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September 2013

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT ROSE NOELLE

In regard to the loss of Niña, Latitude listed the longest periods of time that people have survived vessel sinkings and such. You somehow forgot to mention the four men — John Glennie, James Nalepka, Rick Hellriegel and Phil Hoffman — who survived for 119 days in the overturned aft cabin of the 40-ft trimaran Rose Noelle in 1989. They ultimately washed up on New Zealand's Great Barrier Island, which is in the same general area of the world as where the Niña apparently was lost.

The 119 days puts them in third place, between Poon Lim, who survived 131 days in World War II, and the Baileys, who survived 117 days after a whale sank their boat on their way from Panama to French Polynesia.

Warren Stimmer
San Francisco

Warren — Right you are. The survival of the Rose Noelle crew is often omitted from lists of longest survivals at sea.

The four men were caught in heavy seas off New Zealand, and eventually set a sea anchor, which seemed to work well for a long time. Just before they attempted to retrieve the sea anchor and resume sailing, they heard a huge wave coming, and it flipped them. In retrospect, they think that not taking in the sea anchor earlier was a mistake.

The four had to scramble into the overturned aft cabin and, for the next four months, had to share a cold and damp space the size of a double bed. They eventually were able to cut a hole in the bottom of the hull — which now faced the sky — for the EPIRB. Although the EPIRB indicated that it was working for several days, the signal was never picked up. EPIRBs were notoriously unreliable back then.

Despite the many deprivations, the men appeared to be in such good shape when they ultimately were found on Great Barrier Island that some people were skeptical of their story.

Glennie, the owner of the trimaran, wrote a book titled The Spirit of Rose Noelle: 119 Days Adrift. It gets five out of five stars on Amazon.

EVEN MORE GRAND THAN THE CUP ITSELF

I'm writing this just hours before the start the fourth race of the Louis Vuitton Semi-Finals — the one in which the Italian Luna Rossa team will beat the star-crossed Swedish Artemis team for the fourth straight time, and before the Luna Rossa team gets creamed by the Kiwis in the Louis Vuitton Finals. So far, I've found the America's Cup summer to be a bit of a snore, although the speed of the AC72s is incredible. And the concerts have been good.

When it comes to racing, I suppose we can all hope that the America's Cup, between Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand, will finally provide some real on-the-water excitement. But when it comes to spectator pleasure, I think the real sleeper for this America's Cup summer might actually be the Superyacht Regatta, which is slated for September 9, 11 and 13, the lay days of the America's Cup Final. Holding the Superyacht Regatta to coincide with the America's Cup started in New Zealand a few Cups back, and has always been a huge hit.

According to the America's Cup website, some 15 super-yachts, ranging in size from 85 to 300 feet, are expected to compete. Given the fact that the America's Cup folks promised 15 teams for the America's Cup, I'm not going to believe they're going to get that many participants until the boats actually hit the line. But I hope they do. I've been to the Voiles de St. Tropez and a couple of other superyacht regattas, and they are really something to see. In fact, I think most spectators would enjoy the Superyacht Regatta a lot more than the America's Cup itself.

Jack Rawson
San Francisco

Jack — We doubt anything is going to top the America's Cup for raw speed, but when it comes to a sailing spectacle, we agree, the Superyacht Regatta could be the biggest crowd-pleaser of all. The sight of the 214-ft all-carbon Hetairos running down the 289-ft Maltese Falcon on the Bay would be spectacular. But it's all a matter of numbers. If the Superyacht Regatta really does attract 15 superyachts, it could be fantastic. But if they get just five, it's going to be a whiff. And we're a little concerned because the organizers are already fudging a bit. Sure, an 85-footer is a big boat, but proper superyachts start at 100 feet.

In too many respects, the America's Cup summer has been a flop, but we're hoping that the Red Bull Youth America's Cup, the Superyacht Regatta, and Cup can make everyone forget what came before. Everybody seems to think that the Kiwis are going to walk away with the Cup. We disagree. Oracle has done more two-boat racing than anybody with the 72s and has demonstrated an ability to foil upwind. We think they are going to retain the Cup.

A DOSE OF REALITY TV

Our neighbor, the captain of a 100-ft motoryacht, turned us on to Below Deck, a quirky reality show on Bravo supposedly about crewing aboard a 163-ft yacht in the Caribbean. It's pretty staged, but they manage to get across the drama of the charter business.

While paging through a past issue of Latitude today, I came across a photo of CJ Lebeau from a Ha-Ha recap — and recognized him as being one of the members of the crew on the Below Deck show! CJ was the guy who missed the first two legs of the 2010 Ha-Ha, but made his way down to Bahia Santa Maria and was able to hitch a ride to Cabo.

CJ plays the engineer of the boat. I say 'plays' because, while most of the regular crew of the yacht were dismissed during the five weeks it took to film the 10 episodes, the real captain, first mate and engineer were kept onboard to keep things under control. Given that it's a reality show, it's mostly about which chicks CJ hooks up with.

The first episode was based out of St. Martin, so perhaps the Wanderer will recognize the boat, Cuor di Leone, the name of which was changed to Honor to protect the innocent. Who knows, maybe you'll even run into CJ this coming winter.

Anyway, here's a photo from the Ha-Ha Beach Party where CJ is applying a Ha-Ha tattoo to some unidentifiable chick — who bears a strong resemblance to Doña de Mallorca, Chief of Security for the Ha-Ha.

Lynn Ringseis
Moonshine
Leopard 43
Novato / BVIs

Lynn — Thanks for the heads-up. We checked out a couple of YouTube clips of the show, and it was a pretty dreadful concoction of manufactured drama. We also saw a clip of CJ giving a tour of the boat, and he actually did a good job — in a reality-show way.

THE MILSKIS ARE UNCOMMONLY GOOD SAILORS

I am a recent follower of Latitude 38 from the other side of the Pacific, and I was really pleased when I saw the interview with Jim and Kent Milski of the Schionning 49 Sea Level. What comes through in their commentary is a relaxed confidence, and they play down their achievements. However, without wishing to embarrass them, I feel I should flag up the fact that they are a seriously accomplished team of sailors and all-around good people — as are their pals, Steve and Manjula Dean of the Corsair 41 catamaran Endless Summer.

My wife Kate and I were lucky enough to meet the four of them in Vanuatu in somewhat unusual circumstances in 2010. We were on John and Amanda Neal's Mahina Tiare III, doing the leg between Port Vila and Noumea. As we pulled into Port Resolution on Tanna, there was intense VHF radio traffic about a local small motorboat that had overturned 24 hours before while making the passage across from the neighboring island of Aniwa. The small boat had been overloaded with men, women and some children, as well as the produce that they hoped to trade for some diesel for their island's small generator. A rescue effort coordinated by a New Zealand SAR aircraft had begun, but they were calling for all available craft to assist.

John and Amanda — a couple who deserve more recognition — immediately put to sea. At the same time, Jim and Kent on Sea Level and Steve and Manjula on Endless Summer were approaching Port Resolution from Fiji. Despite doubtlessly being tired from a shorthanded passage, the crews of both boats immediately volunteered assistance and were assigned a search area.

It was a jaw-dropping moment when Jim came on the radio some hours later to report they'd found one survivor, then another. The two had survived 36 hours in the water clinging to bags of coconuts. The Milskis got both men aboard, and restored them with tea and chocolate to the extent that, when they were later dropped off on shore, they were nearly restored to good shape.

The next morning there was a conference between the cruisers and the villagers about how much longer to continue searching, given that there were still eight people, including women and children, missing. It was decided that, while the chances of anyone still being alive were slim, we should search for one more day, in part to help give the villagers closure.

As a result of this additional day of searching, Kate and I, who are medics, found ourselves aboard Sea Level. It was quickly apparent that Jim and Kent were uncommonly able sailors. Equally amazing was the boat itself, and because the workmanship was so staggeringly good, I found it hard to believe that Jim had completed her from a kit. Jim is a dedicated craftsman as well as an expert mariner.

We met again a couple of months later when they passed through Brisbane on their way to Tasmania, and discovered they are lively company on land as well. Having known them but briefly, I felt compelled to relay a story that highlights their many qualities as human beings and that modesty may have prevented them from telling.

Jonathan Fawcett
Brisbane, Australia

LOG BOOK MEMORIES

From 1980 to 1994, I lived aboard and sailed my Hunter 37 Sandpiper all over San Francisco Bay. I had one requirement of everyone who sailed with me — they had to leave an entry in my log book before they left my boat. When I sold Sandpiper, the book was stowed away with a lot of my sailing gear, and I had no thought of reading it again.

Well, things change and relationships end, so once escrow closed on the house, I started searching for my retirement home on the water. I found her in my soon-to-be-rechristened Crealock 34 Marion Christina. Naturally, I started going through all my old boxes of gear, during which time I came across the old log book. I spent several hours laughing as I read it and found myself longing for 'the good old days'. Some of the entries:

— The first day I sailed Sandpiper alone after my fiancée and I split.

— The first sail with my parents.

— Sailing with friends of friends, who were nicer than my friends.

— Friends now gone and friends now in foreign lands.

— The day I found a body off Stinson Beach, which happened to be the same day I blew the exhaust manifold when I left the slip. As a result, we had to tack back and forth near the body until the Fish & Game boat Chinook relieved us.

But I learned one lesson from re-reading the log book: never let a girlfriend sign your log until you're completely sure you'll never get back with the old girlfriend. Because if you do, you'll have a lot of explaining to do.

I’ve only had Marion Christina for a week, but after a little prep work I was itching to get out and see how much I'd forgotten about sailing. To quote Captain Ron, “If anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”

I left the dock at Marina Village on July 20 by myself in fantastic weather. I steered clear of anything heading toward the America's Cup, raised the sails off Alameda Point, and headed toward the South Bay. The day was going great when suddenly I came upon a small group of harbor porpoises. They swam in front of the boat for a few seconds, jumped in and out of the water, and then departed. I continued on for another hour or so and started back to Alameda, when I ran into them again.

It was truly a great day on the Bay, and gave me a fantastic first entry into my new log book.

Ron Rowe
Marion Christina, Crealock 34
Alameda

SIZE DOES MATTER, KIND OF

The July 30 edition of the Whidbey News-Times had a story about Rimas Meleshyus, 61, a Russian immigrant, who'd sailed out of Oak Harbor the day before hoping to cruise into sailing history. He departed aboard a San Juan 24 he purchased for $500, and hopes to complete a nonstop circumnavigation in seven months.

It was interesting to me that his San Juan 24 would make him ineligible for entry in the Baja Ha-Ha, as boats need to be at least 27 long for that event. Care to comment?

Robert X.
Oak Harbor

Robert — Sure. Meleshyus would not be permitted to enter the Ha-Ha, not necessarily because of the length of his boat, but because he's singlehanding. Given the number of Ha-Ha boats sailing in pretty much a straight line, the Ha-Ha Committee doesn't think it would be safe or fair to others to have a boat on the course that didn't have someone on watch at all times. For the record, there has only been one collision in the Ha-Ha, and that was a bump from behind early on the first day of the first Ha-Ha, when there were only 30-some boats.

While the stated minimum length for Ha-Ha boats is 27 feet, sailors with shorter boats can seek special dispensation from the Ha-Ha Race Committee. And the Race Committee, after determining that the skipper has substantial offshore and sailing experience, has usually given it. For example, Raymond Jackson was given permission to do the second Ha-Ha in '95 with his Redding-based Cal 25 Duck Soup. And in '09, Jay Bowden was allowed to Ha-Ha with Little Lara, his Santa Barbara-based Dana 24.

The smallest Ha-Ha entry to date has been Dulcinea, Randy Ramirez's Stockton-based Flicka 20 in 2006. When Ramirez inquired about dispensation, the Committee asked where he had sailed his boat. He said that he'd sailed her to Canada and back. Actually, that's just what the Committee thought he said. He actually said that he'd sailed the boat to Catalina and back. It wouldn't have mattered, as either one would have been good enough.

About five years later, Ramirez teamed up with Jenny Haldiman on her Stockton-based Mariah 31 Mystic, and the two became known in the South Pacific for almost always sailing onto and off the anchor, moorings and docks. The two burned just 12 gallons of diesel in their nine-month crossing from California to New Zealand, forever earning our respect.

As for Meleshyus, we wish him all the best in his audacious endeavour, but we have significant concerns. First, while the San Juan 24 is a fine little boat, she was designed and built for sailing in protected waters, not rounding Cape Horn and/or a fast trip around the world. Nor was she intended to carry the considerable provisions necessary for a nonstop circumnavigation.

Second, Meleshyus has already lost one San Juan 24, during an ill-fated 34-day attempted passage across the Gulf of Alaska. He was rescued by the Coast Guard nine days after being shipwrecked. Third, when he departed Oak Harbor on his circumnavigation, it was the first time he'd ever sailed that particular San Juan 24.

We are aware of the many circumnavigations made with small boats, the smallest being former Berkeley resident Serge Testa's 11-footer. But few, if any of them, were via Cape Horn and nonstop. Our fear is that Meleshyus is underestimating the power of the ocean, which can be dangerous, if not fatal.

A PROLONGED BLAST

Recently one of the members of a sailing group from the East Bay got pretty upset with me — in fact, later in the day he flipped me off — because I sounded a four-second blast upon leaving my Sausalito slip under power.

Evidently he related the sound of my boat horn to that of car horns on the street, and figured it was an insult aimed at him. He was crossing about 50 yards ahead of my bow. He also claimed that I must have sounded my horn because I was speeding. According to my boat's readouts, I was doing 1.7 knots.

In fact, my prolonged blast was intended for the many other boats and kayaks in the area that I couldn't yet see because of the large berthed yachts blocking my view on either side of the fairway that I was leaving. His proper response would have been an answering horn, not getting pissed. He needs to learn the rules, as do many others who think use of proper sound signals on the water might be rude.

Those who have studied the rules know that a prolonged blast of four to six seconds is required by USCG/federal regulation when approaching an obstructed view of the waterway and when leaving a dock.

"Rule 34 - Maneuvering and Warning Signals

(g) When a power-driven vessel is leaving a dock or berth, she shall sound one prolonged blast."

Please spread the word and make sure everybody gets a copy of the regs at their local marine store.

Bob Braid
Willow, Wauquiez Centurion 40s
Race Chair, Sausalito YC

Bob — Your prolonged blast is the correct signal when departing places such as Sausalito Yacht Harbor, Pelican Yacht Harbor and Schoonmaker Point Marina, where it's often not possible to see if there is traffic approaching in the channel. Lots of skippers don't make the signal. We suppose half don't because they are not aware of the requirement, the other half because it would make for some very noisy Sunday afternoons in Sausalito.

EIGHT BELLS FOR ALEX KOZLOFF

I'm sorry to have to report the passing of Alex Kozloff, a longtime catamaran enthusiast and my good friend. Alex was the first American to win the Little America's Cup, and he later designed and built the D cat Invictus.

At one point, Michael Fay's Kiwi syndicate chartered Invictus to help his 'big boat' prepare for the monohull versus multihull America's Cup against Dennis Conner in San Diego. I had the pleasure of sailing with Alex on Invictus for a few days in that series. What a trip! Invictus is now Bill Erkelens' Adrenaline.

Alex and I worked together on many projects over the years, including the Duffy Voyager, a 62-ft electric powered trimaran. Alex was the most upbeat and positive guy I ever met.

Jim Antrim
El Sobrante

THE 'CREOLE CURSE'

It's unfortunate that the current round of interest in large old wooden yachts has been sparked by the apparent loss of the 70-ft American staysail schooner Niña in the Tasman Sea. Nothing has been heard of the schooner, which was built in the Northeast in 1929, or more importantly her seven crew, since early June. What a terrible tragedy.

Although I've never owned a large wooden yacht, I've always been a fan of them, and thus was a little surprised that Latitude failed to mention the long and somewhat dark history of the 214-ft three-masted black-hulled schooner Creole, the largest wooden yacht ever built. I remember her from when she was in San Diego for the America's Cup in '91. It's my understanding that the yacht has long been associated with misfortune, misery — and maybe even murder. Can Latitude fill me in with some details?

Kent Minton
San Diego

Kent — It's a history as improbable as the great yacht itself. As Kim Hampton detailed on her site Yachtpals.com, Creole was designed in the mid 1920s by Charles Nicholson of England for Alexander Cochran of New York, who christened her Vira. After graduating from Yale, Cochran, who had inherited $40 million from the family stake in the largest carpet manufacturer in the world, had taken up yachting as a way to pass his time. The so-called "richest bachelor in New York City" participated in the America's Cup with Vanitie, after which he called on Nicholson to create the ultimate personal yacht. Vira was built by Camper & Nicholson in Gosport, England, and launched in 1927.

Unfortunately, by the time Vira was launched, the then-50-year-old Cochran was suffering so badly from tuberculosis that he could barely walk from the bow to the stern. As he was too weak to break the celebratory bottle of champagne over the bow, he had a friend do it. It was considered a bad omen that his paladin needed three attempts to break the bottle of bubbly.

Cochran would only own Vira for two years, and they weren't very good ones for him or the yacht. Quite ill by this time, Cochran had the schooner's masts shortened several times, changed the keel, and added a lot of internal ballast. The net result was disastrous, as Vira's performance suffered badly and she rolled at anchor much more than before. Cochran lost interest in the yacht before he passed away in 1929.

Vira was purchased from Cochran's estate by Maurice Pope, who rechristened her Creole, and restored her three masts to their original height. In 1937 the yacht was bought by Sir Connop Guthrie, who returned Creole to Camper & Nicholson to have her restored to her original design. She subsequently sailed wonderfully, and won many regattas in grand style.

With the rise of Nazi Germany in 1939, Creole was drafted into military service as a minehunter, and renamed Magic Circle. After the war, she was returned to the Guthrie family, albeit stripped of her masts and interior, and thus barely recognizable.

Once again named Creole, the yacht continued to deteriorate until Stavros Niarchos — whose parents had owned a department store in Buffalo, New York until three months before he was born in Athens, Greece — purchased her in 1948. Niarchos had become wealthy in the 1940s and a multimillionaire in the 1950s as a result of building and operating the largest oil tankers in the world. It was after Niarchos bought Creole that things really started getting dark — if not a tad incestuous.

The 'Golden Greek' poured money into the dilapidated yacht for many years. The results were spectacular, however, and eventually Creole was once again worthy of having the finest art hanging from her walls. Niarchos spent much of the 1960s aboard Creole, and often referred to her as his home.

But in 1970, Eugenia Livanos, Niarchos's third wife and daughter of fellow Greek shipping magnate Stavros Livanos, was found dead from an overdose of barbiturates on Niarcho's private island. Although Niarchos was exonerated, the circumstances of his wife's death were never clear, and they cast Niarchos negatively in the pubic spotlight. He reportedly never sailed his much-loved schooner Creole again.

Niarchos's relationship with Eugenia had been an unusual one. While married to her, he had a well-known affair with Pamela Churchill Harriman — who seemed to have affairs with many rich and powerful men. After Eugenia and Niarchos were divorced, he married Charlotte Ford, daughter of Henry Ford II, in Mexico. After having a child with Ford and then divorcing her, Niarchos took up with Eugenia once again. Indeed, she would have become his fifth wife, in addition to being his third, had Niarchos' Mexican marriage to Ford not been recognized as illegitimate.

It gets even stranger.

A year after Eugenia died of the drug overdose, Niarchos married Athina, the Marchioness of Blandford. Athina was not only the sister of his late wife Eugenia, but had also been the first wife of Aristotle Onassis, Niarchos' bitter rival in shipping, riches and women. In 1974, four years after getting married, Athina died of a drug overdose in Paris, making her the second Livanos daughter to die of a drug overdose while married to Niarchos. Curious. It's not known if there was a connection. But following Athina's death, Niarchos put Creole up for sale.

The next owner of the 214-ft schooner was as unlikely as could be — the Danish government. Displaying the infinite wisdom governments are known for everywhere, the Danes decided the world's largest luxury yacht would make a wonderful sail training vessel for . . . school children. After that proved to be not such a bright idea, they came up with an even more foolish one — using Creole as a tool in an attempt to rehabilitate drug addicts. As one might imagine, the poorly-cared-for yacht went to hell once again. By the time the Danish government sold her in 1983, Creole needed a savior.

That savior turned out to be Italian couturier Maurizio Gucci, who unlike anyone else, both saw the potential in Creole and had the money to realize it. Pledging to restore Creole to her former glory, Gucci had her in the shipyard for six years, and spent a vast fortune having her restored. The results were spectacular, and Creole was once again one of the most beautiful yachts in the world, fully worthy of the Gucci name. She was more than just good looking, too, as she won many regattas.

As you mention, Creole came to San Diego in 1991 for the 28th America's Cup, but soon things started to go south once again. It was in '91 that the divorce of Gucci and Italian socialite Patrizia Reggiani, his wife of nearly 20 years, was finalized. The divorce might have been caused by the fact that six years earlier Gucci had told his wife he was going on a short business trip, but never came home. His 'business' was actually being in the arms of a younger and more beautiful woman. After the divorce in '91, things got worse for Reggiani, as a year later she was found to have a brain tumor. Miraculously, she survived and is still alive today.

Three years later, Gucci was brutally gunned down by a hit man on the steps of his office in Milan. Rumors circulated among the yachting community that the 'Creole Curse' had struck again.

A year later, Reggiani, then known as 'the Black Widow', was arrested, accused of hiring the hit man who killed her ex-husband. In the words of one wag, it brought together Italy's four greatest obsessions — sex, money, designer footwear and astrology — so it was the Italian trial of the century. After Reggiani's personal psychic admitted that she had hired the killers on behalf of Reggiani, the gig was up, and the ex-wife was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

Allegra and Alessandra Gucci, Maurizio and Patriza's two daughters, appealed to have their mother's conviction and sentence overturned, arguing that the brain tumor had affected her judgment and behavior. Their appeal was not universally supported by the extended Gucci family and, in any event, was denied. When Reggiani was offered a chance at parole in 2011, she dismissed it by famously saying, "I've never worked in my life and I'm not going to start now."

Creole is now owned by Allegra and Alessandra Gucci, but is rarely sailed. The sisters prefer to race the family's engineless 60-ft gaff sloop Avel which, like Creole, was designed by Charles Nicholson. But get this, she was built in 1897, 30 years before the huge schooner! Avel won her division in the Voiles de St. Tropez in both 2011 and 2012, with Allegra helping on the bow and Alessandra tailing the main.

So why do the Gucci women still own Creole? There may have been a hint in what they said following their most recent win at St. Tropez: “We must always look after the tradition, taking care of the boats."

People with smaller boats often gaze at megayachts in jealousy, unaware that big problems often come with big fortunes needed to buy and maintain megayachts. Creole, the biggest wooden yacht ever built, is perhaps the biggest cautionary tale of all.

THE WOODEN HULL YC STEPS UP

I enjoyed the article on the Wooden Hull YC's One More Time Regatta in the August issue of Latitude. There's a photo of me standing next to Dennis Conner, and the caption identifies me as the Commodore of the Del Rey YC. I'm actually the Commodore of the Wooden Hull YC.

For what it's worth — and a little self-promotion — I've taken three firsts in class and one second in class in the last four McNish Classics with my Kettenburg 40. Not bad, eh?

If there's any way we can get an article that details the wooden boating community between San Diego and Port Townsend, I'd be an enthusiastic supporter.

Steve Guilford
Antares, Kettenburg 40
San Pedro

Steve — Three firsts and a second, not bad at all.

If the participants in classic yacht regattas want to get publicity, the basics of the event and results need to be made available to us. The folks at the Wooden Hull YC did a good job this year with the One More Time Regatta, but what happened with the McNish? We couldn't find any information on the July 27 event.

BOATERS LOOK OUT FOR ONE ANOTHER

Once again we are in debt to our fellow sailors for helping us out of a sticky situation. After two days anchored at Decker Island in Horseshoe Bend near Rio Vista, our batteries had run low and we couldn't start the engine. Tristan, from the nearby 54-ft ketch Excalibur, offered some long jumper cables, and a local day-tripper motorboat, whose name we didn't get, used them to hook up their batteries to ours. Within minutes our engine was running.

The owner of the ketch and the motorboat were very gracious about giving assistance, repeatedly saying that the boating community looks out for one another. A big thanks to both boats and their passengers!

Gayle & Pete Vaughan
Cover Girl, Catalina 34
Benicia

PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACONS

I liked last month's editorial response, the one that reviewed EPIRBs and other distress messaging options for boats. But what I'm looking for is something that I can wear in case I fall overboard when I'm on watch and my husband is asleep.

I know there are personal EPIRBs, but that's not going to do a lot of good if I fall over during the Ha-Ha or halfway to the Marquesas. In those cases I would likely die of exposure or drowning before my personal EPIRB would bring help. Can't somebody come up with something that will signal the boat I've fallen off that I'm in the water and need help?

Ellen Eferon
Two for the Road, Custom 46 Sloop
Sitka, Alaska

Ellen — They have. In the past there have been some devices that would send signals if you fell overboard, but the new SafeLink R10 by Kannad, and the SmartFind S10 by McMurdo, introduce superior technology to the solution. And the FCC was nice enough to approve the devices, called PABs (Personal AIS Beacon), a little more than a year ago.

The R10 weighs the same as a Quarter-Pounder and is meant to attach to your PFD. If you fall over, you turn on the switch. There are some PFDs that will semi-automatically turn on the Kannard device, which would be good if you went overboard because the boom whacked your coconut during an uncontrolled jibe.

The PAB works using AIS technology. When you turn it on, an alarm goes off aboard every AIS-equipped boat within four miles, giving your precise location, and each boat's bearing and range to you. Brilliant!

We know of a number of mariners over the years whose lives would have been saved by a PAB. In our estimation, PABs are just as important to doublehanded boats as EPIRBs are to the boat itself. The West Marine website has a video with Chuck Hawley explaining what's so great about the products, which retail for just over $300. If you're a couple going cruising, where there often will be just one of you on watch, we can't recommend PABs highly enough. And if you're doublehanding, you only need one of them.

EIGHT BELLS FOR JIM CASEY

Jim Casey, a beloved character and friend to many people in the sailing communities of Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Mexico, passed away in early August. His wife Jamie shared his story with me, and we thought people in the sailing community might like to remember Jim with us.

Jim was an Iowa farm boy who discovered sailing in 1973 when he met Jamie at South Lake Tahoe. He bought a used Laser and learned to sail the old-fashioned way — by going sailing. They inherited their first keel boat, an Endeavor 26 named 23 Skidoo, and won the Trans Tahoe thanks largely to the boat’s massive handicap. They then bought a series of faster boats, including the J/109 Ice Nine and J/124 Pleiades, racing on Lake Tahoe and winning their share of Trans Tahoe and Southern Crossing races. They also spent many glorious summer nights 'boat camping' around the lake.

Jim loved sailing in warm weather, and one year he went to the boat show and came home the owner of a Jeanneau 43DS charter boat in the British Virgin Islands. He and Jamie sailed charters in the BVIs, Tahiti, British Columbia and Thailand, and then brought Sierra Luna through the Panama Canal to Mexico and renamed her Tomatillo.

Jim found a second home at Punta Mita on Banderas Bay, where he spent his last few winters. He contributed to the local community, working with the nonprofit community development project PEACE (Protection, Education, Animals, Culture, and Environment) and the Puerto Vallarta Marine Turtle Protection Program.

Anyone who knew Jim will remember him as a gentle, soft-spoken man with an inner core of steel, who lived life with gusto. He worked hard and played hard. After a race he drank his tequila in a wine glass at the Tahoe YC bar, and his crew was often treated to a meal at a fine restaurant where he had an "account,” having traded roofing or sheet metal work for restaurant credit.

Jim Casey will be will be dearly missed by his family and his many friends.

Anne Thomas, with Jamie Casey
Lake Tahoe

Readers — Jim was a neighbor of the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca in Punta Mita, Mexico. We raced against each other, we cruised together on Profligate, we rode motorcycles through the jungle to Sayulita together, and he even trimmed the main — electric — on Profligate during races after his arm was amputated. Jim was the first to admit that he could be 'passionate' about his opinions — including the racing rules, keeping the cars off the beach at Mita, poblano chiles and tequila — but he was much-loved and will be greatly missed.

KAISER PONIED UP

In the August issue you wrote that you thought the bills for Doña de Mallorca's post roll-over CAT scan and other treatment at the San Javier Hospital in Nuevo Vallarta would be paid by Kaiser Insurance. I don't know why, but sometimes I feel that insurance companies give the impression they will pay for something, then don't. Can you confirm that they paid for it?

Jeffery Goode
San Francisco

Jeffery — Kaiser, to their credit, paid the bill, apparently because it was emergency treatment. It's also de Mallorca's understanding that they would have paid for emergency surgery or, if necessary, a flight back to California for additional treatment done at a Kaiser hospital in California. However, this is just her understanding, and it may vary from one Kaiser plan to another, so she's not making any guarantees.

We're also happy to report that de Mallorca, thanks to good luck and a seatbelt, hasn't suffered any adverse affects from rolling over twice.

HEALTH CARE COSTS IN MEXICO

A lot of us Baby Boomer-sailors are considering taking off cruising to Mexico and/or beyond in the next few years, and health care costs are naturally a big concern. What can you tell us?

Samantha Smith
San Jose

Samantha — Funny you should ask, because that topic came up during the cruisers' motorcycle ride from La Cruz to Sayulita the other morning.

We got our first bit of information from Dan Orlando, who with his wife Deborah arrived at Puerto Vallarta aboard their Roche Harbor, Washington-based Maple Leaf 48 Summer's Echo on Christmas Eve in 1999. While they dock their sailboat behind their home at Marina Iguana, they are also both full-time captains of other yachts. About two years ago, Dan was grazed by a pickup truck while riding his motorcycle. He ended up dazed on the ground. Philo Hayward of Philo's Music Studio was right there, and rushed him to the San Javier Hospital in Puerto Vallarta.

"The hospital was beautiful," remembers Orlando, "and they didn't even ask my name or if I had insurance before immediately taking me back to the examination room. They did three CAT scans; two on my head and one on my thigh. In addition, they did three X-rays; two of my hand and one of my leg. I was examined by both a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon, tended to by nurses, and kept overnight for observation in a very nice room. The total cost was $2,500 USD."

We wonder what that same treatment would have cost in the States, and how long he would have had to wait in the ER.

Philo Hayward, who sailed to Mexico with the Ha-Ha in 2000 with his Cal 36 Cherokee, says he is one of many Americans in Mexico who has IMSS health insurance, which is sort of like their social security health insurance. It covers just about everything and costs — you're going to want to sit down before you hear this — just $320. That's $320 a year, not a month. Philo once went to an IMSS hospital to have a camera lowered into his gut to check for an upper-level hernia. There was no charge. Had there been a charge, it would have been $300 USD. The quality of IMSS hospitals varies depending on where you are in Mexico. They tend to be quite good in urban areas such as Vallarta.

The mother of Philo's Mexican partner suffered from cancer and passed away a few months ago, and was covered under IMSS. She got chemo and radiation treatments, and what Philo considered to be good medical care. She was treated in Guadalajara, and Philo says that if there had been anything more that could have been done in Mexico City, she would have been sent there, and if anything more could have been done, she would have been sent to . . . Arizona.

Since we were out SUP-ing with Mike and Robin Stout of the Redondo Beach-based Aleutian 51 Mermaid later that day and talking about dental costs, we can report the following: Mike paid $80 for having two teeth extracted in Mexico. The couple also flew their son Austin, a vet of the Ha-Ha, from L.A. to La Paz twice for dental care. "He got his teeth cleaned, whitened, and X-rayed, had a root canal, and got a crown — all for less than the crown would have cost in L.A.," says Robin. "I pay 500 pesos to get my teeth cleaned, X-rays, and a full exam." Five hundred pesos is $40. Dental offices in Mexico can range from old-style to immaculate with all the latest high-tech equipment.

As for health and dental costs beyond Mexico, we're going to have to rely on reports from people cruising in those areas. Our general understanding, however, is that the most expensive place to have a medical problem, even if you have health insurance, is the United States.

IT'S NOT PERFECT BUT IT WORKS

In the August issue Letters, 'Anonymous in Ventura' raised the issue of using public funds to upgrade infrastructure in Santa Barbara Harbors ostensibly to benefit wealthy boatowners. Anonymous's argument has some validity, but having suffered the sting of acquiring a slip in the marina, I think I can offer an alternate interpretation.

First, the money from the state was a loan, not a grant. It will be repaid by the slip holders via fees and taxes. Second, not all boatowners in Santa Barbara are wealthy. Indeed, many have held their slips for many years or have working fishing boats. The presence of working boats greatly changes the complexion of the marina and adds to its charm.

Third, while it is true that slip permits change hands on an open market, the slips ultimately belong to the city. It is public infrastructure that is being upgraded. If it were not properly maintained, it ultimately would degenerate into an unsightly and unsafe harbor, and acquire a reputation similar to that of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. The city of Santa Barbara derives over $12 million in revenue from the waterfront, and it's in the public interest to maintain it. Indeed, the waterfront is Santa Barbara's primary tourist attraction, and I don't see why California Boating shouldn't provide a loan to maintain public boating infrastructure.

While the system in Santa Barbara has its critics, I've actually come to believe in it. Having had a boat in the Bay Area for many years, I've witnessed firsthand the pointless waiting lists and the skulduggery, corruption and nepotism involved in getting slips in the desirable marinas. While Santa Barbara's system may be mercenary, the rules are well known. Since slips have value, there is an incentive for boat owners to use them or get rid of them. There are very few derelict or abandoned boats in Santa Barbara. I wonder how many other marinas in the state could make that claim?

David Kramer
Santa Barbara

David — As we've written before, there is no perfect solution to the problem, if you will, of private citizens benefitting financially from the increase in value of the right to the slips in desirable public marinas. We think Santa Barbara has come up with a reasonable solution, which is pretty much about all you can hope for when there is no perfect solution.

As for "skulduggery, corruption and nepotism," that's pretty much become the way of the world for government appointments and jobs, freshman slots at UC Berkeley, corner offices in corporate buildings, and just about anything else desirable. It's sometimes true when it comes to berths in Northern California, but nothing like 20 years ago, when berths were in extremely short supply.

FOND MEMORIES OF BUD TRAVIS

I'd like to say goodbye to Bud Travis, whom I fondly think of as the 'John Belushi of sailing'. I grew up crewing with him as a juvenile delinquent in the 1970s. We — no adults — kicked ass in the then-popular Midget Ocean Racing Association (MORA).

Last year Bud and I agreed to celebrate our 50 years of sailing — no kidding — by doing the 2012 Singlehanded TransPac. He bought a 28-ft Hawkfarm to do it, and I got my Wylie 39 Punk Dolphin ready. Like brothers of the past, we tried to get our war ponies ready, but Bud didn't pull it together in time. He'd wanted to do that trip for as long as I've known him, but unfortunately his time ran out.

Travis and I got started in 1970 when he invited me to sail with a bunch of hot shots from the Richmond YC aboard the Cal 2-30 Rubber Duck, which was one tough mudda. I made the cut, but I was too young to drive a car at the time, so Travis would come out to Pleasanton to pick me up for races. Sometimes he would pick me up early, and we would hang out at Berkeley's Chi Phi frat house for the night. For a high school kid like me, that's when the shit really started to get fun.

Once we got to the yacht club on the morning of a race, the 'Animal House' antics would start early. We talked smack and boasted endlessly. The old fart legends like Bob Klein not only tolerated us, they even encouraged us. We were good on the water, but off the water we were all punks and did nasty stuff.

I had a water balloon launcher that Travis loved. But instead of using water balloons, we would terrorize other sailors by shooting gobs of macaroni, tuna salad, eggs, piroshkis and old pizza. Whatever had been in the backseat of Travis' old MG would find its way into the mainsails of other boats. For a kid like I was then, it was soooooooo funny.

But as I say, we kicked butt on the race course when racing Tony Thomas' Cal 2-30 hard. In the popular Midget Ocean Races of the time, we — Travis, Mike Alexander, Jim Nichols, Art Fisher, myself and others — bashed heads with the best. We navigated with charts and RDFs, because that's all anybody had back then. We did stupid shit, too, drinking way too much Coors and eating really bad food. And in victory, we were overbearing.

I remember one Junior Buckner Race — Drakes Bay to Farallones and back — when Travis provisioned for the race with two cases of Coors, three bags of potato chips, a bag of Oreo cookies, and a casserole dish of his mom’s spaghetti. We were doing well, just behind Dee Smith, when we got to the Rockpile about midnight. We rounded and set the starcut chute — we had to be cool! — and went about catching Dee. In the lee of the island we put the spaghetti on the stove. It was a big mistake, as we had 33 round-ups — and I mean big round-ups — on the way back to the Bay. As you might imagine, the spaghetti left the stove after it burned, and landed on the cabin sole. There was red grease everywhere, and soon our foulies, the deck, the tiller — OMG, the whole boat was like a greased pig! And this was just the tip of the stupid shit iceberg. The next morning, I remember fending off land at Pt. Diablo! I think we beat Dee because we were fearless in getting close to shore to avoid the ebb.

Travis was known for having big balls. One night I asked if he wanted to make a blooper out of Visqueen plastic sheeting and tape. He was game, so in the morning, after lots more beer and music, we had a blooper. It was not pretty, but what the hell. The next day was the Drake's Bay overnighter, and we were in second going in and after getting to Drake's Bay. We prepared for the critical second day of the race with a wild night of drinking, lots of Dinty Moore canned beef stew, and raging farts. It started to blow early the next day, but we had our new blooper for stability. Larry Odenzo was in first place at the time with his Peterson Half Tonner, but we were even with this chump at Duxbury Reef. But Travis was getting nervous, so we set the Visqueen blooper to settle things down. Unfortunately, it immediately blew up.

Shit, we had to do something. I suggested that we set a second chute to go with the one that was already up. We all looked at each other and said, "Hell, yeah!" So I rigged a second kite, and we took-off, kicking Larry's ass. He later explained that it was illegal to set two spinnakers — who knew? — but he didn't protest us and let us have the season championship. Larry was one of those adults who sort of encouraged us ruffians.

We had a slingshot and used to shoot clevis pins onto the mains of other boats while racing. The pins would drop into the cockpit of the boats, at which point the owners would get all hot and bothered, thinking their rig was about to come down. Ever heard of cut-off foulies? That's what we had because we had to be cool. Set two chutes and sail out of the St. Francis YC marina? Did that all the time. Sail between a tug and barge? Well, we had to kick some ass, so what were we supposed to do, wait for the barge to pass? Blowing too hard to jibe or change course? Baloney, send it! Surf back into the Gate between the South Tower and shore. Oh yeah, it was legal — until Stormvogel hit bottom. Mooning patrons in the St. Francis dining room as we sailed by was cause for celebration, as was mooning the Blue & Gold fleet with all those nice folks from Ohio.

I could go on forever. I wish Travis could have also.

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

Readers — And to think this punk grew up to not only successfully race his boat to Hawaii and cruise her to New Zealand, but also be a successful architect in much demand by the demanding Chinese.

Anybody else want to fess up to punk behavior when they were sailing years ago? Sitting on the couches in the St. Francis YC smoking pot while watching the Big Boat Series and all that stuff. Except when they massacre each other with automatic weapons, kids today seem so well behaved.

CAN A NICARAGUAN CANAL COMPETE?

Any canal across Nicaragua is going to have real trouble competing with the Panama Canal, even if water supply in Nicaragua isn't an issue. All this was gone over back in the late 19th century when Panama was chosen for a couple of basic reasons: First, the route across Nicaragua would have been longer and more expensive to build. Second, and quite persuasive to the U.S. Congress, was the presence of an active volcano close to the proposed Nicaraguan route.

On another note, if you want to claim that corporations can do a job better than governments, isthmian canals are really a bad example. The French attempt in the 1870s was the work of a typical multinational corporation. There was corruption and widespread fraud perpetrated by the management, plus a general ignorance at corporate headquarters as to actual conditions on the Isthmus, which made for a miserable failure that incidentally cost tens of thousands of lives. Mismanagement and outright looting of the corporation had almost as much to do with the disaster as malaria and yellow fever. When the U.S. took over the effort, it was entirely government-owned, and became the greatest engineering triumph of its day.

Conrad Hodson
Eugene, Oregon

Conrad — The Canal was built in Panama rather than Nicaragua for a number of geo-political reasons. Depending on which sources you want to believe, the volcanos of Nicaragua weren't as much of an issue as was the fact that the Nicaraguans weren't going to be as compliant to U.S. interests as was the newly formed country of Panama.

On a level playing field, it's hard to imagine that a canal through Nicaragua could compete economically with the Panama Canal. But nobody, least of all the Chinese, believes in level playing fields. Suppose the Chinese decided to levy a stiff duty on all vessels carrying their goods that decided to use the Panama Canal instead of the Nicaraguan Canal. The Nicaraguan Canal could boom and the Panama Canal languish. We also think it's foolish to think the Chinese aren't eager to establish a major strategic stronghold in the Americas, especially when we Americans will largely be paying for it, thanks to the mindless extravagances we continue to put on our Bank of China credit card. As for Daniel Ortega and the Nicaraguan power elite, they'll do almost anything they can for: 1) A cut of the action, 2) The chance to poke the U.S. in the eye, and lastly; 3) Jobs for Nicaraguans.

You say that "isthmanian canals" are an example of governments being able to do a better job than private interests. Really? Was it not a private company, funded almost entirely by French citizens, that created the wildly successful canal across the Isthmus of Suez? This was before the Panama Canal, and demonstrated that such great engineering feats were possible — even if they had to battle the Brits every step of the way. By the way, disease was simply a way of life back then. One-third of all the people in both the cities of Cairo and Alexandria died of the plague about 10 years before the Suez Canal was begun.

In our view, the difference between government and private projects is not that one will necessarily do a better job than the other, but who is on the hook for the bills and the inevitable doubling or tripling of costs. For example, if the High Speed Rail to Nowhere system proposed for California were to be funded entirely by private investors, we wouldn't give a hoot, because we and our neighbors wouldn't be on the hook for an enterprise that is expected to need 160,000 riders from San Francisco to Los Angeles a day to be economically viable. Mind you, not only has the proposed project been unable to attract any private funds to date, but the courts just put the brakes on the start of the project again because supporters have no idea where the financing is going to come from, and because the project has failed to pass the initial environmental requirements.

We're not against all major government projects, assuming they have a real purpose and are done efficiently, and costs and corruption are kept to a minimum. Alas, those conditions would preclude most projects, from the east Bay Bridge span to the disastrously ineffective Prop 63 mental health fiasco.

"THE AC SHOULD BE SAILED IN SEAWORTHY BOATS"

I have been racing sailboats since 1958, when I was 12 years old, and I've been a fan of the America's Cup all that time. I raced dinghies and keelboats for 40 years, and also had a 20-year career sailing and racing sailboats — probably 200 days a year. My back ended that activity in 2000.

For as long as I have been sailing, every knowledgeable sailor and yacht designer has always agreed that multihulls, both catamarans and trimarans, have two positions in the water. That is Stable 1, which is right side up and sailing, and Stable 2, which is upside down and no longer sailing.

While multihulls have gotten bigger, faster, lighter and more powerful over the years, and pound-for-pound are incredible machines, they are still basically unseaworthy in that they can flip. I have watched Hobie18s, Tornadoes, Nacra 5.2s, Extreme 40s, and now AC45s and AC72s pitchpole and capsize on San Francisco Bay.

One time off the Cityfront, I was right next to a large cat with three guys on wires and trapezes doing 20+ knots. They pitchpoled, and as the boat started to capsize the guys were flung out of the trapezes, then snapped back, like rag dolls. Imagine something like that, but with an AC72 sailing twice as fast.

When summer westerlies blow 25 knots, and the ebb is ripping out the Gate, the holes created that we have been sailing our seaworthy Cal 20s and Moore 24s through for decades will trip even the most high-tech catamaran, creating a spectacular if not catastrophic somersault. The only thing anyone should be surprised about is that anyone would be surprised it happened.

I think it's time for the America's Cup to get back into seaworthy boats that go fast and sail in any condition. Perhaps a fast pivoting keel boat — a lighter more high-tech version of the Volvo one-designs that raced around the world — would be the answer. But I think seaworthy in all conditions should be the bottom line for America's Cup boats.

Alan Hiller
San Francisco

Alan — America's Cup boats have rarely, if ever, been seaworthy in all conditions. For example, on the first day of the first Ha-Ha back in 1994, our somewhat rag-tag fleet took off for Cabo in conditions that were too windy for the America's Cup boats to go out and practice safely.

That said, it will be interesting to see what kind of boats and racing format will be chosen for the next America's Cup. We don't care so much what kind of boats are selected as long as they are very fast and reasonably safe. But there are three changes we figure are necessary for the America's Cup to thrive: 1) A minimum of a dozen entries. If whoever gets to pick the rules can't get guaranteed participation from at least a dozen teams, we don't think the event should be allowed to be held. 2) The America's Cup should be in one-design boats, and maybe the boats even should be rotated through the teams. The cost of designing and building custom boats is ridiculous and grossly stunts participation and Joe Sailor identification. 3) Get rid of the matchracing, which has proven to be so dreadfully boring, in favor of the much more exciting fleet racing.


ALDEBARAN IS FLOATING

On August 2, with my 70-ft schooner Aldebaran sitting in a pocket of mud in back of Brooks Island near Richmond, held by buoyed anchors, I was prepared to sign the pink slip over to anyone who was willing to take responsibility for her restoration. At that point the boat could be pumped out in two hours using two of the three pumps I had.

Now it's August 12, and Aldebaran is sitting at my dock in Brickyard Cove. I realized that if I wanted to patch the leaks better, she couldn't be in the mud or on the rocks. So two small boats and I pulled the heavy ferrocement schooner off the mud bank and maneuvered her to the slip with me at the tiller. I was met at the dock with cheers from most of the neighborhood, and a party broke out.

I then obtained the help of a dentist friend to "fill the cavities." They were six feet below the surface, but we had scuba gear and six feet of visibility. I now have the leak down to about 12 gal/minute, so Aldebaran stays afloat between pumpings, which I conduct every four hours.

Meanwhile, my poor wife Fern fell and severely broke her right ankle. She is now recuperating at Alta Bates in Berkeley. Between having to pump the schooner out every four hours and visiting Fern every day, I find myself getting a little tired.

Despite the situation, Aldebaran looks better every day, and I feel that I have proved her strength, so I don't want to give up the pink slip. I think she's worth the trouble to restore, but if the right person came along and offered me what she is worth, I would part with her.

Hayden W. Brown
Owner, Designer and Builder of Aldebaran
Brickyard Cove

Readers — As unpleasant as the following might be, we feel a responsibility to report it. George Hale — and he says some other members of the Vallejo YC — feel that the sinking of Aldebaran was a matter of karma. He says that the year before, Brown had deliberately and recklessly sailed through beginning sailing fleets — with many children sailing — in Vallejo, shouting lots of F.U.s as he went.

Hale, who has been a mariner for decades, says he suspects the alleged behavior was some form of retaliation from the year before when the Vallejo YC would not let Aldebaran pick up passengers from their docks until Brown could produce proof of insurance. Hale says Brown told him he not only didn't have insurance, he didn't believe in it.

In a response to an inquiry from Latitude, Brown, who has taken well over 1,000 people sailing for free from organizations such as Make-a-Wish, Boy Scouts, Adventure Clubs, Rotary foreign exchange students, high school outings, church groups, friends, and pirate reenactment groups, says he hasn't had liability insurance. But, he says, nobody has ever gotten hurt or fallen overboard.

As for the contretemps with Hale at VYC, Brown says that he and Aldebaran's crew yelled epithets as pirates would, but neither he nor his crew dropped F-bombs.

HOW DID THEY COME UP WITH ALL THOSE NAMES?

We're applying for membership in the MOMOBDITL (Month or More of Best Days in Their Lives) Club started by Pat and Carole McIntosh of the Carmichael/Barra de Navidad-based Cheoy Lee 35 Encore. For readers who don't remember, the premise of the club is the notion that the two best days of a boatowner's life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells the boat. The McIntoshes thought it would be fun to have a club for people who have had a month's worth of 'best days'.

Thanks to owning and selling the following boats, we've had 40 'best days'. The list does not count three commercial fishing vessels and numerous open sailing vessels under 20 feet in length. It does include one boat we owned twice — albeit 20 years apart: Osprey, 25-ft hard-chine plywood sloop; Red Wing, 25-ft Falmouth pilot sloop; Ayesha, 36-ft Steven schooner; Tern, 35-ft Pinaud sloop; Bernice II, 53-ft P Class yawl; Sandpiper, Grampian 23; Petrel, Grampian 23; Curlew, Grampian 23; Trio, Paceship PY 23; two more unnamed Paceship 23s; Nylund, a 53-ft Norwegian schooner; Lady Sarnia, a 25-ft Hillyard sloop that we owned in the 1970s and again in the 1990s; La Bohemienne, a 26-ft Falmouth Quay punt; Gamster II, a Robert Clark 32; Sea Witch, a 26-ft yawl; Cygnet, a 25-ft Tumlaren sloop; Rani, a 33-ft Roughwater sloop; and Passat V, a 45-ft Ernest Evers ketch.

Martyn & Margaret Clark
www.clarksmaritime.com
San Pedro

Martyn and Margaret — That's a very impressive collection of yachts.

ANOTHER OPTION FOR TRAINING UNDER SAIL

Amanda and I just read your June issue reply to the reader inquiring about cat-specific sail training. As you noted, Richard and Jessica Johnson of Elcie Expeditions do take paying guests on passages aboard their 60-ft aluminum cat Elcie, but they don't do as much formal training as we do on Mahina Tiare III. I don't say that to in any way disparage Richard or Jessica, as Richard was best man at our wedding at Musket Cove in Fiji a few years back.

We actually have had a fair number of cat cruisers join us on our Mahina Tiare expeditions. In fact, one of them, Michael Roberts, will be starting the World ARC with his FP 60 catamaran ViVo in January.

By the way, our 2016 Expedition schedule will be a dream come true for Amanda and me, as it will include stops at Spitsbergen, Jan Mayen, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, St. Kilda and Outer Hebrides. We're planning on hosting a mini-triathlon in Spitsbergen so we don't get too slow or lazy in the meantime.

As for the Wanderer using more than four 55-gallon drums of epoxy during a refit of Profligate, she must be a battleship now.

John Neal
Mahina Tiare III, Hallberg-Rassey 46
South Pacific

Readers — If there's a cruising Hall of Fame, John and Amanda certainly belong in it. After nearly killing himself at age 22 in the early 1970s during his first long cruise, the self-taught John started hosting offshore cruising seminars, and then in 1990 started with his offshore sail-training expeditions. Amanda was doing the Whitbread Around the World Race as part of the women's team in 1990, but would join him a few years later. They host offshore expeditions six months out of the year, and we're not talking about easy passages. For proof, check out their 2015 expedition schedule:

Victoria, B.C. to San Diego, 1,700 miles. San Diego to Acapulco, 1,400 miles. Acapulco to Panama, 1,700 miles. Panama to the British Virgins, 1,500 miles. The British Virgin Islands to the Azores, 2,400 miles. The Azores to Scotland, 1,500 miles. Scotland to Sweden, 900 miles. And when they have students aboard, which is most of time, they provide three to six hours of instruction per day. In their leisure hours, they maintain the boat and boat systems. If you ask us what would be more difficult, singlehanding around the world or teaching a total of 42 students while sailing from Victoria to Sweden over a six-month period, we'd say the latter — and by a nautical mile. And they've been doing it for 23 years. We are in awe.

'TI PROFLIGATE WAS A DELIGHT

I just got back from a 10-day trip in the British Virgins aboard the Latitude publisher's Leopard 45 cat 'ti Profligate, and wanted to let everyone know that she is a marvelous vessel, perfectly outfitted for the area. She doesn't have a lot of unnecessary stuff to break, but has everything we needed, and in abundance. The large water tanks were especially welcome. We had a great time, and I think BVI Yacht Charters is a top-notch outfit as well.

Thanks for making 'ti Profligate available, and feel free to use this as a letter — as long as you don't get so many charters that we won't be able to book her again!

David Herberg
Monte Sereno

David — We're glad you had a great time aboard 'ti Profligate and were treated well by the good folks at BVI Yacht Charters. 'ti indeed "doesn't have a lot of unnecessary stuff to break," which is exactly how we like it. After all, when sailing within the BVIs during daylight hours only, you don't need a lot of extras, and should be concentrating on nature and relaxing, not a bunch of electronic buttons.

When it comes to booking 'ti, it's best to do it well in advance, as she's busy. For example, between now and the middle of next May, 'ti Profligate has just three openings: November 11-28; December 10-26; and February 2-10. Depending on the time of year, the 'big bang for the buck' former Moorings boat — which sleeps eight in four cabins with heads — charters for between $4,350 and $6,550 a week. Call BVI Yacht Charters for details.

For those looking for a little distance and more variety in their charter, 'ti will also be available starting in St. Barth on May 10 for drop-off in the British Virgins between May 20 and 24, ideal for those who want to enjoy St. Barth, St. Martin and a 100+-mile downwind sail to the British Virgins. For the latter charter, contact richard@latitude38.com, not BVI Yacht Charters.

The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca will also running a skippered charter of 'ti Profligate, with three double cabins available, for the St. Barth Bucket in late March and the Voiles de St. Barth in the middle of April. More details on those later.

AN UPDATE ON ALASKA EAGLE

What's the story with Alaska Eagle, the S&S 65 Whitbread vet that has been used by the School of Sailing & Seamanship at Orange Coast College for many years? I heard that she's been sold. I have an emotional attachment to her from when I did a trip on her to Alaska in 1990 and a trip to the South Pacific on her in 1992.

Rob Spakowski
Newport Beach

Rob — Alaska Eagle is still at Orange Coast's docks and she's for sale at $495,000. She's in fabulous condition, and still Coast Guard-certified for up to 14 passengers offshore and 18 near shore. The Dutch, for whom she won the Whitbread, are interested in bringing her home, so if she's your boat, don't hesitate.

Rich and Sherri Crowe, who long maintained and ran Alaska Eagle, report they have sold their fabulous Farr 44 Tabu, which is apparently headed for Seattle. Rich and Sherri bought a couple of acres of land near Kenwood, and the ubertalented Rich is making plans to build a house.

EASIER CATAMARAN REEFING

I have the 46-ft Schionning cat Cheetah, which we sail in Australia, and I have some thoughts about reefing off the wind in a breeze. The cat's mast is 62 feet tall, the sail has a very big roach, and the main is square-topped, so it's not a small rig.

I also use a small Spectra line that is attached to the headboard and is then woven in and out of the cars. To reef downwind, I let the main out until it touches the shrouds so that the battens actually bend around the shroud, but just enough to take the pressure off the batten where it enters the car at the mast. I then preset the main halyard for as far as I want to lower the main. Then I give the Spectra line at the base of the mast a pull, and down comes the main to the preset point. At this time I finish the reef. I have only have had to use the mast winch once to get the head board to move. I learned this trick from an old mono sailor in Australia.

I have done this from the first reef to the third reef when it was blowing 30 knots. By the way, if I told you our downwind speed, you would not believe me.

Maybe the reason you have a hard time reefing is the weight of your cats. A typical Australian cat like mine will weigh around 6 to 7 tons fully loaded, while a typical French cat of the same size would be about 10 tons. Maybe those with the heavier cats should consider reefing when the boat is coming off the wave and the pressure is less on the main.

My cat is eight years old, and only has one triaxial layer on the hulls and cabin. I believe the total weight of the glass was 600 grams. No problems yet, and we have bounced off some docks hard enough to dent the hull, and hit a couple of sand bars hard enough to break daggerboards. I had to get my head around 'heavier is not better' when it comes to all the new glass and epoxy materials. Then there is infusion, which sucks resin through the glass, making the hull even lighter and thinner.

For what it's worth, when the wife and I are alone on the boat, the first reef goes in at 15 knots. The cat often runs just as fast with a reef as without. Many sailors still keep too much main up in heavy winds. Lots of time early reefing means faster speed.

We are back in San Francisco for the Red Bull Youth America's Cup and the the America's Cup. I think you guys will be going to New Zealand for the next Cup. If you make it to the Whitsundays in Australia when you're down that way, give me a call for a sail and sightseeing around the islands.

Steve Halter
Cheetah, Schionning 46 cat
Australia

Steve — Thanks for the tips and the offer. We're still trying get our heads around the idea of being able to relatively effortlessly lower a big main pressed against the shrouds when it's blowing 30 knots. We're not alone in having this problem, as the following letter from Kevin Millet of Kauai, who has built, owned and run private and charter cats for many years, will attest.

We think there are all kinds of reasons for the many different kinds of cats. Some want ultra-high-performance, others are perfectly happy with a stable houseboat that can sail once or twice a year.

There are three compromises you get to choose from/make when deciding on a cat: 1) Performance, which is a function of waterline length, hull beam and weight; 2) Load-carrying ability and comfort, which comes, to a large extent, from length and the beam of the hulls; and 3) Price, which comes from the materials used and the amount of quantity and quality in the interior.

We chose a Kurt Hughes design for Profligate, and 90% of the decision was based on the 63-ft length for easily attained high speeds, and hull volumes, which we correctly guessed would offer the combination of performance and load-carrying capability we were looking for. While we wanted to be able to sail in the low 20s when fully loaded with a crew of 12 without too much trouble when the conditions were right, we also wanted to be able to daysail with up to 35 people, and host a party with over 100. We've done all of these — although we won't do the latter again anytime soon. Had we wanted to go faster, we would have gone with narrower hulls. Had we wanted to host parties with 200, we would have gone with fatter hulls.

The Vinylester and Divinycell construction at Dencho was at the low end of high-tech, but that, combined with the extreme simplicity, was what we could afford. We got the right boat for us, which is all anyone can hope for. Although your cat is very different, we assume you got the same.

As for the America's Cup being over quickly, we wouldn't be so sure.

LEARNING AS YOU GO

Aloha. I am writing to you at the halfway point from Nawiliwili, Kauai, to San Francisco aboard our custom cat Kalewa, getting ready to do our second Ha-Ha. There is no wind right now, so we are motoring.

Let's talk about reefing cats off the wind. Marcie and I had a very scary evening sailing around Pt. Sur on our way to the start of the 2006 Ha-Ha, when the wind built from near zero to 30 and rising in less than an hour. The north swell had already been in the 15-ft range before the wind-created seas built on top of that. As you've been aboard Kalewa, you know that our cat is not the typical heavy French charter cat. She's light.

By the time we realized we had waited too long to reef, we were already hitting 18 to 20 knots. I have sailed Kalewa one hull up on many occasions, so I knew that rounding up into the wind was not an option at this point. I went through the same issues described by Greg Dorland on Escapade. When our mainsail was plastered to the rig and the battens looked like pretzels around the shrouds, we knew we had an issue. Even if we'd had some kind of a downhaul line at the mast, it would have destroyed the battens and most likely shredded the sail.

We have mast steps up to the second spreader, so aloft I went to see if I could 'work' the sail down. Guess how that went?

I did eventually get the sail down, and have since changed some things to deal with similar conditions next time — which have already come and gone. My solution at the time was to release one to two feet of halyard, then take up on the first reef line with the boom winch, thus inching the sail down to the first reef. Then I'd switch to the second reef, foot by foot, keeping enough tension on both so that the main was mostly flat. Yes, this does exceed the America's Cup cardio workout limits. Marcie was stuck at the helm so this was a one-man circus. With one person on the halyard winch and one on the reef winch, it would have gone more easily.

The problem was, I never foresaw this problem. So first, my reef lines were both too short to reach the winch . . . until the sail was down. I had to lengthen my first reef line by knotting another line onto it, then work that knot around and through a self-tailing winch. This required using screwdrivers as pry bars — and much-exasperated cursing. It didn't help that it was dark. Since I had not foreseen this whole issue, the next problem was that it never occurred to me to put clutches on each reef line. Without clutches, how do you remove the highly-loaded first reef line from the winch to allow room for the second reef line? More strings and knots. Most of which later required cutting away, because the knots were pretty much welded.

Kalewa now has clutches. And we reef much earlier, at least when we don't have several deck apes as crew. The inch-by-inch technique does work, but make sure you have an hour or two to get it done.

Kevin Millet
Kalewa, Custom 52 cat
Kauai, Hawaii

FURLING MAINS HELP WHEN REEFING

The August issue had some letters on the subject of reefing a cat off the wind, and it also had the interview with Jim and Kent Milski, who adhered to the 'reef early' credo while doing their three-year circumnavigation on Sea Level.

I never was caught in a big blow aboard my 40-ft catamaran Oboe, but the team in New Zealand who rigged her said there were two essentials for reefing while sailing downwind in a blow: a roller furling boom and an electric winch.

Here's the one-man drill: 1) Set the boom at the proper angle with the topping lift and the mainsheet. (The proper angle is critical because it's necessary for the main to roll evenly into the boom along the luff and leach.) 2) Take three turns on the winch with the roller furling line, hit the winch switch, and tension the furl line. 3) Take two turns above the roller furling line with the main halyard. 4) With both tails in your left hand, throw the clutch on the main halyard. The tensioned roller furling might pull in a half-inch of main, with the halyard now tensioned on the drum of the winch. 5) Your left hand now has the roller furl tail; your right hand has the main halyard tail. Using your foot or knee, hit the switch for the electric winch. 6) As the winch turns, the left hand pulls the roller furling lead while the right hand slacks, paying out on the main halyard, letting it slip on the winch drum. All this takes place in measured time — one hopes. Both lines remain tensioned, but the slip on the drum of the halyard keeps the main rolling in — slowly and tightly.

It's an easily rehearsed exercise, but getting the main onto the roller furling boom mandrel in a neat and tidy fashion does require some practice.

Jay Bliss
Oboe, 40-ft cat
St. Augustine

Readers — We've heard from a number of cat sailors who have had very good experiences reefing furling mains.

LOOKING FOR A FAMILY TREASURE

My dad helps run the BAADS (Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors) organization out of San Francisco, but I'm on a hunt for a schooner that my brother-in-law's grandfather and grandmother built nearly 80 years ago. Since the boat has some Southern California connections — including Bob's Big Boy hamburgers — I hope Latitude readers might be able to help. It's a pretty interesting story as outlined a few years ago by Caleb Chung, my brother-in-law:

"After retiring from a career in the US Navy in 1930, Caleb Crandall, my maternal grandfather, built his dream vessel in the Bahamas. She was Teepee, a 110-ft overall and 85-ft on deck schooner that was 33 feet wide and drew 15 feet. Unusually, both her masts were stepped on deck, allowing for unobstructed spaciousness down below. To theoretically protect the schooner from the many reefs in the Bahamas, her bottom was covered in a layer of cement.

"Caleb got divorced and married a younger woman named Tony. They sailed together, did some research work for the U.S. Navy, and chartered now and then. Caleb’s goal was to sail Teepee to the Naval Base in Long Beach Harbor to show her off to his buddies. But he never made it, as he passed away at sea one day while waiting for his coffee. His new wife and a crewmember sailed Teepee back to the islands, and a short while later Tony married a Mexican national. This is where the story gets strange.

"Sometime later, Tony was struck by lightning and died. By Mexican law, Teepee went directly to Tony's new husband and out of our family. She was sold a short time later.

"It's unclear what happened to Teepee in the ensuing years, but in the mid-1950s, Bob Wian, founder of the Bob's Big Boy hamburger chain, was sitting at the bar of the Hotel Guaymas in Guaymas. According to the legend, Wian was having shooters of Double Eagle scotch when he looked up and saw a dilapidated schooner anchored in the bay as a signpost for the hotel. It was Teepee.

"Despite her sorry state, Wian fell in love with her, bought her from the hotel and brought her to his homeport of Newport Beach. She was completely restored, rechristened the Double Eagle and, after serving as the flagship of his fishing fleet, became his personal yacht. Bob Sloan, a well known and respected Newport Beach sailor, became the captain.

"Wian had friends in Hollywood. So after the film The Wackiest Ship in the Army, starring Jack Lemmon, became a success, they decided to make a television series of the same name, but starring Jack Warden and Gary Collins. The movie had been shot in Hawaii using the schooner Fiesta, but Double Eagle was used in the television show, and appeared in every episode.

"Skipper Sloan so fell in love with the schooner that he and his wife Monica built their own 70-ft schooner Spike Africa along Double Eagle's lines. She became well known up and down the West Coast.

"The story then gets hazy again. Wian apparently sold or gave Double Eagle to a man named Kenny Thorell, after which I lost her trail. Some rumors say Double Eagle was later involved in smuggling, others say she has been seen in the Bahamas.

"As I write this I'm in my mid-40s and I suppose some of my grandfather's inventiveness rubbed off on me. I make my living as a toy inventor, and my wife and I co-invented the Furby toy that was the big craze in ’98 and ’99. We’re still inventing toys, but looking to possibly retire on a ship of our own someday. It's too much to hope for that I’ll find my grandfather’s schooner, but it’s a great hunt and a wonderful dream."

That's how my brother-in-law's report went. If anybody knows anything about Double Eagle, I'd sure like to hear about it. I can be reached at .

Briana Breen
San Francisco


 

 

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