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I read the July issue while on the plane to Fiji to join Aragon on a leg of the Blue Water Rally - an around-the-world event based out of England. On this matter of peeing protocol raised by Lyn Reynolds in the very first letter, I was reminded of the Cal 40 Green Buffalo, whose skipper, Clarence Nelson, posted a framed notice in the head. It read: "Ladies and Gentlemen, please be seated."

We're short-hopping now from Savu Savu to Musket Cove, dodging reefs right and left - which is, I discover, what people do in this patch known as Bligh Water. They say that Capt. William Bligh took the first accurate soundings here and kept at it - even as he fled from war canoes after being set off the Bounty in his longboat.

Kimball Livingston
San Francisco

Kimball - Yes, but did Bligh sit or stand when he took a leak from the longboat.


As English is not my mother tongue, feel free to correct my writing. Latitude rocks!

I was walking along the beautiful San Francisco waterfront three years ago, when I realized it was a perfect moment: the smell, the temperature, the good vibe, and the colors of the Bay. And then I heard the sound of a boat tacking. Suddenly, I realized something would change in my life: I would travel on a sailing boat. This was surprising, because I have always hated the sea and boating experiences. I didn't like the cold, and the wind kept coming from directions I couldn't understand. Plus, it hadn't been fun spending eight hours on a wet boat wearing smelly boots.

Nonetheless, because of the perfection of that moment, my life changed forever. I decided that I would quit my job, learn how to sail, buy a boat and sail from France to San Francisco. My friends and family all laughed - but my best friend got interested. So in September of '02, I joined OCSC and learned how to sail. In April of '03, I quit my job and flew back to France. I bought a sailboat, and my best friend William and I set sail for the Golden Gate in September. We transited the Panama Canal in February and are now in San Diego, having covered 10,000 miles.

I will now have to work for a few years, but will hopefully be able to set sail further west, this time with my girlfriend, who has been waiting for me for one year. I'm 30 years old and am the happiest man alive. Readers can check out our journey on our website,, which is in both French and English.

By the way, I want to sell my boat here. Any clue how a French guy can sell a French boat in the States? Will I have to pay some taxes?

P.S. French people love Latitude 38.

Steven Bougon
San Francisco

Steven - To us Americans, your behavior seems typically French. You hate the sea and sailing, but thanks to a "perfect moment," you change your entire life to sail 10,000 miles. We love it!

You shouldn't have any problem selling a French boat in the United States, although you probably will have to pay a small import duty. Call a yacht broker who imports French boats for details.


I recently met the wife of a prominent local sailor who said she's taken to smoking cigars while sailing to cure her seasickness. Her husband noted that nicotine helps prevent nausea. This instantly brought to mind Kimball Livingston's description, in his book Sailing the Bay, of how on a sail to Hawaii some old salt would sit in the cockpit with a cigar and a sardine sandwich during his watch.

Well, I don't smoke and I've no intention of starting. But is it in fact true that nicotine can thwart seasickness? And if so, then would those nicotine patches also do the trick?

Cappy Benton

Cappy - The good news is that smoking a cigar does keep some people from getting sick. The bad news is that it makes everyone else on the boat puke. Contrary to popular opinion, nicotine does have some valuable therapeutic qualities. Whether these include preventing seasickness is something we don't know. Can we get a report from someone out there who uses nicotine patches?


A friend in the wooden boat forum directed me to your newsletter. You do a great job. My question is whether or not you think a Montgomery 17 is enough boat for the ocean? I have been led to believe that they are quite capable of handling the big blue, and I'm a bit surprised at your comment. There's a difference between a 17-footer being capable of handling the ocean and someone wanting to be on a 17-footer.

David Thomason
Marquette, Michigan

David - If you're talking about sailing in the mostly gentle conditions to be found between Newport Beach and Catalina, yeah, a 17-footer is probably capable of handling that part of the "big blue." However, if you want to sail a Montgomery 17 off the coast of Northern and Central California in normal summer conditions, that same 17-footer is capable of becoming your coffin. We say this knowing that Bill Teplow sailed Chubby, his West Wight Potter 19, from San Francisco to Hawaii, and later cruised her in Alaska. And knowing that many years ago a friend cruised Free Bird, his Montgomery 17, from the Sea of Cortez to Central America. Just because a couple of people have had success doing something, doesn't necessarily mean it's entirely safe or suitable for the general sailing population.

If you're thinking about buying a 17 footer for sailing offshore, we suggest you first test the waters with a really big boat - say, a Moore 24. If you feel secure sailing that in 30 knots of wind and 15-ft seas then what the hell, move on down to a much smaller 17 footer. You can use the money you save to buy extra life insurance for your loved ones.


Having been displaced from the Bay Area to Phoenix, I'm an infrequent but avid reader. I've been amazed at the number of reports of armed boat robberies and cabin invasions. In one of the recently reported ones, the cruising couple was able to hold off the armed invaders with fire extinguishers and flare guns. Yikes, to put it mildly.

As such, I'm curious as to whether cruisers tend to carry firearms onboard. Is this permitted in the cruising world? Or am I simply being naive in not knowing that everyone 'carries' but that it just isn't discussed.

Rollie Rankin

Rollie - The overwhelming majority of places in the cruising world are quite safe, particularly when aboard your boat. In fact, there are many areas where it's dangerous ashore but quite safe on your boat. After all, muggers and thieves tend to be lazy. The few areas where it's dangerous when you're on your boat are well-known: the approach to the Red Sea, Venezuela, Colombia, certain parts of Indonesia and several other places.

There are several drawbacks to carrying weapons. First, you have to declare them in most countries, and usually officials hold them until you've checked out. At the very least this involves a lot of paperwork and wasted time. And can you imagine the frustration you'd feel if you were attacked by armed robbers and all your weapons were locked up in the port captain's office? A small percentage of cruisers do carry firearms but don't declare them. It's unlikely they will get caught, but if they do, the penalties can be severe.

Another consideration is that if you do pull a weapon on somebody, you had better be ready to use it. But even if you are ready to use it, how could you be sure that your adversaries didn't have superior firepower - particularly given the widespread distribution of automatic weapons. We all remember what happened to sailing great Peter Blake when he got into a gun battle with thieves aboard his boat at the mouth of the Amazon River. Among his crew, only he fired a gun, and only he was killed.

Our feeling is that most cruisers don't carry firearms. The 'weapons' they do have are dual purpose things mostly intended for defensive purposes, such as mace, flare guns and machetes. If approached by thieves, the preferable scenario is to have them take one's valuables in return for not harming anyone - and the cruiser not having to try to kill the pirate. In most cases, it's worked out fairly well.

The most powerful and effective weapon cruisers have to defend themselves against pirates and thieves is free - avoid places known for violent crime.


I've just returned from co-instructing a self-defense class aboard a large, privately-owned motorsailer berthed in Florida. We had been hired by the owners because they are about to embark on a two-year voyage that would include passage through areas - such as the Red Sea - known to be a high risk for piracy. The vessel was undergoing extensive upgrades based on a security assessment conducted by a firm from the United Kingdom.

Our job was to teach the professional crew how to implement safety procedures, as well as defend themselves in the worst-case scenario - an armed boarding such as was recently experienced by Bob Hudnall and Dana Cannon of the Long Beach-based Hudson 50 Doña Lee in the river at Barranquilla, Colombia. I'd like to applaud Dana and Bob, who survived the attack aboard their boat, and add some comment on why I believe they are still here to share the story.

It's impossible to give anyone a specific set of 'moves' or instructions on what to do if an assault occurs, because every incident is different. What you can do, however, is have a safety plan in place, discuss some of the 'what ifs' with your partner/crewmembers and, most importantly, trust your intuition on what to do when you are faced with a dangerous situation.

Bob says that "for some unknown reason" he'd locked the doors to the companionway hatch shortly before the attack. I suspect that he had a feeling something wasn't right. We don't always get the validation of tangible results when we trust and act on our intuition, but in this case it saved their lives. Both Bob and Dana felt these assailants were not intending just to rob them, but meant them physical harm - so they fought for their lives. They knew where their 'weapons' were on the boat, and fought back together as a team in terrifying conditions.

Ninety-nine percent of cruisers will enjoy safe and incident-free voyages, but I would like to suggest making a safety plan that includes: intruder drills, not giving out information to strangers in foreign harbors, planning escape routes and ways to send a mayday and, if possible, creating a place down below where your children can lock themselves in from the inside. If you choose to select items aboard as potential weapons, have them accessible and take a class so you actually know how to use them. Think of learning self-defense as another tool. You may never have to use it, but it's there when you need it.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, trust your intuition. If it tells you to relax and let the pirates take whatever they want, do that. If it says to talk to them and try to negotiate, do that. But if it says fight, give it everything you have and never give the other guy a turn!

You can learn everything you need to be safe by taking a one-day class. (There is a lot of nonsense perpetuated about what it takes to defend yourself). Treat it as another skill that will enhance your chances of enjoying years of happy boating. I'd sail with Dana and Bob any day!

Shiela Chandor
Pier 39, San Francisco


I enjoyed the June article Bay Sailing 101-The Perfect Day Sail, which explained the best itinerary for taking out-of-towners on a sailing tour of the Bay. I agree a counterclockwise route is the best to minimize the rough and splashy ebb chop that we locals endure when racing and often take for granted when cruising. But surely it was a typo when you closed a paragraph with the phrase "go clockwise for comfort?" I've had years of experience doing the counterclockwise way in my Islander 30 Sinaloa, and have never needed to wear foul weather gear.

If space had permitted, I'd like to have seen Latitude put more emphasis on skippers consulting the tide charts before a daysail. As was said, sailing at six knots against a five knot current only nets one knot over the bottom. Alternatively, going with the tide and returning after the turn of the tide can markedly extend the length of one's Bay tours.

Malcolm Sowers
Sinaloa, Islander 30 Mk II
Island YC

Malcolm - "Go clockwise for comfort" was indeed a typo. We meant counterclockwise.


I need help finding as much positive information as possible about children living on boats. My wife is trying to get full custody of my two-year-old son. Part of her argument is that it's unsafe for a child to live on a boat. I love my son very much and need him in my life. I think he would benefit from the experience of living on a boat.

I own a 2000 Atlantic 42 catamaran designed by Chris White. I'm sure that you're familiar with this well-made center-cockpit design. I feel that there is more than enough room on such a boat for three people.

I have attached a photo of Antoshka.

Brian Babson
Southern California

Brian - In the last six months we've published quite a few letters from adults who either loved their experience of growing up on a boat or are happily raising young children on a boat. They should provide you with at least some initial evidence to support your cause.

We're familiar with the Atlantic 42 cat. Our friends Chris and Caroline Bridge of Corona del Mar have cruised the Med, the Caribbean and are currently cruising California on their Outremer 55 with their three kids, who are seven, five, and two. And we've got plenty of witnesses who will testify that Tristan, Ethan and Cheyenne, while totally lovable, are three of the most wildly rambunctious kids in the world. So if those three kids can love being on a 55 footer, we're confident your son could thrive on a 42 footer.

You didn't indicate whether your wife is against you having your son on the boat because she's concerned about his well-being, or because she's trying to make your life as miserable as possible. We hope it's not the latter, because it's very difficult to work with hate-based people. The mother of our two kids and the Wanderer were divorced when our children were young. Despite some trying times, we almost always managed to keep the kids' interests paramount. In the mother's case, this included allowing the kids to accompany us on multiweek sailing adventures in various parts of the world. The longterm result has been excellent, as the kids have suffered as little as possible, and everyone gets along very well. We wish you the best of luck in being able to work out something similar with your wife.


The photos you ran last month of the boats sunk in Richardson Bay were not, as some suspected, sunk by dastardly deeds, but by more typical culprits - tides and terminal ineptitude.

The MacGregor 26 went down during the spate of ridiculously low tides we had during the months of June and July. We had a couple of other sinkers in June, too, which were recovered. I think the problem with the Mac is that she laid over in the shallow mud, but then couldn't right herself before seawater started flowing in over her rails. It also might have been the centerboard working hard enough while stuck in the bottom to have caused a leak and subsequent sinking. I say this because she is still leaking hard from the trunk to this day. The owner finally met up with me (the Richardson Bay Harbormaster) and will be taking her away as soon as he pays the salvage and storage costs. He now sees my point that 'free' boat storage on Richardson Bay is never free enough if you like your boat even a little bit.

The other boat sank after a domestic altercation. She only went down because the assailant was in jail for a couple of weeks and didn't have anyone put a fresh battery on the bilge pump. In the course of demolishing her, I found 15 dead batteries on her. The boat wasn't in nice condition either. Her keel is still out there somewhere in Richardson Bay, as the bottom of the boat just disintegrated as we brought her up the ramp. It's the first time I've ever seen a boat's deadwood, prop, shaft, and motor plopped out at the tideline, and the whole boat collapsed upon itself like a black hole. Rot, iron sickness, bilge-inoma - you name it, that boat had it. I 'fixed' everything with the backhoe.

Boats that have sunk in Richardson Bay are generally a result of the owner's inaction. Only once have I heard of a boat (supposedly) being sunk because of ill will.

Bill Price
Richardson Bay Harbor Administrator


What are the laws about scuttling a boat? Can I take a boat 250 miles out on a starboard tack accompanied by a friend's boat, heave to, see that the oil and fuel are removed or cleaned out, open the through-hulls, paddle over to the friend's boat and watch the son-of-a-bitch sink - knowing that the Coast Guard, the EPA, and God knows who else won't bust me?

I participated in a Viking funeral some years back - you know, the dead warrior king's body burned with his longboat. But now I've become old and stodgy and would like to know the rules.

Michael Hruby
San Francisco

Michael - According to the MARPOL Treaty, if you're more than 25 miles offshore, the only thing you can't legally throw overboard is plastic. So if you take all the oil, grease and plastic off your boat, it seems as though it would be legal for you to throw your whole boat 'overboard'. This is assuming she's wood or steel. We don't know if fiberglass hulls - so-called 'plastic boats' - are considered plastic for the purposes of the treaty.

But even if scuttling a fiberglass boat were illegal, you could still do it. Just claim that you're a 'sealife habitat activitist', and that you sank your boat to help the environment.

Naturally, we're curious about your motive. When you call your boat a "son-of-a-bitch," she sounds like she might be in such bad condition that she - and you - might not survive your suggested 250-mile offshore passage to scuttle her. If that's the case, why not just donate her to a non-profit and maybe save a little on taxes. Or even advertise a 'free boat' in the Classy Classifieds? On the other hand, maybe you're taken with the idea of nobody else ever being able to own or enjoy your boat. In the early part of the last century, it was not at all uncommon for wealthy people to have their boats - even quite valuable ones - scuttled upon the owner's passing.


Glad to see that you all will be having such a good time on the Ha-Ha while your shipmate Dawn Wilson rots in a Mexican jail. I would think that the least you could do is flood the press with articles about the injustices that are going on down there. It wouldn't hurt you to boycott the Ha-Ha for one season for a good cause.

Bruce Bates
Planet Earth

Bruce - It's terrible that Dawn Wilson has remained in a Mexican jail so long based on what apparently were trumped-up charges by the Ensenada Police - but what's with all your misinformation and trying to set up Latitude and the Ha-Ha as bad guys? Bless Ms. Wilson's heart, but she never did a Ha-Ha, she was never a "shipmate" of ours, and we've never even met her. Our support for her is based solely on the recommendations of Terry Kennedy and Joyce Clinton, two cruising friends from many years ago in Mexico.

Contrary to popular misconception, Latitude is actually a very small company with limited resources. Our mission is to cover sailing, not spearhead campaigns to free Americans who have possibly been jailed unjustly in foreign countries. But because Ms. Wilson lived on a boat in Mexico, we took an interest in her case - and have supported her far more than any other sailing magazine. However, there are limits to what we're able to do.

By now you should be aware that while Latitude founded and ran the Ha-Ha in the early going, for years now it's been owned by an entirely separate corporation with an entirely separate ownership from Latitude 38. Yes, the Wanderer serves as the Grand Poobah, but he does so as an unpaid volunteer, and in so doing follows the directions of Ha-Ha, Inc. president Lauren Spindler. Since she makes all the major decisions regarding the event, and because you're such a nice guy, we contacted her with your idea of a Ha-Ha boycott. As you can tell from her following response, she wasn't overly impressed with your suggestion:

"As a woman, I'm tremendously sympathetic to Dawn's plight, but your call for a Ha-Ha boycott of Mexico is ill-conceived because it wouldn't have any effect. Since Dawn is in jail in Ensenada, and the Ha-Ha has never gone anywhere near that city, why do you think the judge would know the event even existed? Or that it had been called off in protest? It would be like Northern California sailors boycotting the Delta Ditch Run to Stockton to protest the fact that some liveaboard in San Diego was abused by the Highway Patrol after being pulled over on the I-5 in Riverside. If you're convinced that boycotting a sailing event to Mexico would cause a Mexican judge to reverse his legal opinion - something I believe to be unlikely - it would make more sense to call for a boycott of the Newport to Ensenada Race. After all, it would be a much bigger boycott and the judge in the case might actually hear about it."

Update: The very good news is that Dawn Wilson has been approved for the U.S.-Mexico prisoner exchange program, and should be back in the United States by September. See this month's Sightings for details.


From my best recollection, the boat used in the movie Captain Ron looked to me to be a Bill Garden-designed Hudson Force 50.

In a recent 'Lectronic, you said that nobody who has anything to do with boats refers to them as 'yachts'. When down here in Australasia, everyone near the water refers to a sailboat with a keel as a 'yacht'. Here are some other terms: an inflatable is a rubber ducky; an aluminum - pronounced 'al-you-min-ee-um' dinghy is a 'tinnie'; a runabout is a 'fizzboat'; and a larger power boat is called a 'launch' or 'gin palace'. As I always say, the United States and Australia are just two countries separated by a common language.  

George Backhus
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62
Noumea, New Caledonia

George - Like a lot of sailors, you're under the impression that Capt. Ron's boat was a Garden-designed 50. Based on the following letter, that's apparently not the case.


A reader inquired about what kind of boat was used for making the classic sailing movie, Captain Ron. The boat was a Formosa 48, not a Garden 51. Furthermore, the interior shots were not done on a Hollywood stage. Two boats were used in the filming, one of them for the interior shots. We know this for a fact, because we met the owner in Central America, and he gave us a tour of the boat.

We've seen Captain Ron about a zillion times now. We're currently counting the number of names Martin has for Ron, and the number of times that Caroline changes outfits.

Angie Deglandon and Dave Smith
Magic Carpet Ride
Seattle, Washington


I'm following up on my June issue letter, in which I wanted to know how to change the MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) on the DSC-capable VHF radio I was selling. Per your suggestion, I called Sandy Wills at Boat/U.S. He advised me that there are two MMSI databases, one maintained by Boat/U.S. and another maintained by the FCC. Both are apparently accessed by the Coast Guard. Since I originally registered with the FCC - this was before Boat/U.S. did registrations - Wills referred me to the FCC.

But when I called the FCC, they advised me that the database could not be changed. They went on to say that the new owner of the radio would need to request a new MMSI from the Boat/U.S. website ( They didn't even suggest that I request a number from the FCC.

With all due respect to Boat/U.S., I find it pretty disappointing that a critical element of the GMDSS system has been placed in the hands of a private enterprise - which, as far as I can tell, is maintaining this database at no expense as a public service. It seems like if our government can spend more than $100 billion to invade and rebuild Iraq, it could afford to maintain a website and database with critical contact information in support of an international system for safety at sea.

In any event, Icom, the manufacturer of the radio, advised me that the new MMSI number cannot be programmed through the front panel - although it can be on later models such as the M502 - and that the radio must be taken to a dealer to have a new MMSI programmed into its memory.

In summary, if you buy a used radio with a DSC function, you'll need to go to the Boat/U.S. website and request a new MMSI, then program the new number into the used radio. If it's an older Icom model, plan on having to take the radio to a dealer for the programming.

Russ Irwin
New Morning

Russ - Thanks for the report. We agree that it's pathetic that a private company has to carry the ball for the government when it comes to maintaining a database crucial to ensuring safety at sea.


In your piece about avoiding California sales tax when buying a boat, you said that you thought that the state of Nevada didn't have sales or personal property taxes. You were partly correct. Here in Nevada we don't have personal property taxes, but we do have sales tax. In Washoe County it's 7.375%. In other counties it's slightly less or slightly more.

The ideal place to retire if your only goal is to avoid taxes? The state of Washington, across the river from Oregon. There's no income tax in Washington and no sales tax in Oregon. And it's a short drive if you plan it right.

Howard Stevens
Lake Tahoe Windjammers YC

Howard - If you're in Nevada, you don't pay any state income tax either.


In your July Sightings, you came out loud and clear in favor of the so-called 'yacht tax loophole', in which people who buy boats 'offshore' can bring them back to California in 90 days without having to pay sales tax on the purchase. You seem to justify this by pointing out some of the more asinine spending this state does and suggesting that there are "hundreds of even more generous loopholes."

When I bought my Coronado 35, I paid my taxes. I did this because I could not afford to take delivery offshore and keep her in Mexico for 90 days.

The real problem with most tax loopholes is their inherent unfairness - only already wealthy people can take advantage of them. Instead of protecting one or another loophole, we should be fighting to eliminate as many as we can. I've a suggestion - the only loopholes that should remain on the books are those that can be used by the poorest 5% of the population.

Perhaps if the richest 5% of California residents paid even half as much as I do in taxes - as a percentage of their income - I might be a little more concerned about the pitiful wealthy people being threatened with actually having to pay their fair share of running the state government. Of course, that will never happen, so forget getting any pity from me. I'm still living on $1,200/month disability and paying 8.25% in sales tax on everything I buy - even some food items.

Eric Thompson
Procrastinator, Coronado 35
South San Francisco

Eric - It's not so much that we're in favor of the 'yacht tax loophole' as that we're not necessarily against it. Here are some of the reasons:

1) Fairness. If people don't have to pay sales tax when buying a house, why should they have to when buying a boat? (Possible answer: Because the real estate lobby has, for all intents and purposes, bought off legislators. A second possible answer: Because the amount of taxes generated by the building, buying, and selling of homes generates more state revenue than if there was a tax on real estate.)

Similarly, is it fair that regular periodicals - including Latitude 38 - don't have to pay sales tax on our printing bills while everybody else does? (Possible reason for this unfairness: Legislators don't want businesses who buy ink by the barrel to be pissed at them.)

2) Personal Cynicism. We believe that most branches of government are woefully inefficient and wasteful. (Did you hear about the state spending $140,000 to fly a state legislator with a heart problem back from South America?) And much of the spending is done to benefit special interest groups - be it big business on the right or public employee unions and trial lawyers on the left. If we thought that taxpayers were getting a 'big bang for their buck', we'd gladly support more taxes. But if taxpayers got a big bang for their buck, there wouldn't be any need for us to pay more taxes.

The general public, of course, is just as much to blame. Politicians throw different bones to different special interest groups, and they all fall over themselves lapping it up. The general public is seemingly ignorant of the fact that everything they have the government do for them comes at a steep premium. The public should be taught that the more self-sufficient they are collectively, the less they should have to pay in taxes. And the more that people who are really deserving - such as the truly disabled - will receive. Unfortunately, it's not in the best interests of people in government to encourage citizens to be less dependent on government.

3) Other Loopholes. Legislators are dreaming if they think the state will suddenly see an increase of $55 million in sales tax a year from boat, plane and motorhome buyers who are no longer able to take advantage of the '90-day loophole'. For one thing, buyers of expensive boats have always had another loophole for getting around the sales tax: form an offshore corporation to buy and operate the boat. It's quick, easy, and relatively cheap - which is why virtually all the big boats in the world are registered out of places like the Cayman Islands. As such, legislators would be wise not to spend the mythical $55 million until it's in the state coffers.

4) Closing The Loophole Could Kill The Golden Goose. If people buying a house had to pay 8.5% in sales tax, it would stunt the industry, and the loss of revenue from the loss of jobs might well offset the gains in sales tax. Why wouldn't the same thing happen in the boating industry? After all, this is what happened when the luxury tax was instituted. So as unfair as it might be, closing the so-called 'yacht tax loophole' could very well be detrimental to state tax revenue.


After I listed my sailboat for sale last month, I was contacted via email by someone saying they were interested in my boat. They indicated that they had already purchased a boat in our size and price range, but the deal fell apart. The boat they purchased was for $29,600, while my asking price was $25,000. They said they would overnight the $29,600 cashier's check they already had, and after I got it, I was to send them the $4,600 difference via Western Union. Then we'd make arrangements to pick up the boat.

When I got the check, I smelled a rat. Surprise, it was a fake with an invalid account number! Local authorities couldn't do anything because the check had been drawn on a bank in Texas. I caled the sheriff there, and am waiting for a reply.

Evidently this is a scam that naive sellers sometimes fall for. Having worked as an escrow officer for 16 years, I've seen lots of cashier's checks. This one looked pretty good. The account numbers were off, but without my experience, I would not have noticed.

Maria Lockridge
Escrow Officer, Alliance Title Co.


I own a Cal 21 and don't want to give up sailing. But due to a stroke, I find it difficult to stop and lift the rudder, which is one piece and quite heavy. Do any of your readers know if a swing rudder exists that would fit on the transom of a Cal 21? A local boat place gave me a quote of $650 to modify my existing rudder, but I can't afford it. If anyone has any suggestions, I can be reached at (925) 330-3508.

Art Shaw
Walnut Creek

Art - We sure hope that one of our readers can provide the information you need, because we'd hate for you to have to stop sailing.


On the afternoon of June 26, the resort Tripui at Puerto Escondido - which provided much of the facilities for the cruising community at Puerto Escondido in the Sea of Cortez - went up in flames. The entire resort, including the store, laundry, trailers, cars, boats and about 170 palapas and their contents, were reduced to ash. The fire had started inside one of the trailers when someone preparing dinner had stepped outside about 5:30 p.m. The next thing this person knew, flames were coming out of the trailer. There was no water to fight the fire because the resort hadn't had water in three days. We don't know the reason. A warm southerly wind in the already-tinder-dry area didn't help.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but we heard that two pets were lost.

We walked through the area the following day, and some of the ashes were still smoldering. The fire must have been intense, as there was almost complete devastation. We saw a woman and a man looking through some ashes for personal possessions and replaying the events of the day before. The man said, "I saw it sliding back this way, and the kitchen should be here somewhere." Just then the woman screamed: "I found my wedding ring!" She was so elated that we teared up. Then they began looking for her watch.

Not everyone was so lucky. We met one man who hadn't been at Tripui in over a year. When the fire started, he was so anxious to pull his boat to safety that he grabbed the wrong one. Only later did he realize that he'd saved someone else's boat, unknowingly allowing his own to burn up.

As we continued to walk around, a fire truck finally arrived to put out the smoldering ashes. We'd heard the truck had to stop for fuel before making it to Puerto Escondido.

We spent five days in Loreto at the Villas de Loreto resort, a fabulous tranquil place on the water near town. We launched our boat Tango, a cabin cruiser, and spent one night on the hook at Isla Danzante, and pulled into Honeymoon Cove. It has always been a fabulous place to anchor, and we had a nearly full moon. The next morning we discovered that we'd run our batteries down and couldn't start our engine. Thanks to some cruisers on Windsetter from the Pacific Northwest, we got a battery jump that allowed us to get on our way.

P.S. Thank you, Latitude, for the best reading material for mariners.

Adom Moutafian & Darlene Tarantino
Los Gatos

Readers - Tripui was an institution in the Sea of Cortez, one that served both the folks with trailers as well as cruisers in the Puerto Escondido anchorage a short distance away. If we're not mistaken, it was already in operation in the late '70s when we first cruised those waters.


My friend Alan Petersen died last night.

He was raised in the East Bay, and spent his younger years swimming, sailing, fishing and just messing about on the Bay. He learned to sail here and acquired a genuine appreciation of the sunsets, gentle breezes and hellacious winds. Although he later moved to Southern California, he often came back to enjoy the Bay.

Alan had a great sense of humor and enjoyed practical jokes. He spent considerable time sanding, waxing and varnishing his boat. In fact, some of us thought he spent way too much time sanding the bowsprit. So I will now admit to being the carver of a very large wooden penis - as well as one of the installation crew that attached it to the end of his well-rubbed bowsprit! He took the gag in good humor and submitted pictures of it to the "coolest" magazine in the world. At the time he said that Latitude was the only magazine with enough creative courage to publish such a picture with his attached letter. You may remember the picture, because you published it!

Alan bought his dream sailboat in 1998, and made plans to retire next year from his job as an Operations Supervisor at LAX. Sadly, he had to sell his dream when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He fought hard, but was always realistic about the final outcome. During the last couple of years I mailed each issue of Latitude to him. We spent time discussing the latest news in each issue. He never complained about his bad fortune, but rather shared the happiness that others were realizing on their own dream cruises.

I usually sent the monthly assortment of magazines and papers to him via regular mail, but as his condition worsened he told me he was only interested in receiving Latitude. Last week I sent it overnight to him. His son Mathew retrieved the envelope and went into Alan's room to let him know that his magazine had arrived. Alan appeared to be sleeping. Mathew placed the magazine under his arm on his chest so he would find it immediately upon waking. After a very long and courageous battle, Alan died the next day without regaining consciousness, his favorite magazine under his arm.

Thank you all at Latitude for providing so much encouragement and enjoyment to my friend Alan Petersen for so many years. He was one of your most loyal readers. He read your first issue - and I have a feeling he is still carefully reading each and every page of the latest one while cruising and racing with the fleet.

Bill Chase
Harbormaster Ballena Isle Marina

Bill - We're saddened to hear the news of Alan's passing. But we'll take his love for Latitude as being a credit to our staff, all of whom work extremely hard to make each issue as good as it can possibly be.


I was surprised and delighted to see the Olson Clean Sweep on a plane in the June issue. The comments about the boat not being a planing boat also caught me off guard. I've owned mine for about 11 years now, and have had her planing at least four times. If the wind gets above 22 knots true, you just move the weight aft and hold on. She will jump out and actually get very stable.

Looking at the pictures, I would say the crew had their weight too far forward and one person to leeward. Oops! Once you bury the bow, she'll trip on it and down you go.

Great photos! I would love to have had these of my boat, but you folks don't frequent Northwest waters, and we don't get that kind of wind too often.

Bill Schafer
Corvallis, Oregon

Bill - The photo was taken and the copy written by Latitude's Racing Editor, Rob Moore, who not only owned an Olson 25 for a number of years, but was also the Northern California class champion twice. (He would have been the champion three times in three tries, but after gaining a huge lead in the crucial final race of the season, he sailed off to the wrong buoy, the result of misreading the race instructions after pulling an all-nighter getting that month's Racing Sheet to the printer.)

Moore points out that there's a huge difference between planing and surfing. Any boat can surf if she's going fast enough and the wave is steep enough. But few boats can plane, which is defined as not just rushing down one wave, but down that wave and over multiple waves in front of it. If your boat can overtake 10 waves at a near-constant speed over a period of a minute or two, she's probably planing, not just surfing.


I must point out the error in the June 2004 Sightings piece on the history of the Moore 24 Poltergeist. When reading a list of the notables of sailing who had gotten rides on the boat in her early years in Santa Cruz, I nearly choked on my morning cup of joe when Terry Alsberg was referred to as the builder of the Olson line of boats! Terry is a good man and was a good boat builder, but my gawd, not any comparison to the legendary George Olson, boat builder and boat designer, considered by many to be the father of the Santa Cruz ULDB sailboats.  

I had worked for many years in the fiberglass boat building and repair trade, a good bit of the time in the '70s in Santa Cruz with Terry and George and others. Terry started building the Express line of boats, designed by the late Carl Schumacher, in the late '70s. To his credit, Terry insisted on the utmost in quality of materials and workmanship for his product. I respect Terry Alsberg as much as any boatbuilder I have ever been involved with, but he is no George Olson! I hope you correct your errata - the soona the betta!

Ed 'Capt. Gelcoat' Elliott
Boulder Creek

Ed - That error was the result of a last-minute brain freeze that apparently slipped by our proofreading staff. Of course, George Olson designed and built the Olson line of boats - although there was some group input on Pacific High, the prototype of the Olson 30. Olson also designed the prototype of what became the Moore 24, which was his attempt to see if he could improve on the Cal 20.

We've always had the utmost respect for George, and loved his style. Not only have we owned two Olson 30s, but back in the early '60s we used to surf Pleasure Point on a heavy 10-ft Olson surfboard that George shaped and glassed prior to getting into boats.


Thank you for publishing my June letter in defense of cruising in Mexico. Since you mentioned something about medical care in Mexico in your editorial response, I'd like to give another plug for Mexico.

While getting off a friend's boat at Paradise Village Marina in April of this year, I fell and broke my wrist. Fortunately, our friends Bob and Jane from Kokomo were also aboard, and Jane is a surgical and E.R. nurse. She had my wrist stabilized and splinted right away. We called Harbormaster Dick Markie on VHF, who had a taxi waiting at the dock to transport me to San Xavier hospital in Puerto Vallarta.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately taken to the exam room. The receptionist came in twice within the first three minutes to apologize that the doctor wasn't there yet. In less than five minutes, I was seen by a resident doctor, who ordered X-rays. My longest wait was 15 minutes, the amount of time it took the technician to go to another part of the hospital to pick up the X-ray. Once the X-rays had been taken, I was wheeled back to my room so that the doctor could examine them and determine the next course of action. She advised me that an orthopedic doctor would be seeing me.

In no more than five minutes, the orthopedic doctor appeared. He explained they were going to sedate me so they could set my wrist and put it in a cast. I was then taken to the room next door, where the I.V. was started. Then Raul, the anesthesiologist came in, and told me he was going to inject me with "a couple of margaritas." We were laughing and joking . . . and the next thing I knew I was waking up 15 minutes later and watching the doctor put the finishing touches on my cast. I had to remain at the hospital a while longer to make sure I didn't suffer any ill effects from the sedative. But less than two hours after my arrival, I was on my way back to a hotel for the night.

As if that wasn't enough, every single person, including the orderly who wheeled me into the X-ray room, spoke perfect English. In addition, the doctor, who told me he wanted to see me again in a week, gave me his personal cell phone number in case anything came up and I felt I needed to consult with him.

Having had a few medical emergencies in my lifetime, I can attest to the fact that neither I nor my family has ever received such prompt and sensitive care in any emergency room in the United States. And the quality of care was equal to what I would have expected in the U.S. My case is also not unique. We are aware of several other cruisers who have been unfortunate enough to require medical care while in Mexico: Bill on Seafire, Jody on Eros, Tonya on Amazing Grace, Chuck on Tumbleweed and last year, Gary on Texan. If you asked any one of them, I'm sure they would all tell you how extremely pleased they were with the promptness and the quality of care they received. And, God forbid, if anything like this ever happens to me, my husband, or any of our friends, I'd prefer that it happen in Mexico, where it seems that the first concern at hospitals is with your health, not your money.

Speaking of money, we put everything on our credit card. My U.S. insurance carrier says they will be reimbursing us for our expenses as soon as I submit the bills. Had I required an overnight stay, the hospital would have filed the claim for me.

It's now eight weeks since I broke my wrist. I'm out of the cast and doing fine. We are currently in La Paz and planning on departing next week for Frailes to await a window to do the Bash back to San Diego. After more refitting of our boat, we plan to return to Mexico as soon as possible.

Dotti Olsen

Dotti - You're another member of the chorus that has sung the praises of medical care available in big Mexican cities.


I'm doing the Baja Ha-Ha and beyond this year, and have a question about my crew. Should I have them sign some sort of release of my responsibility - such as the waiver we all sign to participate in the Ha-Ha?

P.S. Keep up the good work, as you keep my dream alive.

Carl B. Funk
Journey, Islander 36

Carl - Liability waivers are a complex subject. Having all your guests sign a waiver of responsibility won't necessarily protect you from anything, so we suggest that you consult with a lawyer.

If you're going to be leaving the country for a long time and have considerable assets, you may want to reflag your boat out of a country like the Cayman Islands or the British Virgins. That way if some drunk person sprains an ankle tripping over a sail tie while you're in Bora Bora and tries to sue you for a million dollars in American courts for emotional distress, they may not have such an easy time.

Our policy with Profligate? We carry lots of insurance in case anyone gets hurt, but we also have everyone sign a waiver so at the very least they can't claim they didn't know that sailing can be dangerous. California courts have consistently ruled that sailing is a 'high risk' activity - although we have to confess we don't know what the full ramifications of that might be.


One of the reasons I love Latitude so much is that you guys have a way of instigating sailing and travel debates - which makes for great reading in the Letters section.

In the June issue, Pete Kantor predicted that you would be deluged by protests regarding Lee Helm's bad-mouthing of the yawl rig. His letter was the only protest. And while I sail a ketch rather than a yawl, I'm always explaining the advantages of the split rig to owners of cutters and sloops. I don't want to start a 'my rig is better than yours' debate, but I want to throw my experiences and observations out there.

I've owned my Tayana 37 ketch for six years, sail her mostly on the Columbia River for now, and have not yet replaced the standing and running rigging or the sails. But when I do before I start my big cruise in two years, I know I'll be paying more to the rigger and sailmaker than I would if I'd bought the cutter version of a Tayana 37. Even so, I'd never give up my ketch rig. I had a great experience last summer that explains my enthusiasm for, and confidence in, the ketch rig.

I was returning to my slip from a day of singlehanding late in the afternoon in mid August. As sometimes happens when there are periods of strong high pressure here in Oregon and Washington, a brisk northwest breeze built up to about 25+ knots. The wind, in conjunction with an opposing current and an ebbing tide set up quite a chop, which just added to the excitement. I rolled up my yankee and dropped the main, sailing only under staysail and mizzen. My staysail is on a boom so the boat was self-tacking downriver, closehauled, with ease. My ketch balances beautifully under these conditions, so once settled onto my new course after each tack, I just eased back into my cockpit, hands free, and enjoyed the view. I guess my 8,000-lb keel didn't hurt me any.

Up ahead, I saw a sloop running for cover with two reefs in her main and her jib dropped on deck. Her crew of four or five were on the windward rail getting blasted! After a while, I realized this may be the only chance I will ever get in my sailing life to actually pass another boat, so I came up from behind and tacked around the outside of her, nonchalantly waved, and continued on. I never looked back because that would have been like gloating. I like to think that the crew of that sloop was watching me sail away with looks of astonishment and envy on their faces.

I love my ketch and the versatility of the split rig. You can balance the helm with ease, have smaller sails to wrestle with, and can even steer the boat with the mizzen if need be. I may whine a bit when I get the bill from the sailmakers, and usually sloops blow my doors off as they fly past, but I'd never trade her . . . except maybe for a small schooner.

I really don't care if I sail all that fast most of the time anyway. I just love being out on the water, enjoying the sunshine, and feeling like I'm the king of the world.

P.S. Thanks for nurturing my dreams through the pages of Latitude for all these years.

Ralph Richardson
Terra Nova, Tayana 37 ketch
Portland, Oregon

Ralph - We know from experience with Big O, our old Ocean 71 ketch, that being able to drop the main entirely and go with just the jib and mizzen is a great option when the weather comes up quickly. When fitting out for your cruise, you may want to invest in a new - or used, if you can find one - mizzen staysail. This wouldn't be a practical sail for the Columbia River, but when doing long passages on a beam reach, it would add a lot of speed and might be fun.


I'm sure that all of us, to varying degrees, share Nick Salvador's concern about human waste being pumped from charter and other recreational boats into bays and oceans. But as long as all the towns and cities keep dumping - either deliberately or 'accidentally' - the effluent from hundreds of thousands of residents, the waste from all the sailboats in the state is not going to make much difference. My personal belief is that our best protection is to maintain some deliberate exposure - to keep our antibodies thriving.

But I do believe that I have met the man who is the most sensitive to this potential problem. He's a marina neighbor who installed a large watermaker on his boat in preparation for a trip to the South Pacific. He told me he was only going to use it when well offshore. A couple of weeks later, I helped him load a large ultraviolet water purification system aboard his boat. When I asked him why he needed an ultraviolet purification system if he only planned to use his watermaker offshore, he lowered his voice and said, "Whale shit."

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Alamitos Bay Marina, Long Beach

Ernie - Human waste isn't the only problem. According to a recent survey of water quality on California beaches by Heal the Bay, Sonoma County's Campbell Cove State Park Beach ranked as the second most polluted in the entire state. Because they were curious how this could be the case with a non-urban beach, scientists did some DNA testing. The results suggest that birds and mammals might well be the source of excessive fecal bacteria.

Want to check the water quality at one of California's 435 beaches? It's easy, just go to To get a complete picture of the situation, you need to check it during both the dry season and the wet season. Many of the state's beaches that get 'A' ratings in the summer, get 'F's in the winter when all the non-point source pollution flows off the land and into the rivers, bays and sea.


I live in England and am going travelling towards the end of the year. I really want to sail to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland in early December, and wondered if you could help find a company or anybody doing it. I have been sailing before, but wouldn't say I was competent.

Alan Braithwaite

Alan - If you had more sailing experience and were familiar with the sailing conditions between California and Hawaii, you wouldn't want to make that passage during the month of December - or pretty much any time between October and May. The weather conditions just aren't favorable and can be very adverse. If you want to travel by boat at that time of year, we recommend crewing on a boat from the Canaries to the Caribbean, up and down the Caribbean chain, from California to Mexico, or around New Zealand, Australia, or Thailand. The more you know about sailing, the less you want to fight the seasons.


I've got a question for you. I have seen lots of forlorn-looking boats in marinas where I have kept my boat. Most of these boats have been sitting in their slips for years without anyone so much as coming near them - although I do know one guy who used his boat for floating storage. And these boats certainly haven't been taken out of their slips.

Wouldn't it be better if these boats found a home on dry land - or better yet, were sold? I don't care what people do with their boats, but wet slips are getting hard to come by. Lots of people would like to get into certain marinas - or even any marina - so they could use a boat. But they can't because so many slips are filled with boats that are never used.

I've raised the issue with some marina owners, but they don't want to rock the boat if the FBO's - Forlorn Boat Owners - pay their monthly rent. Maybe they're afraid of getting sued. But there are plenty of dry spots available for these people.


Nemphi - We're not sure where you were, but a few years ago we vociferously advocated a policy of 'use it or lose it' - meaning you'd have to use your boat a certain number of times per year or face having to keep it in dry storage or some more remote marina. Our philosophical basis for this position was maximizing ocean access for the greatest number of people.

You're right, there are lots of unused boats in slips that serve to deny others Bay and ocean access. This is common in the more desirable municipal and state marinas, which often have below-market slip fees. For example, until they threw away the list, there was up to a 25-year wait for people wanting certain size slips in Santa Barbara - where there are plenty of boats that don't get any use. Until these boats get used, we think they should be required to be stored on the hard. Fortunately, there's a bunch of space right there at the marina. The San Francisco Marina is another place where slip fees are relatively low and quite a few boats are rarely used. Honolulu's Ala Wai Yacht Harbor is notorious for the same thing. Many harbors have a policy that requires boats to leave the harbor under their own power at least once a year to prove they are navigable. But this rule is not often enforced.

We agree, if somebody doesn't use his/her boat for a year, it should be subject to storage on the hard or a more remote marina, thereby allowing greater ocean access to the general population. The only problem with our great idea is that nobody liked it.


It's only lately that I've learned about the controversy of forward cockpits on catamarans. For reference, I enclose a photo I recently took of the front cockpit on a new Lagoon 440, a catamaran that, in addition to a front cockpit, has the helm on a flybridge. This front cockpit is small and, unlike some other front cockpits, is not intended to be a substitute for the main cockpit aft. It can be used in very mild conditions, either while sailing or at anchor - the conditions which charterers of Lagoons usually seek. But I could not conceive of a sailing catamaran with just a front cockpit. And here is a perfect illustration.

My ex-neighbor at the marina built his beautiful 43-ft cat by himself. He'd previously sailed Hobie Cats and wanted to enjoy the same sensations - so he built himself a very light cat with an open cockpit. In other words, it is just a sailing platform with all the accommodations in the hulls. She is fun to sail . . . for half an hour. After that, you want some protection from the sun, wind and spray. That kind of protection is exactly what his family misses and demands. His wife and kids will no longer sail with him. So here is a poor guy who spent years building a cat, but can't enjoy it because his family won't sail with him.

My advice to people tempted by cats with front cockpits? The concept sounds sexy in terms of sailing, but in my view doesn't hold up. So try before you buy. If you still like it, then - and only then - buy or build one. After all, life is too short to behave reasonably all the time.

Noel G.
Laia, Outremer 43

Noel - We think a forward cockpit on a cat is as nutty as it would be to put the cockpit at the bow of a monohull. But that's just our opinion, as there's a small but vocal minority that seems to love the concept. Among the forward-cockpit lovers are East Coast catamaran sailor/designers Peter Johnstone and Chris White. They've both sailed extensively on cats with forward cockpits, and they both own cats with forward cockpits. So what can we say - other than they've obviously spent too much time in the sun and spray!


I'm responding to your July Short Sightings item titled Oakland. It's a minor thing, but you stated that the lightship Relief was stationed on Blunt's Reef. That is true, but it's only part of the story. She was named Relief because she was used to take the place of the lightships that had to come in for maintenance or overhauls. She changed places with the Blunts Reef ship, which was named Blunts, and the San Francisco entrance ship, which I believe was named SFO.

I worked on all the lightships way back when. I can recall one particularly memorable trip. I went out to the Relief, which was on station SFO, aboard an 82-footer. I then transferred to the small boat to go alongside the lightship. The weather was nasty, so when I jumped for the rope ladder, my hands grabbed for the top lifeline - and I got a nice 25- to 30-foot ride up as the ship rolled in the opposite direction. It was unsafe to depart the ship when my stint was over, so I had to spend three days aboard. You'd pay a lot of money if they had a wild amusement park ride like that. It was hard to sleep when the foghorn sounded at night, and during poor visibility. It was a great trip, but not as fun as St. George Reef Light. But that's another story.

Next time you sail out the Estuary and pass the Relief, take a look.

P.S. I love Latitude - and my wife and I loved our three weeks in the San Juan Islands.

Cal Chamberlain
Leeway, Buccaneer 240
Red Bluff


I enjoy it when the schooner Dauntless is mentioned in Latitude because, back in 1981, I crewed on her when she set sail from Kauai to California. But we lost a mast stabilizer and the refrigeration broke four days out, so we turned back to Honolulu. Anyway, I'm glad to see that she's in good hands these days.

Matt McLaughlin
Santa Barbara

Matt - 'Mast stabilizer'? We're not familiar with the term. Do you mean mast spreader? Anyway, we're glad she's in good hands also, because nothing is quite as lovely as a nice schooner.


I grew up on Kauai. In 1976 I was supposed to join two friends and some others sailing the Sausalito-based 42-ft ketch Spirit back to California. I ultimately decided not to make the trip, having been offered a summer job on the island. As you know, the Spirit sank and my friend Cammie - Camilla Arthur - died as a result. I have never heard the whole story of the accident and would like to find out how I can obtain copies of your reports, which appeared in the November and December 1977 issues.

Lisa Field
Honolulu, Hawaii

Lisa - We don't have any extra copies of the issues themselves, but we can send you copies of the articles for $7 per article. Mail your request to "Attention: Back Issues," 15 Locust Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941.

To recap the fateful voyage, the 42-ft wooden gaff-ketch departed the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu on September 12 for Sausalito. Her five crew were all in their 20s: Bruce Collins, Durel Miller, Jim Ahola and novice sailors Camilla Arthur and Nancy Perry. The common thread for all but Collins was that they'd known each other from Marin County. Owner Ray Jackson, who had just sailed the boat 8,000 miles in the South Pacific, was not aboard for the trip because of a bad back.

On the morning of September 27, while sailing under jib alone in 25 knots of wind, there was a very loud noise and the heavy boat was inexplicably thrown on her beam ends. Experienced sailors Collins and Miller had been awake at the time, but neither could account for what happened. The force that tossed Spirit on her beam ends also tossed Miller into the water. Fortunately, he was picked up by the rigging as the boat righted herself.

The lovely and very well-quipped yacht sank in three to five minutes. The five crew were able to scramble into two Avon liferafts, but the EPIRB - which had been attached to a large fender that itself was attached to a bulkhead - had been lost in the knockdown. The crew was only able to grab a couple of jugs of water, a little clothing, and a few blankets to take with them in the liferafts. Despite being lashed together, the two rafts soon separated and drifted a considerable distance apart.

On October 18th - 22 days after Spirit sank - the raft with Durel Miller and Nancy Perry was picked up by the ship Oriental Financier. The two were suffering from exposure and a lack of food and water, but recovered. The Coast Guard Cutter Campbell located the second raft six days later, with just Bruce Collins aboard. Jim Ahola, owner Jackson's brother-in-law, had died of exposure and exposure-related problems eight days before. Camilla Arthur died of similar causes six days before.

A little more than a year later, one of the biggest law firms in San Francisco filed suit on behalf of the estate of Camilla Arthur and on behalf of Nancy Perry, both non-sailors who had been cautioned against making the trip. One of the key issues was whether the two were 'passengers' or 'crew'. Named as plaintiffs were a long list of individuals and companies, some of which hadn't had anything to do with the boat in a quarter of a century. Ultimately there was an out-of-court settlement with several of the companies with deep pockets, but no terms were disclosed. Neither of the two surviving men nor the estate of Ahola elected to file suit.

Thanks better marine electronics, as well as cruiser nets that keep tabs on just about every boat crossing the Pacific, it's far less likely that there would be a similar tragic result today.

The tragedy had an effect on us, too. Having studied the case in great detail, we developed a loathing for some aspects of the American legal system.


As I was peripherally involved, I read with interest an article in the August '03 htm file about the loss of the ketch Spirit on her way from Hawaii to San Francisco in 1976. I had also been in Hawaii that fall, looking for crew to help sail my 36-ft trimaran to the West Coast. One of the few persons with sailing experience who was interested was Bruce Collins, who also had multihull experience. After we met and discussed cruising in general, and the trip to California in particular, he agreed to crew with me. But a week or so before my scheduled departure, Collins informed me that he'd been contracted to skipper Spirit back to San Francisco. While I was a little disappointed in his decision, I understood, and there were no hard feelings.

As I recall, Spirit left a few days before us. I no longer have my log handy, but I believe I departed Oahu around the 18th of September and arrived in Los Angeles on about August 6. About 10 days into the trip, and a few days after catching the northwesterlies and turning east toward California, we found ourselves in a fairly fierce tropical-type storm, with probably 50-knot winds from the west. We ran with it under jib alone for several days, often reaching speeds of 25 knots while surfing down 15-ft waves. It was exhilarating for a few days, but controlling the boat in these conditions soon became tiring. I finally dropped all sail, closed up the hatches, and went below to rest and sleep until the storm played itself out. Another complication was that one of my two inexperienced crewmembers had severely cut his lip on the mainsail halyard wire and was no longer much help.

I mention all this because when I got to California and heard about the sinking of the Spirit, I always assumed that she'd encountered the same storm as I, and had taken a wave into her rear hatch. I believe that Bruce and I spoke very briefly after his long survival in a raft, but not in much detail. According to your article, Spirit did not go through this storm. She must have been well north of my course.

Another boat whose name I no longer recall, but whose owner and skipper I knew slightly, also left Hawaii about the same time. They successfully arrived in San Francisco and anchored off Sausalito. Later that year the boat was purchased by someone in Santa Cruz - on the condition that the owner deliver her to Santa Cruz. According to the story I heard, the owner left San Francisco Bay with 'Chickie', one of my female friends from years before, as crew. The boat was found washed up on San Francisco's Ocean Beach without anyone aboard. There was no explanation of what might have happened to the boat or crew. Does the incident ring a bell with you?

I have other strange stories - such as my relationship with the infamous Buck Walker and Jennifer Jenkins who, in 1974, apparently murdered Mac and Muff Graham on Palmyra Atoll, then sailed the Graham's Sea Wind back to Hawaii. I had met Buck and Jennifer a few years earlier on the Big Island when I had my boat hauled there. They didn't have a boat, but were interested in getting one and frequently came by to pick my brain about boats and cruising. I saw them again in Maui perhaps a year later, by which time they had purchased a 25-ft monohull and were getting ready to cruise the South Pacific. We spoke briefly, but I didn't see them again until they returned to Hawaii with the Graham's boat.

When Buck and Jennifer spotted my boat in the Ala Wai, they came over to chat. I remember that their answers to my questions about their trip seemed evasive. When I asked where their boat was anchored, they pointed to a boat about 75 yards away. I told them that their boat appeared to have grown considerably. They said no. I said yes. When they said no again, I kind of let it go, thinking that one of us had been smoking too much Maui Wowie. But I knew the boat they'd had in Maui was much smaller than the Sea Wind.

There was chaos in the Ala Wai the next morning, as the FBI, city police, Coast Guard and others pursued Buck and Jennifer through the yacht basin. I was interviewed extensively by the FBI, but really didn't have anything to tell them - other than that the couple had visited me and had been inconsistent in their stories. It was a little scary, because it almost seemed as if the FBI thought I had been involved.

A few years later, after I went back to California, the Feds contacted me about testifying in Buck Walker's trial, which I did. After Walker was convicted, attorney Vincent Bugliosi - who had prosecuted Charles Manson - contacted me about appearing as a defense witness for Jennifer's trial. I did. But I don't think I was much help, as I didn't have much to say about her one way or the other - other than that I'd known her as Stephanie. The whole story was told in Vincent Bugliosi's book And The Sea Will Tell, which was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

After Jennifer/Stephanie was acquitted, she sent me a little card, suggesting that we get together. It made chills run up my spine, so I never called her.

Joel Peters
Santiago, Chile

Joel - We presume you moved to the southern hemisphere in search of a more peaceful life. We hope you've found it.

The loss of Spirit was not caused by stormy conditions. In fact, just before she sank, Collins and another crewmember spoke about putting up more sail. After the sinking and his long survival in a raft, Collins didn't care to talk much about the experience. This was too bad, because what he did say was interesting and thought-provoking. As we recall, he felt his raftmate Jim Ahola's death was partly brought on by his being despondent over the loss of a boat he loved so much. And that his other raftmate, Camilla Arthur, died in part because her boyfriend Ahola had died, and because she chose not to drink the rainwater they caught because it had a chemical taste from the catchment system. Unlike the other two, Collins forced himself to remain optimistic about the possibility of being rescued, and worked to maintain a quasi Zen state in order to conserve his energy and health.

As for a boat being lost on her way to a new owner in Santa Cruz later that year, it's not something that stands out in our mind. After all, these event took place 28 years ago.


I'm wondering if you folks have considered running an electronic bulletin board/chat room for boaters and their families to keep in touch with each other.

On a selfish note, my sister and her husband invited my wife and me to participate in the Baja Ha-Ha a couple of years ago. Sadly, as soon as we got out of San Diego Harbor, my brother-in-law decided that he no longer wanted to be part of the Ha-Ha. So we sailed alone, the fleet leaving us far behind. Fortunately for my wife and me, for awhile we were able to listen to the VHF and got to hear about some of the folks doing things like catching fresh fish for dinner. All we got to eat were cold cuts.

At one point we dropped out to anchor at Bahia San Quintin. My wife and I wanted to get off the boat there, but the dinghy that my sister and I used to go ashore to look for accommodations sprung a leak on the way back to the boat that evening. While motoring out of the bay the next morning, we noticed the prop on the big boat had lost a blade causing the whole boat to shudder. Being out of the Ha-Ha at that point, we suddenly realized what it meant not to be part of the fleet.

To make a long story short, we finally hitched a ride ashore in a panga near Guerrero Negro, and then got a ride in a rickety old fisherman's truck to town. It was there that we got our first shower and hot meal in four days. That night - which happened to be Halloween - we caught the next bus out of town. Our bus trip back to Tijuana was uneventful.

Anyway, I digress. Any chance you might get something going as far as posting messages to those out there on the water? What with the piracy that crops up every so often, it would be nice to check in once in awhile with folks out there on their own.

T. Allen Wall

T. Allen - Thanks to email services such as SailMail and Winlink, and free position reporting services such as YOTREPS, we don't think there's a need for a chat room for people at sea to keep in touch with people ashore.

We're sorry your Ha-Ha experience didn't go better. There's always an element of risk that the skipper and crew won't see eye-to-eye.


The Max Ebb feature titled Wretched Excess in the July issue relates some flawed personal views that do not reflect the real situation regarding the state Department of Boating and Waterways [DBW], the department's utilization of boater fees and taxes, or the positions of Recreational Boaters of California [RBOC] as a boater lobbying organization. Boaters should not allow misinformation or confusion to create any split in our community. It is critical that recreational boaters continue to work together to promote our common interests in light of the serious challenges that confront us.

Boaters reading Latitude should know with some certainty that DBW works effectively and efficiently to spend state boater fuel tax dollars and boat registration fees for enhanced boating opportunities, education, safety and access for kayakers, sailors, sailboarders, canoeists and others with non-motorized vessels. RBOC supports and applauds these efforts, and agrees that the existing opportunities could be enhanced.

The DBW's Boating Trails Program has provided $500,000 per year through each of the last several years to finance access points on rivers throughout the state that directly serve the many boaters who enjoy non-powered boating activities.

Forty-two small craft projects are either completed or under construction throughout the state. In the San Francisco Bay Area, these include the Sherman Island Project and the Seal Point Bay Access Project at the San Mateo Bridge. These are primarily sailboarding access sites. There is also the Boat Ramp Street Project in the City of Richmond that should be under construction in the near future.

Indeed, the DBW's Boating Trails Program projects have won two well-deserved national awards of excellence from the States Organization for Boating Access (SOBA).

In addition to this fine program, the DBW continues to dedicate boater fuel tax dollars and registration fees for other programs and services benefiting boaters - regardless of whether the type of boater contributes any taxes or fees. RBOC also supports and applauds these efforts, which include:

· The expenditure of funds for Boating Instruction Safety Center construction. These facilities provide non-powered boaters with state-of-the art training, both in-the-water and in the classroom. New BISCs are planned in Humbolt and Ventura Counties.

· The allocation of $620,000 per year in grants to universities, colleges, local agencies and non-profits for boating equipment and scholarships that are used to educate and benefit the boating public. A significant amount of these funds is used for paddle craft and sailing education programs, and many are in the San Francisco Bay Area.

· The publication of Boating Trail Guides that provide non-powered boaters with specific access point and safety information for many rivers throughout the state.

· The publication of several Boating Safety Pamphlets that provide essential information for the operators of non-powered watercraft.

Other DBW programs that are critical to the ability of all types of boaters to have a safe and enjoyable boating environment, and get RBOC's strong support, are:

· Boater education programs, including DBW's home-study course, that provide extensive literature on safe boating operation.

· Boater docks, launch ramps, land-based and floating restrooms, and other facilities financed by DBW that provide access and amenities along the coast, as well as on inland waterways, lakes and reservoirs.

· Environmentally-sensitive eradication efforts that reduce and will hopefully eliminate the spread of non-native aquatic weeds that are clogging a number of our most precious waterways.

· Grant programs that provide critical dollars to counties for boating law enforcement, which improves safety on the waterways.

· Loans of boater funds to the Department of Parks and Recreation [DPR] for the construction of all of the boating facilities in the state parks system - including boater access points and boat launching facilities.

· Grants to local agencies to remove abandoned vessels that present hazards to safe navigation.

These programs would not exist today if not for the hard-fought efforts of the boating community to defeat serious proposals to eliminate the DBW. Without the DBW, there would be no appointed official with a leadership role and Department Director status, focused solely on the promotion and betterment of boating, and on the dedication of boater fees and taxes to programs and services that directly benefit the entire boating community.

The manner in which the state Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has utilized over $100 million in boater fuel tax dollars that it has received directly from the Motor Vehicle Fuel Account over the past 10 years provides no comfort that the DPR or other government entities would better serve boaters. The DPR has simply used these funds to reduce its historical reliance on the state General Fund. Boaters have not benefited from any long-lasting benefits, such as increased access or additional boating facilities. By the way, the DPR could receive another $27 million of our fuel tax dollars when the budget bill is signed!

The DBW has done an excellent job of managing boater fuel tax dollars and registration fees for programs that serve all elements of our boating community. Let's continue to work together for our common goals.

P.S. More information is available regarding the DBW and its programs at, and about RBOC at

Bill Patton
President, Recreational Boaters of California
Thousand Oaks

Readers - As always, the Max Ebb 'column' reflects the viewpoints of its author - which may or not be the same as the editor and publisher of Latitude 38. In the July issue, different Max Ebb characters took different positions as to whether or not it would be so bad if, as a result of the state budget shortfall, the Department of Boating and Waterways were to disappear, and its $90 million budget - which comes from boat fuel taxes and boating fees - was given to the State Parks Department.

Latitude's position is that while the Department of Boating and Waterways' priorities could certainly use a thorough review, having the mariners' $90 million in taxes and fees go to the Department of State Parks would be, we feel, akin to kissing most of it good-bye. Further, we have no reason to believe that the Department of State Parks would do a better job of spending taxpayer dollars than the DBW.


With regard to stainless steel water tanks, they can be plagued by the same gremlin that causes problems in older nuclear reactors. The issue is IGSCC - or Inter-Granular Stress Corrosion Cracking. This can occur when you have a susceptible stainless steel - such as 304 - under stress and exposed to adverse water chemistry. When folks recently wrote in about their water tanks cracking at the welds, it was probably a case of IGSCC.

IGSCC can only occur under a combination of conditions. First, the 'wrong' type of stainless steel is needed. Not all stainless steels are created equal, which is why some knowledgeable manufacturers of marine hardware call type 316 stainless 'SCC resistant'. Secondly, it's also necessary to have tensile stresses present to cause SCC. The welds would provide that. Even with the wrong type of stainless steel and a weld, you'd still need a third thing for IGSCC - poor water chemistry, including the presence of chlorine.

A full penetration weld on a water tank would probably not crack on a boat that was at anchor or at the dock - unless the welds are creviced. A well-manufactured stainless steel water tank should have full penetration welds. But if the plates are butted together and welded only part of the way through, the result is a narrow crevice in the area where the plates are butted together. This crevice sets up the perfect water chemistry for IGSCC. So it's best not to butt the plates, but rather place the edges together and build up a weld in the v's.

It's easy to imagine that these four conditions are present all over a boat where there is stainless. As such, nuclear power has more in common with sailing then sparing the air. Now if we could just figure out that spent fuel problem.

On an entirely different subject, in June I was teaching a radar clinic aboard a 39-ft trawler in the Oakland Estuary with a student at the helm. To simulate maneuvering in fog, we were slowed to bear steerageway. I estimate our speed to have been between three and four knots. The six students and I were on the bridge watching all approaching traffic visually and on the ARPA function of the radar unit.

As we approached a regatta of dinghies racing eastbound in front of Jack London Square, we had to transit the far right or south side of the Estuary. We were forced close to the side by three other westbound trawlers maneuvering to the side of the channel that was to their port. Just before the four trawlers converged, a 20-something-foot walkaround overtaking us increased speed to make the gap ahead of us. The wake of this passing boat rocked us heavily. Immediately after the five boats converged and passed, the Alameda police boat pulled us over and wrote up a citation for unsafe powerboat speed (15 m.p.h.), although they told us it was actually for the large wake that they claimed we'd made. We'd only been doing three to four knots!

The cop reasoned that he knew we made the biggest wake because we were the biggest boat. But as any professional mariner knows, a displacement-hulled boat creates a wake as it approaches its hull speed, and the hull speed is roughly 1.3 times the square-root of the boat's waterline. In this case we were the boat with the highest hull speed but were going the slowest by a large margin, and we were being passed by a planing-hulled boat moving at just below her planing speed. Yet I got the ticket because we were the biggest boat.

If the Alameda police officer's theory held water, pun intended, container ships moving at five knots in the Estuary would kick up such big wakes that they would overflow the banks and wash away a few longshoremen.

But the real problem for me is that the citation I received is a code violation, not a moving violation. As such, the cops and the folks at the Alameda Traffic Court don't take it seriously because, as everyone I encountered stated, "It won't show up on your DMV record." (I guess it's just a way for them to pay for new police boats and, hopefully, someday, some training.) Unfortunately for me, a licensed master, such a code violation is a very big deal. I always take my position as ship's master very seriously. Whether I'm teaching a sailing or powerboating class, delivering a vessel or cruising, I have never violated a maritime law. I won't even throw an apple core into the Bay, and I always wear a PFD on deck while underway.

If this citation sticks, I will have to answer 'yes' to the question, "Have you ever been cited for unsafe boating?" when I renew my license. That will mean weeks of writing letters of explanation and waiting for an investigation and decision on my license renewal. My court date is in a couple of weeks and I will inform you about the outcome.

P.S. It's hard to imagine how dysfunctional our sailing community would be without your terrific magazine.

Cap'n Bry
Oakland Estuary


'Lectronic Latitude is my window to the tropical sea from a windowless basement office in the subarctic landlocked town of Fairbanks, Alaska. I love the pictures and stories. We used GPS religiously during my family's short cruise in Southern California and Mexico during the last years of the 20th century, and I love computers, GPS, digital maps, and charts. Your May 12 'Lectronic article on Nobeltec electronic navigation software made digital charting sound like the end-all cruising convenience. I agree - sort of.

Your readers should be aware of the pitfalls of electronic navigation with 19th century charts! Unless the Defense Mapping Agency, Mexico, or some private entity has issued updates, there are grave errors of longitude on many of the USDMA charts that were surveyed in the 19th century. At least that was the case based on my short cruising experience. I believe that these errors are propagated onto digital raster charts. There were up to two nautical mile differences in longitude between our GPS waypoints and our fixes derived from radar range, visual range, bearings, range marks, and soundings along the entire coast. The GPS was spot on correct, but the charts were simply drawn with 19th century technology! It's a problem of absolute versus relative locations. When cruising in coastal waters it is a good idea to use relative location methods; it's hard to tell the beach that it is not supposed to be there.

Digital chart and map technology is looking simpler to the user everyday, with lots of cool buttons and mouse clicks - and by gar, if it's digital, it must be right! Behind that ease and apparent authority are a set of calculations, assumptions, and 'and if' statements that send normal people rushing back to sextants and the Nautical Almanac. If you use digital charting, educate yourself, read the manual, learn about chart datums, geodetic models, and projections. Lastly, know the digital - or for that matter, paper - chart source and your GPS navigation settings. And make sure they correspond!

My word of advice for coastal cruisers: Always keep your eyes on the shoreline and sounder - or you will find that you are driving a wind-powered plow instead of sailing a boat.

Larry Freeman
Geologist and Geographic Database Manager
Formerly of Cirrus, Jeanneau 45
Fairbanks, Alaska

Larry - Many times we've reported that old charts aren't accurate, and that one's GPS and chart datum must be the same. But these things can't be said often enough, so thanks for the reminder - and the kind words.

By the way, when navigating along the shore, everyone needs at least three sets of eyes: one each for the shoreline, the sounder, and the radar.


Great article on Spaulding's Boat Yard. I bought Gladys Spaulding's old S&S sloop a few years ago and became acquainted with the yard's fine workers and its 'time warp' feel.

A huge electric gyro-crane yanks boats out of the water, then onto a cart and, after an eco-friendly bottom wash, it is pushed by whomever is available 'Trojan horse style' to an area for work.

Spaulding's is the only boatyard where I am consistently happy enough to leave a tip.

Jim Kennedy

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