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A number of years ago you had an article about Alcatraz being a floating island. I've tried to find it again with online searches, and thought it was due to run again - maybe in the New Year's issue. I live in the Bay Area, and everyone thinks I'm crazy whenever I mention the story. Either no one knows their history or I am crazy. Any chance I could get a copy of that article?

P.S. Latitude is top-notch - you can't be touched by anything out there!  

Verne Blanchard
San Jose

Verne - Thanks for the kind words. We were going to run the story about Alcatraz being a floating island again in the summer of '01 because there were some pending environmental and BCDC issues associated with the current mooring arrangement. And as you no doubt remember, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown wanted Alcatraz to be repositioned 250 yards closer to Pier 39 for easier tourist access. San Francisco, of course, was in much better fiscal shape back then, so spendthrift ideas such as that could be batted around.

Those plans all went up in smoke, of course, with the events of 9/11, as Homeland Security has now classified the Alcatraz mooring system as top secret. We don't know if they think Osama and his friends are going to steal the island and take it offshore to be held hostage, but the public is no longer allowed to see the plans. Furthermore, friends who visited Alcatraz in recent years say the rangers are now denying that it's a floating island. Right! As if every racer on the Bay didn't know that Alcatraz floats slightly to the east during a flood and slightly to the west during an ebb.


Something happened to me this summer that I didn't know how to respond to. Perhaps your amazing readers could give me some advice.

After a beautiful sail with three friends on my Pearson 26 Veritas, I returned to my berth at Richmond's Marina Bay, planning to dock under sail. Yeah, I was showing off a bit, but I usually do this, and the conditions weren't anything we couldn't handle. That is, until I found another boat tied up in my slip. By then I was in the fairway, my own berth was occupied, and I had to find a place to park my boat quickly. I found another slip further down the row and sailed in. One of my friends ran back up to my slip to get one of the four mooring lines we left there, and returned with the news that the boat in our slip had the name of a local sailing school painted on her topsides.

What would you do? Neighbors in the marina had all sorts of clever ideas. One suggested that we could use lines to move the sailing school boat to another slip. Others suggested that we exchange outboards, or tie the boat off by the bow and leave her to dangle in the fairway, or simply cut her loose.

The first thing I did was call the marina office. They confirmed that they hadn't given permission for the sailing school to use my slip and said they would call the school. Meanwhile, they offered me another slip, across the fairway, until they could clear up the matter. While I appreciated the marina's offer of a different slip for a while, my dock box had my freshwater hose, outboard flusher, and all the other stuff we wanted to use before we left. And my docklines would need to be moved, too. Since I didn't like the offer of a downwind slip, I decided to wait a bit - not forgetting that whoever owned the slip where my boat was tied up could be returning from their daysail at any moment. That would have been really unpleasant. Meanwhile, my crew and I were tired, thirsty, and we wanted to get home. We put everything away and waited some more.

I finally called the sailing school directly. A woman there told me she couldn't figure out who could be responsible, and unfortunately, she wasn't qualified to move the boat. After hanging around for another 20 minutes or so chatting with my neighbors, I just about gave up. I was about to call the sailing school one last time when two gentlemen walked down the dock. One of them was wearing a sailing school T-shirt.

I asked him why he was in my slip. He apologized and promised to move his boat - but just then I got through to the sailing school on my cell phone. I handed the phone to him and suggested that he could explain to his school why he was in my slip. I assume that he is not the navigation instructor at the school. As I noted, there were four docklines at my slip, and he tied up his boat right over the top of two of them - so it wasn't as if he thought the slip was not being rented. A few minutes later he and the boat were gone, and we motored into my slip and put the boat away. No harm, no foul, and thank God we were out of the other slip before its owner returned.

Now for my question - what is the appropriate etiquette for such a situation? The marina clearly didn't want to move any boat, I assume because of their fears of liability. I didn't want to move the boat either, for the same reasons. But if I rent the berth, is the berth mine? Is this equivalent to coming back to one's apartment to find a brand new big screen TV in the living room? Or more like finding somebody else's car in your apartment's parking space? If it's the latter, is there a marine towing service you can call for such situations? What would you have done? What's the proper etiquette?

Paul Wagner
Veritas, Pearson 26

Paul - Because Profligate needs an end-tie to berth, and because end-ties are the most common places for people to just leave their boats, we've returned from a number of sails to find unknown boats occupying our spot. We don't mind if there is someone still on the boat, ready, willing and able to move out at a moment's notice. However, our blood tends to boil if there is nobody around. After all, it means somebody is stealing our time, and because of the number of hours we work, we don't have any time to spare.

If it happens during marina hours, our first response is to call the marina office and try to let them handle it. They have the right to chain the boat to the dock, but rarely do because it's usually way more trouble than it's worth. If none of the marina staff were around and there wasn't another space, we would have no compunction about moving the offending boat - as long as we were confident we wouldn't damage any other boats in the process. In the case you describe, we would have had one of your crew untie the offending boat and let it dangle in the fairway, allowing you to sail your boat into your slip. Then we would have tied the offending boat perpendicular to the back of your boat, still leaving enough room for boats to negotiate the fairway. And if we had a dog, we would have him pee on the other boat's docklines for good measure. In the case of a boat using our end-tie, we'd simply raft her up on the outside of our boat - assuming we had enough crew to do the job safely. Some boatowners are very prickly about people touching or moving their boat. These folks should take particular care to stay out of other people's slips.

We're not necessarily recommending that you do what we do, because there may be liability issues, but that's how we'd handle it. We're interested to hear what other readers would do. But most of all, we're interested in knowing what some mariners are thinking when they pull into what is obviously someone else's slip and then disappear for two hours. Is that the ultimate in disrespect or what?


We Northern California sailors aren't accustomed to squalls, but as we recently learned on a passage from Ecuador to Panama, they can come out of nowhere and be ferocious.

After about six months of enjoying Ecuador, we had to leave because our visas ran out. That wasn't a problem, as we wanted to spend more time in Panama, which is familiar territory to us. Our trip north went very well, as we had good winds, making for a fast passage. The trip wasn't without incident, however, as we were twice knocked down - really knocked down! - by a nasty squall.

It happened when we were two days north of Ecuador. One moment it was calm, and we were motoring with all our sails up. Then it started to rain, and boom, powerful winds suddenly knocked us down on our starboard side. By "knocked down," I mean sails in the water, lifelines under water and green water - tons of it - pouring into the cockpit! Fortunately, our sturdy Cabo Rico 38 righted herself in a matter of seconds.

But then - boom! - we were knocked down on the other side. Indicative of how far we went over, our gas can floated over the top of our lifelines! And we stayed pinned down. The cockpit flooded, and water started pouring down the companionway steps and into the salon. We were in deep shit. Part of the reason the boat didn't right itself is that the mainsail was underwater! We desperately needed to release the sheet, but it was very difficult being heeled over so far with green water everywhere. When I was finally able to release it, we popped right up.

Once upright, the cockpit, which had been full of water, quickly drained. And our bilge pump got the water out of the inside of the boat. Through all this, the engine never missed
a beat. It had actually been so calm prior to the squall that Judy had turned the engine on. That's what woke me up. I'd just been coming up the companionway ladder the first time we got knocked down.

How strong were the gusts? We can't even guess, but they were very powerful. And after the two knockdowns, it was raining so hard that it flattened the seas.

Damage was limited to the boom buckling slightly, the autopilot getting drowned, and a few minor items floating away. Fortunately, we had a spare autopilot, which was quickly installed and works fine. The boom can be fixed for about $300 by Ollie, a guy at the Balboa YC. The main cabin, of course, was a mess after the knockdowns, and lots of cushions and other stuff got wet.

These two knockdowns were the scariest things to have happened to us in our five years of cruising. We're impressed, but not freaked out. It's just something that happens, and we know of other cruisers who have also been knocked down by squalls. In the future, we're going to do a better job of avoiding them, and if we can't, we're going to get the sails down. In any event, we're sure happy with our Cabo Rico, as she righted herself beautifully.

We just got home to Northern California for our annual holiday visit. The weather is a lot different here than in Panama, where it was sunny and 86°.

Matt & Judy Johnston
Elsewhere, Cabo Rico 38

Matt and Judy - Squalls like those really do add another element to sailing. What makes it tricky is that lots of them only increase the windspeed by five or 10 knots, while others pack a huge punch. You just never know what you're going to get.


In the most recent Letters, you told a reader concerned about yacht piracy that there is no good database of such incidents. I guess I agree, but you ought to check out Klaus Hympendahl's Web site,, for what is probably the best available rundown. He published the book Pirates Aboard! in both German and English, detailing a number of the yacht piracy events of the last decade. It is a helpful resource in planning for the security of one's cruising yacht.

P.S. Love the new issue, as always!

Jim Bondoux
Lionesse, Cheoy Lee Motoryacht
Northern California

Jim - We admire Hympendahl's goal of trying to create a database of yacht piracy incidents in order to help cruisers, but he doesn't have enough information with which to make intelligent recommendations.

For example, he writes, "Beautiful Cartagena is safe." Well, we don't think John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing would agree with such an assessment. It was just a year ago that Haste, while driving his cat from a boatyard in Cartagena Bay, was stopped, hooded, and robbed of all his electronics by three men armed with at least one homemade shotgun. Nor is anything said about the Rosario Islands, just 20 miles from Cartagena, where there have been at least two violent incidents against yachties in recent years.

There is also no mention made of Papua New Guinea where, in the last few years, several cruisers have been the victims of extreme violence.

On the other hand, Hympendahl warns cruisers going to Nicaragua to "beware of the coastline without other yachts nearby or if you anchor in a remote bay." Why would he do that? All kinds of West Coast yachties - including yourself - have enjoyed those waters for years without a problem. We can't recall ever hearing of an instance of yacht piracy off Nicaragua.

Hympendahl also reports that Panama's Gulf of Darien is dangerous because drugs are smuggled from there on speedboats. We know of quite a few boats that have cruised the Gulf of Darien without a problem, and have never heard of a boat being attacked there. And then Hympendahl writes, "Due to U.S. observation, the Caribbean side of Colombia seems to be pretty safe." It's unclear if he's talking about the Caribbean side of the Isthmus of Darien or the rest of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. In either case, he'd be completely wrong.

As we said, we admire Hympendahl's intent, but he's missing the factual information necessary to draw any intelligent conclusions.

Two other things to remember. First, in many places the dangers ashore are more serious than they are on a boat. Take South Africa, where the murder rate is an astonishing seven times higher than in the good old United States of Violence. Similarly, it's a lot more dangerous ashore in the Caribbean than it is on a boat.

Second, in many cases violence against yachties is determined by individuals, not regions. For example, an American cruiser was murdered on his boat years ago in Turtle Bay, but now, and even back then, nobody thought it was a community problem. It was just one crazy guy. It's the same with Barbuda in the Caribbean, where four crew on a luxury yacht were tortured and killed. The crimes were not considered to be symptoms of a bad area, just a few bad people. Similarly, there was a string of armed robberies of boats in the Rio Dulce - that suddenly ended after the prime suspect was killed in a shootout in Guatemala City.

The truth of the matter is that most of the sailing world is very safe. The few areas that are dangerous are well known.


I'd like to correct an item that appeared in 'Lectronic Latitude. Defibrillators do not re-start a person's heart, as you reported. Fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, and a defibrillator stops the heart, which allows it to restart on its own with a regular beat.

Brett Phillips
Northern California

Brett - Oops! Does this mean we're going to lose our license to practice medicine? Seriously, thank you for the correction. The point of our item in 'Lectronic was to let folks know that a growing number of cruising boats are now carrying portable defibrillators. In fact, they are now carried at some West Marine stores, and can probably be found between 5200 and winch handles.


In reply to Tony 'gobsmacked' Kapetanovic's inquiry from New Zealand regarding the Seagoer yawl named Calypso, she was indeed owned by Jim Hollywood of Southern California, and indeed circumnavigated over a four-year period from 1972 to 1976. I had the good fortune to crew for Jim and his wife on the first leg from Southern California south to Zihuatanejo, then across the pond through the Marquesas, Tuamotos and the Society Islands. 

As I recall, our passage from Zihuatanejo to Nuku Hiva was 34 days, an average of a bit over 110 miles per day - all of it hand-steered. Well over 99% of the trip was under sail, as we had limited fuel that needed to be saved for charging, motoring in and out of harbors, anchoring, and emergencies. Somewhere I still have my log of that trip, as well as a couple of hours of 8mm film converted to VHS tape. If Tony would like copies, he should contact me by email.

I left Calpyso in Papeete after meeting - and falling for - a gorgeous French/Tahitian lass. Calypso continued west, wintering somewhere in Indonesia, where Jim worked as an oil platform supply boat captain. I believe the following winters were spent in Australia and South Africa, and finally back in Dana Point. Calypso was then sold, and Hollywood ran the Dana Point loft for John Conser's Windward Sails. Jim earned his 100-ton captain's license, and was active in west coast racing, and in the '80s and '90s skippered boats such as Victoria, the 72-ft replica of Ticonderoga. In fact, he took Victoria across the Atlantic to the Med, then back to the West Coast via the Canal and Panama.

Sadly, Jim died unexpectedly from heart problems in 1998 or 1999. At the time of his death, he was preparing his Columbia 52 Gypsy for an extended cruise through the South Pacific with his second wife and son.  

Here's wishing Tony the best in his restoration of Calypso - which is now over 60 years old, has travelled many an ocean mile, and must be on her fourth or fifth rebuild. I know that Jim - and friends - conducted the second reconditioning before the circumnavigation, as the boat had been cruising in Mexico and was quite tired. We refastened and re-caulked her, replaced the motor, rebuilt the rudder and steering, beefed up the standing rigging, added refrigeration in the form of an RV propane-run box, added a manual windlass, recut and re-stitched the sails and more. But I'm pleased to learn from Tony's letter that Calypso still exists and is being restored. Maybe I'm gobsmacked and don't even know it!  

Jim Senechal
Dana Point

Jim - Thanks for all those great details. We didn't know Hollywood, but if we're not mistaken, he and his crew completed the 1979 Long Beach to Cabo to La Paz Race that some participants said was as rough or rougher than the Fastnet Race that had killed 15 sailors off England just a few months before. If memory serves us, only six of the 33 starters made it to La Paz - and Hollywood and crew did it with a little ultralight Olson 30!


Reading Jim Ahola's name - he was one of those lost when Spirit sank returning from Hawaii in the '70s - in Letters brought back strong memories of my youth. He was a buddy of mine from high school in Fairfax. He was a good guy who tried his hand at carpentry, mountain-climbing, photography and sailing. Seeing his name made me dig out a photo he took during a shoot of my band back in 1973. It's the only cool picture that's been taken of me. After the loss of Spirit, there was a memorial for him and Cammy [Camilla Arthur, who was also lost] held at Stinson Beach. I sang that old Dylan tune with the lyrics, "Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore / and you may not see me tomorrow."

For those interested in sailing and music, I have a recording of Bay Music on a CD called Club Bongo. It's pure melody and percussion. Interested folks can email meor find me at

Dan Hayes
Second Wind, Cal 20


I realize that you prefer to receive all your submissions electronically, but please put up with an old-time, 73-year-old author. My first article appeared in Yachting in September of 1964! I'm too old to figure out the electronic age, so this letter has been written on a laptop - meaning a mechanical typewriter balanced on my lap in the forward cabin of L'll Iolaire, my engineless yawl that replaced the big Iolaire. If you attach a chain to them, I've found that boat engines make great moorings!

I'm writing in the hope of finding out more information on Karenita - better known as Scirocco, which was her name from 1936 when Errol Flynn bought her, until the '90s when the owners used her original name again. I did a search of Karenita in Lloyd's Register at the New York YC and found an interesting history, but I'm hoping that some West Coast sailors might be able to fill in the gaps. Here's what I know:

She was built in 1929 as Karenita, sold and became Aviner in '30, Simoon in '33, Watchette II in '34 and renamed Karenita in '36 when she was bought by a gentleman who belonged to four Boston area yacht clubs. Errol Flynn bought her in 1938 and renamed her Scirocco, which is the same name of a boat he'd owned in the late '20s and early '30s in Australia and New Guinea. Flynn kept her until he beat the rap on the famous rape trial in about 1944. Two 17-year-olds accused him of rape onboard Scirocco, but they were unable to describe the interior of the boat.

There was no Lloyd's Registry from '42 to '45, and the New York YC's library is missing the '46 edition, so she next shows up as being owned by Frank Mueller of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, who owned her all the way up until '59. At that point she was acquired by Philippe Beixedon of Santa Barbara, and stayed under his name until '74 - at which point she disappeared from Lloyd's Registry.

But Lloyd's is wrong, because it's known that Steve Guy of Santa Barbara bought her in '68 and owned her until '74. In fact, he sailed her across the Pacific, and did a major refit in New Zealand, where she was converted from a ketch to a cutter, after which she crossed the Indian Ocean to Cape Town. She showed up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in '76, where she was purchased by Dr. Henry Hamilton of Raywood Avenue in San Mateo.

I'm trying to find out if anybody knew anything about her activities under Flynn's ownership. How did she get from the East Coast to the West Coast? Where, if at all, did Flynn cruise her? Can Steve Guy or any of his crew be contacted for details of the cruise under his ownership? Does anybody know about her activities in the time between the ownership of Flynn and Guy? Any help with this information would be greatly appreciated.

Donald Street, Jr.
L'll Iolaire / Iolaire Enterprises Ltd.
Rock Cottage, Glandore, County Cork, Republic of Ireland

Donald - Our apologies, as we somehow allowed your letter to languish on our desk for nearly eight months. It's been so long since we received some snail mail that we were perplexed into inactivity. We beg your pardon, hoping you weren't in a hurry - as, we imagine, would be the case with a sailor who repeatedly throws his boat engines over the side.

By the way, last winter we saw you and L'll Iolaire anchored out by Corossol, and a few hours later observed you sailing up to the Charles de Gualle Quai in Gustavia, St. Barth. For a cantankerous fellow, you had your red-hulled boat looking sharp under jib and mizzen.

As for Scirocco, we're going to put you in touch with Pete Fromhagen of San Rafael, who used to sail on her. Perhaps some of our other readers will contact you as well.

Lastly, be informed that we Californians don't consider 73 to be old. In fact, it's at about that age that some of our big city mayors start fathering children by former employees.


Are there any comparison tests of the various makes of the new stabilized binoculars, with a particular emphasis on their usefulness on sailboats? I tried some Canon stabilized binoculars in the Caribbean, but was disappointed. They were excellent on land - I could read a car's license plate from a block away - but on a boat I couldn't keep what I was seeing steady enough to read navigation markers.

Planet Earth

Zolt - Sorry, we don't have any experience with stabilized binoculars. Perhaps one of our readers has a brand and model they would recommend.


You asked readers to comment on people's experiences on the Ha-Ha, as well as what gear they liked and would have liked to have had. I'd like to respond, based on 3.5 Ha-Has, as well as an Atlantic crossing, sailing in the Med, and so forth. I've done this on small, medium and large boats, some of which were new, some of which were old. My comments are based on things I repeatedly noticed, so there is no need to give names or mention boat names. This may be more than you wanted on the subject, but I have just spent the last day recompiling my notes from this and other trips, seeking to (re)learn good things.

Did we have major gear and/or engine problems? The biggest problems I've had have been the lack of backup alternators and electric bilge pumps.

What was my favorite bit of marine gear? I liked the paper charts, pencils, handheld GPS and batteries for the GPS. It meant I knew we would get where we were going, even if the electronics and/or onboard GPS failed. I've also liked having a fuel transfer pump and valved siphon, so we could avoid having to use the new CARB pouring spouts on jerry jugs. The fuel transfer pumps and valved siphons are the only way to go!

What marine gear did I really wish we had? 1) A backup alternator - that had been pre-installed and tested. 2) A 110V ammeter to check what the genset was doing. 3) A 12V ammeter to check what the alternator was really doing. The digital amp-hour meters are fun, but really not helpful for troubleshooting. 4) An indicator light for the genset to indicate output. 5) An adequate electrical kit to provide ammeter, voltage and maybe circuit breaker/regulator functionality that can be used when patching and debugging. 6) The mothership Profligate's satellite phone number - so we could give them an update. 7) An autopilot that automatically tracks cross-track error. 8) A recent survey for offshore cruising - with the recommendations all completed one month before departure. 9) For boats that have watermakers, all the rebuild parts necessary.

If you took or were unknown crew, how did it work out, and how might you do things differently in the future? This one is my biggest hot-button! Most boats that I've been on need a thorough interior cleaning before leaving the dock at the start. Smelly heads, dirty carpets, sticky and/or slippery soles, leaking holding tanks, leaking diesel near bunks, heads not working, stale food, dirty sponges, hard-to-find tools, sleeping arrangements and lee cloths not checked, poor storage - all of these things make life miserable and dangerous at sea.

Other things to do differently:

It would be nice if Godiva chocolates were placed on turned-down sleeping pillows. No kidding! It's easy to do and makes a big hit.

A heavy dockside hose-down would identify many leaks, especially up forward. I'm told that Nautor/Swan uses a fire truck for this purpose.

New crew, both men and women, need to be reminded that this cruising is continual work, with shifts for both cleaning and watches, and with zero privacy except on boats over 100 feet. Meeting with the crew and setting expectations in advance is essential. It's essential that all members of the crew continually offer to help with whatever needs to be done.

Eating and drinking habits need to be sorted out before departure and before money is wasted. After all, there is no point in buying steaks for vegetarians, fruit-flavored beer, or French bubbly water. I have also had many experiences where crew that have stated they will 'eat and drink anything' announce underway that they are vegetarians who only drink certain American water in brand-new plastic bottles.

Review the watch system, and do it long before departure.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation used a phrase to focus on: A single 'mission', effective communication, delegation, teamwork and honor. All are essential and gotta start before leaving the dock.

The best advice - and this comes from my wife Marylyn: Keep calm. There's no sense for the captain or crew to go ballistic over anything. My best advice: Just have fun!

P.S. Thanks again for another great Ha-Ha!

Mike Chambreau
Impetuous, Cal 34
Los Altos, California


Regarding your 'Lectronic Latitude request for comments on the Ha-Ha, I did it in 2000, but still think my comments are pertinent:

1) We had no major gear or engine problems.

2) My radar alarm system was my favorite bit of gear.

3) I would have loved to have had a cockpit speaker for my VHF radio.

4) We didn't have any unknown crew.

5) We had a great time with our 13-year-old son! It couldn't have been better.

What a memory after all these years!     

Eric R. Stephan
Indara, Norseman 447
Gig Harbor, Washington


Having done the Ha-Ha this year, primarily, two things come to mind that we'd like to comment on. First, we learned that it was very important to have the electronic equipment set up properly, and that people know how to use it. In our case, we bought a boat with an SSB radio - that apparently is an international model. We had no use for it on Flathead Lake where we live in Montana, so we never tested it. During the Ha-Ha we learned that our SSB needed to be reprogrammed at a dealer or the factory in order to work on most frequencies used on the West Coast.

Second, we learned that our children, ages 6 and 10, could not have enjoyed themselves more. But it was also a blessing to have more than just us two parents aboard. Having an extra adult allowed Sandee to spend quite a bit of time entertaining the kids with games and reading while sailing - especially the first few nights when it was a bit cold for them to be on deck. This meant they were in their cabin where the motion wasn't so pleasant and they needed to be distracted.

All in all, the Ha-Ha was about what we expected - except that the kids enjoyed it more than we thought they would. How nice it was to be able to enjoy all of the benefits of cruising without having to do any worrying - like we parents can't help but do.

Pete, Sandee, Haylee and Tristan Sauer
Anamchara, Jeanneau 36
Somers, MT

Readers - Problems with SSB radios - both their installation and operation - were common on this year's Ha-Ha.


We didn't do the most recent Ha-Ha, but we've got some comments from the one we did in 2003 aboard my Caliber 38 Cariad.

My favorite piece of gear was the electric anchor windlass. Without it, we never would have gotten the 45-lb CQR anchor and all-chain rode off the bottom. It also allowed us to freely move around without having to worry about having to manually raise the anchor, for if we had to do it manually, we would have wanted to stay put.

The marine gear I wish I'd had was solar panels. I have a high-output alternator and four high-capacity golf cart batteries, but the heat of Mexico puts powerful demands on a refrigeration system. When we got further south, especially down to Zihua where it really gets warm, we had to run the engine every few days to charge the batteries. We wouldn't have had to do it so often if we'd had solar panels.

We had one major breakdown, but that was in Zihua after the Ha-Ha. In the middle of the night, while anchored in the calm bay, our forestay popped! That's right, without being under any load, the stem ball fitting at the top of the mast suddenly parted. We were lucky it didn't happen on the way into Bahia Santa Maria on the second leg of the Ha-Ha where, you might remember, we had 25 knots of wind. Anyway, we were lucky to be able to motor a short distance to Ixtapa Marina to climb the mast and make repairs. Friends coming down from the states the next day brought us a replacement part, so we were up and running in just three days. With the exception of a chafed jib halyard - we had a spare rigged - and a few burned-out light bulbs, everything else was fine for the entire five months of our cruise.

As for unknown crew, we'd planned to go with three crewmembers - my girlfriend Wendy, my buddy Kosta and myself. But we ended up taking Edda Rottscheidt also, whom Kosta and I had met at the October Crew List Party at the Encinal YC. While we weren't planning on additional crew, Edda and I seemed to click. Edda later met Wendy and me for dinner to see if we all still had a connection, and by dessert we had a fourth crew member. After coming down to check out our boat, she was signed on. Her sailing skills were definitely a big help and her wonderful personality meshed with everyone on board. I'm glad she talked me into taking on a fourth crew member. Ha Ha.

Paul Goyke
Cariad, Caliber 38


In 'Lectronic, you asked for comments about the Ha-Ha, including what kind of equipment problems boats had.

We had an engine problem. While ducking behind Cedros Island to avoid another tack to windward, we sucked a one-inch-long piece of seaweed stem into our engine's raw water intake. It was the perfect size to plug the elbow going into our strainer. The old bronze elbow disintegrated when we tried to disassemble it in order to remove the seaweed. Without replacement parts, we were sure that we'd be without an engine for the rest of the Ha-Ha. However, we managed to concoct a temporary fix using a plastic elbow and fast-curing 3M 5200 sealant! It got us all the way to Cabo, where we had replacement parts waiting.

It's hard to choose among our favorite marine gear, as we had everything - including an electric coffee pot and microwave. But the most fun was being able to use the electronic charts with GPS interface on the laptop, and compare where they indicated we were as opposed to where the radar and paper charts said we were. At one point the radar showed us half a mile off Cedros - the electronic chart and GPS had us half a mile inland at Cedros! It's not surprising since the charts were based on the Beagle exploration in the mid-1800s. The Skymate email was pretty cool as well.

What did we wish we had that we didn't? Nothing. How could you wish for more on such a great sailing adventure?

Mike Reed, First Mate
At Last, Sabre 38
Bellingham, WA

Mike - Seaweed can be a problem on the Ha-Ha. Here's a photo of Baba Muller of the SC52 Isis, who had to jump into the water to free a huge clump of seaweed from the prop.

We've gotten a lot more comments on the Ha-Ha, which we plan to share with everyone in the February issue.


My father owned a 1973 Islander 36 that he sold about 20 years ago. I was wondering how I could track her down. I have the hull number and vessel identification number if that would help.

Geoff Danker
Santa Cruz

Geoff - If you can provide the hull number, we reckon there is a good chance that one of our readers will know her current name and whereabouts.


I don't know if anyone else has ever wondered about the 'green flash'. I did until I wrote to Sacramento meteorologist Elissa Lynn of Channel 10. This was her reply via the Sacramento Bee:

"The green flash is a type of mirage that occurs at sunrise or sunset only. And the best circumstances to view it are as you described: on the water or flat horizon, no fog, no clouds, no pollutants. The first ray of sunrise or last ray of sunset can be a brilliant green band. This is caused by refraction or bending of the rays of sunlight. At the horizon, sunlight - which is comprised of all colors - has to pass through a thicker atmosphere than if it were high in the sky. The sun is actually already below the horizon, but the refracted rays make it appear the sun has not yet set. The atmosphere prism bends blue wavelengths of sunlight the most, but since our atmosphere scatters blue light, the green appears visible in the sky. Close to the equator, the green flash is quick, lasting only a second or so. Near the poles, it can last longer."

To be honest, I was never really sure that I was seeing what I thought I saw. And I've had many discussions/arguments with other sailors. Some say they have never seen a green flash, but I say they just weren't paying attention. I did the '96 Baja Ha-Ha and spent four years sailing up and down the Mexican coast, so I was pretty sure that I'd seen quite a few green flashes. And now I'm convinced.

Earl Whitner
Formerly of Molly McGuire, a 38-ft cutter

Earl - We don't need no weatherperson to tell us that green flashes are real. But we think what really throws some people is that the 'flashes' vary tremendously in type. We've seen some that were almost like a puff of smoke and others where the horizon slowly turned green, and then the color faded away over a period of as long as five seconds - and weren't really like a 'flash' at all. And, naturally, the intensity of the color green has varied tremendously, too.


This photo shows us at Le Select in St. Barth, French West Indies. We were there while cruising aboard the tall ship Star Clipper. It gave us a chance to enjoy a cold Dutch tea at our favorite watering hole, at our favorite island, while scanning over our favorite magazine.

Howard & Jan Foell
Sandpiper, Voyager 26
Stuart, Florida

Howard & Jan - St. Barth is our favorite island, too. In fact, we suspect you know that the photo of Profligate on the cover of the November issue that you're holding was taken just a few miles from where you were sitting - at Grand Saline, our favorite beach.


I recently had the chance to read the May issue article about the L-36 design, and would like to add a bit to the history of that class.

In 1956, my late husband Bob Taylor sailed to Acapulco with Bud Desenburg aboard the L-36 Mistral. Bob really liked the boat and negotiated with Chapman & Kalijian to build #13, Vamonos, for us. (Because of superstitions, several clients skipped #13. Our boat was launched in June of 1958 - along with #22 - at the old Rosen Yard.

In 1961, Bob got a crew together with Bud Desenburg and Les Neufeld, two other L-36 owners, that included his son Jim, Ralph Peel and Humphrey Murphy, to sail in that year's TransPac. They won Class D and placed 5th overall. No HuHu and Nomad, two L-36s from Hawaii, were part of that TransPac fleet.

We then lived aboard at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu with our three kids for a year. They got so big we finally sold Vamonos there. But I have to say, some of our fondest and most exciting times were racing and cruising around Newport Beach as well as to Hawaii and Mexico.

We did meet the last owners of Vamonos back in the mid-70s when they were getting her ready to sail to New Zealand via Fiji. Alas, they never made it as the boat hit a reef and sank south of Fiji.

While at the Wooden Boat Show at Granville Island, Vancouver, in the late '90s, we saw a Brazilian-built L-36. She was very well maintained and now is based out of Canada.

My husband Bob passed away last December. He'd spent most of his early life sailing here in Newport, and for years Catalina was his favorite haunt. Our oldest son, also named Bob, is still sailing. In fact, he's on his fifth circumnavigation! I try to meet him whenever possible, as does my second son, Mike. My daughter Carmen takes every chance she can to do the same.

Carmen Taylor
Newport Beach

Carmen - Very interesting info - particularly the business about having a son who is on his fifth circumnavigation.


We're a Canadian sailing vessel making our second trip south to Mexico.

In the November issue, a cruiser from Coos Bay, Oregon, complained about the high price of propane in the Bay Area. You reported that the Chevron dealer at the fuel dock at Clipper Yacht Harbor sells propane for $2.50/gallon.

They may charge $ 2.50/gallon, but when we were kindly driven there by old sailing friends in the area, we were appalled to find that their minimum charge was about $13.50!

On a positive note, we have enjoyed Latitude again and have found several excellent low-cost marinas in the South Bay area. Keep up the good work!

Stan & Lynn Homer
Homers' Odyssey
Victoria, British Columbia

Stan & Lynn - We checked at Hertz up the road in Corte Madera. They sell propane for a little over $2 a gallon - but once again, it's a five gallon minimum that adds up to nearly $15. Anybody know of a cheaper place?


I was glad to hear that the new 247-ft mega-sloop Mirabella V didn't suffer any major damage when she went aground near St. Jean Cap Ferrat in the South of France. The last few months of television footage showing hurricane damage to boats and marinas in Florida, the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean have left me sickened. It would have been terrible if the brand new Mirabella had been severely damaged or sunk before carrying the first of her passengers on $250,000/week charters.

However, I do wonder why owner Joe Vittoria and designer Ron Holland chose a sloop rig for such a big boat? It seems to me that a schooner rig would have been more sensible for a 247-ft sailboat, for both engineering and economic reasons. Two masts of a more reasonable height would have allowed the yacht to visit ports like New York or San Francisco, which have bridges that limit access to their harbors. In addition, the sails themselves would be a more manageable size.

I suppose the decision to go with a single mast was motivated primarily by a desire to set a world record. But does anyone know what happens to Mirabella's mainsail when it's not in use? I would guess that it must be on some kind of in-mast or in-boom furling system, as it would be nearly impossible to drop that much sail onto the boom the way we regular sailors do with our smaller Catalinas.

With Mirabella's mast almost 300 feet tall, I wonder what would be involved in making an emergency repair at sea to a failed masthead component or sensor.

Larry Charlot
Quiet Time, Catalina 25
Folsom Lake

Larry - Don't be so quick to assume there wasn't significant damage from the 36 hours Mirabella spent on the rocks. Apparently, there had already been some problems with her lift keel, and in order to get the mega-sloop off the rocks, they had to build a gantry on her deck to raise the 150-ton beauty. After that the mega-sloop - which did have one of her two rudders snap off - was taken to a drydock in France for a quick examination, and later back to her builder in England for repairs. We're talking millions of dollars worth of repairs. But owner Vittoria has assured everyone that Mirabella will be in the Caribbean for the winter. We intend to get some photos of her there.

Why did Vittoria decide to build a sloop with such a tall mast? Simple - because it would be by far the tallest in the world, and because doing it would require overcoming major obstacles. Guys like Vittoria live for that kind of stuff. The fact that Mirabella won't ever be able to enter New York Harbor, San Francisco Bay or even transit the Panama Canal gives her all the more cache.

Mirabella's mainsail is flaked on her nearly 100-foot-long boom - pretty much like you flake the main on your Catalina. But here's a difference from your boat: Despite being the highest of high-tech line, the sloop's main halyard is so long that it stretches too much. So each time the main is raised, it's locked in place high on the mast to take the load off the halyard. Unfortunately, the mechanism has been a little balky, so each time they've raised or lowered the main, a crewmember has had to go nearly 290 feet up - far higher than the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge - to either lock or unlock the main on the mast.

If you're thinking of booking Mirabella for a week this winter, you'd better have way more than $250,000. That doesn't include food, fuel, port fees or crew tips. Just to be safe, you'd want to bring along another $100,000.


The accompanying photograph is of four West Wight Potter 15 sailors - Harry Gordon, Pat Brennan, Dave Kautz and Rich McDevitt - at Grand Marina in Alameda prior to setting out for a daysail on the Bay. I don't know what they found so funny in the Latitude they were looking at, but we all give each issue a good going over.

If anyone sees several small sloops with small cabins sailing around Angel Island, Treasure Island or the South Bay with mainsails that have a large roach, and with skippers with big grins, the boats are probably WWP15s.

We all would like to join the chorus of disgust over the CARB jerry jug spouts. If they aren't jammed, they splash gas all over the place. We hope your agitating will make some headway in Sacramento.

Don Person
Northern California


Dave Kovacs may have had good luck with the new CARB fuel jugs, but we older sailors can't maneuver the new jugs like the old jugs. But my biggest complaint is how dangerous the new jugs are, because they leak. I routinely put a jug of fuel in the back of my truck, strapping it in so I don't have a portable bomb. While driving, we suddenly smelled gasoline. I was scared to death that I'd broken a gas line in the engine compartment. We stopped the engine and carefully raised the hood, but there was no gas smell there. Looking in the back of the truck, I discovered gasoline all over the place from the jub! I know I had tightened the lid up when I strapped the jug, so I was surprised that it leaked. It turns out that the air temperature change had air caused the gas to 'pump' out through the lid because there is no vent. Mind you, the jug was only two-thirds fulls. I can only warn the Mr. Kovacs of the world - who might put such a jug in their car trunk - that they shouldn't be surprised if their car blows up. All these jugs should be recalled. It will be much cheaper than if someone is burned to death.

Douglas Drake
Golden Hinde


I bought several of the CARB fuel jugs for my trailerable sailboat, and, despite extreme care, fuel shoots everywhere when I try to use it. Fuel also leaks out of the jugs when I change altitude. Those CARB fuel jugs are probably the dumbest engineering stunt ever pulled.

Tom Jenkins
June Lake


I purchased three five-gallon CARB fuel jugs at West Marine before bringing my boat up from Long Beach. I had never used the new style of cap before attempting to add fuel while motoring up the coast. If any EPA officials had watched the antics of my pouring fuel into the tank for the first time, there would have been a fine involved. So from then on I siphoned fuel from the jugs into the tank. Although this required my 'drinking' some diesel, the results were much better for the environment.

My suggestion is to use 'utility jugs' - which can't legally be sold as fuel jugs in California. Those of us more concerned with the environment than stupid laws might be able to find an alternate use for these jugs, which are available from many racing supply outlets.

Mark Wieber
Northern California


I don't think the CARB jerry jugs with the special spouts are dangerous to safety - but they certainly are dangerous to the environment that they were meant to protect. We generally refuel our boat from five-gallon jugs. I recently had to do it alone, and was unable to find one of our old fuel jugs. So I bought one of the new ones with the fume-proof spout. The placement of the fuel opening on the deck of my boat required me to hold the jug outside the lifelines while fueling, something that wasn't necessary with the older, flexible spouts. And the design of the new spout requires that it be inserted several inches into the opening while the jug itself is held straight upright. But when the 40-lb jug I was trying to hold straight and steady slipped a bit, the new spout broke cleanly off the container! How many fillings with the old spouts do you think it would have taken to equal the air and water pollution caused by my spilling of five gallons of diesel into the Bay?

Name Withheld to Protect the Honest
Northern California


A tip for West Marine's Chuck Hawley. I don't know about burping CARB jerry jugs, but there's a simple solution to prevent making a mess when pouring fuel from an ordinary, non-vented jug. West Marine sells three nesting funnels for under $4. Put the biggest funnel between the two tanks. Add one slosh to the funnel, and then wait till the fuel drains into the lower tank. Fill that tank slosh by slosh, and you won't spill a drop.

On another subject, I have a grandson in the Marines, so I feel for the soldier in Iraq who wonders about having his boat in Alameda worked on so he can sell her. I'm not going to point fingers at any specific salespersons affiliated with any particular brokerage, however, this young Marine is potentially in the same position as an absentee landlord whose house in Tahoe is in the hands of a rental agency. Both owners should take any statement about needed repairs with a grain of salt. I have had personal experiences on which to base this opinion. I think the soldier's wisest course of action would be to get an independent second opinion.

An owner may be told it is optimum to have the rigging changed every 10 years, but a potential buyer might prefer a careful inspection. Then if, for example, unwrapping the spreader ends revealed no hidden corrosion, or if there were no micro cracks in the fittings, he might choose to postpone the rigging change until he had recovered from the initial expense of the purchase. It's a win-win situation for buyer and seller.

Malcolm Sowers
Sinaloa, Mexico


I have found the new CARB fuel jugs to work very well. I'm using a one-gallon jug to fill my 3-hp outboard. Here's my technique: The filler should be held straight up, then down and pressed into the tank - at which point the gas will flow until the tank is full. Once it's full, it cuts off on removal of the container with just a couple of drops of fuel spilled. I find it easier than with an old-style fuel jug with a gooseneck spout. It may not work as well if the spout is held at an angle rather than vertically, and I did have to read the directions to figure out how to do it.

Mike Wainfeld
Regalo, Cape Dory Typhoon

Mike - We're relieved to find that somebody finds the new fuel jugs an improvement, but you're in an minority.


I am writing regarding the 'safety spouts' required on all fuel jugs purchased in California. My boat has an approved deck fuel-fill with a 1.5-inch fill hose. The hose drops directly into the fuel tank without bends or obstructions. I have stopped using the 'safety spouts' because every time I've used one, it's splashed back or overflowed. The only method I've found to minimize the splashing and overflow is to retract the spout every three to five seconds. The problem with the spouts is that they do not allow fuel to fall vertically, but discharge at a 90 degree angle. The spouts discharge more fuel than gravity can force downward, which results in fuel climbing up the fill hose, and onto the deck, and into the water. I have similar problems trying to fill my portable generator. These spouts should be prohibited rather than required. Thanks for your interest in this important safety issue.

Doug Bell

Readers - Dennis Goodenow, who is the head of monitoring for the California Air Resources Board admitted to us that the CARB jugs are causing well-intentioned people to splash fuel all over the place. "We passed the regulation to require them in late '99, and nothing but those jugs could be sold in California after 2001. But because of the splashing problem, we're revisiting the regulations and working with the jugs' manufacturers on a solution. It's not an easy problem to solve."

Until CARB comes up with a better solution, we think it's safer for users and better for the environment to use the old-style jugs - even if you have to buy them out of state.


Last summer, my wife's three brothers and their wives came to visit us at our home in Los Gatos. While there, the girls decided to go shopping, so I suggested that the three men join me for a day's sail on the Bay. The thing that makes this story interesting is that all of us were over 70 years old. Except for a bypass, a hip replacement and other assorted minor ailments, we were all in pretty good shape. We had no trouble sailing from Alameda to Sausalito for lunch and back.

I have often wondered if we didn't set some kind of record for a cumulative age for a sail on the Bay. Are there any of your readers that can beat a sail with a crew totaling 296 years on one boat at one time? By the way, this was accomplished aboard my six-ton bulletproof Rawson 30. How safe can you get? We were planning to make this a yearly event, but better judgment tells us we would be wise to speed up the timetable just a bit.

I just finished - again - reading Joshua Slocum's Sailing Around the World Alone. Talk about iron men on wooden ships, he makes most of us modern sailors with all of our electronic gadgets look like 'girly sailors'.

Larry Brown
Rawson 30

Larry - If our calculator isn't broken, the four of you average 74 years of age. So we'll ask our readers if anybody has gone out with a group - minimum of three - who had a higher average age. Believe it or not, we think you four are going to be relative whippersnappers before it's all over.


As an avid reader of Latitude and a veteran of the 2000 Baja Ha-Ha, I really enjoyed the interview with Mike Harker.

The day after the Ha-Ha awards ceremony, my brother and I doublehanded Sabrina up to La Paz and anchored near the dinghy dock of the so-called Virtual Marina. Soon a nice boat arrived and the skipper yelled over, "Is this an OK place to anchor?" We assured him that it was - and before long became acquainted with Mike Harker.

A few days later, Harker suggested we all go to lunch together, so we met him at the dinghy dock. As we were walking up the ramp, we heard a commotion and cursing behind us, and saw that Mike had slipped on the wet, always moving, dinghy dock. During lunch, he explained that he had bad wheels and that his legs were numb from the knee down. Sensing that it was caused by a childhood accident or disease - rather than a hang-gliding accident during adulthood - we politely didn't inquire further.

Harker told us about singlehanding up from Cabo, and we were impressed because we'd hit bad weather in the Cerralvo Channel. In fact, Allan of Wind Dancer had to be rescued by the Mexican Navy after his engine had gotten swamped. In any event, Harker proceeded to admit how little sailing knowledge he had, and informed us that he was looking for crew for the trip to the mainland. My brother and I were a team - as were most people at the time - so we weren't interested in jumping ship.

Nonetheless, we continued to talk to Harker daily, and the more he talked, the more we wondered how he ever made it to Cabo - much less La Paz. Between ourselves we said that we hoped he found some crew with more experience than he - or we'd soon be reading a Latitude article about Wanderlust being lost at sea. After a week, we said good-bye, as we headed to the islands north of La Paz.

Only now, after reading about Harker's physical travails and his subsequent 24,000 ocean miles between Malta and the Marquesas, do we realize that we had completely misjudged the man. I can't decide whether I'm more in awe of Mike because of his superb seamanship, his reckless courage, or his perseverance in overcoming his injuries.

Incidentally, we thought Mike was German because he referred to so many things European - and even had a slight accent at that time. It never occurred to us that he was a California native because he never talked about anything other than sailing and the Ha-Ha. But, jeeez, after seeing pictures of the alluring crew he attracted, I should have abandoned my brother and Sabrina and gone with Mike.

Byron Corley
Sabrina, Rawson 30

Byron - We don't think you misjudged Harker, because at the time he saw no need to tell people about the hang-gliding accident, and because back then he really was a novice at sailing. However, maybe you did underestimate his potential for becoming a fine offshore sailor.

But that's hardly anything new. Each year before the Ha-Ha, we always get a whiny letter or two from cruisers in Mexico complaining that a bunch of the new people coming down in the Ha-Ha aren't very experienced. It's a silly complaint because everybody - even the Paul Cayards, Ellen MacArthurs and John Kosteckis of the world - had to start somewhere, and because there is nothing to stop the smart and enthusiastic ones from becoming very fine sailors in short order.

Indeed, we think one of the great lessons of Harker's story is just how quickly a dedicated person can become good at something - and not just sailing. It ought to be an inspiration for everyone to tap into their own potential.


For the record, the other physician - and crewmember on Jellybean - who came to the aid of Phil Hendrix during the Ha-Ha was Dr. George Rab, Chief of Orthopedics at UC Davis School of Medicine.

Subsequent to helping Mr. Hendrix, Jellybean received several calls for medical advice and assistance. Some lessons from these calls: 1) Everyone who sails offshore should take a first-aid course. 2) Scopolamine - the active ingredient of TransdermScop - causes eyes to dilate, so you have to wash your hands after you touch a patch and before you touch your eye. (Protect your eyes from sunlight for 12-24 hours if they dilate, just like you do after an eye exam). 3) Oral rehydration is the best way to treat dehydration from seasickness or diarrhea. Beer washed down with plain water is a good oral rehydration fluid. Take one to two bottles of water for each bottle of beer, and add a half teaspoon of salt per bottle if you are really dizzy when you stand up. 4) Wounds generally stop bleeding with pressure. They usually heal OK if washed twice a day with soap and water and are kept as dry as possible between washings. Volunteer to do the dishes unless your crewmates object. And 5) If you need medical care frequently, carry extra medicines and supplies for your condition. Talk this over with your doctor before going.

I want to thank all who offered the use of their medical supplies. And thanks also to you, the crew of Profligate, and many others on the Ha-Ha for all sorts of help and an especially good time.

Roy Verdery, PhD, MD
Jellybean, Pearson 36, Winners of the 'Chataholic' award
Sausalito / Puerto Vallarta

Roy - Thank you for the kind words - and for the medical assistance you and your friends gave to the fleet.


I've been on the sailing scene for the past 50 years. I currently own an old wooden ketch that, in the 33 years I've owned her, has taken me all over the Pacific. Most of my long-distance voyaging was done in the '60s, '70s and '80s, which was before the advent of common satellite navigation. For most of us, celestial navigation was the only option. I taught many people the skill around my chartroom table over the years until GPS eliminated the need for it.

Recently, I have started teaching small groups again because of an apparent resurgence of interest in celestial navigation. I'm sure the reason is because these are such uncertain times, and in case of a national emergency, the GPS system could be pulled offline. My purpose in writing is to inquire if you have any information regarding such a possibility. One thing is for sure, if that happened, most of the cruising skippers I know would be in real trouble if the shutdown happened while they were at sea.

Bill Corley
Evening Star

Bill - In December, the White House announced they wanted a plan formulated to shut down the GPS system in the case of a national crisis. So yes, it's certainly possible. However, once the European GPS system becomes operational, it won't seem as though there would be much point.


You wrote that Yelapa was the breakup site of one of the three M Class sloops ever built. I remember Pursuit and Patolita. What was the name of the third M Class vessel, the one that dragged onto the beach at Yelapa and broke up?

P.S. Please don't call the island off Two Harbors 'Bird Shit Rock'. After all, it's ours.

Bob Bailey
Ranger 33
Pasadena / San Pedro

Bob - We're not sure that we ever knew the name, but we're certain one of our readers will know.


In the November issue, you published a 'letter' from my husband and me about the current situation at Puerto Escondido. Unfortunately, I did not write that letter for publication. I'd written it as a personal note to a friend who had previously cruised in that area and who I thought would be interested in a quick report on the area. I can only assume that he inadvertently forwarded it to you, and did not intend for it to be submitted for publication. I have written various articles in the past for several cruising publications - including Latitude 38 - and I'm upset about this letter getting published.

First, while I don't think there is any untrue information in what I sent out, I did not double-check any of the 'facts' - as I would have in an article intended for publication.

Second, the publication of my comments on the situation with Willie's, the store at Tripui, and Driftwood, can't make things any better for them, and may divert some cruisers from going there on the assumption that things are worse than they are, thus perpetuating the problems.

Third, I'm afraid that members of the Puerto Escondido community will be highly upset by my 'publishing' information without double-checking the facts with any of the parties involved - especially as negotiations are ongoing. (I only repeated what I heard on the net, nothing from private conversations.) Had I written an article for publication, I would have done far more to ascertain exactly what was going on at the time that I wrote the item, instead of relying on secondhand reports. I also would have emphasized far more strongly the fluid nature of the situation, and that proposals and counterproposals were being made daily.

Finally, anything that I have intended for publication has been sent directly to the magazine, and has included a statement that it was being submitted for publication. Yes, I am submitting this letter to you for publication to make readers aware that the letter was not written for the magazine, was not intended to be published, and may contain inaccuracies.

Dave & Carolyn Shearlock
Que Tal
La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Dave and Carolyn - We're extremely sorry. We get scores of emails each day, and, naturally enough, we assume that, unless otherwise specified, the material is for publication. But sometimes we get tripped up, as it's not always clear that people are forwarding reports from other people - as was apparently the case with your letter. If any report seems controversial - 'the harbormaster at Port Whoppee is an axe-murderer' - we obviously do a lot more checking. But the report on Puerto Escondido seemed innocuous enough - although it obviously wasn't to you. Again, our apologies.


It's unfortunate that Don and Mary Lou Oliver weren't more thorough when they obtained the mooring rules from the Angel Island Association Web site, for if they had been, they wouldn't have written their Unfair That Only Some Pay For Their Buoys letter in the December Latitude.

Their charges against the Angel Island Association are completely without merit, for it has nothing to do with formulating or enforcing the docking and mooring rules in Ayala Cove. The Angel Island Association is a nonprofit organization that helps fund Angel Island State Park by supporting the work of volunteers. It provides docents for historic sites, conducts tours, and mans the gift kiosk. It is not involved in any way whatsoever with the island's docks or moorings. The information as to mooring rules and fees is on the Association Web site as a courtesy to the public, nothing more.

The rules for the use of the docks and moorings in Ayala Cove are the direct responsibility of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The rangers who enforce those rules and regulations are employees of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

John Soennichsen
Angel Island Association

John - Thank you for clearing that up.


Our arrival at Turtle Bay during the Ha-Ha was just wonderful, as we were greeted by a panga with several locals who offered their services - a ride to town, fresh water, trash disposal - at reasonable prices. We declined their services for the moment, but in my limited experience, I inquired about the local school, because we had some books to give to their first-graders.

My first-graders at Branch Elementary School in Arroyo Grande, California, had each made three books - for a total of 60 books - to give to the students in Mexico. The text of the books was written in English and Spanish, and were on the topics of colors, numbers and body parts. The books were laminated so they would last many years. We also purchased many new popular children's books to give to the Mexican students.

The next morning Miguel, one of the locals, picked us up and took us to the school. As we entered, we could see that it was a place valued by the community, as it was clean and in good repair. First, we passed by a classroom of what I guessed were third and fourth graders, who were working in a traditional classroom setting with desks in rows facing the teacher up front. The older students, fifth and sixth graders, were outdoors and segregated for physical education. The boys were playing futbol on the soccer field and the girls were line dancing to music played on an old phonograph in the schoolyard.

We found the youngest students in a room with a small stage, chairs lining the walls - and nothing more. They had no pictures or classroom materials of any kind. When we presented the students with the books, they were very curious, polite and happy. The shyness the children demonstrated in school was in great contrast to the assertiveness they displayed on the docks and shore before and after school - when they tugged at our clothes and asked for candy. The school had a calm and orderly environment.

The students wear a uniform consisting of a school T-shirt and pants for boys, and skirts for the girls. Compared to California schools, there was a dramatic lack of outdoor play equipment. Next door to the school was a kinder school with large paintings of Disney characters on the exterior walls. It was difficult to determine the extent of resources available to the students in Turtle Bay, but I if were to ever return, I would definitely bring school supplies to give away.

Kathy Metcalf, Crewmember
Seamonship, Beneteau 473
Pismo Beach

Kathy - Thanks for the report. It's impossible to go wrong bringing school supplies to Mexico. Students, particularly in small towns, need all the materials they can possibly get. A tip of the Latitude hat to you for trying to make a difference!

As for continuing education, your skipper John Semon, a retired physics teacher, has promised to explain how to measure acceleration to the Wanderer. We never picked up the concept during our 11th grade Physics class at Skyline High School in Oakland, as we were continually being distracted by some of our female classmates.


I thought the following might be an interesting footnote in the ongoing reorganization struggle of the Department of Homeland Security.

The place is Maalaea, Maui, Hawaii - which happens to be one of the windiest places in the Hawaiian Islands. The Coast Guard has their Station Maui located in the Maalaea Harbor, which is on the lee side of the island. Today was a typically windy day - which for here means 30- to 45-knot winds with gusts to 50 knots. The surface of the water is white with foam, and it's hard to stand straight up on land.

We were hanging around in the lee of some trees, and I asked some locals if there was a Coast Guard station on the windward side of the island. Nobody knew, so my curiosity led me to Station Maui so I could ask myself.

The Coasties greeted me, and we swapped high wind stories. I asked them if they had another station on the north side of the island, and they informed me that they did not. Any problems on the north side of the island were handled by chopper or a C-130 out of Pearl Harbor. That's all right, I guess, but I don't want to get in trouble on the north shore.

Boom - a big gust of wind hit the building. "Geez, I guess with this wind you guys are on the edge of your seats with all of these charter boats out there in this big breeze," I said.

"Na," replied a radio tech on the switchboard. "We can't go out in this stuff because our boats aren't safe in these conditions."

"What exactly do you mean, sir?" I asked, stunned.

"What we need here in Maui is one of those beefy 44s that they have on the West Coast. We need to be able to go out into the channels and deal with the conditions that exist there. Just the other day we were on patrol in one of the channels and got the bow blown off one of those small ones out there," he said, pointing to the parking lot where there were three new aluminum patrol boats. It was very impressive, as the boats looked clean and well-maintained.

"So why do you have the wrong boats for the conditions here at Station Maui?" I asked.

The Commander of Station Maui looked a bit frustrated, and told me that, "We put the proper request in for the right boat, but somewhere in the chain of command our request was overruled and we got more of what we didn't need."

To paint a picture of the potential disasters that Station Maui could encounter, one needs to understand the weather and sea dynamics associated with the huge marine tourist industry here. Every day thousands of tourists are at sea, either on dive boats, whale-watching boats, sailing adventures or fishing trips. The weather can be benign, or it can be nasty with winds above 40 knots and seas over 18 feet. The currents are strong and steep waves make conducting rescues very hard. If just one of those charter boats were to have problems and either capsize or sink when the conditions were difficult, quick and effective rescues would be marginal at best, given the boats the Coasties have to work with.

As a taxpayer on Maui, I am a bit pissed off that the protection of the citizens here has been compromised by upper level Coast Guard mismanagement. If the Commander of Station Maui is right, and they've got the wrong boats despite their request for the proper ones, then someone needs to answer quickly before the Court of Inquiry needs to ask the same questions after a botched rescue and human tragedy.

Jonathan Livingston
Punk Dolphin, Wylie 38
Maui, Hawaii

Jonathan - If "typical conditions" in the lee of Maui are indeed 30 to 45 knots, with gusts to 50, and 18-foot seas - and we're not sure that isn't a bit of an exaggeration - we think the negligence is not so much due to the Coast Guard not having the right rescue boats, but that they allow "thousands of tourists a day" to be exposed to such extreme conditions. Indeed, we were a little gobsmacked - new word for us - to see a feature in the August '03 Sailing magazine showing one of the Conser 47 Paragon charter cats out of Maalaea hitting 31.8 knots with guests aboard. That seemed like pretty extreme sailing for the general public. As such, we weren't all that surprised when less than six months later one of the Conser 47s flipped with passengers aboard.

According to published reports, the 47-ft Paragon left Maalaea at 8:30 a.m. on March 8 with small craft warnings posted. During the cruise, the winds reportedly built to as much as 50 knots with seas to 12 feet. Some passengers were a little nervous, but others were comforted by the fact that the crew didn't bother to pass out lifejackets. Then the cat sailed up a big swell, which allowed the wind to get under her, and she was flipped. With the captain and crew apparently injured, it was pretty much left to passenger Scot Smithee, an 18-year veteran of the Gilroy Police Department, who had been thrown off the front of the boat, to rescue seven passengers who were trapped inside the cabin. Some had as little as six inches in which to keep their heads above water, and figured they were going to die. It took Smithee three dives to find a clear path by which the passengers could escape, and he guided them out one by one. He was the hero. Once everyone was safe on the trampoline of the overturned cat, things were fairly stable. Nonetheless, the captain warned that they had to steel themselves to the possibility of having to spend the night in that situation. Fortunately, he was wrong. The EPIRB had gone off automatically, and before long the Maui Fire Department helicopter was overhead, directing a charter fishing boat to rescue the passengers.

If honeymooning vacationers on Maui are being taken out in conditions such as those during Paragon's flipping, we absolutely agree that, at the minimum, Station Maui needs more suitable rescue vessels. Of course, that raises a further interesting question, which we're going to pose to you. Given your conviction that Maui has a lack of adequate rescue boats to protect charter guests, should the Maui marine tourism industry be shut down until the Coast Guard can get adequate vessels for Maalaea? Before making your decision, you'll want to take into consideration the fact that your wife - if we remember correctly - is an employee of the Maui marine tourist industry, and that she and all her fellow workers stand to be out of work for perhaps a year or more. On the other hand, you probably don't want to be accused of putting 'profits before people' either, particularly if there was another incident in which guests were perhaps killed. And would your decision be any different if budget restraints meant proper support boats couldn't ever be acquired for Maalaea? Being a critic is simple. Having to make decisions that directly affect livelihoods and lives is difficult.


I returned from a trip to Mexico with our boat awhile back, and had a major go-around with U.S. Customs.

When I arrived at the Customs Dock in San Diego, all started out as usual. However, after the Customs guys stomped around our boat in their hob-nailed boots and confiscated two apples from Von's, I was asked for proof that I had paid the import duty on our boat - which had been built in France. Since this was my 11th time clearing Customs, you think they would have asked for this proof before. Since I didn't have the necessary proof with me, they confiscated my boat's documentation papers - and told me to report to their office on the cruise ship dock within 24 hours with Customs form #7501.

When I got home, I found my form #7501 - and thought what a smart guy I was to have and be able to find the form. So off I went to Customs the next morning to retrieve my documents. There was a cruise ship in port, so I had to park about two miles away. That was just a minor problem because when I got to the pier, I was told the only people who could go on it were people whose names were on the cruise ship's manifest! After a few phone calls, Customs must have decided that I wasn't a terrorist and cleared me to go on the dock.

I arrived at their stand-up office to find four people ahead of me. There were three other captains in the same situation as I, and a little old lady who had come to get her cats cleared into the country. I got the idea it was going to be a bad day when she handed in her paperwork, and was told that since her visit to them the previous day, the information they needed in order to release her cats had changed!

One of the captains stomped out of the office, muttering to himself - and all within hearing range - that it was all harrassment and that nobody in the Customs office knew what they were doing.

Another captain was having a go at resolving his problem. It seemed that he was the third owner of his boat, and he was trying to find out what documents the officials needed to solve the problem. They agreed to talking with the original broker and getting his affadavit that the duty had already been paid. So the guy got on his cell phone and got connected with the person Customs needed to speak with. Meanwhile, the Customs woman had excused herself, saying she'd be right back. When she hadn't returned in an hour - and with the guy still waiting on the other end of the line - this skipper stomped out, too.

Having taken it all in, the third captain said, "To hell with this!" He split, too.

By this time the cat lady has become furious, and is pounding on the counter in anger. With the arrival of three burly officials, the woman calms down. Fortunately, one of the officials realizes that she doesn't have all the documentation necessary, and clears her cats in.

That left me standing before the lady Customs official. I handed her my form #7501 and asked to get my boat documentation back. She smiled sweetly, took my document, and disappeared. For one hour I waited with nobody in sight! I finally cornered a Customs guy going into the office and asked him to find out what was causing the delay. After all, I'd only paid for two hours on the parking meter and I was already over that. He returned to say they were 'working my problem' and that I should go feed my meter.

I made the round-trip trudge, and when I returned to the office found myself standing all by myself again. When another Customs officials entered, I cornered him also to find out what was going on. Same response! By this time I'm so mad that I had to restrain myself or I would have ended up in jail. After three hours of waiting, the three Customs clowns returned, and I was livid.

"Because of 9/11," they said, and "have to be ever diligent".

I exploded and used words like stupid, incompetent, rude, evil, girlie men, manly girl, and so forth. If they were so worried about security they should be out doing something other than studying my document for over three hours and not communicating with me. What was the problem? It seems they couldn't make out the name of the official who had signed my form when the duty was paid - six years before! So they were checking to made sure the guy who signed it was a valid official! That caused me to fire off another couple of rounds. But I did get an apology from the Port Director - while the officials just stared at me.

I have met the enemy, and he is us! I'm still made as hell wondering who trains and supervises these people. Sorry to burden you with my rantings, but I'm upset that this is our last line of defense.

Name Withheld By Request
Southern California

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