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Photo of the Day

December 15 - San Francisco Bay

Photo Courtesy Brainwaves

Today's Photo of the Day is of Tyler Brainard, age one month, enjoying his first sail on San Francisco Bay. Proud parents Bob Brainard and Kristen Manies of the J/35c Brainwaves have set up a gimbaled car seat, with a shock cord tied to the salon table to dampen the oscillations, which allowed them to enjoy the sail - as little Tyler slept through the whole trip. "We'll be ready for the West Marine Pacific Cup in '06," they say.

Is there a better time in life than when you have your first child? We don't think so. There is so much joy, and life's priorities are so obvious. Our warmest congratulations to all you parents with newborns!

Dawn Wilson Is Free - But Is Her Story True?

December 15 - Mill Valley

We've got the Dan Rather Blues. For nearly two years now, we've been supporting the cause of San Diego's Dawn Wilson, who was arrested in Ensenada for having bought large quantities of prescription drugs without a prescription. She was sentenced to five years in a Mexican prison, which in the States would be an unusually harsh sentence. Wilson also claimed that the Mexican police stole her credit cards and made numerous charges against them. As we usually mentioned in the Latitude reports, we based our support for Wilson primarily on the word of Terry Kennedy, an old cruising friend from Mexico who was planning to marry her.

The 49-year-old Wilson, who is from San Diego but who spent a lot of time on boats in Baja, was incarcerated in a Mexican prison for 17 months, then locked up in the U.S. for three months before she was released, with considerable fanfare, last Friday. Wilson's case got quite a bit of support from sailors, journalists, and Congressman Bob Filner's office in San Diego.

The glow of her release hadn't yet faded when we got a disturbing phone call yesterday from Neil Wilson of San Diego, an old acquaintance from the sailing world, who we didn't know was Dawn's brother. There are six Wilson offspring, four brothers and two sisters, all of whom live in Southern California. According to Neil, his sister has a long history of problems with alcohol and drugs, she wasn't telling the whole truth about what happened in Ensenada, and the whole family has been stressed about her release rather than her incarceration. His message to us was simple: our family wished this whole mess would have just faded away, but please don't encourage anyone to give Dawn more money.

Then we got a copy of a letter written by Joel Wilson, another brother, to Congressman Filner's office. Among other things, the letter asserted that Dawn "has a long-standing history of drug and alcohol abuse, and stealing from her family." Further - and we've had to edit this for spelling and grammatical reasons - "It's been appalling that only one side of this story has been told in the media, and by your office, without any further investigation for the truth. The one-sided portrayal is an embarassment to the media and to the taxpaying public that has supported Dawn. She has been made out to be a victim, when the true victims have been American taxpayers, her family, and former friends."

We at Latitude feel slimed, for somebody obviously isn't telling the whole truth. Given the problems with records in Mexico, we doubt it would be possible to ever determine the complete truth. Our position is this: Dawn apparently has had some problems in the past with alcohol and perhaps drugs - something Terry Kennedy admits - but we don't think she belonged in a Mexican prison for five years. (Wilson admitted she made a mistake by buying the prescription drugs without a prescription.) So we're glad she's out. On the other hand, we're not sure she'd be number one on our list of charities. But we do wish her good luck.

What of the incindiary charge that after arresting her, the Mexican police used her credit cards? We'll probably never know if that was true or not. A member of the Wilson family told us that Dawn gave the cards and PIN numbers to a fellow substance abuser, and that person made the charges. What we do know for sure is that if the accusation was true, it wouldn't be the first time a North American cruiser wrongly put the blame on Mexicans for a serious crime. You might remember that the skipper of the Canadian-based TLC claimed that he'd been attacked by panga fishermen, saying they'd slit his throat and drove his boat up on the beach. Subsequent evidence overwhelmingly indicated that he'd slit his own throat and drove his boat ashore.

Now for a Humorous Little Quiz

December 15 - Southern California

A few days ago, Blair and Joan Grinols on the Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn Cat rounded Point Conception on their way to Southern California and Mexico for yet another season. "When we got past Point Conception, the wind started blowing about 15-20 knots right on the nose, so we turned hard left and sailed into Santa Barbara. We decided to spend the night. What a treat to take a long hot shower and get a good night's sleep. We'd picked up a lot of kelp and couldn't clear it off the props or daggerboards, so I had to put on my wetsuit and go in the chilly water.

"We had another weird problem on the way down. We couldn't run the engines as hard as I prefer because they'd overheat. I had hallucinations of heat exchangers going bad. There was nothing in the raw water strainers, so I finally pulled the whole suction hosing apart, and found the lines at the entry to the strainers plugged up with ------."

Today's quiz is for you to decide what was clogging the lines causing the diesels to overheat: A) Little crabs. B) Bees. C) Seaweed. D) An octopus. The answer, of course, is B, as bees had taken up residence in the lines while the boat was hauled out during the summer.

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