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September 2017

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AMONG ALL-TIME INFLUENTIAL YACHTS

I loved August's cover photo of the Bill Lee-designed and built Lee 67 Merlin. She looks fabulous heading for the Transpac finish line off Diamond Head. Despite being 40 years old, she finished third in class and ninth in fleet, beating all but one other similar sled on elapsed time. Incredible for such an old design! I couldn't be happier for visionary Bill Lee, who owns the boat once again, and for Merlin.

I wonder how many younger sailors, even Northern California sailors, realize what a historic yacht Merlin is. She was the first big ultralight sled, and a heretical design in that she was so light and built not to correct out in races but rather to take line honors.

There were a lot of skeptics, but Lee and Merlin not only proved them wrong but launched an entire movement that eventually influenced almost all of yacht design. Naturally, this included all the boats in Lee's Santa Cruz line from the 27 to the Santa Cruz 70, but also competing lines such as the Olsons, and eventually yacht design all over the world.
It's subjective, of course, but I'd put Merlin right up there with Dorade and Imp in terms of all-time influential yachts. All hail the Wizard and Merlin!

Ed Richter
San Diego

Ed — We at Latitude are just as happy as you about Merlin's performance in the Transpac.

It might be argued that the 62-ft John Spencer design Infidel, built in New Zealand in 1964, which later became much more famous as Ragtime, was the first sled. She is a long, light, very narrow hard-chined yacht. She was quite successful, including in the Transpac, but unlike Merlin, which was built 13 years later, she didn't start a movement.

We know exactly how old Merlin is because her launch was featured in the first issue of Latitude. In the second issue we covered Bill Lee singlehanding Merlin in the first Singlehanded Farallones Race. It was a ballsy thing for Bill to do, because at the time singlehanding any size boat was considered to be extremely dangerous; because Merlin was still untested in rough conditions; and because gale-force winds knocked about 85% of the starters out of the race.

One of the conditions of Lee's entering Merlin in that inaugural Singlehanded Farallones Race was that somebody come aboard and help him drop the sails at the finish line, which back then was in the Oakland Estuary. As fate would have it, the Wanderer was the person appointed to help Bill.

After we got the sails down, we went down to the nav station so Bill could calculate his average speed coming back from the Farallones. As we recall, he and Merlin averaged 14 knots, and that was with several reefs in the main and flying only a small jib. It was a historic moment that we only came to appreciate years later. — rs


ANCHORING 101

I wasn't at Drake's Bay when California Condor went aground in the middle of the night while at anchor, as reported in the August 16 'Lectronic. I've run a charter boat in the British Virgins for years now, although I have spent my share of time on San Francisco Bay and up at Drake's Bay. But the request for comments as to how the other boats managed not to go aground begs the question.

1) The crew on Condor probably didn't use a suitable anchor. A Fortress is an excellent anchor — providing it digs in and the boat doesn't swing. Digging in can be the hard part, because a Fortress is made out of aluminum and is very light. I am guessing Condor's anchor weighed no more than 15 lbs, which wouldn't be enough to penetrate sea grass or kelp. It generally takes at least 35 or 40 pounds of anchor to do that, which for a Fortress would be impossibly huge. So, for starters, I'm guessing the wrong type and size anchor was used for the conditions.

It also helps if the anchor is a design that tolerates swinging. The Spade, Rocna and Bruce type anchors come to mind. So Condor started with an inappropriate anchor type, sized quite small and light. Then she rafted to two other boats, and as I read it, expected all three to stay put on the small, for the circumstances, Fortress.

2) No doubt Condor has a GPS, and no doubt it has an anchor alarm. It is always appropriate to set this alarm, even more so when there is any doubt as to whether an anchor might drag.

3) There is a good chance that Condor's depthsounder had a shallow depth alarm. If they had one and it was properly set, the alarm would have gone off before they grounded.

So as far as I'm concerned, it boils down to Anchoring 101, and a little realism, not magic or wishful thinking. Thankfully, the damage was slight, but disregard of the fundamentals of anchoring can easily lead to much worse. Consider it a cheap lesson.

Tim Schaaf
Jetstream, Leopard 45
Roadtown, Tortola, BVI

Tim — The crew on Condor are very experienced, so we suspect it was a case of complacency, not ignorance.

Yes, anchor size does matter. If Condor had had a Fortress FX-125 anchor, like the one on Profligate, we don't think they would have dragged. Unfortunately, the FX-125 weighs 70 pounds, is 56 inches long, and is 45 inches wide, so it really wouldn't fit on a mid-size racing boat. — rs

Readers — For more on the Drake's Bay Race and some of the fleet's resulting snafus, see our feature on pages 82-85 of this issue. — cw

PHONE AND DATA AT THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

Latitude asked if anybody gets Internet at the Channel Islands. My Jeanneau 36 Mojo lives in Santa Barbara and we make regular trips out to the Channel Islands. My phone is on the AT&T network, although I don't use AT&T. It's complicated, so don't ask.

I think there may be an AT&T tower on Santa Cruz Island, as I get very good reception at Smugglers on the east end of Santa Cruz Island, and I get some reception at the Forney's Cove on the west end. There's generally some signal all down the front side, meaning the north shore, of Santa Cruz Island. There's little to no signal on the back side of the island.

I've gotten decent reception atBechers Bay on Santa Rosa Island. I don't know if the signal is coming from Santa Cruz or the mainland.

I haven't had the chance to test the signal on San Miguel Island, but I don't expect there would be any.

I have an app that maps the location of the tower that I'm on. The next time I'm out at Santa Cruz Island I'll use it to figure out where the signal is coming from.
In contrast to the Wanderer's experience, I've had terrible reception on Catalina, particularly at Avalon, where I was just last week. There's always a signal, but you often can't get any service during the day when day-trippers and/or cruise ships are in town and people are overloading the network. There's generally a bit better signal in the evenings.

Two Harbors has better service. It's not fast, but it is reliable. I suspect that cruisers coming down the coast in the fall will have better experience at Catalina when the island is a lot less busy. In any case, if you want really fast service all you have to do is sail a mile or so offshore of Catalina. Your phone will pick up service off the mainland.

David Kramer
Mojo, Jeanneau 36i
Santa Barbara

Readers — Several other responses about phone and Internet service can be found in this month's Cruise Notes on pages 126-127. — rs

THE PROBLEM WITH THE HUMAN RACE

Shauna and I keep our Gulfstar 50 Spirit at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard and frequently cruise three of the outer Channel Islands — Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel ­­— frequently. We look forward to the 'forced' checking-out/dropping-out from the 'idiocracy' of the fast-paced, instant-gratification world so many of us live in. So as far as we're concerned, thank goodness the outer islands lack Internet. It weeds out the people who otherwise would be clogging up the beautiful anchorages.

If I were with the Wanderer now, and he repeated his claim that, "If it were up to us, there would be high-speed Internet access all over the world. After all, it should be a basic human right up there with shelter and food," my response would be "What the hell?!" And I'd call B.S. on it.

The problem with the human race is that people are too connected in the digital realm, and not connected enough with nature and being alone with themselves. I don't mean isolationism, but rather being present with your loved one, friends or family — or self —and not distracted by texting, posting, etc., but being present in the place that you're at.

May the outer Channel Islands never have Internet! All one really needs is a VHF and some WX radio reception. Heck, there is already the Pacific Missile Test Range and major drones — yep, I've seen 'em. — out there at the islands. How much more technology do you need?

Tom Varley of Tom Varley & the Sundogs
Spirit, Gulfstar 50
Channel Islands

Tom — Back in 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote an influential paper on the basic human needs. The critical needs he identified were self-actualization, esteem, love/belonging, safety, and psychological well-being.

Maslow's list has since been debunked as being "as quacky as medical treatments of the Middle Ages." It's now widely recognized that the Eight Essential Human Needs are as follows: 1) Water. 2) Food. 3) Shelter. 4) Clothing. 5) Sex. 6) A sailboat. 7) Reliable high-speed Internet. And 8) Pizza.

The Wanderer's list of Basic Human Rights was a send-up. But we do notice that you responded to it by email. We're also noting that apparently there already is Internet service at parts of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. — rs

WE HAVE THEM ALL, BUT STILL . . .

We were very sorry to hear about the loss of the Leopard 46 Tanda Malaika on a reef off Huahine last month. According to the owners, they hit a reef that wasn't marked on their Navionics chart — although others report that even the old Navionics charts show the reef.

On our Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow we have Garmin chartplotters, Navionics charts on our iPads, various electronic charting available through the iNavX iPad app, three iPad apps that utilize Google Earth and/or Bing Satellite imagery, paper charts and radar.

All the navigation products are very accurate — at times.

But in the South Pacific in particular, we've also found that they sometimes disagree. And sometimes all of the charting products are laughably inaccurate.

In Fiji, which has many reefs, we found that the satellite imagery-based navigation apps were indispensable. But they have their limits, too, such as clouds over the route you are planning to take.

The tragic end of Tanda Malaika's passage to Huahine reminded us of our passage to that island last year. We had plotted a route that kept us outside the 300-ft depth contours, but as our GPS track in the accompanying graphic shows, we had to make an abrupt turn to port to give us more sea room around the reef that juts out from Huahine's western shore.

We only did this after my son asked if we weren't getting a bit close the surf line. We looked up, and to our horror found that we were only about 900 feet from the surf — and headed toward it! Had it been nighttime, we almost certainly would have ended up on that reef.

Despite all of our resources mentioned above, we had become a bit complacent, relying only on the Garmin chartplotter to plan the course for this passage. As the accompanying images show, Garmin shows depth contours of 200, 328, and over 600 feet — in the same area where we found 10-ft breakers!

To their credit, Garmin placed a thin dotted line where the reef exists, but users of the product only learn the meaning of the dotted line by hovering the cursor over the line, which then calls up the warning "Danger Line."

How Garmin gets away with showing those deep depth contours inside the reef is beyond us. Our Navionics electronic charting does a better job of showing the reef, but we didn't crosscheck the route for this passage, using only the Garmin. But we wonder if this might not be the same place where Tanda Malaika came to grief.

Two important reminders on this subject:

First, many chartplotters will only show important hazards below a certain zoom level, so it is important to routinely zoom all the way into the closest scale, then back out.

Second, the water on these reefs is not very deep, not like the massive acreage of somewhat deep whitewater you typically find along California's coastal surf spots. Viewed from seaward, the huge waves breaking on reefs are blue, and do not look like surf until you're really, really close or actually in them. And once you're in the shallow water of these reefs, it's almost impossible to get off.

Finally, let me share some advice I learned back in 1971 from the legendary South Pacific skipper Omer Darr upon our arrival at Huahine aboard the 58-ft gaff schooner Fairweather: Never approach South Pacific Islands at night!

Omer was an extremely experienced and respected schooner captain who'd made scores of trips to the South Pacific aboard big schooners such as Te Vega and Wanderer. When we arrived at Huahine before dawn, Omer had us heave Fairweather to well offshore. So aboard Moonshadow, we always plan our departures to arrive after at places like that at sunrise. If we arrive at a destination too early, we'll heave to rather than push on into an unknown anchorage.

P.S. While we're departing Fiji for Vanuatu tonight, and then on to New Caledonia and Australia, we're still looking forward to doing another Baja Ha-Ha one of these days.

John and Deb Rogers
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62
San Diego

Readers — Unfortunately, we cannot reproduce the Garmin chartplotter chart in enough detail to show the dotted line of danger going through an area of what's indicated to be very deep water. — rs

NO CHARTS CAN BE TRUSTED OUTRIGHT

I don't know any more about the Ventura-based Leopard 46 cat Tanda Malaika's going onto the reef near Huahine than was reported on their website, so I won't speculate on it. But as my wife and I are cruising with our three children on our family boat/home, it was sad for us to read about the Govatos family — four children — losing their family boat/home.

We have been cruising in Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia since the 2014 Puddle Jump. We're certainly not 'old salts' at cruising, but as a former engineering officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, I tend to be a bit analytical.

While I cannot speak to the particular incident, I suspect the case of Tanda Malaika was not so much a Navionics issue, but rather an electronic charting issue in general. We use both C-Map and Navionics, and neither can be trusted outright just because they show up on a computer screen. The S-57 ENC charts are well beyond our budget, but I doubt would be any better outside the commercial routes.

Our experience is that the following problems arise outside the United States and Canada:

1) Datum error. While the features on the chart may be geometrically correct relative to one another, all of the features may be offset by up to several miles. In our experience, this has been the most common issue.

2) Missing data. Sometimes features are simply not shown on the chart.

3) Incorrect data. Sometimes the data is simply not correct, even if plotted in the correct location. For example, in one of the atolls of the Tuomotus, all the bommies were plotted as being 16 feet below chart datum. In reality, some are significantly less deep and would cause problems if you tried to sail over one.

4) Scaling. This was one of the lead factors for Vestas going on the reef in the around-the-world Volvo Race. I would not be surprised if scaling wasn't also a factor in some cruising yacht groundings, too. For as one scrolls to a lower scale, you do not always lose data in a linear way, but whole features — such as an entire atoll — can disappear from view. This is worse if you're working from a small screen.

If you start with what one of my former bosses called a 'healthy level of skepticism' for charts, you can identify areas of higher risk along your intended route. These risks can then be mitigated somewhat by:

1) Mark 1 Eyeball. In other words, choosing to pass through the high-risk areas with good light behind you and with crew positioned where they can spot the shoals. This is obviously very limiting, as there are only so many hours of good light, the clouds may thwart your good planning, and the manning requirement ruins any watch rotation.

2) Satellite imagery. There are various ways to use satellite imagery when offline. I wrote a blog post about it awhile ago after meeting so many boats in the yard in Fiji that had smacked into reefs. Again, this is not a panacea, as it requires advance planning when you do have Internet, and there are some gaps in the data. For example, we found a reef in Tuvalu that did not show on Google, Bing or Nokia.

There are various tools for using satellite imagery, including SAS Planet, Ovitel Maps, and GEKAP/OpenCPN. We personally use SAS Planet to review any intended route and potential ports of refuge prior to heading out. It can also be used to fine-tune where to drop anchor in areas where you may otherwise find it too tight.

3) Radar is unlikely to help you avoid reefs directly, as they either have no radar return or, if there are breaking waves or maybe a bit of reef above the sea, a minimal return. However, if there is higher land that presents a clearly identifiable signature, you can use the radar to estimate the chart datum offsets for that local area. We use radar as part of our standard operating procedure if we are rounding an island at night, to ensure we are standing off a sufficient distance.

There is nothing new here, but hopefully a reminder for those out here in the South Pacific.

Max Shaw and Family
Fluenta, Stevens 47
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Readers — Max has promised to send a letter explaining how to use satellite imagery to help in navigation. For a preview, go to http://sv-fluenta.blogspot.com/2016/11/using-satellite-imagery-to-assist.html. — rs

ELECTRONIC CHARTS COME WITH WARNINGS

Do not all electronic navigation apps, upon start-up, have a warning that states: "The rules of prudent navigation say that one should never rely on a single source of information, but instead reference multiple chart systems operating simultaneously at different zoom levels, plus radar, echo sounder, and proper planning with things like Sailing Directions, etc.?"Actually, this is a quote from Navionics' website.

I would add that paper charts should also be carried, especially in less-traveled areas. According to the Navionics website, only about 10% of the Earth is accurately charted, which is a smaller percentage than of the moon or even Mars!

So once again, a dubiously or questionably — probably both — prepared sailor loses his boat, almost his life and those of his family, because someone suggested that world cruising was within his skill set. I wonder where he got that idea?

I have heard professional mariners say that electronic navigation has 'ruined' cruising. Having a couple hundred thousand sea miles, I share that view. I think a lot of the problem is that boat brokers and certain media portray cruising as a walk in the park.

Now if only someone would provide me — via a GoFundMe account — with a new boat, so I can get on with this charade.

Captain Dane Faber
Wafi, Island 28
La Paz/Sausalito

Capt. Dane — You may be the exception, but it is generally recognized that 'to err is human'. In a previous letter, John and Debbie Rogers, who are very experienced and careful offshore sailors, and who have all the navigation tools you could want, reported they nearly went onto the same reef at Huahine that Tanda Malaika did. Shit happens.

You would be wrong to assume that professional mariners don't make mistakes. In 40 years of publishing Latitude, we can't count the number of times when professional mariners made stupid mistakes. An aircraft carrier going aground off Alameda, container ships hitting various bridges in the Bay despite having pilots aboard, big yachts getting the tops of their masts clipped off by bridges that were too low, full charter boats being run aground at Fort Point and Point Loma — the list goes on and on.

We've also reported on countless instances of amateurs, often with very little experience and minimum equipment, enjoying trouble-free, multi-year circumnavigations.

All of life is a risk, of course, even walking across the street. To be sure, sailing offshore and/or among poorly charted islands is a greater than normal risk. Nonetheless, a lot of people, ourselves included, embrace such calculated risks, knowing that perhaps the biggest risk of all is not taking any risks.

Electronic navigation has "ruined cruising"? Maybe you and other professionals could explain exactly what you mean by that, because it's rather vague.

We understand that GoFundMe projects offend a lot of members of older generations. But the world changes, and a lot of younger folks don't see anything wrong with it.

DIFFERENT DEVICE, DIFFERENT CHART?

I was just catching up on 'Lectronic when I came across the piece on the Leopard 46 that was lost on Huahine. You may already be aware of this, but there is an interesting thread on this subject on www.cruisersfoum.com (see www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f90/leopard-46-lost-in-french-polynesia-stunning-rescue-pictures-188429-17.html). In posts 247 and 250, Evans Starzinger shows that the chart of the southern end of Huahine on the tablet/phone app differs quite a bit from the chart on the web app. Specifically, the reef that Tanda Malaika hit is not shown on the tablet/phone app.

Earlier in the thread, others demonstrate that the Navionics charts are pretty spot-on and correlate well with satellite imagery.

Mike Reed
Rum Doxy, 46-ft custom cat
Santa Barbara

Mike — For reasons we can't explain, others, such as Jason Shell of the catamaran Two Fish, claim that the reef that the catamaran hit does show up on their Navionics iPad. Maybe it was a scaling error. In any event, the skipper ofTanda Malaika was using Navionics on a chartplotter. — rs

CHARTS OF LORETO AND ALTATA

One doesn't have to go as far as the South Pacific for issues with the accuracy of Navionics charts. For example, for several years SEMAR has made detailed charts of Loreto and Altata available, yet Navionics has not updated their charts. C-MAP has.

David and Michelle Stapells
Pelagia, Sceptre 41
Vancouver, BC

David and Michelle — There are errors in the Navionics charts of Mexico. But to be honest, we don't know of any completely accurate charts of Mexico. Fortunately, compared to other places in the world, there are relatively few hazards. It's also fortunate that the cruising guides to Mexico publish accurate GPS coordinates at critical locations. — rs

FRANCE HAS DONE AWAY WITH THE GUILLOTINE

The loss of Tanda Malaikais a sad, sad story. But I think it was piss poor seamanship to enter a difficult, and to the skipper unknown, location at night. You have got to wonder how stupid this decision was with four children and a wife aboard, not to mention the damage to the reef. Too bad France has done away with the guillotine.

Klaus Kutz
Sea Otter, Freedom 30
Alameda

Klaus — Not only do we think your letter is uncommonly nasty, it's riddled with errors. For example, there are lots of places — most of the United States, Canada and Europe — where electronic charts and paper charts are almost always very accurate. Although in the case of electronic charts, you do have to know how to read them and understand the nuances. Secondly, the Govatos family wasn't "entering" anywhere, they were going along a coastline. How could they have gone aground? We refer you to John and Debbie Rogers' letter earlier in this section.

As has been pointed out, the loss of Tanda Malaika can probably be attributed to less than perfectly prudent seamanship, but your comment about the guillotine is completely out of line. But in an off-the-subject but interesting historical note, the guillotine remained France's standard method of judicial execution until capital punishment was banned in 1981. The last person to be executed in France was Hamida Djandoubi, who was guillotined on September 10, 1977. — rs

TRUST, BUT VERIFY

It was with sadness that I read about the loss of Tanda Malaika on a reef at Huahine. It reminded me of a similar incident where a very capable friend relied exclusively on electronics for navigation. He later recalled an old tried and true adage, "Trust, but verify." He now carries a full set of paper charts in addition to electronic charts.

John McNeill
Yankee, 1906 53-ft Stone schooner
San Francisco/Petaluma

John — 'Trust but verify' is a phrase that was made famous by President Reagan in 1987 after signing the INF Treaty with Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. The irony is that the phrase is actually a famous Russian proverb.

When it comes to navigation, the Wanderer prefers 'Doubt, doubt again, then proceed with extreme caution', using all possible tools — electronic charts, depthsounder, radar, vision, Google Earth, smell and anything else.

As electronic charts are almost entirely based on paper chart data, some of it ancient, we've never understood why some mariners think paper charts are so important. The only advantage we can see is that you can make notes on paper charts when you get navigation tips from fellow cruisers, and electronic charts do have a few nuances.

As we're sure most readers are aware, the US government stopped printing nautical charts on paper because the market for them all but disappeared, although such charts are still available on demand. — rs

OUR NAVIONICS HAVE BEEN REASONABLY ACCURATE

We have sailed from Victoria, Canada, to Mexico, the Marquesas, the Tuamotos, the Societies — including Huahine —Niue, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. In general, and particularly in French Polynesia, our Navionics charts have been reasonably accurate. They show the occasional nonexistent island, but when checked against radar and satellite overlays, they are normally accurate.

Like all other electronic charts, Navionics charts are not, however, great when navigating among the reefs in Fiji, and thus satellite overlays can be very helpful. But in our experience, all the islands and most reefs are clearly marked on Navionics charts.

We are familiar with the location where the Leopard 46 went onto the reef at Huahine. I feel very sorry for the family, but the reef is clearly and accurately shown on our up-to-date Navionics charts for iPad. I gather that the boat hit the reef in darkness, and that they'd been very close to the island. It is very important to stand well off all obstructions in the South Pacific, unless you have clear visibility. At night, we always give ourselves 2-5 miles clearance to allow for chart inaccuracies.

We have updated our charts regularly, which is important, on both the MFD and iPad. However, even our 2011 version of Navionics on our C80 chartplotter seemed very accurate in French Polynesia. It certainly showed the reef in question off Huahine, so when we went by at night, we stood several miles off for safety.

Ted Simper
Roundabout II, Moody 40
Edmonton, AB

Ted — Your letter brings up the critical matter of expectations. On the one hand, you say the Navionics charts have been "reasonably accurate" in the South Pacific, yet you also report that you stay 2-5 miles off islands at night because of "chart inaccuracies." That might seem to be a contradiction, but we assume it's all about expectations. You expect the charts to be accurate to within yards in the United States and Canada, but you don't expect anywhere near that accuracy in the poorly charted South Pacific. It's the assumption that we also make.

The folks on the Voyage 43 Quixotic in Fiji sent us the two accompanying graphics, one of the Navionics chart and one of the same area using Google Earth. We'll let everyone decide for themselves if the Navionics falls in their realm of "reasonably accurate."

We're sorry to have devoted so much space to this topic, but we felt the subject justified it. — rs

EPIRBS VERSUS TWO-WAY SATELLITE MESSENGERS

I was the captain of the J/120 that was sunk by a whale in the first leg of the 2009 Baja Ha-Ha. My crew and I had to set off our EPIRB and get into the liferaft. Based on my experience and the comments of the Coast Guard, I would like to express an opinion on whether or not the InReach is a good substitute for an EPIRB, something the Wanderer has suggested.

Although I adore the Garmin InReach — and all the other modern tools mariners have to communicate with the world from at sea — the Coast Guard told me that my crew and I would not be alive had it not been for the EPIRB. They told me that the little EPIRB, when set off, provides them with so much information. They also told me that they will "go to Timbuktu" for anyone who sets off an EPIRB.

The Coasties also told me they would rather mariners set off EPIRBs too early rather than too late or not at all. "If you're a mariner who thinks things are going bad, turn on your EPIRB, and we'll gladly fly over you," they said. "If there is nothing wrong and you wave at us and say, 'Oops, my bad, everything is good,' we don't mind." They say at the very least it's good training for them, and they will be happy it was just a false alarm.

I was told that our rescue was one of just 7% that were "textbook," meaning all of us were rescued alive, that we'd had the proper equipment — EPIRB, PFDs, liferaft, VHF radio — and we didn't freak out. According to the Coast Guard, something is not 'textbook' in 93% of their rescue attempts. For example, someone died, they didn't find somebody, the victim(s) didn't have a PFD or radio, or something like that.

The Wanderer is correct; it was frustrating as hell for us in the liferaft that EPIRBs don't have two-way communication capability, and thus we had no idea if our call for help had been heard or when help might come. But my two cents is that while I love all the new technology, I would still have the EPIRB good and ready, because it's an EPIRB that will bring the good ol' Coast Guard, even if we're at "Timbuktu," to save us.

P.S. I'm so happy the Wanderer still thinks of me!

Captain Eugenie Russell
Sayulita, Mexico

Capt. Eugenie — We think of you all the time, and remember what a professional job you did for your crew in the crisis situation following the sinking of your boat.

As we recall, you had pulled into Ensenada to fix a bad alternator or something, so were a day or more behind the bulk of the Ha-Ha fleet, and thus nobody in the fleet was in VHF range. So the Coasties may well have been correct in telling you that were it not for the EPIRB, you probably wouldn't have survived.

But you're reading a little too much into the Coasties' statement, as in 2009 the EPIRB was the only such satellite-based SOS signaling device available. It wasn't until a year later that DeLorme introduced what has now become the Garmin InReach, a two-way messaging device that uses satellites to send calls for help and other messages, and to receive responses. That was using the Globalstar satellite system, which has some severe geographical limitations. The DeLorme, now Garmin InReach, eventually moved on to the superior Iridium satellite system that covers the entire world.

What difference would it have made if you'd had a Garmin InReach as opposed to an EPIRB back in 2009? While it's true that it would have taken a few more minutes for the Coast Guard, which receives EPIRB signals directly, to get your distress call via the GEOS system used by InReach, your InReach distress call would have not only also indicated your exact location, but it would have allowed you to report the nature of your emergency, how many crew were aboard, whether any of you were injured, what kind of flares and radio equipment you had, and so forth.

On the Coast Guard's end, they could have informed you that your distress call had been received, that a helicopter was on the way, and when the helicopter was expected to arrive. We can only imagine what that would have done for the morale of you and your crew in the liferaft, who, as darkness fell, had no idea if anybody had heard your distress call and/or was coming.

To each their own, but if we had to choose between an EPIRB and an InReach, we'd happily have the rescue take a few minutes longer in order for us to precisely describe our emergency and situation, and, very importantly, know if our call for help had been heard and when help was going to arrive. We think it's also very beneficial to the Coast Guard to know in advance the nature of any emergency they are responding to.

And, Eugenie, think about your friend the Grand Poobah. We had to spend the better part of an afternoon and night worrying ourselves sick about you and your crew, knowing only that you had set off your EPIRB. Had you had an InReach, you could have sent us a message saying that you and your crew were in a raft and safe, then that the Coast Guard helicopter had arrived, and finally when you were safe back on the ground in San Diego. Heck, from inside the liferaft you could have posted details of the entire experience on Facebook so none of your family or friends had to worry unduly either.

Just so nobody is mistaken, based on our conversations with SAR personnel in Alameda and Boston, the Coast Guard will not make any less of an effort to save someone because a call for help came from a device other than an EPIRB. If they have reason to believe, from no matter what source, that you're in danger, they will do all that is humanly possible to save you. Although to be honest, if someone has an emergency in Timbuktu, rather than respond themselves, the Coast Guard would contact emergency responders in Mali, such as they are.

As we reported last month, GEOS, which handles the emergency communications between those in distress and the Coast Guard and other rescue agencies, is not some rinky-dink outfit. Based out of Houston, they have infrastructure hubs in San Jose, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Marrakesh and Perth. Since they were founded less than 10 years ago, they have been instrumental in more than 19,000 rescue attempts. Each rescue attempt is summarized on their web page. To date, most GEOS-assisted rescues have been of hikers, off-road vehicle operators, aviators and such. There have been marine-related rescues too, but not as many because almost every offshore boat already has an EPIRB.

The best of all worlds, of course, is to have both an EPIRB and something like an InReach — if not an Iridium sat phone, too. In the big scheme of outfitting a boat for a cruise, the first two devices don't cost all that much. But still, if we were on a strict budget and could only afford one, we'd always get the InReach because of its two-way communication capability.— rs

YOU REALLY NEED A THIRD ARM

At some point in your boat-owning career, it's likely that you'll have to tension the belt(s) on your engine. If the belt(s) are hard to get at, and you used some kind of lever to pry things apart to create the proper amount of tension, you realize you really need a third arm and third hand to maintain the tension while you tighten the bolt.

It turns out there is a tool to make the job easy. I've had one for a long time, but never had a chance to use it until last month on Katherine II, a friend's boat. It worked great. I wish I knew the name of it and where you could get one.

Jim 'Twinger' Tantillo
Fairfield

Readers — 'Twinger', one of our favorite Baja Ha-Ha crew on Profligate, later reported that Jeff Berman of Catalina 36 Fleet #9 discovered the device is called a Belt-Jack BJ10 by SUPCO.It can be found online with Amazon and a few others. MSC had the lowest price of $22.85. — rs

THE THINGAMAJIG IS A BELT-TENSIONING JACK

What Twinger was referring to is a simple yet ingenious little tool that allows you to easily make belt adjustments part of your regular maintenance routine. Once you have one of these little babies you will never go back to the pry-bar method. They come in different sizes, so you should measure the span on your engine before purchasing.

I bought my 'belt-tensioning jack' at www.mscdirect.com/product/details/35438209.

P.S. See you on the SoCal Ta-Ta!

Scott Stephens
Santana, Catana 411
Channel Islands

THEY MUST BE FREE TO ROTATE

While you can buy ready-made versions of a tool to tighten fan/pulley belts, I/we conjured up our own back in the late 1960s. It's just a turnbuckle with jaw ends, fitted with small blocks of hardwood, held in place between the sides of the jaws with the clevis pin. The outer surfaces of the blocks are shaped to match the curves of the fittings that need tightening — in our case the alternator case.

To use, one simply selects a small turnbuckle that will fit between the opposing fittings — with the blocks of course — when the ends are retracted. By extending the turnbuckle ends, one can adjust the tension on the belt. Do not place the turnbuckle between the pulley wheels themselves, of course, as they must be free to rotate slightly as one adjusts the belt tension.

I still have our original fan-belt tightener from the '60s in my toolbox aboard our boat, and it still works!

Scott and Kitt Kearney
HyLyte, Beneteau First 42
Southwest Florida

ARE THEY WORTH IT?

The belt-tensioner devices are worth every penny!

David Moore
Brother Goose, North American 40
Monterey

FIND THE MATERIALS AT THE HARDWARE STORE

You can make your own belt tensioner, as it's basically a long nut with a bolt at each end. You can find the materials at most hardware stores. But when using one, be careful not to tighten the belt too much. If you do, the bearings and water pumps will wear out too quickly.

Clark Tabor
Itchy Feet, Yorktown 41
Rosario, Orcas Island, WA

BUILT-IN BELT TENSIONERS

I think Arlo Nish, who built the Wylie 65 ketch Saga and sailed her around the world with his family twice, did these devices one better. When we bought Saga, we found that all the brackets that are normally used to adjust and hold belt tension had been replaced with turnbuckles! Some of the turnbuckles had a few modifications, to make them look like the bracket between the top of the motor and the alternator in your photo (which I've copied below). But adjusting tension and changing a belt was a breeze!

Ever since, as I replaced belts on Saga and now replace them on the schooner Mayan, I replace the brackets with a turnbuckle so I don't have to use tools to adjust the tension.

Beau Vrolyk
Mayan, 74-ft schooner
Santa Cruz

DON'T GET SCREWED IN THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE

When I did the Baja Bash north in July, I bought 80 gallons of diesel in Turtle Bay from the concession on the pier. I was charged the equivalent of $10/gallon.

I paid in pesos or it would have been more expensive, as they were using a 13-to-1 exchange rate. The official exchange rate was more like 18 to 1.

I understand the concept of supply and demand, but in my 25 years of traveling Mexico, I have never been gouged anywhere near this badly.

I figure I could almost save money by buying a fuel bladder and avoid stopping at Turtle Bay at all.

Hans Petermann
Vamonos

Hans — You're not the first person to report the extremely high prices being charged in Turtle Bay this summer.
Here's a tip for all southbound cruisers. Always pay in pesos whenever possible, or you'll often pay an extra 10 to 20% for stuff. And when they ask if you want your credit card bill in dollars or pesos, always choose pesos, or you get screwed in the currency exchange. — rs

OUR TIP FOR ENRIQUE: REASONABLE PRICES

I want to thank the Grand Poobah and others for the wonderful job making last year's Baja Ha-Ha such a great event. I hope to do another one someday.

But I want to give everyone a heads-up on what Enrique in Turtle Bay has been charging boats for fuel on the Baja Bash. I've bought fuel in Turtle Bay for years, and usually paid the national rate, plus an additional $1/gallon or so more because Turtle Bay is so remote. And I tipped.

But on my way north this summer, Enrique charged me 35 pesos per liter, or about$8 per gallon. I opted for just 100 liters, about 25 gallons. But when he came to deliver it, he had a huge jug that he said was 135 liters. And he said he had to pump it all into my boat because he didn't have any way to measure a lesser amount.

I told him that in that case I just wanted to have my five 5-gallon jugs filled. Well, he barely had enough fuel in his supposed 135-liter tank to fill the five 5-gallon jugs, which could only take 95 liters.

To top it off, he asked me for a tip!

I got a little nervous about having enough fuel, so I walked up the hill in town to the Pemex station, where I bought five gallons at 17 pesos a liter. When I walked down the pier to go to my boat, I was stopped by Enrique, who told me that I wasn't allowed to bring 'outside' fuel on 'his' dock. I apologized for not knowing the custom, and he let me pass.

Next time I come north, I'm going to carry a few more gallons so I don't have to stop in Turtle Bay at all.

Leonard Lee
Mi Casa, Hunter 40 Legend
San Diego

Leonard — It's hard to tell if Enrique will try to charge the same when the Ha-Ha comes through in early November. Just in case, we plan to start the Ha-Ha with full tanks, and if we use the engine, run it at a fuel-sipping low rpm. We don't like getting gouged either.

In years past, Ha-Ha boats have been good about sharing fuel with boats that are running low. We think that spirit will prevail.

By the way, the Wanderer would like to apologize for blundering the conversion rate between liters and gallons in the 'Lectronic Latitude version of your letter. It was his fault alone. The following letter explains. — rs

MATH CONFUSION

I think there is a little math confusion in the latest 'Lectronic. By my count, five gallons is about 19 liters, so five jugs at 5 gallons would be about 95 liters.

Julie Martinelli
Voyager, Catalina 470
Baja Ha-Ha Class of 2010
La Paz, Mexico

Readers — Now that the Wanderer has been corrected in math by a woman, who may or may not be biologically less suited for doing math than males, his potential career in the Silicon Valley likely went up in smoke. — rs

THEY'LL PICK YOU UP IN THE PANGA

As I mentioned last month, a good alternative to Enrique's charging very high prices for fuel in Turtle Bay for boats doing the Baja Bash are Shari and Juan at Bahia Asunción, which is about 52 miles south of Turtle Bay and only a few miles out of the way. It's an option assuming the wind is out of the north or the northwest, as it normally is. It's not an option in southerly or southwesterly winds.

For $20 US someone will pick you up in the panga and take you to town and the Pemex. They'll also stop at the market for provisions and a restaurant for lunch.

Shari and Juan are nice people, and Asunción is truly a fun little town. Shari can be reached on VHF 16 as Sirena or phoned at +52 1 (615) 160-0289. The wind picks up there in the afternoon so transferring fuel in the middle of the afternoon is a little dicey. Juan prefers to do things in the morning when there isn't any wind.

Allison Lehman
Kingfisher, Sabre 426
Point Richmond

DONATIONS WOULD TAKE THE FUN OUT OF IT

The repairs to my 38-ft authentic Polynesian catamaran Manu Lele, which was hit and badly damaged, probably by a fishing boat, here in Terengganu, Malaysia, are going a little slowly. Like sailing, the project is going to take patience and persistence.

There has been a snafu with the friend preparing the cedar planking in the States, but that will get done.

My next obstacle was going to be that the cost of shipping a 7-ft by 6-in by 6-in, 30-lb package by FedEx or DHL was going to be too much for my small budget. Fortunately, I've become aware of a package forwarding service called www.myus.com, which gets greatly reduced rates from FedEx and DHL. So instead of the shipping costing $500, it might be as little as $120.

The forwarding service told me that it's illegal to export lumber unless it's kiln dried or heat treated. I find that a little hard to believe, but the cedar being sent to me will be kiln dried anyway.

After my request for alternative methods of shipping the lumber was published in 'Lectronic, I got several helpful responses. One was from a woman who had a special account at her workplace that she would let me use. It was an interesting idea, but she needed payment through PayPal, and PayPal refuses to do business with me. Apparently just because I'm in Malaysia.

I appreciate the offer of financial support from the Wanderer and a couple of Latitude readers, but I'll be able to afford the wood, shipping and repairs myself. Plus, if I accepted donations, it would dilute the self-sufficiency concept of my adventure.

Plus, it's something of a sport and lifestyle enhancer to have to figure out ways to get things done within my means, which are 1/10th of the poverty rate in the United States. Accepting donations would be taking the fun out of it, sort of like using a motor to enter a harbor instead of doing it under sail.

I enjoy surprising people by telling them I cruise my own yacht internationally because it's better than living under a bridge in the United States. And now look, I live on a boat and under a bridge, as the boatyard I'm in is located under a bridge.

Glenn Tieman
Manu Lele, 38-ft Polynesian catamaran
Terengganu, Malaysia

Readers — We've often written that Glenn Tieman is perhaps the most thrifty cruiser in the world. He says he's cruising on 1/10th of the poverty threshold in the United States, which the US government claims is just over $12,000 for a single person living in the 48 contiguous states. Which means that if Tieman is not exaggerating, and he's not prone to that, he's cruising on about $1,200 a year. If you're skeptical, on his first cruise he lived on $360 a year for the first seven years. And looking at it from another angle, he built his 38-ft catamaran for, if we remember correctly, $14,000.

As we've written before, we're huge fans of Tieman and his cruising style. Not to disrespect members of the GoFundMe generation, we admire Tieman's creed of self-sufficiency, and were not surprised when he declined donations.

Nonetheless, a Latitude tip of the hat to those who offered to chip in to help him financially — among them "long time Latitude fan" David Martin, Douglas Nicholson, and Mark Wheeles in La Paz. Also, Kristen Soetebier, who offered to use her company's shipping discount. Well done! — rs

WOOD SHIPPED DUTY-FREE

I'm writing in response to the 'Lectronic item asking for shipping options on sending 30 pounds of wood from the United States to Malaysia.

When my wife Annetteand I were rebuilding our catamaran in Thailand and Malaysia over a five-year period, we shipped a lot of materials from the States via a consolidator called NEX. They use FedEx and DHL among other shipping companies, but charge a lot less because they consolidate shipments and thus get volume discounts.

I plugged in the numbers for Tieman's wood on their website, and the charges ranged from $188 with delivery in 16 days on up to $270 with delivery in three days. The website for NEX is www.shipnex.com.

If Glenn can get the wood shipped to duty-free Langkawi, he can avoid customs fees.

I remember seeing and admiring Glenn's catat Smuggler's on Santa Cruz Island shortly after he launched her. Here's to hoping he gets her back in the water soon.

Mike and Annette Reed
Rum Doxy, 46-ft cat
Santa Barbara/Sea of Cortez

Readers — Many of you will remember that Mike and Annette bought a wreck of a 46-ft cat in Phuket, Thailand, and spent five years redesigning and rebuilding her before sailing her back to the States. They've most recently been cruising her in the northern Sea of Cortez. — rs

SAILING WITH A CAPTAIN BLIGH

I will not be the subject of shouted demands or verbal abuse. I'm eager to learn and to get better, but I'm doing this for fun, and if it's not fun, I'm not doing it.

Great skippers stay calm no matter what's happening.They give instructions clearly, and understand that sometimes they'll be misunderstood. If things go wrong they remember that they're the ones ultimately responsible for the boat, its crew and its performance. They know that maintaining crew confidence and morale are more important than unleashing invective on the poor sod who just caught an override on the tack, or the unfortunate foredeck hand who just wrapped the chute.

Great skippers make sure the crew knows what the plan is — how the boat is going to attack a particular course in the prevailing conditions — and what that means for crewmembers. They set things up in advance, get people in position, and make sure that everyone is calm and focused. The operative phrase is "Play fast but don't hurry."Great skippers know that they're far more powerful as cheerleaders than they are as critics. Most of all, great skippers express gratitude for the chance to be out on the water and go fast with friends.They know that the real reward here is the team spirit they can evoke on the water.

Bob Schilling
Long Beach

EVERYTHING'S FINE, AS LONG AS WE'RE IN LAST

I briefly raced with Captain Bligh when I lived in San Francisco. He was a pretty normal guy on land, and out on the racecourse he was usually in last place and fairly laid-back. We were generally last because the crew were all new to each other. I discovered the reason for that when we weren't in last place. If there was even a single boat behind us Captain Bligh transformed into Mr. Hyde.

As it turns out, if a crewmember makes a mistake or is confused, incessantly yelling at them and cursing them out doesn't make things better! I moved off that boat pretty quickly as did most of the other crew. Successful racing programs keep their crew for years. When boats turn over crew regularly, there's usually a problem at the back of the boat.

David Kramer
Mojo, Jeanneau 36i
Santa Barbara

ME, MYSELF AND BLIGH

I fear that I may be one of those Captain Bligh types. I think most consider me fairly amiable and easy enough to get along with on land. But I fear once on the racecourse I may become a bit tyrannical. I begin to swear at the crew with the foul mouth of a sailor, and I often threaten to keelhaul the lot of them. The foredeck crew gets the worst of it. Once when he blew the spinnaker douse I threatened to send him shrimping with the sail. Oh and those lazy folks lounging on the rail? They get an earful, with a vocabulary that would make even a salty dog blush.

The funny thing is, since I am usually singlehanded it seems to have little effect.

Tony Bourque
Now & Zen, Newport 30 II
Point Richmond

HONEY, YOU SHRANK MY BOAT

In your article about Kim Desenberg in the August issue you referred to Bloom County as a Mancebo 24.She was designed and built by Dave Mancebo to be a maxi MORA at 30-ft 11.5-in. I did some of the work myself: chainplates, rudder bearings, some cabinet work, etc. My son Mark and I, with a bunch of great friends, Kim included, raced and cruised her with much success.

Confusion might have come from the earlier boat Dave built with John Dukat which was 25 feet. Also a great boat that we once chartered for a San Francisco to San Diego race before Dave built Bloom County for us. I think this has been converted to a cat rig by Wylie Design.

We no longer own Bloom County but she was replaced by Outland, a 23-ft daggerboard Santana, which we cruised in Lake Tahoe for almost 20 years. She is now inAlameda and being enjoyed by Mark, his two kids, and friends.

I appreciate Latitude's attention to facts and I didn't want you to be misunderstood. I've been reading Latitude 38 since its beginning. Please keep up the good work.

Carl Ondry
Roseville

Carl — We apologize for the error; we are familiar with both of those Dave Mancebo-designed boats and should have been more careful. John Dukat remodeled the smaller of the two, adding the cat rig. She is based at Richmond YC and often — but not always — races under the name Critical Mass. Bloom County is actively raced by Marinites Charles James, his son Elliott and their friend Jon Stewart. — cw

LIT UP IN STEALTH MODE?

Your 'Lectronic Latitude article titled Seriously? Another Navy Collision? on August 21 about US Navy warships' identification and avoidance raised questions I have often thought about, usually while on night watches. It makes sense that they don't use AIS, but how would we see them? I assume they mostly use stealth technology, so radar won't be very useful. Are they lit up? I'd be curious about others' encounters with warships at sea.

Cliff Smith
Carola, Young Sun 35
Point San Pablo

A BEER CAN RACE BEFORE THE SEASON ENDS

As a very longtime reader of your magazine and looking forward to the three-time-weekly 'Lectronic Latitude posts, I have liked reading and seeing stories such as the one about the Sausalito Tuesday night beer cans. There is so much going on in the Bay weekly it's good to dive in on one event and share it with the readers; keep it up! I might even bring Free Spirit over for a race before the season ends. Tiburon YC beer can racing, which I crew in most Friday nights, is sadly done for the year.

Greg Clausen
Free Spirit, Beneteau Oceanis 390
Tiburon

Greg — We are fortunate indeed to have an 'embedded reporter,' contributor Pat Broderick, sailing in the SYC beer cans, and to have access to Roxanne Fairbairn's scenic sailing photos. View more at https://roxshots.smugmug.com. — cw

CRUISING ON A WINDSURFER

I started windsurfing in the '80s, even did the Olympic trials in Long Beach prior to the '84 Games. Kinda moved on to other sailboats for 30 years, but got back into it the last few years, and thoroughly enjoy it again.

The equipment is dramatically more modern than anything I remembered, which does indeed make it easier and lighter and faster and more fun. I don't do the short-board jumping/surfing/foiling thing; I have a long board and enjoy cruising. I do hope they develop a foil system for long boards; that would be interesting.

A little more coverage in the magazine would be nice, perhaps on equipment, tactics, good places to sail, etc., rather than just race results. Maybe Max Ebb and Lee Helm could do a primer to re-introduce readers to the possibilities.

David Kory
Ambassador, Beneteau 51.5
Richmond

David — It seems like you've moved into and out of windsurfing in exactly the same way the sport itself has moved into and out of relevance over the last several decades — and into, then mostly out of the pages of Latitude. As editors, we walk a delicate line between wanting to expand our coverage without alienating our base. We're wary of chasing every new trend that comes along (although this 'foiling' thing seems to be kind of a big deal). But we also want to acknowledge that windsurfing has been around since the '70s, and has seen tremendous progression in the last 15 years in terms of gear, and especially in terms of performance.

We will keep our finger on the pulse of what sailors are doing around the Bay — th

 

 

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