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Thank you for your elaborate response to my letter in your September issue but it, while containing many valid points, took nothing away from the fact that this was not a matter of a large freighter being unable to avoid a sailboat because it lacked the technical ability to do so. Instead, the ship's actions amounted to a vicious threat with a deadly weapon, maritime terrorism, and hooliganism as shown by its ability to quickly and nimbly adjust its course a few degrees at the last moment, and the subsequent vulgar behavior of someone on the bridge.

By the way, your reply criticized my flipping off the other party without acknowledging that I did so in response to their gestures. While sailing, I have come across big ships in heavy fog on the Bay and noticed they chose to go extremely slowly, maybe three to five knots, with steerage apparently not much of a concern - and that conflicts with many of your arguments.  

You chose not to comment on my paragraph describing the freighter's interference with the Moet Cup racers last year, as witnessed in disgust by thousands of spectators. That example strongly supports my charge. Shortly after your publication of my letter, I was approached by a former helmsman of merchant marine ships who told me that his instructions were to always go straight and not to attempt to avoid small boaters because insurance companies feared that a  demonstration of the ship's maneuverability might increase their liability in case of accidents. In your October issue there was a letter of support by Louk Wijsen, clearly a fellow Dutchman - a breed given to questioning before accepting. Thanks, Louk!  

Your views received support from a variety of Dudley DoGoods - remember the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons? - who took to all kinds of name calling starting with your "dummy" and continuing with their "fucking moron," "brain dead," and more. A psychologist might have a field day researching why your supporters resort to such language and mine don't. It appears to me that all these not-so-gentle men suffer from that unfortunate human trait of easily being impressed by size rather than substance, and then revere it. Well, I don't go along with such slavish self-subjugation, and will continue to reject any infringement on my and others' natural rights, and those certainly include sailing the San Francisco Bay in peace without being threatened by big bully boats.  

Hank Bakker
Ada Rina

Hank - We've finally come around to see the wisdom of your refusing to go along with "slavish self-subjugation." To celebrate our having broken the chains of society and common sense, we're going to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge - in the extreme left hand lane! That's right, to hell with all the 'Stepford Drivers' who feel they have to drive in the right hand lanes just because of some law. People who don't like what we're doing can just get out of our way. And that's just for starters, because on our next 'Bakker Day', we're going to celebrate our "natural rights" by ignoring all the red lights in downtown San Francisco. Oh yeah, baby, we can't wait to drive - "in peace" - through the intersection of 6th and Market at 70 miles an hour no matter whether the light is red or green. After that, we expect thousands more people will come around to appreciate the wisdom of your philosophy.

In all seriousness Hank, in two letters you've managed to demonstrate an ignorance of the rules of the road, seemingly no understanding of why there might be a need for such rules, and a complete ignorance about the comparative maneuverability of ships and sailboats. Like the antics of the class clown in high school, such silliness might be momentarily entertaining, but it wears thin. The average Latitude reader is smart enough to see right through your bluster, arrogance and egocentricity, and to suspect that they might well be the classic symptoms of timidity and fear. So enough of such buffoonery. This is real life, not a cartoon show, and such irresponsible rumblings can put mariners, vessels and the environment in danger.

As for the Moet Cup incident you keep bringing up, remember that the rules of the road apply equally no matter if you're a weekend warrior on a Cal 25 or billionaires like Larry Ellison or Ernesto Bertarelli on IACC boats. All small boats have to keep clear of ships. You may recall that neither Ellison - who has never been afraid to speak his mind - nor Bertarelli made a stink about the incident. Could the pilot have taken the ship on a different course that would have kept him away from the racing boats? Like you, we don't have any idea, because we weren't on the bridge, and therefore didn't have the overall view of other boats or ships that might have affected the pilot's decision. In any event, it makes no difference why a pilot chooses the course he does, because you, as the operator of a small boat, have but one obligation, and that's to keep clear. Fortunately, it's very easy to do.


I'm writing to you after having read the Bullies On The Bay letter published in the September issue. I have spent the last 40 years working as a ferry boat captain on San Francisco Bay, and I have nothing but affection for sailors. In fact, I enjoy working on weekends when the Bay is full of boats.

My tenure on the Bay predates the creation of the VTS (Vessel Traffic System), and the creation of RNAs (Regulated Navigational Areas) or 'traffic lanes'. It predates January 1971, when the Oregon Standard and the Arizona Standard collided at the Golden Gate, spilling almost 1,000,000 gallons of oil that was carried into the Bay on a flood. I worked on that cleanup.

As near as I can make out, that collision between two ships took place very close to where Hank Bakker was sailing when he had his altercation with an inbound ship. I must say that I was stunned by the poisonous combination of arrogance, ignorance and anger in Bakker's letter. Latitude's response - including the input from Commander Pauline Cook up at Vessel Traffic Service and Bill Grieg of the Bar Pilots - was excellent.

I would also like to make a few observations. According to Bakker's letter, he was just west of the Golden Gate Bridge when he sailed into the situation that caused him so much distress. The chart shows that to be a Precautionary Area, and warns mariners to use "extreme caution when navigating within this area." I have no doubt that the inbound vessel and the aircraft carrier had made passing arrangements with each other over Channel 13, and had conveyed those arrangements to VTS over Channel 14. I assume that Bakker has a functioning VHF radio aboard his boat. If he's sailing in an area that requires exercising extreme caution and doesn't have such a radio, I would suggest that he's being a negligent sailor. If he did have a radio, a call to VTS on 14 would have gotten him the designation of the pilot of the ship he was "in close quarters" with. Such a call would have allowed them to work out passing arrangements in a seamanlike fashion.

For those who aren't aware of it, the Coast Pilot, in the section headed Vessel Traffic Service, San Francisco, "encourages" recreational traffic to "monitor VHF-FM Channel 13 for vessel movement information."

A word about ship speed. Commander Cook was right when she quoted the 15-knot maximum speed for ships. That pertains to vessels over 1,600 gross tons while navigating within the Regulated Navigation Areas. Often times I look out from my wheelhouse and am struck by the fact that I don't see a single big ship underway in the Central Bay - while at the same time I may see three or four high-speed ferries underway. These ferries are not confined to traffic lanes, and they can fly. The Golden Gate Bridge and Blue and Gold Fleet have ferries that travel at 36 knots, which means that they are doing nearly 40 knots when they have the current with them. In addition, there are 25 to 30-knot ferries running between the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the East Bay. Getting grouchy about big ships that travel at 15 knots and are confined to traffic lanes seems to be frivolous in a Bay full of high-speed ferries able to go pretty much where they want.

Reading Bakker's letter brought to mind a piece written by Mark Twain. It was part of a speech that he gave in Oxford, England, when he was being honored with an award. It is often referred to as The Begum of Bengal tale. Twain spoke as follows:

"Many and many a year ago, I read an anecdote in Dana's Two Years Before the Mast. A frivolous little self-important captain of a coasting sloop in the dried-apple and kitchen-furniture trade was always hailing every vessel that came in sight just to hear himself talk and air his small grandeurs. One day, a majestic Indiaman came ploughing by, with course on course of canvas towering into the sky, her decks and yards swarming with sailors, with macaws and monkeys, and all manner of strange and romantic creatures populating her rigging, and thereto her freightage of precious spices lading the breeze with gracious and mysterious odors of the Orient. Of course, the little coaster-captain hopped into the shrouds and squeaked a hail: 'Ship ahoy! What ship is that, and whence and whither?' In a deep and thunderous bass came the answer back, through a speaking-trumpet: 'The Begum of Bengal, 123 days out from Canton - homeward bound! What ship is that?' The little captain's vanity was all crushed out of him, and most humbly he squeaked back: 'Only the Mary Ann, 14 hours out from Boston, bound for Kittery Point with nothing to speak of!'"

Captain Russ Hoburg
Mill Valley


Latitude's response to the diatribe by Hank Bakker regarding large vessel movement on the Bay was right on the money.

I worked aboard large cargo ships for close to 40 years. Even before the implementation of VTS (Vessel Traffic System) and Rule 9 (a vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway), the conventional understanding in tight situations had always been that large and relatively unmaneuverable ships would maintain both course and speed to permit small craft in the vicinity to accurately project their positions and maneuver accordingly. To have both parties making speed and course changes significantly increases the risk of collision. Rule 9 is nothing more than a codification of common sense, real-world rules that have been observed by large vessels and small craft for centuries.

Further, Bakker's romantic notion that deep-draft ships can stand on their heads to avoid some small craft in meeting and crossing situations is just so much nonsense.

The good news is that Bakker's behavior and attitude represents the rare exception to the exemplary behavior of small craft sailors on the Bay. The bulk of Bay sailors are cautious, competent, and courteous. They may not realize it, but they have deservedly earned both the respect and affection of the navigators on the big ships, many of whom look forward to messing around in small boats themselves.

Bruce Wachtell
Stinson Beach


I read the Bullies letter and your editorial response with interest. As a bar pilot for 28 years, all I can say is that if I go to maneuver my 850-ft ship - average size these days - to avoid the likes of Mr. Bakker, who is in violation of Rule 9, I may wind up killing someone else who is obeying the rules of the road. No matter what Bakker may think, those of us in charge of ships can't be changing course every time a small boat gets in front of us. If we did, we'd eventually run aground, hit another boat, or worse.

Bakker suggests we should slow down. If we do that, we'd lose steerage and be out of control. I've experienced this many times, especially when on loaded tankers trying to attach our escort tugs.

Thank you, Latitude, for your positive message to your readers. We pilots do not want any trouble. We don't want to be a party to anything except safety. By staying clear of ships in the Bay, men and women on small boats will be doing themselves, their passengers, and their boats a big favor.

Captain Paul Lobo
San Francisco Bar Pilot


I am so glad that others have written to voice their complaints over the new, supposedly environmentally friendly, but actually dangerous fuel spouts. I thought it was just me.

I purchased four of two types of CARB jugs. The kind I got at ACE Hardware for home use has a spout that requires two hands, will not discharge into an EPA auto fuel tank, and splashes all over a hot generator and other parts. The marine variety has never not splashed fuel on my clothes, glasses or eyes, always winds up with a spill into the water, will break the chain or retainer on a gas cap ($45!), and will leak into the boat. It is also very sensitive to altitude pressure differences. I have had one of the 'marine store' version spouts fail, and discharge fuel all over the place.

I can't believe these were tested in real-world conditions.

So we've recognized the problem. I wonder what we can do as a solution? We can buy some old ones at garage sales or out-of-state, but what about the very real danger of those out there?

Rick Dinon
Attitude Adjustment 2
Marina del Rey

Rick - If they are as dangerous as you say - and we don't doubt it - something should be done about it.

If other readers have had a problem with the spouts, or have had them splash fuel on hot engine parts that could potentially cause a serious problem, please email Richard, and we'll try to put together a database and do something about it. It sure would be stupid for somebody to be seriously injured or killed from inaction on the matter.


I remember that six or seven years ago I read an article in Latitude on a ritual service where one could 'decommission' and 'unbless' a 'blessed' yacht so that it could be properly blessed under a new name. This means a lot to a person who has just acquired an almost-new yacht, but, because she's located in Florida, needs all the help she can get from above to keep from being destroyed.

My wife watched hysterically as I tore through a mountain of past issues on a mission to find the brief article on 'unblessing' a yacht. But my efforts were to no avail. So I'm asking - actually begging - for you folks to resurrect the article and email it to me for use on a dear friend's new yacht.

B. Steve Neumann
Houston, Texas

B. Steve - You can find our article on Denaming Ceremonies at, under the Features heading. But before you go to the trouble of downloading it, we're going to reveal to you the secret of all rituals. The critical thing is that as long as you include the three essentials - women, music and alcohol - it doesn't matter what the heck kind of hocus-pocus you put on, you just have to do it with a lot of conviction and passion. Don't forget to show us some photos of the ceremony.


Here's the latest on Puerto Escondido, Baja, where Fonatur, the Mexican government tourist development agency, put mooring balls in the entire inner harbor earlier this year. For those who don't know, Puerto Escondido has been the classic mid-Baja hangout and hurricane hole for as long as people have been cruising in Mexico.

Fonatur - or their licensee - didn't start charging once the balls were in, and told us they wouldn't start charging for them until they had more amenities to offer - such as free water, showers and so forth.

But in late September the word suddenly came down that they'd be charging for use of the mooring balls - as well as for anchoring anywhere in Puerto Escondido! - starting on October 1. The big problem was the cost. For a 40- to 50-ft boat they want about $24/day, $100 a week, or $280 a month! This for an anchorage that has been free forever and has no services at all. In addition, they wanted everyone to sign a five-page contract written in Spanish!

The cruisers and Hidden Port YC screamed bloody murder, as this is much more expensive than anywhere else in Mexico for a mooring. So on the Friday before October 1, pretty much all the occupied boats moved out to either the Waiting Room, which is just outside Puerto Escondido, or nearby anchorages.

So far none of the cruisers have signed a contract. Angus, Commodore of the Hidden Harbor YC, and Elvin have had several meetings with the local rep, and so far have gotten a 20% reduction for just the first three months if you sign up for three months. Angus and Elvin responded that the reduction wasn't enough and that it needs to be permanent. They keep telling the rep that he won't get any business at those prices, and the other cruisers agree.

I feel bad for the local businesses that have served the cruisers at Puerto Escondido, such as Willie's, API and the store at Tripui trailerpark. The fire at Tripui drove their businesses into the ground, but this is the death blow. Willie's has not been doing well since Loreto Fest, as there is almost no stock. There are no fresh veggies, often no meat or Coke, frequently no beer and limited wine. And lots of cruisers have complained they aren't using soap when they do the laundry. Most of the cruisers want to support Willie, but more and more they've been going to the store at Tripui because they can actually get what they need there. Driftwood, of course, closed for the summer again.

At this point, nothing is known about what will really happen at Puerto Escondido. We're up at Isla Coronados right now, and plan to head back to La Paz in about two weeks, taking it slow. We hope to head down to Zihua around November 1, then continue on to Central America.

Carolyn & Dave Shearlock
Que Tal
Sea of Cortez

Readers - As with the 'Nautical Stairway', Fonatur has once again proved themselves to be absolutely clueless about the cruising market. We doubt that many people will pay these rates.

As if charging in Puerto Escondido itself wasn't bad enough, now API, the Mexican port authority, has announced they will start charging boats in the nearby Waiting Room anchorage. The charge will be by the ton. According to the Web site,, the rates will be as follows: 0 to 20 tons = days x 9.71 pesos (8.83 + 10% I.V.A.). Over 20 tons = days x .76 centavos x tons + 10 % I.V.A. Everybody must present documentation papers showing their boat's tonnage.

If Fonatur and API wanted to shoot the 'golden goose' that is the cruiser market, they couldn't have done a better job.


I just read the article in 'Lectronic Latitude about the new charges Fonatur is trying to make stick in Puerto Escondido, Baja. What a disastrous policy!

However, the real disaster may well be the moorings themselves. While in Puerto Escondido not too long ago, I stumbled across the area where the moorings were being assembled. I was very interested in their construction, having ridden out hurricane Marty on my boat in Puerto Escondido. Since the moorings were neatly laid out on the ground, they were easy to inspect, and I looked at them from the perspective of a cruiser and prospective user, but also from the perspective of someone who has managed and maintained a big marina for many years.

The cement blocks looked fine.

The chain concerned me, however, because it had absolutely no identifying or certifying marks. There are many different grades of chains used in marine, construction, and other industries. But almost all chain acceptable for use on moorings would have had markings.

For sake of argument, let's assume that the anonymous chain is excellent. The next thing I inspected were the shackles, which carried a 'Made in Canada' label and specified a Working Load Limit of 3,000 pounds. This is an appropriate standard - at least in normal wind conditions. The ABYC's (American Boat And Yacht Council) admittedly very conservatively calculated anchoring loads for a boat such as my Hunter 33 Casual Water, which has a 10-ft beam, would consider these shackles appropriate for her in about 55 knots of wind. We had at least that much in Marty. Of course, 3,000 WLL might not be enough for a 40-ft or larger boat, or in hurricane conditions. And I can assure you that many boats have been left in Puerto Escondido for hurricane season.

But concerns about the chain and shackles paled when it came to the swivels. I can't remember where they were made, but they were stamped with a WLL limit of just 1,000 pounds! That would be good enough for Casual Water in 35 knots of wind, but no more.

As I said, the ABYC calculates very conservatively. And, yes, WLLs are usually about a quarter of breaking strength - assuming the piece of gear is in good, non-corroded condition. But an anchoring or mooring system is no stronger than its weakest link, and apart from the anonymous chain, those swivels are an accident waiting to happen. Just think, there's a big Norther, or a tropical storm, or even a hurricane, and there are boats bigger than Casual Water, more heavily laden, and with more windage, on these moorings. I don't know if it would add up to a safe 'hurricane hole' - particularly since most boats that are likely to use those moorings will be unattended ones left in hoped-for safety for hurricane season. Had these moorings been in use during Marty, it might have been a bit chaotic.

I raised my concerns with the API (Mexico Port Authority) employee who was working that day at their Puerto Escondido office that day. He agreed that things did not add up. If I were back at Puerto Escondido now, I would love to dive on one of those moorings to see if anything changed. I would be delighted - but seriously surprised - if they have.

On the other hand, at the very high prices that Fonatur wants to charge, maybe the only thing those moorings will have to secure are their floats on the surface, as all the cruising boats would no doubt be more economically stored on the hard in San Carlos or La Paz, or even more economically anchored in Bahia Conception or Bahia de Los Angeles.

Latitude hit the nail directly on the head with your comment about Fonatur being "out of touch" with marine tourism. Since neither they nor the API are staffed by boaters, I would guess they have never spent much time thinking about anchoring and mooring loads either.

I have always felt that Puerto Escondido's success rests entirely on being itself - an inexpensive place for cruisers to hang out, base themselves, or keep boats. It is a wonderful place and a wonderful community, and I have spent a lot of happy days there over the years. But any visionary notions of making Puerto Escondido into another Avalon, or even a Palm Springs, are doomed, as it is just too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter for normal vacationers. It's hard to get to as well. But it's just great for the role it has had for the last few decades - no more and no less.

I am reminded of the discussion I had about 12 years ago when I visited the golf course on the road between Puerto Escondido and Loreto. The course was built with high hopes and at great expense. At the time, only about six of the lots that lined its fairways had been sold, and I was interested to find out what they were going for. When I was stunned to hear that the asking price for a modest lot was over $100,000 U.S. - this was back in '92 - I was told "that's what they get for them in Palm Springs." That explains the problem.

Tim Schaaf
Casual Water, Hunter 33, Mexico
Jet Stream, Moorings 4500, Maryland

Tim - We don't know how good or bad the moorings in Puerto Escondido might be, but we think your analysis of Puerto Escondido in your second to last paragraph is right on the money. It's perfect as a cruiser base and storage area for boats, but it's never going to attract big-buck tourists - and they've been trying for 25 years.


It was nice to have Lach and Becky McGuigan of the Seattle-based C&C Landfall 48 Xephyr write about us in the September edition of Changes. Sorry we haven't written any long articles ourselves in all the years we've been out cruising, but what can I say, we're just too lazy. Besides, about all I know is that our 1959 Lapworth 40 Contenta is one of the few woodies out here with a varnished mast, a naked varnisher, and a Graymarine gas engine. Anyway, we've been mountain-biking and doing a little sailing around New Caledonia for the last three months, and have been loving it. It's fairly cool here, but it's actually a nice change from the tropics. Wait a second, Bitchie, who is Canadian, wants to get her two cents in.

This is Bitchie, and I want to clarify something that was written in the Changes from Xephyr. The way it read, I wanted to meet Becky after I saw her picking her nose. That's not true at all! What happened was that she and Lach were across from us at the Port Moselle Marina, and walking in a group with some port officials. Becky was behind the group when I saw her put one finger to the side of her nose and blow a great snot wad into the water. I figured that any woman like that could be a friend of mine!

Butchie & Bitchie, aka Chuck Levdar & Vicky Oswald
Contenta, Lapworth 40
Sausalito / South Pacific

Bitchie - Thank you for that graphic correction. It is, after all, an important distinction.


We sailed out of Coos Bay, Oregon, on our way south to Mexico, and plan to sail to the islands of the South Pacific next spring. We've found ourselves here in the San Francisco Bay area for a few weeks to have the watermaker installed, to pick up new sails, and to have electronics for SailMail installed.

The biggest problems we had - and this is where your knowledge might be of use to those coming behind us - were with the simple things. Where is there a grocery store near a marina? Where do you get laundry done? Where do you buy propane? We've found all of these things to be nearly impossible for somebody just passing through. This morning I had to pay $15 dollars to have two one-gallon tanks of propane filled in Alameda. That's outrageous!

Maybe there is someway you can publish a small section around this time of year next year, geared to those passing through, listing marinas that are close to shopping areas - remember, we're hoofing it - and businesses geared to cruisers. You get the idea.

R & R
Coos Bay, Oregon

R & R - We're sorry you had such a disappointing experience. For cruisers visiting San Francisco Bay on their way south, the classic stop has always been the free anchorage in Richardson Bay off Sausalito. In the fall it's often quite lovely out there, and there are many other cruising boats with which to split rent-a-cars for runs to distant discount stores. You can land your dinghy at Galilee Yacht Harbor at the foot of Napa Street, or at Schoonmaker Marina, which is right next to it, both of which aren't far from the coin laundromat next to 7/11. You can also tie up your dinghy at the Clipper Yacht Harbor Chevron dock, where, after paying $2.50/gallon for propane, you can make the short walk to West Marine and many other marine businesses. It's also just a short distance further to Mollie Stone's, a very nice, but not inexpensive, grocery store.

All this information and much more - locations and phone numbers of banks, laundries, marine engine repair places, boat-yards, et al. - is available in the free, four-color Sausalito Maritime Map, "Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Sausalito By Boat," which Latitude helped the nonprofit Richardson Bay Maritime Association publish earlier this year. Visit to find out how to get one.

Other popular stops for cruisers are Richmond and both sides of the Oakland Estuary. Within a short distance by foot or dinghy, you should be able to find just about anything you need. In addition, the staffs at most marinas are very helpful in trying to help you locate stores and services, and more than a few have given lots of rides to visiting cruisers.

We wish you would have been a little more specific on where you had problems so we could have provided more specific answers. Nonetheless, we like your suggestion. In May next year we'll do an article on where cruisers should stop for the greatest conveniences, not only in San Francisco Bay, but at all the major stops to San Diego. Lord knows, by now we know most of them by heart.


I'm writing in response to the September issue Letter by Brett Hales titled My Granddaughter Now Wants A Tug. I want Hales to know that his letter is pure slander, and makes a deep dig at one of the finest and most esteemed marine towing companies on the West Coast. I personally know of no one at Foss who would "flip you off." Their professionalism exceeds all others by an exponential factor.

All Foss vessels have their name visibly displayed behind the wheelhouse and on the quarters. Similarly, Foss Maritime's telephone number is readily available in the phone book and all commercial tide books. It would have been far more professional of you to have made a simple phone call and report the incident - if it actually did occur - so it could be addressed. Instead, you group the company in with, I quote, "larger boats, including commercial vessels, passing through the 'no wake' zone at incredibly high speeds" - when, in fact, the company you attack rarely operates in the area you refer to. 

Tugs are extremely powerful vessels. Due to their design, they don't go fast, but they throw large wakes. Tugs need to transit the Bay at a reasonable rate. Dealing with these wakes in open water is part of boating on San Francisco Bay. There are numerous sources of wakes - tugs, ferries, ships, the late Rodney Dangerfield's yacht, and so forth. If you and/or your boat cannot handle these wakes, maybe you should think twice about going on the Bay.

Capt. Mike Peery

Capt. Mike - Let us preface our editorial response by assuring you that Hales did not slander anyone, for slander is when you defame someone's character with the spoken word. When you defame somebody's character in writing, it's libel. Even so, as long as Hales was telling the truth - which we have no reason to doubt - he has an ironclad defense.

Your confidence in the Foss organization and skippers is commendable, and we've never had a problem with any of their tugs, but honestly, you have no way of knowing whether one of their skippers might have flipped somebody off in a moment of anger.

It's also important to keep Hales' comments about Foss in perspective. His was a letter from a grandfather enjoying a day on the water with his granddaughter. He wanted to share the fact that his granddaugther had had so much fun waving to the tug operators that she, a little girl, uncharacteristically wanted a tug. That's cute. His comment about the Foss operator who allegedly flipped him off was an offhand remark, hardly the main point.

Frankly, we were quite impressed by the response of Foss Maritime's manager Tim Engle. As soon as he learned of the letter, he contacted us in order to reach Hales to find out more about the incident. If that isn't doing the right thing, we don't know what is.

But the thing that disturbs us most about your letter is that you, presumably a licensed captain, have the wake issue all backwards. Under the law, the skipper of any vessel - except perhaps military vessels - is responsible for any injury or damage caused by the wake of the vessel they are commanding. The priority under the law is as it should be; safety first, speed second.


I am writing in response to a July issue letter regarding getting insurance for older trimarans. We own a 1976 Cross 46 trimaran that we had no trouble getting insurance for. In fact, three different carriers were willing to insure her. I think the biggest factor in getting insurance on any vessel is her condition. If somebody is looking to insure one of the backyard-built trimarans of the late '60s that were constructed of plywood and nails, most of them are ready to fall apart, so there is good reason why nobody wants to insure them.

I know about these trimarans because I looked at many of them before settling on Moxie (ex-Pelican). Moxie was 'homebuilt' by a Boeing engineer in Renton, Washington, in the mid-'70s, but he had help. And as surveyor Erik Bentzen of Seattle noted in his survey, a thousandth of an inch tolerance was too much for this builder. Bentzen said she's one of the best boats he's ever looked at.

Moxie was built using the double-diagonal marine ply/epoxy method, with rounded hulls, and shows her pride in construction. Except for a few small cosmetic dings, she doesn't show her age at all. I have seen a few other tri's of this age - the Nicol 47 Cherokee in Hawaii, for example - that also show well and wouldn't have a problem getting insured. A well-built boat is a well-built boat - no matter how many hulls she has. That's what the insurance companies I've dealt with are looking for.

Even though we live in Santa Barbara, we keep Moxie at Ventura Isle Marina. There was a snowball's chance in hell of us getting a slip in our hometown, so we have to make the 45-minute drive to Ventura while getting our tri ready to go cruising. We plan on turning left out of Ventura in mid-January, then sometime around the end of March or early April leave from Guatemala or Costa Rica for the Galapagos, Easter Island, and then back up to the Marquesas and beyond. We plan to keep Latitude updated on our progress. People can follow us at

I wanted to rechristen our tri from Pelican to Dawntreader - from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia - but when we first boarded her there was this strange feeling of a trapped soul onboard. I knew something wasn't right. It was then that I saw three different plaques/engravings with the name Moxie. When I asked the owner about them, he explained that Moxie had been her name when she first circumnavigated during the late '80s and early '90s. So I knew in a moment that she was going back to her true persona so she could once more proudly sail the world's oceans.

Dale Creek
Moxie, Cross 46 MkII Mod B
Santa Barbara


I just read the article in Latitude about the loss of my boat and want to make a few corrections. Water Witch, which was her original name, was a sloop rather than a ketch and was 44 feet long. She was designed by Phillip Rhodes for a Mr. Semour, and built by Martin Bros. in Mentor, Ohio, on the Great Lakes in 1950. She was a one-off and had a raised deck with a bronze centerboard.

I had spent a lot of time trying to find out her history, which old wood boats seem to have, without much success. Then four guys dressed in suits appeared at the yard in Port Townsend one Saturday looking at boats. They walked over to where I was working on the Witch and struck up a conversation. I told them where the boat had been built and by whom, and much to my surprise one of the guys said Mentor is where they were from also. I figured they were pulling my leg and said so. But he pulled out a Mentor Ohio Yacht Club card to prove the story. In turns out they were in Port Townsend for a wedding and were killing time by checking out the yards. Later, I received some info on the boat from them, so you never know.

In closing, I want to say that I'm not looking for any handout, but I am looking for work. I'm a graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Townsend, Class of 1985, and have been working in this trade ever since. I can do fine interior joinery to framing and planking, and am also a refrigeration mechanic, rigger and do most everything a boat would need. If someone out there needs this kind of expertise, my rates are quite reasonable.

At the moment, I'm working on the old brigantine Rendezvous at Moss Landing. This is the little ship that I believe you wrote about a few issues back, as she had chartered on the Bay for many years. Anyway, I'm putting in a bunch of planks. I can be reached at (831) 449-2974.

Doug Tiffany
Port Townsend, Washington


I just read the October 11 edition of 'Lectronic Latitude, in which you featured a letter and some photos from Capt. Patrick Freeburger in Iraq. I'm speechless. I can't even imagine the sacrifices he and his family are making, but the idea that he has to sell his Freedom 38 because he's serving in Iraq just makes me cry. I'm personally against the war, so I'm already tremendously sympathetic, but this transcends politics. Is there anything we can do to help this guy? Please let me know, as I would at least like to send him a message of encouragement.

Stephanie Lucas

Stephanie - You can email Freeburger. We asked him what we could do for him, but haven't heard back as of presstime. But we at Latitude would be happy to pop for a month or two of Patrick's berthing bill.


Any idea what the term "weather the lizard" - as often seen in the Horatio Hornblower series - means? My girlfriend wants to know.

Ken Stuber
Sand Dollar, Bristol 32 Ketch
Hidden Harbor Marina, Rio Vista

Ken - According to no less a personage than Richard Henry Dana, a "lizard" is: "A piece of rope, sometimes with two legs, and one or more iron thimbles spliced into it. It is used for various purposes. One with two legs, and a thimble to each, is often made fast to the topsail tye, for the buntlines to reeve through. A single one is sometimes used on the swinging-boom topping-lift."

According to another source, a lizard is "a bight of a small line pointed on a large one."

Since a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, we're going to fess up and admit we don't really know what the heck "weather the lizard" means. Can someone more knowledgeable help?


As a favor for an old salt in the very autumn of his years, I'm trying to find the current owner and location of the Formosa 51 Wanderer that was used in the 1992 film Captain Ron. Can you direct me or provide suggestions on how I might begin the search?

Although I can't do it yet myself, I'll be in San Diego to see the Ha-Ha fleet off for Mexico.

Joel D. Ross
San Diego

Joel - If you read the August Letters, you'd know that Captain Ron's boat was a Formosa 48 rather than a Formosa 51 - although we're not sure there is a difference. They had some funny tapemeasurers over in Taiwan. If you read the letter, you'd also know that she's currently in Central America. Alas, we don't know the owner's name or a way to contact him.


While enjoying an ice-cold afternoon brew in the beautiful open-air, palapa-style bar at Marina Puesta del Sol in Nicaragua, the subject of mosquitos and no-see-ums came up - again. It's not unusual that we, like all the other cruisers, have gotten a bite or two at many of the places we've visited on the Pacific side of North and Central America - especially when we neglected to apply mosquito repellant. What we'd like to know is how to determine whether a bite is from a mosquito or from a no-see-um.

We've watched different-sized mosquitos settle in to bite, and are often amazed at how small and quiet some of them can be. Bites always become itchy, but the visible reaction on the skin varies. Usually a bite leaves a small pinkish bump that gets redder as it's rubbed absent-mindedly. But sometimes a large red welt will form, especially if the bite is on skin that doesn't often see the sun. The bumps, welts, and itching from the bites disappear shortly after the application of cortisone cream and/or a Benadryl pill. But some bites will leave bright red spots under the skin that will last for more than a week.

Our guess is that there are different kinds of mosquitos that leave different kinds of evidence of their work. We've never seen a no-see-um, which comes as no surprise, so we can't be sure whether we've ever been bitten by one. Many of the cruisers we've met swear that no-see-ums are common - even though they've never seen them either. And most of them swear they've been bitten by a no-see-um.

We've heard many different stories from these friends, but most agree that no-see-um bites are impossible to feel, but some say that victims will first become aware of them two days afterwards because a great many small, itchy bumps will appear. Others say that the day after a bite, you will discover each unfelt bite has become a small, itchy, pimple-like bump, complete with a white spot in the middle. And there are those who report that there is instant pain from a no-see-um bite, as if a hot needle were poked into the skin. An itchy bump forms soon thereafter. Those folks are generally adamant about the instant pain. And yet there are others who say that the no-see-um bites can't be differentiated from mosquito bites.

So, what does a no-see-um bite look and feel like - or might there be quite a bit of variation - as we believe there might be with mosquito bites?

Jim & Pam McEntyre
San Pedro

Jim and Pam - The short answer is that there is no real difference between a mosquito and no-see-um bite, and that in any event what bothers you is not the bite, but your body's reaction to the little buggers' saliva.

Since you're obviously into this subject, we'll go into a little more detail. There are over 2,500 different kinds of mosquitos. In all cases, the males live off of nectar, while the females bite mammals because they need the protein from blood in order for their eggs to mature. The females 'bite' by sticking their proboscis, which has a tiny blade-like mouth, into the mammal's skin. They then inject some anticoagulants into the blood to make it easier to suck out. If not disturbed, they'll keep sucking until their abdomen is full of blood. After the female has finished her meal, some of her anticoagulant saliva remains in the wound, which is what evokes the immune response in humans. The area swells - the bump around the bite area is called a wheal - and you itch because of the saliva. Even after the swelling goes away, the itch remains until your immune cells break down the proteins in the saliva.

Mosquitos pass malaria, yellow fever (in Africa), several forms of encephalitis such as West Nile Virus, and dengue fever. So you want to avoid being bitten. Female mosquitos have the chemical, heat, and visual sensors to find their prey. The best way to 'hide' from them is by applying DEET, which screws up their sensors. It also helps to be in darker rather than lighter areas and, believe it or not, by not dressing like a plant. It goes without saying that it helps to keep as much of your skin covered as possible.

'No-see-ums' resemble mosquitos - except they have stouter bodies, a shorter proboscis, short legs, and shorter and more hairy wings. No-see-ums are also known as Biting Midges, Punkies, or Sand Flies. As they are only 1/10th to 1/25th of an inch long, they are hard to see and small enough to pass through most screens. As with mosquitos, only the females bite, and only to get blood to feed their eggs. The tiny mouths of the females slice the human skin, and their saliva keeps the blood from clotting until they've finished with their meal. The welts and lesions caused by the immune system's reaction can last for days. To a greater extent than mosquitos, no-see-ums fly into peoples' eyes, ears, and mouth - which isn't that pleasant. If threatened, no-see-ums will bite in defense!

The only good thing about no-see-ums is that they are an important source of food for freshwater fish. On the very bad side, in certain areas, such as Mexico, Central America, and other tropical areas, they can transmit leishmaniasis - which, if left untreated, can cause scars and ultimately death through kidney failure. Latitude readers might remember that both Rob and Mary Messenger of Maude I. Jones got leishmaniasis while in Costa Rica, and the shots they had to get to cure it were nasty. Many U.S. doctors aren't trained to diagnose this disease, so if you have the symptoms - a skin sore or sores that develop weeks or months after transmission, particularly ones that leave scars, even severely disfiguring scars - get checked for leishmaniasis. It can be treated if caught in time, but left unchecked, it can and does kill.

Geez, after nearly 30 years of sailing in the tropics without a care, we're freaking ourselves out.


As a sailor, rower, and occasional swimmer, I read with interest the letter entitled Bullies On The Bay, in which a sailor took offense with the pilots and captains of big ships. My letter addresses what I consider to be another kind of bully - inconsiderate and incompetent sailors who endanger rowers and swimmers.

On the Sunday afternoon of September 5, I was rowing on the Bay. I was aboard a wooden rowboat out of San Francisco's Aquatic Park. It was much later in the day than I normally row, but I went out anyway because the conditions appeared to be similar to those I would encounter in a regatta I was training for.

Anyway, it was about 2 p.m. and I was heading east from Aquatic Park, going parallel to the shore about 450 feet away from the city piers. I was about 100-150 feet offshore from Pier 35, making a gentle turn and periodically looking behind me - when I suddenly saw a large form directly behind me! (When rowing, you face astern.) I tried to see what the form was when - WHAM! - an Islander 36 under power slammed into me and had me trapped under his bow.

There was nobody on deck! After a moment of my yelling, a head appeared in the cockpit, and I told him to help get me off his bow. Rather than making an effort to help, ease off the throttle, or change course, he asked, "What are you doing here?" When I told him there were often rowboats and kayaks on the Bay, he repeated his question: "What are you doing here?" I told him to help me get off his bow, and that furthermore, since I was not under power, I had the right of way. He didn't seem to grasp the problem. Eventually, he apologized. He said the boat had been under autopilot, and since the autopilot showed no land masses in his way, he wasn't at the helm.

I think the guy was a wingnut for being close to shore on Labor Day Weekend with nobody at the helm, acting as though he were well offshore. Even after apologizing, he seemed to suggest that I was at fault, saying "you're more maneuverable." I once again pointed out that he was under power, and because of that, he was, in fact, more maneuverable. His female companion was concerned and apologetic.

I tried to get the boat's CF number, but it was not displayed - and believe me, since it was the bow of the Islander 36 that hit me, I had an excellent view of where the CF number should have been. I didn't see a sail number, but I caught the name and the hailing port of Sausalito.

I don't know if my rowboat got damaged in the impact, but I was relieved that my oar involved in the impact wasn't trashed. My boat took on some water, but it may have been due to the impact. I found some hairline cracks, and will have to see whether my boat is leaking.

In any event, I had to row back to shore with a tweaked shoulder and upper arm, and then had to play a gig - I'm a musician - with my arm not working right. My elbow is still sore from the impact. When I last saw the Islander 36, she was moving a lot more slowly and someone, thankfully, was at the helm.

In a related issue, in recent months I have repeatedly seen boats under full sail going into San Francisco's Aquatic Park, and tacking in areas that are clearly marked as swim zones and are regularly used as such. Please, folks, the potential for serious injury is huge, and swimmers can't move out of your way. When at speed, your chance of spotting swimmers in the water is poor.

I'm not anti-sailor. In fact, I love to sail and have a part interest in an Islander Bahama 24. But I'm seeing a lot of Bay sailors endangering the lives of others, and have now been directly endangered by one of them myself.

Kurt Ribak
Rowboat and Islander Bahama 24

Kurt - Let us clarify two things in preface of our main remarks. First, we deleted the name of the Islander 36 because we've not been able to contact the skipper for his side of the story. There's almost always some at-least-slightly-different side to a story. Second, it's possible that you didn't see a CF number because the Islander 36 might be a documented vessel and not need CF numbers.

As for a rowboat on the Bay being hit by a sailboat under power or sail, that just shouldn't happen, and the onus is on the sailboat to keep it from happening. Vessels need to have someone on watch to prevent such accidents. But having said that, we think you're almost as big "a wingnut" for allowing such a collision to happen. After all, an Islander 36 can't motor at much more than 7 knots, and you were 450 feet offshore. How could you not have seen her approaching? And just because you're facing backwards is no excuse. Take responsibility for your own life by being aware of your surroundings.

We'd like to reaffirm that we enjoy seeing everyone - swimmers, rowers, kayakers, kitesailors and boardsailors, surfers, fishermen and fisherwomen, sailors, powerboaters - enjoying the Bay. We believe that by following the rules and showing common courtesy, there's plenty of room for everyone.

As for the situation in Aquatic Park, we spoke with Jason Rucker, who runs the small boat-building program there. He says the rules are a little unclear, but the way it's enforced is that powerboats are not allowed in Aquatic Park, but sailboats using their auxiliary engines are. Anyone can anchor for 24 hours, and by asking at the park office can perhaps get an extension. Finding a secure place to land a dinghy is always a problem. Rucker says sailors shouldn't use the mooring buoys because most of them are for 12-ft Pelicans and the like.

The major safety issue in Aquatic Park is between the swimmers and sailboats. Rucker says that at almost any hour of the day there is some serious swimmer - people who train for the English Channel and such - doing their thing. They may or may not be inside the buoyed area. For the sake of courtesy and safety, it's incumbent upon sailors to use extreme caution when entering or manuevering in Aquatic Park. Have someone on the bow watching for swimmers, and stay as far away from them as possible, as they are in a very vulnerable position. If they look up, wave or something to let them know that you are aware of them. We're back into swimming a mile a day, and can report that most swimmers view their workout as an almost meditative experience. So please, do your best not to disturb them.


Because of Rob Moore's fine article on the Big Boat Series in the October Latitude, your readers may be aware that there was controversy over how the SC52 class was scored in this year's Big Boat Series. Specifically, my team and I on Winnetou were concerned because the St. Francis YC had used a version of Americap scoring that is no longer endorsed by US Sailing for racing in tidal areas.

I would like Latitude readers to know that I was very impressed with the way the St. Francis YC responded to the concerns that my crew and I had about their scoring. I feel that the St. Francis responded to our concerns in a non-defensive and Corinthian fashion. I believe, too, that the St. Francis has taken the appropriate steps to prevent scoring problems like this in the future. They did a fine job running the Big Boat Series this year, and are clearly striving to continuously improve their regatta. I commend them.

Please know that we've dropped our protest regarding the scoring of the SC52 class.

Let me again congratulate Tom Sanborn and his team on City Lights on their victory in class. Well sailed, Tom!

I'm confident that the Big Boat Series will be better than ever next year. Winnetou will be back.

Martin W. Brauns
Winnetou, SC52
Los Altos Hills

Martin - What a delight this isn't Chicago and the matter isn't ending up in court. We'd like to commend you for taking the high road - and because of it remind our readers that you won the SC52 class in the previous two years, and that you crushed the entire fleet in this year's West Marine Pacific Cup.

So congratulations to Tom, and congratulations Martin. May the SC52 class thrive.


Those who read the comments by Stan Honey in last month's Latitude 38 article on the Rolex St. Francis YC Big Boat Series may be aware that certain questions were raised by the yacht Winnetou and others around the scoring and final standings of the Santa Cruz 52 class.

We've done a thorough review of the scoring and have found that indeed there may have been some miscommunication between the Class, US Sailing and the St. Francis YC regarding how to apply a new version of the Americap handicap system. However, all parties concerned have agreed that the results of the SC 2 class in the 2004 Rolex Big Boat Series shall stand.

We regret any frustration that our scoring of the SC52 class may have caused to race participants.

Norman Davant
Regatta Developer
St. Francis YC, San Francisco


I'm writing about the crew overboard item that appeared in the September Sightings. I thought it was thorough and thoughtful in description of the situation and analysis of lessons learned. As a local Lifesling instructor, I have a couple thoughts to add to it.

The red hat. In a similar incident up here several years ago, the individual was wearing a red hat, and this was pointed out as a critical aid as well. Maybe West Marine should produce a special line of red hats for foredeck crew. Many foulies also have brightly-colored hoods - mine is neon yellow - which I would think would serve the same purpose. But I also think that when someone goes overboard, an MOB pole (if available), horseshoe, and so forth should also always be immediately deployed, and one crew be designated to keep their eyes on the MOB no matter what. In the open ocean, a boat will quickly move away from the MOB, and one can easily lose one's bearings.

Clothes retain water. The designers of the Lifesling planned for this, and the procedure calls for a hoisting tackle rigged from the main halyard. The tackle is not usually included with the Lifesling, and should be sized to the boat and crew. In my experience, a four-part tackle with 100 feet of line is a good package for most midsize boats that are crewed by people in reasonable shape. Larger tackles and longer line may be needed for less strong crew and/or larger boats with more freeboard. This tackle should not be stored with the Lifesling, as it could get tossed overboard with the sling and line. But, it should be easily at hand from the cockpit in a known place, possibly in a bag.

I would not lighten up on your clothing for the remote possibility that you might go swimming. Hypothermic crew don't perform well in a race, and it may increase your risk of going hypothermic when in the water - and therefore your ability to get in the sling. Besides, you're going to weigh a ton anyway. You should not count on being able to lift the crew back onto the boat.

Practice. Yes, definitely and often - once a year for racing boats. The Lifesling procedure is not difficult, but it has several steps, and is not something to be figuring out in an emergency. Furthermore, each boat behaves a little differently in the maneuvers required for using a Lifesling, particularly in the head-to-wind 'stop' required when the MOB has the sling. The boat not being stopped may have been the reason why Jessica lost the sling at the first attempt. Stopping the boat is a common challenge, and if the skipper is practiced, it's more likely that he/she can slow the boat down enough to get the sling to the MOB on the first try, making for a faster recovery.

It is especially important for the crew to practice the maneuver, including steering the boat, without the skipper's help. This is because the skipper may be the one overboard or may be hurt if the MOB incident also involves damage to the boat. The more crew who are familiar with the procedure, the faster and smoother the recovery.

One can practice most of the procedure without an MOB. But if you can recruit a tolerant friend with a drysuit or immersion suit to be your MOB, that is best. The hoist is hard on the back, so MOBs should not be friends with back problems.

Take charge of the swimmer/warm stuff on board. I also agree with all the other comments made. Hypothermia sets in quickly and is subtle, and other injuries to the head and back may be present and not immediately apparent. The MOB should be rewarmed gradually, first-aid administered if necessary, and monitored constantly until he/she is home, transferred to an EMT or in the company of a family member or friend.

Susanne Ames
Cheshire, Spindrift 40
Olympia, Washington


A few days ago, while moored overnight at a guest dock in the East Bay, I happened to read an editorial in another boating publication that described the shortage of berths around the Bay, and forecast the need for many new berths over the next 20 years. The editorial writer may very well be correct, but from my cabin port I could see at a glance several unused, neglected, abandoned, or derelict boats. Such a sight is common at any marina anywhere.

Why a boatowner is willing to pay the berthing fee month after month, year after year, for a boat he/she never uses has always been a mystery to me - but so it goes. My purpose here, however, is not to lament human nature, but to lend support to your 'use it or lose it' editorial policy. There would be no need for new berths if the berths we already have were occupied by boats that were actually used.

Michael Shough
San Francisco

Michael - There are many good reasons why people may want to keep a boat even if they aren't going to use her for long periods of time. But in this time of very limited marina space, we don't think there is a good reason why people should be able to keep a berth - which is the same as Bay and ocean access - if they're not going to use it. Unused boats can be more efficiently stored on the hard or in special high-capacity in-the-water storage areas.

And just because people give up an 'active' berth doesn't mean they are out of luck for the long term. In Santa Cruz Harbor, which has an extremely long waiting list, people who didn't use their boats were offered the opportunity, for a small fee, to give up their slip, but be at the top of the list for the next berth in their size that came open. "It opened up a tremendous amount of slips," says Steve Scheiblauer, harbormaster at the time. Most of them would pay the small fee to maintain the option of staying at the top of the list for a year or two, then they would drop out. Only about 10% of them ever wanted a slip back."

If that last sentence doesn't speak volumes, we don't know what would. We're glad that you've come around to our 'use your berth or lose your berth' philosophy. It might not be this year or next year, but we're confident that it's just a matter of time - and increased scarcity - before others do also.


There is trouble in paradise. My wife Paula and I want to alert Latitude readers of legal dangers in Mazatlan. As of this writing, our Ericson 35 Beyond Therapy, along with several others, is about to be taken by the Mexican government. We have stripped her of everything we could, but she's no longer our beautiful and well-equipped home on the water and our cruising dreams are now in doubt.

We began our cruising adventure during the winter of 2000, and spent the first two years cruising the Sea of Cortez, where life was good. We cofounded Cocktail Cove in Puerto Escondido, spending many wonderful sunsets with our new cruising friends.

We then arrived in Mazatlan without a Temporary Import Permit. We weren't aware we needed such a permit, nor had any Mexican official ever asked for or offered one. Engine problems and lack of cash kept us in Mazatlan while we replenished our cruising kitty and prepared to repower the boat.

During the summer of 2003, Aduana, the Mexican government agency which controls ships and boats in Mexico, visited the Isla Marina office and found it didn't have any paperwork at all for many of the boats. Once the dust had settled, Aduana found nine boats in the marina without the necessary import permit. Because we didn't have the permit, Aduana wants to fine us more than $37,000. The fine is even higher for some of the other boats.

Passing the buck, the marina offered no legal advice or help whatsoever. Those of us without permits paid Eduardo, the harbormaster, who represented himself as an attorney, more than $500 each to represent us. For our mistake or lack of knowledge, we expected to be fined in the $100 to $500 range - as has been the case with other boats in the past. After all, the permit is almost free.

Growing weary of Isla Marina, one boatowner moved his boat to El Cid Marina, where he got an Import Permit in two days. We did the same thing, and also got a permit in two days. But then Aduana revoked these permits.

Beyond Therapy has been prohibited from leaving the confines of the three marinas since August of 2003. This past August, another seven boats within Isla Marina were found to be without the import permit. It's interesting to note that neither El Cid Marina nor Marina Mazatlan has had any problems with Aduana during this period.  

Please advise all your readers to obtain the necessary Temporary Import Permit upon their initial check-in to Mexican waters.

Patrick Gallagher
Beyond Therapy, Ericson 35
Mazatlan, Mexico

Patrick - We're puzzled. First of all, not knowing that you eventually need to get a Temporary Import Permit in Mexico is akin to not being aware you need to pay income tax in the States. Secondly, if you've been confined to Mazatlan's three marinas for over a year, this has obviously been an ongoing situation that should have been addressed long ago.


Regarding the folks in Mazatlan who are in danger of losing their boats because they don't have Temporary Import Permits, how could they have been in Mexican waters for years and not know they needed such a permit? What a bunch of you-know-what! Did they spend four years not talking to anyone while cruising Mexican waters?

Jinx Schwartz
Sea of Cortez


I don't know all the particulars on Beyond Therapy and the other boats that are having trouble for not having Temporary Import Permits, but from what I can piece together, they were asked for these permits when Sylvia Mora of Marina Mazatlan took over management of the docks without power at Isla Marina. None of the boats had anybody aboard, and Mexican law is clear that people can't leave their boats unless the marina has a Temporary Import Permit.

I don't know this for a fact, but the talk around the marina is that the owners of Beyond Therapy told Sylvia that they had never needed a Temporary Import Permit in the seven years they'd cruised Mexico, and refused to get one. So she told them their vessel would be impounded and they would have to pay a fine. Once again, this is scuttlebutt from the docks, and it may or may not be the total truth.

However, I remember that a year or so ago some American boaters found themselves in the same situation at Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean side of Mexico. They'd left their boats at the marina, never got the Import Permit, and the officials confiscated their vessels, asking for a sizable percentage of their vessels' value in fines.

It seems to me that if we Americans want to cruise in a foreign country, we need to be aware of all the rules and procedures that need to be followed - and then follow them. After all, we are guests in Mexico! Besides, Import Permits are free if you do the paperwork yourself and only about $25 if you have someone do it for you.

There's a similar situation with fishing licenses. After their first year of cruising, lots of cruisers don't bother to get Mexican fishing licenses. The explanations run along the lines of: "Well, we've never been stopped and asked for our fishing licenses, so why bother to get them!"

It costs a couple of hundred bucks for licenses for the yacht, the dinghy, the kayak, and each person aboard. The Mexican Navy, when they infrequently stop cruisers, don't care if you have fishing licenses or not. They are just interested in your Crew List, Documentation, Port Clearance, and whether or not you have contraband aboard. But if one of the very few Fisheries Department officials happens to stop you, and you don't have your licenses, they have the authority to confiscate your vessel and levy a very large fine. So is dishing out a couple of hundred bucks for licenses worth it? Most cruisers are playing Russian roulette, and hoping for the best. Not us. Our fishing licenses expire at the end of October, and we will be renewing them. We discussed it, and the way we look at it, our boat is our home and we don't want to run the risk - even a million to one shot - of having her taken away. We'd rather pay the money and not have to worry about it.

Name Withheld By Request

N.W.B.R. - With regard to paying for fishing licenses, that money goes to help the Mexican government protect their fishing resources, a very worthwhile goal.


I just read the item in 'Lectronic Latitude that reported several boats in Mazatlan might be seized because they don't have Temporary Import Permits. For a cruiser to neglect to get such a permit strikes me as an egregious example of choosing not to comply with a very well-publicized law - or believing some ill-informed scuttlebutt that a permit might not be needed. Every marina and ship's agent I know of in Mexico is adamant about checking the Temporary Import Permits. And while it has always been clear that it's not necessary to get such a permit at one's first stop in Mexico, it should be done promptly. Further, it has always been clear that the best reason to have such a permit is that, without one, the boatowner can't legally return to the States without his boat. Cruisers should make no mistake, Mexico does take the Import Permit seriously, as it also applies to foreign-flagged boats owned by Mexican nationals, who might otherwise have a large tax liability.

Readers might be interested in the evolution that led to the creation of Temporary Import Permits:

1) Way back when - before the '90s - it was very difficult for foreigners to have a boat in Mexico for longer than the period of their tourist card, which was usually three to six months. And they could forget the idea of leaving their boat unattended at anchor, in a marina, or on a mooring. I'm sure the publisher of Latitude remembers this from the early '80s when he had his Freya 39 in Mexico.

2) Later, boatowners were able to get 'Custody Contracts' with marinas. This was much better for the boaters, but the rule was very vague. If you had a Custody Contract with one marina, did you need another one if you went to another marina? Some marinas dated their contracts, others did not. I remember cruising all over for a period of two years on an undated Custody Contract from Marina Palmira. The contracts did allow boatowners to leave a boat unattended. However, they really put marinas at risk, for from the point of view of the Mexican government, the marinas were legally responsible for the boats. That meant being responsible for their financial and legal obligations, which might include whatever was aboard, legally or illegally. And, of course, the government did not grasp the idea of people leaving a boat unattended in any place other than a marina. In fact, while the marinas understood that the contracts allowed them to dock boats for extended periods of time, most of them hated the legal implications.

It was a desire of marinas more than boatowners that the Mexican government approved . . .

3) The Temporary Import Permit, which is valid anywhere in Mexico. This permit took marinas off the hook for being responsible for private yachts. By the way, another constituency for the change was wealthy Mexicans who, for tax purposes, might have boats flagged outside of Mexico, which therefore meant they would be treated as foreign vessels.

Interestingly, the permits were originally valid for 20 years - my Casual Water had one for that period of time. It's since been shortened to 10 years. A little-known fact is that technically, the permits are not multiple entry permits. In other words, if you get an Import Permit one season, then take your boat back to California, you have to get a new one if you return to Mexico. In reality, few if any boatowners do that, and I'm not aware of any government mechanism that keeps track of such things. Aduana handles the Temporary Import Permits, and port captains and Migracion handle zarpes, and the two agencies don't really share information. On the other hand, computers are rapidly replacing typewriters, so more thorough record keeping and tracking may someday occur.

The sad thing is that the term 'Temporary Import Permit' seems to scare away a number of cruisers. It sounds very complicated and costly, but it is neither. A more accurate term would be 'Temporary Registration Permit', as all that happens is that hull numbers and engine registration numbers are verified. It's like getting a car registered in the United States - except that it's free if you do it yourself. There are no duties to be paid, and the hassle is the most minimal of the entire clearing runaround. But some cruisers look for ways to avoid complying, and some may now be paying the price.

By the way, while it is somewhat murky under what circumstances a boat may not need an import permit, it is absolutely the case that you cannot legally leave a boat in Mexico without one. So when I worked at Marina Cabo San Lucas, I always explained to new arrivals that sooner or later they would want to make a trip back home for some reason - and that this always seemed to happen sooner than later. So why not get the permit right away? This argument seemed to convince most people.

Whether any of the potential changes in clearing procedures now being considered will change the Import Permit process is something I don't know. And since I'm no longer in Mexico, I'm gradually falling out of touch with the nuances. But I bet the permit remains, as it is the mechanism that keeps boats from being sold without being permanently imported into Mexico, which would mean duties would be charged. The government also has the notion that the permit in some way minimizes the likelihood of boats being simply left and abandoned in anchorages - although I am not sure why they think that!

Tim Schaaf
Jet Stream, Moorings 4500 cat
Casual Water, Hunter 33
Maryland / Mexico

Tim - We certainly remember the bad old days before Temporary Import Permits, and want to assure everyone that cruising in Mexico is much easier and more certain now. Getting a Temporary Import Permit is a no-brainer, so you might as well get one at your first port of entry.


I'm writing to protest the outrageous conduct of the harbormaster of Monterey Bay, managed by Paul D. Dangreau, on October 9, 2004. I was sailing my Columbia 28 sailboat, and was seeking shelter from a coming storm for 48 hours behind the breakwater at Monterey. I was forcibly removed, under threat of arrest, by the Monterey Police Department.

I tried to make it to Moss Landing, but the seas were too great and I was forced to anchor on an unprotected lee shore. Lucky for me, the northwest winds did not shift, as had been predicted, to the unprotected north, and my two anchors held me off the beach.

Dangreau seems to think that his local anti-anchor ordinance supersedes federal and international law and common decency, and acts accordingly. I would appreciate federal action to correct the situation. The other possibility is that I, as a cruising sailor and experienced manager, would replace Dangreau as harbormaster, since it is obvious that he exercises such poor judgement in the management of a marina and has a total disregard for the safety of mariners.

I do not care about Monterey's stupid anti-anchoring ordinances. I have the right, as an American citizen and a mariner, to seek shelter from a storm. Especially in a harbor that I paid for and/or financed with my tax dollars.

David Brooks
Free Spirit, Columbia 28
Seattle, Washington

David - Let's clarify a couple of things: Paul Dangreau is the Marina Operations Supervisor. Steve Scheiblauer is the Harbormaster. Anthony Richardson, the African-American you allegedly called a "fucking nigger," is the marina's security man.

According to Harbormaster Scheiblauer, Monterey welcomes about 35 to 75 transient guests at a time, most of them in slips, but also on moorings or anchored out. Apparently, you were partly anchored in the tightly packed 140-boat mooring field, which has been owned and operated by the city since 1868, and partly in the fairway. By anchoring there, your boat constituted a danger to other boats.

Scheiblauer tells us it's Monterey's policy not to just tell boaters what they can't do - as in "you can't anchor there" - but to offer options. In keeping with this policy, it's our understanding that you were offered two options: 1) A 30-ft berth for $17 a night, with free showers, or 2) To anchor off Del Monte Beach for free, where about 10 other boats were anchored. Crew of boats that are anchored out, we're told, get free use of the dinghy dock and showers.

Based on that report, it seems the Monterey folks acted fairly and responsibly. But just to be sure, we checked with the folks in Santa Barbara Yacht Harbor to see what their policy is. Steve McCullough, the Harbor Patrol Supervisor, told us that if there are small craft warnings posted, they will find one space or another inside the harbor for all boats that need it - but such boats will be charged the normal berthing fee. In other words, it's the same policy as Monterey.


I just read the letter from a cruiser complaining that Spectra wasn't good for cruising sails. Our first main and mizzen on Beowulf were from Bainbridge Spectra with the usual polyester taffeta. After 25,000 miles and more than four years, the Spectra was still fine. However, the polyester was degraded from ultraviolet light. What was unusual is that this degradation was on the top of the sails, where they were flaked under the covers. The rest of the polyester was fine.

When we replaced the main and mizzen, Dan Neri of North Sails specified a much heavier than normal polyester thread. The heavier thread has better UV protection. In addition, we doubled the sail cover fabric where it laid over the sails to reduce UV getting through to the sails. We put another 12 to 15,000 miles on these sails before selling the boat, and at that point they looked like new.

Steve Dashew
Tucson, Arizona

Readers - As we mentioned previously, there were problems with some early Spectra laminates, but most of that seems to be history. Dacron sails are much cheaper than Spectra sails, but for those who can afford them, Spectra sails are widely considered to be superior.


I have read Latitude for years, and as work has permitted, been a Bay sailor for years aboard a Columbia 26. I recently read the article Words Of Caution For Mexico, which clearly spelled out the lack of assistance that can be expected from the U.S. State Department if you fall into trouble south of the border.

The writer's article stated that "the real threat to tourists is not the Mexican people, but more the police." In some areas this is correct, but there is a much larger percentage of kidnappings being conducted by organized gangs that are paying the police for protection. It's a scary fact, but there is a kidnapping in Mexico every 60 seconds.

I work in the field of executive protection/corporate security/personal protection - a bodyguard to the layman - and I am curious why more crews are not looking to people like me for protection. Have you ever had any inquiries for this kind of service? I went down to Mexico and then on to Hawaii a few years ago with one of the participants in the Ha-Ha, and found myself constantly wondering why more people don't arrange for such a service in advance. As in the case of any insurance policy, it's always far more expensive after an incident has happened.

Matt 'Chilli' Weber
Northern California

Matt - If other cruisers are like us, they don't take bodyguards to Mexico for the following reasons: 1) In 25 years of travelling to Mexico, we and members of our family have never had reason to fear being kidnapped, nor do we know of any cruisers who have been kidnapped. (What's more, we don't believe that 1,440 people are kidnapped every day in Mexico.) 2) The expense and lack of space to carry a bodyguard on a cruising boat. 3) The fact that having a bodyguard doesn't necessarily prevent one from being kidnapped, and, in fact, might call attention to an individual as being a person worth kidnapping.


Here in Wellington, New Zealand, I am the proud owner of a pile of timber that's roughly arranged in my yard in the shape of a Seagoer yawl named Calypso. I have papers attesting that she was built in 1942, but the ownership documents only stretch back to May '77, when Brian Hunter sold Calypso to Deidrie Lidsay. I have the subsequent transfers, to me, in Australia and New Zealand.

But I was gobsmacked to learn from your Circumnavigator's List that a Seagoer called Calypso was circumnavigated by Jim Hollywood between '72 and '74. I wonder if I have this same yawl. Is there any further contact information for Hollywood or his family? Or do you have further leads on the Seagoer named Calypso?

I'm now in the process of restoring that boat.

Tony Kapetanovic
Wellington, New Zealand

Tony - Sorry, we don't have any current contact information, but we suspect some of our readers in Southern California do. We'll try to find out more.

By the way, we're always hearing about Aussies, Brits, and Kiwis being "gobsmacked." The "gob" part sounds awful. But what exactly does it mean?

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