Back to "Letters" Index


In the February edition there was a mistake about the elapsed-time record for the Three Bridge Fiasco. It's actually 1 hour, 51 minutes by my Howard Spruit-designed 34-ft D Class catamaran Rocket 88 that I sailed with Jay Crum. You can confirm this by referring to the March '96 issue of Latitude.

Serge Pond
Rocket 88

Serge - We checked out the March '96 issue, and you're correct, you do own the Fiasco record.


I just want to say, "Sail naked whenever possible!" It's not a sexual thing, an exhibitionist thing, or in any way demeaning. It is completely natural, the way we all came into the world. Society certainly does develop some nonsensical concepts, doesn't it?

And kudos to Latitude for the editorial comment, "We think at least 5% of each year's oil production ought to be set aside for the making of condoms. After all, nothing would help the planet more than reducing the world's population by 50%." Finally, someone else who realizes that there is an overpopulation problem in this world, and there is only one answer to it, other than handling it the same way we handle population explosions of deer and other wildlife.

Having gotten that off my chest, I wanted to warn everyone that I have replaced my battered Cal 34 Alitloff with a beautiful as-yet-unnamed Cal 36, which was yard maintained in perfect shape for her entire life. I plan to spend the short Rhode Island summer working as little as I can and sailing as much as possible. If anyone wants to go sailing this summer in the Northeast, they can contact me at alitloff2 at I'll be happy to take anyone who wants to go - as long as you are willing to wave your rights to an attorney should the beer not be chilled to your absolute preference - highly unlikely - or there be some other similar catastrophe.

I'd also like to make my boat as 'green' as possible, and therefore would like to hear from anyone who has experience with alternative head systems - other than the holding tank method. Composting, for example. I'm also looking to heat my water with solar energy - other than the hanging bag - and use environmentally friendly paint. I'm also interested in communicating with anyone who has successfully installed an electric motor in a similar displacement boat.

I'm open to all 'green' tips. What can I say, I need something to think about and research while waiting for the 10 tons of snow and ice to melt so I can get my boat launched and go sailing!

Christine Watson
Cal 36
Wickford, RI

Christine - Sailing naked in the Northeast sounds like a goosebumpy concept to us. Maybe you'd better sail that Cal 36 to the Caribbean where sailing naked is close to a necessity.

Right after we wrote that 5% of the world's oil production should be set aside for making condoms, we read a surprising article that said that many experts believe that the world's population will level off or even start to decline by the year 2050. They base this prediction on the fact that birthrates in developed countries have been plummeting, and are declining in almost every country where women have rights and have become educated.


As an avid reader of Latitude - great job every month, by the way - I feel necessary to vent concerning the Tied Up In A Cat Suit item in the February Sightings. I don't pretend to have any insight into the specifics of this lawsuit, but was irritated at what I see as the most pronounced indication of our moral decline as a society.

Let me see if I get this straight: Peter Schlenzka and Julie Langhorne purchased a 'demo' catamaran from the Miami Boat Show in February 2000, receiving a major discount because the boat was used in the show. The original cost was $830,000, but they paid much less because of the discount. They cruise the boat until August 2000, or approximately six months when, because of repairable defects, they decide they want a complete refund. After much back and forth bantering between the manufacturer Fountaine-Pajot and the two sailors, a settlement offer was made by F/P. The offer was for the refund of the original cost of the boat, plus significant additional money. And the buyers declined it? And now they want $5 million?

What was this, the Miami lottery, or did they really purchase the boat? Spend much less than $830,000 on a boat, cruise it for six months, want out of the whole deal, and when offered a refund of all you've spent, plus additional money, you say no? Can anyone say greed?

Remember several years ago in California when voters had the chance to vote on an initiative which would have reduced some of the frivolous lawsuits, and this initiative was voted down? Here's the reason: Folks like Peter and Julie, represented by their personal shark, Ted Keech, want more, much more, than what they have coming. Unfortunately this money-grubbing pair is not alone as this seems to be the popular trend. Sadly, the cost in this case to others connected with their unethical behavior, including your publication, is staggering.

Mike Wiley
Morro Bay

Mike - It's a somewhat complicated case, and we're not privy to all the details or the exact timing of the events, so we recommend that readers suspend judgement of everyone involved for at least the time being. To a certain extent, we can appreciate the perspectives of both the plaintiffs and the defendant. Buyers deserve to receive a boat that's structurally sound and looks good. On the other hand, if there are defects, manufacturers should have a reasonable amount of time to make things right. What's really disturbing is that a relatively minor problem has apparently been allowed to blossom into a $5 million lawsuit. It's our belief that this is a function of an overly insular American legal system that cares more about money than justice.


Affected by the layoffs and a mega-merger of two big companies in Silicon Valley, we looked for a change in our lives in the summer of 2001. That September we learned to sail in the waters off Santa Cruz. That November we tried out the cruising lifestyle during a charter in the British Virgin Islands. We sold our house in March of 2002, and in May bought our boat in Seattle. Last summer we refitted the boat at a local boatyard.

We left Seattle for San Francisco in September for our first long passage. Going back to our roots, we returned to Santa Cruz, where we'd learned to sail a little more than a year before. On November 18, we left for Hilo. Following the sound of a Distant Drummer, we made our first ocean crossing to Hawaii in 22 days. We arrived at Hilo exhausted and in desperate need of a shower, but felt incredibly exhilarated.

We're now in Honolulu, finally catching our breath after a hectic year, and updating our web page at For the next couple of weeks we will be sailing through the Islands, and by mid-March we intend to leave for the Marquesas.

It still takes us a few days to overcome seasickness, but we plan on sailing west, hopefully holding off going broke for a couple of years.

Tom Gerkens & Tammy Goodall
Distant Drummer, Liberty 458
Moss Beach

Tom and Tammy - You're off to a very impressive start - although we'd not recommend your itinerary to other relatively new sailors. Sailing from Santa Cruz to Hawaii in late November is tempting the weather gods, as it's not the best time of year to make that passage. Similarly, your upcoming passage from Hawaii to the Marquesas is a long, long trip to weather for even the most weatherly boats - as the folks on the SC 52 Kiapa reported last year. We won't be surprised if you can't lay it on one tack, and that would not be a good thing. The only good thing about making such an arduous passage is that almost all passages afterwards will seem short and easy by comparison. Good luck!


Have you heard what the weather patterns will be like for a sailing trip to Hawaii this summer? I've heard that it's an El Niño year and therefore a bad year for sailing across. What does that mean? What clues should I be looking for before deciding to shove off?

Chris Martin
San Francisco

Chris - The weather service has predicted that the El Niño conditions are expected to lessen, if not fade away entirely, in the next few months. Besides, to our knowledge there's no reason to believe the weather would be anything outside of the normal TransPac parameters - even if there were strong El Niño conditions.

When sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii, you should be prepared for strong coastal reaching conditions for the first few days - meaning up to 35 knots and 15 foot seas. Then you'll be broad reaching and ultimately running in mostly lighter conditions. As you reach tropical waters, your biggest problem will be squalls to 35 knots that tend to strike most frequently in the middle of the night. Although it's possible you'll have winds in excess of 30 knots for a short time, it's more likely you'll have winds less than 20 knots. In any event, after the early reaching it should always be from well aft and not much of a problem.

We suggest you visit the West Marine Pacific Cup Web site and check out the Weather & Tactics article by Stan Honey, who is the world's foremost authority for this passage. Rick Shema from also has an article on the topic on the site. If you want even more info, check out the weather section of Jim and Sue Corenman's Pacific Cup Handbook.

The bottom line is that the weather to Hawaii is pretty straightforward and consistent, and very favorable to the sailor. The most important thing is being a little flexible on your starting date so that you can avoid heavy weather during the first couple of days of reaching. Mahalo.


Our boat is in Puerto Vallarta for the winter, and we're going back for the Banderas Bay Regatta. We've been told that even though we have a Temporary Import Permit for our boat, we may be subject to expensive import duty on a new windlass that I intend to bring with me. I say 'may' because no one knows for sure, and the process of passing through Customs at the airport and activating a light makes detection unlikely. I have been given various bits of advice about ways to increase my chances of not being detected, and how to minimize the duty if I am.

Still, I remember an article in Latitude a couple of years ago about a couple who tried to bring some major parts into Mexico and were stopped at the border. They faced heavy fines and major delays, and we don't want this to happen to us. Any suggestions?

Doug Thorne
Tamara Lee Ann
San Francisco / Puerto Vallarta

Doug - Customs procedures vary tremendously at different airports and cities in Mexico. Most stuff gets through without a hassle at Puerto Vallarta, while sending stuff - even critically needed medical equipment - to Guadalajara can be like throwing it in the garbage.

The way to be legal - and have your best chance of getting the windlass through duty free - is to have your old windlass removed and brought to Customs officials to show that you'll be destroying it or otherwise not selling it in Mexico. This procedure seems to work quite well in Puerto Vallarta in particular. It can often be done after the fact, too. For example, you let Customs hold the new windlass until you bring them the old one it will replace. Talk to your harbormaster. Make sure, however, the windlass is coming down on a direct flight to P.V., not one that, God help you, stops in Guadalajara.

The second option is to play the odds that you can walk through with the new windlass undetected. When you go through Customs, you have to press a button, which 90% of the time will come up green, allowing you to proceed without inspection. If you do get caught, play the role of the genial fool who had no way of knowing better. If you want to increase your odds of getting a green light, involve two people and make it unclear who has the bag with the windlass. If the first person presses the button and gets a green light, he takes the bag with the windlass. If the first person gets a red, he leaves the bag for the second person, who almost certainly will get a green. Some customs folks make it easy to get away with this scheme, others don't. It's all part of the game.


I just thought that I would share a news item from yesterday's Ventura County Star newspaper. The article says that pollution was detected at 16 Mexican beach cities, with Zihuatanejo listed as "among the worst," and that pollution was "detected" in Acapulco Bay. It also mentioned that the situation has "already caused some health problems".

Pete Caras

Pete - In the past we've written that often times environmentalists can't be trusted any more than used car salesmen. This is one of them. If the kind of information released to the press agencies and major U.S. newspapers by the Mexican Environmental Protection Agency had been released by an American corporation, that corporation would have had its butt sued 10 ways to Sunday for being misleading. Shouldn't government and non-government environmental agencies be held to similar standards? We think so. To understand the problem we - who swam in the waters of Zihuatanejo five times a day for a week last month - have with this story, see this month's Sightings.


In the February Changes, Bob Willmann of the Islander 37 Viva wanted to know how to skin a snake. He'd been surprised by a fer de lance that had climbed aboard his boat while at anchor in Costa Rica.

Skinning a snake is simple. Remove the head - fangs and all. Then pull the skin down the carcass. It's a little tricky getting the skin started, but pull it slowly down over the body, turning the skin inside out. Discard or eat the carcass, whichever you prefer. I have never eaten a rattlesnake, which is my expertise, and I damn sure wouldn't eat your deadly reptile either. Then hang the 'inside out' skin up like a Christmas sock and fill it with sand. Coat the outside with Corn Huskers Lotion every day for seven days, after which you will have a supple, soft skin to make hat bands or belts.

Ron Nichols
Santa Rosa


I'm probably the last to know about this, but I recently learned from a friend of mine here in Discovery Bay about a commonly known product that is literally magical in removing rust stains from dacron sails. It's called navel jelly and is marketed by several companies for the removal of rust from metal.

I made the mistake of storing one of my sails on a metal dolly without a bag around it, and during the rainy weather had rust from the dolly stain the sail. I was sick at the thought of hoisting this beautiful sail with ugly rust stains. Past attempts to remove rust from other sails with every kind of cleanser had failed.

Enter the magic of navel jelly. I applied liberal amounts of the stuff to each stained area, scrubbed them briefly with a stiff bristle brush, and then rinsed with soapy water and then clear water. In less than 30 minutes, the treated areas were - like magic - free of stains. The entire sail looked as it had before it had been stained.

The stuff - which is available at marine and hardware stores - contains phosphoric acid and can cause harm to skin, eyes, and so forth. So you have to use it with care. I was concerned about the effect the jelly might have on the sail material. Naturally, I tried it on a scrap of material first, and have since attempted to puncture it with a pick in the treated and untreated areas. I found no difference. Although I am satisfied that it does not harm dacron, I have no long term evidence to support this.

In closing, let me say that I have been a fan of Latitude for many years, and have often used the Classy Classifieds for both buying and selling. And speaking of 'magic', that's what the ads have been like for me. You folks have this rag so carefully tuned that it's no wonder you get so many raves. There is a certain thread of wisdom, fairness, humor and insight that runs through all of your editorial responses that indicates a strong influence at the helm guiding the great success of your popular magazine. Since this usually comes with age and experience, I hope you are passing that wisdom and these skills on to the younger staff so we can continue to enjoy this exceptional publication for many years to come. Congratulations on publishing what is sometimes referred to as the 'Sailor's Bible'.

Buz Glass
Wooz II, Ericson 27
Discovery Bay

Buz - Thanks for the kind words. We can't afford to hire any new staff, so when we feel our editorial content getting a little rusty, we just crack open a six-pak of navel jelly and toss it down. It doesn't taste so good, but it seems to clean up our copy and make it smoother than ever. (Since we live in the United States of Litigation, we must explain that the above paragraph is a joke, and that humans should not drink navel jelly or mix it with peanut butter in sandwiches.)


I recently read an article in a Latitude wannabe publication about checking into Ensenada. It all sounded correct until I got to the part about Solicitude de authorzacion de importacion temporal de embarcaciones - the Temporary Import Permit. In the small article, they said that the following documents were required: A cover letter in Spanish, two copies of the completed application, a copy of your arriving Crew List with official stamps, a copy of the owner's passport, tourist permit and driver's license, a copy of both sides of the boat's documentation certificate, boat insurance - and the owner's social security number! Now I can live with all of the rest, but giving someone in Mexico my social security number bothers me, as I won't even give it out in the States.

I have two questions. First, is this information correct? Second, if it is correct, is there a way to avoid giving out my social security number? Identity theft is a terrible problem in the United States, so I can only imagine how bad it might be in Mexico. If my identity was stolen, the only remedy might be suicide.

Please reach into your vast experience and tell us what the truth is.

Dan Erb
Afroessa, Hans Christian 38
San Francisco

Dan - You don't need a Temporary Import Permit - and therefore all the extra stuff required to get it - to check into Ensenada or anywhere else in Mexico. However, you will need to get such a permit if 1) your boat is going to be in Mexico for more than six months, or technically, 2) if during the first six months you leave the boat in Mexico while you fly home to the States. In truth, if you leave your boat on the hook with a spouse or crewmember while you fly home, nobody is going to be the wiser. But if you're in a marina and the staff is on the ball, they'll require you to get such a permit before they let you fly home - because without it they become responsible for her.

Most folks get Temporary Import Permits because they're relatively inexpensive, are good for 20 years - how 'temporary' is that? - and because they'll keep you in compliance with Mexican law if you have to rush home on some emergency. We recommend that you get one, and it's often best to let the marina or agent take care of the paperwork.

How to get a Temporary Import Permit without giving out your social security number? Some of the more effective strategies are to write your SSN illegibly, transpose a couple of numbers, or forget one of the digits. In the highly unlikely event you get caught, you can either claim to be dyslexic or that you're awaiting a replacement social security number because your previous one was 'stolen'. For the record, we do not condone any of these strategies.

To review, the absolute minimum you need to sail into Mexico is your vessel document or state registration, and personal identification - passports are by far the best - for each member of the crew. Before you've finished clearing in, you'll have needed to fill out Tourist Cards (which you can get at Immigration), and several copies of a Crew List (you can usually get forms from the port captain or a ship's agent if you want someone to do the clearing for you.) It's also a good idea to have proof of liability insurance (which you can also buy in Mexico), and a fishing permit for the boat and a fishing license for each member of the crew if you're carrying fishing gear. If there's a child 16 or under aboard without both parents, you'll need a notarized letter from the other parent, in Spanish, saying that it's all right for the child to enter Mexico.

If you want to visit Ensenada without checking in at all, be part of the Newport to Ensenada Race.


My husband and I are currently in New Zealand and have heard from cruisers arriving this year that Americans are only being allowed one month in French Polynesia. If this is true, the U.S. needs to get this rectified. Here are some reasons why:

My husband and I sailed our Valiant 40 from San Diego to French Polynesia in 2001. Two days out of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, our one-year-old autopilot quit working. We spent a month in Nuka Hiva waiting for a new autopilot to be shipped. The autopilot was accidentally sent to Martinique in the Caribbean by FedEx. When we called FedEx, they said they didn't know where the Marquesas - or even French Polynesia - was located. They assumed it was in the Atlantic. So the autopilot was shipped back to Tennessee, and then to Papeete, and then on to Nuka Hiva. But we ended up being in the Marquesas for a month.

After fixing the autopilot, we sailed the 20 miles to Ua Poa. The second day there, our refrigerator compressor self-destructed. We'd had a new refer box built and new refrigeration system installed in San Diego the previous year. Without the refer, we forgot about going to the Tuamotus and sailed straight to Papeete. We ordered a new compressor, which cost an arm and a leg for DHL to ship. After a few weeks, we were able to get the new compressor installed by a local Frenchman. However, he and his friend took days to find the leak in the system, which turned out to be a bad weld behind the stove. The Frenchmen told us that the material that was used on the weld was not silver solder, and that's what caused the whole thing to break. Who knows? The high point was that we got to stay at the Papeete YC during this ordeal.

While we were in Papeete, our electrical system started failing. The problem was that our batteries - purchased new in San Diego before we left - were not charging properly. Even when we ran the engine continually, we were losing charge. We had a special big bucks electrical system put in by a company in the Bay Area, however it was no longer charging the batteries. We considered buying all new batteries, but were told by other cruisers that they also would lose the charge. Many other cruisers were having similar electrical problems. My husband ordered a new alternator and regulator, which took a couple of weeks to arrive and cost $700 in shipping alone. But that didn't fix the problem.

Finally, my husband and a fellow cruiser retraced all the wiring and found that some shortcuts had been made by the installer in San Francisco, which messed up the system when it came under stress. I cannot believe how much these shortcuts ultimately cost us. Even though we had been in Mexico for a year using this system, this particular problem didn't show up because we were often in marinas. When we went across to French Polynesia it was the first time we had to generate all our own electricity over a long period of time. The lesson is that just because you buy the best system doesn't mean it's going to work, and that just because you pay good money for the best people to install the system, it doesn't mean they're going to do it correctly. By the way, when we got to American Samoa, we learned that there was nothing wrong with the autopilot. The installation had been the problem.

Our two Furuno weatherfaxes quit working somewhere around Raiatea in the Society Islands. We shipped them both back to Washington to have them fixed. They were shipped back to us in Pago Pago as fixed, but still didn't work. One of them was brand new. It wasn't until we got to New Zealand that we found out they hadn't been programmed correctly for the southern hemisphere. Since we didn't have weatherfax info coming in, we got hit by a storm while sailing from Bora Bora to American Samoa. We had to ride to our wonderful series drogue for 2.5 days since the autopilot quit once again. While in American Samoa - with 29 to 31 knot winds blowing through the harbor daily - we redrilled the rudder post and reinstalled the autopilot correctly. It's worked ever since. Ain't cruising great?

The main point is that we had to stay in French Polynesia for five months just to get the boat fixed well enough for us to leave. It should also be noted that if a boat arrived in French Polynesia in June and was forced to sail to Hawaii in August, it would have a much greater chance of getting hit by a hurricane north of the equator.

The bottom line is that the French policy just isn't fair. After all, many French boats use the Panama Canal that we built in order to get to the Pacific. Maybe the U.S. Navy should block the Panama Canal and prevent French ships from coming through. Then something would get done quickly. The U.S. must try to get an agreement with France to let Americans have at least three months in French Polynesia, with a provision to extend for another three months. As it is now, our government and the French government are endangering our boats and our lives.

Please withhold our names as we have several good French friends. They don't understand it either.

Name Withheld
Auckland, New Zealand

Name Withheld - Oh dear! The fact that the French government suddenly decided last year to only give 30-day visas to American cruisers after years of regularly issuing three-month visas followed by near automatic three-month extensions, and after all French consuls and embassies had assured American cruisers that they'd get a minimum of three months, is s-o-o-o French. But to suggest that the U.S. Navy should prevent French ships from coming through the Panama Canal would ratchet up the lunacy stakes even further. Didn't Jimmy Carter give the Panama Canal to Panama about 25 years ago? The truth of the matter is that if the French don't want to give more than 30-day visas, it's their business. So the options of U.S. cruisers are four: 1) Accept the 30 days; 2) Accept the 30 days and then try to cruise 'under the radar'; 3) Go somewhere else where the government is more hospitable; or 4) Become an activist in the campaign to rid the Pacific of French colonialism.

We also think that you're over dramatizing the dangers of your problems. Just because your autopilot crapped out, your refrigeration doesn't work, and your weatherfaxes weren't programmed correctly, shouldn't mean that you were stranded in French Polynesia. People cruise all over the Pacific without having any of those things.

On February 18, we called the French consulate in Los Angeles to get the latest about visas for American cruisers sailing to French Polynesia. The woman we spoke with began by stating that for many years U.S. visitors to French Polynesia were only given 30-day visas. This is a monumental lie she would not let go of. It's true that the law has long been that Americans need not be given more than 30 days, but up until last season all cruisers were given a minimum of three months. She then said that the Los Angeles consulate can only process applications for longer-length visas for people in the parts of the States her office serves. In other words, folks living elsewhere might have to do it from San Francisco, San Diego, New York, or wherever. You can't just apply at any French consulate. The woman did say that it's possible to get a three-month visa to French Polynesia with just one visit to the consulate in L.A. One would need: 1) An application form for a short stay visa; 2) A valid passport and a photocopy; 3) A copy of round-trip airline reservations; 4) Proof of accommodations; 5) Proof of sufficient funds to cover one's stay, meaning a minimum of $100/day; 6) Copies of your last two bank statements; and 7) An international credit card.

Like the stereotype of a French waiter, this woman made it as difficult and unpleasant as possible to get the information we wanted. Further, given the fiasco of last year, in which French consulate members said one thing and officials in French Polynesia did another, we would not completely believe what she said. Some people have asked whether this visa problem has anything to do with the recent rift between the United States and France over Iraq. It does not, as it preceeds it by about a year. The Iraq business, however, may prevent a pleasant resolution to the visa problems any time soon.


I'm sure your readers are eagerly following the progress of Alameda's Bruce Schwab, who is competing in the Around Alone Race around the world aboard his Wylie-designed Ocean Planet. Readers need to know that he has a new Web site address:

Linda Anne Chancler
Editor, Dockwalk Publications
Fort Lauderdale, FL


In response to Jason Becker's letter about lien sales on boats, most marinas have lien sales from time to time. When boatowners abandon their boats at marinas, the marinas use lien sales to cover the cost of slip fees owed. Anyone can attend these auctions. People can call marinas to find out when they hold such sales.
Gina LaTulippe

Gina - We called Schoonmaker Marina in Sausalito to inquire about lien sales and were told that they have one about every five years - usually for a single boat in dry storage. That didn't sound promising. But when we called the Berkeley Marina, we were informed that they have a lien sale coming up on March 8th - how timely! - featuring a Yamaha 25, Newport 30, Ranger 20, Columbia 24, Columbia 32, and an O'Day 21. The boats can be viewed from 2-4 p.m. on the 7th and from 9-10:45 a.m. on the 8th. The bidding will begin at 11 a.m., the boats are strictly "as is," and must be removed from the marina after 10 days. For further information, call (510) 644-6376. We were told that Berkeley Marina has about two such lien sales each year.

Based on our extensive survey of two marinas, it clearly pays to call different marinas and ask about such sales. But when buying "as is," make sure you know what you're doing.


I have to sell my little boat because of the 'you-have-to-belong-to-a-yacht-club-or-you-can't-sail-here' reality in this area - and in the United States in general. If we had a true sailing community, then all the yacht clubs - including the Corinthian and St. Francisco - would have to open up at least their launch ramps and docks to anyone who wants to sail. Yacht clubs shouldn't be for people just hanging around getting drunk, and we shouldn't have to use public launch ramps with disgusting powerboats such as are found near the Grand St. launch ramp in Alameda.

Further, you can't bring a new boat over here to sell because of the Vanguard/Laser monopoly and business practices that would make Bill Gates look like a saint. Try bringing the Laser Vortex or any one of the singlehanded 'spinni-skiffs' to these shores and you will have the Vanguard/Laser monopoly mafia on your butt telling you that you can't.

So I thank you very much for what you're doing, I really do, as it will buy me a couple of surfboards. In that case, the only beatings you take are while you're learning, and nobody has the right to tell you that 'you don't belong here' - like they tend to do at yacht clubs. It's just better out in the surf where there isn't so much dollar-driven-status-symbol-ego-trip-separatist bullshit.

Matt 'The One And Only' Warren
'Spreading reality where there was once only fog'

Matt - We're sorry to break the news to you, but there is no sport in the world where you'll be more frequently and emphatically told that 'you don't belong' than surfing. There aren't anywhere near enough waves to go around, surfers are more territorial than sharks, and the vibes can be extremely heavy against newcomers. Unless you're very thick-skinned, perhaps you should take up open ocean swimming, where new masochists are always welcomed.

On the other hand, if your boat doesn't sell right away, you might get a list - visit the Cal Boating website - of all the launch ramps in Northern California to better familiarize yourself with all the sailing opportunities. There are tons of them.

Do you feel as though you should be required to let anyone who feels like it use your sailboat? Probably not. So how is it that you can't understand why members of yacht clubs don't feel that they should be required to let anyone use the facilities they paid for? The truth of the matter is that if you're willing to pay a few bucks to join a yacht club or sailing association - and there are a number of very inexpensive ones - you'll be welcome to use the facilities at many of the other yacht clubs, too.

As for the Vanguard/Laser mafia, we're unsure what you're talking about.


Having cruised in Mexico from '94-'97, and having left my boat in Mazatlan since then with twice-a-year visits, I have seen prices rise during that period - especially on beer and rum. The peso has dropped from 3.5 to 10 to the dollar, but prices have gone up in equivalent dollars also.

On my most recent trip to Mazatlan - November 2002 - I decided to record prices of food items in supermarkets and compare them to food prices in U.S. supermarkets. I know the list isn't complete, but it represents common food items that can be purchased in both countries. All the items purchased in Mexico were Mexican brands, and all sizes were as close to equivalent as possible. I intentionally stayed away from imported items, which are usually quite expensive. What my research shows is that the average cost for food in Mexico is about 42% of that in the United States. All my purchases were made with a credit card, so I know exactly what the exchange rate was on the day of purchase.

Another factor in the cost of living in Mexico is the price of dining out. When cruisers choose to eat at the Shrimp Bucket, Señor Frogs, or any of the other tourist places, they should be prepared to pay U.S. prices. But if they would walk off the main drag a couple of blocks and eat where the Mexicans eat, they would find that it costs a lot less and is usually very delicious.

The bottom line is that if you want to stay in marinas, eat in high-class restaurants, and eat imported food, expect to pay for it - and stop whining.

Below is a list of all my Mexican food purchases in dollars (converted from pesos) compared to prices in the U.S. I hope this puts things into perspective.

 Item  $ Equiv./lb. or ea.  U.S. Price  % of U.S. Price
 Eggs, dozen  $0.78  $2.19  35.5%
 Bread, multigrain, small loaf  $1.13  $1.99  56.9%
 Mayonnaise, Hellmann's, 14 oz (390 g)  $1.47  $2.29  64.4%
 Hot Dogs, Turkey, 8 ea  $1.82  $1.99  91.6%
 Salsa, Herdez, 7 oz (128 g)  $0.35  $1.29  27.5%
 Onions, white, 1 lb  $0.14  $0.69  20.3%
 Lunch meat, ham, approx 1 lb  $2.76  $5.99  46.1%
 Potatoes, small white, 1 lb  $0.49  $0.69  71.0%
 Ground beef, Extra lean, approx 1 lb  $1.64  $2.49  65.8%
 Lettuce, 1 head  $0.32  $0.99  31.8%
 Bacon, approx 1 lb  $3.09  $3.59  86.1%
 Broccoli, 1 head ($N9.90/kg=$0.45/lb)  $0.23  $1.29  18.2%
 Tomatoes, Roma, 1 lb  $0.43  $1.99  21.6%
 Mustard, 8 oz  $0.51  $0.99  51.7%
 Green pepper, 1 lb  $0.72  $1.29  55.8%
 Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, 6  $4.60  $11.98  38.4%
 Bananas, 1 lb  $0.30  $0.69  43.5%
 Tuna, light, in water, 6 oz (170 g)  $0.55  $0.89  61.4%
 Butter, 1 lb  $1.65  $3.79  43.5%
 Flour tortillas, 10, Tia Rosa  $0.58  $1.79  32.3%
 Italian dressing, Hellmans, 8 oz (244 g)  $0.98  $1.89  51.6%
 Celery, 1 lb  $0.03  $0.69  3.9%
 Milk, 2%, 1/2 gallon  $1.57  $2.35  66.8%
 Avocado, 1 lb  $0.77  $3.23  23.8%
 Total  $26.91  $57.05  47.2%

Vic, Nancy & Kyle Jewhurst
Elk Grove / Marina Mazatlan
Charisma, Traveller 32

Vic, Nancy, and Kyle - Since November, the dollar has risen dramatically against the peso. A dollar buys almost 11 pesos now - an increase of almost 10% in just three months.

Having just spent two weeks in Mexico from Zihua to Puerto Vallarta, we were pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive one can live. This is even true in some of the tourist places. For three days in a row we anchored off Punta de Mita and surfed at La Launcha for many hours a day, coming out of the water with a major appetite. We had lunch each day at the El Dorado Restaurant - which is right on the beach with one of the nicest views of Banderas Bay. Our meal consisted of a gigantic slab of Parmesan chicken, mixed vegetables, baked potato with sour cream, mini salad, chips and salsa, and warm garlic bread, and cost just under $6 at the current exchange rate. The food was nicely prepared, the waiters were very pleasant, and the tables were even covered with tablecloths. At night, the same meal was available at the same price under the romantic light of tiki torches with the sound of the surf in the background. Mexico is not free, but it seems like a heck of a bargain to us.


I have to take issue with the caption for the 'Looking Good' photo on page 118 of the February issue. The caption states that the captain of the tugboat Titan had the "technical right" to barge through the boats taking part in the Corinthian Midwinters. Rule 18 of the COLREGS states that a power-driven vessel shall keep out of the way of (i) a vessel not under command; (ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; (iii) a vessel engaged in fishing; (iv) a sailing vessel. I don't think anyone would argue that a tug is restricted in her ability to maneuver, since one of her prime jobs is to aid just such vessels in docking.

Unless the tug was towing another vessel, thus falling under (ii), it was her obligation to stay clear of the sailing vessels, even though they all appear to be on port tack.

Dean Dietrich


In your February Sightings article about the Corinthian Midwinters, you commented that a tugboat captain respected and avoided the racing fleet, but that he had the right to lay on his horn and barge through. I think that the perceived rights of commercial vessels is a widespread maritime myth. If I'm missing something, please advise. 

The ColRegs make no provision for commercial vessels. There are special rights for vessels not under command, restricted in ability to maneuver, engaged in fishing, or constrained by draft. Whether or not their activity is commercial is irrelevant. If the tugboat were towing a barge or pushing a ship, she would have rights over most other traffic. Fishing boats, not engaged in fishing, don't have rights over sailboats. Neither do harbor ferries. Neither do boats that are towing something. 

I recently encountered a cabin cruiser towing a smaller powerboat through the Sausalito YC Midwinter racing fleet. He was waving his arms and shouting, "I'm towing," but he was completely maneuverable and displayed no day shape and made no proper sound signal to indicate otherwise. If vessels were given the right-of-way because they're commercial, then specific day shapes and light signals would be required. How else could one tell if that 35-ft trawler is for hire and therefore commercial and therefore privileged? Or that big classic dinner cruiser-looking thing isn't Larry Ellison's latest toy and therefore private and therefore burdened? If a boat is privileged just because it's engaged in towing, then a charter yacht dragging it's dinghy has rights.

Having said all that, as a recreational sailor and racer, I avoid right-of-way issues with boats engaged in work. In fact, outside of racing I avoid these situations altogether by anticipating and maneuvering or changing speed early. And yes, I agree that the majority of commercial mariners on the Bay are courteous and considerate of recreational boaters.  

Don Krafft

Don - You'd think that right-of-way rules would be clear-cut and simple, wouldn't you? Well, they're not.

As we're sure you know, under Rule 9(b): "A . . . sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel that can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway." What you might not know is that the Captain of the Port of San Francisco Bay has ruled that virtually all of San Francisco Bay, and up the Delta, is considered "a narrow channel or fairway". For a complete list, visit: But you'll find that memorizing the exceptions and being able to know if you're in one of them would be beyond the abilities of just about everyone. Besides, the list is not necessarily all inclusive.

So all sailors should operate on the assumption that all tugs, no matter if they are pulling a barge or not, have the right-of-way if they want it. Diana Cranston, Chief of the Waterways Management Bureau of the Marine Safety Office of the Coast Guard says this may also be true of ferries running their normal route - although it would be up to Coast Guard investigations to decide for sure. It's that unclear. The bottom line is that not all commercial traffic necessarily has right-of-way over sailboats on San Francisco Bay, but it's safest to assume that they do.

By the way, the last paragraph of your letter couldn't more accurately describe our approach to right-of-way situations on the Bay, and our feelings about the attitudes of the operators of commercial vessels on San Francisco Bay.


My wife and I have a Columbia 36 in Alameda that we plan on keeping it until we retire in six years. Actually, we'll sell the boat in four years and then buy another boat and ready it for living aboard and travel. Our plan is to purchase a sailboat in Florida, as we'll use that area as a home base while frequently travelling through the Caribbean and the IntraCoastal waterways.

As I look around for used boats for sale in the Florida area, I'm surprised at how much less expensive they are. Particularly Beneteaus in the 50-ft range, which I see being offered in the $130,000 to $150,000 price range. This is definitely the size boat we're looking for, and within our budget. I'm also good when it comes to working on boats.

My question is what kind of information can you give me on Beneteaus, as I've never had the opportunity to sail one - and, in fact, can't remember ever being around one. It sure seems as though there are a lot of them on the East Coast, and I was wondering if it's because that's where many of the charter boats end up. Most of the boats I'm talking about have four full beds with four private heads. We don't need so many beds and heads, but I could modify that.

I'm also interested in any information you might have on the Hudson Force 50.

P.S. Thanks for all the years of pleasure I've gotten from reading Latitude. I look forward to reading it every month.

Michael Cole

Michael - Thanks for the nice words. For a number of years Beneteau has been the largest boatbuilder in the world. The quality of their boats has varied over the years and between models. For example, some of the boats that were built years ago for the charter trade in the protected waters of the British Virgins weren't of the highest quality - certainly not along the lines of the wildly successful Beneteau 40.7, which has the reputation of being a poor man's Farr 40, but with a decent cruising interior.

If you're talking about a 50-footer for $130,000 to $150,000, you can assume that it's a boat that was designed specifically for the charter trade - which means all those beds and all those heads are obligatory - and was probably used quite hard for a number of years in the trade. It probably means that the boat is more than a little scuffed up, but given your boat modifying skills and cruising plans, a used Beneteau 50 or 51 from the charter trade might be just what you're looking for.

A couple of warnings: Make sure that you and a surveyor and a mechanical surveyor check out any such boat very, very carefully, particularly the engine, systems, rudder, rig, and sails. Further, don't fool yourself about how hard and expensive it is to do things such as replace an engine or transmission, or to make major modifications to a boat's layout. But if you're realistic about those things, and you don't mind a boat that's likely been abused a bit, you could end up getting a big bang for your buck. By the way, if that's the kind of boat you're after, it's worth looking not just in Florida, but also in the Eastern Caribbean, home of most charterboats. Poke around those islands - it's not cheap - and you might come up with a fixer-upper for a sweet price.

As for the Hudson Force 50, this was a rip-off of a supposed Bill Garden design, built to varying degrees of quality by various yards in Taiwan, and marketed as the Force 51, Hudson 50, Sea Wolf 50, Yankee Clipper 50 - and whatever other name anybody could come up with. Some of these boats were absolute horrors in terms of quality, while some of them weren't quite so bad. They have a lot of deck space, a lot of interior room, and to some people a lot of old wooden sailing ship kind of charm. On the other hand, a Beneteau would sail circles around such a ketch - which also has a tremendous amount of wood to maintain, besides the possibility that it may have been very, very poorly built. It all depends what you're looking for in a boat.

We'd like to remind everyone never to make the mistake of buying a type of boat - such as a Beneteau 51 or a Hudson 50. You'll always be buying a specific boat, and she needs to be carefully examined on an individual basis - particularly if you're in the 'big bang for the buck' market. You can sometimes get great deals, but you sometimes get badly burned. Good luck.


We put an Autostream self-feathering prop on Watermelon back in '88 or '89. When we arrived in Australia in '93, it needed a complete overhaul. We thought that the excessive wear might have been due to electrolysis - even though Peter is very careful about replacing zincs before they're 3/4s gone. When we got the prop back from the manufacturer, the bronze cone at the end of the prop had been replaced with a zinc cone. As such, the prop now had its own zinc rather than it relying on being protected by the shaft zinc. It made a huge difference, because the next 10+ years have seen virtually no significant deterioration. We assume that the manufacturers recognized the need for this design change as a result of problems to other props. Whatever the case, we have been very happy with the prop and Autostream's service.

With regard to a reader asking about following a boat's cruise from his armchair, we suggest Watermelon's web page at Although it wasn't started until long after we began our cruise in '86, it has lots of information and photos. Of course, I'm also behind in posting the latest stuff. People who sign the guestbook will get notices of new postings.

However, I'm not sure that anybody would be particularly interested in a daily log of a cruising boat. I think they'd run screaming in boredom. I kept a daily log for the first two years we cruised, and although I still refer to it because of how dumb I was when we first started out, I can't imagine it would hold anybody's attention for more than a couple of pages.

Jeanne and Peter [Silent Partner] Pockel
Watermelon, Jeanneau Sun Fizz
Green Cove Springs, Florida / Malaysia

Readers - Here's an opening line from their Web site: "We left Boston in 1986 to go cruising for a few years. Fifteen years later, we are still 'cruising for a few years'. We cannot say enough positive things about how wonderful this cruising life is. The sights, the wonderful people we have met everywhere, and the new things we have learned as we have traveled."


A while back I saw an ad in Latitude for Bilge Buster and Cabin Aire, two products made by Quantum Pure Aire to eliminate mold, mildew, and odors from everywhere in a boat. One day I saw these products on sale and decided to try them. They worked fantastically, and now there's no more odor or mildew in my boat. If Quantum Pure Aire is a publicly traded company, I want to buy some stock! I'd also like to see a story of how the company got started and what other products they make.

P.S. I'm 87 years old, but I still sail by myself. I've been sailing since I was six years old.

Capt. O. Flit

Capt. O - Quantum Pure Aire is strictly in the air purification business, but they make all kinds of models for personal, residential, marine, and business applications.


While it's easy to forget the boats that are faster or point higher than your own boat, sailors do remember the ones that are slower - especially, as in my case, when I was sailing an Angelman Sea Witch gaff-rigged ketch, and there were very few other boats that were slower.

In the early '60s I met the Groote Beer in the Channel Islands. It had taken me over 12 hours to motor and motorsail the 50 or 60 miles in my Sea Witch ketch, but it had taken Groote Beer over 20 hours to cover the same distance. She had a very wide beam and blunt bow, and was not designed for choppy water. At the time, she was maintained in beautiful condition, and the main salon was very spacious with top-quality cabinet work and many carvings. But with her dark varnish or oil finish, she probably would seem overpowering to a lot of people. The owners at that time believed, or at least were repeating, the myth about her having been owned by German Field Marshall Goering. But I had my doubts, as I don't think such a high official would have had such a small boat.

As neither of our boats had winches, I was most interested in Groote Beer's rigging. Jack van Ommen has every right to be very proud of the work his uncle did on the blocks and rigging. For while I'm a bit fuzzy on the carving details in the salon, my sharpest recollection of the boat is the beautiful proportions and varnished finish of the fiddle blocks.

I do not remember the names of her then owners, and while I think the boat was around Southern California for a while, I never saw her again. But I'm pleased to hear she is being restored to her former glory.

Thinking about this brings to mind another memory of that trip. I have no idea what a six-pack of beer cost back then, maybe $1.50, but after leaving the Groote Beer, we went on out to San Miguel Island. Very few boats went out there back then. We met some abalone divers that had been there for several days. They asked if we had any beer, and after giving them a six-pack, they brought over six large abalone in trade, each one five or six inches in diameter after the shells had been removed. And that was only 40 years ago.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
La Paz / Long Beach


On February 5, the San Mateo County Harbor District introduced an ordinance to require that vessels anchored at Pillar Point - Half Moon Bay - be manned at all times during the months of November through March. The Harbor Patrol said the purpose of the ordinance was to help reduce the number of boats that get beached during storms. It's safe to say that their remedy is a hefty fine.

If the intention is to reduce beachings, passing an ordinance that requires a vessel be manned doesn't directly or indirectly affect the factors that contribute to beached vessels - inadequate equipment and qualified crew.

In addition, there are many days in November through March that are beautiful and perfectly safe for leaving a vessel at anchor unmanned. On the other hand, an ordinance covering just November through March won't solve all the problems. For example, in '82 and '96 the harsh weather caused by El Niño conditions lasted well into May.

Most of the vessels free anchored - to differentiate them from permanently moored vessels - in the outer harbor at Pillar Point were kicked out of the inner harbor for non-payment of fees. Thus, they are somewhat abandoned and probably not adequately equipped to handle harsh weather, no matter if they are manned or unmanned.

To levy a fine on the owner of an unmanned vessel who couldn't pay his/her berthing bill in the first place doesn't make a lot of sense. It is yet another example of a government body profiting from its citizenry. However, it may come to pass that this misdemeanor infraction could be remedied with jail time when the warrant catches up with the person cited during something like a routine traffic stop. In that case, it becomes the taxpayer's burden. There's not a valued gain to the general taxpayer for this burden.

I've lived aboard my boat for five years, and here on a mooring at Pillar Point since September of 2001. If I weren't unemployed, I wouldn't be living here on a mooring as it sometimes puts my boat and my life at risk. I do, however, have concerns that abandoned vessels breaking their anchors or chain might damage my boat. As such, I've suggested that the harbor require insurance that specifies the harbor as 'additional insured'. They responded that they had considered that idea but decided against it.

It might also help if anchored vessels were required to pass a Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection, or if a minimum standard for equipment was required - as is the case with boats on moorings. Although this wouldn't address the ability of the crew, it would address the ability of the boat's equipment.

Here's a scary thought: Suppose a mariner with an alcohol or drug problem gets kicked out by his wife, takes up being a 'sneak aboard', falls behind in his berth fees, gets caught sneaking aboard and gets kicked out of the harbor, and is forced to live on the hook. A popular mariner in this situation might satisfy the ordinance by getting one or more homeless people to come live aboard with him. But say a northerly breaks the boat's anchor, and they end up on the inside of the outer jetty rocks. There could be several people, possibly inebriated, trying to climb onto the rocks and walking toward the waves of Mavericks that crash on the outside of the outer jetty. Does an expensive rescue then ensue?

It is always disappointing to me when laws are passed that give a blanket authority to an individual or group of officials to criminalize the citizenry at the official's discretion. For instance, during a beautiful week, a singlehanded sailor who anchors at Pillar Point for a day or two of rest and replenishment would probably not be cited if he left the boat and therefore violated the new ordinance. However, if the same sailor were to set up a more permanent stay and got some temporary odd jobs, I suspect it's more likely that he would get cited. As such, these kinds of laws put the onus on those cited to challenge whether the ordinance is reasonable or applicable.

Ultimately, I believe this ordinance will have the affect of putting people on the boats that hit the beach, and will give the Harbor Patrol a tool they can use to select who they want to prosecute. The demographic of those prosecuted will tend to be those who have less money and those who are single. If you stay out on your boat - which is something like a jail cell on the water - you're okay. Come ashore and you're liable to be cited for noncompliance. Let's face it, it's probably because you didn't benefit the harbor by renting a slip.

In my opinion, this ordinance is very much against the
American spirit of freedom. However, I was arrested for saying five words to a minor - so much for freedom of speech. And we do live in the John Ashcroft age, where the trend is toward the loss of civil liberties. Peace.

'John Paul' Lynker
Alicia's Wrath, DownEast 32
Pillar Point

John Paul - Although we're somewhat sympathetic to your point of view, the problem is that you're all about freedoms and nothing about responsibilities. In our opinion, both are critically necessary for any kind of halfway decent society - as opposed to the kind of squalor found at 6th and Market in San Francisco.

The ordinance in question - which can't become law until after the middle of March - is in direct response to the fact that for years irresponsible mariners have allowed their abandoned or inadequately anchored vessels to get loose and hit other boats and/or go ashore during winter storms. There have been a couple more this year. These breakaway boats are usually uninsured and cause significant financial problems, no matter if they hit other boats or have to be pulled off the beach by local government. We live in a town that often has to pay $10,000 a crack to get rid of inadequately cared for boats that wash up on our beaches. It's b.s. that our tax money should pay for the repeated irresponsibility of others.

We do salute you, however, for at least suggesting the 'Mexican solution'. All boats in Mexico have to have liability insurance - it's a couple of hundred dollars a year. If your boat doesn't and causes damage to another boat or government property, you'd better have money in your pocket to pay for all of the damages or you're going straight to jail. In theory, that's a system that could be instituted in California, but in reality, what druggie or alcoholic is going to bypass their next 10 highs to buy insurance? Further, what insurance company would want - or should be forced - to insure some of the derelicts that these people own. By the way, we don't include your boat among them, as a DownEast 32 is quite a nice boat. We know of at least two that have done circumnavigations.

While the proposed ordinance may not be perfect, we think it's a reasonable step in preventing a legitimate problem. A step that never would have been taken had people with boats not been so irresponsible. We also think that you're right, it will be selectively enforced. If someone with a well-maintained boat comes to Pillar Point in the winter and wants to go ashore when the weather is mild, we bet the Harbor Patrol wouldn't hassle them. But if someone with a derelict vessel and inadequate ground tackle isn't on his boat when nasty weather threatens, he/she will be cited. But that makes sense, too.

By the way, if the 'scary thought' scenario is autobiographical, we wish you all the luck in the world in finding a job and being able to move forward with your life.


In the January issue there was a letter from a OneWorld partisan who recommended that readers "never hire a Kiwi" because two of them subverted the OneWorld America's Cup effort. I've never heard so much drivel in my life.

I spent over 11 years in New Zealand, and while there found the best wooden boat workers and the friendliest countrymen - and women - you can imagine. During my wonderful years there, I met Chris Dickson, Russell Coutts, Grant Dalton, and a lot of other really keen and dedicated sailors. I never found a loser among them.

In fact, the 'score sheet' as of this date will prove the rest of this anonymous person's claims to be totally wrong - OneWorld was trounced by Oracle, and Prada was way down the list. Dennis Conner is one of the best ambassadors/sailors America has ever known. The man has done more to promote America's Cup sailing than anyone in my lifetime.

My prediction is New Zealand will keep the Cup one more time, as Barker and team will defeat Coutts and Alinghi 5-0.

Don Mollett
Formerly Softwind
South of Ensenada

Don - We disagree with you on two issues. First, while Dennis Conner has redeemed himself somewhat in recent years, there was a period - particularly during the Cup in Fremantle, Australia - when many sailors considered him to be about the worst possible ambassador for both sailing and America. Just ask the people who were there.

As for this year's America's Cup results, we're picking Russell Coutts and the Swiss boat to beat Barker and the Kiwis by a comfortable margin - even if Barker wears a hula skirt.


I noticed in the January Latitude 38 that there was a letter requesting the location of the John Alden yawl Criterion. A friend of mine saw her on a mooring behind Sand Island on Oahu. She's now painted dark blue.

I became acquainted with the Criterion when she was owned by David Johnson from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s. In fact, I learned to sail on her, then did the TransPac on her in 1977.

I've already spoken over the phone with Mike Fulmor about her. It's ironic, because although we've known each other for some time and both work for Marina Sailing, the subject of the Criterion never came up.

Captain Dan Dennis
Marina Sailing
Redondo Beach


I'm interested in being a part of the 2003 Baja Ha-Ha in late October, but don't have much cruising experience. I own a Catalina 27, just sold my Piver 30 trimaran, and have sailed offshore in the San Diego and Catalina areas for the past four years. But I am apprehensive about making the trek to Mexico on my own boat and would like to know if there are crew opportunities on your boat or others. I have never sailed into Mexican waters, but may try a trip to Ensenada this spring.

Brandon Wendell

Brandon - Making a trip to Mexico - particularly just to Ensenada - usually isn't that different from sailing in the waters off Southern California. Although you do have to check in and the prices are less expensive.

Often times there are crew opportunities on boats in the Ha-Ha, but it's best to secure them as early as possible. At least four people who came to the start in San Diego last year looking for berths got shut out. We suggest you check the Latitude Crew Lists, look in the Classy Classifieds, take out a Classy Classified, or attend the Crew List Party in the fall to try to hook up. From time to time we have berths on Profligate on a 'shared expenses' basis, but we give our repeat crew until the middle of the summer to 're-up'.


What is the schedule for this year's Baja Ha-Ha sign-ups, meetings, and so forth? I would like to participate, and have lined up a couple of crew to go with me.

Jan Meyer
Zephyr, Cascade 36

Jan - Ha-Ha folks go into total hibernation at the conclusion of each Ha-Ha until May 1 of the following year. However, we can tell you that entry packets will be available on May 1, that the entry fee will be the same as last year ($249), that the Ha-Ha will start October 27 in San Diego, and that there will be a full moon for the finish in Cabo on November 8. Further, the Wanderer will again be the volunteer Grand Poobah, and Profligate will again be the event's mothership.


Will there be a separate Crew List later in the year for the 2003 Baja Ha-Ha? When I looked at the current Crew List forms, there were just general entries for "Mexico this fall/winter" and "other destinations."

Planet Earth

Bill - In the October issue we will run a "Mexico-Only Crew List" specifically for folks headed south, be it in the Ha-Ha or otherwise. But there's no reason you can't indicate that you want to sail to Mexico this fall/winter on the current list.

By the way, the Crew List obviously doesn't work for everyone, but it sure works for some folks. While in Zihua, for example, Paul Biery of the Catana 431 New Focus told us he met Wes, his crewman for the Ha-Ha and ever since, through the Crew List, and that they've been getting along about as well as two hetero guys can.


We're looking for an opportunity for one person, who has Bay experience and owns a 46-ft boat, to do an offshore trip to get some offshore experience. Do you know any delivery skippers who might need someone for a four-to-five day bash up or down the coast? It would need to be done between now and the middle of April. Where could we contact such people?

Glenys Taylor
ssssssss1311 at
San Francisco / Jack London Square

Glenys - We can't think of where you'd get better exposure than in the Letters section of Latitude.


I'm astonished by Harry Heckel's account of his 142-day passage from Japan to Hawaii aboard his Tahiti ketch Idle Queen, as was published in the February issue. I want Harry to know that we also were looking for him out there!

My two crewmembers and I shoved off from Yokohama aboard my new Tayana 48 cutter Jolly Tar on July 28 for our crossing to San Francisco. We arrived 45 days later, on September 10. We became aware of Idle Queen's overdue status via USCG reports through Inmarsat C shortly after leaving Japan. We had several discussions onboard about what fate may have befallen Harry during his passage. We knew the old salt was singlehanding. We kept a lookout even though I figured he was too far ahead for us to render any assistance.

Because of unending inclement weather above us, we crossed between 39°N and 41°N, which was slightly lower than I had originally planned. His account of the weather was right on, as there was little to no prevailing conditions during this crossing for either of us. Judging by the route indicated in Latitude, Harry and Idle Queen were well north of us along most of their crossing. On August 24 we were at 40°N, 160°W - which is probably about the time we passed Idle Queen several hundred miles to the south.

Furthermore, during our passage we averaged one ship contact every four to five days. We - and I assume all other vessels at sea - received many USCG reports concerning Idle Queen and another sailing vessel that was also reported overdue in Washington. Despite this, not once did any ship ever attempt to contact us for identification, nor go out of their way to inform us about Idle Queen's status as missing. For the most part these ships maintained very poor watches, as was evidenced by my Channel 16 discussion with the skipper of a big-boy that came to within a quarter of a mile of us in daylight before he finally acknowledged our existence. That said, I'm sure that any skipper would do his or her best to render assistance to any other mariner in distress. But God bless and good luck to those relying on their ability and proactive interest in keeping a proper lookout for those reported lost at sea. Good to have you back, Harry!

Arnstein Mustad
Jolly Tar, Tayana 48
San Francisco

Arnstein - Forty-five days at sea! Where did you keep all the food? How long did the fruits and veggies last?


I read the January Changes by Mark and Laurie Matthews of Althea with great interest, as they reported they cruised from San Francisco to the East Coast with Radiance, a 26-ft Westerly Centaur twin-keel sailboat.

As you know, the tides in Alaska can be plus/minus 20 feet, and several times we have found ourselves high and dry. I have always thought the Westerly, because of its twin keels, would be a good boat for us. The Matthews are the first people I've heard of who have owned one. Can you please put me in contact with the Matthews or anyone else who has owned a Centaur? We can be emailed at skydoggie at

Rick Berne
Fairbanks, Alaska

Rick - As a matter of policy we don't put people in contact with our contributors, but we've printed your email address in case the Matthews - or other owners of Centaurs - might wish to contact you.

About 2,500 of the roomy 26-footers were built to a design by L. Giles and Partners between '69 and '80, and quite a few of them were imported to the United States. While twin keels do allow the boat to sit flat when there is no water beneath her, there are drawbacks in performance. For one thing, the extra wetted surface inhibits speed, and two shallow keels aren't as good as one deep one for pointing. Nonetheless, when it comes to pleasure sailing and cruising, they can still get the job done.


There are numerous American boats for sale in Mexico offered by both individuals and brokers. I seem to recall some advice you gave a couple years ago on the subject of purchasing a boat 'offshore'. Are you aware of any difficulties in title transfer, getting U.S. documentation, or obtaining a Mexican boat permit?

Doug McFadden

Doug - Buying a boat 'offshore' is a little different than buying an American-flagged vessel in Mexico, but there shouldn't be any problem with either of them. The title transfer is like anything else, you need to make sure that the person has clear title before you give them the money. Since there is usually quite a bit of money at stake, we'd have this done professionally. Changing the name on the Coast Guard documentation isn't a problem, even if the boat isn't in the country. As for the Mexican 'boat permit', perhaps you're thinking of the optional Temporary Import Permit. These are easy to get at any time in Mexico for just a few bucks.

The one thing you probably want to do is use the boat in Mexico for 90 days before bringing her back to California - and keep good documentation of it. For if you bring the boat back earlier, or don't keep good documentation of the time in Mexico, you are liable for state sales tax.


In the grand tradition of nit-picking by Latitude readers, I offer the following. I may not read every word on every page, as Ernest Leep said he did in the January issue, but I do pay attention.

First of all, Exxon definitely does not mean "flat tire" in Nepalese, as was claimed on page 100 of that same January issue. Having had my share of flat tires in the Kingdom of Nepal, on both motorcycles and cars, and being conversant in Nepali, I can state with confidence that there is no word for flat tire, since when the language was invented there were no tires. Tires first arrived on cars that had been hand-carried over the foothills of the Himalayas in the late teens and early '20s. The closest the Nepalese come - and this is universal on all roads - is 'puncture bhayo'. Literally, it means 'it has been punctured'. But since no one can really pronounce 'puncture', it comes out as 'panchet bhayo'. Likewise, there is no word for 'disturb' in Nepali; the proper term is 'disturb bhayo'.

On the same page, I read with interest the piece on Merle Petersen and his schooner Viveka. I met Merle and boarded his beautiful schooner when he was anchored in Ao Chalong on Phuket in Thailand some years ago. I even tried to charter for a few days, but she was not quite ready to set sail so soon after arriving.

Then, in a reverse segue, my attention returned to the 'mystery island' saga, page 72 of the January issue, after I had found the very same concept cropping up a bit later in the same magazine on pages 140-141. I'll bet you $100 that the photo in the article about Isobar and Richard Steinke is not of fishing boats lining a beach in Phuket, but long tail tourist water taxis on the beach in Krabi - most likely Rylai Beach - on the eastern coast of Phang Nga Bay. Phuket doesn't have any of those amazing limestone karsts which dot the rest of Phang Nga, and those are not fishing boats.

Thailand is where we go from Nepal in the winter when we need to go sailing - after too many punctures and disturbances.

Charles Gay
Kathmandu, Nepal

Charles - Thanks for the corrections. We obviously need to get our fannies over to Thailand to further our education. We'll even go to Nepal - as soon as they get an ocean.


Regarding the issue of why you shouldn't use deck-level running lights and masthead tricolor lights at the same time:

From the port side - red over red - such a configuration might be confused with "vessels not under command, or restricted in their ability to maneuver."

From the starboard side - green over green - such a configuration might be confused with "vessels engaged in mine clearance operations" . . . but only if the 'phantom ship's bottom set of green lights were exactly in-line with each other.

I don't think I've ever seen a sailboat with red over green, and yet one could use them in conjunction with the deck-level lights, for redundancy.

I really love Latitude. And I really respect your opinions because, 1) you don't take sides on an issue until you hear both sides; 2) you've occasionally had to eat humble pie and have admitted it; and 3) you're rarely - if ever - polarized in your opinions.

Leslie D. Waters
San Jose

Leslie - You're far too generous with your praise. We really mean that.

Since you obviously know your lights, could you please explain something to us - which would also seem to contradict one of your claims. In our edition of Chapman's Piloting, it says that in addition to deck-level running lights, it's also legal to show both 360 degree red and green lights, one atop the other, at the masthead. This sounds odd to us, but they have an illustration of it on a sailboat on page 589. This illustration shows a green (masthead) over green (deck level), which you've just said indicates mine clearance. What's the story? Besides, it's such an odd light combination of red and green that if a vessel showed such lights coming toward us, we would assume that Christmas must be coming.


I think I have the best solution for those sailors wishing to maximize visibility of their running lights, both in close quarters and on the open sea. A quote might help: "Red over green, sailing machine."

I don't know the source, but a red all-round light at least one meter above a green all-round light at the top of the mast may be lighted at the same time as a boat's deck-level navigation lights.

After such lights were installed, I would wire them as the other reader suggested in the February Letters, so that when you select the 'steaming light' position, you turn off the 'red over green' light, and vice-versa. I fully intend to set my boat up this way. I will also be using spreader-mounted relays to control all electrics on the mast and will be running one heavy positive wire and one heavy ground wire (4 AWG) to the spreaders, along with six small (14 AWG) conductors to control the relays - horn, forward pointing spreader lights, aft pointing spreader lights, red over green lights, steaming light, and anchor light. This system allows for low voltage drop and fewer heavy wires.

Eric Thompson
South San Francisco

Eric - We're in the dark about all-around red and green lights at the top of the mast. We checked it out in John Rousmaniere's Annapolis Book of Seamanship, and he makes no mention of it. Chapman's Piloting makes a vague reference, but doesn't explain it at all.


In his February letter, Thom Rose again raised one of my favorite rants: people who don't show the correct navigation lights on their boats at night. Your response was accurate, but not quite complete.

You pointed out, correctly, that there are times when deck-level lights are better seen than masthead tricolors, and vice versa. And that it is not proper to show both deck-level running lights and the masthead tricolor. Yours was an excellent summary of Rule 25, Parts a and b.

A rarely mentioned alternative is Part c of Rule 25, which allows a sailboat to show the standard deck lights with two all-round masthead lights, "the upper being red and the lower green." This is a great solution to the dilemma of which light combination will show best while sailing. The only problem is that I do not know of a single manufacturer who supplies such a masthead unit.

Bill Kinney
Moorea, Northstar 80/20


In the January issue letter from Max Young, there was mention of making fresh water by heating saltwater in a pressure cooker. Exactly how is it done?

Mary Ann Reseigh
Flying Cloud

Mary Ann - To tell you the truth, we're not sure exactly how it's done. We suspect that some kind of bowl is put inside the pressure cooker, and as the saltwater creates enough condensation on the lid, it drips down into the bowl. This method is very inefficient, of course, so it's not a substitute for a watermaker.


I've been following your coverage of Mexico's plans for a 'Nautical Stairway' - to entice U.S. boats to Mexico - with interest.

In my view, the 'stairway' would ruin what is a wonderful cruising ground. Why do I think so highly of these sites which, as you have pointed out, have limited seasons, and are more often than not rolly, windy, foggy and cool? The outside of Baja is a wonderful contrast to Southern California, as along this coast you can get an idea of what the original explorers experienced.

On the way north from La Paz in 2001, we stopped at several spots that no doubt would be considered prime candidates for marina sites - at least by the backers of this boondoggle. We were anchored in my favorite bay for several nights on that trip home. Alone in the anchorage for the entire time, we dinghied ashore and explored 100-foot-tall sand dunes fronting an endless beach as wide as two football fields. We explored lava islets that were separated by a sandy beach that became awash at high tide. Our boat was anchored near the point and waves crashed on a sand bar not far away. Surfers often find great waves here, and a river runs through it. Baja vets will know this anchorage and its charms. Think how it would look with a marina sitting in the middle of the river.

In most of these bays, there is little room for anchoring, and the most protected areas will be enclosed by breakwaters. Would there be any room for folks to just anchor or will they take that away from us as well?

I hope Latitude's projections of the low number of yachts that would use the 'Stairway' are accurate. But I won't be surprised if some breakwaters get built, and even a few docks get put in, only to deteriorate sadly like those at Nuevo Vallarta.

Doug Clark
Gypsy Soul
Oyster Cove

Doug - Thanks for sharing your thoughts. However, there couldn't be a more different situation than at Nuevo Vallarta Marina and the ones slated for the Nautical Stairway. As rundown and dilapidated as Nuevo Vallarta Marina might be, there is tremendous demand for slips in Banderas Bay. If the political obstacles are ever eliminated, it will quickly be developed into a luxury marina filled with mostly megayachts. On the other hand, there is no demand for the slips in the marinas proposed for the 'Nautical Stairway'. This is a huge difference.

As for the suggestion that a marina or two on the Pacific Coast of Baja would "ruin a wonderful cruising ground," that's preposterous. The Pacific Coast of Baja is 750 miles long - or about the same as the distance from San Diego to the Oregon border, or halfway from one end of the Med to the other. Some thoughtfully-designed and placed marinas on that long stretch of coast would not be the end of the world. But since there's no market for them, they shouldn't be built.

You should also be aware that even among the Mexican environmentalists who oppose the Nautical Stairway, there is concern that some Americans are treading dangerously close to environmental and economic racism. The argument goes like this: Californians have become the wealthiest people in the world by developing - often very stupidly - their coastline. Now that they're rich, they think all development along the Baja coast should be prohibited so that they can have a pristine playground for surfing and sailing - even if it prevents the creation of badly-needed jobs so impoverished Mexicans can feed their families. It's a pretty powerful argument.


In the January issue, Johnnich from Cyberspace wrote, "I would love to be able to follow a boat on its cruise . . . can you help me find one?" Joe and Kathy Siudzinski update their KatieKat Web site of South Pacific cruising tales nearly daily, whenever Joe has some sort of net access, even just via a cellphone. KatieKat is a Seawind 1000 catamaran recently arrived in New Zealand from Brisbane. See

Our Adagio Web site is updated every few weeks, as we usually upload a lot of high resolution photos of our latest adventures - most recently Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps of particular interest to Johnnich, the Adagio Web site is part of the 'Cruising Yacht SiteRing', which will link the visitor to a large number of other yachtie sites all over the world. There is a navigation bar for the SiteRing at the bottom of the Adagio homepage. Check it out at

As well as the cruise reports, be sure to check out the Resources and Techno tabs - where the visitor will find sections on varied topics from boom furler to weather and routing. A good example of the useful stuff under Resources is a link to Latitude - including the comment, "But the one we really look forward to is the next issue of Latitude 38. The editor Richard Spindler, aka 'The Wanderer', consistently publishes the most useful - and entertaining - publication we know of relevant to the interests of cruising yachties."

Steve & Dorothy Darden
Adagio, Morrelli & Melvin 52 catamaran
Sydney, Australia

Steve and Dorothy - Now you've gone and given us a big head. But thank you for those Web references.


You asked about user reviews of navigation programs. We have used both the Nobeltec and Captain Voyager programs. We don't have the most recent versions of either one, but on the ones we do have, Nobeltec probably has more bells and whistles, but we found it more difficult to use. Captain's is very user-friendly and probably has as much as the average cruiser would ever need. It's graphics are also larger and easier to read.

Both programs accept most charts, but be aware that the Canadians have managed to encrypt their charts so that you must replace them every two years. They do give you a little price break, but it can add up fast. Prior to 1999, they are not encrypted, but the Canadians require you to have up-to-date charts.

Electronic navigation is a great backup and very helpful in areas where there are rocks and shoals, but we don't think it should ever be used in place of paper charts. We are currently cruising in the Great Lakes where the electronic charts have been invaluable, but we would not miss them on an offshore passage to Mexico.

Geves & Jane Kenny
La Cucaracha, PC 14 sailboat, San Diego
La Mer II, Tollycraft 34, Charlevoix, Michigan


I guess I wouldn't go so far as to say that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with the America's Cup, but it sure looks as if OneWorld was penalized again and again. The poor guys were worn out from all the penalties and extra races they were required to sail. We are from San Francisco and were for Oracle. However, One World was penalized out of the Cup. I feel sorry for them and for the way they were treated here in Auckland. I wonder why Alinghi was not penalized for design stealing?

Anyway, I just wanted to say that the OneWorld team gave it all they had, but would never have had a chance in this Cup with the committee against them. We are proud of the way those team members conducted themselves. Good on ya OneWorld!

An American
In New Zealand

An American - This is the third unsigned, sniveling letter we've received from you about what you believe was a conspiracy against OneWorld. We only run it to demonstrate that some people just don't know when to move on. OneWorld lost because Oracle BMW thoroughly beat them twice, in part because OneWorld wasn't sailed particularly well. When it comes time to assess blame, start by looking in the mirror.


In regard to the letter from Mike Gottlieb of Bright Angel about dinghies and outboards for smaller sailboats, I can report that we started out cruising in '89 with an Avon Redcrest rowing inflatable, then moved up to an Avon Rollup with a 9.9 Suzuki two-stroke. We have now moved even further up, to an Avon 11-ft RIB with a 15 hp Yamaha four-stroke. When deflated, the RIB fits very nicely on the foredeck of our 30-ft Willard, which only has a 10.5 foot beam. We kept the Yamaha on our stern pulpit, and use a six-to-one block system to lift it out of the water.

The reason that we moved up to a larger dinghy and more powerful outboard is that we are avid scuba divers, and therefore need to be able to get us and our wet dive on a plane. We feel that the Avon Rollup and the 9.9 hp outboard would be a pretty good compromise for those who don't dive. The Rollup performed pretty well and is a bit heavy, but is not a problem if stowed rolled up on deck. However, we were extremely disappointed in our Suzuki outboard, which ate itself on our first dive out at Isla Benedicto, out in the middle of nowhere some 350 miles west of Puerto Vallarta, a place that has some of the best diving in the world. I won't go into the details, but it was a known factory defect that occurred to a certain percentage of those engines, and the company seemed to think it was an acceptable percentage! But that size engine with the rollup was a good combo to use as the 'family car'.

Mike's 35 footer with 11.5 beam should be able to accommodate a RIB easily.

Jack Jandreau & Leanne Lawrence
Stealaway, Willard 30 Cutter
Portland / Marina Mazatlan

Jack and Leanne - Thanks for the report. We'd hoped to do a survey of dinghies and outboards during the Zihua Fest, but on the appointed day we had 145 visitors aboard Profligate, so it proved to be impossible.


I'm an ex-San Franciscan currently living in Israel, and I've definitely been bitten on both port and starboard by the sailing bug. I found your excellent magazine mentioned in both Sailing for Dummies and The Seagoing Hitchhiker's Handbook. And thank Neptune, you're also online.

I saw the big Crew List posted on your site. I want to crew my way across the Pacific from San Francisco or Los Angeles through the islands of the South Pacific to Auckland and Sydney, starting in June of this year. In order to get a good headstart in finding a suitable boat, would it be possible to have my particulars inserted into your online Crew List?

Jeanine Hirschhorn

Jeanine - Sure you can. Just one caveat. Most folks have started across the Pacific well before June because of weather considerations. If you can't start until June, you'll probably have to fly to Tahiti to hook up with a boat. But no worries, by the time the fleet gets to Papeete, there's lots of boats looking for new or replacement crew.


In response to your query about chart and navigation programs, I have Visual Navigation Suite, and I like it a lot. I got the program primarily to use in poor visibility conditions. I use it in conjunction with my GPS so I can see where my boat is located on the chart. It has proved its worth more than once when I found myself in dense fog. Not having radar, it enabled me to safely return to port. Of course, I still have and use the appropriate paper charts, as I would never rely entirely on an electronic device.

Joe Helfand

Joe - If you ever come into some money, and you do much sailing in fog, we'd also invest in radar. It's a terrific way to cross check what the GPS is telling you - particularly in places where the charts are so old that the GPS will often indicate that you're up on shore when you're safe at sea. Radar love!


Thank you very much for your response to my letter about possibly inviting other Islander 36s - and other boats - to join me in a sail around the Farallones in May. Since reading your response, I contacted the officers of the Islander 36 Association and asked them to confirm that they would hold such an event completely under their auspices. I also asked them to confirm my complete release from any and all liability for my participation in and coordination of this event. Without the release, I will cease and desist from any further activity regarding this event.

Please do not advertise this event in your calender.

Thanks again for your insightful advice.

Joseph Krensavage

Joseph - In today's legal climate, you can't be too careful.


I especially enjoyed the February issue interview with david Wegman - he likes his lower case for his first name - and the story about Harry Heckel's difficult trip from Japan to the United States. Boy, do we need more sailors like these guys!

Here's a case in point. I was recently tacking my way out of the Marina del Rey Channel - making a lot of tacks, too - when a 'yachtsman' motoring his 65-footer suddenly slammed his twin-screws into reverse to avoid broadsiding me. I would have tacked or luffed up before he could have hit me. Nonetheless, he pulls out his bullhorn, and from his flying bridge bellowed, "Hey, you cut me off!"

Before I had time to respond, I heard another bullhorn from astern:

"Sailboats under sail always have the right-of-way, skipper. We strongly advise you to take a seamanship class." It was the Harbor Patrol!

John North
No Grief
Marina del Rey

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

Subscriptions / Classifieds / 'Lectronic Latitude / Home

© 2003 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.