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March 2013

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I love the photo of the young girl on the cover of the February issue of Latitude. Very cool! It reminded me of a photo of my daughter at 10 years of age, steering my Angleman Sea Witch all the way from Richmond to Tiburon for the Wooden Boat Show.

Stephen Carlson
Sea Quest, Sea Witch
San Francisco


Where's the PFD for the girl on the cover of the February issue of Latitude? She looks to be under 16, and therefore is required by law to wear one.

Joanne Jackson
Zeus, Beneteau Sense 43
Pt. Richmond

Joanne — The model in the photo is wearing a Class AAA Inviso Safety Master PFD made by Super Safety, Inc. during the late '90s. You can't see the PFD because it's invisible. Indeed, this feature was a big hit with the kids who are required to wear a PFD because, as one said, "The Inviso is like not wearing a PFD at all!"

Alas, Super Safety went out of business in short order for two reasons. First, the fact that their products were invisible made it difficult for retailers to take inventory and for end-users to find them on their boats. Indeed, the last straw was when Super Safety lost a $10 million lawsuit to a woman who suffered brain damage as a result of tripping over one of the invisible PFDs while going down the companionway. That she was drunk and "being chased by the ghost of Joshua Slocum" were not considered to be mitigating factors when calculating damages.

That said, we sometimes have trouble with 'one size fits all' nanny-state laws crafted by well-intended bureaucrats. For example, on New Year's Day we took a friend and her large extended family sailing on Banderas Bay. A bunch of them were teens and kids, and as most of them live in Sayulita, they were all expert surfers. One, for instance, is the fourth rated 12-year-old surfer in the world, and is therefore regularly flown to the best surf spots on the planet by his sponsors. When he dove off Profligate's daggerboard in the middle of Banderas Bay, what were we supposed to do, make him wear a PFD? After all, it was about the least dangerous thing he did all day.

There are many differences between the United States and Mexico. In the United States, the majority of legislators feel it's the government's responsibility to make sure that even the most stupid, stoned and drunk individuals can't do any harm to themselves. In Mexico, people are expected to make a reasonable effort to watch out for their own well-being. If, for example, somebody hits himself in the face with a hammer, it's considered to be the fault of the person who swung the hammer, not the manufacturer of the hammer. While neither system is perfect, we prefer the Mexican view of personal responsibility.


I recently received a letter from San Francisco's 700-slip South Beach Harbor about their intent to charge an annual fee of $75 to keep my name on their waiting list for a slip. The reason given was that they needed to recoup costs of the administrative burden of maintaining the list. They even went so far as to say they hired someone just for that job!

I'm one of those poor souls in South Beach wait-list purgatory. After coughing up $80 in 2005 to get on the list, I'm still nearly 200th in line for my boat length category. I believe that somehow I dropped even farther down the list since last year, but that's another story. As far as I'm concerned, the imposition of annual fees for the privilege of waiting in line is nothing more than adding insult to injury.

The marina's announcement letter is full of half-truths at best. Other people reading about the marina's claims of high costs to maintain a list quickly come to the same conclusion I did. B.S.! A few thoughts come quickly to mind:

— The administrative burden of maintaining a waiting list? Try a spreadsheet.

— Don't like answering people's questions about their position on the list? Post the list on the harbor's website so people can see their position without having to bother anyone.

— Don’t like adding people's names to the list? Make a form on the website so people can put themselves on the list.

The letter goes on to state that it is ". . . normal practice of Northern California marinas to charge an annual fee." I phoned five local marinas at random — Berkeley, Brisbane (no wait list fee, but a $25 application fee), Coyote Point, Grand Marina and San Francisco Marina — and only the San Francisco Marina, another quasi-governmental entity, charges a fee for being on the wait list. So not only is it unusual to charge any wait-list fee at all, it's even more unusual to charge an annual fee.

It's also noteworthy that none of the other marinas I spoke to seemed to have a problem with the administration of their wait lists. It was simply a non-issue. When a slip becomes available, the marina calls up the next person on the list, and so on, until someone answers the phone and puts down the deposit. Given that slips don't turn over very rapidly at South Beach, there isn't a lot of work involved.

South Beach also stated that they think the fee will ‘speed up’ the wait. Since the wait is determined by people vacating slips, I don’t see how a fee is going to accelerate the process.

It would be fantastic if the San Francisco Port Authority paid attention to the obvious demand for slips, and looked at opening parts of their shoreline real estate for another marina. As a sailor, I know I'm biased, but as long as sailors keep the halyards from banging the mast, a marina is a quiet, not-too-hard-on-the-environment, and easy-on-the-eyes way to utilize what up to now has been a lot of wasted resources.

I’d prefer to remain anonymous as I still would like a slip at South Beach Harbor, and don’t want my name to ‘accidentally’ fall off the list.

Name Withheld by Request
On the List

NWBR — It seems to us there are about 50,000 tech guys and gals in The City who could, in their sleep, create an automatic and transparent website for South Beach Harbor.


There's a treasure on the shore of Oakland's Lake Merritt, as that city runs a boating program that offers the use of 14-ft Capri sailboats. The cost is a mere $24/hour for the use of a tidy little sloop that accommodates up to four adults.

The day I was there with my dad, a nice young guy rigged the boat, patiently helped everyone aboard, and cast off the boat. The fixed keel makes it virtually impossible to tip the boat, and the canoe paddle is strong enough for kedging off if you wander into shoal water. The winds on Lake Merritt are pretty reliable, and while they do shift enough to make things interesting, they don't drive you crazy.

The views of downtown Oakland are spectacular, and when you sail close to shore you get to interact with the many joggers. There's actually a bit of wildlife, too, as you're certain to see plenty of ducks, cormorants, Canada Geese and other more exotic species.

For many years my dad, Joe Marshall, loved sailing and racing his 26-ft Pearson Ariel on the Bay. But as it came time to move out of his house into a retirement home, he was full of dread, as is everyone who reaches that stage in life. Learning that he could continue to sail, but now on Lake Merritt, made the move much more palatable.

Dan Marshall
USCG Master

Readers — What a cool thing for your dad, as having something to look forward to, especially one that involves using the body and the mind, is essential to the quality of life.

Lake Merritt is the largest saltwater tidal lake in the United States, more or less described a 'V', with the 'wings' being about three-quarters of a mile long. You can rent El Toros, Sunfish, 14-ft Capris, and even catamarans from the Lake Merritt Boating Center for what seems to us to be very reasonable prices. For instance, you and five of your friends can rent a 14-ft Capri for just $24 an/hour — $20 if you are an Oakland resident. Or you can launch your own small sailboat for just $2. See the
Lake Merritt Boating Center website for details.

We realize that some readers experience trepidation at the thought of venturing into the flatlands of our hometown, but last year the New York Times ranked Oakland as the "fifth most desirable destination to visit in the world" — just after London and just ahead of Tokyo. Indeed, it was the highest ranked city in North America. A cynic might nearly die of laughter and say such a ranking is a lot more revealing of the New York Times than it is about 'Oaksterdam', but we're trying to be less cynical.


There is so much talk and varied opinion about anchors, but what about the steel being used in them and where it's sourced? I'm going through the exhaustive research on anchors, and have a fairly good idea of what general type I'd like, so the hard work is over. Or is it? I recently was introduced to a newer brand anchor, the Mantus. Have you any knowledge of or experience with them yet? More importantly, can you educate me on the steel and other structural features that make their anchors the best? Can you tell me where I might find further research?

Chris Glubka
SeaGlub, Hylas 46
San Francisco

Chris — We're not the kind of folks who care about the terroir of the wine we drink or food we eat, so you can imagine the depth of our concern over the source of steel in our anchors. We figure as long as we buy anchors that are two sizes above what's recommended, and use plenty of scope, we'll be in good shape. Now that we think of it, we use an aluminum anchor.

If you charter a Leopard 45 cat in the British Virgins, the boat generally will come equipped with a 45-lb CQR and 150 feet of chain. That was simply not adequate for Tim Schaff, formerly of San Francisco, formerly of Marina Cabo San Lucas, formerly of saving boats during Hurricane Marty in Puerto Escondido, and for the last nine years, owner/captain of the Leopard 45 Jet Stream in the British Virgins. Tim outfitted his cat with an 88-lb Rocna anchor and 300 feet of 3/8-inch high-test chain. "I like to sleep at night," Schaff told us, "and I like to feel my boat will be fine if she's anchored in 50 feet and she gets hit by a 50-knot squall while I'm gone. So I like the extra-large anchor and, when possible, 10:1 scope."

We feel Tim might be a little on the excessive side, but not much. The only downside of the Rocna and similar 'modern' anchors is that they are very expensive. For example, West Marine lists a Rocna 88 at $1,200, while an equivalent Lewmar claw, state-of-the-art for many bottoms not long ago, is only $215.


I understand there is a letter in the February Latitude about Palmyra Atoll — where I now am living and working for the Nature Conservancy. I can't wait to see the letter.

Having cruised a bit in the South Pacific, Caribbean, Mexico and Canada, and traveled to many parts of the world, my three-month work stint has been a very interesting experience.

Latitude has always been a welcomed read. I must have picked up my first copy back in 1985 when we purchased Horizons Charter and Yachting Association.

Mike Casey
Palmyra Atoll

Mike — Thanks for the kind words. Given your experience as a cruiser, we're interested in your take on the Nature Conservancy's somewhat-less-than-welcoming welcome to small boat cruisers plying the vast stretches of the Pacific.


Have you observed the increasing number of damaged, capsized and sunken recreational sailing vessels that have been reported around the world in the past few years? Most production boats now have thin fin keels, some with a bulb at the bottom, and unprotected spade rudders. I imagine this is because speed is a very important selling point. Certainly more important than safety. I also assume that fin keels and spade rudders keep construction costs down, too.

When sailing boats are designed for racing, I don’t have any objection. But I think cruising a racing boat offshore borders on insanity. As you know, it's not uncommon for cruisers on the West Coast of the Americas to cross paths with submerged logs, drifting buoys, shipping containers, fishing nets and whales. Trust me, I have seen those kinds of dangers many times on my trips between Baja and Acapulco.

Do you remember the good old days when the ballast was molded inside the hull, and the hull was designed to absorb and/or smooth out encounters with hard things in the water? Can you imagine the force applied to the joint between the bottom of the hull and the keel when a modern vessel hits an obstacle, be it a log, rock or even a whale? If skippers and crews of those boats are relying on EPIRBs and satphones to save them after striking such an object and sinking, I think we're on the wrong path.

Massimo Bachi
Nauti Elizabeth, Nauticat 33
Marina Ixtapa, Mexico

Massimo — Generally speaking, we'd agree that boats with fin keels and spade rudders are more vulnerable when colliding with something hard. The problem is accentuated by the fact that if modern boats do hit something, they are likely to have been moving at a higher speed than a boat with an encapsulated full keel and supported rudder.

We're not sure what percentage of boats has been lost because of weakness in their hulls/keels and spade rudders. But the percentage doesn't seem great enough to deter boatbuyers, perhaps because the alternatives are slower.

EPIRBs and satphones? One of the reasons boatbuyers might be less deterred by boats with fin keels and spade rudders is that the EPIRB and AMVER rescue system seems to work so very well.


A friend is looking to get a small ULDB for PHRF racing in San Diego. What's your opinion of an Olson 30? He previously owned a Wilderness 40 and a Hobie 33.

Frank 'Noodles' Ansak
San Francisco

Frank — As we wrote last month, all the little Santa Cruz ULDBs — the Moore 24, the Santa Cruz 27, the Express 27, the Olson 30, the Wilderness 30 — as well as the Hobie 33, are great boats. The Olson and the Hobie both rate 96 under PHRF, at least on San Francisco Bay, so they are the fastest of the bunch.

Olsons are known to excel in light air, which is the predominant condition in San Diego, and we think the Olson's cockpit is more user-friendly. But there is lots to like about the Hobies, too. We'd probably base our buying decision on a combination of price and the number of sisterships that come out to play in San Diego.


Like the Wanderer, we love finding bargains in Mexico, especially when it comes to dining out. While we embrace fresh Mexican cuisine, including seafood, tacos, sareanado-style fish and camarones galore, Nancy’s appetite for Japanese food led us to a unique, all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in Old Mazatlan. We learned about it from some expats who live in Mazatlan. But the place doesn't have a name and their description wasn't precise: "It’s right down the street, catty-corner from the Panama, and they have an all-you-can-eat-sushi dinner special for 110 pesos”. Not knowing what a Panama was, we figured this would be a good adventure.

A couple of hours later, we came across a wooden door in a darkened hallway with the word 'sushi' scrawled on it. The interior featured a dozen wooden tables and night club decor. But this was not a 'boat' or 'sushi buffet' place, as the chef brought out one platter at a time for the patrons. We enjoyed platter after platter of sushi. The first course was a platter of thinly sliced sashimi with a delicious avocado sauce. The next platter was 12 pieces of futomaki roll, followed by a plate of nigiri style sushi.

Fortunately, we're active folks, because we feasted on over 55 pieces of sushi, washed down by a total of five Corona beers. The total bill: less than $22 USD. Then we discovered that Panama was a bakery, so we had dessert, too.

Nancy & Rob Novak
Shindig, Oyster 48


In the February 1 'Lectronic you cited the spectacular bargain of a meal you had at El Coleguito in La Cruz, as well as complete annual physicals with blood tests and EKGs for $50, and asked readers for examples of other bargains in Mexico.

Our favorite was trading panga fishermen a 12-pack of Coke Zero — ick, purchased by mistake! — three bananas, and one kiwi fruit for lobster. There were two of us, so we expected to get two lobsters. The panga-to-boat transfer was a little iffy, so the fisherman gestured to our five-gallon cockpit bucket, a classic empty drywall multi-use bucket, to help complete the transfer. We handed it over, and they handed it back filled with lobster! Eight of 'em!

We became the Forrest Gumps of lobster. We steamed it, sauteed it, BBQ'd it, broiled it, and had lobster tacos, lobster burritos, lobster omelettes, lobster sandwiches and lobster stew. But mostly lobster tacos.

If we'd had cookies, we could have struck an even better bargain, for every fisherman we ran into asked for cookies.

Later on during that same trip, we admired the full-to-the-gunwales-with-Humboldt-squid panga fleet as they cleaned their catch just inside Punta Entrada in Mag Bay. In fact, we dinghied over to take pictures. The guys were rightly proud, and they posed with their catch. Then they insisted on gifting one to us! Soon we became the Forrest Gumps of calamari!

We love Mexico, and we love Mexicans.

Names Withheld by Editor
United States

Readers — It's illegal for foreigners to have any shellfish, including lobster, in their possession except on a plate in a restaurant. As such, we thought it was best to withhold the author's name. And yes, we know that sometimes friendly fishermen all but force shellfish on you.


Ignoring the red danger flags flying on the beach at Ixtapa last month, I went looking for — and found — more wave than I could handle. A crackling face-plant into the sand earned me a trip by Cruz Roja — Spanish for Red Cross — to a clinic in Zihuatanejo about 20 minutes away. Besides the ambulance ride, I was x-rayed, examined by a GP and a specialist, and given a neck brace and pain killers. The diagnosis was a probable cracked vertebrae. From being back-boarded on the beach to being released from the clinic, the total cost was just under $500. There was an extra charge for thoroughly irrigating the sand packed into my eye.

In addition to what I consider to have been skilled and medical care at about 2% of what it would have cost in the U.S., there was a bonus. When the physician wrote up his orders, it gave my kids their first chance to ever seen a manual typewriter. I'm home now, doing fine, and thinking I'll watch for those flags next time we enjoy the beaches of Mexico.

Clifford Smith
Carola, Young Sun 35


Jim Kilroy's Kialoa II, which was written about recently in Latitude, was built and launched as a sloop in 1964. She was never a ketch, but she was converted to a yawl. I'm not sure if 'converted' is the correct term, as her main boom was shortened a bit and a mizzen mast simply added on. She also lost her 'elephant ear' rudder and grew a spade rudder. We have a great model of Kialoa II in this configuration in a case at the St. Francis YC.

We — meaning Barient winches — built all the winches for Kialoa II, including a double cross-connected pedestal winch (grinder). At the time, this was the biggest winch order our fledgling company had ever had. It might have been the biggest winch order any company had ever had. Jim Kilroy makes mention of this in his fine new book Kialoa US-1 Dare to Win. I recommend it as a great read about when yachts were real yachts.

R. C. Keefe
President of Barient Winch Company, 1965


I just wanted to give you some info and ask a few questions. I bought/saved the 55-ft Marples catamaran Crystal Blue Persuasion in Santa Cruz. The boat had suffered under her previous owner, almost to the point of destruction. For example, she'd gone ashore and both her rudders were bent, her keels were broken off and not retrieved, one shaft and strut were bent, one nice Yanmar diesel had been torn open then left to die in a watery bilge, her new sails were never covered, and more. It wasn't pretty.

That sort of explains how a 24-year-old for whom sailing is life — as evidenced by the fact I used to live on a Hobie 18 — came to buy a 55-ft cat for under $5,000 just prior to the arrival of a storm, a storm that surely would have been the end of her. I have owned many boats, have many skills, have already had a colorful life, and love catamarans very much.

Since the keels are gone, I want to upgrade by putting in some daggerboards, but don't have the time to build them. Do you know any nice boards someone may no longer need, or maybe if an America's Cup team has an extra pair that I could use?

As for rudders, I'm very familiar with vac-bag composite construction, and want to use high density foam instead of wood. I'm trying to find a mapped image of a good rudder design that can be brought to the mill, then foam milled.

Being an underdog in Santa Cruz, I don't have many contacts in the sailing world.

Deyess K. Payne
Crystal Blue Persuasion, Marples 55 cat
Santa Cruz

Deyess — Our having seen Crystal Blue Persuasion as a participant in the 2008 Ha-Ha, it's disheartening to learn she's suffered so much. She was a cool-looking boat, so we hope you can bring her back.

Far be it from us to question the path of a guy who once lived on a Hobie 18 — we admire that kind of gumption and thrift — but we wonder about what seem to be your priorities. With a boat that obviously needs so much help, we'd suggest that you stick to the basics, as big boats cost big bucks, and doing stuff one-off can send the cost into orbit.

Our first call would be to John Marples, the boat's designer, to ask him if it's possible, let alone economically feasible, to convert the cat to daggerboards. As the owner of a large cat with daggerboards, we can say there are pros and cons to having daggerboards, the latter mostly having to do with their breaking and it being more complicated — and therefore more expensive — to build them and their cases. We don't know of any daggerboards lying around idle, and America's Cup daggerboards are far too complicated for your purposes. Marples would also be our go-to guy for rudder design. We think he could give you excellent guidance on getting big bang for your rudder buck.

You didn't ask, but in our opinion, the best use of money would be stopping water from getting into the hulls, getting at least one rudder to work, and getting at least one engine to run. The essentials. That buys you time to decide on what to fix next. We wish you the best of luck!


Almost all of the anchoring problems you discussed with Brian Bouch in the February Letters could be solved if he used a catenary weight, as it would soften or even eliminate the jerking that loosens anchors.

I have always found a 22-lb weight to be ample. Naturally, more weight would be even better, as the purpose of the weight is to keep the anchor chain or rope from straightening out.

I carried a catenary weight with a chain hook for the anchor chain, and one with a cast bronze slider for the rope.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Long Beach

Ernie — We always respect your advice and experience, but there is a very interesting — and graph-filled — article on catenaries at We don't know who Peter Smith is, but according to the article, catenaries are most effective on smaller boats, and are all but worthless in strong winds. And contrary to popular belief, they don't do much to absorb shock loads. The article's leading solutions are more scope and a larger and more effective anchor. But for all we know, some 'experts' have graphs that 'prove' just the opposite.

The one thing we know is that we sleep best with an anchor at least two sizes greater than recommended that is hanging at the end of lots of scope. We generally put out 10:1 — as long as there is plenty of room in the anchorage. After all, what good does anchor chain do sitting in your chain locker?


I always read Latitude 38, and I was aware of the Queen of the Women's Circuit honor you give out. But I somehow missed it when reading through the November issue, so friends had to tell me that I'd been so honored. But that's not all, as I also missed the fact that I had been named Sailor of the Month for November — at least until I saw Latitude's new Master Racing Calendar, which featured photos of all 12 of last year's Sailors of the Month.

I want to thank everyone at Latitude for the honors. I'm especially tickled to see the amazing company I had in the Sailor of the Month category. I can't believe that I'm featured in the same article — let alone the same page — as some of those truly accomplished sailors. By the way, I know several of them personally, and they are truly nice guys and gals.

I also particularly want to thank Latitude for endorsing, through the awards you have bestowed on me and other women, female participation in the sport of sailing. The number of women in sailing and racing continues to grow, and it is through this type of encouragement and appreciation that more women become confident that their participation and improved skills are appreciated.

Speaking as a staff commodore of the Island YC, I also want to thank Latitude for your recognition of our races and programs that encourage female skippers to sail in the Women's Circuit and in all other racing in the Bay Area. Although our club has a relatively small number of members, we converted at least three more women into sailboat ownership in just the last half of 2012, so I guarantee there will be plenty of competition for these same awards next year. In particular, watch out for increasing estrogen levels in the Santana 22 fleet!

Kristen Soetebier
Latitude Sailor of the Month, November, 2012
Pueo, Santana 22

Kristen — De nada. Women make great skippers and crew. We know, because we sail with hundreds of them each year on Profligate, during both daysails and overnights. And the women drive, grind, tail, pack chutes and do everything else the guys do. And often better. We won't even discuss the difference in smells.

If you're a woman reading this, and you really want to learn how to build your confidence, our advice is to buy or become a partner in a Santana 22. A place like the Oakland Estuary would be ideal, as the winds are mild and the waters flat, and it would be difficult to get into too much trouble. Have someone go out with you two or three times while you learn the basics, then start singlehanding. In the beginning, just practice tacking and gybing close to home. You'll be surprised at how quickly you get the hang of it and improve. As your confidence builds, wander a little bit farther away, and tack and gybe closer to obstacles just for the fun of it. Having to make all the decisions will accelerate your trial-and-error learning process like nothing else. After the fourth or fifth afternoon, you'll be saying, "I can do this!" And really mean it.

The next step is evening beer can races on the Estuary. Have an experienced woman racer come along for the first couple of races and help you with the most basic racing rules. But sailing side by side with other boats will advance your sailing skills dramatically. And it's a beer can, so nobody is going to take things too seriously. Worried you might hit another boat? Don't, as you won't be going fast enough to do any damage. Worried that you might be the last boat to finish? Nobody cares. Worried that you won't be welcomed by other sailors. Trust us, you will be.

If you get stuck along the way, contact Kristen or one of the other women sailors, as they'll be glad to help. When you want to progress to sailing on the Bay or in the ocean, start by sailing on other peoples' larger boats. You'll have plenty of opportunities.


I'm hoping to help out folks who are planning to do next year's Ha-Ha. Locating productive yet fun crew for the Ha-Ha's has required a lot of time and planning on our part, but it has been worth the effort. Since our boat is a Lagoon 47 cat, our crew requirements are a bit different than for monohulls, most of which don't have quite as much room. In addition, Bill, my partner, has set up Moontide so he can easily singlehand her, so sailing experience isn't even a necessity for Moontide crew.

Prior to my entering the picture, Bill's ideal crew profile included 'good-looking women who love to party, but who do not require babysitting'. Indeed, I helped him select crew for his Hugh Hefner and the Playmates-themed Ha-Ha. It wasn't easy being Bill on that Ha-Ha, as he had to sleep in the salon while underway so he could always be ready to handle any questions or issues that arose. He also had to unclog heads that had been subjected to face wipes, tampons, and so forth — despite his repeated pleas for the women to desist.

Bill has found some excellent crewmembers via an internet dating site. Indeed, it was through that site that I met him. I'd always wanted to do the Ha-Ha, and it was his recruiting for the Ha-Ha on that site that caught my attention. But we didn't find any good prospects on the same dating site for last year's Ha-Ha, so we turned to the Latitude 38 Crew List. And we struck gold!

One nice thing about the Latitude list was that we didn't have to convince the women that they could have fun sailing without five-star luxury accommodations. (Did I mention that Bill prefers women crew?) Or that they would enjoy new adventures with a bunch of unknown sailors. We found women with all levels of experience, so we then focused in on compatibility. We asked for, and followed up on, references from others who had sailed or traveled with the women. We did not want princess types or ones who did not play well with others. Since Moontide is known to throw some unofficial parties during the Ha-Ha, we wanted to make sure the women could handle such rigors as party-hosting.

In the end, we found ourselves with the best Moontide crew yet — and that's saying something. All were ready to jump at the chance to work, learn, and contribute. Our sincere thanks to Latitude for providing the sailing community with the Crew Lists, which we'll make good use of again.

Judy Lang
Moontide, Lagoon 470
Newport Beach

Readers — Moontide, the last entry in last year's Ha-Ha, is entry #1 in the 2013 Ha-Ha. It will be Bill Lilly's sixth Ha-Ha.


I put environmentally friendly ePaint on my trimaran, but it failed, just as you reported that it failed on the La Gamelle Syndicate's Olson 30 La Gamelle in St. Kitts. I applied the paint as per the instructions on the can. When I called ePaint to complain about the failure of the product, they said that I hadn't let it dry for 24 hours at 60 degrees or above. Here in the Pacific Northwest, that means the paint could be applied only in July or August.

Getting the stuff off was a total bitch, because the strippers you can use on an epoxy faired bottom aren't that effective, and it smears, so it clogs your sandpaper.

David K. Miller
Farrier F-33
Poulsbo, WA

Readers — Our intent in that 'Lectronic report was not to slam ePaint, but merely report on our experience with it. The truth of the matter is that we don't know of any bottom paint — even the most toxic stuff — that hasn't gotten terrible reviews from at least some users. Unfortunately, there are so many variables — bottom preparation, application, weather, and even location — that it's hard to tell what the cause is when there is a problem. Noting that we haven't tried other products recently, we've enjoyed excellent results with Micron 66 on Profligate. Wish we'd put it on La Gamelle.

While ePaint advises us that their products are now stronger and more effective, our gut feeling remains that non-toxic paints still aren't as effective as toxic paints.


Having read about the bottom situation on La Gamelle as she was on the hard in St. Kitts, I wonder why you don't forgo bottom paint all together and just scrub the bottom once a week before racing. I would think that diving on her in the warm Caribbean waters would be fun.

Tom Anderson
C&C 32, Nonpareil
Marblehead, MA

Tom — Going without bottom paint has certainly crossed our minds, particularly as we'll now only have the boat in the water three months a year. Besides, the Olson 30 doesn't have much wetted surface to scrub, and diving conditions don't get more idyllic than in the Caribbean. Alas, our attempt to 'go green' has left us with paint peeling off the bottom, which isn't fast. Until we see the boat with our own eyes, we're not sure which of three options we'll pursue. Option #1: Just throw the boat into the water and scrub as needed, hoping all the bottom paint peels off in the process. Option #2: Slap a coat of ablative paint over the current paint, hoping that most of it sticks, and scrub as needed. Option #3: Take advantage of ePaint's offer of all the materials necessary to redo the job from scratch. Stay tuned.


Has the story of Jim Sullivan of Elusive Spirit made it to Latitude?

Sullivan, who had sailed the South Pacific years ago until he was rolled three times in a typhoon and had to be rescued by a car carrier, eventually made his way to Southern California, where he bought the Cal 2-30 Elusive Spirit. He then announced that he was going to set a record by making an engineless, 8,000-mile non-stop voyage to the Philippines, where he had a girlfriend.

He dubbed his adventure the XPAC 8000, gave it a Pennies for Life theme, and posed before local television cameras with famous dolphin advocate Ric O'Barry of the Dolphin Project. The publicity was to attract charity donations for every mile he sailed toward his destination. He was given a big send-off by the Del Rey YC on March 4, and moments before leaving, got on a cell phone and proposed to his girlfriend in the Philippines.

The story that hasn't been widely told is that Sullivan had boat and other problems, and never made it to the Philippines. In fact, he apparently pulled into several California ports after leaving Marina del Rey.

As far as I'm concerned, the whole thing reeked of the wrong motivations and commercialism. What has long distance sailing come to?

Jim Barden
Ann Marie, Morgan Out-Island 28
Santa Rosalia, Mexico

Jim — We'd never heard of Sullivan or the XPAC 8000, but according to the adventure's website, Elusive Spirit arrived in Honolulu on July 13 — more than 3.5 months after most sailors would have been expected to complete that part of the trip.

We have no animosity against Sullivan, but the website also claims that he "achieved his first goal by arriving in Hawaii." This simply isn't true, since his stated goal was to sail non-stop to the Philippines. But Sullivan apparently has a different view of what it means to achieve a goal: "If you don't make it, that's okay, as long as you tried," he writes. He must have 'graduated' from a dumbed-down public school in California.

The website urged people to visit Sullivan at the Hawaii YC, to hear his story of "overcoming personal fears and anxieties." We could find no mention of how much money he raised, how much of it was donated to charity, and how much had been used for expenses and other administrative costs. There was also no mention of what happened to the Filipina woman he had proposed to.

Having been around the block a few times, we've become cynical about many charities, and sailing charities in particular. A significant number of charities seem to play on the public's sympathies for the downtrodden and the environment, but too often primarily serve to provide good-paying jobs, travel, and other benefits for the administrators, their families and friends.

Want to sail somewhere and have other people pay for it in four easy steps? 1) Pick a charitable theme that tugs at peoples's hearts; 2) Contact a charitable organization that purports to support such a cause, and negotiate a cut of whatever money you can raise; 3) Have somebody create a slick website; 4) Start hustling for money, partners and donations. Depending on the charity, you can keep anywhere from 30 to 90% of the money you raise. And 100% of what you don't bother to report. The cool thing about sailing in support of some charity is the general public doesn't know much about sailing, so you can make an easy trip sound daring and difficult. For example:

"To raise awareness of the devastating effects of climate change on the Îsles Sous Le Vent, Joe Blow, who lost his home to crooked Wall St. bankers, will be risking his life sailing an ancient boat, day and night, with no one to help him steer, across the widest expanse of ocean in the world. He'll struggle with terrible storms and the dangers of being run down by ships, having to navigate reefs that have claimed hundreds of vessels, all to help raise awareness that if we Americans don't cut down on our use of fossil fuels — and handguns! and sex-trafficked girls! — the poor islanders will have their homes swallowed by the sea. Indicative of Blow's total commitment, he won't use his engine at all, but rely entirely on solar power. Blow's selfless dedication to solving the imminent climate change disaster means he won't be able to talk to his wife and children for more than a month, but Blow feels that his commitment to the Family of Man must take precedence over his biological family. His only company will be his cat Helpless, who lost an eye and genitals to a texting driver behind the wheel of an SUV that only got 10 miles to the gallon. A nearly infinitesimal portion of the Sailing to Save the People of Îsles Sous Les Vent funds raised will be shared with other catchily named charities. Please support this brave man and his selfless dedication to the future of all our children."

What it really means is that Joe has been dumped by his wife and kids, who now have restraining orders because of his drinking and physical abuse, and that he's lost his home because he used it like an ATM. Blow is trying to convince people to help buy him a used Santa Cruz 50 with a great autopilot so he can enjoy the cruise of a lifetime to French Polynesia without having to spend any of his own money.

Mind you, there are great charities out there and, for all we know, XPAC 8000 is on its way to becoming the greatest of them all. But as we said, experience has taught us to be skeptical.


Latitude was right about Mexico's 180-day tourist visa. It's still the same as before. However, the FM3 and FM2 visas are gone, having been replaced by Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente. There is a lot of confusion in both categories. A friend of mine renewed his old FM3 into a Residente Permanente because he owned more than $40,000 worth of real estate. If you have an income of $3,000 or more per month, you also get permanent status. Then there is the 'points' system, which nobody seems to have a grip on yet.

Residente Permanente is the same as Immigrato used to be. It means that you are done with Migracion, and can take the citizenship test if you want. There are some other minor issues, but there are only three categories of visas now.

If folks with FM3s and FM2s would write in and tell what happened when they renewed, we might get a wider picture.

Bob Walker
Cactus, Hunter Cherubini 37
Wofford Heights / La Paz

Bob — Our FM3 was up, so we got a Residente Temporal. While there are now only three categories of visa — Tourist, Temporary Resident and Permanent Resident — there are subdivisions of each. For example, our Temporary Resident visa has a 'lucrativo' endorsement. It's unclear to us exactly what that means.

Just because you have real estate doesn't mean you can get Permanent Resident status. We own real estate in Mexico, but we have to wait two more years — a total of four since getting an FM3 — if we want to apply for Permanent Resident status. By the way, people tell us it's not so easy to pass the test if you want to become a Mexican citizen. You have to pass a detailed test about Mexico and Mexican history, and you have to sing the Mexican national anthem. Kind of funny for a country that has so many of its citizens sneak into the United States.


I appreciate the information Latitude puts out about Mexico and changes in Mexican immigration and other laws. I'll be down there in a couple of years on my boats, so the information is helpful.

The piece in 'Lectronic about the whales getting in the way of sailors racing on Banderas Bay was pretty funny. Those evil buggers!

Mark Hamill
Pika, Brent Swain
Coutenay, BC

Mark — We try our best, so thanks for the kind words. The most important thing to understand is that Mexican culture is very different from United States culture, so there is less precision in laws, procedures and enforcement. You gotta go with the flow. And if you can't get what you want from one office, you should realize that you very well might be able to get what you want from another office. After two months — with lots of holidays — we finally got our Residente Temporal status, which replaced our FM3 visa. Exactly what that status means — we also have a 'lucrativo' endorsement — remains to be seen.


The Wanderer reported that he finally got a Temorary Resident visa to replace his discontinued FM3, and wondered what the 'lucrativo' endorsement means. It means that he can work legally in Mexico, as opposed to people who have regular tourist visas, who can live in Mexico for up to six months at a time, but cannot work there.

Speaking of nice weather in the tropics, I just got back from a few weeks at my house in the Florida Panhandle. It was heaven, with the temps between 72 and 75 every day. The food was as inexpensive as in Mexico, and you always got lots of it. But meals didn't come with all the tequila one could drink, as is the case at El Colegio.

After a few weeks of warm winter weather, it was hard to come back to Sausalito.

John Skoriak

John — We understand that the holder of a 'lucrativo' visa is allowed to make money in Mexico, but it doesn't mean that you can engage in any occupation or business venture that you want. For example, we can't just start a charter business and work as the captain. It's unclear which occupations are permitted and which are not.


As a schoonerman, I want to offer my sincere congratulations to Trevor Murphy for his excellent job of delivering the 82-ft schooner Kelpie from Southern California to the United Kingdom. I had a nice talk with Trevor when he and his crew stopped in San Diego on their way to the Canal. Kelpie was not in very good shape, and I had my doubts that she would survive the trip across the Atlantic during hurricane season.

During the 20-some years that Jim Dobott owned Kelpie, she and my 71-ft schooner Dauntless competed against each other many times. I have to admit that Kelpie was the fastest schooner in our class we ever raced against. She could sail five degrees closer to the wind than Dauntless, which was a huge advantage. The only times we could beat her were when Jim made some kind of mistake.

Even though Kelpie and Dauntless were competitors, Jim and I were good friends. After Kelpie was rebuilt in San Diego in the early 1980s, my wife Peggy rechristened her. And I crewed for Jim the year Kelpie set the Ensenada record for her class.

I'm delighted to see that the new owner has undertaken the project of bringing the old beauty back to life. I wish Kelpie and her new owner well.

Paul Plotts
Dauntless, 71-ft Alden schooner
San Diego


I'm happy to report that we were able to make the Baja Bash — actually more like a Baja Gurgle — from Cabo to San Diego in five days during the third week of April of last year. We had calm weather all the way. So calm that we were able to round Cabo Falso and escape the northern end of Cedros in the late afternoon without any problem. We made the trip nonstop except for two hours at Turtle Bay.

Charley Eddy
Snug Harbor, Catalina 470

Charley — If you're going to be beset by calm weather, there is no better time than during a Baja Bash. Here's hoping that this year's fleet has equally easy March and April Bashes.


As the owners of the Hylas 46 Seasilk that was driven aground inside Mag Bay during Hurricane Paul last October 16, we would like to thank everyone who helped us during that difficult time. That would include Todd and John from San Diego-based Todd & Associates; Chris from Magdalena Bay Outfitters; Terry, Ari and Lynn from Cabo Yacht Center; Casey from Markel Insurance; Admiral Salazar and the entire Mexican Navy crew from the Puerto Cortes Navy Base; AT&T (because Verizon just doesn’t work in the remote areas of Baja); the US Consulates in Cabo and Tijuana; the volunteers on the marine emergency Ham radio station; the US Coast Guard 11th District that monitors EPIRB signals; the SPOT emergency notification system; our family members and friends at home, David, Amber, Edye and Dick; and most importantly, the best crew: John, Montyne and Brian. It was our crew who made what could have been a total disaster into something more like an unscheduled adventure. Clearly it takes a village to successfully rescue a grounded sailboat and her crew!

Our boat was repaired beautifully by Cabo Yacht Center, and we were able to resume cruising on December 16. After a stop in Mazatlan, we headed down to Banderas Bay, where Craig enjoyed joining a big group for an afternoon daysail aboard Profligate. We'll shortly head south to the Gold Coast, Manzanillo, and Zihua before returning to the Sea of Cortez in the spring.

We also want to thank the publisher of Latitude for offering to bring down parts for us during the Ha-Ha, and for allowing us to tell our story so that others will benefit from our experience.

Sue Steven & Craig Blasingame
Seasilk, Hylas 46

Sue and Craig — Few boats that are blown ashore by a hurricane survive and recover as well as Seasilk did. Well done to everyone!


In a recent issue, you said that you'd never heard of the term 'mast heading' and therefore didn't know what it meant. As I understand it, mast heading was a punishment mostly reserved for midshipmen — it would not do to flog the little blighters for a minor infraction. One must maintain their stature in front of the common seamen. So as punishment, they were sent up to the top of the foremast, to the highest partners available at the time, to lash themselves in for the duration of their watch. A punishment, I think, that was most effective in a heavy swell. Perhaps at some time it came to mean a public excoriation or humiliation.

David Niedziejko
Feed the Kitty, Catalina 22
Nevada City / Golden Gate YC

David — We love learning new stuff, and that term was new to us. Thank you.


Latitude readers might benefit from our experience of precisely following Latitudes's Idiot's Guide to SSB Radio, as it appeared in the October issue.

Last year we bought a beautiful, new-to-us Cabo Rico 40, resplendently equipped with all the radio and safety equipment one might need. We duly concluded the purchase, and are diligently preparing for our upcoming cruise in the Caribbean. Realizing that we needed both a ship station license and the individual user license, we faithfully followed the Latitude guide — and got into trouble.

Our application for the ship station license was straightforward. True, there was a checkbox for the MMSI number, but there was no guidance on either the FCC website or the Idiot’s Guide as to what to do if you are unsure of this number, which would have been obtained from the prior owner. Common sense suggests that it could be added later — it’s only a number in a database, for Pete’s sake. Even more common sense suggests that as the vessel is uniquely identified by its official Coast Guard documentation number and name — which the FCC definitely has on file with the existing MMSI number and license — just perhaps the FCC might put two and two together and issue the new owner of the equipment an MMSI number. Well, no, that would be way too easy.

The FCC issues a new MMSI number. Typically, of course, a new number can’t be entered into the existing equipment. There are exceptions, but I understand that equipment frequently will accept an MMSI number only once and then, if any changes are needed, may have to be shipped back to the manufacturer for any corrections or edits. The remedy to the problem is far from simple.

Effectively, I had to cancel the license — bang goes the $160 application fee — then the prior owner needed to cancel his ship station license, while I almost simultaneously reapplied for the same license again — referencing the cancelled license and MMSI number. With, you guessed it, another $160 fee. Only then was I issued a license that has an MMSI number that correlates with equipment onboard.

Bottom line, here’s what Latitude readers need to know prior to following the not-so-foolproof Idiot’s Guide when buying a used boat:

1) Identify any and all DSC/MMSI-registered equipment onboard (VHF, SSB, AIS, EPIRBs, PLBs, handheld VHFs, whatever).

2) Obtain from the seller all the relevant registration data. Hopefully, they will be linked with a single MMSI number.

3) Ensure that the seller, as a condition of the sale, agrees to promptly cancel all registrations and licenses pertaining to all this equipment. We had the pleasure of buying our boat from a fine gentleman who has bent over backwards to accommodate our needs. Not every boatbuyer will be so lucky.

4) Obtain confirmation that this has been done.

5) Then, and only then, apply for FCC licenses, NOAA EPIRB registrations, etc. Try to make the applications as simultaneous as possible with the seller’s cancellation.

Logical? Sure. But who knew it would be impossible to simply change a number in a database? Our government, being born of bureaucracy and with an infinite capacity to produce red tape of the finest variety, has little appetite for common sense or for user-friendly approaches. Conversely, they have an appetite for duplicate fees for anyone who accidentally gets this sequence wrong. It’s a lot easier than you might think to make this mistake, as there is no easy-to-find information on what to do if equipment on board is already MMSI-registered at the time of vessel purchase ­— a circumstance that will get more and more common as our technology advances.

Terry Rugg
Pajarito, Cabo Rico 40
Redwood City

Terry — HF expert Gordon West wrote that article, and we believe it to be one of the best articles on the subject we've ever published. That said, we're grateful for your clear and concise five-step guide for those purchasing used equipment.


Ahhhh, the ever-elusive David Vann surfaces yet again! This time as the author of 'Last Voyage of the Culin', in the October 2008 issue of Outside about the death of a 78-year-old on his boat near the Mexican-Guatemalan border. It seems to me that Vann's skills at creative writing may have once more overwhelmed his ability to tell the truth, for I don't remember things quite the way he did in the Outside story. At the risk of telling a story that is like a chapter out of a B-movie based on an Elmore Leonard book, let me give you my firsthand version of what happened.

I had swallowed the anchor for a few years, and was living in a palatial estate in Los Gatos — complete with the requisite yoga studio. But it had become a gilded cage. Then an ad appeared in your glorious rag for a sailing trip from San Francisco down to and through the Panama Canal, and up to Belize. Ostensibly, the objective was to deliver David Vann's yacht, the ill-fated Grendel, to a group of writers in Belize.

Grendel had already left, so I sent off the required check to be crew, and flew to Cabo San Lucas to meet the boat. Her crew searched the tiny Cabo waterfront for me for three days. It wasn't their fault that they couldn't find me, because Vann had told them to look for a woman named Jane, not a guy named Jay.

After my 30 years of repairing and overhauling boats, you can imagine my dismay upon boarding Grendel, an ancient CT-50, to find: No SSB radio; the engine starter switch hanging by one wire; broken switches on the electrical panel, requiring pieces of toothpicks to use them; sails that were shit; standing rigging that was rusty at the chainplates; slack steering; no autopilot; and the dinghy? What dinghy? It wasn't much better in the engine room, as the fuel filter canister was corroded solid, there were cracked hoses everywhere, and hose clamps on the exhaust had almost rusted through.

I thought about a Dos Equis and a night's sleep, but hell, I decided to see what I could do with what tools were available. Capt. Spreader — it wasn't a name I gave her, but rather how she referred to herself — gave me carte blanche to do whatever repairs I wanted. But she made it clear that she hadn't received any money from Vann for the repairs. "Yet." She said that she was waiting for Vann to send some.

While I got to work in fixing some things, Vann suggested that Capt. Spreader ask me if I would front the cash for the repairs, and that he would reimburse me when we got to Acapulco. I've done a lot of questionable things over the years, including a Puddle Jump with a woman I met through the Crew List, demolition derbies, mountain lineman jobs, process serving, and working as a repo man with my own tow truck. I'd done those, but no way was I going to front the money to repair Vann's boat.

Capt. Spreader borrowed money for fuel from her girlfriend, so after a close eye for bad fuel, we each bought our own groceries and set sail. The crew consisted of Capt. Spreader, the aforementioned girlfriend, two surfer dudes — we promptly dubbed them Dumb and Dumber — whom Vann had hired to watch the boat several months prior, a grad student from Brooklyn, a 50-something retired army colonel who, having been "tossed out of the house by my old lady," wanted to get his first sail in, and a couple of secretive geeky guys in their 20s who huddled and whispered a lot. Thinking back on it, I must have been really bored in Los Gatos.

The running lights quit on the first night, so I hard-wired them past the switch. The head plugged with paper, but nobody knew how that happened. The alternator stopped charging — until encouraged by a firm whack with a hammer handle. We had to stay with the original alternator belt even after it started to fray because the replacement was a foot too long. And after 100 miles, the engine fluttered when the vessel heeled beyond a certain point. It seems the fuel tank vent was poorly situated, and thus took on saltwater from time to time.

After dark, we missed a head-on with a ship by about, oh, 30 feet. A short time later an albatross landed long enough to express its feelings — and mine — about Grendel by shitting on the companionway stairs. The lucky bird was able to fly away with a squawk. Having no wings, I was unable to leave.

It's during the night watches that you get to know the other members of your crew. My first watch was with Dumber. He surprised me by lighting a four-paper joint, then showing me the .38 Police Special he carried "for protection against federales." Unfortunately, there was a slight jerk of the boat, and the pistol slipped from my hand and into the deep waters of the Pacific. I apologized profusely, and promised that Vann would replace it for him.

All the next day Dumber bitched about not being able to find his stash. I told him that he mentioned hiding it in a 'secret place' while he was stoned. Always wanting to help, I suggested that he ask the Geeks or the Colonel if they'd seen his stuff.

After limping into the Acapulco YC, I made a list of deficiencies that had Grendel exceeding the definition of 'manifestly unsafe vessel'. Then I described what might be involved in crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and how crossing it with a boat in Grendel's condition could be defined as attempting suicide. So five of us crew jumped ship.

Months later I received a few postcards from Capt. Spreader. She described wallowing in the Gulf of Tehuantepec for five days before being towed to "the last village in Mexico" by a fisherman. She wrote that they were still waiting for money, and that the engine had saltwater in the fuel system. After a month of that — hello! — the engine's death certificate had effectively been signed.

The last thing I heard about David Vann was a letter from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court listing me as a creditor. That was the only recognition I ever received for my work.

Why did I go on the Grendel trip? The idea of that crew being left alone with the boat just tore at me. I felt as though my leaving would be akin to abandoning children. I was also fueled by boredom, and made my decision to go while wearing my vision-impairing testosterone blinders. You know, the pair we men wear when falling in love with the woman dancing topless on the table at Squid Roe. You get the testosterone blinders in your teen years. They come in a black leatherette box along with the earplugs needed to keep you from listening to common sense.

Does anyone know what happened to Grendel or her crew? It would be fun to find out.

Latitude's December issue advice to novice sailor Sam Furgason — "You can't let yourself or any member of your crew go overboard. In most cases it's a death sentence." — was good stuff. I'm a great fan of Latitude, as our water-soaked opinions are often similar — your choice of having saildrives in Profligate notwithstanding. For example, yeah, I have a piece of government-issued paper that says I can operate a vessel with up to six paying passengers, and supposedly am an expert at towing. But the truth of the matter is all of us with government-issued licenses need to honestly evaluate our skills in every situation and, ignoring the gold braid on our hats, make the correct decision as to whether we are qualified to be in charge of a specific vessel in a specific situation. Otherwise, our government license becomes something appropriately presented on a white roll.

Jay Myers
Ne'r Do Well 3
Never Again 2
Sacramento River

Jay — Actor/sailor/author Sterling Hayden famously went on about how character building — or something — it was when you tried to run a big sailboat without the adequate resources. Having dabbled in that realm ourselves over the years, we think Hayden overstates the pleasures. It sure makes for vivid memories, although the farther past, the more enjoyable they are.

We want to remind all readers that each person's recollection of an event or series of events tends to differ, so readers would be wise to not consider one person's version as gospel truth. That said, we'd like to hear Capt. Spreader's version, she with the saucy handle.


I was intrigued by the mention in a recent edition of 'Lectronic Latitude of boats needing crew for the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, and for the St. Barths Bucket. Just having taken up sailing here in the Bay Area in recent years, I have learned how to find slots here, and am wondering how I identify crewing opportunities for these races. Suggestions?
Name Withheld by Request
San Francisco

N.W.B.R. — 1) Show up on site. 2) Dress and act like a sailor. 3) Be outgoing.

Mind you, being on site in St. Barth would usually involve being on a charter boat from St. Martin, as every room on St. Barth usually sells out for the event, and there is no such thing as an inexpensive room on the island.


My question is more of a 'bucket list' question than a 2013 St. Barths Bucket question. Say I were to consider trying to catch a ride on one of the big boats in the Bucket. Do I want to bring along a dressy, all-white — or all-blue — outfit to help seal the deal?

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

Paul — Once you get on a boat you'll often be given a crew shirt, but while you're walking the docks hoping to get a ride, dress like a sailor — a light-colored polo shirt, khaki shorts and deck shoes. Let people see your sailor's tan and your muscles. If your shirt is from another prestigious Caribbean regatta, all the better. But you have to actively seek out crew positions, so don't pull a wallflower. And don't give up if you don't get a ride the first day — after a day of repacking chutes on 150-ft boats, some crew remember they have obligations for the last two days of racing.

Younger women looking to get rides on the Bucket have a second option, as they can also dress hot in the Baz Bar a few nights before the racing starts. That always results in a couple of invites.

By the way, all the boats in the Bucket are big boats, and the loads are tremendous. If you're not careful or don't know how to stay out of the way, you can get hurt.


While driving south from Port Townsend, Washington in late January, I wondered if there was going to be any multihull sailing on San Francisco Bay that weekend. Going online, I discovered that the Bay's biggest race of the year — the Singlehanded Sailing Society's Three Bridge Fiasco — was to be held the following day. There were over 350 entries, including 35 multihulls. After a couple of phone calls and emails, I replaced a crew who had fallen sick on Drew Scott's F-27 Papillon. The race would involve three firsts for me: I had never met Drew, I had never raced an F27, and I had never raced on San Francisco Bay.

The Three Bridge Fiasco is aptly named, for the 21-mile course takes the fleet under/near/around the three main bridges that cross San Francisco Bay. It starts and finishes on the San Francisco waterfront, home to this year's America's Cup. The 'Fiasco' part of the race refers to the format. It's a pursuit race, so the slower boats start first, and if the handicapper has it all right, and if the sailors are equally good and equally lucky, everybody will finish at the same instant. Pursuit races are fairly common because they are so much fun, but what makes the Fiasco unique is that you can round the three bridges in any order you want. So imagine 350 shorthanded boats, starting in any number of directions, and nobody knowing for sure which way their competitors will go until they either harden the sheets or hoist a spinnaker.

Winter winds on San Francisco Bay are often light, so usually only a few boats finish the Fiasco. But there were 10 knots for our 10:15 a.m. start, and it was blowing 30 knots in The Slot by the time we were headed for the finish line three hours later. So this year a lack of wind wasn't a problem.

Even to a Bay racing novice such as myself, it seemed obvious that the clockwise circuit would be most favorable, as it would avoid a long beat, and the tide would be with us on the last leg to the finish. The drawback was the big calm patch between Tiburon and Angel Island, but we could see that even the earlier-starting boats were getting through. One advantage late starters have in pursuit races is that they get to 'go to school' on the boats that start before them.

So Drew and I sailed the course clockwise, which meant a short beat to the Blackaller turning mark, which we rounded in company with several other Farrier trimarans and a couple of 32-ft Flying Tigers. Despite being longer and able to point higher, the Tigers — perhaps because they had no rail meat — were no faster to the weather mark.

After rounding, we tried to carry the screecher on a close reach toward the Richmond Bridge, but soon gave up. With no screecher to worry about, we were able to concentrate on staying high on the mark, and were the most windward boat as we neared Tiburon. The Greene 35 Humdinger passed us to leeward, but Drew and I were pretty happy with our position. The few boats that had opted to head to the Richmond Bridge via the lee side of Angel Island ended up parked in the lee of the big island.

The wind was much stronger past the Tiburon headland, and we had a close reach in 20 knots up to the Richmond Bridge (actually Red Rock) turning mark. Monohulls aren't much for reaching in any kind of a breeze, so we picked them off one by one. Better still, we closed the gap on the first two F-27s and Humdinger. Rounding the island was interesting, as for the first time in my racing career we met race boats going the other way around the mark. I'm still not sure who has 'water' in that situation. Nonetheless, five multihulls rounded the island overlapped, with most of the monohull fleet behind us.

Our next mark was the Bay Bridge, so we headed downwind. Or did we? It was hard to tell in the turbulent lee of the island, which meant we were slow hoisting the spinnaker. Once we got it up, we blew it — tactically — as first we headed too high, then too low, on our way down to the Bay Bridge. Regardless, by Treasure Island we had picked off all the monohulls but Humdinger and a J/70.

Quite bizarrely, on our way to Yerba Buena we also passed a good number of boats beating up to Red Rock. Certainly they had picked the wrong way to sail the course, as we only had a short beat to the finish, while they still had a long beat and a 10-mile run. That meant we were in the hunt for a spot on the podium.

With the wind now up to Force 6, we decided to put a reef in for the last beat, mindful that on the last leg we'd be sailing close to where both Russell Coutts and Jimmy Spithall had capsized their AC72 catamaran in similar conditions. We passed beneath the Bay Bridge four abreast with other trimarans. It was exciting, but not as exciting as for the crew of another tri that had left their spinnaker up too long. We clearly saw most of their daggerboard as they struggled to get the chute down. It took us time to reef in the lee of Yerba Buena, so two F-27s and Humdinger pulled ahead of us.

Now the race to the finish was really on. In puffs, our reefed trimaran closed on the leaders, as they had to dump sail. But we dropped back in the lulls. As we headed toward Alcatraz, the wind increased and held steady, allowing us to overtake the F-31 and an F-27. The J/70 might be a fast boat offwind, but she couldn't cope with us to windward, and fell behind. I've noticed these sportboats have near multihull speeds offwind, but fall over on beats, making them slow upwind. Despite the reef, I still played the mainsheet while sitting on the windward trampoline. I'd ease it when I saw two feet of daggerboard showing.

With one more tack for the layline, we quickly began closing on the two leaders. But it was not to be, as the F-27 Sea Bird finished first, followed by Humdinger, and then us just a minute out of first place. Had the course been a mile longer, I like to think we could have got them both. Still, there's always next year, and now I know better what the wind does in the Bay.

So the multihulls cleaned up this year. Some monohull sailors might say, "Well, you had a long run this year." But it was a circular course, and the truth is that we overtook most of the boats on the close fetch/beat north to Red Rock.

Anyway, my grateful thanks to skipper Drew, all the great competitors, and the race committee. I will be back.

Richard Woods
Woods Sailing Catamaran Designs

Richard — It comes as no surprise to us that the Fiasco is attracting over 300 boats, as it's a great race that requires a multitude of talents — traditional racing skills, shorthanded sailing skills, tactical decision making, and luck. Plus it's not just a windward-leeward with the same old scenery. We have fond memories of the event. One year we were singlehanding an Olson 30 through a gap in the Berkeley Pier on our way from the Bay Bridge to Red Rock, and had the late great Mark Rudiger next to us on some other 30-footer. After rounding Red Rock, the far more skilled Rudiger left us far in his wake.

We think folks who love the Fiasco — particularly multihull sailors — would also really like Island YC's Silver Eagle Long Distance Race, to be held this year on June 29. And we mourn the loss of the San Francisco YC's Midnight Moonlight Marathon, another fine race that had similarities to the Fiasco.

For Dave Wilhite's full report on the Fiasco, turn to page 86.


As a native of what Latitude called "the media and narcissism center of the universe" — New York City — I feel it's necessary to offer a small correction to your assessment of Hurricane Sandy relief. During the period of 1990-2009, New York contributed $956 billion more than it received from the federal government — see the attached article from The Economist. The New York City metropolitan area also subsidizes upstate New York. Even after the paltry sum offered by Washington, we still have nearly a trillion left in our credit column. The notion that New York City is a drain on the federal coffers is a common misconception. There is certainly a lot to dislike about New York City, but the belief that we don't pay our way — and many others', too — is quite wrong.

So as you are enjoying the sun and sand of Banderas Bay, I am up here on the roofs of New York City, freezing my butt off while our boat sits in the marina at La Cruz. As soon as this last project is completed ­— and the federal tax paid, of course ­— we plan to get to Mexico.

Thanks for Latitude. It's about the only thing that keeps hope alive in this Arctic wasteland.

Matthew Myshkin & Katrin Haiba
Lila, Southern Cross 31
New York City / La Cruz, Mexico

Matthew and Katrin — You're correct that New York City gives more than it takes, in part because it's so much more efficient if you have 8 million people crammed into 468 urban miles rather than spread out over suburban and rural sprawl. Sort of like buying 48 rolls of toilet paper in bulk at Costco rather than buying them one at a time at 7-Eleven.

What we were complaining about is that much of the taxpayer money that legislators have hailed as going to 'hurricane relief' is doing no such thing. For example, over half the money won't be spent until after 2015 — some relief! And lots of the money will go to the Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Justice, as well as the Social Security Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution. In other words, it's another case of legislators not missing an opportunity to waste a crisis when it presents them with an opportunity to increase the size of government and put the taxpayer deeper in debt. We support government relief in such situations, as long as it's efficient — unlike the past FEMA disaster reliefs, which were economic disasters on their own — and free of incompetence and corruption. In other words, pretty much when pigs fly.


I use the dinghy dock at Marina La Cruz each day, and have always wondered why most folks kept their outboard props in the down position. In fact, I wondered about this aloud on more than one occasion, and today I got the answer from a fellow cruiser. He politely but emphatically informed me that a similar dinghy with its motor up was "like a knife fight waiting to happen" if the wind came up and the inflatables began to tango. When I asked him what he meant, he claimed the props would slice through inflatable fabric.

I told him that I always kept my motor up because I have seen lower units corroded, and I wanted to keep mine in good shape. He said he understood, but that it was "common etiquette" to keep the props submerged.

I find it hard to believe a relatively dull dinghy prop could do that sort of damage, but I'll take the cruiser's word for it, as it appears in fact most people agree with that view. Our conversation was quite polite, and he promised to make a broadcast on tomorrow's net to make others aware.

Newly Enlightened Again
La Paz

N.E.A. — We're in the 'props down' camp. If you have lots of dinghies at a crowded dinghy dock, a raised prop functions as a stiff jabber of inflatables and human flesh, and it also snags painters when dinghies are tied two and three deep.


The insulation jackets on the coiled cables for my Icom radios are crumbling and falling off in pieces. I'm not talking about normal wear and tear. And I'm not the only one with this problem.

I have two Icom VHF M602s onboard, both equipped with HM136B mics. One radio is mounted in a covered recess pocket in the cockpit, where it is protected from direct sunlight, rain and sea spray. The second is mounted in the nav station belowdecks, completely protected from the elements. We also have one Icom HF Marine M802, with an HM135 mic, installed belowdecks at the nav station.

Our belowdecks VHF is lightly used, so when I first noticed debris below the mic, I assumed it was cockroach or other bug droppings. Much to my amazement, I discovered the cable between the mic and the radio was falling apart. I am now dealing with the same issue on the third of the three Icom radios on board.

It's not as if I'm a first-time buyer of Icom products with a grudge. When I bought our 44-ft CSY Walkover in 1992, my initial refit included the installation of a VHF and a SSB radio, both by Icom. We sailed for 14 years and had no problems with either Icom radio. Between 2006 and 2009, I did a complete refit, including the upgrade and replacement of all the electronics. Based on my previous happy experience with Icom radios, and favorable reviews of Icom radios by other cruisers, I installed two Icom VHF 602s and one Icom HF 802. I also installed one Icom Command Microphone HM127B. And I carry two Icom handheld VHFs.

I had to replace the microphone on the first VHF — the one at the inside nav station — in February of 2010. Since I hadn’t even left the dock after the refit, the radio had never been used. After numerous phone calls, I was finally able to secure a warranty replacement.

In July of 2010, we left Lauderdale and headed north up the ICW. It was then that the microphone cable on the second Icom VHF M602 began to fall apart. After taping the cable back together, our first order of business upon reaching Washington, D.C. was to call Icom and discuss the problems.

Lori Phillips, the service administrator, agreed to replace the mic. I suggested that since it looked like a manufacturing defect, the mics on my other radios should be replaced, too. Phillips said that Icom didn't think it was necessary. But if I had another mic problem in the future, they would replace it.

We are now in Guatemala's Rio Dulce, and I found crumblings from the HM135 mic on my Icom HF radio. I'm trying to hold it together with silicon epoxy until the replacement arrives. I've also asked Icom to replace the mic on my third radio. In their letter back to me, they said they hardly ever hear of such a problem. "From your description," they wrote, "it almost sounds like there is either a cleaning agent or something in the immediate area that is reacting with the compound used in the cables. Other than this, I do not have an answer for the deteriorating that you described, because we do not typically hear of this sort of thing."

I was particularly annoyed by that response, and the ridiculous idea of an environmental issue “in the immediate area” of my radios. So on January 17, I made an announcement on the Rio Dulce VHF Cruiser’s Net regarding my problem with the third Icom radio. I thought I might get a response from one or two boats, but within two hours, I received responses from 12 different boats involving 20 Icom radios! Including mine, that makes 13 boats involving 23 radios just in this one anchorage area! I have enclosed a list of the boats that responded, and their email addresses.

In my opinion, a company of Icom's stature ought to issue a product recall of the mics with free replacement.

Capt. Gordon Long
N'Aimless, CSY 42
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Readers — The fact that Long's complaint is seconded by a detailed list, with email addresses, of others who claim to have had the same problem is, quite powerful. For what it's worth, we have an iconic Icom 802 SSB aboard Profligate — as do most cruisers in Mexico and the South Pacific — and haven't had any problems with the mic.



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