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October 22, 2010

A Virtual Ha-Ha Start

Even though the Baja Ha-Ha sign-up sheet has topped out at 196 entries, not everyone who wants to join the fun this year will be able to. "For those of us who won’t be in San Diego for the start of the Ha-Ha but still want to watch the parade," writes Pat and Carole McIntosh of the Alameda-based trawler Peregrine (they did the ’06 and ’08 Ha-Ha’s aboard their Hunter 430 Espiritu), "Google ‘live cam san diego‘ and you’ll get a ton of options, including live cams at Pt. Loma and Shelter Island."

So we did. The SunDiegoLive WebCam apparently doesn’t like our Macs, so we couldn’t confirm that would be a good view but this one located at One America Plaza should give a decent angle of the start of the parade. It won’t quite be as good as being there, but it might fuel your dreams for next year’s start!

Join the Club!

While surfing the interweb looking for racing results recently, something on two yacht clubs’ websites caught our attention: offers of waived or discounted initiation fees for new members.

For a limited time, the Berkeley YC will be waiving what’s typically a $500 initiation fee, and the Santa Cruz YC is offering a "drastically reduced" fee — which would normally range from $1,000 to $2,000.

It doesn’t matter whether you race, cruise or daysail, yacht clubs are the bedrock of our pursuit. If you’re relatively new to the sport, clubs are hands-down the best place to find experienced, like-minded people whose brains you can pick. They’re a great place to find rides and crew.

Contrary to a popular stereotype, yacht clubs are as much about bustin’ loose as they are blue blazers.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Contrary to a pervasive and inaccurate stereotype, most are warm and welcoming, as well as a great place to meet people who could become lifelong friends. Yacht clubs can range from a laid-back atmosphere to a more formal one, and somewhere in that range you’re likely to find one that works for you. Many clubs also extend reciprocal privileges to other clubs, meaning that no matter where you are in the world or what club you hail from, as long as you’re near a body of water, you’re likely to find one that will take you in and where you’ll find even more like-minded people who could become lifelong friends.

So, if you’ve been thinking about joining a club, or thought it was out of reach, have a look at one in your area and see what they’re doing. If you’re already a member, we’d love to know what your club is doing to incentivize new membership. Let us know here in three lines or less, send us a link to your club’s website and we’ll try to get that info out either in ‘Lectronic Latitude or an upcoming issue of Latitude 38.

New Mexico Cruising Guide

Cruising guide authors are a rare breed. Oh sure, it’s tough to feel too sorry for them — they get paid to go cruising, after all — but if you stop to think about all the work that goes into those books, not just the initial printing but the updating as well, you’ll realize that the authors are really paid a pittance for the valuable information they deliver. Check any cruising boat’s library and you’ll find guides to where they’ve been, where they’re going, and places they only dream of reaching.

A lot of great cruising guides fill the bookshelves at Latitude 38’s World Headquarters.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The latest book to add to your library — whether it’s just for dreaming or real-life planning — is Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer’s Pacific Mexico: A Cruiser’s Guidebook, following up their vibrant and informative Sea of Cortez: A Cruiser’s Guidebook from a couple years ago.

Some other cruising guides that should be on every wanna-be cruiser’s shelf include:

If you’re in San Diego this Sunday, you can chat with Gerry’s granddaughter Heather — Gerry passed away in May — about their guides at the Baja Ha-Ha Kickoff Party in the West Marine parking lot.

How to NOT Win Friends

Maybe it’s because we’ve been banging on the keyboard since before the sun came up, but we’re getting a little grumpy with cheap-shot artists who recently have been so quick to wrongly accuse Latitude of managing the news for the sake of money. Profits before sailors, as it were.

A couple of days ago, for example, we got an email from a fellow we’ll not name who asked for a Baja Ha-Ha refund because, for various reasons, he and his boat wouldn’t be ready in time for the event. As compensation for our lifting the Ha-Ha’s clearly stated ‘no refund’ policy, he offered to write a "pulse-quickening, rabble-rousing" story about violence in Mexico.

Mind you, this was coming from a guy who says he happily and safely spends about eight months a year in Mexico, and plans to remain in Mexico at the end of his circumnavigation. This gentleman has obviously never read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, otherwise why in the world would he think we’d want yet another sensationalized article on crime in Mexico, one that would continue to foster the mistaken belief that one is more likely to die from gun violence on the Pacific Coast of Mexico than in California?

So we responded as follows: "Without ‘rabble rousing,’ can you please give us a succinct version of what you see as the ‘truth’ about personal safety in Mexico? It seems to me that we’re saying the exact same thing. Sure, you can be an innocent victim in Mexico, but chances are you won’t. In fact, there’s less of a chance you’ll be an innocent victim in Mexico than in California. Right? I know that I wouldn’t spend months in Mexico if I didn’t feel that way, and I don’t think you’d spend eight months a year there if you didn’t feel that way, too. What am I missing?"

Having offered to write a rabble-rousing article about violence in Mexico, the gentleman began his response by contradicting himself. "I am not even suggesting that you rabble rouse. I am simply suggesting that, if nothing else, you remind Ha-Ha participants at your briefing to not adventuriously wander off to some place, no more than they would wander off to some parts of Oakland, or for that matter parts of South Auckland. It would only take one Ha-Ha participant to be killed to have your annual cruising regatta sunk. If you chose not to share the relevant information with your entire readership — and I would understand your reluctance to do so, as you don’t want to tarnish the ‘good time’ image —  perhaps it would be worthwhile mentioning the relevant statistics, in a casual way."

Well, bless him for assuming we’d not give such a warning and/or that we’d be willing to jeopardize the safety of 600 people just to make a few bucks. But if he’d "understand" our being reluctant to share the truth about personal safety, his moral compass wasn’t made by the same person who made ours. And thanks, dear fellow, for noticing that you’re saying exactly what we’ve been saying over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. In fact, this one’s just for you: ‘While we feel very safe in Mexico, safer than in California, use common sense by avoiding sketchy areas, don’t flash wealth, and don’t do drugs. There’s still a chance you’ll get killed, but not nearly as great a chance as if you were back in California.’

If he needs to hear it again, it’s in the November 1 Cruise Notes, too. Perhaps the most revealing thing of all was the individual’s explanation of why he gave his email the inflammatory title: ‘Report The Whole Truth, Mate,’ — implying, of course, that we were withholding some of the truth. "The ‘Report the Whole Truth, Mate!’ the subject line? It was simply used to gain your attention. LOL."

LOL indeed. In fact, hilarious. Perhaps a couple of more mandatory readings of How to Win Friends and Influence People are in order.

Then, at 3 a.m. this morning, we got a sweet email from another gentleman who sarcastically wrote, "Still no pirates in Costa Rican waters? Still putting commercial interests before protecting cruisers? Check out the latest pirate attack at"

Then, to rub it in, he writes, "Oh, I forgot, you don’t like your journalistic negligence to show."

But son of a gun, it wasn’t but half an hour later that we got a second email from Mr. Egg-All-Over-His-Face-Shirt-Pants-and-Topsiders: "A bite of crow is in order. Latitude did report the Costa Rica pirate attack. Amazing. Maybe an earlier warning would have been in order, but you’re right to cover the pirate attack. Let’s hope there are no more."

‘Amazing’?! What the hell is so amazing about it? We relentlessly report on every attack on cruisers we hear about, from Thailand to Turkey. A ‘warning’?!  Let’s see, we’ve been covering thefts and attacks on cruisers in Costa Rica since 1977, so how the hell much earlier would he have liked us to print a ‘warning’?

As we’ve written many times before, Costa Rica is a place that likes to portray itself as some kind of democratic eco-paradise, when that’s not always the case. Theft has long been rampant in parts of Costa Rica, both from on boats and when cruisers travel on buses and such. It’s always blamed on Colombians, which may or may not be true. While we don’t have statistics to back it up, our sense has always been that theft from cruisers is a worse per-capita problem in Costa Rica than it is in Mexico. Not in every spot, but overall. It’s also been our sense that there have been more violent attacks on Americans, on boats and ashore, in Costa Rica than Mexico. Not that there have been more than a couple in either place.

(By the way, the cruisers who were attacked, Bruce Stevens and Clark Nicholson of the Dana Point-based Gulfstar 50 Two Amigos, report that they’re heading to Panama to replace the stuff that was stolen and to effect other repairs, then they’re off to the South Pacific next year.)

The reply we would have liked to have received from the guy who found it "amazing" that we reported an attack on cruisers, is something along the lines of, "By the way, I’m sorry for being such a numbskull, and for assuming that Latitude would withhold important safety information to protect profits. I could have been much nicer and more helpful by writing, ‘I know Latitude has the whole world to cover with a very small staff, so I just wanted to make sure that you heard about the attack on some cruisers in Costa Rica. Here’s a link so you can get more information.’ And now that I take a second to think about it, I realize that Latitude has never shied away from writing stories that would, on the surface at least, be negative toward sailing and therefore negative toward Latitude‘s financial interests. In fact, I can’t remember a case of a boat sinking, boat on reef, person lost overboard, cruiser attack that Latitude should have known about but didn’t write about.

Our Latitude tip for the day to these kinds of people: Always start out by assuming the best about someone or some organization instead of projecting your own shortcomings.

And last but not least, we’d like to remind everyone that when it comes to cruising in Mexico, we’re not just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk. We’ve been sailing in Mexican waters for 33 years, we’ve sailed our own boats to Mexico more than 20 times, and we spend several months a year on our boat in Mexico. It doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily be immune to theft or violence, but our actions should speak louder than words that we have felt, and continue to feel, safer in Mexico than in much of California. But if that were to change, we’d let you know right away.

Is that Tiger Woods on the field? © 2010 Lynn Ringseis It seems that a handful of folks around the Bay Area are getting pretty excited about some game that doesn’t involve sailing.
Three days out from La Rochelle, the lone American entry in the Velux 5 Oceans Race, Brad Van Liew, has already amassed a 50-mile lead over his nearest competitor.
We’re not knowledgeable enough to know if cooler than normal water temperatures are the cause, but it sure has been a mild hurricane season for Mexico.
Folks about to start the 17th Annual Baja Ha-Ha from San Diego next Monday morning might be interested in the opinion of Ha-Ha vet Mike Miller on personal safety down around Los Cabos, which is the name for the Cabo San Lucas-San Jose del Cabo corridor.