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First of all, I want to state my enthusiasm and respect for Latitude. I have been around boats for almost 35 years now - I'm a licensed skipper and chief engineer on everything from 13-ft Whalers to 50 meter megayachts - and your magazine and Professional Mariner are the only two that I religiously read from cover to cover. And Latitude is the best sailing read around, bar none.

Having been in the Bay Area now for four years, I'm impressed with the editorial and fair approach to maritime issues. In that vein, I wanted to make sure that you raise Joseph Canciamilla's (11th District, Antioch and Martinez) Assembly Bill #2362, innocuously titled Delta Bay Clean-Up for comment and analysis.

If you read the text of the proposed legislation, it seems to start off well and good by deeming unnavigable vessels as derelict and subject to removal by various entities:

"Existing law authorizes any peace officer, as specified, any employee or officer of the State Lands Commission designated by the State Lands Commission, or any lifeguard or marine safety officer employed by a county, city, or district. . . . . as to obstruct the normal movement of traffic or in such a condition as to create a hazard to other vessels using the waterway, when the vessel interferes with, or otherwise poses a danger to, navigation, or when the vessel poses a threat to adjacent wetlands, levies, sensitive habitat, any protected wildlife species, or water quality."

Ironically, it in no way mentions the Coast Guard's role in this already-regulated matter.

It is, however, the section that attempts to regulate liveaboards that is outright invasive and disturbed me most of all: "The bill would make it a misdemeanor for any person to use any marine home, as defined, within any harbor, waterway, or maritime facility as a dwelling in excess of three days within any one week period unless that person has been authorized live aboard status, as defined, by the lessee, agent, manager, or person in charge of the facility and has obtained a specified live aboard permit from the county. The bill thereby would impose a state-mandated local program by creating a new crime."

I think that paragraph sums it up: unpermitted and unapproved liveaboards will become new criminals! So I encourage you all to review this bill and send comments to its sponsor, Assemblymember Canciamilla.

John Moses
Northern California

John - Don't freak out yet. We spoke with Janis Glover, who is Assemblyman Canciamilla's staffer for #2362. Ms. Glover told us that the Assemblyman is trying to address two legitimate waterfront issues - sanitation and derelict vessels blocking waterways. She advises that the bill is only "in print", which means it's wide open for public comment. She urges everyone with an opinion to contact her, as the Assemblyman is seeking feedback. You can do so by going to, then indicating bill #2362. You'll have a chance to read the bill and then comment. It's a neat system. You may also express your opinion to Glover by calling her at (916) 319-2011, or emailing her directly at janis.glover at

We urge everyone to read the bill, then express an opinion. To make the biggest impression, express your opinion clearly, simply, and without rancor. For example, "While I admire the general goals of Assembly bill #2362, I object to the way in which it would criminalize live-aboards, a group of people who tend to have less impact on the environment than those who live in traditional homes. The Assemblyman should help, not hinder, those who want to leave less of a negative impact on the environment."

It's also important to know where the bill currently stands. At this point, it's only "in print," which means it's been introduced. It hasn't been sent to committee for analysis and comment, it hasn't been passed on to the Assembly, it hasn't been introduced in the Senate, and it hasn't been sent to the Governor. Glover noted that the Assemblyman has yet to hear from Senator Pro Tem John Burton, the second most powerful man in California, who views any kind of living aboard as a partial solution to poverty and homelessness.


Not happy with the clearing procedures in Mexico, I wrote a letter, in Spanish, to Lic. Bertha Leticia Navarro Ochoa, Secretaria de Turismo, advising that I own a boat and am planning to go cruising in Mexico very soon. However, I continued, I was concerned about the costly and cumbersome bureaucratic procedures that had been instituted in the year 2000. I said the procedures were detrimental to Mexican tourism, and that I hoped they would be changed.

I recently received a reply, also in Spanish, from Fabricio J. Gaxiola Moraila, El Director De Facilitación, Secretaría De Turismo, saying that Mexico is studying the problem and has made some changes. The "changes" they have made relate to trailer boats, fishing permits, and the ability to get temporary import permits at Mexican consulates. He also said that an exemption of dues has been established when clearance is done by a marina acting as an "honorary delegate" of the port captain. Here's the exact language:

"Se estableció un criterio para que no deban pagarse Derechos cuando los Despachos de cabotaje los emita una marina como Delegado Honorario. En materia de pesca deportiva, se publicó en el Diario Oficial de la Federación el nuevo formato simplificado para la pesca deportiva, el que se reduce de cuatro a dos documentos la obtención del permiso. Con forme al artículo 199 B de la Ley Federal de Derechos, se establece el pago por permisos ya sea por día, por semana, por mes y anual por el aprovechamiento de recursos pesqueros en la pesca deportivo-recreativa."

Lastly, he indicated that Mexico is preparing a manual, to be accessible via the Internet, that will spell out all the requirements of foreigners visiting Mexico.

Alex Bustamante
Orion, Columbia 26 MK II

Alex - A number of other people who have written in to complain have received the same response - a response that confuses us. Obviously, the business about trailer boats, fishing permits, and import permits was just thrown in there for general coverage, as it hadn't been raised in the letters of protest. We find it somewhat encouraging that he seems to be saying that there will be an exemption of dues if "honorary delegates" at marinas will do the paperwork. But it's not clear exactly what that means, it hasn't been permitted as yet, and it would leave those not going to marinas to still have to pay the fees. And let's not kid anyone, these fees are getting out of hand. A cruiser who just left La Paz reported that it cost him $75 U.S. to clear in and out of La Paz and pay the port fees. To our mind, that's outright gouging.

The best thing is that they are obviously getting the letters and responding to them. This means now is the time for five times as many people to write the letters of protest, to keep the heat on.


I have enjoyed your publication for quite some time now, and have recently purchased a 1968 Columbia 36. Although I wouldn't expect to win, I'm wondering if there are any races I could participate in. Where would I look for this kind of information? I am not a member of a yacht club, so please help to steer me in the right direction.

Eric M. Muro

Eric - Great question, particularly at the start of another sailing season. There is no end to the number of races you'd be welcome to enter - at least three or four a week. Furthermore, thanks to PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Formula), all equally well-sailed boats should cross the finish line at the same time, so your not-so-new boat remains competitive. You probably won't be doing a lot of winning until you get more experience, but you have a boat that is capable of winning.

The best place to find all the information is in the 2002 Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Schedule that's published at the beginning of each year by Latitude. Pick one up for free at the Latitude office in Mill Valley or at our booth at Sail Expo in Oakland in April. All the information is in there.

If you've never raced before, we'd suggest you start with some evening Beer Can races sailing in the non-spinnaker division. These are short and casual evening races that nobody takes too seriously, particularly in the non-spinnaker divisions, and they are a great way to make friends. As you pick up experience and perhaps some experienced crew, you may want to enter some of the many weekend races. Many of them are listed in our Calendar section each month.

Overwhelmed by the racing rules? So are 95% of all racers. Check out the mini-guide to the rules in the Sailing Calendar.

If you're going to do any YRA (Yacht Racing Association) races, you have to belong to a yacht club. Some of them are very inexpensive, as in less than $100 a year. Once again, check out the Northern California Sailing Calendar. Nobody is going to ask about yacht club membership for a Beer Can series.

Getting into racing may be intimidating at the start, but shouldn't be. If you see a Beer Can series that sounds good, just call up the club, explain that you're new to racing but want to get started, and they'll happily give you all the help you need. The more participants they get, the happier they are.

Racing is one of the best ways to learn how to sail well. Heck, if you really apply yourself this summer season, you'll be all ready to race in the Ha-Ha at the end of October.


For years, I have been reading about the various tragic effects of hypothermia. Having been a surfer for many years, I know about the effects of cold water - even when protected by a wetsuit. And it always disturbs me to read about sailors who die of hypothermia not long after falling off their vessels.

Now, however, I find myself getting a little confused about hypothermia. It began when a relative of mine joined the South End Rowing Club. This friendly group of lunatics regularly participate in activities such as the Golden Gate and Alcatraz Swims. My understanding is that most participants don't wear wetsuits in these events.

While I understand that there has always been individuals who perform these types of cold-water feats, I never really understood that there were so many, and that they were of all ages and body types. This would imply that there are techniques which can be employed - other than those commonly known - which may help the uninitiated survive.

When I asked my relative what the secret was, he told me it was mental. You just know that you can do it. He told me about a time when he and another friend jumped off the dock to swim to the beach. The friend immediately started struggling and had to be saved. Two people in similar physical condition on the same day, but with totally different reactions.

I believe that it might be interesting reading to find out more about how these people - and many others, I'm sure - manage to do it.

Mark Hunter
Huntington Beach

Mark - We think confidence and experience has a lot to do with it. When we started surfing off the Northern California coast many years ago, you were considered a wimp if you wore a wetsuit - even in winter. But we were able to survive relatively long go-outs because, we're assuming, we'd gone in the water and stayed there of our own volition, and because we were used to it. We don't think we would have done so well had we never done it before and been suddenly thrown in.

We also think positive thinking can be a huge factor for those who suddenly find themselves in the cold water. In perhaps the most interesting hypothermia case we can remember, several years ago three seniors - we think their average age was about 72 - had their small fishing boat flip on them north of the Gate. They managed to cling to the overturned boat for something like 3.5 hours before being rescued. It was incredible. We were so amazed that we recommended that some college student interview them. It was our understanding that the three just kept talking and encouraging one another that they'd make it.

There was another very interesting case about 25 years ago, in which a guy bringing an older wooden boat up the coast was thrown in the water off Ocean Beach when a big wave splintered the boat. He swam for the bright lights of shore for several hours, at which point he was about to give up. But in the darkness, he bumped into some debris - which included a six pack of beer. He drank the beer, was revitalized, and swam for another long period before collapsing on the shore. He was found and survived.

So if you find yourself in the cold water, think positive, and don't ever give up hope.


That was a nice photo you ran in 'Lectronic Latitude of the carbon mast from Bruno Peyron's maxi catmaran Orange - the one with the top six feet of the mast broken off. I think, however, that I might have started this trend with my 52-ft cat Afterburner during last year's Newport to Ensenada Race. If you check out the photo, you'll see that we American's don't need the French to show us how to break a carbon mast on a multihull.

We went for a lower-tech repair in San Diego, however, by Bob Dixon. So far it's held up well. But we'll be back for another try at Ensenada this year. Hopefully with some new sails.

Bill Gibbs
Afterburner, 52-ft Cat

Bill - The similarities in the mast failures is striking. It makes us all the more pleased that we decided to replace the original mast on our cat with a much more stout version. By the way, it's our intention to do the Ensenada Race this year also - although we may be hampered by one fixed prop.


The recent flurry of letters about Teddy Bear, the Bear Class boat, prompts me to sadly report that Teddy is no more. Her most recent owner could no longer care for her, and his valiant efforts to find a new owner were unsuccessful. We at tried to help also, but we didn't learn about her plight until it was too late to be effective. Teddy was put to rest a couple of months ago, her mast and other bits are apparently going to become part of a ketch.

The cry for help with Teddy is still posted in the brokerage section of Unhappily, her fate may become that of many other woodies on the bay unless those with interest can find the means to engage it. In today's culture, the costs - and I don't mean just the money - of sustaining a woodie seems to discourage most owners. Perhaps some of your plastic boat owning readers - who are sometimes condescending of us 'fools' - might want to use some of the money they saved by going plastic toward adopting or fostering a woodie. If so, they could send a contribution to the Bear Boat Trust - information available at - or some other wooden boat association.

Steve Barber
Pola, Bear Boat #3


I'm writing to voice my outrage at the wanton destruction of Daniel's Bay in the Marquesas by Survivor, the grossly overrated and insensitive show perpetrated by CBS. Something must be said about the damage caused just so some namby-pamby wannabes could have a romp in the sand. Viewers were made to believe that the participants were stranded or marooned on a desert island without sustenance and assistance - all for the sake of ratings and money. The truth is that the boat supporting the crew and the rest of the cameramen was on a large vessel just offshore, ready to assist if needed.

I hope you have read the article in both Sailing and Cruising World about the destruction of Daniels' Bay, where 74-year-old Daniel had spent over 30 years making the small bay lovely and hoping to leave it in better condition than when he arrived. But along comes CBS and Survivor, and using bulldozers and other mechanical gear, in a few hours they destroyed what had taken 30 years to create.

Although we are led to believe that it's not the case, the damage was probably done without Daniel's consent. How could a network as large as CBS, one that has espoused saving the planet and other natural resources, have done such a dastardly deed? Does CBS believe that we as the viewing public condone this type of wanton damage to these islands? Are we as a people going to allow this to go without protest.

Of course, it's really about the money, American money. Is it so difficult to understand why we as a society are so hated around the world? Is the planet just for us, and the rest of the world is to be told to get out of the way? Saving the natural resources of the planet can be likened to a ham and egg sandwich. The chicken participates, but the hog is totally committed. Are we going to be committed or just participate?

Ross Mainor
South San Francisco

Ross - We've never seen Survivor, but no show could have been filmed in the Marquesas without the permission of the French and Marquesan authorities, and without the permission of Daniel - assuming that he owned the land involved. If all the parties were hoodwinked, Survivor and CBS should be held responsible. But if they performed according to the contract we only assume had been in effect, we can only condemn the French, the Marquesans - and possibly even Daniel - for having the same level of bad taste as the Americans who have made the show such a hit.

Daniel is an interesting character who has been written up in Latitude many times over the years. We hope that some members of this year's Puddle Jump group stop by and get the full story from him. And to see if he can understand the ham and egg analogy, which is beyond us.

By the way, we think you've got it all wrong when you say America is hated for being so materialistic and powerful. We're not so much hated as envied - and that's much worse.


It wasn't until friends of Don and Linda Bryce reported that the couple had circumnavigated with Green Dolphin that we realized that you were looking for people who have circumnavigated. My wife Jane and I have done so - in fact, we spent many happy times with Don and Linda - and would like to be included in your reception for circumnavigators during Pacific Sail Expo.

We didn't begin sailing until I was 40 - I don't know my wife's age - and progressed from an El Toro through a Lido 14, Coronado 25, a wooden Wells 34 ketch named Credence that was our favorite, to Trinity, a Kanter 48 aluminum cutter designed by Ted Brewer.

We sailed to Hawaii with two of our three children aboard Credence, and back with one of them - as one way had been enough for our daughter! Later, Jane and I sailed to Florida via the Panama Canal, then on to Maine, the Azores, Ireland, and England. The Wells had no Loran and at the time GPS was still a dream, but celestial seemed to be adequate.

Ten days after I retired at age 65, Jane and I sailed Trinity under the Golden Gate Bridge and began our circumnavigation. Seven-and-a-half-years later, we crossed our outgoing track. We have since sold Trinity and are looking for a boat under 40 feet. We would like to think we still have time for more cruising, perhaps to Hawaii and Alaska.

Anyway, we would love to attend your reception.

Morgan Lucid
Monte Sereno

Morgan - If our math serves us, you completed your circumnavigation at age 72. In other words, another couple not content with Rossmoor. Congratulations. We're looking forward to seeing you at our 'Circumnavigator's Ball' - April 19, 6 p.m. at Pacific Sail Expo (exact location to be announced).


Here's another couple who completed a circumnavigation but were not on your list: Frank and Janet McNeil of the San Diego-based Yorktown 40, Isle Ibarra. They left in June of '83 and took 11 years and one month to go around. Janet has since died. Frank wrote Passage - Over the Hill and Around the World about their voyage, and lives in Valley Center. He's also a member of the Southwestern YC.

Howard A. Snell
San Diego


In the March article on circumnavigators from the West Coast, you list Marilyn Cook on Landfall II and Dr. W.F. (Ted) Holcomb also of Landfall II, separately. They circumnavigated together. At the time of the trip, Dr. Ted was in his 50s while his second wife Marilyn was 27. Their trip was from '53 to '57, and took four days short of four years, starting and ending in San Francisco. Dr. Holcomb had made a South Pacific trip before World War II, and had been a Navy doctor during the war.

Landfall II was built by a division of Boeing in the '30s for actress Maureen O'Sullivan, mother of Mia Farrow. Dr. Holcomb - 'Skipper' to his friends - was an orthopedic surgeon in Oakland and the former Commodore of the Oakland YC. The Holcombs received the Blue Water Medal from the Cruising Club of America for their circumnavigation. My classmate, Ernie Minney, owned Landfall II for a while, buying her from a charity organization. Dr. Holcomb died during the '70s, Marilyn passed away in 2000.

I know this because I was crew aboard Landfall II at age 16 in the Samoas and Fiji in 1954. My father was the bank manager in America Samoa for five years. On Landfall's return to San Francisco, I was a cadet at the California Maritime Academy and sailed on her in the Bay when big, heavy boats used to race in the '50s and '60s. After 35 years of commercial sailing, I retired, and my wife and I have been sailing the Pacific between Alaska and Australia aboard our Peterson 44 Sea Crane. Things have certainly changed in the islands in 50 years.

Richard W. Crane
Sea Crane, Peterson 44
Currently In Australia


We were quite disappointed to find that we weren't included in your March 2002 list of circumnavigators - especially since we sent you an email from Puerto Vallarta in December 2001 to let you know we'd crossed our path.

Our journey started over 40 years ago with a dream of sailing around the world. After retiring, we finally looked for a boat and in '96 purchased a 1977 Pearson 365 ketch. Then we took sailing lessons. That's right, we had never sailed before - although we did have some jet boat experience on rivers in Alaska. Both of us are also bush pilots, so we had the navigation thing down pretty well.

Anyway, we sailed the San Juan Islands for six weeks, and then went up the Inside Passage to Haines, Alaska. We departed Haines in August 1997, for our "round the world journey." Our path took us to Mexico for over five months, then across the Pacific to the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Societies, Northern Cooks, American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia and a long stay in Australia. We flew over to New Zealand and toured both islands with a camper van. We also bought an old station wagon which we used to tour and camp around Australia - doing a total of 60,000 kilometers.

From Oz, it was off across the Indian Ocean with stops at Cocos-Keeling, Rodrigues, Mauritius and South Africa - taking five months to get from Durban to Cape Town. After the long stop in South Africa, we crossed the Atlantic to St. Helena, Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, the Grenadines, Venezuela and its islands, the ABC Islands, and the San Blas Islands of Panama. After our Canal transit, we came north along the coast of Central America, Mexico, and back to the United States. We are presently in San Diego and headed north for the Seattle area around the end of this month.

What a great experience it's been! We had an unusual incident off the north coast of Costa Rica while taping hundreds of pilot whales on video. A large sperm whale came at us and shoved us about eight feet aside - and we caught it on video! As the boat shuddered and shook, we stood in awe of the whale's power, as he boiled the water by doing snap rolls and diving beneath our boat.

Having checked out your list of West Coast circumnavigators, we now realize how few there are. We're proud to be part of the group. It's also terrific to be back where we can renew our subscription to Latitude to make sure we get it regularly. We missed it.

Dick and KayD Johnson
Mermaid, Pearson 365 Ketch
Salcha, Alaska

Dick & KayD - Sorry about the omission, we don't have as many hands as there are things we're juggling here at Latitude. We'll have more letters from circumnavigators next month.


I would like to see a bulletin board for mariners on your site. I'm surprised that you don't already have one. Is there a reason for this? If not, why not create a new bulletin board with all the basic topics: sailboats, powerboats, families boating with kids, and so forth. Just a thought.


Jason - Part of the reason we don't have a bulletin board is that we don't have the time or energy, but the biggest reason is that we've never been fans of them. In any event, why would a sailing magazine have a bulletin board category for powerboats?


While sailing in the Spring One-Design Regatta last weekend, we almost had a terrible tragedy. One of our crewmembers was struck by the boom during a jibe, and was knocked unconscious. He immediately slid over the side of the boat, face down. Fortunately, he was wearing his lifejacket, which turned him face up and kept his mouth out of the water. He - and the two of us who dove in after him - were eventually pulled out of the bay by the St. Francis YC chase boat. After a few hours in the hospital, he was released with a few stitches and a headache.

I am now a changed man. I had always resisted wearing my lifejacket. I only wore it when it was mandated or the conditions were severe. Not anymore. Wearing our lifejackets certainly saved our crewmember - and possibly our own lives after we jumped in. Do yourself a favor by taking the time, spending the money, and wearing your lifejacket - and encouraging others to do the same.

Scott Sorensen

Readers - For a complete story on the incident, see this month's Sightings.


I read your 'Lectronic Latitude item about losing your second Max Prop three-blade folding prop in eight months, and your request for information from others who might have had similar experiences.

I own Whisper, a 445 Pro Kennex catamaran located in the BVI. We had two-bladed folding props on our cat when we bought her in April of 1998. By November of '98, we no longer had folding props. I don't know who manufactured the props, I just know they both dropped off! It was pretty weird as well, because after the first one decided to take 'the float test', we were very careful about checking the other one on a regular basis. Nonetheless, it failed the 'float test' dismally also.

It's strange about props dropping from the boat, but I've been sailing for 45 years, and have never lost a prop - except on our cat. Then we lost them both, at different times, within seven months of each other. Go figure! We now use fixed blades on Whisper. But we continue to use a folding prop on our Islander 36 Pilot here on the Bay, and we've never had trouble with it.

Jim Robinson
Whisper and Pilot
Mill Valley

Jim - The loss of the props is a real puzzler, because we used the same type of Max Prop on Big O from California to Turkey and back to the Caribbean - and never had a problem. And we went three years with the Max Props on Profligate without a problem. We love these props and wish they wouldn't 'leave' us. Maybe it is a problem peculiar to cats, as we remember the skipper of Swaliga, the 65-ft cat that used to make daily runs from St. Martin to St. Barts, told us he once had a two-bladed Volvo folding prop drop to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.


I've had a Max Prop on my boat Beach Party for 15 years. I love the prop because it performs great, but I think they are prone to electrolysis. I think the alloy they use has too much aluminum or some other less-noble metal, and when you combine this with a sail drive, which I imagine has lots of different metals, electrolysis may be the problem. I have had my prop refurbished twice because it was being eaten up pretty bad, but found the guys at PYI/Max Prop to be excellent for customer service.

John Sprouse
Beach Party

John - There are two things that would seem to argue against electrolysis being the cause of our props falling off. The first is that about 30 days before the first prop fell off, it had been checked by the factory and then mounted on a brand new sail drive. That would seem to be too much electrolysis in too short a period of time. Secondly, there was no major sign of electrolysis on the prop beneath the other hull, which had always been just 25 feet away from the props that had fallen off.


I've installed quite a few Max Props in our yard and am curious as to whether your entire prop - including the hub - fell off or just the blades and split body. What, if anything, was left on the shaft taper, and was there any sign of damage to the taper or threads? Finally, do you know if your props were secured with the solid pin that required drilling a hole in the shaft or the other style retainer?

Eric Freeman
Service Manager, Semiahmoo Marina
Blaine, Washington

Eric - In both cases, there was nothing left of either prop on the shaft, and there was no sign of damage to the taper or threads. The props were not secured by a solid pin, but rather a series of hex head bolts, all secured with clevis pins. It's baffling.


We've had four Max Props on three boats over the last 17 years. We traded up to the VP model on Raven, which allows us to change the pitch underwater - explaining the fourth prop. All have been excellent without problems of any kind. We just hauled at Opequimar and found the VP version is still in excellent shape.

The common denominator in your saga of two drop-offs looks to be that the same guy installed them. Ours were installed by several different people over the years. Or maybe it's the sail drives.

Jan Twardowski
Raven, Sundeer 64
Paradise Marina, Puerto Vallarta

Jan - It doesn't seem likely that it's the installer, for if it was, why hadn't either of the two props fallen off in the previous 3.5 years? We were all set to order the VP model - which would have saved us a fortune in haulouts - until we found out that they don't fit on sail drives.


I have a Canadian registered boat, and sailed from British Columbia to Mexico several years ago. The check-in procedure for the United States is exactly how you described it in your answer to Barrie and Carole Grant of Minerva in the February issue. It cost me about $20 for a one-year crusing permit, plus about $8 dollars for a permit to leave San Diego. So I was able to visit about 18 different ports in the United States for a total cost of less than $30, plus a few phone calls to an 800 number. Not once did I have to report to any office or spend hours running from immigration to the port captain to the bank and back to the port captain - as we have to do here in Mexico.

If I enter and check out of 18 ports in Mexico where there is a port captain, it would cost me close to $1,500 Canadian dollars, plus countless trips to official offices and port captains - which is sometimes a total hassle.

For the Grants to compare the check-in procedures and expenses in the United States to those in Mexico is about the same as comparing the Pope to Hitler.

Brain-dead information like that is what sometimes steers cruisers in the wrong direction.

Bert Melton
Island Woman
San Carlos, Mexico


A reader recently asked why banks won't refinance boats that are more than 20 years old. Some banks do refi boats that are more than 20 years old, there are just not as many as will refinance newer boats. Refi's on boats more than 20 years old are considered on a case-by-case basis, and the financial strength of the borrower is very important.

Peggy Kidd
Dimen Marine


In a February letter, Bob Carpenter argued for the ethic of carrying and using weapons to defend what "he and his family have worked for." In so doing, he has put a material value - his 72-ft schooner - on his life.

I wonder if Bob has talked this appraisal over with his wife and each of his children? Did he make sure that they are aware that advance intelligence on the strength of an adversary is usually just an estimate, and that in any event, outcomes of gun fights are as unpredictable as the people involved? Just ask any defeated warrior. And would it still be a victory if Bob lost his life in the process of 'saving' the schooner? I suspect that given the choice, his wife and kids would rather have Bob alive without a boat, than to keep the boat and have Bob be dead.

After he and his kin have discussed the risks of him getting killed in such a confrontation, they should discuss the risk of Bob killing someone in defense of material things such as his boat. Would even that really be worth it?

Peter Metcalf

Readers - For what it's worth, pirates/thieves are almost always looking for small valuables that they liquidate quickly - or, in the Caribbean, have their friends sell back to you a week later. Thieves almost never want the boat itself, which, because of its large size and slow speed, could easily lead to their capture by law enforcement.


We're now halfway around the world in Oman - with a bunch of other cruisers - aboard Maverick, our Ericson 39 sloop. Some cruisers are organizing convoys to run the Yemeni and Somali coasts, where there is a history of cruisers being attacked by pirates. The threat here is a bit more serious than in the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca.

Cruisers who have given it the most thought feel that the best idea is for perhaps five boats of similar speed to stay quite close together. If one is approached, the others are to converge. They are probably not going to do anything confrontational, but just stand by to help after the fact. That these people have given the problem a lot of thought means nothing, I'm afraid. There's really not much you can do to defend yourself against well-armed pirates, and by others in the convoy converging, it may increase the chances of them becoming the next victim.

As you may imagine, there are a variety of opinions on the subject, as everyone's cruising dream is at stake. Terry Shrode, Maverick's Chief of Intelligence, and the Captain, have been carefully weighing our defensive options. There is some prudence in a convoy, so it is likely that we will participate - if we can get our engine fixed in time to match up with a group of similar boats.

This brings up a question that we've been asked many times - do we carry guns. The consensus of the vast majority of world cruisers - who in general are not sissies - is that very few acts of piracy against yachts have involved loss of life or even injury. Yes, a few boats have been shot up, people have been frightened, and a debilitating amount of gear has been stolen. The perpetrators - at least the ones that have attacked yachts - are armed and opportunistic, and mainly fishermen. The real pirates go after bigger targets.

The fishermen/pirates have no reason to kill you, as they just want your stuff. It is quite likely that if a cruiser doesn't bring out a weapon, they won't be seriously harmed. At the same time, if a cruiser brings out a gun, he/she will be seriously injured or killed. After all, these pirates will almost certainly have deadlier arms than a cruiser, and more of them. In the recent well-publicized piracy killing of Sir Peter Blake, it's my understanding that there were 13 crew aboard Blake's boat, and that Blake, the only one who attempted to defend himself with a gun, was the only one killed.

There is another problem - the consequences of being an American involved in an act of violence against a citizen of Yemen or Somalia, and having to prove to the courts in those countries that you were acting in self-defense. Even in the case that you would ultimately be able to defend yourself successfully, you may have had to spend considerable interim time in a very unpleasant prison.

So leaving out any moral issues, my calculation is whether all the Captain's future movie dates with Theresa, chats with his friends and hikes on Mt. Tam, are worth less to him than some money, his binoculars, GPS, VHF radio, and computer.

Tony 'The Captain' Johnson
Maverick, Ericson 39

Readers - As of March 1, Maverick was safe in Eritrea, having made it past the dangerous coasts of Yemen and Somalia, and the always-dangerous island of Socotra. At this time, we have no idea if they travelled as part of a convoy.

For what it's worth, here's an interesting excerpt from a Changes that Tony Johnson penned while still in Oman: "The people of Oman have been very friendly. We have to check out of a harbor guardhouse and security gate to get day passes to go to the nearby city of Salalah. The officers who give out the passes told some other Americans to, "tell your American friends that we are not a bunch of crazy Arabs, and we wish them no harm. Muslims are peaceful people." Saheed, our taxi driver, later told us that Islam teaches people to help others, not kill them. The Muslims we've met in the course of sailing halfway around the world have been very sweet. In fact, it occurred to me that in all our travels, the only people who haven't been the least bit shy about expressing hostile criticism of the United States are Europeans."


My family sails a Gemini 105 catamaran on the Bay, and it seems that there are more multihulls in the marinas and on the water every year. The one place you don't seem to see them is on the race course. I always enjoyed one-design racing in my Cal 29, and would encourage any multihull owners to take the plunge and try racing their multihulls. There are a number of low-key venues available, from the various Beer Can races to specialty race/rally events such as the Catnip Cup, and destination events such as the Jazz Cup. Historically, the SSS races have always been multihull-friendly, and the Bay Area Multihull Association is a co-sponsor for the Inter-Club Series, which is one Saturday a month from April thru September.

I like to sign up for races, because it makes me schedule my work so that if nothing else, I'll go sailing on that day.

Yes, it is possible to get a little too serious about racing, but racing is a great way to play with the boat and for friends to learn more about the Bay and your boats, and to regularly get out on the water with family and friends. The more multihulls we get out racing, the more fun for all of us.

For more information, check out the BAMA website from the link on the Latitude website.

Rich Kerbavaz
Mood Indigo, Gemini 105

Rich - We couldn't agree with you more on all your points.

For the last three years we've enjoyed great cruising catamaran racing at the Banderas Bay Regatta in Mexico, and wish more owners would come out to play on the Bay. Given the very large size of Profligate, our primary concern is not to mess up monohull racing, so we pick our races carefully and try to stay out of everyone's way. Nonetheless, we've had great times in the Catnip Cup, the Midnight Moonlight Marathon, the Silver Eagle Long Distance Race, and the Jazz Cup - all of which offer lots of reaching, so beloved by cats and tris. Smaller multihulls would no doubt be welcome at many Beer Can and other events, too.


I have been picking up my Latitudes at the restaurant at Brickyard Cove in Richmond, and don't think it's fair that I get the publication for free. So I've enclosed a check for a first class subscription. I want you to cash the check, but don't send me the magazine, I'll keep getting it at the restaurant.

Ollie Cordray
Pt. Richmond

Ollie - Your wish is our command. We thank you.


I am a licensed investigator specializing in international crime. In July of 2001, a lady from California contacted me. Like most of your readers, she was an avid and experienced mariner. Earlier in the year, she had been enticed to visit an American man she met through the Internet, who had a large yacht moored in San Salvador, Central America. She flew down for a week, and a romance ensued. The man convinced her to return, with the promise they would marry and travel around the world on his boat. She liquidated her assets in the U.S., then flew down to meet him - cash in hand and all her remaining belongings.

A few weeks later, without provocation, he beat her to a pulp and tried to kill her. Fortunately, fellow boaters in Panama rescued her. She filed attempted murder charges in Panama. Medical evidence indicated that she'd been badly beaten and still had choke marks on her neck. She suffered head injuries and remains disabled at this writing. Her assailant escaped on his yacht - along with her money and belongings.

This was not the first time the man lured women and then both threatened and beat them. We have received letters from other victims, but they are afraid to testify against him. There is one unsubstantiated report that he may have killed someone in either Mexico or Venezuela. He has eluded justice by using foreign jurisdictions as an escape. The man can be very charismatic, but can also turn on a dime and become very dangerous.

We need the help of the boating community. If anyone knows of a case of unresolved murder, or has knowledge or experience of being threatened or beaten by a man with a motoryacht in Central or South America between 1999 and mid-2001, please contact us immediately at: Tracker2002 at Any information supplied will be kept confidential. You will not become part of any legal issue, we just need your information.

A final warning. Those in the cruising community tend to be close and very trusting. Be very careful of any relationships developed on the Internet. Closely check the background of anyone responding to your ads. Whether we like to believe it or not, the Internet is a public forum where all sorts of devious characters prey on innocent victims. And legal matters are greatly complicated in foreign waters, especially where some macho attitudes often ignore the plight of women who have been beaten or abused. It is simply not worth the risk.

Robert Kline
Austin, Texas

Readers - It matters not if a women meets a man through the Internet, Latitude's Crew List, or at a singles' party, she needs to take common sense precautions to protect herself and her finances. For instance, it never hurts to get to know a man in the context of group activities, and when there are plenty of other people around. We're confident that our female readers are intelligent enough to know that it would be the height of personal irresponsibility for any woman to liquidate her assets into cash and take it all to a foreign country - upon the urging of a man she's only known a week.


Thanks for the brief charter note about Kirk Valentine retiring at Tradewinds Sailing and me taking over. For the record, my name is spelled David Kory. It seems easy enough, but most folks get it wrong the first time.

In Loose Lips, you mentioned Eugeny, the old Russian who is singlehanding the 12-ft Said, and who was recently missing. I bumped into him at the dock at Vaitape, Bora Bora, in late February. He was doing fine and planning on leaving for Australia.

David Kory
Tradewinds Sailing

ONE YEAR AND $100,000

As I see it, time would be the major limiting factor if one had $100,000 and one year to going cruising. For if you have $100,000, you can easily enjoy two or more years of the cruising life. For example, my wife and I and our two sons made a three-year circumnavigation aboard our Kennex 445 catamaran, during which time we spent less - if you subtract the selling price of our boat - than $100K. For if you take care of your boat - as we did ours - you should be able to resell her for close to what you paid for her. So if you're talking a net of $100K, that can have you cruising for many years.

If a person is, however, going to buy a boat and keep her after their cruise, I would allot $60K for the boat, $20K for equipment, and $20K for a year of living expenses.

Where to go? The big question is what you're looking to experience. My first assumption is that a person would want to do something they can't do on a charter vacation or as a commuter cruiser. If this is the case, the most important thing to do is not go by any schedule. If the wind is nice, you could go for a sail; if it isn't, you could enjoy a good book in a quiet anchorage. In our experience, it was not uncommon for cruising plans to change by weeks and hundreds of miles to meet up with new and old friends. Enjoy the lifestyle most by staying flexible.

Second, if you are taking the time off to travel and not just relax, go someplace you cannot go as a commuter cruiser. Given a year, it is easy to travel halfway around the world. Even a smallish cruising boat will average better then 100 miles a day on passages if you give it a chance. So if you sail 20% of the time with a typical cruising boat, you could cover about 9,000 miles. This means that you could consider an Atlantic Circle - meaning from the Caribbean to Europe and back. Or, a trip from the Caribbean to Australia. On the other hand, some people might prefer to spend an entire year in an anchorage that's only two weeks from home.

In my view, the ideal trip would be an extended delivery. During our trip, we met two families doing slow deliveries for owners that didn't have the time. One trip was from the Sea of Cortez to Florida, while the other was from the South Pacific to the Mediterranean. The arrangement seemed to work for both parties, as in both cases the crew had free use of the boat in exchange for regular upkeep and insurance. From the owners' perspective, the boat was delivered to where they wanted it at no cost, and there were no storage fees. Either of these trips would make a great one year trip in the right boat, and you'd have most of your $100,000 when it was all over.

For those who must have their own boats, I'd suggest taking a look at Trinidad. Spend the month of October fitting her out there. Sail the Caribbean for the early winter season. From then until the following October, you could be anywhere from Europe to New Zealand - with plenty of money left over for another two years, if you so desired.

We had a great trip. It's hard to believe, but we sold Moondance last October and have already been back home a year. Moondance was a great boat for going around the world, but not for racing on the Bay - which is what we're looking to get back into.

Karl Matzke
Moondance, Kennex 445
Palo Alto

Readers - We're not sure how many readers remember, but early in the Matzke's circumnavigation, Moondance was dismasted off Costa Rica. Remarkably, the mast toppled onto the deck, and suffered only slight damage. They continued on to Puntarenas where minor repairs were made to the base of the mast. The mast made it the rest of the way around the world.


If I had $100,000 and one year, I would find a previously owned Catalina 320 or similar vessel in the Hawaiian Islands. After paying $50-60,000 for the boat, I'd do some upgrading to make the boat more comfortable for living aboard. After that, my living expenses shouldn't exceed $30,000. I would travel through the islands for a year, then resell the boat and return to California. A year in the Hawaiian Islands would be a dream vacation/life, and it's doable.

Louis White
Chula Vista

Louis - A year in the Hawaiian Islands is completely doable - in fact, in this issue we've got an article touting the Islands. We presume, however, you realize that when compared to most popular cruising grounds, Hawaii is on the expensive side, has a surprisingly limited number of anchorages, and frequently rough sailing conditions.


Somebody wrote in and asked what you'd do if you had $100,000 and one year to go cruising. Well, I used to be railmeat living in the Bay Area, and then I lost about $100,000. I know, I wasn't the only one. Anyway, not having any dependents, I reevaluated my 8-5 job and commute, and decided to go sailing full time - on other peoples' boats. I started this adventure in November of '97, and still love it! In the meantime, I've earned my Coast Guard 100 ton Near Coastal Masters. Granted, my real love is sailing, but I've taken on motor vessels as well.

My last job was in San Francisco, where I was hired to deliver a Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 to San Diego. Unfortunately, when I got to the boat I found that she wasn't ready to go out the Gate. After working more than two days to get her ready, I discovered additional problems that would require more repair - and time. The delay ended the delivery, but it finally got done.

Anyway, my next adventure will probably be to captain a 65-ft trawler from Brazil to Martinique. The boat has to be in Martinique by May 25, at which time it's to be shipped to Mallorca in the Med for two years. The captain's position is open for that gig as well, but I haven't committed as I don't know enough about the vessel yet. Anyway, this will be my first time below the equator.

When you lead this kind of life, you never know about the pay. Sometimes it's been good, sometimes there hasn't been any. But I have managed to have a positive cash flow. And in any event, the lifestyle has been worth more than I could have afforded.

Oh yeah, back to the original question. If I had $100,000, I'd buy three Latitude 38 T-shirts to replace the ones I have now, which are rags. I've always met people wearing my Latitude shirts. Then I'd probably buy a '80-'84 Ericson 38, make a few modifications, and take off cruising. I especially like the 38's functional layout below and the fact it's low maintenance topsides. When cruising on other peoples' boats, so far my favorites have been Priapus, a beautiful Hinckley 57 ketch, and Isabella, a raised salon Tayana 58 cutter that was a fine sailing boat.

I rarely get to see a print copy of Latitude anymore, so I routinely check out 'Lectronic Latitude. Keep up the great work.

Ray Catlette
Incline Village, Nevada

ONE YEAR, $100,000

About that $100,000 budget for a one year's cruise - it can be done for less. I bought a Columbia 8.7 in 1995 and spent two winters preparing her for offshore sailing. When I turned 70 in 1997, there was more preparation that needed to be done, but I nonetheless took off in early May for Europe via the Azores.

I arrived in Belgium in September, then traveled down the canals to the Med. I arrived in the Canary Islands in December, left the boat there for a month of winter holidays, then sailed to the Caribbean in January. I sailed up the Caribbean to St. Martin - stupidly bypassing St. Barts, so that my 'collection' of French North Atlantic Islands is incomplete - I went to St. Pierre and Miquelon in 2000. From St. Martin, I continued on to St. Croix, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Florida, and back home - arriving one year after I left the U.S.

My recommendation would be to purchase a 'classic plastic' 30-footer displacing five to six tons - a man should have a 30-footer of as many tons displacement as he has decades of age - for about $20,000. Then the owner should spend about $15,000 fitting her out for offshore, doing all the work him/herself, apart from the engine, unless mechanically qualified. Since it would only be a one-year project, I'd remove all the unnecessary stuff that might be onboard, such as AC power, a water heater, a big holding tank, and so forth.

Assuming an East Coast departure, I'd make for Bermuda, the Azores, Southern Ireland, England's Devon Coast, down to Britanny, the north coast of Spain, the Portuguese coast, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands - but only if two are aboard, because of the shipping in that area - the Caribbean and back to the East Coast. Forget the Med! The ancient Greeks already had discovered that it's strictly motorsailer country, that's why they had galleys with plenty of 'oarspower'. After a great year, there would still be a good amount of change left from the $100,000 to facilitate 're-entry'.

It's a pity there isn't an East Coast Latitude. Wouldn't that be somewhere in the Chesapeake?

John Somerhausen
New York

John - Once again there isn't space enough for us to reveal our 'one year, $100,000 adventure', but about half of it is similar to yours.


I read the 'Lectronic Latitude item about the families of crewmembers in the ill-fated '98 Sydney to Hobart Race suing just about everybody. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before the U.S. legal system - where it's presumed that somebody else is always responsible for another's misfortune - took hold in Oz. I am very cognizant of the loss the survivors feel, but suing the organizing club and boatowners is reprehensible. I am assuming the lost crewmembers made informed decisions regarding their participation in a race notorious for its life-threatening conditions.  

My family - including ex-spouse, current spouse and all children - understand that it is my decision to sail and/or race in whatever conditions may occur. My actions are not the responsibility of Catalina Yachts, NOAA, the Coast Guard, nor even the Harbor Patrol guy I waved to on the way out of the marina into the teeth of whatever. 

P.S. Please accept our condolences on the passing of your Dad. I had talked to him at a couple of shows and he really seemed to be enjoying himself. 

Ron Killian
Catalina 310, 'S Mine
Alamitos Bay, Long Beach

Ron - What next, a professional boxer suing his opponent for punching him in the face? A surfer suing the county for getting cold?

Thank you - and the many others - for the kind remarks about the publisher's father. He loved being a part of Latitude.


A friend and I are having a bet. I was telling him about the Ha-Ha, and how my boat can cover 126 miles in one day. He said that he could beat me to the finish riding his bike. So I'm wondering how long it would actually take to finish the Ha-Ha. What are the fastest times?

Martin Frank
Cheoy Lee 28
Oyster Point Marina / Breckenridge, Colorado

Martin - A bike versus boat race from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas - now there's a terrific idea!

A friend of ours named Bobo and his then-girlfriend actually made the trip on bikes shortly after the TransPeninsular Highway was opened in the '70s. It was a very difficult trip, and they nearly died of thirst several times. It was also very hard on their bikes, as it wasn't uncommon for them to suffer numerous flats in one day. The accommodations - camping out in the rugged desert - weren't for sissies either. We don't know how long it took them, but they did make it. Of course, they were the kind of people who would actually travel to Colorado just to buy plans to make their own down jackets! Jackets they could have bought for $15 at any local store. Need we add that the girl dumped Bobo shortly after the bike trip?

Back to your question. We don't actually know what the fastest elapsed time is in the Ha-Ha, in part because the event is divided into three separate legs. But we suspect the fastest average speed underway would be about 8.5 knots, which is 204 miles a day, or 3.6 days for the entire distance. A Cheoy Lee 28, however, might take twice as long if not more.

It would be nothing, of course, for a well-trained cyclist to cover 204 miles a day on a good surface. However, several factors would make a bike versus boat race from San Diego to Cabo especially interesting: it's much further by road than by boat, there are numerous nasty mountains, the roads are often terrible, the weather can be harsh, and riders could be hit by a truck or attacked by coyotes.

The more we think about it, the more we like the concept of a Boat Versus Bike Baja Ha-Ha. Any cyclist(s) out there ready to take up the challenge? You can have your own support van with spare frames, wheels, and tires, and food, but you'd have to do your own repairs. Think of the money that could be raised for charity.


I'm responding to Steve Hersey's inquiry concerning El Niño and weather patterns in Central America. According to NOAA's March press release, it's too early to tell how strong this year's El Niño condition might be, and what potential effects it might have on weather. As was indicated in Latitude's response, El Niño is a disruption of the normal balance between the Pacific atmosphere and ocean system. A severe disruption can cause catastrophic weather events worldwide, so Hersey's concern is well-founded.

Recent conditions support the forecasts for continued development toward a weak to moderate, but not strong, El Niño in the next several months. Sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific have risen above normal, the most significant being four degrees above normal off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. This has already impacted the fish population there.

If El Niño were to continue its development into the fall, we could expect an increased tendency towards convective cloud formation and rainfall in Central America and Mexico. The parameters for tropical cyclone formation and intensification in the area would also be enhanced. However, the majority of tropical activity has been historically to the west of Central America in late fall. As such, it would be advisable for those traveling to this area to be aware of the potential for an El Niño event and its further development.

Rick Shema
Honolulu, Hawaii

Readers - If you're looking for an interesting discussion of El Niño from NOAA, visit [Webmistress's note: when last we checked, this page was not active.] According to them, Puddle Jumpers will be getting a good indication of whether or not there will be an El Niño situation."

"Tradewinds: During non-El Niño and non-La Niña conditions, tradewinds typically blow to the west across the tropical Pacific. But during an El Niño event, the tradewinds typically slacken or reverse. Thus, you could look at wind velocity and direction to determine whether or not an El Niño event is occurring at present." The mentioned site gives links so you can check out surface winds and directions.


Many years ago someone placed six or so mooring buoys between the San Francisco Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge. They were in place for about a year or so. Has anyone contacted your world-class sailing rag about putting them back? Or, does anyone at Latitude have any history about them? The location would seem to be ideal for day moorings as a great place for lunch or even to take a short nap. I did it a couple of times and enjoyed it.

Terry Gotcher
San Jose

Terry - We remember the buoys you're referring to, but can't recall when they were last in place. To our way of thinking, they were better than nothing, but not much. The problem was that they were near the Ferry Building, and therefore susceptible to large wakes from ferry boats and other vessels. And they were in the shade by early afternoon.

We're not of the opinion that San Francisco Bay ought to be ringed with marinas, but the hole between the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge cries out to be filled with a maximum size marina with plenty of transient slips and attractions for non-mariners. The marina should be surrounded on three sides by broad promenades, and there could be several restaurants overlooking the whole thing. Such a marina would provide more and better views than currently exist, much needed additional access to the Bay for everyone, much needed revenue so San Francisco can pay for its $100,000/year bus drivers, and would revitalize a dormant area of the waterfront. For all these good reasons and more, we're confident that such a marina will never be built there.


Do you know where I can find information on Golden Gate sailboats? There's a 30-footer for sale in our area, but so far I've been unable to find anything on the manufacturer, when and where they were built, and other models. Any info would be helpful.

Ron Robbins
Lazy Bones
Port Townsend, Washington

Rob - Just so there is no confusion, there was a Golden Gate one-design class of 24-ft wood boats. We're certain, however, that you're inquiring about the Chuck Burns design that was variously known as the Farallone 29, Bodega Bay 29, and Golden Gate 30. These were built in Northern California - some from kits - around the late '70s and early '80s. The boats enjoy a reputation for being rugged and good for the open ocean. They come up for sale fairly regularly, so you might call some brokers. Ray Jason, author of Tales of the Sea Gypsy, cruised on one for many years - in fact, he just repurchased her.


If you were trying to impress your readers with your insightful political commentary regarding Cuba, spare us! To sum up Cuba as "the biggest and longest running slave plantation in the world" is inflammatory nonsense. It certainly does nothing to promote your stated goal of normalizing relations with Cuba.

We have been on our boat in Cuba for three months, and have yet to see any Cubans who look like slaves, act like slaves or, for that matter, work like slaves. Cubans seem to be healthy, literate, and educated. This is a complex country, with positive and negative aspects to its system. Of the Cuban friends we have made, many do express frustration with the system, but all would like to see a gradual, peaceful transition to a market economy. Cubans want to maintain their social programs as the country evolves, and avoid the chaos that occurred in the Soviet Union.

We suggest that you go to Cuba yourself or do some research before you trash a whole country. Your readers don't need more propaganda.

The Breners
Victoria, B.C., Canada / In Cuba

The Breners - Cuba might be a complex country, but human rights are simple. It wasn't until we sailed to Cuba that we realized how dreadful the situation was. The Cubans who didn't lose their lives trying to escape the island may be healthy, literate, and educated in the most narrow sense of the word, but they don't enjoy even the most basic human rights. Those who speak up for human rights end up dead or in prison. If that isn't slavery, we don't know what is.

As Canadians, you enjoy the freedom of speech, the right to vote, and the right to travel. In what way are Cubans less deserving of basic human rights than Canadians? In what other countries do you think the citizens don't deserve human rights?

Don't confuse economic systems with human rights. There's no reason Cubans shouldn't enjoy human rights, no matter if they have a communist, socialist, or capitalist economic system. The only reason Cuba doesn't have human rights is that they've got a meglomaniac dictator.


I am astounded by your insightful and honest take on Castro. So many people I have met try to make excuses for this tyrant. Keep up the good work.

Richard Sandvig
Northern California

Richard - When Castro first took over, we and lots of others were willing to cut him a lot of slack because Cuba was in such a mess. But that was decades ago. We're not big fans of U.S. policy toward Cuba, but Castro's record on the most basic human rights is totally indefensible.


Both my partner and I are qualified Deck Officers, and after a four-year cadetship, have experience at Third Mates.

Dale, my partner, is presently at sea, while I am doing a temporary clerical job in the United Kingdom - but I'm searching for joint employment for both of us at sea. Despite desperately wanting to work together at sea, so far we haven't had any luck. Although all our experience to date has been aboard commercial vessels - cargo, passenger, container, tankers, dredgers and such - and we don't have any experience on sailing yachts, we're very interested in the latter. Can you give us any information on jobs that might be available?

Jolene Sim and Dale Clark
United Kingdom

Jolene & Dale - With the tremendous increase in the number of large yachts in the last decade, a lot of relatively young couples have found themselves in the enviable position of being paid good salaries to work on or even run very nice and sometimes very large yachts. How do you get to where they are?

The traditional way has been working one's way up from entry level jobs. Usually this would involve showing up at a sailing center - Antigua is a good one for Brits - and walking the docks more or less begging for any kind of work, no matter how dreary or low the pay. Typically, this would mean cleaning or sanding. At the end of the work day, one would retire to the local watering holes to network for jobs and sailing opportunities. The quickest way to establish credibility and expand one's network would be through sailing experiences - and the quickest way to sailing experiences would be to always be willing and available to assist on short deliveries. Every delivery would mean a bond with a skipper and further entree into the professional ranks. By the end of the winter season, an ambitious person would have become friends with many skippers and countless crew, and therefore would know who was leaving what boat and which boat needed new crew for deliveries across the ocean. Hopefully, the person would have made a good enough impression to be offered a delivery crew position back to the Northeast United States, England, or the Med. Such trips would really seal bonds of friendship with your skipper as well as skippers of boats sailing in company, particularly after stops in places such as Bermuda, the Azores and Gibraltar to share laughs and war stories. By the time the delivery was over, the person should have established themselves enough to get some kind of decent paying job. From then on, getting ahead would be a matter of relentlessly demonstrating that one was more capable and responsible - watch the booze - than others.

The way to start and get ahead as professional crew today is sometimes more formal - particularly on large motoryachts. You take classes and get certified - sort of like you did in preparation for getting work on commercial vessels. Once you get enough certificates, you sign up with a crew agency in Florida or England, and hope for the best. Without a good resume - presumably with formal schooling in skills necessary for the running and maintenance of a yacht - a person isn't likely to stand out or get hired. Some positions, of course, are in more demand than others. Skilled engineers capable of running large motoryachts, for example, always have their choice of jobs. And there are rarely enough highly-trained and experienced chefs who can oversee a large galley at sea. On the other hand, there are always more applicants to be deckhands and stewardesses than there are good positions available. Once again, the important thing is to get on a boat and into the mix. Once in the 'game', you get a chance to shine and hear about the good jobs before they become available.

While in St. Maarten in January, we brought up the subject of becoming crew on a big yacht with Irish Dave, who has been running a 130-ft ketch all over the world for many years. Dave said that the competition - except for engineers - had gotten much tougher in recent times, as there are scores of talented young Kiwis, Aussies, and South Africans eager to sign on. One just has to be persistent, he said, and be on the scene when an opportunity arises. Of course, it never hurts if you're an attractive young woman. It also doesn't hurt if you're a couple in a stable relationship.

Working on a big yacht is not, however, as glamorous as it might appear at first glance. For one thing, no matter how nice some owners and charter guests might be, you are still just a member of the crew. And much of the work is monotonous. The first time you wipe down a 120-ft yacht with everybody on shore watching might be a thrill, but after doing it every day for three months, most 'chamois technicians' don't find it as exciting. You also have to resign yourself to giving up virtually all your freedom, for the boat moves at the whim of the owners or charterers. Nobody cares what you might want to do. And no matter how great a destination, there's a good chance you - particularly if you're low in the crew's pecking order - won't be going to shore during prime time. New Year's Eve in St. Barts, for instance, is a great party for everyone - except for the crews. They're in uniform serving drinks and cleaning up the messes made by guests dancing on the tables.


Your February issue featured a Changes from Joss, a junk-rigged Gazelle 42. From what I have read, this sort of rig is very conducive for shorthanded cruising. Do you know of anyone I might contact in the Bay Area that uses this kind of rig? I'd like to see such a rig in person and hopefully get a chance to try it out.

Henry Prokop

Henry - The only junk-rigged boat we know on the Bay that sails regularly is Whitefin, which regularly anchors off Sausalito. We don't know how to contact them, but perhaps they'll read this and leave a number.

The ancient junk rig enjoyed a bit of a revival in the early '60s after Blondie Hassler did his thing in the OSTAR with his 25-ft junk-rigged Folkboat. It took him about 48 days to make the crossing. Many junk rigged boats have made long crossings since, and more than a few have done circumnavigations.


I'm 6'5" tall and am always looking for boats with roomy interiors. I would point out, however, that comfort on a boat is related to much more than just headroom. If there is a knee to support a chainplate in the middle of the settee back, it's a real head-banger. If there are beams across the overhead or bolt heads protruding in your path, you will get bloody or bruised. Height is most important in the galley, since that is where you do your standing inside a boat. And headroom is less important in the head than is shoulder room. After all, you should always sit down to pee - especially if you are the one who cleans the head. For sleeping, it is the length of the berth that you sleep on, the width at the foot of the vee-berth, and the overhead room that make sleeping aboard pleasant or miserable.

Other areas of comfort that I think are extremely important, are the cockpit, the deck layout, and the overall design of the boat relative to its motion. In the cockpit, the angle of the combings and their height will determine whether or not it will be comfortable there. The width of the sidedecks and placement of deck hardware will also make it either a joy or a painful experience to go forward, and the ease of motion in a seaway will dramatically impact your comfort level no matter what kind of sailing you do.

Some of the boats that I've been aboard that meet some of these criteria include the 1968 Ericson 30-1, which has 6'4" headroom in the salon; the Catalina 30, which has a huge interior for a 30-footer; the Challenger 32, 35, and 40, all of which have huge interiors for their length, and the 40, which has 7' headroom and a sumptuous aft stateroom; and the Catalina 36, which has good headroom and a huge interior. Probably the boat that comes closest to my ideal is the Ericson 39, which has a huge cockpit with good backrests, flush decks with acres of work space, and an interior with 6'4" headroom all the way forward. It has a good motion at sea and a very high ballast to displacement ratio. It also has a sloping forefoot on its keel, and a skeg-hung rudder. Lastly, for a boat her size, she is priced reasonably, at $30,000 to $50,000.

You probably wonder what kind of boat I have. She's a Columbia 36. She has much of what I look for and was very affordable. I have spent the last six years transforming her from a tired and neglected oldie to a sparkling and updated goodie - and I'm happy with my choice. If I were to consider long range cruising with my wife and two kids, I would love to do it in the Ericson. But for local Bay and ocean work, or a cruise to Baja, I wouldn't hesitate to take a Columbia 36 that was in good condition.

Boogiewacket, Columbia 36
San Francisco

John - Thanks for your opinions. Some boats are designed better than others. For example, you'd think the cockpit and sidedecks of the Lagoon 82 catmaran would be like the wide open spaces. But no, the cockpit was small and made to seem even smaller by being chopped up, and the side decks were perfect for rolling ankles. How could the 82 be so bad in ways the Lagoon 55 is so good?

As for the Ericson 39, we trust that you're following the adventures of the Richmond-based Maverick, which has now completed half a circumnavigation. See this month's Changes.

When it comes to volume to length and headroom to length, the Columbia 34 MK II has to rank near the top of the list. It's gigantic inside. While they weren't the most rugged boats ever built, Roy Wessbecher bought one for $20,000 and had a marvelous time sailing her around the world over the course of many years.


You had a great article a while back on flags and boats, including information on proper sizes and where to find them. I can't find the article and wonder if you could help?

David Schiff

David - It appeared in our October 2001 Sightings section, page 108. There's nothing that makes a boat underway look quite so good as an ensign blowing in the breeze.


In the February Letters, there was a letter about requiring ladders on all new docks for those who can't get out without help. I would surely be one such person, and perhaps such ladders would help, but this smacks of all those who think that someone else should save them from their own predicaments.

I stepped off a dock a few years ago at a large San Francisco marina as a result of not paying attention. I had my white cane firmly grasped in my right hand and just didn't use it. Duh! Luckily, I stepped off into an empty slip, so there was nothing to hit. And, it was a fairly warm day.

Although there were folks about who helped me out eventually, my wife was there immediately. But our slightly overweight and under-exercised selves weren't able to get me back up without mechanical help. So before stronger help arrived, we were planning ways to get me back out. I think it would have been easy to move to the side of the club's Ericson 27, then have my wife grab a handy line and rig it from a deck cleat to a winch. This would have formed an easily adjustable hanging step, onto which I'm sure I could have put a foot. Even someone's stern cleat, with extra line hanging about loose could be a point of attachment for a simple rope step. No, I didn't jump back in and try doing it this way because my wife would have killed me. But I was tempted.

We're sailors, for Poseidon's sake! We've got boats, lines, life vests and what not all over the place. We should think first of how to solve our own problems, not of how to demand someone else spend someone else's money to help us. And we should, of course, also learn to be comfortable in the water - at least the calm waters of a harbor. In fact, this should be required of anyone who gets on a boat much.

I'm sure that my opinions will get a rise out of someone. But I say this as a flaming liberal, that government can't do everything for us - and shouldn't be expected to.

On the other hand, the problems of getting someone who is injured or disabled out of the water - whether onto a boat or dock - is a really difficult one and a widely accepted solution still hasn't been found. There are lots of crazy gadgets on the market, but strong backs still seem to be the usual method.

P.S. I can't sail now because of vertigo, but I'm still a member of BAADs.

Tom Fowle

Tom - We salute your inclination toward self-sufficiency, but we think dock ladders are a simple, effective, and inexpensive solution to a legitimate problem - particularly in areas where the air and water are so cold that people usually wear heavy clothing.


In the February Letters, Steve Wilson's letter warns boatowners about accidentally flooding an Atomic 4 engine with sea water. Well, I had an identical experience with my 50 hp Perkins 4-107 diesel for similar reasons, and it resulted in big bucks damage for the exact same reasons. It looks like this can happen to any engine.

I have been reading Latitude for close to 20 years, and I have watched the Wanderer mellow over the years. Whatever rewards you are getting because of the success of the magazine, you earned it, the hard way. I swallowed the anchor two years ago after 40+ years of owning boats on both coasts. I now depend on Latitude to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. Super rag!

Bob Lee
Rancho Palos Verdes


"Say, if 'Lectronic Latitude could get its nearly 4,000 unique visitors a day to each pony up $20 for a subscription . . . ", is what you mused in a recent 'Lectronic. If so:

· You'd collect $80,000 per year and have a huge headache from the billing. It would be enough to fairly compensate you, the webmasterguy, the credit card company, the hosting place, etc.

· You'd veer suspiciously off the 'Information wants to be free' vibe that you do so well.

· You'd also never be able to take a day off because we'd all be emailing complaints if we paid and our daily bread did not arrive.

That's why the free magazine model works so well, and why we are all thankful that you showed us all how to do it the right way.

Dave Gendell
SpinSheet Magazine
Annapolis, Maryland

Dave - Thanks for the kind words. Actually, most people only check into 'Lectronic every couple of days, so we have several times that many 'subscribers'. We're still not going to charge for it. We do, however, gladly accept advertising.


In a recent 'Lectronic Latitude, you discussed's intention to charge users to access their site, and ended with, "Say, if 'Lectronic Latitude could get its nearly 4,000 unique visitors a day to each pony up $20 bucks for a subscription . . ." I know you'd never do it. And I don't want you to do it. But if you did, I'd happily sign up. I subscribe to eight magazines and two daily newspapers, but Latitude 38 is the only subscription I truly look forward to every month. Equally, skimming through 'Lectronic Latitude is a great way to get a break from the drudgery of work each day. It is important enough to me that I would gladly pay to keep 'Lectronic Latitude alive, if it ever came to that.

Bill Sewall
Tampa Bay

Bill - Thanks for the kind words. 'Never say never', of course, but we can't imagine ever charging for 'Lectronic.

We've always liked for its excellent sailing news and occasionally terrific photos - but three things nag us about the site. First, it takes forever to download. Second, they offer way too much information, more than any human could possibly want. (Indeed, 'Lectronic readers frequently say one of the things they enjoy most is its brevity - "like five minutes of sailing porn every day.") Finally, we have a gloomy suspicion that's ambitious business is no more seaworthy than - which ended up losing $550 million - and we don't want them to go away. Nonetheless, we wish them good luck.


The California Association of Harbor Masters & Port Captains (CAHMPC) has gotten a bill (SB 2057 - O'Connell) introduced which would help state and local prosecution of hoax distress calls. There is no existing state law that addresses such marine related hoaxes, as it's only covered by federal law. I would appreciate it if Latitude readers could send letters in support of this legislation to State Senator Jack O'Connell, State Capital, Room 5035, Sacramento, CA. 95814.

I also understand that you recently published an article on hoax distress calls. May we have permission to republish the article?

Jay Elder
Board of Directors, CAHMPC
Harbor Master, Port San Luis Harbor District

Jay - You have our permission to reprint the article. Good luck with the legislation.


I just transferred down to California from the Seattle area, and am curious about the legal definition of a liveaboard - as in living aboard full time. I've heard that you must apply for a liveaboard permit, and would like to know what the criteria is, and how to go about doing it. Can one liveaboard in the summer months only? Are the number of nights spent on the boat limited?

Northern California

Mike - The thing you need to remember is that a person who wants to liveaboard is going to be subject to both the marina's rules and the rules of any government agency with jurisdiction.

For instance, the BCDC or Bay Conservation and Development Commission - which has jurisdiction over many of the boats in Northern California - requires that marinas wanting liveaboards meet certain criteria and obtain permits. Some marinas did this and have up to 10% legal liveaboards. Many of them also have 'sneakaboards' - illegal liveaboards - although the management may or may not know about all of them. In addition, there are many marinas that haven't applied for permits to have legal liveaboards - usually because they objected to the expense and the micro-management of the BCDC. In most cases, this hasn't prevented a certain percentage of 'sneakaboards' from taking hold.

Last fall, Will Travis, Executive Director of the BCDC, shocked Latitude when he told us that as long as a boatowner has another address, he or she can stay aboard their boat all they want and the BCDC won't consider them to be liveaboards. This is a monumental change, because since anybody can get another address, it means for all practical purposes the BCDC doesn't consider anyone to be a liveaboard. It's likely this change in thinking was brought about in part by the incredible housing shortage in the Bay Area.

Before you start whooping and hollering for joy, remember that other government agencies - such as counties, municipalities and individual marinas - can have a more restrictive set of rules for their tenants. For example, individual marinas are under no obligation to allow any liveaboards. And the unfortunate reality is that most marinas currently have as many liveaboards and sneakaboards as they want. Call up any marina and ask for a berth, for example, and invariably the first question you'll be asked is whether you're going to liveaboard or not. If you say you want to liveaboard, you'll almost certainly be told they don't have room for you.

So how can you become a liveaboard? We can't guarantee this will work, and you'll never have the security of a legal liveaboard, but here's one strategy: First, place your boat in a marina while you live somewhere else. For the next six to 18 months, become a model tenant by paying your bills on time, keeping your boat in good condition, not having a lot of junk on the dock, not having pets that crap on the docks and other peoples' boats, and not hogging the best parking spaces. It doesn't hurt to frequently use your boat as a boat, either. Then gradually start spending more and more time aboard your boat until you're living aboard. Most marina managements will realize that you're living aboard, but if you frequently use your boat as a boat, if you're a credit to the marina, and if you make the management's life easier, they might overlook it.

If you can't wait a year, you simply live on your boat in such a manner that it can't be detected. Fly under the radar, as it were. Depending on the marina, this can be easy or difficult. Whatever you do, don't say you're not going to live on your boat and then obviously do so. That's an insult to the management and destroys your credibility.

The final liveaboard option is to anchor-out in Richardson Bay. The legality of this has always been controversial, but thanks to the comments last fall of John Burton, the powerful Speaker Pro Tem of the California State Senate, Richardson Bay anchor-outs are currently sacred cows. How long this will last is unclear, however, as the defeat of Prop 45 means that Burton is about to be term-limited out.

Things are always changing, however, and there's potentially bad news on the horizon for liveaboards as explained in an earlier letter.


Thank you for your coverage of liveaboard issues.

I have heard there might be a Liveaboard Association for California. If so, I'd like to know how to sign up. If not, I'd like to form such an association.

I believe that it's essential that there be a voice to articulate the needs and concerns of liveaboards to the public and government agencies. The erosion of civil liberties and personal freedoms is not unique to boating. Without some type of organization, this erosion will continue unchecked.

Liveaboards can and do make a positive impact on the marine community, and are responsible for considerable government revenues. If an organization compiled that data, they could use it to create a voice on behalf of liveaboard interests. I want to be part of it.

John Harvan
San Rafael

John - There is no such association, and there are several reasons why creating an effective one would be difficult. First of all, liveaboards represent a nearly infinitesimal segment of the population, which means they'll never be much of a political force, even locally. Secondly, probably 10 times as many people liveaboard illegally as do legally, and the last thing they want is anybody drawing attention to their illegal status. Thirdly, creating an organization that can effectively battle with government agencies such as the Attorney General's Office, the State Lands Commission, the BCDC, and also wage long court battles will require lots of money. Where is that money going to come from?

If you're tiny and you want to battle the big guys head on, you're at a tremendous disadvantage. On the other hand, if the big guys are so busy fighting major battles with other big guys, they're really not going to have much time and energy to waste on the tiny guys. In such a situation, it's good to be tiny. In other words, we recommend flying beneath the radar rather than trying to change the course of government behemoths.


This is one 'idiot' coming to the defense of another "idiot" - the editor of Latitude - in response to Darius Kligord's January letter.

I don't think either Latitude or I would believe in an across-the-board condemnation of the BCDC (Bay Conservation and Development Commission), but, about 10 years ago the Commission - or more accurately, the Staff of the Commission - went nuts in their campaign against liveaboards. I know, because I have lived aboard since 1978, mostly in Redwood City, raised kids onboard, and now get regular summer visits from my granddaughter. I am also a lawyer. I was the guy at many of the hearings on the public side wearing a three-piece suit.

I do not have a copy of the relevant BCDC staff report in front of me, but those of us who were concerned at the time and took the time to read it were treated to such gems as: "people ought to live on land" - which is one direct quote etched in my brains. It was also claimed that liveaboards make for unsightly and even dangerous marinas. I'm not sure how they can call them unsightly, when art classes and photographers are regulars at Pete's Harbor. And I'm told that many other marinas around the Bay are considered sources of artistic inspiration. In addition, the number of stories of absent owner's boats being saved from sinking by a liveaboard neighbor are so common they have almost become a cliche.

Yes, there are - and were - obnoxious, messy liveaboards, just as you'll find messy and obnoxious types in any living situation.

It was the then-BCDC staff's blatant power-grab and intellectual dishonesty - "boats are 'Bay fill'", another gem, - that were particularly disconcerting. Anyway, I think Latitude has done a great job - even with an "idiot" at the helm.

Ted Holland
Santa Cruz

Ted - Thanks for your support. As we've written many times, we and the BCDC have the same general goals, so we support much of what they do. Where we have the biggest problem is when they get heavy-handed in the areas - specifically recreational boating - where their staff and commissioners have little knowledge or experience.


I have been trying to get two books written by Capt. John Raines - Cruising Ports: Florida To California Via Panama and Passagemaking Handbook: A Guide For Delivery Skippers And Boat Owners. The publisher is Point Loma Publishing Company, but their San Diego number is disconnected. Any knowledge of this company?

Steve Valdez
El Paso, Texas

Steve - Capt. Raines is a regular contributor to The Log newspaper and Sea magazine, and along with his wife Patricia, is the coauthor of the Mexico Boating Guide. They are Point Loma Publishing and can be reached at (888) 302-2628.


It seems that almost everybody that went in the Ha-Ha last year had very lucrative pasts, which enabled them to acquire very nice and expensive yachts, full of all the electronic and other gear that makes voyaging so much easier and more comfortable. But expensive boats loaded with gear aren't a necessity for cruising.

When we finally decided to buy a boat to go cruising, we had to sell our house, so we did. After much searching for something that we could afford, we finally purchased a 35-ft gaff-headed Seagoer yawl. Thirty-three years old, she had 2" planking and had 2"x4" ribs, all galvanized fastened. The engine was an old 6 cylinder gas model, and she had a two-burner stove, an ice box, and kerosene lamps. We sailed her to Catalina and Santa Barbara Island for practice. Then we created a homemade anchor windlass, bought a $100 genoa, and increased the boat's storage.

Our family consisted of myself, my wife Marci, son Jeff, 17, and daughters Linda, 15, and Teri, 13. We only had four berths down below, but there was an old stretcher we put down for Linda at night in the sitting headroom doghouse. At night, it would fold up to the overhead.

For navigation, we had a compass, fathometer, portable direction finder, and a portable radio for timeticks. We also bought an old sextant for $35, and three charts - one of the whole Pacific, one of the Hawaiian Islands, and one of the islands around Tahiti. We had no sheet or halyard winches, no log, and no watermaker. We would bathe with seawater and Vel soap, then wet a washrag with fresh water to get the salt off.

Many people told us about all the changes we should make to the boat and all the stuff we needed to buy. But if we had done that, we couldn't have afforded it. Our plan was to sail to Australia, but we had such a great time in the islands around Tahiti that we stayed there for seven months. The kids' teachers back home said their adventure would be more educational than extension classes, so they didn't have any formal schooling. But I did make a long pole with a small scoop net on the end, and we spent many hours scooping up various samples that went into glass vials of preservatives. Learning a foreign language, helping with the math needed for celestial, and other mental work kept them in good stead when they returned to school.

At the time, there were a total of seven other cruising boats at Papeete. All of them were wood, and their average length was about 34 feet. If you have little knowledge about boats, a good marine surveyor and a motor survey will help to get you into something safe. Then it's up to you to learn the rest.

Bill Taylor
Brookings, Oregon

Bill - It was a little hard to read your handwriting, so we hope we got your name right. Great letter! We imagine it was the trip of the lifetime for your entire family. You didn't mention the year. We're guessing it must have been about 1960.


Maybe we came to Mexico with the wrong attitude. It was country number 56 in our circumnavigation, and the last. We plan to finish in San Diego in April, and sell Dolphin Spirit. Our mood was definitely not upbeat. On the other hand, we had spent a great deal of time in countries far poorer and less developed than Mexico, and had really enjoyed ourselves. Based on what we had read, we were really looking forward to a terrific time for our grand finale.

Maybe we saw only the worst of Mexico. We entered from Costa Rica - had a great time there - and spent two months working our way north up the coast from Huatulco to Puerto Vallarta. It wasn't the fact that we motored for most of the time, as we had done that for two years in the Mediterranean. In the accolades cruisers give to Mexico, we don't recall reading that most of the anchorages are rolly. We found them so, but that wasn't it either.

Maybe it was the average scenery and beaches. Some were pretty, none memorable. The Sea of Cortez may be the place that provides the wonderful vistas, but we haven't been there yet. Taking a dinghy ashore in many places was a thrill ride, as we were accustomed to calm landings in most of the other countries we visited. It's a great pity that the palapas and restaurants surrounding every anchorage reminded us of the old song refrain, "all made out of ticky-tacky and all look just the same." We didn't have bad food, or receive bad service, or anchor in an ugly spot, anywhere. It was just that we never found a place where we wanted to come back in the future - or even the next day.

Maybe it was the attitude of the cruisers, who were predominantly from the west coast of the United States - my wife is American - and Canada. They appeared to have formed into groups, and had little time for others. There were lots of people who lived on boats, but only a few cruisers. Individually we met many nice people, but we had to always make the first advance, and then make the running. We should have expected it, as we had found in the South Pacific that it took a few islands before Mexico-itus was shaken off and the people became real cruisers.

We also found the morning nets to be overly formal and paternalistic/maternalistic. Perhaps the call one morning for listeners to attend a meeting to protest a change in parking regulations in Puerto Vallarta gives some indication that cruising is not high on all cruisers' priority lists. However, the Mexico nets don't come close to the greatest clique-net of all, that in Chagauramas, Trinidad, or its clone in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.

Maybe it was the regulations. We had checked in and out of more than 50 countries, all unique, avoiding problems with a policy of 'smile and comply'. Mexico was no different, but we do admit that the two days it took us to check into Huatulco did strain the smile a little. Then the subsequent four hours to check-in, and four hours to checkout, at every port with a port captain, was somewhat disconcerting. It's our philosophy - shared by most long-distance cruisers - that we are guests in a country. If we don't like the rules, we don't complain; we live with them, or we leave. Here, we simply changed our plans, stayed longer in some places, and avoided others. A pity, but not a big deal - although we would have liked to see some of the places we missed.

Maybe it was the lack of opportunity to interact with Mexicans in a non-tourist environment. Certainly this isn't unique to Mexico, as they seem to have learned well from all the Caribbean islands. We remember with nostalgia whole villages in Indonesia lining up for an opportunity to touch our son Ryan, markets which had never seen a typical tourist and only the occasional cruiser or backpacker. We remember Tuamotu pearl farmers who opened their houses and hearts to us, the Fijian village that adopted us, and many other similar experiences. Perhaps we expected too much from Mexico.

Maybe it was the constant rip-offs and nickel and diming. If a restaurant bill comes to 115 pesos and we paid 150 pesos, we'd only get 30 in change. We were going to leave a tip that would have included the missing five pesos, but would have liked to have the option. A major clothing shop had no change, but immediately found it when we asked for our money back. We bought a scoop of ice cream for $1.20 U.S. - and they say they don't have correct change? We'd had similar problems in other countries, of course, but never with the constancy and attitude of Mexico.

Maybe it was the cost of everything, which seems equal to U.S. prices - and more in many cases. Most of the Mediterranean countries - with the exception of France - were much cheaper, with higher quality. Spain, for example, had much better food, it was considerably more inexpensive, and they had change. Mexican rental cars were $80/day U.S. - twice what we paid in Spain.

Maybe we are simply closet complainers, and this is our last chance to get out. Whatever the reason, we are sad that, while we have enjoyed ourselves in Mexico, we have not had the great time we expected.

For the record, we left Los Angeles in March 1996, and have travelled some 40,000 miles. We never once sustained winds in excess of more than 35 knots, partly because I am a devout coward. That didn't stop us from being hit by lightning in the San Blas Islands, Panama, last November. Our favorite places? Tonga, Fiji, Indonesia, the Red Sea, Turkey, and Lanzarotte Island (Canaries). The worst places? The Caribbean - Martinique to Trinidad - because the reality didn't live up to our expectations. Best crossing? The Indian Ocean from Maldives to Yemen - five successive 180+ mile days under blue skies with calm seas. Worst crossing? Gibraltar to the Canaries.

It has been a wonderful six years, made more special because Ryan, now 14, was along for the entire experience. His presence opened so many doors, and allowed us to see places and people in ways we would never have dreamed of. I'm Australian, my wife Carole is American; Ryan has two passports and can't make up his mind.

Laurie Pane
Dolphin Spirit, Mason 53
Brisbane, Australia / Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Readers - We bumped into Laurie at the Banderas Bay Regatta, and even took him with us on the third race. During this time, he worried that his letter might sound "too negative". We told him he should say what he felt.

Frankly, we think Laurie's biggest problem is entering Mexico from the south - which is like starting a high school in the 12th grade when everybody else has known each other for years. Virtually everybody on the West Coast enters Mexico from the north, during which time they've collected friends all along the coast. Many of them do the Ha-Ha, which immediately means they are friends with a huge community. By the time a cruiser has been in Mexico long enough to get to Puerto Vallarta, he/she has countless friends - oftentimes very close friends. Throw in all the others who have been in Mexico for two to 10 years, and no wonder it might seem clique ridden. In addition, a boat going north is going against the grain of the majority of the cruising fleet, so that makes it a little more difficult to make friends, too. Be that as it may, there is no country in the world where cruisers socialize as heavily as in Mexico.

Laurie says that Mexico has average scenery and beaches. He's right about that. There's some terrific stuff in the Sea of Cortez, but it can't compare with Hawaii, the San Blas Islands, many parts of the Caribbean, the Azores, many parts of the Med, the Red Sea, Thailand, Fiji, and many other places in the world. We're not saying this to slight Mexico, it's simply true. In addition, the water on the west coast of Mexico is anything but clear. Wait until you get to Fiji - you've never seen such clarity! Nonetheless, there are great places in Mexico. Banderas Bay is a world class gem, with great sailing winds, magnificent sea life not to be found anywhere else, and much more. Z-town is a another gem, but you've got to take the time to see that it has more than lovely beaches. Cruisers love Tenacatita Bay, in part because of all the other cruisers there.

Ticky-tacky palapa restaurants? The more touristy an area, the more ticky-tacky they are going to be. The best - and least expensive - places to eat in Mexico are where the Mexicans eat. You have to look, but there is delicious food to be enjoyed. And let's not forget Mexico's fabulous mercados.

The morning nets in Mexico are like local morning news shows in the United States, and because so many cruisers in Mexico stay in the same place for long periods of time, they tend to include non-marine news. If they didn't serve a function, nobody would listen to them. For what it's worth, the nets are not our cup of tea, and we haven't listened to any for many years. And nobody is required to listen to them.

Clearing procedures are a disaster in Mexico. We all know that.

There are an unlimited number of opportunities to interact with Mexicans on a non-tourist basis. Indeed, cruisers will tell you that the best thing Mexico has to offer is wonderfully warm and friendly people. John Decker of Windwalker came into our office last month and reported that he and his wife would be spending another year in Mexico, primarily because of the love and appreciation they developed for Mexicans in the last year. To better relate, they attended an intensive Spanish language class, which they said was fabulous, and made their interactions all the more satisfying.

Mexico is only expensive if you berth in marinas and dine and drink in tourist restaurants. We've got proof. Guy and Deborah Bunting of the Morrelli & Melvin 46 Elan gave us copies of their entire Mexico expenses for 2001. Their total expenditures - including medical insurance, storage back home, administrative stuff, trips back home, new batteries, windsurf gear, car insurance in the U.S. and Mexico, medical expenses - the whole works - came to $11,194 for the two of them. For August to November, they averaged just $201 a month! Lest anyone get the wrong idea, they lead tremendously active cruising lives, and their boat has perhaps the most beautifully finished and elegantly decorated interior in Mexico.

We haven't been to 56 countries, but we've been to many of the most popular cruising countries in the world. They are all different, and have very different cruising cultures. In some places, the cruisers are very active and don't socialize very much. In others, they hardly move and socialize endlessly. Some people prefer one to the other. In any event, Mexico is widely considered - even by those who have circumnavigated - to be one of the great cruising countries in the world. There are many reasons - fabulous people; nearly unlimited amounts and variety of cruising grounds; opportunities to socialize like there is no tomorrow and endless opportunities to cruise by oneself; incredible sea life; and the opportunity to cruise on an extremely small budget. The more people cruise Mexico, the more they love it.

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

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