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THE FEMALE CREW WAS GREAT
I've been sailing for over 30 years - mostly on San Francisco Bay and off Santa Cruz - and have been a loyal reader of Latitude for more than 20 years. Not long ago my wife and I went to Maui on a vacation/honeymoon, and sailed on the Santa Cruz 50 charterboat Scotch Mist II, which is based out of slip #2 at Lahaina. The captain of Scotch Mist is a young woman named Christina, and the First Mate is Wendy. For $35 each, my wife and I enjoyed two hours of great, fast sailing. We highly recommend it for everyone who vacations on Maui.
We particularly enjoyed watching the young women handle the boat. As for Christina and Wendy, they said they wanted to pass along a 'thank you' to Bill Lee for designing and building such a fine sailing boat. Christina, by the way, grew up in Northern California sailing Lasers on the Bay.
I'm familiar with SC 50s, as almost 20 years ago my uncle Stew bought Octavia from Bill. My cousin Shep is now the owner. In fact, he's sailing in the West Marine Pacific Cup defending his title from the previous event. We're proud of him and wish him - and all the other entrants - good luck. Shep, my brother John, and I all grew up sailing out of Watsonville, and did a lot of Santa Cruz Wet Wednesday night races, which are a lot of fun.
We also read Latitude every month, and can't wait to get the next issue. Thanks for all the fun stuff you gather from all over the world. You guys are a big motivation for all of us sailors. But we just wanted to pass along the Maui story because it's something everybody who visits the islands should experience. Go for it!
Rob Martinelli and Family
Some months ago in Changes, I read that someone was complaining about the government in Hawaii having a negative attitude toward sailors. The writer said he would come back and detail what he meant, but to my knowledge never did. I've fallen in love with Oahu, and planned to sail there when my retirement commences in a couple of years. Before I commit, I would like to learn about what I would be facing there as a sailor, as I wouldn't like to see my dreams turn into hell. Please advise.
Anthony - While Hawaiians have always had a great affinity for the ocean, recreational sailing has never been their thing. As a result, there has never been much enthusiasm for providing or improving facilities that might be mostly used by haoles. If you need evidence, visit the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu, the Island's largest. Despite being blessed by one of the great marina locations in the world, what should be a tropical showplace is long on pavement and very short on charm. Nor has the Ala Wai ever been particularly mariner friendly - except with extremely low slip fees, which ironically have been a major deterrent to new and young sailors. The good news is that things have gotten so bad that the state has been making noises about turning it over to a private operator. We'll be in Hawaii as this issue goes to print, so we'll try to pull up to speed on the subject.
Something else you might want to consider is that Hawaii doesn't have a lot to offer in terms of casual cruising. You can have a lot of fun in the protected waters in the lee of Honolulu and Kaneohe Bay, but it's a very small area. Once beyond those protected waters, you have to be prepared for boisterous sailing. But if you do go to the considerable effort of sailing to Maui, for example, don't expect to find many anchorages or much of a welcome.
If we were you, we'd fly over to Oahu
to discuss your dreams and aspirations with the folks at the
Hawaii, Waikiki, and Kaneohe Yacht Clubs. They're great folks
who will be happy to fill you in. Be sure to also stop at the
new Ko Olina Marina at the tip of Oahu, the nicest and most modern
facility in Hawaii. Mahalo.
About that tugboat worker 'Plumb Bob', who wrote in last month. His info on operations and types of tugs was interesting, but like most tug workers I have encountered, Bob seems a little full of himself. Maybe they confuse horsepower with personal power.
Trust me when I say I always give tugs lots of room. Not because I "already have a strike or two against me," but because tugs have been very aggressive with me in the past - despite my efforts to keep my distance. These instances have all occurred in L.A. Harbor, not up here in Channel Islands. The work boats around Channel Islands Harbor that serve the oil industry follow a course that is straight as an arrow and are easily avoided. They only deviate to avoid careless mariners.
Bob, like many others, is confused about what the most dangerous jobs are. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the most dangerous jobs are as follows: 1) Truck driver; 2) Farm worker; 3) Sales supervisor/proprietor; 4) Construction worker; 5) Police detective; 6) Airplane pilot; 7) Security guard; 8) Taxi driver; 9) Timber cutter; 10) Cashier; 11) Fisherman; 12) Metalworker; 13) Roofer; and 14) Firefighter. For a more complete list, check out www.comebackalive.com/df/dngrjobs.htm to get the facts.
When I left my job as a supermarket checker to become a high school physics teacher, people thought I was so brave and asked if I was going to get a bulletproof vest. When I tried to explain that teaching was much safer than being a supermarket checker, they didn't seem to believe me.
Why do I care about dangerous jobs? Because I think people should appreciate the risks these people take daily, and as a science teacher, I try to teach people to be a little more rational about life's risks. People think nothing of spending hours a day on the freeway, but are scared to death of sailing out of sight of land. Go figure!
I looooovvve your mag!
How can one best dispose of old thoroughly trashed dacron, nylon and Mylar sails? Is there any alternative to the landfill?
Larry - That's a great question - to
which we don't have even a bad answer. Can anybody help?
I'm the owner of an Islander 24, affectionately known as the Sea Pig, which I keep in the Alameda Marina. Here's my question: What do people do with boats that have outlived their useful lives? Do they pay to have them 'salvaged'? Or do they just abandon them in marinas?
At age 37, the Sea Pig is healthy and happy, but her time will come. Then what happens to her? Or more accurately, what are the options for her? I know there are donation services, but surely many boats could not qualify as useful due to various problems.
P.S. Latitude is one of those special, perfect things in life. Thank you for all your great work.
Barrett - Latitude "perfect"? Please!
Remember 'planned obsolescence'? Apparently,
the manufacturers of fiberglass boats didn't get the message.
The first glass boats - built in the late '50s - are still going
strong. If they were properly built, they'll last another 50
years. If you insist on looking into ultimate options, you could
cut your relatively small boat - we think a chain saw is the
preferred tool - into small pieces and take them to a landfill.
This is often what's done with boats that have been fatally wrecked
on reefs or destroyed in hurricanes. Save the lead, however,
because it's valuable. The other option would be to sail your
old boat over to the John Burton Anchorage on Richardson Bay,
where any number of people - many of them drunk and/or drugged
- will gladly take it for a residence.
We can hardly believe that in just a few months we will be drinking an anniversary toast to the Ha-Ha 2000. It's been an amazing two years for us. After about eight months of threatened divorce - or even worse, murderous thoughts - we finally have managed to sail on a fairly even keel. (Our cruising tip #1 is not to start a circumnavigation after only living aboard for two days!) We still have loud 'discussions', but that's normal for us.
Right now, we are at anchor off Malolo Lai Lai, home of the Musket Cove YC. When we used to read and dream about heading out, the name Musket Cove YC stood out as sounding so exotically adventurous. Long ago we decided that even though we had never joined anything, we would be members of this club. We joined last season on the way to New Zealand. We're back here again and are playing Philo Hayward's CD Kid Heart, which the Poobah passed out for free during the Ha-Ha, so naturally we thought of that event. We hope you read this Philo, because we would both like to thank you for hours of immense listening pleasure.
We live a weird and simple existence on our floating, mobile habitat, and we heartily recommend it to others. When we say simple, we mean it. We carry 40 gallons of water, 40 gallons of fuel, and don't use our refrigeration. The insulation stinks on our refrig, so maybe we'll get it fixed in Oz. Then again, why would we do that?
The world is a beautiful place, and it's great being a citizen of it. As Piri on Rarotonga says, "Peace, love, and harmony." Many thanks Latitude for inspiring us. If it weren't for you, we probably wouldn't be out here.
Gene and Sue Osier
Gene & Sue - Are you insinuating
that there's more to life than work and sitting in traffic?
I just moved to New York after 10 years in San Francisco, and still manage to get a copy of your rag every month. It is the best.
First out of the gate, I should say I am not an American, but a Frenchman. Many times, in the reports by cruisers in your paper, there are mentions of cruisers giving away pens, T-shirts, and books to locals in foreign lands. I am definitively against that. In so doing, you are destroying cultures you so hopelessly look for. The only way those people are going to maintain their identity, develop their economy, and stay in their country is by maintaining balance.
If you give money for free, or the equivalent of a day's work for free, not only do you supply unfair competition to whatever entrepreneur in that country who is trying to supply something for a living, but you also give a disincentive to everyone to work in order to buy what you supply for free. There is nothing more sad to me than seeing young kids in remote places wearing Nike T-shirts that had been given to them free - probably by well-minded charities or individuals, thinking they were helping. They were not helping, but accelerating the destruction. This naive compassion is probably coming from a feeling of superiority and basic paternalism, somehow an underlying racism.
It actually increases the divide, mainly in terms of perception of differences. The father who weaves, works the field, or fishes for a living, is not going to feel good if his son is earning 10 times more by being involved with tourists. At some stage, nobody will weave, cultivate, or fish, and the dependence will be total. I always have this image of these tourists throwing coins and the kids fighting on the ground to pick them up while the camcorder is filming. Be a spectator, do not intervene.
Pascal - We're familiar with the problem. While in Cuba, we once tipped the band $5 - which was more than a doctor made in a week. Was that a good or a bad thing? We still don't know.
On a strictly intellectual level, the concept of nonintervention has some appeal - but not much. For example, if we cruise to a Third World country and come across a hungry young girl, are you suggesting that we let her starve to death in the belief that it will preserve the culture of her native country? We hope not.
We're all for people being self-sufficient, but the problem is that the First World - and particularly the United States - has created such an intellectual and economic juggernaut that the Third World long ago lost any hope of ever being able to compete. Without our tremendous aid these countries/cultures wouldn't grow stronger, they'd cease to exist.
The gap between the First and Third Worlds is a genuine problem. We wish we could offer a solution.
TRAGEDY OR EVOLUTION
I have a two-part response to your Manifestly Unsafe piece in Sightings about a man who died while trying to bring a small boat across the Bay which was overloaded with anchor chain:
1) The death of a person caused by his own stupidity/foolishness is only a tragedy to those related by family or emotion. To the world it's just evolution - survival of the fittest.
2) God forbid we allow any government agency to start defining what is, or is not, a 'safe vessel'. How long until the cost of any 'safe vessel' exceeds the means of all but the wealthiest 1% of Americans? My guess would be about five years. I'm sure my 1974 Coronado 35 Procrastinator - I still haven't painted the name on her transom after 5.5 years - would be considered unsafe because she is too old!
Eric - For many years there have been government safety standards for cars, planes, and yes, boats. Furthermore, the Coast Guard is specifically empowered to prevent voyages that they deem to be 'manifestly unsafe' - such as trying to sail an El Toro to Hawaii. While we think the government is often overprotective, we think the general concept is wise. After all, it's a complicated world, and even the most intelligent people can't be well enough versed on everything to be able to make good judgements about what's safe and what's not. A combination of government and industry should - and usually does - do that job for us.
As for your Coronado 35, if she's been
half-decently maintained, she's in the prime of her life. A Columbia
34 - a boat that shares the same hull - recently completed a
long circumnavigation. Like the Islander 24 mentioned above,
she's going to last longer than you or us, so there would be
no reason for the government to force her out of service.
I'm writing in response to the July Letter by Robert S. Krangle, Ph.D., who among other things, advocated carrying guns on boats.
What are you doing in Albuquerque, New Mexico? You think and write like a minor government functionary - and should relocate to Washington DC immediately! While using an EPIRB to fend off a pirate attack may not be effective, your claim that "the only thing that an EPIRB is going to do is bring some apathetic bureaucrat to the spot where you were last seen alive" rancors me to no end.
When my boat sank on April 30, 2000, some 120 miles north of Cartagena, Colombia, dozens of government officials that I don't know and don't know me, responded to my EPIRB signal. They responded to "the spot where you (I was) were last seen alive" and continued to search until they located me in 12 to 15 foot seas. My two crewmates, our families, and I will be forever grateful to the U.S. Coast Guard and the Rescue Coordination Center for putting their full resources to use to find us. They'd probably even come out to find you, Dr. Krangle.
As for your solution that Mexico, Central America, and other poor countries be petitioned to allow American yachties to carry weapons on their vessels to stop pirates, do you really think the boating/yachting world adds much to the economies of these countries? What do you think Mexico brings in annually from hotel-based tourists compared to vessel-based tourists? I'd be surprised if boat-based tourists accounted for even 1% of Mexico's tourist economy. Perhaps the percentages are a little higher in island nations, but probably not much.
How do you think the United States would react to having a "visiting foreign vessel clause" to allow foreign vessels to enter weapons into the U.S.? You think we'd allow a foreign vessel to sail up the Potomac River to within two miles of the Capital with weapons on board? I don't think so. Do you think the average cruiser would be safer with handguns, shotguns, or rifles on board? Are those weapons effective against shoulder held rockets as used by pirates in Southeast Asia? Again, I don't think so.
You are contemplating a nonprofit organization for self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. What the world doesn't need is another nonprofit organization to help protect us from ourselves. Also, I'm sure the directors and officers of any yacht club that contemplated funding your proposed nonprofit organization would be hung from the nearest yard by the membership.
Do me a favor, scrap your plan to impose your values on other countries, go sailing and get some salt air in your lungs, and leave the other nations of the world free for reasonable cruisers to sail at their own discretion.
Capt. Ron Landmann
We just returned from a great two-year East Coast/Caribbean cruise, and are considering an extended cruise through Northern Europe and the Med. One way to accomplish this would be to pick up a boat there and eventually sail it back to the Caribbean - much like getting dessert after a hearty meal. But with the evolution of the European Union and its blend of import regulations - but country-by-country administration of them - three major issues, even after considerable research, remain unclear to us:
1) How long can a U.S. documented vessel remain within the EU without import duty being due? We hear 18 months - except in some circumstances in the United Kingdom, where it's limited.
2) How long can the crew remain in one member country? The Seven Seas Cruising Association Bulletins are offering opinions, one being that the maximum time is three months. That seems very odd to us.
3) When importing personal and yacht gear to place aboard a purchased and U.S. documented vessel that will subsequently leave the EU, is duty exempt, due temporarily, or due permanently?
We're hoping that somebody with firsthand experience can answer these questions.
Jack and Patricia Tyler
Jack & Patricia - We posted your
request on 'Lectronic Latitude, and in about one day received
the following detailed answer from Bay Area folks who just sailed
back from Europe.
We're responding to the questions asked by Jack and Patricia Tyler of Whoosh. Suzie and I just returned last winter after almost two years in the Med. We found that each individual country indeed still interprets the EU directives in a unique way.
1) The (new) rule seems to be that you can keep a vessel in the EU for 18 months before being required to pay the VAT tax. However, each country has different enforcement techniques - and different taxes - that can keep you guessing. We found that if you didn't look like you were settling in to stay - no car, bank account, or job - there was no pressure to pay the tax if you stayed too long. This was true even when the rule was only six months last year. However, if you play Russian Roulette with the tax, you may find your boat impounded in a Spanish port where they've raised the bureaucratic process to a fine art. It's a nightmare we witnessed firsthand with some British friends - who finally just gave up and left the boat to the Spanish officials. The boat was worth much less than the Spanish had imagined. France seems to actively patrol the marinas looking for violators, while Greece requires a cruising permit and active 'movement' of the boat to prevent being taxed. Also, remember that Gibraltar, Morocco, Malta, Tunisia and Turkey are not part of the EU, so it's quite easy to leave the EU every few months.
2) Technically a visitor visa is granted to each entrant for each country for only three months, after which you are required to 'leave' the country. This is not difficult to do, because the countries are so small and close together. However, your passport doesn't get stamped anymore because they don't check the passports at the border between EU countries - and France has stopped stamping passports on incoming yachts entirely. So you might consider saving a receipt from the country you visited just to prove to local authorities that you had been 'out of the country'. We generally complied with this rule, but were never checked - except in Turkey where it's easy to get an extension if you want to spend the winter!
3) Duty on imported yacht equipment is different from country to country. Spain only allows duty free import on 'commercial boats' - forget about even asking to qualify. You pay about a 20% tax on everything you import into Spain - period. France is entirely duty free. You only have to present your certificate of documentation when you order the part from a local vendor or to the shipping company when you pick it up. The other countries vary somewhere in between.
Remember however, it is still difficult to get anything shipped into the Med countries. They are not used to mail order as we are in the States, so you might get your order in three days, but it might also take six to eight weeks - even if sent from inside the EU. It's best to have your friends pack stuff in their suitcases when they fly over to visit and deliver it by hand. In Spain, the cost of the duty alone can justify the airline tickets to New York to pick up the parts.
We enjoyed the Med immensely and are sure you will, too. Don't worry too much about the EU regulations, as they are mostly designed to attract cruisers and their money. Most authorities are extremely nice and helpful. You'll also find that there are surprisingly few Americans in the Med, but that the locals and other European cruisers are as helpful as what you may have experienced in this hemisphere.
Paul and Suzie Zupan
Suppose that you wanted to cruise San Francisco Bay from a conveniently located marina - one where it would not take you the best part of a day just to get out on to the Bay. And suppose that you wanted to use your bike for shore errands and sightseeing. I want to know which marinas on San Francisco Bay are best located for access to BART, Caltrain, Amtrak, but also have things like decent grocery stores and chandleries within easy walking distance. Any opinions from those who have sailed and berthed around the Bay?
D.C. - There is no one marina that's going to fit all your needs. South Beach Marina in San Francisco would best fit the bill in terms of having good access to BART and Caltrain, but if you wanted to take Amtrak anywhere, you'd pretty much have to go to the East Bay. Further, we don't know that San Francisco is particularly bike or supermarket friendly. Emeryville is close to Amtrak, but you'd have to take a shuttle to BART, and it's not particularly convenient to supermarkets or chandleries. Even though you'd have to take a ferry or bus to get BART, Caltrain, and Amtrak, Sausalito is one of the more convenient places for folks wanting to walk/bike from their boat to stores and chandleries. Which is why, we suppose, it's so hard to get a berth there. Fortunately, there's always room in the John Burton Anchorage, which unfortunately seems to be increasingly a memorial to misguided compassion.
Any other suggestions from our readers?
WILL ONLY TALK BY FAX
My partner and I own an S2 6.7, which is a 22-ft sloop. Two weekends ago we lost our rudder - it broke off completely - just inside the Golden Gate in what turned out to be over 35 knots of wind. Watching the rudder float away was of interest at the time, but not the primary concern. We got the boat safely to the dock at the San Francisco YC in Belvedere under the watchful eye of the Coast Guard.
Once safely back home, I've found that S2's manufacturer has gone out of business and will only talk to us via fax. As a result, we are having a hard time getting drawings or specifications for our missing rudder. I'm hoping that an owner of a sistership - or someone else - might have some clues on how to get a replacement rudder.
I have enjoyed Latitude for many years and get a copy from the harbormaster in Emeryville often. I spent a number of years crewing on the Santana 35s, but haven't seen them on the Bay as much in recent years. In any case, thanks in advance for any pointers - and keep the good stuff flowing!
Pres Hatt, Skipper
Pres - Try the class association at
I have been enjoying the fracas between the editor and various readers regarding the cost of cruising in Mexico. Personally, it seems to me that Mexico is a bit on the high side. Cabo Yacht Center, for example, charged $384 U.S. to haul my Hylas 46. More importantly, though, it's obvious that there is an enormous respect toward Latitude, so much so that readers don't like to disagree with the editor. They don't like to dislike him even when they think he might be wrong.
The best part of Mexico isn't the costs, but rather the other cruisers - people who go out of their way to help out when one is in trouble. Becky and I found out first hand. We don't think we've ever met a better group of people.
Ed and Becky Scripps
Ed & Becky - We appreciate your input with regard to cruising costs in Mexico. We called four yards in Northern California and asked what they would charge to haul a 46-footer. The prices ranged from $322 to $414, putting the Cabo price pretty much in the middle. As for the concept of readers not wanting to disagree with the editor out of respect, that's terrible. Screw the editor, what we're interested in is the pursuit of truth and diversity of opinions. After all, this magazine isn't Cuba and the Wanderer isn't Castro.
BIG BREAK AT BIG BREAK MARINA
Just thought you would like to know that I have purchased Big Break Marina, up here in the Delta near the Antioch Bridge, from DuPont. The marina sits on over 40 acres and has nice protected bays with over 300 slips and a launch ramp. We will be installing new slips that have plenty of room for large cats such as Profligate, and will be putting in an upscale restaurant, fuel docks, and waterfront retail businesses.
As a reader of Latitude since your first issue, I have been hooked on sailing, so we'll be creating a great marina for all types of boats. We'll look forward to being able to distribute Latitudes. And thanks for all your work - you guys help us dream and produce in the real world.
David - Congratulations on the acquisition!
We'll be expecting great things.
Latitude's response to the Bennetts' July letter in defense of Cuba seems to indicate that you're primarily concerned with human rights and democracy over the needs of a society. Psychologist Herbert Maslow developed what's called a 'human hierarchy of needs'. At the base of this pyramid of needs are things like food, shelter, health care, peace, and security. At the top of the pyramid are things like democracy. In other words, humankind is interested in first satisfying the most basic needs at the base of the pyramid. When these needs get met, niceties such as human rights, democracy, and forms of government become important to a people. In most societies - Western Europe, for example - it took hundreds or even thousands of years for the people to work out getting the basics - decent food and shelter. As these needs gradually became more satisfied, people began to want items at the top of the pyramid, such as more democracy.
Latitude seems to have it backwards, thinking democracy leads to economic betterment. History suggests the opposite. China went through the terrible Mao era of forced labor and utter dictatorship. However, through education of the masses and contact with outside democratic societies, China is inching toward democracy in fits and starts. Again, Mao got the people fed, clothed, and gave them a certain amount of health care. He got them organized into one unified nation - something not previously accomplished in China by any ruler or emperor.
Bennett has it right. Castro is on the right path and the vast majority of the Cuban people love him for it. I have a wealthy, conservative architect friend from Cartagena, Colombia, who visits Cuba regularly on business. His term for the feeling of the people about Castro is stronger. He says the people "adore" Castro for what he has done.
So the editor should be wary of the sea of anti-Castro propaganda we find ourselves immersed in here in the United States. We have seen children outside restaurant windows in Nicaragua with outstretched hands catching food scraped from plates by waiters. We have seen thousands of malnourished children, many working nights in the streets of Latin America. Cuba has found a way to defeat the kind of extreme poverty we have seen in 'democratic' countries like Mexico and Honduras.
If we really care about the Cuban people and their welfare, let's start worrying about the basics. If Cuba could get out of the 30-year grudge-stranglehold of the U.S. embargo, I think we will start to see human rights and democracy evolving as it did in the West. Rather than mouthing the cliche, grudge policies we hear from people like past Secretary of State Madeline Albright, we should be looking for ways to help Cuba move along her gradual path toward a modern, democratic society. This would be intelligent statesmanship and it would serve American interests best.
Perhaps the Cuban petition drive the editor mentions is one early sign of movement along this path.
William - The nature of our disagreement is very simple - we believe in human rights and you believe in rights for some humans. Let's review the nature of human rights. It means that if you're human, you're entitled to certain basic rights. It doesn't mean you should only get those rights if you're human - and also happen to be American, or Chinese, or Christian, or live in a country where the per capita income exceeds $10,000 a year. Simple, isn't it? Now you're going to have to decide whether you really believe in human rights. And if not - as is currently the case - what criteria are you going to use to exclude those you believe aren't deserving of such rights. Will it be I.Q., skin color, religion, income, gender?
As a practical matter, human rights are actually most desperately needed in the least advanced countries, not the most advanced. If somebody violates your human rights in America, there are hundreds of lawyers and the courts on your side. Indeed, if you can prove that your rights - even some lesser ones - were violated, you're on your way to big bucks. But if you were one of the many millions who crossed tyrants such as Stalin, Mao, and Castro - who never believed in human rights - you were liquidated and forgotten.
Here's something you apparently didn't know. When Castro took over Cuba - and then wasted billions trying to export revolutions to South America and Africa - the country had about the highest per capita income in the Caribbean basin. It's now down with Haiti in the extreme pits of the region. That's regress, not progress. It's true that Mexico has greater extremes of wealth than Cuba, but generally speaking it has a much higher standard of living. By the way, economic betterment invariably comes with freedom, which may or may not have come under a democracy.
Do you follow current events? If you did, you'd know that Castro's response to the recent request by Cuban citizens for basic rights - such as a plebiscite - was countered by the passing of a harsh law that outlaws Cuba from being anything but a one-party state. Need we point out that this is a step away from democracy and human rights, not toward them?
Whoever told you Castro is "adored" doesn't know what they're talking about. The Cubans adore Che, in a large part because he was so handsome and because he died young. They fear Castro. Doesn't common sense tell you that if Castro were adored, he wouldn't sweat free elections, a free press, the freedom of speech, opposition parties, and the freedom to travel?
Just so everybody understands where
we're coming from, we certainly don't support current or past
U.S. policy toward Cuba. We're not anti-Castro the person either,
but rather anti- tyrant.
First, thanks for your excellent mag, which is a monthly treat.
In your July answer to Peter and Nancy of Destiny, you were wondering why the supposedly so well-educated people of Cuba can live under the oppressive plantation tyranny. You actually answered it yourself when later responding to Frank Taylor of San Diego.
Yes, we all know that when we are on the waters of the Bay, 'we are all Cubans' with no rights whatsoever. As you say, we have to accept the "shut up, this will take all night" attitude, so "why not cooperate out of self-interest?" Right, just like the well-educated Cubans do. With power comes responsibility. I had hoped the Coast Guard had learned a lesson from the bad publicity of ten years ago when they were on the same kick. Maybe a few back issues of Latitude from that time will do wonders for the present Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard. Safety inspections, as you so well pointed out back then, can be done on the dock.
A vigilant boating public can make the Coast Guard's expanded duties a lot easier; remember it is our country, too.
Jorgen - Thanks for the kind words. But with all respect, comparing mariners being stopped for court approved safety inspections with Cubans who don't have any rights whatsoever is ridiculous. Sort of like a 16-year-old Marin kid whining that he's as underprivileged as a starving child in Africa because the Mercedes he got for his birthday was a year old. There's a world of difference between a free people with a reasonably representative government agreeing to give up some rights in return for group security and those who live under the thumb of a true tyrant.
That said, we think President Bush couldn't be more wrong in attempting to prevent Americans from traveling to Cuba. In fact, it should be a mandatory trip for all Americans, as it would jolt all but the most pathological ingrates into appreciating just how good they've actually got it. America isn't perfect, but it offers perhaps the best combination of freedoms and economic opportunities in the world.
By the way, Latitude's Profligate was boarded by the Coast Guard in the Napa River on July 5 for a 'safety inspection'. The Vallejo-based group of Coasties was businesslike but pleasant - striking what we feel was the right tone. The painless process took about 15 minutes, and several times we were asked if we needed to move our boat a little to stay in deep enough water. We were short a copy of the Inland Rules of the Road and they could have been hard-asses, but they gave us a passing grade - as long as we promised we'd get a copy at our earliest convenience.
We've never been big fans of 'safety
inspections', especially in the often hostile and inconvenient
way they were once conducted. But in the post 9/11 world, we
are willing to forego a certain amount of civil liberties - such
as prior to boarding a plane and being inspected by the Coasties
- in the hope it will result in greater security. After all,
what good are civil liberties to a dead man?
I was a college student in Florida from '56 through '59, and visited Cuba several times before and after Castro took over, so I have followed events there closely. There were many Cuban students at my school, including several who were my fraternity brothers. All these Cubans returned home when Castro took over - but most came back to the U.S. within a year or so.
Two of my fraternity brothers were the twins Antonio and Patricio de la Guardia. They were strong supporters of Castro, and after he took over they became officers in his army. I saw Tony's photo on television about 10 years ago - after he was executed by the regime for his alleged involvement in running Colombian drugs to the United States. At the time Cuba was getting heat in the world media for allowing drug runners to land and refuel in Cuba. More recently, I learned that Patricio had been sentenced to a long prison term.
Based on my observations and experience, I wouldn't give Castro the sweat off my balls if he were dying of thirst. I hope that the know-nothings, do-gooders, and bleeding-heart liberals never manage to persuade Congress to lend Castro a hand.
Bill - We've often viewed Castro as
an abusive father who genuinely meant well for his 'kids', but
was incapable of ever allowing them to decide what's best for
themselves. In any event, all these Cuban letters have gotten
way too political. If anybody wants to write about cruising in
Cuba, si! If anybody wants to write about Cuban politics, no!
I read with interest and some amusement last month's letters concerning the Coast Guard boardings of vessels in the Estuary following the KFOG KaBoom concert. I believe that law enforcement should have the latitude to conduct random sobriety checks whether on the roads or the water, and it seems a little bit of sour grapes to whine about it - particularly because a responsible driver or skipper would not think of operating while intoxicated. I was not there, so I cannot dispute the account of the skipper being held at bay by the boarding party, or question the rationale of their behavior. What I can do, however, is relay my own recent experience with the Coast Guard by way of comparison.
At about 9 a.m. on June 16, while on a broad reach under single reef main and full yankee before 25-30 knots of wind about a mile SSE of the Pt. Reyes Light, my 50-ft cutter encountered a 40+ knot gust and was driven off one wave into the back of another. The violent action blew the hydraulic backstay adjuster, and the resulting slack in the backstay inverted the mast, breaking it at the spreaders above the lower shrouds. After collapsing forward, the top of the mast swung aft on the starboard side of the remaining standing portion of the mast, and began a rhythmic swinging through about 30° of arc. With only the electric wiring and in-mast halyards supporting the 25-foot top section, it was clear that the rig was in danger of collapsing onto the deck, further endangering both the vessel and my crewmember. Given the uncertainty of the situation and the distance from both Bodega and San Francisco, I elected to issue a Mayday. It was received by USCG Group San Francisco. Shortly after establishing contact, the VHF antenna broke off the mast, cutting radio contact. I was able to reestablish contact by cellular phone.
We cleaned up as much of the rigging as possible without endangering ourselves, and once we insured that the prop was clear, began motorsailing toward Drake's Bay. Once inside the lee of Pt. Reyes, we cancelled the Mayday. We were in the process of anchoring when the USCG Cutter Sockeye arrived on the scene. She dispatched three crewmembers, who politely asked if they could come aboard and help. Since we were having a difficult time getting set on the hook - given the weed bottom and the foredeck cluttered with rigging - they suggested that we use their mooring buoy.
Thanks to their help, we were all able to get the rig stabilized and tied down, cut away the main, and get the yankee aboard and lashed - all in less than an hour. The Coast Guard clearly did not have to do any of this since we were no longer in distress. But they made it quite clear that they were there to help us as long as we needed them. At all times they were professional and seamanlike, and quite frankly, very welcome aboard. They told us to stay on the buoy as long as we needed, then departed about 11:45 a.m. At noon they returned from Sockeye and again politely asked if they could come aboard to complete a boarding report. They were almost apologetic about the need to reboard - perhaps they, too, had read the last month's Latitude - but in any event they completed their paperwork quickly, I ran through our safety equipment with them, and I asked for a radio check with Sockeye. They departed after leaving the Sockeye's cell phone number and taking down ours. We departed Drake's Bay at 1:15 p.m. and were back in our East Bay slip at 6 p.m.
I have nothing but admiration for the men and women of the Coast Guard, who I believe were extremely well represented by the crew of the Sockeye. Our deepest gratitude goes out to them and all their colleagues at Group San Francisco. While in the end our situation was nothing but an expensive mishap at sea, there is a fine line between relief and tragedy. Although as sailors we must be prepared to rely on ourselves to get safely home, it is a great comfort to know that there are those in uniform who selflessly seek to help out when they can.
Capt. H. Earl
I had the great good fortune to receive a recent edition of Latitude from a passing cruiser from La Paz. I can understand and ignore writing errors of omission or resulting from haste to produce an edition by press time. But since you are the 'standard' for many of our youthful readers, one error has to be acknowledged: one has his/her curiosity 'piqued' not 'peaked'.
Jon - Every publication has priorities. Our top priority is to disseminate the maximum amount of sailing information we can. A lower priority - given our limited resources and staff - is to get the spelling, grammar, and word selection perfect. Most marine publications have the opposite priorities, so we suggest you use them for English lessons.
By the way, we recently saw the movie Monster's Ball. After Oscar winner Halle Barry stripped to seduce the corrections officer who had executed her husband, our curiosity was not 'piqued', but had rather 'peaked'.
FORGET VIAGRA, I NEEDED A DOSE OF CRUISING!
Right after last year's Ha-Ha, I sent a letter to you titled Unexpected Cruising Satisfaction. It explained my miraculous recovery from not being able to, as you euphemistically put it, 'pop my chute'. Well, I just wanted to let you know that this wasn't a flash in the pan, and I'm still able to get it flying high.
The last 10 months of cruising have been incredible for my wife and me. We have had a wonderful time together, and our sex life has been great. Sure, things slow down in that area when it's really hot, but luckily the nights generally cool down at some point.
Our cruising life - and sex - is great, so we're never coming back!
Name Withheld By Request
We did the Ha-Ha last fall and have been cruising Mexico ever since. Looking back at our early problems, we'd like to warn new cruisers about two things.
First, about shaking down your boat. Before leaving Alameda, we'd spent years preparing for our cruise so everything would be perfect. It didn't quite work out that way. Like most other first time cruisers, we worked on the boat until the last minute, then hopped aboard and turned left at the Gate. So we were exhausted. Naturally, this is when things seemed to start to go to hell in a handbasket. We won't bore everyone with the details, but basically at least one thing broke every day. The old stuff broke because it had never been used so hard or so much, and the new stuff broke because it was new. So our first warning is that you can't shake a boat down at the dock.
Our second warning is about shrimp. After harbor hopping from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, then on to Monterey, fixing something everyday, we were tired and frustrated. But at least we figured we had pretty well taken care of all the boat problems. But as soon as we tied up in the marina, we heard this clicking-snapping sound and thought, "Oh shit, something else to be fixed." The noise sort of sounded electrical, so we tore into everything. We even pulled up all of the floorboards, since it sounded as though it might be coming from the bilge. The funny thing was that everything seemed to be working fine. We finally just gave up and went to bed, still exhausted and frustrated.
Despite the noise, we decided to continue on the next day, and the clicking was promptly drowned by the noise of the motor. After doing an overnighter to Port San Luis and tying up to a mooring buoy, lo and below, the clicking had stopped. We got a good night's rest, and after rounding Conception in brisk winds, dropped the hook at Cojo - and got another quiet night's rest. But when we got to Oxnard the next day, we were back to having problems. One of our heads - pardon the pun - crapped out. And as soon as we tied to the dock, the clicking sound had returned. So we had two things to deal with. Fortunately, we have two heads, but we weren't able to get the first one fixed until San Diego. But even in San Diego, the clicking was as bad as ever.
While in San Diego, we started discussing our problems with other cruisers. Curt from the Portland-based Journey knew where our clicking came from. "It's just shrimp," he told us. He explained that when he got to Monterey, he visited the Aquarium rather than work on his boat like we did. While there, he saw and heard a display they have on shrimp that make the clicking sound. We started to feel like dumb shits - until we learned that other cruisers had been equally confused and concerned. In fact, the owner of a new Tayana 52 was convinced that the clicking sound came from paint falling off his brand new hull. So if any of you new cruisers hear that clicking sound, just have a beer and a good night's sleep.
After nearly a year of cruising and almost 3,000 miles, we've found Mexico to be a wonderful place to visit with great people. We're currently up in the Sea of Cortez. If you're a first-time cruiser, remember to do an extended shakedown in the States where it's easier to get parts and assistance, but don't sweat the noisy shrimp.
Joe Brandt and Jacque Martin
Joe & Jacque - The sound of the clicking shrimp is familiar to most mariners in Southern California, where they seem to be more common. In some places, it's relatively quiet - like the sound of Rice Krispies having milk poured on them. In other places - San Diego comes to mind - they are very noisy, almost like endless servings of sizzling rice soup. We can empathize with the Tayana owner, for the shrimp make it sound as though something is very wrong - perhaps water bubbling through an uncured laminate. We called the Monterey Aquarium to get the precise name of the shrimp. The first person said that they never heard of them; the second said they are called 'Snapping Shrimp', which might not be the Latin name. Incredible as it might seem, the sound is actually made by thousands of tiny shrimp snapping their small but powerful pincers together.
As for the recommendation to carefully
shake down a boat in the ocean before taking off, few things
could be more important. Nonetheless, the same thing happens
every year - exhausted Pacific Cup and Ha-Ha entries take off
with all kinds of hastily installed and untested gear. After
a few hours, the now really exhausted skipper and mate find that
stuff doesn't work as expected, and anger and/or depression begins
to creep in. At that point, the best thing one can do is remember
that everyone gets tired after their first few hours at sea,
and such teething and installation problems are as common as
white caps on the Bay. If you throttle back and catch up on much
needed rest, things won't seem so bad.
In 37 trips up or down the Baja coast since 1986, this spring's northbound trip was the longest one ever. We have always had good luck leaving Mazatlan around Easter, but this year was way different. There were good windows in April, but they weren't long enough to do Cabo to Turtle Bay or Turtle Bay to San Diego back to back. Our weather was great whenever we did travel, but it took a lot of waiting around. We averaged 5.9 knots from Mazatlan to San Diego, but sat in Santa Maria, Asuncion, and Turtle Bay waiting for travel opportunities.
At one stage, we even went back from the top of Cedros Island to Turtle Bay, because what advertised itself as a window when we left Turtle didn't materialize once at the top of the island. Some boats - Sol Mate, Blarney3, Wings and Kea - carried on north when we went back. Our final leg to San Diego from Turtle took 54 hours in 0-10 knots of wind with swells to 8 feet, but no chop on top.
'He who waits the longest gets the best weather' is a saying I heard a long time ago - and it makes as much sense now as it did then. A lucky find on the Internet this year was www.buoyweather.com, which took a lot of the guess work out of planning our legs either in the Sea, on the mainland, or even on the Bash north. There is even a computer in Turtle Bay - between the Pemex station and Hotel Vera Cruz - where one can surf the net these days. While there, www.buoyweather.com was a great resource in calling conditions - being even more accurate than the professional weather routers.
My advice to anyone heading north is to gather any and all information they can, stick their nose out, and travel when conditions are doable. When they aren't doable, stay put. Above all, let Mother Nature set the schedule - because she's the boss!
We've had a great spring in San Diego, celebrating with buddyboats and visiting with old friends and shipmates.
Pete and Tracy Caras
We're in San Diego, having done the Baja Bash in 75 hours. In catching up on our reading, we noticed all the comments in the June issue about how difficult the Bashes were this year. We noticed abnormally cold water from about 75 miles southeast of Cabo to Ensenada. For example, it was 60° at the tip of Baja, 53° just 10 miles off Mag Bay, and nothing over 61° until just south of Ensenada. This really cool water would create a semipermanent thermal low over the Baja peninsula and/or the Sea of Cortez, which would reinforce the sea breeze gradient. This is probably why people had so much wind.
I also noticed the comments in 'Lectronic on Internet access at Catalina. We just got a Verizon phone and contact at 19K with our onboard laptop. It's very cool.
Steve - Your speed up the Baja coast was excellent, but there's now much faster Internet access speed via cell phones at Catalina.
It's true the water off Baja really
does/did seem to be unusually cool, but here's something even
more odd. Bob Fraike of the SC 52 Impulse tells us that the water
offshore his Dana Point home got over 70° in June - about
17° warmer than off of Cabo. We don't know what it all means,
but we're not surprised there has been so little hurricane activity
off Mexico so far. Who knows, maybe it also had some effect on
the winds being so light during the Singlehanded TransPac and
Victoria to Maui races.
A sailor acquaintance who has singlehanded across the Pacific a number of times tells me that lost shipping containers present a common major hazard to small craft navigation? Is this true? If so, I might be able to help by devising a bow mounted metal detector specialized for sensing such objects at a distance of something like 25 to 50 yards. Would that help?
Alex - We wouldn't characterize shipping
containers as "a common major hazard" because we haven't
heard of many of them being seen or hit. It would be far more
useful, it seems to us, if you could develop something that would
warn whales that a boat is approaching. Collisions between whales
and boats are much more common. In the just completed West Marine
Pacific Cup, a very large whale did a vertical breech in front
of Zephyrus V some 10 feet off
to the side. "If we'd been on most boats, we would have
hit the whale with our boom." In any event, 50 yards of
warning of containers and whales normally wouldn't be enough.
First, I need to identify myself. I'm the guy at Network Operations, Sprint PCS, for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Sprint PCS has all the equipment in place and is providing our customers with nationwide high speed Internet access via our cell phones - something our competition won't be able to do until January of next year. For example, the accompanying photograph - which is low resolution - was sent to you from Two Harbors, Catalina, on July 5 via Sprint PCS wireless Inter-net, which is called 3G. Our download speed averaged 86kb/second, but our normal Internet surfing is run-ning about 115 to 144kb/second - far better than dial-up speed.
By the way, I know the photo isn't enough of a close-up, but it's of Jeff and Naomi Rothermel - she's the one in the water - of the Manhattan Beach-based Aerodyne 38 Wilderness. They did the Ha-Ha last year and said to say 'Hi'. Naomi ended up in the water as a result of poor - but hilarious - anchoring technique.
Steve & Edie Hollen
In 'Lectronic, you asked about connecting to the Internet using a cell phone. I use Goamerica, a service that lets you get online anywhere in America. If you have a laptop, all you have to do is buy their aircard and plug it into the PMICA slot. I have been using it for over two years now, and it works through Verizon. It costs $59 a month. Since I'm only a temporary liveaboard in Moss Landing, I can't get a direct wire link, so it's the only way for me to go. I can surf the web and do anything that I could with a phone line. Check it out at www.goamerica.com.
We use Verizon wireless all the time on the water here in Southern California - even out at Catalina - to connect from our Catalina 310 'S Mine to the rest of the world via the Internet. We use a Dell Pentium 4 laptop and Motorola cellular phone - which the laptop thinks is a modem - to connect to AOL. We download weather maps as well as GRIB files using MaxSea.
We've been in New Zealand for about five months now, and our new 50 footer is about half finished. We are enjoying the life here, and find that it's good to be away from the freeways and the population density of the Bay Area. We live in Wakworth, a town of about 3,000 that's some 50 minutes north of Auckland. Robertson Boats, our builder, is just outside of town down the river. The owner has just put in a well for the new Travel-Lift, and come December we will be going down the river on our finished boat.
We've rented a three-bedroom, two-bath, two-garage house on Algies Bay for $450/month. It overlooks a couple of islands three miles away. The drawback is that it's now winter here, the days are short, and it rains often. We've been guests at the local Sandspit YC where we've given a short talk on our last cruise, which was a 40,000-mile circumnavigation with our Tayana 47 Peregrine. It was fun, and we enjoyed meeting the local sailors. I guess they find us different, being from the U.S. and having done some world cruising.
We are certainly glad we went ahead with our boat order when we did, as the dollar has dropped about 18% since last September. Fortunately, we did the fund exchange then, so we hedged our bets, and our boat price is fixed. We did sense that we were in a good window, and we were lucky to make it through.
If anyone would like to see our boat under construction, just go to www.bakewell-white.com in the gallery section under the boat name Brisa. There are a number of photos. The designer has a digital camera and comes by every so often to the yard to update the progress. Brett Bakewell-White, who worked with me on the design, has a number of boats in the works. If you check his website, you'll see he's doing everything from a 33-meter wavecrusher for Formula One car racer Michael Schumacher to a 90-ft ocean maxi with water ballast.
Ed and Sandy Martinez
BAD MEMORIES FADE AWAY
Here's my seasick story. After a year-and-a-half in New Zealand, we were faced with paying a $20,000 import duty on our boat, so we took off for Tonga. I was 4.5 months pregnant at the time, but past the morning-sickness stage and feeling pretty good. We had a great sail out the Hauraki Gulf, much better equipped than when we'd left California 2.5 years earlier - we had new sails, new standing and running rigging, a liferaft, extra ground tackle, charts to Europe, plus we had most of our old gear as well. So we were fairly heavily laden but feeling good.
All went well until I went below to fix the evening meal. I immediately felt sick. I was conspicuously healthy at this point, as I'd given up smoking months before and hadn't had a drop of alcohol in months either - to be honest because of the morning sickness. I hadn't wanted to take Dramamine, and the 'seabands' didn't seem to be doing their thing.
For the next 4.5 days, as we rushed towards Tonga on a beam reach while reefed down, I spent most of the time retching. I couldn't even keep water down. The most comfortable spot was on the cabin sole, clutching a basin - despite the fact that the new PYHI opening port that Gary had recently installed in the head was leaking and I was lying in a sloshing puddle. God, I was miserable! Why hadn't I done as my boss at the chart agency had suggested and left that boat bum of a boyfriend?
I eventually decided that the risks of birth defects were outweighed by the risk of a retching-induced miscarriage, but by then it was too late for me to keep seasick medicine down. But we had a weapon of last resort: a mal-de-mer suppository given to us by a French boat. On the fifth day, I was finally able to take notice and give Gary a hand.
It actually turned out to have been one of our better passages: Auckland to Nuku-alofa in 9.5 days with 30-35 knot beam winds the whole way. And nothing has ever tasted as good as the watermelon I devoured when we arrived in Tonga! A few weeks later we took second place - out of 26 yachts - in the King's Birthday Regatta in Neiafu. So, it was all worth it. It's quite nice - memories of bad passages and childbirth fade away with the excitement of what comes after.
Readers - We're ashamed to say we received
this letter in 1997. It's so good, that we decided to run it
anyway. Subsequently, the Balding family completed their schooner
and sailed to New Zealand. We don't know where they are now.
We're interested in joining the Ha-Ha this fall. We realize that it's primarily a sailing event, but my wife and I think it would be great if we could join up so our 13-year-old daughter will have other kids around for companionship. From years of reading Latitude, I know that there are always lots of kids on the Ha-Ha. Having friends her own age will help ease our daughter into the cruising life. We plan on spending a year in Mexico, so she'll no doubt be meeting up with kids she met on the Ha-Ha again and again.
We have sailed extensively over the years, owning several racing boats, and for 17 years owned the Peterson 44 Maitairoa. Once we decided to live aboard full time, we felt a full trawler made more sense. Our advancing age had nothing to do with our desire to enjoy the comforts of a big trawler. We'll be doing the Ha-Ha with Sobre El Mar, our 55-ft long-range trawler that was designed by Art DeFever of San Diego and built entirely of wood in 1971. Having a trawler means no more wet nights in a cockpit for these cruisers. And do you know how to tack a trawler? You close the weather pilothouse door and open the leeward door. There are no sheets to pull! Our trawler is well found, with SSB, Ham, Loran C (2), GPS (2), Radar, VHF (2), 500 GPD watermaker, 8KW generator, and a host of other toys. We carry 1,850 gallons of fuel and 500 of water. We cruise comfortably at 8.5 to 9.2 knots at just under 1 gallon per mile, including generator time. Power is provided by a pair of Detroit diesels. We have cruised her extensively up and down the Pacific Coast.
Please forward me in the provided return envelope an entry packet for this year's upcoming HaHa. I would also appreciate any comments you wish to make that pertain to the event or participating with a trawler.
Capt. Mike and Cindy Schachter
Mike & Cindy - The folks at the Ha-Ha have always welcomed participants with motor vessels. There were four or five of them last year, and they expect as many this year.
As for extolling the supposed virtues of trawlers, don't get our dander up. Perhaps you haven't heard our 'sailing catamaran makes the best trawler' argument - which is basically that anything a trawler can do, a good cat can do better.
You don't spend wet nights in a cockpit? Neither do cat owners, who have 360° visibility from inside the salon. In fact, in the more than 350 times we've sailed Profligate, we've only worn foul weather gear once - and that was because it was cold. How do we tack our cat? We turn the wheel, go inside and grab a snack, and when we come outside we're on the new board. It's all about the self-tacking jib. You really need two big Detroit diesels and nearly 2,000 gallon fuel capacity to average nine knots? Our cat now does nearly 11 knots with two little 51-hp Yanmars, which we're certain get better fuel economy. And on a typical trip from San Diego to Cabo, we burn about 1/360th of the fuel that you do, as we sail the whole way. Maneuverability? With props 25 feet apart, our cat has your trawler beat hands down. Yes, we know we're really laying it on thick, but we think it's really important for aging sailors to realize they don't have to give up sailing to have easy, comfortable and dry fun on the water.
And now let's consider some of the positive qualities cats have that trawlers don't. First, cats don't roll like trawlers, so folks are less prone to seasickness and fatigue, both at sea and in rolly anchorages. Second, a similar length cat will have more room, usable space, and places to 'get away'. Most importantly of all, a cat should be able to move along in the teens without the sound or smell of diesel. In fact, there's only one or two aspects in which we think older trawlers such as yours are superior to cats - they are more aesthetically pleasing and they are less expensive.
By the way, lest any monohull owners think we've got something against them, we don't. In fact, our latest brainstorm is to go partners on an Express 37 for periodic cruising and racing mischief in the Caribbean and the Med. You can get a heck of a great monohull for not much money.
I WOULD SURELY DO IT AGAIN
In a previous Latitude, there was a report highlighting the tough times we had doing the Baja Bash aboard Renne Waxlax and Anne Bluden's Swan 65 Cassiopeia, and my having to take a bus back from Turtle Bay in order to get back to work. There was a lot of crazy adventures on my 'half Bash', but I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea - it was a great experience. In fact, I would surely do it again, as the adventure and humor of the trip far outweighed the challenging moments. I loved being out there and would recommend the trip to anyone who is interested in quickly learning a lot about ocean sailing. I also want to thank Anne and Rennie for their lively spirit and generosity - they are great people.
Oh, and one more thing - having crewed on Profligate for the ride down to the Zihuatanejo SailFest, I will back up the Wanderer's comment about sailing and anchoring Profligate whenever possible. Three hours after his arrival in Puerto Vallarta on a Friday afternoon, the Wanderer, Doña de Mallorca, and the rest of the crew had the boat fueled, provisioned, and heading south in the darkness. We visited many anchorages - three in one day - on the way!
Jean - Depending on what folks are hoping for and expecting, even a rough Baja Bash can be a good thing. Particularly when it's over.
We appreciate your confirmation of the intensity with which we cruise Mexico, for occasionally we're exasperated by a few of the letters we get. For example, Peter and Jessica Barrett of the Cheoy Lee 35 Following Joshua - who we're certain are nice people - wrote to basically tell us we don't know anything about cruising in Mexico, a con-clusion they came to predicated on the fact that "there are many of us [in Baja] who get the idea that when the editor cruises in Mexico, he picks up a boatload of the cutest chicksters he can find, and heads out on fairly calm passages to party with a select group who show up in the pages of the magazine time and time again."
We initially started a long and factual rebuttal to disprove the ridiculous assumption, but got bored. So we'll just say that we don't know where the couple's and others' 'idea' came from, but they obviously don't know diddly about us. And that there's 70,000 pages of Latitudes to document that we've done a lot of cruising - with crew and singlehanded, upwind and downwind, in good weather and bad - to prove that when we get on a boat, particularly in Mexico or some other foreign country, it's to do much more than play. As for the suggestion that sailing is pretty much incidental to our brand of hedonism, on a recent night race, Harbormaster Alan Weaver noted that we didn't leave the helm - not even to take a pee - for nine hours. What can we say other than yes, we're helm hogs, and that we're really into the sailing part of sailing. And that even when we're not sailing, we're still into it. Our idea of a non-working European vacation, for example, is 14-hour days of hard charging to check out and take photos of every marina between Capri and Marseilles, usually catching a few hours of sleep in places that make Motel 6 seem like the Four Seasons. It might be a little sick, but it's a deviancy that brings us pleasure.
So if somebody wants to disagree with us about some topic in the magazine, that's fine - as long as the argument isn't based on some gross misconception of who we are and what we do.
I WOULD BOYCOTT MEXICO FOR ONE YEAR
I cruised from 1990-'93, and am going to go again when I return in '03. I've also been reading about all the problems with clearing in and out of Mexican ports. Although I'm at retirement age, I would boycott Mexico for one year to protest those policies. If all cruisers decided not to go to Mexico - or even do the Ha-Ha - maybe our letters to the Mexican government would be heard. I would even join an organization in support of this, as it would have a lot more power than a few letters. After all, look what Jesse Jackson did to Denny's and Toyota.
Barry - We think a boycott is a poor idea for two reasons. First, we believe the objectionable clearing regulations are the result of government ignorance, not animosity. Our job is to help Mexico understand that their punitive regulations aren't in their own best interest. Secondly, if you think a bunch of relatively affluent yachties boycotting Mexico would register on that government's list of significant problems, you underestimate Mexico's problems - and what a pittance yachties contribute to their tourism.
As for recommending Mr. Jackson's tactics,
we're gonna take a wide pass. We've always marveled at the effectiveness
of what we've considered to be his extortions, but never cared
for his hypocrisy. To our mind, one of the most hilarious chapters
in all of the human comedy was when the married Reverend Jackson,
while supposedly ministering to the wayward President Clinton,
fathered a child out of wedlock with an employee, and then used
'his' nonprofit's money to pay her off. We're no model of virtue,
but that was a little too much for us.
We've just received the July issue of Latitude and commend your article on the cost of cruising Mexico. While we agree with much of what was written, we wish that the (now) armchair readers who wrote in to you would lighten up on the sarcasm and rhetoric. "My wife and I have been sailing in Mexico - the one just south of the United States," writes Bill Yeargan. Just where does he think all of us are - and unlike him - continue to be? And no, we don't shop in Guaymas, although it's not as expensive as he thinks. Also, we take major exception with his claim that cruisers should load up their bilges with paper products before heading to Mexico. First of all, on most boats we know it would be unsafe. And unlike Yeargan, we seem to always find room in the dink for the wonderful paper products they have down here. As for Mac of Slo and Ezy, who says, "I think people who complain about the prices in Mexico must be in the twilight zone." We invite him to come walk a mile in our moccasins.
We emailed Yeargan's Mexico price findings to our friend Jon Reidy in Seattle, along with our supermercado prices from Loreto and from various receipts we had in our nav station from the CCC, Comercial Mexicana, and Gigante stores in La Paz, Mazatlan, PV and Zihuatanejo. Here is what he found, researching at his neighborhood Safeway in Seattle.
"First, my hat is off to the reader (Yeargan) who did all the research at the Safeway in Richmond - wherever that is. It takes longer than you might think wandering through the aisles and getting specific prices. I did have a major problem, however, with his research method, as it became clear that where there were a variety of items available, he unfailingly chose the most expensive one - as if deliberately trying to skew the results in the favor of American items being more expensive."
OK, here's what he did with our list: The Loreto and Supermercado prices are ours, the latter taken from CCC, Comercial Mexicana or Gigante - generally agreed as the cheapest in Mexico - price receipts.
We have no quarrel with his gas prices, which put Mexico more expensive than the U.S. by at least 60+cents a gallon. We actually found it to be more than that in some places.
You can see from a quick scan that Mexico is clearly more expensive than the U.S., when most items are priced fairly against a similar item in the States. This results in the U.S. items being near or far less expensive than the Mexican items - no surprise to us or to the many of your readers cruising down here.
This is, in our opinion, ridiculously high for a Third World Country. You're wondering where our perception comes from that Mexico is an expensive place to cruise? There's your evidence. Add the expensive moorage, the port fees, the expensive restaurants - even the palapas - and you begin to get the picture.
Again, our only aim here is that your readers have a more realistic picture of what to expect down here. Mexico really is a wonderful place - just come down with your eyes open.
Michael Sutherland and Jennie Cobell
Michael & Jennie - If Yeargan wanted to skew prices to being the most expensive, he could have gone to the only supermarket in Sausalito, Mollie Stone's, and blown the doors off all prices in Mexico - even those in Loreto, which is even more isolated than Winnemucca, Nevada. Remember also that his list wasn't the only one that showed prices in Mexico to be higher. As a result, our overall evaluation of food prices - after trying to factor out 'apples and oranges' and possible skewing by both sides - is that there isn't much difference between the U.S. and Mexico.
Your and our views of Mexico seem to
be that of a pessimist and an optimist. Where you see expensive
marinas, we see countless free anchorages. Where you see port
captains trying to gouge you for dollars, we see the warm and
friendly faces of the locals. Where you see expensive restaurants,
we see an incredible quantity and quality of seafood free for
the taking. While we each see Mexico as a wonderful place to
cruise, you see it as overpriced and we still see it as a big
bang for the buck.
I've always wondered why you use the editorial 'we'. You say things such as "We studied Russian lit." Or, "We dated her daughter." Does this refer to the Publisher, the Wanderer, the Grand Poobah - or all of them? Is the use of 'we' why you need such a large boat? Over the years, 'we' has appeared in situations that make no sense, and I have been curious behind the rationale.
Anonymous - Some publications - we think the New Yorker is probably the most famous - use the editorial 'we' to express a sense of commonality between the publication and the readers. With the New Yorker, the editors share a New York state of mind. With Latitude, we like to think we share a sailor's state of mind. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense the way we do it, but that doesn't bother us.
While the Latitude 'we' can mean anyone in the editorial staff, it's primarily the Publisher, the Letters editor, the Wanderer, and during the Ha-Ha, the Grand Poobah. Unfortunately, these are all one and the same. If we had charged $4.50 a copy for Latitude, we'd have lots of well-paid writers and there wouldn't be any editorial 'we' - for we would be cruising our boat in some tropical and surf-infested part of the world.
HEALTH CERTIFICATES NOW BEING ENFORCED
When the Alex Malaccorto of Rocinante reported that the Port Captain in Cabo was requiring 'health certificates' for boats clearing out of the country, you asked for a clarification.
Here's what happened to us in Cabo. Since agents are so expensive in Cabo, we went to the Port Captain's office with the intent of doing the checkout dance ourselves. We found that if we did it ourselves, the cost would be the standard 148 pesos - about $15 - for checking in, the same amount for checking out, plus the OPPE port fee. We eventually decided to use an agent since OPPE is at the far eastern end of town, and Migracion is now out toward the airport. Because everything was so spread out, our time was worth more than our money.
At any rate, when we had initially gone to the Port Captain's office, the officer at the counter informed us that an old and long ignored rule requiring 'health certificates' was now being enforced. According to the rule, we couldn't check out of Cabo for San Diego - another country - without first getting a health certificate. In order to get a health certificate, we'd have to make a 30-minute drive to San Jose del Cabo. They didn't know when the official giving health certificates would be available or what it might cost.
However, the officials was nice enough to tell us health certificate requirement was not being enforced by the port captain in Ensenada. So if we checked out of Cabo for Ensenada, we wouldn't need a health certificate, and if we checked out of Ensenada for San Diego, we wouldn't need a health certificate.
We thought we might bypass the issue by checking out with an agent in Cabo, but they said that we'd still have to get the health certificate. So we mentally wrestled with the possible consequences of checking out for Ensenada - and not stopping. Ultimately, we decided to go that route. So did a lot of other boats.
When we arrived at San Diego, we were of course asked for our check out papers from Mexico - which we didn't have. It wasn't a problem not having them. We suppose that it's remotely possible that the next time we go to Mexico our boat name might come up on their computer as never having checked out of the country. We think it's unlikely. If it does happen, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Incidentally, we have talked with boats that checked out of Mexico for San Diego from San Carlos, Loreto, La Paz, and Puerto Vallarta, and none were required to get a 'health certificate' - so it's apparently a Cabo-only deal. Go figure.
Dave and Merry Wallace
Dave and Merry - The Mexico clearing routine is getting more bizarre all the time, isn't it? Here's the latest we've learned. Hall Palmer, currently cruising Relativity in the Med, says in the past he's been told that he couldn't clear Cabo for the States without a 'health certificate'. So he cleared for Ensenada - but sailed direct to San Diego anyway. Just like you.
As for this being a 'Cabo only' scam, apparently that's not the case. The above-mentioned Les Sutton reports that a similar thing recently happened in La Paz. Eugene, Pat, and their son Beven - a South African family with the 32-ft Camper-Nicholson Cherie - wanted to clear La Paz for the United States so they could do a 'clipper route'. The port captain told them that if they were clearing for the States, they'd have to pay a $100 U.S. 'fumigation' fee. But if they cleared to Ensenada - which would not be clearing out of the country - they would only be liable for the normal clearing fee and not need the expensive 'fumigation' certificate. It's our understanding that the family cleared for Ensenada with the intention of not stopping there.
Subsequent to all this, we received a letter from Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz that explains what's happening. "The 'health certificates' being mentioned refer to another of those anachronistic maritime laws on Mexico's books. This one requires that boats have a sanitary inspection when arriving from or leaving a foreign port. This made sense in the days when tropical diseases abounded. The La Paz Port Captain - who covers Cabo - has decided to enforce it. The Health Department is not happy about it, as they don't have the personnel to cover it. As I understand it, the fee is $1,000 pesos - or more than $100 U.S. This old law is not being enforced in Ensenada."
What would we do if we were bringing
our boat north from La Paz or Cabo? We'd certainly clear for
Ensenada. And if a 'storm' blew us past Ensenada to San Diego,
well, that must have been what god wanted. And as the Mexicans
always say, "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."
Years ago, a friend told me that the navigable waters of the United States cannot be blocked. Is that true? And no, I don't want to buy a bridge.
If it is true, why was the little cove next to the Wind River building on the Alameda side of the Oakland Estuary chained off? It makes a great little anchorage.
Mike & Janice Kranz
Mike and Janice - It seems to us that
access to theoretically navigable waters are blocked all the
time by piers, bridges, ecological reserves, and other things.
As for the little cove near Wind River, maybe one of our readers
can tell us what's going on.
In the June issue a skipper's letter complained about the Coast Guard boarding his vessel because it make a wake in the Estuary. Perhaps he didn't realize that wakes are a hazard to the health and safety of those of us who make a living maintaining vessels and equipment. Divers, welders, fitters, and painters have to make repairs in timely manner while maintaining the integrity of our environment and complying with the demands of the various regulatory agencies. Unnecessary wakes on the Estuary poses a hazard to us. For example, manned work floats are often placed up under vessels and piers, and during dry-docking, divers are guiding large vessels onto blocks, and wakes put them in peril of great injury.
The Alameda Police Department now patrols the Estuary and gives tickets to mariners who ignore the 5 mph zone. There are speed reduction buoys posted at our location, but they haven't been very effective in getting fast vessels to slow the heck down. I, for one, am in favor of stronger enforcement of slower boat speeds and no wakes on the Estuary.
Gary - Thanks for the letter, we're
sure a lot of mariners didn't realize the number of people who
work in and around the water that could be injured by wakes.
I've just got to try to get my oar in the water on this one. In the April 2002 issue, there was a brief report of a 'con' being run in San Blas, Mexico. Lee of Wings reported that she was approached by a distraught American woman who claimed that her purse had been stolen, and who asked for 10 pesos for bus fare back to her accommodation. Basically, Lee sent the woman away, in effect saying, "Go see Norm Goldie, maybe he will help you." Later on, Lee's husband and the crews of two other yachts were told of the woman's plight. Together they raised 100 pesos and gave it to the woman. The next morning Norm reported on the net that the woman had indeed contacted him, as per Lee's suggestion, was still upset, and that Norm had given her another 100 pesos. To Lee's mind, this seemed to indicate that the woman was a 'con artist'.
Here's the way I see it. First, if the woman's purse was indeed stolen, of course she would still be upset when she got to Norm's door. Probably her money, credit cards, ID, passport, return airline tickets, and so forth were missing. The donation of 100 pesos - or 200 pesos - would not change that. Give her the benefit of the doubt.
Second - and the real reason for this letter - is this: I don't know if it is just Lee, or if the nature of cruisers is changing, or if it is a reflection of the fear that seems to have gripped Americans since Sept. 11, 2001, but when I was cruising Mexico seven years ago, a lone American female in difficulty would have been offered overnight accommodations and a meal by some couple - not only by male singlehanders - in the fleet. I am very sorry to see that this is no longer the case.
By the way, Western Union still does exist. In fact, it's a very important media for cash transfer and communications in the Third World - and in the poorer communities in the United States.
Latitude commented that wood cruising boats are "unusual" in the South Pacific. Actually, there are quite a few wooden cruising yachts sailing in the South Pacific. Most of them fly the New Zealand flag, and some of them are quite new.
Lastly, about the new fee for failing to complete a transit of the Panama Canal in one day. I have been through the canal six times, once on a fairly fast power boat, and have never made it through in one day. This wasn't because the boats couldn't make it, but because the pilot ordered us not to. This new situation sounds like just another scheme to separate a sailor from his money.
Nick - What you're saying is that you're more trusting of a strange woman in tears than you are of the Panama Canal Commission. Interesting.
Since we weren't in San Blas to witness the incident, we're certainly not going to second guess Lee. Had we been there, we probably would have given the woman the money - but not believed her. First of all, San Blas is home to an American drug culture, an environment in which scams are known to fester. Second, the woman asked for cash rather than food or a place to stay, which is always suspicious. Third, what kind of woman travels off the beaten path without friends or acquaintances and without making provisions for her stuff being stolen? Smells fishy to us.
Have Americans become "gripped with fear" after 9/11 to the extent that they wouldn't help a crying woman in legitimate need? We don't think so.
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