Back to "Letters" Index


It was a picturesque morning as we kayaked to a cove south of our anchorage on Espiritu Santo near La Paz. There were tents and kayakers on the beach, so we stopped to chat. While walking down the beach looking for shells, Liz was talking to me about something when I heard a slapping sound. I tried to put the sound out of my mind and listen to her story, but there was the sound again. Liz said she heard it, too, and thought it was a wounded bird on the shore. But no, about 20 feet ahead of us we spotted a fish on the shoreline. And not just any fish, but a dorado - that's mahi mahi to you gringos! With the dorado was a smaller fish that he had chased out of the water!

Seeing that the dorado was trying to make it back to the water, I summoned up my best 'I am the hunter' caveman mode, beat upon my chest, and ran to the fish. I then threw it further up on the sand, grabbed a melon-sized rock, and quickly neutralized the 10-lb feast. I threw the little guy back in the water. Needless to say, we had a sashimi happy hour that afternoon before BBQing the fish for dinner, another dinner, and two lunches! Kayaking sure is fun!

We came down with the '98 Baja Ha-Ha, and after spending four winters cruising the Mexican mainland between Mazatlan and Z-town - I still don't know how to spell it right - we're based out of La Paz on the Baja side for the third winter in a row. A lot of people think it's too cold here in the winter. It is much cooler than the mainland, but the weather is still a lot warmer than Northern California! I'd say it's about 75° during the day, and it cools down enough for a light jacket at night. It is colder when a Norther blows, but we haven't had many of those so far this winter. The water is down to 68°, which requires full-length wetsuits when snorkeling, and even then we can't stay in the water as long. But the visibility is good.

We brought our VW camper down here a couple of years ago, and have been doing a lot of land exploring and camping. Since we were blessed with a granddaughter three years ago, we also make the road trip up to California twice a year. We have fallen in love with Baja, so much so that we have purchased an acre of property on the Pacific side in the Todos Santos area.

Rick & Liz Strand
Sarah Elizabeth, Ericson 38
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Rick and Liz - We know yours isn't the normal kind of phony fish story, because in the mid-'80s, which was the heyday of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week at Caleta Partida between Espiritu Santo and Partida, the same thing happened. The tide had gone way out, which had created a shallows that extended out about 150 yards from the beach. In the shallows, but right next to the shore, there was suddenly a violent splashing in the water. As was the case with your incident, it was a big dorado. One of the Sailing Week participants ran down the beach, herded the dorado onto the shore, and that was all she wrote. The kicker is that it won the biggest fish contest!

As for your staying so long in Mexico after the Ha-Ha, we're not surprised. As you know, the Mexican people are about the nicest in the world, the dollar still goes a very long way, the weather is wonderful, and if one avoids marinas, tourist bars and restaurants, the cost of cruising is about the lowest among the increasingly developed countries. Now is a great time to cruise Mexico, and it's right next door for all of us lucky West Coasters.


I'm writing in response to the question of who is responsible when a crewperson does damage to a boat.

I don't own a boat, but charter from several different sailing clubs. It's slightly easier to partition charges when chartering because everyone is a guest, everyone knows that I don't own the boat, and everyone knows that I don't have a lot of money. One sailing club helped clarify matters by having each of the crewmembers sign a form saying we are all jointly and severally responsible for any damage to the boat. (For some reason, the club no longer pushes use of that form.)

I've had some crew say that because I was the skipper - and therefore the person responsible for the proper execution of every manuever - that I was responsible for any damage. Fortunately, in most past situations, most of the crew have chipped in for the costs when things have gotten damaged. For example, when there was a group screw-up trying to reef, everybody chipped in.

However, when only one person is clearly responsible - such as when someone has dropped an expensive winch handle overboard - most of the crew seemed to feel that the one individual should bear the majority of the cost. Luckily, in those situations the responsible person has generally volunteered - without prodding - to replace the lost item.

My solution? I don't have a 'cookbook' set of rules, but while the crewmembers are moving around on deck, I make sure they're doing things right and not abusing the boat. They seem to be able to extrapolate that 'atmosphere' to the idea that if something gets broken, they are pretty much responsible, at the discretion of the skipper. And by being around me enough, they learn that if they were to give me any grief about sharing the costs, they wouldn't be sailing with me again.

Leslie D. Waters
San Jose


I'm writing in regard to Charlie Ellery's February issue letter in which he wondered if a crewman on his Islander 30 - who he said negligently backed his boat over a dinghy pennant, causing damage to the prop shaft that would cost $1,500 to fix - should be financially responsible for part or all of the cost.

Unlike automobiles and land-based lawyers, on the water there is no such thing as being 'partially responsible'. The captain is completely responsible. Think of the Exxon Valdez, whose captain was canned, or of the captain of the aircraft carrier that ran aground on San Francisco Bay, who lost his command. Think of the group of U.S. Navy ships that followed each other ashore near Pt. Arguello early in the last century. If the captain wants to delegate actions to the helmsman, that's fine, but he cannot delegate responsibility for the resulting situations.

On a practical note, backing a sailboat under power takes a lot of skill and practice - even without crosswinds and crosscurrents. On our boat, we always have a crewmember at the stern being a lookout when we are backing or maneuvering in close quarters. Or else we turn off the motor and do it slowly with docklines. It's a great exercise, to turn your boat 180° degrees singlehanded at the dock in front of the yacht club/restaurant.

By the way, thanks for the great reviews of digital cameras.

Mike Chambreau
Impetuous, Cal 34
Los Altos

Mike - We think along the same lines as you, but you'll be surprised at what a judge ruled when Ellery, encouraged by other sailors, took his helmsman to court. See the following letter.


Last month I wrote you about an incident in which a guest crewmember backed my Islander 30 over a dinghy pennant, which resulted in a bent shaft. The estimate to have the boat hauled and repaired was $1,500. I wrote to ask if you thought the crewmember was even partially responsible to pay for the damage. You said that in your opinion the guest was not responsible.

Here's an update. The guest refused to take any responsibility at all, so I took the advice of other sailors in the area and took the guy to Small Claims Court for the $1,620 to have my boat hauled and repaired. Well, I won my case. The court found him guilty under the legal definition of 'negligence'. To summarize, the judge said that even though you turn command over to another qualified yachtsman to helm your boat, you do not gratuitously grant him the gravitas to wreck your vessel.

Charlie Ellery
San Diego

Charlie - Wow. In a very narrow sense we're happy that you didn't have to pay to get your boat repaired, but in principle we think the judge made a stinker of a judgement. To ask a guest to back your boat up - not the easiest thing to do on a familiar boat, let alone a strange one - and then hold him/her responsible for any mistakes seems wrong to us. It certainly runs contrary to historical practice.

It would be helpful if you could be a little clearer about exactly what happened during the incident, and what was the specific nature of the guest's negligence.


After the South African America's Cup boat was damaged - both of her wheels were broken off as crewmembers slammed into them - you suggested that the technology be developed to warn whales of the approach of sailboats.

I suppose that you could transmit the sounds of feeding Orcas, but the law of unintended consequences being what it is, you'd probably find yourself amongst a pod of meat-eaters. It would also be just another thing we'd need to find energy for. Not only that, remember what happened when the Navy tested their low-frequency sonars? Some of these sounds caused great confusion among the animals, likely causing them more harm than the rare whale-boat encounter.

I'm wondering if some cetacean biologist out there could tell us where we would have the maximum likelihood of encountering migrating whales - i.e. within 5 to 10 miles off the coast for greys, etc.

Nick Salvador
Northern California

Nick - We don't think the technology would have to be that complex or even dangerous to the whales. In fact, we suspect that if you mounted foward-facing speakers on the bottom of your hull and played hip-hop music at club volume all the time, you'd never hit a whale.

And this would be a good thing, because there are so many more whales now that collisions with sailboats are not uncommon. For example, usually there's at least one incident of contact - usually minor - between a boat and a whale in every Ha-Ha. And on a sail between Punta de Mita and Nuevo Vallarta in Mexico's Banderas Bay, it's more unusual not to see whales than it is to see them.

Whales are everywhere these days, which is great, but it's also why we need a system to reduce the risk of both sailors and whales being hurt.


To those doing battle with the California State Board of Equalization, I can offer a little hope.

After purchasing our Peterson 44 Po Oino Roa in North Carolina in December of 2000, we took 18 months to deliver her back to Newport Beach for a refit. It was then my plight began, for, according to the Board of Equalization, I was delinquent in my taxes and penalties were starting to mount. I requested an exemption based on the fact that the boat was used outside the state for more than their required 90-day period, and sent them a two-inch-thick file of papers detailing our time in the Eastern Caribbean, Venezuela, Panama, Central America and Mexico. They still insisted that I pay the use tax! After several months of correspondence - and mounting penalties - they wrote to ask if I would like a settlement, and what I would think would be a fair amount to pay.

I replied by saying I thought that I owed zero dollars. To my surprise, they responded that this was acceptable, as I had met the criteria for an exemption!

In any event, things are much happier now. We had a terrific time at Zihua SailFest, where a lot of money was raised for a great cause; we scored the most recent issue of Latitude; we're now on a beam reach in 12 knots of wind from Zihuatanejo to Barra de Navidad; and we have two great things to look forward to - the Banderas Bay Regatta in March and cruising the Sea of Cortez in the summer.

Jerry & Kathy McGraw
Po Oino Roa, Peterson 44
Newport Beach / Where The Anchor Lies


With regard to the February 9 'Lectronic Latitude photo of Joey Kenney and his jet ski, unless Joey somehow rejoins his ski before either he or it hits the water, shouldn't it be considered a crash rather than a stunt?

Peter Lewis
Noho Ana
Marina del Rey

Peter - Is a failed stunt actually nothing more than a crash? That's the kind of philosophical question that French high school students must write long essays about before they are permitted to graduate. Not having the space for a complete essay, we'll just say that when a professional jet-skier - such as Joey is, despite the fact he cruises his Ranger 37 Johnny Rook - attempts a stunt and fails, it's a failed stunt rather than a crash. But it's not always a clear distinction.


I've been reading Latitude for several months now, and came across the article about Alcatraz being an anchored, floating island that moves around a little with the wind and tide. But when I mention it to people, everyone thinks I'm crazy. Could you point me to any information that may help me better persuade my friends and co-workers?

A side note, I have recently started crewing on a couple of boats in the midwinters, and it's been a great learning experience. I'm also learning about wooden boats. But I'll always remember that my first sailing experiences on the Bay were aboard Credit and Shadow.

Brian Valle

Brian - As we mentioned previously, because Alcatraz is every bit as important a landmark as the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland, the fact that it's a floating island has become a significant Homeland Security issue. The plans for the anchoring system have long been removed from the Internet, and Howard Hughes' involvement with the reanchoring of the island after the attack on Pearl Harbor was deleted from the movie The Aviator. We'd say more, but we've already received a couple of cryptic emails with government URLs that simply read, "Shut up or Gitmo!" We've got nothing more to say, because while we hope to return to Cuba some day, we want it to be on our boat at Baracoa, not in a cell at Guantanamo. So just keep telling yourself, "I'm sane, everyone else is nuts." It works for us.


Oh ye who knows all, where might I find a copy of the original article you wrote about Alcatraz, the island that floats? This is very important, as I have a bottle of champagne riding on the outcome.

P.S. The bet is with a powerboater, so come on, ya gotta help this poor ole gal.

Leann Hargis
Northern California

Leann - The article was written by Gary Mull, the late Oakland-based naval architect responsible for the Santana 22, Newport 30, Ranger 37, maxi Sorcery, and many other fine designs. It appeared in Bay & Delta Yachtsman - not Latitude - about 25 years ago. Mull would never mislead us, so if we were you, we'd up that bet to include some caviar.


I'm looking for more information about something curious that I read about in your magazine - a reference to an article about Alcatraz being a floating island. Is there any way I could get my hands on the original Latitude article on the subject?

By the way, I have a bet with about six different people - San Franciscans no less - about this debate! No one believes that Alcatraz could actually be a floating island. You could help me make a few bucks.

David Klinker

David - It doesn't surprise us that some people don't believe Alcatraz is a floating island, because if you told them hundreds of tons of steel could float, they wouldn't believe that either. But just ask them to explain how steel container ships float, and suddenly they become a little more open-minded to the wonders of nature. The ability to float, no matter if it's a very big ship loaded with containers or if it's Alcatraz, has nothing to do with the weight of the structure, but everything to do with how much water the mass displaces.

A lot of folks may have been lead astray by Jules Verne's lesser-known fantasy, The Floating Isand: Pacific Pearl. As you'll recall, that's the story of the French string quartet on its way from San Francisco to San Diego that was diverted to Standard Island to play some gigs in the South Pacific. Standard Island being the immense, man-made island designed to travel the waters of the Pacific - sort of like those new privately owned condominium ships that constantly travel the world. Standard Island's residents were all millionaires - also like the residents of today's condominium cruise ships. Although life seemed idyllic aboard the Pacific Pearl, trouble was brewing between the Larboardites on one side of the ship and the Starboardites on the other side. For those of you snorting because you think this sounds too silly to be true, we challenge you to put down the magazine, get on the Internet, and order your own copy from, or one of the others.

While all of Verne's works dealt with fantasy, floating islands are very real. Visitors to Peru's Lake Titicaca - the highest lake in the world - learn that the lake has no less than 22 floating islands. Indeed, they are home to the Uros tribe of Indians.

However, the definitive work on floating islands is Chet Van Duzer's Floating Islands: A Global Bibliography, which has just been released by Cantor Press of Los Altos Hills. Here's the press blurb:

"This book is a unique treasury of information about one of nature's marvels: floating islands. The bibliography contains more than 1,500 citations of books and articles in 20 languages on the subject. The entries are annotated and cross-referenced, and there are both thematic and geographic indices. All aspects of floating islands are addressed, including the formation of floating islands, the causes of their buoyancy, their role in the ecology of oceans, lakes and wetlands, their flora and fauna, their role in the dispersal of plants and animals, and methods for controlling and managing them. Works are also cited on artificial floating islands used for agriculture, human habitation, wildlife habitat and improvement of water quality; and floating islands in literature, myth, and legend. The book includes the text and an English translation, with detailed notes, of G. C. Munz's rare 1711 thesis on floating islands, Exercitatio academica de insulis natantibus, as well as photographs of several floating islands."

Once again, anybody who thinks we went to the trouble of making all this up needs to spend just a few seconds on the Internet verifying the release of this fascinating book.

We haven't seen a copy of Van Duzer's just-released book yet ourselves, but we've been told that there's a great photo of Alcatraz on the cover - with a fleet of Express 37s racing in the background. So check it out.


In the 'Wisdom' section of the Latitude Web site, somebody is quoted as saying, "Sailing is like being in jail with the possibility of drowning."

The quote actually comes from the very first English-language dictionary, which was penned by Samuel Johnson way back when. The actual quote was, "Going to sea is like being in prison with the added possibility of drowning."

Gary M. Schmidt
Florida / Seattle

Readers - In addition to providing the clarification on the quote, Gary Schmidt is responsible for one of our most enjoyable and educational experiences. Having rescued several sailors along the California coast with American President Lines container ships he was commanding, we spoke with Schmidt several times, and wrangled an invitation to make the trip north from Los Angeles to San Francisco aboard the 903-ft container ship President Jackson that he was commanding. Lesson #1 from that trip? Give ships plenty of room in which to navigate.


I just got back from Europe, picked up the February issue, and I was amazed to learn - in the Changes from Suzy Q - that the island of Elba has been moved: ". . . from the Cote d'Azur, we crossed the Ionian Sea to the Italian island of Elba."

Having once sailed the Ionian Sea out of Corfu a few years ago, I never saw Elba. In fact, I think it's still in the Tyrrhenian Sea region of the Med, which is off the west coast of Italy and to the south of the Cote d'Azur.

My nitpicking just shows how jealous I am that it's not me who is sailing the Med! Latitude articles are always fascinating, and the recent ones on safety and prudence - or the results of the lack of it - have been spellbinding.

Les Polgar
Tonopah, C&C 37
Emery Cove

Les - We blundered in the process of editing that Changes. Our apologies to our readers, but especially to the folks on Suzy Q, who really did know where they had been.


I'm looking for advice or information on sailing from San Francisco to Seattle. Do sailboats ever make this trip other than on the back of trucks? It seems not. I'm going to try it, but first I'd like to hear some sea stories or opinions on how and when to try it from someone besides a naysayer.

Nicolas Williams

Nicolas - It's certainly possible to sail from San Francisco to Seattle, and over the years we've run articles on people who've done just that. The most recent was from Bob van Blaricom with his Tiburon-based Traveller 32 Misty. (Go to and search the archives with 'Mouse Trax' for that Changes.)

Of course, we've also run articles by folks who've tried to make the trip and were turned back. There's no shame in this, for at times some of the world's larger motoryachts have been damaged by the rough conditions and have had to turn tail to the boatyards of San Francisco Bay.

The two biggest problems with sailing from San Francisco to Seattle are that the wind and seas are usually on the nose, and that they are formidable. Because of a variety of factors, there is no one best time of year to make the trip. During the spring and summer - when most people want to make the trip north - the headwinds blow the hardest and most consistently. The winds are generally lighter in the fall, and in the winter there's a good chance you can catch a southerly. But it's damn cold at that time of year, and nobody takes their boat to the Pacific Northwest for winter sailing.

Not only is there no best time of year to sail north, there's not even a best route. The most common way of going north is harbor-hopping. This involves motoring like crazy when it's calm or there is little wind, then waiting out the blows in port. Another option is sailing way, way offshore on a starboard tack. This will seem stupid for the first eight or 10 days, but after you get about 1,200 miles offshore, you'll be lifted, and eventually be able to flop over onto port and hopefully lay the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. An even more common tactic is to sail not much farther to Hawaii, enjoy the tropics for awhile, then sail to the Northwest in the late summer. At first glance it may seem crazy to sail as far south as the latitude of Cabo in order to get to Seattle, but when it comes to sailing, taking a circuitious route is often the fastest. Which is why cruisers wanting to go from the Caribbean to Rio usually do so by way of Europe.

The most important things for a successful trip from San Francisco to Seattle are: 1) Having a very strong boat. 2) Having no time constraints. 3) Being lucky with respect to the weather.

If anyone would like to share their experiences sailing north from San Francisco, we're sure our readers would enjoy hearing them.


My friend Derek Pfarr and I will be leaving on February 14 to sail around the world on my Newport 30. He's 20 and I'm 19. We're doing this with just a week's notice, and our plan is to do it as quickly as possible. If you could lead us to some sponsors, we'd greatly appreciate it.

Eric McCulley & Derek Pfarr
Newport 30

Eric and Derek - The deal with sponsors is that they prefer to give money to people after - rather than before - they've accomplished something noteworthy. And even so, there's not nearly as much sponsorship money out there as hopeful recipients seem to believe.

A lot of our readers probably think you're a couple of kids with a really dumb idea, and that you won't make it as far as Cabo. Ideas such as yours that come on like gangbusters tend to flame out just as quickly, so we're not so confident that you'll make it to Cabo either.

As for your idea being really dumb, we're not so sure. If you guys have some sailing skills, are in good shape, and have access to a couple of thousand dollars to get started, we think the only thing preventing you from completing the trip would be a lack of desire and/or a lack of guts. At times such a trip would be much lonelier and much tougher than you can imagine, and you'd have to scrounge jobs to make money the whole time. But it's doable, and we promise you that you'd have the adventure of a lifetime. Plus, you'd return home far wiser and more capable than had you spent the time at a university.


Do I own a fishing boat?

I was recently having dinner at Alioto's in San Francisco and looking out at the fishing boats - when I noticed a boat turning very slowly between the docks. It was moving so slowly that I assumed somebody was turning it using lines. As I watched, however, I became convinced that it wasn't attached to anything!

After paying the bill - dinner was very good, try the Sicilian mixed grill - I went down to the docks. Sure enough, there was a small 'bow picker' drifting round unattached to anything. The security guard from one of the restaurants was already on the phone to the Coast Guard, but he wasn't boat literate enough to explain exactly what was going on. While I was trying to coach him, the boat drifted to within reach, so I grabbed it, and moored it using the anchor to attach it to a dock ladder. Being dressed for dinner, I wasn't about to get all dirty by going aboard trying to find a mooring line. The Coast Guard lost interest once they heard I'd secured it, so we left it there, safe, but probably in the wrong slip.

When I caught the boat, one of the bystanders remarked, "Now you own it." I don't have any need for a 30-ft bow picker, and more to the point, I'd hope that if my boat came adrift somebody would just tie her up as I had done. However, I am very curious as to what the law would say if you find a boat adrift, but not in any real danger. Would that be salvage? Does the person who catches it own it?

I'm sure there are Latitude readers - or editors - who can answer this one.

John Pettitt

John - Given the ancient and often international nature of maritime law, you can imagine that the rules with regard to salvaging boats are extremely complicated. For example, there are not only important differences in the meanings of terms such as wrecks, derelicts, and abandoned vessels, but they also mean different things under different parts of maritime law.

But let us assure everyone of one very simple truth - the idea that an unmanned vessel becomes the property of the finder is a myth. That's not even the case when the crew abandons the boat without having any intention of returning. The owner still has to actively do something to affirm that he wants to give up his rights to the vessel.

If somebody finds an unmanned vessel in peril, or obtains permission from the owner to try to save a vessel, they do acquire certain rights. How much money they get is decided by a court, and the big factors include the difficulty of the salvage, the risk to the salvor, the value of the vessel saved, and the degree of danger the boat was in. Salvage awards tend to be about 10 to 25% of the value of the boat, and only very rarely go over 50% of the value. If the salvage is unsuccessful, the salvor gets nothing.


Your advice to Bill Oyster - great name for a waterman - to put his Nor' Sea 27 on a trailer and bring her up from Mexico was good. After all, the boat was designed by Lyle Hess to be a trailerable bluewater cruiser for the Wixom brothers who, you may remember, hit the jackpot in the '60s manufacturing motorcycle fairings. The boat trailers very well for her size.

Here's how the Nor'Sea came about. The Wixoms had taken a trip to Baja with their Hobie Cat and had fallen in love with the place. They came home and asked Hess to design them a trailerable fiberglass boat strong enough to sail around the world, one with an aft-cabin for privacy. The workboat look comes from the vessels they'd seen on a trip to Holland. Anyway, Hess gave the boat a fine entry and a flat run. The boat is like a big surfboard! In fact you once ran a picture of my boat on a wave at the Steamer Lane surf spot off Santa Cruz. The former owner was a little crazy!

Interestingly, the Wixoms built the first boat themselves and took off with their ladies.

I used a heavy-duty Ford 3/4-ton truck to pull my boat home from Morro Bay. It's not a toy hooked on back there, however, because she weighs about 8,000 pounds and stands 12 feet above the surface of the road. My friend Ed was white-faced when we went over the Cuesta Grade outside of San Luis Obispo, but we did fine. My biggest warning is to be careful when you pull in to get gas. The roofs of truck stations are high enough to pull under, but that's not always the case with gas stations meant for cars.

You jokingly suggested filling the boat with illegal goods to pay for the trip. Don't do it! Instead, keep all the cruising supplies onboard and use the boat as a trailer during the journey. We cooked dinner in a rest-stop north of Paso Robles and slept aboard. In the morning we were on our way again, and by the afternoon were launching in San Rafael. From Morro Bay to San Rafael in 24 hours!

Bob Johnson
Motu, Islander 28
Loch Lomond Marina


We were at anchor in Zihuatanejo when I received the first of many emails letting us know that Linda was on the cover of the January Latitude. It took a few days for a copy to reach us in Zihua, but when it did I immediately cut off the cover so I could frame it. I couldn't quite believe it, I kept humming, On the Cover of the Rolling Stone for days.

The picture, which was taken during the start of the second leg of the 2004 Ha-Ha, shows exactly what I love the most about Linda - her youthful enthusiasm for life. That day she was like a little kid jumping in the bow-pulpit shouting "Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?" Thanks for capturing the essence of Linda for me! By the way, we celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary on January 25th by taking a sunset walk together on the beautiful beach at Caleta de Campo.

I'd also like to share some thoughts on having boats trucked. We've had our Hans Christian 33 trucked from Alameda to Seattle twice, once in '97 and again in '04. While it's not the same level of complication as trucking from Mexico, it involves the same players: boatyards and trucking companies. Both of these businesses are notorious for not being able to complete work on time or at the quoted price. (Although all our trucking costs were as quoted, we were never able to get an accurate quote for re-commissioning from the yards we dealt with.)

Both the trucking trips went more or less as quoted - but not exactly. The first trip was three days longer than we planned, the second was one day shorter. My advice to anyone planning on trucking their boat anywhere is to first be careful about how you prepare the boat, as she's going to be on the freeway exposed to hurricane force winds - along with road bumps, grime and grease. Secondly be flexible! You're having a big, heavy and expensive piece of equipment put on the back of a truck and sent over hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. If you expect things to run like clockwork and match the quote to the penny, you're going to be in for a lot of heartburn. If you expect a certain amount of deviation from the plan and keep a friendly attitude you'll be a lot happier. Wait a minute, that's my advice for cruising too!

Right now we're in Barra de Navidad for a few days, moving back and forth between here and Tenacatita. Next we head up to Puerto Vallarta for the Banderas Bay Regatta.

John Gratton & Linda Hill
Nakia, Hans Christian 33
Barra de Navidad / Redwood City

Gratton and Linda - One of the neat things about publishing a magazine is surprising people by putting them on the cover. We're glad you liked it.

As for your advice about trucking, we think it's excellent. There are a lot more variables and potential pitfalls than say, buying a computer over the Internet.


As a carrier from Sacramento, I'd like to comment on the problems Glenn Ross had having his boat shipped from Tucson to Stockton by Kevin Bascom's trucking company.

The way I see it, when a business agrees to do something for a certain price - no matter if it's $10 or $1,000 - that is the price they charge. Not a cent more, ever. If you run into problems, they are your problems, not the customer's problems.

I say shame on any carrier who would jack up the price of a job because he or the crane company he hired dropped the ball. Weather often delays trucks or requires them to take alternative routes. Do you charge the customer because you had to take another route? Hell no, you eat it - but you keep your word and your reputation. Unless there is contigency pricing in the original contract, the price you agreed to is the price you should charge.

As for the trucker saying he didn't know what the other crane company was going to charge, that's shameful. If the owner of the trucking company didn't know, who was supposed to know?

With regard to the height issue, that is something the trucking company should have worked out before accepting the job and the boat. And it should have been clearly stated in the contract that if there was a discrepancy, the rate would be adjusted accordingly.

For me, the final nail in the coffin of Bascom's explanation was that he "wasn't going to let the driver sit all weekend in Stockton." Stockton is about 35 miles from Sacramento, so why didn't Kevin just leave the boat there where it was ultimately going to be unloaded anyway, or find a yard in Stockton for the weekend, or bring the boat up to Sacramento and deliver it when the crane was next available? Or if he was so concerned about the welfare of his driver, couldn't he have just driven down there and picked him up himself, leaving the rig and boat until the following Monday?

It's my opinion that if Bascom's explanation were a hull, not even all the pumps in the world could keep it afloat.

Jerry Metheany
W. & P. Transport, Sacramento
Aboard Rosita, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico


Today was somebody's lucky day. Feeling ambitious with a few hours of daylight left, I started in on another boat project - replacing my port and starboard running lights with the more efficient LED ones. The new ones use up to 90% less energy and are approved by the Coast Guard. As it got dark, the wind came up to 30 knots - and I thought I heard a faint cry for help!

I looked all around but couldn't see anything but a seagull in the distance. I figured it must have been him - but then I heard human cries again. Going around to another finger, I saw a man in the water holding onto a mooring line. I grabbed a line from an adjacent boat, and with the loop in one hand and the bitter end in the other, ran it around the torso of the gentleman - who was in real panic mode. He said he had MS, was disoriented, and needed help. He sure did, as he'd already been in the cold water for as much as 15 minutes. I tied the bitter end of the line to a cleat, making sure he didn't slip under the pier.

How did he end up in the water? Apparently he'd been out with the owner of a Catalina sailboat, and when the skipper tried to come into the slip, the fellow jumped for the dock. He misjudged the distance and ended up in the water. The skipper tried to get the boat back in the slip three times in the windy conditions, but failed. He was just getting back as I struggled to pull his crew out of the water.

Have you ever tried to get out of the water onto a dock or had to pull someone from the water onto a dock? It can be really difficult. So I took the middle portion of the dockline, placed it over my shoulder, then kneeled down to increase the effect of the fulcrum. As I stood up, the gent placed his knee and then his body onto the dock. He was cold and wet at that point, but all right. I looked up at the Catalina, which was cattywampus to the boat next to his, and helped him get her secure.

By this time the 'victim' was insisting he was fine and warm, but I insisted he change clothes to prevent hypothermia. He finally took my advice.

I don't know how often people fall into the water by docks and can't get out, but I think it's important for everyone to think how they would assist them. Particularly if the person were incapacitated in some way or if the person in the water weighed far more than the person trying to pull him/her out. As far as I'm concerned, the best thing I did was get the rope around the man and secure it with a cleat. That way I had him stabilized, and if I got pulled in trying to pull him out, I'd have a line, too. But thinking how you'd rescue someone in the water at a marina - particularly with nobody else around - is something worth thinking about.

Nicholas Sciarro
Tayana 42, Silver Gate YC
San Diego


Is it worth it to buy an Alberg 35 for bluewater cruising?

Steve Morris
Northern California

Steve - Only you can decide whether or not a particular boat is worth buying. We can, however, give you some general thoughts about Alberg 35s - and similar designs of the '60s such as Tritons 28s, Vanguard 32s, Alberg 37s, and 41-ft Bounty IIs.

These are full-keel boats with relatively short rigs and short waterlines that were generally built like brick shithouses. The biggest negatives they have compared to modern boats is that their interiors are quite small for their length, they tend to be wet, and they have rather primitive systems. Because they have full keels, they are not going to point with more modern cruising boats, and because they are heavy with relatively stumpy rigs, they aren't going to be rockets off the wind. They do best on reaches when they heel over and extend their waterline.

As old as these boats are, you still see lots of them out cruising. There were two Bounty IIs in last year's Ha-Ha, and our old friend Warren Stryker, who bought his Bounty II in Sausalito in '71, still sails his in the U.S. Virgins. We also get reports from folks out cruising on Alberg 35s.

As far as we're concerned, these kinds of boats make very decent cruising boats. But it will be up to you to decide if they are the best boats for the kind of money you want to spend and the kind of cruising you want to do. Our only proviso is to beware of 'project' boats. It always costs three times as much and takes three times as long as expected to revive a project boat.


That was a very nice item you wrote about Ellen MacArthur and Francis Joyon in the February 11 'Lectronic Latitude. We all recognize Ellen's achievement in setting a new solo around-the-world record, but it was very professional of you to specify the conditions in which Francis had set the previous mark. They are two amazing sailors!

Stephane Plihon

Readers - For those who might have missed that 'Lectronic, here's what we wrote:

"We can't think of any sailor we admire more than Ellen MacArthur. What she accomplished with her singlehanded around-the-world record was heroic. Her resourcefulness, courage, and determination are a true inspiration. And with the way she conducts herself, what an ideal role model for sailing and women. The only sailor we admire almost as much is Francis Joyon of France, whose around-the-world record Ellen broke by just under two days. The thing to remember about Joyon is that he established his record a year ago with the rather old and much modified trimaran IDEC (ex-Sport Elec), which had sails that had already been around the world. Unlike Ellen, he didn't have a large shoreside team, and unlike Ellen, he did all his own weather routing. Yet when Ellen broke his record, Joyon was the first to congratulate her and didn't make note of the advantages she'd had over him."

By the way, MacArthur and Joyon aren't finished going after the same records. They both have their eyes on Laurent Bourgnon's 1994 singlehanded New York to England record of 7 days, 2 hours set with the 60-ft trimaran Primagaz. MacArthur missed breaking it last year by about half an hour, and Joyon will be going after it this summer. Both MacArthur and Joyon also have eyes on Bourgnon's 24-hour record of 540 miles, which was set during his record crossing.


I think Ellen MacArthur's record-breaking solo circumnavigation is fantastic, and wished it received even more press in this country. Nevertheless, her Web site states that she is the second person to solo circumnavigate on a multihull - an assertion repeated in your February 7 edition. In fact, Nigel Tetley was the first to accomplish such a feat, finishing aboard his Piver Victress in 1969. While it's true his boat broke up before he completed the Golden Globe Race, he did succeed in circumnavigating before losing his boat.

If anyone is really bored, they can have a look at some pictures of my 35-ft Piver Lodestar Cerberus, which I have been sailing and restoring - mostly restoring - for several years now. Visit

Mark Lewis
Mission Operations Manager, Space Sciences Laboratory
U.C. Berkeley

Mark - We're a little shaky about the early days of multihulls, so we appreciate your clarification.


I'm looking at buying a boat in the next year, sailing her on the Bay for a couple of years to gain experience, then following my dream of an open-ended cruise into the Pacific. Some of it I plan to do solo, some of it with a couple of crew.

I like the Westsail 32, but in my research I found conflicting opinions. Some folks call it a 'Wetsnail' and and some say it's a fast boat. Some say that the quality is superb, others say it's marginal at best. I understand that a great number of them were home-built, and that the craftmanship depends on the people who built them. I'd like to know what the design is like in light winds and in heavy winds. I'd also like to hear about Islander 36s.

I read Latitude from cover to cover every month, and believe there is no better sailing publication in the world.

Gordo Klenk

Gordo - The Westsail 32 is a heavily built boat based on a Colin Archer lifeboat design, and has a surprisingly large interior. Some were completed by the factory, while many were finished off from a hull and deck by owners. In any case, the basic structure is the epitome of being overbuilt.

Because the Westsail 32 is a heavy, full-keel boat with a relatively modest amount of sail area, it doesn't shine in light air or upwind in sloppy conditions. On the other hand, it's a secure boat to be on when the weather turns nasty. If you're looking for speed, it's the wrong design. If you're looking for security, it could be what you're looking for. Westsails are still something of a cult boat, and you can find out lots more about them at

The Islander 36 is a traditional California racer/cruiser that has been extremely popular in the Bay Area ever since the '70s. The class has been greatly revived in recent years, and five of them entered the last Ha-Ha. If you follow Changes, you know that Dick and Shirely Sandys have been cruising their Palo Alto-based Islander 36 GeJa around the world for the last 15 years. They say she's been a good boat for them.


In preparation for the upcoming annual Westsail Owners Association Rendezvous to be held in San Leandro September 16-18, we are looking for a guest speaker - and would love to find someone who actually worked in one of the Westsail plants. Passing along the Westsail legacy is especially important for the newer generation of Westsail owners.

Each year we are lucky enough to be graced with the presence of many Westsail greats such as Bud Taplin, Dave King and Kern Ferguson. This year we'd like to build on that. If you are an ex-employee, know how to contact one, or even have some factory stories and photos of your own, please contact me. If I collect enough factory photos, perhaps I can give a slide show at the Rendezvous.

One Bay Area name that comes to mind as a potential speaker is Frank Minnameyer. As I understand it, he worked as a craftsman doing some beautiful woodwork on several owners' kit boats after he left Westsail. Where are you Frank?

Ted Crocker
Niniwahuni, Westsail 43


In last month's Sightings piece on the Bear class, the author stated that "the Bear is one of only two sailboat classes designed specifically for San Francisco Bay. . ." The other being the Bird class.

That's not true. Consider the 12-ft San Francisco Pelican sailing dinghy, which was designed by Capt. William H. Short, 1920-1986, to see if his idea of combining bold dory flare and freeboard with sampan bow and lug rig would stand the test of the Bay waters. A tug captain, Short knew the Bay conditions well.

Cloe Maru, Pelican #1, was built and launched in 1959, and did very well. Pelican plans are available, and the class continues to grow. My Pelican Selkie was registered through Short's widow Muriel Short a few years ago, and has sail number 2834. I used her both on Morro Bay and Coronado Bay, and she brings me great pleasure.

P.S. I'm a small boat sailor who enjoys Latitude very much. My month isn't off to a good start until I have read every page.

Jack Moore
Los Osos

Jack - The statement in last month's Sightings about Birds and Bears being the only one designs created specifically for the Bay was the result of an editing blunder. The paragraph should have started out reading, "Among the first classes of sailboats designed specifically for San Francisco Bay were . . ." As you'll see from the following letters, the Pelican was just one of many other one designs that fit the bill. Frankly, we're glad for the error, as it has helped recall a lot of fine local boats.


Recently, Hank Easom and his Yucca crew - all longtime hardcore Bay Area racers - sat around the cockpit and try to remember some more of the boats that were designed, built and sailed specifically on the Bay. Here's the list: Acorn, Windward, Yankee, Sunset, Hurricane, Big Bear, Mercury, Clipper, Junior Clipper, Spaulding 33, Buccaneer, El Toro, Zephyr, Shamrock, Farallon Clipper, Golden Gate, Hawkfarm, Melody, 101, Treasure Island, S.F. One Design and Voyager.

But hold on to your seaboots, for having checked out my 1950 Yachting Yearbook, I was reminded of some more that I've forgotten - and some I wished I'd forgotten!

1) Coast 13s - which turned out some very good sailors, mostly from the Lake Merced Sailing Club.

2) Mayas - A popular MORC racer before the Quarter Tonners came along.

3) Frisco Flyers - later renamed Pacific Clippers.

4) Cox 22s - designed by Oakland sailmaker Cliff Cox, who was first to mold sails with glued seams. He should have stuck to designing sails.

5) Seahorse Yawls - 26-footers.

6) Carinitas - 20-footers that, like the Seahorse Yawls, were ugly plywood monsters.

7) Mermaids - a cute little design.

8) Friendship sloops.

9) Holidays - Like the Friendship sloops, this was a YRA class that could never get enough built for one design status.

Michael Figour


Any list of one designs - or at least sisterships - built expressly for San Francisco Bay should include the S&S 33 Spirit and her sisters. Around 1960, shipping magnate George Kiskadden, Spirit's instigator, had Sparkman & Stephens design a 'move up' boat specifically for Bird sailors who had started families. Kiskadden figured that Spirit's original long and deep cockpit could serve as a playpen for toddlers.

When Spirit proved adept at beating much larger thoroughbreds upwind offshore, the original intent of Spirit evaporated, and George and a band of stellar local sailors sailed the boat over much of the globe, passing varsity go-getters to weather. Norm Duvall of Mendocino County has outrageous tales of delivering Spirit to races in England and Europe. He took the boat on her own bottom from San Francisco to England - cooking on a hibachi on the cabin sole!

Folks looking for more information can read my story on the Spirit in the Sept./Oct. WoodenBoat magazine, issue #156. Hank Eason, who built some sisterships, knows more.

Brooks Townes
Weaverville, North Carolina


Among the more famous sailing craft designed specifically for San Francisco Bay was the scow schooner or square-toed packet. Inspired by square-toed packets in England and elsewhere, the San Francisco scow seems to have been a purely local design. Bay Area sailors all know the Alma, which is perhaps the last remaining of some 232 scows built on and for the Bay. Roger Olmsted chronicled these Bay workhorses in his beautifully illustrated book Scow Schooners of San Francisco Bay (Cupertino, CA: California History Center, 1988). It is still available for only $14.95 through the California History Center

James Williams
Jazz pianist, sailor, historian
Spindrift, Cal 39 II (#105) 1980
Dog Days, Islander Bahama 28 (#9) 1981
Los Altos


How about the Mermaids - like my own Mischief - which were built in Denmark in the '60s for the Bay?

Tom Woodruff
Mischief, Mermaid
Northern California


I think the lowly 'Tuna' should be on that list of boats built specifically for San Francisco Bay. Although they were built in Southern California, they were designed in the East Bay by Gary Mull for San Francisco Bay conditions. The design is now 40 years old!

Note that along with the Birds and Bears, racing Tunas don't have reef points in their mains, and regularly sail in 25+ knot winds with the class jib. When it starts to blow, Santana 22s sort of hunker down and keep plowing ahead.

Pat Broderick
Proud Fish Owner
Elaine, Hull #245 (1967)


Don't forget the Nightingale 24, the Wylie 30 Gemini twins, and the Sparkman & Stephens 33s Spirit, Molly B, and others.

Skip Allan
Capitola YC Historian

Skip - Well how about the Wylie Hawkfarm, for which your Wildflower was the prototype?


How about the Sun boat? The one we had when I was a kid was built by Easom's Boatworks.
Tom Kirschbaum


Reader Skip Edge recently inquired about the fate of the Sea Wind, the boat owned by Mac and Muff Graham when they were murdered by Buck Walker at Palmyra Atoll in 1974.

According to information I've seen, the Grahams' 38-ft ketch was sold by Malcolm's sister in 1978 to Ray Millard of Oahu. Millard apparently intended to do a major overhaul of the boat, but she ended up anchored off Millard's Pohakea Point home on Kaneohe Bay for about 10 years, not being sailed and falling further into disrepair.

In 1988, Millard apparently gave the Sea Wind to Alan Horoschak of Honolulu. By that time the boat was in very bad shape, and Horoschak apparently tried to sell her. That's the last information I have.

It's a shame, two people lost their lives for the possession of Sea Wind, yet she was basically junk less than 15 years later.

S. Sloan
San Diego

S. - We got pretty much the same report from Annie Sparks of that busy sailing port, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

But it's the old 'men and ships rot in port' business, which is particularly true with wooden boats in the tropics.


As for the reader who called 'Lectronic "drivel," don't give the dipstick the time of day. I love the photos of the Caribbean, Mexico, South Pacific - all the tropics. I really look forward to them on cold, gray, winter days. And, I can't wait to get back there.

Northern California


I just thought that I'd let you know that I love 'Lectronic Latitude. It warms my cold nights up here in Ontario, Canada - the great white north. At least I can look over Lake Superior and the harbor, where a few months from now we'll be sailing like mad during our short season.

But to the point - your online story about St. Barths was funny. The cost of things rant was good, especially this quote: ". . . but with the weak dollar making everything 30% more expensive, the prices are ridiculous. They are asking $51 for the classic St. Barth T-shirt by Katy. Usually we would buy a couple each year. This year, it's none."

Wow, I never thought an American would ever say that. Being an avid windsurfer, I've made a few trips to Hawaii where the Canadian dollar was weak, and felt the exact same thing.

Jeff Earnshaw
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

Jeff - We're glad you enjoyed it, because when you write something, you never know who is going to like it and who might hate it. For example, the very next email we received was from Matt Petersen, who ripped 'Lectronic, characterizing our reports on the relative buying power of the dollar in St. Barth versus in Mexico as "drivel." When we responded that we've gotten lots of positive feedback on such reports, he replied that he didn't doubt it. "Truth of the matter is," Petersen continued, "most people don't know good from crap - especially when it comes to journalism." Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, and we want to remind all 'Lectronic readers that we offer a triple-your-money-back guarantee for anyone who is dissatisfied.

But your point about having to deal with weak currencies is well-taken. The nice thing about being on a charter boat or your own cruising boat at very expensive places - no matter if it's the Med, St. Barth or French Polynesia - is that you can enjoy almost all that they have to offer at very little cost because you're mostly self-sufficient. Then, too, you have the option of chartering a boat or taking your cruising boat to less expensive places like Mexico, where the dollar is still very strong and prices are low. Mr. Petersen seemed very offended when we wrote that if someone wanted to feel like a billionaire, they should first spend a few weeks in St. Barths, then spend a few weeks in Mexico. But it's true, and, we thought, very helpful information.


I just read in 'Lectronic that a reader criticized your reports from the Caribbean and Mexico as "drivel". This seems unfair to me. In my opinion, 'Lectronic is ISO 9000-certified drivel-free. I look forward to your next installment from the tropics.

Mac McDougal
Pete's Harbor, Redwood City


As a marine professional - one who prepares wood, then applies varnish to so-called pleasure boats - I have written to the President of the American Psychiatric Association in the hope he will include a new mental disorder in the next edition of their psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

The little-understood affliction is called Recreational Boat Ownership (RBO). RBO is characterized by some anal retentive/obsessive-compulsive behavior, the use of strange words to describe common structures, objects, and actions, clearly illogical spending habits, and a nearly-perpetual state of denial. There is no known cure.

The obsessive-compulsive nature of RBOs is exhibited by their Sisipheon attempts to keep things "shipshape." It involves the anal retentive use of numerous - and sometimes noxious - liquids and solids to almost constantly clean and lubricate various boat parts. And RBO sufferers uniformly label boat parts with names even stranger than doctors call body parts. As a mental health professional, you'll be shocked to learn that to RBOs, a 'wall' becomes a 'bulkhead', a 'ceiling' becomes an 'overhead', and the toilet becomes, simply, a 'head'. Any group which sees their heads as toilets definitely needs help.

Sailboat owners - a subculture of RBOs - are among the worst. They constantly demonstrate classic passive-aggressive signs by not sailing directly into the wind but avoiding such a course with sly manipulations they call tacking. They become models of self-victimization - with traces of a persecution complex - when they encounter no wind. They call that state 'in irons'. And they show their grandiosity by terming bow platforms 'pulpits', and motorized yachts 'stink pots'.

Nowhere have I seen such mental illness as with the people who hire me to prepare and varnish their objects of dementia. Sure, after spending reasonable amounts of good money to have me carefully remove the old finish, finely sand the underlying wood and apply coats of high-quality varnish for an amazingly beautiful finish, they say things like "Great!" "Looks better than new!" and "You've got a true art for restoring neglected wood." But they're only fooling themselves. For at best, an RBO sufferer - like all mankind - can only temporarily conquer the elements.

RBO victims are not in total denial when it comes to their illogical spending habits. Many call their vessels "holes in the water into which you pour money." Yet they keep buying them. And they keep demonstrating their psychosis - their complete loss of touch with reality - by enjoying them. It's proof positive the whole lot is masochistic.

This is why I petition you to list RBO in your next edition of the DSM. At the least, it will make the millions of RBO sufferers eligible for medical benefits under the Americans with Disabilities Act so they can get help. Many have, instead, spent their last penny getting their latest RBO fix. For these clearly touched souls act out Plato's maxim, listed in his Dialogues, when he opined: "But what is man's logical reasoning, compared to the power of divine madness?""

Fredric Alan Maxwell aka 'Fred the Finisher'
Northern California


In 16 years of cruising, we feel that we have seen only three true green flashes, meaning those that shoot up from the horizon and remain a brilliant green for several seconds.

Two of the times we saw these flashes was in 1990 when Avatar was hauled out at the Opequimar Boatyard and we were staying in a nearby hotel. On two of the three nights we were there, we viewed spectacular green flashes from a balcony. In all the years since, we've only been blessed with one more, and that was while anchored at Las Aves, Venezuela.

On cloudless evenings with a flat horizon, we have often seen a small, dullish band of green as the sun goes down. Many fellow cruisers have called these green flashes, but we figure that they've just never seen the real thing.

We remember a magazine article from 20 or 30 years ago about a guy somewhere in South America who spent years watching and photographing sunsets to try to catch green flashes. He had indeed captured awesome green flashes. It sounds as though the article would have been in National Geographic, but we've searched their index to no avail. Maybe a Latitude reader knows about the article. If so, we'd love to hear from them by email.

In response to your impression that we'd swallowed the anchor, we only swallowed half of it. We initially cruised six years full-time, but started getting a little jaded and began missing skiing, which had been our principle pastime before we built Avatar. So for the past 10 years, we have lived and skied at Squaw Valley in the winter, and cruised the Caribbean aboard Avatar in the summer.

Because we cruise the Caribbean during the summer hurricane season, we stay way south, spending most of our time in the Las Aves islands of Venezuela, which we love. Eight of the winters we hauled Avatar for the winter at Power Boats Ltd., in Trinidad, and twice we left the boat in the water in Curaçao.

We're remodeling our home in Squaw Valley this summer, so we won't be aboard Avatar for the first time in 16 years. We wonder how we'll feel about returning to cruising after such a long hiatus. After all, Avatar will be over 17 years old and needs a lot of work. And we'll be 73 years old, and will probably need even more repairs!

George & Brenda Milum
Avatar, Mull Custom
Squaw Valley / Trinidad

George and Brenda - Very interesting about the green flashes. We don't think it's so much that there are 'true' green flashes and psuedo ones, but varying intensity flashes depending on the atmospheric conditions.

As for your cruising the Caribbean in the summer hurricane season and keeping Avatar in storage for the winter high season, that's pretty unusual, even though, summer cruising in the Caribbean is actually quite good - except, of course, if you get caught in a hurricane.


Many novices have trouble seeing their first green flash at sunset. But once they know what to look for, they see them more frequently.

I know green flashes exist because I've seen them in the North and South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and other places too. The point is, you can see them all over the world.

I've seen hundreds of green flashes, but my claim to fame is having see two green flashes in one sunset. We were steaming - yes, steaming - up the coast of Chile in the '70s when the sun set with a green flash. Just then the vessel rode up the side of a long, moderate swell, and the sun peeked over the horizon again. As we slid back down into the trough, the sun set again, producing another green flash!

But wait, I've got something better - five green flashes in one sunset. It happened on some ocean or sea, on yet another motor vessel, I believe in the '90s. The sun disappeared behind a layer of clouds low on the horizon, then another set of clouds low on the horizon, and another and another for a total of four green flashes. To top it off, there was a final flash on the horizon! I yam what I yam, I saw what I saw, no B.S. And I don't do mind-altering substances because I find the world mind-altering enough.

However, perhaps my most memorable green flash occurred outside the Mosquito Bar in Bangkok, Thailand, in the '60s. That green flash was followed instantly by a star field that I'm sure many sailors of the world have witnessed a time or two. I forget what I was drinking at the time.

P.S. I've also seen a St. Elmo's Fire, but oddly enough, never an Aurora Borealis.

Bob Hannah
Admiral Wiffy
Vallejo Marina


In your January edition, you responded to a letter about my website about pirate attacks on yachts - - and questioned my comments about safe and unsafe waters.

Is Cartagena safe? Yes it is - but not the surrounding waters.

Is Papua New Guinea safe? Although a few pirate attacks have been reported over the years, it is still a pretty safe place.

Is the border area of Nicaragua and Honduras safe? I said 'no' because of two lethal incidents of piracy in the Honduran Cays.

Is the southern part of the Gulf of Darien safe? I preferred to say "watch out for drug smugglers."

Areas of piracy change quite rapidly due to various reasons. For example, Guatemala's Rio Dulce was one of the most dangerous places to drop one's hook, but with the killing of a local gang leader, the situation is nearly back to normal.

Sailors interested in the safety of new areas should call their embassies, or even better, ask other sailors on SSB who have recently been there.

I totally agree with your comment that most of the sailing world is very safe. I ended the introduction to my book with a similar statement: "The sea is probably the safest place on earth."

Klaus Hympendahl
Author, Pirates Aboard!
Düsseldorf, Germany

Klaus - We very much appreciate what you're trying to do, but again wonder if it isn't an impossible task and maybe even counterproductive.

For one thing, cruisers frequently don't report such crimes because there is nobody to report them to, because they don't speak the language, or because they've been killed.

We also worry that your little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing when it comes to declaring places safe or not safe. For instance, you say Cartagena is safe. But it wasn't safe for San Diego's John Haste a little more than a year ago. Armed robbers put a hood over his head, then stole the electronics and other valuables from his cat Little Wing.

You claim that the border between Nicaragua and Honduras isn't safe because of two incidents. You didn't specify that those incidents occured on the Caribbean coast. We've never heard of any problems on the Pacific Coast in the Gulf of Fonseca where there is also a Nicaraguan-Honduran border.

As for warning cruisers in the Darien part of Panama to "watch out for drug smugglers," you might as well say that about the entire Pacific and Caribbean region between South America and the United States. Is it all not one giant conveyor belt of illegal drugs?

In addition, are cruisers to believe that the places you haven't mentioned as dangerous are safe? They shouldn't, because we're aware of a number of incidents that you apparently aren't aware of.

We respectfully disagree with your recommendation to contact a country's embassy to determine whether a place is safe or not. Those folks know nothing about the cruising environment, and in any event often seem to be the last to know what's going on. On the other hand, we wholeheartedly endorse your suggestion that cruisers seek out the opinions of other cruisers - via SSB nets and other means - who have been to places they plan to visit. While imperfect, the cruisers' old 'coconut telegraph' usually seems to be the best source of semi-reliable information.


In the February 4 'Lectronic, you mention that you think you ran the photo sequence of the Olson 30 Hoot crashing hard under the Golden Gate Bridge in Latitude 38. I can confirm that you did run the sequence - I think in the fall of '95 - as I was searching for a one design keel boat at the time, and was seriously considering an Olson 30. Until I saw those pictures, that is. I decided I didn't want to be doing what was depicted in the photos. So I bought a Santana 35 - and later learned that you can do the same trick on that boat. And on an Express 37. And on a Beneteau 40.7. And pretty much on any keelboat.

In any case, I just thought I'd provide backup for your memory cells, as it must be hard to remember everything that has ever happened in Bay Area sailing.

My Santa Cruz 52 Isis has ended her exile in Mexico, and made it to her new home at San Francisco's South Beach Harbor yesterday. I took the accompanying shot during a rig inspection as we left Ensenada Harbor. I'd actually made the trip down the coast to get Isis while helping deliver the TP 52 Flash from San Francisco to Marina del Rey. Having had perfect winter sailing in 20 to 30-knot winds from the northwest, we did it in just 36 hours. See the second accompanying photo.

I'm looking forward to getting Isis out on the Bay. But Baba and I hope to sail Isis in the Ha-Ha again this fall. I've heard that some other big boats - an SC from Portland, and Doug Storkovich's new Andrews 56 - may join as well.

Brendan & Baba Busch
Isis, SC52
La Honda

Brendan & Baba - Let's see, about 175 photos an issue, 12 issues a year, and this being our 28th year, that would mean we've published about 55,000 photos. Given the fact that we probably only publish one out of every 50 photos we take, it's no wonder we can't remember all of them. So we do appreciate your help.

As for the Ha-Ha, the owner of the SC52 Natazak mentioned that he's planning to do the Ha-Ha this fall also, so there could be a group of SC52s once again. Speaking of the Ha-Ha, we're told that people are already requesting information about this fall's event. The Ha-Ha is in complete hibernation until the late-October event is announced in May, so please hold back until then.


A number of local Gemini catamaran owners are planning a pot-luck BBQ and raft-up at Angel Island on Saturday, April 9. We're hoping to gather as many Geminis - including classics, 105 MCs, and 3400s. If you're going to attend what we hope will be an annual event, bring something to BBQ and something to share.

Rich Kerbavaz
Gemini 105, #715


In the State of Hawaii's infinite wisdom, they have decided to evict all of the folks - including us - using temporary slips in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. They are doing this in order to make room for the Waikiki YC member boats while that club replaces a dock.

This wouldn't have been a problem if the state had been funding proper marina maintenance for the last 10 years. Because it hasn't, the jam-packed Ala Wai has lost more than 130 slips - and is losing about $300,000 a year in slip fees. They've lost a similar number of slips and annual income from the Keehi Harbor/Lagoon near the airport for the same reason. The big winner from all this has been the privately owned Ko Olina Marina in a resort development in Kapolei. Despite being four times more expensive, it's completely full, in part because boats have had to move out of the Ala Wai.

What has the state suggested that those of us in temporary slips do? Live at anchor under the flight path of the busy Honolulu Airport for the next couple of months. We appreciate their gesture, but it would impose a major and unnecessary burden on us.

To protect our interests and prevent our eviction, we have created the Displaced Boaters of Ala Wai Harbor (DBAWH). Our members - who include students, business people, and retired folks - are boating enthusiasts who have come to Hawaii from the mainland to enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle and ocean recreation.

We members of the DBAWH have a complaint and a solution to the problem.

Our complaint is that the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, without notice by the Hawaii State Division of Boating and Recreation, has executed what we believe is an inappropriate agreement with the Waikiki YC that has resulted in the non-renewal of DBAWH members' Temporary Mooring Permits. The state Ombudsman's office and Attorney General's office are looking into the matter at this time.

Our solution is this: Of the 18 slips needed by the Waikiki YC, four are already open and available, so we're down to needing 14 berths. Four Temporary Permit boats that I know of are leaving on passages within the timeframe required, which puts the number needed down to 10. One boat has secured a slip in a private marina near the airport. If we turn the vessel at the end of 800 row from a side tie to a Med-tie, we free up three additional slips, putting the slip deficit at six. The Hawaii YC has suggested changing to a Med-tie temporarily, potentially opening up four more slips, putting the deficit at just two. And two Waikiki members have offered to use moorings at military facilities, which would eliminate the deficit completely. All it takes is what we at the DBAWH would call public-private cooperation.

Jud Lohmeyer, Geronimo, Golden Wave 42
Michael Baldacchino, Just Dessert, Wauquiez MS 45

Readers - One reason why the Ala Wai has been falling apart has been the long history of ridiculously low slip fees. According to Lohmeyer, it's $160 a month for a 40-footer, or just $4/ft/month.

The last time berth rates of all the marinas in the San Franciso Bay and Delta area averaged $4/ft/month was 20 years ago, and that included all the second and third tier marinas far from the Central Bay. Marinas such as Santa Cruz, South Beach, Pier 39, Jack London and Loch Lomond, currently all charge at least $8/ft/month - or double what the Ala Wai charges. Slips along the prime Sausalito waterfront go for between $10 to $16/ft/month, or 250 to 400% of what's charged at the Ala Wai.

Our recommendation for the Ala Wai and all the other state run marinas in Hawaii? Give a private company a long term concession to run and reconfigure the marinas, allow them to charge market rates, but require them to also make adequate provisions for surfers, land fishermen and rowers, as well as joggers and walkers. It's high time the Ala Wai be transformed from a dump to the gem of marinas in the Pacific.


In your recent article about Randy Repass and his new boat, the West Marine founder stated that he was interested in getting feedback from cruisers on what works and what doesn't work. I'd like to congratuate him on his new boat, and take him up on his request for feedback.

For the last 11 years, I have been cruising full-time aboard my 20-year-old Finnish built Sirena 38 Hawkeye. During this time, I have sailed my boat to Mexico, Central America, Panama and Ecuador. In addition, I have crewed on other boats to the Marquesas, Tuamotos, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, and the Galapagos Islands.

While I appreciate that most of West Marine's customers are weekend sailors, those of us who are bluewater cruisers are looking for equipment that is top-quality rather than the lowest price. For us it's no consolation to be told to return broken gear for replacement, because stuff always breaks in remote places. That said, I would like to submit the following observations to your review team:

Safety Gear - What Was Good

1) Pains-Wessex SOLAS Parachute Flares. These are expensive but worth every penny. Years after they have expired, I have fired them off for July 4 celebrations and found that all of them worked perfectly. Based on this experience, I now keep expired flares indefinitely as spares - or even, as some have found, to repel boarders!

2) Paratech Sea Anchor. This is a very-well made piece of equipment. Although we have not used it in heavy weather yet, it deployed and performed as claimed during a trial run in lighter conditions.

Safety Gear - The Bad

1) SOSpenders Life Vest. After years of being stored in a dry locker, the oral inflator on my SOSpenders fell apart when I tried to test inflate it. The glue had completely deteriorated. This should not happen with such an important piece of safety equipment. When I returned it to SOS, they told me it was not repairable.

2) Lifeline Netting, sku 119677, page 912 of the West Marine catalog. This woven netting, advertised as "rugged", is far too flimsy for this use and it only suitable for stowing gear on the inside of a boat. I purchased this netting to replace the West Marine netting that I had installed eight years before, which was of a much better quality. This is a safety item, which should not be compromised.

3) Ray Marine 101 Handheld VHF radio. This radio was advertised as "waterproof". It is not. It quit working immediately after getting wet. I returned it to Ray Marine under warranty. They sent me a brand new unit, but ignored my request for an explanation for the failure. The new unit appeared to be identical to the old. I immediately sold the new radio and bought a Standard VHF HX350 handheld, advertised as "submersible". We shall see.

A VHF radio is an essential piece of safety equipment in emergency conditions. Incidentally, the battery on the Standard failed after about one year. I was offered a replacement battery for the price of $149 - almost the cost of a new radio! I now use only the alkaline batteries (the radio has a holder for 6 AA batteries), and install a new set for each passage.

Other gear - The Good

1) Alpenglow Cabin Lights. These beautifully-made fluorescent lights are not only elegant and efficient, but have switches for high and low power, and red or white light. Most importantly, they do not interfere with electronic equipment. Pricey, but well worth it.

2) Garhauer Hardware: This is excellent, rugged, inexpensive equipment. I bought a Garhauer rigid boom-vang for about one-third of Forespar's price.

3) Shadetree Awning: This well-made awning is rugged and provides excellent shelter from the tropical sun or tropical downpours. Again, pricey, but worth it.

4) AquaPro RIB inflatable dinghy. This boat, built in New Zealand, replaced my worn-out, nine-year-old Avon 2.85 Roll-away last year. It is a well-built, seaworthy boat, and is about 40-lbs lighter than the competition thanks to its aluminum construction. (The latter makes a big difference when hauling the boat up a beach or onto a foredeck.) I imported the boat directly from New Zealand into Panama, and the price was competitive even when shipping was included. Despite two requests, Avon U.K. never gave me a quote for a new Avon inflatable.

Other Gear - The Bad

1) Dinghy Motor Lock, sku 350074, page 354 of Port Supply catalog. This item, well-designed in most respects, rusts within weeks of being exposed to seawater. The blue vinyl coating, so attractive in the showroom, does not protect the metal at all. I know - I have owned several of these locks.

2) Wine Goblets, sku 2127207, and page 889. These attractive, stainless steel goblets are advertised in the catalog as "unbreakable". They are not. All four of the ones I bought have broken, with the bowl separating from the stem and/or the stem separating from the base. Despite frequent repairs with Marine Tex, they continue to fall apart.

3) ICOM 402 VHF Radio, sku 1972868, and CommandMic, sku 1972611, page 70. I bought this radio to replace the excellent M80 I had owned for years, mainly for the DSC feature on the new models. The transmitted sound quality was very poor, and I exchanged the radio for a new one at West Marine. This one had the same problem. I was told that the technicians had determined that the radio was "within specs". Also, the insulation on the Command Mic cable deteriorated after only two years, making the "submersible" claim inappropriate. The Mic and the cable were also replaced under warranty.

4) Sandals: I bought a pair of Chinese-made sandals at West Marine for $19.99, mainly as an experiment. They fell apart after three months. When I returned them, I was told that West Marine no longer carried that model - surprise! - but that I could "trade-up" to another Chinese sandal, listed for $29.99, for no extra charge. Fair enough, I thought. They fell apart after less than six month's use. This time, determined to get decent 'Made in USA' quality, I exchanged them for a pair of Teva sandals, marked down from $70 to $50. (I paid the difference between $29.99 and $50.) After I returned to my boat in Panama, I found to my dismay that these so-called 'Tevas' were also made in China! These sandals have fiddly little adjuster straps that keep coming loose. My next sandals will be rugged, Velcro-strapped 'Made in USA' Tevas - even if they are more expensive. I have had it with cheap, Chinese-made knock-offs.

5) Caulking Compound: Over the years, I have used many tubes of polyurethane caulking compound, such as 3M 5200 and 4200, and those marketed by West Marine under its own name. I realize that once a tube has been opened, it should be used as soon as possible. What I find unacceptable is the short shelf-life of even unopened tubes of these compounds. The tubes should be stamped with the date of manufacturer so that the cruising sailor can avoid the frustrating experience of finding the compound completely cured inside the tube before it has even been opened.

6) Garmin GPS: Over the last 10 years, I have owned a Garmin 65, 45XL and currently a 48. These units have been very satisfactory - except that the screens are hard to read in strong sunlight - with intuitive controls and fairly good manuals. I had planned on upgrading to a Garmin 76 - until a couple of cruising friends bought this unit. Both friends asked me to help them figure out how to input waypoints, and how to navigate using them, based on instruction from the manual. To my chagrin, I had great difficulty doing so. This unit is not user-friendly for navigation, and the manual is atrocious. I will not be buying this unit.

7) Lifeline AGM batteries. Within six months of installing these expensive batteries, the amp-hour capacity appeared to be well below that claimed. I performed a 20-hour discharge test and confirmed that the capacity was almost 40% below that claimed. A telephone call to Lifeline confirmed that the batteries were sulfated! The manager at Lifeline insisted that the batteries must be recharged to 100% after each discharge, a completely unrealistic requirement for a cruising sailboat. (I normally discharge to 50% of claimed capacity and recharge to 85%, as recommended by many experts.) A fellow cruiser, an electrical engineer, confirmed this problem, and knew of five other boats with the same problem with AGM batteries. He recommended gel-cells.

Again, I thank Mr. Repass for taking the time to review these comments.

John Kelly
Hawkeye, Sirena 38
Seattle / Central America

John - Interesting report. During a conversation with Chuck Hawley, West Marine's Tech Expert, we learned that he'd been assigned to check the claims made about the water resistance and submersability of various brand VHF radios. The results to date? Not good. Not very good at all.

We suppose this would be a good opportunity to let everyone know that West Marine Founder Randy Repass will be the one of the two guests featured at the business luncheon fund-raiser at the Siena Hotel in Reno on April 1, titled Personal Dreams and Business Reality. It will be at noon, with a question and answer format. That evening, Repasss and the other guest will give post dinner talks on their "adventures on the ocean".

The other speaker? We suppose that would be us, the founder and publisher of Latitude 38 for the last 28 years.

Both programs benefit Sierra Nevada Community Sailing. For further information, visit Or call 775-852-2320.


Here is a photo of Anna Viniegra, the Winter Commodore of the Ross Island YC here in Antarctica, and myself, posing with our burgee and a copy of Latitude.

There hasn't been a lot of boating activity here this year, as the Iceberg B-15 keeps the McMurdo Sound ice from going out this summer. It's my first time in Antarctica, and truth be told, I don't think there has ever been any boating activity here other than the annual arrival of the re-supply ships and the icebreakers that get them in.

With a maximum of about 1,000 people here, naturally there are a number of sailors and powerboaters. The Ross Island YC meets once a month to discuss all things nautical. At our January meeting we were honored with a visit from the captain of the Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star.

Thanks for forwarding the Latitude to me. It's always a pleasure to read as it's the best sailing mag there is.

John DeFoe

John - Thanks for the kind words. We don't know exactly what it is you people do down there, but we're pretty sure it has to do with the 'big picture' rather than day-to-day concerns. So we're glad you're doing it.

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

Subscriptions / Classifieds / 'Lectronic Latitude / Home

© 2005 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.