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Deciding what's reasonably safe for kids is a difficult issue - even if the parents are still married. I, for example, would happily pay $1,000 to make the trampoline in our backyard disappear without a memory. I think it's very dangerous when more than one kid is using it unsupervised. On the other hand, my wife thinks it's fine.

As far as taking dinghy rides with kids on Richardson Bay:

1) I would feel better if the guy also had a paddle and flares - which he might well have.

2) Unless the kids live in Sausalito to begin with, driving to the water on 101 is almost certainly more dangerous than a dinghy ride on Richardson Bay - in good weather.

3) The weather, of course, is the key issue, although it's the operator's decision regarding as to when it's safe to go ahead and when it's safer to cancel.

By the way, holding children hostage in parental disputes is one of the most destructive things parents can do.

Michael Daley

Michael - The dinghy in question is equipped with oars and, if we remember correctly, flares.


It was with interest that I read the Are We Crazy, You Be The Judge piece that appeared in the September Sightings. You see, I was the judge who heard the trial of this matter.

Having lived in Marin all my life and having learned to sail in an El Toro when I was 10, I found the case very interesting. You`ll be pleased to know that after hearing all the evidence, I ruled that it was perfectly safe for the father to take his two sons in his Avon around Richardson Bay and across Raccoon Strait to Angel Island. The father, by the way, had extensive experience sailing all over the world, and had every safety device available on his inflatable.

Michael B. Dufficy
San Rafael

Readers - Judge Dufficy presided over the temporary support hearing - or whatever they call it - of our second divorce. As we recall, the Wanderette's lawyer wanted about a million dollars a month in temporary support, and our lawyer argued for about two cents a month. All we remember is feeling sorry for the judge - and all other judges - who must have to spend half their lives listening to lawyers trying to put one over on them. Both we and the Wanderette - who ultimately concocted our own settlement - felt the judge had come up with a reasonable compromise.



In your response to July's Bad Luck To Have Women On Ships letter, you wrote, "The greater question is why it was ever considered bad luck to have women aboard." I think the answer to your question would be quite obvious - if approached from the realities of life at sea in the past.

'Bad luck' can be translated into 'extremely unwise' - and it was extremely unwise to have women aboard centuries ago based on the simple fact that women had certain physical characteristics that tended to kill them off faster than men.

Then there's the fact that - although politically incorrect these days - men are as a group far stronger than women. And in the days of 'iron men and wooden ships', strength - brute physical strength - was an absolute necessity.

I'm not going to say anything on the subject of sex - except to point out that 10 women and 90 men aboard a 100-foot carrak for a year could produce quite an explosive mix. No captain in his right mind would want this smoldering fuse as he already had enough other problems to deal with.

I have sailed for more than 30 years, mostly on the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and have considerable bluewater experience. Here's just one example: Many years ago, I was part of the crew aboard a 65-foot schooner headed from Boston to St. Thomas via Bermuda. Big and old-fashioned, the schooner definitely needed a crew of eight to man her. The crew consisted of the owner/captain; his wife, who was a good cook; two couples who were their friends; myself and another man in his 20s. Almost from the start, the women began to wrangle - and it got worse as the reality of a somewhat stormy bluewater voyage of 18 days set in. One of the guest's wives panicked during a storm and convinced the other guest's wife that the captain was incompetent. He wasn't incompetent, he was just prone to seasickness. In any event, the wives dragged the husbands into the fray and we nearly had a mutiny. When we reached St. Thomas, several friendships had been wrecked. I am convinced that none of the trial and trauma would have happened had the women been left on shore.

I know this: On my boat the men are the crew and the women are the passengers - and I've had very few problems. Call me old-fashioned - I am - but I cannot order a woman out into a stormy night to reef a sail. But I wouldn't give a second thought to ordering a man to reef that same sail. As Patrick O'Brian's character Captain Jack Aubrey would say, "It just ain't proper." I'll second that statement. I'll take women as passengers and maybe as a cook - but not deckhands.

P.S. I'm new to this area and have just discovered your magazine. I enjoy it immensely - we have nothing like it on the southeast coast.

Robert L. Petersen
Master, Islita
Norfolk, Virginia / Belmont

Robert - We've also sailed for about 30 years and have considerable bluewater experience. Here's one example: In '95 we sailed Big O from the Canary Islands across the Atlantic to St. Lucia. The nine person crew consisted of Capt. Jim and his then girlfriend Anet, both of whom we obviously knew, ourselves, and six strangers - three of them women between 25 and 35. There was never the slightest trace of bitching, fighting or bad vibes, and we were all very disappointed when the trip ended after just 16 days. We departed the best of friends with the best of memories.

And we know this: On our boats, everybody - no matter if they have a penis or a vagina - is expected to contribute to the best of their abilities. If the truth be told, this usually results in guys doing the jobs that require greater physical strength and mechanical aptitude, while the women tend to gravitate toward the jobs that result in a cleaner boat and people eating nutritious meals. But everybody stands watches, and 'crossing' - guys cooking and washing dishes, and gals going to the foredeck on windy nights to help gather the chute - is encouraged. And we've had no problems.

'Bad luck' synonymous with 'extremely unwise'? We doubt it. Luck has to do with matters of chance over which we have no control - such as getting hit by a bolt of lightning. Wisdom, on the other hand, refers to issues of judgement and intelligence - such as thinking that strength is the most important attribute for a sailor - over which we hopefully have some control. So when old time sailors said it was bad 'luck' to have women aboard, it was a superstition or a matter of habit, not a matter of fact. We don't know if women had physical characteristics that tended to kill them off young back then, but we do know that men had mental characteristics - a love of liquor, a proclivity toward violence, incredible stupidity, and so forth - that prematurely ended many of their lives.

In any event, it's 1999, most sanitation and medical issues have been resolved, and the 9 to 1 mix of men to women aboard ships has resulted in more 'hot rods' than "smoldering fuses." Indeed, the U.S. Navy has found that such mixing of the sexes have turned their warships into 'love boats' - complete with a surprising number of pregnancies.

If you only want men to crew on your boat, that's your right - or problem. All we want on our boat are people who are eager to be assets rather than liabilities. And if they all happen to be women - such as the other day when it was just Doña, Angie, and Mari aboard Profligate - aren't we the lucky ones?



A number of months ago Latitude made the comment that boats built by Clipper Marine weren't particularly designed or built for offshore sailing. I'd have to agree with that - although I do know of one person who did make a long - and interesting - ocean passage with his Clipper Marine 30.

I shall leave the person's name out, but he departed San Diego on July 4, 1997, and headed for the 2,750-mile distant Marquesas Islands. While this singlehander had an old GPS and charts, the only radio he carried was a VHF. He later told me that his boat and a whale had a collision about 100 miles southwest of Cabo. The whale damaged the lower part of his over-the-stern rudder, so he returned to Cabo under sail, using his outboard motor to steer.

The latter needs a little clarification, so I'll take a stab at it. So help me God, before leaving the guy had mounted the bumper from a bus on the transom of his boat. I saw it with my own eyes and have sober witnesses. Anyway, the rudder post cleared the bumper, so it wasn't a problem. He then put a rod between the upper part of the rudder blade and his outboard so that the rudder and the outboard stayed parallel. I suppose it's a good idea. In any event, it saved him on the trip back to Cabo since he could use the wheel to position the stub-rudder-outboard combination to steer.

After he made repairs in Cabo and sent me a postcard, he set sail again. I next heard that he had been in Raiatea - in fact, there were two conflicting versions of what happened. One is that he anchored off the island of Raiatea and took his dinghy ashore to check it out. While ashore, the locals rowed out to his boat, stole everything worth having, then holed the boat sinking her.

I heard another version from a doctor who is a friend of a friend of a friend - or something - who apparently was there at the time. According to the second version, the guy tried to enter the channel to Raiatea at night and lost the boat on the rocks. I tend to believe the second story, as I'm familiar with the entrance to Raiatea, and it's not easy even in broad daylight. And it would be impossible at night because the range markers are not illuminated.

There's a lot more to the story, but the short version is that the government of French Polynesia refused to extend the now boatless fellow's visa beyond six months, so he caught a plane to Hong Kong. It seems that while in Raiatea, he met a Chinese lady who owned a restaurant in Shanghai. Apparently the two fell madly in love, and after being reunited in Hong Kong, went to Shanghai and sold the restaurant. They've since come to the United States, gotten married, and have settled down. She's in the process of trying to become a naturalized citizen.

I've left much of the story out - especially about the guy's personality and reputation as a sailor. Let's just say that when I heard he was planning a singlehanded trip to the Marquesas with a Clipper Marine 30, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I guess he gets the last laugh, though, for he did pretty much what he said he was going to do - and then continued on to have the adventure of a lifetime. Not bad for an older fellow with a sour disposition who didn't seem to be able to sail safely in Mission Bay.

P.S. Anybody coming to San Diego should be aware that Point Loma Seafood restaurant has some of the best seafood anywhere. Like everything on San Diego Bay, it's funky, but they serve great seafood.

Jim Varnadore
San Diego



There is a question sailors often talk about that I'd like to put to Max Ebb and Lee Helm. It seems that most sailors consider a big, heavy displacement vessel inherently more seaworthy than a small, light boat. But the stresses on large, heavy vessels are much greater, verdad? Logs and half submerged containers survive passages across the North Pacific, but so do light bulbs and glass net floats.

How do Max and Lee look at this issue? Is there data about heavy versus light vessels surviving heavy weather? Such data would shed some light, but often it's the rogue wave that takes a vessel out or carries something away, and vessels in the same storm may or may not be subjected to the same seas hitting at exactly the wrong angle and wrong time.

I also realize that different size and shape vessels will respond differently to different sea states. For example, a boat with a big, square transom is probably going to get its stern kicked more in large following seas than other designs will.

The only thing I know for sure is that large boats are more comfortable in a blow - and almost all other times - than small ones. Anyway, sailors and wharf rats have spilled vast quantities of beer over this topic. My feeling is that Lee Helm might have engineering and storm data that would make interesting reading on this topic.

Dr. Jackson Underwood
Shamanita, Yamaha 25
San Diego

Dr. Jackson " Funny, but we just overheard Max and Lee having the following conversation:

Lee: "Heavy boats are more work to sail; big boats are more seaworthy. Light boats can be made unsinkable without much compromise. Light, wide, and shallow boats can have trouble recovering from a capsize. Big boats are much less likely to be rolled than small ones - independent of what the righting arm curve at high angles of heel might look like."

Max: "Just about anything can be made light, strong, or cheap - but you can't have all three."

Lee: "Beyond those facts, it's a religious war. Surf over to dejanews.com [Webmistress's note: this Web site was dead last time we checked.] and search the rec.boats.cruising newsgroup on the keywords 'heavy' and 'ultralight'. You'll find megabytes of opinion - some of it even partially informed."

Max: "Most people seem to agree that heavy boats have a more comfortable motion at sea than light ones."

Lee: "Yes, but most people also agree that light boats are more fun to sail than heavy ones. And length is more important than weight for comfort. To be rational, a good way to choose a cruising sailboat is to decide how much weight the crew wants to deal with - like, 15,000 pounds for a crew of two, for example - and then choose the biggest possible hull within that weight limit. You could, for example, end up with a boat in the mid-40 foot range. I'd also go fractional for easier sail handling and so it won't be crippled by roller furling. I'd also go for retractable foils, if available, for access to shallow anchorages."

Max: "To be rational, old, heavy, and cheap is usually the optimal solution when cost is a major factor. This implies something with poor light air performance, and that often implies more use of the engine than some of us would like."

Lee: "Or the other rational solution - an old ocean racer. When you go that route, you can get a boat that's big, strong, fast, cheap, and has a lot of volume and load-carrying capacity. But like, selecting a boat is never a rational process."

Max: "Exactly. Get a cruising boat that looks like a cruising boat."



After 28 years of cruising in Mexican waters, we offer the following hints on 'no see-ums' - and other objectionable stowaways.

Mosquitos and No-see-ums - Ordinary screens should be sufficient unless you are very sensitive to biting insects. It would be best if the screens are completely removeable as most of the time you will appreciate the ventilation. Take fans - you can't have too many. Moving air at night while you try to sleep seems to keep the flying insects away. Mosquito coils, sold all over in Mexico, will also help keep them at bay. Do not anchor in known no-see-um territory - such as Amortajada Bay on Isla San Jose in the Sea of Cortez. If you must see San Blas, anchor in Matenchen Bay as far from shore as possible - the entire Bay is shallow - and plan to be off the beach and onboard well before sunset with screens up! If you must be ashore at sunset, wear light-colored, long-sleeved and long-legged clothing, and apply a commercial repellant containing Deet. Vitamin B is also thought to have insect repellant qualities. Some cruisers have success with Avon's Skin So Soft, and a Caribbean cruising friend swears by pure coconut oil. He says it's so slick that the insects can't get a foothold.

In 28 years of cruising Mexico, we've never had a problem with insect bites, but I suspect it's partly because we're not particularly susceptable to bites from them. You can purchase dense screening material or fabric at a number of places. We have some on board, but we've never used it.

Bees - We've encountered swarms of bees taking up residence on our boat several times on mainland Mexico between San Blas and Manzanillo. This is where screens come in handy, as many of the bees try to make their way inside the boat. After the screens are in place, we send the bravest crew member up on deck to deal with the swarm - if they indeed have found a place for their hive. We found them under the dinghy cover once and in a corner of the flybridge another time. Bees are very docile when swarming! The buzzing will be annoying, but the bees are not aggressive! Take a container - we use a cardboard box (from the U.S. as the Mexican ones have cockroaches) and a spatula up on deck, and where the swarm is most dense, carefully scrape the clump of bees into the container with the spatula. It is important to capture the queen for the rest to follow. We then set the 'bee boat' adrift to relocate elsewhere. There will be a few bees left behind, and we've found it's best to collect them with the vacuum cleaner. A Dust Buster will work as well. Smashed bees - which is what you'll get with a fly swatter - just makes a mess. But commercial battery-powered fly zappers - available at many barbecue supply stores - makes a sport out of it. Many of the bees will just die on their own. With luck, you may be spared this ordeal.

Flies - Flies are an ever present annoyance in tropical waters, and if you plan to summer in the Sea of Cortez, they will be a definite problem. The Mexicans hang plastic bags of water near their windows. We have tried this but found that it's not very effective and the bags will eventually leak. Good old-fashioned fly paper works as well as anything, but bring it from the States as it's hard to find in Mexico. A supply of fly swatters, mata de moscas, is essential. Careful, as not all plastic models have enough snap to be effective, so opt for the metal handled ones. If you keep food well stored, countertops clean, and don't let garbage accumulate, the flies will disappear when it gets dark.

Cockroaches - The small, swift cockroaches also enjoy wintering - and summering - in Mexico. Never bring cardboard on board. If you purchase beer by the case, transfer it to a plastic carton before stowing it. Veteran cruisers will purchase several plastic cartons that store beer individually in bottles - as many as you need for inventory or you have room to store. These will be used to store your bottles and to re-store the empties for deposit. Mexico does sell beer in cans, but it tastes better and is cheaper in bottles.

Cockroaches often hide amid the produce you bring aboard - particularly pineapple tops. The stores will remove the tops for you, but then the pineapple won't keep as long. We soak all produce that will not be peeled in Microdyne, which is sold in markets everywhere in Mexico. Clorox will also work - a couple of capfuls to a dishpan of water. Cockroaches like to hide during the day and wander about at night. They are very fast, but if you see one darting across your countertop, nail it with your fist! Borax - also sold in Mexico - sprinkled throughout cupboards will help keep down the population, and you can buy roach traps and set them around areas where the little guys might want to congregate.

Our best solution has been to purchase several packages of roach motels - the kind that are open-ended cardboard boxes with sticky stuff inside - back in the States. If you do get an infestation, you can easily keep track of your 'guests' visually.

Flour moths and weevils - These seem to appear no matter what you do. They build cocoons in dark places, then work their way into your flour and pasta products. Once they get a hold, it's difficult to get rid of them. Check all flour products often and do not 'buy ahead' or store any longer than necessary. Some cruisers claim that if you put these products in a freezer for several days or microwave them first, it will kill any existing larvae. We prefer to store our flour products in a plastic Zip-Loc bag and discard the cardboard packaging. It takes up less room and is easier to keep an eye on. If there are needed directions or recipes on the box, cut these out and store in the bag to identify the product.

Rats - There aren't many incidences of rats coming aboard, but it does happen. If you spend time in marinas, you're at greater risk. Rats are good at hiding and can chew through wiring and electrical equipment, so if you get one aboard, set traps until it is caught. Peanut butter works well as a bait. Aluminum pie tins on your dock lines will act as rat guards - although the Mexicans will laugh at you.

Aguamales - These include jellyfish and lesser forms of stinging sea life that appear when the water gets warm. Lycra suits - which protect your body from stings - are essential if you plan to swim in the summer.

Aguamales are pelagic - they move on the tides - so they may be invasive at different times of the day. Portuguese Men-of-War are the worst, and can cause excruciating pain. Hot compresses - as hot as you can stand - will alleviate the sting. It will lessen or go away completely in several hours. Other types of aguamales are not as painful and the red welts will disappear by themselves in a few hours. Meat tenderizer or a baking soda paste may also be soothing.

There are some other lesser forms of annoying pests - such as spiders, mud daubers, and giant moths - that you may also encounter, but know that with all the joys of cruising in paradise there must always be a few inconveniences to deal with. A tolerant attitude will go a long way. Enjoy!

Geves and Jane Kenny
San Diego/Mexico



Thank you for your account of the last Ha-Ha. Although I'm totally landlocked at the moment, I'm originally from the 'Grey Bay' and started racing El Toros when I was something like five years old. My grandfather was a founding member of the Windjammers YC, which used to be the bluewater sailing division of the St. Francis YC. Over the years I've sailed on many different boats, and ended up with a Hurricane and a Cal 29 - which are both great Bay boats. Anyway, I'm still hoping to make a sailing trip down the coast of Baja - and that desire increased tenfold after reading your account of Ha-Ha V.

I don't know if you heard, but my brother, who owns the Tropicana Hotel, tells me that the latest proposal for a marina in San Jose del Cabo - about 30 miles east of Cabo San Lucas - was shot down. As for marinas at other sites near the Cape, Eric Brictson, who owns Gordo Banks Sportfishing out of La Playita Baja Sur, sent me the following:

"For at least 10 years I've heard talk about a marina being built in the La Playita area, but supposedly they are now getting more serious. A local paper even said that only a final stamp of approval was pending before a marina will be built where the pangas are now at anchor. But as you know, in Mexico nothing is done until it's actually done, so I'll believe it when I see it. But local authorities tell me something will be started soon."

Steve Saylor
Corvallis, MT

Steve - Given the combination of a long coastline and the enormous demand for slips at the Cape, it's hard to believe that another marina hasn't already been built.



A friend on the East Coast who gets Latitude - and who thoughtfully lets me read it - suggested I contact you with a question. My wife, who's from Australia, and I are traveling to Oz for two months starting in November. Because of the inequity in the exchange rate, we're thinking about purchasing a 30 to 40-foot cruising sailboat while there.

We're trying to figure out how feasible this idea might be. The questions that immediately come to mind are: How much will it cost to ship a boat from Australia to Los Angeles? And - ignoring the exchange rate for the moment - are boats in Australia cheaper than they are here in the States? If anybody has any answers, it would be most helpful to receive them by email.

Mike Kirk
Salisbury, North Carolina

Mike - While others certainly would have more knowledge on the subject, we suspect it's not the most feasible plan. For one thing, we can remember only one couple who tried to bring a boat back from Australia - and it didn't pan out. Quite a few folks bring boats back from New Zealand, but almost never from Australia. Secondly, we suspect that it would cost between $15,000 and $20,000 just to ship the boat back to the States. It's hard to believe that you're going to find a 40-footer - and certainly not a 30-footer - that would justify the extra expense. Lastly, when it eventually came time to sell the boat, you'd be trying to unload a product that's unknown in this part of the world. You'd have a difficult time moving her quickly and getting top dollar.



I just returned from completing the '99 TransPac from L.A. to Honolulu - and want to tell everyone what a great experience it was. I participated in the cruising class - the 'peoples class' - with Tango, my '97 stock Beneteau 40 CC. Before being able to compete, of course, I had to bring my boat up to OCR Category 1 safety standards. I would recommend these to anyone sailing offshore, no matter if they are racing or not.

I was surprised that so few boats participated in the well-organized event. The ocean sailing was fantastic and the racing made it even more fun. Even the fishing was good, as we had sushi on the menu in the middle of the ocean. Given the proximity of other boats and the daily contact with the communications boats, I can't think of a safer way to make an ocean crossing.

As this was my first race, I didn't realize that we needed to strip the boat of excess weight and gear. So our boat was well stocked with goodies and even videos for the evenings. Nonetheless, we came in fourth - an unexpected bonus.

The TransPacific YC did a great job of organizing the event, and now seems to be encouraging the cruising class as much as sleds and other serious racing boats. So all of you considering the Pacific Cup who don't get ready in time or who don't get a space should put Transpac 2001 on your calendars.

Incidentally, everyone involved from TransPac couldn't have been more helpful, particularly Dan Nowlan and Robby Bessant. They guided me through the registration and rating process with professionalism. In addition, the Long Beach YC was very generous in providing berthing for the out-of-the-area boats prior to the start. But the best part of the experience was after we finished the race: the famous aloha welcome in Hawaii. Wow! Each TransPac boat is assigned a local host, and no matter the time of your arrival, you're greeted with a generous welcome of flower leis, friendly people, great food and drinks.

Tango was fortunate to be hosted by the Hawaii Women's Yacht Racing Association, so we uniquely had a bevy of beautiful grass-skirted and coconut-wearing women welcoming us along with a sizeable spectator crowd. After being on a boat for 14 days with just three guys, it was great to see those coconuts. I can't thank my hosts and Crispin Mulligan, the club's commodore, enough for their hospitality and generosity. The people at the Waikiki and Honolulu YCs, besides throwing great parties, couldn't have been more friendly and helpful, from guiding us into the slip after the exciting finish, to helpful introductions in port. Thank you Frank, Les, Archie, Ty and Fuzz for making us feel like old friends.

Howard A. Raphael

Howard - It's terrific of you to thank all the organizations and folks who worked so hard to make the TransPac fun. For those who were around 20 years ago, the recent TransPacs have been a shadow of the monumental events - and parties - they once were. The reason is simple; they no longer have the 50 'people's entries' such as yours. But with so many new sailors and boats on the water, we like to think that in the upcoming years both the West Marine Pacific Cup and the TransPac will have 70-boat fleets.



I've had a few minor mentions in Latitude. Back in '94 or '95, for instance, a young lady named Georgina wrote of her disastrous crewing experience on a Tayana 55 bound for Cabo. She mentioned meeting a "tall, long-haired Australian guy with a huge dragon tattoo" who educated her on her crewing responsibilities and even helped her find a new boat. I own the tattoo.

And in late '94, I got an uncredited mention as crew on your Miriama, which was your "dope boat of the month." It seems as though the American government didn't have a sense of humor regarding a couple of tons of 'happy weed', so I've been ashore and an unwilling guest of the federal prison system ever since.

Now that my prison time is up and I am thankfully being deported, I'd like to say adios to all my American sailing friends who stayed in touch. I'd also like to thank Latitude, as reading your magazine every month helped keep me sane and salty.


Adam - Thanks for the kind words. But you forgot to answer the big question: Would you run the risk again?



Sometime between the afternoon of August 15 and the morning of August 21, a person or persons unknown boarded the Lightship Relief, docked at the 9th Avenue Terminal in the Oakland Estuary, and removed all of the ship's original fabric bronze lifelines - over 650 feet - as well as the turnbuckles and attachments. All that were left were the bare stanchions.

The former Coast Guard Lightship (WLV-605) was decommissioned in '76 and passed through several private owners before being donated to the U.S. Lighthouse Society in '87. Relief is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of the few remaining operational lightships still in existence. The Lighthouse Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of lighthouses and lightships through out the country. It was and still is the society's goal to open the ship to the public as a museum vessel, hopefully in Oakland.

Our volunteer crew has spent 15,000 man hours to date on the restoration and maintenance of the ship, working with a shoestring budget. The project is not a commercial venture and the loss was uninsured. Since the lifelines were custom fabricated to the ship, they will have little reuse value to anyone without a major refitting. Most likely the materials will be sold for scrap on the black market at a fraction of their value.

It would probably have taken several hours of working in the open to remove all of the lifelines from the ship. If any of your readers saw or knows anything that might lead to the recovery of these lifelines, please contact the society office at (415) 362-7255.

John Byrne
Lightship Relief



While in Puerto Vallarta three years ago, our cruiser friends turned us on to Stugeron, an anti-nausea pill they said had been developed in England for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Although we didn't need any for ourselves, we purchased some for our guests. Since returning to the States, we've passed it on to many friends, many of whom swear it has saved their lives - to say nothing of their appetites.

Stugeron comes in pill or capsule form and can be purchased in many areas of Baja and mainland Mexico. We preferred the pill, as half of one was enough for a lady for a 12-hour day.

We've been cruising and fishing in Baja and Mexico for many years. Currently we're fishing in San Diego, but will be leaving for Cabo and Puerto Vallarta in November. Even though we have a powerboat, we love reading the stories in your magazine.

Toni and Mel Appell
Manzana, 48-ft Uniflite Sportfisher

Toni and Mel - While we have different preferences in types of boats, we're happy to have you as readers. By the way, we're sure you agree that people ought to consult their physicians before trying Stugeron.



Information please. We're planning a three or four month trip down and through the Canal to the Caribbean, but will then need to leave the boat for eight months. Where can we store a 60-foot, 38-ton, seven foot draft sailboat?

We'd like a place somewhere around Panama. It could either be on the west or east coast of Central America, or even in South America. We'd prefer dry storage, but a safe marina might do.

Eric Zatt
San Carlos, Senora, Mexico; San Diego

Eric - While there are other choices, the following are your major ones. On the Pacific side, you could try Costa Rica's Marina Flamingo or Banana Bay Marina in Golfito. We've gotten much better reviews on the latter. While there are some other options, the best place in Panama would be the Pedro Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake in the Panama Canal. The problem is, this great place is so popular it's hard to get any space.

On the Caribbean side, you're either going to be working the east coast of Central America or the north coast of South America. Determining which would be better for you depends somewhat on whether you're ultimately heading for the Eastern Caribbean or the East Coast of the U.S. The most popular storage spot in Central America is Guatemala's Rio Dulce, which has a number of popular marinas far up the river near Lake Isabel. The bar is shallow, so you might have to be towed across or induce your boat to heel. When it comes to South America, Cartagena, Colombia, has long been a cruiser favorite. If you're willing to make the sometimes brutal slog from Cartagena to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, you'll find five more marinas popular with cruisers. At that point, however, it's just another two days to Trinidad, where it seems half the boats in the Caribbean are put up for hurricane season.

Our recommendations? 1) The Pedro Miguel Boat Club in Panama. Your boat would be very safe in this sensational hangout, Panama itself is terrific, and both United and American have flights from the States to Panama City. Just hope there's room. 2) Norm Bennett's Club Nautico in Cartagena. It's a great city, but you have to fly via Panama City or Barranquilla, where there is a greater danger of theft. 3) The Rio Dulce. It's safe, there are lots of cruisers - but keep your fingers crossed trying to make it across the bar.



My wife and I used to sail off Southern California, but became lake sailors after moving north. We currently sail and race our old Catalina 25 as part of the Oroville Lake YC. Our boat is in good shape, but our dream is to go cruising one of these days. But since I'm 51 and my wife is three years younger, we're getting to the point that if we're going to go cruising, we must do it fairly soon.

We're interested in designs such as the Tayana 37. What do you think of them for extended cruising?

And while visiting the Sail Expo at Jack London Square earlier this year, we spent some time looking at the displays of liferafts. I'm concerned about all the room this kind of gear takes up. On a small boat like a Tayana, one needs to make the best use of every inch of space. While at the Expo, we also received some information on a product called Yacht Saver. It's a flotation system designed to keep your main boat afloat after an accident. I didn't get interested in the product until I got home and had time to read the product info. What do you people think of this type of device? Do you think it could be a substitute for a liferaft? We would have a rigid bottom inflatable anyway as a last resort. Do you have an opinion on the Yacht Saver system?

Al & Betty Moody
2 Bits, Catalina 25
Sutter, CA

Al & Betty - Somebody asking us if a certain boat is suitable for extended cruising is akin to asking us if they should marry a certain girl. It's subjective and depends on what one likes. For example, if you like light, fin keel, lower maintenance plastic boats that excel in light air, the Tayana 37 wouldn't be a good choice. If, however, you prefer a heavier, full keel boat with a more luxurious appearance that might offer more security in a blow, a well-maintained Tayana 37 might be the perfect boat. What we can tell you is that we've received a number of Letters and Changes from Tayana 37 owners who've been happy with their boats during long cruises and/or circumnavigations. Furthermore, three are signed up for this year's Ha-Ha.

The decision on a Yacht Saver is similarly subjective. Would you rather stay with your boat when she's awash or get into a liferaft or even an inflatable? We could envision circumstances in which each option would be preferable. If we were just going to cruise Mexico, for example, we'd probably use the money we'd spend on the Yacht Saver and the liferaft to buy a larger top-quality inflatable and use that as our survival platform.



This is in reference to the letter by James O'Leary that appeared on page 58 of the September issue. About five to seven years ago we had an O'Leary here in Sacramento who was a thorn in the side of everyone. As I recall, he had a broken down boat that he said was his home. But most of all he made everyone unhappy and caused such hate and discontent that it was written up in the Sacramento Bee more than once. On several occasions he said he was going to sue assorted people.

The O'Leary down at the Port of Oakland might be the same person or a son of the one who lived up here. For all I know, he moved to Oakland after the Sacramento city fathers chased him out.

Paul Mezzapelle



I'm in the market for a cruising boat, and recently came across a CT-34 which needs considerable work. Nonetheless, she appears to be very well built. The only information I've been able to find on the boat is that she was built in Taiwan in '78 and is 34 feet long. Could you direct me to a source of information on this boat?

Michael King
San Diego

Michael - In the mid-'70s, relatively inexpensive traditional-looking boats poured out of Taiwan and into the United States. Often times sisterships built in the same yard were marketed under a variety of names. Some of the boats were very poorly built while others were quite good. CT was generally considered to be one of the better brands - but who was to tell if it were a genuine 'CT' or a counterfeit, as so-called 'splashes' were common back then.

What you need are the services of a qualified surveyor - as opposed to some guy who printed up some business cards claiming to be a surveyor - who is familiar with Taiwanese boats as well as rebuilding projects. The two of you then need to carefully evaluate every aspect of the boat: hull and deck, mast and rigging, sails, propulsion system, electrical, and plumbing. If it's worth it, go for it.

One general word of caution: When it comes to rebuilding boats, it's going to cost many times more in money and labor to restore a teak-decked ketch with a bowsprit and lots of other 'gingerbread' - such as a CT-34 - than it is a relatively simple racer/cruiser - such as a Ranger 33. So carefully evaluate how important the 'look' of a boat is, and how much you want to be a boat restorer as opposed to a sailor.



We recently completed Gordon West's Amateur Radio class - and want to tell everyone how impressive it was. Like all good sailors we're natural cowards, and therefore have avoided the Ham license like we avoid accidental jibes. But delayed by repairs, we found ourselves conveniently docked near the Island YC in Alameda, where Don Melcher of HF Radio Onboard and Marilee Shaffer of Waypoint Marine organized a class with 'Gordo'.

You cannot imagine how much energy Gordon West has! He launched the class with a passion that was infectious, turning a potentially intimidating subject into a fun and successful experience. In addition to learning the theory and code required to pass the Technician-Plus test, we laughed a lot, had delicious meals, met several interesting people, and now appreciate many subtleties about the system we installed a year ago.

Also included with the class were effective discussions about equipment and installations, with Don Melcher sharing much of his valuable insight into these subjects. Similarly, Marilee Shaffer demonstrated software for weatherfaxes and e-mail using special modems, adding significant value for cruisers with an SSB radio on board. The entire package was worth every penny, and I encourage anyone who has been dreading the process to sign up for the next class. You'll be pleasantly surprised!

Les Sutton and Diane Grant
Gemini, Albin Nimbus 42
Emery Cove Marina, Emeryville / Palo Alto

Les & Diane - Over the years a number of other folks have told us that West's courses have greatly exceeded their expectations and that he makes what could be a dreary subject quite interesting.



I think the Sightings piece by Scott Valor and Rachel Dinno, in which they describe trying to get back to Santa Cruz Harbor with a GPS that they knew might have 'EOW' rollover problems, should have been published in Letters. And it should have been titled User Glitch In The Fog as opposed to GPS Glitch In The Fog, and Latitude should have included some negative commentary.

I, too, have one of the Garmin 45 units, and as I write this I'm sitting at Angel Island Cove on Labor Day Weekend doing the final check on my Garmin unit. Here's what I did:

- Checked the Garmin web site and found that it might take a long time for the unit to search the sky.

- Took the unit home and let it sit outside while we had a nice BBQ. Yes, it took a long time to search the sky, and it searched faster when it was away from metal objects such as rigging, the garage door opener and such.

- I then checked the unit's accuracy under visual conditions. Treasure Island to Angel Island, for example. It was fine, but I found a waypoint entered incorrectly.

- I used the 'reverse course' plotting feature to determine if it was working properly. It confirmed that - and the fact that my wife steers a better course than I do.

- I used the Garmin again under visual conditions to insure it was fine.

- It told me that after all that work it needed new batteries, so I installed them.

I'm glad that things worked out well for Valor and Dinno on Northstar, but I strongly believe that turning on a piece of electronic gear with pre-announced possible problems - after the fog rolled in and expecting it to work perfectly and quickly - was really a 'glitch' on their part. A prudent skipper would not do that with a radar unit, an autopilot or an Atomic 4. They would have checked the unit before starting or soon after. After all, I doubt that Latitude 38 changes word processors or applies software service packs one hour before deadline.

By the way, the GPS satellite and the Garmin unit worked perfectly as per announced specifications.

Mike Chambreau
Impetuous, Cal 34
Palo Alto

Mike - Settle a bet here in the office: The Wanderer is betting $25 that your boat was already named Impetuous when you bought it.

There are two reasons we don't have any problem with what Valor and Dinno did. 1) As they carefully noted in the piece, they knew the area well. "Had we not been so familiar with the area, we would not have - and should not have - attempted to return to the harbor." 2) When we did our first coastal trips and trips to Mexico, it was before GPS, before SatNav, and before we could afford radar or Loran. We did what virtually all cruisers did back then: we dead reckoned - and prayed we didn't get run down by a ship in the fog. Given a compass, a depthsounder and regular plotting, you shouldn't have to rely on a GPS. Indeed, doesn't every Coast Guard chart admonish all mariners not to rely on a single form of navigation?



I enjoyed reading your assessment of why Paul Cayard is not only a great sailor, but also a great person to be the Bay Area's ambassador for sailing.

I can add to that assessment by mentioning how public service minded Paul and his parents were 25 years ago when he started sailing El Toros on San Francisco's Lake Merced. After he got the hang of sailing the El Toro - named Lucky Pierre after his father - Paul volunteered to be the El Toro fleet captain for the Lake Merced Sailing Club. With all the kids sailing El Toros, it was a lot like running a Sunday School. But he was patient and made sure everyone felt welcome to race regardless of their skill level. I know, because I was one of the lesser-skilled competitors.

Once they got hooked on sailing, the entire Cayard family became very involved in helping out with the sailing club. Paul's dad Pierre built the docks at Lake Merced, and was out at the lake almost every weekend helping to keep club equipment in good repair and racing events running smoothly. Paul's mom was also a regular volunteer at sailing club events.

By the way, this was back in '74, in the heyday of Lake Merced Sailing Club. The club doesn't exist any more, but deserves credit for the America's Cup skipper's very earliest sailing experience. The San Francisco lake is surprisingly difficult to sail in a dinghy, as high winds come off the ocean, over the sand dunes, and filter through the trees to become very gusty and unpredictable. It was a great place to learn, because you either learned to read the ripples on the water and anticipate the direction of the next 20-knot gust or you capsized. Even Paul used to capsize - and once won the club's 'mud hen award' for the most spectacular high-speed capsize ever witnessed on the lake.

I'm proud to have known Paul when he was just an El Toro sailor on Lake Merced " and wish him nothing but lifts in the America's Cup.

Bill Hoskins
Tradewinds Sailing Center Member

Bill - We think Cayard makes a great sailing ambassador not just for the Bay Area, but for the entire United States.



Last month I had to replace my Garhauer spinnaker halyard crane blocks due to a cracked sheave and worn bearings. I'd installed the blocks in 1990 and stamps on the blocks indicated their 10-year warranty was "good through 1999." When I called Garhauer to see if I could just buy some new sheaves to rebuild the blocks, their response was to send me two new ball bearing blocks. I received them two days later, no questions asked. As I was 9.5 years into a 10-year guarantee, I consider it to be exceptional service.

Cliff Donoho



I remember a photograph that appeared in Latitude years ago showing a double-ended lapstrake sloop that looked like a daysailer/racer. I think it was the Dolphin class and was a one-design on the Bay. Any leads on this design would be appreciated. What got me thinking about the Dolphin was the June issue bio of Ben Seaborn in Wooden Boat and the feature on one of his designs, the Seaborn 30.

Dave Bechtel
Kirkland, WA

Dave - The only lapstrake one-designs on the Bay that come to mind are Folkboats, but neither of them are double-ended. In fact, we can't think of any double-ended designs that were ever one-designs on the Bay.



I presume that Rob Moore took the cover photo for the September issue. If so, I'd like to know how he got the quasi painting look and how I might replicate it with other photos. Was it a digital photo that got printed at a somewhat lower resolution?

Ray Thompson

Ray - The photo was taken by Rob Moore using a Nikon camera and 200 ASA Kodak print film. After being scanned, the 5X7 print was tortured in Photoshop on a Mac G3 by the Wanderer as follows: 1) The image was cropped and enlarged. 2) The contrast and brightness were fiddled with. 3) The hue and intensity were dabbled with. 4) The entire image - and this is what creates 'Jim DeWitt effect' without Jim DeWitt's talent - was 'faceted' several times. 5) It was then 'posterized' at some level between 6 and 12. 6) The image was finally switched from RGB colors to CMYK colors so it could be printed on a four-color press.

While none of the steps - or even the entire process - is difficult, there is an enormous amount of uncertainty at every step of the way. What you think will look great based on your previous experience frequently turns out to look dreadful; and what you often think will look like crap turns out looking pretty cool. So it's more a matter of trial and error than talent. If you've got the equipment and the software, give it a shot.



I'm considering moving up from a Catalina 27 to something a little larger. My first choice would be a cruising multihull with good performance, but price will be a major factor in my decision. Since there is such a glut of older glass sailboats in Southern California, I will probably have to settle for another boat in the 30 to 35 foot range. But that's all right because I love to sail.

So I was wondering if you or any of your readers could recommend any particular older glass monohull for coastal cruising and for possibly taking to Mexico. How suitable would a Catalina 30 be for such a thing?

P.S. Thanks for such a consistently great publication!

San Diego

Steve - If you're going to be doing easy coastal cruising and sailing to Mexico - by 'easy' we mean watching the weather and not looking for trouble - just about any classic Southern California design over 30 feet and in good shape should do the job: Catalinas, Cals, Ericsons, Islanders, Yankees and so forth. Our out of the blue suggestion? Try to find one of the old Coronado 34s - not the center cockpit 35s - and see if that might not strike your fancy.

For what it's worth, 10 of the 150 entries signed up for this year's Ha-Ha were built by Catalina, and three of them are Catalina 30s. Other builders with multiple entries: Tayana, 7; Hans Christian, 7; Beneteau, 5; Island Packet, 5; Hunter, 4; Peterson 44s and 46s, 4; Cabo Rico, 3; Islander, 3; Valiant, 3; C&C, 3; Ericson, 3; Lagoon catamarans, 3; Morgan, 3; Pacific Seacraft, 2; Baba, 2; Cross Trimaran, 2; Columbia, 2; Challenger, 2; Hallberg-Rassy, 2; Little Harbor, 2; Panda, 2; and Pearson, 2.



I recently purchased a John Alden-designed, strip-planked 28-ft cutter, which was built in '55 by either a boatwright named Meyers or a boatyard named Meyers. I've looked in all the directories for both the East Coast and West Coast, but can find no reference to Meyers. Since the hull is cedar planked over oak, I guess she might have been built on the West Coast. Can you help me find out where and when this boatbuilder existed, and if there is a way to contact same?

Kurt Boston

Kurt - The old Meyers 28? What a great story. There were two of them built in the San Rafael Canal by Burt O'Conner, who'd become a superior shipwright - and drinker - while stationed in the Caribbean during World War II. Originally the boats were going to be known as Alden 28s, but because of all the Meyers Rum bottles left around the yard - O'Conner had switched from whiskey to rum while serving in the Caribbean - during the construction, they became known as Meyers 28s. Tragically, one of the boats burned to the ground just prior to completion after a drunken O'Conner knocked over a gas lantern while reaching for another bottle of Meyers. Following that, the remaining boat was universally known as the Meyers 28. Heartbroken by the alcohol-induced loss, O'Conner took to the bottle rather than the adz, and didn't last long.

We don't have much of a future in fiction, do we?



Hey man, Latitude's website came up on my computer in one second flat. Actually it was probably less, as I expect it took me that long to look up and find the home page was already there.

Do you have any idea how refreshing it is to click on something and see it come up before your eyes? Spartan websites are great! I'd like to see lots more of it on the web. But when I get frustrated and start to think of tossing my very expensive PowerBook out the window, I know I can click on over to Latitude 38's site and click away and watch pages come up before my eyes - instead of dots getting painted, one by one, before my eyelids.

It ain't broke, don't 'fix it' too much, O.K.?

Doris Lea Tuck
San Jose

Doris - O.K.



We don't know whether this should be a Changes in Latitudes or a Sightings, but Contrary to Ordinary, the Freya 39 you used to own in the early '80s, was sighted "travelling in excess of the speed limit " northbound on I-5 south of Roseburg, Oregon. This happened on Wednesday, August 25, at about noon. Yes, it was on a trailer, as there wasn't that much wind.

Andi Winters, our First Mate and my spouse, was the one who sighted her. Along with Contrary, we used to be fellow tenants of the subsequent owners before the 'Great Brisbane Purge'.

Greg & Andi Winters

Greg and Andi - We appreciate your report. Contrary was a terrific boat, and we had great times with her in the Bay and during four trips to Mexico. We used to love the way the blooper, hanging way off the side of the boat, used to tickle the surface of the water. Speaking of boats we used to own, while out sailing about a month ago, we think we spotted our old Bounty II, Flying Scud, motoring toward Richmond. The original office of Latitude 38, she was a sight for sore eyes.



I wanted to put in a good word about some extraordinary customer service. After having my boat hauled last month at Bay Ship & Yacht in Richmond, the wear and tear on my folding prop convinced me that it was time to replace it with a fixed two blade prop. I needed to have my boat back in the water by the weekend, so Bay Ship arranged to have a two-blade prop overnighted through the Prop Shop in Richmond. Unfortunately, the new prop wouldn't clear the hull after the hub had been removed with the old one. Unable to wait two weeks until the Prop Shop could machine the prop to fit, I decided to put the old folding prop on so I could get back in the water.

Several weeks passed before I called the Prop Shop about returning the fixed two-blade. They agreed that they would take it back, less a restocking fee, but that I would have to return it through Bay Ship, since they were the ones who ordered it. Steve Taft at Bay Ship had no problem with the plan.

Unfortunately, several more weeks passed before I was able to get the prop back to Bay Ship. When Steve called the Prop Shop to set the return up, they refused the prop, saying that they would only take returns within 30 days - even though they had not mentioned this when I called the first time. To his eternal credit, Taft allowed me to return the prop to Bay Ship anyway, for a full refund, even though he would be stuck with the loss.

As a businessman, I can understand companies having policies against unreasonable situations, but in the long run, operations who put their customers well-being above rigid policy deserve recognition and loyalty. I'm grateful for Taft's service, and will have no difficulty deciding where to haul my boat next time around.

P.S. Is there a direct way to send in letters through the web site? The site seemed to indicate that clicking on the blue 'editor' link would do this, but nothing happened.

Bill Wells
San Anselmo

Bill - Don't mess around, send all letters direct by e-mailing them.



I was the proud owner of a Micrologic Admiral GPS until August 22 when, right on schedule, it died. It showed the present position remembered from its last satellite fix, but couldn't acquire any satellites. Although I purchased the unit in '95, the copyright date in the manual was '93.

I called Micrologic in Chatsworth and listened to a recording that said they'd entered bankruptcy in May of this year and ceased all operations. Maritime Electronics in Sausalito confirmed that if you have a Micrologic, you are S.O.L., as no fix will ever be available. I replaced the Micrologic unit with a Garmin 128, which is a much better unit. Besides, the Micrologic had a very dim screen.

Right now, we're motoring just south of Point Lopez on our way to Southern California, and will be making stops in the Channel Islands and Los Angeles on our way to the Ha-Ha start in San Diego. After leaving San Francisco, the wind quit at Pacifica, and other than for three hours off Santa Cruz, we haven't had a breath of wind since. Sunny skies, glassy seas, and no wind have been the rule. At least the diesel is running great.

Matt Johnston
Elsewhere, Cabo Rico 38

Matt - As is the case with computers and most other electronics, since the newer models are so far superior, we wouldn't spend too much time mourning the death of an antiquated one.



I've been unseated as Queen of the Beer Cans! And I can't think of a more worthy successor than Lucie Van Breen. Having sailed with and against Lucie, and having been friends with her for a long time, I take comfort in knowing she will wear the title well in my place. My only regret is that I wasn't there to defend my crown.

We have a little club race circuit on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons here in Indianapolis. While it's great to be able to sail twice a week, it's a little bit of a letdown after five nights a week. But I've been very lucky to be able to learn a lot about small boats, light air sailing and wind shifts.

Thanks to Latitude for the great lifeline to Bay Area racing. By the way, I know for a fact that I'm not the only one at Indianapolis Sailing Club who subscribes!

Renee Wilmeth
Indianapolis, Indiana

Readers - Renee was the original 'winner' of Latitude's Beer Can Challenge, completing the requisite five-race circuit in May of 1996. Is it our imagination, or are most of the winners of the Beer Can Challenge women members of the Berkeley YC?

By the way, this has been the biggest year ever for winners of the Beer Can Challenge, as we had two people do five beer can races in one week, and the Iron Man, as eight sailors did three races over the Labor Day Weekend. If we don't raise the bar for next year, we're going to be wiped out of T-shirts, so we're looking for suggestions. For example, should you have to have a podium finish in each of the events, should you have to top it off with a pleasure sail? Anyway, we have all winter to cook up a greater challenge.



I ran out of room in my letter about anchors to discuss proper backing down and proper scope, but would still like to share some tips as both are very important.

Some people make the mistake of backing down too fast, which can interfere with the anchor digging in - or can result in dragging the anchor out of the area in which you wanted to anchor. If the wind and/or current isn't strong enough to straighten out your chain, use just enough power to maintain sternway. As the anchor digs in and slows the boat, add just enough power to keep the boat moving. Once the anchor is set, increase the RPMs to half or three quarters or full throttle, whatever feels comfortable to you. If you can't get your anchor to set after several tries, pull it up far enough to inspect the tip, as even a small piece of fishnet or plastic trash can prevent an anchor from digging in.

If the wind or current later becomes stronger, there is nothing wrong with backing down on the hook again to make sure it is set securely. You may also want to test your anchor if you're in a crowded anchorage and there have been boats entering and leaving while you were gone. After all, sometimes anchors are disturbed by others trying to anchor or when leaving. You also may want to reset your anchor if the wind or current has reversed the direction of pull.

A short time ago you folks gave some excellent advice about not taking up more room than you need with excess scope. And if the altruism in that advice doesn't ring readers' bells, there are also selfish reasons for not letting out excess chain. 1) It increases the chances that someone will anchor across your chain. 2) It increases the chances that your chain will snag on a rock or coral head. 3) It means it will take longer to raise your anchor. 4) It puts extra load on your windlass - or your back if your windlass fails. Finally, 5) It decreases the number of friends you'll make and the parties you'll be invited to.

As mentioned in my last letter, catenary weights seem to reduce the amount of scope necessary, particularly when the wind or current is light. One note on the use of the weights that was omitted from said letter is that they are even more useful when using rope " but that requires a cast bronze traveler to attach the weight to. Such travelers are available from some marine catalogs and/or chandleries.

Ernie Copp
Long Beach Marina, Alamitos Bay



I'm trying to track down some information on Ranger 28s, which were designed by the late Gary Mull of Oakland. I've had no luck finding an owner's web site. Can anybody help?

Christian Albert
Tampa Bay, Florida



I've been a customer of West Marine for over 25 years while I built and maintained my boat. When West Marine started out on San Antonio Road in Palo Alto as West Coast Rope & Chain, it was a quaint store with a variety of items often not found elsewhere. Over the years, West has grown into a goliath that dominates the marine industry. Unfortunately, with that growth has come a loss of connection with the boating community.

Last month, I flew from Little Rock to work on my boat at South Beach Marina. What could be more convenient than having a West Marine one block away? But on Sunday, I went to the store for sandpaper, only to find that the type they carried was that brown stuff you get in a hobby shop to sand balsa. I asked the clerk why they didn't have 'real' sandpaper. He looked at me as though I were crazy. He obviously didn't know that you need the gray stuff or your paper loads up in 30 seconds.

The following day I went back to the store for paint. I wanted Z-Spar semi-gloss white, probably the most common paint used on boats with any wood. West Marine's San Francisco store had almost no Z-Spar of any color - and no semi-gloss white. So I had to rent a car and drive over to Svendsen's to get the paint.

It's my opinion that West Marine has become like Home Depot in its operations, with the same negative effect that such 'superstores' have on the marine market as Home Depot has on your friendly neighborhood hardware stores. Specifically, knowledgeable managers and sales clerks have become replaced by minimum wage bodies that look good but that don't know their products or their proper applications. The West Marine store in San Francisco is guilty of this.

Unfortunately, we are stuck with West Marine. In its origins, it was a boon to boaters, but now it threatens to drive out all competition. I can only suggest that where possible, we mariners shop at the few remaining independent stores in hopes that they survive.

Lorne Ryan
South Beach Marina / Little Rock, Arkansas

Lorne - It's a different world in retailing than it was 25 years ago. Some of the changes are for the better, some are for the worse.

We think your complaint about the typical floor employee at Home Depot and West Marine not being as knowledgeable about their products as they were at smaller independent hardware stores and chandleries 25 years ago is accurate. That's the bad side - and part of the blame lies with the economy. It's so hot that the labor pool has been drained of its most knowledgeable talent. A quarter of a century ago, the hot young sailors like Jeff Madrigali used to work in little chandleries. Nowadays, young sailors are chasing millions in dot-com enterprises.

All in all, however, we think most people would agree that the Home Depots and the West Marines of the world have made life a lot easier - and less expensive - for the typical consumer. After all, if wanted to purchase something expensive 25 years ago, it wasn't in stock at the little independent's chandleries because they couldn't afford to stock it. Having never seen it, they didn't know anything about it. And after you took all the time to order it and didn't like it when it arrived, you had to pay a big re-stocking charge - and endure the somewhat justifiably pissed off demeanor of the chandlery owner. Most important, prior to West Marine, can you remember any chandlery that offered a 'satisfaction or your money back' guarantee on everything they sold?

The bottom line is this: Even with West Marine's problems in keeping track of merchandise and hiring qualified floor staff, they've made buying marine products infinitely better than it used to be. And we say this knowing full well that their growth has swallowed up or wiped out a number of formerly independent businesses that used to advertise with us.


I recently picked up a copy of Latitude and found a story by Max Ebb which included a reference to one of the characters in the story getting an education in naval architecture at a local university. I have no idea if the story was fact or fiction, yet I would like to find out if there are any schools in the Bay Area which offer programs in naval architecture or yacht design.

Henry Lugg

Henry - Max reports that U.C. Berkeley has a Department of Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering as part of the School of Engineering. Call them at 510-642-5464. For yacht design at a more basic level, he suggests that you don't dismiss the mail-order Westlawn courses. Contact them at 800-836-2059. "If you're motivated," says Max, "Westlawn can be a valuable program."



After living at the Isthmus on Catalina Island for 18 years, we said good-bye last November 20. After a few stops on the mainland, we headed to Mexican waters late in January aboard our DownEast 38. We stopped at just about every cove on the way down the northern half of Baja because we wanted to experience it all.

I was looking forward to our stop at Turtle Bay because I'd heard it was large enough to 'check out', had a few places to eat, and even a few stores. Well, Turtle Bay wasn't as friendly as advertised. Before we even anchored, the panga fleet was trying to sell us fuel, water, laundry services - and begging for beer. They finally let us get situated - before coming back asking for more beers. But we could tell they didn't need anything more to drink.

They offered us rides to and from town for $1/person each way. We used this service several times because it meant we didn't have to set our dinghy up. Unfortunately, their laundry service turned out to be the real problem. We gave them our clothes on Thursday and were told they would be done on Friday for a charge of $12. The price seemed a little high, but it was something we needed to get done. Anyway, Friday came and went, but our clothes still weren't ready.

Late on Saturday, we found the Gordo's laundry man - who began arguing that the price would be $20, not $12. We were in a weak position because they had our clothes and we didn't even know where they were. He said they would bring our clothes by the boat early on Sunday for $20. He showed up on schedule, and even promised to bring us four free lobster to make us feel a little better. Well, we never saw him again. We went ashore that afternoon to look for him, but he was 'off'. We learned our lesson.

By the way, when we got to La Cruz, we had the same amount of laundry done twice " and each time we were only charged $7. That's more like it. Since then, we've heard of people who were charged up to $30 for laundry in Turtle Bay! Several other boats we were with in Turtle Bay complained about getting fuel, having been told one price beforehand and another price afterwards. As a result of all these things, we were very disappointed in Turtle Bay. Ironically, Dan had been there five times before without any problems.

We continued on down the coast and had good experiences at Cabo, Isla Isabella, San Blas and El Timbre. When we got to Banderas Bay, we spent two weeks in and around Puerto Vallarta with Pete and Sue Simpson on Pipe Dream. This was great fun, especially for me, since we'd all worked together at the Isthmus for several years. Unfortunately, we had to part company, as they were returning to California and we're planning to spend two years down here.

I just want everyone in Catalina to know that all is well with our big change in lifestyle, and that sailing sure is fun. So is bumping into many sailors we first met at Catalina.

Dan McGowan and Michele Mileski
Hot Toddy, DownEast 38
Santa Catalina Island

Dan & Michele - We don't recommend having laundry done in Turtle Bay. The last folks we know who attempted it had half their fancy jeans disappear - and thought they later saw some of the locals wearing them around town. After unpleasant negotiations, they were only compensated for a fraction of their value. And you have to have an open mind about getting fuel there, too. Over the years, a number of sailors with 50-gallon tanks have been charged for 60 gallons of fuel.

Before anybody gets too bent out of shape about all this, it's important to maintain some perspective. First off, it's ridiculous to expect American-style retailing and services in Turtle Bay, because it's just an isolated frontier village with a couple of thousand residents. They don't have a laundry or other services in the American sense. In addition, many of the panga guys are pretty poor, so when a big gringo yacht pulls in, they get big peso signs in their eyes. Complicating the fact is that the panga guys are used to getting either ridiculously large tips - and hats and shirts - from free-spending powerboaters, or getting stiffed by budget cruisers. So when a yacht pulls in - which doesn't happen every day in Turtle Bay - the confused panga guys try to capitalize on the event.

No matter if you're dealing with the sneaky boat boys at St. Vincent in the Caribbean or the eager panga dudes in Turtle Bay, attitude is everything. You want to come across as friendly and confident, never standoffish and hesitant. Here's how we'd have responded to your situation. When the panga arrived offering to sell fuel, water and laundry services, we would have given them an animated ''Hola! Hola! Hola! Bueno, bueno, bueno - but uno momento, por favor, let us get the hook set." Basically lots of smiles, waves and our best Spanglish. When we did get the hook down and they came over, we would have introduced ourselves, found out their names, and joked around a little. If they asked for a beer, we would have looked aghast and in no uncertain terms told them that "Cerveza is mucho malo!" After pretending we were the offspring of Carry Nation, we might have offered them a soda. Having gotten to know them, we would have negotiated for garbage disposal -"But don't you guys throw it in the ocean!" - some trips to shore, and maybe some ice or other little things. If we really wanted our laundry done, we'd have waited to deal directly with the woman who was going to do it. If we were going to buy anything - fuel, water or ice from the panga guys - we'd have written down the agreement on paper. And we'd still expect to be pirated just a little. After all, we're billionaires compared to them, and we're basically getting to enjoy their country for nothing.

If somebody tries to screw you big time, the worst thing you can do is get pissed and play the tough American - because they're not going to back down. The best thing you can do is switch the subject for awhile, smile and laugh a lot, and very slowly come around to suggesting that somebody might have made a tiny mistake. If you have lots of patience and a good attitude, you might get 'unscrewed'.

Four tips:

1) Be friendly and take the time to get to know a couple of the panga guys and the folks on the pier. Sometimes it's easiest to start with the kids.

2) Pick one of the panga guys to be your 'agent' so that you can honestly tell all the others that you're being taken care of.

3) Terminate contact with any panga guys who might be drunk by going below. Obviously, you don't want to pass out any alcohol or bullets.

4) When in town, patronize the little tiendas. The people are really nice, and it's good for cruisers to make friends and leave a little money no matter where they go.

We're sorry your experience in Turtle Bay wasn't very good. Those things happen. We can assure you, however, that most Ha-Ha participants have absolutely loved Turtle Bay.



I enjoyed the Wanderer's article on the town of Turtle Bay in last December's issue. As a '97 Baja Ha-Ha veteran, I came away from that dusty little village with warm and fuzzy feelings, thanks to the generous friendship of its inhabitants. The Ha-Ha beach party and the sight of over 100 masthead lights at night - looking like stars descended onto the bay - added to the indelible experience.

The one thing you didn't mention about Turtle Bay was the water plant, an all-important feature that absolutely saved us during the Ha-Ha. Although the Grand Poobah had repeatedly admonished the fleet not to expect supplies or services between San Diego and Cabo - still the best advice for planning and provisioning - we nonetheless discovered Turtle Bay's little-known water desalinization plant.

We left San Diego with a 100-gallon water tank and three five-gallon soft tanks strapped to the deck. We figured this would be sufficient for a two-week cruise. Shortly before departure, the owner/captain also purchased a second-hand PUR watermaker. He assured us that once the watermaker was installed, we'd have all the freshwater we could possibly want. I was a little skeptical.

Our first four days at sea were a glorious dream come true for me, as we headed out 100 miles and turned left. Unfortunately, my poor girlfriend suffered from a bad case of mal de mar, and was reduced to cockpit furniture. Even though she was hopelessly seasick, she refused to take anything to treat it. No, I don't know why.

The rest of the crew contented themselves with using freshwater to wash the dishes and wash their hair each day. As you might suspect, after just three days our 100-gallon water tank was nearly empty. Sensing trouble, I instituted the old Boy Scout trick of 'one cup for face-washing and brushing teeth before bedtime - period'. And I taught the others how to wash dishes using - gasp - seawater, reserving the fresh stuff for final rinsing only. And I watched closely as we tapped into the 15-gallons of reserve water on the deck. At one gallon/person/day survival rations, I figured we had little more than three days of reserve water.

Meanwhile, the captain busied himself in the bilge in a vain attempt to install the watermaker. As it was, water squirted from every fitting, except for the freshwater outlet. That the watermaker never worked on the way to Cabo suggests an important lesson: Never leave port expecting to use equipment that hasn't been installed or tested.

Fortunately for us, we pulled into Turtle Bay 36 hours later. I insisted that we be allowed to go to shore and find out about water. At worst, I figured we'd be able to obtain enough suspect 'local water' - that we could either boil or treat with chlorine tablets - to make it to Cabo. At best, there might be bottles of purified water for sale in town. It took a serious effort to convince the captain that it was at least worth asking around the village, and finally he relented. Personally, I was betting that the residents of Turtle Bay were surviving on something more than just tequila and beer, neither of which would have helped us because we were on a dry ship.

When we reached shore, we were greeted by 20 or so smiling kids. The shy ones just waved while the more gregarious ones shouted greetings. The adults in the village also greeted us with a 'hello' or 'buenas tardes'. And judging by the looks on the faces of the other Ha-Ha participants, everyone was having a wonderful time.

Using my broken Spanish, I began inquiring about aguas buenas - and the locals responded with enthusiastic descriptions of a water plant! The directions were pretty confusing, however, so it took us three wrong turns to find it. But each time we got lost, a pleasant and courteous local was happy to send us in the right direction.

Eventually we found the place, a small cinderblock building with a water tower and white PVC pipes leading down to a sort of conveyor where they filled the bottles. It was late in the evening by that time, and even though the next day was Sunday, the workers assured us they would be open. After agreeing on the very reasonable price of $1 for every 10 gallons of water, I placed an order.

The water plant opened the next day as promised. I noticed that several locals brought their own containers to get water from the distillery in much the same way that I have purchased vin courrant from local vintners in France. As it turned out, we purchased water in 10-gallon water cooler type bottles that the distillery had on hand. Although they didn't require a deposit on the bottles, they urged us to return them, as they are hard for them to come by. Naturally, we did. In addition, the water plant had a water truck on hand to transport our precious cargo down to the shore where we could easily run it out to the boat.

With assurances from the rest of our crew that the freshwater would only be used to rinse dishes and that there would be no freshwater hair-washing, we agreed that eight bottles was enough for the five or six days it would take to reach Cabo. And we still had the other 15 gallons in soft tanks.

We gratefully tipped the water plant employees in dollars and chocolates, and used our dink to run the bottles out to the boat, saving the cost of a panga. One by one we poured the contents of the bottles into the tank. And guess what? We topped off the '100-gallon' tank with the last of the 80 gallons they had given us! Another lesson: Do not assume that your water tanks have the capacity the previous owner claimed.

With mighty sighs of relief - and the Sunday church bell ringing - we left the little town of Turtle Bay happy and content. Wiser for our worries, we were ready to continue south to the next stop at Bahia Santa Maria. For the record, my girlfriend began taking dramamine and soon rejoined the human race. None of us got queasy - let alone sick - from the water we took on in Turtle Bay. As for the owner, he continued to wrestle with the recalcitrant watermaker for another three days - until the crew voted to mutiny if he didn't cut it out until we reached Cabo. By the way, when we did reach Cabo, we still had 27 gallons of water left - as well as the 15 gallons of survival rations.

In addition to the hard lessons learned in contingency planning, open communication and group problem-solving, one of the biggest rewards gained from our Ha-Ha experience was the feeling of triumph over adversity. Once achieved, it became an event whose memory can never be taken away.

By the way, I was a little concerned that there was only free beer - and lots of it - at the Ha-Ha awards party in Cabo San Lucas. Personally, I supremely enjoyed the first beer I'd had in two weeks, but since the other members of our crew could not join in, the experience was not whole hearted. In addition to the sponsorship of beloved Corona breweries, would it not be prudent - not to mention hip - to have a Mexican bottled water company co-sponsor at the finish line this year?

Ethan Hay

Ethan - Another lesson to be learned from the experience: All cruising boats should have at least two significant water tanks. It's too easy for one to leak, have its water go bad, or be contaminated by diesel having been poured into the wrong tank.

While it's true that Turtle Bay actually has several small stores where a varietry of food and beverages - including water - can be purchased, it would not be fair for the Ha-Ha fleet to descend like a swarm of locusts. Thus the Grand Poobah insists that all participants provision for the entire rally before leaving San Diego.

The Poobah also reports that with the Ha-Ha's low entry fee, they don't have the staff or resources to solicit contributions from Mexican companies. Corona - and more recently Tecate - approached the Ha-Ha with the donations. If any water or soda company would like to do the same, their contribution would be welcome.

Rants, raves, comments, drink recipes, may be sent to our Editor.

© 1999 Latitude 38