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I started to sail again last year, and have been training myself within the Bay aboard our Catalina 36 L'air du Temps. I have briefly ventured into the Pacific, but wanted to improve my skills before going out to the Farallones or down to Monterey.

On December 1, 'Lectronic Latitude reported the sad story of what happened to the owner/skipper of Sea Major on the South Bar outside the Golden Gate. I went to check on the charts for the location of this bar, but couldn't find it. The 'Potato Patch' north of buoy #8 is clearly indicated, and the depth shows the shoal between it and the Bonita Channel closer to shore. But south of #8 I found no reference to the 'South Bar' even though the depth is not as deep as the main shipping channel. Could you give more details about the location of the South Bar so that we make sure to stay clear of this dangerous area?

This winter I'm getting L'air du Temps and myself prepared for coastal cruising in the summer, and who knows, maybe a Baja Ha-Ha in the future.

Denis Précheur
L'air du Temps
Northern California

Denis - The South Bar is the term most commonly used to describe the shallow waters south of the main shipping channel. It's mostly about 36 feet deep as opposed to the 24-foot depths found to the north side of the shipping channel in the Potato Patch. Thirty-six feet of water may sound a little deep for a bar, but it's not when you're talking about Pacific storm swells piling up on a suddenly more shallow bottom. We can't even begin to remember all the sailors and boats that have been lost in this area during the last 25 years. It can be dangerous any time of year, but is extremely so as early as October until as late as May.

So what are a sailor's options during a heavy winter swell? Well, you can forget the entire south entrance and the Potato Patch. The Bonita Channel - with water as deep as 60 feet - might seem like an option, but it can also be a death trap. For example, on the day
Sea Major's skipper was lost, waves were breaking all the way across the Bonita Channel and right up against the jagged cliffs of the Marin Headlands. So that leaves the Main Shipping Channel, right? Not necessarily. Even though it's supposedly dredged to about 52 feet, the Main Channel is also subject to huge breaking waves. Therefore, when there's high surf in the winter, the sailor's one good option is to not leave San Francisco Bay. If you're outside and want to come in, it may be much safer - depending on the wind and swell direction - to take shelter further north or south, or stay offshore. If in doubt, call the Coast Guard for reports on the bar conditions. But whatever you do, don't even think about crossing either the Potato Patch or the South bar during an ebb when there's a big swell running!


I read the article in 'Lectronic Latitude about the skipper of the Tayana 37 Sea Major being lost overboard. I heard from other sources that the missing owner/skipper was Scott Smith, the bass player for the Canadian rock group Lover Boy. Could you confirm this?

I bought the 47-ft Puvieux ketch Nighthawk from Scott in 1991. Scott had bought her in '84 from Sylvester Stallone, her original owner. I cruised her in Mexico for several years before selling her to Jeff Hermann in 1999, and delivered her to her current berth at Loch Lomond Marina in San Rafael. Jeff's plans have changed and he now has her up for sale.

See you in Banderas Bay, as I'll be crewing on Blair Grinoles' Capricorn Cat again.

Roy Davidson

Roy - It was indeed Scott Smith who was lost. For further details, see this month's Sightings. Ironically, we can distinctly remember playing Lover Boy's 'Workin' for the Weekend' while sailing over the South Bar during a Windjammers Race to Santa Cruz many years ago. It was a fine album.


It's sad to say, but you appear to be fawning over Ellison, Perkins and all the others with their big boats.

Let me put something about wealth in perspective: In the early '70s, I lived in a fancy apartment complex in Palo Alto. I had a pleasant two-bedroom apartment and enjoyed all the amenities. One day a couple, hardly older then me, moved into a clone of my own place next door. I got to know them and liked them, and eventually knew enough about them to ask them a question: Why on earth did you leave your big estate in Woodside to live in such relatively confined circumstances?

"Running an estate is a burden," was their succinct answer.

"Well," I responded, "if you could afford an estate, you could surely have afforded the traditional English butler to do all the dirty work.

"Ah, yes, that was it," they answered. "Dealing with the butler was a burden in itself, as he daily brought a host of problems for us to resolve, not the least about staff. Believe us, we have never been happier than since we sold that place."

I have no doubt that eventually all those Silicon Valley dot.comers will come to realize that they can't be any happier with their vanity size boats than most of us are in our little boats, for we don't need nautical butlers to run them.

George Fulford
Mill Valley

George - When it comes to the benefits of living the simple life, you're preaching to the choir. We've lived in the same modest railroad worker's home for more than 20 years, drive a little Isuzu Amigo with 100,000 miles on it, and don't much care about fancy clothes or furniture. Our one extravagance is Profligate, a very big, but nonetheless very simple, catamaran - she has just one pressure water outlet. We love visiting and sailing aboard magnificent yachts, but we'd never be interested in the burden of owning one of them.

Frankly, we're insulted at your suggestion that we're trying to kiss Ellison's or Perkins' ass. The simple truth is that we have a tremendous appreciation for well-designed and well-built boats - even the really big ones. We've seen the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, Botticelli's The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi in Florence, and The Sunflowers at the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. But the finest art we've ever seen has been on the water: The 135-ft gaff schooner
Mariette 1915 Med-tied at St. Tropez, the 137-ft ketch Alejandro sailing to weather off St. Barts, and the 130-ft gaff schooner Altair entering the harbor at Monte Carlo. We think such magnificent yachts are art of the highest order - art that can just as easily be appreciated by casual onlookers as by their owners. If you disagree, we suggest you page through Jill Bobrow and Dana Jenkins' beautiful book, In The Spirit of Tradition, Old and New Classic Yachts. If you're still unmoved, you'd better have somebody check to see that you still have a pulse.

A lot of people have billions these days, but not that many of them have taste or style. Virtually everyone would agree that both Ellison and Perkins have fleets that exhibit extremely good taste and refined style. We personally think that Ellison's 192-ft stealth motoryacht
Izanami, and Perkins' 135-foot Herreshoff gaff schooner Mariette - although totally different - are two of the most sublime boats afloat. But if our real intent was to flatter them, why would we have repeatedly stated that the 135-ft ketch Alejandra - we have no idea who owns her - is the fairest of them all? Furthermore, we don't feel any hesitation in expressing the opinion that certain mega yachts aren't very attractive. Jim Clark of the St. Francis YC says that his 155-ft sloop Hyperion was inspired by the similar sized Juliet. The latter is without a doubt a lovely yacht, but we don't see even a family resemblance in Clark's very plain sloop. Then there's 155-ft Atlanta, the only boat with a mast taller than Hyperion's. She's stone cold ugly, the ultimate proof that you can't buy good taste.

Some folks have a problem with successful entrepreneurs building spectacular yachts. Unfortunately, these are not good times for such critics, as the world is in the midst of a mega yacht construction explosion. According to
Showboats International, yards currently have orders for 268 yachts in excess of 100 feet, a stunning increase of about 160% over just three years ago. Our only problem is that about 83% of them are powerboats, some of them gigantic. The MacCaw brothers of Seattle and the OneWorld America's Cup syndicate, for example, have just launched a 291-footer and a 336-footer, and Ellison is building a 400-footer. If you want to accuse the MacCaws of being hypocritical for starting an America's Cup syndicate supposedly intended to 'save the oceans' - and then wanting to run it from 300-foot personal yachts - you'll get no argument from us.

For those who are as enthralled by large sailing yachts as much as we,
Showboats reports that yards have orders for 17 sailing yachts between 100-119 feet, 16 for between 120-149 feet; and 10 in excess of 150 feet. We're not sure if this includes the replica of Ranger, the greatest J Class yacht of them all, that Jim Clark of the St. Francis YC was thinking about having built. According to the rules of the new J Class association, there can only be one replica of each original J Class boat, and a Dutch fellow has already spoken for Ranger, supposedly the fastest one of them all. No need to cry for Clark, he's still got that 292-ft sailboat on order at Huisman.


I'm in need of fairly current information regarding cruising with dogs. I have heard ad nauseam from people without pets all about why I shouldn't take my dog with me. What I need is some honest communication with people who have cruised or are cruising with their dogs. Any suggestions?

Michele Rae
Queensland, Australia

Michele - We suggest you check out this month's Changes. Based on folks we've talked to, cruising with dogs requires considerable effort - that is nonetheless rewarded many times over in love and devotion.


Cruising talk comes cheap. We'd recently been dreaming about our good old days of cruising. We cruised for five years starting in 1986, but with a three-year-old child and another on the way - in other words, two non-swimmers - we gladly decided to take a break. And after two winters of high-priced Bahamian produce, planting our own veggie garden sounded good.

So, with kids ages 12, 9 and 4, we decided to use their fall school break for the first family ocean sail. We figured they'd be sturdy enough to handle what the Pacific might dish out. We'd already tempered the kids with some regular doses of manageable family adventures: tent camping across country and back with our inflatable in tow, cruising Desolation Sound with friends, and driving to Mexico for camping. As our departure date neared, the weather looked iffy, as a low was headed towards Northern California and there was talk of a southerly and rain. After monitoring things, we decided to leave on Saturday for what we figured would be about a 20-hour run from Noyo Harbor to San Francisco Bay.

It didn't take long for us to realize that there's a big difference between cruising with a couple of responsible adults and sailing with three wild and careless children! So after about six hours into our joy ride, we reached toward shore so we could happily anchor among the surfers and kelp at the Pt. Arena anchorage. We were spent! It wasn't a question of remembering to set the preventers, keeping the sails trimmed and plotting positions, but rather doing that and tending to the nonstop snacking, feeding, chaos and peacekeeping that goes along with having three kids.

The next morning we had the same kind of patchy fog and we pretty much followed the 50-fathom curve down the coast. The wind was absolutely beautiful rounding Point Reyes, as we were logging nine knots with just our fore, main and jib. It was our first trip using a GPS, and Monterey, our 12-year-old, thought setting the waypoints on it was more fun than his Gameboy!

One of the most beautiful memories of our trip was sailing in towards the Golden Gate Bridge with the huge golden October 'hunter's' moon rising in the background! Chris and I got to share it together, as the kids were sleeping in their bunks. Sweet. We also had a flood tide, which helped us sail right under the bridge and to the anchorage in Richardson Bay.

After years of being away from Bay sailing, we had a most enjoyable week of family sailing fun. We spent two quiet midweek nights in the anchorage at Angel Island, and a couple more nights side-tied at Galilee Harbor with friends. We also had an exciting night when a northerly came up after dark and we had to set the anchor.

After so many great adventures in such a short period of time, it seems almost unfathomable, but we've decided to sell Constance. We haven't entirely given up on the dream of cruising with three kids, and until we sell her, expect to see more of us - the three-master with tan bark sails and three wild kids in life-jackets - sailing Constance on the Bay.

Donna Schuler
Constance, Herreshoff 55
Fort Bragg

Donna - Sailing with three rambunctious kids would be a real challenge for any couple. And we don't mean to second guess you, but we nonetheless wonder if things might have turned out differently if you'd eased the kids - and yourselves - into family cruising in the warmer climes and more benign waters of the Sea of Cortez or mainland Mexico. It's been our observation that cruising parents have a lot more fun when their young ones exhaust themselves each day through swimming, boogie-boarding, fishing, exploring, driving the dinghy and such.


I want to share an incredible story that shows that good people still exist - and many of them gather on San Francisco Bay. A partner and I purchased the 1972 Catalina 27 Due Regard about five months ago, at which time the owner told us we'd need to replace the keel bolts to keep the keel from falling off. After much online research as well as getting information from Catalina, I learned about using lag bolts to supplement the existing keel bolts. But we still had a problem, because my partner and I are first-time boatowners and didn't have any experience working on boats. So I continued to do research, mainly online, until I came across a guy named Gregg Johnson, who'd done the same job on Sundancer, his '72 Catalina 27. He returned my phone calls and emails, and said he'd be happy to help in any way he could.

After learning that Gregg's son is currently a junior at the Air Force Academy - my alma mater - he faxed me what seemed like books of sketches and diagrams, some from Catalina and some of his own, explaining in detail how to fix our keel bolt problem. And also how to fix the common keel joint crack, the so-called 'Catalina Smile'.

At this point I feel confident enough in my ability to study the drawings and get to work, but Gregg didn't stop there. He offered me the use of his drill, his bits - which I broke - and other supplies including a bunch of Micron bottom paint! The next time we talked, he offered to stop by the Berkeley Marina to show us how to get the first bolt in. Before we could start, I needed big lag bolts and washers not available at your corner store. And when I couldn't explain what I needed because of my lack of mechanical sophistication, Gregg said he'd get them and would bring them by the boat on Saturday!

This guy is unbelievable - and he lives in California, where most people only think about themselves! On Friday, my partner and I hauled our Catalina out of the water to prep her bottom for painting based on the detailed instructions Gregg had given us. As we were finishing up the prep work and fixing the crack, Gregg showed up. He'd brought his drill, bits and paint as promised - but also the $50 worth of bolts and washers that he fronted the money for, plus tape for us to mask the waterline, painter's protective clothing, and a handful of other items we needed. Needless to say, we're very thankful and taken aback by his generosity. He checked out our old bolts and the 'smile', and gave us some tips. Best of all, he was encouraging and supportive - sort of like a coach.

After Gregg left, we started to work on the lag bolts with greater confidence - until we broke the bit off inside the keel! We called Gregg to ask if he thought we might have hit the lifting eye, and if it had been that difficult for him to drill. After he made various suggestions, we headed out to get lunch, and a couple of much needed beers, then to the hardware store for another bit. Gregg was at our boat when we returned, and wanted to help us get the bit out, which he did. Then he helped us drill further.

After he took off, we continued working, but bent the heck out of our replacement bit. So we returned to the hardware store and purchased the most expensive bit they had. It cut through the lead as though it were butter - well, almost. We got all of the holes drilled to the specs on our Catalina diagram. The next day we finished the job and had a celebratory beer!

When the paint cured and the bolts were secured, Due Regard was ready for the water once again - and all thanks to Gregg Johnson, one of the few selfless people you'll find around here. Thanks Gregg, you're a rare breed and we wanted all the Latitude readers to know it! So if anybody sees the Catalina 27 Sundancer out there on the water, please give Gregg a thumbs up for being a great American.

Paul Perez and Paul Bruner
Due Regard, Catalina 27
Travis Air Force Base


It was great to read that Orient has been brought back to life, as well as Robert Keefe's additional details about the boat. While I agree with much of what Keefe added, some corrections are in order. Orient was designed with the double headsail rig of a cutter. In 1977, I decided to make a model of the boat and requested a plan from Olin Stephens - who I'vd met while sailing aboard Good News at the '58 America's Cup. S&S promptly supplied a plan with the following legend: "Design #204, auxiliary cutter, F. A. Jenckes, Esq., L.O.A. 63' 4 7/8", L.W.L. 44' 0", Beam 14' 1", Draft 8' 3/8". Orient also did most of her Bay racing with a jib and jib top.

Built at Wing On Shing in Hong Kong in 1938, Orient was purchased from Lake Michigan in 1953 by Tim Mosely of the St. Francis YC. He powered her down the Erie Canal to New York, where the mast was stepped. On the way to Bermuda, they got into a big storm and the upper spreader cracked. The got it replaced, but it would come back to haunt the boat. Orient continued to San Francisco via the Canal. I joined the crew in 1954 to do all the local races to prepare for the '55 TransPac. Part of the preparation was testing new winches that had been designed by the best engineers at Mosely's Dalmo Victor plant - which normally made antennas for radars. After a month of testing, they were modified.

We had a good start in the '55 TransPac, and were second around Catalina while carrying a full main and 1,800 sq ft genoa. At about 1800, I was at the helm and most of the crew was below eating. We had some waves washing up against the genoa, but nothing more than we experienced around the Farallones. Nonetheless, I noticed a change in the boat's motion, and when I looked up, was shocked to see that the top third of the mast hinged down against the lower portion! Subsequent examination established that the upper starboard spreader - the one that had been replaced in with mahogany rather than the standard sitka spruce - had failed.

A stiffer new mast was designed by S&S to be fabricated by Fellows & Stuart in Los Angeles. Another crew member - George Effenberger - and I spent the summer of '55 on Orient, and it was a treat to see the new mast laid up of multiple 28-ft pieces of sitka spruce. They were first scarfed end to end to create eight pieces that were about 86 feet long. Then they were tapered on a band saw in preparation of gluing together to form a tapered rectangular box section. The four corners were planed off to create a shape with eight corners, then again to to produce a section with 16 corners. Finally, the led shipwright, probably the only person qualified to fabricate a wooden mast of that size, shaped the mast by hand and eye using his electric plane. A Stradivarius violin could not have had a more careful touch by its creator.

Orient is clearly one of the best designs to come off the board at S & S. She took second in the '57 TransPac, and did a third in '63 when owned by Peter Davis.

Terry Welsh
Newport Beach


Our Kinship was one of the six or so boats in the recent Ha-Ha that was travelling with young'uns aboard. Our son Jaryd, at four years old, was the youngest in the fleet. Along with the usual challenges presented by the weather and boats, those of us with children had to keep the kids happy and occupied during the passages. That wasn't always easy if the child was wide awake and one of us had just come off a long night watch.

Life was different for us parents in the anchorages and at the group gatherings also, as we always had to be concerned about our little ones. Never did this become more clear than when our little guy became 'lost' at the Turtle Bay beach party for a panic-stricken 15 minutes - until he was discovered halfway up the steep hills behind the beach. Although we parents with kids weren't as free to frolic as our child-free counterparts, we had the rewarding experience of seeing the sights through the wonder-filled eyes of our kids as well as our own.

Thanks to the Grand Poobah's foresight, we parents with kids were fortunate enough to have our very own kids' activity coordinator - Shari of See Life - who had great activities for the kids to enjoy before, during and after the sailing. This naturally helped us parents with kids get to know one another and network - an important part of making the Ha-Ha such a success for families.

Thanks to Shari and the other parents, the kids were made to feel valued and important, and therefore the young ones were always able to be right in the middle of things with their parents and new friends. It also helped that the focus of the Ha-Ha wasn't on drinking and mindless antics, as people were primarily happy to swap sailing stories, play volleyball, eat great food, dance on the beach, swim and generally unwind from the passages.

Since it was a rally, there was naturally a healthy focus on sailing speed, which allowed the more competitive folks to enjoy that aspect. Nonetheless, the Poobah took care to make sure that those with slower boats or those who preferred to motor more weren't made to feel inferior. In fact, the Poobah reassured everyone that the purpose of the Ha-Ha was to have fun, so if anyone preferred to stay a little longer at any of the stops, it was just fine.

Before and during the Ha-Ha, everyone was reminded that they were responsible for their own safety and the success of their voyage. Nonetheless, members of the fleet enthusiastically helped out as much as they could when anybody had a problem. So by the end of the Ha-Ha, we all felt more like a family than just a mere fleet. We'd all made many new friends we hope to sail with and stay in touch with long after the Ha-Ha was over.

The Wanderer/Grand Poobah and crew of Profligate did an outstanding job of organizing the Ha-Ha, and, more importantly, of setting just the right tone from start to finish. Despite the Poobah's laid back style, we all know successful events like the Ha-Ha don't just happen, so we thank him for all his work. The Ha-Ha provided our family with a very enjoyable introduction to the cruising lifestyle.

Marilyn Middleton
Kinship, Cartwright 44
White Rock, BC, Canada

Marilyn - Thanks for the kind words. To clarify the situation, the Poobah had nothing to do with the 'kids' activity director'. Shari created the job long before the start, followed through to the very end, and deserves all the credit. When the Ha-Ha was over, a little of the fleet money was used to buy Shari and her husband Monte a 'thank you' dinner in Cabo.

The Wanderer/Poobah is pretty confident that he understands the general kind of event most folks want. Nevertheless, the success or failure of each Ha-Ha depends on the group dynamic. That the seventh Ha-Ha was such a success is a credit to everyone who took part, for which the Poobah gives his sincere thanks.


I'm prone to seasickness, so I have followed the Letters comments about Sturgeon with some interest. After all, somebody might manage to shanghai me aboard something that floats.

I have been taking the drug Cinarizina (cinnizarine), which has been prescribed by our family doctor at Seguro Social here in La Paz as a vasodilator to help the circulation of blood in my lower legs. Because my appointments do not always coincide with the amount of the drug that I have left, I usually buy an extra month's supply at the local farmacia. Imagine, then, my surprise when I bought some more today and discovered I was actually getting 75 mg tablets of Sturgeron Forte! The box, strangely enough, was captioned in both Spanish and English - although the drug was made in Mexico for the Mexican and Central American markets. Fortunately for me, it has the desired pharmacological effect and none of the side-effects - although whether it would also cure my seasickness is not something I'm likely to find out soon. If someone buys the drug in Mexico (for about 159 pesos) they should easily be able to cut the tablets into quarters for a more correct dosage for mal de mer.

One normally doesn't need a prescription for ethical drugs in Mexico, and they are decidedly cheaper than in the States. So if you're in Mexico, you might stock up before you go home.

Ellis Glazier
On land in La Paz, Mexico


The following is an extraction from a much larger document on a Sturgeon package insert: "Stugeron 25mg tabs/Forte 75mg. Cinnarazine (vascular spasmolytic). Available Dosage forms: Stugeron 25mg tabs, Stugeron 75mg caps. Motion sickness: Adults: 25mg may be taken 2 hours before the start of the journey and 12.5 - 25mg may be repeated every 8 hours during the journey when necessary. Children 8 - 12 years:12.5mg three times daily when necessary. Children 5 - 7 years: 6.25mg three times daily when necessary."

David Rice
Northern California

Readers - While other countries have approved Sturgeon for combating seasickness, the FDA has not. It's a strong drug, so nobody should take it without consulting their doctor regarding problems or possible complications when taking it in conjunction with other medicines.


Eleanor and I just finished a road trip from San Francisco to San Carlos, Mexico, and back. We'd left our Freya 39 Solstice at Marina Seca for the summer, and we needed to take some stuff down to her, then bring some stuff home from her. Since we no longer had a car, we needed to rent one. And since other Latitude readers might find themselves in similar situations, here's what we learned:

It is legal to take rental cars into Mexico - but not every rental car agency will allow it or knows what's required. Dollar Rent-A-Car was the only agency in San Francisco that we found knowledgeable on the subject and willing to let us take one of their cars into Mexico. We suspect that car rental agencies in border towns such as San Diego and Tucson are more likely to know the drill than those in Northern California.

Before entering Mexico, make sure you have your rental car contract, a copy of the vehicle registration, and Mexican liability insurance. Rental cars often don't have the registration inside, so make sure you check. Liability insurance can be purchased almost instantly from agents at border towns. We bought five day's worth through the Tucson Airport Dollar Rent-A-Car agency at $25 - ouch! - per day. You can probably find a much better rate by shopping around.

When you cross the border, you get to choose whether or not to declare goods which are subject to duty that you might be carrying. We chose to declare the big 8-D batteries that we were bringing down to the boat, and because we have a 10 Year Temporary Import Permit for the boat, figured they would be exempted. Not so! Our customs agent denied the exemption because we had no proof - such as a letter from a Mexican Marina - that our old batteries had been disposed of. That cost us about $90 in duty - another ouch!

You have to get a Temporary Import Permit for the vehicle if you travel more than 21 kilometers past the border. Since we were only going to San Carlos, we never left the state of Sonora and were therefore able to get a 'Sonora Only' permit - and were not required to leave a deposit. The permit was free, but we also had to get tourist cards at 170 pesos each - $18.

All in all, the trip was great fun, a big adventure - and even made financial sense, considering the alternative ways of getting heavy or bulky objects like boat batteries and cushions in and out of Mexico. Furthermore, the drive through Sonora was one of the most scenic parts of the trip.

Jim and Eleanor Hancock
Solstice, Freya 39
San Carlos, Mexico

Jim & Eleanor - That's good information, thanks. But we also wonder how it was leaving your boat in Marina Seca - or elsewhere in Mexico - for the summer. How much did it cost, was it secure, did you have work done while you were gone, how easy was it to get back and forth to your boat, and at what point did it become too hot to stay and then cool enough to return? Inquiring cruising minds want to know.


I've had three emails from friends who say I need to tell you about our average speeds in the recently completed Caribbean 1500. Apparently, our letter to you regarding the possibility of averaging 10 knots from the Canary Islands to the Eastern Caribbean appeared in the November issue. If you remember, I wrote that it shouldn't be difficult for a Swan 651 to average 10 knots on that 2,700-mile course. Apparently, someone in your editorial staff - could it have been the Wanderer - disagreed with me. We're still here in the Caribbean, so I haven't seen a copy.

But for the record, Linda and I just doublehanded 1,500 miles from Hampton, Virginia, to the British Virgins. The conditions were benign and too deep an angle for our 84-foot Beowulf's ketch rig. However, we were able somehow to eke out a 324-mile day for the first 24 hours, broad reaching with two reachers - no spinnakers during the first day at sea - sailing at an average true wind angle of 135/140 degrees in 18 to 22 knots of wind. The situation deteriorated from there, with the wind staying northwest and lightening as we headed south, requiring us to jibe against the shifts as we don't run with the ketch rig. In any event, Beowulf finished in 5 days, 8 hours, and 35 minutes with 1,510 miles on the log. That's roughly a 280-mile per day average. It has been a lot of years since I took algebra in junior high, but I think this might be faster than a 10-knot average.

Steve Dashew
British Virgins / Tucson

Steve - With all due respect, if somebody tells us they shot a par 72 on a championship golf course, we assume they didn't skip the four hardest holes. If somebody says they did the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds, we assume they ran the full 100 yards - not just 80. And if somebody tells us they averaged 10 knots on a sailing passage, we assume they sailed the entire way - something the Caribbean 1500 results indicate that you didn't do. According to the published results, you motored nearly 24 hours - and if we remember correctly, your big boat motors at 15 knots. If that's the case, you motored nearly 20% of the time, and when you did, at about 140% of your normal sailing speed. Think what would have happened to your average speed if the wind had gone light and you'd have stuck it out sailing. You might have averaged five knots rather than 15 knots for those 345 miles, dropping your average speed to far below 10 knots.

How hard is it for even great race boats to average 10 knots under sail for a long distance such as across the Atlantic? Shortly after you finished the Caribbean 1500, Luc Coquelin and crew aboard Multicap Caraibes set a new record in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia. Their new record - which smashed the old one by eight hours - was 12 days and 18 hours. This was an average of just 8.8 knots, a far cry from the 10 knots you say shouldn't be difficult. Yet the victorious Coquelin said, "We had an excellent crossing, with only two days of light airs - but an Open 50 still sails well in light airs! There were no problems on the boat, my tactic being to push steadily all the time. Our maximum speed was in the region of 15 knots, our best 24-hour run was 275 nautical miles."

We think we understand the Deerfoot concept of a boat is one that sails well when the conditions are right and motors even better when they're not right. This may not appeal to sailing purists, but it's a legitimate concept. But we don't believe such a boat could average anywhere near 10 knots under sail all the way across the Atlantic - and the results from this year's ARC - see the next letter - support our belief.


I just read the November Latitude cover to cover. It was with sadness that I read about the loss of Kokopelli's mast and the resulting serious injury to one of her crew. We'd met the crew in the Islands just before they left. Will there be a follow-up story?

On another subject, you blew it in your reply to Steve Dashew on the controversy over whether a boat can average 10 knots for a long distance! You should have begged for a ride on one of his boats instead. I had the pleasure of sailing on a Deerfoot 65 many years ago, and his boats are really fast. My personal boat is a 65-ft ketch that weighs 50 tons, and therefore is very slow compared to Dashew's. It took us 12.5 days from San Diego to Ko Olina, Oahu - but yes, we ran the engine, ate well, slept well, and arrived rested.

Do you know if Steve Dashew has a Web page or email where we could contact him?

Stu Smith

Stu - We're not interested in sensationalizing the Kokopelli incident, but if information comes out that would be of interest to our readers - such as the cause(s) of the dismasting, and the results of the litigation - we'll report it. A word of caution: It's very possible that the exact cause of the dismasting won't be known with any more certainty than the cause of the TWA 747 blowing up off the New England coast. In addition, it's a condition of many personal injury suits that the terms not be disclosed. If crewman Daniel Garr - who nearly died and was partially paralyzed as a result of the dismasting - wants to discuss it, we'll gladly share his thoughts. But we're not going to hound him for comments.

Although we have very different tastes in boats, Steve Dashew is a friend, and we talk and email all the time. He's invited us to sail aboard
Beowulf - and better yet, to race against her with Profligate. Unfortunately, our schedules never permitted it, and now the boats are in different oceans. As for your contention that we "blew it" when we disagreed with Dashew about a boat being able to average 10 knots sailing across the Atlantic, we suggest you check the facts. If you can find any boat - besides a maxi catamaran or full-out racing machine - that's made it across the Atlantic averaging 10 knots, let us know. We don't believe any 'regular boats' have come close, because it's really hauling ass for a really long time.

As for Deerfoots - or any other boats - being "fast," that's far too general a term to be meaningful. Are we talking fast upwind, downwind or all around? Fully crewed or shorthanded? In protected waters or on the open ocean? If you're suggesting that Deerfoots are particularly 'fast' when racing against similar-sized boats on typical race courses, we're not aware of any evidence that supports it. In the recently completed Atlantic Rally for Cruisers - which officials describe as perhaps the fastest ever - the only Deerfoot entered, a 65-footer, only averaged 7.7 knots - and that included motoring for a staggering 88 hours! Even so, it just barely managed to beat a Swan 56 that didn't motor at all. The Deerfoot corrected out last in her class of 16 boats, and 205th in a fleet of 215 boats. Nobody should read too much into this, of course, as obviously the folks on that particular Deerfoot weren't very enthusiastic or skilled sailors.

Nonetheless, back in '95 we raced our 25-year-old ketch
Big O - which at 71 feet and 45 tons had dimensions similar to your boat - against two new Deerfoot 65s at Antigua Sailing Week. As we recall, we and just about everybody else in our class beat both of the Deerfoots on both elapsed and corrected time in all five races. Like a lot of narrow boats with small sail plans, the Deerfoots were particularly off the pace going to weather in a seaway. And once again we caution people not to read too much into this, as we think it's likely that both boats were sailed by folks who were more motorsailors than sailors. In any event, it's just another reason we hope that Steve and Linda go ahead with their plans to enter Beowulf in the cruising division of this year's Antigua Sailing Week. The five race event offers an excellent yardstick of any design concept, as the races are held in a variety of conditions against a diversity of competition. If Steve and Linda can kick ass in Antigua, we'll be duly impressed.

The Dashews do have a Web site, www.setsail.com, that's both well-organized and filled with excellent information.


I did the '99 Ha-Ha with my Jeanneau Sun Fizz Utopia, and now I have a problem with the Los Angeles tax collector. My boat and I are still in Mexico - and we'll be here until next August when I have the boat hauled in San Carlos and trucked to Annapolis. The boat will never come back to California. Nonetheless, the L.A. tax collector sent me a personal property tax bill for the year 2000.

I explained to them that my boat hadn't been in the States, let alone in L.A. county, for all of 2000 - and even sent them my Mexican import form. They responded by telling me that I had to prove my boat had been in a marina. Having been in Mazatlan Marina for the entire summer, I sent them my receipts. Then they told me my boat had to have been in a marina for an entire year for them not to tax it.

And now I just received another tax bill indicating the assessment of late charges and penalties. If I pay the bill, I presume I will be forced to pay next year, too, as I still won't have been in a marina for a year. When I say I want to fight it, they tell me that a lawyer did and the judge ruled against him. Any suggestions?

By the way, the Baja Ha-Ha was one of the best possible ways to start cruising. And Latitude is the best publication in the business - I really mean that.

John Tindle

John - Thanks for the nice words. We suggest that you keep fighting the tax collector for two good reasons. First, you have justice on your side. If your boat has permanently left Los Angeles County, you don't use any of their services, and they have no right to bill you. Furthermore, it's none of their business where your boat is now, or if it's in a marina or not. The fact that you proved it was in Mexico was just a courtesy on your part. Secondly, keep fighting because tax collectors have a lot of leeway in forgiving unjust assessments - even if they claim they don't. Keep calling, ask to speak to supervisors, demand to be quoted specific sections of the tax code that deals with property that has left the county, and otherwise make yourself a pain in the ass that won't go away. If it comes down to standing in front of a judge, fear not, you've got truth and justice on your side. That's not to say that you'll win, just that you should win. As a final suggestion, consider voting Libertarian in future elections. Sure, a society needs a government - but only the smallest and most efficient necessary to do the job.

Others who are thinking about sailing to Mexico or beyond and are concerned about possible personal property taxes should learn the tax assessor's policies where they keep their boat. They may opt to establish a presence in a friendlier county before leaving or register their boat in another state - like Oregon, where they don't clip you for property taxes that you don't owe.


Your knowledge of Ventura Harbor is - judging by your response to Jim McCorison's tale of woe - a bit out of date. It was a nice place until just recently, and for the most part may still be. But changes - not for the better - have occurred, and McCorison evidently was a victim of them.

First off, the Ventura Harbor Patrol is a group of cool guys - there are no better anywhere. They do enforce the 5 mph speed limit, however, so they weren't out of order in asking McCorison to slow to a 'no wake' speed. And if the speeding boat he mentioned was beyond the ends of the north and south groins - where the speed limit ends - that was all right, too - although the boat's speed and wake still could have been annoying.

As for McCorison's other problems, I can almost certainly assure you that he was not assigned to the commercial docks, but rather to Ventura West Harbor. I say this because they have a new power-tripping chief manager there, who treats people the way McCorison says he was treated. In other words, the guy runs the place like a prison.

For example, when it comes to wooden boats, he has declared that it's his intention to rid Ventura West of them. Some of the wooden boats that have been in the marina for a long time are being allowed to stay, but others have been evicted. As for the business about boats under 35 feet, that's the new edict on liveaboards. No reasonable manager would impose such a restriction on transients, because cruising boats come in all sizes.

Forget sleeping on your boat. Here's a direct quote from the new manager at Ventura West: "You're only renting water space, and have no right to the docks." I suppose that means everyone will have to swim or dinghy to their boats, and can't do anything that might be construed as living on a boat. You can park your boat in the slip and nothing more.

McCorison's friend, on the other hand, was no doubt in Ventura Isle Marina, which is why he wasn't treated in a similar manner. So yes, Ventura is still a pretty good place, but contrary to what you wrote, it's no longer "away from the masses." It has gone the way of Santa Monica and Santa Barbara - choked with people and cars!

My wooden boat and I are recent refugees from what I consider to be the tyranny at Ventura West, so I can assure you of the validity of what I say. I was there 14 years, and during all those years never saw anything like what's happening there now. All the friends I left there are unhappy and desperate to escape, but there is literally nowhere for them to go. All the Southland marinas are full, and most of these people liveaboard large boats with kids and pets, which aren't allowed anywhere else. So they are trapped in the unfortunate situation of having to kiss ass in order to be able to stay there. I don't, as my boat is small and I can go anywhere. But I deeply feel the frustration and humiliation my good friends feel. Boat people should not be treated like second-class citizens nor as criminals - as McCorison seems to have been.

So stop at Ventura if you must, but I advise you to avoid Ventura West. Better yet, sail six miles south and stop at Channel Islands Harbor, a really friendly and laid-back place. Marina managers at Channel Islands think boats are to be enjoyed, and they also grant boat people full membership in the human race.

Jim Troglin

Jim - We don't know what's going on at Ventura West, but General Manager Bill Chase has another side of the story in the following letter.


It was with great dismay that I read the letter from Jim McCorison of Seattle about his experiences at Ventura Harbor. As the General Manager of Ventura West Marina, I want to assure McCorison and all your other readers that his reception and treatment were not the normal course of business for our harbor. His report of wood boats and pleasure craft being unwanted in Ventura is totally incorrect.

Ventura West Marina was designed to accommodate 50% liveaboards, and we have plenty of shore-based amenities to make living aboard here a most pleasant experience. Our new laundry, Cruisers' Lounge, library, TV lounge, walk-in freezer and exercise area are here to make Ventura Marina West life more enjoyable. We even have a large new deck and hot tub spa under construction!

If anyone wants to make arrangements for a slip, we can be reached day or night. Our office is open from 8-5 daily and our night security can be reached after 7 p.m. via VHF 16 or cell phone at (805) 216-4911. I can be contacted directly by calling my office at (805) 644-8266 or through the Ventura Harbor Patrol on VHF 16. We will do everything possible to accommodate late arrivals.

I've enclosed 10 signed business cards to distribute to anyone passing through our area. Each card will be honored for up to three days of free berthing here in our marina. We have made many recent changes and improvements to our marina, and we want to make sure that everyone feels welcome here in Ventura.

Bill Chase
General Manager, Ventura West Marina

Bill - Many years ago, we berthed our Freya 39 on G Dock at Ventura West. It was a great location and there was a wonderful sense of community. It sounds like you folks are making a lot of physical improvements, but we hope all the staff never forgets that there's nothing as important to visiting mariners as a warm welcome, and to berthers - particularly liveaboards - as a pleasant ambience. In the past, we've seen a lot of "it's a new regime" managers come in; sometimes they were needed to straighten up trashed out marinas, but other times they destroyed perfectly good marina environments.

The offer of a three free night's berthing for anyone who shows up with one of your signed business cards is a good one. We'll send them out to the first 10 people who send us a self-addressed stamped envelope, providing that they intend to use them within the next four or five months. Hopefully, we'll get some feedback from them.


'Lectronic Latitude is great fun, and made us miss being on the Ha-Ha more than ever.

Michael Beattie
Miki G.
Santa Cruz

Michael - That was the idea. If anyone hasn't checked out 'Lectronic Latitude, visit www.latitude38.com and click on the flashing 'Lectronic box. We publish 5 to 10 minutes of sailing stuff everyday, usually with lots of color photos.


My wife and I loved all the reports on this year's Baja Ha-Ha that appeared on 'Lectronic Latitude. Well done. Is it too early to sign up for the 2001 Ha-Ha? We are finally going to do it.

John and Susan Pazera
Compania, Tayana 42
San Francisco

John & Susan - We were 'beta testing' the sending of photographs via Globalstar satellite systems, so our 'Lectronic Latitude coverage wasn't as polished as we'd hoped, but we're glad you liked it. As for the Ha-Ha, it's run by the Ha-Ha, Inc., folks, and they go into hibernation until May 1. Your check for an entry pack is being returned.


What a wonderful vacation Sharon and I had doing the Ha-Ha! We both want to thank you again. Every time we saw the Wanderer/Poobah and Banjo Andy, you were working - and we're sure there was much work behind the scenes. We plan on doing the Ha-Ha again in 2002 - then just keep going.

We arrived back in Oakland at 0200 on Monday morning, then got up three hours later to get dressed for work. What a shock it was transitioning from the warmth, beaches and beers of Cabo to the 37° of Oakland and the problems and complaints at work. It was like a cold bucket of water in the face. Oh well, that's what pays for our fun times!

Muchas gracias for the experience of a lifetime, we can't thank you enough!

John W. Warren
Warren Peace

John & Sharon - It was our pleasure. If the Ha-Ha fleets were made up of unpleasant whiners, it would be an impossible job, but once again everyone was great, making our job as easy as possible. We look forward to Ha-Ha-ing with you again in '02 - and who knows, maybe you'll even re-catch the mahi mahi you tossed back by mistake!


Tomales Bay is one of the last unspoiled Bay Area cruising destinations. The sightseeing, birdwatching, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, crabbing, fishing, camping and hiking opportunities are truly fabulous. While recently downgraded, the water quality in the Tomales Bay is still almost pristine. I can't list another destination in the immediate San Francisco Bay Area that offers such beauty and unspoiled natural surroundings. In fact, a fall weekend anchored next to the Golden Gate National Wildlife Refuge in Tomales is my favorite activity.

The flip side of the Tomales Bay report is that the entrance to the bay is very dangerous, the weather is always challenging, and the bay itself requires attention to shoal areas and good anchoring techniques. The entrance to the bay faces the prevailing northwesterly winds and Pacific swells, and there's a shallow sandbar through a very narrow channel. On any given day, the weather in Tomales Bay can rapidly change from foggy and calm, to sunny and gorgeous, to windy and cold, to 25 knots of wind with four-foot wind chop. The evenings often bring thick, pea-soup-like fog, during which time it's not a good idea to navigate.

The real subject of my letter, however, are the 'sneaker waves' at the entrance to the bay. The narrow channel and mouth of Tomales Bay cause terrific tidal currents that, when several of Mother Nature's other conditions align improperly, can lead to sneaker waves. Those other conditions are: 1) Rapid outgoing tide; 2) Large ocean swells from the northwest; and 3) Strong prevailing winds from the northwest. Naturally, these conditions exist most commonly during the winter and spring months, but commercial fishermen and recreational mariners get caught by sneaker waves at Tomales every month of the year. I have survived three sneaker waves in 30 years of boating on the bay, and offer the following advice:

1) Don't consider crossing the Tomales Bay bar in strong northwesterly winds and seas during an outgoing tide. On two occasions when there were such conditions, I waited for 20 minutes to make sure there wouldn't be a problem, then cautiously sailed down the channel. Both times I saw four to six foot swells turn into 20 to 25 foot steep breaking waves 440 yards across! The wave stretched all the way from the outer entrance buoy to Tomales Point.

2) Even though small boats safely enter and leave Tomales Bay on calm days at slack tide, you still need to be careful. The entrance to the bay is 'big boat water'.

3) Be especially cautious in the fog. While the monsters are called sneaker waves, they don't really sneak up on you if you can see 8- to 12-foot breakers rolling down the Tomales Channel. But if it's so foggy that you can't see what's happening ahead in the surf line and out to Tomales Point, don't go there!!!

4) Beware of unseasonable storms in the Gulf of Alaska that cause huge ground swells. I made my worst mistake at Tomales during the month of August when the entrance is usually fairly benign. Despite the fact that it was a beautiful, calm day in August, big swells arrived and closed the entrance.

5) Buy a chart and learn where you can safely navigate inside Tomales Bay. There are marked channels and large areas of sandbars and mud. Also be sure you can anchor your boat safely in a good blow.

I hope nobody ever sees a sneaker wave at Tomales Bay, but trust me, they do exist.

Dennis Clifton
Shamaness, 36-ft Chung Hwa Ketch
Ha-Ha '96 - refitting in Novato


I'm writing in response to Dennis Hoey's letter in the October issue.

Tomales Bay has always had a less than desirable entrance, and I have personally seen depths of three feet at low tide over the bar. When the bar is breaking, the average size wave is about 3 to 5 feet, and 5 to 8 feet when there is heavier weather. Waves also have a tendency to wrap around Tomales Point and cause breaking surf in an area roughly 400 yards off Tomales Point and about 600-800 yards southeast of the #2 buoy. The approach buoy for Tomales is marked with the letters 'TB', but is unlighted. This should not be confused with the Bodega Bay approach buoy, which has the letters 'BA' and is lighted with a flashing white morse alpha light. If you have to enter one of the two bays at night, Bodega would be the better choice.

If anyone has questions regarding this or other areas around Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay, please call the Coast Guard station at Bodega Bay.

BM1 Tom Albert
Executive Petty Officer
USCG Station Bodega Bay
(707) 875-3596

BM1 Tom - Thanks for making the effort to let our readers know they can call you for information at any time. This is the Coast Guard we recreational mariners all knew and loved in the old days, and the one that seems to have come back in force. We love you guys!


I know the debate over monohulls versus multihulls has been hashed over a million times and I just ignored it. But now I'm tied in knots because I'm ready to buy a boat and don't know what to get. Can you recommend a book or some old articles, or would you be willing to share an opinion of your own?

John Bunnell

John - There have been lots of articles written on the differences between monohulls and multihulls, but most of them were penned years ago when there was a lot of unbridled hostility between advocates of the different types of boats. Most of that's gone now, thanks in part to the large number of monohull sailors who have chartered cats on tropical vacations and have enjoyed the experience.

The most popular features of catamarans are that they are extremely roomy and don't heel. Some cats are significantly faster than comparable sized monohulls, but others - particularly heavy ones with fat hulls and fixed keels - can be disappointing performers. Two of the problems with cats are that there aren't enough of them around for any kind of decent racing, and that it's hard to find a place to berth them. But by far the largest drawback of cats is the cost. It's difficult to find even a good used one suitable for open ocean crossings for less than $150,000, and most cost two or three times that.

One of the big advantages of wanting to buy a monohull is that tens of thousands of very fine ones have been built, so you can find one capable of circumnavigating for less than $25,000. You may not get the fastest, most spacious and comfortable boat for that price, but you can get one that will do the job. And if you've got the $200,000 to $500,000 to spend on a boat, you've got the budget for some pretty spectacular new and used monohulls. It's also much easier to find a slip for a monohull, and there's infinitely greater opportunities for meaningful racing. You can truck a monohull from Mexico to British Columbia, or from San Francisco to Florida - which you can't do with anything but the smallest catamarans. Finally, the average monohull looks a million times more 'yachty' than does a multihull - although tastes are slowly changing.

Here's what we'd suggest: If $200,000 is out of your price range, limit your prospects to monohulls. If you're willing to spend over $200,000, work a deal with one of the charter companies in the Caribbean to sail a cat for half a week and a monohull for half a week - then decide for yourself which you liked best.


We live in Bel Marin Keys, and if anybody wants to see real locks and check out how the water works, they can contact me at the email below and we can do a 'Science 101' experiment.
I really liked your remarks on the price of production catamarans versus custom catamarans. Madeline and I really like the cat experience ever since our first time aboard Stan's charter cat Apparition in Sausalito several years ago. Currently we're eyeing a Lagoon 38 or 41, but it's a lot of money for the length. Our goal is coastal cruising, so we'd prefer a little longer waterline. So here's our $64,000 question: To whom or where should we go to have a cat built? Would the people that built Profligate consider a more modest sized boat - 40 to 50 feet? If they wouldn't, who would? And how would we know they could do the job properly, that the specs would be right, and that the sail plan was the proper size?

P.S. It's too bad that Latitude doesn't reach more people, because if it did maybe we'd get someone like Harry Browne elected President rather than the Frick or Frack Republicrats.

Don Swartz
dse-d2 at pacbell.net

Bel Marin Keys

Don - Thanks for the invite on lock inspection. By the way, we continue to get lots of mail regarding how much water it takes boats and ships to get through the Panama Canal - many of them nitpicking or getting way away from the original question. So we're terminating that subject for awhile.

We're frequently asked what kind of smaller cat we might buy and/or where we might have one built. Unfortunately, we're a little short on answers. The current production cats are fine boats for a lot of sailors and purposes, but we haven't really found one that would be suited to our personal needs. As we've mentioned before, the problem is that our priorities are maximum hull length and minimum weight for performance, maximum bridgedeck to prevent pounding, and extreme simplicity. The charter and general boating market, on the other hand, seem to demand that these qualities be sacrificed for a maximum number of berths and heads, relatively sumptuous interiors, and complex systems - which result in more weight and less performance. Mind you, there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of these boats, they're just on the other end of the spectrum from what we prefer.

Who and where to have a cat built is beyond us. New Zealand, South Africa, St. Kitts and Trinidad are all possibilities, but only if you can move to the other side of the world for the better part of a year to supervise construction. There are builders who can do custom cats on the west coast, of course, but we haven't talked to any owners - ourselves included - who've been thrilled with their experiences. And there have been some real nightmares. Of course, there are a number of good yards that haven't had a chance to build a cat yet.

Having sailed on
Profligate for over three years now, we've got a definite idea of what a 46-50 foot mini-Profligate would be like. If enough people were interested, we might ask Jim Antrim or somebody to draw it up for publication in the magazine.


It's been calm and foggy since we passed Piedros Blancos on the California coast north of Morro Bay. The motor has been on for two days, and we're navigating between Point Arguello and oil rig Irene. All we've seen since we fueled up at Morro Bay has been the bowsprit. The GPS and radar mark our progress. It's nerve-wracking enough at six knots, how do airline pilots land in the fog at 200 knots? A supply boat crosses our bow on the way out to Irene. It's so foggy that the only way we can 'see' Arguello and Irene is with the radar.

Suddenly, Piley, our autopilot quits working. Virginia, my wife, takes the helm but can't hold course. She thinks something is wrong. I take the helm for awhile and it's fine, she's just out of practice. She soon gets the hang of it again while I confirm that Piley the pilot has lost a gear. Oh well, we've steered by hand before.

As we approach the corner of the coast, we finally see the Arguello light beaming through the fog. Once we're around the corner, the sky clears to reveal brilliant stars! And up in the distance, oil rigs light the sky like mini-cities. Later on, a large orange glow appears over the silhouette of the hills - it's the rising moon shining across the flat ocean, sort of like the golden river at the start of the Sydney Olympics.
About midnight, we approach the second corner along the coast, at Point Conception. We've rounded this notoriously rough point twice in boisterous conditions, and now we have just what Virginia always wanted, a flat calm. Amazing! Once we round and begin to head east, we'll definitely be in Southern California. I'm exhausted and lay down for a nap, but Virginia soon wakes me again. It's foggy again, and she can't see the lighthouse. I flip on the radar again and Conception is right where it's supposed to be. We double check our position with the GPS. Yeah, we're where we're supposed to be.

A short time later, we turn the corner to drop the hook in that wonderfully remote and unknown - to all but surfers, fishermen and supply ships - anchorage of Cojo. It had cleared up again, but just as we drop the anchor near the culvert, the fog engulfs us again. Who turned off the lights? Anyone heard of such a thing?

Update: We just finished a fantastic 1,600-mile passage from San Francisco to La Paz.

Robert and Virginia Gleser
Harmony, Islander Freeport 41

Robert and Virginia - Point Conception is the dramatic dividing line between Northern and Southern California - and between two very different climatic zones. Just as it's common for the wind speed to be dramatically different on the two sides of Conception, so is it common for there to be fog to the north and clear skies to the southeast. Nothing unusual in that - or in it being foggy all along the coast.

We were interested to note your reliance on radar and GPS. When we started sailing, we made several trips around a socked-in Conception relying on dead reckoning and our always-dubious radio direction finder. Sometimes it was very, very spooky. Reliable radar and GPS - these are two devices that have made sailing so much more fun and less frightening.


I'm looking to buy a boat in the Med next month. If I do, I will be loading it on a ship and sending it to Mexico. The ship will make an interim stop in Florida, at which point the boat will be temporarily - two weeks - off-loaded before being reloaded for the trip to Mexico. If the boat is off-loaded in Florida then reloaded for the trip to the Pacific side of Mexico, does this off-loading interfere with the boat being exempt from California sales/use tax because it was out of the state for 90 days? The boat will end up in the Bay Area approximately 130 days after the transfer of title in the Med.
I realize you are not tax authorities, but can you direct me to a good source of information?

John Mastory
San Francisco

John - The people you need to consult with - and, believe it or not, they are very helpful - are the marine division of the California State Board of Equalization in Sacramento. One of the things they will surely tell you is that a boat has to be actively used outside of the state for 90 days for it to be exempt from sales/use tax. Being delivered on a ship is not going to count as active use. So you may want to cruise that boat in the Med or Mexico for a total of 90 days before bringing it to California. You might also call an international boat broker in Florida to ask them if Florida officials will be on hand to met the ship and say, "Howdy duty."


Our arrival at Baja's Santa Maria Bay came three days after the Ha-Ha fleet had set sail for Cabo San Lucas. Up until that point, we'd been part of the fleet. But a broken alternator in Turtle Bay forced us to reexamine our plans and unoffically drop out. As fate would have it, the breakdown came as a blessing in disguise, as the pace had started to take its toll on our enjoyment of the event. Besides, the high winds on the second leg meant that the fleet had gotten pretty beat up.
We'd entered the Ha-Ha for that long list of reasons so many first-time cruisers cite, including safety in numbers, the itinerary and so forth. But after the first leg we realized that while you may see masthead lights in the distance at night, you're ultimately alone. Left to your own devices, you're initially afraid, but ultimately you stick it out to experience success.

Last night I turned 30, and we sat in the salon of our boat and celebrated with a couple of other Ha-Ha ex-pats. We gossiped about all the different boats we owned, who did what at the parties, and wondered how the Wanderer/Grand Poobah could do this year after year. Although we dropped out of the Ha-Ha, we know that it was one of the reasons we and the others have made it this far. So while we don't know how the Poobah does it, we want to commend him, as each year he sets a group of young birds free to make their way on the big blue.

Steve and Gabby McCrosky
Newport Beach

Steve and Gabby - How can the Wanderer/Poobah do the Ha-Ha every year? A better question would be how could we not do it? For when it comes to life's pleasures, number one is hugging and loving our two kids, and number two is surfing down waves at 15 knots while wearing shorts in the moonlight - as we were able to do for much of leg two. Screw big houses, fancy cars, cool clothes and snazzy furniture, just give us a little love and some surfing on a warm ocean, and we'll be content. Sure, there's a lot of work and worry that goes into organizing and running the Ha-Ha, but it's not like having to tell people they need a root canal or have cancer. Besides, we get an enormous reward in seeing folks really enjoying themselves and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

As for the Ha-Ha itself, we're glad that it works for different people in different ways. Everyone should partake of as much as they want and skip the rest. As for those who'd rather sail to Mexico on their own, good on you, because that makes a lot of sense, too.


When my husband Harley encouraged me to accept an offer from Bob and Bonnie Fraik for us to do the Ha-Ha with them aboard their Santa Cruz 52 Impulse, he began by saying that I'd get to see things I'd never seen before. Unfortunately, I'd heard that line before - just before my worst date as a teenager. Harley, who has lots of racing experience, kept going on about how this would be the ride of a lifetime with great friends aboard a lightning fast 'cruiser'. I'd never done an overnight passage before and don't like speed, so the idea of spending a number of nights at sea at a lightning-fast pace only brought on fear. Then even my mother encouraged me to go. Whatever happened to the maternal worry for one's youngest daughter?

Nonetheless, before the Ha-Ha was even an hour old I was having the time of my life! I thoroughly enjoyed the overnight passages, looking at the sea life, and anchoring out at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Thank you, Grand Poobah and Latitude for creating such a great event! I can't think of a better format to help cruisers get their feet wet as they head south, as the Ha-Ha was well-organized for fun and safety, and only loosely organized as a race. I enjoyed every moment from removing the squid 'road kill' from the deck, to listening to the talkative Sipapu - who we dubbed Sea Poo Poo. It was educational, too, as we all learned that you can't eat fresh yellow fin sashimi, as the spasmodic flesh is a bit too gross, even if you try to hide it with plenty of soy sauce. I'm also glad that the pod of 20 gray whales that we sailed into didn't think to fool with Impulse's rudder to check her sexual orientation. The Bahia Santa Maria beach party was the best - great food and dancing under strobe lights in the middle of nowhere!

But the primary reason we had such a great time was that the Fraiks were such terrific people to sail with. It also helped that we all participated as a team. The first day we got together to discuss safety gear, watches, privacy, do's and don'ts, alcohol consumption, personal hygiene, food preferences and so forth. We all knew these little things had to be gone over to prevent little problems from potentially turning into conflicts and irritation. Thanks Bob and Bonnie, for memories that I'll cherish forever - and for taking me on a trip that allowed me to see good things I'd never seen before.

My husband took some great photographs, which everyone can view at www.richmondyc.org.

Anna Daddazio Gee
Crew on Impulse, Santa Cruz 52

Anna - Thanks for the kind words. This year's Ha-Ha was a hoot. We know the Fraiks had a good time, too, as they said they hope to do it again next year - and hope to talk a lot of the other Santa Cruz 50s and 52s into doing it also. As for your husband Harley's photographs, they do a great job of capturing the mood and spirit of the event. Everyone who did the Ha-Ha or is thinking about doing it should check them out.


I'm one of the volunteers that works on water safety issues over at the Maritime Park in San Francisco, and we have nursed our two small boats for much longer than it makes sense. We now need help from the outside, because we've been unable to get the money needed for the boats and to keep all our programs going. Can you run the following request?

San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park's small craft department is seeking the donation of one or two rigid hull inflatables (RIB, RHI), Boston Whalers or similar boats in good condition. The Maritime Park is in serious need of a couple of 18-28 foot speed boats that can be used for water safety, rescue and light towing. We currently have a pair of 1970-era Navy surplus Boston Whalers, both of which have soaked cores and have been patched one time too often. One of these has a good engine that is too heavy for the boat, the other has a less reliable engine.
These boats are used as safety vessels during our on-the-water maritime events, and they regularly operate in 3+ foot swells and 30 knot winds. Our typical yearly gunkholing event has 65 people in 22 traditionally-built small craft, which they row and sail for six days. The safety boats accompany and support this important trip as well as other events. We don't need pretty boats and can put some work into them if we get enough materials to produce reliable workboats. Boat donations will be fully tax deductible and will support safety on the Bay. Please contact Bill Doll, Curator of Small Craft at (415) 556-7013. We need your help to be able to succeed with our on-the-water programs.

Richard Pekelney
San Francisco


Help me out, as I'm having a problem. This is my fifth letter to you on the subject, as I've thrown the first four of them away. But do Max Ebb and Lee Helm banter aloud to impart knowledge - or to just irritate people? It seems I've been here before, but I need to comment on some of their comments. I'm referring specifically to their conversation in the September issue regarding possible classes for handicap racing - in which I seemed to detect too much elitism.

Max and Lee are looking in the mirror for a makeover - a common phenomenon among some engineering types. They suggest a rating system based on similar type boats regardless of PHRF handicaps. I believe this to be a bad idea, as in some small way it implies that one type of boat is preferable over another, something that wouldn't be good for the sailing public at large.
Lee suggested classes based on displacement/length ratios - a really bad idea - as it would suggest to the buying public that displacement to length ratio is the Holy Grail of yacht design. For an engineer to directly suggest - or even imply - such a thing is a disservice to the public. (For the purposes of this discussion, I'm discounting ultralights.)

After over 115,000 great circle miles on over 60 boats, I have come to the absolute conclusion that the displacement/length ratio is meaningless for predicting or establishing sailing performance. There are simply too many other factors. My convictions are based on actual sailing experience as opposed to hearsay. In general, the displacement/length ratio only indicates a design's relative comfort in a seaway. To cite just one example, some boats never pound going to weather, while some pound terribly at the very same speed. Most people don't find pounding to be pleasant.

Lee says, "The most important thing is to keep apples mixed with apples." Well, so be it - but what a boring fruit salad. Besides, some people don't like apples.

Max and friends don't want anything to lead to the 'Saraband syndrome'. This, of course, refers to some perceived rating flaw and/or a perceived 'waterline advantage' enjoyed by my Westsail 32 Saraband. They should burn their engineering degrees in shame. They can be as blind as river rocks, but as engineers and sailing writers, they need to be reminded that there is a real world and there is their world. Saraband has no waterline advantage over a Cal 35, Coronado 34, Crealock 37, Hans Christian 33, C&C 37, Tartan 35, or Pacific 40. Yet all were beaten boat for boat by Saraband in the 1990 Pacific Cup. There is only one explanation: those were all slower boats at that point in time. They, and dozens of other more modern boats with longer waterlines and lower displacement/length ratios are frequently slower than Saraband.

Knowing that Max and Lee are the best of friends, I suggest that they both open their eyes just a bit wider and question the numbers and formulas that are causing their vision problems. I also suggest that Max strongly urge Lee to return to school and perhaps take some ethics classes. Lee knows that Saraband is a heavy, comfortable boat that is obviously faster than she wants to admit. She knows Saraband is a Westsail 32. There is no other explanation. Contrary to what Max and Lee believe, the 'Saraband syndrome' is when a traditionally styled, heavy boat turns out to be faster than the modern-styled, lighter boat.

Thanks guys, I feel better already.

David King
Portland, Oregon

David - Leaving the whole issue of displacement/ratios aside, we can think of two very plausible reasons why Saraband might have beaten the other boats you mentioned in the 1990 Pacific Cup. One is a difference in weather. If you recall last year's West Marine Pacific Cup, La Diana got into a great breeze the first afternoon that everybody else missed, and walked away from her competitors. A second possible explanation is in the skill of the crew. You've got a lot of ocean miles under your keel, something that would give you a tremendous advantage over first-timers. Indeed, the greatest speed factor in any boat is the skill of the crew - which reminds us of a story.
Many years ago, singlehander Don Keenan of Santa Cruz, who owned the Olson 30
Hanalei Flyer, got into a bar argument with a Westsail 32 owner over the relative speeds of their boats. Keenan, who was prone to outrageous statements, claimed his Olson was faster sailing backwards than the other guy's Westsail was sailing forward. So they organized a little race, and Keenan, flying a spinnaker from the main halyard and sailing backwards, beat the Westsail. As we recall, it was a very light air day, which would have favored the much lighter Olson and the clever Keenan.

Nonetheless, if you're trying to sell us on the concept of a Westsail 32 being inherently faster to Hawaii than a C&C 37, we're not buying.


I want to remind everyone in Mexico that Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, which takes place from April 27 to May 5 at Caleta Partida, is tons of fun. Years ago there might have been a little too much drinking and a little too much overexposure for cruisers with kids, but recently it's become the kind of event that any mother would enjoy with her kids - and even grandkids. The big deal about Sailing Week is that it's the biggest rendezvous for the Mexico cruising community. Making new friends and getting caught up with those you haven't seen in months or years is the treasure of Sailing Week. Sure, there are fun parties on the beach, but they are casual parties that don't require wild behavior or deafening background music to be fun.

Sue and Pepe, formerly of the Seattle-based Melissa, will be running the show, and do a wonderful thing with mellow beach music and the talents of the cruising community. In addition, Jennifer and Russell Redmond of Watchfire do lots of beach art with the kids, making great things out of stuff they find just lying around. In addition, there are sports events such as volleyball, horseshoes, over-the-line baseball, as well as table games such as chess, cribbage and the special brand of Baja Rummy that's popular down here. There will be various other events, too, such as the chili cook-off and the dessert contest. These are held with much fanfare, with folks in costume promoting various themes. We'll even have some of Padre Timo's famous dinghy racing and some mellow sailboat racing.

Everything at Sea of Cortez Sailing Week is done by volunteers, and the event is free. So mark your calendars and plan your itinerary.

Tim Tunks
Scallywag, Islander 37
Marina del Rey

Readers - Sea of Cortez Sailing Week has had an up and down history, but with lots of veterans coming together to organize the 2001 event, it could be particularly good. It certainly has a near perfect setting.


I'm writing to comment on your response to John Burger's letter on page 62 of the October issue - the one about killing a diesel engine when almost all else fails. My suggestion is to knock the air cleaner off and stuff a large rag into the air intake. Make sure it's a large rag, because a small one may get sucked into the engine. I've used this technique in the past. It's also true that engines with stopped up air cleaners won't start.

Morris I. Vilkins
Beverly Hills

Morris - Cutting off the air supply will certainly stop a diesel, but our sources tell us that putting a rag over the air intake might not be the best 'tool' for the job. "Some diesels will suck air right through a rag," says Tom List of List Marine. In such situations, a flat piece of wood or metal should do the trick.


Latitude's response to K. Mileck's November defense of the American legal system was perfect. Anyone who thinks our broken judicial system doesn't affect boating probably isn't old enough to remember the days when a friend bringing a six-pack of beer didn't automatically make him/her a 'passenger for hire'.

I also loved the Homeward Bound article on boats returning to California from Hawaii after the Pacific Cup and Singlehanded TransPac races. However, I think Robby Buck of the Hawaii YC may have made even more crossings than John Jordane. Speaking of Jordane, I'd love to know how he "knew that Hurricane Daniel wasn't going to be a problem." How did he "know" that it wouldn't recurve to the Northeast and clobber him? It would be great if he shared this knowledge with us.

Robby Coleman
Southern Cross, Angelman Ketch
Ko Olina Marina, Oahu

Robby - One of the shortcomings of the American legal system is that it's nearly impossible for a lay person to know what the law really means - which wouldn't be so bad if so much of the law didn't go against common sense. For example, it used to be that if a guest brought sandwiches or chipped in $5 for gas, he/she was - under the code of federal regulations - a 'passenger for hire'. The problem was that most guests would bring something or chip in for gas as a matter of common courtesy - a common courtesy that suddenly and unknowlingly put the boatowner in a precarious position, because he/she most likely didn't have the license or insurance to legally carry 'passengers for hire'. True, the guests might have only been passengers for hire in the most technical sense, but that's all any aggressive lawyer needed to slap the boatowner's ass with a lawsuit - at which point it was time for the familiar it-will-cost-you-less-to-settle-than-defend-yourself-in-court shakedown.

Fortunately, the absurdity of all this was recognized several years ago, and the code of federal regulations was changed. Of course, how many boatowners know that? In any event, guests aboard boats can now contribute things such as sandwiches, drinks, gas money and other consideration without becoming 'passengers for hire'. In fact, as we understand it - and check with your own lawyer first to be sure - as long as guests don't contribute so much that the outing becomes profitable, they remain guests as opposed to passengers for hire.


In the November Homeward Bound article, Fred Huffman of La Diana made himself out to be the good guy and us - his two crew for the 17.5-day sail back to the mainland from Hawaii - as the bad guys. But there is another side to the story - and ours is pretty much the same one that Richard Henry Dana told 150 years ago.

For the eight month's prior to the August trip back, Don had been doing rigging for Huffman's shop, earning about $3,000 a month. In May, when Don and I agreed to be Huffman's crew for the trip back to California - Huffman said that Don would continue to be paid. But when we got halfway back to California, Huffman told Don he wasn't going to be paid after all, but should accept the experience as payment enough. This after Don had already gotten 6,500 miles of delivery experience that year alone. To make matters worse, Huffman said he wasn't even going to pay Don for the rigging work he did on La Diana in Hawaii. Having been told that he was going to get stiffed, is it any wonder that Don became quiet and less enthusiastic?

Although aboard as volunteer crew, I was nonetheless shocked by this turn of events. But maybe I shouldn't have been, for when I got to the boat in Hawaii, Huffman immediately ordered me to clean the oil out of the bilges and keep the boat spotless. Mind you, I wasn't receiving any pay or even being bought any meals.

Food - or the lack of it on the trip back - was another major source of problems. The provisions for three grown men for the trip back consisted of - and I'm not lying - 12 sodas, a dozen hamhocks and beans. After we demanded to be let off at the first landfall, Huffman claimed to have 'found' two more bags of food. The reason the police were there at the dock was so we could have them document the lack of provisions.

All things considered, I've never experienced such disregard for crew - and it's not like I don't have any experience. I taught sailing at the California Sailing Academy for 12 years, and have raced and cruised more than 25,000 miles - including from Canada to Mexico and the Panama Canal to New York.

If Huffman wants to present himself as such a great sailor, his crew would like to disagree. When Hurricane Daniel threatened the Hawaiian Islands before we took off, I had to insist that Huffman seize the ground tackle - a standard practice he didn't think was necessary. My son and I also helped him get La Diana off the reef - after Huffman had put her there in the middle of the day. Furthermore, I had to wake him up a number of times during his watch.

The real facts of the voyage are this: Fred was going to 'win' the trip home and prove himself a great man, no matter if the crew had to eat dirt. The success of a 2,600 mile delivery trip generally rests on the minimum comfort and safety of the crew - especially if they are not being paid - not abuse.

'Carl and Don'
La Diana's Unhappy Crew

Readers - We generally don't care to wash this kind of dirty laundry in print, but after Huffman made the remarks he did about his crew in the November issue, we felt they deserved an opportunity to respond. Having not been there, we don't know about the accuracy of the claims of either side.

In any event, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from this unfortunate passage. First, get the important stuff - and that usually includes monetary agreements - in writing. Secondly, more than one person should be involved in the provisioning, both to have a second opinion that there will be enough food, and to make sure that everybody gets to eat what they like.


We sailed in the Ha-Ha with our friends aboard the catamaran C'est Si Bon and had a great time. There was just one problem. When we pulled into Turtle Bay, the heat exchanger on our starboard engine wasn't working. "No problem," Ernesto said, as he would fix us up with a mechanic. True to his word, the mechanics showed up the next morning, and spent all day fixing the heat exchanger. They charged $80 for the work. The skipper gladly paid them, and sent them home with some candy and baseball hats for the kids.

When it came time to leave the next morning, the tired crew was a little slow. Both the engines on the cat started and ran perfectly, but then we discovered we'd 'paid' a little more for the work than we'd thought: two watches and a Leatherman tool were missing. We hope that this serves as a friendly reminder that if you have people working on your boat, you need to have someone watching over each one of them.

Nonetheless, we had a great time on the Ha-Ha and will be bringing our boat down from Washington to do it again in 2002.

Rob and Linda Jones

Rob & Linda - That's unfortunate, but good advice.

By the way, while in Turtle Bay you may remember that Anders Billred of the Morgan 43
Royal Treat announced the loss of his wallet - the unspoken implication being that it might have been stolen from him in town or on the beach. He found it about 10 days later. It turns out that he'd hidden it so well on his boat that he'd forgotten all about it!


The accompanying photo is of Teal Millage hoisting the jenny on the foredeck of Ruby, a 1938 teak sloop built in Hong Kong that now sails a little north of latitude 48. When her last hailing port was removed for the present one, the faint letters "S...n F...sco" emerged out of the varnish shadows in the teak transom. So Ruby knows the joys you speak of in your pages - even if her crew has to get their California kicks by reading Latitude up in Ruby's delicious and famous fo'c'sle bunk.

The sailing scene is pretty active up here in the summer, but thins out dramatically after Labor Day - and even more just two weeks after that. So now, when Ruby visits her favorite haunts, she either has the place to herself or has just one other off-season sailing diehard swinging on the hook nearby. The days get pretty short and the nights get cool up here at this time of year, but with lots of wool gear and a cabin stove and teapot, it can nonetheless be very pleasant. It's pretty mellow, too, on the hook in a quiet cove listening to a loon or raven or seal.

We think a dink is a must up here, because it lets the current carry you an oar's length away from the rocks so you can look over the gunwale at the profusion of marine life on the bottom. Walking along the shore is often good, too. There are some special places where you can walk a three-mile curve of sandy beach, with driftwood at the high tide line and a flock of Western Sandpipers at the water's edge. Of course, it's not always nice up here in the winter. About a half dozen times a season, we get southwesterly storms with winds up to 70 knots.

We sure enjoy Latitude, and have lost track of the number of neat tricks we've learned from its pages. One example that immediately comes to mind is the chip log, which is a great way to check the accuracy of the electronic propeller log - and provides endless entertainment to teenage crews. And I might try Dan Benjamin's steering tackle, too. Finally, I liked the San Francisco Bay sailing primer - now I know what everybody is talking about down there!

Peter Willing
Bellingham, Washington

Peter - We've always been disappointed that we don't get more sailing photographs from the Pacific Northwest. We like the shot of Teal, and hope you'll send some more of the quiet coves you enjoy so much.


My wife and I have just ended three years of living aboard and cruising in Southern California, and have begun what we hope will be a short stint working in Phoenix. After reading and listening to reports of mass pollution supposedly caused by liveaboards, we have to say that those who make such complaints are ill-informed. In our experience, liveaboards were very conscious of pollution, and consumed and polluted far less than those who live on land. If land dwellers had to store their trash and waste in the middle of their living space - as liveaboards do - they would damn well pay attention to how much waste and garbage they create. When you live on land, it's all too easy to flush the toilet, run the sink or dishwasher, and toss packaging material, because you're not as aware of it.

The amount of waste created in land-based homes and the amount of water wasted is enormous. Thanks for letting us vent.

Craig & Celeste Adamson
Phoenix, Arizona

Craig & Celeste - We're sure almost every other liveaboard will agree with you that they consume much less of everything - consumer goods, water, electricity - than when they lived in a home ashore. As such, you'd think that those - we're tempted to say 'morons', but will restrain ourselves - folks at the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) would see liveaboards as being kind to the environment. But no, in their unassailable wisdom, they would prefer that everyone who has a boat also have a land-based dwelling, thus forcing many boatowners to consume and pollute more than double what they'd prefer. To top it off, it also means they all have to waste fossil fuels and contribute to traffic congestion to go between their boats and residences. We sleep better at night knowing these bright lights are looking out for society's best interests.


Any Santana 20s out there? We had three boats in the Island YC summer series and I'm hoping to get five out for the Alameda YC Mid-Winters so we can race one-design - which we all know is more fun. I have seen so many S-20s around the Bay Area that I figured I had better put the word out. So if you have one sitting in your backyard or know of someone that does, have them sign up for the series. The fleet seems to be growing in the rest of California, and it would nice if that happened here also, where we have the best sailing. Check the Santana 20 Web site (www.s20.org) to get an idea of just how strong the fleet is.

Liam O'Flaherty
Pip Squeak, Santana 20


I'm Brigitte, and the Wanderer had breakfast on my boat Abracadabra many Sea of Cortez Sailing Weeks ago. I now live in La Paz part time where I help with the women's center/clinic. Planned Parenthood in Santa Rosa, California, has donated a big pelvic exam chair to the women's center in La Paz. But it's too big to take down there in a car. I'm wondering if anyone with a big boat would be willing to transport it. We could get the chair to the boat and pick it up from the boat in La Paz. If anyone can help, please call me at (415) 332-8025.

Brigitte Packer
Northern California


I thought Latitude readers might be interested in hearing how things turned out for me, as I did the Ha-Ha without a passport, birth certificate or even driver's license. When I arrived in Puerto Vallarta with Philo and his Cal 36 Cherokee Spirit, the woman at Immigration didn't ask any questions about birth certificates or other identification. She just had me fill out the standard form, then issued me a tourist card.

I then made the long bus trip from Nuevo Vallarta back to Tijuana. Twice - while standing outside the bus at local bus stations along the way - officials asked me for my birth certificate. I didn't have one, of course, but they accepted my tourist card.

In addition, the bus was stopped at least 15 times along the way. The majority of the stops were made in the state of Sonora, where uniformed PGR officials went through all the bags in the baggage compartment as well as everyone's carry-on luggage. On several occasions, however, the people who did the searches wore no uniforms and had no badges, making me wonder if they weren't local vigilante groups rather than the real federal police. In any event, they all had long probing tools that looked similar to screwdrivers and cordless electric drills. During these stops I was again asked for my birth certificate, but my tourist card always satisfied them.
Overall, I'm glad I took the bus, which allowed me to see more of Mexico. It's a beautiful country, and I especially liked the lush Sierra Madre on the southern portion of the trip. The only down side is that when I got to Tijuana, I discovered that my bags were half unzipped and four silver bracelets that I'd bought in Cabo were missing. The plastic bag I'd put them in, however, was still there.

While I didn't have any problem for not having any real identification, I've made it a priority to get a passport.

Rick Mercer
San Rafael

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