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OOPS, BUT THANKS ANYWAY
I love Latitude, and read it from cover to cover by the 2nd of each month. And thanks for running the picture in your January Year in Review article of my West Wight Potter 19 Chubby and me at Hilo, Hawaii, upon our arrival from Berkeley. But oops, I'd made that voyage in July-August of 2002, so it didn't belong in the 2003 retrospective.
Actually, Chubby and I spent the summer of 2003 traversing the Inside Passage from Port Angeles, Washington, to Glacier Bay, Alaska, out Cross Sound to the Gulf of Alaska, south on the outside to Sitka, and finally to Craig, Alaska. Chubby was barged from there to Seattle at the end of August due to deteriorating weather. I met up with Chubby in Seattle, and sailed her around Cape Flattery and back down the coast to Berkeley in October.
Bill - Oops is right! That's about as big a goof as last month when we ran a photo in 'Lectronic Latitude of what we claimed was of Frances Joyon's 90-ft trimaran IDEC, which had just set a new solo around the world record. Unfortunately, it was actually a photo of Bruno Peyron's new maxi catamaran Orange! At times like that, we just want to crawl into a hole.
Anyway, we simply can't believe the
voyages you've made with your 19-footer. Either you're a very
good role model, or a really bad one - we still can't decide.
Maybe we'll be able to decide after our article on your recent
voyages in the next issue of Latitude.
Your suggestion of charging foreign vessels for GPS use is downright disgusting. The next time you come to Canada and your GPS system goes down, will you pay us for use of our Loran system?
Dennis - Thanks to the taxes paid by American citizens, the United States was able to develop and maintain GPS, the most accurate and reliable navigation system the world has ever known. Over the years, this GPS system has been directly responsible for the saving of countless lives, untold amounts of fuel, and has generally made life much safer and easier for millions of people around the world. So would you like to try to explain why only Americans should have to foot the tab? If anything strikes us as disgusting, it's that non-Americans don't even chip in, let alone pay their fair share, for such an incredibly valuable service.
If the GPS system ever broke down and we needed to use Loran in Canada, of course we'd be willing to pay for it. After all, we wouldn't want to be freeloaders. We have a sneaking suspicion, however, that Loran is yet another technological gem whose development was funded almost entirely by American taxpayers.
How would foreigners pay for GPS service?
One way would be for there to be a 100% surcharge on all GPS
units sold to non-Americans. Enforcement would be difficult,
of course, so we think the best system would be a barter arrangement
- in exchange for paying for GPS, all international telephone
calls would be free to Americans. And yes, we're just kidding.
I would like to solicit opinions on how I, a well-prepared but inexperienced boatowner, can attract crew for extended offshore passages?
I call myself a boatowner rather than a skipper because some who may know me better than I know myself think I'm unworthy of the title. I am a 44-year-old single man who has owned two boats - a Laser while in my 20s, and a DownEast 38 cutter that I purchased three years ago. I spent six years in the submarine service of the U.S. Navy as a mechanic. As such, in addition to understanding watch standing, I'm quite handy with tools and have repaired or replaced every major system on my boat, and know her backwards and forwards. My time in the Navy means that I understand the importance of spare parts, contingency planning and damage control. I've spent tens of thousands of dollars beyond the purchase price of my boat to make her as safe and seaworthy as I know how.
As for sailing, my job commitments and extensive boat work have prevented me from making any offshore passages - on my boat or any other boat. So far, I've been a Bay sailor, taking my boat out on 8 to 13-hour jaunts from Redwood Creek to as far as Mile Rock, under as wide a variety of conditions as you can find on the Bay. Meanwhile, I've been hitting the books and learning as much as I can about ocean weather routing, first aid, anchoring scenarios, emergency procedures - you name it. I hold three ASA certifications.
I'm planning a South Pacific cruise - Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand - starting this November. If I'm still having fun after a year, I might circumnavigate. I've begun my search for crew - I would like three, including myself - and that's where I'm having a problem. All the prospects naturally want to know how many offshore passages I've made, and to where. The answer is zero. At least not counting the Navy. Adios, prospective crewmember.
The consensus seems to be that someone who has never made an offshore passage in a sailboat has absolutely no business listing himself on a skippers' list. This, it seems to some, is tantamount to false advertising. No matter that I have successfully skippered on many Bay sails, I'm told that it's different than sailing on the ocean, and therefore doesn't count. The word is, no one in their right mind would crew for me, because only a feather-merchant melon-farmer would dream of going offshore for the first time on his own boat.
I know, I know, the solution is to bring experienced people. But apparently that doesn't matter - even the experienced people seem to want a skipper who has more experience than they do. When I was a student aircraft pilot, I was legally permitted to fly solo when I had obtained a rudimentary level of knowledge and experience - even though I had only been flying for a few weeks. I know that flying is not cruising, but at a certain level the analogy is valid - you do not have to be Barnacle Bill with 37 years of sailing wisdom to be safe. We licensed pilots are taught to compensate for lack of experience by being conservative, and that mindset has made me a safe Bay sailor.
Based on the reactions I've gotten so far, I'm wondering if, come November, my choices will be to singlehand or not go on my proposed voyage at all. I believe that part of the issue is that there are many more crew slots than serious prospective crew, so they have the edge and can pick and choose exactly the set of circumstances under which to voyage. I would take off from work and crew offshore with other people for a while if I could, but that's not an option. Any ideas for a well-prepared but untested skipper-wannabe in search of crew?
Glenn - Relax. As long as you change one thing, we'll bet a quarter that come November you won't be looking for crew, but rather picking among those who would like to crew for you.
The little thing you've got to change is your plan to sail to Hawaii in November and then on to Tahiti. November is too late in the year to safely sail to Hawaii or even be likely to have a good trip. And once you're there, you're faced with thousands of nasty upwind miles in strong winds and big seas to reach French Polynesia. We've had Changes reports from both the SC 52 Kiapa and the Wylie 39 Punk Dolphin recounting this very problem. Offshore sailors quickly learn the benefits and comforts of sailing with the wind rather than into it.
There are good reasons why just about all West Coast sailors who cross the Pacific start from Mexico. And there are particularly good reasons for novice offshore sailors to do it. Sailing on the ocean is very different from sailing on flat water, no matter how strong the winds might be. Everything - standing, steering, reefing, eating, sleeping - is more challenging, and even more so at night. Sailing on the ocean is not overly difficult, but it takes getting used to.
We think the best way for people to get used to ocean sailing is gradually. For Northern California sailors who haven't had time to sail offshore prior to the start of their cruise, we highly recommend that the first sail be 15 miles down to Half Moon Bay in fair weather. This would be followed by daysails to Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Simeon and Morro Bay. From there, you could try an overnighter around Pt. Conception to Santa Barbara. With a little experience under your belt, you could follow that up with some time on the hook out at Santa Cruz Island. From there you gradually become more ambitious. This is a much better introduction to offshore sailing and cruising than just taking off across the open ocean to Hawaii.
It would be a big help if you could complete this coastal cruising and be in San Diego at the end October in time for the start of the Baja Ha-Ha. We say this not because the Ha-Ha needs any more entries, but because many more prospective crew want to do the Ha-Ha than sail down the Mexican coast on a solitary boat. For example, had you been in San Diego two days before the starts of the last two Ha-Has, you could have easily signed on two or more eager crew for the event. There were capable-looking folks who were very disappointed not to have found berths.
The main reason you should relax is that based on what you've told us, you've got a lot going for you. At the top of the list, you seem to be honest. You describe your sailing experience accurately and don't fudge the fact you haven't been offshore. That's a great start.
The business about being a mechanic, having plenty of spare parts, and knowing your boat backwards and forwards is huge. This will score big points with potential crew who know what they should be asking about.
You've also completed ASA sailing courses, and availed yourself of other appropriate training. And, you're a pilot. This will suggest to prospective crew that you're at least reasonably intelligent and not an irresponsible yahoo. And that even though you haven't done any offshore sailing, you've experienced facing challenges with your life in the balance.
Our advice is to attend the Crew List Parties and work the Crew Lists, while continuing to present yourself just as you have to us - a guy with many things going for him, but without any offshore experience. If you do this, and change your itinerary so that you start by cruising down the coast to Mexico as most other folks do, you won't have any trouble finding crew.
Caution: Don't make the all-too-common first-timer's mistake of trying to find crew for the whole trip. Realistically, every crewing arrangement should be viewed as being nothing more than one port to the next. If the experience is good, you keep going together. If it is bad, you go your separate ways. With a little experience, you'll discover that this kind of an arrangement is of much greater importance to the boatowner than to roving crew. So trust us, if you've got a good program and are easy to get along with, you shouldn't have a problem finding crew anywhere.
Lastly, if you're at the helm of your
boat, you're the skipper, no matter how little or how much experience
you have. You don't, of course, want to introduce yourself as
'Capt. Glenn', which would be pretentious. But you don't seem
like the kind of person to do that.
I had to chuckle remembering our noisy stay in an anchorage. It was July of 2002 and we were returning from a very nice stay aboard our Catalina 36 Kia Orana at the Channel Islands. My wife, Teresa, our son, Ryan, and I were harbor-hopping back up the coast when we pulled into San Simeon harbor.
San Simeon is normally a beautiful, protected anchorage, and one of our favorite places to spend the night on the hook. We had found a good spot, set the anchor, and were preparing dinner when a fishing boat pulled into the anchorage. The sun was setting, so the lone fisherman aboard turned on what appeared to be a zillion candlepower light. It was so bright that he needed to run his engine to create the power for it.
The brightness of the light and the noise of the engine completely ruined the ambiance of the anchorage. Somewhat annoyed that we couldn't sit in the cockpit to watch the stars, we retreated below. Our stereo was enough to muffle the racket above and, tired from our passage, we were soon asleep.
About 5 a.m. I awoke to hear his engine still running. By this time, I was getting quite annoyed. After all, 5 a.m. and me still not being able to sleep from the noise of his engine. How rude!
Since there was no way I was going to get back to sleep, I decided that we should get an early start on the day. I awoke the crew and told them to prepare to get underway. There were some muffled complaints, but they agreed that the noise made the anchorage less than peaceful. As they prepared things belowdecks, I went topside to ready the anchor and engine. As soon as I exited the cabin, the annoying engine noise stopped! I went back below to tell the rest of the family the good news - but I heard the noise again. I went topside and the noise disappeared again. Went below and there it was.
So I started checking for the source of the noise - and soon discovered it was coming from our fresh water pump. During the night, we had used the last of the water in the primary tank, and our pump was working away in a vain attempt to pressurize the lines with air. I switched to the secondary tank and the noise stopped.
I would have submitted this to the 'stupidest thing I've done while sailing' collection, but it's only about fifth on my list.
Dudley - That's a funny story. Thanks for having the self-confidence to share it with us.
We know that squid fisherman use extremely
bright lights to attract squid to their nets. Are there any fishermen
out there who can tell us what other kinds of fishermen use such
In last month's Sightings, there was a letter asking for comments on the advisability of raising kids on a boat. I feel that I am uniquely qualified to comment on the subject.
I spent the formative years of my life living with my father on our 32-foot wooden Winslow sloop. Between the ages of 8 and 18, we spent several years preparing for, and then going on, an open-ended cruise. During those years I learned all the same lessons and faced all the same challenges that every kid in America must go through. The only difference was I got grounded for doing things like trying to surf the dinghy with my buddies. I also remember the disappointment in my father's eyes when I fell asleep on watch, as well as a sense of pride he had when I reduced my first sun sight. Being raised on a boat has provided me with a unique perspective on life that I cherish to this day.
Kids need a loving and supportive atmosphere in order to thrive, and a life on the water is a fantastic place for a family to provide such an atmosphere. I am now 37, and my wife and I are striving to provide a positive environment for our 5-year-old. We own a house in San Diego now, but sailboat racing and spending time together on the ocean is still a very passionate part of our lives. Growing up on the water is a wonderful opportunity, as long as it is in a loving and caring environment.
In 2001 there was a woman who travelled down the Pacific Coast and I think through the Panama Canal with a guy from Washington on his 50-ft boat. I understand that she charged he had assaulted her and thrown her overboard. Apparently she contacted people in the boating community with her story and concerns. I have recently been assaulted by what I believe is the same guy in Florida. I have reason to believe that the other woman who was attacked is trying to find the guy's whereabouts. This is very important. If anyone knows how to contact this woman, I'd very much like to know about it. Please contact me.
Readers - Because there are serious
charges involved and we haven't been able to verify the basic
facts or get a possible other side of the story, we've left the
names out. Nonetheless, we think the message has gotten across.
After being out of sailing for over 10 years, I'm considering the purchase of another boat. I'm seeking information and possibly a dialog with those familiar with the DownEast 38 cutter rig. My interests are to sail coastal Southern California in cruising style with a margin of safety and comfort - but without sacrificing too much speed.
It's commonly assumed that a moderately heavy displacement boat will be a dog when loaded, as compared to a coastal cruiser such as a Catalina 36. Yet it's also my view that more sail area will take care of the problem as long as the boat is strong enough. My sailing intuition suggests the DownEast is a stronger, more capable boat at sea than most light-displacement production boats. Nonetheless, before I purchase one, I would like to learn about the 'heart and soul' of the design from as many people as possible.
When I was a kid in San Diego, I used to have to wait for a local small craft advisory to get my sailing fix, because the winds there are typically so light. I do not want my new boat growing to the dock for the same reason. Any comments from your readers on the performance of DownEast 38s would be appreciated. I can be reached via email.
Bob - To a certain extent it's helpful to compare the boats' PHRF ratings. In Southern California, the Catalina 36 rates 144, while the DownEast 38 rates 216. In other words, based on past racing performance, the Catalina 36 is a little more than a minute per mile faster than the DownEast.
That's quite a large difference for boats so close in size, but for cruising purposes, it might be deceptive. For one thing, we suspect that the average Catalina 36 owner tends to be more race-oriented that the typical DownEast 38 owner, and therefore is able to make better use of his boat's speed potential. In addition, much of Southern California racing is done in light air with upwind and dead downwind legs, where the more weatherly and lighter Catalina 36 would have her greatest advantage over the DownEast. In stronger winds and reaching conditions more common to cruising, we think the difference in speed would be significantly less.
In our opinion, both the DownEast and Catalina are well suited for sailing in Southern California waters. The Catalina would get the nod in light air, while the DownEast might be preferable for cruising comfort. Which is more important to you?
I really don't have much to add to last month's World of Chartering article on respect for the people and places that charterers visit - except to second everything that was written.
The last time I wrote to Latitude was in the '80s when I submitted an article on the Bora Bora YC. I received a Latitude Roving Reporter T-shirt, which I wore to death - it was last seen heading for the rag bin.
My wife and I started chartering in 1976. We enjoyed exploring many places in the world, and that, along with over 30,000 miles of open-ocean racing, prompted us to settle down 10 years ago and buy a home in the British Virgin Islands. We kept returning to the BVIs primarily because of the people. These are the same 'hosts' that interact with us daily, and have opened up their country to us, and offer the same hospitality to the multitude of charterers who visit the British Virgins each year. There is nothing phony about their warmth, the genuine pride in who they are, where they are, and sharing it with visitors.
The one thing they ask and expect, however, is respect. Too often we see charter folks and hotel visitors lose the opportunity of maximizing their experience by bringing their U.S. 'luggage' - meaning attitudes - with them. In fairness, some of the Europeans are guilty of the same thing. Thankfully, the vast majority of visitors, especially boat people, 'get it'. They understand that a smile and a polite inquiry will prompt the British Virgin Islanders to respond in kind fourfold. Now, if we could just somehow educate some of the boaters to keep their gear on when ashore rather than flaunting their latest, synthetic and/or metallic body work, the locals would be even more appreciative.
By the way, Kim and I have been together for 23 years. She had never been on a sailboat before we met, and her initiation was my taking her on a two-week trip out of the old CSY Van Ohst operation at Young Island in the Windwards. Now that we have our BVI home, she bemoans the fact that we no longer charter!
In closing, I have a suggestion for a future article in the charter section. Given the popularity of the BVIs and the number of people who charter here each year, I'm willing to bet that your readers would be interested in learning more about VISAR (Virgin Islands Search and Rescue). We do not have a Coast Guard, and VISAR is a 100% volunteer-supported group that functions as a medical safety net for anyone on the water who faces a trauma situation. They are on call 24/7.
We enjoy reading Latitude - which we are able to pick up each month at the Bitter End YC.
Lew & Kim Spruance
Lew and Kim - It's probably been seven
years since we've been to the British Virgins, but we'll be coming
back at the end of March with Profligate
for the BVI Sailing Festival. We plan on doing a big report on
the British Virgins, and hope that you'll be a part of it.
Your World of Chartering article last month about showing respect for people overseas hit the mark. I've had two experiences that really show the value of treating local officials with respect.
The first experience occurred at Cabo San Lucas after a Long Beach to Cabo Race in the '60s. I had to return to California by air shortly after the finish of the race, but at the airport it became evident that we couldn't check into our flight without our tourist cards. The ticket agent directed us to the immigration office at the airport to get our paperwork. With cap in hand, I approached the immigration officer and said, "Señor, I have a problem. I don't have a tourist card, and need one to make my flight. I need immigration for help."
"No problemo," he replied. It was only a minute before I got a stamped tourist card.
Another sailor with the same problem was in line after me, but had a different attitude. He told the immigration officer that he had been in the regatta and demanded his tourist card.
"I don't have to give you anything," retorted the officer. After letting the sailor sweat for a little while, he finally gave him the necessary document.
The other experience happened when checking in at Road Bay in Anguilla. We put up the British and quarantine flags on the starboard flag halyard of our chartered cat before taking the dinghy ashore to check in. When we arrived ashore, we noticed someone with binoculars outside the customs office. He was the customs officer, and he asked us which boat was ours. Adherence to flag etiquette has become pretty lax in many places, but apparently not in Anguilla.
After dealing with immigration and customs protocol, I politely asked about getting a national parks permit. This is required before taking the boat into any of the national marine parks. The customs officer informed me I would have to wait for the national parks clerk to return before getting a permit, and that it might be an hour or two. Then he changed his mind, and told us that on his authority, we would be allowed enter the national parks without a permit during our brief stay.
As we were about to leave, the skipper and crew of another boat came in. While standing outside, we overheard them being told they would have to wait for the return of the parks clerk before getting their permit. It didn't sound like any concessions would be made this time. I believe we were given the better treatment because of both our flags as well as being courteous. It just goes to show that making a little extra effort to treat people with respect will go a long way in being treated well in return.
Bob - We've had many experiences around the world that reflect exactly what you say. Treating officials with courtesy and respect will not always get you your desired result, but it will give you the best chance of getting it. Getting frustrated or angry, on the other hand, will guarantee that you won't get what you want.
We recall checking in at Soper's Hole in the British Virgins one New Year's Day many years ago. The immigration officer went off on a religious tangent, and basically preached to us for about 20 minutes. We didn't appreciate the sermon, but gamely nodded our heads and threw in an occasional "Amen!" Had we gotten angry with the officer, we might have been forced to spend the entire day in church before getting our papers stamped. That's the way it can be.
Of course, you should treat people well
and respect them even if you don't need something from them,
but because it's just the right thing to do. Like the bumper
sticker says, "Mean People Suck."
I noticed the Wanderer's 'Lectronic Latitude comment on the photo of the fishermen on Nevis who were cleaning their catch on the dock and dumping the remnants into the water near a beach being used by children. Interestingly, this is not just Caribbean practice.
While I was in Bermuda a few years ago and staying at the Royal Bermuda YC, there was an international billfish tournament underway. Sports fishermen from all over the world were competing via the Internet from their home ports. One yacht from the Royal Bermuda YC was competing in the waters off Bermuda, and brought a 1,000-lb marlin back to the dock. Once they were notified that their catch would not be competitive, the crew weighted the carcass down and dropped it over the side right at the dock! There was no apparent objection from the yacht club or its other members. This wasn't exactly a swimming area, but the yacht was in the channel used by the Royal Bermuda YC's Youth Sailing Program. I was sure hoping they had voracious crabs in Bermuda.
SHE WILL BE A PART OF MY LIFE FOREVER
In the February Sightings you had an article on the demise of the 1926 gaff-rigged cutter Stornoway. Reading that article broke my heart as (Lady) Stornoway was quite a part of my life. I offer the following for your consideration.
Stornoway was lovingly built at the Dauntless Shipyard in Essex, Connecticut, in 1926 under the supervision of a Major N. Smith, famous for putting together ships from the finest available woods. She was commissioned by a Mr. Nichols, who was from the Isle of Lewis and city of Stornoway, Scotland. This wonderful ship was designed by Albert Strange - and strangely enough was introduced to me by my best friend, Neil Smith of Mill Valley.
And so my love affair with (Lady) Stornoway began. I was an airline commuter from Portland, Orainagain, and five days before Christmas, I was sent out on a five-day trip to Sydney, Australia. The normal 14-hour flight was extended as we had to make a fuel stop at Fiji. I had been perusing the Latitude, when I came across the ad for this classic gaff-rigged cutter Stornoway. While aboard the aircraft in Fiji, I called the phone number listed in the magazine. I got an answering machine, so I left my friend's phone number in Mill Valley.
After completing the five day trip, I returned to San Francisco on Christmas morning, excited to catch my commuter flight back to Portland. Unfortunately, Portland's airport had been shut down by an ice storm. My only option was to call my friend Neil. It was Christmas Day, but I called him anyway. He told me to catch a Marin Airporter and come on over. (I told you he was my best friend.) When I arrived at his house, he asked if I had called someone about a boat, and had I left his number? It turns out the person that I had called from the aircraft just happened to be a friend of his. Long story short, he called his friend to see if we could see Stornoway on Christmas Day. We could.
So there in Sausalito sat Storny, fully adorned with Christmas lights both inside and out. It was love at first sight, so I bought Stornoway on that Christmas Day. Some will remember that Albert Petersen, who made Stornoway famous, was also born on Christmas day in 1919, and he also passed away aboard Stornoway on Christmas day in 1983. For what it's worth, my father was born in 1919. And in 1983, I myself was lost on a sailboat for 19 days in the Bermuda Triangle - although that's another story.
Some more coincidences. Stornoway was built in 1926 by a Major N. Smith. I, on Christmas Day 1996 was introduced to Stornoway by my friend Neil Smith. Marjorie Petersen was born on May 4, 1923. My mother, Edith was born on May 4, 1923. Both were English. I grew up in Rhode Island, just 45 miles from where Stornoway was built.
It would have been hard for anyone not to love Stornoway, as she was a solid 24,000 pounds of New England oak, with a short, stout mast of Oregon fir. She would embrace you like a floating log fortress - warm, cozy and soft. Her rocking would lull you to sleep on the stormiest nights. We had fine parties on Stornoway; and once had 11 for dinner in her salon. The menu was Boston mussel chowder, a recipe I had gotten from Sydney, Australia. The books on Stornoway are on exhibit at the Maritime Museum in Australia, as Albert Petersen was welcomed there during his round the world sail in 1948.
In 1997, Stornoway still appeared to be quite solid. The only maintenance mistake that I'd made was that I had painted her the original color from 1926, which was black. It wasn't a good idea in the heat of Sausalito. While Storny was my home I had numerous visitors who had either read the books about her or just liked her looks - even Dana Hayden took his son for a visit to see her.
In 1998, I met another love of my life, an Irish lass. Our first date was on Stornoway, and I detected a bit of mutual jealousy between them. Down the road a way, I had decided to marry the Irish lass, and when I had come back from my next trip to Australia, my Stornoway was lying on the bottom of her slip. I was to be wed in less than two weeks, and the cost of the wedding left me without enough money to raise her. So I gave her to a friend, who begged me to let her have Stornoway for the salvage cost. But I would get the right of first refusal if she ever decided to sell her.
Well, later on this friend did sell her, but I was never notified. When I found out through Latitude 38 that (Lady) Stornoway had sunk, and then was cut into pieces, well, I was heartbroken. I'd like to believe that Stornoway sank from a broken heart also because we both loved each other. I can only say that I am sorry for her passing, and that she will remain in my heart and a part of my life forever.
John - We suppose that the moral of your bittersweet story is that you should never take the things you love for granted.
"In the heat of Sausalito?"
That may be the first time those words have been used in that
In December of '89, when crossing from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta, we had 16 hours of sustained 30-knot winds with gusts to 40 knots. It was on the nose too, as the storm had come across from the Caribbean. We know this happens all the time in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, but it is a very rare occurrence up in the wide part of Mexico.
Then in the summer of '90, we were anchored in Las Cocinas, north of San Carlos, when we were surprised by a squall that had winds of over 50 knots for 10 minutes and one gust of 67 knots. It was scary! We had always said that in the case of a hurricane, we would stay on our boat. But those 10 minutes changed our minds on that score.
I don't think we ever had winds that strong in the 12 years we spent in the Caribbean. We had days on end of 25 to 30 knots, but we don't remember anything higher than that. At least not as scary.
George & Brenda Milum
George and Brenda - We couldn't have been more surprised if you told us that San Diego Bay was very windy compared to San Francisco Bay.
It certainly can blow in Mexico. Steve and Linda Dashew told us the most - or at least scariest - wind they ever had was not far from Cedros Island. Our friend Rudi almost had to abandon his new-to-him 65-ft Encore - which in all fairness wasn't in good shape at the time - because of huge seas and strong winds between Puerto Vallarta and Cabo. And some folks who did a circumnavigation on a DownEast 45 told us the worst seas they ever had were between Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. So yeah, it's best to be ready for anything.
Of course, isolated extremes can be deceiving. A lot of people in the Bay Area can remember when it blew over 100 knots here and nearly tore Pelican Yacht Harbor apart. And there was the year it was so windy they had to close the Golden Gate and San Rafael bridges several times in the same week.
Frankly, we're surprised that you don't remember any wind greater than 30 knots in the Caribbean. We've had winds in excess of 30 knots in the Caribbean at least a dozen times since Christmas. In fact, for most of early February the standard French Meteo forecast for the Leewards was "25 to 30 knots with gusts to 40 knots in the squalls." And there were quite a few squalls. In early January, Ticonderoga Tom told us how sorry he felt for all the crews on boats coming back to St. Martin after Christmas in the British Virgins. "They tell me it's been blowing a steady 40 knots true all night in the Sombrero Passage."
When we had Big O in the Caribbean a number of winters ago, we remember having over 60 knots of wind at the Colombie anchorage in St. Barth, and having to use the engine to sometimes take the strain off the anchor. Then, after a couple of weeks of the standard 25 to 30 knots, we had over 50 knots off Bequia. People have different experiences, of course, but of the 10 strongest winds we've ever been in, we'd say that five of them were in the Caribbean.
When you talk about the Caribbean, you also have to remember the waters along the north coast of Colombia, which is notorious for strong winds. They don't call it Cabo Velo for nothing. When Capt. Jim Drake tried to take Big O east from Cartagena one February, he was turned back twice by winds of 45 knots. The Dashews also had to turn back with their 79-foot Beowulf, and claimed that rounding Point Conception was easy by comparison. A little closer to Panama, our former captain Antonio pitchpoled his Cheoy Lee ketch, which tossed him overboard, snapped both his masts, and nearly caused his boat to sink.
If we had to rate Mexico and the Caribbean
on the strength of average winds as well as the extreme winds,
we'd give Mexico a 3 and the Caribbean a 7. That's our honest
opinion based on our rather extensive experience in both areas.
If other people have spent a lot of time in both Mexico and the
Caribbean, we'd like to hear their opinions, too.
My wife and I plan to move our three-year-old Hunter 290 Windsong from Lake Tahoe to Ventura. And beginning this summer, we'd like to start doing some extensive cruising, from Costa Rica in the south to Victoria, BC, in the north.
In anticipation of that trip, we plan to install a Raymarine SL70RC radar, a Garmin CP150C GPS/chartplotter, a masthead tricolor light, along with a Simrad Wheel Pilot. We also have a handheld Garmin 72 GPS.
My sailing skills are solid, but almost all our experience is on inland lakes and San Francisco Bay. I have completed basic through advanced ASA courses, the Starpath Coastal Navigation course, and have been part of a crew sailing an Amel 53 from Rhode Island to Bermuda.
From reading Don and Reanne Douglas's great book, Exploring the Pacific Coast, it sounds as though our trip is possible - even in our 29-foot CE Class B Windsong. However, I continue to have questions as to the overall seaworthiness of a Hunter 290. Your 'second opinion', would therefore be appreciated.
If you believe that our boat is sturdy enough for a 2,000-mile journey, 3 to 15 miles offshore, with no more than six to eight overnight passages, your ideas on how we can better prepare her and us for the trip will be appreciated.
Harry - We've got a much better plan. Based on the premise that it's easier and safer to sail downwind rather than upwind, particularly on a 29-ft boat, and particularly along the West Coast of North America, we suggest you ship your boat from Tahoe to Victoria, BC, rather than to Ventura. It's mostly downwind from Victoria to Costa Rica, and upwind the other way around.
Secondly, your concept of sailing "3 to 15 miles offshore," is unrealistic. For one thing, on a trip between Victoria and Costa Rica, you would, by necessity, often find yourself much more than 15 miles offshore. For example, how else would you get from Cabo to mainland Mexico?
We hope that you're not operating under the illusion that you'd be safer three miles from shore than 100 miles from shore. Almost all experienced offshore sailors will tell you that the greatest dangers at sea are when you are close to shore, not in the middle of the ocean. After all, that's where you'll find the greatest concentration of vessel traffic, where navigation is more tricky, and where there's a hard shore that has been the death of tens of thousands of vessels throughout history. If you wouldn't be comfortable with your boat and sailing skills 500 miles from shore, you really shouldn't feel comfortable with your boat just three miles from shore.
We don't have any opinion on whether a Hunter 290 is suitable for such a passage because we don't have any experience with that boat. But we'd try to learn more about it by contacting Hunter and asking them if the boat was designed and built for that kind of sailing. Make sure they are familiar with the weather off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, which can be ferocious, even in the middle of summer.
The biggest change you and your wife will have to become accustomed to is sailing in open, as opposed to protected waters. Depending on where you are sailing, it can be a very big difference, and it takes some getting used to.
Our ultimate recommendation? Ship the
boat to Ventura as you originally planned, and see how you and
your boat do cruising the Channel Islands, the Santa Barbara
Channel, and a couple of times around Point Conception. If you
do that, you'll learn more through personal experience than anybody
could tell you. Good luck!
I went to the Latitude Crew List Parties last year, but didn't find anyone. Of course, I was sailing north, and not that many people want to go upwind to where it's cold. This year I'm heading south.
My boat is a Nassau 34, which is a heavy displacement double-ender that was built in Taiwan in '85. The only information I have on the boat mentions that she was designed by G. H. Stadel III in 1980. I'd like to know more about my boat to be sure she's strong enough and well-suited for the kind of sailing I'd like to do.
I can sail my boat singlehanded, but company would be nice - particularly if the person has cooking skills. Cooking is one of the things my mother never taught me - or even my sister. It would also be nice if the crew were female. The more offshore experience she had the better, but it's not required. But if a female crew could teach me more about sailing, I'd be willing to learn.
By the way, your Racing Crew List is published in time to get race crew, but the Cruising Crew List comes out too late for cruisers and crew to get to know each other before a long trip. It would be nice to find out if your crew had just escaped from prison or the crazy farm two days before joining your boat for a three-week sail. Getting the Cruising Crew List out earlier would be nice for those of us wanting to beat the crowd heading south. I guess I'll have to dig out last year's Crew List.
By the way, Pocketmail is great. I use mine all the time, and it's how I sent you this email. All right, I'm too cheap to get a cell phone.
John - If you're having trouble figuring out why you might be having trouble finding female crew, here are a few things to consider. First, you admit to being unsure if your boat is up to the task. Second, you say it would be nice if your crew helped teach you how to sail your boat. And third, you blame your mother for your not knowing how to cook. The first two give women reason to not have confidence in you and your boat, and the third gives them reason to believe that you're lazy. After all, there are plenty of orphans who have managed to become good cooks.
It would do you wonders to follow the example of Roy Wessbecher, one of our favorite cruisers ever. Roy was a novice sailor when he bought a basic Columbia 34 MK II and decided to sail her around the world. Since he wasn't sure of his own sailing skills or his boat at the beginning, he didn't think it would be fair to bring anyone along and possibly risk their well-being. So he singlehanded to Australia. By the time he got there, he'd developed enough confidence in his skills and his boat to think it was safe to bring someone else along. It's not surprising that a guy who put the needs and safety of others before his own was able to attract 17 different women to join him, some for several legs, during the last four years of his trip around the world. The moral of Wessbecher's success is that once you've got your act together, women crew usually aren't that hard to find.
As for the Crew Lists and Parties, they were designed to be held at the beginning of the sailing season, which is when people tend to look for crew. Most people don't take off on longer trips until the summer or the fall. Heading south "early" doesn't make much sense, because if by south you mean Southern California, it's not warm down there until after the 'June Gloom', and if you mean Mexico, you'd be sailing into an active hurricane zone. We believe the spring and fall Crew List Parties are held at appropriate times.
One of our friends from cruising Mexico two years ago plans on taking off cruising again this fall, maybe indefinitely. As such, he's been using last year's Crew List, and has interviews with women set up for all week. He had glowing things to say about last year's Mexico-only Crew List, which is six months old. Imagine who might be in the list coming out this October?
So good luck to you and everyone else
who is looking for crew or to crew. Remember, the spring Crew
List Party will be at the Golden Gate YC on the San Francisco
Marina from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 7.
I wonder if the differing opinions from submariners as to whether or not submarines can detect sailboats under sail is not based in a confusion between two different kinds of sonars. The active sonar is roughly like our echo-sounders, emitting a series of bursts that bounce back on any target. The passive sonar listens to any noises that reach its hydrophones, and finds their bearing as well as the nature of the sound. They have a database of the 'signature' of a large number of vessels. In order not to be detected, submarines try to have propellers that are as quiet as possible, and normally only use the passive sonar. In these situations, sailboats under sail are mighty difficult to hear.
Following a number of incidents between submarines and sailboats on the west coast of Scotland, the Royal Navy advised sailboats in that area to keep their echo-sounders permanently on so that subs could detect them rather then skewer them with their periscopes.
P.S. The discussions in the Letters section are always fun to read.
Are you sure the photo you ran of the runway in the January 26 'Lectronic is not the one at St. Martin / Sint Maarten? It looks much too long to be the one on St. Barth. And there's too much water to the left, right, and in the distance.
Tony - Yes, that photo is of the runway
at Maho Bay on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. If you read the
copy again, we think you'll see that's the one we were referring
to. It would have been clearer, however, had we said that the
mussels for St. Barths first land on Sint Maarten, and then are
quickly shipped over to St. Barth for consumption.
The November '03 issue of Latitude reported the discovery, months before, of Steve Brown's Nor'West 38 Southbound in the Pacific between Hawaii and the mainland with him not aboard. It wasn't until I read more about the incident in the December issue that I realized it was the same Steve Brown that I'd known while sailing down the coast of Africa.
I'm confused by the suggestion in the November issue that a suicide note had been found on the boat. I remember Steve, very much the do-it-yourself kind of guy, toiled for weeks sanding the hull of his boat between coats of paint while in Durban. I'm not qualified to appraise anyone's state of mind, but I doubt anyone contemplating suicide would have worked so hard to improve his boat. Something may have happened in the year since I'd seen him to diminish his desire to live, but he seemed all right in Durban.
If a note was indeed found on Southbound, I apologize in advance for my speculation, but there are things that suggest to me, a veteran singlehander, that a sudden squall may have caught him unprepared, with the result he went overboard. Things like the hanked-on jib being stowed on the foredeck, and the mainsail being torn. One of the biggest downsides to singlehanding is that you have to sleep sometime, and fatigue can be a killer. I've underestimated squalls on a few occasions, and even though I'd reefed down in advance, I should have reefed even further. Once I realized my error, my first and fastest productive response was to let the jib halyard go, then try to deal with the main after the boat was back on her feet.
Squalls are usually short-lived, but on one occasion I rode what I thought to be a squall for 24 hours, doing five knots under bare poles. In that instance, the approaching 'squall' produced a moderate breeze going my way, so I decided to use it to my advantage. I only had a working jib up, but when the real wind hit, it took only moments for Armino, my Nor' Sea 27, to attain warp speed. When such conditions prevail for some time, I believe that heaving-to is appropriate. So going forward to gather the jib would be the next step. And because you have to go forward and come aft in rough weather, it's always a hazardous step.
The picture of Southbound shows the Monitor steering vane was not in use and the mainsail was up. Steve was possibly hove-to. If underway, he could have been hand steering, or if he had an autopilot, that might have been on. In any event, cruisers rarely sail under mainsail alone. Others, particularly on large boats with big foresails, will douse the main and just use the headsail when sailing off the wind. The torn main and position of the boom suggest to me that Steve may have been trying to deal with dropping the main when he went over.
I only speculate on what might have gone wrong to help others learn from tragedies such as his. I hope my observations as a singlehander, commenting on the possibilities leading to the loss of a fellow singlehander, may be useful in helping others to avoid the same fate. As I look at Steve's photo again in Latitude, I feel a sense of personal loss, and will always wonder what actually happened.
The last time I saw Steve, we were in Mossel Bay, South Africa. I'd first met him up the coast at Durban. We occasionally talked about the advantages of different sized boats and other issues related to solo sailing. As a 50-something solo sailor, I appreciate the ease with which I can handle my Nor' Sea 27 Armido, as well as the relatively low cost of maintenance, low fees on rare occasions I pull into a marina, and when appropriate, relatively low customs and immigration fees. Because my Nor'Sea's well-found and more comfortable, I think she's better suited for safe ocean passagemaking when compared to most other boats her size.
I have to admit that Steve, and most other singlehanded sailors that I've met, favor boats such as Southbound, which have a longer waterline and are therefore typically faster. That means quicker passages and less chance of getting caught offshore in bad weather, so waterline can be a big plus. I think my Nor'Sea would be the perfect solo offshore boat were she faster . . . and if she had more space to attract potential crew.
Yes, potential crew can be fickle, as in here today, gone tomorrow. It's not enough reason to own a big boat, but I have lost potential crew after they dragged their expert friends down to see the boat they were going to sail on. The classic reaction from their friends was, "Ya gonna go on the ocean in that little boat!?" Consequently I'd end up with no crew.
Yet there are the owners of large boats I've met along the way who said they wished they had a smaller boat like my Nor'Sea. There are a lot of solo sailors out here, particularly in the Caribbean, on boats larger than 36 feet - which is what I believe to be the marginally safe upper length limit for singlehanding. These sailors won't know whether or not their boat is too big for them to handle until the shit hits the fan. They'll probably be all right as long as they stay in the Caribbean and don't encounter big wind and wave combinations. The biggest challenge here in the Caribbean is the potentially strong wind. Fortunately, with the exception of a knockdown with the hatches open, it's the waves that usually get you, not the wind.
Considering the magnitude of Steve's sailing experience, I'm certain that he knew his boat - which I believe was a 36-footer - and was able to handle her in unfavorable conditions. He was obviously a capable, experienced, and prudent sailor. I observed him thoroughly analyzing developing weather when planning a departure along the notoriously dangerous southeast coast of Africa. While three other boats and I remained in Mossel Bay an additional three or four days awaiting our idea of a favorable weather window, Steve set sail for Cape Town right away, based upon his assessment of an approaching front, and his confidence that his boat was fast enough to make the next safe haven before the strong southerly wind and waves hit. He obviously made it, and was apparently able to catch the next favorable window to leave Cape Town for the sail up the Atlantic, because he was gone by the time I arrived. I originally planned to leave Cape Town in January, but largely due to small weather windows and the slower speed of Armido, I prudently delayed my departures between ports. So I didn't leave Cape Town until March of '03.
After my experience rounding the South African coast, I can't resist the temptation to comment on recent discussions in Latitude about the value of so-called weather gurus and the forecasts they make for the benefit of others. I believe nothing should be done to discourage anyone from trying to help other sailors evaluate the weather. Trashing them in a public forum is uncouth and potentially destructive in ways you'd never imagine - even if they are amateurish or often wrong. Volunteer weather reports are only one potentially useful tool when deciding whether or not to set sail. It is up to the individual sailor to make their own assessments based on information from multiple sources - including simply observing local conditions. I've met too many 'greater-than-thou' cruisers quick to criticize others over the last four years, and the cruising community would be better off without them. In the final analysis, the buck stops with each of us.
I relied heavily upon recognized Durban weather 'experts' for advice. We all had access to the same weather information, and between them and myself, we got it wrong three times. The first time the wind didn't develop from the southeast "later today" like it was supposed to. So while I slept to recover from my first aborted attempt to fetch Port Elizabeth, cruisers left on the predicted southeasterly the following day. My next two attempts were aborted due to coastal lows, which don't always show up on the weatherfax. I finally got away successfully by leaving at the same time as Mimi, a very competent female South African delivery skipper who was sailing a cat to Cape Town.
We cruiser-type solo sailors have a respect and appreciation for one another, a kind of quiet camaraderie. I often wonder about those I've met along the way. I know Steve's mother was apparently very ill, and he seemed to be in a rush. So he may have been returning to California in 'high gear' in order to see her. He covered a lot of ground quickly after he left South Africa, while I sat out hurricane season in Trinidad. Was Steve sailing to Hawaii after going to California, or was he going to California via Hawaii on the offshore route to California from Panama?
I enjoyed Steve's company, and his typically unique singlehander qualities. For example, he'd just get up and leave in the middle of a conversation. No 'see ya later' or anything. That was just Steve - as I had to tell one sailor who thought he'd left because he'd offended him in some way.
After reading in Latitude about 87-year-old Harry Heckel's sailing life, including his two times around the world, I don't feel as though my unplanned sailing adventure spanning the last fours years amounts to much. But if you ever begin to compile a record of Nor'Sea owners who have sailed from San Diego to Mexico, the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Society Islands, the Cook Islands, Palmerston Atoll, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, Bali, Malaysia/Singapore, Thailand, the Maldives, the Chagos, Mayotte, Madagascar, South Africa, St. Helena, Fernandez de Norona (Brazil), Fortaleza (Brazil), French Guyana, Devil's Island (French Guyana), and Trinidad - and points in between - to the U.S. Virgin Islands, please put me down. I've encountered others, but lost contact and don't know where they ended up.
While I was in Durban, I told another American singlehander that I'd probably trailer Armido from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego. "Then you won't be completing your circumnavigation," he said.
"So what," I responded, "I never planned to leave Mexico, let alone do a circumnavigation."
Now, as back then, I don't see the point in beating my brains out - at no small expense - going through the Panama Canal and doing the Baja Bash back to California just to join the list of people who've completed a circumnavigation. My next destination - unless something happens to prevent it - is to fetch France to do the inland canals. Or else the Med, primarily to visit Italy, Greece and maybe the Balkans. But I'm never really sure. I may go around 'almost' again.
Bob - Steve did complete his second circumnavigation. He was lost while sailing from San Diego to Morro Bay. His last log entry was made on July 8. On July 28, a ship spotted Southbound 800 miles off the coast of California, and Steve was not aboard. As a result of some bungling, the Coast Guard wrongly reported that he had no next of kin. In addition, there was a report, now considered to be the result of misconstruing some evidence, that he committed suicide. His family firmly believe that was not the case, and apparently there is no strong evidence to support such speculation. Stephen Brown was 54 when he went missing.
It's funny how obviously experienced
sailors can see things so differently. Elsewhere in this issue
there's an interview with Jim Greene, who has circumnavigated
three times. In our interview, Greene repeatedly stated that
the southeast coast of South Africa was "one of the safest
places in the world you could sail" because the weather
reports were so good. We don't think most sailors would agree
with him on that, but how do you argue with a guy who has done
three circumnavigations in a wooden boat that is now 50 years
old and wasn't designed for offshore use?
Here's an interesting story from the past. Captain Alexander Beattie, my late uncle, was one of the last sailing ship skippers on the Pacific Coast. Born in a little coastal town in Scotland, he went to sea when he was 12 years old.
He first came to the Bay Area aboard a British grain ship in about 1885. The ship loaded in Port Costa. When departure time came, he and a buddy decided they couldn't stand another voyage with the mean skipper, so they jumped ship. This was a serious offense, as under British law, they were indentured seamen and could be jailed.
While they were still in the area, the night watchman in the nearby Selby Smelter decided to take 'early retirement'. So one night he loaded a skiff with bars of gold and took off across San Pablo Bay. Alas, the wind picked up and the skiff flipped over. He was rescued, but they dragged the Bay for weeks and never recovered the gold.
Perhaps some of your readers may have heard of this story also. Is it true or just an old sailor's yarn?
Rob - What makes us skeptical of the
story is the notion that Selby Smelter would leave bars of gold
just laying around where the night watchman could walk off with
them. It doesn't have the ring of truth, does it?
I'm thinking of participating in 2004's Baja Ha-Ha rally. In order to make it happen for me, I need to put in for vacation early in the year - like now. Any chance you could send me the 'important dates' for this year's event?
G. Frank Nin
G. Frank - Lauren Spindler and the folks at the Ha-Ha remain in hibernation until May 1, but we can tell you that the event will start on October 25 in San Diego, and will finish on November 6 in Cabo San Lucas.
For folks interested in the Ha-Ha, there's
a big article in the February 2004 edition of Sail. It was written by Kimball Livingston,
their West Coast Editor, who sailed aboard the SC 52 Impulse.
The article was well written and, we're happy to say, quite
I notice that you referred to last year's Baja Ha-Ha as being the 10th. In the 1980s, I twice sailed down to and back from what I thought were Baja Ha-Has. Were they called something else back the? I'm curious as to what I might be missing.
Russ - It is a little confusing. Back in 1982, the Wanderer dreamed up the notion of a Sea of Cortez version of Antigua Sailing Week. We called it Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, but when we made the T-shirts, we nicknamed it the 'Baja Ha-Ha'. As you no doubt recall, it started in La Paz, but most of the fun racing and beach activities took place at Caleta Partida. After about five years, some people - we can't remember if they were cruisers or locals - grumbled that the Baja Ha-Ha was somehow an offensive name. We had no idea what they meant by that, but stopped using it. Sea of Cortez Sailing Week was extremely popular during the first five to seven years. After that, it was often on life support, and finally passed away last spring. We were sad to see it go.
In 1994, when the Wanderer founded the now-quite-famous cruisers' rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, he revived the Baja Ha-Ha name. There haven't been any complaints.
The Wanderer loves starting sailing
events in Mexico, particularly ones where cruisers can have a
great time while raising money for good causes. Can you name
three others, all of which are still ongoing?
While reading a 2001 issue of Latitude, I came across an article by, as I remember, Fred Evans and Diana Redwing, that really intrigued me. It was about their visit to the San Blas Islands of Panama, and mentioned that Diana had developed an extensive knowledge of the Kuna Indian language. I too, visited the Kuna, and have my own such volume. I would be very interested in exchanging information, but I have no way to contact these people. I'm leaving my email address in the hope you can forward it to them with my request. It's very difficult to find anything written about the Kuna language, so such an exchange could be helpful to both parties.
Louis - We no longer have their address,
but perhaps Diana will read your letter and contact you.
When reading Kirby Gale's January account of the botched kayak trip in which he and his daughter Elisabeth had to be rescued, one sentence stood out: "She (Elisabeth) had decided not to wear her life vest that day."
Like the weather didn't look like rain, so it wasn't necessary to carry an umbrella? As a boating writer who has dealt with more than a few Coast Guard Sitreps that involved body bags, I wonder why it is that well-mannered, educated, and reasonable adults, who fasten their seat belts before they start their car, put a helmet on before they go biking, and strap a parachute on their back before they jump out of planes, seem to lose their smarts the moment they plant their butt in a boat?
I don't suggest that Michael Moore should do a documentary about the lack of common sense in the Western civilization, but I'm beginning to think that it would save lives if people who had to be rescued because of their own negligence would have to reimburse the agency that rescues them. At least it might remind these people to bring common sense - along with their energy bars and Gatorade - to the launch ramp.
Dieter - We think you're on to a way to get our state and federal governments out of their fiscal sinkholes. Let's slap reimbursement charges on parents who don't avail their children of free vaccinations and health care; on pot smokers who move on to coke and crack; on kids who don't pay attention while in class; on poor people who piss money away on lottery tickets instead of food; on state legislators who allow poor people to piss their food money away on lottery tickets - and on and on and on and on.
Shakespeare was correct when he wrote,
"What fools we mortals be." We know, because we're
one of the biggest of all. We rarely have trouble knowing which
is the right thing to do, it's actually doing it that has proved
As some of you know, after many years of cruising in the Pacific aboard our Alameda-based Yamaha 33 Goodfellow, Foster developed some inner ear problems that affected his balance at sea, so now we're cruising a canal boat on the waterways of Europe. All is well here. Nonetheless, I thought I'd share a remedy with those who suffer from seasickness.
For decades, we traded possible solutions for seasickness with friends old and new. Oral drugs, skin patches, ginger concoctions, accupressure wrist bands - we've tried them all. Now a new one, the Potato Cure, has come to light. The remedy was passed on to me by Capt. van den Reek, an old Dutch skipper, and is so simple that it probably works. Van den Reek swears it worked for him while he navigated his passenger ship in the rough waters of Holland's big lakes. And don't laugh, the wind raises swell and chop on these lakes that is as uncomfortable as anything the oceans can churn up.
Anyway, the captain said his solution was to drill a hole in a potato, thread it onto a small lanyard, and wear it around his neck. Since he could smell 'mother earth', it supposedly psychologically prevented him from getting seasick. Captain van den Reek didn't really need the potato, but his passengers, one by one, would say 'why not', and give it a try. And, by Jove, they found that it worked! Besides, once the cruise is over, you could make potato soup or Mr. Potato Heads.
Sally Andrew & Foster Goodfellow
I just wanted to let you know that I have loved the updates on Profligate's progress and the reports of what's going on in he Caribbean. I love reading both the print and 'Lectronic versions of Latitude because they are real stories about real people, places and experiences that happen while sailing.
Your updates about sailing around St. Barths are a perfect example of what sailing is about. I hope you continue to write them frequently, and post them with lots of photos. For those of us for whom sailing is not just sport, but a passion, it allows us to meet other interesting people and visit exciting places. Your updates are the next best things to being there.
My fiancée and I met six years ago in St. Martin/St. Barths, when she was working as a dive instructor and I was skippering charter boats. We have since moved on and are about to enter graduate school. But seeing the photos and reading the stories make us want to drop everything and return!
We have been kicking around the idea of a bareboat wedding on the beach at Colombie, our favorite spot, and your stories might have just sealed the deal. I don't think it will happen this year as my parents are still cruising in the Med, but maybe next year after they have crossed back to the Caribbean.
Mark - It's a pleasure to get such positive feedback. Thank you. We particularly like being able to post all the great color photos on 'Lectronic Latitude, so if any of you readers haven't checked it out, we really think you should. Go to www.latitude38.com, and click on the blinking box.
VICARIOUSLY PARTICIPATING IN ADVENTURES
I just returned to my boat in Turkey after a couple of weeks of touring Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris, and just now caught up on the recent 'Lectronic Latitudes. What a bunch of hooey from the writer who was disenchanted with your Profligate's Progress reports from the Caribbean. I have thoroughly enjoyed vicariously participating in your adventures around St. Barths. The articles provoked fond memories of several Caribbean charter trips I made, as well as my anticipation of cruising there aboard my Knot Yet II, probably in the winter of 2005-2006.
Last year we voyaged from Thailand to Turkey, often in the company of Buddy and Ruth Ellison on the San Francisco-based Hans Christian 48 Annapurna. After arriving in Turkey, we spent nearly three months cruising the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts of Turkey. What absolutely marvelous cruising, although a bit crowded at the height of the chartering season.
My crew and I are flying to Thailand next week for about three months. Our cruising plans for this year include the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally, then Greece, Croatia and Italy. We hope to spend next winter somewhere in Italy so we can do some more land travel in Europe.
As always, thanks for a great magazine - and especially for the 'Lectronic edition! And congratulations on 25 years!
John - Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. We've never mentioned this before, but among the many reasons we love 'Lectronic is that it gives us the opportunity to publish lots of cruising photos in brilliant color. In order to be able to do that in the print version, we'd have to charge the normal $4.95 - or whatever most slicks charge these days.
Like you, we're not jealous reading
about the fun other people are having on their boats, but get
vicarious pleasure. For your example, your reporting that while
cruising the Med you can quickly and easily be enjoying the pleasure
of the great cities of Europe. Geez, would we love to be able
to do that! Maybe in the summer of '05 or '06. Meanwhile, we'll
enjoy the reports from you and others.
Losing your rudder, such as the one lost from Mike Harker's Hunter 466 Wanderlust between the Marquesas and Hawaii, is always an ordeal. There is one thing that Mike and his helpers aboard Only Tomorrow did not try that I think would have lessened their ordeal considerably. While what I learned when I lost my rudder is too late to help them now, it might be of use to some Latitude reader in the future.
While motoring from Hawaii back to California, I picked up a gob of derelict fish net. It hit the rudder very hard, and almost instantly shut the engine down when it tried to make its way through the prop aperture. As a result, the motor shifted on its mounts. We corrected that when we got home, but didn't think to check the rudder shaft - which had been cracked just a bit more than halfway through where it entered the hull.
I was sailing hard on the wind the following spring below Abreojos, Mexico, and really had the genoa sheeted in because a buddyboat was taking photos. That's when the other half of the rudder broke. The weather was deteriorating and some American tuna boats that we'd partied with earlier in the winter heard us talking on the radio. They offered to tow me in to port, but I declined. So they anchored and waited to help me when I reached the anchorage. After I arrived, they sent a diver down to check things out, and found my rudder was still standing on the lower gudgeon, so we managed to retrieve that. We found enough pipe and steel plate to fabricate a jury rudder, which we attached to my windvane brackets. That rudder only lasted until a little north of Cedros.
We waited almost two weeks for good weather, but that was a very windy spring. After leaving the island, we got hit again, and bent the pipe on the rudder 90° to the side. The Coast Guard hooked me up with a crab boat being delivered to Seattle. While his slowest speed was too fast to tow us comfortably, we endured the rolling from rail to rail. Eventually, he got us to Punta San Carlos, gave us fuel to fill our tanks, and then he headed on north.
By that time hurricane season was almost upon us, and our insurance company was anxious to get us back to California. We got towing quotes from commercial tug companies, but as usual, they were outrageous.
We finally made contact with Bob Sloan, owner of the schooner Spike Africa. Bob - who died a few years ago, rest his soul - also happened to be one of the best seamen on this ocean. He agreed to come down and get us for $5,000, and the insurance company jumped at the offer. When Bob arrived, he confirmed that my engine was working, that I had fuel, and my prop was clear. He then said he was only going to guide us, not tow us, as that was preferable as long as I still had power. But we rigged a bridle so he could tow us if necessary.
We set our engine at a good cruising speed, and he went just fast enough to keep the rope tight most of the time. The catenary in the rope dragging through the water seemed to provide some occasional guidance when my boat surged. The only improvement I would make to this system if I had to use it again would be to fix a catenary weight on the tow line, as I believe it would take even better care in the surges. I doubt if Sloan used more than an extra 5 to 10 gallons of fuel towing my boat.
I also believe that Only Tomorrow could have easily guided Mike and Wanderlust under sail, as they had an east wind and a southerly course. They would have still had the beam seas to contend with, but the pulling sails would have steadied them. With Wanderlust pulling her own weight, I also believe she would not have slowed Only Tomorrow down. The worst thing about that method is that a close watch has to be kept of the other boat all the time, which can be tiring. In our case, my wife was my only crew. Fortunately, Bob put one of his crew aboard to help me keep watch.
Now to answer the question as to why I declined the offer from the tuna boat to tow me into the Abreojos anchorage: I did not feel like I needed it. I was only a couple of hours out, and while I do not want to open the argument about the merits of different types of rigs, I have a ketch rig with a clubfooted staysail. I had dropped my genoa and was steering the boat under power by backing the staysail. It required tremendous exertion. I was pumped full of adrenaline when I started, but as I began to tire, the tuna boats had me on their radar, and were shouting for me to head more offshore as I was standing into shallow water. That revived my adrenaline, and we made it in okay. But I was tired for two days afterward. If I had needed to do it for a longer period of time, I would have rigged tackles to control the club.
This all happened in the late '70s - just before the Mexican government claimed rights to all the tuna within 200 miles of their coast. That put the wonderful, big-hearted, fun-loving tuna fishermen out of business.
THE PROBLEM IS PROBABLY ADUANA, NOT DHL
Regarding the 'Lectronic Latitude story about a hearing aid that went missing after being shipped to Mexico via DHL, the problem might not be DHL's as much as Aduana in Guadalajara. The Aduana there is legendary for its ability to intercept, capture and retain interesting items that are being imported into Mexico.
About three years ago, I had to import a diesel engine to Mazatlan. I was given explicit instructions by locals that the pallet should not ever get close to Guadalajara. "Do not put it on a plane that stops in Guadalajara," I was told. "No trans-planing, no layovers, no stops, have nothing to do with that place or odds are that you'll never see your motor.
As a result of their advice, I had the engine shipped nonstop to Mazatlan, where it took me less than a week to get it out of customs.
Regarding DHL, I have used them several times while in Mexico and other places in Latin America, and have never had any problem with them. Once my parents had to ship me the key to my car from Chile!
Jay - When Richard Booker of the Mystery
Cove 39 Crocodile Rock told
us about not being able to get his new mast extrusion, we asked
if the problem might not be Aduana rather than DHL. For whatever
reason, he insisted that DHL was the problem. But given the number
of folks who suggest the blame really lies with Aduana, perhaps
Booker was mistaken.
With regard to people having bad experiences with DHL in Mexico, I had quite a bit of experience with them while working at Marina Cabo San Lucas.
The good news is that for documents, DHL was by far the best express mail service in Mexico. FedEx would routinely claim to have express mail service to Cabo, but they didn't. It's true they could get a letter to Mexico City overnight, but from there to Cabo San Lucas it must have come by their version of the Pony Express. It was definitely not express mail.
The bad news is that parts were often a problem when they were shipped via DHL. But in fairness, I believe the difficulties were actually with Aduana, rather than DHL. For if the parts came on DHL through La Paz, there wouldn't be a problem. But if they came through Guadalajara, the Aduana people seemed to keep everything they could get their hands on. DHL, however, didn't seem to make much of an attempt to smooth things along, and frequently gave out inaccurate information.
The readers who wrote in complaining about trying for months to get their hearing aid that was sent via DHL, mentioned endless requests for paperwork and having to fill out mountains of forms. That all rings true with me.
I'd like to share an example of the problems we had with DHL / Aduana in Guadalajara. Remember, Marina Cabo San Lucas is a very well-connected Mexican business doing business in Mexico, so there were no language or cultural misunderstandings. And, we had the best attorneys and accountants at our disposal. In short, we, of all people, should have been able to wend our way through the Aduana maze. But a few years ago, two boxes of marina access cards were accidentally shipped by DHL. It took us the better part of three months to get them out of Aduana in Guadalajara, and only after there had been innumerable ridiculous demands, all of which we complied with. Aduana even wanted an original Certificate of Origin from the manufacturer - but on our stationery! After a great deal of time and expense, we finally got the two small boxes released. But we were charged storage for the time they had been held!
Prior to this, we'd always made sure that only documents, not parts, went via DHL. The aforementioned experience made us even more careful.
Whenever a boater came into the office and cheerfully told us how their parts were being sent by express mail through DHL, I would shudder - and suggest that they pay our monthly rate rather than our daily rate, because the word express was not going to describe the process. If they were lucky, they eventually got the parts, but I cannot tell you how often cruisers simply had to abandon them. I always used to remind people that a round-trip air fare to Southern California might, in the long run, be the cheapest way to get something to Cabo really quickly.
LOOKING FOR CHEAP BOAT LABOR
I've read with keen interest your continuing discussions about cruising inexpensively. It seems that the first objective - after gaining some necessary initial knowledge - is finding the acceptable balance between the bucks you have and the boat you want/need. Unfortunately, finding a cheap boat often means a boat that needs some work. The more work needed, the lower the price.
I've seen a small number of boats that appeared to be real bargains - until I went below. While the outside looked good, the inside looked like the guy's kid used it for his first high school woodshop project. In other cases, the interior was just plain missing. They might have had the required bulkheads, but the rest was crooked 2 x 4s, nailed plywood to make some seats, a crude bunk, a galley, and maybe a couple of cabinets. Obviously, boats with crude interiors lead me to be suspicious of them in places I couldn't inspect.
So I had to ask myself, were these boats worthwhile buys? If the boat had the equipment that I wanted - decent sails, windlass, chain and rode with an anchor or three, some electrics and electronics, safety equipment, and a dink with a motor, what would be so bad about an ugly interior, especially if we could get it fixed along the way?
I have travelled about enough to know that many Third World countries may not have our robust economy, but they still have folks who can do decent woodworking. In fact, don't I recall some damn good woodworking coming from places such as Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and just about anywhere some guy or gal grows up with the desire or need to work with the local hardwoods? I once saw this table made by a happy and smiling - but totally uneducated - guy. Living in no more than a hut in Africa, and working without electricity, he built something more beautiful and better fitted than my expert craftsman father could produce in his $40,000 custom woodworking shop.
Surely there are places in the world where decent boatworking can be found for extremely affordable rates. There still must be Third World countries where the cost of labor hasn't caught up with the quality of work. As a kid, I remember the usual rite of passage was a trip to Tijuana or Ensenada in a '57 Chevy for the $200 tuck-and-roll interior. We couldn't afford the $800 stateside job, but the trip to Mexico resulted in both a great adventure and an interior to brag about. Can't the same situation still exist to a degree somewhere with regard to work on boats? I'm sure it can. The problem is where. Where do I find those craftsmen who will still do an acceptable job for $10 U.S. - per day? Not per hour, seriously, but per day.
I have emailed around, listened to my cruising buddies, and heard all the local rumors. I'm fairly certain such a place exists. Indonesia is a sure best bet because two places I contacted assured me that such a labor rate wasn't difficult to find. In fact, it was sort of the standard starting point. Evidently the rate increases as you want more complex structures, but common work can still be had for that magic figure.
But the problems seem to be threefold. First, communication. Unless you speak the language or can provide accurate drawings, you might not get the results that you want. Second, one fellow told me that it's a major headache hoping your workers actually arrive each day and are willing to work. Third, unless you know something about woodworking, you have no assurance that you'll get good work that will stand up over time. In short, such situations may not be the bargain they seem to be on the surface.
Still, for those of us who know about construction and would rather have an adventurous sail to the other side of the earth in a less-than-perfect boat than sit around another year building a boat interior, this might be just what the vacation counselor ordered. The problem is finding his location. Where is this place? Surely somebody knows and has had his/her boat upgraded there.
As well versed as you Latitude folks are about Mexico, can you tell us if you can find a smiling cabinetmaker hiding in a hidden Mexican port? I heard the yard in San Carlos was proficient but also inexpensive. Perhaps they don't operate at the $10/day rate, but were extremely reasonable nonetheless.
How about Nicaragua or perhaps Panama? Is the Caribbean the place? Maybe even beautiful and inexpensive Bali. How about the good boatbuilding country of Taiwan? Can anybody help?
John - We're confused, because it almost sounds as though your primary interest is not in going cruising, but in taking advantage of extremely low labor rates in some Third World country.
With regard to the latter, we're not sure you'll be able to find it. In the late '80s, we sailed down to Venezuela because we were told it was possible to get great interior woodwork done at ridiculously low prices. The only ridiculous thing was the notion that you could get anything other than painting done for much less money than elsewhere in the Caribbean. Sure, it was possible to hire some laborers for a very low hourly rate - but these were guys who didn't know which end of the paint brush the bristles were on, and didn't have the best work ethic either. The few skilled and experienced boatworkers were quickly identified, and were snapped up by either the boatyards or owners of big boats more than happy to pay far above the local prevailing wage. In any event, the good workers quickly realized their worth and began to charge accordingly.
Often times the other side of very low labor rates is dismal productivity. It's often much better to pay an energetic and skilled worker $20 to finish a job right in one hour than it is to pay even a well-meaning incompetent $5/hour to do the same job in a day and a half with the assistance of two paid helpers - and then have to redo the job because they screwed it up. Building boat interiors is much more complex than building tables in Africa or carving bowls in the South Pacific. It takes experience and knowledge. It also takes access to the proper materials, including the correct epoxies and paints. Our experience has been that no matter where you go, if there's a good chandlery, boatwork is not cheap.
If you search, we're sure you can find places where you can get boatwork done for less money than in California. The folks on Annapurna, for example, said they got great bargains in Thailand. But we don't think the savings will be as great as you might think. Or, low enough to justify buying a project boat, which can often lead to unforeseen but expensive repairs, and months if not years of down time.
Earlier in Letters we mentioned Roy Wessbecher. It's been a few years now, but he bought what was basically a stock Columbia 34 MK II for about $15,000. Without doing much work on her, he sailed her around the world for the next four or five years. During all that time, he only hauled the boat twice, didn't have any serious breakdowns, and lived on - everything included - something like $12 a day. If you're really interested in cruising, we highly recommend that you put your energy into finding a boat suitable for that purpose and not have to wonder about where to get great deals on labor to finish a boat interior.
RENDEZVOUS WAS BUILT IN '33, NOT '35
I saw Rendezvous, my old ship, in the February issue. If the new owner is interested in knowing more about the Rendezvous, I can probably help, as I owned her from 1969-79. I sailed Charles Lindberg in 1972. I can be reached at (619) 225-0667. By the way, Rendezvous was built in '33, not '35, as the Coast Guard said.
Steve and I met while sailing on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire back in the early '80s. I had a Catalina 22; Steve had an S2 7.9, and he would literally sail circles around me. In 1985 we both moved our boats from the lake to Well Beach, Maine. We both learned our lessons about sailing on the ocean the hard way. For instance, I didn't even know the tide came in twice a day.
After a few years had passed and my wife and I had learned the ropes, we bought a new Catalina 30. Steve still had his S2, and could still beat me - although not as badly. One day we sailed 30 miles downeast to Richmond Island, arriving in the late afternoon. Steve hailed me on the VHF, saying that he and his buddy Tim were 20 miles behind us but on their way. I told them I'd be monitoring channel 16.
At 10 p.m., Steve called to say that they lost their wind and were motoring into the Saco River, and that the fog had started to roll in. Steve and Tim were near the entrance to the river and could see the glow of street lights. They approached carefully, and found the town dock, where a scruffy old man was fishing for stripers off the dock. Steve asked him if it was okay to tie up for the evening. Fred, the old fisherman, said it wouldn't be a good idea because the lobstermen loaded up with bait there early each morning. But Fred said they were welcome to use his mooring, which was 100 yards up river.
Steve accepted the offer. Tim offered old Fred a beer, and had him come along to his mooring. Everyone relaxed, swapped stories, and continued to drink.
At about 1 a.m. Steve suggested that Tim row old Fred back to the dock. Fred stood up and said, "You got a head in this boat?" Steve showed him the head, but it soon became clear he was taking a dump, not a whizz. When Fred came out of the head, he said, "How do you flush it, the stuff won't go down?" Steve said not to worry, that he'd take care of it. So Tim rowed Fred back to shore.
Steve went into the head and tried to flush the toilet, but it was piled even with the seat with 'stuff', and wouldn't go down. Looking for something to ram it down with, he picked up a flare, and after poking and flushing, managed to flush it down. Steve looked at the flare and decided not to keep it - so he tossed it out of the companionway and into the river. Just then Steve looked up and saw Tim in the companionway, wiping his brow with his hand.
"Did you throw something overboard?" Tim asked.
Jane and I later bought a 1984 Catalina 38, with a hull by S&S, while Steve has moved back to the lake. We're going to miss him.
I really enjoy Latitude and read it faithfully - wish we had one like it back East.
Dick - Thanks for the kind words. However, we have to admit we had to read your letter about five times before we 'got' the point of the story. We think the fact that you said Steve used a flare as opposed to a 'pointed object' to get the poop down the head threw us off. We kept waiting for something to light up or catch on fire. Yes, we're slow, but we would have caught the point earlier if you said, "Tim wiped his brown brow with his hand."
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