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THE WORLD'S MOST POPULATED SHIP GRAVEYARD
In the November issue, Ken Stuber asked the meaning of the phrase 'weathering the Lizard', which is often found in the Horatio Hornblower series. The term refers to getting to weather, that is, sailing around the Lizard, a promontory off Cornwall on the southern tip of Britain. It was the last obstacle to getting home for countless generations of British Royal Navy sailors, and is perhaps the most populated graveyard of ships in the world.
Captain Fred Fegley
Captain Fred - We may have been the
only ones who didn't know what 'weathering the Lizard' meant,
for we've received over 100 correct responses from our readers.
We thank every one of you who took the time to clue us in.
I've got the answers to two of the questions in the November issue.
'The Lizard' is the southernmost point of the mainland British Isles, and the local equivalent of Cape Horn or Point Conception. In the novels, Horatio Hornblower would have had to 'weather the Lizard' against the prevailing southwest winds when sailing from Plymouth Harbour towards the Atlantic, the Biscay ports, and the French foe.
The hideous word 'gobsmacked' is a recent combination of the slang 'gob' (derived from the Old French gobe, or possibly the Gaelic gob, both of which meant mouth) and 'smack' (from the Low German or Dutch smakken, to strike or smite.) Thus to be 'gobsmacked' is literally to be struck on the mouth - although it's used in the sense of being astonished, amazed, bowled over, incredulous, astounded, flabbergasted - or perhaps even all of a doo dah. Hope this helps.
Patrick - That really did help - until
the very end when you wrote "perhaps even all of a doo dah."
What the heck does that mean?
The other day we were in Neiafu, the main town in the Vava'u Group of the Kingdom of Tonga, when we noticed a friendly-looking Sunsail charterer wearing a faded bright pink - formerly fluorescent orange - Baja Ha-Ha shirt. After saying hello, we learned that he'd crewed on a San Diego-based boat in the '03 Ha-Ha, and that he also was from San Francisco. We explained that we'd done the '02 Ha-Ha with our boat. We briefly chatted about all the Ha-Ha fun, then he asked which boat was ours. "Over there behind the green yawl," we said, "the one with the blue stripe and hard dodger." He made a nice comment about her, then explained that it was the last day of his charter and that he'd be back in L.A. in about 24 hours. We said good-bye and went our separate ways.
When we returned to our boat later that afternoon, we found four Latitudes - the June through September issues - under Whisper's hard dodger. Jackpot! We'd not seen a Latitude in many months, so I was awake until midnight reading three of them cover-to-cover. Robin did her usual "skim first, then selectively consume and digest" reading. It was great to catch up, as we've been a bit light on current sailing events and news. Thank you Latitude, and thank you mystery person - we assume you were the charterer that we met - who dropped off the magazines. By the way, it's not just us two who were happy to get the magazines, there's excitement throughout the fleet, as we've already begun to pass them on.
Although I'd like to reply to several of the articles and letters, I'll stick to one for now, the topic I know most about - the September 'Beeline to Paradise' article by Rick von Stein that recapped last year's Pacific Puddle Jump from Mexico to the Marquesas. I appreciate Rick's writing style, but I feel there was more concentrated drama in the article than there actually was on the various Puddle Jumps. Although I'm sure most of the things described actually did occur - and I believe Rick reported what he was told - I think some of the conditions described were a tad exaggerated.
Three of the 37+ boats did get caught in a nasty storm, and they did suffer gear failures, injuries, and very difficult conditions for a couple of the 25 or so days it took most to make the crossing. However, many, if not most, of the Puddle Jumpers had very pleasant passages. Even the storm-tossed boats suffered those conditions for less than a few days. I'm writing because I'm concerned that next year's potential Puddle Jumpers might read the article and decide not to come across. I think that would be a big mistake, and I encourage future Puddle Jumpers to look at the table of statistics, throw out the extremes, and use the averages to determine what conditions they are likely to encounter.
We, the crew of Whisper, were also guilty of perhaps over-reporting the dramatic events - water in the engine and hitting a whale - which added to the overall drama of von Stein's report. Had we sent him a more balanced report, it would have been about a wonderful 22-day passage, with a couple of interesting events thrown in to keep us amused. Had we not had those relatively minor incidents, the passage might have been considered long, uneventful, and at times downright boring!
For those interested in a more detailed account of our passage, visit www.sailwhisper.com.
Duncan & Robin Owen
Duncan & Robin - Thanks for reminding everyone how treasured Latitudes are 'out there'. If anyone flying to distant cruising grounds can stick some current issues in their bags, they will be much appreciated by cruisers.
As for the Puddle Jump Recap, a little
exaggeration is common in most sailing stories, and the most
dangerous and dramatic incidents get all the ink. Overall, however,
we thought von Stein's report offered a tremendous amount of
valuable factual and anecdotal information, with a large enough
sample to make it meaningful. We hope someone does half as well
with next year's report.
I'm still flying the private jet, saving all my money for the big sailboat.
What can I do for Latitude now? Well, from time to time we fly to places where there may be sailors in need of a small part for their boats. If it would be helpful, I would be happy to deliver these items.
For example, we flew from LAX to Cabo on November 17 and returned on the 20th. Anyone from the Baja Ha-Ha need anything? Then we continue on to Lanai and Maui before returning on December 2. Obviously FedEx is the best thing inside the United States, but that's our 'schedule'.
On the downside, our trips have a high degree of uncertainty. The passengers frequently change their plans, so it wouldn't be foolproof.
What's in it for me? I figure if I can accumulate enough good Samaritan points, I might just get a ride on a boat in one of these places for a day or so. But it's not a condition of my offer.
Naturally, I'm not interested in taking risks on the unknown, so I would have to open all packages and check their contents very, very carefully.
If you know of anyone we could help, just drop me an email with their contact info. I'm even okay if you advertise this in Latitude - just don't use my name or contact information. It's better that they contact you and then you email me.
Name Withheld By Request
N.W.B.R. - That's a very cool offer
- but the sporadic nature of your trips would make it impractical.
Besides, if whoever is paying the bills for the jet finds out
what you're doing, they might not be too happy, and we wouldn't
want you to lose your job. If, on the other hand, you'll be flying
to the Caribbean on Christmas Day with a couple of empty seats
. . .
Thanks for the interest in my situation - specifically, my being a soldier in Iraq who needs to sell my Freedom 38 in Redwood City because I can't use her right now. Sorry for the late reply, but I've been out running missions, and then the Internet was down the last two times I wanted to use it.
I could use help with my boat, but I don't want to pretend that I'm a hardluck case when I'm not. After all, I don't have a wife or kids. I moved out to the Bay Area three years ago with the tech bubble, but decided to stay after it burst. After seeing the price of rent - let alone houses - I decided that buying a nice boat would give me both an opportunity to learn to sail and a place to live. Throwing away money on a sailboat I could live on made vastly more sense to me than throwing away money on rent. I've really enjoyed the boat, I've learned a lot about sailing and I've met a lot of great people. The Army pays us a housing allowance, which, for the Bay Area, is pretty good, and that goes toward my boat payment.
However, since I've not been able to use the boat for a year, it seems like a good time for me to try to sell her, which would allow me to save the $1,000 a month in the combined boat loan and slip fee, and eventually try to put together a down payment on a house. I personally can't live on a boat forever, although I envy those who can.
Although I thought my boat was in pretty good shape, my broker at Nelson Yachts found about $5,000 worth of improvements I could make to make the boat more sellable. It's mostly simple stuff like cleaning and painting the bottom, wiring up the Autohelm electronics, updating the running rigging, changing the hoses on the head, and fixing a water-damaged floor panel. All right, maybe it is a lot of stuff. It would help me the most if I could somehow get that done to make the boat more sellable. On the other hand, a group of well-meaning volunteers could make a real mess of things if they didn't know what they were doing. And if the boat didn't sell, I could still have a great boat to come home to.
Those are my thoughts, I would appreciate anything that you could do.
Patrick - We think the idea of having
people work on your boat to make her more sellable is fraught
with potential problems. But if you check out the following letters,
we've got some other good news for you. Folks back here want
I read the letter about the soldier in Iraq who has a boat in Redwood City, but has her up for sale in part because of the slip fees. We at Big Break Marina in the Delta - just east of Antioch - would be pleased to offer a berth for his boat at no charge. In fact, we'd be pleased to offer as many berths as we can to our people who are fighting in Iraq. We have limited space, however, so please, bona fide active U.S. military only. We're glad to help! We can be reached at www.big-break-marina.com.
Dave - What an excellent offer! We'll
pass the message on to Patrick Freeburger.
My name is Tom Walchli, and I am the Southwest District Manager for West Marine - and was the guy responsible for pushing the 'go' button for the West Marine's participation at the Ha-Ha Kickoff BBQ in San Diego. Anyway, I'm writing to you about Patrick Freeburger's slip's rent - he being the guy in Iraq who needs to sell his boat because of slip rent and other expenses. I would personally be willing to pony up for a month of that rent, and am in a unique position to fund-raise from a pretty big pool of boaters and patriots who happen to work for West Marine. Reading about Freeburger in Latitude - while sitting in the cockpit of my boat, enjoying the Southern California sunshine and the peace - really hit home. My wife Kris and I would really like to help if we can.
Tom - Thanks for the great offer. Once
we get more details on Freeburger's situation we'll publish an
When I read Latitude, I hear that a lot of people are having trouble with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliant fuel jugs. I have three of them. I use them with my car, my boat, and my dinghy. After about three uses, I had the technique for using them down. I never had a problem fueling anything, and never spilled any fuel.
I did find them slower than the old cans, but now that I'm used to them, they work just fine. They're even better than the old style because they're simple. I don't get gas all over my hands like the old style, and the vent cap doesn't get lost - which was the main reason that I bought a new jug.
Dave - The new 'environmentally-friendly' jugs have stumped West Marine Technical Advisor Chuck Hawley, everybody who has tried to use them on Profligate, and, as you'll see from the following letters, a whole lot of other sailors. We've all spilled fuel all over the place, creating messes, and have sometimes even created quite dangerous situations.
In all seriousness, perhaps you could
help the rest of us out by describing your technique or secrets,
because the way it is right now, even very environmentally conscious
sailors are looking to buy all the old style ones they can -
even if they have to go to Mexico to do so. And they're doing
it in the name of safety and preserving the environment.
I have two different types of CARB-approved fuel cans with these 'environmental' spouts. Both of them are faulty. Every time you pour the gas, it shoots back out of the tank and all over the ground.
I delivered the Beneteau 42s7 Eau de Vie to Honolulu from Sausalito in October. We had 10 of the new CARB-mandated jerry jugs lashed on deck to the starboard rail. We had heavy air - over 30 knots - for the first three days. The wind was from the northwest, which allowed us to deep reach over the big waves.
To the point, the new jerry jugs proved to be unacceptable for offshore use. The supposed locks do not hold and allowed fuel to spill out of the jugs. One fell over on its side, pouring diesel all over the deck. We had monitored them carefully and made sure that they were well secured. We were also concerned about the nozzles sticking out so far that breaking waves might break one off. This did not happen, as we only had one big wave come aboard during the entire trip. Another problem was that, because the locks didn't hold, fuel blew off the tops of the jugs - some of which landed in the helmsperson's face and eyes.
The jugs are also more difficult to stow once empty due to the long and fragile nozzles. They would be much more useful if the nozzles could be inserted into the jugs when emptied. We brought along one of the old-type nozzles and discovered the thread patterns do not match, negating that idea.
Bob Musor, Delivery Skipper
CARB-APPROVED JERRY JUGS SHOULD BE RECALLED
The jugs I bought had instruction placards on the neck. One item said to open the vent. There is no vent. All the venting takes place at the spout, which causes alternate gulps for air while the fuel is pouring out. The spout assembly, being close-fitting plastic, tends to seize while turning it to open from lock position. In addition, the high profile makes tipping over more likely if they're not secured in a rolling sea.
In short, these jerry jugs should be recalled as being unsafe for use with gasoline.
I have to chuckle at the letter from David Brooks criticizing the actions of the staff at Monterey Harbor. I've visited the harbor a number of times while passing through the area, and have always received fantastic cooperation from all the staff.
During our latest stop on October 10, we found the yacht club dock was two-deep with boats hiding out from a coming storm. Nonetheless, one of the harbor staff waved us in to the temporary dock next to the boat ramp, where he helped us tie up. Within just a few minutes we had a slip for our 42-ft Beneteau - and the keys for the showers and restrooms. While there, we found a number of other sailors also hiding out from the coming storm. The harbor staff told us if there was ever weather that might endanger a boat, they would find room for it.
We're on about as tight a budget as anyone who is out cruising, and we watch our dollars very closely - which means trying to avoid paying for a slip as much as possible. But we've always figured that the money spent for a slip when the weather was bad, or after we've spent an 'all-nighter' in rough seas, was very good insurance for not losing our home somewhere out there where dragons live and ships fall off the edge.
P.S. Stillwater Cove is just around the corner from Monterey, and is a great place to hang out when the weather is bad from the northwest. Had I been in Brooks' situation I'd have tried to go there as opposed to trying to make it to Moss Landing where, in any event, the entrance can be kinda dicey in bad weather.
R & R
Readers - We think it's worth repeating that Monterey Harbor has the same policy as Santa Barbara and many other harbors along the California coast. Specifically, in storm conditions harbor officials find some kind of shelter for every boat that requests it. But everyone will have to pay the normal overnight slip fee.
Since we're talking about Monterey Harbor,
we would be remiss if we didn't note that the California Association
of Harbormasters and Port Captains bestowed its prestigious Harbor
Master of the Year Award on Steve Scheiblauer, harbormaster at
Monterey Harbor. "The award is given annually to a harbormaster
who epitomizes all that the job requires and by his or her exemplary
efforts advances CAHMPC's efforts to support recreational and
commercial boating, safe boating practices, and sound public
policy. Steve Scheiblauer has worked for many years with the
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to increase representation
and communication between the Federal Sanctuary Program, local
communities, and stakeholders for resource management issues.
Mr. Scheiblauer was also recognized for his work with fishermen
to enhance the natural partnership that can exist between marine
scientists and fishermen for improved knowledge of ocean resources.
He has sought to bring together science, local leaders, and fishermen
on matters that tie the social, cultural and economic value of
I read October's My Bonehead Maneuver letter by "Name Withheld So I Won't Go To Jail," as well as your response. I have always avoided the Pinole Shoal Channel because it's marked on the charts as being restricted to vessels that draw more than 20 feet.
But in response to the letter, I searched the Code of Federal Regulations, and can assure you that they make no sense. I also encourage you to do an article on these issues. Perhaps one of the Coast Guard officers can be asked to clarify them. I haven't seen much involvement from them recently.
Doug - It wouldn't surprise us at all if the Code of Federal Regulations doesn't make any sense to anybody but a boilerplate-loving policy wonk. But we're baffled why you'd even bother referring to the CFRs. After all, doesn't the Pinole Shoal Channel restriction make sense?
As for "these issues," we're
not really sure what you're talking about. But if they have anything
to do with the interaction of small boats and large ships, the
location of shipping channels in the Bay, or safe boating practices
on San Francisco Bay, we urge you to contact the Coast Guard's
Marine Safety Office on Coast Guard Island in Alameda to get
a copy of the 16-minute video titled Sharing
The Bay. It was produced by the San Francisco Bay Harbor Safety
Committee, and could be shown at your yacht club for free. The
video answers all the basic questions, and has good graphics
that - among other things - show why it's so important for small
boats to stay out of the Pinole Shoal Channel. Highly recommended.
I've read with embarrassment the two letters by Dutchman Hank Bakker in the last two issues of Latitude about his encounter with a ship near the Golden Gate Bridge. As a Dutchman, I would like to apologize to all readers of Latitude, and assure them that most Dutchmen who venture out on the water know and apply the rules of the road. As a matter of fact, given the extensive maritime history of the Dutch, we have been a part of establishing those rules.
As for myself, I have sailed on sailboats for 59 years, the last 27 of them on San Francisco Bay and along the California coast aboard my boat Flying Dutchman. Last year I converted to power, and my new boat is named Double Dutch. Concurrently, I sailed for many years as a deck officer and master on commercial ocean-going vessels. I came up 'through the horse pipe', a term Bakker is probably not familiar with. As I still work in the maritime industry, I am able to speak as both a yachtsman and a master mariner.
In his November letter, Bakker made the following statement: "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 the case of accidents."
What nonsense! Are we to believe that Bakker's car insurance company would similarly like him not to turn to avoid pedestrians and bicyclists because, by demonstrating his car's maneuverability, it might increase their liability in the case of accidents?
Furthermore, a helmsman is indeed instructed to "keep a straight course" - because that's his job. He/she is only to deviate from that course if specifically instructed to by the duty officer, master, or pilot. A helmsman doesn't make decisions about the course of a ship.
I don't intend to make any further comments about Bakker's letters, as I think they've been very well responded to by Capt. Russ Hoburg, Capt. Paul Lobo, and other professionals, as well as the editors of Latitude. My compliments to all. But for the next issue of Latitude, I'm going to write a letter advising amateur mariners on how to apply the rules of the road. By so doing, I hope to reduce the number of accidents and near accidents.
Capt. Bernard W. Wormgoor
For this armchair critic, it would seem that if a sailboat and a ship were close enough to exchange rude hand-gestures, they were entirely too close. Surely common sense on the part of any skipper of a small boat would have called for keeping well clear of anything large, fast and dangerous.
But even with the best of intentions there are no guarantees in life - or in small boats - as the following illustrates. Some 40 years ago, I was chugging across the Bay from Sausalito to China Basin in a converted Navy launch, making the usual seven knots. It was a pitch black night with some phosphorescence in the water, but no lights were to be seen anywhere. Then suddenly I saw the loom of the swimhead of a large barge that was close aboard and about to engulf me. I cleared it with little room to spare, and as it passed I caught sight of the lights of a tug towing from alongside - but which had been hidden from my oblique angle of approach by a cargo of boxcars on the barge. My own lights would similarly have been obscured to the skipper of the tug. If my wife and I had been swept under and drowned, nobody would have been at fault, but we would have been very dead nonetheless.
I have followed the thread started by the letter from Hank Bakker, in which he said he had as much right to the Bay as anyone, and therefore wasn't going to get out of the way of ships. Had he thus flagrantly violated the rules of the road down here on San Diego Bay, he would have gotten a real education in Rule #9.
All the guff aside, even if you don't know the rules of the road, what's wrong with a little common sense that would say, "If it's bigger than you, then get the hell out of the way?" There actually may be cases where a sailboat has the right-of-way over a big ship, but I certainly wouldn't be one to press the issue. I will give way to anything that can kick up a bow wave that's bigger than my boat. Enuf said.
Dale - We can only imagine what would
happen if a sailboat on San Diego Bay refused to give way to
an aircraft carrier or other military vessel.
The letters in the November issue were somber and heavy, so perhaps your readers would like a little giggle at Uncle Lyn's expense.
I'd been sailing in Mexico with my dear friend Pieter Kokelaar aboard Lady K, but it came time to fly back to San Jose. He drove me to LAX. My bag failed the first security hurdle. I stood in another line while a gloved guard picked through my bag's contents like he was investigating shit in a diaper. He pulled out a seaboot and glared at me. Other people looked at me - but hell, what could I say, it's a sea boot? Then came dirty laundry, and two odd socks rolled up together. Yeah, sometimes that happens. Besides, I had another pair just like them. Then the security guy found the show-stopper, my safety-harness! He glared at me as though I was trafficking in forbidden underwear.
"It's a safety harness," I pleaded. "I'm a sailor."
Not suspecting my terrible secret, he relented and stuffed my junk back into my bag, sealed the zipper, and pointed to the final security line.
This line moved faster, but by now my nerves were jangled. I put my guitar on the handbaggage belt, and it vanished into the machine's mouth. I emptied my change, watch, glasses, and pen into a tray - and then I remembered my metal belt-buckle. Damn! My pants slipped when I took my belt off, so I spread my legs, and in my nervousness I dropped my boarding pass on the moving belt. The machine ate it! The guy manning 'Cleopatra's Gate' beckoned impatiently. So, holding up my pants and, petrified that they would discover my secret, I went through.
A security guy with a face like thunder watched my junk coming off the moving belt. With one hand I held my guitar and my pants, while my other hand fumbled with the stuff in the tray - but the coins escaped all over. The security guy snatched my boarding pass from the moving belt, slammed it on a table, and glared at me like a hangingjudge.
"Are you Lyn?"
I gasped at my carelessness.
"Never, never let go of your boarding pass!" he said. He then grabbed my fannypack. "Is this yours?" he asked as though he were talking to a creodont, which is a primitive, small-brained animal.
My hands tried to hold my guitar, load my pockets, and open my fannypack to show him my passport - but then my pants just got away from me! Well, sailing dissolves my comfortable padding, so they wouldn't stay up without the belt. I was totally frazzled with my pants at my ankles, and just made silly spluttering sounds.
He relented. "You're coming apart. Relax! Your gate is 4A. It's right there," he said, pointing. "Okaaay? Have a nice flight."
But I was still terrified he'd suspect my awful secret - I was wearing odd socks! Clutching my junk, I hobbled to the restroom to recuperate and fix my blasted socks.
Lyn - Nice story, but we think you're
aging yourself a little. These days it wouldn't raise many eyebrows
if you wore mismatched shoes - or even if your clothes were inside
out. In fact, you'd just be considered 'edgy'.
I just wanted to let everyone know that The Cat's Meow went back in the water today here in La Paz. Martin and Robin popped a bottle of champagne over the bow of their 47-ft trawler - and then six more for their assembled friends. What a celebration!!
It's been almost exactly five months since TCM was towed here to La Paz. The interior work is not complete, but she's clean inside and ready for paint and the installation of all her electrical and other items. The couple are taking a slip at the Abaroa Marina, the same place where they were on the hard, to continue working on the boat. They hope to have the master stateroom and head completed so they can move back aboard in three to four weeks. So grab a glass of whatever your preferred liquid is, and drink a toast to the Cat, Robin, Martin, Squeak, Toes - and the literally hundreds of cruisers and friends who made this day possible!!
Dave and Carolyn Shearlock
Readers - What's the big deal about
a relaunched trawler to cruising sailors? Two Septembers ago,
Martin, Robin and their trawler saved as many as a dozen cruising
sailboats which had been driven far aground by Hurricane Marty
in the Puerto Escondido area. So many sailors have emotional
ties with her. TCM sank in May
of this year after a nighttime navigational error, and was only
saved thanks to the efforts of countless people on boats and
on shore. For a more complete story, see this
We are now back on our 32-ft catamaran Eclipse in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala, and are preparing to sail south in a couple of weeks. We plan to be in the San Blas for Christmas, then go through the Panama Canal and head north. We hope to be in the San Francisco Bay Area in June - and we look forward to seeing Profligate again. But it all depends on whether I can get a U.S. visa or not. If I can't, then we'll head off to the South Pacific. Americans probably don't know this, but it's now really hard for non-U.S. nationals to visit the U.S. by boat. I've sailed to the U.S.S.R., Brazil, Cuba, and other places, but getting into the United States is proving to be the most difficult of all. No wonder other countries are retaliating by making it equally hard for Americans to visit them.
Anyway, to the point of this letter. We read the October Changes from Balou about security on the Rio Dulce with great interest. It does seem that the problems earlier this year were an isolated case, as there hasn't been a repeat. However, we would agree that cruisers should go in convoy if visiting the upper reaches of Lake Izabel. But sailing into the jungle and hunting for howler monkeys makes it worth the risk.
Although it is uncomfortably hot and humid here on the Rio Dulce, everyone here is very glad to be in probably the only genuine hurricane hole in the Caribbean. Thank goodness I didn't go for Plan B, which called for us to summer over in Prickley Bay, Grenada! As Latitude readers know, that island was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in late September.
In any event, we have felt very safe here in Mario's Marina, and not just because it's the marina furthest from town. We never lock the boat when we leave for the day, and we always sleep with the door and hatches open. But maybe it has something to do with Amazing Max, our security guard! I don't think I'd want to mess with him - even if he didn't have his gun.
I remember that a few years ago there was a website - perhaps maintained by the United States State Department - containing a database of piracy boardings of yachts. I'm thinking of signing on as crew aboard a sailboat - as a result of the Latitude 38 Crew List - and going through the Middle East. The owner/skipper said the region is safe because of the number of U.S. warships in the area, and that one could get an escort - I guess by ship or helicopter - through the Suez Canal. I don't believe the U.S. Armed Forces would ever expend that kind of effort to escort private sailboats. In addition, I don't think they would want any boat near them, U.S. flagged or not.
I've tried looking on my list of saved URLs and the sailing portals, but to no avail. Do you remember any such database?
I guess what I'm asking is whether people who cruise through the Suez Canal, and the Middle East in general, just take their chances? And that perhaps the only proactive thing one can do is travel in groups.
(Mr.) Leslie Waters
Leslie - It's our firm belief that there is no accurate database of pirate boardings of yachts; not for the Middle East, and not for the rest of the world, either. The problem is that there is no central agency that collects the data. Even if there were, we doubt that most cruisers would bother to make reports, in part because of language barriers, and in part because they wouldn't think it would do any good. As such, word of such attacks is spread via the various Ham and SSB nets, and is then passed further along by various sailing magazines and 'coconut telegraphs'. We think it's actually a pretty decent reporting system, it's just that there's no accurate database being maintained.
If we had to pick the three most likely areas in the world for a yacht to be violently attacked, they would be: 1) The Gulf of Aden near the bottom of the Red Sea, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Aden; 2) Venezuela; and 3) Colombia. The approaches to the Gulf of Aden have been the scene of the most shooting, although to our knowledge only one sailor has been killed in the last several years. It's not uncommon for boats to convoy from Aden to Djibouti, although it's proven difficult to keep convoys together. There have been fewer incidents in Venezuela, but more cruisers have been killed. We're not certain of the number - we don't know if anybody is - but we think it's perhaps two to four over the last several years, several of them French. Fearing more killings, the government of Venezuela has put the most dangerous areas of the country off-limits to cruisers. We don't know of anyone who has been killed off the coast of Colombia, but there have been several serious attacks. For example, some Ha-Ha vets - as reported in Latitude - had pirates come on their boat off Baranquilla and shoot at them. And John Haste of Little Wing had pirates put a gun to his head and blindfold him as he was motoring his cat in the bay of Cartagena, generally considered to be about the only safe place in Colombia.
The big fears in the Red Sea and Middle East started, of course, right after 9/11. In fact, the U.S. State Department urged that year's class of cruisers not to go up the Red Sea. Well over 100 cruising boats ignored that advice, and there weren't any incidents. Since then, there have been several shooting incidents, but all of them have been in the Gulf of Aden, and all of them seemingly by opportunistic thieves rather than religious fanatics. In at least one case, a military plane - we think it was Australian - briefly flew cover for a convoy of yachts. As a general rule, we don't believe the military would escort or come to the aid of private sailing vessels. But you never know. Having said all this, we think the percentage of cruising boats that have been attacked by pirates is very low, far under 1%, even in the worst areas.
Based on all the reports we've gotten - and we get quite a few - there has never been a serious attack on a cruising yacht in the Red Sea itself, or the Suez Canal. Indeed, once into the Red Sea and moving north, most cruisers feel quite safe. We're not guaranteeing this information, but we believe it to be correct.
However, the reality is that no matter
where you sail in the world, be it the Suez Canal, Mexico, South
America, New Zealand, or anywhere else, you are indeed "just
taking your chances," for it's highly unlikely there is
going to be anybody to protect you or come to your aid. The good
news is that most people in the world don't mount random attacks
on strangers - at least not on the water. In fact, we think people
who sail around the world are much more at risk of being crime
victims while ashore in big cities than while on their boats.
Last Sunday, October 10, we had planned to have a normal sail from Sausalito over to the City, down the Cityfront, north behind Angel Island, west through Raccoon Strait, and back to our berth. When we departed, we weren't aware that it was the second day of the air show for Fleet Week on San Francisco Bay. Had we known, at least some of our crew would have cancelled because of the excessive noise and because it seemed inappropriate to them to be burning off so much fossil fuel and taxpayer money in these times of war and deficits - even if most of the aircraft were Canadian. Others on our boat - myself included - thought the show was spectacular.
But I digress. So we sailed our Catalina 30 over to Crissy Field just as the first jet roared low over the Bay. There were loads of Coast Guard and other law enforcement boats around, but it seemed that it was all right for us to sail down the Cityfront - as long as we kept to the south of what appeared to be yellow racing marks that were obviously intended to restrict boats from the 'no-sail' zone. And there were many other sail and motor vessels going east and west in the relatively narrow corridor. So we sailed downwind, quite close to the rocky shore, jibing from starboard to port when necessary.
After a time, a small Coast Guard boat approached us, and a pleasant woman asked us to please keep to the south of the yellow marks. We said, "Sure, no problem." Besides, we were already sailing on just such a course. We continued down the Bay as the jets performed their impressive maneuvers, and had to jibe once again to avoid hitting the seawall at Pier 39.
We continued east on port jibe, on a course quite south of the final restricting buoy, where there was a Coast Guard Cutter on station nearby. Suddenly, from the south a speeding jet-ski with 'Sheriff' painted on the side in foot-tall letters raced across our bow, spun across, and came alongside as we sailed east. The hysterical red-faced cowboy at the helm, dripping with saltwater spray, started shouting at us to sail further south. Nonplussed, at first we were polite and indicated that the Coast Guard had already told us to keep to the south of the yellow buoys. He yelled that these were not racing marks, and that we had to get further to the south - now!
I continued on port jibe, now by the lee, as he ranted, raved, and used the overgrown jet-ski to herd us south. Finally, he edged ahead and literally blocked our progress, and I was forced to execute an uncontrolled jibe - not exactly unforeseen, so there was no real harm done - in order not to T-bone him. The consensus on our boat was that perhaps I should have held my course. My normally unflappable wife was moved to shout obscenities at the jerk, as was I. He came back and said, "God bless you," then sped off to his next encounter.
I submit that this is over-the-top law enforcement on the Bay. I have been sailing and racing boats of all sizes on the Bay for over 30 years, am quite familiar with the rules of the road, have dealt with dense traffic on multiple 4th of July evenings and other Fleet Weeks. I have also spectated at numerous Big Boat Series, America's Cup-type regattas, the Farr 40 Worlds, kept well clear of commercial traffic day and night, and I have never been so insulted and offended by someone claiming to have some sort of jurisdiction on the water. Except for the fact that I would now be in the hands of lawyers and insurance agents, I rather regret having jibed away. But in the end, we followed the overriding rule of avoiding contact if at all possible.
Did anybody else have a negative interface with law enforcement that weekend?
Charles - Maybe it's just us, but when in Northern California, the only trouble we've had on the water with law enforcement - and it wasn't a big thing - was with the Marin County Sheriff. Our theory is that law enforcement folks who are primarily land-based have a much more aggressive approach on the water than does, for example, the Coast Guard. But that's just a theory.
And we do have some sympathy for these folks, because when on land they've got to spend all too much time with the dregs of humanity - people who beat and abuse children and women; people who steal, rape, and kill; people who destroy themselves - and family and friends - with drugs and alcohol. We don't know how a person can't turn a little hard after seeing all that, so we try to cut them a little slack.
But here's the thing that you didn't make clear - are you upset with the sheriff because you couldn't go where you wanted to go on that particular day, because the guy had authority over you, or because of the manner in which he ordered you to change course? If it's either of the first two, you shouldn't really get mad, as the sheriff was just the messenger for a higher authority, and it was merely his job to keep you out of that space. If you didn't like his manner, well, it sounds like maybe he could have handled it a lot better. Perhaps you should take it up with his superiors. On the other hand, when he told you that you had to change course, why didn't you respond the same way you did to the female Coastie by saying, "No problem, we'll jibe right away." Because the one thing you've got to remember, is no matter if they are on land or on the water, people in law enforcement will absolutely not stand for people directly disobeying their orders. So maybe you're lucky he ended the incident by saying, "God bless you" rather than "You're under arrest." We hate the latter.
On a happier note, the Sausalito-Cityfront-lee
of Angel Island-Raccoon Strait circuit is terrific, isn't it?
We do it often, and to our way of thinking it's the best urban
sailing in the world.
I'd like everyone who did the recently completed Baja Ha-Ha from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas - especially the crew of Wild Rose, the boat I was on - to know that I'm all right after my medical problems at sea. As some readers might already know, after more than 30 hours of being dehydrated, vomiting blood, and being in severe pain, I had to be transferred from Wild Rose, on the open ocean near Punta Eugenia, to Megabyte, another Ha-Ha boat, to be rushed to the clinic in Turtle Bay. The next day I was flown to Tijuana and taken to a hospital in San Diego.
I can't adequately express my thanks to the skipper Dave Lenartz of Megabyte, who volunteered to rush north to save me, and who refused to be compensated for his time and fuel; to Dr. Roy Verdery of the Sausalito-based Pearson 362 Jellybean, who joined the rescue boat before he even had a chance to get his anchor set in Turtle Bay; and to the others aboard the rescue boat, such as Robert Sutherland and Suzi Todd, crewmembers from Profligate. Suzi was particularly helpful getting me through the worst of the severe pain. I also hope that the Grand Poobah - who coordinated the rescue - and the rest of the Profligate crew, know that they are the best!
In addition, I'd like to thank Dr. Jesus Moreno and his nurse Elna at the small clinic in Turtle Bay. They were so kind - and adept at stopping my internal bleeding.
And I want to particularly thank Banjo Andy Turpin, the Assistant Poobah, for organizing my medical evacuation to Tijuana, then across the border to San Diego, after my condition took a turn for the worse the next day. Not only did Andy handle all the very complicated arrangements, in part thanks to past Ha-Ha relationships with locals in Turtle Bay, but he also treated me as though I were a member of his family. I am deeply appreciative.
My doctors have told me that from now on I am a river sailor, as my ocean passages are a thing of the past.
Phil - On behalf of everyone, thanks for the kind words. And we're glad you survived, because it wasn't always a sure thing. In fact, had the weather been a little worse and the open water rescue not possible, the outcome might have been darker.
This incident - which is covered in
more detail in Sightings
- should be a somber lesson to Ha-Ha aspirants over 55 and anyone
with significant health problems that there may be no health
care available during the Ha-Ha, and the only sophisticated health
care may be days - and many thousands of dollars - away. As the
Ha-Ha folks say over and over again in the liability releases,
it's a high-risk activity, not a dalliance on a cruise ship with
relatively sophisticated medical care.
First of all, thanks so much for all the Baja Ha-Ha fun from all of us on the Tayana 37 Last Resort! We had a great time, and appreciate how much work the Grand Poobah, Banjo Andy, Doña de Mallorca and the other volunteers put in each year. We appreciate all your efforts, and are glad that you seem to enjoy it. I'm sure that about now you're tired of all the questions and just want some well-deserved time to yourselves.
We had some wonderful times during the past 10 days - actually, the 60 days since we left the cold and gray of Seattle. But we wanted to share with you the fact that we had a friend leave Seattle along with us, but who, because he was singlehanding, couldn't be an official part of the Ha-Ha. Our friend is Harry Brenker of the Cascade 36 Rhiannon, who was our dockmate at Shilshole in Seattle. Many doubted that Harry would go through with his cruising dream since he hadn't sailed that much in Seattle. But he retired from Boeing on September 1 - and took off on September 2!
We caught up with Harry in Neah Bay toward the end of September, and then again in Morro Bay, California. He didn't really intend to do the Ha-Ha, but it just worked out that way. We nicknamed him 'Harry O' - the 'O' for Onassis - and called him a ship "magnet" because if you were sailing anywhere near him, tankers, freighters and cruise ships were sure to be in the area at night. We don't know why, but when sailing near Harry, the radar screen would be full of targets at night.
We chatted with Harry during the night watches so he wouldn't be alone, and enjoyed his company. Although he wasn't an official entry in the Ha-Ha, he did help relay positions from VHF-only boats to the Poobah via his SSB, he participated in some of the Ha-Ha parties, and helped out whenever he could. He sailed into Cabo right behind us, and even danced the Irish jig at Squid Roe with all the Ha-Ha folks. Harry is heading south to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta like the rest of us, but I know that he enjoyed the camaraderie of the Ha-Ha and really felt he was a part of it. To me, that's what the Ha-Ha is all about.
As for us, we're heading for Pulmo Reef for some quiet time and snorkeling, while our crew is headed back to Seattle. We spent quite a bit of time here in Cabo 15 years ago, and liked the old Cabo - prior to the cruise ships, jet skis, and mammoth resorts on the beach - but we had a great time here as this is where our cruising dream began, specifically, at the Whale Watch Bar at the Finnisterre Hotel many years ago. We hope to see Profligate again this cruising season.
Susan & Steve Tolle
Susan and Steve - Thanks for the very kind words. We can assure you that all of the three primary Ha-Ha volunteers really do enjoy heading up the event - in fact, none of us could even conceive of missing a Ha-Ha. True, it's a lot of work, but there are tremendous rewards in seeing so many people challenging themselves and having such a good time. Plus, the people in the Ha-Ha fleets have always been so great. For example, when John Hill on the Sunnyvale-based Nassau 34 Amazing Grace lost his engine and autopilot during the third leg and became becalmed four miles off Cabo, one of the fleet members offered to motor out and tow him in. Wait a minute, it was you folks who were nice enough to do that!
As for Harry feeling like he was part of the Ha-Ha, we think that's terrific. The Ha-Ha is all about inclusion. We've discussed officially allowing singlehanders in the Ha-Ha with event honcho Lauren Spindler, but she's steadfast in thinking that it's unduly risky to encourage it when there are so many other boats on the course. And frankly, we think she's right.
Having now gotten some quiet time, we're
looking forward to bumping into all the great Ha-Ha folks - and
Harry - again in Mexico. The Banderas Bay Regatta out of Paradise
Marina from March 12 to 15 wouldn't be the worst place to meet.
First, a huge thanks to the Poobah and other volunteers for your even-handed treatment of so many things during the Ha-Ha - such as medical problems, broken stuff on boats, crew departures, and the like. And the 836 bottle caps picked up at Turtle Bay was amazing. I picked up a bunch at Mangos on the beach in Cabo as a result. In fact, Ben became angry when I picked up one he'd tossed on the beach.
When you write about Phil Hendrix's medical problems, and how he was transferred to another Ha-Ha boat at sea and treated at the Turtle Bay Clinic before being medevac'ed to the States, I hope you mention Dr. Hector Rubio. He was the first physician contacted at the Turtle Bay Clinic, and it was he who was called from his home to let Katiana of Seayanika know what capabilities they had at the Clinic. Dr Rubio and the afternoon staff at the clinic endured my interruptions with grace and a smile. If they had been less receptive, who knows what Phil's outcome might have been.
Ben and I are scheming on how to take Georgia, the 40-footer we're getting ready to cruise, on the Ha-Ha in 2006. Right now we're supposed to attend weddings in N'Awlins and Kauai on what will probably be conflicting dates. Ben would actually like to take Mirage - the little boat we sailed in the Pacific Cup - on the Ha-Ha, but she only has a bucket and no head. And that just wouldn't cut it in lovely bays such as Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria.
I'll close with a question. I watch aluminum cans disintegrate after a week or two in the ice box if they are touched by any saltwater, so when I'm done with a can, I'm inclined to fill them with saltwater and toss them into the sea. I think that's better than bringing them back to shore where they'll end up above the water in a landfill. Or am I just making excuses? I already feel guilty with the huge plastic water jugs I carry - I require a fixed amount for daily medical reasons - and thus try to limit the other stuff by elimination and doing the best recycling that I can.
Queen Lucie Mewes
Queen Lucie - Thanks for the compliments, but we Ha-Ha volunteers do have a blast ourselves.
For those who don't understand the beer caps reference, here's what it's all about. For the volunteer leaders of the Ha-Ha, nothing is more important than the fleet leaving every beach cleaner than they found it. So when it started getting dark toward the end of the beach party at Turtle Bay, we handed out trash bags, and scores of people fanned out to police the area - not that there was much to collect. In fact, the places with the most garbage were on the ground around the two beer concessions run by the folks from Turtle Bay. Folks in Mexico are still behind the times when it comes to litter, so they'd allowed parts of foam plates and other stuff to fall to the sand around their feet. This big stuff was easy to pick up. Then there were the bottle caps. Every time they sold one of the perhaps 1,500 beers that afternoon, they'd pop the cap off, then drop it in the sand. Well, the Poobah wasn't about to leave the beach with so many bottle caps in the sand, so he got down on his hands and knees and started picking them up. The Mexicans stood back and eyed him as though he'd just arrived from Jupiter.
The Poobah has some problems with his back from an anchoring incident in the Sea of Cortez many years ago, so it was fortunate that Chris O'Brien of the Bellingham-based Gozzard 36 West Wind came along. Telling the Poobah to merely hold the garbage bag open, in the fading light O'Brien got on his hands and knees and began scooping up all the bottle caps. When it became clear that some were buried, he began shifting through the sand with his fingers to find them all. The Mexicans thought Chris's behavior was really bizarre. But by the time we left that beach, we'd done as good a job of cleaning up as possible, and we're proud of it. For this great attitude and effort, O'Neill was later awarded Bluewater Sailing/SSCA's Clean Wake Award.
By the way, one of the Turtle Bay beach party events is a waterballoon-catching contest, which resulted in about 100 balloons bursting on the beach. The Poobah can assure everyone that each one of these broken balloons was picked up and disposed of properly.
As for sinking the aluminum cans as
opposed to bringing them to shore and letting them take up space
in a landfill, we're not sure what the latest thinking is. Perhaps
someone can clue us in. Out of force of habit, we bring the cans
to shore, hoping the Mexicans will catch on to can recycling
before too long.
I just returned from the Baja Ha-Ha, and we all had a fabulous time! I sincerely hope to do it again next year. Many thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make this trip possible for so many people.
Leslie - It was our pleasure.
I hope this can-o-worms - personal favorite sailing songs - never gets closed. Here are some personal favorites from my collection.
From the top of my list: Single Handed Sailor from Communique by Dire Straits. Non pareil. There are about a dozen other Dire Straits songs that are on my 'desert island' collection of CDs that never leaves the boat, including Down to the Waterline and Water of Love from Dire Straits, their first album. And the song that follows Single Handed Sailor on Communique, Follow Me Home - doesn't have much to do with sailing, but it sure works. There's also Sailing to Philadelphia, the title cut from Mark Knopfler's album, which is a duet with James Taylor. Oh hell, anything from Dire Straits sounds good on the water.
One shouldn't be caught without Sailin' Shoes, the Lowell George classic, in either Little Feat or perhaps Robert Palmer form. (Or maybe both.)
Instrumentals? How about The Sailor's Grave on the Prairie from 6 and 12-string Guitar by Leo Kottke. There's a funny story I once heard him tell about that song, that it's about the "slow, boring death" of a sailor stranded at sea.
Why, just in the category of songs named Sail Away you could make a whole disc: Sail Away from Eye of the Zombie by John Fogerty (also a must-have on the 'desert island' collection); Sail Away from White Ladder by David Gray; Sail Away from Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young; Sail Away from A Day At the Beach by Sonia Dada (they/she rocks); or Sail Away by Randy Newman, either his original classic, and/or as covered by Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, or even Etta James. I dunno about Come Sail Away by Styx; it's not my favorite, but could be on somebody's list.
You want ships? One 'must have', of course, is Wooden Ships from Crosby, Stills & Nash, or as covered by Jefferson Airplane for a little more stony ride. The Ship Song from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is a dark one from that master of darkness. Another slow one is Shipbuilding by Elvis Costello. It's not particularly a sailing song, but hey, it's Elvis Costello. I Cover the Waterfront from Mr. Lucky by John Lee Hooker is another in the same mood.
Of course, there's Ship of Fools from Morrison Hotel by The Doors, or Ship of Fools from Now and Zen by Robert Plant. Slaveship is from a new kid, Josh Rouse, from a really great album called 1972 released this year. Oh, and while we're on The Doors, don't forget Horse Latitudes ('True sailing is dead!') from Strange Days, Land Ho! also from Morrison Hotel, and The Crystal Ship from their eponymous release.
In the broad category of 'water songs', let's start with The Water Song by Hot Tuna, another 'must-have'. Then there's Rock Me On the Water by Jackson Browne or the great cover by Linda Ronstadt. Don't leave port without them. Natch, Black Water by the Doobies. If you're going up the Delta way, Crossing Muddy Waters by John Hiatt would do the trick.
If you've never heard the late, great Eva Cassidy, get Songbird and listen to Wade in the Water. You'll be hooked.
The Samples were a few-hit wonder in the early '90s, and their Still Water has little to do with sailing, but it's another one that sounds great when floating about. Finally - especially if you've got a right-coast history - there's the Standells' Dirty Water. Or while we're there, how about Come on Down to My Boat Baby by those Monkees-wannabes from the same period, Every Mother's Son.
Irish? Try Flogging Molly's Salty Dog. Which reminds me, better have A Salty Dog by Procol Harum, too. Ride Captain Ride by Blues Image can't be beat, and although it's about flying, not sailing, bring Stephen Stills' Treetop Flyer along, too. And I can't leave the dock without knowing Jessie Colin Young's Ridgetop is on board - or as I call it, 'The Marin Song'.
I think many of these tunes are available on iTunes or its counterparts. Sail forth with music!
Eric - We're going to have to check
these out, for you seem to know what you're talking about.
I'm a delivery captain, primarily of large trawler yachts, and over the years have written letters to comment on subjects such as the Panama Canal, ship's agents and the rules of the road. Well, I just delivered a boat in the Chesapeake Bay, where I heard a wonderful folk singer performing original sail/cruising ballads. Her name is Eileen Quinn and she's a cross between Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Buffett. I know there are several folks who do this type of music, but Quinn captures the cruising essence well through humor - and her voice is crystal clear. I have no relation or connection to her, I just happened to hear her perform.
I'VE CHANGED MY MIND
I'm trying to track down the owner of the Pearson 36 Kabunza. She was for sale recently, but was taken off the market for lack of a buyer. I am now interested in buying her, but can't find the owner. I just ran across an article in Latitude that mentioned her, and followed the link to you. If you have any ideas on how to track her down, please call me at (650) 357-3386.
Bob - We know the folks who cruised
Kabunza in Mexico for several
years before buying Kabunza Cat in the Caribbean. They
read Latitude each month. If they know who owns their
old boat, we're sure they'll call you.
You can put me on the list of people interested in the Wylie 9+ft nesting dinghy similar to the one 'Commodore' Tomkins built as a tender for Flashgirl. I just started a similar project for my own use, but have no ambitions as a boatbuilder. As such, I would be happy to forgo the experience and simply purchase someone else's product. The weight seems a mite high, but different layups might tweak that downward. Anyway, I can be reached by email. Barring that, I'll be looking out for further information in your fine magazine.
Patrick - We were told that if the nesting
dinghy actually does go into production, it won't be for some
time. If and when that happens, we'll let you know.
I'm the grandfather who wrote the letter two months ago about my granddaughter falling in love with tugs - and included a final comment that a Foss tug captain had given me 'the finger' when I told him he was creating a dangerous wake by going too fast.
Mr. Engel, the local manager for Foss Maritime, wrote Latitude asking for a way to contact me because he wanted the situation straightened out. A gentleman, Mr. Engel was very professional and concerned about his company - as he should be. We had a pleasant conversation, and he has invited my granddaughter and me out on one of the Foss tugs. Unlike Mr. Peery, Mr. Engel agreed with me that a Foss tug passing at speed so close to my boat was uncalled for. I would like to thank Mr. Engel for taking the time to let me vent, and for taking it all in perspective.
Mr. Peery, readers will remember, was the one who wrote Latitude last month, and, among other things, accused me of slander and suggested that boats that can't handle tug wakes shouldn't be out on the Bay.
My boat is a 47-ft, 26-ton trawler that has spent a lot of time on the Bay, out the Gate, and up and down the coast. I have no doubt my boat can deal with normal wakes and waves. However, the tug that passed so close and fast tossed my substantial trawler around like a ping-pong ball. The action was so violent that it ripped a television from a secure mounting where it had been for years, and sent it through a glass tabletop. I'm not seeking to recover any damages, as Mr. Peery suggests, nor was I in open water, as he eluded to. I was in the Oakland Estuary alongside a container ship, over as far as possible so as to not impede faster traffic. There was a small sailboat about 40 yards ahead of me that was tossed around more violently than my boat. It was early morning, the water was like glass, and there was nobody else around. The tug passed so close to me - 30 to 40 feet - that I didn't have time to turn into the wake, and thus had to take it on the beam.
Why Mr. Peery? Why couldn't the tug operator have moved to the center of the channel and given me more time to react? Is this how you skipper your boats? I did not group Foss Maritime in with anyone else or any other boat - another conclusion you seemed to have pulled out of nowhere. As a matter of fact, I have a great amount of respect for Foss for hiring people like Mr. Engel, who cares about his company enough to try and reach me. On the other hand, after reading your response, I can't imagine you being very courteous on the water.
I don't believe I have slandered you in any way, but if I have, please have your attorney contact me.
I've recently taken up sailing on San Francisco Bay, and am considering buying my own boat. Based on your experience, how important is a boat's draft on San Francisco Bay? I've heard the opinion that a deeper keel would be beneficial when beating in stronger winds and currents, and that a shallower keel would lend itself to sailing over mud shoals and in shallow channels. I intend on sailing in the deeper waters of the Bay and in the Pacific, so I would imagine that a deeper keel would benefit my style of sailing.
The specific boat I've been interested in is a 32-ft Beneteau with a draft of 4'3". I can't tell you much more about the boat except that she was designed by Grupo Finot. Is it a safe bet that I would enjoy this boat regardless of the shallower keel?
Cuyler H. Binion
Cuyler - We don't know which 32-ft Beneteau you're talking about, but if she was designed by Grupo Finot - a top-notch design outfit - we'd feel confident that they got the keel depth right. And rest assured that designing a proper keel is more complicated than assuming the deeper the better.
The only possible reason you might shy
away from this Beneteau 32 is if the model were offered in both
deep and shoal draft versions, and this were a shoal draft version
- and you planned to race seriously on the Bay. All other things
being equal, there is no reason to have a shoal draft boat on
the Bay - except in a very few particularly shallow areas. Shoal
draft models of boats are usually designed for use in areas such
as the Chesapeake Bay, Florida, and the Bahamas.
Sorry to bother you, but can you or someone in your company refer me to someone I can consult with questions about buying another boat - my last. I'm wondering, for example, if there would be any significant difference between a Hunter with a 5-ft winged keel and the current 6-ft plus fin keel?
I hope the Ha-Ha went well.
Robert - If you want to put the money out, you could consult with a naval architect. But before you do that, we'd want to know what other kinds of questions you'd want to ask so we could make sure it would be worth your while. Maybe you'd be better off just spending a couple of days asking questions at the next Strictly Sail Pacific - the new name for what used to be called Sail Expo.
As for the difference between a 5-ft winged keel and a 6-ft fin keel, if you're not an experienced racer, we doubt you'd notice the difference. Besides, there are other factors that would have a much greater effect on how the boat sails, namely, how clean the bottom is, how good the sails are, how well they are trimmed and how well the boat is being helmed.
Thanks for asking about the Ha-Ha. We're
prejudiced, but we thought it was a smashing success.
Pardon a stranger, but I have to ask. My inexperiened daughter and son-in-law want to buy, refurbish and bring a lovely 50-year-old 36-ft mahogany sloop from Maine to California with an eye to making a profit. Without access to a surveyor's report, how can I help them evaluate if this is a brilliant, feasible or stupid plan? The idea is they can buy the boat for $33,000, put $8,000 into her, and sell her in San Francisco for $50,000. The boat in question is a 36-ft Hinckley.
Olof - Although the pedigree of a Hinckley
is as good as you can get, we'd do our best to discourage your
daughter and son-in-law. For one thing, restoring wood boats
is not easy and it's not for the inexperienced. Having somebody
build an 8-ft El Toro is usually enough to cure their boatbuilding
dreams. Restoring wooden boats is also a labor of love, not a
profitable enterprise. As you may have read in the last issue,
Dennis Conner reportedly spent something like $1 million restoring
his 49-ft Cotton Blossom. And
he's a guy who knows a thing or two about boats. Finally, the
market for classic Hinckleys isn't as strong on the West Coast
- where most sailors have no idea what a Hinckley is - as it
is in the Northeast, where a finely restored Hinckley can be
a status symbol.
In the August issue, there was a letter about sailing from California to Hawaii in the fall and winter - and more specifically in December. As Latitude pointed out in an editorial response, weather conditions during that time of year can be adverse on that course. However, it's possible to minimize the risk of encountering bad weather.
As a professional marine weather service provider, we at weatherguy.com receive many similar inquiries. Although the winter is not the ideal time to make a passage from California to Hawaii, our advice has always been that it's possible to make the trip successfully. With proper voyage planning, crew/vessel preparation, patience, and knowledge about weather conditions, one can have an enjoyable and safe crossing in the fall, winter, and spring - as well as in the summer. In fact, we have clients who are making the passage right now, and others scheduled throughout the winter.
True, during the northern hemisphere's winter, I'd rather be sailing in the Caribbean, Mexico and prime locations in the southern hemisphere. However, if Hawaii is in someone's plans, a winter crossing shouldn't necessarily be ruled out.
Rick - In other words, nobody sails
from California to Hawaii in the winter for pleasure.
In the November issue, "R & R" of the Coos Bay-based R3 complained that the biggest problem they had during their stop in San Francisco Bay was with the simple things - such as knowing where to find a nearby grocery store, laundromat, propane dealer, and such. We think every sailor sympathizes with R & R's problem.
In your response, you suggested that you might answer these questions with an article next May before the start of the cruising season. But until then, there's the California Boater's Guide to the Harbors and Marinas of the San Francisco Bay, Delta, Outer Coast and Hawaii, 16th edition, by Roger and Bob Dinelli of Bald Eagle Enterprises. This guide is chock full of pertinent information - including drawings of the harbors - which is invaluable to anyone cruising these areas.
After a couple of frustrating months trying to find a guidebook to the Delta, we stumbled across the Stockton Sailing Club's copy of the California Boater's Guide - and were so impressed that we immediately sent away for our own copy. We think the book is a real find!
Carolyn and Doug Bitner
Carolyn and Doug - It's true, the California Boater's Guide does have a lot of great information, but with all due respect, we think R & R were looking for more detailed information. For example, if you look at the page for Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, there's a section where the Boater's Guide lists the nearest services, such as grocery stores, restaurants, laundromats, a post office, and chandlery. The Boater's Guide notes that such services are "within walking distance." That's helpful, of course, but minimally so.
On the other hand, the free, four-color,
Sausalito Maritime Map published by the Richardson Bay Maritime
Association lists the names, addresses and phone numbers of 13
marine businesses, including riggers, boatyards, outboard and
diesel specialists. Also listed are 11 general service providers
such as banks and four different laundries, as well as five grocery/convenience
stores and four points of interest. It also comes with a map
of all of Sausalito, showing exactly where these businesses are,
where to anchor in Richardson Bay, and where to tie a dinghy
on shore. It's the definitive guide for anyone visiting Sausalito
by boat and needing to get stuff done and/or enjoy life.
I saw the mention of the Sausalito Maritime Map in the November issue, and wanted to get a copy. To make a long story short, it almost seemed as though I'd have to drive to Sausalito to get a copy - so I could safely go to Sausalito by boat. I was also surprised that there was no mention of the map at all on the Richardson Bay Maritime Association Web site. Except for the casual mention in Latitude, how would someone have even known the maps existed? It kind of made me wonder what was going on. Since I understand Latitude helped the RBMA publish the map, perhaps you have a proprietary interest in it. Since it seems that no one will snail-mail the map out to a requestor, it would be great if it could be viewed - or downloaded - from the RBMA or Latitude Web sites. What do you think?
I ultimately found out that a West Marine store in my area had a few of the maps, so I'll get my copy this weekend.
Sherman - Let us tell you about our 'propriety interest'. One day we found out that the RBMA was making such a map in response to a complaint we'd made in the magazine about boat visitors to Sausalito not having any idea where to anchor, tie up their dinghy, or shop. The next thing we knew, we'd been drafted into making suggestions for the map and proofreading it. Finally, we found ourselves making out a check to help pay for part of the printing! Like you, we didn't quite know what was going on.
It's a really great map and guide, if we do say so ourselves, and it was motivated and funded entirely by people and organizations in Sausalito wanting to make it easier for folks on boats to enjoy their visits. All of the many folks who helped put it together knew it was a goodness-of-their-heart project, and, as the maps were to be free, a sure money-loser. But we're still glad we helped out.
As you suggest, the map really belongs on the Internet, where it would hardly cost anything, and where the whole world would have easy access to it 24/7. We'll see if we can't rectify the situation. Meanwhile, if anybody wants a copy, send a SASE to Sausalito Maritime Map, 15 Locust, Mill Valley, CA 94941, and we'll get one out to you.
By the way, has anyone ever told you
that you've got a terrific name?
Have you done any articles on the best way(s) to build your own mooring ball? We sure would appreciate some help.
Floridians - We have the same question
for you as we did for our friend Bobo, who, 25 years ago, travelled
all the way to Colorado to buy the plans to build his own down
jacket - why not save time and money by buying ready-made? When
it comes to some things - jackets and mooring buoys among them
- mass production is the only way to go. West Marine and other
marine suppliers sell a wide variety of mooring buoys, and they're
not too expensive either. Get a buoy that has twice as much flotation
as the chain it needs to hold up from the bottom. For $220, you
can get one that holds up 240 pounds of chain. Of course, with
all the hurricanes in Florida, you can probably buy a used mooring
buoy for next to nothing at a marine flea market.
The following is a copy of the letter we sent to the members of the Angel Island Association Board:
"We're writing to tell you about the uncomfortable situation we encountered September 11 at Ayala Cove. By way of background, my husband and I are experienced sailors, having over 85 years of experience between us. We have been sailing to Angel Island seven or eight times a year for over 30 years, usually spending at least one night.
"Here are the rules for Ayala Cove as taken directly from your Web site today: 'Private boats can use the boat slips or mooring buoys at Ayala Cove. Slips, 30' to 50' are open year round from 8 a.m. to sunset, and cost $4. Mooring fees are $10/night May 15 to Sept. 15, and $7/night the rest of the year. Slips and buoys are on a first-come, first-served basis.'
"When we were moored there this summer - and rowed in to pay our fee since no one came out to collect it - we were startled to be charged $60 instead of $30 for three nights. We were told the rates had recently been doubled. There were seven boats on the moorings, and we were the only ones who paid. For the next three days, nobody came out to collect money from any of the other boats. It hardly seems fair.
"From time to time, we auction off trips on our boat - which includes a buffet lunch at anchor - for worthy charities. These trips usually make several hundred dollars for the various causes. On September 11, we were paying off a fund-raiser for Rotary. We had six guests, none of whom had been on a sailboat before. We picked up a mooring in Ayala Cove, set up the buffet, poured the wine - for everyone but the captain, of course - when a ranger came up and said we had to move because we were too close to the ferry dock.
"No problem," we said, we'd move to another buoy. There were three other buoys available because they were occupied by boats that were just stopping for lunch. The ranger told us that we couldn't do that because the buoys were for overnight use only, and that we'd have to come in to the dock. We offered to pay the ranger a day fee and move, but he wouldn't take it, saying he didn't have the paperwork, and that he could only collect from the dock. We tried to explain that it would be very difficult for us to come in to the dock since our docklines were difficult to access, only two of us were competent to handle the boat, and in the interest of space we had left most of our fenders back at our berth. He kept saying we had to go to the dock. The ranger left without going to the other boats that were just tied up on buoys for lunch!
"We stowed the lunch things and were getting ready to leave when a second ranger came up. He demanded $20 for using the buoy, and he told us to leave immediately. Our total time at the buoy had been about 50 minutes. His posture made sure that we noticed he was armed.
"The fee is not the issue. At times in the past when nobody collected them and we didn't have a dinghy in the water to bring them in, we've sent donations to the park. Angel Island is a jewel in the Bay, and we are certainly willing to do our share toward the upkeep. The issue is making and changing long-standing policies - and then not telling anyone. It's also the selective collection of fees.
"In addition, the rangers also don't seem to understand some of the issues of mooring successfully, and having adequate assistance to dock a 38-ft sailboat safely with a couple of knots of tide and non-nautical guests aboard."
Mary Lou & Don Oliver
I wrote Latitude a year ago about buying a 32-ft PDQ catamaran in Florida, and how I might make the purchase legally exempt from the California sales and use tax. I'm happy to report that I bought the PDQ in August of '03, had it transported from Port Everglades, Florida, to Ensenada in late October and early November of '03 via one of Dockwise Yacht Transport's float-on/float-off ships. The shipping cost $7,100, plus $500 in marine insurance.
I just received notice from the California State Board of Equalization that I had provided sufficient evidence of "functional use" out of state for over 90 days, so I saved about $7,500+ in tax - which happened to be equal to the cost of shipping the boat here from Florida.
It's unfortunate that this tax exempt option has basically been eliminated by recent legislation. For contrary to newspaper accounts, not all of us are rich yachtsman. I, for example, refinanced my condo to get the money to buy my boat. By the way, I did all the research and paperwork myself, and didn't rely on a professional.
Thanks for Latitude 38. I never miss an issue - even while cruising in Mexico.
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