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I'm planning a cruise to Cuba with some friends in the first part of May, and would greatly appreciate any information that you or any of your readers can provide about travel there. Any local knowledge would be invaluable. I thought that I had read an article in one of the past issues from some others who had completed the transit. Would anyone happen to recall when it was so that I might obtain that back issue?
Bob - We've run so many articles on people
who have cruised to Cuba that we wouldn't even know where to start.
For example, in this issue alone we think there are at least five
crews that report they stopped in Cuba. Two of the boats spent
a week there and didn't even check in, which makes you wonder
if the Guardia Frontera hasn't been resting on their laurels since
the Bay of Pigs.
Based on our having just shown up with Big O late one afternoon at Baracoa, Cuba, you don't really need a lot of local knowledge. Nigel Calder's Cruising Guide to Cuba covers most everything and has excellent charts. We wish his book had been available when we went there. We preferred rural Cuba, but if you go to Havana, don't forget to bring some Latitudes to our friend Lic. Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, Commodore of the Hemingway International YC. In fact, if you read 'Lectronic Latitude, you'll know that Commodore Escrich, on behalf of the people of Cuba, has extended a permanent formal invitation to all Latitude readers to visit his country. So if you find yourself in trouble, he's your contact.
It's illegal for Americans to spend money in Cuba because the U.S. Treasury Department considers it 'trading with the enemy'. This, of course, is a source of endless jokes, because everybody does and denies it - and everyone knows they do. Sort of like Clinton pardoning Marc Rich and claiming that he did it on the merits of the case. Whoa, ho, ho! Nonetheless, it's considered bad form if you return to the States and an American Customs agent can't help but see that your boat is full of Cohiba cigars, Che Guevara souvenirs and maybe a dozen refugees. In all seriousness, Cuba is a fascinating place to visit, both because it's so strange and because it makes you realize how creepy life is when the government controls all aspects of everybody's life. With our apologies to our friend Commodore Esrich, Viva la Counterrevolucion!!!
WORLD CRUISERS FOR UNDER $25,000
Even though I may not sail around the world, I sure think about it. So I was surprised to read that you believe that it's possible "to find a boat capable of circumnavigating for less than $25,000." Could you give me three to four examples or what brand and length boat you have in mind? I think many of your readers would be interested. By the way, January was the first issue of Latitude I ever read, and I sure enjoyed it.
Jim and Julie Morrison
Jim & Julie - If we gave you a list
of boats under $25,000 that can circumnavigate, it would take
up most of this magazine. To prove it, we'll give you a list of
boats starting with the letter 'c', under 30 feet in length, that
you can buy for less than $25,000, that already have circumnavigated:
Columbia 24, Cal 24, Contessa 26, Catalina 27, Columbia 8.7, Cascade
29. In fact, most decently built boats of 27 or more feet could
make it, or easily be reinforced slightly to make it. And some
of these boats you can pick up for less than $10,000.
We personally wouldn't be interested in going around the world in such a small boat, and if you feel the same way, don't worry, there are plenty of boats in the 30 to 37-ft range that also fit the bill. These would include scores of Pearsons, Rangers, Cascades, Columbias and Islanders. Remember Roy Wessbecher, who spent something like five years sailing around the world with 17 young women? His babe-magnet Breta was a humble Columbia 34, many of which can be picked up for $25,000 or less. Those boats have huge interiors, too. Older is always going to be cheaper - and that's not a bad thing, because most older boats were overbuilt.
Naturally, not all of these boats are going to be in immaculate condition, with freshly painted hulls, new spinnakers, leather cushions, electric winches and brand new diesels. And you'd want a careful survey before setting out. But there are scores of boats for less than $25,000 that are capable of circumnavigations - especially if you're willing to put in a month of elbow grease and a few grand in basic additions.
Not only can you find a perfectly adequate cruising boat for less than $25,000, but you can also cruise all over the world on less than $10,000 a year. Hundreds of people are doing it right now. Of all the things that prevent people from sailing around the world, money is at the bottom of the list.
FEES FOR CHECKING IN
We don't know how many people know about the new law in Mexico that says the port captains may charge cruising yachts for checking in and checking out. Last month we paid 212 pesos to check out of Mazatlan, a charge they based on our gross tonnage. At the current exchange rate of 9.7 pesos to the dollar, this came to about $21.86 U.S.
This new rule came into practice as of January 1, and there had been no mention of it when we went home on December 1 to spend a month in the States. The fees and fee charging basis differ from port to port, but they all charge fees for checking in/out - except for Las Hadas near Manzanillo, where another cruiser reported that fees were not being charged. The irony is that the port captains render no service to cruisers - beyond checking us in and out of their jurisdictions. As far as we know, we don't impact their port in any way. If they wanted to lessen the 'burden' we impose, you think they'd quit the checking in/out process altogether. I can't imagine this is a big revenue producer in any port. After all, how many check-ins and check-outs are there per weekday? Maybe three to five.
If Mexico really wanted to generate some serious revenue from the 'tourist base', they should make it mandatory for the RV crowd to check in and out of every town where they stop at an RV park or request 'free camping.' If that was the case, we cruisers wouldn't feel so singled out. Are all other foreign nationals entering Mexican towns hit for check in and check out fees? It's beginning to feel like the BCDC is running the show down here, fighting the good fight against all those nasty liveaboard boats. After all, cruisers are just mobile liveaboards to the authorities, we suppose.
Even if it appears that the port authorities see us as potential pesos, we are enjoying the lovely Mexican countryside and the friendliness of the locals. The folks here are more than hospitable. Mexico, and particularly Baja, is still our favorite cruising ground thus far. The people of this country, aside from some government officials, are some of the friendliest and most sincere souls we know.
Michaelanne, Whitby 42 ketch
Anne - It will come as no surprise to
Mexico veterans that after little more than a month, the new law
- which even the port captains didn't like - has been modified.
From now on, you only have to pay a fee when you're leaving a
port captain's area of jurisdiction to go to another one. For
example, if you leave La Paz for Mazatlan, you have to check out
and pay the fee in La Paz, then check in and pay the fee at Mazatlan.
But, if you're in La Paz and just head out sailing in the port
captain's area of jurisdiction - which is from Muertos all the
way up to Agua Verde - you can now just let him know over the
VHF. There is no paperwork or fee involved. This is actually a
big improvement over how things have been all along, because before
you couldn't go out to the islands for more than three days without
formally checking out of La Paz. For all the details of the modification
of the law, see this month's Sightings.
In any event, cruisers aren't being singled out for fees. If someone flies into Mexico for a week's vacation at a hotel, they pay big fees to the government through airline taxes and landing fees, as well as hotel and restaurant taxes. Mexico doesn't have some big plan to gouge cruisers or make life miserable for them.
I read George Backhus' January issue Changes about cruising with pets in the South Pacific. After spending 18 months in Mexico and making the bash back to San Diego in 1999 to have back surgery, we 'farmed out' Nube, our white cameo Persian cat, to a friend in Texas last September. The reason we did it is because we're preparing to sail to the South Pacific in March or April.
But having read Backhus' report, we're going to get Nube back today! As was suggested in the article, we have been in contact with the New Zealand authorities. But one question: How do you get officials in the various countries to say that your cat hasn't been off the boat when visiting their country? Do you pay them to write it or what?
Nonetheless, thank you so much for writing the article and passing the information on to the rest of us cruisers with pets. Give MaiTai a hug from Nube, as Nube too will now again be a sea-going cat! In preparation, John has installed a new piece of carpet back around the indoor part of the mast so that Nube will have his climbing pole back!
Sylvia and John Parr
San Diego / Corpus Christi, TX
WE USE ABOUT 1/10TH OF THE POWER
While on the other side of the world and reading about California and Washington's power shortages, we were struck by one fact that kept being brought up - that 1,000 watts is enough for the average household. This translates to a monthly household usage of about 720 kw/hrs - which isn't too far from the average monthly household figures of 300-600 kw/hrs that we read about on the Internet. On Wings, our Serendipity 43, we use 75 watts or less, and our monthly usage is around 30-60 kw/hrs - less than 1/10 the power of an average household! And a good portion of this power is supplied by solar panels. Granted, we don't have a dishwasher, air conditioning or a big screen TV, but we wouldn't describe ourselves as 'back to nature' advocates, either. We're just happy that our lifestyle has less impact on the environment.
I remember wandering around in downtown Chicago during a heat wave in '94 or '95. It had been well over 100° for several days, but in downtown Chicago there were hundreds of very large office blocks all being cooled to a pleasant 70°. Standing on a boiling hot sidewalk looking around the nearby blocks of office buildings, I was astounded at the magnitude of power this required. Then I considered that this was just one city out of many hundreds of cities, and that air conditioning was just one of many uses of power. So really, how long can the human race continue to use energy at its current rate of consumption?
It seems to us that the power rates are going to have to go up in California and Washington and/or the taxpayers are going to have to bail out the power companies. In any case, the cost of electrical power is going up. We think this is good in one sense because it may reduce demand and usage. Of course, those with money will continue to consume, and only low-income people will be forced to turn off the dishwashers and air conditioners. Isn't it the same on a worldwide scale? This year we visited several countries where the average family could only afford electricity for a small refrigerator, a TV, a few lights - and that's it. On a worldwide basis, guess where all the power is going? To countries such as Mexico, Fiji and Vanuatu, or to Europe, America and Australia?
If this sounds as though we're standing on a soap box, well maybe we are. Maybe it's time. Alternatively, let's encourage everyone with sailboats get solar panels.
Fred Roswold and Judy Jensen
Wings, Serendipity 43
Fred & Judy - Given the fact that
we Americans - about 6% of the world's population - can't continue
to consume 33% of the world's power indefinitely, perhaps the
Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) should stop
making it so difficult for active sailors to live pleasantly minimalist
lives on their energy-efficient sailboats. In fact, shouldn't
the BCDC - which is caught in the time warp of the last century
- and other government agencies be encouraging simpler lifestyles
with tax breaks and such? We think so. It wouldn't hurt either,
if they spent a lot more money on planting trees and promoting
international population control. We're not back-to-nature freaks
either, but it seems clear that we humans are fast approaching
the point at which we're using the earth's resources at an unsustainable
THE PROLIFERATION OF MOORING BUOYS
Finally, a letter that gives me an excuse to address an issue that has been nibbling at my consciousness ever since I arrived in the Eastern Caribbean for the first time in December of '99. I refer to your November response to Carl and Leslie of Charisma, who questioned the proliferation of mooring buoys.
I cannot argue that mooring buoys - assuming that they are well-designed and well-maintained - make it possible for far more mariners or cruisers to safely use and enjoy popular and therefore crowded destinations. My problem and concern arises with your sentence: "And it's not like it would be skin off your ass, as you can still anchor to your heart's content." Have you tried to actually anchor in any of the popular - or even lesser known - British Virgin Island anchorages lately? I have, and I can tell you the space left outside the mooring fields is slim and none. Any space left is either very deep - 40 feet or more - and/or exposed to the wind and current. I realize that bareboat chartering is one of the BVI's major industries, and folks down on a charter for a week or two don't think twice about paying $20 a night to feel safe on a mooring. But what about the long-term, long-distance cruiser? Yes, today there are still places where one can drop a hook, but if the trend towards mooring fields continues, who on a cruising budget will be able to afford $20 a day, every day for a mooring?
I'm not suggesting that mooring fields don't have their place, but only asking that some space with reasonable protection and in reasonable depth be left for those who do choose to anchor.
By the way, Little Bit is now in Venezuela and headed back toward the Western Caribbean. I truly did find the Eastern Caribbean too crowded. I miss the days of approaching an anchorage looking forward to whom I might meet there - instead of groaning as I survey the forest of masts ahead of me and wondering where the hell I'm going to find a place to drop the hook.
We really miss being able to regularly get our hands on Latitude. We had to have them shipped out here as the FedEx costs were even greater than for moorings!
Sandy Ullstrup and Frankie, ship's cat
Little Bit, Cal 31
Sandy & Frankie - We sympathize with
your concerns about cruisers on budgets and the expense of mooring
buoys, but we don't see how making a scarce commodity - anchoring/mooring
space - even more scarce is going to help the situation. We think
you just have to accept the unfortunate fact that the more popular
spots in places such as the BVIs and Yosemite - for sailors and
nature lovers, respectively - are just too popular to accommodate
everyone with ease. And that the situation is probably going to
get much worse. In fact, right now there are places in Spain's
Balaeric Islands where use of anchoring and mooring space is rationed
to the extent of one night a month in July and August! As such,
we'd try to make our peace with anchoring in deeper water and/or
in the wind and current - which shouldn't be that bad if you've
got a power windlass - or restricting yourself to places in the
BVIs where there is room for an unlimited number of boats to anchor.
If all else fails, you'll have to try somewhere else. The Western
Caribbean is certainly an option, although one that we feel has
far fewer attractions than the Eastern Caribbean. There are still
scores of places in the Eastern Caribbean where the freethinking
cruiser can anchor free of crowds.
SAILBOAT ACCESSIBLE BARS
In a recent issue of 'Lectronic Latitude, a reader wrote asking if there was a great 'yachtie bar' in the San Francisco area. I don't know anything about that, but for readers in the Puget Sound area, there's a nice compilation of 'sailboat accessible' bars to be found at www.hallman.org/loulabay/. Having been to four of the bars in question, I can say that it seems well researched. I also want to throw in a gushing 'thank you' for putting out such a great magazine, which I faithfully read every month. Max Ebb is the best!
Poisson d'Avril, Yankee Dolphin 24
Carl - That humorous site is a perfect
example of how the power of the Internet can be wasted. Nice work,
Last week my wife and I sailed into Marathon Key in Florida, 2.5 years after leaving San Francisco aboard our Fisher 32 catamaran. Upon collecting our overdue mail, we were thrilled that my brother had enclosed the most recent issues of Latitude. However, I was dismayed - and somewhat surprised - at the editor's answer to an inquiry about affordable cats from John Bunnell of Seattle. Rather than directing him to relevant sources of information, you chose only to provide him with your - albeit asked for - opinion, which was, "it's difficult to find even a good (catamaran) . . . suitable for ocean crossings for less than $150,000. . . "
This is just not true! Besides the fact that Bunnell didn't say that he wanted to cross oceans - perhaps he just wants to explore the West Coast - there have been hundreds of ocean crossings by catamarans less than 40 feet in length. For instance, back in the '70s the Swale family sailed their off-the-shelf, British-built, O'Brien 30 around the world - including Cape Horn. Wharram cats - which are admittedly minimally comfortable except in the tropics - have been doing the same thing for decades, as have Prouts. There are many other older models of cats, too: Heavenly Twins 26, Cherokee 35, Catalac 34 and 41, Solaris 43, and many more. Our point is that there are dozens of smaller, less expensive cats for sale that are capable of sailing the Caribbean, the Med and across the Atlantic. As we previously mentioned, we just completed 5,000 miles aboard our comfortable Catfisher, and two years from now plan to sail her to Sweden.
Until the proliferation of mostly over 40-foot, mostly French-built for the Caribbean charter trade catamaran in the late '80s, most production cats were built in England. And lots of them crossed the Atlantic. Your belief that it takes at least $200,000 to buy an ocean-capable catamaran ignores the fact that hundreds - probably thousands - of people have successfully crossed oceans aboard smaller, less expensive, but still fully capable catamarans. It also does a disservice to the many people who, like Mr. Bunnell, are considering an affordable multihull. Frankly, we wouldn't trade our 32-ft catamaran for one of the French production cats, as she's all we need to take us anywhere.
As far as performance, cats are like monohulls in that some just don't perform as well as others. If you want to race, buy a go-fast multihull. If you want to cruise comfortably and safely, buy a cruising cat. No, the performance won't be as good with the latter, but you shouldn't be in a hurry anyway.
I picked up the most recent issue of Multihulls magazine, and counted 36 catamarans in their classified section for sale for less than $100,000 that I think would be capable of completing the voyage we just completed. And some would also be capable of taking their owners around the world. The most comprehensive - and eclectic - list of multihulls is to be found at Patrick Boyd Multihulls of England. He's been involved in multihulls for as long as I can remember - maybe 30 years.
You also ignore the huge array of cruising trimarans for sale - although some of them are admittedly worth avoiding! However, the Corsair folding trimarans are a wonderful option, providing trailerabilty and exhilarating sailing. Furthermore, F-27s have crossed the Atlantic.
I base my statements and opinions on many thousands of cruising miles aboard a variety of cats, and also thousands of miles delivering monohulls for The Moorings and other companies. I will be glad to share my knowledge with Bunnell and others, and therefore have included my email address. Two books he can order are The Cruising Multihull by Chris White and the Sailors Multihull Guide by Chuck Cantor, both of which will answer a lot of questions.
Since we last wrote, we spent some wonderful time in the San Blas Islands of Panama, a terrific two months in Cartagena - our favorite city - and bashed up the coast of Colombia to Aruba, Puerto Rico and the Virgins. We then sailed to the Turks and Caicos - which are lovely islands - and finally to the Florida Keys. Who knows what comes next?
Capt. Jonathan and Joell White
JoJo, 32 Fisher catamaran
catfisher32 at hotmail.com
Capt Jonathan & Joell - Thank you
for challenging our response. While our answer wasn't meant to
be definitive, it certainly needs some clarification.
First of all, there is the matter of trimarans. Last month Joanne Sandstrom - whose trimaran Anduril has already circumnavigated twice - took us to task for virtually ignoring trimarans as cruising boats. And now you've done the same. We plead guilty. There are many fine trimarans that have been crossed oceans and sailed around the world. But in all honesty, we know very little about trimarans from the '60s and '70s, and couldn't tell a good one - of which there were many - from the bad ones - of which there might be even more. As for tris such as the Corsair F-27, they certainly have crossed oceans, but the designer and builder have repeatedly warned that they were neither designed nor built for that purpose. Of course, that proviso is probably just to keep the lawyers off their backs.
You're also correct in pointing out that there are many older and/or smaller cruising catamarans for sale for under $100,000. Multihulls magazine and Patrick Boyd's Web site at www.multihulls.co.uk are both good places to look - Boyd's Web site in particular, as the many photographs of such boats will quickly acquaint readers to what you mean by "eclectic" boats. Almost all of the cats that fit your parameters are quite old, and few bear anything but a passing resemblance to modern cats in design, construction or performance. Furthermore, age and relatively primitive cat design can't be overlooked as potential problems. For instance, several of the Iroquois 30 cats - made in Britain in the late '60s and early '70s - lost their wooden rudders during Atlantic crossings.
The older British style cats also tended to be heavy, unable to sail upwind very well, and sometimes quite slow. But as you correctly pointed out, speed isn't important to everyone. For folks who don't care about performance and know the importance of sailing a cat conservatively, we think many of the older cats would be just fine in the more protected waters of the Pacific Northwest, the Sea of Cortez, along the coast of mainland Mexico, among the Greek Islands - places where the weather is normally relatively benign and shelter is close at hand. But we'd personally have little interest - it's as much a matter of speed as safety - in sailing one of these cats across a potentially rough ocean. It's sort of like the guy who sailed a $3,000 Columbia Sabre - which is basically a 5.5 meter daysailer with a tiny cabin - from San Diego to Key West. Sure, it's possible, but that doesn't mean we're going to recommend it to others.
While Chris White's The Cruising Multihull is becoming somewhat dated, we still believe that it's an excellent introduction to multihull concepts. In fact, prior to having our cat built, a couple of things on page 198 made a huge impression on us: "A 19% increase in a yacht's size doubles its stability; doubling its size increases its stability 16 times." And, "I am not the only multihull sailor who feels that 40 LOA is an approximate lower limit for a safe multihull offshore in heavy weather."
When it comes to those who think 'the longer the cat, the safer the cat', and that 40-feet is the minimum safe length for an ocean-going cat, you can include the late Lock Crowther, who was Australia's most notable multihull designer; the late Peter Spronk, who for many years was the most prolific cat designer and builder in the Caribbean; and Chris Doyle, author of many great Caribbean cruising guides and who, after 20 years of sailing a 41-foot Caribe monohull, is building a 40-foot cat in Trinidad. In fact, in the most recent issue of the Caribbean Compass, the soon-to-be-catamaran owner Doyle cautions sailors not to ignore the possibility of cruising cats capsizing:
"If you read the multihull literature,
you would think that the chance of capsize on a modern cruising
cat is so remote as to be almost unthinkable. Yet my experience
in the Caribbean tells me that there is more to it than that.
There have been at the very least half a dozen capsizes of multihulls
in the lower Caribbean while I have been cruising here, and at
least half of these have been your standard French-designed bareboat
cruising cat. The flips happened in wind and sea conditions where
no monohull would be anywhere near being threatened. Some of these
cats were at least 36 feet long and not of the fastest variety.
To be fair, hundreds of these boats charter every week, and nearly
all of them make it back with the right side up. So what's the
"The multihull capsizes I know about did not happen in the open sea, where cats seem quite safe, but in the lee of tall islands, in calm seas - but during intense gusts of wind. Strong tradewinds seem to get held up in high mountains and then released, bursting forth in a ferocious shrieking gust that has not only a sideways force, but also a considerable downward force. For a monohull, these 'williwaws' are no problem - the boat heels over, rounds up, the sails flap, and the captain curses as his rum punch ends up in the scuppers. A multi with her sails sheeted in, however, has little forward momentum to be able to convert the wind speed to boat speed - and a few seconds is all it takes to be flipped over. It can happen, and one needs to be aware of that."
For this and many other reasons, Latitude's multihull mantra remains: Maximum length and bridgedeck clearance, minimum weight, and constant vigilance.
SUCCESSFUL CRUISING MULTIHULLS
During some email correspondence on another matter, the Wanderer indicated he felt he knew very little about cruising multihulls of the '60s, '70s and early '80s. He asked me to write a little about the trimaran I went cruising in, and other designs that were generally considered to be successes.
My boat was a 31-ft A-Frame model Jim Brown Searunner. As for other successful designs, I'm a big fan of anything drawn by Jim Brown and John Marples. I built and sailed my own, so I am biased. To my thinking, the Searunner line was ahead of its time, as they were easy to build and had many common sense virtues - including a good seakeeping ability. Jim Brown lives in fear of somebody getting hurt in one of his designs, so he takes great care to make them safe, comfortable and easy to handle. If I'm not mistaken, the first Searunner was drawn in '69 or '70. Trimarans drawn by Norm Cross of San Diego were also highly respected.
I really liked my Searunner, but at 31 feet she became too small to be comfortable enough for my wife, son and me. I have since sold the tri and am starting to build a 37-foot catamaran designed by Derek Kelsall. Derek developed a novel approach to boatbuilding, something he calls the 'Kelsall Swiftbuild Sandwich' method. It's a composite construction using (mostly) polyester resins and PVC foam. These boats start as panels developed on a flat, Formica table, and the panels are then tortured into hull shapes. Kelsall holds workshops about this method around the world, and I attended one in the Bay Area last summer. It was fascinating - and we completed a 20-foot proa in just that weekend. Having spent 18 months researching my next boat project, I was sold. You should do an article on the process some time. If anyone wants further information, they can visit www.kelsall.com.
I'm very pleased to see that Latitude now has a catamaran.
Pete - It's true that we know very little
about older cruising trimarans. Since we don't want to neglect
any segment of the sailing world, we're all ears if anybody else
wants to weigh in with opinions about 'classic' trimarans. And
if you let us know when you're halfway done with your new cat,
we'll do a story.
A while back in 'Lectronic Latitude, you ran a photo of a dinghy being towed behind a boat, and asked how many mistakes could be found. I counted six:
1) the motor was left in the dinghy. 2) The kill switch was left attached. 3) Even if left in the dinghy, the motor isn't kicked up. 4) The tank is not tied down - and in any event should have been brought aboard the mother ship to avoid losing it during a capsize, something that often happens with inflatables. 5) The bow line painter appears to be something other than a bowline. And 6) The painter may be too long - but I'd have to see more to tell for sure.
Kit - We'd say that you've covered all
the major points.
AVERAGE CRUISING BOAT SPEED
Aloha to the readers and editors of Latitude. With all the recent talk about average cruising boat speeds, I thought I might report on how my son Jeffrey and I did sailing down the West Coast from Neah Bay, Washington, to San Francisco in 1999. The principal actor in the drama is Malialynn of Honolulu, a Rafiki 37 design that is perhaps the jewel of N.A. Huntingsford's design work. The boat displaces 11 tons and sports a full length keel that draws six feet. Today she would be thought of as a comfortable cruiser - with the emphasis on slow, particularly in view of her having an apple-cheeked pointed stern. Depending on one's point of view, all these things are attributes or curses. But at the end of the voyage, nothing is clearer than the understanding that all boats are a compromise, what with their being married to the sea while always flirting with the heavens.
For several months we checked out the harbormaster's weatherfaxes hoping for a window, but saw only the wicked snake pits of violent low pressure systems. So we postponed our passage until after the sun had crossed the equator on its way north. Like most superstitions, this proved to have some basis in reality. Our window soon opened and we set sail on the blue moon of April 1, 1999. Our expected course would angle us out to 100 miles west of the Columbia River mouth, then southerly to a point around Cape Mendocino, then angling back southeasterly for the Gate. The idea was to avoid the influence of the various points and capes, but most importantly to avoid the commercial coastal traffic. As a licensed deck officer, I know the hazard shipping presents to the unwary and foolish. Besides, deep water is beautiful and, in my opinion, more forgiving.
Cutting to the chase, our passage lasted 6 days, 16 hours and 10 minutes, and had taken us as far as 139 miles west of Crescent City. The wind had been from the NNE and the skies clear - although we did have a squall with hail. Most of the sailing was fast. For example, we covered 181 miles in just under 24 hours while carrying just the 115 sq. ft. trys'l - which only represents 11.4% of the total sail area available to us. From abeam of Cape Flattery to abeam of Point Reyes, we covered 741 nautical miles at 5.8 knots. Our average from hook to hook was 4.8 knots. The only hand steering was done by Jeff for sport, as the poor kid doesn't get to surf a boat very often. All the recent discussion about average speeds has helped put our passage into perspective - and proved to me, at least, that my little ship is swift, beautiful and to be envied by all good sailormen and sailorwomen.
P.S. Malialynn arrived back in Alameda, her point of launching, within a few days of her 21st birthday. She thus completed a triangle between Alameda, Honolulu and Anacortes. Hopefully she'll be voyaging much further in the future, hopefully in a more circular direction. Good sailing to all.
S .K. Sage
Malialynn, Rafiki 37
10 KNOT AVERAGE
I'm sure you folks are seeing the same news reports on the Vendée Globe that I am. If the best these boats can average is 8.7 knots, I certainly have to agree with the Wanderer in doubting - or better yet, calling B.S. - on claims that Swan 651s or Deerfoot 65s could average 10+ knots.
Here's the excerpt that I am basing my opinion
on: "After 30 days of sailing downwind, the leading boats
are now braving the Atlantic against the prevailing winds and
seas. The best averages were achieved by Titouan Lamazou and Alan
Gautier, in 34 days, or 210 miles a day at an average of 8.7 knots.
Using this mean, leader Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) would arrive
in Les Sables d'Olonne on February 13. The virtual battle between
the 2001 leader with the previous Vendée Globe winners
to establish the time record for this section of the race has
been waged for five days already, and yet is still neck and neck."
Pat - Averaging 10 knots is very difficult,
even for Open 60s - which based on Bernard Stamm's new 24-hour
record of 462 miles with Armor Lux
- Foie Gras Bizac, are the fastest monohulls in the world.
As for Desjoyeaux, thanks to weeks of high speed downwind sailing
in the Southern Ocean, he won the Vendée with an average
speed of 10.69 knots, a staggering 11% improvement over the previous
record. Keep in mind that comparing an Open 60 to a Swan 651 or
Deerfoot 65 is - with absolutely no disrespect to either of the
latter - like comparing a Ferrari to a motorhome.
I HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR STEVE DASHEW
I have been following and enjoying the exchanges about boat speed between Latitude and Steve Dashew in the Letters column. I wanted to thank you for bringing this subject to the attention of your readers.
I have a lot of respect for Steve Dashew. I keep one copy of his Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia in the office, and my other copy on my boat. I recommend this book to all cruising sailors. However, I learned several years ago that Steve and I don't even share a common vocabulary to discuss yacht design issues. When I say 'on the wind' or 'five knots', I mean one thing, and in order for the debate to continue, I need to know my opponent means the same thing.
I have the disadvantage of being primarily a designer of cruising boats. This means that come Monday morning, my clients may call to tell me about how much they enjoyed the leg of lamb they had Saturday night on the hook, or how they extricated themselves after running aground entering the marina. I don't get that valuable feedback that comes from reliable, objective race results. But when I do get race results, I want them in a format that I can use to improve my design work. Race results from events that permit powering as well as sailing tell me nothing at all. I need to know how one of my designs did against another design when both boats were hard on the wind or ripping along off the wind - motors off. Despite the plethora of 'performance data' I get from clients, very little of it is of any use to me because it's just not accurate enough. I have to rely upon my own sailing tests or reports from sailors that I am confident 'speak my language'.
Having a clear and accurate understanding of one's true performance potential is a big part of good seamanship. Being delusional about one's boat speed leads to navigational errors, poor weather management judgement, and fist-fights in bars. I get rather angry when I read inflated reports of boat speed - even by owners of boats that I designed. Who do these people think they are fooling? I know better. I think a quick look at PHRF ratings from various areas around the country can put a lot of these arguments to rest. If PHRF says an Ericson 38 is faster than the Valiant 40 that I designed, I sure don't like it, but I do believe it. And no owner of a Valiant 40 is going to convince me otherwise.
So thank you Latitude for calling Steve Dashew on the mat and giving him a dose of reality. We all have a story about the day we beat so and so and his 90-footer. One of my old bosses used to tell a story about beating a Cal 39 with his 38-ft pink-sterned, full-keeled, topsail ketch! He really believed it, I guess. Steve Dashew is a world class cruising sailor expert at marketing his boats. Given their performance objectives, his boats are good boats and I have always admired them. I even like the way they look! But a line needs to be drawn between marketing techniques and actual performance figures.
We designers are very sensitive beings. Our boats are our babies. I'd like to fool myself into thinking that my Valiant 40 is faster than the Ericson 38, but where would it get me? Owners of Ericson 38s would think I was an idiot. You get my drift. Your exchange with Dashew could not have appeared in any other U.S. yachting publication. Latitude is still the only yachting mag that I read cover to cover.
Ricky Nelson, Esprit 37
THE $100,000 LONG RANGE CRUISER
I'm planning on buying a long-range cruising boat in the next year or two. My wife and I are planning to cruise the Caribbean, then head across the Pacific in a two to three year plan. I'm looking for a consensus - or at least a majority opinion - as to the best type and manufacturer of a boat for that kind of trip, and the kind of equipment needed to make such an adventure liveable. My priorities are safety, comfort and speed - in that order. I would like to spend as little as possible, as I'm a retired teacher and therefore don't have unlimited funds. I could manage something up to $150,000, but would be much happier in the $100,000 range. In looking around, I've seen boats in the same size and age range, made of the same material and similarly outfitted, but with a great range in price depending on the manufacturer.
So what I'm looking for is a list of boats in the 45 to 55 foot range that have proven themselves to be seaworthy, low maintenance, and relatively easy for two to handle. Secondly, I'm looking for a list of equipment, broken down into 'must have', 'important', 'nice' and 'over the top'. I'm talking about everything from pressurized water to watermakers to stoves and refrigerators; from GPS to radios; from rigging to types of spars, to different rigging, to sails; from engine type and manufacturer. I need it all.
To give you an idea of what has turned my head so far, I like Ted Brewer's 60 foot Arctic Loon and his Orca 45. They sound like ideal boats to me, but out of my price range. I've also looked at a 1976 Gulfstar 52, an '86 Beneteau 51 and a custom Brewer 53.
I've been reading and reading, and just seem to get more confused. I'm hoping that you or your readers can set me on the right trail. If anyone knows of any good articles or books on this topic I'd appreciate that, too.
Roger - Naval architect Bob Perry and
we may not see eye to eye with Steve Dashew on issues of boat
speed or even boats, but we think Steve and his wife Linda's massive
Offshore Sailing Encyclopedia
is far and away the finest introduction to boats and cruising
we've ever seen. Their just published Practical Seamanship
is also full of great information. We're not suggesting that you
necessarily accept everything written as gospel truth, but it
will certainly give you a talking knowledge of way more than you
need to know.
Having said that, we're going to caution you not to get bogged down in details about which is the best anchor roller, whether masthead rigs are better than fractional rigs, and how much righting moment a boat should have. In the big scheme of cruising, these things aren't all that important and/or have already been thought out by the designer/manufacturer of each boat. The truth is that probably 75% of the sailboats over 30 feet in major California marinas could - in experienced hands - make the trip you're proposing pretty much just the way they are. So whether you want to make the trip in a $25,000 boat, a $50,000 boat, a $100,000 boat or a $150,000 boat is mostly a matter of how much comfort and complexity you require and what kind of an image you might want to project. Of course, don't forget that the real price you pay for a boat is the difference between what you bought it for and what you eventually sell it for. So buying the cheapest boat possible can be as foolish as buying the most expensive boat.
On the assumption that you're relatively new to sailing, we're going to toss out five basic tips:
1) 'Smaller' is much safer, easier and more fun than 'too big' for new sailors. We say this as a person who has owned, continues to own, and loves big boats. Nonetheless, if you won the lottery and were somehow able to afford the Brewer 60 that has caught your eye, we can almost assure you that you'd quickly be disappointed because it would probably be more boat than you were ready to handle. We think you'd be better off - even in a good blow - with something like a Cal 31, two of which were in last year's Ha-Ha, both of which had already circumnavigated. Or a Farallon 29, Westsail 32, Nor'West 33, Cascade 36, Pearson 36, Tartan 37, Express 37, Ericson 38, Freya 39, Cal 40, Tartan 41 - or a thousand other boats in that vein. In fact, we'd suggest that you buy one of these less expensive boats, earn your chops in the Caribbean, then maybe - if it still seemed like a good idea - trade up before heading across the Pacific.
2) Weight is a more critical factor than size when it comes to your ability to handle a boat - particularly if you're closing in on retirement age. If you've got a problem with a roller furler and have to lower a flogging jib on a Tartan 37, you want to be careful so you don't get hurt. If you have to do the same thing on a Brewer 60, you want to be careful so you don't get killed. Heavy boats require bigger anchors, larger sails, more expensive winches - and often additional crew. The only proviso is that if you're one of those who likes to try everything - plus take half a chandlery in spare parts - with you, a smaller and lighter boat can't carry it safely. There are situations where only larger and heavier will do, and, in fact, would be faster.
3) Reasonable folks can certainly disagree about this - but we suggest that you don't underestimate the importance of speed. In most situations you're likely to encounter, your top two priorities - safety and comfort - will actually be functions of speed. For example, it's usually safer and more comfortable to finish a 600-mile passage in four days than it is in six days.
4) Lean toward keeping things simple. For instance, there is nothing that looks better - but requires more work, particularly in the tropics - than wood. So think carefully about how much you want on the exterior of your boat. The same thing goes for boat systems which, as nice as they might be, require plenty of time for installation and maintenance. Depending on whether or not you enjoy maintenance, less can indeed be more.
5) Sailing skills - acquired through hands-on experience - are infinitely more important than the boat you buy. A good sailor in a crappy boat will have twice the fun and be 10 times safer than an inexperienced sailor on the world's best boat.
CALLING ALL TRAVELLERS
The Traveller 32 is a very worthy, double-ended cutter that was designed by Philip Rhodes in the 1930s, and reproduced in fiberglass in the '70s. They look somewhat like a Westsail 32 or an Aries 32, but they are sleeker than the Westsail, and unlike the Westsail and Aries, have double spreaders. Designed for bluewater cruising, the Traveller 32s are pretty well dispersed, so this letter is an effort to contact present owners to form some sort of a communication network to share restoration ideas and other information. If you own one or recognize one living in your marina, please send an email to ewilli7021 at aol.com, or call me at (916) 395-2145.
VENTURA AND AFTERBURNER
It's with some interest that I've read the recent letters - some negative, some positive - about Ventura West Marina and Ventura Harbor in general. As an aside to this debate, I'd like to thank Scott Miller, the Ventura Harbormaster, for recently saving my new boat - and butt.
Last year I purchased the 52-foot long by 32-foot wide Kiwi racing catamaran Afterburner, and shipped it to California before Christmas. I had assumed that finding a yard to assemble her wouldn't be a problem, but I was wrong. I called just about every yard from Long Beach north, only to be told there was no room for such a big boat - let alone facilities to launch her. (Actually, I did get a "maybe" from one commercial yard).
Anyway, it was Christmas time when I approached Scott with my tale of there being 'no room at the inn'. I asked him if it might be possible for me to assemble my new boat in the Ventura Harbor public launch ramp parking lot. He not only agreed, but he even pointed out that the required season parking permit would cover both my car and my boat. He let us put up a fence, and we quickly got to work. We were there for a week with a crew working every day. When we finally got her put together, we had a crane-assisted launch at the ramp. Thanks to Scott Miller - a harbormaster who is actually interested in helping people - Afterburner is together and in her slip at her new homeport of Ventura, and we're able to have great times sailing her.
The editor of Latitude thinks some readers might enjoy knowing how I came to buy Afterburner, so here's the short version. I'd been an armchair multihull sailor since the late '70s, and never have sailed on a monohull. I became a beachcat sailor in '81 with a Sol Cat, and stepped up to a Nacra 5.8 in '82. I sailed and raced that cat actively until about '87, when the demands of work and family finally took up my free time. But in early '98, I woke up and realized my kids were grown and my business could carry me - so I went out and bought Sonrisa, a used 40-ft Crowther cat. She's a fun light cruiser that I used - and still own - for daysailing and ORCA races.
Did I mention that my wife doesn't sail? My honest self-examination led me to realize that I wasn't going cruising anytime soon, but I was really enjoying multihull racing again. Enjoying it except for the fact that Sonrisa - which we've had up to 23 knots - is, like almost all cats, as slow as a monohull in under 10 knots of wind, slower than a monohull in under six knots of wind, and has never beaten an F-31 trimaran. So I started looking for a used racing cat with credentials - and ORCA compatibility, which means the boat had to have accommodations. I soon learned about Afterburner in New Zealand, and the Kiwi exchange rate made the price quite attractive. I also liked the idea that the massively overpowered boat was said to be "the fastest sailboat in New Zealand". What could be a better remedy for my mid-life crisis? So I grabbed my wife - who does like to travel - and we took an impromptu vacation in New Zealand, bought the boat, and had her shipped home. It sounds easy, but the shipment-related work drove the price up by 50% - ouch! - and required weeks of labor. All way more than I'd estimated.
But all the work was over by December, and we've been sailing out of Ventura on Saturdays ever since. I've a core crew of all-around sailors, and a 'pro' who visits on occasion. We're getting ready for our first race, this year's Newport to Ensenada Race at the end of April. Our biggest problem is getting experience in a wider range of conditions and expanding our comfort range. Simply put, Afterburner gets scary real quick. But it's a fun scary, if you know what I mean. She'll sail much faster than we will at the moment. We had winds up to maybe 12 knots last Saturday, and were spinnaker reaching at 20 knots. But there's not a lot of room for mistakes, so we're taking it slow.
I bought the cat for the challenge of learning about such a high-performance boat and the thrill of sailing fast. I predict we'll never win on handicap, but we'll have enough fun in passing boats, being in front, and going very fast. Afterburner lives up to the speed promise associated with multihulls.
FUTURE EVENTS ON THE BAY
I noticed that your Calendar feature doesn't include events in the distant future. Is there any way that I can get information on what's happening in the San Francisco area June 23-30? Boat shows, exhibits, races - that kind of thing.
Ray-nelle - Sure, just pick up a copy
of the 60-page Northern
California Sailing Calendar, which is published and distributed
by Latitude 38. There are still
some out where Latitudes are distributed, or you can pick
one up from our booth at Sail Expo or at our office in Mill Valley.
Let's see, June 23 through June 30 . . . Yes, there's tons of stuff happening: the Master Mariners Wooden Boat Show, the Woodies Invitational on the Cityfront, the South Bay Moonlight Marathon, the Belle & Bull El Toro Regatta, the start of the 49er World Cup - way too much to list here.
WHERE TO RETIRE?
I am anticipating retirement in 2.5 years. Having sailed San Francisco Bay for the last 10 years, I feel the need for some warm weather sailing. Mexico would be my choice. But I have some questions. First, where would you choose to retire to for approximately four to six months a year? La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, or somewhere else? Secondly, what months of the year have the best weather? Your vast experience - and that of your readers - would be greatly appreciated.
Michael - Are you in luck! If you're
looking to do some warm weather retirement cruising, you couldn't
pick a better spot than Mexico. It's close, warm, inexpensive,
and has tremendous variety and wonderful people. Furthermore,
given the predominantly benign conditions, you don't need a particularly
large or expensive boat. Pretty much all the racer/cruisers designed
for Southern California would be adequate for the purpose.
A word about the weather, as mainland Mexico and the Sea of Cortez have completely different cruising seasons. Mainland Mexico, from Mazatlan south, has thoroughly delightful weather all winter - meaning from mid-October until mid-May. Both the air and water temperature are a little higher the further south you go. Mainland Mexico, however, is not a place we'd recommend from June through the end of October. Hurricanes are the biggest danger, but torrential rains and dreadful humidity make the living conditions very unpleasant. The prime cruising times in Mexico's other great cruising area, the Sea of Cortez, is during the spring and fall. The air temperature isn't too cold in the winter, but the water is definitely too cold for swimming. On the other hand, it's so hot in the Sea of Cortez from June through late September that you have to stay in the water - which has warmed dramatically - to keep from drying out into human jerky. We're not saying that some people don't enjoy the Sea in winter and/or summer, just that the moderate weather of spring and fall are far more enjoyable.
If we had to chose a single place from which to base a boat in Mexico during Northern California's cold months, it would be - hands down - Banderas Bay. The primary reason is that Banderas Bay has the best sailing conditions in Mexico - and some of the best in the world. The standard fare is 12 to 18 knots from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but near calm conditions before and after. The seas are generally flat, but full of life. When we were sailing the bay last month, we had to tack no less than eight times in two hours to avoid hitting whales, which were everywhere. Banderas Bay also presents the cruiser with a variety of tempting options. If you stay in Marina Vallarta, you're near the heart of a pulsing city - which despite its wild tourist scene also has quite a bit of culture. On the other hand, it's much cleaner and quieter a few miles north at Nuevo Vallarta's Marina Paradise, which also has a wonderful beach, and an excellent resort and marina with all the amenities. Finally, if you're looking for an even more quiet and natural setting, there's nearby La Cruz, the smoothest anchorage in the bay, or better still, Punta Mita and environs - the Wanderer's favorite - which comes complete with great surf. There are many other great places to visit and anchor in the 12-mile by 18-mile bay. Furthermore, there are 40 miles of great 'Jungle Coast' to the north, and the terrific 150 miles of 'Gold Coast' to the south. Puerto Vallarta is a major transportation hub with numerous flights each day back to the States, and better than average medical care. Keeping a boat in a Banderas Bay marina over the summer is not a problem, as most cruisers bail south or north by the end of April, making both dry and wet storage available.
Other cruisers will rightfully rave about Z-town, Mazatlan, La Paz and Puerto Escondido. These are all excellent bases with their own unique charms. As a result, you may want to base out of Banderas Bay the first year or two, during which time you could venture as far north as Mazatlan or as far south as Z-town. During the third or fourth year, you might want to base your boat out of La Paz or Puerto Escondido for three months of Sea of Cortez cruising in the spring, and then three more months in the fall. In any event, we assure you that you have many wonderful - and warm - sailing adventures to look forward to.
Any Santana 20s out there? The fleet seems to be growing in the rest of California, and it would nice if that happened in San Francisco Bay, as 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 getting.
Pip Squeak, Santana 20
WE SWAM, ATE AND DRANK
I have a confession to make: I'm in love with sailing. My little 19-footer and I have been partners for half a year, yet I only now learned how much we were meant for each other. From the very beginning, we sailed together. First on gusty mountain lakes, where I scared myself stiff from heeling so far during a 30-knot gust on Lake Pillsbury. I was alone with my ignorance on that occasion. And later on tranquil 10-knot days at Bodega Bay with my lady and a picnic lunch.
But one Saturday last fall was special. A friend had called the night before to ask, "How come we're not going sailing tomorrow?" All I could tell him was to show up at 9 a.m. with lunch and a beer. In brief, we squeezed five people onto my baby sized West Wight Potter 19! She didn't point quite as high from all the weight, but we had the best time that anyone can remember. Everybody took their turn at the helm, we did man-overboard drills and I taught them how to jibe. We also swam, ate and drank - and refused to turn the engine on until the sun had set. All in all, we shared the very essence of sailing. And now I have a crew where any one of us can command my very simple boat. So maybe the next time I see Profligate, perhaps it will be from the water near Sausalito rather than from on shore.
Thank you Latitude for being the forum, the university, the coliseum and sometimes the labyrinth. As you yourselves might admit, if so inclined, you're everything and nothing at all.
West Wight Potter 19
Eli - We have good reason to believe
we're nothing at all, but thanks for the nice words anyway. Most
of all, thanks for proving once again that sailing pleasure isn't
a function of boat size, but rather of sharing good times with
friends - even if you're singlehanding and your only friend is
the wind. Our only concern is that you might have too many friends.
Please take care to never overload your boat, as it's one of the
leading causes of pleasure boat accidents.
We also have a confession to make. After 24 years of publishing Latitude, we still love sailing. In fact, we're more passionate about it than ever.
TRAVELIFTS AND JETS ON THE WATERS
Your February story on Marine Travelift, Inc., states that their 300-ton model in San Diego is the largest in the United States. We have just returned from the Rybovich Spencer Yard in West Palm Beach, Florida, and can report that they also have a 300-ton Travelift in operation as well - and an 80-ton unit and a elevating railway. It's a great facility for any cruisers who make their way to the East Coast.
To confirm your info regarding PlayStation, we were zipping along on a broad reach in 25 knots while sea-trialing from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale on January 25 when we looked over and saw something very large approaching off our port bow. It was PlayStation, doing about 20 knots upwind with a reefed main and only one of the four headsails rigged on the boat. Although they were just playing, they disappeared behind us like a jet! When we returned to Rybovich Spencer on January 26, PlayStation was on the end-tie next to us. The crew were unloading equipment and supplies, indicating that the boat would be there for the next three months. What an impressive piece of machinery!
The magazine is great, and we're glad you have online capabilities.
Neal and Mary Anna Cirlot
Previously of Carousel in Mazatlan and La Cruz
Neal & Mary Anna - Another interesting
trend in Travelifts is extra width to haul beamy motoryachts and
catamarans. Grenada Marine in Grenada has a 70-ton lift that can
accommodate boats up to 32 feet wide, and Puerto del Rey Marina
in Puerto Rico is taking delivery of a 166-ton Travelift that
can hoist boats up to 33 feet wide. This is way off the subject,
but why would a marina in Puerto Rico need a 166-ton Travelift?
Perhaps because the marina, which currently has 600 boats in the
water and another 600 on land, is soon to expand to 2,000 boats,
which will make it the largest in the Caribbean. The so-called
'Puerto Rican Navy' is growing by leaps and bounds.
As an eight-time Pacific Cup participant, I cannot agree with Latitude's suggestion of relocating the finish to the Honolulu side of Oahu. The beauty and hospitality of the Kaneohe finish is unsurpassed, and the event would be sorely diminished by moving the finish. The Kaneohe YC members have provided magnificent volunteer support to the Pacific Cup, but as Latitude has pointed out, 70-80 boats, their crew and families severely tax the resources of the family style club.
I would like to make three suggestions that may help the situation.
First, eliminate the finish committee up on the hill. Let each finisher take their own time seaward of the range between Pyramid Rock Light and the finish buoy. Taking one's own time is a time-honored ocean racing tradition, and would be at least as accurate as the present finish committee can determine from their location atop the two-mile distant Kansas Tower. This self-finishing procedure would also eliminate the need for a time limit which so many entrants - including ourselves - ran afoul of in the slow 2000 race. If you get to Kaneohe under sail, you should be considered a finisher, even if you don't make the awards ceremony.
Secondly, eliminate the pilot boats. Both channels entering Kaneohe Bay are downwind, buoyed, and have range lights. The Sampan Channel is easier to enter at night than the Alameda Estuary. The Main Channel is more of a challenge, but it is not difficult to get inside the smooth waters of Kaneohe Bay, anchor, and wait for daylight if need be. I would remind everyone that the only race boats to have run aground after the finish in the TransPac and the Pacific Cup have had local pilots and/or lead boats.
Thirdly, the Pacific Cup raft-up off the club's seawall shuts down their Junior Program for two weeks and taxes the docking committee. I would propose after the welcoming festivities at the guest dock, all the entries be required to anchor in the ample roadstead seaward of the club. Anchoring out is another time-honored tradition in other parts of the world. How would crews get ashore? The Kaneohe YC has been good about running shoreboats, but the simple requirement of all entries to carry an inflatable dinghy would not be onerous.
The Pacific Cup finish at Kaneohe is one of the world's best sailing destinations. Chinaman's Hat, the Koolau Range, the double-rainbows, and the swimming pool near the bar cannot be matched in any other Hawaiian location.
Wylie 27, Wildflower
Skip - Perhaps we didn't make ourselves
as clear as we could have, but we're not necessarily advocating
that the Pacific Cup finish be moved, just that the destination's
problems be recognized and that all the possible options be considered.
As for your suggestion that the finishers take their own time,
we're not sure that's such a good idea. It works for casual events
such as the Ha-Ha, but when it comes to more serious and competitive
events such as the Pacific Cup, we think some competitors might
start questioning the honesty of others.
MEXICO OR CARIBBEAN
I'm all set to buy a boat this summer, but I'm not sure whether to buy one on the West Coast or the East Coast. You could help me by describing how Mexico compares to the Caribbean for cruising. I have sailed in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and last year spent a couple of weeks in Baja on land. But as I didn't sail in Baja, it was difficult to get an idea of what it would be like cruising there.
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada
Mike - If the choice is between the Eastern
Caribbean and Mexico, you couldn't possibly go wrong - but there
are major differences.
Cruising in Mexico can be substantially less expensive, and the generally lighter winds and flatter seas make for easier sailing. The fishing is better, the sea life more prolific, and the surfing more consistent. The people of Mexico are warmer and friendlier, and there is nowhere in the world where cruisers socialize more among themselves. Mexico has lots of great fresh food and if you stay away from tourist areas, it's inexpensive. Mexico also has a strong culture. On the down side, the sailing is rarely as exciting and never as consistent as it is in the Caribbean, and the water isn't as uniformly warm or anywhere near as clear.
The Caribbean has perhaps the most consistently excellent sailing conditions in the world. Furthermore, the water is fabulously warm and clear year round, and the snorkeling is far superior to that in Mexico. There are far more young people in the Caribbean sailing scene - primarily working in some aspect of the charter industry - so the drinking and partying is much, much heavier and wilder. However, there is far less socializing among cruisers, as they can't find themselves among all the charter boats. But you meet cruisers from all over the world, not just Americans. Most of the great yachts of the world spend at least a fraction of their lives in the Caribbean, which is neat, while hardly any ever call on Mexico. There are far more anchorages in the Caribbean, but there are also probably 20 to 50 times as many boats, so it's harder to find spots to drop the hook by yourself. There are probably 10 times as many boatyards in the Caribbean, and far more yacht services available. There are also many more sailing events and regattas. On the down side, it's significantly more expensive to cruise the Caribbean, the locals on some islands can be unpleasant if not downright hostile, fresh food is hard to come by and expensive, and in general restaurant food is mediocre and expensive.
All things considered, both Mexico and the Caribbean are sensational cruising areas. The Caribbean might be the first choice of younger sailors looking for more action on the water and off, while the more benign conditions and lower prices in Mexico make it more appealing to older sailors. But it would be a crime to miss either one.
COPP ON FISHING
It is always a pleasure to hear, even indirectly via the December Changes, from old friends such as John and Debby Dye, formerly of Flying Gull and now of Lovely Reta. Many cruisers mention the pleasure of meeting so many new friends, but it takes years to appreciate how long some of those friendships endure. While we have lost contact with John and Debby, my email is erniecopp at aol.com, and I'd love to hear directly from them - or any other old friends from our cruising days in the '70s and '80s.
Debby's mention of my famous fish story illustrates how much Turtle Bay has changed since the late '70s. There used to be a huge kelp bed between the village and the entrance to the bay. I went out early one morning with a fresh water rod and 12 pound line to catch some kelp bass. I quickly hooked up, saw a 16-inch bass on, and decided to play it for a while. Then suddenly it felt as though it had hung up on something, so I gently worked my way over and kept jiggling the line. Finally this monster 42-inch white sea bass came rolling up with my orange spoon hanging from its lip. In spite of being very nervous because of the small line and big fish, I did manage to get him in the dinghy. I assumed he had taken the spoon away from the smaller fish, but when cleaning him, I noticed the shape of the smaller fish in his stomach. Sure enough, when I cut it open I found the first fish that I'd hooked! Not only did I have all the good eating, Cruising World paid me for the picture and the recipe I developed to cook the fish with. They don't have fish like that in Turtle Bay anymore.
Another fish story that is attracting some interest around here in Banderas Bay is all the fish I caught between Turtle Bay and La Paz on a 40-cent lure. A few years ago, I read in Latitude about someone catching a fish using a soda straw. I tried it, but decided the straw was too small to create enough turbulence. So I found some 5/16" white shrink tube in my electrical supplies, used a wire leader in case I hooked a wahoo, and a shiny, bare 6/0 hook. I slid the tube over the wire to the loop in the leader. Depending on the boat speed and sea conditions, I fished the face of the waves about 75 to 125 feet back. It's okay if the lure skips occasionally like a flying fish, but if it wants to surf, you need to let out more line. In any event, using the 40-cent lure, I caught 11 fish: one yellowtail, one sierra, two mahi, two bonita - which I don't eat - and five yellowfin. The only secret I discovered was that each time you catch a fish, you must spread the loop in the leader back out so the tube will not slide down over the hook shank. There must be some space between the tube and the hook for the turbulence. I averaged about one fish per hour of fishing time, and always quit after catching one fish.
The last fish I caught caused me some embarrassment, and I would like to explain or apologize to the Blue Ribbon. As we rounded Coyote Point just before entering San Lorenzo Channel near La Paz, we were inside of Blue Ribbon. I remembered the channel marker and shoal on the south side of the channel. Since my GPS and charts were not talking the same language, I was using my binoculars to locate the channel marker. After locating it, I set my course accordingly. It was obvious that Blue Ribbon was on a converging course that would put them on the shoal to the left of the marker. So I held my course, and as we converged I signaled them to turn on their radio. I had Pauline explain to them about the channel marker and why I was not giving way to the south. The lady on the other boat said she wasn't aware of the marker or shoals, and explained they were having trouble identifying the very similar looking points. When she asked if she could follow us in to port, we naturally said of course they could.
While motoring side by side at six knots, the helmsman aboard Blue Ribbon decided to literally follow us - just as a sierra struck my lure. The helmsman put his helm down and made a tight circle, coming up in my wake. He didn't notice that I had slowed down to land the fish, and was closing on me fast. As I was pulling in the fish, it looked like I was also pulling in the big blue boat! The other skipper quickly realized the difference in our speed, and turned to the side just before he was close enough to gaff. During all the confusion, I took my eyes off the fish and suffered seven lashes across the thumb - adding quite a bit of blood to the situation.
As Blue Ribbon passed us, a man standing on deck gave me a thumbs down for being a lousy guide and not staying out of their way. I felt bad about it and was hoping that I'd get to meet them in La Paz and explain the problems that I was having. We never had the opportunity to meet, so I would like to apologize for allowing myself to be distracted and not doing a better job of guiding them in. In any event, they quickly spotted the marker on their own, and I was glad to see that they made it safely into port.
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee 50
Long Beach / Paradise Marina, Mexico
HELP IN TURTLE BAY
Recently there was a report in Latitude about how one of the Ha-Ha boats had some stuff stolen while two local mechanics were doing some work on the boat in the Turtle Bay anchorage. We had a much different experience that we'd like to share.
We spent quite a bit of time in Turtle Bay waiting to continue south between lows. But then we fell prey to our inclination to enjoy wherever we are. Then came the Santa Ana winds. On the second night of winds - which were blowing well over 30 knots - we stood anchor watch only to see the traditional wooden schooner Veracruz, over 100 feet LOA, dragging down on us for the second time in 24 hours. The first incident had been during the day, and everyone was on top of it. This was in the middle of the night with truly a wicked wind howling.
In the midst of this drama, there appeared a small grey runabout helmed by one of the local guys who'd come out to see how the two sailboats were doing and to make sure all the local boats were okay. When they came by, we told them that we were holding all right, but thanked them for asking. It was then that we all noticed that the Veracruz was bearing down on us. The guys on the runabout spent the next two hours tagging along with the schooner, which was unable to stop dragging. In fact, they literally blew out of the anchorage, barely missing us and Roca Entrada - right off the Roca Atano Light - in the process. The runabout wasn't able to direct the schooner in anyway, but they stood by in case the boat went on the rocks - which seemed likely - and the crew needed to be taken off.
Thankfully no boats or crew were hurt, but we want to put in a good word for the guys in the runabout - and all the other fine people we met in Turtle Bay, who were the best! In fact, right now I'm off to leave a 'thank you' note, some boat-baked goods, and a cool T-shirt aboard the runabout. And who knows, maybe we'll even leave for Bahia Santa Maria this morning, too!
Bill and Sharon Jensen
and Leif, the Ship's Cat
Pelagian, Hans Christian 38T
Which Should Have Been in the 2000 Ha-Ha
SAILING THE GULF COAST
I need some help finding info on sailing the Gulf - east - Coast of Mexico. I'm looking into the possibility of retiring in Texas, but can't seem to find any information on sailing in that area. Thanks for the great Web site and magazine.
Wayne Kipp, who was murdered a month ago, was a great man and we'll miss him. As harbormaster, Wayne would spend any amount of time helping people learn about sailing, sailing theory, sails, navigation and so forth. And he always encouraged them. I never saw Wayne ever get angry or lose his cool. Even if it was really blowing, when I asked Wayne if we should go sailing, he always replied with a cheerful, "I'm game!" And off we'd go.
Readers - As a reminder, a fund has been set up to benefit Wayne's children: Please send contributions to Bank of the West, 311 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, CA 94954. Kipp did not have life insurance. Additionally, contributions can also be made in Wayne's memory to one of his favorite nonprofit community projects, the "United Anglers of Casa Grande High School," at 333 Casa Grande Road, Petaluma, CA 94954.
LARGE OCEAN WAVES
Having been a lifelong sailor and reader of Latitude, I wanted to make sure everyone is aware of the giant new offshore spot that's been added to the surfing atlas. It's called the Cortez Bank, which is a sea mound that rises almost to the surface of the ocean . . . 100 miles off the coast of Southern California! It's a good thing for cruisers to know about, too, so they won't be alarmed when they see a 50-foot tall wave on an otherwise perfectly calm day.
Although the spot has been known for ten years or more, its remote location and tricky conditions have made it one of the hardest places in the world to surf. "About ten factors or elements all have to come together at the same time," says pioneer surf forecaster Sean Collins. The most important elements are light winds, low tides and big storm swells from the northwest. It only breaks every couple of years, but when it goes, it's hard to believe. Everyone should check it out for themselves by visiting www.swell.com.
Michael - Surfers in Ohio? Anyway, thanks
for the tip. Everyone should indeed visit the Web site, click
on the Cortez Bank box, and check out the incredible photos and
video. It's hard to believe that something like this can happen
100 miles offshore.
ABEL WAS AN ABLE HAND AT PAINTING OUR BOAT
We recently completed our circumnavigation at Puerto Vallarta, and were advised by cruisers in Mexico that La Paz would be a good place to have our boat painted. After five years and 36,000 miles of sailing with little attention to cosmetics, our Cal 46-III Quiet Times' battered exterior was crying out for attention.
We picked Bercovich yard for a haulout, bottom paint job, painting the hull and cabin top - except for the non-skid - painting the masts and booms, refinishing all the teak trim, replacing the cutlass bearings, truing the prop and shaft, and other details. Abel Bercovich, the owner, personally supervised the job, and assisted with the haulout on rails and the detailed masking. He did a masterful job on the striping, and did all the spray painting himself. The final price is what was agreed upon from the beginning, and there were no markups. The price was considerably lower than what we'd expected to pay had we waited to get to California. We kept adding more work to the job, so it took longer than we had anticipated, but the quality of work and the attention to detail by Abel made it all worthwhile. Q.T. looks like a new boat, and she's drawn rave comments everywhere we've been since then. Our hat's off to Abel Bercovich and his crew.
Ernie and Emily Mendez
Quiet Times, Cal III 46
Ernie & Emily - Thanks for that glowing
review. With so many cruising boats in Mexico, we'd love to get
reports on what kind and quality of work was done at what yards,
and the approximate prices. For example, based on experience,
can anybody give us the price they paid to have the topsides and
bottom painted on a 40-foot cruising boat?
ENTERING THE ALA WAI
For the second time in recent memory, Latitude has ridiculed the custom of providing pilot boats to guide TransPac boats from the finish line at Diamond Head to and into the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Having participated as skipper in two TransPacs - the first which we finished during the day and the second during the night - I would like to present a different perspective. And to say that it's completely different entering the Ala Wai after a long ocean race than after a daysail.
In my case, having a pilot boat meet us during the daytime at Diamond Head was, from a navigation point of view, unnecessary. But the cold beer handed over was really appreciated. Furthermore, being met by a boat in unfamiliar waters is a nice gesture and makes you feel good and more secure. It's like being met at an unfamiliar airport rather than having to rush to a taxi stand. And I'm certain my crew feels the same way.
When entering the Ala Wai Channel, however, the pilot boat was a great help, because it gets shallow very fast and there are reefs on both sides. So having a pilot boat is a big help to the captain and diminishes the risk of a mishap on the final approach to the harbor.
But things are much different at night - especially on a dark, moonless night, such as the one we finished on in 1997. There are thousands of lights of all colors along the shore, many of them flashing and blinking. Judging the distance to them is impossible. So when we crossed the finish line at 0230, we weren't able to locate the pilot boat until we were within 100 yards of her. And finding the Ala Wai Channel would have been difficult without the help of the pilot boat.
I would also like to point out that Bob Lane's Peterson 42 Medicine Man ended up on the reef just before Diamond Head. As I recall, it was during a night finish. As I also recall, they would have won the TransPac had they made it a few more miles to the finish. Boats - including fully crewed racing boats - do end up on reefs in Hawaii.
You mentioned the use of GPS when approaching harbors. It certainly is of great help when used in connection with an accurate paper chart, but my experience with electronic charts has yet to inspire much confidence in them. My boat does have such a system, and when close to shore the electronic chart often indicates that we're on land. The problem is not with GPS, but with the charts. Consequently, I would not trust them to enter port at night or in fog, but rather do manual plotting to get an accurate position. By the way, I was recently on a commercial ship in the Beagle Channel, and they plotted GPS positions with a large x/y plotter on Admiralty charts.
Latitude says that anybody who cannot enter the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor with GPS does not belong outside of Lake Merritt. Maybe you also feel that some skippers in the TransPac belong in that same category. I believe that you're indirectly advising people to enter anchorages by solely relying on modern electronic means, thereby possibly endangering the lives of crew and the vessel. I believe this is reckless, and that ridiculing boaters who feel differently sets a bad example for the maritime press.
In an entirely different matter, a reader wrote in asking where to find parts for Barient winches. All parts - including gears and drums - can be obtained from Arco Winches, Australian Yacht Winches Co., P/L, 4/11 Stoddart Road, Prospect NSW 2149, Australia. I recently ordered some pinion gears and bearings for Barient 27s. The service was swift, courteous and efficient. Replacing parts in old winches beats buying and installing new winches - as long as the old winches are of the correct size for the job. Their phone number is 011 61 2 96 88 15 70, and their fax is 011 61 2 96 36 16 76. You can also email them at winches at ibm.net.
Richard K. Leute
Acey Duecy, J/44
Richard - We sincerely apologize if we
came off as ridiculing those who might disagree with us, because
our intent was merely to make a helpful suggestion. Nonetheless,
we're going to stick to our guns. It's helpful to break the problem
into two very different parts. First, getting from Diamond Head
to a spot near the entrance to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, and second,
getting from that spot into the Ala Wai itself.
We're not trying to be nasty, but we continue to believe that if anybody needs to have a pilot boat guide them from Diamond Head to a point off the entrance of the Ala Wai - no matter if it's day or night - they shouldn't try finishing a West Marine Pacific Cup off Kaneohe Bay, an Atlantic Rally for Cruisers at Rodney Bay, the recent Fort Lauderdale-Nassau Race at Nassau, the Banderas Bay finish to a Puerto Vallarta Race - or scores of other events where there are more dangers. Getting from Diamond Head to a point off the Ala Wai shouldn't be a problem for even a beginning navigator, whom we naturally assume would utilize all the navigation aids available to him/her - such as buoys, bearings from landmarks, GPS, charts, radar, depthsounder and so forth. Furthermore, given the grand prix nature of the TransPac, most boats have a bunch of guys who've already done three or four TransPacs and could find their way into the Ala Wai while sleeping. How about only providing pilot boats for boats that request them? Sure, being met by a friendly face and being handed a cold beer just minutes after crossing the Diamond Head finish line is pleasant. And it would be even more pleasant if the Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Team came aboard to give the entire crew deep tissue massages on the way to the harbor. But would this be an intelligent use of limited resources?
The second half - getting from a point off the Ala Wai into the channel and the yacht harbor itself - is more difficult, but no harder than finding and navigating the Sausalito Channel on a dark night, the entrance to Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgins, the harbor at Cabo San Lucas, or the channel to La Paz. Yes, you have to be alert and constantly triple check your position, but what else is new? In any event, a rendezvous point could be established a half mile or so off the entrance to the channel, which would allow finishers to be met and guided in by small boats or even inflatables. This would virtually eliminate the need for ocean-going powerboats and their crews, which perpetually seem to be in short supply. It's certainly not the end of the world if the TransPac continues with the pilot boats, but still strikes us as an unnecessary and dated practice.
As for Medicine Man going on the reef before the finish, no amount of pilot boats could have - or did - save them from their error in navigation. By the way, we were at the Hawaii YC the night Medicine Man was supposed to finish, waiting for them to show up on TransPac Row. Suddenly, one of the crew - it might have been Seth Morrell - seemed to stagger into the upstairs dining room, dripping wet, as though he'd just survived a shipwreck. Which, of course, he had. It was a dramatic sailing moment we'll never forget. By the way, we mean no disrespect to Bob Lane and the whole Medicine Man group, who are great folks and fine sailors - who a couple of years later returned with a bigger Medicine Man to break Merlin's decades old TransPac elapsed time record. We've made equally bad navigational errors, but just weren't ever in a situation where they cost us so dearly.
AN O'BRIAN WEEKEND
I am the Deputy Director of the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, England - right next to Nelson's famous flagship, HMS Victory! A friend has drawn my attention to the excellent article you have published about Patrick O'Brian and his remarkable voyage in the Mediterranean - which I have read with much interest. This naturally lead me to explore the rest of your excellent publication. May I offer my warm congratulations? I have thoroughly enjoyed myself!
My other reason for contacting you is to say that the Royal Navy Museum is currently putting together plans for a special 'Patrick O'Brian Weekend' in Portsmouth on September 21 to 23. This will include dinner on board HMS Victory, a concert of music from the novels, and a series of lectures by some key naval historians. Geoff Hunt, who, as you may know, is the artist responsible for the wonderful covers of Patrick O'Brian books, will also attend. Do you think this is an event that might interest your readers? If so, would you like me to supply some editorial copy for you?
Deputy Director, Royal Navy Museum
Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Colin - Thank you for the compliments,
and yes, we'd love to hear more about the event. We'll also alert
Northern Californian Thomas Perkins - who took O'Brian sailing
and wrote that wonderful article
- about the September festivities. We know that Perkins - who
was extremely fond of the late O'Brian - will be in Britain this
summer for the America's Cup Jubilee with his 135-ft Herreshoff-designed
gaff-schooner Mariette of 1915,
his spectacularly restored 122-ft motoryacht, and maybe even his
154-ft ketch Andromeda.
By the way, before anybody wants to take another cheap shot at Perkins for owning three big boats, let's review who this guy is. At age 40, he pushed Hewlett-Packard, then a mere $25 million company, into the computer business. About the same time, and with the permission of David Packard, he moonlighted by taking $10,000 he and his wife had been saving to buy a house to start a company making low cost lasers. That company was a success, which allowed Perkins and Eugene Kleiner to pioneer the concept of venture capitalism by funding Genetech, Tandem Computers, and subsequently a whole host of cutting edge successes. As Red Herring wrote, "All one has to do to measure Mr. Perkins' success as a venture capitalist is to count the hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of wealth created by the companies his firm has started." And that was written way back in '94. So, if Mr. Perkins wants to own three big boats and spend a lot of money running and maintaining them, that's just fine with us.
FORT LIQUORDALE IS A CONCRETE JUNGLE
You responded to Lance Berc's Photos In A Boatyard letter in the February issue by asking if anyone can clue you in as to that city's attraction as a boating center. Having lived there for two years aboard my Morgan 41, I can tell you that there's no good answer to your question - particularly not an answer that would make any sense to anyone who has ever sailed the Bay. The folks in Lauderdale proudly claim that there are 24,000 boats in Lauderdale. That's quite an impressive statistic - until we recently found out about Florida's inability to count. Anyway, on any given weekend I'm sure you'll find that about 23,950 of those boats are still firmly tied to Florida. Subject to recount, of course.
'Liquordale' is a concrete jungle of highrises and strip malls floating on the swamp between the Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean. It has absolutely nothing to commend it. Believe me, after living in the Bay Area you really don't want to try to live in such an urban desert. Want to go for a hike? Ha! It's only a 10 hour drive to the Appalachian Trail. You like hills? The highest point in Lauderdale is the off-ramp on I-95. I was told that locals take their picnics up there to savor the view. I believe it, because there's certainly not much else to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Want to get away from Florida's 'New York attitude'? Go sailing. We used to untie my boat every weekend and work our way through the canals and drawbridges of the Intracoastal to get to the ocean. It typically would take 45 minutes to an hour. Then we'd sail up and down the beach about a mile offshore in the normal five to 10 knot easterly. Wow, was that exciting! It was good for pleasant dawdling, cold beers and topless tanning. All right, so it does have one redeeming quality! The sailing conditions were so predictable that we used to drag a line off the stern and drag behind the boat at three to four knots until we got tired or thirsty, whichever came first. We did, of course, always leave one poor soul aboard.
If that's what makes Ft. Lauderdale "the boating capital of the world" - as they like to claim - they can have it! The sailing is only average at best, and besides, the Gulfstream will take you up to North Carolina before you know it. Nobody really sails in Florida, which is all really as fake as Disneyworld. The only difference is Florida doesn't charge you admission. So except for skinny dipping off the stern - which really does have its merits - Lauderdale doesn't have anything on San Francisco Bay.
YOU CAN GET EVERYTHING BUT ALICE IN LAUDERDALE
Why is Fort Lauderdale a major boating center? Because it's like Alice's Restaurant: you can get anything you want there - except Alice. And that's because there's more parking for boats in Lauderdale than there is anywhere else in South Florida.
B. L. Sachs
Been There, Fixed That
The February issue had a letter from Jim Crowell of Bend, Oregon, who is looking for information on a Tempest boat engine. I recently sold my Kennedy 47, which had been built in Vancouver, B.C. in 1976. She was equipped with a four cylinder 53-hp Tempest 'Commander' engine that was still alive and kicking. Tempest continues in business in Great Britain, and while I don't know the number, they are located in Stamford on Lincs. A wonderful woman there named Claire Hutchison is most helpful in finding replacement parts and such.
If Jim wants to call me at (727) 360-8612 on a weekday evening, I'll give him the number of the current owner of my boat and perhaps he'll track down Tempest's address.
Joe - We searched the Internet for such
a company, but could only come up with a manufacturer of large
airplane engines and model airplane engines.
SAILING IN THE NORTHEAST
I'm one of your 'virtual readers', meaning that I check out the Letters section online every couple of months, as well as the 'Lectronic Latitude. What has compelled me to write is the comment in the February letters about the "short sailing season" here in the Northeast. Tom Reardon, captain of Ticonderoga, may only sail up here 10 weeks a year, but for the rest of us - especially on Long Island Sound - the season is much longer. Sure, June to August are the warmest months - though it can still get pretty chilly when it gets overcast and rains in the summer. Nevertheless, May, September - and even October - offer some fine sailing. You'll want to have a heater for some of those early spring or fall nights out on the hook, yet those are still some of the best times to sail up here. If someone limits themselves to only 10 weeks of summer sailing in the Northeast, they're missing half the season.
Stephen - We weren't exact enough in
reporting Tom's comments. He did say that some people sail before
June and after August, but that most of the activity and all the
major events are pretty much within that 10-week period.
I'm in the market for a 38-to-40-foot boat that I hope will someday take me on a two to three year circumnavigation. I have looked at many boats and would like to know if you or your readers know of a good source of information on the seaworthiness of different brands. One that I have looked at is a 1972 Challenger 40. She's been well-maintained, but I don't know anything about the reputation these boats have for long distance cruising.
Jim - We don't want people to start writing
us asking for reviews of the thousands of different fiberglass
sailboat designs that have been built since the '60s, but we will
tell you a story. During our first cruising visit to Puerto Vallarta
in the late '70s, we interviewed a guy named Bill Pierce of San
Diego, who had just singlehanded up from Panama aboard his Challenger
40 ketch Tan-Tar-A. In the mid-'90s, we saw Bill and his new wife
Renée cruising the same boat in Z-town. In January of '99,
we got a letter from them, still on their boat in Guatemala's
Rio Dulce. If the boat wasn't up to cruising, we don't think Bill
would have kept it that long.
Our perception of the Challenger line - and they built everything from a 32 to a 50 - is that they were more heavily built than the typical Southern California production boat of the time, but the extra weight combined with a short rig limited their performance. In fact, they rate a pedestrian 198 in Northern California's PHRF system - although we think they'll sail somewhat faster on the ocean with a fair wind. So, yes, we think they're plenty strong, but also a little slow. Depending on what you want in a boat, it might be just the thing.
We're having a ball down here in Mexico aboard our Kennex 445 catamaran See Life with our first and third grade daughters. I'm writing in response to a query about home schooling, which we've been doing since September of last year. Based on our experience and talking with other parent/teachers, it seems that people either love it or hate it. I think there are three main variables: 1) How much the parents are into it, because actions speak louder than words. 2) The child's attitude. 3) The curriculum.
As for our situation, my kids are my passion, and so is home schooling. We try to keep to a routine, although it's impossible and undesirable to have a rigid schedule, as that would contradict the flavor of cruising. But at the end of any given week, it's important to me to know that my kids have done a complete week's worth of schooling. We don't always have schooling at the same time each day, and we also have 'vacations'. The state of California requires that children receive 36 weeks of education a year, so we get to decide when the vacations are and how they will be spent. Above all, the schooling needs to be fun. If it isn't fun, the kids aren't going to want to do it. I look at it as a great gift that Monte and I can spend so much time with our kids, so I enjoy it. Be creative, think outside the box, and don't forget to giggle!
Remember that kids will have different learning styles. Observe them and figure out what makes them tick. Try to tailor their lessons to better suit their learning styles. When you see their eyes sparkle and can tell they are really listening and learning, remember what was special about that subject or the way it was presented. It takes awhile to pick this up, and I'm still tweaking my skills.
There are a lot of great curriculums, which is good, for there are a lot of different needs. But you need to make a few main decisions. First, you have to decide if you want to correspond with a 'parent' company that manages the administrative end, or if you want to be independent and do it yourself. Second, whether you get your curriculum for free from your local school district or purchase one from a private company, you want to make sure they are going to match your needs. Some companies will let you be independent or hire them, but some are strictly one way or the other.
We chose to be independent, and I'm very glad that we did. Our other friends who correspond seem to think it's a hassle - especially from some of the more remote anchorages. I love it that we are on our own, as it seems to fit much better with the cruising lifestyle. We sent in an R-4 form - which is free - to the State of California to enable us to start our own 'school'. Since our girls used to attend Longfellow School, we decided to call our school Shortfellow. It's a girls-only residence inn. We have the authority to give tests, grades, and even high school diplomas. We find all of this freedom exhilarating. The only thing the state of California tracks is attendance. So we have a very official looking attendance log. But we are going the extra mile by compiling portfolios for each child at the end of each grade. We figure it would be beneficial for when and if they re-enter school or apply to college. And, if nothing else, it will be a wonderful keepsake.
We use Sonlight Christian curriculum, which was originally created for missionaries. It has two major benefits for us. First, it has much more of a world view, and secondly, it's completely self-contained. We don't need to run to the library or even the store. Not only does our curriculum come with 57 outstanding books, it has everything we need for our science experiment of growing radishes - seeds, soil, container, even the masking tape. People can check it out by visiting www.Sonlight.com. If anyone has any questions about home schooling, they are welcome to contact me at seelife445 at juno.com.
Good luck to everyone. Enjoy your kids, and don't forget to giggle. Live, love and laugh!
Shari and Monte Cottrell
See Life, Kennex 445
La Jolla / Puerto Vallarta
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