarpe from the United States? After all, the Hansens hadn't needed a zarpe when they previously visited.

But then it got worse. Three days after arriving, the Hansens were told that the Kiribati big shots on Christmas Island had instructed officials on Fanning that the Hansens needed pay $900 — or leave immediately! Plus pay between $150 and $250 to check in. Plus pay $50 for a rat inspection — even though the Hansens had just paid $260 to get a rat inspection at Palmyra, and even though Fanning is well known to have rats.

As much as we admire and respect anyone who cruises an Olson 30 all the way across the Pacific, we have to disagree with your characterization of the Kiribati fees, fines and threats. To our thinking they were outrageous and punitive, and the officials threatening to make the Hansens pay or leave the remote island immediately smacks of the lowest sort of human behavior. If the officials had asked for a $1,000 donation to help the island, that would have been one thing. But to lower themselves to extortion was despicable.

The Hansens are better people than we, as evidenced by the fact that they didn't express any bitterness about the situation. "We admit we didn't do our homework, instead going on our past knowledge of checking into Fanning," they wrote. "Since our return, we've scoured the Internet, and can't find any mention of Kiribati's requiring a U.S. zarpe.

"The country is in trouble," the Hansens continued, "so, if you do visit, anything you can bring for trading or gifting — from flour and rice to T-shirts and goggles — is appreciated. But if you bring nothing else, don't leave home without your clearance papers!"

Talk about turning the other cheek.

While we're on a bit of a cranky bender, we might as well mention that we've never been particularly enthralled with Palmyra or the Fish & Wildlife folks either. According to the Hansens, they emailed Fish & Wildlife to arrange for a permit to visit Palmyra, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy, and to get a $350 rat inspection. As strong as the Rat Inspectors Union is on Palmyra, the Hansens somehow managed to get the inspection fee lowered to the bargain basement price of just $260. Right.

As far as were concerned, Fish & Wildlife has a history of being a bullying and arrogant government agency, eager to use any excuse to pull in the welcome mat to those sailing the wide expanses of the Pacific in small boats. As for Palmyra's now being owned by the Nature Conservancy, that's another source of mixed feelings. We're not saying that the ultra-glossy Nature Conservancy hasn't done a lot of fine things, but in many ways it's also a one-percenter's club.

When you talk about the Nature Conservancy, you're talking about an environmental organization whose President and CEO is Mark Tercek, a former managing director at . . . Goldman Sachs? We're also talking about an environmental organization that has ties with roughly 1,900 corporate sponsors — including numerous executives and directors of oil companies, chemical producers, auto manufacturers, mining concerns, logging operations, and electric utilities. We're sure there aren't ever any conflicts of interest between industrialist sponsors and such an environmental group — although when legislation came up to allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Nature Conservancy was oddly silent among environmental groups. It was later found that members of the Conservancy's leadership council — which included people from BP, ExxonMobil, and Phillips Alaska — supported the legislation. We're sure the oil executives simply misunderstood the intent of the legislation. Tercek has also refused to cut the Conservancy's ties with BP, which some readers may remember had a little oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a while back. But hey, we've all spilled a little oil from time to time, haven't we?

UNDERSTANDING OCEAN MECHANICS

There is a reason to continue the discussion regarding the Low Speed Chase tragedy at the Farallon Islands, as all too many cruisers, guests and racing crewmembers do not understand ocean mechanics. As such, they don't know how to interpret safety-at-sea parameters. There is a lot such folks can do to be better informed:

1) Go to NOAA's National Weather Service Eureka, CA website and become familiar with their evolving Mariner's Guide to the Sea, no matter where you go boating. The FAQ is at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/waves/mg_faq.php. Then become familiar with the interactive Mariner's Wave Chart at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/waves/mg_tool.php.

2) Download, print, study and memorize Appendix D of the Farallones Incident report at media.ussailing.org/AssetFactory.aspx?vid=18674. This five-page section (pp. 35-39) will teach boaters how to understand and perhaps avoid dangerous coastal conditions.

3) Get a sense of conditions by watching surfing condition reports that surfers around the world use. Although these do not cover all areas that boaters traverse, they are worthy of attention. E.g., see www.MagicSeaweed.com.

4) In speaking with Chuck Hawley, one of the leading experts on safety at sea, David Sorka, Marine Program Manager, NWS, and Giuseppe Carnivale, founder and CEO of Navionics, much is being done to "effectively outline areas of breaking/hazardous waves in heavily used marine areas." Much of this is being done via the NOAA's coastal survey ships, and will be especially useful in configurable eCharts on onboard computers, smartphones, and iPads.

It is especially important that those who plan and participate in races and coastal cruising responsibly implement and pay attention to this evolving technology. Understanding coastal conditions, weather reports, and their captain's nature should empower all boaters to make informed decisions as to whether they think it is advisable to cruise or race on a particular day, or in a particular event with a particular helmsman.

Chuck Cohen
Marina Del Rey

Chuck — We've been sailing and writing about shallow water sailing mishaps for so long that it's difficult for us to estimate how many people are ignorant of the basics of ocean mechanics. For 35 years we've been sailing with three rules of thumb: 1) Waves break when they reach water that is 1.3 to 1.5 times their height; 2) Waves come in sets, and the 'waves of the day' can be twice as big as the average size waves; and 3) Wind against the current, particularly in shallow water such as just outside the Gate, can turn a mellow day of sailing into one where breaking waves quickly become a serious threat.

As for your recommendations, we love the National Weather Service Eureka website, particularly the interactive Mariner's Wave Chart. Perhaps it's a selfish 'love' on our part, for hopefully it will mean that one particular reader will never again try to convince us of his belief that, all things being equal, the longer the wave period, the more dangerous the conditions. The Mariner's Wave Chart shows that just the opposite is true.

The five-page Appendix D (pp. 35-39) of the Farallones Incident report by the US Sailing Independent Review Panel is also excellent. It was written by a conscientious panel of greatly experienced offshore sailors, and should be mandatory reading for anyone heading offshore.

While subject to normal weather forecasting errors, the offshore ocean forecasts available at any one of dozens of Internet sites have been a huge help to offshore sailors. The four most important bits of immediate information we get are wind speed, wind direction, wave height, and wave period. In some ways even more important is the fact that these sites can give you a decent overall idea if your area is likely to be whacked by serious weather in the upcoming week or so. We don't know of anybody who goes offshore without consulting a couple of these sites.

We're less excited about efforts to identify areas of hazardous and breaking waves. If someone understands the basics of ocean mechanics, the areas should be self-evident. We worry that too much 'help' might make mariners more lazy and stupid. Sort of like kids who can use calculators but don't know how to do basic multiplication in their head.

(We don't want to be too snarky, but we wish that Giuseppe Carnivale would spend more time making sure that his Navionics charts of Mexico were more accurate. When we sailed into Banderas Bay a month ago, we were shocked to see that our iPad Navionics charts didn't even show the shapes of Tres Mariettas Islands or how many there were, particularly since these are sizeable islands in the middle of the entrance to the bay. At the very least, we think the charts should have noted that they don't show the islands. It sort of reminds us that, way back in the day, Charlie's Charts omitted Sacramento Reef on the approach to Zihua. Oops!)

Having said all this, we continue to believe that none of this information or knowledge would have come as news to any of the more experienced crewmembers on Low Speed Chase. They knew all this stuff but they didn't think they were in danger. They were tragically mistaken. It's a lot like driving. Most people feel safe driving 20 mph over the posted speed limits, and most of the time they are right. But it only takes a slight miscalculation to result in tragedy.

"I FEEL SAFE IN MEXICO"

In the December 12 'Lectronic, the Wanderer made the following comment about safety in Mexico:

"People back in the States still ask us if we feel safe in Mexico. After rolling our eyes a few times, we tell them, yes, we do feel safe. Indeed, we feel a lot safer in Mexico than we do in many places in California. As we spend three months a year in Mexico, and three months a year in the Caribbean, we can also report that we feel safer in Mexico than we do in the Caribbean. If that changes, we'll let you know."

I've been in Mexico since the end of the '11 Ha-Ha, and continued on up to La Paz, over to Mazatlan, and back to La Paz, leaving only for a few weeks to see family back in the States. I plan to stay in Mexico until this summer, when I hope to get things together enough to sail to Hawaii and visit with friends at Molokai.

Alas, it won't be easy to leave Mexico because, well, life is so easy here. I love being able to wear shorts all the time, the exception being when I dress up to show respect to Mexican officials.

Safety? I berth at Marina Palmira, where I usually leave my boat unlocked, items on deck untended, and my dinghy tethered to a pier finger. I haven't heard of any theft issues anywhere in La Paz, and such reports would be heard on the popular morning cruisers' net. If I were anchored out, I would lock the boat and dinghy.

With regard to my personal safety, I haven't had any concerns. I actually feel safer in La Paz than I did in the Bay Area. And I'm a San Francisco native, so I'm not naïve about risks.

Yeah, I like it here in La Paz, and I feel safe.

Jack Gill
Azure-Te`, Ron Holland 43
Sausalito

REMEMBERING THE GOOD OL' DAYS

I was on the docks at St. Francis YC when the publisher of Latitude started his magazine. Perhaps near where Conner was mastheaded for being a bullshitter, or the Twisted Sisters were amusing the boys. The years of the St. Francis YC's Big Boat Series blur with my aging.

I sailed on many of the Big Boat Series boats, including ones with Ed Lorence, Rex Banks, Arnie Schmeling, Stu Linder, Don Vaughn and Andy Macdonald. We won some and we lost some. Among the wins were the TransPac, the Bermuda Race, and the Miami to Nassau Race.

Among the big name owners were Huey Long, Jake Woods and big Jim Kilroy — whose recent book is partially responsible for my checking-in.

I've been a lurker on the printed page of Latitude and the electronic page of 'Lectronic for many years. I am of the clan of Kenny, not the Pope. You either know what that means or you don't.

I read Steve Pezman. I worked for Kevin Cody. My first surfboard was shaped by Matt Kivlin, either on the beach at Malibu or in a garage in Santa Monica, from a design by Joe Quigg. It sold for $39,000 at an auction conducted by Randy Rarick in Honolulu a few years ago. I was there, and heard the stoke for the part of surfing history I had saved. I saw Matt with a tear in his eye, and Joe with a look of puzzlement at why the handsome guy got all the credit. Google can provide some of my bona fides in a few seconds.

I learned to sail on wooden sailboats, to surf on wooden boards, to ski on wooden skis. I know Velzy, Miller, Hobie, Noll, Bing, Weber and Mobley in ways you probably don't. Before you became the Wanderer, I wrote for Sea, Sail, Yachting, and American Boating, edited by Leon Mandel. You either know those names or you don't. I knew the first Curmudgeon when he worked for Bell Telephone, the Anarchist when he sold sails for Ed, and Bob Bitchin' when he was a biker,

What I am now asking you, as the apparent keeper and arbiter of the flame of men like me, who know things you may not, is would it be worth the time and effort to craft a very difficult book about men like me, who were schooled by wooden boards, boats and skis, and to remember the lessons we drew from such experiences? Or are we all FUBARed by the great solar wind-shift which appears to be possible or probable in the near term?

I know the publisher of Latitude is a ruthless pragmatist. I have no idea if we would be friends. Were you there when Conner was mastheaded for being a FUBAR bullshitter by some of my friends and mentors? Does it matter? Does any of it matter?

Back to the praise. You appear to have a functional bullshit detector and an interesting sense of logical progression. There is some wine involved in the writing of this little paean, and some wine involved in the pushing of the send button.

P.S. Good on you for your life's work.

Mike Macdonald
Friday Harbor, Washington

Mike — Thanks for the very kind words. We've always thought of ourselves as being more of a hopeless romantic than a ruthless pragmatist, so it's interesting to hear how we're perceived by others.

We came into sailing via surfing, and Northern California surfing in particular. So while we're familiar with all the Southern California names you've dropped from surf movies and mags, we bought our first blank from Jack O'Neill at his 41st Avenue shop in Santa Cruz in '62, and later moved up to a George Olson 10-footer. Ironically, the Olson board weighed about as much as the sailboats he later designed and built.

We didn't start sailing until the early '70s — and only because a doctor told us that a perforated eardrum meant we could never surf again — and were still trying to figure out the difference between a foreguy and topping lift when we started Latitude in '77. Being a self-taught novice who didn't have two nickels to rub together, and who didn't come up through the yacht club ranks, had us feeling very much the outsider. As such, we never knew the early luminaries of modern yacht racing the way you did. Ironically, we think that being broke, not knowing anything, and not coming up through a yacht club were instrumental in Latitude's becoming successful.

Should you write a book about the lessons learned through experience by the 'men of wood'? It's hard to say. The world, and the worlds of sailing and surfing, have changed beyond recognition since both our heydays. The younger generations rarely have time — just as we had no time — for the lessons of grandpa. For better or worse, they've figured out their own way.

However, based on your extensive friendships and experiences, we think you have the raw material for what could potentially be an interesting memoir. But we'd recommend going light on the things such as victories and money, and emphasize the more human aspects. We, for example, would primarily be interested recollections of instances of particular bravery and daring, of humor and buffoonery, of tragedy and loss. Above all, forget the petty squabbles of years gone by, unless they can be told with good humor. After all, we can only assume that you're now collecting social security, and people who do that should concentrate on savoring the good qualities of people they've known, and let their shortcomings fade from mind. Speaking of which, despite being a sailor and a journalist, we have never heard the term 'mastheaded', nor do we have any idea what you mean by it.

THE iNAVX WORKED SO WELL

We joined the '10 Ha-Ha with Tribute, our Beneteau 473. We had a fantastic time and spent six months exploring the Sea of Cortez.

With regard to iNavX navigation software, prior to making the trip back north, I purchased an iPad and had a friend bring it down to me in La Paz. I downloaded the iNavX app, intending to use it as a backup to my built-in GPS navigation system. The iNavX app worked so well that it became my primary source of navigation, and the built-in unit a buddy system. So yes, I can highly recommend iNavX.

By the way, we just sold Tribute, and her new owners are taking off for extended cruising in Mexico. The boat knows the way, and I'm hoping they have as much fun as we did.

You guys did an amazing job on the Ha-Ha. Keep up the good work!

Bruce Crockard
ex-Tribute, Beneteau 473
Long Beach

Bruce — Thanks for the kind words. We've heard several other folks who think highly of the iNavX navigation app for their iPad.

BUFFOONERY AS A HUMAN RIGHT

We got the following letter from John and Diana Lorentzen of the San Pedro-based Norseman 447 Second Kiss, and thought you might think it was funny.

"We're going in for the big Thanksgiving turkey feed at the Isthmus at Catalina this evening, but saw something on television news that Richard of Latitude might get a kick out of. There was a protest by mostly gay nudists in San Francisco who wanted to be able to hang out naked in public places. One of the cameras caught a naked guy reading a Latitude 38 to cover up his privates. Great advertising."

Gilly Foy
Destiny, Catalina 42
Punta de Mita, Mexico

Gilly — Oh boy. We're almost as proud as the citizens of San Francisco must be.

For those of you who don't live in the Bay Area, it's indeed true that a group of mostly out-of-shape middle-aged and older gay white men have been demanding the right to not just walk around naked, but to leave 'skid marks' on bar stools, restaurant seats, bus benches, and so forth. While most San Franciscans are disgusted for aesthetic and health reasons, there are some citizens, and even members of the Board of Supervisors, who ardently support such buffoonery as a 'human right'.

Progressives can accuse us of being to the right of Marie Antoinette, but just as there are age and physical requirements necessary for one to become a police officer or firefighter in San Francisco, we believe people need to meet certain age and physical fitness requirements before they'll allowed to inflict the sight of their junk and bums on the general public.

JAPANESE TRAINS AND AMERICA'S CUP CATS

I was reading an article in the Smithsonian magazine about a problem that the Japanese had with their high speed trains. When they entered a tunnel, the trains compressed the air in front of them, and when they emerged from the tunnel there was a loud bang from the compressed air expanding. The chief engineer of the railroad was also an ornithologist and realized that some sea birds strike the water at very high speeds without adverse effects. He chose to study the kingfisher. I couldn't find out the speed at which they enter the water, but the gannet strikes the water at 60 mph.

Anyway, the scientists did some testing and modified the front of the train to resemble the beak of a kingfisher. The noise problem went away.

I wonder if there is something useful to be learned from this with respect to the bows of the America's Cup catamarans. Even if it did not solve the problem, it might give the crew more time to react if the impact were softened.

I've had my share of pitchpoles in a 14-ft FJ, but I can't imagine what it would be like with an AC72.

Tom Olcott
Opportunity, Bayliner 3270
Isleton

Tom — Maybe there is something to it, but given the fact that America's Cup boats don't move anywhere near as fast as Japanese trains, let alone sail into constricted tunnels or water barriers, we're skeptical.

DINGHY THEFTS ON THE RISE IN OLD MAZATLAN

The news in 'Lectronic of the multiple dinghy thefts and attempts of dinghy thefts at the south end of Mazatlan, and in cases where cruisers had lifted and locked their dinghies and outboards, is indeed depressing. In our humble opinion, it calls for more extreme measures.

We're now in Turkey, but while in the Caribbean we had to deal with protecting our dinghy and outboard, especially at Porlamar, Venezuela. And we have been upset to learn that there are active dinghy thieves in the lagoon in St. Martin, some of whom have resorted to violence in the process of stealing dinghies from floating boats.

At the risk of being too aggressive, maybe it's time to be more proactive in dealing with such bad actors. I know the banks in the United States use dye packs in the money they give to crooks. It would not cause distress to a cruiser such as myself to hear about similar booby traps for would-be dinghy thieves. I wonder if a sufficiently electrified cable on a dinghy would be an effective deterrent? Particularly after a couple of cretins had gotten shocked.

I think there should be some kind of counter-theft device or trap that would be significantly off-putting to people who steal from cruising boats. In the case of the lagoon in St. Martin, we thought that perhaps the problem could be solved by putting a squad of beefy sailors onboard — sailors armed with baseball bats.

Our proposal for stopping Middle Eastern piracy was to equip and deploy a couple of squads of U.S. Marines on typical sailing yachts, and fill them with tow missiles, bazookas, and machine guns — like the Q-ships of World War I and World War II fame. Put about 20 such typical sailboats onto the seas off Arabia and the Horn of Africa, and wait for someone to fire on them. Then blow the attackers out of the water. What marine would not enjoy volunteering for such a deployment? It would eliminate the problem at low cost and inconvenience to the taxpayers.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and Christmas. We're having our Thanksgiving turkey dinner tonight at the Pineapple Restaurant in Marmaris, Turkey.

The accompanying photo is of us is from the Capadoccia region of Central Turkey. Sue and I still haven't been able to figure out why they nicknamed it Love Valley.

Ed Kelly
Angel Louise, Catalac 12 Meter
Des Moines, Iowa

Ed — Dinghy theft is as frustrating to us as it is you. We've had two stolen dinghy/outboards stolen over the years. One was in Cartagena, Colombia, while a crewmember went below for just 60 seconds to change his pants before returning to the Club Nautico. The second time was at Palm Island, when a thief passed himself off as a security guy who was guarding the dinghies. The latter one really pissed us off, because it was a nearly new 15-ft Radial with a nearly new 40-hp Yamaha that we'd bought dirt cheap off a former captain. Both locations were/are notorious for dinghy thieves.

Dinghy theft has rarely been a significant problem in Mexico, so this outbreak at one location at the south end of Mazatlan is very troubling. Until the police decide to do something about it — everybody knows who steals stuff like this — we'd avoid anchoring in that part of the city. The big marinas are at the far north end of town, miles away.

As an indication of how much more serious dinghy theft is in the Caribbean, nobody would even dream of not locking even the most crappy dinghy to the dinghy dock at St. Barth, which is by far the safest of all the islands in the Caribbean. If you don't lock it, you lose it.

As for the idea of stationing beefy guys with baseball bats on boats in the lagoon at St. Martin, forget about it. The bad guys down there don't give a second thought to shooting people. As the old saying goes, you don't want to bring a baseball bat to a gun fight.

Electrifying the dinghy cable? It seems complicated, and you know the first people who would get shocked are your wife and your guests.

Our suggested solution for both Mexico and the Caribbean is to secure your dinghy and outboard, both during the day and at night, with a honking big stainless steel chain and a serious lock. Lots of people in Mexico and the Caribbean lock their dinghies with thin vinyl-covered wire that can easily be snipped with a rusty pair of pliers. That's just not going to cut it, if you'll excuse the pun.

The advantages of thick stainless steel chain are: 1) It advertises that you're serious about not having your dinghy stolen; 2) It can't be cut easily, except with a serious chain cutter; 3) It can't be cut through quickly with a hacksaw; and 4) No matter how delicately you try to handle it, the chain is very noisy.

On the downside, stainless steel chain is surprisingly slippery. We've already lost two long lengths.

An additional strategy is to paint or cover your dinghy and outboard in some way to make it look different from every other grey dinghy with a Yamaha. Studies show that thieves avoid pink-colored inflatables with lime green outboard covers.

We'd like to remind everyone to please report any dinghy thefts in Mexico so cruisers can get a better idea of the problem and where to be extra careful.


 

 

'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2013 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.