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Check your life raft!

In August of 1995, after much research, we purchased a Givens 8-man life raft. As a retired public safety officer, I felt that the Givens would meet our needs. Along with the raft, we purchased a Survivor 06 watermaker and Mini-B EPIRB to be packed into the raft.

As we're preparing to make the South Pacific run in the near future, last June we brought the life raft up from Mazatlan to have it checked and recertified at an authorized Givens servicing station in San Diego. We told Oceans West, the servicing agency, that we wanted to be there when it was deployed. Technician Mel Ruiz had no problem with that, and in fact was a great help in explaining everything about the raft when we opened it.

Upon deployment, we discovered positive things and negatives ones. On the positive side, the raft inflated like it was supposed to. On the negative side, there was a smaller than specified inflation cannister in the raft; there were no batteries in the raft lighting system (which would have been necessary at night or in severe weather); the fresh water packets were just tossed loosely in the raft - as opposed to being boxed or bagged together as is required - and therefore some of them ruptured. This moisture caused some extreme corrosion to one of the paddles, rendering it useless.

But here's the real shocker: Although we paid for an EPIRB and a watermaker, neither one had been put in the raft!!! We immediately got in touch with the Givens Company in Rhode Island, and spoke with Frank Perrino, the manager of Givens, and his sales manager, Mike Heriquis. We asked them to make it right by giving us what we'd paid for. After a minimum of 10 coast-to-coast phone calls and some promises of having the situation corrected, they said they had purchased the company from Givens and therefore could not be held responsible for the actions of the previous owner. But when someone buys a business, don't they also assume the liabilities as well as the assets and good will?

After some additional phone calls, Perrino and Heriquis offered to do one of two things: 1) Either sell the missing items to us - again - at their cost or 2) Rummage around and dig up some used equipment - EPIRB and watermaker - and give them to us. We opted for the used equipment, as we had already paid for the original items once. We spoke with the Givens Company in July, August, and September. Mr. Heriquis said in late August that he had in his hand one of the units and would ship it the next day. Yet we haven't received anything yet, and it's now late October.

We understand that in the recent years the Givens Company might have had some financial problems, which may have compromised the quality of what was put into the rafts. We would encourage all Givens Life Raft owners to have their life rafts checked out by a reputable servicing company. Make sure everything that is supposed to be in the raft is there. But if it's not, don't expect any help from the Givens Company.

Tony and Linda Keeling
Veritas, Roberts 44
Mazatlan, Mexico

Tony & Linda - What we have here is a case of a survival outfitter's mind-boggling lack of respect for his customers' lives - and a giant mess. Earlier this year, the Coast Guard issued a Mariners Alert because liferafts serviced by Jim Givens Survival Company and Givens Ocean Survival Systems, Co. of Newport and Portsmouth, Rhode Island, "may not have been properly serviced in accordance with annual servicing requirements." On June 17, the Coast Guard issued a more detailed report:

"As a follow-up to a recent Marine Safety Alert regarding improper servicing of Givens Life Rafts, Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, Providence, is publicizing the findings of life raft examinations to raise awareness of this serious safety hazard. Recently Coast Guard inspectors examined 19 liferafts from fishing vessels and pleasure boats serviced by Jim Givens Survival Company. All 19 of the liferafts examined had deficiencies. Three rafts were taken out of service and two were condemned. Sixteen rafts had missing equipment. Five carbon dioxide (CO2) cylinders on rafts had problems. Seventeen of the rafts contained items which were expired at the time of the last servicing. One raft had dry rot and tears in the fabric that had been glued back together. Problems with the CO2 cylinders - which are required to inflate the rafts - included two cylinders that had not been tested in seven years, and one that weighed half its required weight. Some of the missing items included sea anchors, radar reflectors, flares, medical supplies, flashlights, food, water, drinking cups, can openers, whistles, bailers, jackknifes, repair kits, heaving lines, instructions and hand pump parts - rendering pumps inoperative. Expired items included Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and other batteries, flares, medical supplies, food and water. On one raft, all but three of the 72 required water bags were missing, broken or expired. Many other items, such as oars, interior and exterior lighting and hand held pumps, were inoperative and required repairs or replacement.

"Although problems have been found with 100% of the rafts examined by the Coast Guard, the seriousness and type of discrepancies have varied from raft to raft. Upon seeing his raft taken out of the cannister, one owner whose raft was in particularly bad condition was visibly shaken and expressed great concern for the safety of his family and crew who had been out on his vessel. The Coast Guard wants to make it clear to all mariners that this is not the typical safety alert that the public is used to, where only one in a large number of items is found defective. Records kept by the servicing company indicate that more than 200 rafts, mainly fishing vessel and pleasure boat rafts, may have been serviced at the facilities listed here. Attempts by Coast Guard personnel to notify mariners whose rafts are affected have been significantly hindered by poor record-keeping on the part of the life raft servicing facilities. The Coast Guard urges recreational and commercial mariners to check their life raft servicing records and to schedule servicing as soon as possible if the raft was last serviced at the above facilities. Please contact your local Coast Guard Marine Safety Office prior to scheduling servicing."

Wow. The release went on to specify that people should not confuse the companies above with Givens Marine Survival of Portsmouth and Tiverton, Rhode Island.

You didn't indicate, Tony and Linda, where you bought your raft and where it was last serviced, so we don't know if the above warning applies to you - or if you should immediately alert the Coast Guard to the possibility that there may be problems with an even greater number of rafts.

We called Givens Marine Survival of Portsmouth to get their version of the story. This is what Frank Perino, who says he runs the company, had to say: "In early 1996, I became a majority partner in Givens Ocean Survival. I soon began having problems with Jim Givens violating company policies, and we ended up in court. In mid-'96, Givens was totally removed from the company as a result of the court action. We've continued on with the company and opened up a new factory in Rhode Island. We have 50 to 60 service stations for our liferafts around the county, and Jim Givens was allowed to continue operating servicing station #3 in Rhode Island. But he had nothing to do with producing or marketing Givens Life Rafts.

"I'm a lawyer, and it's our position that we didn't buy Given's company and liabilities - just the name. We now have a different company, a different name - and therefore can't be held responsible for the things Jim Givens might have done when he owned his company or for the things he did at his servicing station. If someone wants to write letters to marine publications to criticize us, I think it's like blackmail. There's nothing we can do about the people Givens might have shortchanged because it would cost something like $300,000. But people shouldn't have a problem with us, they should have it with Jim Givens. I don't know where Jim Givens is, but I do know that both the Attorney General and the Coast Guard are very interested in going after him."

Unless there is some incredible explanation for Given's behavior, we'd like to see him spend the rest of his life behind bars. We suppose it's lucky he wasn't a pharmacist dispensing sugar pills in lieu of heart medicine to maximize his profits. As for whether the current owners of Givens really have a different company and whether they are free of the original company's liabilities, we just don't know. It's no secret that we at Latitude have about as much respect for the U.S. legal system as we do for those little deodorant cakes found in the bottom of urinals, but this is one instance where we might consult a lawyer regarding options - in the off chance you can find one willing to discuss something that would yield them such a relatively insignificant amount of money.


Latitude asked about San Clemente Island, the island off the coast of Southern California that's used by the Navy as a training ground.

For those of us with boats berthed in San Diego, San Clemente is the closest U.S. island - just 60 miles away. Many of us have been enjoying the quiet seclusion of the coves on the island for many years. It also serves as a nighttime anchorage for the many fishing boats out of San Diego. The author, Zane Grey, once had a home on the southeast side of the island, and the ruins of the foundation as well as some fruit trees and a few wild pigs are still there. There used to be a goodly number of goats, but they were removed to preserve the native plant growth. San Clemente is also home to a rare species of fox.

How can sailors use San Clemente Island? With the exception of Wilson Cove, mariners can usually anchor anywhere around the island - except when the Navy is conducting military training. In theory, you can contact San Clemente Island Control on VHF to find out if any training is scheduled that would prevent anchoring, but we've never been able to raise them. On several occasions we've been "invited to leave the island". Once, while anchored at Northeast Harbor on the north end of the island, we were "detained" until the Navy concluded their activities.

Pyramid Cove, on the south end of the island, is one of the more popular anchorages. There are a number of small coves on the east side where it's possible to drop a hook, but there's usually a swell, so it's more comfortable if a stern anchor is also set. The west side of the island is often too rough for anchoring, but if you watch out for the kelp, there are usually a few good spots.

Civilians are prohibited from going ashore because of the danger of unexploded shells. But if you're anchored on the east side of the island and want to wander in not too far from the beach, it's probably all right. The diving is good at San Clemente as the water is normally quite clear. In fact, you'll often find commercial fish and dive boats at the island. Bring a cold water wetsuit if you plan on doing any diving. The Department of Fish & Game patrols regularly, often in unmarked inflatables. We've yet to see any surfers out there, so I suspect there aren't any good spots.

The bad news is that the Navy wants to increase the number and scale of training operations on and around San Clemente, and hearings on the possible environmental impacts were recently concluded.

Jane and Geves Kenny
San Diego and Mexico

Jane - Thanks for that report. We'd also like to hear from others who have had experiences around - or on - San Clemente Island.

Our interest in San Clemente Island evolved from two incidents. The first was a visit, a couple of years ago, to the beautiful Italian island of Capri, where there is a wonderful blend of mostly tasteful development and natural preservation. It got us to thinking about how little we Americans get to appreciate the many islands off the coast of Southern California. Avalon is fine and all that, but why shouldn't we have greater access to more of the islands?

Then there was the matter of the Puerto Ricans demanding that the island of Vieques no longer be used for target practice by U.S. military planes. "Free Vieques!" they shout. Well, our cry is "Free San Clemente Island!" Admittedly, there has been no groundswell of support for our idea - indeed, not a single person has expressed any interest. But we'll keep at it.


The rules in Mexico constantly change, but if anybody finds they need a new engine in Mexico, here's how we imported a new Yanmar diesel in April of '99.

Actually, Pat of the Santa Cruz-based Cricket had successfully imported and installed a new engine just a week before us, so we followed his process step by step. Naturally, we had our 20-Year Mexican Import Permit - albeit the older version.

The importation process took two days of running around between the marina office, the Customs office, the tax office, and a machine shop - that was destroying our old engine, a requirement under the law - building the necessary paper trail. In the end, we completed a different set of forms than Cricket - things are never done the same way twice in Mexico. We got a great price on the engine from Tacoma Diesel, with no Washington state sales tax. The shipping was via Alaska Airlines, and cost $283. There was no Mexican duty. Delivery from airport to boat was $40, and airport storage was 5 pesos (50 cents). We had the engine at our dock in Puerto Vallarta just six days after ordering it. The net cost was cheaper than if we had bought it back in California!

By the way, we departed Half Moon Bay in October of '98 and have just completed our first year in Mexico. We did the winter on the mainland and the summer in the Sea of Cortez. During that time we made two quick trips back to the States. We drink the local water after filtering it, eat from street vendors, and almost never lock our boat or dinghy. We've had nothing but positive experiences. Cruising in Mexico has been great! Now we're off through Central America to Panama, the Galapagos and the South Pacific - hopefully using our new Yanmar as little as possible.

By the way, we just started using Pocketmail (www.pocketmail.com) to do our email. So far it's been a viable alternative to the $2000+ start-up cost of onboard email or having to constantly trek to internet cafes. Our email is sent and received via telephone to a server in Santa Clara, California, by a pocket-sized device - actually a modified Sharp Wizard - with a built-in acoustic coupler. It cost $120. The service fee is $100/year and there are no additional costs. Calling in for email is free while in the States; down here in Mexico it's 70 cents a minutes. A typical email session for us - sending and receiving a total of 15 messages - takes three to four minutes and therefore costs under $3. The Mexican phones have been fine, although we're a little apprehensive of how we'll fare in Guatemala, Panama, and other countries. Your mail can be accessed via the web as a backup. Naturally, you're offline when you're away from phones, but there are more phones out there than internet cafes.

Simon and Lori Elphick
Native Dancer, Nor'West 33
La Paz, Mexico (ex-Half Moon Bay)

Simon & Lori - Successfully importing boat gear into Mexico is often a very long, difficult and expensive process. No doubt many other cruisers will have a hard time believing you were able to get a new engine from Washington to your dock in Puerto Vallarta in just six days. As you noted, however, others shouldn't expect to have as good luck elsewhere in Mexico - or even Puerto Vallarta. One the great attractions - and frustrations - of Mexico is that nothing ever happens the same way twice.


We left Northern California in 1996 to go cruising, spent nearly two years in Mexico, and made the Baja Bash back north this spring. When we decided to take a berth in Southern California, everybody cautioned us that the authorities in Southern California are much more strict about water pollution than they are in Northern California. It would, for example, be almost impossible for us to work on our boat in the berth, and anything that went overboard would subject us to a fine. Well, ho, ho, ho, were we misled!

We took a berth in Mariner's Bay in Marina del Rey, and have to say that we've seen much cleaner marinas in Mexico. The marina water is really dirty, with all kinds of stuff floating in and on the water. In addition, there is a powerboat in the marina that has been leaking gasoline all over our end of the basin. Apparently, the boat sank a couple of months ago, was stabilized, but is now sinking again. The Harbor Patrol was called and apparently came, but the problem hasn't been solved.

And on a boat near ours, a crew of professional sanders have been sanding glass off the topsides of a boat. The sanders wear masks and protective suits, but they haven't shown any interest in protecting everything else from the fiberglass dust they create. There are no plastic sheets between the boat being sanded and the water or the adjacent boats, so the dust goes all over both of them. Since the sanding work is being done on a dock not more than 20 yards from the marina office and the work has been going on for a month, we have to assume that the marina management doesn't care either.

There's more. Approximately 100 yards away, at the end of the basin we're currently in, there is a lovely swimming beach where kids and groups of people swim and picnic. Would you want your kids swimming there? Anyway, if you come down from Northern California, don't worry about polluting the water in Southern California - they don't care! We never saw anything like this in the year we were at Svendsen's Marina in Alameda.

Surprised in Dirty Southern California
Name Withheld for Obvious Reasons

Surprised - We know you're being facetious about 'not worrying about polluting in Southern California', because in most places down south the marina management and authorities are actually quite strict about it. In a few places there's a zero tolerance attitude - which we think is a little over the top in that the vast majority of water pollution comes from 'non-point' sources. In other places, they'll cut you a little slack, but expect that you'll make a genuine effort to limit what goes into the water. That anybody permits what you've described - a boat continually leaking fuel and a multi-month sanding project - comes as a shock to us. A shock that the Harbor Patrol and marina management would allow it to continue, and that other mariners haven't howled in protest.

Having said that, you have to assume that the water in places like Marina del Rey is inevitably going to be filthy. For not only is it home to more boats than any other marina in the world, but it also has all the oil, grease and other detritus of the millions of people and businesses of the L.A. Basin flowing into it. To make matters worse, there is very limited water circulation, particularly in the basin where your boat is berthed.

"A lovely swimming beach"? We think you'd have to be nuts to swim in that water - as nuts as the many mothers who let their infants play on the shore of Dog Shit Beach in Sausalito, where nobody - certainly not the dog owners or anybody in government - pays the least bit of attention to the many signs advising that dogs are prohibited from the beach.


In the November issue, Mike and Joyce Creasy report having "waltzed through 40 degrees on either side of the wind" after setting their sea anchor. They also broke their rudder quadrant when the sea anchor was employed.

Lin and Larry Pardey describe the essence of heaving to as holding your boat at an attitude of about 50 degrees off the wind, preventing all forereaching. That's holding your boat at an attitude of about 50 degrees off the wind, preventing all forereaching. At the risk of repeating myself again, that's holding your boat at an attitude of about 50 degrees off the wind preventing all forereaching. It's easier said than done, but it's what you've got to do.

Only after describing characteristics of a successfully hove-to vessel do the Pardeys suggest a sea anchor as the best tool for the job. But they're clear that the sea anchor must be carefully deployed and then adjusted so that the magically stable 50 degrees can be maintained. Okay, maybe within 10 to 15 degrees. To that end, they've devised a bridle, which can be seen in their Storm Tactics Handbook. There are other ways of doing this, but their sea anchor and bridle is what's gotten them through some very nasty storms in relative comfort and safety.

The Pardeys also recommend that you add any adjustments required to suit your own boat to help attain your 50-degree attitude. For example, when a full-keel boat with a cutaway forefoot lies to a sea anchor with a 'Pardey bridle', she will successfully be prevented from sailing above the 50 degrees - but will fall off regularly, which is a bad thing. In such situations, a riding sail in the form of a storm sail on the backstay or a mizzen might provide the solution. Their system has been tested on fin-keel boats, too, so let's not hear any of that 'it would only work if you're sailing a Bristol Channel Cutter' stuff.

In my estimation, the Pardeys satisfactorily address most of the other issues - such as chafe and rudder failure - but only on the assumption that you've achieved the magic number of a stable 50-degree attitude.

Admittedly, it takes a surprisingly high level of skill to deploy a sea anchor in the way the Pardeys suggest. In addition, it takes a fairly subtle understanding of the nuances of heaving-to to get it right - and subtlety and nuance ain't in the game when the winds are high. I've read at least a dozen accounts where highly experienced, skilled and knowledgeable folks like the Creasys have missed part of the puzzle. I've also read at least one account where a sailor got it right by getting it wrong. He achieved the 50-degree attitude by accident, with the rode irretrievably wrapping the wrong way around a stanchion or samson post. (It seems that most missteps are irretrievable when the winds howl!) In any event, once his boat got into that position, he rode out the remainder of the storm in relative comfort and safety.

So it seems that a sea anchor is not for everyone. And if you have to scratch your head to remember how it goes when you need it, you might be better off pulling something else out of your bag of tricks. But if you've drilled all that subtlety and nuance into your instinct with practice and experience, it's still a fine and trusted friend. It beats the hell out of getting rolled.

Doug Hoople
Vela, Pacific Seacraft Mariah 31

Doug - There are two new books out on heavy weather sailing: Dashews' Surviving The Storm, Coastal and Offshore Tactics, and the latest edition of Adlard Coles' Heavy Weather Sailing. Based on a quick reading of both volumes, riding to a sea anchor is no longer considered to be as universal a storm strategy as it was a few years ago - which is not to say it may not be the very best response for some boats in certain situations. To summarize some of the problems: 1) The notion that a fatigued and seasick husband and wife crew could properly set a sea anchor in 50-knot winds during a pitch black night on stormy seas is unrealistic. 2) There isn't enough room on most 40-foot boats to carry a sufficient length of adequate sized line - 600 feet of one-inch line - to properly set a sea anchor. 3) How do you keep 50 degrees off the wind if you're battling two separate sets of wave trains? And 4) The spectrum of boats is so tremendous these days that what might work for a small, heavy, full keel boat might well be the worst strategy for a long and light boat. In other words, today most experts seem to believe in different strokes for different boats in different wind and sea conditions. One strategy, they suggest, won't fit all.


Regarding Ian Woolward and Latitude's comments on the Battle of Trafalgar, both of you are partly correct.

Having conquered Spain, Napoleon had placed one of his relatives on the Spanish throne. As a result, the fleet Nelson and the English defeated was a fleet of both Spanish and French vessels. Incidentally, there is a California connection in that several of the Spanish naval officers killed in the battle had previously served in the Naval Department of San Blas. That sleepy Mexican village about 60 miles north of Puerto Vallarta was the Spanish naval base that built and served the ships that explored and supplied California. The officers stationed in San Blas all sailed the coasts of what were to become California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and southern Alaska. Geographical places with names such as Bodega, Quadra and Juan de Fuca harken to their service.

Glenn E. Burch
Schooner La Sirena

Glenn - Fine report. Isn't it a pity that most of us only begin to enjoy history long after high school and college?


I'm sure many avid readers of Latitude are a bit confused after reading various letters about the Battle of Trafalgar: Was it the Spanish or the French that Lord Nelson and the English defeated? Since Latitude "expects every man to do his duty," I volunteer to clarify things.

It's tempting to provide a lengthy story here, but the least I can say is that both writers were correct. The British fleet of 27 ships under Admiral Horatio Nelson confronted the 'Combined Fleet' that consisted of 33 capital ships, 18 of them French, 15 of them Spanish. The Combined Fleet was under the nominal command of French Vice Admiral Pierre de Villenueve - to the considerable chagrin of the proud Spanish Navy. In such a major battle, there were naturally dozens of fascinating subplots and stories.

As suggested above, the famous flag signal that Nelson sent to the fleet just before going in to battle - England expects every man to do his duty - became one of the most well-known inspirational phrases in naval history. The men in the British fleet, closing on the Combined Fleet, sent up a loud cheer when the signal was passed, which was quite disconcerting to the Spanish and French sailors. The battle itself was gruesome, but there were numerous acts of gallantry and heroism on both sides.

The aftermath of the battle was particularly hard on the survivors, as a fierce storm lashed the area for days, causing great pain and more loss of life for those trying to recover from their wounds. The huge 130-gun Santisima Trinidad, pride of the Spanish fleet, survived the battle, although battered. She was taken as a prize by the British - but was then rolled over and lost when the tow line parted in a gale. Having now sailed in a smaller boat in lesser winds in San Francisco Bay with clenched teeth, I understand how this would be possible.

Probably more has been written about the Battle of Trafalgar than any other engagement in the Age of Sail. The result was that British naval power was assured for the rest of the century, the decline of the Spanish navy was hastened, and Napoleon had to abandon his plan to invade England.

Although Nelson didn't survive the battle, his ship, HMS Victory, lives on. She is well-preserved in Portsmouth, England, the oldest warship in continuous commission in the world. Those who wish to see a good virtual tour of this magnificent vessel can point their browsers to www.flagship.org.uk/victory.html, where you will also find information on life aboard ships in that era. Frankly, it's a wonder they were able to accomplish anything given the food and grog the British seaman were given: Usually two pounds of salted beef or pork (or cheese and oatmeal on some days), one loaf of bread or one pound of biscuit (the weight included the weevils), one gallon of beer, and 1/4 pint of rum twice a day blended with 3 parts water to make grog.

Grog? In the 18th century, Admiral Edward Vernon ordered the daily rum ration mixed with water. Vernon's nickname was 'Old Grog' for the grosgrain cloak that he wore, and the drink he introduced became known by his name.

Rick Koenig
Fantasy, Rafiki 35


I have a 1985 Lancer 30 with an Edson pedestal steering system. If the wheel is turned while the boat is close-hauled, there's a metallic clinking sound inside the pedestal - but only when the wheel is first turned. There is no scraping when the wheel is turned further, nor does the steering seem to be affected in any way. When I sail the boat off the wind or when she's tied up in the slip, no amount of yanking on the wheel will result in a similar noise.

I've pulled off the emergency steering cap to listen to the rudder post, and stuck my head down by the quadrant. The sound doesn't seem to be related to either of those. I've also removed the binnacle compass, but can't see anything inside the pedestal that would produce such a sound.

I'm hoping that either you or one of your readers can offer an explanation before I resort to removing the compass while close-hauled on the Bay. By the way, I tried searching the web for an Edson Web site, but had no luck. If you know of a contact address, I'd appreciate that too.

Barney McCloskey
Lady Barbara

Barney - It reminds us of a race we did to Cabo with our Freya 39 many years ago. It was blowing about 25 to 30 knots, we had a kite up, and for all the world it sounded exactly as though there were a Scuba tank rolling around in the bilge. We went through the bilges bow to stern always thinking we were about to find it - but never could. We didn't sleep all that well.

It's hard to diagnose your problem because you neglected to indicate what kind of Edson steering system you have. They make three our four different types. Why not give them a call at (508) 995-9711 or email them? By the way, we have a Whitlock geared system aboard Profligate, and it makes a tiny click each time you begin to turn the wheel the opposite way. It's caused by a very slight play in the joints and we don't worry about it.


My husband and I are liveaboards who have been sitting out the hurricane season in Venezuela. We returned from a trip to the United States loaded down with six months of back issues of Latitude, our favorite magazine.

We were pleased to discover Destiny's article about Venezuela in the June issue, and wish to identify the young man who runs the sailing school at Bahia Redonda Marina here in Puerto La Cruz. He's Eduardo Cordero, and in addition to giving lessons on Sunfish, he also teaches on keelboats with a J/24, C&C 30 and a J/35. His classes run from a day to a week for between two and four people. His reasonable rates make his lessons an affordable way to explore these beautiful cruising grounds! He can be reached by email.

In any event, we would encourage everyone to find a way to come and explore Venezuela and her wonderful offshore islands.

Jennie and Pete Vanden Brulle

Jennie V, Pearson 422

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela


We've been rolling around between Mexico and Panama for the last couple of years and have found that the best 'medicine' for 'no-see-um' bites is fingernail polish! As soon as we realize we've been bitten, we apply a dab of polish to the site, let it dry, and let it stay there until it flakes away in a couple of days. The polish immediately takes the sting and itch out of the bite.

We know this probably violates 37 kinds of law and could bring the F.F.A., D.H.E.A. and F.C.C. down on us for misuse of a consumer product, but it works quickly, simply, and effectively. We prefer to use clear polish, but there is nothing wrong with colored polish - although it may take a little explaining as to why you're covered with red dots.

We're no bug experts, but it seems as though some anchorages are bug-infested for a day or two and then may clear up for quite some time. Honeymoon Cove in the Sea of Cortez across from Puerto Escondido, for example, was covered in small flies one day. But when we returned a week later, there was hardly a varmint to be found.

One problem with the 'magic' repellents and coatings is that they tend to wash off with perspiration. In the tropics, you perspire most of the time. We could never find anything that would last for more than a few minutes. Fingernail polish, however, is usually waterproof and perspiration proof. It also takes the sting out of mosquito bites, but not quite as effectively. We've found that a dab of ammonia, promptly applied, works as well as the fancy stuff. Most folks know that meat tenderizer also works well on bites and stings if applied quickly enough. I've even used bleach on a bite, and it seems to do a sort of 'nuke job' by eliminating both the bite and the skin. We only recommend it in a pinch.

For folks headed down this way, Panama is great! And if you follow the instructions, the Canal transit isn't difficult.

Dennis and Sonja




As the editor/webmaster of one of the East Coast's most frequently accessed nautical web sites, the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay Nautical News Net, let me congratulate you on your own fine web site. And especially your letters to the editor section. There is more practical information in those letters than most of the popular monthly boating magazines have in their entire issues!

In the October issue, there was a letter about 'repairing' Micrologic GPS units. Several of our readers were faced with the same problem and, after some research, we came up with the following sources that can update the Micrologics:

Avmar, Attn: Bob Skog, Suite 203, 8385 Piney Orchard Parkway, Odenton, MD 21113. (410)-672-1229

Pete's Electric, 1710 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050. (305) 743-8328 Fax: (305) 743-6181.

Neptune Electronics, 925 N. Pacific Ave, San Pedro, CA 90731.

The cost of updating the Micrologics varies from between $50 and $100. Whether or not it's worthwhile, I'll leave up to the individual owners.

Further, I understand too that Boat/US has information on other repair shops that can do the upgrade.

Jim Weidner, K2JXW

Weidner & Sons Publishing

Jim - Thanks for that useful information - and the very kind words.


There was a letter in the last issue about the legality of running lights mounted one the sides of hulls. On page 89 of the 60th edition of Chapmans, it says that "Small craft with sidelights flush-mounted in the hull below the rubrail do not comply with the International Rules requirement that such lights be above the 'uppermost continuous deck'." It also goes on to report that there is a permanent exemption for older boats.

Dave Harrison

Santa Cruz


In the November issue, a Mr. Chave wrote in mentioning an article he had read in Sail magazine stating that "Navigation lights that are mounted on the surface of a hull and not above are illegal." I believe this is true for international waters but not for U.S. inland waters.

The 72COLREGS, Annex 1, Section 2, Paragraph (g) reads: International: The sidelights of a power-driven vessel shall be placed at a height above the hull not greater than three-quarters of that of the forward masthead light. They shall not be so low as to be interfered with by deck lights.

Inland: The sidelights of a power-driven vessel shall be placed at least one meter lower than the forward masthead light. They shall not be so low as to be interfered with by deck lights.

There is no mention in the Inland Rules of lights having to be placed above the hull. See, those Master's license tests are good for something!

But such a precise interpretation of this rule is however a bit preposterous when you consider the widely varied light combinations displayed regularly on the water. On the Fourth of July, for example, my guests and I enjoyed counting the great number of boats parading home with the steaming, tricolor, anchor and running lights on - all at once! A few had the running lights reversed.

My favorite rules interpretation occurred a few years ago. I was being passed by a man in his very large sailing vessel when he informed me that he had acquired the right-of-way because his mast was abeam. Not only were we not racing at the time, but the 'mast abeam' concept had already become obsolete anyway. I had no operating engine, just parts in the engine room, and was between him and a rocky shore. I sail because it is my passion and nobody can spoil my sail. I just smiled, waved, and said I had nowhere to go and no engine. He asked me what size boat Sandpiper was. He then started his engine and motored away in disgust.

For such reasons, when in the Bay I try to avoid situations that require a change of course to be made by another vessel - especially working boats. I'm rarely heading anywhere in particular, anyhow. Besides, we singlehanders kinda like to tack, it makes us feel kool.

P.S. I love Latitude.

Capt. Bry


Capt. - Thanks for the clarification. By the way, it would seem that we have similar outlooks. Sailing is our passion also, and we never mind if we have to tack or gybe to avoid a situation from developing with another vessel, as the manuever gives us yet another opportunity to enjoy another little nugget of sailing pleasure.

Say, here's a crazy little idea that just crossed our minds for next spring: How about a sailing competition from the Golden Gate to Alcatraz, the winner not being the fastest boat between the two points, but which crew can make the most gybes. Any takers?


Reading about the current fate of Norm Bennett, the well-liked owner of Club Nautico Marina in Cartagena, Colombia, struck a deep chord with me. My father Jim was arrested in Ecuador almost three years ago on phony charges of money laundering. It's been a long, hard, frustrating experience for my entire family, largely due to the lack of cooperation from the U.S. government. I wish I could pass on some words of wisdom to those fighting for Bennett, but as I write this letter my father still sits imprisoned in his 9x12-foot cell in Quito.

What I can offer is my father's Web site (www.freejim.com) in which you can find my father's journal entries describing his situation. Hopefully, those close to Bennett can in some way learn or gain from our experiences. Anyone else interested in my family's plight to free Jim is also welcomed and encouraged to visit the site. Those who wish to contact us can do via the web site or can contact me directly by email.






Latitude asked what other readers had to say about dinghies. Before I respond, let me say that I've come very close to writing you a couple of times this year for what I thought was excellent and valuable editorial content. The stories on the big storms off New Zealand, the follow-up articles on storm tactics with many expert opinions, the interview with the Pardeys - even the simpler things like discussions on how to deal with drinking water. I have been reading Latitude for several years, and have still been very excited about it this year.

On the subject of dinghies! When it comes to inflatables versus hard dinghies, I'm have a minority opinion because I love my hard shell. Further, I would like to suggest a Gig Harbour Boatworks dinghy as an alternative to a Fatty Knees or Trinka to reader Derek Warton. The Gig Harbour models range in size up to 16 feet. Mine is an eight-footer which easily stores on the deck of my Baba 30.

I had the dinghy built with a molded-in mast step and converted an old board sailing rig for sailing purposes. I've had a blast sailing the dinghy in anchorages! She also rows well - in fact, I've been able to row her into 20-knot winds without any problem. She could be rowed into heavier winds, but I've not yet had the opportunity to determine an upper limit. Since she's so easy to row and I don't feel like dealing with gas, I don't currently have an outboard motor. But hey, one of the new cleaner-burning more fuel efficient four-strokes would be pretty sweet.

The only real advantage I ever hear mentioned for inflatables in that they are more stable. Well, tricycles are more stable, too, but I've been riding two-wheelers for quite a while now. Come to think of it, someone also suggested that inflatables are "safer". I don't understand this, however, because as Latitude reported, in December of '97 a guy had his engine stall while motoring back to his boat in the anchorage at night. He couldn't get the engine going again and he couldn't row into the 15 knots of wind, so he blew out to sea. Luckily, he was found - although pretty well fried by the sun - the following day after a massive helicopter search. I would have easily been able to row my hardshell back to the boat in such a situation.

Two other advantages. My shell only weighs 60 pounds, so my wife and I can easily carry it up the beach. In addition, it won't puncture on a sharp rock.

Marty Johnson

Baba 30, Rebellion

Seattle, WA

Marty - Given the overwhelming number of sailors who have inflatables as opposed to hard dinghies, it would seem that the former are far superior in every respect to the latter. In our opinion, however, strong arguments can be made for each. Indeed, we wish somebody would go into production on a line of rigid 'nesting' dinghies. For those not familiar with the concept, a nesting dinghy is one that can be: 1) Used as one big dinghy, 2) Broken down into two parts and used as two separate dinghies, and 3) Broken down into two parts and stacked for efficient storage.

Thanks for the kind words. We can assure you that our small staff continues to work incredibly hard to bring you the best possible issues of Latitude we can.


For non-racers, one of the major reasons to belong to a yacht club is the system of reciprocal privileges. Of course, what the different clubs have to offer in reciprocity varies greatly. Some have great bars, restaurants and guest docks, others have a bar and little else - and some offer nothing at all, existing only on paper. Is that a form of abuse challenging world order? Not nearly as much as that stainless steel will stain.

Yet there is something to be said for fairness - or at least honesty - if we want to preserve the system. I know that the Morro Bay and San Francisco Yacht Clubs charge for the use of their guest docks. Its members claim free guest docking at other clubs, but there is no pretense there. These clubs want the money and do not pretend to offer reciprocity.

Recently, however, I came across a new twist. The Encinal YC assured me that it still offers reciprocal guest dock privileges - but that there is a $15 charge per day for the availability of water and electricity. Not the use of the water and electricity, but the availability of water and electricity. The use of the cleats, however, remains free.

The rather offensive explanation was that the charge discourages freeloaders. I guess that includes people like me, who perhaps once or twice a year will dock at one of the local clubs, but who for decades have been paying for a clubhouse and guest dock with water and power so we can offer reciprocity to members of other clubs.

I gladly pay for a berth when, for logistical or other reasons, I need a dock while cruising, but it disturbs me when the commercial operation of a yacht club claims to offer reciprocal privileges. The reciprocity at Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon is better.

Ah well, Latitude still appears with the regularity of a clock after all these decades - and is even still free. That is something to celebrate.

Louk Wijsen



Louk - We find this a difficult subject to get too worked up about. For one thing, the amount of money involved is not that significant. Secondly, as you began to point out, there is never going to be anything even approaching equality in yacht club reciprocity. If you really want equality, you're going to have to compare facilities, initiation and monthly fees, the relatively frequency with which members use reciprocal privileges, and then come up with some formula of equality - that would require, of course, frequent updating. We understand your annoyance, but we'd rather pay the $15 than even think about it. Besides, the Encinal is one of the nicer yacht clubs with excellent facilities that include a spacious lawn overlooking the water and a pool.

For what it's worth, yacht clubs perceive reciprocity in different ways: The San Francisco YC, for instance, charges $15 a night and expects visitors to patronize their bar and restaurant. At the nearby Corinthian YC, the first night is free, the second night is $15 - and they don't mind if you have dinner at Guaymas or Sams. At the Richmond YC, the first three nights - and maybe even more - are free.


We're ready to float Mantra again! It's been three long years of fueling the dream to be cruising by the year 2000. What began as a wish list of everything we could ever want to completely re-outfit our Kantola 42 trimaran soon took on a life of its own. The vision that has kept us going is that of a more simple life but one with new challenges and ever-changing horizons.

We've been on the hard in the Napa Valley Marina for three years as a new engine, new sails, roller furling, radar, electronics, refrigeration, and an inverter have found their way aboard Mantra. Then there was a complete paint job inside and out, new nonskid, and lots of brightwork. Whew! And amidst all that, we sold the house, closed the business, found a new home for our dog, made sure our 22-year-old is well established with his career, and prayed that our parents stay healthy so we can make the great escape.

We are now ready to step the mast and begin the process of a shakedown. The journey to this point has been one of challenges and rewards, as we've learned to deal with all that is dealt to us. Now that we are finally living aboard, we eagerly anticipate floating again and embracing our new boss, Mother Nature. So here's to dreams and far off visions! We hope to see many others out there!

Buzz and Penny

Mantra, Kantola 42 Trimaran

Napa Valley Marina


I hope you can publish my thoughts on Mr. Detwiler and PinOak's effort to shut down SailMail:

Our congratulations, Mr. Detwiler, on your attempt to crush small and innocent nonprofit companies. We all know that those poor organizations with weak backbones are completely wrong in hoarding possible revenues from greedy a--holes such as yourself. Who cares that they are doing a good service for the community of mariners? And forget all that low cost and friendly service crap, because how is it going to help you buy a new Porsche? Most sailors out there use SailMail email to communicate with their families, to get weather updates, and even broadcast distress situations at sea. But you wouldn't care about that. If mariners can't afford your expensive services, you think they should be prohibited from using a less expensive, nonprofit alternative. My best wishes to your lawyer's descent to hell - and your shallow wallet.

Chris Schmieding

Yacht Salesman / CSUS Sailing Instructor

Chris - Not long ago the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) began efforts to establish a nonprofit email service similar to SailMail. The response of SailMail? "Great, we have the same objective of serving sailors and welcome them." PinOak, on the other hand, indicated they would fight the SSCA tooth and nail. Then it got weird. After the SSCA board decided they didn't have the resources to fend off PinOak's attacks, the F.C.C. granted them the necessary license anyway. Nonetheless, the SSCA's Board of Directors says they won't be going operational anytime soon. Here's why:

"As you know, SSCA has been trying to provide SSCA's cruising members with a private coastal station HF email service in which many of you have expressed a strong interest. At this time, after several months of careful consideration, the Board of Directors has concluded that because of the aggressive positions taken by PinOak Digital Corporation in virtually every area required to operate an HF email service, SSCA cannot move forward on this matter. We understand that PinOak is also attacking SailMail, another alternative HF email service. Even though the SSCA has just received its private coastal licenses from the F.C.C., PinOak's opposition to SailMail's license and PinOak's recent letter to SSCA strongly suggest that PinOak will likewise challenge the SSCA license at a later date. While the SSCA and others believe that PinOak's positions are legally wrong, unenforceable and undefendable, the realities are that the cost of resolving these issues is unaffordable by a not-for-profit operation trying to serve its cruising members in an affordable and responsible manner. SSCA attempted to have PinOak join SSCA in a cooperative effort to provide this service. PinOak has refused SSCA's suggestion and offered none of its own. We believe PinOak's actions leave no realistic hope at this time for any cooperative effort involving PinOak."


This is a copy of a letter I sent to PinOak about the B.S. stuff they're trying to pull on SailMail:

"I just read an interesting article in Latitude 38 regarding your legal actions against SailMail. I also recently purchased an ICOM 710-RT and one of the SCS modems you claim to have the exclusive right to import. Well, I find PinOak's legal wranglings to be of the chickenshit variety, and assholes like Peter Detwiler make me sick. Oh, and you can guess who won't be a customer of PinOak anytime soon! I'll also be using my web page to let the sailing community at large know what kind of company PinOak is."

Dave Benjamin

Entropy, Freedom 39 Ketch

Grand Marina, Alameda

Dave - When you speak of the SCS modems, you raise an interesting issue. In PinOak's original complaint to the F.C.C. about SailMail, their two big issues were that SailMail was owned by West Marine - they have stopped making that ridiculous claim - and that anyone using SailMail had to be using SCS Pactor II modems built in Germany for which PinOak had the exclusive importation rights. Well, check out the following paragraph from a letter from attorney James J. Butler, representing the Seven Seas Cruising Association, to Peter Detwiler of PinOak:

"PinOak has claimed exclusive distribution rights to the SCS PTC-II and PTC-IIe modems on this continent which would be central to SSCA's [and SailMail's] proposed service. PinOak's apparent claims appear to pose a threat to the general availability of the modems to SSCA's members, at least for commercial use. SCS, the manufacturer of the modems, has indicated that PinOak has failed to distribute the modems and has actually interfered with the distribution of its modems, and that all contractual relations with PinOak have been terminated as of September 5, 1999. SCS has even agreed to guarantee SSCA an unrestricted supply of its modems and to defend and hold SSCA harmless, and to indemnify the SSCA against PinOak's claims should those claims arise in a formal sense."

And it appears that in addition to trying to make hardware roadblocks to the SSCA trying to set up an email system, they're trying to make it difficult for them to get the hardware. We again quote from Butler's letter: "It is our understanding that PinOak is undertaking direct threatening actions toward a certain software provider whose services would be part of SSCA's service. As a direct result of PinOak's threats to this software producer, they have withdrawn their software support for HF email programs which would be used by SSCA."

We're beginning to get an idea why Detwiler told us that the correct spelling of his name - and we're not making this up - is: "S-T-A-L-I-N".


I just read the November article on PinOak trying to get SailMail off the air. I know Stan Honey - who set up the non-profit SailMail - from his days as the head of technology at Fox Television and more recently at SportVision. I don't know if there's anything I could do to help, but I'd sure like to. Ironically, we were looking for an email solution for the Swan 431 we just purchased when we ran across the Latitude article on SailMail. I have two thoughts:

1) We have a 160-acre hillside horse ranch here in San Luis Obispo which might be a perfect site to host a SailMail station.

2) The actions of PinOak really piss me off, and I'd be really happy to support the cost of any legal action SailMail may need to take to defend itself. Having recently sold Xing to Real, I fortunately have some money, so I hope Stan will let me know if I can help.

Howard Gordon
San Luis Obispo


I have the following to say about PinOak's efforts to put the nonprofit SailMail out of business.

1) As a licensed serviceman and holder of an Extra class amateur license, I recently investigated a customer's complaint regarding his inability to contact PinOak. After verifying proper operation of his equipment, I contacted PinOak via a landline. It turns out that the problem was the absence of operating personnel at PinOak. This resulted in the customer having to needlessly pay for three hours of labor at $59/hour.

2) During a recent voyage of the schooner Magic from San Diego to Hawaii, then on to Victoria B.C., I received daily messages from Magic - with the exception of three or four days when they suspended ops in the interest of conserving battery power. Likewise, they reliably received my traffic. Magic used SailMail.

3) It is my intention to do everything I can to assure the continued operation of SailMail. Our economic system encourages competition. If PinOak can't stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.

Pete Kantor
Friday Harbor, WA


Would you please send me an electronic copy of last month's Sightings article that describes the efforts of PinOak to get the F.C.C. to shut down SailMail? PinOak is a for-profit provider of maritime email communications while SailMail is a nonprofit provider of maritime email communications - one that has proven extremely popular with cruisers. I want to post the last 10 paragraphs of that Sightings on the WA6OYC bulletin board. WA60YC is the ham equivalent of SailMail which operates on SSB. We have 10 boats from Oakland YC in Mexico this season, and all of them use SailMail as well as Ham email.

I also want to send the article to the other stations in the Winlink network. There are currently over 90 Amateur Radio stations around the world that participate as Internet Gateways for cruising hams. As you certainly know, one of the things Amateur Radio operators are legally prohibited from doing is conducting any business over ham radio - such as managing finances back home. This is where SailMail has filled an important gap at an affordable price.

We at WA6OYC welcome the efforts of Stan Honey and SailMail, and look forward to his being able to install more stations.

Rich Beckett
Trustee For WA6OYC
Oakland Yacht Club, Alameda

Rich - We're happy to send you a copy of that Sightings and encourage everyone else to pass it around, too.


Perhaps Mr. Detwiler - aka "S-T-A-L-I-N" - of PinOak recalls the eventual toppling of an empire based on fear and bully tactics, a toppling that left the better part of a continent shattered. The former Soviet Union is now a crippled entity - as PinOak will be if they continue to treat sailors the way they have treated SailMail. Why doesn't PinOak simply provide a better service rather than trying to eliminate a tiny competitor so useful to cruisers? Frankly, I think PinOak should be spelled PinHeads, and I call on all sailors to boycott it - as well as any other firm that seeks to limit our choice through smear campaigns and/or legal attacks.

I used to write software for lawyers, and know how much trouble one can create for a high-paying client. If PinOak tries to destroy SailMail, I hope the latter restructures, pouring their equipment and sites into newly formed non-profits, forcing PinOak to file suits over and over again to keep up with the changing names and financial managers of their org. I'll even volunteer to be CEO, CFO and Treasurer, no compensation required. After all, Statute 5047.5 of the California Corporate Code clearly states that officers of a nonprofit who receive no compensation are exempt from monetary damages. So I'd welcome PinOak to sue me - just so I could file a multimillion dollar cross-complaint!

I hope all sailors say, 'No thank you PinOak, thank you SailMail' - and then shout it through the rigging - and through email to the appropriate people at the Federal Communications Commission and PinOak. After all, if we sailors fail to rattle sabers, we're likely to wind up on the bottom of legislative, judicial and product selection piles. Please make your voice and desires for choice be known from the Red Sea to D.C.!

Craig, Deb and Bella
Columbia 26 / MavCat 46 Zin

Craig, Deb & Bella - Your passion is inspirational, but let's hold off on the countersuits and the concept of constantly changing nonprofit identities until we see if we can resolve this thing more amicably.


My husband and I were intrigued by Latitude's dinghy article in the October issue. In particular, we were interested in obtaining more information about the Italian-made flying dinghy. How can we learn more about it and about getting flying lessons?

Valerie Birkel

Valerie - Call the Flying Boat Company of America at (727) 394-2618 or visit their Web site at www.flyingboatcompany.com. According to them, the flying dinghy easily stores aboard a yacht, assembles in 15 minutes, takes off in 150 feet, requires no more than six inches of water, and can be flown to 10,000 feet. You don't need a license to fly one, but the company will arrange training in Florida or anywhere else in the world. They report over 750 of them have been sold to date.

We couldn't believe our eyes the first time we saw one of these flying boats, which was in the late '80s when somebody flew one over the fleet at English Harbor, Antigua. Although such a flying dinghy would be perfect for Latitude's editorial purposes, we're going to pass, as we feel we've probably already used up a lifetime of good luck when it comes to surviving rides in small planes and funky helicopters. But if somebody had the skills to operate one safely, it could be really terrific. If we remember correctly, they run about $15,000. There's another outfit, Paraborne Aviation of Kissimmee, Florida, that markets engine driven parasails that might be a little cheaper. Contact them at <www.paraborne.com>. And since you sound like the kind of folks who might like flying beneath the surface, too, check out the SportSub, the three person submarine that's been in production since 1987. They're at <www.ivccorp.com>.


I thought you would be interested to know that there will be a new addition to the wooden boat fleet in San Francisco Bay - Freelance, a 39-ft cutter rigged sloop. She was designed by Henry Gielow and built by New York Yacht Launch & Engine in 1935.

Freelance was purchased by my wife Liz and I from Ken Page at Quissett Harbor, Falmouth, MA. The boat was trailered across the country and arrived at Nelson's Boat Yard in Alameda in early November.

I first saw the boat in Woodenboat magazine, got some information on her, and then made an offer through Bob Trost of NorPac Yachts. Liz and I had been looking for a special wooden boat for about 18 months, and after flying back to see and sail Freelance, it was a done deal.

Rich and Liz Salvini

Rich & Liz - Congratulations, we'll look forward to seeing Freelance on the Bay.


I recently returned from a trip aboard Polaris, the Modern Sailing Academy's Islander 53 training vessel, from Honolulu to San Francisco, and wish to share my experience.

Making the trip were Capt. Richard Bowen and five student/crewmembers. The reason for the trip was to give each of us students a chance to experience an ocean crossing firsthand. It's the best way to see if you can handle such a trip and afforded a great opportunity to learn new skills. A course in celestial navigation was also part of the program.

For anyone thinking about offshore cruising but unsure - as was the case with me - such a trip is perfect. It was only a $2,000 investment as opposed to what it would have cost to buy a boat, go offshore, and discover that you don't like it. I consider myself lucky to have made the trip, which only reinforced my desire to head out to sea. I now have a beautiful Nor'Sea 27 and will participate in the Baja Ha-Ha 2000 full of confidence and with knowledge of what to expect.

The trip also helped me learn about what equipment I might like to have on a boat. For instance, I always thought of wind-vanes as the best self-steering devices - until I used the electronic autopilot aboard Polaris. As a matter of fact, we used both an autopilot and a windvane, but the autopilot was easier to set and more reliable. And it worked great, no matter if there was no wind or against half a gale. I love cooking and did most of the dinners on our trip. In the process, I learned that a pressure cooker will be my best tool in the galley.

Thanks, Modern Sailing Academy, it was a great trip.

Naftuli Furman


In the last issue of Latitude there was a Changes about a couple trying to bring a boat back to the United States from Australia. I recently read - although I can't remember where - about somebody mostly motorsailing a 40-foot or so trimaran east along the equator from Australia to the United States without much problem. I think they did go north of Hawaii. They burned over 200 gallons of diesel fuel, but had their fuel stops planned beforehand. The cost of the fuel was sure cheaper than shipping the boat, and it was less hectic than sailing in the Westerlies. They even managed to do some sailing, and ran into very little heavy weather.

George Snyder

Seaker, Ranger 29

Long Beach

George - There are two problems with the concept of motoring east along the equator from Australia to the United States. The first is that it's about 1,500 miles from a jumping off spot in Australia - Brisbane, for example - to the equator. At the other end of the trip, it's more than 2,000 miles from the equator to the southernmost part of the continental United States. Indeed, when you sail from Australia to California, you're going almost as far north as you are east, so you can't really follow the equator.

As for the 'Westerlies', they're only found far to the north or the south. In getting from Australia to the United States, you're primarily dealing with the southeast trades in the southern hemisphere and the northeast trades in the northern hemisphere. Landfalls of Paradise by Earl Hinz is a good book for understanding the big picture of getting around the Pacific.


A couple of years ago you published a small article about a large catamaran which had just arrived in the Bay Area from the Caribbean. Apparently the owners, the Edwards family of Portola Valley, had little experience on a multihull let alone a big Marquesas 56 cat.

Caren Edwards asked for anyone with catamaran skills to help her and her family learn about their boat. I responded, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to sail with her delightful family a couple of times on the Bay. We hope we helped them out some. Needless to say, we were thrilled to see the magnificent photo of them on the November cover. Obviously they made it to the South Pacific in style and comfort!

By the time you read this, we will finally have broken free after cruising the West Coast for 15 months and building up the cruising kitty. We're heading rapidly for the Panama Canal and will spend time in the San Blas Islands before heading off to Honduras and one of my favorite cruising areas, Belize. As I told my wife, the only way this boat will sail under the Golden Gate Bridge again is after sailing around the world - and returning by way of Hawaii! Our loose agenda over the next three or four years includes the Caribbean, East Coast, England and Sweden - where I have promised to take my wife's family sailing. We look forward to contributing the occasional article to the best sailing magazine anywhere.

P.S. Regards to our friends at Cass' Marina and Modern Sailing Academy.

Captain Jonathan and First Mate Joell White

Catfisher 32, JoJo

Ex-N. California and now ex-S. California!

Jonathan & Joell - The transition from a fast-paced business life to the cruising life can be difficult - especially for those with a limited sailing background and a couple of kids. So the Edwards made the trip to Tahiti with two crew, which was probably a wise move, particularly since they have so many cabins on their cat. Since then, they've continued on with just one crewmember. See Changes for more on their adventure.


The wind is pretty much always great for sailing in Central San Francisco Bay, but what about the container ships? If either AmericaOne or America True brings the Cup back to San Francisco Bay, where would the course be? Would they ask that all shipping be stopped during the races? Sailing outside the Gate would be another option, although it would bring on another host of problems. An America's Cup race to the Farallon Islands and back would certainly be different.

Does the host yacht club get to define the course?

Neil Kaminar

Voluspa, Challenger 35

Santa Cruz

Neil - The defending club does get to choose the site of the course, but the site and the course must be within certain relatively tight parameters. The course, for example, is usually three windward and three leeward legs of about three miles each. In any event, you can rest assured that it's not going to be a Farallones Race.

We don't know what course Dawn Riley's America True Syndicate is thinking about if they emerge victorious - and they're doing quite well, aren't they? - but Paul Cayard's AmericaOne Syndicate has already published a proposed course between Treasure Island and the Cityfront. One of the main features of the course is that it would allow for the maximum amount of spectating from shore. Such a course would, of course, interfere with the normal path of inbound shipping. Nonetheless, we suspect that the Coast Guard, bar pilots, and the shipping companies might be more than receptive to help accommodate such a terrific event.


I thought it was time to send you a thank you letter for all that you and your magazine have done for me. I'm the fellow who had the brain problems while in Mexico last December and January.

Yvonne and I have done the Ha-Ha the year before, which we really enjoyed. We then spent a year in the Sea of Cortez, mainly at Marina de La Paz. Mary Shroyer and her crew were great to us. Starting in the spring, we spent several months moving around the Sea of Cortez and did both Sailing Weeks. It was a lot of fun. After a couple of great weeks around Santa Rosalia, we sailed over to the Sea of Cortez where we stayed until the weather drove us south. We spent October in Mazatlan, where we met up with several friends from the Ha-Ha, and by November we had made it to the Puerto Vallarta area - which we really enjoyed!

At least we really enjoyed it until the day before Christmas when I had a slight problem with my brain. I had some bleeding, which caused me to pass out. I was rushed to the Amerimed Hospital before they transferred me to the main hospital in Guadalajara where I underwent brain surgery.

Everyone in Puerto Vallarta was such a help, in taking care of me - and Yvonne - and helping offset all the expenses. I later learned that the Wanderer, in his capacity as the Grand Poobah of the previous Ha-Ha, refunded our entry fee. I was shocked, as the event had ended more than a year ago and Yvonne and I had a great time.

Fortunately, all has gone well. Yvonne and I are now in Radford, Virginia, and our boat is at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. What comes next is only a guess, but at least I'm alive and have a second chance.

Tom and Yvonne Gaines
Amola, Newport 41
Radford, Virginia

Tom & Yvonne - Returning the Ha-Ha fee was the least we could do. Having not heard anything for almost a year, we - and your many cruising friends - were kind of assuming the worst. We're all delighted that you got that "second chance" and are doing better. It's a good reminder that each one of us ought to make the most out of every day.


We just walked out of West Marine in Sausalito with your latest issue and noticed a letter about the mega-store. As is the case with the author of the letter, West Marine was also our starter store in the early years. Things change as we grow older, of course, and sometimes not to our liking.

For example, I recently called the West Marine 800 number to order a $499 solar panel and $119 water pump to be picked up by us at the Santa Cruz store a week later. "Can't do that," said the person on the phone, "it's a new policy." Apparently all orders have to be sent to an address now; you can't just pick them up in a store. Also, you now have to pay for shipping - even if you live next door to the store. Fortunately, the person at the 800 number gave me the number of the Santa Cruz store and I was able to make an arrangement with Dave, the store manager, to pick the items up a week later.

Our next shock: When my wife and I arrived at the Santa Cruz store a week later, the $499 panel was now $569, and the $119 water pump had shot up to $144! We were told that the West Marine catalog only comes out once a year and the disclaimer for prices quoted in the catalog is on page 576. In the end, the manager did roll back the computer-generated higher prices back to the catalog. But after all the hassle, for the first time in many years we left West Marine with a sour taste in our mouths.

In August, we visited the new Las Vegas store and found it to be a delight. The couple from Marina del Rey who are running it, Antony Teffer and Linda, are very knowledgeable. Too bad that the store - or at least a third of it - is clothing and not the hard core nuts and bolts boater stuff. In this new era, one must remember West Marine is on the NASDAQ and stockholders want their investment to grow rapidly. I wonder if Defender will be the next one to fall?

On another subject, this summer we lived for a month on the waterfront in Port Dorse in Villefranche, which is just to the east of Nice, France. We've visited many times and just love it! On a day in late July, my wife looked up from our balcony and couldn't see the sky. As it turned out, a power boat in this small bay went up in flames and blew two people into the water. Then the wind started to push the vessel into the crowded anchorage, and a lot of anxious boaters were seen hustling around trying to get their boats out of the path. After burning for what seemed like forever, with thick, black smoke billowing over the town, the fire finally got to the waterline, and the boat sank near the waterfront. We guess the people in the boat were picked up. St. Jean Cap Ferret is in the background in the picture.

One last note, this one from Mexico. Last April in Puerto Vallarta, we hit up an ATM machine for $300 - and were charged a $20 fee by Inverlet Bank! Another friend of ours was charged $16 by Bancomer to get funds from a U.S. account. I guess Mexican banks are way ahead of U.S. banks on big fees now. By the time you read this, we'll be back on our boat, which has been summering at Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay. We can't wait!

Alan and Beverly Nixon
Keoke, Vancouver 42

Alan & Beverly - Obviously, there was some misunderstanding with the person answering the phone at West Marine. Pat McNamee of the Sausalito store advises that there is absolutely no problem with ordering an item through the 800 number and then picking it up at one of the stores. We believe McNamee, because we've recently done just that.

As for the discrepancy in the catalog price and the current price you were asked to pay, it seems to us there might be room for blame on both sides. After all, obviously sophisticated consumers such as yourselves have to realize that no company can send a catalog off to the printer in November of '98 and be able to guarantee the prices of gazillions of items through April of '2000. On the other hand, when you place an order, the West Marine rep should make it clear what the current price is. In our experience, they've been good about it, but maybe the rep working with you forgot.

McNamee says the one new West Marine policy that many customers are grumbling about is having to pay at the time they make special orders. But doesn't that seem fair? West Marine hasn't been been making customers do that in the past, and the result is that each store has been ending up with many special order items customers never bother to pick up. We confess that we've been guilty of it ourselves. What then happens is that West Marine has to go to the considerable time and expense of shipping the stuff back to the warehouse and restocking it - they then pass on the cost to customers in the form of higher prices.

As for the Las Vegas West Marine store having less boat gear than the West Marine store in San Diego, that's a no-brainer. You might as well ask Wal-Mart why they don't stock as much patio furniture at their Juneau stores as their Phoenix stores.

The bottom line is that we don't own stock in West Marine, we're not apologists for them or their policies, and frankly we have no idea what the heck they're doing opening up stores so far from the ocean. But we will make the following statement: West Marine revolutionized the chandlery business, and while no revolution is perfect, theirs has generally been very, very good for consumers. Just ask anybody who was around before West Marine was.

And if you really want to appreciate West Marine, the next time you're in Nice, Villefranche, St. Jean Cap Ferret or Monte Carlo, check out the chandleries there. You'd have to go to 20 little disorganized shops to find all the stuff carried in a single West Marine store. And lots of stuff would be out of stock, the prices would be outrageous, and you'd be stone cold out of luck if you wanted to return stuff. Frankly, we're delighted that there's West Marine - and their competitors who help ensure that we customers get the best deals possible.

Our nominations for the biggest banditos in the world? The banks and telephone companies of Mexico. We carry cash to avoid the former, and are seriously thinking about getting an Iridium satellite phone to avoid the latter.


In the October issue, Steve, a San Diego reader, asked about monohulls that were suitable for coastal cruising. I'm not sure about San Diego, but I have the impression that the J/35 is fading as a one design class in the Bay Area. As such, they may no longer command the stiff one design premium and be a great buy.

My wife and I cruised in the Northeast in chartered J/35s for a total of 12 weeks between 1984 and 1989. We found the boat to be extraordinarily easy for two people to sail - contrary to what you might think from seeing the full crew of jocks normally racing one. Steering one makes you feel like King S__t. It does what you want almost as soon as you think of it.

If a couple that already lives together is sailing, the lack of privacy below is not an issue, and the boat's V-berth - if it has one, and most do - is huge. If I were to buy a J/35 for cruising, I'd do two things to adapt the rig: 1) Remove the luff spar and have hanks put on the jibs, and 2) Get a sock for the spinnaker. If you only jibe in light air you won't need it, but it reduces stress, and avoids one consequence of overconfidence. Don't ask me how I know that. If someone were to take a J/35 to Mexico, they'd need a bladder bag to carry additional water.

P.S. I've gone more than 20 years now without a car, a television or a Web site.

Rodney Myrvaagnes
J/36, Gjo/a


On our migration south to Mexico aboard our Spray 48 Chez Moi, we stopped at Santa Cruz so I could take my son out for a daysail. But as soon as we cleared the breakwater, we lost headway because the prop shaft had separated from the coupling. Since no quick fix was possible, we dropped the hook in the middle of the swimming area and called Vessel Assist. Brian was there in about 10 minutes - as were the Coast Guard and the Harbor Patrol - and towed us back to our end-tie.

Careful inspection revealed that a local boatyard had improperly installed the coupling: the shaft had been inserted too far into the coupling for the set screws to align with the holes in the shaft. When the key backed out of the coupling, there was nothing to lock the shaft in place. There didn't seem to be any serious damage, and I considered just driving the key into place and locking it in with a hose clamp. My wife Victoria, however, has better sense and insisted that I call Tom List of List Marine in Sausalito. He'd installed the engine before the shaft work was done.

I called List at 0730 on Monday morning and explained the situation. He was very concerned about our plans to go to Mexico, so by 1400 he had located a replacement coupling, and by 0700 the next morning he was onsite beginning repairs. Despite appearances, the old coupling was trashed. By lunchtime on Tuesday, my prop shaft was once again secure and in perfect alignment.

I would like to thank the Harbor Patrol, the Coast Guard, and Brian of Vessel Assist for getting us back to port safely. And I can't say enough good things about Tom List. I doubt that many people would have driven from Port Costa, List's home, to Santa Cruz in the wee hours of the morning to fix a prop shaft on such short notice. His efforts were above and beyond the call of duty. Lastly, I'd like to thank my First Mate, Victoria. I was lucky I listened to her, because she was right.

John M. Guimont
Chez Moi, Spray 48
San Jose


The September issue of Latitude contained a letter from Rich 'The Red Baron' Paulsen of El Cerrito entitled Paying, Paying, Paying. It addressed the City of Richmond's decision to charge a user fee for launching and/or parking in the city's launch ramp parking lot.

Paulsen is correct when he states that the facility - which consists of a four-lane launch ramp, parking lot, restrooms and grounds - was built through a grant from the state Department of Boating and Waterways (DBAW) using boaters' tax money.

Richmond has a fine facility, but it must be maintained. Funds are not allocated by the state for maintenance, and the boaters in slips in the water do not use these facilities. How then are the maintenance and upkeep to be funded? Many years ago the state gave public marinas the approval to charge for parking and launching. For 18 years Richmond didn't charge for these things, but we now have to. The proposed fee, which is nominal, has been approved by DBAW and the Richmond City Council. The state is well aware of the need to maintain what has been built for the boating community, and therefore allows such charges.

It's unfortunate that Paulsen will no longer launch from Richmond, since it is so close to his residence. But if he decides to launch at the next closest facility, which is Berkeley, he'll discover that they also charge for use of their facility.

Sharon L. Woods
Harbormaster, City of Richmond


Shame on me! I entered this year Ha-Ha rally for one reason only: to have a definite date for our departure to Mexico. I'd become so proficient in procrastinating that I'm thinking of naming our dinghy Afterthought.

I did have some apprehensions about the Ha-Ha, however. A seasoned sailor, I'm on my way to work with missions around the world - and the last thing I wanted was get involved with a bunch of partying drunks on their first overnight sail. I don't know where I'd come up with this vision of the Ha-Ha, but I do know that others shared my concern.

So what was the Ha-Ha really like? I have never met a nicer group of people - and they are truly deserving of the 'sportsmanship of the decade' trophy. Skippers and crews continually went out of their way to help and encourage each other. I learned a lot from them - especially how judgmental I can be. In addition, the rally was run in a relaxed but professional manner. The 'no whining policy' and seamanship demonstrated would make many racing circuits green with envy.

I want to thank our crew, Tom Cox of Olympia and Ken Olson of Seattle, for being so patient with me. You guys set a record for night sail changes. I also want to thank Kimberly, who put up with the most. I don't know how you do it, but thanks for sticking by me. Lastly, I want to thank all the great folks who played a part in organizing the event and all those who participated in it.

Milo 'Chip' Coldren
Eleftheria, C&C Landfall 38
Mexico and beyond

Milo - Thanks for the kind words. We at Latitude are probably responsible for the inaccurate impression many sailors have of the event. For one thing, we tend to write about the boats that have mishaps and problems - for the same reason the New York Times writes about airplanes that crash as opposed to ones that complete their flights without incident. The truth is the overwhelming majority of Ha-Ha boats are well-suited for the passage and the crews are competent. Indeed, to date their have been over 1,000,000 person/miles completed in the Ha-Ha, yet no boats have been lost and there have never been any serious injuries. There was one death two years ago in Bahia Santa Maria, of course, that due to a massive heart attack. The folks at the Ha-Ha are proud of the safety record.

As for the parties, the Ha-Ha folks are pleased that they started and have remained G-rated, and that participants with wild and crazy impulses have waited until reaching Squid Roe in Cabo before indulging in them. What people do in there is their own business. The Ha-Ha folks have also been pleased with the way participants have handled alcohol, as they loathe irresponsible drinkers. To date their haven't been any alcohol problems at any of the parties. The Ha-Ha is about safety, fun and friendship.

As readers will learn later in the issue, Milo and his crew aboard the C&C Landfall Eleftheria, and Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy aboard the Baba 40 Sailor's Run - seen in the accompanying photograph - were the only two boats to sail the entire Ha-Ha this year. Given the light winds on the second leg, and the fact that neither own high performance boats, these were fine examples of sailing skill and perseverance. We salute both boats and crew for the real Ha-Ha spirit.


Ronn Hill's September letter about the tilting compass card reminds me of the time I flew to Australia with a 'hockey puck' compass. When I pulled it out of my pack to get my bearings, I found the compass card pressing hard against the case - and wondered if it had been wrecked by some kind of newfangled airport X-ray machine. The problem seems to stem from the fact that the internal magnet of the earth creates magnetic lines of force that aren't parallel to the surface of our earth - except at the equator - and at higher latitudes tend to pull down more towards the center of the earth.

I found that the magnets in my 'hockey puck' compass were placed off their gravitational balance point to compensate for the downward pull of the earth's magnetism for northern latitudes. So I took the compass apart, repositioned the balance point of the magnets, and everything worked fine - except that I never quite sealed the case from losing its kerosene-like liquid filling.

If I visit a California chandlery and ask for a compass that will work in the southern hemisphere, I get a blank stare. But some compasses have a code letter on the box for the region in which they are meant to be used. A compass with a heavy card positioned well below the bearing should not have the balance problem of some of the lightweight 'hockey pucks' - which might explain why this phenomena is not more commonly known.

Bob Maginnis
Moss Landing


My parents are currently cruising in Costa Rica and are berthed at the Banana Bay Marina in Golfito. A couple of weeks ago, my wife received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard indicating that my parent's EPIRB had been activated, and they wanted her to confirm their location.

My wife isn't much of a sailor and had no idea what the Coast Guard was talking about or why in the world they would be calling her. You see, I'm the one with all the information on my parent's trip - and I had it neatly tucked away where only I could find it. But needless to say, the Coast Guard was not happy with my wife's lack of knowledge.

When I returned, my wife informed me that the Coast Guard had called and needed information. I called them back and advised that there should be no reason for the EPIRB activation. I reported that my folks were in a marina and provided the Banana Bay Marina fax number. After hanging up, I remembered that the marina had an Internet Web site, which I quickly called up. As luck would have it, the site included a telephone number.

I quickly contacted the marina, introduced myself, and explained the situation. The fellow on the other end said, "Wait a second while I take a look." He returned a minute later to tell me, "Your dad is on the deck of their boat right now, a beer in hand. I'll get him."

In a couple of minutes my dad was on the phone, and I told him what was happening. Baffled for a minute, he then remembered that he'd had a local worker doing some repairs and that he'd tossed their 'go bag', which may have activated the EPIRB. By the way, they store it without the antenna attached and it has an upgraded switch protector just to avoid accidental activations. Anyhow, my folks were fine and I quickly contacted the Coast Guard.

In any event, the good news was:

1) Within 30 minutes of the 'event' which activated the EPIRB, I was speaking to my father several thousand miles away.

2) The Coast Guard was very fast in tracking things down, and insisted that, "If you're listed as the contact, you'd best know what is going on." So all secondary contact persons must keep handy information about the traveller's they're responsible for. I now keep that information posted for all to see.

3) The EPIRB worked as planned - even without the antenna attached.

For what it's worth, I was very impressed by the whole thing.

Chip Prather


I just wanted to say 'right on' to your response in the November issue to Mike and Joyce Creasy's letter about Para-Anchors. I also read the Yachting World article you referred to, and am glad to see people relating their personal experiences in using sea anchors.

Having deployed a Para-Anchor off New Zealand in no more than 25 knots, my experience is that they are far more difficult to deploy and retrieve than expected - even with five strong guys working at it. I'm also glad to see that people are addressing the motion there is when lying to a sea anchor, and how much stress it puts on the rudder and steering system.

From our experience, I think that in most conditions actively sailing turns out to be the safest and most comfortable tactic. It is essential, however, that cruisers have the physical endurance to steer 'one hour on, one hour off' for many hours in heavy conditions. I was amazed, for example, at how many cruisers in the 'Class of '99' that we met in the South Pacific were proud of the fact that they hadn't steered by hand - except for entering and leaving port - since leaving Mexico. Many relied almost entirely on autopilots and windvanes. While these are fantastic tools for short-handed cruising, steering by hand is often critical in storm conditions, when the breaking wave from a different direction is the real danger that can't be sensed by an autopilot or vane.

By the way, I think that Steve and Linda Dashew did an amazing job of covering storm sailing in their new boat. So many valuable ideas and illustrations! I just hope people will read the book before buying and outfitting their offshore cruising boats.

Thanks, too, to Latitude for running the Mexico Cruising Itinerary article. Since we're just planning our first trip to Mexico enroute to Panama, the timing was excellent! I really like the way the article was broken down into different scenarios, depending on how much time one has.

John Neal and Amanda Swan

Mahina Tiare

Friday Harbor, WA

Readers - John and Amanda just returned from another season of offshore sailing seminars, taking students with them on various passages between New Zealand and Washington by way of Alaska. After another winter season of weekend seminars, the couple will head to Mexico, Panama and Europe.


In the last issue, a reader asked about shipping a boat to the Northwest from either Florida or Texas. For what it's worth, I'm currently in charge of having a Hylas 47 shipped from Smithfield Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale to Tacoma. The owner inquired about me delivering her from Florida to Tacoma by sea, and I quoted $22,000 and two months. I got trucking quotes from $10,400 to $15,470, not counting the $2,500 it would cost to have the yard prep the boat to be trucked. I'm using the Smith Company of Arizona, and I'm trusting they won't drop the boat.

By the way, I've been doing quite a few delivers of used Santa Cruz 50s for Bill Lee's Wizard Yachts. Only 28 of them were ever made, but at between $150,000 and $180,000, they seem to be very popular - especially downwind.

If I can help anyone with trucking information from Florida, I can be reached at (949) 646-5516.

Capt. Lu Dale

Newport Beach


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© 1999 Latitude 38