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I just wanted to let you know that the boat on the cover of your January issue is actually the Hans Christian 33 Nakia, not the Bounty II Nala Setia. The Redwood City-based Nakia is owned by John Gratton and his wife Linda Hill, and that's her on the bow. I talked to them over the SSB this morning, and they were somewhere in the vicinity of Zihuatanejo.

Rick Dalton

Rick - We had an end-of-the-year meltdown identifying boats on the covers of Latitude. You are correct, that is Linda Hill on the bowsprit of Nakia on the cover of the January issue. We can tell it's not Nala Setia, because having started this magazine aboard a Bounty II, we know they don't have bowsprits. Our apologies all around.


I value your opinion very much, and would like to know your view on a question. I recently took three people out on my Islander 30 for a daysail, and upon returning to the dock to drop some people off, the person at the helm backed the boat over a dinghy pennant. This caused the 3/4-inch prop-shaft to become bent 1-1/2-inch off center. I'm told it will cost about $1,500 to haul the boat out and get it repaired.

My question is this: Is the crewman who was at the helm responsible - even partially - to help pay for the repair? Or am I just out of luck? Others on board agree that the person at the helm acted negligently in his handling of the boat, and I agree with them.

I have no hull insurance, and can't get it because my 1974 sloop is too old.

Charlie Ellery
San Diego

Charlie - That's a terrific question. We know we're going to disappoint you, but in our opinion we're financially responsible for stuff that gets wrecked on our boat - even if it's caused by a crewmember doing something really stupid. Sometimes it hurts just a little, such as when a winch handle gets dropped overboard. Sometimes it hurts medium, as when somebody spills red wine on a new settee cushion. And sometimes it really hurts, as when somebody lets the boat heat up too much and the spinnaker ends up in pieces. No matter the level of pain, we've always accepted that it's just part of the cost of owning a boat.

Needless to say, most people who've made boo-boos have felt the same way. But not all. We've had several people replace winch handles or blocks they've dropped overboard. One woman who lost control of the boat and tore a chute cried about it for an hour. That was the worst, because not only did we lose the chute, but we also had a really fine crewmember feeling guilty for a couple of days.

Anybody else care to speak to this issue?


Green flashes sure as heck are real, and we've seen them many times. The best bet is when the horizon is clear, but we've also seen them under clouds. If you really want a good view of a green flash, look at it through binoculars instead of through the naked eye. It looks like green syrup has been poured over the top of the sun and is running down the sides. No kidding - and it lasts longer, too. But you need to be very careful to only look at the sun at the very last instant so as not to damage your eyes.

Ronn & Alice Hill
San Rafael


A reader named Zolt wrote in asking if anyone had used stabilized binoculars. We've used our Fujinon Techno Stabi Binoculars for four years of ocean sailing. The binoculars have two motion compensation systems: one for hand shake, one for sea state. We highly recommend these 14x40 binocs. Even at twice the optical power of our Steiner 7x50s, they are generally easier to use in a seaway because of the stabilization. The street price is roughly $1100. For more information, visit

The Canon stabilized binoculars that Zolt tested - and wasn't impressed by - use a stabilization system similar to a consumer video camera. As such, they are effective at compensating for hand shake, but are not so successful at dealing with sea state.

Steve Darden
Adagio, Morrelli & Melvin 52 catamaran
Sydney, Australia


I read Latitude every month, enjoying it thoroughly, and am very happy for your success. I was raised sailing on San Francisco Bay and Lake Merritt. My family raced the Hurricane class sloop Windfall in YRA for Aeolian YC in the '50s and '60s. My dad, Charlie DeLauer, who is now 87, spent one day per week working on the boat in order to sail one day per week. He also worked seven days a week to support a family and build a business. My mom, Natalie DeLauer, now 82, who couldn't swim, was nonetheless always with us on Opening Day. She kept herself busy by making sandwiches.

I had incredible days sailing my El Toro No Sweat on Lake Merritt. With my sailbag over my shoulder, I rode my bike to the boathouse in the morning, anxious to sail and have fun with my sailing friends. And boy, did we have fun! Remember you guys? I have continued sailing, and have owned the same beautiful little International Folkboat since 1979.  

Wow, I just realized that my original intention was to comment on your article about a sailboat almost crossing between a tug and a barge. That's important, but not as important as my using this letter to thank my mom and dad for introducing me to sailing. (And my dad for introducing me to car racing, too.)

Bud DeLauer
International Folkboat
Northern California


I've read much about California sales tax and such on used boats. The only thing I've never heard is how much it is. I've also heard rumors as to some new taxes for boats. What gives?

Chad Evans
Ericson 25
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Chad - If you buy a new boat in California, you pay the regular sales tax for the county you bought it in. In Marin County, it's 7.25%. It can be slightly higher in other counties to pay for things like BART. If you buy a boat outside of the state and bring it into California, you pay use tax at the same rate as sales tax.

In addition, each year boatowners have to pay personal property tax on the assessed value of their boats. It's generally a little over 1%, but depends on the city, not county. In Berkeley, for example, the rate is 1.2748%. In Alameda, which, like Berkeley, is in Alameda County, the rate is 1.1203%.

As you might expect, not everyone is crazy about paying taxes, particularly given the sometimes carefree way in which governments tend to spend money. As such, there are many strategies employed for avoiding sales, use and personal property tax. For most boatowners, the tax avoidance schemes would cost more than they would save, but for some the savings can be many thousands of dollars. To our knowledge, there are no new taxes proposed that are specific to boats.


We bought Utopia, our Jeanneau 45, from Sunsail in Paris, and took delivery in June of 2002 in Martinique, French West Indies. Everything went very smoothly with the purchase. I sailed the boat to Ft. Lauderdale, and for the next seven months had some work done on the boat.

In January of '03, I received a bill from the California State Board of Equalization for over $6,000 dollars! They said this was sales tax on the purchase of the boat. If I did not want to pay the tax, I had to prove - with receipts - that the boat was out of California from June through September. 

Well, I had trouble coming up with receipts necessary to please the Board of Equalization. To this date they still haven't made a decision as to whether they will grant me an exception. Every day they do nothing is causing the interest I might possibly owe to add up. We are now potentially on the hook for $8,000! When I complain, they respond that they are understaffed. When I've provided information, I've been told it was what they needed - only to have the next person tell me that they needed more.

The only reason the Board of Equalization knows about the purchase is that I documented the boat using my home address of Hermosa Beach. I am now in Puerto Rico starting the cruising season, and won't be home until June. And all along, the potential interest keeps mounting. The State Board of Equalization never lets go.

P.S. Hope to see you in St. Barth!

John & Tynthia Tindle, & Mattie the boat dog
Utopia, Jeanneau 45
Caribbean / Hermosa Beach

John and Tynthia - It was great seeing you in St. Barth. We got a great photo of you two that we'd run right here - if we hadn't screwed up and reformatted the memory card before downloading.

It seems pretty odd that the State Board of Equalization isn't willing to accept your evidence, as the boat has obviously never been to California. But try and prove a negative, right? It just goes to prove the critical importance of leaving a big, fat paper trail.


A longtime and loyal reader, I've sailed many miles on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, so I've done more clearing in and out of ports than I care to remember. Depending on location, I could usually accomplish the task in 1.5 to 2.5 hours, and wouldn't have to pay for the services of a ship's agent. I always had the option of paying a ship's agent to do my paperwork, but it wasn't required.

But now the decision has been made - at least in some Mexican ports - that it's mandatory that an agent handle all clearing in and out procedures. It's my understanding that the requirement has been on the books for many years, but is only recently being enforced.

I also recall reading an article in one of your recent issues suggesting that the clearing procedures in Mexico are going to change, and that once they take effect, you'll only have to clear in and out of Mexico, and not between ports inside the country.

Maybe this policy is in effect on the Pacific Coast, but it's certainly not on the Caribbean side. Not only is the agent system alive and well, but clearing is being required at every port. With agent fees now ranging from $25 to $250 U.S., it seems to have become government-sanctioned extortion. The poor cruiser is at the mercy of whatever con man he may be unfortunate enough to contract to do the work, work that he could easily do himself. If anyone knows what can be done to improve the situation, please let me know.

Carl Schiele
Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Carl - Quintana Roo, what a great name for a state, no?

Last fall, Mexican President Fox promised that mariners would only have to check in to Mexico and out of Mexico, but no longer internally. This was supposed to have started before the end of the year on a temporary basis in Ensenada and Cabo, but as of the middle of January it hasn't happened.

Knowledgeable sources tell us they're not confident the change is going to happen anytime soon because there isn't any money to set up the infrastructure. "What infrastructure?" you might wonder, would be needed to stop requiring mariners to visit every port captain? Apparently the Mexican government thinks it's necessary to set up offices in Ensenada and Cabo for one-stop clearing, offices that would house all the necessary officials in one building. Why all the officials can't stay in the buildings they are currently in remains a mystery to us. But setting up one-stop offices would take money, and Mexico doesn't have the money to do it. This could change at anytime, however.

We agree that the current situation is absolutely outrageous - particularly if you're required to use an agent and they are charging as much as $250. If that's true, it could cost cruisers as much as $500 a day in fees just to spend one day in one port. Fortunately, not all ports require mariners to use agents. In Nuevo Vallarta, for example, you don't need one. But in Puerto Vallarta, a mere four miles away, you do need to use an agent. Ridiculous.

We're going to see how this plays out for the rest of the winter cruising season. If nothing changes, we're going to try another email campaign to get this whole nonsense corrected. It is the most expensive and time-consuming clearing process we've ever encountered, and it changes how we cruise Mexico. For example, when we sail from Nuevo Vallarta to Zihuatanejo at the end of this month, our itinerary will be based on avoiding as many port captains as possible.


After a summer's cruise on Alaska's Inland Waterway aboard our modified 40-ft Van de Stadt Sea Falcon Starbuck, we departed Victoria, B.C., on our way home to San Francisco. A strong ebb and a good breeze made for a fast run down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and we made departure from Tatoosh Island off Cape Flattery at about noon. The wind held and land gradually dropped from view.

By dark, we were becalmed in heavy fog, smack in the middle of the shipping lane. We spent several apprehensive hours feeling like sitting ducks as we listened to the sounds of passing ships and tugs with barges. You have to experience such a vulnerable situation to fully appreciate it.

Eventually both fog and shipping cleared, and when I took over at midnight, we were alone on a glassy sea under a moonless but dazzlingly, star-studded sky. Such was the setting for a miraculous and completely unexpected experience, an experience which even today, some 15 years later, I still revisit in memory and in my dreams. The sea became increasingly smooth, and, as such, the stars began to reflect more clearly on the surface of the water. The sea finally became as smooth as a mirror, and every star in the sky was vividly reflected in the water.

No matter if I looked up or down, there were stars everywhere! And there was no discernible horizon. I became disorientated without a horizon and took comfort in the familiar feel of the wheel and cockpit. But it seemed as though the earth had vanished, as I was completely enveloped by stars - which were everywhere except where blocked from view by the dark outline of the hull and sails. I felt as though I were in deep space.

Looking over the side and seeing what looked like stars and sky rather than water gave me a strong acrophobia - which I was fortunately able to control by reminding myself of the absurdity of it all. Eventually, I was able to locate the missing horizon with the aid of the Milky Way. Yes, the Milky Way! For that's where that luminous band of stars met the invisible horizon and became reflected in the sea, appearing to reverse itself, forming a heavenly 'V' with its point on the horizon. The Milky Way acted like a galactic horizon pointer!

This miraculously enchanting "surrounded by stars" sensation lasted 15 minutes - or maybe an hour. I was so mesmerized that I lost track of time! Eventually some subtle change, perhaps a whisper of breeze, stole the magic and the sea was no longer smooth. It returned me to earth, gazing once again at the reflection of stars shimmering on the water.

Since conditions for this astounding illusion can occur, others must have experienced it also, but I've never heard anyone else talk about it. I wonder if it's exceedingly rare, or only somewhat so.

Ralph Nobles
Redwood City

Ralph - If you want to talk to other people who have experienced the same thing, or if you'd like to experience it again yourself, we recommend you take your boat to the Sea of Cortez. It's not uncommon for the water to be mirror flat and the skies to be clear, with very little ambient light. It has all the ingredients for your 'starry night' to happen all over again. If it gets too unnerving when you lose the horizon, toss something into the water and the ripples will make the horizon visible.


I just read the January issue complaints and rants about Customs in San Diego after 'Anonymous' brought his boat back from Mexico.

I also arrived home in San Diego after having my boat in Mexico. Friends who routinely fish down in Mexican waters - and who have never mentioned any complaints about Customs - told me to have everything ready in advance to facilitate entry, which I did. So when I arrived from Ensenada, I tied up at the San Diego Harbor Police Dock and called Customs. The agent showed up within 20 minutes, apologizing for the delay by saying he'd been having dinner. The guy couldn't have been nicer or more professional. He got his work done in a few minutes, and even took the time to ask us about our trip north. He left a blank form that I can fill out to make my next entry even quicker.

After reading the letter from 'Anonymous', I asked my friends if they experienced anything different than I did from Customs. One fellow said that one agent in particular had displayed a lack of interest in his work, but otherwise all their experiences were quick and without any hassle whatsoever.

As with most things in life, I think the way you are treated depends a great deal on how you present yourself - and that would apply to Customs, too.

Steve Creighton
Erika Dawn, Sabreline 47
San Diego

Steve - 'Anonymous' did sign his name, but asked that we withhold it. We don't think he had anything to worry about, but we did it as a courtesy.

Generally speaking, we've had excellent experiences with U.S. Customs officers, but there have been a few exceptions. About 15 years ago, there was a huge West Indian woman in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, who took a personal disliking to our trim English girlfriend. After clearing her in about six times over a period of about a year, this Customs woman couldn't take it anymore. "Go away!" she said in a surly tone, "I'm not letting you in the United States anymore!" Even though it was obviously personal, none of the other Customs officers said a word.

'Well, screw you,' we said under our breath, and we sailed over to Customs in nearby St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The office there was run by a couple of old horn-dog West Indians. We explained the situation, and they cackled like crazy. "Don't worry about nothing," they assured us. "Any time you want to bring cute girls into the United States, you come here to St. Thomas because we'll never turn them away." And they didn't, either.

We also had one unpleasant experience with Customs in San Diego. We arrived about 2 a.m. with Big O, and a crew that happened to include a Spanish fellow and a Swiss woman. The Customs guy couldn't have been more nasty - and finally accused these two foreigners of trying to "sneak into the country" to work. They both denied it - and in fact weren't trying to work. Nonetheless, the Customs guy gave them a mere 48 hours to leave the country - and then stomped off.

It was nothing but an insult, because the man and woman were leaving with Big O the next day for Ensenada where the boat was to be hauled. A month later, again in the middle of the night, our same group returned to Customs in San Diego. Son of a gun, we were met by the same Customs agent. He didn't recognize our two foreign crew, and gave them both six months without any questions. This was too much for Antonio, the Spanish guy. "What's the matter with you?" he angrily demanded of the Customs agent. "Have you already forgotten my face and the fact that a month ago you only gave me 48 hours?" The Customs guy smiled sickly, made nice for a few minutes, then slipped away into the night.

On a scale of 1 to 10, we give U.S. Customs a 9.5. Given such a large group of people, there are always going to be a few losers, but as a group, we think they are as professional as any Customs agents we've come across.

Speaking of Customs in San Diego, it's come to our attention that a number of folks returning from Mexico are simply blowing off checking in at Customs in San Diego altogether. If you're one of these, we'd love to hear from you anonymously, and know why you're doing it. By the way, we think it's potentially a much more serious problem than say, not checking in at La Cruz in Banderas Bay.


Is it possible to sail around the world at a certain latitude? If so, what latitude would that be? Just curious.

Gene Torres
Seattle, Washington

Gene - If you brought enough jackets and mittens, and if you kept a close eye out for icebergs, you could follow 60°S - plus or minus a few degrees - around the world. Naturally, it would be much shorter than sailing the circumference of the globe, so you wouldn't want to claim it as a circumnavigation.

If you wanted to go from the Antarctic to the Arctic, about the only longitude that would be clear of land is 170°W. You'd want to bring your cold weather gear and your very hot weather gear.


I just got back from St. Barth in the French West Indies, where I spent New Year's and then another week. We had a great time, but the weather was not as great as I had imagined it would be. But every other day or so, I would get online on the computer in the hotel lobby and check 'Lectronic Latitude - proving that I'm a devoted reader.

Today I saw your story on Tom Conerly aboard his new catamaran HaPai in St. Barth and had to laugh. Tom sailed with me on my Santa Cruz-based SC 52 Natazak in the '01 Coastal Cup when we set a new record to Ventura. He's a great guy and a really good sailor. If you recall, the weather was really rough that year, and Tom was one of the few people who could be trusted to drive in those conditions.

I wish we had run into the other Bay Area sailors while in St. Barth, as it would have been fun to have a drink together.

We're planning to join you for our first Baja Ha-Ha this fall, and then head down the coast to spend a few months in Mexico. As such, I enjoyed your Mexico/Caribbean comparisons, and look forward to the $5 dinners - especially after the $300 dinner we had at the Wall House in St. Barth. It was good - but expensive.

Steve Williams
Natazak, Santa Cruz 52
Santa Cruz

Steve - It is too bad that all the California sailors didn't get to meet up in St. Barth over the holidays. Alan Andrews, designer of many of the West Coast's top racing and cruising boats, later told us he was there also, on charter with our friend Murray on the Swan 56 Amerigo. We would have enjoyed showing you and all the others some of the neat things about the little island, lent you a dinghy to see all the mega yachts, and certainly could have gotten you a ride aboard one of the 100+ footers for the Around the Island Race/Parade. For future reference, we'll always be at Bête A Z'ailes every December 30 at 5:30 p.m. for the Skipper's Meeting - free champagne! - and at the 'Ticonderoga corner' of the Charles de Gaulle Quay at midnight on New Year's. We wouldn't miss starting the year with the big boats in St. Barth any more than we'd live through an October without doing a Baja Ha-Ha.

Late December through mid-January in St. Barth/St. Martin was awful this year. It wasn't quite as windy or gusty as last year, and it didn't rain much, but as you know it was almost always overcast. We've never seen the brilliant blues of the Caribbean look so gray, and the locals said it was the worst weather in 10 years for that time of year. At least it was still plenty warm.

As for our price comparisons between Mexico and St. Barth, it's no joke. Two months ago the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca had our favorite dinner for two in Mexico, and it cost less than one cocktail at La Plage, Brazil, or countless other places in St. Barth. Which is why we did most of our drinking at Le Select, the only inexpensive place on St. Barth.


I'm writing in response to the January issue request for information about the M boat that went aground at Yelapa, Mexico, many years ago. In 1958, I was delivering the 97-ft ketch Morning Star, formerly owned by Richard Rheem, to Louis Benquest, who owned the Oceana Hotel in Puerto Vallarta. We were to deliver Morning Star - which was later owned by Ken DeMeuse of the St. Francis YC - to the Acapulco YC.

Just about the time we completed the delivery, the San Diego to Acapulco race fleet arrived in Acapulco. Since my friend Peter Grant of Newport Beach was there to deliver Nalu II back to California, I joined his crew. We gunk-holed it up the coast to Puerto Vallarta with another Acapulco Race competitor, the M boat Windward. At the time, Winward, which had a varnished hull - was owned by Don Chilcot of the Newport Harbor YC.

We were moving a little faster on the return trip, so we departed for the Tres Marias Islands, but kept a radio schedule. We tried to call Windward one morning while tied up at the pier to the penal colony, but couldn't reach them. But another vessel came up and reported that the 83-footer had grounded herself on the beach in Yelapa in front of a restaurant. In fact, Windward's mast is still used as a flag pole, and if you look in the back of the restaurant, they still have some miscellaneous equipment from the big sloop. The only crewmember I can remember who was aboard with owner Chilcot was Wally Longridge.

Patalita, another M boat, was originally owned by Colonel Wineman of John Deere tractor fame. At one point she was also owned by Howard Ahmanson of the Southern California banking family. Pursuit, which is still berthed at Sausalito Yacht Harbor, is yet another M boat. At one time she was owned by Howard Heckt, Burt Lancaster, and a guy named Hill - all of them Hollywood movie moguls. At the time, she was kept on a mooring off Santa Monica Beach behind the rock breakwater.

Roby C. Bessent, CMS
Pacific Marine Surveyors
Long Beach


Regarding the whereabouts of the Traveler, she was berthed in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and put up for sale in the early '80s. A group of apparently inexperienced guys took her out on a trial sail. The engine quit just after they left the harbor, and they didn't have an anchor or sail ready. They panicked and did nothing. Traveler was blown onto the reef just outside the Ala Wai, broke up and sank. I salvaged two Hyfield levers from her that I still use on my schooner Viveka.

With regard to Bob Bailey's question about M boats, there were 17 of them built in Germany. They were of composite construction - iron frames and wood planks - which eventually caused many problems with the planking. As a result, few of them have survived.

The M Boat that sank at Yelapa in 1958 was Windward, hull #14. Yelapa is a tricky place to anchor, as the bottom is steep-to to the beach. Windward had been anchored in 60 feet of water when her chain parted. She quickly drifted back into the surf and onto the beach before her crew could save her. Bob Dickson of Newport Beach, currently the 'Vice President of the Pacific Ocean', was one of the crew, as was, I believe, the late Hugh Kelly, one of the owners of the Bali Hai Hotel on Moorea. To my knowledge, Windward's 48,000-lb lead keel is still on the bottom. I know they used her mast for a flagpole on the beach.

As for green flashes, I saw many of them during my seven-year circumnavigation with my schooner Viveka. Sometimes I saw them when others who were also looking didn't see them. Their problem is that they were looking for some kind of giant green flash in the sky. It's not like that. When the sun sinks below the horizon, the top of the sun flashes green. This only happens on cloudless days.

Once near Fanning Island I saw the bottom of clouds covering a turquoise lagoon turn green from the reflection of the lagoon at noon. It wasn't a 'green flash', but it was green and it was lovely.

Merl Petersen, President of the Pacific Ocean
Schooner Viveka

Readers - We'll have a much more detailed account of the life, loss, and times of Windward in the next issue, courtesy of the wonderful archives and memory of R.C. Keefe. We'll even have photographs of the huge sloop as the first waves were crashing over her at Yelapa. They are gut-wrenching.


We are just back from Bremerhaven, Germany, and wanted to tell everyone about Sail Bremerhaven 2005, which takes place this August 10-14. This is a huge international festival of sailing and tall ships that is only held every five years, so it was exciting to see the city gearing up for it so far in advance. Over 200 ships from 24 different nations will partici-pate. Along with the parade of sailing ships, there will be boat tours, regattas, sea chanty performances, and much more. Bremerhaven is home to a wonderful maritime museum, which has many fascinating boats, sailing ships, and an original WWII U-boat in its collection. The accompanying photo is of my lovely wife Elisabeth - in the snow! - showing Germany her favorite magazine.

Rod Lambert & Elisabeth Lehmberg
Proximity, Swan 41


I've stumbled onto a solution to the problem of spilling all the diesel/gas all over the place while using the CARB-compliant jerry cans - throw out the new spouts. I use the cap and spout that comes with the old-style jerry cans. Since the new cans don't have the breather hole, the fuel pours out slower into the new West Marine Fuel Filter or Baja Fuel Filter, so the over-splash is minimal to nonexistent, even with the wind blowing. If you don't have the old-style cap and spout arrangement from any old-style cans, Downwind Marine in San Diego sells them.

Now if we can only figure out a way to eliminate the couple of ounces of diesel/gas that's left over in the bottom of the poorly designed West Marine Fuel Filter. I usually pour the last ounces back into the jerry can, which of course leads to spills all over the filter, the can, the deck, and so forth. If they are not going to eliminate the lip at the bottom inside the filter, maybe they need to add a little triangular indentation on the top rim of the filter for this purpose.

We're currently at the Las Hadas anchorage not far from Manzanillo, on our way to Zihuatanejo. Our haul-out at Puerto Vallarta's Opequimar Boatyard, which is professionally run, turned out fine. Their new 80-ton Travelift is run by remote control! We had Juan Gonzalez handle all the work on Windsong. He gave us a great deal on painting the hull - four coats of Imron LP primer and four coats of Imron LP on the hull for $2,200 U.S. What a deal! Prior to leaving the States, I'd gotten quotes of $18,000 to $36,000 for the same job. And Juan's crew did a fantastic job, as Windsong looks like a brand new yacht.

Frank Nitte & Shirley Duffield
Windsong, 1981 Islander Freeport 36
Las Hadas, Mexico

Frank and Shirley - For what it's worth, the latest West Marine fuel filters do have a pour spout on the top rim to facilitate pouring the last few ounces of fuel back into the jug.

Just so everyone is clear on this, the CARB folks didn't create the new jugs to drive mariners crazy, but to address some legitimate problems. According to their best estimates, pre-CARB PFCs - portable fuel containers - released 100 tons of hydrocarbons a year into the California atmosphere. Eight tons of it permeated the walls of the plastic jugs. Another eight tons came from spillage. The other 74 tons came from day/night changes in pressure, which released hydrocarbons out of loosely closed caps and into the atmosphere. Who would have thought? CARB thinks the new jugs have done a good job of eliminating most of the releases caused by the permeability and pressure problems, but that the new jugs have probably - make that certainly - increased releases due to spillage.

As for your paint job in Mexico, that's indeed a hell of a deal - at least on a personal level. On the broader scope, it's discouraging, because it just goes to show how the high cost of land, wages, insurance, workers comp and legal assaults make it difficult for businesses in the United States - and particularly California - to be competitive.


I have to tell you that leaving your boat when you park it in someone else's slip is rude - but it's bound to happen now and again because there are so few slips.

My husband and I are new to sailing, but we read every page of Latitude and several other sailing magazines to learn as much as we can. On our way from Ensenada to Marina del Rey, we arranged for a guest slip at Dana Point for one night. After a 15-hour passage, we arrived to find another guest boat in the slip that was assigned to us. By this time it was 3 a.m., we were dog-tired, cold and wet. So what else could we do but scoot into another empty slip nearby? We did check in with the dockmaster and were told that we were fine, but would have to move if the boat that belonged in the slip returned.

Nonetheless, we were so nervous about being in someone else's slip that we didn't get any sleep. We kept popping our heads through the companionway whenever we heard footsteps on the dock or a boat coming down the fairway. We felt terribly guilty, but there was nothing that we could do, as the only other space for us to tie up for the night would have been the pump-out dock. Yucky! To make things worse, we couldn't even leave our boat because at this marina you needed a key to get out of the gate as well as to get in. But it rained all day anyway!

We got a break in the weather a day later, and were able to leave before the owner came back. But we did leave him a nice bottle of champagne - it was New Year's Day - and a note by the boatowner's dock box. We hope nobody ran off with them and they got to the owner.

I'll definitely be reading next month to see what others would have done in a situation such as ours.

S. P.
Just Add Wine, Hunter 44
Marina del Rey

S.P. - Since you checked in with the dockmaster, we can't find any fault with what you did - except for leaving a bottle of champagne. That was being too nice, particularly since it wasn't your fault the marina didn't honor your reservation. We wish you had slept soundly, because you were clearly concerned about others, not just yourselves.

Had we been in your situation, however, we would have proceeded to either of the two public anchorages inside the Dana Point Breakwater. There you could have slept soundly, knowing that the bottom is like glue and that you wouldn't be in anyone's slip.


I'm not going to brag about my knowledge of cameras, but since you're disappointed with the photos you got with the Nikon D-70 which you had to buy in the Caribbean, you might try using a polarizing filter to get more vibrant blues and greens. Such filters cost about $40.

Randy Ross
San Diego

Randy - Thanks for the tip. We know polarizers really help, but Fujifilm cameras produce incredible results without them. What's with Nikon's color program?


We just read your article on the Fuji FinePix cameras, and have to say we are extremely pleased with our S5000 model. When we bought it online at for $287 last year it was retailing for $499. I use the camera to shoot resource shots to paint from, and to photograph my art for photo cards. The camera only has 3.2 mega-pixels, but I have made enlargements to 12x18 inches that I've been very pleased with. The camera is still smarter than we are, so I tend to use it on auto most of the time - but am still happy with the results.

We plan to take the camera - and manual - with us when we return to our Kirie Feeling 446 Aquarelle in St. Lucia. Terry left for the boat on January 17, while I leave on the first of February. When submitting photos to Latitude, do I use Win Zip to compress the files or just send the files as is? To get to 300 dpi, do I assume that I just send a 3M picture?

We plan to get to St. Barth in April on our way home from Antigua Sail Week in late April. Reading your articles about it has hyped our anticipation!  

Evelyn & Terry Drew
Aquarelle, Kirie Feeling 446
St. Lucia, West Indies / Santa Cruz

Evelyn and Terry - In the days when most digital cameras captured no more than 3 mega-pixels, it was simple. We just told everyone to send the largest file possible. That doesn't hold anymore, because if people have 5 or more mega-pixel cameras, those files will bring Internet cafes, buffers and computers' RAM (memory) allotments to their knees.

We recommend that everyone shoot at 3 mega-pixels. Unless you're a professional photographer, anything beyond that will just unnecessarily fill up your memory card and slow down your computer and emails.

Here's how we send photos back to the office from Third World countries, and recommend that you do the same: First, we go into Photoshop or some similar photo program, crop the shots to our liking, set the pixels/inch to 170, size the shots to around 6x9 inches, and save them in JPG format. It's important to end the file name of each photo with .JPG. This will result in great photos for the magazine. If we know we are just going to use the photos for 'Lectronic Latitude, we set the pixels/inch way down at 72 before sizing them. The much smaller files can be emailed more quickly, but the resolution is far too poor for use in the magazine. Then we burn the photos onto a disc, take the disc to an Internet cafe, and pray that all the keyboards aren't French or Spanish. The first couple of times the process is cumbersome, but you get used to it quickly. If you need help, just ask around, as there are usually plenty of photo experts in the cruising fleet and at Internet cafes.

When sending photographs, always remember to include a head and shoulders shot of the captain, first mate, and hopefully the crew, either separately or together, and some scenic shots. Check your manual for basic tips on composition. Please don't send more than eight photos. Happy shooting and happy sailing. The combination of the Fuji camera and the Caribbean water is going to result in your having some spectacular color photos. If the wind is out of the southeast when you visit St. Barth, anchor your boat in front of the Eden Rock Hotel and take a photo from the hill (day anchorage only).


I just read your observations on digital cameras, particularly the business about having to pay "$900 for minimal shutter delay." Things have changed. Pop into a camera store and check out the Fuji E550. It's a 6-meg camera, which means you can make lovely enlargements to more than 16" x 24". It also has the speed of operation and lack of shutter lag similar to that of a 35mm film camera. All this for about $350 with some extras. It's a really wonderful camera.

That said, I used a Nikkormat film camera professionally on a daily basis for 20 years. It bounced a few times, and the brass shows through handling, but it never hesitated once. My little Fuji is not that rugged, but camera development is now so fast that it will be old technology in a couple of years. On the other hand, my Nikkormat will produce great pics as long as they make film. Happy sailing.

Ian Wilson-Dick
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England

Ian - Nice to hear from you in England. We used Nikkormat film cameras for years, and they were great. But as nicely as they were built, they have become to digital cameras what sextants have become to GPS units - badly outdated. Just how much longer do you think they'll be making film anyway?

It's great to hear about a low-cost digital camera with nearly no shutter lag and with Fuji color. It sounds like a terrific all-around camera for sailors who like vivid ocean blues and jungle greens.


After Latitude raved about the Fuji Finepix 3800 digital camera a couple of years ago, I bought one - and love it! Next summer I'm going on a trip where I'll want a more compact, slip-in-the-pocket camera that I can operate one-handed. After looking around and doing some research, I bought the new Fuji Finepix E550. It features 6 mega-pixels, has a 4X optical zoom (I miss my old 6X optical zoom) - and you'll love this - has no shutter lag! That means you get a picture of what you see when you take the photo, not of what happens a second later. The only thing I don't like is that the viewfinder is not 'through-the lens' like the 3800. The E550 is $350 at Costco. It takes only two AA batteries instead of four, and they seem to last a long time. It also takes really nice videos with audio.

Since Latitude started me on Fuji Finepix cameras, I thought I should pass this along so you can replace your old Nikon with the great Fuji color.

Sue Winslow
Crew on Jim Fair's Merit 25 Chesapeake

Sue - Thanks for the good news, as we weren't aware that Fuji had a $350 digital camera without shutter lag.

Readers might wonder why we're so enthusiastic about Fuji digital cameras. The answer is simple - much more vivid colors, particularly the blues and greens that are so important for sailing and around-the-water photographs. Out of necessity, we recently had to buy one of the highly-praised Nikon D-70s in the Caribbean on an emergency basis. This is their latest higher-end digital camera that accepts interchangeable lenses. Fortunately, we were able to get one in St. Martin for $100 less than the lowest price we'd ever seen in the United States. It's an absolutely sensational camera - except for one thing: the Nikon color program produces surprisingly dull and lifeless blues and greens. Take the same sailing shot with a $250 Fuji amateur 'point and shoot' camera and the $900 (body only) Nikon D-70 'pro-sumer' camera, and people will prefer the Fuji color every time. The difference is that great.

The perfect solution to a sailor's digital camera needs doesn't yet exist, but all the elements are there. If Fuji would put a 6X optical zoom on the E550 - as you recommend - it would be the perfect camera for keep-in-your-pocket 'point and shoot' use, and would take shots that could be enlarged to beautiful 16 x 20-inch prints. For more serious photography, the perfect solution would be if Nikon would license Fuji's color for the D-70 - plus add firewire downloading and pump up the flash. An alternative would be for Fuji to modernize their S2 Pro camera, make it more robust, and lower the price to that of the Nikon D-70. Alas, the just-released successor to the Fuji S2 is the S3, which Fuji made way more expensive and aimed at an entirely different market. Oh well, we've come a long way with digital cameras in just a couple of years, and it's only going to get better and less expensive in the future. We can't say that about many other things.


In the January issue, reader Larry Brown wrote about four elderly men doing a lunch daysail, and wondered if they didn't set some kind of record for cumulative age on a boat. Latitude figured the average age of that group to be 74, and that the number would be beaten.

You are right. At the Richmond YC there is an informal group of us old salts that we call the Sunshine Boys. We gather in the parking lot on Wednesday mornings with our bag lunches, look around at who is there, and decide how many boats to take out. The destination is set by wind and tide, but more often than not we sail to the Marin or San Francisco YCs.

The oldest in our group celebrated his 96th birthday in 2004, and the ages of the others range downward from 90. I checked my logs, and found three instances in the past year where we used my boat and the average age of the four of us onboard was 79, 79, and 76. In checking with Bob Macfie, another of the boatowners whose boats we have used, he reminded me that he took five of us out a couple of weeks ago, and the average age of that group was 85.

I love Latitude and never miss a copy.

Ray Wilson
Mata Hari, Ericson 27


As for the 'Golden Pond' letter in the last issue and Latitude's response challenging readers to come up with boat crews whose average age exceeds 74, let me tell you about what we jokingly call 'The Orinda YC'. For the past 20 years or so, I have been sailing regularly with a group of gentlemen, all of whom are now over 80. My dad, Clark Joiner, got me involved back then when it became evident they could use some young blood. At one point in 2002, before my dad passed away, the cumulative age aboard one boat was over 520 years - and that included me, the whippersnapper, and Laszlo Bonnyay, a mere tike in his 60s. And that wasn't just one sail, either. These guys would get together once a week for lunch and a sail out of the then-Alameda Naval Air Station, where Bob Bruce of Berkeley, one of the octogenarians, was a sailing instructor!

Besides my dad and Bruce, the others who are over 80 were/are Wally Curtis of Berkeley, Bob Scanlon of Orinda, and John Henderson of Piedmont. I would still send at least two of these clubmembers to the bow in a blow without hesitation. In fact, just today I got an email from John Henderson inviting me to a sail this Friday out of Ballena Bay. Since the demise of the Alameda Naval Air Station MWR Harbor, Bonnyay's beautiful Chesapeake Bay cat is now the 'club boat'. These guys don't know from aging, so I fully expect to be sailing with them when they are in their 90s.

On another subject, I read with interest Jonathan 'Bird' Livingston's letter about the charter trips out of Ma'alaea, Maui. He said that on typical windy days, the wind speed averaged 35 to 40 knots with gusts to 50 knots, and that there were occasional swells to 18 feet. He also said that there were "thousands of tourists at sea," and because of the limited resources of the Coast Guard, "quick and effective rescues would be marginal at best."

It just so happens that this winter we're living on Ma'alaea Bay, and are lucky enough to have a view of the entire bay - including the harbor - out our back deck. It also turns out that we are fanatics of Hawaiian music - our S&S ketch Ku'uipo, a vet of the '01 Ha-Ha, is named after a famous Hawaiian song - as are many of the charterboat captains who run boats out of Ma'alaea. Having seen these captains at various venues, I've shared Livingston's letter with a few of them, most of whom are 20+ year vets. Their reaction has ranged from astonishment to disbelief.

"First of all," said one, "it's almost always windy on the bay, and in 20 years I've almost never seen winds over the 25 to 30-knot mark." Our own observations over the last month - which was very windy - certainly matches this. Although it's been windy, it certainly hasn't been as windy as a typical summer day in The Slot of San Francisco Bay in July.

"Taking a tourist boat out in 18-foot swells is absurd," said another. "None of us would ever even think about doing that." And in the event of a rescue, "it would be nice to have the Coasties there, but we all cover each other's backs," said yet another. "We have the resources and the area covered extremely well. If a mayday didn't get out, we'd get an EPIRB position relayed out to us right away. We're never out there alone." The observations off our back deck would confirm this, as there always seems to be several large tourist boats on the horizon at almost all times of every day.

"I wish we had thousands of marine tourists out on boats," said one captain, "but on a good day we only have hundreds of them."

With all due respect to Livingston, Latitude's response that his weather reports may be a bit of an exaggeration would seem to be not far off the mark.

Mark Joiner
Ku'uipo II

Mark - Oh boy, the last thing we want to do is get into an argument about how hard the wind blows off Maui, particularly if nobody is being too specific about whether they are talking about in the lee of the volcanos or in the channels between Maui and Molokai or Maui and the Big Island. We don't know enough to comment about typical winds in the lee of the volcanos, but if we're talking about the channels between the islands, we know it would be irresponsible not to be prepared for the possibility of 35-knot winds and 15-foot seas. If typical conditions were 15 to 20 knots and four to six foot seas, there would be a heck of a lot more sailing between the islands.


Being sailors, Latitude readers might be interested in the book 1421, The Year The Chinese Discovered America by Gavin Menzies. It's an incredible account of the explorations of the Chinese from 1421 to 1423. They circumnavigated the globe and explored all the continents. Unfortunately, they returned home to a new government that chastised them for the frivolous waste of money and resources that went into supplying the voyages. All the records and maps were destroyed, as China then turned its back on the rest of the world.

Since Menzies published the book, many people have come forward with more supporting evidence to document the Chinese visitations to all parts of the globe. The website: contains accounts of the latest evidence of these amazing endeavors.

I remember when two local divers in my hometown of Redondo Beach found some curious-looking donut-shaped rocks off of Palos Verdes years ago. They were laughed at when they suggested these were old Chinese anchors. But now even DNA testing is showing matches between local Indians and the very villages where some of the original crews came from.

Gavin Menzies had originally suggested that the Chinese fleet was around 100 ships, some as long as 500 feet. But now Chinese historians are claiming that the fleet was closer to 1,000 ships. In any event, the book is a great read that ends up rewriting history as we know it.

Carl Reuter
Santa Cruz

Carl - As explained on the book's website, according to this point of view, thanks to the Chinese, all the great European navigators including Henry the Navigator, Columbus, de Gama, Magellan and Cook, knew where they were going before they started and how to return home. "Brave and skillful as these captains were," the website sneers, "they discovered nothing new."

Doesn't it seem odd that none of these European explorers ever mentioned having this knowledge? Do you think it was a secret among great explorers that has been kept until now?

The Irish, of course, aren't going to go for any of this business about the Chinese discovering North America, not with St. Brendan having sailed from Ireland to what is now Newfoundland 1,000 years before the Chinese supposedly got there. In the '70s, British navigator Tim Severin proved St. Brendan's voyage was possible by building a leather curragh and sailing it from Ireland to Newfoundland.


There have been recent letters about the high price of propane in Marin County, and particularly the high minimums. Latitude readers should know about Allied Propane Service in Richmond. They sell propane at $2.29 per gallon, with no minimum - which is great for those of us who have the small 10 lb. (2.4 gallon) cylinders. They cater primarily to the large accounts, but they are quite friendly to the little guy as well. The only downside is that they are not open on weekends. Allied is located at 5000 Seaport Avenue in Richmond, and is easy to find, as they are on the west side of I-580 at the Bayview Avenue offramp. It's right by the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor. Their number is 510-237-7707. 

Ed Johnson
Hunter Passage 42

Ed - Thanks for the information. As we recall, all the propane places in Marin had a minimum charge of about $15.


We lost our beloved Morgan 27 Wings on the rocks of Maui yesterday. She broke loose from her mooring in the Lahaina Roadstead during a storm. The harbormaster called us at 5 a.m. to tell us she was on the rocks. We had to use a crane to remove her from the beach and place her on a flatbed truck. She had suffered big holes in her starboard side, plus quite a bit of damage around the keel. It would have cost the insurance company more to fix than she was worth, so now she sits at Ma'alaea waiting to be cut up and thrown away. That's one thing I won't be able to watch.

As many Latitude readers probably know, there's a 20-year wait to get a slip on Maui, where it would be really safe to keep a boat. Of course, if you have enough money, you can always 'buy' a slip by buying a corporation that owns a boat that is in one of the slips. It doesn't seem fair.

After our children were through with school and grown, we finally had enough money to purchase the Morgan 27 - into which we have put a lot of time and love. After an extensive haulout last spring, we had her just the way we wanted her.

My husband has lived in Hawaii since the '60s when he was stationed here with the Coast Guard. I've been here 12 years. We are both hard-working people, and this is the way the harbors treat people in Hawaii. Do you think anything will ever change for sailors on Maui or Hawaii?

Pat Shannon
Wings, Morgan 27 (expired)

Pat - We're sorry to hear about the loss of your boat. As you probably already know, Blue Star was also lost on the shore of Maui this season. See Sightings for details.

At some point in history we're sure there will be some change with regard to the state-owned marinas. But in the more than 25 years we've been going to the Islands, the change in state-run facilities has been limited to deterioration over time. Parts of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor are, of course, Exhibit A. On the private front there has been some positive change with the addition of the very nice and popular Ko Olina Marina on Oahu. This is just one of several reasons that we've long advocated that the state of Hawaii get out of the marina management business, something they've consistently proved to be incapable of doing effectively.


It's tough to try to be politically correct, but here goes . . .

Being a singlehander, I really enjoyed the January issue coverage of Ellen MacArthur, as she is an awesome sailor. There was a sidebar to the article that listed some "pre-Ellen Milestones in Women's Sailing" with a source referral of a website. There are, of course, many more historically significant female sailors who were not mentioned and not represented in the sidebar, giving a somewhat skewed historical perspective.

That's all right, but let me fill in the blanks on two sailors that I think really need to be mentioned. The first is Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz of Poland, who became the first woman to circumnavigate singlehanded. She did it with her 31-ft Mazurek between '76 and '78. The other is Dame Commander Naomi James, who circumnavigated in 267 days by way of Cape Horn in '78 aboard the 53-ft Express Crusader (formerly Chay Blyth's Spirit of Cutty Sark), besting the record of Sir Francis Chichester by about five days.

If anyone wants to read further accounts of early singlehanded history by both sexes, and not necessarily singlehanded racing, they should check out Richard Henderson's book Singlehanded Sailing.

Capt Jan Abbott Mondragon

Capt Jan - Thanks for bringing up those important names in the history of sailing. But we're puzzled. What do you think is 'politically correct' about your mentioning it?


My wife and I are contemplating an April 15-21 charter aboard a 32-ft sloop from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas. The captain has been straightforward with us, saying that it will be an upwind and uncomfortable trip - but adds that it will only be 300 miles. This leaves us wondering how long the passage might take, as we're willing to bash for a couple of days, but also want to be up for enjoying ourselves in Cabo, too. We'd ask the captain, but he recently departed Natal and will be out of touch for some time.

We don't personally know anyone who has made this trip, but thought that you or someone you know has certainly made the passage. Any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Everett Bjorklund

Everett - We're not aware of any legal sailboat charters between Puerto Vallarta and Cabo, so we presume you're dealing with a 'pirate' operation. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you'd want to do some due diligence about the captain, the condition of the vessel and safety gear, and ask what happens if the trip has to be cancelled because of boat problems.

If you were sailing from Cabo to P.V., we'd say the trip would take three days because it would almost certainly be off-the-wind sailing. Since you'd be going the other way and it will almost certainly be upwind, the length of the passage will depend on how hard the wind blows, how big the seas are, how weatherly the 32-footer is, and how strong your stomachs are. Unless the boat has a strong engine and you motor all the way, we'd figure on a minimum of three days - but it could take a week or more if there was a strong Norther blowing down from the Sea of Cortez. It also would depend on whether you would be making a straight shot or sailing up to Mazatlan and then cutting across the Sea of Cortez where it's the most narrow.

If you're going to pay to sail in Mexico, it's our opinion that the Puerto Vallarta to Cabo passage would be one of the least attractive itineraries. Here are two much better options: 1) A week-long, anchorage-hopping cruise between La Paz and Loreto - the weather is great in the Sea of Cortez at that time of year. 2) A week-long, anchorage-hopping cruise along mainland Mexico's Gold Coast between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. The beauty of these itineraries is that they are 140 and 170 miles respectively, which means that in addition to sailing a couple of hours each day, you would also have time to explore ashore, swim, snorkel and surf. Plus you'd get to spend each night in a different neat anchorage rather than standing watch at sea. We're not trying to interfere with some enterprising skipper's charter gig, but we're confident that 99% of Mexico vets would concur with our opinion.


I'm purchasing a Nor' Sea 27 sailboat in La Paz, Mexico. I need to have it shipped to Gainesville, Georgia, and was told that you could point me in the right direction. I would appreciate your help, as in a week's worth of looking and contacting people, I have yet to receive a single reply.

Bill Oyster
Gainesville, Georgia

Bill - The only people who truck boats out of Mexico on a regular basis are Marina Seca in San Carlos on the mainland. So you'd have to make the 300-mile trip from La Paz to San Carlos. And the folks at San Carlos only ship to Tucson, at which point the boat would have to be transferred to another carrier for further shipment in the United States. Compared to the price of the boat, it's going to be pretty expensive. But check them out at

You might want to consider the do-it-yourself option. This would involve getting a reasonably heavy-duty pickup and a trailer - assuming that the boat doesn't have a trailer in La Paz - and doing the road trip yourself. We've trailered a boat the length of the Baja Peninsula, and it's spectacular! And if you had the time, a drive across the United States could be a hoot, too. This would cost a few bucks also, but you could offset the expense by loading the boat full of illegal immigrants or marijuana just before crossing the border. Just kidding.


I saw your November request in 'Lectronic for thoughts on what to do and bring - or what not to do and bring - on a Ha-Ha. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten the chance to do one since '99, when I was a last-minute fill-in crew on Ralph and Joanne Felton's Newport 41 El Sueño, but here are some things I found really helpful:

1) The Captain or other electronic navigation software, with local charts already loaded in the computer or other navigation device - plus Mexico chartbooks as hard-copy backups.

2) A working autopilot - with backup. The drive-belt for El Sueño's Autohelm broke on the first leg, but a leather expert in Turtle Bay devised a way for us to splice it. My solo night watches were so much better when I had both the autopilot and the next item.

3) A shirt-pocket size shortwave radio - $25 from Radio Shack - with headphones rather than the 'ear-buds' it comes with. The BBC kept me company and awake on those solo night watches, and headphones allowed me to listen without waking the crew. I've since found the AM/FM bands on the radio are very nice for trips off the coast of California.

4) A watermaker. Not having to worry about water made showering on the foredeck much more guilt-free.

5) Joanne Felton. She grew up in Mexico, so she speaks Spanish like a native and with all the colloquialisms! That made the autopilot repair, negotiating the purchase of camarones and langostinos from the panganeros, and checking in at Cabo a breeze for all of us and lots of others.

6) Good communication among the crew so that, among other things, they understand and are comfortable with the medical problems of their crewmates. I, for example, am an insulin-dependent diabetic, and in '99 had originally signed on with another boat. The night before we were to leave San Diego, I had an insulin shock episode, and the crew wasn't comfortable sailing with me. Early on, I had gone over with the crew what to do if I had such an episode, but they'd never experienced one. Joanne and others on El Sueño were familiar with diabetes, and had no such concerns.

P.S. I helped deliver Lori Warner's Tartan 37 Wild Rose from Northern California to San Diego so they could do last year's Ha-Ha. The delivery crew included Phil Hendrix, who later had to be med-evac'd from Turtle Bay during the Ha-Ha. Hendrix had gone over his medical issues with the delivery crew to San Diego, so we were comfortable with them - plus, while in California we weren't so far from medical help.

Peter Hine

Peter - Two thoughts. First, we rarely have just one person on watch, but if we did, we wouldn't allow them to be listening to music through headphones. Sound is usually the most important sense after vision when sailing, and it seems reckless for the only person on watch to be nullifying that sense. Second, we've found that people with medical conditions often aren't nearly as upfront about their health as they ought to be. For instance, we've had people who had sworn they were in perfect health show up on our boat for long passages with debilitating conditions and medications that needed to be kept within a narrow temperature range that we couldn't guarantee. Withholding such information creates potential problems and risks for everyone.


Wow, what a great photo of our Islander 36 36 Double D's at the start of the Ha-Ha, the one that was featured on pages 104-105 of the December issue! That was also a great story about needing to be prepared for emergencies. We want to let you know that even though we looked pretty carefree out there - what with the umbrellas up and stuff - we were very serious about safety when outfitting our boat and preparing our crew for the Ha-Ha. We even practiced by taking multiple long trips up and down the coast of California and testing our equipment, ourselves and our emergency procedures.

Our Ha-Ha was not without its mishaps, but all of our woes were fixable boat problems. We were fortunate to not experience any health issues, but we were prepared for the worst. We had a designated Health & Safety Officer on our crew who, with the assistance of her mother, an emergency response specialist and surgical nurse, assessed the contents of our First-Aid backpack. She added several prescription meds for serious ailments and pain, a small field surgical kit, and a handy quick-reference book on how to respond to medical situations. We also provisioned our boat with healthy foods, plenty of snacks and bottled water, and just enough alcohol to keep it fun.

We had each crewmember complete a detailed health information questionnaire listing any regular meds being taken, known allergies, recent surgeries/illnesses, and so forth. We had them sign releases for medical treatment, got their emergency contact information, passport numbers, and as much personal information as possible that we felt might be helpful in an emergency. This information was transferred onto index cards that were laminated and bound - a copy for the ditch bag, a copy for the First-Aid backpack, and a copy was kept with other important papers on the boat. These little cards are now souvenirs for the crew, but Dale and I are keeping ours onboard and in our First-Aid backpack because we plan to be out on the blue even more often. In fact, you might even see us signing up for the next Ha-Ha - it was a grand adventure that taught us a lot about ourselves and cruising. It also left us wanting more.

Our thanks to the Grand Poobah, the Assistant Poobah, Doña de Mallorca and everyone else who works so hard every year on the Ha-Ha to give sailors such as ourselves an opportunity to get away from the dock, meet new friends, and get a small taste of the cruising life.

Dena Rutan & Dale Snearly
36 Double D's, Islander 36
San Leandro

Dena and Dale - Thanks for the kind words. We admire all your preparation for the Ha-Ha and hope we see you at the start of the Ha-Ha this fall.


Did we have major gear and/or engine problems on the Ha-Ha? Amazingly not - knock on wood. Let's hope our luck continues for the rest of the season in Mexico.

What was our favorite bit of marine gear? When sailing, it was definitely the downwind sails. We had a Code Zero, plus light and heavy air asymmetrical chutes, and both of the latter could be flown off the pole as well. Having the pole was key, as much of the Ha-Ha was sailed on really low sailing angles. I think the sleds without poles sailed at least twice as many miles as we did.

We also loved our Simrad autopilot, which was able to drive in all conditions, including with the chute up - although we found it didn't respond as quickly as humans.

For creature comfort, we had several favorites. Our ENWA 30-gallon/hour watermaker permitted unlimited showering. The Inmarsat-C allowed the crew to email friends and family. The Inmarsat Mini-M allowed me to keep in touch with a family medical emergency at home.

What bit of marine gear did we really wish we had? A longer waterline, as we always wanted to go faster. We think that a Hallberg-Rassy 62 would be perfect!

As for the number of crew, we had five, which we think was ideal for our boat. It meant we had enough for two people to be on watch at all times, which allowed us to fly the chute around the clock. But it still meant people got plenty of rest. And when at anchor, the boat was big enough for everyone to have a comfortable place to sleep.

Four out of the five of us on the crew were old friends. We picked up an additional crewmember from the Mexico Crew Party in early October. We looked for someone with similar background and interests, and it worked out really well. The hardest part was actually choosing between a number of great candidates that we met at the party.

Mike & Jan Moore
Ayu, Hallberg-Rassy 46


If you're still taking comments on gear and crew from the Ha-Ha, we'd like to put in our comments - although we did the '03 Ha-Ha with our Islander 36 Bella Dama.

We had what seemed like major electrical problems, but they turned out to be no big deal. They were fixed by a fellow cruiser in Cabo for coconuts. We also had problems with contaminated fuel and fuel filters that persisted for the duration of our seven-month cruise. Although that didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves, I advise everyone to become proficient at changing filters and bleeding the diesel before going to Mexico.

Our favorite bit of marine gear was our 150% furling genoa, as it was great for light air and made for easy sail area reductions in the middle of the night. The one thing we wished we had was a truly reliable and bulletproof autopilot.

I picked up new crew for the Ha-Ha. It would have been better to have sailed with him before, as there can be some stressful moments on the Ha-Ha. But in the long run it worked out great.

Overall, the Ha-Ha was terrific. I hope to do it again soon, on my boat or someone else's boat.

Chad Kominek
Bella Dama, Islander 36

Chad - We're not saying that this was the cause of problems with your autopilot, but many times folks make their autopilots work much harder than necessary by either carrying too much sail or having the sails poorly trimmed. There probably isn't a recreational boat autopilot that can't be damaged through misuse or abuse. As such, it might help if boatowners thought of their autopilots in human rather than mechanical terms. It's not necessary to give the thing a cute name or anything, but it does help to keep the load as light as possible for any set of sailing conditions.


Those (British) Virgin Islands Search & Rescue folks do a great job. VISAR is a 24-hour-a-day, voluntary, charity-funded organization dedicated to saving lives at sea. Most Latitude readers know them because of the recent announcement that some of the women charter chefs on BVI-based charter boats doffed their duds and shared recipes for the Charter Chef Calender Girls calendar to raise money for the organization.

We know those VISAR folks do a great job because a couple of springs ago we observed a rescue involving them near the infamous William Thornton floating bar and restaurant at Norman Island. After enjoying dinner and some margaritas, we were having a nightcap in our cockpit when a fellow did a bad dive off the house and hit the water flat. He came up for a second, then went under. His buddies pulled him onto the dinghy dock where they worked on him - but apparently without much success. A short time later, this big hard-bottom inflatable marked Virgin Island Search And Rescue came charging up. They put the patient aboard and took off. They were very professional. As such, I'll be buying one of the calendars to support them.

With regard to the subject of men peeing into containers rather than over the side, I suggest using a wide mouth bottle with a cap. It saves having to clean up, and can also be used in the cockpit or other places.


Readers - Founded in 1988, VISAR has carried out more than 300 Search & Rescue missions, helped more than 1,200 people in distress, and saved over 200 lives. VISAR's volunteers come from all walks of life, and undergo rigorous training in seamanship, small boat handling, as well as Search & Rescue techniques and First Aid. They give up their own time to train and answer distress calls. They get nothing in return except the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing a vital job.

If anyone would like to buy a calendar to support VISAR - Lynn Ringseis of Novato and the B.V.I.-based Lagoon 41 Moonshine is the April Chef - they should see for information. If anyone would like to contribute directly to VISAR, they should visit


We've just finished recommissioning our Morgan 38 Dry Martini after her truck ride from San Carlos, Mexico, to Ventura. Nothing goes to weather like a Kenworth! It's my pleasure to report the whole process went off without a hitch.

Marina Seca in San Carlos hauled the boat, pulled the stick, prepared everything for shipment, then loaded it all on their transport trailer. The operation was completed one day ahead of schedule and Jesus and his crew at Marina Seca were all great to work with. From San Carlos, the load was taken to Tucson, Arizona, where an independent crane company was employed to reload the boat on a U.S. carrier. I was not present for this transfer, but apparently it went without incident, because two days later Dry Martini arrived in Ventura - yet another day ahead of schedule. In Ventura, we used the Ventura Harbor Boatyard for the recommissioning process. This also proved to be a good choice.

The entire operation - including the crane company in Tucson and the U.S. carrier - was arranged for and supervised by Jesus at Marina Seca. Payment is made to Marina Seca for their work, the truck to Tucson, and the crane transfer. The fee for the U.S. truck is paid directly to that company upon delivery and for the prearranged price - all part of the package quoted by Jesus. The total cost for Dry Martini, which is 38 feet LOA and has a beam of 12 feet, came to just over $5,000. This did not include the yard fee in Ventura for unloading.

Here are a couple of things to consider when deciding if trucking your boat home is preferable to making the Baja Bash. If your boat has greater than a 12-foot beam, the shipping cost for the U.S. leg is going to be significantly higher because the load requires a chase car to follow along to caution other vehicles. When loaded aboard the transport trailer, the maximum height of any portion of the load must not exceed 14 feet. The bottom of the keel rides approximately two feet above the ground, so adding up from there, you can determine what might have to be removed from the deck in order to meet the height limitation. In the case of the Dry Martini, which draws only five feet, this required the removal of the radar arch and the mast pulpit. With a deeper keel, it might become necessary to remove the bow pulpit, stern rail, and dodger frame. Most of your belongings can ride in the boat so long as they are properly secured. You must remove any food stuff and be sure there is no sort of white powder - such as salt, sugar, flour or boric acid - laying around. This is not because of drug issues but rather the current paranoia concerning things like anthrax.  

During the trip home, the boat runs over a lot of bumps and is exposed to extensive vibration. Anything inside that is not completely secured will fall. We had a barometer fall that was secured to a bulkhead with wood screws! There is no need for you to travel with the load. The boat may be locked, but the driver will require the key or combination, as the vessel is subject to the Mexican military checkpoint searches and, of course, inspection by U.S. Customs. We did not lock Dry Martini, and I could find no sign of any inspector having been aboard.  

For us, the decision to ship rather than bash came down to the realization of several facts: Dry Martini had been put to hard service for the past three years; she had a 15-year-old rig; much of her time had been spent in the tropics; and her engine had 1,800 hours since its last professional attention. All too many times we have heard the SSB nets providing assistance to vessels coming north up the outside who wound up sitting in Turtle Bay waiting for some obscure part to be relayed down by southbound cruisers. We just didn't want to gamble on such a problem marring what, for us, has been truly the experience of a lifetime.

Jimmie Zinn & Jane Hanawalt
Dry Martini, Morgan 38


In the December '03 Changes, you published an account of the problems Don and Mary Lou Oliver had having their Ericson 38 Cappuccino trucked back from San Carlos, Mexico. Like the Olivers, we did the 01' Ha-Ha with our Cabo Rico 38, and we later buddy-boated with the Olivers, and were therefore well aware of their plight. Our boat was hauled out into Marina Seca just after Cappuccino last June. We even had some personal belongings brought back on Cappuccino, for which I had concerns. However, my son's guitar did not get damaged, and the high heat in Tucson caused no ill effects to our other belongings.

After cruising for two seasons in Mexico, we opted to leave our boat in dry storage at Marina Seca while we returned to the Bay Area and got our land-lives back in order. The Marina Seca staff helped immensely with both storage - quelling our fears of damage from Hurricane Marty and so forth - and coordinating the trucking of our boat. When it came time to schedule the move, I chose a different carrier for the United States half of the trip, a decision based on the difficulties the Olivers had with Kevin's Trucking.

But a week before the expected trip to Tucson, Jesus emailed me asking if my trucking company could wait a week. It turned out the Mexican government had instituted a new paperwork dance for exit papers that changed the normal two-hour process to as much as five days, and therefore all the boats ready to go were being delayed. My carrier couldn't change schedules to wait a week as they were picking up Silhouette on a deadhead run from Galveston. And their next available date was two months out! After many emails and calls, I opted to go with Kevin's to get Silhouette home sooner.

I'm writing to say that my experience with Kevin's was far different than from that of the Olivers. I think the communication problem they had was because they never had the right phone number. Silhouette was transferred to Kevin's rig just 48 hours after Marina Seca finished hauling her to Tucson. I'd say the only glitch was a call from Sean saying: "Oh, don't worry, your boat is fine, but our truck broke down in Barstow." The delay was just two days, and when I spoke with the driver, it turned out that he'd found stress cracks in the trailer's frame. So he parked his rig and requested another trailer to complete the haul. His observation most likely saved my boat from being separated from the tractor. It cost his company dearly, as they needed a crane to transfer my boat to the second trailer. Were there frustrations? Sure. Was I satisfied with Kevin's Trucking? You bet!

Now if I can just get all the work done and get our 'Silly' back being wet, I'll truly be happy. I even hope to get out for the Summer Sailstice again this year!

Alan E. Wulzen
Silhouette, Cabo Rico 38
San Anselmo

Alan - Geez, we do about everything we can to avoid getting in the middle of disputes, but since you threw in your two cent's worth, we suppose it's only fair that we run the next letter, which describes a very unhappy experience.


I somehow missed the original letter on this subject, but Kevin Bascom's response to a complaint by another customer of his boat trucking service had a familiar tone. My own experience with Kevin's Quality Marine may help others assess the truth of this current debate.

Following the '97 Ha-Ha, we stored our Catalina 38 Snowbird at Marina Seca in San Carlos, Mexico. A few years later, we decided to truck her home to Stockton. For those unfamiliar with the process, the Mexican trucker is licensed to deliver boats to Tucson, where they must be transferred onto an American carrier for the final U.S. destination. The American carrier we chose was Kevin's Quality Marine of Sacramento.

In arranging for his company's service, I spoke directly to Kevin via telephone. He asked for significant measurements - height, width, weight and so forth. I told him that other than the written factory specs, I didn't know the answers to these questions, and that I was in California and the boat was in Mexico. He responded that he had hauled Catalina 38s previously, was familiar with the boat, and that it would be no problem. We agreed on the price, and I personally hand-delivered the down payment to Kevin.

At that time, we created a written, signed agreement, and both of us kept copies. My wife and I then drove to San Carlos to unload and package the boat, and coordinate the travel dates between Jesus, manager of Marina Seca, and Kevin of Kevin's Quality Marine. This done, we watched a very professional, competent Mexican yard crew package and load Snowbird for the first leg of the delivery. There wasn't a hitch. We can't say enough good things about Jesus, Marina Seca and their trucking system. You won't find a more professional manager or operation anywhere.

The truck left that afternoon. We accompanied it through Customs at Nogales, where we stayed overnight. The following morning we drove to Marco Crane in Tucson to pay their $400 transfer fee and to inspect the boat, as had been arranged. Inspection at this point is necessary in order to be able to allocate responsibility among the trucking companies and transfer services in case there was any damage. From there, we'd only have to meet the truck at Ladd's Marine in Stockton and, after unloading the boat and doing a final inspection, deliver our check for the contractual balance to Kevin's driver.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived at Marco Crane, presented our check - and they refused it because they knew nothing of our boat! Somewhere between Mexico and Tucson, a 38-ft, 8-ton boat on a huge trailer had simply vanished! As we had followed the same highway, we knew it wasn't stopped along the way. Panic loomed. After much conversation with the sympathetic Marco folks, and several frantic phone calls to Kevin's, where nobody was available - sound familiar to the previous writer's complaint? - we were still in the dark.

We finally called Marina Seca, where a very apologetic and very professional Jesus informed us that his driver had reported that because Marco couldn't complete the transfer until the following day - the possibility of several days' delay was provided for in my contract with Kevin's - and because Kevin's didn't want the down time for his driver and rig, the driver had been redirected across town to Hook Crane, who could immediately transfer our boat.

Several hours - and many wrong turns and dead-end streets - later, we found Hook Crane. Imagine our second surprise when we offered our check for $400 and asked to inspect our boat, only to be told that the boat had already been transferred and was gone! And that Kevin's driver already had paid the transfer fee - which, by the way, had grown to $778!

We made more long distance calls to Kevin's. Kevin was out. Sound familiar? I called Jesus, who called Kevin's. A few calls later, I was able to talk with Kevin's brother, who verified that, yes, the transfer fee had increased, and yes, I was expected to - no, I " . . . would . . . " pay the new amount "or they would not deliver my boat to me." He then informed me that our "boat was higher than (I) had represented" - sound familiar to the previous writer's complaint? - resulting in increased licensing fees, which also would be added to my revised total. I reminded Kevin's brother that there had been no height problem with the Mexican rig, and that I had made no representation of the height. I insisted that we had a written contract for a set amount, and that I expected us all to follow that contract to the letter. Furthermore, I told him that I expected delivery, as agreed, at which time I would pay the agreed-upon price.

Kevin's brother repeated that I certainly would pay the higher amount if I wanted to get my boat back. He also informed me that my personal check was no longer good, screaming that I would have to pay by certified check!

I yelled back that we had a written agreement, at which time he hung up. And Snowbird remained missing.

For the next several days, there was "no one available" at Kevin's. Sound familiar to the previous writer's complaint? Ladd's knew nothing, despite their having scheduled a lift and yard time to receive the boat. Marina Seca knew nothing. Our beloved Snowbird had simply vanished into the desert, and there was no finding out where she was.

Finally, we got a call from Ladd's, telling us that Kevin's had told one of their employees they had taken our boat to Kevin's yard, and they weren't going to release her until we paid the higher prices. My calls to Kevin's went unanswered. Sound familiar to the previous complaint? After consulting an attorney, who told me it would be more cost effective to simply pay the higher fees than to sue in Sacramento County where the boat was being held hostage, I capitulated.

On the scheduled day, Kevin's driver appeared at Ladd's, demanded that I produce the checks, then unloaded the boat - necessitating about two hours of my direct assistance due to the crappy condition of the trailer. I paid and he left. There was a distinct sour taste in my mouth, but at least I was finished with Kevin's 'Quality' Marine.

There is an ironic postscript to this story. One evening a couple of weeks after the delivery, I received a phone call at my home. The caller was so pleasant that I didn't recognize him as being from Kevin's. I almost dropped the phone when he said he was calling "to ask for a favor!" Was he kidding me??!!

"You sure called the right person for a favor?" I responded. "What could you possibly expect me to want to do for you?" It seems that the certified checks I'd given to the driver hadn't survived the trip they made through the washing machine in the pocket of his jeans! Kevin himself, rather than his threatening brother, wondered if I would just trouble myself to go to my bank and pay for new certified checks to replace the originals. "Yes, there is a God!" I thought to myself.

After cancelling payment on the damaged checks, then waiting for six months to assure that Kevin's couldn't present them for payment - I no longer trusted him at all - I arranged for Kevin to meet me at my bank, where I presented him with a personal check for the balance of our original contract. It took me about one nanosecond to decide to refuse his offer to "split the difference" between the agreed upon price and what he ultimately tried to charge me.

By the way, I'm enclosing a copy of a letter by Hook Crane to verify some of the facts, but more importantly to show that the increased transfer fee wasn't due to any gouging on their part, but rather was entirely due to the poor condition of Kevin's trailer. Had Hook not intervened, it's likely my boat would have been damaged in the haul to Stockton.

Glen Robinson
Snowbird, Catalina 38

Readers - We don't like to get into 'he said, she said' disputes, but since a lot of folks will be having their boats trucked home from Mexico in the upcoming months - these incidents happened in the spring of '04 - we thought it was important to run Robinson's letter and alert potential customers of possible areas of dispute.

Naturally, we contacted Kevin Bascom for his side of the story. His first email response was that he basically didn't work at the trucking company. "What you may or may not know is that I also have a boat dealership, and we sell and service new boats. I work at that location, not the trucking location. The guy makes reference to Kevin this and Kevin that, but I have not worked over at the trucking company for almost four years. I stop by sometimes, but only for accounting reasons. My brother Sean runs the trucking company."

A second email from Bascom had a slightly different take: "I do remember Robinson, and yes, I did deal with him. I was filling in for Sean, the trucking manager, who had been in the hospital for three weeks. As you know, moving large sailboats across the country is a scheduling nightmare, and we always have problems with it. For example, if you load a 14-ft wide boat in L.A. on Thursday, you'd better be out of New Mexico by Friday at dusk or you will be stuck there for two days because New Mexico won't let 14-footers travel on weekends. Texas will, however!

My point is that we were on a tight schedule with Robinson's boat, we and the Mexican hauler were both sitting at Marco Crane all day waiting to get loaded, and Marco couldn't do it for another four days. We had no choice but to go to the other crane company in order to meet our schedule. It was a decision made by both the Mexican hauler and us. What we didn't know was that the other crane company was going to charge us double. We had no choice but to pay the higher fee. Neither we nor the Mexican hauler could reach the customer.

"The other problem is that the customer gave me the overall height measurement with his boat on the Mexican hauler's trailer. The Mexican trailer is hydraulic and carries boats a foot lower than ours. He also forgot to mention that Snowbird has a dodger rail that couldn't be removed. This put the boat higher than a stock Catalina 38. Robinson was very mean and not very understanding of the situation. When I asked him to pay the higher bill at the crane company, he refused. I asked him to split it with me, but he refused that, too. After explaining the height issue to him, he refused to pay that also. And he refused to pay with a cashier's check, which had been called for in the written contract.

"We were not going to have the driver sit all weekend in Stockton just 30 minutes from home. Being out on the road for six weeks, we try and work things out. The driver sat there for four hours, and if I didn't let him come home, he would have had to stay the whole weekend. So I told Robinson what we were going to do, and he called us some bad names.

"We do not intentionally try to mess things up, but 'shit happens'. We are only human, and we make mistakes. Did you notice that Robinson never mentioned that his boat arrived in perfect condition? People need to understand that regardless if we were late or early, we still have to drive the miles. We understand that everyone's time is very important, as is ours, but we cannot take money off the bill for a delay when we move oversize loads. It's funny, you can do 100 things right, but if you do one thing wrong you're the scum of the earth."

So ends Bascom's response. Once again, our purpose in running these two sides of the story is not to direct blame, but to let everyone know what kinds of problems can possibly arise when having a boat trucked home. If the measurement of the boat is wrong, for example, things can start going wrong quickly, because boat haulers have severe limitations on heights, widths, and when they can travel. Nonetheless, to date we have far more positive than negative reviews on having boats trucked home from Mexico.

Rants, raves, comments, drink recipes, may be sent to our Editor.

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