Back to "Letters" Index


Last year I raced with some guys from Santa Cruz who had made it their goal to sail in five beer can races in five days. Those nameless wackos have become my inspiration and the unintended recipients of the Sospenders that I left behind. It was during a Thursday night beer can race off Benicia that we had the greatest time. Becalmed in the middle of the Carquinez Straits, we contemplated the meaning of life over a cold beer and the cool sounds of jazz.

This year I am alone for the first time in my life, and I need a goal. I need to do something that nobody has done before to set a tone for the rest of my life. I need to achieve something noteworthy. Call it self-therapy, sail-directed therapy, or Bay Area beer-can torture, but I hereby publicly announce my intent to establish the ultimate record for beer can race participation. It shall be my crusade, my hadje, my spirit quest yes, my chance to reconnect with the kid who grew up loving sailing, the feel of wind on my skin, the power of the tiller, and the poetry of the ocean.

To set the ultimate record, I plan to sail at least once in every beer can race in the Bay Area. And I want to do it as quickly as possible with the highest possible finishes. To that end, I will contact each race committee and officially enter each race. Furthermore, I will invite locals to sail with me at each venue, using crew lists from Latitude and other sources.

I've got all the beer can races and dates on disk, and I have begun to plan my strategy. In addition, I have lots of work to do on the boat, very little time in which to do it, and even less money. But I will spare nothing in trying to save myself and have a great time in the process. Well, it may be a little hard to have a great time, as I live below the poverty line and therefore at the end of each month usually dine on Top Ramen twice a day and buy gas with leftover pennies. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Paul Pearce

Dave, Dufour 27

Paul To think that some grandmother wasted her time walking all the way across the country in a futile effort to get politicians to pass campaign finance reform. If she'd only had your inspiration, your love of sailing, and your priorities, she could have accomplished something meaningful.

We're so taken with the nobility of your quest that we have an offer for you: If you make it halfway through your beer can spirit quest keeping brief diary entries of each event we'll make some semi-meaningful contribution to aid you in achieving your goal. Something like a used genoa or a couple of tanks of gas which, by the way, can no longer be purchased with "leftover pennies".

Be strong and hold the course, for many will be counting on your success for inspiration.


I¹m looking to buy a reasonably fast boat in the 30-foot range. As such, I¹d like to look over the PHRF ratings of each design so I can get a general idea of their performance capabilities. Are the ratings published anywhere hopefully on the web? In addition, are there any other ways of telling how fast a boat is other than the usual guessing game of trying to judge sail area versus displacement?

Paul Miller

San Jose

Paul There are several sites on the web with lists of PHRF ratings, some for just Northern California, some for all the different sailing regions of the United States. Because some sites have additional information on things such as sail area and draft, and because some are harder than others to read, we suggest you go to the google.com search engine and type in 'PHRF ratings'. From there you can chose which PHRF rating list suits your needs best. To our knowledge, nothing approaches the combination of length, displacement and sail area when it comes to predicting performance.


We're planning on departing Honolulu this coming July on what will be our third cruising adventure. Our first was way back in the early '70s aboard a 27-foot wooden sloop. Our second trip was in the '80s, and took us from Redondo Beach to Mexico to the South Pacific where we ended up spending eight years hanging out in the islands and working in American Samoa. After we arrived in Hawaii, we stopped and worked for nine years, built a house and another boat, and are ready to sail again. This time we'll be sailing with our 11-year-old son, and with age and a child comes an increased awareness of health issues which brings me to the point of this letter.

A while back, I remember reading something in Latitude about medical insurance while cruising but I have no idea how to find that information again. Can you or anybody cruising help us out in our search for major medical coverage worldwide?

P.S. We've been reading Latitude since the beginning, thanks for all the good information and stuff. Incidentally, our plans call for us to join the Baja Ha-Ha 2000, which we hope will be a fun way to introduce our son to cruising. He spent the first four years of his life living aboard, but recently he's only known about building a boat.

Trudy, Bob and Michael Lindsay

Yacht Tini Apa

Hilo, Hawaii

Trudy, Bob & Michael Rather than rely on that potentially outdated information, we'll pose the question anew to folks currently cruising: What do you do for major medical coverage? As for the Ha-Ha, we'll look forward to seeing you.


In April of '99 you ran a very helpful article titled Sailing The Bay 101. I'd like permission to reprint it in our West Wight Potter Club newsletter. In fact, I'd like permission to reprint it every year.

By the way, we are the largest West Wight Potter Club in the world. We have lots of new members that will be venturing out on the Bay this year.

Dory Taylor

Founder and Club Historian, The Potter Yachters

Dory If you're a non-profit organization and give proper credit to Latitude, we're happy to give you permission to reprint any articles by our staff. Other articles may not be reprinted without specific permission. By the way, we're seriously considering republishing Sailing The Bay 101 ourselves next month. There are lots of new sailors this year, and we think they might find the information useful.


During a late February singlehanded delivery of my Fuji 45 ketch from San Diego to San Francisco, I was caught in a gale off Point Conception. Although I was very tired, the boat handled beautifully. Unfortunately, the jib blew out and the main split, so I had no choice but to run for shelter at Morro Bay. Unfortunately, it was getting dark and there were 14 to 16 foot swells over the notoriously dangerous Morro Bay harbor entrance, so I diverted to Port San Luis.

I finally reached the shelter at Port San Luis at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. Despite the driving rain and huge swells, the Harbor Patrol was there to meet me and guide me to a safe mooring. I can¹t tell you what a relief and pleasure it was to see these gentlemen, who deserve the respect and admiration of all sailors. I would have taken my hat off to them, if it along with the radar reflector, jib and main hadn't been blown away.

Richard Coxall

Fuji 45, Stagecoach

San Francisco

Richard Thanks for taking the time to give the Harbor Patrol guys the recognition they deserve.


In the March issue, two readers wanted to know about the feasibility of using electric power for their small sailboats. Well, about six months ago having read a letter in Latitude from the owner of an Ericson 27 who used two Minn Kota electric outboards to power his boat I decided that electric was the best way to go. It seemed to have just about everything going for it: simplicity, economy and ease of installation all in one proven package.

Minn Kota is a company that's been around for a long time, and dollar for dollar, you can't beat their products. I hung two 50 pound thrust Minn Kotas off the transom of my Columbia Mk-II using custom mounts. A Columbia Mk-II weighs about 5,200 pounds so she's much heavier than the boats owned by Bill Maple and Mark Welther who asked about electric outboards in the March issue.

With 100 pounds of thrust, my Tionna moves along at about four knots. If I was giving advice, I¹d suggest two 36-volt 101- pound thrust Minn Kota Maxums. I would also highly recommend these motors for light trailerable boats, as they don't require fuel, don't make noise, and don't give off any fumes.

Before I left for Brookings, Oregon, many years ago, I used to advertise in Latitude as Sawyers Marina and Boat Service, and maintained over 100 boats down on the Peninsula. I sure miss the beautiful Bay but not the crowds. We're now moving to Eureka.

Tim and Donna Sawyer



Tim & Donna Nothing like firsthand information. The two big knocks on electric outboards are the weight and expense. For example, it's $800 each for the Minn Kotas that provide 101 pounds of thrust and that's before you start buying batteries and other necessities.


I bought an electric trolling motor as a backup to my not-so-reliable Honda outboard. I just couldn't miss another month of beer can racing with my Ranger 26 while waiting for the repair shop to get around to my Honda.

Since I only needed enough power to get the boat out of the slip and through the marina to go sailing, I bought a Great White MotorGuide with 43 pounds of thrust which would be similar to a 2.5 h.p. outboard. I did not buy the Minn Kota brand as sold at West Marine because the owner's manual advises that they are not made for use in saltwater.

Anyway, the electric motor pushes my 5,800-pound Ranger 26 at 2.5 knots in calm water and a little wind. If there is any chop or wind, the speed drops off dramatically. The motor will run 90 minutes to two hours with a decent size deep cycle battery. I also use the electric outboard on my Zodiac inflatable rather than having to lift the 80-pound Honda outboard on and off.

Mark F. Neumann

Ranger 26

Mark Honda is the largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines in the world, building about 10 million a year. In the next couple of years they expect to market engines that pollute as little as electric engines when the pollutants emitted by electric power providers needed to recharge electric cars are taken into consideration.


I'm trying to help a group of friends who will be sailing from Panama to Hawaii aboard the 40-ft wooden sloop Etreva. They¹re making the trip without SSB or Ham radios and without a weatherfax which, if you ask me, is a little bit nutty. They do, however, have satellite email. I volunteered to be their main contact and help them with weather forecasts. As such, do you know of any web sites or people to contact for weather reports for where they'll be? I'll be getting their position every couple of days.

By the way, thanks for the great publication. Latitude was the inspiration and resource for two ocean crossings of mine: a trip from St. Petersburg to Copenhagen via the Baltic Sea, and a recent three months cruising in New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Australia.

Cory Bloome

San Francisco

Cory Although Doug Vann of Hawaii passed away last year at far too young an age, he lives on in Capt. Doug's website at www.redboat.com/weather.html. We think you'll find just about all the weather information you'll need for a passage from Panama to Hawaii.


I get a kick every time readers bring up the topic of starting diesels by hand. Here's my contribution:

Many years ago, Petter Diesels of England ran ads bragging about their hand-starting diesels. Their demonstration featured an 8-year-old boy dropping the compression levers on a 10 HP engine that probably weighed 500 lbs. He cranked it until the flywheel was spinning, dropped in one lever and presto it was firing! Then he did the other cylinder, so there you had it.

Now for the other extreme. I had some friends in San Diego who traded their home for an Alden gaff-rigged Glouster fisherman type schooner which the Navy had used for offshore patrols during World War II. The friends did considerable upgrading to the boat, including new sails and a new 671 Detroit Diesel. You won't believe it, but the 671 came with a device to hand-start it! I wasn¹t there when Dean Kennedy used it, but he said it really did work. All I remember is that it had some sort of jack system where you turned it up to compression, set the jack and wow, what a lot of noise.

P.S. I love your rag.

Ben McCormack

Moani, Cal 34

Lahaina, Maui

Ben While some diesels can indeed be hand-started, we think it's correct to say that in most cases it's difficult if not impossible. For the majority of sailors, it's easier to make sure the batteries are kept up to snuff and a spare starter motor and solenoid are tucked away in the spare parts.


I¹ve been reading comments about the Columbia 26 Mk-II and thought I¹d put in my doubloon¹s worth. I owned a '73 model, and she was my solo sailing home for over 10 years. She took me from Long Beach to the Channel Islands for exploring the caves at Anacapa Island and scuba diving. I anchored with her in almost every cove at Catalina Island, including the West End where I enjoyed diving for lobster.

After recaulking the hull-to-deck joint, replacing the rigging and the sails, and replacing the keel bolts, I sailed her down the West Coast of Baja and around to La Paz in '93. I was singlehanding, and had gales eight out of the first nine days. Since I tried to anchor every night, it took me 38 days to reach La Paz, where I lived on the hook for four months. I then spent a year sailing her in the Sea of Cortez. Unfortunately, I lost her on the beach at San Felipe while trying to pull her out of the water.

I don¹t know anything about oil canning, chopper-gun construction or keel bolt problems. What I do know is that I came to think of that boat as being bulletproof. I would have sailed her anywhere on the planet.

By the way, several months ago I went to the boat show at the Long Beach Convention Center. As I crawled through the new Hunter 26, I commented to the salesman about how much more room except for storage the Hunter had than my departed Columbia 26 Mk-II. In turn, he told me about his brother and his partner who own a Columbia 26 Mk-II. Having won a couple of thousand bucks on Las Vegas slots, they decided to take a voyage. After replacing the rigging and sails, they left Long Beach and arrived in Hawaii 26 days later. After playing with the natives for several months, they then headed home by way of Seattle. The trip to the Northwest took them 39 days. When they arrived, Customs officials asked if they had any fruits or vegetables aboard. By that time they didn't have any edible food whatsoever left. But the little Columbia 26 Mk-II hadn't given them any problems at all.

Although losing the boat was very difficult, I remain undaunted. After acquiring and trading several boats, I now have a Ranger 29 that I'm preparing for a trip to the South Pacific in 2001.

George Snyder

Seaker, Ranger 29

Long Beach


My wife and I are Phoenicians and the proud owners of West Wind (ex-Lourita), a 28-ft Rhodes Cutter built in 1928 with the registration #CF0002AA. When Governor Lassiter¹s boat which was #CF0001AA sank a couple of decades ago, West Wind assumed the honor as the oldest registered boat in California.

West Wind recently underwent restoration, and she¹s now in like-new condition. As such, we'd like to get her on the Historical Registry. Any advice where to begin?

We¹re also interested in racing her against other classic boats. We recently sailed her to down to San Diego from Dana Point and were impressed that she could maintain 7.5 knots despite her age and classic rigging. Are there any classic boat clubs in San Diego?

Mike and Nikki Capone

West Wind

The Southland

Mike & Nikki The two big classic boat organizations in California are the Master Mariners Benevolent Association in San Francisco (415-956-4330) and the Ancient Mariners Sailing Society in San Diego (619-224-2733).

While your boat might have the second oldest registration in California, we're not sure how significant that might be as there are a number of actively sailed boats that are quite a bit older. We're not familiar with the Historical Registry, but we're sure the folks at the Star of India in San Diego (619-234-9153) can point you in the right direction.

We're curious that you identify yourselves as 'Phoenicians', as the great city-states of Phoenica went into decline after Nebuchandnezzar and the Babylonians kicked butt back in 573 B.C. When Alexander the Great finished the job in 322 B.C., the Phoneician bloodlines were melded into that of the Hellenistic empire.

As you know, the most fascinating thing about the Caananites which is what the people of Phoenicia called themselves is that they were a combination of 'sea people' and 'land people'. The land people had been sailing flat-bottomed barges close to the shores of what is currently Lebanon when they were conquered by the sea people who arrived from nobody knows where in 1,200 B.C. aboard ocean-going vessels featuring deep keels. After the two groups assimilated into one, they became renowned for both their great seamanship and shrewd business sense. At the height of their trading empire, they imported copper from Cyprus, linen from Egypt, ivory from India, tin from Spain, horses from Anatolia, and peacocks from Africa. Interestingly enough, their main port was Byblos, which came to mean 'paper' and 'book', 'Bible' and more recently, 'notoriously expensive and exclusive disco in St. Tropez'. If you're indeed Phoenicians, why didn't you name your boat Asherar-yam, 'Our Lady Of The Sea' after the maternal goddess of Phoenicia?


What is the proper pronunciation of the word 'dorade'? I've heard two different versions, but don¹t know the historical context by which to determine the correct one. The first is pronounced do-RAH-dee like the fish 'dorado', but with a different vowel ending. The second is pronounced DOH-rade as in 'do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do'. Until we know which is right, we'll have to call it the 'water proof air scoop'.

Scott Valor

Nordstar, Cheoy Lee 41

Santa Cruz

Scott The second pronunciation is the correct one. The term comes from the vents on Dorade, the skinny 52-foot yawl that won the 1931 TransAtlantic and Fastnet races, thereby catapulting Sparkman & Stephens to the forefront of yacht design for the next half-century. By the way, dorade vents are considered passe now on luxury yachts, their reason for existing having been replaced by how gross! air conditioning.


We're out cruising the Western Pacific, so we don't get our Latitudes right away. Nonetheless, I'd still like to respond to James Walldow¹s November '99 request to hear the good and bad about ferro-cement boats. I have owned, lived aboard, cruised, and maintained Rise and Shine, our ferro-cement Ingrid 38, for 12 years. She is my 21st boat, the previous ones having pretty much been evenly split between wood and fiberglass. I have also been paid crew on aluminum boats, and had some small experience on steel vessels. I've been licensed by the Coast Guard since 1972.

First, I would like to clear up a few myths. While it is true that the material used in creating a ferro-cement hull is cheaper than materials for other types of construction, the spars, rigging, sails, engine, and all of the other components and systems that make up a boat cost the same. Ferro boats are not that much cheaper to build than boats of other materials at least if they are built properly. It was the myth of the 'cheap boat that anybody could build' that led to the creation of so many backyard monsters. We¹ve all seen them, the pseudo-galleons with the towering poops and quarter galleries sitting in some back lot. Well made, professionally-built ferro boats, on the other hand, are hard to spot as they look just like glass or wood boats.

The other myth is that ferro boats are massively heavy. Rise and Shine¹s hull is a uniform 5/8-inch thick and lined with cedar. She sits on the lines Bill Atkin drew for her.

Now for the good and bad. First the bad. Ferro boats are harder to finance and insure. This is a legacy for the backyard builder craze of the '60s and '70s. But there are companies that will write loans and policies on good ferro boats. The trick is to find a surveyor who knows and can pass on ferro. It took me two days to find a competent surveyor, but only an afternoon to get both financing and insurance once Rise and Shine passed her survey.

The other bad thing about ferro is that it takes forever to completely cure. The hull remains chemically active for 30 to 50 years. This results in what is called 'gassing'. For the first fifteen years or so, this gassing tends to cause small blisters to form between the hull and the epoxy coating. This means that when you paint the boat, you have to grind away the offending blister and re-epoxy the dime to quarter size spot. This really upset me until I learned to drill a tiny pinhole into the first blister to allow the gas to vent. After 15 years or so, this problem diminishes although the incredible heat of Fiji seems to bring it on a bit more.

Now for the good. Ferro-cement has proven itself to make a strong, tough hull. It stands up to rigging stress well. When ferro is damaged, it tends to 'crunch' like a hard-boiled egg in a pattern of damage that tends not to cause uncontrollable flooding. Ferro is easily repaired, even by those with relatively few boatbuilding skills.

In his book Cruising in Tropical Waters and Coral, Australian Alan Lucas says he considers ferro part of the "best all-round cruising boat [material], well suited to reef waters and ocean passages." I have to agree with him. During the 1999 cruising season, I know of four boats that went onto reefs: Rise and Shine and three fiberglass boats. Rise and Shine was pulled off nine hours later with a few scratches in her epoxy and on her skipper¹s ego. The glass boats were total losses. Other pluses of ferro are the excellent sound and temperature insulation, a blessed relief in noisy, hot tropical ports.

Finally, Latitude mentions the low resale value of ferro boats as a negative. It is true that Rise and Shine would be worth more if she were fiberglass, but I was able to buy her at a bargain price. When I sell her, someone will get a very good deal. It all works out in the end.

The last good point is that it is now quite easy to tell a good ferro boat from a bad one. If a ferro boat is 15 or 20 years old and is still fair and not showing signs of 'spalling' which is when big chunks of material are falling away it is a good one. Most of the bad ones have long since crumbled away.

I hope Walldow finds this information helpful. Maybe one day he'll be one of us who gets tired of hearing, "She¹s ferro-cement? She sure doesn¹t look like it."

Peter Nicolle

Ketch Rise and Shine

Lautoka, Fiji

Peter Thanks for taking the time to share your firsthand experience.


In the January issue, Latitude had an editorial concluding that the future well-being of the Panama Canal is not a serious concern to the United States because only a small percentage of our products transit the Canal. This seems like a point of view worthy of reconsideration.

In terms of ships per week and tonnage of cargo, the Canal is now breaking all-time records. Those of us at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club watch day and night as modern monster ships pass in review. These ships are carrying the parts and manufactured goods that keep America and Europe running. One only has to recall the recent Asian 'economic flu' which came within millimeters of bringing down the global financial system, or the Mid-East oil embargo, or the warfare in Iraq and Yugoslavia to see how events worldwide can directly affect us in the U.S. It's a new, global world and, like it or not, we are all closely linked.

As such, deterioration of the Canal will affect us all of us. Canal usage is at an all time high for one reason: the Canal is the most cost-effective way to move massive amounts of goods, mainly to and from Asia. A decrease in Canal efficiency will translate into slower transits and that will mean higher costs for goods, fueling inflation and higher interest rates.

Three days ago a Canal worker called us over to the fence that separates Pedro Miguel Boat Club from the Pedro Miguel Locks. "Quiere comprar silicon, senor?" (Wanna buy some silicon?).

"What do you mean?" we asked.

"I can get you as many tubes as you want or a case. Four dollars per tube," he replied.

When I told a Kiwi who is a 25-year resident of Panama about it, he put his hand to his forehead. "Oh my God, it's started already! The Panamanians have only had the Canal for six weeks, and it's started already!"

I asked him to explain his obvious dismay. "If this worker blatantly offered Canal supplies to you in front of fellow workers, that means he knows his boss is doing the same thing, but probably with more expensive items. That¹s why he can be so free about it. And it very likely goes all the way up the ladder of administration to machinery and things like that. We all knew it would happen, we just assumed it would develop over months or years."

I asked long term residents of Pedro Miguel Boat Club if they could recall such a similar offer before the Panamanians took control. They could not.

I think the correct conclusion is that we can't be comfortable about the future of this magnificent and vital Panama Canal, and we cannot conclude we are immune from the consequences.

William Gloege

Pedro Miguel Boat Club


William You misread the article. First, it wasn't an editorial but rather a report of the opinions of shipping and military experts. Second, the group consensus was not that a small amount of cargo comes through the Canal, but rather that the overwhelming amount of Canal cargo consists of basic commodities for which inexpensive alternative means of transportation are readily available. For example, the top three products brought through the Canal are grains (20%), petroleum (15%), and phosphates and other fertilizers (9%). As one shipping expert said, if the Canal closed tomorrow, it would create a disruption for a month or two, after which American consumers wouldn't notice any delays or increase in prices.

As for your contention that "modern monster ships" transit the Canal day and night, that's not quite true. For decades now, the bigger ships particularly those carrying commodities such as grains and petroleum have been almost 50% too wide to fit through the Canal. Up until the '80s, everyone assumed that even container ships had to be 'Panamax'' meaning less than 1,000 feet long and 91 feet wide so they could fit through the Canal for deployment in the Pacific or Atlantic depending on market conditions. American President Lines changed all that when they realized that thanks "to intermodalism in North America, goods could be transported from the East Coast to the West Coast more effectively by train". As such, they built ships specifically for the trans-Pacific trade. The wisdom of this thinking became so obvious when their first 'post-Panamax' ship was launched in '88, that they immediately commissioned even larger ships. Since then, virtually all the other major shipping lines have followed suit. So what you actually see transiting the Canal these days are not the latest and greatest in monster ships, but older and less efficient vessels.

Still not convinced? If you check out the Canal's own brochure it clearly states that the countries that benefit the most and stand to lose the most from Canal problems are Panama and her neighbors. Of course, none of this addresses the fact that using the Canal for getting small vessels between the Pacific and Caribbean is inefficient and a waste of fresh water.


I've been reading Latitude since the mid-'80s and, as this is my first letter, have a comment and several questions.

First, with regard to the legality of recessed running lights below the gunwales, the September issue of Sail states, "A side light mounted below the gunwale on the curve of the hull is no longer legal, and is unlikely to shine over the proper arc."

Second, I've been coastal sailing, but have never been in a storm. However, I'll be retiring in 2002 and at that time will start my circumnavigation. I'm wondering that if all else fails in a storm, would it make sense to do a 'controlled sinking'. In other words, take on enough water to make the boat so heavy that it can't easily be tossed about.

Finally, when cruising, I'd like to know how you find out what is the port of entry at the next country, what countries require a clearance from the last port or a visa purchased in advance? How do you know whether to raise the quarantine flag and wait or simply tie up at a public dock? What does one do if his destination is a country that normally does not receive yachties? Could you run an article that details the intricacies of going from country to country, and how to acquire the information?

Norman Paul Felts

San Luis Obispo

Norman It was the quote in Sail that raised the question in the first place. As we've since discovered, 1) The old lights are grandfathered, and 2) At the local inspection level, the Coast Guard isn't even aware there has been a change.

The last thing you'd want in a storm would be 'uncontrolled water ballast', as it would work to offset the righting moment of the keel. When you took a knockdown, all the water would rush to the low side and keep you pinned down in that perilous position. Furthermore, when trying to survive the powerful forces of a storm, it's usually better to 'roll with the punches' as opposed to being a near stationary object having to accept the full impact of a crashing sea. In other words, all weight that doesn't contribute to the righting moment and structural integrity of the boat is bad weight.

As for the intricacies of knowing what the port of entries are in a country, whether you should fly a quarantine flag, if you need a visa in advance, and similar questions, you have three options. First, you can find that information in Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Handbook or the various cruising guides to the countries you plan to visit. Second, you can rely on the 'coconut telegraph' of other cruising boats. No matter what country you plan to visit, somebody is always coming back from there. This is what most people do. Third, you can just wing it. When we cruised the northeast coast of Cuba, we just showed up unannounced at each place and looked for the jefe, and it was no big deal. This is one of those things that seems like it might be a problem before you start cruising, but turns out not to be a problem at all.


You folks are an absolute font of information about cruising in Mexico. Your First Timer¹s Guide booklet is especially good. One additional topic that might be interesting to readers heading south is the cell phone situation in Mexico. Is there good cell phone service? What companies and phones seem to work best? What about roaming? What about using cell phones for calling back to the States or for sending email?

The answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated, as we plan to be part of the 2000 Baja Ha-Ha starting in late October.

Jan and Signe Twardowski

Tacoma, WA

Jan & Signe Because of all the changes in cell phone service and email capability, we're going to throw that question out to the folks in Mexico for an up-to-date response. We'd also appreciate it if anyone can give us the latest on the least expensive way to phone back to the States. During a recent visit to Puerto Vallarta, one couple told us that a rechargeable MCI phone card from Wal-Mart seemed to be the best, as it only cost 40 cents a minute. And due to some weirdness, it was only five cents a minute when phoning home from Baja. The card does not work on all phones, however.


I've read several recent letters asking what to do about jejenes or 'no-see-ums' in Mexico. While anchored at Matanchen Bay near San Blas in 1997, I discovered that evening visits by the little buggers could be avoided by lighting a large citronella candle in the cockpit just outside the hatch. I assume that the odor drifting downwind kept them away. In any event, it worked.

Frigate birds landing on the masthead can be a problem, too. Since I had both a VHF antenna and a spare mounted atop my mast, there wasn't enough room for frigates to land. Of course, that didn't keep them from trying to land, as the repeated 'booooing!' sound of vibrating antennas let me know.

Try as I might, I could never devise an effective system to keep the absolutely fearless boobies from landing anywhere they chose. Sometimes they would land on the rail only a few feet away. When I pushed one off, he would simply fly in a big circle and then land in the same spot again.

In January, I had the pleasure of sailing with Dick and Nancy Brown in Zihuatanejo aboard their boat Askari. Dick had discovered a simple and effective method of keeping the boobies from landing. Every time a boobie would start his final approach to land on Askari, Dick would boom out, "Bad boobie!" The boobie must have some acute need for acceptance, for this was all it took to get them to flap away with a sheepish look on their face.

Bill Nokes

Someday, Gulfstar 41 ketch

Chetco Cove, Oregon

Bill We can only assume that most no-see-ums were on vacation when you visited Matanchen Bay. The last time we were there, not even standing directly downwind of enormous beach bonfires would keep the little nasties away. The only onboard device that would be effective against a genuine no-see-um attack would be a Pratt & Whitney jet engine mounted in the companionway as a flamethrower.


Ever since we've been in the Pacific on our way around, I have been a fan of Latitude. And I love the website, as it allows me to get my dose of Letters even if I don't have a magazine. But in one of your February 2000 letter responses, you advised readers to see Sightings for good news for ham operators who aren't good at code. Since you don't put Sightings on the web, I want to know what the article said.

I'm glad to hear that SailMail hasn't been thwarted by Pin Oak, and is moving forward. We're going to have to get it as soon as our new boat is completed. We remember seeing Jim Corenman he was one of the people instrumental in getting SailMail operational and his Schumacher 50 Heart of Gold in Moorea several years ago. Because my husband is a boat fanatic, he has a photo of Heart of Gold in his album.

Our next boat is being built in the garage yes, my husband just had to do it. She's a 13 meter boat that was designed by Joe Adams of Australia. We're building her of douglas fir and glass, and she'll have an unstayed carbon fiber mast. My husband has quite a bit of boatbuilding experience including at Gold Coast Boats in St. Croix so she's coming along quite well. He started a year ago and we hope to be living aboard this summer.

Paula Ferguson

Soon To Be Sailing Around The World

Paula We're gradually getting more of the magazine online and hope to have most of it posted there by the end of the year. Meanwhile, all the ham information you want is included in the next letter.


Okay, all your years of dreaming, planning and hard work have come together, and you're finally ready to take off cruising. But before you go there's one more thing you really need your General class Amateur Radio aka ham radio license. Many of you will groan and say you're not into radios, electronics and Morse Code. But that no longer matters as, thanks to the Federal Communication Commission's easing the requirements for a General license, it will soon be easily within every cruiser's reach.

My husband Glen and I started cruising our Super Maramu ketch C'est Assez without ham licenses and soon learned the error of our ways. For once you start using your ham radio, it becomes an important part of your daily life. Here's what we normally do before 0900 each day:

Before 0800 We start the day with an email connection through the free Airmail Pactor system, which allows us to send and receive up to 30 minutes of email a day through internet 'gateways' established by ham volunteers worldwide. The only way you can legally access these email bands is to have a General class license.

0800 We tune into the Central American Breakfast Club, a ham-only net with excellent regional weather forecasts. Once again, this net is operated on a General class frequency.

0830 We tune into the Panama Connection Net which is on the marine band available to everyone with a SSB radio to keep track of the cruising friends we met in the Caribbean. By the way, when you buy a SSB radio, make sure it's a radio that allows you to use all the SSB frequencies including those set aside for ham radio.

After 0830 Depending on our plans for the day, we sometimes tune into the BBC or Armed Forces Radio Network for news of the world.

We do all of this before 0900 which makes it a great way to start the day. Based on our experience, you make friends with fellow cruisers at potlucks, beach grills, and happy hours in the anchorages. But you bond with fellow cruisers through continuing contact via HF radio. For keeping in touch, safety, and long distance communications, there is nothing that can beat the reliability and low cost of ham radio.

Now about that General class license. To really take advantage of your radio, you'll need a General class license to gain access to the most frequently used and helpful ham-only worldwide mariner nets and services. If you don¹t have access to these frequencies, you lose out on about two-thirds of all the available radio contacts and services.

If you've been putting off getting that General class license, the new rules effective April 15 should provide all the incentive you need to finally get that license. The whole Amateur Radio licensing structure will be streamlined, as the five current classes of licenses will be reduced to just three: Technician, General and Extra. The Technician license is the easiest to get, but you need to get the General license to participate in most ham nets and to send email.

The number one reason most cruisers haven't gotten ham radio licenses is the Morse Code requirements. General and Extra class licenses used to require 13 words per minute and a blistering 20 words per minute respectively. But the good news is that by April 15, applicants for the General and Extra licenses will only be required to copy code at five words per minute. For those who currently hold a Technician class license, all that's needed is to pass the General class multiple choice test and the five word per minute code test.

As for learning Code at five words per minute, Radio Shack and others have cassette programs with foolproof methods for learning base Code in less than a week. And my husband and I are licensed proof. It's actually easiest and the most fun to learn this as a couple. Don¹t be intimidated by even this simple Code test, because your transcription doesn't have to be anywhere near perfect for you to pass. It helps that the Code exam is given in a set and predictable format which you will learn through your tapes. You get a certain amount of points for every word, punctuation mark, call sign, and so forth. Because of the set format you know what to listen for and are psychologically prepared. Even if you don¹t catch every word, you have time afterwards to fill in the blanks so the sentences make sense.

You also have to pass a multiple choice test for the General license. But thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, every test question and answer that can be used on the test has to be provided to the public in advance. That means you can walk into any Radio Shack and buy a study guide which not only gives you all the questions and answers for the test, but the guide also explains the theory, concepts and equipment involved allowing you to more easily understand and memorize the answers to the questions.

It took my husband and me two weeks of study with the guides to pass the multiple choice and Code tests. We were so focused during those two weeks that we even dreamed in Code but the results were worth the effort expended.

Once you're ready to take the tests, you can find or arrange for convenient times and dates. Local ham clubs usually run monthly or periodic tests given by their volunteer examiners. You can find out about clubs near you through the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) on their internet website at www.arrl.org. You¹ll find the volunteer examiners extremely friendly, helpful and professional. The only fee involved is a $6.95 license application.

Getting our ham licenses have brought us a new dimension of pleasure to our cruising and we recommend it highly. For example, we're currently on our way between Panama and the Galapagos Islands. Before we left Panama, we announced on the nets that we would come up on a certain frequency every evening to trade information on local weather and for general health and welfare checks with other boats en route. So every evening during this 850-mile passage, four to five boats at varying stages of the passage have been checking in to our informal net. We trade news of the day, plot each other's locations, track upcoming weather, compare what fish have been caught, and provide friendly and caring contact in the middle of a vast ocean. There is also the added bonus of being able to send email while underway. For example, this letter was emailed to Latitude from just south of the equator over ham radio using a free ham internet gateway in Florida. It's pretty neat!

Glen and Julie Bradley

C¹est Assez, 53 Amel

Galapagos Islands / Annapolis, MD

Glen & Julie Thanks for that reminder of the applicant-friendly changes for ham operator licensing.

Ham radio has been a tremendous safety and social link for cruisers for many years, but lest anyone get the wrong idea, it's not an absolute necessity. In the last 20 years, we've cruised to Mexico countless times, had a boat in the Caribbean for 10 years, and even did a trip across the Atlantic and the Med to Turkey and back with Big O. Nobody on our boats ever had a ham license, and we can't recall a time when we ever really needed one. We never got a ham license for both philosophical and practical reasons. Philosophically, we were opposed to learning Code for the same reasons we didn't want to learn to milk a cow or drive a horse and buggy. We're still opposed to the requirement. As a practical matter, it seemed to us anyone raising a family and trying to build a career had much better uses of their time than learning a dying language particularly when the Code requirement was so much greater.

For about seven of the last 20 years, we've had a SSB radio and license for which no Code test is required. Having a SSB radio meant we could monitor all the ham nets and traffic. It also meant we could participate in all the many SSB nets and/or start one of our own. Ham nets are very popular in Mexico, but SSB nets predominate in the rest of the world.

One advantage ham radio has over SSB is that you can set up phone patches to chat with folks back home. The disadvantages are that you can't legally discuss business, and each time you visit a foreign country you have to tromp around to get a reciprocal license. You can send and receive email via ham and SSB radio, although there is better ham coverage on the other side of the world.

Bottom line? By all means equip your boat with a SSB radio designed to allow you to use ham frequencies also. If you think you're going to be one of the many who really enjoy talking on the radio or making phone patches back home see the next letter for drawbacks about it take the extra time and effort to get a General class license. But if you find you're not much of a radiohead, an SSB is all you need.


We're some of those 'sit in the back row cruisers' who have diligently read Latitude for many years. We have been entertained, enlightened and occasionally irritated but never bored. Yours is a great magazine.

A number of recent articles and letters in Latitude and other magazines have finally inspired us to speak up on the subject of communications at sea. The communications method receiving the most press recently has been HF radio email either by Ham or SSB followed by the advanced tech stuff such as Iridium, with only passing references made to Inmarsat C.

As we prepared to depart the States in '94, I was told by my First Mate that she wasn't going if I didn't get at least a General Class Ham license. We have grandkids. So I passed the 13-word per minute code test, got my General license, and we set sail. We established ham contacts, and proceeded down the coast of Mexico and across the Pacific. Thanks to many generous ham operators, we stayed in contact with the kids through phone patches and so forth.

It is possible to stay in contact with back home via ham radio, but it's not as easy as some might have been led to believe. For instance, our alarm clock had to do double duty, as in addition to waking us up it had to remind us that we had a ham sked. We made most of them, but we always felt guilty if we didn't wake up or were ashore and couldn't get back to the radio in time. In addition, there were propagation battles that had to be fought, of course, and we had reasonable success with that. In order to comply with international regulations, we dutifully obtained the necessary reciprocal licenses from every island nation we visited but that took some time and effort, too.

As you can probably tell, ham radio is not our hobby. Unlike the many cruisers who enjoy using it for daily chats, we only use it and the SSB to exchange relatively important information. As time went on, we came to realize that it's not easy to be a good ham, as it requires much more organizational ability than we possess.

While in Raiatea in '96, a fellow cruiser showed us how to use HF email although this required the purchase of a new radio and computer. But we're not techno geeks, and ultimately we found it to be more trouble to use than it was worth. About the same time, we watched with curiosity as another cruiser installed and commissioned an Inmarsat C. Back then, the units cost $4,500 and it took weeks and lots of test messages before an owner was admitted to cyberspace. That was too much trouble also, so we continued our struggles with the old-fashioned HF radio voice communications.

While in New Zealand a couple of years later, we found that the cost of Inmarsat C had dropped 22%. So we decided to investigate further. We also looked into the Iridium phone. Here's what we found:

1) At the time, Iridium sounded wonderful, but nobody could tell us when it would be ready or how much it would cost.

2) Laptop size satellite phones were available, but they were expensive and you had to point the lid antenna at the satellite while outside on a moving deck. If it got wet, you could ruin the whole thing.

3) The Inmarsat A, B and M systems were big and heavy enough to sink our boat and our budget.

4) Inmarsat C, however, was smaller and less expensive, and had a built-in GPS. In addition, the commercial version could be polled by a land station to see where it was which is why the New Zealand Fisheries Department requires them on all commercial fishing boats.

5) Inmarsat C is part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). This is a subject unto itself, but it implied that Inmarsat C was another safety net and that the system would be around for awhile.

6) The Inmarsat C installation was relatively simple.

Based on the above and some user testimonials, we decided to go with old but proven technology and bought a Trimble Galaxy Inmarsat C. Boy, are we glad we did!

The point of our letter is that in our opinion Inmarsat C is too often overlooked because of its past image as a large, expensive communications system for megayachts. But that's no longer the case. In fact, we've been using ours for over a year now, and it rates it right up there in importance with our GPS, radar and self-steering.

Here's what you get for your money: 1) A 100% reliable email, fax and telex system that is immune to propagation and overloading problems. 2) An emergency distress system which, when activated, continuously transmits your identification, location, course and speed. If you have a problem, you can send details on the nature of your problem. This information goes directly to the nearest Rescue Control Center (RCC) via a geostationary satellite. You do not have to wait for an orbiting satellite to pass overhead before your distress message is acted upon. (However, you still need a 406 EPIRB should you have to abandon ship.) 3) A backup GPS. 4) Weather forecasts and warnings text only for the meteorological area in which you are located. The system automatically adjusts the weather report for your location because it knows where you are. There's more. You also get: 5) Notice to Mariners for your area, which includes information on status of navaids, warnings of such things as the location of floating containers, other vessels in distress, and so forth. 6) Medical assistance upon request. 7) A small antenna independent of the backstay, should you lose your rig. There are other features, but frankly, we don't know how to use them.

The downsides? The system costs about $3,000 not including a necessary laptop computer. The installation is primarily a single wire run from the box to the antenna, and from the electrical source to the box. This is not a big deal, but it will cost you if someone else does it. Unlike ham email, Inmarsat C email is not free. At the present time, 32 characters costs about 20 cents. That means a letter as long as this one would cost about $40 which is way too expensive for our blood. But by using innovative abbreviations, a lot of information can be sent in a short message. In addition, there is no monthly fee and prices have been coming down. Another problem is that only other boats with Inmarsat C, and others who sign up with your provider, can send you messages. You can, however, send to any email address. This works for us in that our kids, our mail person, and a few good friends are on line with us. For all others, we receive their messages through our mail person or via Hotmail.

We realize that Inmarsat C is not for everyone, but people should give it a hard look before they make a communications decision. It's an established and reliable system that will be with us for a long time.

P.S. We just read Rick Oliveiras' letter from way back in the August issue, and it reminded us of several other considerations. First, HF radio transmissions often interfere with onboard electronics especially autopilots and GPS. Inmarsat C doesn't at least not on our vessel. Second, ham bulletin board service is a party line, whereas Inmarsat C messages are private. Finally, unlike with ham radio email, you can conduct business or order parts with Inmarsat C.

Hal and Ellen Farley


Sequim, Washington / Brisbane, Australia

Hal & Ellen No matter if it's Inmarsat C, SSB email, ham email, or Iridium voice communication if it's still around all have something good to offer and all have drawbacks. Before too many years pass, we'll have reliable voice and high speed data via satellite, but until then everyone will have to make their own choices about what's best for them. We do know of many sailors who, like you, are pleased with Inmarsat C. By the way, most of them get about three pages of news, sports and business headlines each day which is really cool.


I was grieved to read of the death of Jack Martin of the Crealock 37 Teresa J. as a result of his being a passenger in a head-on collision in Opua, New Zealand. It would be inaccurate to say I knew Jack, as I really knew the Martin family. Jack, his wife Linda, and their son John were almost always together when we met them while summering over in La Paz in 1996. The three of them worked as a team: making sure that John got a good education, keeping their sailboat in good condition, and attending social events and church on Sundays. They were wonderful to be around. Naturally, I'm glad that John survived and Linda wasn't in the car, but it's hard for me to think of any one of them without the other two.

The Martins were a great family, and as they travelled through Mexico and Central America, they left a trail of good deeds and nice vibes that won't soon be forgotten. That they volunteered to help build low income housing in Chacala is just typical of them.

My love and best wishes go with Linda and John as they forge a new trail for themselves without their beloved and devoted husband and father.

Catherine Blake


Santa Cruz / Barra de Navidad, Mexico


We'd like to publicly extend a heartfelt thanks to our many cruising friends who are responsible for our being able to continue cruising aboard our much loved Catalina 42 Neener3. As readers of last month's Sightings know, a manta ray temporarily got caught in our anchor chain and started dragging our boat around among a group of other cruising boats. Without the quick thinking and fast actions of these friends, we'd probably be stuck in some hot and sticky boatyard waiting for repairs to be completed and dealing with insurance claims. And we wouldn¹t have been alone, for many other boats could have been damaged or possibly sunk that afternoon in Tenacatita Bay.

First, we'd like to thank Allan Peters and his 14-year-old son Joshua, for seeing a problem and taking immediate action. Allan had to catch our moving boat, maneuver to the transom so that Joshua could jump aboard, unlock the steering, and steer away from a certain T-boning of Halcyon. Young Josh stayed at the helm and continued to weave our manta ray powered boat through the anchored fleet.

Thanks also to Don and Lena on Windward Luv for also seeing the problem and sounding the alarm over VHF radio then jumping in their dinghy to help. Thanks to Tim on Treopia, who heard the alarm and took action. He made several free dives to see what might be done, then made a final dive to untangle and free a huge manta ray. It's a story we're sure Tim will remember and recount all his days. What a thrill it would be for Tim to someday return to Tenacatita, dive again, and see that same giant manta ray! Finally, many thanks to Don on Tauri Wind, Darrel ('the mayor') on Black Swan, and many others who responded to the call for help. We later heard that one cruiser was even going to put his inflatable between our 'manta powered' Neener and the other boats in her path!

We're currently in Z-town counting our blessings and getting ready to start north into the Sea of Cortez. Yes, we¹ll stop at Tenacatita Bay and hopefully see this great sea animal break water. A flip would be really nice!

Finally, thanks to the fantastic crew at Latitude who kept our dream alive with all the fantastic visuals. Eventually we couldn't handle it and had to come and see it for ourselves!

Pete and Jean Ryan

Neener3, Catalina 42

Santa Cruz / Mexico


My only axe to grind with surveys that show people support building new runways into San Francisco Bay is that the surveys are of people who don't live in the South Bay. And why would anyone survey the population in an area totally unaffected by the new runways? After all, the South Bay didn¹t get a say when San Franciscans decided to eliminate freeways bypassing their surface streets.

The monstrous runways are being proposed for the South Bay, so bring the bloody poll-takers to San Mateo County! In such a case, I estimate that the for and against percentages would be reversed especially if the boatowners from Coyote Point, Oyster Point and Sierra Point Marinas were included. Perhaps if the folks in the North Bay understood how much area these new runways would require, their perspective would change.

My business demands extensive air travel, so I am constantly subjected to bad weather delays when returning to SFO. But that doesn't mean I'll roll over for new runways destroying my boating waters.

Bill Schwager

San Carlos


We regret to have to let Mexican cruisers know about a problem we've just had with Inverlat Bank in Puerto Vallarta.

We used the bank's outside ATM to withdraw 800 pesos with our Visa card. Unfortunately, the machine only gave us 750 pesos! We immediately went inside and spoke with a bank officer. We showed the machine receipt for 800 pesos and the 750 pesos we received. The bank officer counted the money to make sure we hadn't miscounted we hadn't then initialed our receipt. We were then told that the head cashier would have to count the money in the machine before we could get our 50 pesos, so we had to come back the next day.

When we returned the next day, we were told that they'd been busy so the machine couldn't be counted for several more hours. We nonetheless asked what would happen if the machine had inadvertently given another customer 50 pesos too much. We were assured that this would never, ever happen.

We stayed around and waited for them to count but in vain. Their count did not show an overage of 50 pesos so it was too bad for us. Our account had been charged for funds we didn't receive. Perhaps we should feel lucky that we only lost 50 pesos a little less than $5 and not 500 pesos. And we do feel lucky. Nonetheless, we are still annoyed, irritated and a bit insulted that Banco Inverlat thinks we would try to cheat them out of 50 pesos.

We have used ATMs at many other Mexican banks and not had any problems and we hope this won't happen again. Nonetheless, we suggest that other cruisers be cautious.

Dwight and Fran Fisher

We Three

Marina Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta

Dwight & Fran Thanks for the alert. Several years ago some cruisers in La Paz and we think Puerto Vallarta got screwed by ATMs for much larger amounts of money. Because of previous ATM problems and the long history of credit card fraud in Mexico, everyone needs to be extra cautious about counting their money and examining their credit card statements.


Greetings from London! Maybe you can help me, as I'm looking for Renegade, a 100-ft LOA gaff-rigged topsail ferro cement schooner with douglas fir masts. She was built at the end of the '70s by Capt. Charles White, and used to be a feature on San Francisco Bay. She was often tied up at China Basin, anchored off Sausalito, or when we had money berthed at Pelican Yacht Harbor.

I lived and sailed aboard her in '82 and '83 including a trip as far south as Acapulco and back north to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara before moving to England. Before I left the boat, I'd purchased a share in her. I haven't seen Renegade since '88 and know the ownership of the vessel changed hands several times, but I never disposed of my interest in her. If anybody remembers Renegade or has any idea where she might be, I'd be grateful to receive that information at tomtom@btinternet.com.

Latitude remains one of my favorite magazines. In fact, it was through your magazine that I found the Renegade and my English wife!

Stephen Rendell


Stephen Sorry to say, but we don't remember Renegade or know where she is. But it's hard to hide such a large vessel, so maybe one of our readers can help.


When we left California last year, we had intended to move rapidly through Mexico to get to the Panama Canal. Things change while cruising, however, and we ended up spending more time along Mexico's lovely 'Gold Coast' than we had anticipated.

Anyway, we recently had to fly home to the Bay Area to take care of a positive but unexpected family situation. We saw it as an opportunity to bring back various boat bits which JoJo was in need of. Since we'd expected to just be passing through Mexico, we hadn't gone to the trouble of getting a Temporary Import Permit at our first port of entry. Such permits allow mariners in transit to, if the rules are followed, import boat gear duty free.

According to all I had heard and read including John Rain's excellent Mexico Boater's Guide you can only obtain the permit at your initial port of entry into Mexico. Nonetheless, I invested a few pesos in a combi ride out to the airport here in Zihuatanejo, and asked an Aduana customs officer if it was possible to obtain a Temporary Import Permit for the boat there. Not only was it possible, but there was an instruction form detailing the requirements taped to his wall!

So if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation and it happens more frequently than people expect here is what is required for the permit: Two copies of the vessel documentation, two copies of your passport, two copies of your most recent port clearance papers, and four photos one from each side of the boat. There is no charge and the forms were handed to me 15 minutes later.

One item I have never seen on a list of vital equipment for cruisers headed to Mexico: a set of ear-plugs for each crew-member. Many sailors don't realize that where there is one or more tourists hotels, cruisers will be plagued by the annoying sound of jet-skis running around polluting the water as well as one's sight and hearing. We are currently at work designing a very large flyswatter with which to swat the annoying things.

Captain Jonathan and Joell White

Catfisher 32, JoJo

Zihuatanejo But Heading South

Jonathan & Joell To our knowledge, you could always get a Temporary Import Permit at any of the major ports. In some places boatowners were charged up to $100.

By the way, our old friend Patricia Raines recently told us that she and John have a new and greatly updated Boaters Guide to Mexico that will be released this summer. The old one which was financed by Situr hasn't been widely available for years.


In Part One of your Marina Guide, you describe Peninsula Marina in Redwood City as having a "new personality". But I think you should qualify that personality as dysfunctional. At the time I left Peninsula Marina in late '99, the docks were cracking and sinking, the heads were backed up with all manner of human filth and insects, and there were signs of violence. I got the impression that the marina management didn't give a damn about who leased a slip as long as they got their monthly rent.

Since then, other friends who "got out just in time" tell us that things have gone even further downhill: Derelict vessels sunk in their slips; docks broken loose from their mounts only prevented from floating away by pieces of line; shore power wiring cracked and shorted out in the water occasionally causing a great cauldron of bubbles. The marina's solution to the latter problem? Turn off the power so that no more than 20% of Gate 5 slips have any shore power at all. Gate 5, by the way, is one of the primary liveaboard areas in the marina. Peninsula Marina is possibly the only marina in the area to offer wimpy 20-amp circuits to all but the end-ties. In addition, the pumpout facilities seemed to be out of order more often than not, and calls to the 'service number' connect you to the answering service. Repairs are not prompt. In addition, the rest rooms are not cleaned on weekends.

There are some significant navigational problems with Peninsula Marina as well. While Redwood Creek is not what you would call a major waterway, the bar across the entrance to the marina is less than three feet under at mean low water. For all but the most shoal draft vessels, it means you're either locked in or out of the marina for two to three hours on either side of the low. We heard rumors that Peninsula Marina was offered a great price on getting their entrance dredged when the new Bair Island Marina was being built, but they declined.

To top it off, last year Peninsula Marina decided to double their slip rent, making it the most expensive in the Bay Area!

Ken Mayer

Wishful Thinking



I read with glee your March description of Peninsula Marina. Although I'm an avid reader of Latitude, I must say it was the first real piece of bullshit I've seen in your pages.

I live in Peninsula Marina and can tell you that the facilities are literally falling apart. For instance, the ramp at the bottom of Gate 5 is sinking, there is no door on the men's head at Gate 2, the hoist is not available, and there is no security gate. The Harbormaster that's a joke spends all his time trying to collect rent while the New York owner is a rude and obnoxious bully who threatens to evict everyone.

And last November the rent went up 50%. I almost left, but only stayed for three reasons: location, location, location. Others couldn't afford it, and some are now living beneath the underpass. This is a liveaboard marina. Furthermore, you can't get in or out of the marina at low tide because of the bar at the entrance. While it's not the marina's fault, it's 45 minutes away from any good sailing.

Make no mistake, I believe a property owner has the right to maximize his profits off legitimate efforts put forth on his part, but what's going on at the Peninsula Marina is pure and simple profiteering on the part of some rich New Yorker who read an article about the housing crunch here in Silicon Valley and decided to profit by it. Some questions I'd like to ask the owner: How can you justify raising the slip fees so much? Why are there eight 50-foot slips that are empty? Why are there 20 empty 36-foot slips? And finally, why does everyone in the marina hate the Bellport Group?

Capt. Wade S. Church


Peninsula Marina

Readers According to our best two sources in the South Bay, there is plenty of blame to go around. The marina is not in the best of condition, on the other hand, there were/are a significant number of tenants who weren't paying their slip fees and wouldn't leave.


I'm trying to expand my knowledge of coastal sailing opportunities, and have read your excellent articles on nearby weekend getaways. But I'm wondering how the cruising opportunities along our coast stack up against some of the famous cruising destinations of the world.

I haven't read much about cruising opportunities along the Northern California coast by which I mean from Cape Mendocino south to Point Conception. Is this an underutilized cruising ground or is it popular and people keep their mouths shut about all it has to offer? Obviously, the water is cold year 'round and it's often foggy, and I've also been told that there is a shortage of safe anchorages and harbors along this stretch of coast. Nonetheless, every cruising ground seems to have its advantages and disadvantages.

In any event, I'd appreciate your balanced opinion and am willing to accept a little local bias. Furthermore, can you recommend a good cruising guide for the area mentioned?

Mike Rosauer


Mike On the positive side of the ledger, San Francisco and Monterey Bays are great places for consistently strong summer winds and terrific daysailing. Sailors around the world including Seattle, San Diego, Newport Beach, Long Island Sound, Annapolis, Florida, Auckland, and almost the entire Med would gladly give their left cojone to be able to enjoy the spirited sailing we take for granted between March and October. Alas, the coastal cruising along the Northern California coast pretty much sucks. The main villains are the frequently strong summer winds and big seas, made all the more unpleasant by the mostly cool temperatures and fog. The fact that there are relatively few good anchorages and destinations doesn't help.

Is the 'coastal cruising' better in places such as Mexico, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, the Med, Greece and Turkey? Infinitely so, as it's all a matter of more pleasant sailing conditions and more interesting destinations. Indeed, even the coastal cruising in Southern California is far superior.

Where to coastal cruise in Northern California? The only person we know to have ever claimed enjoying sailing further north than Drake's Bay is Richard Steinke and he's a special case. Virtually all other sailors would tell you that places such as Eureka, Crescent City and even Mendocino simply aren't worth the considerable effort it usually takes to sail there. It would be smarter to enjoy a great day of sailing on the Bay one day, then drive up to one of the other places in a car the next day.

Drake's Bay is a somewhat popular destination for Northern California cruisers trying to hone or brush up on their technique for longer cruises. But it's not such a warm or scenic spot that you'd be in a hurry to lower the dinghy and charge through the surf for a hike ashore. If there's an under-appreciated cruising destination to the north, it's Tomales Bay. Not everyone goes for this kind of cruising, but some people really love it. Like Drake's Bay, it's less than 30 miles north of the Gate, and the return trip home is almost always downwind.

To the south of San Francisco, there are destinations such as Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Elkhorn Slough, Monterey and Carmel's Stillwater Cove. Half Moon Bay is fine, but nobody is going to mistake it for Dacha along Turkey's Turquoise Coast, Gorda Sound in the British Virgins, or even Catalina. Santa Cruz, Monterey and Stillwater Cove are all great destinations although the latter two are often chilly. Visiting any of the three means you'll face a good possibility of having to beat 75 to 100 miles north against strong winds and big seas.

South of Stillwater Cove, there's nothing really until San Simeon, which won't be mistaken for Tenacatita Bay anytime soon, Morro Bay and Port San Luis. While all these are nice enough, none has the good weather or enough interest to attract Northern California sailors to make the trip for fun. Everything changes for the better as soon as you round Point Conception, as the weather patterns are much more conducive to relaxed sailing and there are more interesting destinations along the coast and offshore islands.

Off the top of our heads we can't think of a cruising guide to the coast of Northern California. If there were one, it would be about as thin as the skier's guide to Southern California.


While home in the Bay Area last summer, we were lucky to catch the letter in Latitude from a cruiser in Mexico who was using a Sharp TM20 Email Organizer with a built-in acoustic coupler for his email needs. Since you become somewhat out of touch when cruising, we think others might not be aware of this small but wonderful gadget.

Since our return to Mazatlan, we've been using the TM20 for all our email needs, and think it's the answer for keeping in touch when you don't want to have a computer onboard. After you compose your messages, you dial the Pocketmail access number, then hold the unit to the phone. Your messages are then automatically sent and new ones received. A series of beeps and a voice tells you that your transmission was successful.

When in the U.S., there is a toll free access number. If you go to Pocketmail¹s web page (www.pocketmail), you may find rebates that apply against the monthly fee of $9.95. You get the first month free and if you sign up for a year of service they deduct a month.

We purchased our TM20 at Staples for $119, but noted they are also readily available at other office supply stores. We've been using a prepaid Latadel phone card just to get an idea of the cost per use, and it works out to be about $2 for . . . well, a six page letter, three emails of several paragraphs each, and two outgoing messages. I guess you can tell we are sold on this. If anyone is interested, they can check the TM20 out on the web at the Sharp and Pocketmail sites.

By the way, we got to see Profligate at the beeeeautiful Isla Navidad Marina last year, and even though the crew was busy, it was nice to get a close up look.

Keri Hendricks


Mazatlan, Mexico

Keri We're glad you're pleased with the TM20 although it has to be noted that Sharp says the TM20 does not work with digital cellular.

While we all need our privacy from time to time, we've given hundreds of tours of Profligate and hope to give many more.


Must to my surprise, I recently picked up a copy of Latitude in the Loreto (Baja) Airport! In that October '99 issue there was a letter about 'tiny stowaways' meaning swarming bees. The letter reported that swarming bees are docile and harmless. This is partially true.

As I or any other beekeeper can tell you, if the bees are into their third or more day of swarming, they are more likely to be pissed. The reason is that they have not eaten or spent a night in a clean bed in three days. And they've been on watch the whole time. Think of how pissed you'd be! So they may not stay docile much longer. And if you find yourselves in an area which has the Africanized bees, they are going to be even more pissed and persistent after three days. So exercise some caution with these little but not always docile ladies.

It was great to get Latitude down here. I no longer sail, but still dream of it. After nine years on the Bay, now I'm down here in an Airstream. It's just not the same.

Bob Noyes

Airstream Excella, But 'n Ben

Mulegé, Mexico

Bob Thanks for the informed opinion. This is off the subject, but did you ever see the French film May Fools by Louis Malle? It starts and ends with an old beekeeper who is calmly walking around despite the fact that his entire head is caked with bees. Everything in between these scenes is excellent, too.


I'm an intermediate sailor living and working in Oakland. Most of my sailing has been in the Bay and on a few coastal cruises. The idea of taking time off from work to travel as crew on a sailboat has always intrigued me. I'm now in the process of getting to know a couple with a boat who are heading out on an extended journey in the fall. I met them on a crew website.

What advice can you offer regarding how I should proceed? I want to go badly, but I want to protect myself as well. Do you advise the more traditional method of scouring the docks in port towns looking for rides over meeting people on the web?

Benjamin Pink


Benjamin Only beginners and fools make long term crew commitments with the owners of boats they have never met before. Reason one: A very large percentage of people who say they are going cruising in the fall don't. For example, about 25% of the boats that sign up for the Ha-Ha never show. Reason two: There's a decent chance that you and this couple might be incompatible. We wouldn't get the least bit serious about crewing with anyone until we met them in person and we'd still reserve judgement about compatibility issues until you sailed with them on a couple of overnights.

If you want to meet people face to face, Latitude's Crew List Party at the Corinthian YC on April 6 is a great place to start. The author of the next letter can vouch for that. The Mexico Crew List/Ha-Ha Reunion/Kick-Off Party in the fall at the Encinal YC in Alameda is another good one. In fact, if we may say so, the Ha-Ha is a excellent place for boatowners and crews to get their feet wet. For one thing, nobody is ever more than three days from being able to get some space off the boat. And when they do, they have about 450 others to have fun or commiserate with. Secondly, it's not that long a trip. Finally, if the owners and crew absolutely positively can't stand each other, usually a spot can be found on one of the other 125 or so boats.

But the best advice we can give you is to limit all arrangements to a leg by leg basis. In other words, hope for the best, but assume that the gig will be up at the end of each leg and you'll have to join another boat. And don't worry, once you've gotten into the loop, you'll have plenty of crewing opportunities assuming you're reasonably helpful, clean and can get along with others.


I really should be doing homework now, but I made the mistake of picking up the February issue. It was your 1993 that's not a typo Crew List that resulted in my first crew position for an ocean passage. It was aboard a Corbin 39 from San Francisco to Costa Rica. One thing leads to another when you're doing ocean passages, so soon I was crewing aboard a Peterson 44 from the Bahamas to Bermuda to the Azores to Portugal. The Peterson owner's daughter was nice enough to bring my bicycle to Lisbon, and from there I rode as far as Luxor, Egypt. While in Rames III's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, I ran into a fellow Latitude Crew List draftee from the Bay Area who was seeing the sights while his boat was awaiting transit through the Suez Canal!

I¹ve spent most of the past four years drydocked in school, but should be graduating this spring with a degree in French, a minor in linguistics and a certificate for teaching English as a second language. I am one of the very few males in these programs, and have been the only male in a number of my classes. Most of my professors have been wonderful women, all feminists, bien sur, some gently and others fiercely.

I¹ve studied American Women¹s History also. My eyes have been opened ever wider to the wonders of women and words as a result of this deepened exploration. When I got to the February Sightings I was, like blown away all over again! Beautiful tits and brand new cruising Crew List forms just in time for graduation! I¹m, like, wow! Muchas gracias otra vez.

But I swear you guys can screw up a wet dream! In my last letter you printed 'paean' instead of 'aeon'. Aside from that, I'm honored.

Jesse Goodman


Jesse "Beautiful tits"? We can spot a male graduate of American Women's History classes from a mile away. As for mistaking 'paean' for 'aeon', we're blaming our character recognition software.


As a yacht broker who had to sell many boats to customers for all the wrong reasons, I'd like to offer some reflections on cruising boats. When it comes to folks looking for a cruising boat, their first consideration should be buying the right boat for the journey ahead. Unfortunately, this often isn't the case, as people are often seduced by the boats with nice interiors or romantic profiles. But this was/is the 'catch 22' for brokers with integrity. Naturally we want to make the sale, but how far do we go injecting our personal opinions into the suitability of a boat for her eventual use?

I can't tell you how many yachts I've seen out cruising that should have never left the dock. Perhaps I'm biased, but safety at sea is nothing to be compromised, and the importance of a seaworthy vessel is something that can't be overemphasized. But I have been completely amazed that some potential cruisers have no understanding or appreciation of a marine survey or of complying with a survey's recommendations.

As an example, I met a couple in San Carlos, Mexico, who had purchased a large 50-foot ketch. They loved her because she has such spacious quarters staterooms, heads, showers and everything necessary to be an apartment on the water. But this vessel couldn't even turn into the wind under her own engine, as she had so much freeboard and other windage. The owner asked me to take a look at his boat and give an honest opinion. What I saw was a disaster! The chainplates were rusted so badly that they parted when the boat was moved to dry storage! By the way, the chainplates had been hidden behind cupboards and were almost impossible to inspect. Other stainless steel fittings were corroded beyond repair, and their was evidence of delamination in some of the bulkheads. And this is a vessel that had made the Baja Ha-Ha. I'm amazed that she hadn't lost her masts. And the owner told me that he'd had the boat surveyed! All I can say is, 'buyer beware'.

I'm also constantly amazed at the naivete of many cruisers in regard to a basic understanding of such things as pumps, DC power, heads, engine maintenance, navigation, rules of the road, tools, spare parts, radio communications and so forth. I'm firmly convinced that everybody who ventures offshore should attend some sort of seminar, lecture, or obligatory school where they are instructed in all the perils and solutions to cruising crises. Maybe I'm the cruising curmudgeon, but I've been out here since I was a kid with my dad which is long enough to know what¹s right and what¹s wrong.

Furthermore, I particularly take offense with the improper use of the VHF and SSB/Ham radios. It should be mandatory for every mariner to study up on the proper use of radios, hailing procedures, and etiquette. I'm particularly pissed at mariners who don't know which running lights to display while underway: I've seen masthead tri-colors, running lights, strobes, and anchor lights all displayed at once! "Yeah, well, just turn 'em all on . . . guess that ought to do it!" This is extremely dangerous to navigation on any sea.

Flag etiquette is yet another pet peeve. Sailors should read Chapmans to learn about the proper display of one's national flag, courtesy flag, guest flag, yacht club flag and personal burgee. I once made an announcement on the net in Puerto Vallarta quoting Chapmans about how many American yachts were displaying the U.S. flag from their spreaders! Apparently most were listening, as within the hour most had been struck. This reflected not only the ignorance of the skippers, but was an insult to the proper display of our colors.

Having said all this negative stuff, I also have to say that in general, the cruising community is the finest, most cooperative and giving group of people on the planet! We are all out here to fulfill our hopes, dreams and aspirations. By giving of ourselves to each other, we strengthen that bond.

I'm going to close with a short tale from Mexico. While visiting Vera Cruz, I stood on the very spot where Hernan Cortez had landed to begin his conquest of Mexico. A local man approached me asking if I would like to see something very unusual. We walked to his home, where he directed my attention to his small bedroom. He pushed aside the bed, rolled up a carpet, and removed several planks from the floor. Lying beneath on a dirt surface was a coffin. "Do you know who is in this coffin, señor?" he asked. I admitted that I did not. "In this coffin, señor, lies the body of Hernan Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico." He then asked me if I'd like to have my picture taken with the coffin, something he would permit for just $500 U.S.

"That¹s pretty expensive for me," I responded. "Yes, that is a lot of money," he agreed. "But wait a minute, as I have something else here you might find interesting." And he pulled out a small coffin for my inspection. "I would allow you to film this body for only $100!" he said. "Who is in there?" I asked. "This, señor," he said gravely, "is the body of Hernan Cortez when he was just a little boy!"

Chris Borden


Chris Having sold boats more than a quarter of a century ago, we're aware of some of the agonies involved with trying to do what's right and still sell a boat from time to time. The problem is that determining the 'right' boat for the job is not an exact science. After all, we doubt that you or we would recommend a Cal 25 or Columbia 24 as a boat for families to sail around the world yet families have done circumnavigations with both these humble designs. On the one hand you don't want to tell somebody they're not capable of something, on the other hand, you don't want to be sending them to their death. Then there's the whole class of cruisers who think they are going to sail around the world, but you absolutely know they'll never sail outside the Gate.

Complicating a broker's life further is the fact that the skill of the skipper is more important than the quality of the boat. Sell some folks the finest built and equipped boat in the world, and they'll still be a menace to themselves and all others even in the tranquil confines of the Oakland Estuary. On the other hand, when you're out in Bongo-Bongo, you always encounter folks who've been making long cruising passages for years in the most humble and often terribly designed and built boats. The moral dilemmas involved with selling boats were frankly more than we could handle.

When you mentioned the 50-foot ketch that had such high freeboard that she couldn't even tack with the engine on, we once again were reminded of the importance of sailing skills. We're certain you're referring to a design that was frequently and usually erroneously referred to as a 'Garden 51'. While most of those boats which were marketed under many different names generally featured atrocious metal work, we don't think the design itself is the disaster you claim. Because of their heavy displacement, limited sail area and ketch rig, they're never going to be rockets upwind or downwind. Nonetheless, we know sailors who owned these boats and kept their bottoms clean, had nice sails, and knew how to trim them. As a result, they could sail the boats pretty well. Indeed, elsewhere in this issue, you'll read about a couple about to finish a happy eight-year circumnavigation in a slightly smaller but similar design.

What we think we've learned in the last 25 years is that after giving folks some basic guidelines, you have to let them decide which design is best for them. If they decide that a spacious and comfortable interior is more important than being able to tack easily in winds under five knots, who are we to tell them they're wrong?


A reader wrote asking about where to find bean bag chairs for his boat. Before I went cruising a few years ago, I bought mine at Toys-R-Us. In addition to providing a very comfortable place to sit, the bean bag chairs are a valuable safety device if somebody goes overboard. For not only are they relatively easy to see from the deck of a boat, but they provide the person in the water with something to hang onto.

Stuart Kiehl

Santa Rosa

Stuart Using a bean bag for a rescue device sounds a little nutty and we're sure it's not Coast Guard approved but we like it.


I was a little surprised to see the letters on the Parasail drogue. The state-of-the-art drogue which solves many of the problems your correspondents discuss is the series drogue that was developed by Donald Jordan at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center about 12 years ago. It was subsequently tested at model scale and full scale at the National Motor Lifeboat School, and has been used in heavy weather by a number of yachtsmen. The design is in the public domain, and though there are commercial sources for them, they aren¹t hard to make at home.

One of the two reports done on the device is at http://www.-sailrite.com/drogue_report.htm. Other information including accounts from users is at http://www.acesails.com.

Chris Barry

Naval Architect


One of my volunteer jobs is to provide free safety checks for boaters who want to know if their boats are equipped to meet federal and state boating requirements. Through this program, I have had the opportunity to view the bilges of a wide variety of power and sailing vessels. Most of the newer ones are very clean. But as boats age, I find the stains of engine oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze and the smells of diesel, hydraulic fluid and gasoline.

When oil spills occur in the bilge, most boaters wipe up whatever they can and dispose of the rag. A residue remains and may be left in the bilge. The owner may disable the automatic bilge pump, add additional water and a bilge cleaner, then run the boat to slosh the water and cleaner throughout the bilge area and then allow it to be pumped. This results in a clean bilge and a polluted waterway.

The standard through-hull fitting on my system provides a straight pipe-like discharge to the outside of the boat. If that fitting had internal threads which could accommodate a short section of male-threaded garden hose, the polluted discharge of oil, fuel etc. could be easily collected for environmental treatment.

I have written to 112 boat manufacturers and described the benefits of this idea and have provided drawings similar to those enclosed. The limited response is that they are satisfied with the existing fittings and would not want to increase their costs of production. The response from through-hull fitting manufacturers is that they don¹t want to manufacture the product unless there is a market for it.

I would like to help prevent the pollution of our waterways by this simple adaptation which should be standard construction on new boats and as a replacement for those who are environmentally concerned. This patented invention provides benefits to all by protecting water quality. The technology is here. It should be utilized.

Glenn S. Smith

South Lake Tahoe

Glenn With all due respect for your concern for the environment, we think you've created a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. When we find oil or anti-freeze stains in the bilge, we clean it up with a non-toxic cleaner such as Simple Green and a rag. If it's done even half-assed, why would there be any residue?

On occasions when we've found a significant amount of dirty bilge water, we just use a hand bilge pump to get most of the dirty water into a bucket for proper disposal. Then we get out a rag and the Simple Green for a final clean-up as above. Why make a bigger production of it than that? Above all, why put another hole in the hull?

It's true that an irresponsible mariner with a dirty bilge could simply pour some soapy water in the bilge, slosh it around, then pump it overboard. But they could do exactly the same thing with your system, too.


To all those in the 'bothered by boobs' group, how boring can you get and how stupid do you want to look? Yes, men are well-known for having a soft spot for female form. But so what, because it's a good thing. So readers who don't like it should get over it in one of the following ways:

1) Don't read Latitude.

2) Have your husband scan the mag. After he's seen enough of the uncovered women, he can cover them up and give the magazine to you.

3) Start a 'Women Against Uncovered Women' group and see if you think that's a good use of time.

4) Tell your husband to complain to Latitude.

Personally, there are a couple of reasons why I don't like near-nudes, but I believe in choice. Not just choice for me, but for everyone. I hate regulations, petty rules and the picky society that we've created. We all must be responsible for our actions, choices and lifestyles as individuals, but we're not responsible for those of others.

Near the end of every month, I start anticipating the arrival of the new issue of Latitude. When it comes out, I race down to Star Marine to pick up two copies, because I'm not happy until I get mine, too. And I read everything booby issues and all. After all, I'm a big girl. Let¹s put our efforts back into restoring the sense of freedom that's been taken away from us!

P.S. Please remind everyone to send the times, dates and locations of the upcoming marine swap meets. We still need lots of stuff and have lots of other stuff to sell and I want to do it early in order to get ready for a great cruising season. We've already done A and B.

Jewell Austin

Plan Sea, Pilothouse 40 sloop

Jewell By 'A' and 'B', we presume you mean Alaska and Baja. So what's up for Plan Sea?


My husband read an article in Latitude about how to buy a boat and take it out of the country for 90 days to save on taxes. But I've thrown out the magazine. Is it possible to get a copy of the issue or article?

Irene Zimmer


Irene The topic you're referring to is offshore deliveries. We discussed it at length in a response to a March issue Letter. The most efficient way for you to get it is by visiting our website at www.latitude 38.com.


Forgive me if this is a little sketchy, as I'm terrible with names and didn't take many notes. Nonetheless, I think your readers will find it interesting.

Yesterday I got a phone call from the Coast Guard in Alameda. They had been called by a relative of Gary and Cheryl of White Dove, who are cruising in the South Pacific. The relative hadn¹t heard from the couple in months, and had become concerned. The relative did, however, know about my www.bitwrangler.com/yotreps/ website which is why the Coast Guard called me.

I explained that my vessel tracking page was mostly one-way: I get daily reports from the network controllers and post them on my site along with a small chart. I do, however, keep an archive of all past reports, and with a few keystrokes was able to determine that White Dove had arrived in Opua, New Zealand on November 13. When I dug a little deeper into the archives, I discovered that White Dove had actually lost their rudder about four days before arriving in Opua. If boat repairs in New Zealand take anywhere near as long as they do here, their new rudder may be just about finished.

I was glad to help out as much as I could. But it's a pretty good example of how easy it is for long-distance cruisers to lose touch with friends and family back home. That¹s at least one reason to invest in HF radio email or some other method of periodically letting family and friends know, "We¹re fine, really, stop worrying."

Ken Mayer

Wishful Thinking


Ken It's a little embarrassing, but twice this winter we got repeated emails from worried children wondering what happened to their parents. The nature of the complaints were: 'Two months ago they flew back to their boat in Mexico and we haven't heard from them since!'

It's possible, of course, that the parents are having so much fun cruising that they forgot they even had children. However, it's more likely that the parents were merely enjoying a little good-natured payback for kids who neglected to call after midnight when they were in high school and/or who disappeared in Europe for months during college vacations. As satisfying as this might be, parents shouldn't overdo it.


First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the content of Latitude. It's very good.

However, when reading the article about Baja Ha-Ha VI back in the December issue, I noticed that the photo of the dinghy on page 135 was incorrectly identified as a "Zod" which I presume stands for Zodiac. I would like to correct you. The dinghy was an AB Inflatables RIB probably the 3.20 V or VS model built in Venezuela by Artigiana Battelli. I hope you can clarify this for your readers.

Alexandra Heyer

Managing Director of Marketing for AB Inflatables

Alexandra You're correct, we misidentified the dinghy brand. By the way, we had an AB dinghy for our boat in the Caribbean for several years. It gave us excellent service.


In the last issue of Latitude there were several letters from boatowners interested in electrical propulsion for their boats. It's been some time, so you might have forgotten, but you once did a story on my electrically powered boat.

My Rawson 30 is driven by a 36-volt inboard propulsion system. Prior to installing the system, I removed about 700 pounds of ballast and a 400-pound engine. Then I installed about 1,500 pounds of batteries and a 250-watt solar array to help feed the batteries.

Lately, my creative powers for the boat have been applied to finishing my remote control mast-mounted video camera platform stabilized with a gimbaled gyro. I want to use it for observing sailboat racing and looking over the new right field fence at the new Pac Bell baseball stadium in San Francisco.

Steve Cooper


Steve We take it that you continue to be pleased with the system. But just to remind everyone, what kind of speeds can you get in calm and then choppy waters, and how long does a charge last?


New Zealand's big black winged boat did as expected, beating Prada in every race by a margin of one to two minutes. Just possibly, the New Zealand boat really was faster.

Latitude's recent article on the America's Cup surprised me, as you seemed to entirely ignore the importance of lifting wing keels. You seemed to ascribe the difference to superior crew performance or whatever. I don't think so, as a faster boat is a faster boat even with good crew.

Anyway, thanks for publishing my letter about America's Cup keels in your fine magazine last month. The larger and much more technical article is now going to appear in the journal of the Amateur Yacht Research Society (AYRS) of London, which has pioneered sailboards, hydrofoils, kitesails, etc. for the past 40 years. In addition, I'm still going to pursue my ideas on a small test bed in San Diego and see what we can make happen.

R.W. Bussard

San Diego / London

R.W. The race we would have loved to see would have been the Kiwis aboard Prada and the Italians aboard the Kiwi boat. We'd have bet heavily on the Kiwis aboard Prada. We're not experts, but when the boat speed is this close, we think crew work and tactics becomes everything. Which, in our opinion, is how it should be.


In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan took command of five ships for a westabout trip to the Spice Islands now called the Mollucas. He did this because the Pope had divided the world into two: East for Portugal and West for Spain. Magellan had convinced King Charles of Spain that if he sailed west to the Spice Islands, the Spanish could exploit the riches of Asia without disobeying the papal edict.

Magellan is generally credited with being the first circumnavigator but he never made it. While trying to extort supplies from a village in the Philippines they had offered him two out of three of his demands, but were willing to fight to keep the difference he was killed by the enraged inhabitants. For comparison, imagine that a well-armed stranger came to your town, demanded that everyone convert to his religion and resupply his vessel. Anyway, the one remaining ship, the Victoria, returned to Spain in 1522 under the command of Sebastian de Elcano. He was not alone, though, as he had a diseased and scurvy-ridden crew.

I¹ve never heard of Amyr Klink. But I would be interested to know the dates and route of his voyage, for the 19th century had its share of adventurers, too. Then there was Howard Blackburn, who became separated from his schooner on the Grand Banks during a blizzard. He gave his mittens to his dorymate who had lost his. Then he deliberately froze his hands to the oars, which allowed him to row to the mainland. Alas, his dorymate died. But Blackburn didn't rest until he had roused the locals and had them recover the dory and his dorymate's body for a proper burial. Blackburn lost fingers from both hands.

Later, Blackburn built a boat he called the Centennial Republic, which he sailed across the Atlantic singlehanded. There is also an account of a woman who came ashore alone from a lugger in the west of England in the mid-19th century. She claimed to have come from America. I don't know her name. Suffice to say, there have been many people whose names are lost to history who have accomplished great things by land and sea.

Glenn Woodbury




It seems that I laid a golden egg. When I wrote to you about the website for Columbia Yachts, I mentioned that it says that Howard Hughes bought the assets of the company from the Whittaker Corporation. As you suggested, it was Howard Hughes of Canada not the Howard Hughes of the Spruce Goose, Nevada Desert, and long fingernail fame. Eric White who maintains the website asked that I correct things so it doesn't make him look like a goose ass.

Jim Mountford



I can¹t recommend La Reunion, the company that insured my boat, highly enough. In fact, I can't recommend them at all. Latitude readers may recall that Moonshadow, my Deerfoot 62, was damaged in an accidental grounding in the Tuamotus in April of '88. The boat was towed to Papeete and then shipped to New Zealand for repairs. When the repairs were completed, I paid for them there were lots of zeros and commas out of my own pocket.

I submitted all the invoices to the claims adjuster at the end of May of 1999. Yet it wasn't until last week nearly nine months later that I received the 'adjusted' reimbursement. I don¹t even want to think about what I lost in interest and opportunity costs. The insurance company dragged their feet, made excuses, ignored requests, etc. until I finally lost my usually-endless patience and referred the matter to an attorney.

Not so amazingly, the attorney managed to get things to happen. But without the professional and forceful efforts of Michael Brown of the law firm of Brown & Sullivan in Alameda, I'm sure I would still be waiting, sending emails, waiting, making phone calls, waiting, biting my nails, and waiting for the money to come. Even boat maintenance was more fun than dealing with La Reunion.

I didn't get my help from my broker, either. Mike Barnett firmly told me there was nothing that he could do as it was between the claims adjuster and La Reunion. It left my wondering what the hell a broker is for.

Based on my experience, a customer of La Reunion is one who pays premiums on time and gets a policy with a lot of fine print and escape clauses. As a customer, you are treated all right. But once you make a claim, God help you, because you are now the enemy. You will be ignored, made to wait, negotiated down on a settlement "to speed up the payment process", asked for mountains of documentation, insulted because you made a mistake, ridiculed because you are "enjoying life", and in the end, asked to release your rights to sue them without them giving up their rights to sue you and any 'third parties' such as your crew.

I¹m not the only one who has had trouble with La Reunion. Blue J was dismasted in the South Pacific in 1998. While commiserating one evening, the owner Jeff told me that after six months he still hadn't been fully compensated for his out-of-pocket repair costs. Another La Reunion boat, Woodstock, was tragically lost last November on a reef in Tonga. In a phone conversation just a few weeks ago, Pepper, the owner, told me that she still hadn't collected a dime. I encourage these people and anyone else who has made a claim with La Reunion to share the details of their experiences for the benefit of everyone out there considering buying cruising insurance. This is the only way we can fight back and stop getting ripped off by insurance companies.

If you are presently insured by La Reunion, I sincerely hope that you never have a claim, so you can continue to be a happy 'customer'. On the other hand, if you are out there cruising in the real world, with all the associated risks, you may wish to look at some alternative insurance companies.

George Backhus


Auckland, New Zealand

Readers Our purpose of running this letter is not to vilify any one or any company, but rather to prepare cruisers for the kind of experience they may encounter if they have to file a claim far from home. One thing is certain, an ounce of prevention is worth 10 tons of cure when it comes to boat claims in distant parts of the world.

George Backhus advised us that he eventually received about 75% of the amount he claimed. In the end, he wasn't so angry about the sum he received, but rather how he was treated in the interim and how long it took before he was reimbursed.

Mike Barnett tells us that La Reunion was sold to a larger London-based company in the interim. He said that once the claim was filed, he had no further role, as it was between the claims adjuster and the company. Barnett says Backhus' claim was complicated by the fact that Backhus insisted that the repair work be done in New Zealand rather than Tahiti. While that's true, it was also true that there isn't a yard in Tahiti capable of doing the kind of work that Moonshadow deserved.

If anybody is confused about why it's so difficult to find reasonably priced offshore cruising insurance from top-flight companies, here are a few clues:

1) Too many claims.

2) Reputable brokers and underwriters often have to compete with quick-buck brokers and companies that grab the premiums and go bankrupt after a few claims. If the underwriters are based outside the of United States, they're pretty much immune from U.S. consumer protection laws and U.S. courts.

3) Consumer fraud. As documented in a recent article and on other occasions, it's relatively easy to scuttle a boat and get away with it. And it takes a lot of premiums to pay for a single large yacht that was scuttled.

While it's not exactly fraud, many boatowners believe that if they get one small scratch in their big 15-year-old hull, they are entitled to a very complete and very expensive paint job. If they don't get it, they often have lawyers willing to sue to get it. Either way, it's expensive for the underwriters.

4) Claim adjuster and boatyard fraud. Sometimes in the United States and much more often outside of the country there are two prices to repair boat damage: one if the boatowner is paying personally, another if the insurance company is paying. The latter can often be several times the former.

There are also instances of what might seem like semi-extortion by parts of the boat salvage and repair industry. Mike Barnett told us that one of the boats he insures ended up stuck on some rocks 250 yards from a marina and needed a tow. The boat had a $600 tow policy, but it wasn't anywhere near enough. The tow boat insisted on $100/foot or $4,000 to tow the boat 250 yards.

The bottom line is that we think all the reasonable people/companies in the customer, broker, underwriter, claims adjuster, boatyard matrix tend to be victimized by the greedy people/companies in the same matrix. It probably also happens in other areas of the insurance industry, but we suspect not to the same degree.

For everyone who thinks that all offshore cruising boat underwriters are complete crooks, here's a question: If it's so lucrative, how come most companies avoid the market like the plague? As it stands now, there are only a handful of companies willing to write such policies, and one of the most highly regarded Pantanius absolutely won't have anything to do with American boats or owners.


I'm interested in finding out a lot more about used Gib'Sea boats particularly the larger models that had withdrawing keels. I think they may have been the 402, 414 and 422 models but I'm not sure. I know the boats were manufactured by Gilbert Marina, S.A. but I have no idea where in the world 'S.A.' is. They were popular charter boats in the Med in the '80s. Do you know of a North American dealer or any other dealers that specialize in used Gib'Seas? Or perhaps an owners club? I really want to know about the moving keel models.

Syd Hudspith


Syd The Gib'Sea line of sailboats were built in Italy with an eye toward charter fleets. Although you might think 'S.A.' at the end of a company name would stand for South Africa, in the land of pasta and Chianti it's similar to 'corporation'.

Now answer a question for us: What's a "withdrawing" or "moving keel"? If you're referring to swing keels or daggerboards, we weren't aware that Gib'Seas were ever built with them.

Three years ago Gib'Sea was purchased by Dufour, the French boat manufacturer. The brand name was recently revived with the introduction of a 33-footer at the London Boat Show. But if you want a used Gib'Sea, you are probably going to have to fly to Greece, Turkey or Italy. Not many of them came west.


My friend Jeff and I filled out and submitted forms to be part of the cruising crew list. But I'm wondering if by saying we are 'Jeff + Peter' that everyone will realize that we're a gay couple. In the spirit of being upfront and honest, I want to communicate the fact right off the bat, but there was no place to indicate it. Feel free to append our form as you see best, or else we'll just address this issue later.

P.S. Are we crazy to think there might be a skipper out there who would be interested in/willing to take on two really great sailors who happen to be gay?


East Bay

Peter We don't think everyone would necessarily assume that you were a gay couple just from the names. For example, we received another application from two males with the same last name. We assume they're brothers but this is Northern California, so who can say for certain?

We've always encouraged crew list applicants to be as honest about their sailing experience as possible, as we think it's best that the truth be known from the beginning. Similarly, in the best interests of everyone, we agree with your suggestion that you be "upfront and honest" about your status as a couple. The exceptions, of course, would be in cases where gay individuals or couples prefer to keep their status or orientation in the closet to prevent even greater problems. Since the two of you were looking for a place to indicate your status as a couple, we're going to indicate that on our list.

Are you crazy to think that a gay couple might get a ride on a cruising boat? We don't think so. Some folks will immediately eliminate you from consideration because you're gay and they think it would make them uncomfortable on their own boat. But others would be fine with it. You should also realize that there are quite a few gay skippers and couples out cruising and have been for a long time. As such, there may be some cases in which being a gay couple would be a big advantage.

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

© 2000 Latitude 38