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A MESSAGE FROM THE 'MYSTERY SAILOR'
In the March issue story on the most frequent sailors on San Francisco Bay, you made reference to a sailor who sails solo almost every day, but who didn't want to be identified. I am that sailor, and I'd like to make some clarifications:
It was written that I occasionally tow other boats back to port. I've done this very infrequently - no more than a dozen times in the last 10 years.
It was written that I sail almost every day. For the last 10 years, I've actually averaged four times a week the entire year, rain or shine.
It was suggested that I usually sail solo. I often have friends sail with me, especially on the weekends and during the so-called 'season'.
M.S. - Thank you for the clarifications
- but now everyone is going to be really curious to learn who
We just wanted to thank you for the words of 'reminder' in the first four paragraphs of your La Dolce Vita In The French West Indies article on the Caribbean in the February Latitude. It's has been 22 years since we left Channel Islands Harbor for the South Pacific aboard our daysailer.
We returned in 1984 and have totally rejoined the rat race. I'm involved in the high pressure, never-get-a-day-off vocation of selling beach and marina homes, and my husband John owns his own shipwright business. We are currently living aboard and fitting out our Islander 41 with the hope of leaving for Mexico and beyond in January of 2005.
I am constantly coming up with excuses for not leaving: I will lose all my clients, we don't know how we'll support ourselves, and what if there is no place to put the boat when we get back. In fact, I keep coming up with so many excuses that I keep losing sight of how much fun we had the first time, why we are still such good friends with the people we met on our last cruise, and the other reasons why we're working toward going cruising again.
Anyway, I cut those first four paragraphs of that story out of the magazine, laminated them, and keep them at eye-level on the bulkhead of my boat office. Thank you!
Debby & John Dye
Debby and John - We're glad you liked
it, as every word came from the heart.
Your readers are sailing all over this watery planet, often with 24-hour a day watches. I was wondering if any have had UFO encounters or weird Bermuda Triangle-type things happen.
Love the rag.
Jim - We hope sailors keep watch 24 hours a day, lest they get run down by ships. More to the point, the problem is how would you sort out real UFO experiences - if there are such things - from imaginary ones. As any long-distance sailor will tell you, fatigue and loneliness combine to play terrible tricks on the mind. For example, despite expressing skepticism several times, Tristan Jones insisted that when his boat was trapped in Arctic ice for an entire winter, he taught his dog how to play chess. And that they had some excellent matches!
Another specialty of exhausted offshore sailors is imagining the impossible. We've heard stories of sailors looking for black bears hiding in the quarter berth, being awoken by the sound of approaching locomotives while halfway to Hawaii, and regularly being visited by deceased friends or family members. These imaginary visitors often assist sailors who are too tired to drive for another five minutes or change another sail. It's most spooky when a dead relative has navigated a boat through a tricky patch of water such as the Tuamotus. But very weird is the norm for the sleep deprived.
Anyone care to share a personal example?
I need help with a property tax issue that affects all long-term cruisers who kept their boats in Los Angeles County - and possibly other California counties - before taking off cruising.
My partner Kevin and I lived aboard his Fluid Motion in a Long Beach marina for about six years before taking off for Mexico and the South Pacific in May of 2002. So as of that date, we no longer owned any property in Los Angeles County - or even the United States.
Prior to our departure, I'd contacted the L.A. County Tax Assessor's office to find out what obligations we might have. After speaking with half a dozen people, we were told that we were obligated to pay the unsecured property tax for fiscal year July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 - because we owned property in the county as of January 1, 2002. We were additionally told that we should send a letter to the Assessor's office stating our intention to leave the county. We paid the tax bill through June 2003 and sent a letter informing them of our intentions.
Then last month, we were told that we are also obligated to pay the property tax bill through June of '04 - as well as June of '05! Furthermore, a lien has been placed on Kevin's credit! I repeat, we've not had any property in L.A. County since May of '02.
We've spent numerous dollars on international phone calls to the Marine Division of the L.A. County Tax Assessor's Office, and the standard response has been, "You are obligated to pay L.A. County property taxes until you establish a tax site in some other location." Establishing a tax site for cruisers means paying property taxes in another country. But if the country doesn't have property taxes, it means we'll have to pay L.A. County property taxes indefinitely. Am I missing something or does this seem unfair?
We were told we could file an appeal. This isn't a big deal, but we have to be present for the hearing date about six months later before the Tax Appeals Board in Los Angeles! We are relatively young and thus don't have a monthly retirement income, so taking this issue to a lawyer is not only cost prohibitive but geographically next to impossible as we're currently in New Zealand for the hurricane season. Can you provide some guidance?
Stephanie - It's hard to believe, but
the personal property tax law is interpreted very differently
by various counties within California. Some say as long as your
boat is out of the country
The most common solution is to either
get your boat registered in a California county that isn't as
overzealous about tax collection as L.A. County, or a different
state that doesn't have personal property tax. But if L.A. County
is going to stick with the "until you establish a tax residence
elsewhere" - we're told they ultimately will back off -
you might need to do something more drastic, such as sell the
boat to yourself in a state that doesn't have sales tax or personal
property tax. In other words, a paper transfer. Then, when L.A.
County sends you the tax bill, you can show them the bill of
sale that took the boat out of their jurisdiction.
After reading Stornoway's Last Voyage in your April issue, I checked out a copy of Stornoway East and West from the San Francisco Library. It's an amazing book with great photographs.
I'm wondering if you could direct me to anyone who might have saved anything at all from the vessel - be it a piece of the deck to a bolt from the keel. I'm not looking to make any money off it, I'd just be honored to have a small piece of this historical boat for the wall of my company.
Lee - At first that sounds like a weird
idea, but come to think of it, we would have paid a little money
to have had something like a cleat from the boat. We know that
Stornoway's rig was saved and
apparently has been donated to a Master Mariner's boat. If there
is anything left of the boat itself, Richardson Bay Harbor Administrator
Bill Price would know. Contact him at (415) 971-3919.
I was raised aboard boats from birth to age 18, and by any reasonable standard I had a glorious childhood and have since had a successful adult life. And I attribute much of my success to the way I was raised.
In the early '60s, my parents, Sidney and Laila Messer, built Sadie, a lovely 36-ft gaff-rigged schooner at Cecil Foss' yard on Bainbridge Island, Washington. They then had her shipped to Nova Scotia on a Japanese freighter. After marrying up with the boat, they set sail on a cruise along the Eastern Seaboard and to the islands of the Caribbean. They later transited the Panama Canal before sailing home to Sausalito. This was in the days before West Marine, GPS and cell phones. And nobody had ever heard of docklines coming with eye-splices already in them. There was no bottled water, no watermakers and no one wore gloves to go sailing. There was no towboat service if you ran out of fuel, and no cruiser ever dreamed of an EPIRB. Their cruise was a success - I was conceived on the way - as newspapers wrote articles about them and they visited various yacht clubs showing the movie they made of their adventures.
Upon their return, both my parents resumed their teaching careers. I slept in a four-foot bunk in the forepeak. I was surrounded by my stuffed animals as well as various lines, blocks and tackles. I played on the docks, fished, rowed my dinghy, got into fabulous mud fights with other kids in the harbor, had contests to see who could pick up the biggest crabs, rode my bicycle all over town, and in general had a marvelous time.
We did not have a television. My parents talked at dinner, read to me, and my dad would sometimes make up stories to classical music on the radio. My favorite was one about a princess with a pickle in her hair. When I started school, I noticed that other kids weren't allowed to play the way I was. They lived in the 'suburbs' where there were streets and cars everywhere. They watched a lot of TV, didn't seem to read as well as I did, and didn't seem to like their parents as much. When I was five, I had grown to the point my feet were hanging off the end of my four foot long bunk into the chain locker, so my folks decided we needed a bigger boat.
We sold Sadie and set off on our hunt. We found Margaretta, our next boat, in Florida. She was a gracious 50-ft double-ended ketch built in Poole, England. My parents had Capt. Tony Carter deliver her to the West Coast, where my parents fixed her up and we moved aboard. I lived aboard Margaretta from age 5 to 18. We had no television, no hot running water, and no refrigeration. Since we didn't have ice, ice cubes and ice cream were a huge treat for me. I marveled at ice and all that went into its creation.
But I never felt deprived - quite the opposite. I felt smug, even a little arrogant at our self-sufficiency. I remember proudly enjoying the safety and security of our boat one stormy night when my parents were out and all the power had gone out ashore. I was warm, safe, and comfortable, and knew we had enough food, water and propane for months of comfortable living. We ate wonderful meals - always with fresh food. I had to walk to a shower building to bathe before heading off to school. It was cold, but I gained a healthy appreciation for the fact that I can turn a knob and hot water will come out of a wall.
Margaretta was lovely. She was built of Burma teak from the deck up, and I remember my dad breaking drill bits in her pitch pine hull. Down below she was elegant. In fact, my home was more elegant than any house I'd been in. And, she took us places. We spent every summer up in the Delta, but didn't need to pack because we brought our home with us. Summers were wonderful. I sailed and swam, skied and rowed, and got crushes on whatever boy was on the nearest boat. My friends from school usually got sent away to camp. Not me!
There were some funny things about living aboard. I remember one math assignment where I had to calculate the area of my 'room', when I was again living in the forecastle, in order to determine how much paint I would need. I was in 8th grade and hadn't taken calculus yet, so that was a bit tricky.
Other than that, my life was pretty normal. I lived aboard until I was 18, then went off to college. I went to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, which is a federal academy like West Point or Annapolis. I recall standing in front of my new room with my roommate as they opened the door. I was thrilled! We each had our own sink, I had a huge bed, a dresser and a hanging locker - er, closet - all to myself. My roommate thought I was nuts. I had a happy four years; she felt deprived the whole time.
In retrospect, being raised aboard a boat made our family closer than most and encouraged me to be more independent. I always felt I was part of a team, with valuable and important chores - such as pumping the bilge - which contributed directly to the family's safety and health. When I was very small, my biggest job was to sit still, stay out of the way, and be quiet - again for the family's safety. Since I was good at this, I was usually allowed to be in the cockpit where all the action was taking place, and I watched wide-eyed. So many kids today have no chores of any consequence, and feel more like baggage - or royalty - to be carted around.
Being raised without TV made me either read or play, or get used to being alone. I was an extremely healthy kid, I excelled in school, and never really 'rebelled' against my parents. Today, I see kids rebelling and I wonder what exactly it is they are so upset about. Then I realize - they have no reason to strive - their family would get along just fine without them, they are not an integral part of a working team, and they are handed everything. No wonder they have no self-esteem - why should they, they haven't done anything!
I think being raised aboard a boat was similar to being raised on a farm. We were very close to nature - if it rained we didn't need somebody on television to tell us. Our boat was a family member, too. She needed maintenance and love, and in return kept us safe and took us on adventures. I learned to truly value creature comforts such as running water, flush toilets, ice, hot showers, and so many other luxuries we take for granted. I learned to respect nature. I learned to take care of myself, take chances in life, trust my abilities, take care of physical possessions, and be happy when alone. We never missed any meals, indeed I'm confident I ate healthier than most of my peers.
My parents had wonderful friends who would come to visit and stay up late sharing fantastic adventures. While lying in my bunk, I would strain my ears to hear what the grown-ups were talking about. So no, I didn't catch the latest episode of some TV show. Instead, I heard about travel to exotic places, and harrowing adventures. Growing up surrounded by interesting adults who did interesting things made me want to live an adventurous life. So many children and young adults have no idea what's out there and how fantastic their lives could be - because they are absorbed in the comforts of modern society. Growing up on a boat exposes you to the world in ways growing up ashore can't.
I graduated from the Academy in 1986, and now hold a USCG Unlimited Tonnage Master's License - upon oceans. As a merchant marine officer, I have been to every continent except Antarctica - that's on my list - and was paid to go there. I have had more adventures in a single year than most people have in a lifetime. I then went to law school, and now work as a tenured faculty member, chairing the Marine Transportation Department of the California Maritime Academy. I have published numerous articles and a book with Cornell Maritime Press, and I'm confident they wouldn't have asked me if it weren't for my writing ability - which I directly attribute to having to entertain myself and growing up without TV. I am married to a wonderful man, and should we be fortunate enough to have a child, we both want to raise that kid on a boat.
In summary, the lifestyle a parent can offer a child aboard a boat - not just the physical act of living aboard, but the kind of people you meet - is, in my mind, a superior lifestyle. People who own and travel aboard boats are, in general, more educated and more adventurous than the norm. People who live aboard are quite often extraordinary people, especially if they travel. They are self-sufficient, usually don't expect others to bail them out, are able to make quick decisions, are usually physically and mentally healthy, and have arranged their lives in such a way that they can afford the time to have adventures. This would indicate people who plan and arrange their affairs responsibly. These are risk-takers who know they can't dial 911 if something goes wrong. These are people who truly appreciate a hot shower; fresh fruit; crisp, clean linens; and flush toilets. These are people who truly appreciate what it takes to make ice.
Capt. Tuuli Messer
Capt. Messer - Fascinating letter. And
we'll vouch for your writing ability, as your letter was one
of the 'cleanest' we've received in a long time.
Whether or not it's good for kids to be raised on boats is a topic that I've actively been seeking more information on. Regarding the inquiry by the gentleman in the February issue, it would be interesting to hear the specific reasons why the couple's counselor would think it's bad for kids to be raised on boats. Personally, I believe it's one of those things that experts - who know nothing about boats or living aboard - mouth off about because it's not the regular way of raising a child. But we've gotten similar warnings from people after telling them we're about to go cruising with Kara, our 17-month-old daughter.
I remember a letter that ran in Latitude about two years ago from a family that decided to pack up and sail to Alaska. Friends gave them the familiar warnings that it was too dangerous and wasn't good for the kids. As it turned out, they had a wonderful trip and got to share some special moments as a family unit. Sure, they had their initial trials and tribulations, but all good things come to those who persevere.
When we sailed in Oz and Asia in '99 with our old boat Inverlochy, we ran into quite a few boats with kids aboard - and it was part of the reason that we were inspired to have a child and cruise together as a family. All of the kids we met were polite, intelligent, well-adjusted - and most of all, more socially advanced than land kids. This might seem like an exaggerated statement, but I have yet to meet a land kid that has that childlike innocence accompanied with a sharp common sense and appreciation of other cultures.
Our plan was to return to San Francisco, pay off our debts, earn some money to buy another boat, and take off again. We did all of the above - except for the taking off. We bought a Peterson 44 from a very interesting old guy who had singlehanded to the South Pacific and back, and had been sailing up to the ripe old age of 83. Our beautiful daughter took a little longer showing up than expected, but she eventually made her appearance in September of 2002. But we're still stuck here waiting for jobs to wind up and our daughter to grow.
For Kara's first few months, we were too busy and tired to even think about taking her sailing. Indeed, the first five months were like being on a nonstop nightwatch. But we've gradually immersed her into the sailing life because we do plan on taking off at the end of this year. The first few outings were fine because she was so small she'd just sleep in the car seat that we'd brought along.
We've only done one overnight, and for a number of reasons it wasn't such a success. Kara fell out of the dinghy on the hard and smacked her forehead, then almost fell out again when we rowed ashore to Angel Island. She missed her motionless land crib, which meant she had to be put to sleep with mom and dad in the aft cabin, rocking back and forth. So none of us got a good night's sleep. The following morning we couldn't lift the anchor so we had to leave the boat there.
Now that Kara is a very active 17-month-old, it's even more challenging because she's no longer content to sit still. She's not yet sturdy enough to maintain her balance, and she's a little scared of the motion of the boat. Being used to having lots of space to run around at home, she's bothered by the confinement. Basically, she requires much more attention on the boat, so it's kinda hard work.
I've found a few Web sites that offer support and some interesting stories of kids cruising on boats: www.noonsite.com and kidsaboard.com. So we know it can be done and that it's not harmful. Nonetheless, we're interested in hearing from families cruising with kids.
Uwe, Anne & Kara Dobers
Readers - We'll have more letters on
this topic in the next issue.
Are there any past articles in Latitude which discuss the optimum time of year to sail from Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, to San Francisco?
Jerome - On the assumption that you're
interested in the optimum time of year from the standpoint of
reasonably mild weather, we'd say your best chances are in August,
September, and the first half of October. Remember, however,
that you can get your ass kicked any month of the year on that
passage. We don't know that it's necessarily the worst time,
but the Coast Guard gets the most calls for help from sailors
in those waters in June and July.
Having read a recent Changes on Marina Flamenco, ship's agents for the Panama Canal, and transiting the Panama Canal, I'd like to share my experience. I just delivered a 57-ft trawler - no, not a sailboat - from Dana Point to Ft. Lauderdale. The 4,500-mile passage took 25 days.
We stayed at Marina Flamenco for two nights awaiting a transit time, and found the marina staff to be very helpful. The slip rate was $1.50/ft/night plus electricity - which cost us $7/night because we had four 'zones' of air-conditioning running. There are many nice restaurants, and they clearly have ambitious plans, so it's little wonder to me that they charge $5/day for non-berthers to use their dinghy dock, and perhaps court mega-yachts more aggressively than 30-ft sailboats.
We used Peter Stevens as a ship's agent to arrange everything. Therefore we were able to go directly to the fuel dock, where the marina was expecting us. In the two hours that it took to take on 1,200 gallons of diesel, we were visited and cleared by Customs, the Admeasurer, and Agriculture. Peter secured a Canal transit date of 36 hours later. The line-handlers he arranged for showed up early and treated the boat as if she was their own. The pilot also showed up on time. We had a passenger fly in for the transit which created a mild issue, but it was solved quickly and smoothly - a rarity in tropical climates.
Was Steven's $500 fee justified? I guess it depends on whether you have more money than time.
Peter Pisciotta, delivery captain
Peter - Your last line says it all. If somebody owns a $2 million powerboat and is having her delivered from California to Florida, the $500 for a ship's agent is an insignificant expense. In fact, if the agent eliminates just one day of travel time, he's probably saved the boatowner money.
For cruisers who aren't in a furious hurry, and particularly for those on a budget, $500 for an agent would seem an extravagance. After all, $500 is more than many cruising couples spend in a month in that part of the world. As Jim Green - subject of the Latitude Interview last and this month - said, $500 was enough for him and his wife Anna to cruise on for six months during their circumnavigations.
Carolyn Bridge, who is back in Newport Beach with the kids, tells us that her husband Chris used a taxi driver to do all the paperwork for their Outremer 55 Cheval's recent transit. Chris did have to wait four days to transit, although Carolyn wasn't sure if it was because he and the taxi driver did the paperwork or because of heavy traffic. We'll find out soon.
THE CRUISING SEASON IN MEXICO
You wrote and asked us how things were in Mexico this winter. To us, things seem a bit different from the many other years we've cruised here. The cruising crowd is significantly smaller. Businesses that expect to make a living off the cruisers and tourists are complaining of the dearth. Interestingly, participation in all the old SSB radio nets for cruisers is almost nonexistent. The Southbound Net is virtually moribund. During the Chubasco Net, the old-timers toss the ball around, almost pleading for someone to check in, but no one does. I'm afraid the ubiquitous Internet cafes have sounded the death knell for Ham and marine SSB radio nets.
I think that President Bush is probably responsible for much of the decline in new cruisers, with his penchant for portraying a terrorist-ridden world. People are feeling much less secure about everything, especially with the negative attitudes toward Americans growing in many parts of the world now. (I've heard rumors that the French, not surprisingly, are among the vanguard in hassling Americans.)
Also, during the nine seasons we've cruised Mexico, we've seen other things that take the luster off the Mexican cruising experience: the imposition of 'anchoring fees' in Acapulco and, soon after, in La Paz; new fees during immigration check-in; and the recently-added port captain fees for every check-in and check-out of a port captain's district; the decline and fall of La Paz Race Week, due mainly to internal backbiting within the Club Cruceros; the probable end of Loreto Fest as a result of Fonatur's new efforts to 'develop' Puerto Escondido; and so forth.
I know I sound cynical. Perhaps we're a little burned out on Mexico. This year - finally! - my lady Teri and I are heading to Panama, through the Canal and then on a tour of the Caribbean next winter. I wish we had a chance to chat about the Caribbean, as it will be a trip to virgin territory for us. My ultimate goal is to get to the Mediterranean and spend a couple of years hanging around the Greek Islands and rereading Herodotus. During these voyages, I will be evangelizing for Katadyn (formerly PUR) watermakers, as usual, giving seminars and fixing watermaker problems for free along the way. I'll also be working on a new edition of my book on PUR watermakers, as well as a novel.
We plan to leave Banderas Bay about March 1, and will be checking out of Mexico directly for El Salvador.
Gary - Hanging around the Greek Islands rereading Herodotus - there's a cruising dream that has tremendous appeal to us. Seriously. The older we get, the more we savor reading history and visiting historical places.
Based on conversations with Paradise Marina Harbormaster Dick Markie and our own Andy Turpin - who was down at Banderas Bay for the annual Puddle Jump Party - you and Teri seem to be part of a trend. While boats intending to cross the Pacific are down from 50 to about 45 this year, there appears to be a significant increase in the number of cruisers heading to Central America and the Caribbean - and many of them at a very leisurely pace. Of those headed to the Pacific, Turpin reports that fewer than in previous years seem to be planning to do circumnavigations, mostly because of security concerns about places such as the Red Sea. A substantial number of those headed across intend to do a loop of the Pacific as opposed to continuing west around the world.
We're not hearing much evidence to support your theory that attitudes around the world are turning negative toward individual Americans. Cruisers tell us that's not even been the case in Muslim countries, and it sure wasn't the case in the many countries we've visited this winter. We don't think people around the world view individual Americans as being the embodiment of American foreign policy any more than Americans view Arabs who strap suicide bombs on the backs of their 9-year-olds as being representative of Islam.
As for who likes whom, you'll find that Mark Twain was right when he said that familiarity breeds contempt. While in St. Barth, which is French, we were repeatedly told that the Bartians love Americans and dislike the French. It may have something to do with the islanders knowing which side their baguettes are buttered on, but we're told Americans are generally considered nicer, more friendly - and better tippers!
We've heard some reports that the number of cruisers was off in Mexico this season, but there also seems to be evidence of the opposite. The last Ha-Ha was the biggest ever, and some members of the Mexican marine industry - such as Harbormaster Dick Markie of Marina Paradise - report record marina occupancy. The Paradise Village Marina is doing extremely well, for example, and Markie told us the same is true for Barra de Navidad and Ixtapa.
Like you, however, Markie sees a difference in this year's cruisers, saying they seem to be more affluent and more marina-oriented. He noted that in previous years more cruisers seemed to sail down and stay for the entire season. This season lots of folks parked their boats in Marina Paradise shortly after the Ha-Ha and have been coming back for mini vacations whenever they get a little free time - commuter cruising, as is common in the Med. Maybe that's what works best in the current economy, particularly when round-trip tickets between San Francisco and Puerto Vallarta have been as low as $250 when purchased well in advance.
But if there's indeed been a drop-off
in marine tourism in Mexico, we'd speculate that two of the prime
reasons are the ridiculous fees and clearing regulations. Our
cat, Profligate, has checked
into a lot of different countries in the last five months, and
in the process we've been reminded that the Mexican system is
by far the most outrageous when it comes to wasting cruisers'
time and money. You'd think they were trying to emulate India,
for God's sake! We love Mexico and the people of Mexico, but
their ridiculously abusive clearing regulations are a big reason
we're more likely to spend six days than six months in Mexico
this coming winter.
I searched Latitude's online database for any references to taking 'offshore delivery' of a boat in British Columbia rather than Mexico - but came up with nada. Can you direct me to anyone who has done it that way, or an article about it?
Anna - Offshore delivery refers to taking
delivery of the boat outside of the waters of California. This
can be in Mexico, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Zanzibar
- all that matters is that it's outside California.
Reading about the Rendezvous in the last issue of Latitude brings back wonderful memories for me. In the early '70s, I started working with Windjammer Cruises out of Kewalo Basin, Honolulu. This was my first sailing-for-money gig, and I worked as deck crew aboard the then-still-beautiful and fully functional Alden schooner Salee. A few berths down from the Salee was the Rendezvous, also owned by the Windjammer company.
The boats were primarily employed in the 'booze cruze' trade - although the Salee was then dispatched with paying passengers to Maui and back via Lanai, Maui, and Molokai. The trips began on Friday night and were back in Kewalo Basin Sunday afternoon. As these trips became more popular, Rendezvous was added to the run, with both vessels sailing on Fridays.
Anyone who has made the passage from Diamond Head to Lanai during the summer months knows just how hard the wind can blow and the seas can be in the channel between the islands. Keep in mind that we made the trip in the dark, under sail, and that the Salee - which was built for the Vanderbilts in the '20s and had some race plaques screwed to the chart table bulkhead - could really charge. Needless to say, the crossings were wet and wild, with passengers having to hang on with all their might to anything they could. Naturally, they were puking everywhere. Often times passengers hauled out their checkbooks and offered to pay any amount if we would only turn around!
Conditions belowdecks were even worse, and this is where the Rendezvous enters my story. A quick glance at Rendezvous reveals a compact vessel of certain charm. Her rig is real, and she can hustle along in the right conditions. However, she is not going to be very swift or sure going to weather in the Molokai Channel when the summer trades are piping - and these were the conditions that prevailed one fateful night so long ago. Salee was the first of the two boats into beautiful Hulopoe Bay, a bright sandy bay on the southwest coast of Lanai which in those days was open for anchoring and camping. Naturally, there was a small rivalry between the two ships, and the Salee crew was anticipating the arrival of the Rendezvous, relishing the thought of teasing her trashed and thrashed crew and passengers, especially since the crossing had been a brutal one.
When the Rendezvous finally hove into view, her rails lined with passengers, she was quite a sight. With the night of hell behind them, at this point most of the passengers would normally be very excited and smiling to see the view of paradise before them. But this group seemed more embarrassed than cheerful. Indeed, I haven't forgotten the odor when she passed, a strong mixture of vomit and shit. Those who have witnessed extreme seasickness know that both 'ends' often let loose at the same time.
It turns out that a lot of people had become extremely seasick during the rough passage that night, and they'd hit the toilet very hard. When cleaning up their messes they used every available scrap of toilet paper, which, as you might expect, resulted in the early and complete demise of the evacuation pump. This misfortune had occurred early on, so the captain, being a considerate individual and a competent handyman, had decided that rather than stop the use of the toilet, he'd just route the toilet discharge line . . . into the bilges! Honest. Even after listening to all the justifications, it was a long time before the subject could be brought up without everyone falling over in shameless laughter.
Rendezvous had her bilges thoroughly cleaned and a short time later was taken off that route.
But let me leave you with a prouder image of the Rendezvous. Later that same day, the two boats agreed to a race to Lahaina. With a steady 15-knot wind dropping off the scented cliffs of Lanai and meeting the beam of Rendezvous, with all her sails set, and with a bone in her mouth, I've never seen so much of her bottom outside of a boatyard. With boat vessels scudding across the deep blue Hawaiian waters, with the crews hooting and hollering, it was a wonderful sight.
What a historic vessel. Long live the Rendezvous!
Prior to cruising to Mexico, I spent $600 to purchase a two-burner, stove/broiler by Force 10 for my 28-ft sailboat. After four years of normal use, the main burner cap had rusted through. I called Force 10's toll-free customer support line, and the rep told me that Force 10 was aware of the problem. She assured me Force 10's new burner caps are made of stainless steel and would not rust like the older ones. When I asked for a stainless steel replacement, I was told they weren't made for my model.
The next day Peter from Force 10 called back to take my order for more rustable burner caps. When I told him about my experience, he wasn't very sympathetic to my problem, or my suggestion that Force 10 pick up the cost of the replacement parts - $10 - and the shipping - $9. Furthermore, he also didn't seem interested in relaying my concerns to their research department so other customers wouldn't have the same problem. Not only is a rusted burner cap an inconvenience and an added expense, but it's potentially a serious hazard. In the case of my stove, the rusted-out burner cap allowed raw propane to build up in an unmeasured volume, and then ignite above the stove.
I suppose I will have to reorder a new burner plate every four years until Force 10 either runs out or I decide to purchase another brand of stove.
A BALM TO THE JADED BIG CITY SOUL
Living in the big city can make you cynical. Getting out of the city can remind you that there are good, decent people out there.
While bringing a new - to me - sailboat down to the Bay from the Delta, her brittle old prop disintegrated. Limping into Cruiser's Haven, I was pleasantly surprised to be offered free berthing for as long as it took me to find a new prop! Ten days later, Antioch Marine called with the good news of a new prop for my Tohatsu outboard. Returning to Cruiser's Haven I was welcomed and sent on my way with best wishes.
The treatment I received from the folks at both of these places was refreshingly different from what I have learned to expect here in the big city. So if you're cruising the Delta later this year, I suggest you give your business to Cruiser's Haven and Antioch Marine. You'll get pleasant, fast service at Antioch Marine, and the people and wildlife at Cruiser's Haven will be a balm to your jaded big city soul.
I just read Cap'n Fatty's article about cruising the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and had to find out more about the place. So I did a search - and imagine my surprise to find out that this "wonderful place" is actually the site of some international human rights violations! It seems the reason that it is "completely devoid of people" is that the 2,000 or so inhabitants, mostly descendants of slaves, were forcibly removed by the British, in violation of every human rights treaty. This was done so they could rent nearby Diego Garcia to the United States for $1/year, so we could set up a giant military base!
Doing a Google search turned up a 1997 Washington Times article titled, The Natives of Chagos Archipelago Are Looking To Come Home.
I guess paradise found for passing yachties is paradise lost for the former inhabitants. Sigh.
S. - You're correct, the previous residents of the Chagos were all given a sum of money and made to vacate the island. We've written about this several times, but not in recent years. The locals had to leave behind homes and shops with everything intact, as well as well-tended farms and orchards. Everything is rundown now, except at Diego Garcia, where, if you're in the military, you can stop at a KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and all the rest - right there in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The World Fact Book explains the history of the Chagos as follows: "Established as a territory of the United Kingdom in 1965, a number of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) islands were transferred to the Seychelles when it attained independence in 1976. Subsequently, BIOT has consisted only of the six main island groups comprising the Chagos Archipelago. The largest and most southerly of the islands, Diego Garcia, contains a joint United Kingdom-U.S. naval support facility. All of the remaining islands are uninhabited. Former agricultural workers, earlier residents in the islands, were relocated primarily to Mauritius, but also to the Seychelles, between 1967 and 1973. In 2000, a British High Court ruling invalidated the local immigration order that had excluded them from the archipelago, but upheld the special military status of Diego Garcia."
Rob and Mary Messenger of Maude I. Jones, who were at the other islands of the Chagos about two years ago, report that every now and then some British troops - in battle gear, complete with combat makeup - come up from Diego Garcia to collect the $1/day cruising fee from the yachties. You'd hardly think it would be worth the trouble.
Some cruisers might think about boycotting
a group of islands that has been the site of possible human rights
violations. Unfortunately, if that were a guiding principle,
there would hardly be anywhere in the world they could cruise
with a clear conscience.
I want to put in a good word for the Oakland YC Race Committee. This is my second year racing the Oakland YC's Sunday series, and they've made a good thing even better. Here's the deal: For your $35 entry fee, you get five races, pre-race lectures by notable Bay Area sailors, complimentary dogs and chips at the bar, enthusiastic and entertaining race results announced to the cheering crowd after each race, and great prizes personalized for first place finishers. We just finished a race four hours ago and the results - including series standings are already posted on the web! That does wonders for crew morale, as we have detailed results during the afterglow debrief.
Another great thing is that the shirts given to the second and third place finishers don't mention that you didn't come in first. Yeah, yeah, second and third are respectable even at this level of competition, but nobody needs to advertise they placed or showed rather than won. My favorites - and the ones I wear around the most - are inclusive and say something like "OYC Racing 2004."
Another thing the Oakland YC does well is posting the series dates early, which makes it easy to block out the race dates for skipper, crew and spouses. Ever try to get five people in one place five times in any other venue? It's not easy, but having the dates early sure helps.
Further, when you call the race committee, they respond with helpful answers. They use the radio to make important announcements such as postponements, reversed courses, shortened courses, and such. Since they do it this clearly, it eliminates confusion.
For the grand finale, the OYC Race Committee is going to run two hours of practice race starts before the final race to help anyone who cares to dial in their start timing. I can't overemphasize the impact a race committee can have on the enjoyment of the sport. Take note - the OYC Race Committee has really nailed it!
Brant Adornato & Crew
Brant - It's nice to have a racer write in to thank the race committee. We haven't had a letter like that in years. But it sounds as though the Oakland YC is doing a lot of great little things to make their events more participant-friendly. We salute them!
We also have to say we're envious about
participants only having to pay $35 for for five races. We had
to pay $486 for the four-race Heineken Regatta in St. Martin,
and it bruised our wallet. What's more, the B.V.I. Spring Regatta
is about the same price.
I'm back at home in Santa Cruz after a four-year trip to Mexico, Central America, Panama, the East Coast of the United States, and the Med on our J/42 Songline. It's time for us to get back to work and enroll our son in Santa Cruz High. Before this we've home-schooled him and he attended a year at an American high school in Barcelona, Spain.
My husband Mark is bringing Songline up the Caribbean chain, and I will meet him in St. Thomas in April. Our plan is to sail our boat to Miami, then truck her home to Santa Cruz. We hope to find a way to visit Cuba on our way to Miami, and I heard you ran a great article about it a year or so ago. I'd really like to read it. How can I find out what issue it's in and how I can get a copy?
Monica - We've run numerous articles on Cuba over the years, including one about a trip we made there eight years ago. So unless you can be more specific, you'd have to search through the back issues yourself.
We have to caution you that times are
different now. With a presidential election this fall, the incumbent
has found it politically expedient to curry favor with the Cuban
voters in South Florida by announcing that the U.S. government
will be cracking down on private U.S. yachts that visit Cuba.
As we understand it, there's still nothing the government can
do as long as you don't spend money in Cuba - "trading with
the enemy" - but perhaps they can find other ways to make
your life unpleasant. For example, maybe they know somebody in
the IRS and have your returns gone over with a fine-tooth comb.
Normally we don't have a problem ignoring such government edicts,
but this might be a battle you'd want to pass on. After all,
it won't be long before Fidel is dead and the whole of Cuba opens
up to tourism.
On February 27 the Associated Press ran a wire story by Scott Lindlaw about President Bush tightening rules on travel to Cuba by boat. You gotta love the quote by Joe Garcia, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, about Hemingway International Marina just outside of Havana:
"[The marina] is basically designed for U.S. pleasure craft. Most of them [American mariners] go for sexual tourism and a little bit of fishing on the side."
What exactly is "sexual tourism"?
Frank - When we visited Hemingway International Marina about eight years ago, we were told that it was originally intended to be a luxury housing development with docks. Sort of like Ft. Lauderdale. The waterways were all dredged and the land prepared for construction, but then the Revolution came along before any nails could be pounded. It's been downhill ever since. So while it's true that the marina was designed for U.S. pleasure craft - just like Marina Cabo San Lucas and many others outside the U.S. - it wasn't in the sense that Garcia seems to be implying.
'Sex tourism' is when people or tours are planned to visit certain cities or countries for the purpose of having sex - often with minors - rather than looking at tulips (Amsterdam), Buddhist shrines (Thailand), or the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco). It's common for Cuban girls to knock on boat hulls after dark offering to have sex for a pittance, but we don't think that's the reason most Americans go to Cuba. After all, there's plenty of sex with Cuban girls that can be bought in Miami. We found Havana and the rest of Cuba to be incredibly interesting.
Banning U.S. boats from Cuba may be
good politics in an election year, but as we've said many times
before, it's bad policy.
I've enjoyed the Wanderer's reports from the Caribbean. You have intimated some difficulty with getting your information back using Internet cafes. Why aren't you using the Globalstar SatPhone?
My biggest gripe about Mexico, where we winter on Sea Amigo, is communication. We're seriously considering a Globalstar phone for data and voice. For some reason you don't seem to be using it. Por que?
Ray - Two reasons. The first is that from south of Mexico to the Eastern Caribbean, we've found Globalstar's coverage to be spotty at best. Countless calls didn't go through and/or were dropped. The company claims much better coverage in the Eastern Caribbean and, while it's certainly been better than off the north coast of South America, it hasn't been as good as it should be. Globalstar says they'll be adding satellites soon to solve this problem, but so far it's often been infuriating. When a call goes through the sound is terrific, but you can never tell if the call will go through and/or not be cut off.
The second reason we don't use Globalstar for data transmission is that, compared to high speed land-based transmissions, it's extremely slow and would therefore be very expensive. Remember, we don't need to just send simple text, but rather complicated PageMaker documents and many high resolution Photoshop-doctored photographs. Similarly, you can also surf the net with a Globalstar phone, but at such slow speeds that it would be very expensive.
As you may know, Globalstar uses what's called a 'bent pipe' technology - which means the system doesn't work much over 200 miles offshore or outside of other coverage zones. This doesn't cut it with folks sailing to the Caribbean from the Northeast or the Med, so their choice for voice and data tends to be the Iridium SatPhone. Once again, you don't want to send long and complicated documents over Iridium because it too is slow, but for basic emails it seems to be fine. The downside to Iridium is that if you want to talk to kids or grandkids and hear the nuances in their voices, it's hard to do so with Iridium because their sound quality is clearly inferior to Globalstar's.
If you're just going to be staying in
Mexico, the Globalstar SatPhone is probably your best choice
for voice and basic data transmission. But if you're heading
farther offshore or outside of Globalstar's coverage area, Iridium
would be the better choice. It is possible to get high-speed,
low-cost data transmission on your boat. All you need is money.
Lots and lots of money.
I'm intending to build a sailboat starting next winter. I expect it will take at least 12 months, and I'm looking for a boatyard somewhere in the Bay Area where I can construct it. I'll need a level area about 50 feet by 30 feet, and electricity would be a big plus. Can you help me locate such a place?
Curt - Sorry, we don't have the time to call all the boatyards for you. But if money is any kind of consideration, we suggest you call marinas and boatyards beyond the immediate Central Bay where the price of space isn't so high.
We don't mean to be nosy, but when somebody
mentions "12 months" in the same breath as building
a boat, we wonder if they fully appreciate the amount of time
and money entailed in such a project. If your passion is building
boats, try a dinghy before going onto a big project. If your
passion is sailing, buy a good used boat and you'll save a small
fortune and several years of your life.
Greetings from sunny and summery New Zealand! We're taking a break from our boat projects to enjoy some of the best of the great New Zealand cruising grounds. We just watched the sun set over the western ridge of Kiwiriki Bay, our favorite anchorage. This bay is spectacularly beautiful and offers 360-degree protection out at Great Barrier Island on the Hauraki Gulf. The days have been hot, the nights cool, and the water temperature 72 degrees. We've got a bucket of fresh clams hanging off the transom, and a few red snapper filets are just waiting for the BBQ to warm up. We're a little sore from the hiking, kayaking, swimming and sunburns, but we've set aside plenty of cockpit time to recover. As you might imagine, it doesn't get much better than this.
At this point we're 2.5 years out of San Francisco, and on our second lap to New Zealand after enjoying Fiji for six months last year. Our top cruising destinations so far - without any hesitation or debate among the crew - have been the Tuamotus, Suwarrow (Cook Islands), and the Lau Group of Fiji. But having said that, it's all been good. In fact, enough good can't be said about the cruising lifestyle. The cruising community is tops, and both of us are more fit than we've been in a couple of decades. We plan on being out here for as long has we can handle it.
We've been following a number of stories in Latitude, but are admittedly at least two issues behind. First and foremost, we hope that Profligate made it safely to the Eastern Caribbean - with props still attached and saildrives functioning as designed. Second, we are dying to hear how the 'Latitude 38 Cruising Catamaran Windward Challenge' turned out - the Challenge being for any cruising catamaran to try to point as high or higher than a similar length J/Boat.
We are betting on the monohull in the Challenge, in no small part because we have fond memories of the case of cold ones we won from Profligate on the race course at Banderas Bay in Mexico. Having no multihull experience, we just couldn't understand why you guys with the cruising cats - Profligate, Capricorn Cat, and Little Wing - had to close reach out to La Cruz before tacking to close-reach back to the weather mark! At the time, we thought perhaps all the cats had confused the Banderas Bay Regatta sailing rules with those of the Tenacatita Bay Tres Palapas Race and were off to Philo's for a cerveza.
But we also have equally clear memories of the cats effortlessly reeling off the miles down the coast of Baja - while we ran around like one-armed paper hangers trying to keep our high-performance cruising monohull on course, and more or less under the spinnaker. More recently, on our sail from Fiji to New Zealand last November, we sailed all 1,100 miles in the general company of two big cats. While we were debating whether or not it was too rough to boil water to make Top Ramen on our monohull, the folks on the cats were arguing about which DVD to watch after a pleasant dinner. Which brings us to the actual purpose of our email.
We think we have the best little - actually around 50 feet - sailing boat in the cruising fleet. No other boat - larger or smaller, one hull or two - sails as well as our little ship. At least not in our opinion. The problem is that sailing is actually a relatively minor - albeit important - part of the cruising life. But we're starting to think that we'd like to have the best of both worlds - quick passages and a little bit of room on the boat. We'd love to have a bit more room so all the 'neighbors' could row over for a sundowner; so family and friends can join us onboard for a few days without our having to rent a storage locker for all the gear we keep in the aft cabin; and most of all, so we could have a couple of comfortable chairs onboard.
We've ruled out a bigger monohull because we just don't want to manage bigger sails, heftier loads, and higher price tags. We think that leaves performance cruising multihulls as the logical alternative. Without meaning to put you on the spot, if you were a keen cruiser looking at a 50-ft (+/-) cat that was world-cruising capable, and offered the reaching and running performance and safety of high-performance monohulls like ours or the J-Boats, where would you look? Are there any production boats that really fit the description? In your view, who are the top designers and builders of performance bluewater cats? We'd really appreciate any small bit of candid input/help you can provide. We've spent the last month reading back issues of about a dozen different sailing magazines, plus Chris White's book on cruising multihulls. We think we know what we'd ideally like, but don't have a very good feel for what is realistically available out there.
If you publish this in the magazine, please withhold our name and our boat name - we haven't told our kids that we're curious about catamarans yet.
Curious About Cats
Mr. & Ms. Curious About Cats - First of all, let us say we know what you mean about the cruising lifestyle. We've spent more time on our boat this winter than ever before, and as nice as Northern California is, we only came back because we had to. As we wrote last month, spending all that time on our cat reminded us just how relaxing and enjoyable life can be.
Profligate did make it to the Eastern Caribbean, thank you, the only snag being needing four days to replace the two saildrives in Panama. Thanks to crossing the Caribbean Sea before the 'Christmas winds' set in, several of our crew said the crossing was easier than Baja Bashes they've done. The strategy of relentlessly hauling ass from Cabo the minute the Ha-Ha was over really paid off.
Let's talk about cats. To date, not one cruising catamaran manufacturer or designer has stepped up to take the Latitude Cruising Catamaran Windward Challenge. The reason is simple - they'd all fail. The time that Profligate, Little Wing, and Capricorn Cat reached off toward La Cruz rather than the weather mark in the Banderas Bay Regatta was, in fact, an inside joke among the three of us, but there is no point in misleading people - performance cats don't point anywhere near as high as performance monohulls.
In the recently completed Heineken Regatta, there were four performance cruising cats: Profligate, which is based on a Hughes 60; Little Wing, a Perry 52; Rocketeer, a Chris White-designed Atlantic 55; and La Vie En Rose, a Catana 47. As John Haste of Little Wing will attest, in the windy conditions Profligate was consistently able to point as high or higher than all the other cats. Rocketeer - which may only have keels - was next, while Little Wing - whose almost new Dacron main was already blown out - was third, and La Vie En Rose was fourth. Once again, we're speaking only in terms of pointing ability.
We race Profligate on the assumption that in typical conditions we tack in about 110 degrees. In perfect conditions, meaning 15 knots of wind, flat water, new sails, and good trimmers, we might be able to tack in 105 degrees or even a tiny bit higher, but that's the limit for effective pointing. So none of the other cruising cats did any better than that. (By the way, Stan Honey tells us that Cheyenne, ex-Playstation, tacks in no better than 120 degrees.)
We figure that a good performance cruising monohull should, even when loaded down, be able to tack in about 90 to 95 degrees in typical conditions. This would mean that on a given tack, a performance monohull should be able to point about seven to 10 degrees higher than a performance multihull. That clearly was the case during the Heineken Regatta. It was most evident during the last windward leg of the last race, when the fleet had to harden up from a broad reach to a not-quite-able-to-lay-it beat up to Fort Amsterdam. Not one of the four cruising cats could point as high as even the lowest-pointing performance monohull - and it wasn't even close. We have about 50 witnesses, so the next time some multihull zealot tries to tell you his cruising cat can point as high as a performance cruising monohull, you can rest assured that they're full of baloney. By the way, as the wind gets lighter, the difference in pointing ability becomes even more pronounced.
However - and this is a giant however - one of the main goals of cruising is to avoid having to sail to weather. Circumnavigators have told us that if they follow the seasons, the weather reports, and the cruising routes, they only have to beat about 20% of the time. So while not being able to point as high as a performance monohull is not a positive thing, it's certainly not the end of the world for cruising cats.
Furthermore, as soon as performance cruising cats crack the jib sheet even slightly in a good breeze, they haul ass. Last year we singlehanded Profligate in the Silver Eagle In-The-Bay Long Distance Race, and as we came across the Central Bay with a full main and tiny jib in 25 knots of wind, the cat was almost effortlessly sailing along at 16 to 19 knots. Not having to be at the wheel, and not even having the autopilot on, we walked around in the huge cockpit wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Meanwhile, we rocketed past a number of performance monohulls whose crews were on the weather rail in foul weather gear getting drenched. It's a case of different boats being better in different conditions. We had a similar instance this winter on a 50-mile close and broad reach from Nevis to St. Barth, which we completed in about four hours under full main and tiny jib. We'd started about 90 minutes later than a very fine 70-ft yawl with a professional crew, and finished about half an hour earlier. The wind blew about 18 to 25 knots, the seas were very sloppy, and we all but singlehanded. Again, these were our conditions.
As most sailors know, the majority of production-built catamarans have been designed for the Caribbean charter trade, which means the priorities are the maximum number of berths, showers and toilets for each cabin, and as many other comforts and luxuries as possible. Performance is not a major consideration for the Caribbean charter fleets - which is why these companies don't have J/Boats, SC 52s and similar boats in their monohull fleets.
In this mostly-made-for-chartering group,
we would include catamarans such as the Lagoons, the Fountaine-Pajots,
the Dufour Nautitechs, and the Robertson & Caine and others.
The qualities that separate performance cruising cats from regular cats is having most of the following qualities: They are light, have relatively narrow hulls, excellent bridgedeck clearance, daggerboards and reasonably large sail plans. This would include Gunboats, Outremers, Catanas, and many custom designs. Because they have these qualities, they will provide better real world performance than the previously mentioned cats. But even within this small group, there are huge differences. The Gunboats, because they are so high tech and so light, will be the fastest. The Outremers, which are relatively small and light for their length, will be faster than the Cantanas, which are a combination of luxury - which is heavy and slow - but also has many performance qualities.
Figuring out just how much faster one cat would be than the other in the real world of cruising is impossible to tell. For one thing, in conditions where a Lagoon 570 might be weakest compared to a Gunboat - pointing in light air - her owner might well just fire up the engines. Whereas in the high wind reaching conditions we had from Nevis to St. Barth, where the Lagoon wouldn't be hurt by lack of daggerboards or limited as much by her weight and smaller sail plan, she might not be that much slower than Profligate.
For most boat buyers, cost is a factor, too. While a high-tech Gunboat would be the fastest of the cats we've mentioned, it's also by far the most expensive. The Catana, which tries to combine luxury with performance, is also quite dear, especially with the euro having creamed the dollar recently. The Outremers are the least expensive, but even for the same length they are the smallest and most basic. There are tradeoffs and compromises everywhere you look.
We had Profligate - a hugely customized version of a Kurt Hughes 60 - built because none of the production cats at the time offered exactly what we were looking for. Other than some construction issues and having a smaller jib than we'd prefer for light air, we are extremely happy with her. If we won the lottery and could build a Profligate II, she'd be almost identical, but only about 52 to 55 feet. That means she could still sleep 10 people in bunks - we don't permit sleeping in the salon of Profligate - and would still seem more like an island than a sailboat. A 52-ft version of Profligate would look a heck of a lot like the rough drawings Morrelli & Melvin did for the tentative Gunboat 52 that won't be built after all. We think Morrelli & Melvin, Kurt Hughes, Chris White, Peter Wormwood, Bob Perry, and lots of others in the United States, and others internationally, could draw great cats. A lot depends on whether or not you like the 'look' they give their cats.
The downside of having a custom boat built is finding someone to build her the way you want it - which sounds easy but is very hard. Getting a custom cat built can result in as much frustration and unhappiness as having a home built or remodeled. It's hard enough having a custom monohull built, but catamarans seem to be even more problematic. This is true even when the owner and builder are both good people trying to do their best.
Rod Gibbons of Cruising Cats USA in Seattle, Portland, S.F. and Hawaii tells his customers, "You may not get everything the way you want it with a production cat, but you know what you'll get and at what price. With a custom cat, there's no telling what you'll get, or at what price." He's telling it the way it is.
People frequently ask us for advice on having a new cat built, particularly one about the size of Profligate, which is 63 feet. We love Profligate more than you can believe, and think we got almost everything right with her. We love her simplicity. But when friends tell us they want to do a 60-ft cat, we encourage them to think in terms of a 52 or 55-footer. Although we love every foot of our cat, most private individuals don't need one that big. Building smaller would save a small fortune, mean smaller loads, and the cat would be easier for a couple to handle. And she would still be huge! Profligate is really about a 55-footer with a grand staircase on both transoms, and we've had 150 people on her at one time. There is so much room on a cat that size you can't believe it. The starboard side of our cat is virtually empty, and we haven't been there in months. So when you talk about a 50-ft size range, we think it's as large as you need to go. And they needn't be that big. We've talked to folks who have extensively sailed their Catana 431s - which are large for 43 feet - and felt they had all the room in the world for them and their three crew.
The most unappreciated aspect of cruising cats? There is much, much less fatigue than with monohulls. Cats are particularly well suited for older sailors.
What is the biggest downside of cats?
They've become very expensive, particularly with the decline
of the dollar. We paid less for our 63-footer - which is admittedly
basic, the way we like it - than Catana 431s sell for used!
I was glad to read in 'Lectronic about the fun that you and others were having down in Heinie-land (St. Martin's Heineken Regatta). I was especially interested in the reported tacking angles on the cruising catamarans.
My recollection is that our Catana 431 cat Thanks Larry, which we bought new in France in '99, could tack in 100 degrees when fully powered up in about 15+ knots breeze - or just before we started to think about furling the genoa a little. This was when the cat was new and not yet loaded down with garlic presses or other nonessentials, and before the sails fell apart. Our Catana had daggerboards, a carbon mast, narrower hulls than most French cats, and also a soft bimini which was 220 pounds lighter than the hard version. Ours was about as stock a Catana as they ever made, with a lower waterline to show for it.
Dean - We've pretty much said all we
can say on the subject in the above letter. We'd be really impressed
by a true cruising cat that could tack in 100 degrees in real
life conditions. Maybe a Gunboat - we hope one shows up for the
B.V.I. Spring Festival so we can see.
In the April issue, Jim Sarosi wrote about wanting to take his new granddaughter out sailing for the Fourth of July, at which time she'll still only be about nine pounds. He wanted advice about using PFDs.
We don't know the official answer to that question, but we're uncertain how much value a PFD would be to a three-month-old baby who somehow found herself in the Bay. Newborns are entirely dependent on adults, and would be even more so on a boat. As such, there needs to be at least two or more people aboard who know how to sail the boat in case one person goes overboard or is otherwise incapacitated.
The accompanying photo is of my wife and then-two-month-old son Noah. The smallest PFDs are quite big for an infant, but even so, they are much better than nothing. Noah has never fallen in, but if he did, a big orange lifejacket with a grab handle would be about 1,000 times easier to find and retrieve than a wet slippery infant who might not even float.
When picking out a PFD for a baby, make sure to get one with leg straps - otherwise a flexible small baby will just slip out. Despite the appearance of the lifejacket, some in-the-water testing confirmed my fears that this lifejacket will not reliably support a baby in the face-up position. The testing also made clear that supporting an infant while in the water yourself, without your own PFD, would be extremely difficult in even calm water. For these reasons, a baby overboard needs to be picked up ASAP or a rescue swimmer needs to be in the water very quickly. The rescue swimmer absolutely needs a PFD that allows one to swim well in addition to floating well - which would seem to count out auto-inflating vests.
As an infant, our Noah spent a lot of time in his car seat strapped to a cockpit seat under the dodger, but during dinghy rides we had him wearing a PFD. By the time Noah was four months old, he had spent a total of 10% of his entire life aboard, so don't let any of this scare you. Just be careful and enjoy!
Noah is now over 30 pounds, so he wears a combination foam and auto-inflate PFD that should reliably keep him face up.
Joe Della Barba
A reader wants to know about PFDs for infants? When my kids were very young, I sailed with them strapped in a car seat. I suppose you could put a PFD on the car seat, but the greatest hazard is the pre-infant falling when the boat heels over. I would strap the car seat on deck or down below.
Readers - We've received several other
letters from readers who, like Connors, strapped their baby into
a car seat and kept it under the dodger.
Being a faithful reader for several years, I became interested in the similarity of the descriptions of the catastrophic hull failures published in your magazine during the last couple of years. Editors and readers will recognize the stories that I am going to mention even if I cannot provide the names of the authors. Please excuse me if you find mistakes, because I do not have the copies of the old magazines and have to write from memory.
- The recent sinking of the Ocean 71 in the Caribbean.
- The report by the surveyor of the catastrophic cracks in a boat's hull that were initially hidden behind the straps used to lift the boat.
- The boat that was almost broken in half at the end of a transAtlantic crossing. The photos showed very deep cracks just in front of the mast.
- The boat sinking on the way from Panama to the States. I remember the crew had to use their inflatable because they didn't have a liferaft.
- Another boat sank in the middle of the Pacific. The crew used the liferaft and was saved.
All these accidents occurred in moderate conditions, which probably explains why the survivors were able to tell their stories. All of the participants reported hearing a sound from the area around the mast, thought that the boat had hit something - perhaps a container - and were not able to identify the hole. It looks to me that everything points to the failure of fiberglass due to fatigue and/or hydrolysis. I guess that a relatively new boat would not have such a failure, and all the boats described were, I would guess, more than 20 years old. On the other hand, there are plenty of older boats out there sailing the oceans.
Is it possible to observe any signs of the potential problem before it is too late? Any comments?
Thank you for the great magazine.
Alex - We're not experts on the subject but, based on the same evidence, we'd come to the opposite conclusion. We don't think there's much to suggest that 'fiberglass fatigue' and/or hydrolysis played any part in the sinkings you mentioned. For one thing, plenty of new boats with perfect hulls have hit submerged objects and sunk, so when the same thing happens to an old boat, why would you speculate that 'fiberglass fatigue' or hydrolysis had anything to do with it?
And it's not as if failing fiberglass structures don't tend to give warning signs well in advance of failure. They usually get soft, sound dull when tapped, lose shape, and weep before they fail completely. Ask anyone who has kicked around in small sailing dinghies and they can tell you all about it. When it comes to older big boats, most tended to be way overbuilt, limiting the flexing that eventually leads to deterioration.
This brings us to the Ocean 71 ketch. About 24 of them were built, but only one has sunk - and she's sunk twice. As we recall, the first time was caused by a failed hose clamp on a thru-hull when she was tied to the dock in Sausalito. We weren't aboard when she sank for the second time in the Caribbean, and haven't even heard detailed accounts of the incident. But having owned a sistership for a dozen years, and knowing how stoutly they were built, 'fiberglass fatigue' and/or hydrolysis don't seem to be likely causes of her demise. While in the Caribbean this winter, we spoke to a number of former 71 skippers, and none of them reported finding any indications of hull weakening on the boats they ran. But who knows for certain?
Nobody seems to know for sure exactly what caused the cracking and leaking on the Ericson 39 Maverick at the end of her transatlantic crossing, but we have to assume that they all agreed that it was either event- or area-specific. Otherwise, the insurance company would have totalled the boat rather than reinsured her, and her captain and crew would not have continued all the way back to California.
As we said, we're not experts in this field, so if any surveyors or boatyard folks want to add their experience and expertise, we'd be grateful.
UPFRONT ON A DOWNEAST
I read the March issue with great interest - and was surprised to find two letters from readers who own DownEast 38s. As always, your advice to the two gentlemen who own them was right on target. I myself was the proud owner of Sundowner, a DownEast 38 cutter I kept in Newport Beach. I loved that boat and enjoyed many wonderful local trips with her.
As to Glenn Damato, who wrote that nobody will crew with him to Hawaii and the South Seas, I'm not sure he chose the right boat. In heavy following seas, the DownEast cockpit will flood somewhat easily due to its design. I personally haven't had this problem, but my slip neighbors had it happen to their DownEast 38 on their way to Mexico. As a result, they had extensive saltwater damage inside the cabin.
As for Bob Mathai, who was wondering about the difference in speed between a DownEast 38 and a Catalina 36, I can tell him that there's no contest. The beautiful DownEast 38 is, if not the slowest boat on the water, close to it. I am certainly not a racing enthusiast, but most boats' slow speed came close to driving me crazy at times and, consequently, most of the time I 'cheated' by having the engine running as well. So I would advise Mathai to decide whether he wants a faster boat or one that, when under full sail, has other sailors hollering, "Wow, what a beautiful boat!"
As for Damato, I would suggest that he head south and keep going past Mexico to Costa Rica, Panama, through the Panama Canal over to the San Blas Islands, up the coast to Cancun, and so forth. There's great sailing and no need to do many overnight passages.
Juergen - We think you're unnecessarily running down a perfectly decent design. We remember writing an article about a couple in their late '60s who did a seven-year circumnavigation aboard a DownEast 32, which is the same boat as the 38 but smaller. They came home for a few years, then, while in their early 70s, took off again to cruise Mexico and Central America. They didn't have anything bad to say about the boat - even though she rolled 360° in huge seas when she was only 50 miles from the Golden Gate on the last day of their circumnavigation.
When it comes to performance, we agree that the DownEast isn't a rocket in light air and doesn't point like a 12 Meter. But if someone is just pleasure sailing around Southern California or to Mexico, what's the big deal? It's mostly reaching and running, in which conditions the 38 should be a decent enough sailing boat. And for the conditions in which she doesn't excel, there's always the engine.
It's also important to remember that
boat design is just one of the factors in a boat's performance.
Others include the ability of the skipper, the condition of the
sails, and how clean the bottom is. Since the DownEast 38 never
had inherent appeal for performance sailors, we suspect that
most owners weren't the most skilled sailors and may not have
been so conscientious about their sails and bottoms. So, except
in the conditions mentioned, the DownEast may not be anywhere
near as slow as most people think. Given her fat-for-her-waterline
PHRF rating, we bet a good skipper could kick ass with one in
races in which there was lots of reaching. Sort of like John
Slivka did a few years ago with his Coronado 27, a small boat
that he also lived aboard.
Time has truly flown by, as it's hard to believe that it was 20 years ago this month that Jim Boles left us and sailed over the horizon where the wind is warm and always at your back. Jim was the very much beloved 'father' of the Northern Californeea - current PC spelling - Performance Handicap Rating system, which is now the primary mechanism for Handicap Racing in what is now the San Francisco Bay Area - Designated National Area 'G'. With the help of Ed Homer, Ben Choate, myself and Peggy Gregory of the Southern California PHRF office, the system was put in place for the San Francisco Bay YRA (Yacht Racing Association) and most club handicap racing. It replaced the old 'golf' type handicap system, which was rampant with 'sandbagging' problems.
From 1978 until his death in 1984, Jim was the mainstay of the committee, enforcing both discipline and humor with an untiring effort on his part - including recruiting his students at U.C. Berkeley, where he taught statistics for many years, to do analysis runs.
The Northern California PHRF committee has gone through some changes over the years, but the foundation of principles laid down by Jim remains intact - as evidenced by our unique set of Rules and Guidelines.
A few years ago, we made a similar peregrination of the Pacific to that of Kurt and Katie Braun of the Deerfoot 74 Interlude. And like them, we anchored next to Larry and Lin Pardey. I may be mistaken, but it was my understanding that some time ago Larry and Lin had upgraded to a modern vessel as opposed to Taleisin, which had no thruhulls, no engine, no outboard, and so forth. But when Braun described his recent encounter with them, he spoke in the present tense. So can you set me straight - do the Pardeys still have the same simple boat or was their evolutionary shift to a more modern boat just an urban legend?
David - The Pardeys, bless their hearts, walk the walk as much as any sailors we know. It must be 20 years ago that we were in Newport Beach to watch Lin smash the champagne bottle across the bow of the 29-ft Taleisin that Larry had built of wood in the coastal hills of Southern California. Since that time the couple has sailed that engineless boat all over the globe, including many of the world's most challenging passages. In 2002, for example, they rounded Cape Horn. So you can ignore the urban legends, they still cruise the same simple boat and adhere to the same lifelong philosophy. Although we personally take a much more hedonistic approach toward sailing, we have nothing but respect and admiration for Larry and Lin.
By the way, the couple will be giving
four free seminars at Sail Expo (see www.sailamerica.com
for details). We highly recommend them. For those who are even
more interested in the couple's sailing style and philosophy,
they will be giving a day-long seminar, for a fee, on April 13
at the Encinal YC. For reservations, call Kathy at ASA, (310)
822-7171, or see the website, www.american-sailing.com.
The March Sightings article titled Winter Waves Claim Another Boat - And Life, contained several errors that made me guess that the issue had gone to press before your editor could correct the story.
Just after the accident Randy Reid, the owner of the boat and the father of 23-year-old Erik Reid, who died in the tragedy, responded to an outsider who joined the Sailnet Newport email list to inquire about the accident. Reid gave his account of what happened. Latitude's editor also responded and exchanged emails through the list with Randy. I thought this was gracious of Randy to respond so soon after the tragic loss of his son, and I feel bad that his firsthand corrections of your story didn't make it to print.
What I don't understand is the melodramatic shot at the end of your article. The last paragraph quoted Randy's email posting on the Newport30.org site, where he wanted information on marinas in the Bay Area. You wrote, "There were no responses to this post." You want us to feel sad, right? What a shame nobody responded?
The truth is that the Newport 30 Association is an active racing organization, and their Web site postings are not as frequented as others. But Randy, who also posted his question on the Sailnet Newport email list, received responses - including mine, where I mentioned I tried to find a Latitude survey on area marinas - that did list area marinas.
What were you implying with that paragraph and last sentence? How was that an important issue? More importantly, after editorializing about knowing the area, you skipped over the important issue about whether to clip on or not, and having a quick release on your tether. That was the probable cause of death. It's pretty sad journalism.
Bruce - Perhaps the last paragraph wasn't the clearest that's ever been written in Latitude, but we have absolutely no idea what you mean by calling the last sentence a "melodramatic shot." After all, it wasn't a shot at anyone, and it hardly fulfills any definition of melodramatic.
Writing about the pros and cons of being clipped on in such conditions is certainly worthwhile. But as we were already past deadline, and it wasn't yet factually clear as to who was and wasn't clipped on, and with or without what, it hardly seemed like the proper time for such a discussion.
Writing about such sailing tragedies
is often more difficult than it seems on the surface. Managing
Editor John Riise explains in this month's Sightings.
I just read your story about the boat and crewmember who were lost in the surf off Ocean Beach on February 18. It was very sad.
I'm writing because on February 24, I witnessed a boat that could have easily suffered the same tragic fate. I'd gone out to the Marin Headlands above Pt. Bonita after work to check out the sea conditions. The tide was beginning to ebb and a big storm was predicted for the following day, so I thought it might be interesting to watch the waves break on the bar around the entrance to the Gate.
The conditions did not disappoint me. The combination of a building swell and an ebb created overfalls. The wind was light or it would have been much worse.
Much to my surprise, I then saw a sailboat approaching from the north and heading across the shoal! As I watched the boat's progress, I contemplated calling the Coast Guard, because every few minutes there were overfalls creating huge amounts of whitewater that broke randomly over the relatively shallow water. As it turned out, it was only a matter of dumb luck that a breaking wave and the position of the sailboat never coincided. Although the boat made it around Pt. Bonita to safety, I don't think the skipper knew how lucky he'd been.
I think Latitude should do an article every year reminding folks that very hazardous conditions can develop suddenly off our coast and especially on the approaches to the Gate. Such an article might help prevent tragedies such as the one that happened off Ocean Beach - and the one that I almost witnessed.
Doug - We'll try to remember to publish such an article in the October 1 issue each year, and perhaps continue to print small reminders through the March issue. It's heartbreaking how many lives have been lost in the shallow waters off Ocean Beach and on the San Francisco Bar that surrounds the approaches to the Golden Gate.
These are very dangerous waters in winter, and can become dramatically worse with the turning of the tide. Folks who haven't been to the Marin Headlands to watch huge, misshapen waves break for miles across the bar owe themselves such a visit. But you must visit during an ebb, hopefully a strong one, to get the full effect.
Readers - See Sightings this month for an article on Doug Frolich's design achievements.
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