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I'm writing in response to Jim Rasmussen's request for help on a boat partnership. There is - or has been - a publication for that subject titled Yachtsman's Legal Guide To Co-Ownership. It was written by Dexter and Paula Odin, and published in 1981 by John de Graff, Inc., Clinton Corners, New York 12514. The publication goes into great detail about how and why to draw up a legal document for a partnership. I found this little gem a little late - after a partnership I had been in fell apart.

H. Bernard Quante
Ta Mana


There was a letter in the May edition from a Jim Rasmussen requesting information on setting up a boat partnership. You might want to refer him to the March/April 2005 edition of Wooden Boat, for on page 46 there is an article titled Boat Partnerships 101.

P.S. I don't know how you keep up the enthusiasm, but Latitude sure is fun to read!

Jim Hildinger
South Lake Tahoe

Jim - It's easy to maintain our enthusiasm because we love sailing and writing about it. In fact, we enjoy writing about it so much that if they ever get high speed Internet access to caskets six feet under, we may continue even after we're dead.


I read the 'Lectronic item about Latitude and SailMail perhaps working together to set up high speed Internet access for anchored boats at Punta Mita - and perhaps other anchorages in Mexico. What a great idea! I'll cheerfully sign up to help pay for the equipment needed for such wireless hotspots on the water. I'll go a step further and offer my son-in-law's expert services in advising just what equipment should be used - he built eBay's entire Web site structure!

Bob Wilson
Bobcat, Crowther 38
Brisbane, California / Melbourne, Australia

Bob - Our next step is figuring out how much the provider in Mexico would charge for an indeterminate number of users.

For the record, at this point we're still at the pre-cruising-season exploratory stage, and haven't even asked SailMail for a technology commitment. But Stan Honey and Jim Corenman of not-for-profit SailMail are good friends, and there might even be some good synergy, because if at some point there were enough hotspots at Mexican anchorages, it might take some of the load off SailMail stations, whose capacity can be better utilized for boats offshore.


I'm about to graduate from Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and once I get out of school I hope to crew on some boats. I've found a job in New Zealand, and would like to find a berth on a boat sailing there this summer. Will there be many boats leaving in late May for the South Pacific? Do you think I'd have a chance getting on a boat that would take me to New Zealand?

Brian Newhouse
Atlanta, Georgia

Brian - For both safety and pleasure, recreational boats have to follow the seasons. There won't be many boats leaving California for the South Pacific in late May because, in addition to it being rather late in the season, it would mean crossing a major hurricane zone right at the start of hurricane season. If you want to sail from North America to French Polynesia, the place to be is Mexico in February or March, when a young guy with a college degree has an excellent chance of finding a berth.

Another thing to keep in mind is that hardly any of the boats sailing across the Pacific will reach New Zealand before early November. Why? Because it's winter in the southern hemisphere from May to October and, compared to the South Pacific, the weather is dreadful.

If you don't have to be in New Zealand for your job until November, you could fly to French Polynesia, Tonga, or Fiji right now, and probably get a berth for the rest of the way to New Zealand later in the year. Papeete is the best place to find a berth because there is always a lot of crew-shuffling there.


Blair Grinols made a very provocative statement in the interview with him in the May issue: ". . . if you just constantly clean your oil rather than change it, it will last just about forever. I learned that - and the fact that oil has better lubricity after a bit of use - at an oil seminar years ago."

I have always believed these things but haven't seen them in print until now. Grinols is risking his life(!) by saying such stuff, and now I'm asking you to risk your life(!) by following up with some investigative reporting. What seminar did he attend? Who sponsored it? Was he present himself? Who do we contact to prove his statements? This is big stuff.

Jim Hildinger
South Lake Tahoe

Jim - No kidding we risked our lives by publishing that stuff! Ever since the May issue came out, we've been followed by guys wearing sunglasses, black hats, and black coveralls with 'Big Oil' embroidered on the back. And when we got to our office this morning, there were a couple of bullets on our desk with our names scratched in them. They were resting in a puddle of oil. We're too scared to do any investigative reporting.

Blair says he attended the seminar decades ago and can't remember who put it on. But it was presented by some guy from the automotive industry in Detroit. We bet he's dead now(!), don't you? We don't have any proof that what Blair says is true, but you might be interested in the following letters.


In the May interview, Blair Grinols said he got "the last of the toilet paper oil filters." But that's not true. Check out the following site for a list of current manufacturers at

P.S. Reading Latitude is one of the highlights of my month.

Mike Costello 
Huntington Beach


The 'toilet paper filter' for gas and diesel engines that Blair Grinols referred to is currently marketed as the Frantz Filter. And Blair is right, it's the best filter in the world for gas and diesel engines. I know, because while using them I got 985,000 miles on my six-cylinder Mercedes between 1973 and 1994.

Skip Hess
Java Moon, Yankee Clipper 41
San Diego


I have been using a 'toilet paper filter' for my fuel and oil for years. They work really well. And it's easy to get rid of the old filters - just take them to the beach and light them up!

Daryl Yeakle
Q, Willard 30
San Francisco


Just a little response to the commentary in 'Lectronic regarding slip prices here in Santa Barbara. I guess I agree with the point of view that it seems strange that people are making money dealing in property which is state-owned. I have a 40-ft slip here occupied by my Beneteau First 40.7. My slip is purported to be worth upwards of $60,000 at this point.

But let me ask another question: Does it seem rational that I should be paying taxes - called possessory interest taxes - on the water that my boat sits in? And is it rational that the city, who administers our slips, should collect a transfer fee - which is just being raised from $125 per foot to $150 per foot - to add a new owner to the slip? And that includes adding any relative - other than my wife - to the slip lease.

To carry it a little further afield, how is it that a mooring in Avalon can be sold for $200,000 or more, when the harbor is owned by the city? I don't think Santa Barbara slip owners have a corner on the absurdity of the situations created by the present shortage of certain-sized slips in certain locations. 

You mention the waiting list for slips in our harbor. That waiting list is and for many years has been: 1) A joke to all who understand the mechanics of obtaining a slip for a boat in Santa Barbara, and 2) Populated mostly by either fools or people who are speculating on obtaining a slip for free and thereby getting a quick profit.

So to answer the question of whether or not it's right for someone to make a bunch of money off land owned by taxpayers, I would have to say probably not - but to rectify the situation equitably would require that we correct all the stupid rules set down by our governments. And you and I both know that's not going to happen.

P.S. I've been a fan of Latitude for too many years - and we enjoy seeing Profligate tied up at one of our million-dollar slips occasionally.

Max Lynn
Tranquility, Beneteau 40.7
Santa Barbara

Max - There's not a point in your letter we disagree with - including the one that nothing is going to be rectified.

Thanks for the kind words. We enjoy tying up at Santa Barbara's million-dollar slips from time to time - and we'll be doing so again in early August just before the start of the race to King Harbor.


I read the report in the April 19 'Lectronic that somebody was asking $1 million for the rights to an 80-ft slip in Santa Barbara Municipal Harbor, and that another person was asking $200,000 for a 50-ft slip. Obviously, the demand for such slips in Santa Barbara is much greater than the supply.

I don't have a problem with people making money off of public property - as long as that was the intended purpose of the contractual agreement. After all, people and companies pay for the right to operate businesses on public land all the time.

That said, I think the idea of berth-holders being able to make large sums of money by selling the right to their slip is outrageous - because that was never an intended part of the agreement. The people were paying for a place to keep a boat, not investing in 'berth futures'.

Such an arrangement also leads to bad consequences, for as time goes on, only rich people will have slips. And as long as the berths keep going up in value, people who don't even want to use their boats anymore will hold on to them for the investment value of the slip - thereby denying others access to the ocean.

I think the problem is symptomatic of the fact that berth rates in Santa Barbara Harbor are too low, because they obviously aren't reflecting market value. By not having slip rates at market value, the taxpayers who paid for the marina are getting cheated out of revenue, while the berthholders who didn't have to pay for the facility reap windfall profits.

For what it's worth, I've never tried to get a slip in Santa Barbara.

Eric Artman
Cozy Lee, 36' trawler

Eric - It's a thorny issue because good arguments can also be made for the other side. For example, if you had a boat in Santa Barbara Harbor and wanted to sell, and the slip couldn't go with the boat, it would be difficult to sell her. After all, how many Santa Barbara residents would want to buy a boat when the closest they could keep her would be 30 miles away? The idea of charging whatever the market would bear for slips isn't such a good idea either, because that also would result in only the rich being able to afford a slip. There's also the problem of people who have already paid a surcharge of thousands of dollars for their boats in order to get the rights to the slip. If the rules were suddenly changed on them, they'd suddenly experience a 'negative windfall'.

It seems as though there ought to be some kind of middle road - although we don't know what that would be.


I'm writing in response to the report in 'Lectronic that some slipholders at Santa Barbara's taxpayer-built and maintained harbor are asking as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars for rights to the largest slips.

The problem with these marinas - and I include the Ala Wai in Honolulu and San Francisco's Gas House Cove among them - is that they have slip rates well below market. As a result, inactive boaters leave rusting and slowly sinking boats in slips for years without using them. Taxpayers literally give up revenue - meaning improved and/or properly maintained facilities - for an individual's profit. Perversely, every individual in the marina will be happy to see rates stay low and the facilities not expand - or even contract, as at the Ala Wai - as it means the value of their 'investment' is surely increasing.

But when the value of 'squatting' on a slip outweighs the value of sailing a boat, then the purpose of the marina has changed from public support of a healthy activity and ocean access, to public support of private individuals making large profits from 'squatting' on taxpayer property. That's not right.

I have a simple proposal to solve the problem. Slip fees must increase over time, but slipholders will be protected from large increases by limiting them to the rate of inflation for each year. But when a boat is sold and the slip is transferred to the new owner, the slip fee would be adjusted to market rate - which is likely to be higher than the inflation-adjusted rate. This would be effective, because the higher the ongoing cost of a slip, the lower the value of the right to transfer the slip. Some residual profit would still likely result, but not a lot of windfall profits.

August Zajonc

August - It's an interesting proposal, but we're not sure the differential between inflation-adjusted rates and market rates would be enough to have an effect. And then there's the inequity of one person paying X dollars for a 40-ft berth while another person has to pay X+10% for an identical berth.

We went to school at Berkeley, so our proposal is even more radical: Based on the assumption that the purpose of various governments owning marinas is to provide area residents with reasonably priced water access, how about making the berth rates inversely proportional to how often a boat is used and how many people are taken out? A median minimum usage would be established - say 12 times a year. The people who use their boats that often would pay the base rate. Those who used their boats more often, and who took more people out, would get a proportional discount off the base. But those who hardly ever - or never - used their boats would pay a proportionately higher fee. The formula for discounts and surcharges would be such that it averaged out, thus assuring the marina the income necessary to properly run the facility.

The beauty of such a plan is that it would: 1) reward those who actually used their slips for water access; 2) penalize those whose 'squatting' on a slip denies other people water access; and 3) provide a strong financial incentive for those who don't use their boats to store them in backwaters or on the hard until they start using them again.

One downside of the plan is that it would violate everything we believe in about individual rights!


Thank you for all the information you've been posting about Mexican check-ins. We traveled in the Sea of Cortez last year as well as several years ago, and remember the long lines, the long waits, and the long hours we had to spend whenever we travelled to a new port. We're going to be heading south again soon, and the reported change is great news! We thank Tere Grossman, of course, but we also thank Latitude.

Michael & Normandie Fischer
Northern California

Michael and Normandie - Gracias. The old clearing system really was horrible, wasn't it? It made you feel as though you were being punished over and over again for visiting Mexico.


We just left the Florida Keys and arrived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Just prior to us leaving Key West, it was announced over the Northwest Caribbean Net that you folks at Latitude had announced that domestic clearing procedures had been done away with in Mexico, and it was only necessary to clear into the country when you arrived and clear out just before you left.

However, here in Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean side, we're told that this will not be the case for a couple of months, and that we must still follow the old procedures. As of today, the port captain will only allow clearing in and clearing out through an agent. So, regardless of what was said in Mexico City, the port captains still seem to be making their own rules.

So far it has cost us a total of $140 for the Port Captain, Customs, Immigration and, we assume, the agent's fee. Other cruisers have told us that agents have charged them up to $200 for just their services!

Nonetheless, thanks for all your efforts in getting the changes in parts of Mexico. We're sure they'll apply to everyone, everywhere at some point in the future. Perhaps it will happen by the time we reach the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Right now we are heading for Belize, Guatemala and Panama. We hope to be in Southern California this time next year.

Chuck Baier & Susan Landry
Sea Trek, Mariner 40
Norfolk, Virginia

Chuck and Susan - You folks cleared in at Isla Mujeres just after the Reglamento 69 was issued and before all the port captains knew exactly what was expected of them. But there was a meeting in Mexico City on April 25 & 26 of all the important parties. During that meeting, Jose Lozano, the Executive Director of the Merchant Marine, reiterated that the directive had taken effect on April 19. He said that if any port captains were not complying, he wanted to be notified. If anyone has any complaints, they can send them to us and we'll see that they get to Lozano.

By the way, domestic clearing hasn't been completely eliminated. You no longer have to visit Immigration or Aduana when going to a new domestic port, but the port captain has to be "informed" of your arrival and your departure. In many places this is being done at a marina office or even over the VHF, but in other places port captains are still requiring mariners to inform them in person. We doubt the latter is going to last. With port captains' offices no longer getting money from cruiser clearing fees, we don't think they're going to want to have anything to do with us.


My fear is that since the port captains won't be able to get their mordida from the old clearing procedures, they will now try to get it by instituting boat inspections, assessing fines for minor violations, and so forth. The mordida these folks were getting from each boat having to clear at every port captain's district was more than they made from their jobs. That's why the cruisers down in Mexico are telling me they are worried that new fees, fines, and worse will be imposed to replace the lost 'income'.

Here's an example. A cruiser friend of mine was stopped for speeding in a car. He paid the mordida the officer wanted - $20 - and was able to walk away. Had he not done that, his driver's license would have been held until he saw the judge the next day. And after waiting to see the judge for six long hours, he would pay a $3 fine and be on his way. But wouldn't you pay the mordida, too?

Unfortunately, I suspect that some maritime version of this will likely start soon. As least that's what I'm hearing from folks south of the border.

Scott Stolnitz
Beach House, Switch 51
Marina del Rey

Scott - Ouch! If you were more familiar with the situation in Mexico, you would have realized that you just falsely accused all the port captains of being crooks. If you're headed to Mexico, you might want to temporarily change the name of your boat.

Here's the deal. The approximately $20 fee for clearing in a port and another $20 to clear out of a port is the normal amount and is the same everywhere. In order to have checks and balances over the money paid at port captain's offices, many years ago the Mexican government changed the rules so these fees were paid to a bank, not a port captain. This was part of the clearing aggravation, for you not only had to go to the port captain, you had to go to a bank to pay the fee, then back to the port captain to show him a receipt to prove that you'd paid the fee at the bank. More recently, some port captains were able to accept credit cards. But the bottom line is that they never saw the money, so it clearly wasn't a case of

So when it comes to the loss of current and future clearing fees, it's not the port captains, but the Mexican government, that's losing out. But the government is willing to do it in the belief that such a policy will attract more mariners, and will ultimately generate more revenue than did the clearing fees.

Where some cruisers suspected that there might have been
mordida involved was when port captains required cruisers to hire ship's agents to do the paperwork. With some ship's agents charging as much as $75 per boat for clearing in and out, who is to say for sure that half of it didn't get back to the port captain as some form of gratuity? We're not saying that was the case, but we are saying it was widely suspected. It was one reason that boatowners were so angry in the few places where they weren't allowed to do the clearing themselves.

Since there wasn't any
mordida before - or perhaps just rarely in conjunction with ship's agents - we don't expect port captains or other officials to start putting 'the bite' on cruisers now. To date we've heard no evidence of any such thing. Indeed, we and several marina owners in Mexico believe that in a very short time the port captains aren't going to want to be bothered with cruisers at all. They'll want marinas to keep log books of who comes and goes, and be done with it.


We wish to thank President Fox and the other officials who were responsible for the clearing rules being changed in Mexico. I cruised Mexico several years ago, and was put off by the necessity to check in and out of each port. We're getting ready to start a circumnavigation, and were going to spend as little time as possible cruising Mexico due to the burdensome rules. Now that they have changed, we are going to join the Baja-Ha-Ha, then cruise in Mexico for several months before moving on to the South Pacific. Again, thanks to everyone who helped with the change.

Bill Lilly & Linda Laffey
Moontide, Lagoon 470


Many thanks and congratulations for your great work on getting the clearance procedures changed in Mexico! When we came up the coast from Panama in 2003, we stopped at many strategic anchorages and towns along the Mexican coast, our goal being to avoid as many port captains as possible. In the course of the 2,000 miles, we managed to only have to clear in and out of Zihuatanejo - and we're very proud of it!

It would be great if you could spread the sad truth about the Galapagos Islands.

Peter Hartmann
Blaine, Washington

Peter - What "sad truth" about the Galapagos are you referring to? That it so rapidly populated that there are some unsavory areas, where anything and everything can be bought - including drugs and sex with males and females of all ages? As true as that may be, we prefer to emphasize the really great stuff, of which there is a lot. By the way, did you hear they just had a pretty good volcanic eruption there?


I want to thank Mrs. Tere Grossman so very much for all her efforts on behalf of the boaters here in Mexico. In particular, the streamlining of the check-in and check-out procedures, which were intended for commercial shipping. The change should benefit Mexico, as many cruisers avoided ports with port captains because of this cumbersome procedure. Because of the change, I believe that many more boaters will now be inclined to visit Mexico and stay longer.

Garth Jones


For someone who exercises extreme skepticism at every letter written to Latitude, you seem to be throwing all your critical abilities overboard when reporting on the possible abolition of the old clearing system in Mexico. Could this not be another case of the triumph of hope over experience?

Because if you think about it, there must be at least 5,000 Mexicans employed at the many ports throughout the country engaged in this clearing work. And there must be hundreds more assigned to filing the mountain of paper officials collect each year. Then there would be more employed at state and federal levels for the same purpose. This, of course, would require thousands and thousands of square feet of office space. Then there are computers, vehicles, file cabinets and copy machines by the hundreds.

If the government indeed gets rid of check-ins and check-outs at each port as we've known them, it might be short-lived when it becomes apparent what they've done to the lives of thousands of bureaucrats and others. I can imagine a real tsunami gathering and lashing back at the officials who put in this new policy.

So I recommend keeping the champagne on ice for a few months or more. If things have changed and stayed changed by then, it would be time to celebrate.

San Jose

Taj - We weren't as skeptical as in the past because a reglamento (directive) had indeed been issued, and stated that the change had gone into effect that day. Previously, it was all just talk about legislation everybody hoped would work its way through Congress, but which was always blocked by special interest groups. So this time it was different.

And in the month since the directive was issued, virtually everything seems to have changed. Mariners report being able to check into new ports with the greatest of ease, the folks at Immigration and Aduana offices are telling them they don't have to visit their offices anymore, and the Executive Director of the merchant marine has asked to be notified if any port captains aren't abiding by the new directive.

What the new policy represents is a triumph of what is good for all of Mexico as opposed to archaic rules that profited just a few. The more altruistic and intelligent people in government are well aware of this, which is why Fox issued the directive.

While it's true that the special interests who profited from the old system can't be happy, we think the new policy will stick. Nonetheless, we think it would be prudent for everyone to take a minute and write an email that says something to the effect of: "Thank you for being a part of changing the clearing regulations for recreational boats in Mexico, as it will encourage me to visit Mexico with my boat, and/or stay longer than I otherwise would have. In addition, I expect that I'll spend as much if not more money than before, and will have more friends come down to join me." Something like that, but in your own words. Keep it very short.

We suggest you send your short and sweet message to the Mexican Marina Owner's Association. Tere Grossman, a member of that group, will then forward all of your email messages to Mexico's Secretary of Communications, the Secretary of Tourism, the President and the Secretary of the Treasury. Hopefully that will 'seal the deal' for the rest of cruising history in Mexico.


I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that the clearing procedures have been completely changed in Mexico!!! Latitude and Tere Grossman should be proud of yourselves. Waahooo!!! The trickle down effect of eliminating the paperwork means more leisure time to spend cruising the cities, sightseeing, and spending our 'dead presidents' in a country that can really use them. It's a great day for all planning a cruise to Mexico!

Joe Moore

Joe - We at Latitude would love to be able to take credit for the change, but in all honesty, we have no way of knowing how much - if at all - our efforts helped. Our guess is that Tere Grossman and the Mexican Marina Owner's Association played the major role, and we provided helpful support. We really don't care, as we're just so delighted the change has been made.


We're currently anchored off of Loreto, catching up on emails and phone calls after we spent two weeks coming up from La Paz. We have to say the attitude is much more relaxed down here now that the new simple and easy clearing procedures are in place. When we left La Paz, the port captain still required a normal check-out, but that was to change in the next few days.

We stayed in Puerto Escondido last night, and simply had to notify the local harbormaster that we would be leaving. As we were going to leave before office hours the next morning, he simply wished us a good trip.

Our plans for when we return to our boat in San Carlos next fall will probably change because of the change in rules. We most likely will stay in Mexico another year rather than head to the Pacific, as it's now so much easier to get around to see the places we had bypassed because of difficult check-in procedures.

We want to thank Latitude and everyone else who helped on this issue. Cruising Mexico will certainly be easier and cheaper than before.

Steve & Susan Tolle
Last Resort, Tayana 37
Loreto / Seattle

Steve and Susan - Thanks for the kind words. We recently spoke to Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz, and she confirms that things have indeed changed in La Paz since you left. She reports that when people arrive or depart from her marina, she merely notes the information in the marina's logbook - for free - and that's all there is to it! No visit to the port captain, no visit to immigration, no visit to the bank.


I'm sure there were many people and organizations involved in lifting the yoke of the old clearing regulations in Mexico off the neck of cruisers, but I think Latitude deserves a large share of the credit. Congratulations on a job well done and on showing the power of an activist press.

Mac McDougal
Tuna Pete's Harbor

Mac - We did bust our butts on that issue for many years, but assume ours was just a supporting role. But no matter, we're as thrilled as had we been leading the charge.


At the risk of sounding like a whiner, oh man, why couldn't Mexico have changed the clearing procedures last year when we were down there?! Although I'm the one who said that clearing in and out was "just another Mexican experience that added to the adventure," it didn't really, at least after the first couple of times.

On the other hand, I have to wonder if you're sure they've been changed. After all, we've heard again and again that the Mexican government was going to eliminate 'domestic clearing', only to find out it never really happened. In fact, I still don't believe it. I just hope that all the people who have interpreted this to mean that you only need to check into the country once, and out once when leaving, don't end up losing their boats because they misinterpreted the new directive. I would certainly advise caution, especially to all the new cruisers headed south.

Karen Whittaker Crowe
Sogno d'Oro, Pearson 422

Karen - Read this month's Changes and you'll see that cruisers in Mexico have been checking into new Mexican ports either via marinas or by VHF with no problem. Some have gone to Immigration and Aduana offices to get the confirmation that they no longer have to check in there and that their 10-Year Temporary Import Permits are still good.

Yes, there were a lot of false starts with getting rid of the old clearing procedures, but they were caused by special interest groups thwarting the legislation in Congress. President Fox finally got fed up with it and issued a Regelamento or directive - which didn't require congressional approval - to get around Congress.


Your explanation of the boat name Tabooma is really far out. It makes for a good story, but it wasn't what the Columbia 26 Tabooma was named for. She was, in fact, owned and named by the late great Wayne Bartlett of the Richmond YC. I don't know the exact dates he owned her, but I think it was in the '70s and '80s. Wayne and I both worked for Merrill Lynch; he in San Francisco and me in Los Angeles.

'Tabooma' does stand for 'take a bite out of my ass' all right, but it's an old acronym used by the wire operators when all stock and bond orders were handled by wire. That's where Wayne got the name.

As far as Tabooma having Bora Bora for a hailing port, I think it was just Wayne's twisted mind that came up with that. As far as I know, the boat was never in Bora Bora - in fact, it was never much out of the Bay Area.

I don't know when Wayne sold the boat, but I know that he was transferred to New York in the '90s and retired from there. He finally made his way back to the West Coast, and passed away about 10 years ago. He might have sold the boat before moving to New York or it might have been part of his estate.

Wayne was a character in the true sense of the word, and did love his boat. I hope this information helps out Mr. Schujman, Tabooma's new owner.

Pete Addison
ex-owner of Windbreaker
San Pedro

Readers - Everybody loves knowing about the history of their boat - and even boats they no longer own. For example, we just got a long letter from Peter Prowant telling us that his family used to own the Ocean 71 Oceanaire, which we later bought and renamed Big O. Although we haven't owned her since '97, his report still made for fascinating reading. And then just last week Doña de Mallorca was in St. Barth for a wedding and had dinner with Bruno Greaux, the longtime harbormaster. He told her that he remembered when our ketch was one of the biggest boats tied up in Gustavia. Times have changed, of course. Now she'd have to be more than twice as long to achieve that status.


I suggest everyone add the following to their list of useful weather Web sites: Then they should try 'Weather Planner - Experimental'. By fiddling with it, readers should be able to obtain some very localized - lat-long - hour-by-hour forecasts for wind direction, wind speed, and so forth.

I think that the '' - which you at Latitude recommended - is a great site. Weather junkie that I am, I'll probably still subscribe. At $30 a year, it's cheap enough. But hey, the dot-gov site is free, and might be all that some folks need.

Leslie and I still sail in Southern California as well as Northern California, and have blocked out the August 13 weekend in Two Harbors, Catalina, when the Ha-Ha folks will be putting on a Ha-Ha preview.

Ron Sherwin

Ron - The basic stuff at is free. For example, we spent a lot of the winter on the hook at Punta Mita stalking surf. Each morning we'd go up to the Internet cafe and check out weatherbuoy for the surf and weather forecast. It was reasonably accurate - and it was free.


I'm the owner of a 1995 Catalina 30 MKIII, and have been dreaming of sailing south to join the Baja Ha-Ha. I've had lots of experience sailing from Puget Sound north to Desolation Sound on the Catalina 30 as well as on a Catalina 25 and a Catalina 27. I'm wondering if it's insane for me to think that a Catalina 30 would be safe for the trip down to the Ha-Ha start and later for whatever the Sea of Cortez might throw at me?

I've looked through the results of past Ha-Has and noted that some older Catalina 30s have participated, but none of them from the Seattle area. Is my boat up to making the trip down? Would I need to make upgrades? I just don't want to be a Baby Boomer who has to face retirement in a motorhome watching the boats go by.

Dave Elmore
Port Orchard, Washington

Dave - In order for us to answer that question intelligently, we'd have to know how skillful a sailor you are, what condition your boat is in, and what kind of weather you'd encounter. If we can operate on the assumption that you're an experienced offshore sailor, that your boat is in good condition, and that you don't get hit by severe weather, we think your chances of making it are good. But if your boat isn't in good shape and/or you get caught in 45-knot winds for a day or two - which is possible between Washington and Pt. Conception - you might find yourself in trouble. As for the Sea of Cortez - and, in fact, all of Mexico - a Catalina 30 would be a fine boat - as long as you can avoid the worst of the Northers that blow down the Sea in the winter and you don't do a Baja Bash in wicked conditions.

By the way, neither
Latitude nor the Baja Ha-Ha give specific recommendations as to what skippers and boats are suitable for the Ha-Ha. If anyone has the least bit of doubt, they are required to get a trip survey from a recognized marine surveyor.


I just returned from my boat in Baja once again. Boy, I wish I was retired and could stay down there all the time.

You may remember that the Grand Poobah awarded me a Viking helmet at the end of the 2004 Baja Ha-Ha for being "the toughest woman skipper." I never whined, did I? I accepted the helmet with pride, and wondered how you guessed that Hagar The Horrible's wife has been my role model.

Anyway, I have been scratching my head - which isn't easy to do with the helmet on - ever since, trying to figure out where to put this darn thing on our 32-ft boat. In fact, I nearly chucked it overboard a couple of times, but was stopped each time by my sailing buddy Anh.

But I finally found the perfect place for it - as you can probably see from the accompanying photograph. Can you guess why? If not, here's a clue - if the helmet isn't as effective as I hope it will be, I may have to move to Mexico permanently and start a fertilizer business!

Jeannette Heulin
Con Te Partiro, Bristol 32
San Francisco Bay / Baja, Mexico

Jeannette and Anh - We're delighted to hear that you gals are having such a great time cruising in Mexico. But if you think birds are a problem, be thankful you don't have transom steps and that your boat is in Newport Beach. Those sea lions are lovely to look at . . . from a distance. Up close, they smell as bad as whale's breath.


In December of last year, Dick Boden of Calamity wrote you a letter about buying a PDQ 32 in Florida and having it shipped to Mexico. I'd like to do the exact same thing, and would like to contact Mr. Boden to ask about his experiences with his PDQ and the shipping process. Could you relay this request to him?

Howard Torf
Possible PDG 32 Buyer

Howard - We can't possibly honor all the requests we get to put people in contact with other people, plus, it's against our policy to give out such information.

For this reason, we have established a new category in our Classy Classifieds so people can contact others easily and inexpensively. The category is called "Trying to Locate." You can post an ad of up to 20 words for just $10. Keep it short. Just say who you're looking for and how they can contact you. You can mail it in with a check or money order or go to our Web site,, and into the Classified section where you can post it safely with a credit card. Classified deadline is always the 18th of the month at 5 pm.


We've been down here cruising in Banderas Bay, and have a money-saving tip plus a caution.

First, in order to save money on international calls, we've been using SKYPE - - as our method of calling. SKYPE is freeware. If you call from a computer with SKYPE to a computer with SKYPE, it costs absolutely nothing. But if you have SKYPE on your computer and the other computer doesn't, it costs a whopping two cents a minute to anywhere in the world. Let's see, that's $1.20 an hour - which is what I call dirt cheap. We've had incredibly good reception - as opposed to just good to excellent reception - even when the Internet shows low.

The only thing you need to buy to get set up is a $25 headset with a microphone. I suggest getting an even better quality one for about $10 more, then setting up your audio and speaker correctly in Windows, and leaving SKYPE as is. Windows defaults should normally work fine.

Now for the caution. There has been a general recall on all Elliot liferafts made up until and including September 2004. The pressure valve may corrode and become faulty, particularly in tropical climates. We have a six-man Elliot liferaft that we've been told we'll have to haul off to Mazatlan - or maybe even back to the States for a recall repair. This seems like a rather expensive 'repair' for the consumer, so we're going to apply a bit more pressure on the manufacturer to see what comes of it. In any event, we'd hate to have our $6,000 marvel fail when our lives depended on it.

Lisa Parker
Solar Planet, Beneteau 50
San Francisco

Lisa - While there have recently been some relatively economical ways of phoning home from Mexico, nothing touches the two-cents-a-minute rate. Imagine, if we get the high speed Internet working out in anchorages such as Punta Mita and La Cruz, possibly for free, you could call home from your boat and talk all day long. Then again, would that really be a good thing?

It's ironic that with the approach of nearly free international phone calls, other phone service seems to be getting so much more expensive. For example, rates for calling home from the ubiquitous pay phones in tourist areas of Mexico are outrageous. But we're not even sure if those rip-offs top some phone rip-offs in the States. While at a pay phone at Seattle's Pike's Place Fish Market last month, we got a quote on a pay phone for a call to our office in Mill Valley, CA. They told us - and we're not making this up - $13.90 for the first minute!


I read with interest Rick Strand's fish story - catching a big dorado in shallow water by herding it ashore - published in the March issue. It brought back memories of the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week back in 1986. As Latitude mentioned in their response to Strand's fish story, the same thing had happened at that Sailing Week. I know it did, because those involved with herding the fish were myself and the fine crew of my Vagabond 47 Muddy Water. The crewmembers included Linda Waterman, who was the Wet T-shirt Queen of that week, Russ Bruns and Brenda Eiler, the latter two being winners of the Sand Dragon building contest.

I looked into my old photo album and found the Latitude article on that Sailing Week, but didn't find any photos of the fish. But as I remember, it was 18 pounds and very delicious. One of the other participants in that week claimed that fish who beach themselves have to be ill - and offered to kindly take care of it for us. Nice try!

We went on to sail Muddy Water from Mexico to the Marquesas, Tonga and New Zealand. Naturally, we have lots of stories to tell - but one of the best is about the fish that didn't get away.

Malcolm Brown
Ben Lomond

Malcolm - Things sure have changed over the years, haven't they? If we remember correctly, nobody had GPS back then. And as for the politically incorrect behavior at Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, we're sure that you'll remember that the Wet T-Shirt contest had about 25 entries - and that didn't even include the 30 or so men eager to wiggle their butts in the Men's Wet Buns Contest.


You don't keep logs?! That's not very seamanlike, is it?

And as for 'seat of the pants sailing' with two GPS units and radar - how is that 'seat of the pants'?

Duncan Babbage

Duncan - When we started sailing up and down the coast in the '70s, there was no electronic navigation, so keeping a log made sense. It also made sense in the days of Loran, which wasn't always so accurate, and SatNav, which had long gaps between positions and wasn't very reliable. But with multiple GPS units accurately recording one's track, in normal circumstances we don't see the need for keeping a log. If you do, could you please explain why? It's true that we require our crew to keep a log, but that's primarily to keep them occupied and help them stay awake at night.

Despite having two GPS units and radar, we indeed consider ourselves to be 'seat of pants' sailors - because the GPS units we use are so old they have relatively small b&w screens and because we don't spend all our time diddling with the knobs on the radar. When we sail our boat, we sail it, rather than monitor a bunch of controls like a video game. For an American, we think that's pretty 'seat of the pants'.


There's a sailing treasure in Oakland, as the city runs a sailing program on Lake Merritt. You can rent a Capri that accommodates six people for just $12/hour. What's more, a nice young man will rig it for you, patiently help everyone aboard, and cast you off. Because it's a keel boat, it would be virtually impossible to flip. A canoe paddle is provided for pushing off if you run aground.

The afternoon wind on Lake Merritt is reliable, and it shifts enough to keep things interesting. The views of the city from the lake are terrific, and it's fun to sail near the shore and interact with the joggers. You're also certain to see plenty of ducks, cormorants and Canadian geese, as well as many other more exotic species.

While the lake is great for young sailors, it's terrific for older sailors, too, because there are numerous retirement homes around the lake. In fact, based on my father's experience, I can recommend Piedmont Gardens and Lakeside Park, which specializes in Alzheimer's care.

For many years Joe Marshall, my Dad, loved sailing and racing his Ariel on San Francisco Bay. When the time approached to move from his home into a retirement home, he was full of dread, as almost everyone in that position is. Realizing that he could still sail on Lake Merritt made the move much more palatable.

Dan Marshall
Northern California


We've just flown home after a year of cruising from San Francisco to Cartagena, Colombia. We will return to our boat, which is now at Panamarina in Panama, to continue the adventure. However, much of paradise was lost on me, as bites from no-see-ums and mosquitoes kept me itchy day and night. When I return, I would like to have a less itchy experience. Perhaps some readers who are savvy in repelling the beasts, as well as itch relief, could share their wisdom. The best itch relief I have found is ammonia followed by Ben Gay. Until I find a solution, you can call me sleepless in San Blas.

Carol Wellins
Felicia 777, Esprit 37
San Francisco

Carol - No matter if you mean sleepless in San Blas, Mexico, which is the mosquito capital of the universe, or sleepless in the San Blas Islands of Panama, where we've never had a problem, we recommend the old standby of Avon's Skin So Soft or products with DEET (30 to 100%). But we've never really had a problem ourselves, so perhaps other readers have better suggestions.


We appreciate your critical comments on our Exploring the Pacific Coast guidebook. Please let us explain.

You are correct about our having poor scales on our 'decorative' chapter maps. As a user of mercator projection maps and charts for over 50 years, I always measure distance with dividers, using the latitude tick marks, and the latitude tick marks on our chapter maps appear to be fine. But using a single distance scale for such maps doesn't work well on this projection. So in the new edition - to be released next fall - we will correct what was apparently sloppiness and use of an improper scale bar on page 76.

The Proven Cruising Routes© are uniquely selected GPS waypoints that Réanne and I choose as meeting our safe navigation criteria. These routes, composed of our GPS waypoints, are based upon our own actual experience in sailing from 60ºN to 56°S. (See Cape Horn: One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare ISBN 0-938665-83-9 for an example of our 160,000-miles of cruising experience.)

If you had read the page following the Bluewater Route, you would have found details on two other very popular routes, closer inshore, that we also recommend. One is the Express Route, preferred by many delivery skippers, which has the advantage of avoiding thousands of crab pots (the crabpot-free tow zones). The other, which Réanne and I prefer, is the Inshore Route that allows our slow Baidarka to play the backeddies, to 'keep one foot on the beach' all the way north or south, and to be anchored by afternoon every day. Each of these three routes has advantages and disadvantages, which we discuss throughout the book.

Let me assure you that the Bluewater Route remains a favorite of short-handed sailors and singlehanders who prefer to run 24 hours per day. And it is certainly the preferred route running downwind, either north or southbound, when time and simplicity are important. The Bluewater Route is more forgiving for inexperienced watch-standers or single-handers, and/or on boats that are not highly electronified.

Réanne and I would like to hear from Latitude 38 readers about any other discrepancies so we can correct them, as well as any kudos, of course. Bon voyage.

Don Douglass
FineEdge Productions LLC
Anacortes, Washington

Don - We're sorry, but we think it would be irresponsible of us not to call you on the purported popularity of the so-called Bluewater Route. You say it's a favorite of shorthanded and singlehanded sailors who prefer to run 24 hours a day. If that's true, name five. Frankly, we don't think you can, because it would often be a stupid route.

Here's one reason. As we write this response on May 16 at 10 p.m., it's blowing a nasty 20 to 29 knots with 10 to 15 foot seas outside the Channel Islands on the so-called Bluewater Route, while it's blowing a pleasant 7 to 11 knots with 3- to 5-foot swells inside the Channel Islands on what we'd call the Common Sense Route. And as you surely must know, there will often be a similar disparity in weather conditions for the next six months. So when you claim the Bluewater Route is faster, more simple, and easier for inexperienced watchstanders, you're dead wrong on every count. In fact, it would normally be harder, slower, and more dangerous than the Common Sense Route.

Indeed, the whole 'Proven Cruising Route' business seems like a gimmick to sell books to sailors who don't really know what they are doing - and a potentially dangerous gimmick at that. For, given all your sailing experience, surely you know that, given any particularly strong weather conditions, some sailing angles are much better than others. If it's blowing 25 knots with 15-ft seas from aft, it would certainly be safer to sail on a broad reach rather than DDW because there would be less chance of an uncontrolled gybe that would knock your block off or cause severe damage to the rig. And the broad reach would be faster. But there are plenty times when your 'proven' route would dictate that a boat sail on just such an unsafe and slow course.

Further, a sailor would have to have an I.Q. lower than the water temperature off Point Conception to be unable to create his/her own route between San Diego and San Francisco. And naturally such a route would continually be subject to change due to changes in the weather. You say there are three routes up or down the coast. We say there are a million of them, and if you have any brains, you pick the best one based on the weather conditions, not a bunch of waypoints published in a book.

And what's this major emphasis about crab pots? They may be a considerable problem off the coast of Oregon and Washington, but
Profligate goes up and down the California coast like a yo-yo every year, and crab pots have never been a problem. On the last trip, only two were spotted in 400 miles along the Common Sense Route.

We think there's a lot of helpful information in your cruising guide, but unless you ditch that Proven Cruising Route nonsense in the next edition, we'd be hard-pressed to recommend it.


I read with interest the 'Lectronic piece about Exploring the Pacific Coast, San Diego to Seattle, by Don Douglass and Reanne Hemingway-Douglass. After reading their book, Cape Horn, One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare, I was surprised to find cruising guides written by them. In the book she whined and bitched so much about sailing that I didn't think she'd ever step foot on a boat again.

They've also written a guide to our area, meaning the British Columbian coast, but it costs $60. I checked their guides out while I was in the store, but feel they are a poor value. I'd be interested to know what other people think.

Chuck Oliver
Vancouver, British Columbia

Chuck - We've seen worse cruising guides than Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia, and as it's nearly 600 pages, they certainly put in some effort. However, they've got some very stiff competition, for Waggoner's Cruising Guide covers the entire Northwest from Puget Sound to Prince Rupert, has lots of color photos instead of just black & white, and has helpful ads from local businesses in each area. The deciding point might be that it sells for one-third the price. But everyone should decide for themselves.

But thanks for writing, as it gives us a chance to run a photo we took of the Vancouver waterfront a couple of weeks ago. What a lovely city. We were impressed with how clean it was and how nice the people were compared to San Francisco.


It is with some interest that I have read the recent spate of letters regarding the docking and mooring policies at Angel Island. Although the level of enforcement present in Ayala Cove may strike some as excessive, most of your readers are probably not aware that Angel Island is subject to intermittent raids by a most virulent band of pirates. And I do mean the cutlass and cannon variety.

To clarify, the California Department of Parks and Recreation operates Angel Island State Park, including the Ayala Cove docks and mooring field. Your humble correspondent, however, has the honor to belong to the Angel Island Association, a nonprofit organization that assists the park by raising funds and performing interpretive activities that provide the visitor with a better understanding of the island's natural and cultural history. Some of us who volunteer with the Angel Island Association are also boaters and avid readers of Latitude.

Among the many ongoing events performed by the AIA are weekend cannon-firing demonstrations that are held at the former military post of Camp Reynolds on the west side of the island. We also turn out our cannon from time to time in order to repel the assaults of the pirate vessel Royaliste. For those of you fortunate enough not to have encountered this fearsome craft, the Royaliste is a 65-ft gaff-rigged square-topsail ketch which is armed to the teeth and crewed by the blood-thirstiest gang of buccaneers it has ever been my displeasure to encounter. On numerous occasions the dread Royaliste has exchanged volleys of artillery and small-arms fire with our heroic garrison on Angel Island.

Obviously, such a spectacle is not something one sees every day, and the Angel Island Association would like to invite your readers to view our next engagement, which shall be held on the weekend of June 11 & 12. This event will be a full-fledged mock Civil War battle with infantry reinforcements, exploding pyrotechnics, and activities for children. Details about this and all our other events may be found on the Angel Island Association's Web site at

After one has witnessed just how much havoc and mayhem the brigands aboard the Royaliste can cause, it becomes clear why security has been stepped up on the island!

Chris Burgin
Angel Island Cannoneer & Crew
Shadowside, Allied Mistress MKIII
Coyote Point


On the off chance that you might sometimes feature a stink-pot - in this case a very big one - I'd like to tell you about the Lane Victory, a World War II cargo ship that is based out of San Pedro. She's owned by an all-volunteer group of mostly seniors, who restored her and continue to maintain and operate her.

World War II ended 60 years ago, which is when Lane Victory was built. She was one of more than 530 Victory cargo ships built late in the war to replace the hundreds of merchant marine ships that had been lost to enemy attacks. These ships were designed to become the backbone of the postwar American merchant marine fleet. Lane Victory hauled munitions in the South Pacific at the close of World War II. During the Korean War, she ferried troops and evacuated 7,000 civilians as the Communists advanced on Inchon. She was called for duty a third time in Vietnam, and then was laid up in 1969.

The Lane, deeded to the United States merchant marine veterans of World War II in 1989 by then President Reagan, was towed to San Pedro Harbor where restoration began. An all-volunteer group of dedicated seniors, made up of former merchant marine, naval armed guard, and others restored the ship. She is a designated Historical Landmark.

Today the Lane is a fully operational seagoing memorial to all civilian merchant marine and naval armed guard lost at sea in time of war. The ship is supported by six summer day-cruises off Catalina Island each year. The day-cruises begin early, with a continental breakfast and departure at 9 a.m. as we head down the main channel at San Pedro and out to sea. The ship's crew and interested passengers can watch the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Honor Guard participate in a memorial service to remember a merchant marine ship and crew lost at sea in World War II. During the passage to Catalina, everyone is invited to take a tour of the engine room, visit the wheelhouse, and 'man the big guns'. There are two great museums to enjoy. The main museum is dedicated to nautical memorabilia of the merchant marine, with many large models of the merchant ships of that period. The centerpiece of the second museum is the triple-expansion engine from the movie Sand Pebbles. Guests get to watch it in operation.

The Lane Victory has been featured in many movies and on television, including Titanic, The Thin Red Line, Outbreak, Jag and X-Files, to name but a few.

A great catered buffet lunch is served set against the magnificent backdrop of Catalina Island. Plenty of seating and shaded areas are available, and live music of the World War II era is played throughout the day.

Turning away from the island, the ship is 'attacked' - weather permitting - by 'enemy' aircraft. During this time a general alarm is sounded and the naval armed guard man their guns. When enemy planes are spotted by a sharp-eyed passenger, their response to the attack begins. Despite the response of the big guns, the situation is perilous - until American planes come to the rescue by attacking the enemy planes. When the aerial attack is over, the planes form up and fly the length of the ship. At this point everyone should have their cameras ready.

Finally, as we approach the harbor, Stearman aircraft make several fly-bys, and as we return to the dock the passengers enjoy a fireboat water display courtesy of the Los Angeles fireboat.

Anyone interested in joining one of these trips should visit or call (310) 519-9545.

Jan Michaelis, Volunteer
SS Lane Victory

Jan - While sailing from Two Harbors to Newport Beach one sunny Sunday last summer, we happened to cross paths with the
Lane Victory as she began to head home from Catalina. A few minutes later the aerial attack began. It was a terrific show. We wish we had known about these trips a couple of years ago before our father passed away. A World War II Navy vet from the Pacific, he would have loved it.


While shopping around for insurance quotes, we were offered coverage at what seemed to be a very good price by a California broker representing Scandinavia Insurance. It sounded a little too good to be true, so we got a second opinion from another agent. This is what he wrote us:

"I am familiar with Scandinavia Insurance, which is a relatively new 'insurance company' based in Russia. I'm not sure why they adopted the 'Scandinavian' guise, but perhaps it's because the insurance business in Russia is largely unregulated. Scandinavia is not rated by any of the major financial rating organizations - A.M. Best, Standard & Poors, Moody, Fitch, and so forth - nor, as far as I can determine, have they got any reinsurance support. They certainly don't in the London and other major European markets. They may well have the financial strength to pay some claims, and indeed have the goodwill to do so, but as far as I am aware, none of their 'assets' are held in G7 countries, so effectively they are 'judgement proof'. This means that the people they insure will have to rely on Scandinavia's desire to pay claims as opposed to normal legal obligations to do so.

"For our part, we would not place business with them, as we will only work with well-known, well-rated, well-established insurers with the highest reputation. Unlike the people we represent, Scandinavia is not approved anywhere in the United States, the United Kingdom, or the European Community.

"It is the Insured's decision if he/she wants to take a risk on security to make a small savings in premiums, but we would always recommend that they only place their business with rated insurers. I hope this advice proves helpful."

Just Another Cruiser Trying To Be Helpful
Planet Earth

Readers - Every time we talk to people who have had to file a claim with an insurance company, they all seem to have the same regret - they wish they had read the policy more carefully before they bought the coverage. We don't know if it would be wise or unwise to be covered by Scandinavia, but we do know that everybody should read any policy carefully so they understand exactly what it is they are buying and who they are buying it from. 'Let the buyer beware' is true of insurance more than most things because the amounts can be so high.

Having said that, sometimes insurance really does work like it's supposed to. A couple of months ago, we were rear-ended on the 405 in Los Angeles while driving one of Mr. Hertz's cars. The impact sent us slamming into the car in front of us. All three cars suffered about $2,500 in damages. We all had insurance like we were supposed to, and traded our information. About a month later, a representative from the company insuring the guy who started the collision called to report all three cars had been taken care of, and he wanted to make sure we hadn't suffered any lasting injury. All we were suffering from was shock that the system had worked like it was supposed to.


When it comes to whether crew are responsible for costly mistakes on boats, I believe there is a well-established protocol - at least in the case of winch handles dropped overboard. In such cases, the crewmember has a responsibility to replace the winch handle with one of equal or better quality at the earliest opportunity, then present it to the owner as soon as possible. I believe it's the 3,646,125th Law of the Sea, which all good sailors accept as immutable and unchanging. However, I could not find it in a search through Google.

In the case of other mishaps, no matter if of greater or lesser magnitude, I agree with Latitude that the owner is responsible.

Rob Murray
Flat Out, Ericson 39
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Rob - Your letter just made us realize that we're sexist. If somebody dropped a winch handle off our boat, we wouldn't expect them to replace it. However, if a male crewmember dropped one over and replaced it, we'd say, "Thanks, that's cool." But if a woman replaced it - as Suzie Barnes once did - we'd be so embarrassed. Disgusting, isn't it? We're going to sign up for some insensitivity training.


We just completed our southbound transit of the Panama Canal aboard our Hallberg-Rassy 46 Indeed, and found the Canal's new way of handling sailboats to be quite different from what it used to be and what the cruising guides say. Not only was it different, it was much more expensive.

We used ship's agent Tina McBride to do our paperwork, and we think she did a great job. However, the new fees really jack the cost up. The 'new thing' is that sailboat transits now start around 5 or 6 p.m., and even sometimes later at night. Your mandatory Advisor then takes you as far as Gatun Lake, where you moor to a big mooring buoy for the night, and he goes home. Actually, just three sailboats go through on a normal day, and they are all rafted to the same buoy.

The next morning you get a new Advisor to complete the transit. So far, this is all fine if you just had to pay the normal $600 transit fee and the $850 'buffer', which is to be deposited if you don't cause any delays or damages.

What's not fine is the new charges that we were hit with:

Delay fee for taking two days to do the transit - $440

Mooring fee for rusty buoy at Gatun Lake - $100

Launch fees for Advisors - $320.

So the reported $600 transit fee suddenly adds up to a whole lot more, particularly when you add in the $500 for the ship's agent, and the various other charges such as the cruising permit, visas, and such.

Then there is the wait for a transit slot, which this season was anywhere from 10 to 19 days, with 15 days being the average. Of course, you don't have to wait for 15 days in lovely Colon, for you can request that your transit be supervised by a Pilot rather than a mere Advisor. If you do this, you can pick almost any day to transit, and you might be able to complete the transit in one day rather than two. The only hitch is that there is a $2,250 fee for taking a Pilot rather than an Advisor.

Clearly the days of transiting the Canal for $500 are gone for good!

Although we're from San Diego, our boat has never been there. We took delivery of her at the Hallberg-Rassy yard in Sweden, then sailed her across the Atlantic in the 2003 ARC, then around the Caribbean, up to Bermuda, and as far north as Newport, Rhode Island. Then we headed down to New York City, Annapolis, Hampton, Virginia, did the Caribbean 1500 to the British Virgins, then sailed to Panama. We are now in the Galapagos and will be headed to the Marquesas in a few days.

Giorgio Cagliero
Indeed, Hallberg-Rassy 46
San Diego

Giorgio - We don't doubt that you were smacked with those charges, but based on what other people are reporting, they haven't experienced any increase in Canal fees.


Like Latitude, I read Indeed's report on increases in Panama Canal fees with surprise. We transited in early March, and the fees were still the $600. And someone I know went through just three weeks ago and didn't pay any more than we did.

As for it taking 15 days to get a transit date, that's the time the Canal Authority often quotes. However, most cruisers who hang around get bumped up to an earlier slot. For example, the boat we went through on only had to wait about a week.

As you can guess, this means we didn't take our own boat through the Canal. We've left her down in the tropics, but will be going to British Columbia this summer anyway. In fact, we're joining a 38-ft monohull in Sitka on July 4th to slowly sail south to Oregon. We're looking forward to it!

Richard Woods
Woods Designs Sailing Catamarans
Plymouth, United Kingdom
Jetti Matzke, Oakland


I just read the item in 'Lectronic about Indeed having to pay much more money for their Canal transit. That doesn't jibe with the experience we had transiting with our 42-ft cat Hapai or Cheyanne, the boat I linehandled for. Yes, we did start at 4 p.m., and yes, we had to spend the night on a mooring on Gatun Lake. But we were not charged an overnight fee because the scheduling had been done by the Canal Authority. Nor were we charged for the mooring or a pilot pickup fee, and for the same reason. By the way, we thought it was a plus to spend the night on the lake. The lake was calm, it got us out of Colon, and it was fun to hear the howler monkeys and parrots in the morning.

We had to wait 14 days for our transit. Cheyanne - a Wylie 34 from Sausalito - had to wait 11 days.

When it comes to getting the paperwork done, we would highly recommend Rudy, a fast-moving taxi-driver. He got us through the procedures for $50, got us our tire fenders at $3 each, and the four lines at $15 per line.

So the total cost of our transit was $800. Jim on Cheyanne managed to get his tires for free, so his cost was a bit lower.

When you think of the Canal, you think of the locks, of course. But for me, the highlight was the pristine beauty of Gatun Lake. I enjoyed both of the transits we did, and both went smoothly. A Panama Canal transit is nothing to be feared.

Tom Conerly
Hapai, Venezia 42 cat
Santa Cruz


I just read Girogio Cagliero's report in
'Lectronic about the astronomical fees for transiting the Panama Canal aboard Indeed. With costs so high, I wonder if anyone has considered setting up a floating drydock that could be towed through the Canal by tug. What I'm envisioning is a submersible barge where you simply power in, divers install jackstands, and the barge is then floated. Boats could actually be rafted up for a while with the barge submerged until enough boats are present to make the transit worthwhile. This shouldn't take too terribly long - almost certainly less time than the 10-19 days mentioned in that letter to 'Lectronic.

Dave Benjamin
Island Planet Sails
Portland, Oregon

Dave - We've long said that the Panama Canal is too major an asset to be used to get boats under 50 feet from one side of the Canal to the other. It's like using a missile to do a job that requires nothing more than a BB gun.

But we think the same would be true of your plan to use a submersible barge to transport boats from the Pacific to the Caribbean and vice versa. Such barges are very expensive and the labor would also be very high.

The thing to realize is that all but a mile or two of a Canal transit consists of motoring across a lake that's 84 feet above sea level. So the real problem is just getting the boats around the locks and up or down 84 feet. This could be best accomplished using a hydraulic trailer - such as is used to truck boats from San Carlos, Mexico, to Tucson, and at many boatyards. Such trailers are much less expensive than a barge, and using them would require only a couple of workers.

It never made a lot of sense to use the Canal for small boat transits. But with the development of hydraulic trailers to lift out and transport boats, and with the growing congestion and lack of advisors in the Canal, it's a no-brainer. Such an operation could be up and running in a couple of months.

By the way, you can see from the previous letters than the astronomical fees charged to
Indeed were apparently an oddity.


I want people to know how thankful I am for Don Melcher of HF Radio on Board in Alameda. We've had nothing but trouble with our ICOM 502 VHF. The command mike in the cockpit hasn't worked from day one. We had it fixed - I won't go into how unhappy I was with ICOM, which initially refused to honor the warranty - before leaving on last year's Ha-Ha. But it broke again in Mexico. Not confident about getting it fixed, I figured I'd have to buy another radio in Mexico - not the best place to buy marine gear.

Then I unexpectedly had to return to San Francisco for two days, but couldn't bring the radio with me. Don didn't care. He offered to replace the radio free of charge. He said he'd deal with ICOM directly, and I didn't even have to give him the bad radio until I returned in a couple of months. Needless to say, this was beyond the call of duty, but it made me a very, very happy customer.

By the way, the material Don puts together for SSB purchasers is wonderful. It's so good, that by using it I was able to help people get their radios and email up and running!

Audrey Schnell
OZ, Talisman 37
Port Townsend, WA


The life of foreign boats in the United States is not easy. We had our Talofa in San Francisco Bay from '78 to '89 when we lived in Oakland. Since my wife and I are foreign nationals (and permanent residents), we could not document the boat, so she was registered in the state of California. However, according to U.S. Customs regulations, the nationality of a boat is not determined by its flag, but by the nationality of its owners. Therefore our boat - although flying the U.S. flag - was considered a foreign boat. This meant that we had to clear in at San Francisco when we arrived.

Clearing in meant not only a trip to the Customs office, but it also meant that the Customs office took away our boat's documents - meaning our California registration - with the understanding that the documents would be released upon departure! The regulations specified that the boat can move freely within the area of the specific Customs office. This means that we could have sailed to Half Moon Bay or Monterey without any problems, but if we sailed down the coast we had to clear out of San Francisco, clear in to Santa Barbara, clear out of Santa Barbara, and so on for Los Angeles and San Diego.

It's true - as someone suggested - that sometimes the Customs officers themselves were unaware of the legal requirements. As a matter of fact, I always had a copy of the law with me when I cleared in so that I could explain to the customs officer what they were supposed to do.

When we arrived in Hawaii on our return from the South Pacific, we cleared in at Hilo, and then we cleared out and back in at Oahu. However, we were going to leave from Kauai for the States, and Kauai was part of the Oahu Customs Office. So we sailed to Kauai, and then we had to have our boat documents mailed from the Oahu Customs Office to a Kauai office so we could get them before our departure!

U.S. citizens should not be too fast to criticize other countries about boat clearing regulations.

Cesare Galtieri

Cesare - Before we stop criticizing the old policy in Mexico, please tell us, did the U.S. folks charge you as much as $110 every time you checked in and out of a port? Did you also have to go to a bank before and after visiting the port captain? As with just about everything, we don't think the U.S. is perfect - but it's still better than most countries.


A recent letter inquired about information for cruising north from San Francisco. I recommend Cruising The Northwest Coast, From the Golden Gate to Port Angeles by George Benson. This recently published 144-page book is an aid to near-shore cruising along the Northwest coast, and is available for $20 from George Benson, 16700 Highway 96, Klamath River, CA 96050.

George is a good writer and an excellent sailor. After looking for a larger boat to replace his Coronado 25 Teal, he finally just decided to add two feet to his current boat - and did a beautiful job. Teal is the boat that he sailed north to Puget Sound, and his email accounts of that voyage convinced me to order his book - even though I have no intention of sailing that far north.

Chuck Graser
Columbine (a mountain flower, not a tragedy)

Chuck - We call such boat-stretching 'Pyzeling' - after Mike Pyzel, who stretched the Cal 28 he sailed from Santa Barbara to the Santa Cruz Islands several hundred times to a 30-footer. We'd never do anything like that, but admire folks who can. We'll have to give that guide a look.


A diver in Monterey - who also has problems with sea lions climbing on boats - told me once he laid barbed wire on the decks of an old tug. The sea lions couldn't quite get comfortable, so they'd move on to smoother pastures. Carpet tack strips might also work.

Brad Belleville

Brad - We'll keep those tips in mind for when we return to Newport later in the summer.


I was aboard Altura when the 83-ft Windward ended up on the beach at Yelapa, Mexico, those many years ago. We had three anchors - Windward's, Sea Drift's and also one that Eight Bells had lost - to work with for that final attempt to pull her off. The heaviest line, which was like 1.5 inches in diameter, led through the anchor hawse on the bow back to the mainsheet winch, which was a Herreschoff the size of a samovar, in the cockpit. I was to do the grinding. The other two lines came through bow chocks to two of the four foredeck winches. Each of these lines went from winch to winch to a tailer, so there were six guys on the foredeck. In addition, there were four of us in the cockpit, and six to eight Mexicans with buckets down below ready to bail.

We worked Windward off the beach and into the surf until she was standing up and bouncing on her keel with the rise and fall of each wave. Then one of the smaller lines parted. That was the beginning of the end, as two of the other lines quickly parted, too. Windward slewed around, and the 10-ft seas put her right back on the beach. At that point the garboard was so open that it would have been impossible to get her to a boatyard even if we could get her off again. In retrospect, the lines parted for the same reason that the anchor chains did.

By the way, I'm delighted and surprised to hear Bob Dickson is alive and kicking.

Joe Miller


I enjoyed April's Ten Tips For New Boat Owners. It's been a long time since we christened April Dancer for the first time, but reading your Tip #1 about using champagne prompted me to offer an alternative suggestion.

When Tessa and I took delivery of our Fairweather Mariner 39 April Dancer, we were concerned, not only about broken glass, but about the BCDC bitching about fish, SUI. So instead of breaking the bottle on the bow, we stood on the foredeck, popped the cork of a bottle of bubbly plonk, and sprinkled a few drops on the deck. Then we drank a toast to all three of us and, slightly inebriated, took the bottle and glasses below for a giggly cuddle. In fact, because we needed regular practice to hone our skills, we have continued the tradition every time we're on board together. After 15 years, we're definitely getting better at it.

Incidentally, unless the product actually comes from France, it's not good to refer to bubbly-plonk as champagne. Otherwise the French get their knickers in a twist, and a twist-knickered Frenchman is not a pretty sight.

Lyn Reynolds
San Jose

Lyn - We know the distinction between champagne and sparkling white wine, but as long as it does its job - give pleasure - we don't think Pierre should be so uptight about it. In fact, his time would be better spent trying to figure out how France's socialistic tendencies can possibly survive the onslaught of the Chinese and Indians in the new global economy.


After all the stuff about Alcatraz being a floating island, you run a letter in the May issue about a tunnel to Angel Island - give us a break! Maybe you should do some minor checking before publishing fantasies such as that.

John Meyer
Point Richmond

John - It was reader E.J. Koford, not us, who reported on the tunnel from Tiburon to Angel Island. We don't know anything about it - other than the proposal to double the toll so they can bore another hole.

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