Back to "Letters" Index


In a late August edition of 'Lectronic, you wondered about all the 'dolphins' in San Francisco Bay. We contacted our friend Craig Strang, who is the Director of Marine Programs at the Lawrence Hall of Science at U.C. Berkeley, and here's what he had to say:

"Based on what was written in 'Lectronic - that they seemed more interested in playing around than playing under bows - we think they might have been harbor porpoises rather than dolphins. Harbor porpoises usually appear in dispersed groups of a few to a few dozen. They pop up to the surface, showing only their dorsal fin and almost none of their back, then disappear quickly. They appear to swim erratically, with all of them going in different directions. While they often gather around boats for a quick look, they never 'play', bowride or even stay around boats. In addition, they don't leap out of the water. Finally, they are not known to save people from sharks.

"Harbor porpoises are smaller - about five feet long - than porpoises and are slate gray in color. They have a small triangular dorsal fin, whereas most dolphins - including all of those around here - have a falcate or sickle-shaped dorsal fin.

"I'm not sure what the seasonal distribution is for harbor porpoises around the Bay. It may increase slightly this time of year, but they're generally here all year round, as they don't migrate. We mostly see them just outside the Gate to about six miles offshore, on the outside of Potato Patch and up as far north as maybe Wildcat, close to the shore. There might have been a food source that came into the Bay and a gang of these porpoises followed it in. Since they're not very showy, most people don't notice them - even though they are fairly common. But once you get a glimpse and get an idea of what to look for, you start seeing a bunch.

"I have to caution you that I'm speculating on what they might be based on very little information. As such, they may really have been dolphins. The Oceanic Society has a sightings hotline at (415) 474-0488, and might have more specific information."

We hope this helps.
Mark & Sanda Joiner
Maui / Orinda


In the August 22 'Lectronic, you wondered about all the dolphins in the Bay. I'm just a layman with no scientific expertise, but here's what I have and haven't observed along the Central Coast this summer. In 15-20 days of sailing and fishing out of Morro Bay, I didn't see one dolphin. There were plenty of whales, however. One afternoon in late July, I spotted 17 spouts on the horizon during a 60-second period. The whales were literally everywhere, and many are still here, just hanging around and feeding. Maybe someone out there has a scientific explanation for what appears to be some kind of change.

Phil Ackerman

Phil - When we sailed down the coast in late July, we didn't see that many dolphins, but we've since seen huge numbers of them south of Point Conception. The big news, however, has been the return of the blue whales, the biggest mammals in the world. Not too many years ago it was believed they might become extinct.


I was reading the profiles of the Ha-Ha boats in the September issue when I came across the 37-ft Bingo, aboard which four young guys are going to sail south. I'm sure that I won't be the first to inquire, but do you know if they want or need more crew for the Ha-Ha? If they do, I'd like them to know that: 1) I can get the time off work; 2) I know how to sail; 3) I love 'camping' aboard; and 4) I'm cute enough, single, and in their age group. I'd sure love to do the Ha-Ha, but I don't have a boat. What's a gal to do? And with all four of them having Coast Guard captain's licenses, who wouldn't feel safe and sound on overnight passages with them?

Newport Beach

A.X. - What's a gal to do who wants to go on the Ha-Ha? Well, being bold about making inquiries - such as you're doing - is a good start. After all, fortune favored the bold back when the epic poet Virgil made that observation, and it's still true today. Another suggestion is to attend the Mexico Crew List and Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party to be held at the Encinal YC in Alameda on Wednesday, October 5 (6 to 9 p.m.). Good look to everyone searching for a berth or for crew.


I confess. I have raped and pillaged the pages of Latitude 38. But, I think, in a good cause. It all started when I got commissions to deliver two yachts back home to the Bay following the '04 Baja Ha-Ha. I was suddenly and unexpectedly short of crew. With stealth, I delved into 'Lectronic Latitude and scalped several names from the Ha-Ha Crew List.

Out of the six people who qualified according to my strict requirements, I reaped two. They turned out to be the best crew I've ever had in my 20 years of delivering yachts up and down the West Coast.

An interesting side benefit for delivery captains such as myself who follow the Ha-Ha, is the slap-up dinners I had, courtesy of the boat owners, prior to departure. It seems that Ha-Ha participants are predisposed to, shall we say, a 'good time'. So for each of these two Ha-Ha-related deliveries, we joined forces, six of us in all, and repaired to one of Cabo's more elite watering holes for a top-notch dinner in the company of kindred spirits and bon vivants, for a rollicking good time. Many Ha-Ha vets will recognize the names of the boat owners in question, Glenn Fagerlin and Dr. Al di Vittorio, who picked up the tab, as being sailor's sailors.

I beg forgiveness for what I've done. By way of repentance, I can only plead that 'Lectronic Latitude and the Baja Ha-Ha afforded me the two most enjoyable deliveries ever. One crew, Capt. Don Widmer, was so good that he's become an associate skipper in my little yacht delivery business, Crew Services International. The longtime Bay sailor is now doing yacht deliveries on his own hook and attracting letters of reference.

In closing, I can only say I have gained the greatest respect for the sailors of the Crew List, and for Latitude 38, where I advertise.

Stan Gauthier
Parksville, B.C, Canada

Stan - As you can imagine, we're always very pleased when our readers - and advertisers - are happy with what we manage to produce.


I'm writing to possibly find some solution to a big problem we recently encountered. I am disabled, and recently found out that any large jolt - such as are common in sailing - could possibly cause a spinal paralysis that would put me in a wheelchair for good, and sooner rather than later.

Although I know that I will be in a wheelchair eventually, we were still going forward with our plans to live aboard and spend our retired years cruising. Even though that is at least 10 years off, we have enjoyed a great sailing life, and are preparing to retire in the style we love - which is on the water! But now that I have been warned off sailing, my wonderful husband doesn't take our boat out as much as he would like.

So I'm wondering, does anyone know of somebody who still sails despite their handicaps? Perhaps they can give us some advice on the best boat to have, and the items one might have aboard for someone who has trouble walking, severe neck problems, and severe pain.

I really don't want to give up sailing, but I may not have a choice. So this is my last ditch effort to save our dream. We are avid readers of Latitude, and would be pleased with any kind of response or suggestions.

Mary Martinez

Mary - We know all kinds of folks who have cruised despite significant disabilities. Many years ago in St. Barth, we had a French friend named Gerard, who had lost an arm when the 70-ft boat he was building himself slipped on the ways and crushed it. Somehow he managed to complete the very large boat himself, sailed her across the Atlantic, skippered her on charters, and even singlehanded - excuse the pun - the big boat.

Scott Duncan and Pam Habek, who sailed in last year's Ha-Ha aboard the Valiant 32 Tournesol, are both legally blind. Nonetheless, they continued on to French Polynesia and are on their way to New Zealand and a circumnavigation.

We've also met a number of sailors who, like Long John Silver, were missing a leg. We've known many more who are missing one or more fingers - often the result of sailing accidents.

Some disabled sailors even race. Winslow Lincoln of the Newport Beach-based, Andrews 45 Locomotion had a special seat made so he could drive, and he did quite well. And one year the TransPac was won by the Andrews 70 Cheval, owned by Hal Ward, who couldn't walk without crutches. In this year's TransPac the entire crew of the Tripp 40 B'Quest were members of the Challenged America organization

We've done interviews in recent years with Mike Harker, who suffered terrible injuries in a hang-gliding accident and can't stand upright without touching something. He sailed about 24,000 miles, much of it alone, and once his new Hunter 48 is completed, he'll take off around the world.

And who could forget the late Kathleen Neeley of Santa Cruz, Reno and Fiji, who had been confined to a wheelchair since she was a girl. Nonetheless, thanks to the enormous help and care of her husband Ralph, she was able to cruise all over the Caribbean and Pacific for about 20 years aboard their Whiting 45 Neeleen.

There are many others. However, you have to appreciate the fact that not all disabilities are alike, so just because a person with one disability can cruise doesn't mean someone else with a different disability can cruise. It all depends on the disability. And if it's true that one jolt could put you into a wheelchair immediately as opposed to years later, you'd want to give the risk/reward ratio some very serious consideration.

If you ultimately decide to go ahead with a sailing plan, a catamaran would be the obvious best choice for several reasons. First, they sail flat and endure fewer jolts than do monohulls. Second, the spacious main salons are at deck level as opposed to down a companionway as on monohulls, and they offer terrific views of the surroundings. Alas, they aren't cheap.

If a person were looking for a country with mostly gentle sailing conditions, a friendly population, and a low cost of cruising, they need not look further than Mexico. Both Zihuatanejo Bay and Banderas Bay would be perfect bases, as the winds are light to mild, the seas are always flat, and there are many places to go.

Here's hoping that all your sailing dreams come true!


Can you tell me what, if any, on-the-water volunteer groups there are in the Bay Area? I relocated to Alameda from New Zealand, where, for six years, I'd been a volunteer with the Royal New Zealand Coast Guard. I had hoped to join the local Coast Guard Auxiliary and continue volunteering. However I've just been informed that I can't do anything with the Coast Guard because I'm not a U.S. citizen.

Any feedback or advice or contacts would be greatly appreciated. I can be reached through email.

Lee-Anne Gillum

Lee-Anne - Of all the threats to the United States, we've got to believe one of the least is that of a Kiwi woman who wants to volunteer to help the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Geez! The last time we heard something so ridiculous is when our then-fiancée, a British citizen, was trying to get clearance from U.S. Immigration to marry us and stay in the States. They made her raise her hand and swear, while being recorded on video, that she was not now, and never had been - we're not making this up! - a member of the Communist Party. We broke out in laughter at how silly that was. Immigration did not, however, ask if she was now or had ever been a member of Al Qaeda or another terrorist group.

There are scores of on-the-water volunteer opportunities from race committee work to environmental jobs. We're sure you'll be contacted with opportunities through your email address.


In the last issue, a reader named Gary wondered if $2,500 a month for daily living - not counting boat repairs and insurance, and only staying in berths 25% of the time - would be sufficient for cruising Mexico.

We've kept our Ericson 36 Warthog in Marina Mazatlan for the last several years so we could enjoy her for three months each winter. We usually take $5,000 for the entire three months. This is enough money for us to really enjoy ourselves sailing, dining out, and staying in the marina. If we needed to haul the boat out or do significant maintenance, we might need more money.

Regarding the several letters about how inexpensive dental care can be in Mexico, as a retired dentist who practiced in the States, I would suggest caution. For example, Portia Igarashi wrote that she had a root canal and crown down in Puerto Vallarta. She says her tooth later blew up and required that she take antibiotics. It's possible that she was over-instrumented, and the split that later occurred was iatrogenic - meaning it was caused by the dentist. This would suggest that the extraction and implant/crown had not been necessary in the first place.

If this were true, her 'savings' in dental work would be somewhat illusory, since a 'root canal' doesn't normally split. Although I will admit that it does happen. I have heard of other endodontic cases in Mexico failing, so my caution is not based on just the one case. So buyer beware!

Excellence in dentistry is not exclusive to American dentists, but make sure you get an informed opinion before choosing a dentist. The least expensive isn't always the best.

Doug Terrell
Warthog, Ericson 36
Sandpoint, Idaho / Mazatlan, Mexico

Readers - Terrell's $5,000 for three months works out to about $1,666 a month, including dining out and about $325/month for a slip. We'd guess that 85% of the cruising couples spend between $650 and $2,000 a month in Mexico, which enables them to enjoy a very pleasant lifestyle. Lots of couples do it for less than $1,000 a month, which means yes, you can indeed enjoy a wonderful cruising life in Mexico and other Central American countries for beneath the official poverty threshold for a couple in the United States. Poverty was never so good.

When computing the cost of cruising, the main expenses - not counting the boat and maintenance - are marina slips and tourist bars and restaurants. And those three go together. If you anchor out most of the time, it's actually difficult to spend money.

Terrell's caution that the least expensive dental and medical care isn't necessarily the best care is well taken. We have a friend who decided to get a low cost 'penis extension' in Zihuatanejo. A nurse had him take off his clothes and stand at the edge of a cliff. Then she tied one end of a string around the head of his penis, and the other end to a 10-pound rock. She then threw the rock over the cliff. Our friend admits his penis is now longer than it used to be, but it doesn't work so well - no matter how much Mexican Viagra he takes.


Cruising Question: You're about to head across the Pacific, but your budget is limited to the extent that you can either have an EPIRB or a Iridium satellite phone. Which do you choose and why?

My sailing partner and co-owner Arieh Whisenhunt and I had a lengthy, heated discussion about this very issue in March of this year. At the time we were preparing for our first bluewater crossing, from San Francisco to Hawaii, which we started on May 16. We ended the 'discussion' by having our Litton EPIRB recertified and by buying an Iridium satellite phone and service from RoadPost.

But based on our real-life experience, we say buy the EPIRB! Here are six reasons why:

1) The EPIRB battery is certified for five years, so you are not dependent on your boat's 12-volt system or the solar battery charging system that can be bought with the Satphone.

2) Once activated, the EPIRB battery will transmit for days. The Satphone battery will run down much quicker.

3) The EPIRB will automatically inflate and float if dropped into the water. Your Satphone will sink to the bottom of the ocean.

4) When activated, the EPIRB transmits your location automatically to a satellite system that is monitored by the Coast Guard. With the Satphone, you have to be able to reach someone who will answer the phone.

5) The EPIRB is a lot cheaper than the Satphone and service.

6) The EPIRB 'service' will not be cancelled or discontinued. However, the Satphone service can be cancelled - and, in fact, that's what happened to us!

Our Satphone arrived in early April, allowing Arieh plenty of time to figure out how to use it to download weather charts and forecasts, to send and receive email, and to call and receive calls from family and friends. We left the California coast from Monterey Harbor on May 26 with the utmost confidence in the Satphone and the prepaid service.

However, starting on May 30, the Satphone no longer accepted calls or allowed us to make calls. The message from the service said "emergency calls only." We tried every emergency number we could think of, but to no avail. We both hoped that our families would figure out that something went wrong with RoadPost, from whom we bought the phone, and get us reconnected to the world. After not hearing from us for a week, both of our families decided the worst had happened and called the Coast Guard.

Upon our arrival in Honolulu on June 14, we amazingly enough found out that RoadPost had left a message on Arieh's cell phone four days before - meaning June 10 - that they would be discontinuing the service as of May 30!

Here's the problem. RoadPost failed to bill his credit card until May, which was after he'd sold his home and changed his credit card address. Rather than calling us on the Satphone, RoadPost simply discontinued our service without even trying to contact us. Except, that is, via cell phone 10 days after they disconnected the service.

Murphy's Law strikes again!

Neil Ledbetter & Arieh Whisenhunt
Makini, Perry 47
Ko'Olina Marina, Oahu, Hawaii

Neil and Arieh - Thanks for sharing your experience, as we never would have anticipated such a problem with a Satphone - or more accurately, a Satphone provider. We hope you forwarded your complaint to them.

Despite your problem with the Satphone, we're still not convinced that we wouldn't prefer having one as opposed to an EPIRB for a trip to Hawaii or Mexico. For one thing, a Satphone is much more versatile. In the case of the EPIRB, it's call-out-the-calvary or nothing. But if you've got a working Satphone, no matter if the emergency is medical or mechanical, you can articulate the details to experts back on the mainland and hopefully get useful advice without a ship having to be diverted. You can't do that with an EPIRB. Nor can you get weather forecasts, send and receive email, or chat with your family members. Further, it's possible to rent Satphones for short periods for a reasonable amount of money.

If everyone knew in advance what kind of emergency they were going to have at sea, it would be easy to pick between a Satphone and an EPIRB. But since nobody can, we think it's best to work for another week or two in order to be able to afford both of them. And even then, we'd still have an SSB or Ham radio for multiple redundancy.


I just wanted to set a few things straight about the powerboat Lucky Sperm, the name of which has caused some controversy. I've casually known Cam Theriot, the owner, since the early '80s. I was introduced to him at South Beach Harbor last summer by his captain, Mike, who happens to be a fine old bud of mine from high school.

I don't know all the details, but I can tell you that although Cam has always had money, it's been enhanced by his good business sense and discipline. While he likes his many toys - boats, dune buggies, ATVs and, I've heard, motorized barstools - and having a good time, he's in no way an arrogant man of wealth. He's very hospitable and shares, and everybody around him has a good time. He's down to earth.

As for the name Lucky Sperm, it's just a clever name with a twist of truth in it - that it's not my place to explain. But who can possibly be offended by a name or word? There are sperm whales, sperm donors, and so forth. We could have a real 'ball' with 'seamen'. And we're all exposed to much worse, by the evening news, the paper, and even while in the line at the grocery store.

And Mike, give me a call, ya boner!

P.S. I'm a big fan of Latitude and you've done a great job over the years.

Jim Schoonover
Already Gone, Brown Searunner 31

Jim - Thanks for the kind words. As was explained in the last issue, Mr. Theriot apparently has had some success at breeding horses, which indeed makes the name of his boat pretty clever - assuming one had the necessary knowledge to appreciate it. And the graphic of the sperm swimming through the horseshoes certainly hints at it.

Nonetheless, for dimwits such as ourselves who didn't get it originally - and we don't know of anybody who did - it sounds pretty trashy, particularly with the Climax, PA, hailing port. And if nobody gets a joke, is it really that funny? After all, the connotation for 'lucky sperm' is distinctly negative, as it refers to a rich and idle person who has done nothing to attain or maintain their wealth. Of course, having given the boat that name means Theriot clearly doesn't have any problem making himself the butt of his own jokes, which is always an admirable quality.

We disagree with your assertion that words and names can't offend. There are lots of 'fighting words', but we're not going to publish them. Despite understanding how the name Lucky Sperm came about, we still think it's unsavory - kind of like a fart at the dinner table. But that's just our opinion.


We are currently refitting a 1982 Wittholz-designed Cheoy Lee 53 cutter in Vallejo, as our family plans to take her on a year's cruise across the Pacific. We've always sailed sloops and don't have any experience with cutters. As such, we are considering removing the cutter rig - or at least installing a furler to make it easier to handle. Do any of your readers have advice for us about the rig before we axe it?

Justin & Sue Malan
Salt Whistle, Cheoy Lee 53

Justin and Sue - If we were you, we'd absolutely want the sloop rig for San Francisco Bay and the cutter rig for sailing across the Pacific. That's because when you sail on the Bay you have to do a lot of tacking, and it's a pain to have to bring your headsail around in front of the staysail. On the other hand, when you're sailing across the Pacific, you often won't tack for days, so having to bring the headsail around the staysail is only a minor inconvenience.

Plus - and this is a big plus - in situations where you want to suddenly reduce a lot of sail and you have a cutter rig, all you have to do is roll up the entire headsail and you're significantly depowered. That would leave you with a staysail and full main, which is a great sail configuration for strong winds. And if the wind continues to build, all you have to do is drop your main completely. Just a staysail on a 53-ft boat is a wonderful heavy air configuration.

Our old ketch Big O was a cutter-rigged ketch, and we appreciated that it was. For example, we remember sailing along the coast of Cuba one time when a big squall brought winds in the 40s for an hour or two. By rolling up the headsail entirely, leaving just a staysail and full main, and by steering a babying course, we didn't have to drop or reef the main, which would have entailed some risk of injury.

But you've got some interesting options. Putting the staysail on a furler is one. Another is to get a removable deck fitting for the bottom of the staysail stay. This would allow you to remove the staysail to the base of the mast when you wanted, but quickly reattach it when needed. Peter Sutter's Wylie 36 Wild Spirit was rigged this way, as are many other cruising boats. If you get rid of your ability to set a staysail, we're certain that someday you'll come to regret it.


Thanks for the September 7 photo feature in 'Lectronic about the Thursday Night Beer Can Series in Newport Harbor. It was great to see photos of the local sailing action for once.

But I do have one small correction regarding one caption. Aileen, the Shields that was featured in one photo, is not from Orange Coast College, which has a fleet of them also, but from the UC Irvine Sailing Association's fleet of six. These can be used by club members for both one design and PHRF racing.

In case your readers didn't realize it, UC Irvine runs a marvelous, multifaceted sailing program on Newport Harbor. It includes sailing instruction for students and all affiliates - meaning alumni, staff, faculty and family/spouses of not only UC Irvine, but all of the University of California campuses. With demonstrated sailing proficiency, these same UC affiliates are able to become members of the UCI Sailing Association for a nominal annual fee, and thus have year-round access to the fleet of Shields and Capri 14s.

The Capri and Shields Fleet Captains at UCISA also organize intra-club races, cruising activities, and dockside BBQs year 'round, as well as seminars on racing, tactics and crewing. All of this is separate from UCI's Intercollegiate sailing team. The nexus of these three sailing entities at UCI promotes and enables sailing opportunities for sailors of all tastes, be they cruising or racing, and at all levels of experience. It is truly a wonderful program that frequently is overshadowed by the high profile donation program at Orange Coast College.

With all due respect to Orange Coast and its efforts to promote sailing, I just wanted to make sure UCI gets its fair recognition, as I have fond memories of my time in the UCI program, which contributed greatly to my obsession with sailing. I took lessons while I was a nontraditional student at UCI, and I now spend the majority of my recreational time participating in sailing of all kinds - from highly competitive J/105 racing in both Southern and Northern California, to crewing on dinghies, crewing on many PHRF boats, and general cruising. All this is a result of the skills and friendships I made through UCI Sailing Association.

I read Latitude cover to cover every month, and aim to go long term cruising, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. Much of this started from racing Shields in the very same Thursday Night Beer Can races - although no alcohol is allowed aboard UCI fleet boats at anytime - pictured in 'Lectronic Latitude. I encourage anyone with a University of California affiliation and an interest in sailing to check out the UCI Sailing Association's very informative Web site at

On a side note, as we headed out to the start of Long Point Race Week - a three-day series of races to, up and down, and back from Catalina - aboard the Shock 30/30 Problem Child, it occurred to me that it would be a great regatta for Latitude's catamaran Profligate to participate in one of these years. After all, we know the cat is usually hanging around Newport at this time of year, presumably making her way south for the start of the Ha-Ha. Hope to see you some day!

Ashley Knox
Newport Beach

Ashley - Thanks for the clarification on the Shields affiliation and for all the great information on the UC Irvine sailing program. We didn't even know Irvine had such a program. As a former UC student at both Santa Barbara and Berkeley, we can only imagine how many alumni will be thrilled to learn they can join the organization and sail a Shields or Capri 14 around Newport Harbor for a nominal fee. What a great opportunity!

We also appreciate the info on the Long Point Event, which we hear features some great racing and some of the best parties of the year out at the island. If it's going to be the weekend before Labor Day again next year, and if that Catana 431 or some other cat races again, you can count us in for sure.

For the record, Profligate spends all of August, September, and October in Southern California, not just making her way south for the start of the Ha-Ha, but so we can enjoy all the great sailing and cruising opportunities down there. It's a wonderful counterpoint to the sailing in Northern California.


It has come to our attention that some people don't believe our account of what happened to us aboard the cruising boats Mahdi and Gandalf off the coast of Yemen on March 9.

Many readers will recall that we reported our boats - the Nowlin family's 45-ft cutter Mahdi from Clinton, WA, and Gandalf, my 47-ft cutter from Gloucester, MA - were attacked by two boats with pirates. Since it was clear from the outset that they had automatic weapons and intended to kill us, I rammed one of the boats broadside, almost sinking her. Then Rod Nowlin shot and either wounded or killed a couple of attackers as they attempted to board the back of my boat.

The most common critical response I've gotten is the question, "How could you have rammed the pirates' boat and not sunk?" There's a simple answer.

My Frans Maas-designed Gandalf was built in Holland in 1960 - of steel! Having a full keel with a cutaway forefoot, she resembles the shape of the 135-ft J Class Endeavour - although she's not so shiny - and displaces 15 tons. Her hull was built of 5mm (200 thousandths) steel plate. But what's unusual about her is the rest of the construction of her hull. The steel ribs are a half-inch thick, 1.5-inch angle iron. These are placed and welded 14 inches on center. And just to put it over the top, there are steel rivets every 2.5 inches! That's right, the kind of rivets used in building bridges. These were then fared to the hull so they don't show. In other words, Gandalf is not just a steel boat, she's an unusually stout steel boat.

When it came time to slam into a wooden pirate boat whose occupants were shooting at us, I had nothing to lose. I could either ram the bastards or just wait for them to shoot me. I have to admit that I'd never tried ramming another boat before, but it was effective.

As for the hull material of my boat, I'm reminded of the old joke: "Some shout 'starboard', others shout 'steel'."

Jay Barry
Gandalf, Maas 47
Gloucester, MA


We're writing in response to Andrew Hartman, who last month inquired about taking his sheltie cruising. Our family of five departed San Diego in '97 aboard our boat, Windflower, with our family sheltie, Hogan. We circumnavigated, finishing up in San Diego in 2001. Hogan proved to be a wonderful addition to the crew as the security chief, watch companion and ice breaker. We're not sure, but he may just be the first sheltie to have circumnavigated on a private sailboat.

It's true, we didn't stop at New Zealand due to the restrictions of bringing pets there, and we never had planned to stop at Hawaii anyway. But overall, Hogan never caused us to feel as if we missed out on a single thing. It's worth noting that during our cruise we never stayed at a marina, and only Med-moored a couple of times. And being a family boat, we pretty much had someone on the boat all the time. We did take a couple of inland trips in Mexico and Greece, but easily found helpful locals to watch after Hogan and the boat while we travelled.

Hogan was a 'boat dog' from two years on, and stayed on the boat full time - even in San Diego. He got plenty of exercise running up and down the decks and spinning circles, herding all the dinghies going by to get a good look at the nutcase on Windflower. He understood that the front deck was his 'backyard', learned to 'hold it' in bad weather just like the rest of us, and wore his safety harness whenever he went forward at sea.

We could have taken him off the boat in most places, but we didn't want him to contract foreign bugs and so forth. Besides, he was a fish-out-of-water on land. After arriving back in San Diego, he passed away doing what he loved best - being with his people. After careful consideration, and since the kids are all grown up, we added a new member to our crew. Yep, a sheltie named Salty. He'll be seeing you out there, as we plan to escape again in 2007.

Caryn, Gary and Salty Burger
San Diego


In your August issue, Michael Burkhart reports that he is disabled and unable to find someone in San Diego to repair his Tillermaster autopilot, without which he cannot singlehand. Let him know that I had my Tillermaster repaired at Custom Marine Electronics at 2525 Shelter Island Dr. in San Diego. If necessary, he should speak to the boss, a very nice guy who owned a Tillermaster for years.

Gerald Vale
San Diego


In the last issue, Michael Burkhart asked where he could get his Tillermaster autopilot repaired. Three years ago I got mine repaired at Moonlight Marine in Newport Beach. Hopefully repair parts are still available.

Patrick Gorey


Some very drastic changes have taken place over the past two days here in Balboa, the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, which have the potential to seriously impact cruisers planning on transiting in either direction.

Three days ago, a representative from the ACP (Panama Canal Commission) visited all the boats in both the east and west anchorages, accompanied by a Panamanian gunboat. There were about 20 boats in the anchorages, and they were told they must leave by September 13. When asked where they should go, they were brusquely told to go to Taboga Island, which is eight miles away, has limited space and not such good holding. Those skippers who did not comply willingly, we were told, would have their boats towed. These orders apparently came down from a very high political office, and there seems to be no recourse.

This is not the typical move from one anchorage to the other, depending on the season - for it is unlikely that cruising boats will be allowed back. Letters are being written and voices raised, but rumor has it that there is very big money behind developing the area. It seems that cruising boats will only be welcome if their owners are willing to pay big money to tie up at the very limited marina space. Considering that at the height of the season there are easily 100 cruising boats at anchor, where are they supposed to go? As of right now, there are no anchorages available in the Panama City vicinity.

And just two days ago, the ACP boat pulled alongside us and a number of yachts on the moorings at the Balboa YC, a popular and convenient hangout for cruisers and resident boats alike. We were told that half the moorings had to be removed - and we would need to leave within a couple of days!

I immediately called David Cooper, the capable and energetic general manager of the club. Within five minutes, he was talking with the ACP representative on his boat. Cooper had been informed two weeks before that he had to remove the 11 moorings closest to the Canal, and he's in the process of doing that. But now it seems as though the ACP wants over half of the 120 moorings removed.

Fortunately, there has been a stop to the process while the lawyers discuss the problem and try to reach some sort of solution. If the ACP wins, it will devastate the Balboa YC and there will be no moorings available for transients - similar to what happened to the Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside the Canal a couple of years ago. So we suggest that cruisers headed this way pay attention to the Panama Pacific Net, which meets on SSB 8143 at 1400 Zulu every day.

According to yesterday's newspaper, a contract was recently signed to build a $300 million marina directly across the canal from the Balboa YC.

We, who used to own the Bay Area-based Catfisher 32 JOJO, transited the Canal with our 62-ft trimaran Ladyhawke in May after a successful season chartering in the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side of Panama. We will now be offering charters in Las Perlas (or Pearl Islands), which apparently are going to be the location for yet another reality TV show. We've even talked with them about using Ladyhawke in the production!

Although we are not as reliant as cruisers on the services provided by the Balboa YC, and would not be as affected by the closing of the anchorages, we sympathize with everyone currently here and those planning to arrive. Hopefully, the politicians can be made to understand that cruisers bring a lot of money into the country and spend it supporting the many services vital to sailors.

Capt. Jonathan & Joell White
Ladyhawke, 62-ft trimaran

Readers - On September 16 we got an update from the Whites: "The deadline for the boats to leave the east anchorage has been extended until the end of September, and it's possible that the Playita anchorage - which isn't very comfortable - will stay open. In addition, the Balboa YC has started litigation to prevent the removal of four rows of moorings, although they've already had to remove one. The panic has temporarily subsided as folks are keeping an eye on things to see what develops. It could drag on forever.


I am the new owner of a Formosa 51 sailing vessel, vintage 1979. Now that I'm used to the boat, I would like to learn more about her design and construction. But I'm having a lot of trouble finding out about her builder, let alone anything else.

Do you know anything about these boats, their design, or sail plans? Has anybody ever reviewed the design or a completed boat? Any information would be a big help.

Frank Holland
Glen Cove Springs, FL

Frank - In the early '70s, prior to starting Latitude, we sold boats for a dealer who marketed the Formosa line. What you have to understand is that, because labor was so cheap in Taiwan in those days, such boats flooded the U.S. market that had previously been dominated by a slew of Orange County manufactures such as Cal, Columbia, Islander, Ranger, Yankee, Catalina, Coronado, etc.

It's also important to understand that once you build the first boat of any design, it's easy to use it to make molds of the major parts, such as hulls and decks. This is called 'splashing', and eliminates a major expense. So in those days of big profits, a clever manufacturer or importer could reproduce a design quickly, easily and inexpensively.

The two designs that seemed to be splashed more than any other were the so-called Garden 41 ketch and the Garden 51 ketch. It's our understanding that naval architect Bill Garden disavowed any connection with them. For all we know, they were drawn by some Taiwanese kid who had never been near the ocean. But we have to admit, they look like something Garden would have drawn.

In any event, an importer could order a bunch of the boats, dream up some jazzy sounding name, Xerox a single page of specs, and be in business. And make a lot of money. As such, we can remember the 41s and 51s being marketed as CTs, Hudsons, Forces, Sea Wolves, Formosas, and God-knows-what-other names. In some cases, several different 'brands' were built in the same yard, and the only difference was a cheap little nameplate slapped on them and the name on the Xeroxed 'sales brochure'.

On the other hand, there could also be major differences in the quality of the same design. Without any tradition of building or sailing sailboats, if some of the builders weren't closely supervised - and they often weren't - there was no telling what shortcuts they might take. For example, since lead was expensive, some builders didn't see why they couldn't use half the called-for lead and fill the rest of the keel cavity with shop sweepings, cement, sand or whatever happened to be around. As for completely wetting out the laminations, none of the low-paid workers had any idea why that might be important.

Then, too, different builders used different grades of parts and components. Some installed 'real' windlasses made in the U.S. Others had those same windlasses copied and reproduced using crap metals in Taiwan, thinking it was fine. After our dealership got the first Formosa 41 to sell, we drew up a long list of improvements that needed to be made. For example, some of the metal - such as that used for the spreader lights and spreader bases - was of such poor quality that it was rusting away upon arrival. When confronted with this, the nearly inscrutable Taiwanese rep who visited our office spent several minutes turning one of the spreader lights over in his hand. Suddenly his eyes lit up and, in a burst of previously undisclosed semi-fluency in English, he blurted out, "Not our fault, see, says 'Made in Japan'." He gleefully thought that if somebody else had made a component, the boatbuilder was absolved of all responsibility.

We'll say this for the standard 41 and 51 foot 'Garden ketches' - and there were many variations and modifications - they were well-proportioned, spacious, looked romantic, and ostensibly offered a very large bang for the boat-buying buck. In general, the hulls seem to have held up well over the years. We're not experts, but to our knowledge the main problems have been with things like leaking decks and ports, crappy metal fittings, poor wire and wiring, and sometimes suspect spars. We think some of them were actually quite good boats, while others were going to provide years of system problems. We think the one thing that fooled a lot of buyers is how much work is required to keep the wood looking good and the decks from not leaking. When the wood is properly taken care of, the boats can look very nice - but it's a tremendous amount of work. In any event, we hope you got a good one, or at least one whose systems have been sussed out.

If anybody else wants to share their knowledge of Taiwanese-built boats from that era, we're all ears. And that includes you, Bob Perry, as we know you had a lot of boats - good ones, too - built in Taiwan, and visited many of the yards.


You replied to an August issue letter with a question - how is global warming affecting the Northwest Passage and the attempts of several sailors to complete it? It should be making it easier.

The fabled Northwest Passage, the one for which Henry Hudson and so many others looked in vain, may actually open up in our lifetimes. The impact on the Panama Canal would be considerable. And the Alaskan oil may be shipped to Europe rather than Japan. And who knows what other changes might be in store?

In fact, now that the Arctic ice pack is retreating enough to make the idea of shipping through that route more than an idle dream, a dispute has arisen between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island, a small rock off the north coast of Greenland. Both countries have sent warships to patrol 'their' territory.

Scott Leslie,
Ceol Beag
Tomales Bay

Scott - According to Carl Seipel of Marin, who for a time was part of the crew of the Bowman 57 Cloud Nine which unsuccessfully tried to transit the Northwest Passage this summer, the folks making money from the Panama Canal aren't in any need of immediate concern. Seipel says the pack ice only recedes far enough for transiting about one month a year, but even that doesn't happen every year. Four boats tried to make it this year, but only two of them did, and only with the help of a Canadian Coast Guard Cutter clearing a path for them. Kiwi David Kendall, who was trying to do the Northwest Passage as part of a unique circumnavigation aboard Astral Express, gave up long before even approaching the Passage.

Meanwhile, we hope the United Nations can do something - for once - to prevent the possible outbreak of hostilities over Hans Island. Back when Mexico and France were squabbling over Clipperton Atoll, they agreed to attempt a peaceful solution by letting the Pope decide who should be given control. The Pope pretty much destroyed the notion of solving conflicts similarly in the future by - we're not making this up - awarding Clipperton to the then King Of Italy.


I have no first hand knowledge of the Northwest Passage, but on the Web I have been following a couple - Phil and Liz - who are up there now and have been trying to make it for more than a year. They have the Bruce Roberts-designed sloop Fine Tolerance, and had wintered at Cambridge Bay, in Nunavut, Canada. They had to winter over because they were blocked from making the passage last summer. They were iced in starting on September 10 of last year, and it wasn't until July 10 of this year that their boat finally floated free.

On the Web they tell the story of their winter and the conditions they experienced. Their experiences are enlightening in many ways, particularly about the hazards in that part of the world. They also report on 'global warming' from the people who are actually there.

Enjoy their site, which is

Rod Sorenson

Rod - Although Phil and Liz - we couldn't find their last names - were turned back from the Northwest Passage last year, they tried again this year. Alas, they got stuck in pack ice, and their boat squeezed up on top of the ice, the propeller being broken in the process. Realizing they wouldn't be able to live at a 30 degree angle, they took their dinghy over to the other vessel attempting a west-to-east passage. Then Fine Tolerance disappeared. Fortunately, it was found later, and the Coast Guard cleared a path so they could make it, and somehow even managed to get the propeller replaced or repaired.

Is it a successful passage if you can't make it without the help of an ice-breaker?


This is probably a question for Lee Helm or someone with an engineering background. We know that it's common practice to motor forward while at anchor during heavy winds - such as squalls - to reduce the load on the anchor and therefore prevent dragging. But is that the best technique?

A number of years ago, we were riding out the 50+ knot wind from Hurricane Mitch along the coast of Honduras, southwest of the Bay Islands. Mitch moved so slowly that we had days of strong winds and heavy rain. We were anchored in less than 10 feet of water with no swell in Punta Sal, a protected lagoon, with 200 feet of chain with a 60-lb CQR and a 55-lb Delta anchor shackled in-line. We had also completely stripped the boat of sails, dodger, bimini, and so forth.

As I sat on the bow watching the load on my three nylon snubbers, I observed the greatest loads were when the bow had blown off the wind - sometimes as much as 70 degrees. The snubbers went rod tight just as the bow snapped back to windward.

Based on those observations, I thought it would make sense to put the boat into reverse gear. I'm sure all cruisers have observed a similar action when backing down on their anchor - the bow blows off after the anchor is dropped, the boat backs up to starboard or port, but when the slack is pulled out, the bow moves back into the wind with a strong yank on the rode. But once motoring in reverse to set the anchor, the bow stays straight into the wind.

Yet when strong squalls have hit, I've often observed cruisers attempting to motor into the winds to take the load off the anchor. But many times the results have been disastrous. For example, the helmsman overshoots his anchor and pulls it out. Or more likely, he pulls far enough forward to cause a large amount of slack in the chain. Then the bow blows off to 90 degrees or more, and the rode comes up hard at a right angle to the bow roller, and either cuts the line or damages the roller. Sometimes it jumps off the roller altogether and tears off the bow pulpit.

Wouldn't it be better to put the boat in reverse? I know this sounds counterintuitive, but by reversing with very low power, the chain would not go slack enough to allow the bow to blow off, which results in increased windage and load on the anchor.

I've got one more thing to throw into the equation. When Pizzaz was riding out Hurricane Mitch, we hoisted our trusty Pineapple-made anchor riding sail. The little voice in my head was screaming, "Are you nuts? You don't put up a sail in a hurricane." But the reaction was dramatic. Pizazz stayed within 10 degrees off the wind, and so the load on the snubbers was dramatically reduced. The extra load from the anchor sail was minimal since it was stalled most of the time.

I guess the engineers need to determine if the increased load on the anchor from motoring in reverse is less than the increased load when the bow blows off. I personally know that the increased load from my anchor sail is far less than the increased load from the extra windage caused by the bow blowing off. But not everyone has an anchor sail, and many times there's not enough time to hoist it, or it can be difficult to hoist in heavy winds.

But the answer could possibly save some boats, so I hope someone can figure it out.

Lourae & Randy Kenoffel
Pizzaz, Moorings Beneteau 500
San Francisco / San Blas Islands, Panama

Lourae and Randy - Putting the engine in reverse in an attempt to reduce the shock loading on the anchor line is an interesting idea that we'd never heard of before. But you don't need an engineer to decide if it's a good technique, just a load sensor for the anchor line. After all, whatever is going to result in the least strain on the rode is going to be the best.

There would be a lots of variables in utilizing this technique, of course. For example, is the wind blowing steady from one direction or is it gusting out of one direction and then another? Boat shape and probably even keel configuration would play a role, too. So would the helmsman's ability to drive the boat into the wind without creating too much slack on the rode. The bottom line is to do whatever works best in taking the load off.


There seems to an urban legend floating around which needs to be dispelled. I am referring to the rumor that driving in Mexico is only for the foolish and brave of heart.

I believe that having a car while cruising enhances the experience. For one thing, it reduces the stress of finding and buying stuff like groceries, propane, and fuel. Yes, you can listen on the local nets or ask for rides into town from anchorages and marinas, but that always requires synchronizing with someone else's time schedule, waiting for buses, or paying through the nose for taxis.

Having your own car also can help alleviate cabin fever from being on the boat too long.

Driving to Mexico also gives you a way to bring boat gear that's too big or is prohibited on airplanes, and bring stuff back to the States that needs a specialist for repairs.

There are many safe places to park your car while going on extended trips, and if you want to retrieve your car and bring it to the next destination, it's only a bus trip away.

Insurance, however, is a must, along with a legal binder, which will help in getting you legal help should you be involved in an accident. I used Vagabundos del Mar to get insurance, as they have a very inexpensive six-month policy. By the way, they also have a program to fly people home in the event of medical emergencies.

Based on my experience, it's a day's drive from Nogales, Arizona, to Mazatlan - assuming you leave early in the morning. This includes the time needed to clear Customs at Kilometer 21. It's another six hours to Puerto Vallarta via Tepic.

The run from Nogales to Mazatlan can be completed during the daylight hours, and inexpensive accommodations can be found for around $15 at the many 'no tell motels' on the outskirts of town. These motels usually charge by the hour, with a 12-hour stay costing about $15. I usually stay at the Oasis in Mazatlan, which is around the corner from the Pemex station as you enter Mazatlan. It is clean, has a TV, soft bed, and good water pressure in the shower. If you want something nicer, you can follow the signs into Mazatlan's beach area, where you will pay from $50 on up for rooms that are no cleaner than the Oasis and will look exactly the same when your eyes are closed.

I would also like to dispel the rumor that it's unsafe to drive at night and that you should take the toll roads. Personally I like to drive at night, as there is less traffic and it's faster. I should say that I drive for a living, so I'm more aware of the problems of driving at night. These problems usually involve being around cities between midnight and 6 a.m. and other drivers who have been drinking. But I find it's less of a problem in Mexico than the United States.

Some people will tell you that driving at night increases the risk of hitting livestock, and there's some truth to that. However, most livestock sleep at night and I have a simple technique to avoid them. I follow close enough behind a big truck that is not overloaded and is making good time. That way, should some livestock wander out on the road, the truck, with its cattleguards on the front, will clear the animal from the road and my car won't be damaged. It's important to stay far enough behind the truck to be able to stop your car in time and to avoid rock chips into the windshield, but close enough so the cattle will not come between you and the truck. I've tried to follow buses, but they seem to go too fast for my comfort.

I usually avoid all the toll roads, as I've found that you don't gain that much time. The exception is when climbing the mountains to Tepic, in which case the toll is well worth it. But when driving from the border to Puerto Vallarta, the toll roads can add up to over $100, and even more if you're towing a trailer behind you. I feel this is a bit excessive, and the money can be better used for gas.

If I feel tired and need a break, I'll pull into any of the many Pemex stations and wait for the next truck. If necessary, I'll take a power nap, parking close to the station to avoid any problems. I lock the door, put my seat back, and catch a snooze.

Before I'd take a car to Mexico, I'd get a free brake inspection to make sure the pads are thick enough and there are no leaking cylinders. It's also important to have good tires, including the spare. You should carry a spare belt, antifreeze, an air filter, and have clear oil. You can find all these things in Mexico, but it can take longer than in a place familiar to you in the States.

Last spring I found that I could make it from the border to Puerto Vallarta for $125 - but back then gas was only $2 U.S. a gallon. I have a Dodge pickup that gets about 20 miles to the gallon if I keep it around 60 mph. All in all, it was a cheap way to get spares down to my boat and provided me with transportation while visiting the Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta areas. 

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46
Mazatlan, Mexico

Jerry - We trailered a boat down Baja many years ago, and like you, preferred driving at night. It seemed to us that the most dangerous time to drive was on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when allegedly a lot of the drivers had consumed a lot of beer. No matter what time of day or night, or what day of the week, we think it's critical to drive defensively in Mexico. After all, all those little roadside shrines aren't there for nothing.


I've been a reader of Latitude since 1979, and never miss a copy. But the one thing that I've missed lately are regular updates on the America's Cup happenings in Europe. My wife and I were in Auckland for the last Cup and hope to attend the next one. But I've seen more about the current Cup in the San Francisco Chronicle than in Latitude of late. Yeah, I know, I can go to the BMW Oracle and America's Cup Web sites for updates, but I'd really enjoy your insights - particularly on why people are getting bumped from the BMW Oracle crew.

Erik Blangsted

Erik - Our insight on the America's Cup is that currently there is very, very little of interest in this part of the world, despite the fact that one of the leading contenders is BMW Oracle, which is financed by a local sailor and flies the burgee of the Golden Gate YC. For example, we polled our four full-time editorial staff members, and none of them are currently rating the event as being more interesting than 1 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Why the indifference? First, even though things don't really rev up for a couple more years, everybody already knows who the top teams are going to be. Second, the boats aren't very exciting. We had bigger, faster and more exciting designs in the St. Francis Big Boat Series. Three, there are too many races that don't really count for much. Four, it's all taking place on the other side of the world. Five, there aren't enough local sailors taking part.

We can understand what Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison had in mind creating the Acts - does anybody really understand what an Act is and how it's scored? - in various venues in Europe, and apparently the concept has been very successful. But frankly, we don't imagine anyone from around here is going to get very worked up for another 12 to 18 months. Until then, you'll have to rely on the various other Web sites to keep you up to date.


I've read several editions of Latitude in recent months, and have found them to be totally inspiring - especially the most recent interview with William Peterson.

Years ago, as a college student, I had a small keelboat that wasn't big enough for offshore. But I recently sold my home, will be taking sailing lessons, and want to cruise. I'm wondering what kind of boat a reasonably-skilled sailor can sail way offshore on his own? I would like to buy a Bay boat to live aboard and for spending a year learning how to sail, then take off after shutting down my practice.

Ron Meister
San Francisco/Grass Valley, CA

Ron - It's hard to give boat buying advice without knowing how much money you want to spend. If you made a killing selling your house and in your practice, we'd suggest looking into 45-ft catamarans - but they would cost quite a bit of money. If you want to spend less, you can get a 32 to 44-ft monohull. You can find perfectly suitable ones from $25,000 on up. Just to get some ideas, see what kind of boats folks have sailed in the Singlehanded TransPacs. If you just want to be told what kind of boat to buy, we'd suggest a Cal 40.

Being able to singlehand a boat offshore isn't really a matter of boat size, as folks have singlehanded around the world in everything from 12-footers to 90-footers. The more important thing is that the boat be set up for shorthanded sailing. With most boats it just takes a few modifications and a good autopilot.

What can you expect if you take off cruising? It will be physically more demanding than you expect in the beginning, but as you get into better shape, you'll get used to it. And you'll no doubt have some scares and crises in confidence in the beginning, but those should pass with experience. In addition, you should meet scores of great people, have countless terrific adventures ashore and at sea, see your blood pressure plummet, and be able to live in a fine style at a fraction of what it costs in California. All in all, not a bad deal.


I have just finished reading one of last month's Letters in which some moron from Europe called our northern neighbors in Canada "honorary Americans." If this idiot knew anything at all, he would know that Canada is part of America. We, the United States of America, are also part of America - as is Mexico and all of the countries south.

All of us in this hemisphere are Americans.

I suppose getting angry over this stupid statement is an exercise in futility since even our newscasters talk as though America is a synonym for the United States of America.

Dan German
Bethel Island

Dan - Actually, there is no geographical place named America. Rather, there are the Americas, which consist of North America, Central America, and South America. Canadians are properly called North Americans.

America and Americans, by popular usage, are synonymous with the United States and citizens of the United States. For example, when Osama bin Laden said Muslims should kill all Americans, he didn't mean to include Eskimos, Bolivians, Cubans, Argentines, and so forth.


In response to an inquiry last month, the Farallon 29, designed by Chuck Burns, is indeed a great hell-for-stout little pocket cruising yacht. I built mine, which I christened Quark, from a hull and deck. Then in 1979, my wife Vickie and I circumnavigated the Pacific with her.

But that was just the beginning of Quark's ocean travels. I later sold the boat to Dave Symonds, who sailed her to New Zealand and back. He then sold her to another owner named Dave, who, it's my understanding, sailed her to Tahiti and back.

The last I knew, Quark had well over 50,000 miles beneath her keel. Vickie and I had a chance to visit her a couple of years ago in Sausalito where she was once again for sale. She still looked great. It was a dewy-eyed moment for the both of us as we sat in the salon, and she responded with her gentle rocking motion while making sweet gurgling sounds.

By the way, while I was going through the hells-and-damns of creating Quark, Ray Jason, who writes the Sea Gypsy Chronicles, used to stop by. I think that's one of the reasons that he decided to build Sea Gypsy, his Farallon 29.

By the way, Quark is depicted on the cover and featured in the text of Sailin' South, my new book.

Dave Case


Last year I bought a 'Kong' Bonoiti brand stainless anchor swivel at West Marine. They also have it in their catalog as a West Marine brand product.

I then received a magazine from a new subscription, and it included a letter from some sailors who had a stainless steel swivel fail. They didn't mention the brand - evidently that was included in a prior month's letter. But as a result, I was afraid to use my swivel.

My old galvanized swivel, with a working load of approximately 33% of the alleged rating on the Kong, is still on my boat, but I'm not going to replace it unless I know the new one is not the brand that has been failing. You edited out the brand name of the failed swivel in your letter from "an Unhappy Customer" in the September issue. It's obviously something other than Suncor, as you mentioned that name in your answer. Was the failed swivel the Kong Bonoiti brand?.

Doug Drake
Golden Hinde
San Francisco

Doug - We wish we could tell you, but we don't know. The woman sent us the photo of her failed swivel and said it was a Suncor - but it obviously wasn't. So we have no idea what brand it is.


I just got the August issue of Latitude and I'm suffering from sleep deprivation because I had to read the whole thing, taking me right past my bedtime. Good work.

The report on the loss of Canadian Jeff Berwick's Wildcat 35 Kat Atomic in El Salvador as a result of him showing a complete lack of common sense was very interesting. Berwick should have known the bar crossing would be tricky at night and that a big squall was coming.

But he's not alone in having done dumb things at that bar leading to the estuary to Bahia del Sol. While we were there, for example, one guy left all his hatches open, got swamped, and had a lot of his electronics short out. He later complained that nobody told him it might be rough! But still, Berwick takes the cake.

That was a cool "I survived crossing the bar" T-shirt photo that accompanied the article. Do you know who designed it?

Suzy Kendall & Jim Baker
Sparta, Searunner 31
Sea of Cortez / El Salvador

Suzy and Jim - We don't want to be too hard on Berwick, as he's only about the millionth skipper who took a risk in trying to make it into a safe harbor so he wouldn't have to spend another night at sea. Alas, he's one of many who lost his boat as a result of it. The important thing is that everybody learn from his mistake.

We have no idea who designed the T-shirt, but obviously they are for sale somewhere around Bahia del Sol.


I was the worst type of person to buy a cruising boat. After all, I'd never owned a boat big enough to have a wheel instead of a tiller. Engines worry me. Shopping bores me. Worse, there lurks in me a weakness - that I trust people - which terrifies my friends.

So, of course, when I bought a boat to sail in the Med, I paid too much for her. If only I'd looked a little harder. Or made a few minor repairs to other boats. Or waited a bit longer for the friend who knew a guy who knew a boat that might be great. But knowing what I do now, I can hold my head high in crowded island bars and admit that I did overpay.

If Latitude would like, I'll send an article in praise of spending too much for a boat. The bottom line of the argument is this: the search for a 'great deal' costs too much. Too much is time spent running around, too much time and money on 'minor repairs', and too much time off the water. In many cases, it costs less to pay more for a boat.

In the story, I'll recount the advice of experts, the ignoring of that advice, the signing of the broker, the being dumped by the broker, the blind impulse for a particular boat, the blind trust, and frankly, the blinders I wore. And how, being one lucky cluck, it paid off.

Here's the nutshell version. The stars aligned, and I was moving to Europe. Like many Latitude readers, one of my fantasies had been to sail the Med. Gee whiz, if I'm in Europe anyway, I'll get a boat. Should be easy. And it was.

It's not that I was completely clueless. I'd taught a couple of years at OCSC, and knew the pointy end of the boat went first. Sailing stuff aside, two strong criteria emerged. First, it was important that the boat could be ready to sail quickly and, thinking ahead, sell quickly. (I haven't been tempted to test the 'sell quickly' criteria. We'll see.)

In the article, I'll detail the pitfalls and pluses of my approach, and compare it to the approach of a friend who bought a 'great boat' for a 'great price' - and has been paying for it ever since. The Girlfriend Factor will be also examined, as well as the Sardinia Boat Part Follies, the Extraordinary Dutchman, the Perverted Italian General, the discovery that the falling dollar can be wonderful, and the gut-wrenching delivering of myself into the hands of strangers. And why it was all worth it.

I suppose that some of your more resourceful readers, after reading the article, will count out the many ways in which I was a fool. I'll happily agree with them. But for me, it was the only way this fantasy was ever going to happen.

Dave Woodside
Paloma, Hallberg Rassy 36
Long Beach

Dave - Of course we'd love to see your story. It sounds terrific. And if it does nothing but alert potential boatbuyers to the possible dangers of buying 'fixer uppers', it will have been well worth it.


In the September issue, Mike Chambreau of the Cal 34 Impetuous had some question about selective downloads for email. He didn't mention what email system or software he was using, but I'd like to at least put out a few words in general about getting email in places with slow connections. If you are checking your email from your own computer or laptop, you have the greatest control over how to utilize the network between yourself and wherever the email server is located.

There are primarily two ways of accessing your mail. When configuring your mail program, you've probably seen these options in passing. The older standard is called POP3. It was intended as a way for people to POP all the mail off of the server and download it to their computer en masse, but it's the least efficient. Some mail programs let you limit the automatic download to messages of a certain size, but that wouldn't help Mike out with his problem.

There is another standard called IMAP. This was designed to, among other things, address Mike's concerns as it's a far more intelligent email protocol. It will fetch all of the new message headers first, so the recipient can utilize that first minute of Internet access to gather all of the subject lines for new mail. At that point, when you select a certain message, your email program will go out and fetch just that message, leaving the other 20 on the server.

Having taken care of Mike's issue, let me expand a little bit more on IMAP. A lot of us create folders to organize our email. IMAP lets us do this on the server, not just on our particular laptop while cruising or at our desktop at home. With IMAP, you also leave your mail on the server. If you delete a particular message, it will be deleted in both places, but other than that, the folders and emails that you see are a reflection of what's on the server. This is especially handy when using technology in environments that eat up hard drives and electronics. Simply grab another laptop, configure your IMAP settings, and voila! All of your folders and mail appear.

For cruisers who want to take advantage of the additional time their land-based counterparts may have on hand, there are even more advantages to IMAP. While you are cruising, your husband can be checking email and organizing it into folders for you. Then, when you log in, since all of this folder stuff happens on the server, the changes your husband made are immediately reflected, and you can quickly jump to the folder marked 'important', and then make your way to other mail. And remember that even with all of this, it still initially only downloads the subject lines of the mails. It's a real timesaver.

Joerg Bashir
San Francisco


I'd like to thank the broader San Francisco Bay sailing community for all their help in preparing our Cal 40 Far Far for the recent Los Angeles to Honolulu TransPac. I'd also like to thank Latitude for running the great color photo Geri Conser took of our boat as she crossed the finish line off Diamond Head. It was a very exciting moment for us and the culmination of three years of planning and hard work.

Three years ago my son Steve - who was at the helm when the photo was taken - and I decided to mount a TransPac effort for the 2005 event. For almost a year we searched up and down the West Coast for an affordable boat that was essentially ready-to-go - before stumbling onto an article about the Cal 40 revival featuring Wendy Siegel's Willow Wind and Stan and Sally Honey's Illusion.

My wife Ginny and I flew on down to Long Beach, where we met Wendy, talked TransPac, and met other Cal 40 owners. We came to see that the Cal 40 - tough, affordable, and fun - was the boat that best fit our needs. From then on, the search was on in earnest for a suitable Cal 40. It was Wendy who, shortly before the start of the 2003 TransPac in which the boat was entered, pointed us toward hull #17. This Cal 40 was owned by Andy Opple of Sun Valley, and we bought it from him almost literally as she hit the dock, after he sailed back solo to Nelson's Marine in Alameda.

It's through this process that we also met Allison Lehman, then a yacht broker for Nelson's and now for McGrath Pacific in Sausalito. Although Allison made almost nothing on our transaction, she adopted us and became our muse and project director - the boss, if you will, for the next two years in the run-up to the '05 TransPac.

We needed some help because we'd been absent from the racing scene for almost 15 years, when we raced a J/24. We knew almost nothing of what was ahead of us. Allison introduced us to the Northern California Cal 40 community and to all the suppliers and service people. They were all fantastic. Among those who helped us out were Bill Colombo of Doyle Sails, Glenn Hansen of Hansen Rigging, Buzz Ballenger of Ballenger Spars, Billy Maritado of Maritime Electronics, Anders Johansson of Swedish Marine, Art Puete and Georgie of Nelson's Marine, Tom and Debbie of Cover Craft Canvas, Hal McCormick of NorCal Compass, Dick Horn of US Sailing, and Bob Hennessey, Chris, Ginger and Debbie of KKMI for their guidance, fairness and thoroughness. I also want to thank Scott Easom of Easom Rigging for extending a helping hand during the last few days before our departure from Brickyard Cove to Long Beach. Even though we had engaged Hansen Rigging for the project - and they did a great job - Scott generously came forward at crunch time. Very classy.

Our crew of five was set from early on, and we all spent a great deal of time working on the boat and trying to become a cohesive team. Unfortunately, just a couple of months before the start, we lost two of our friends for the race, Dennis Colvin of Placerville and Maury Hull of Winters, to scheduling and injury problems. We put out the word that we needed to add two new crewmembers. We met many great sailors, and eventually connected with two who joined us at the last minute - and became great contributors to our campaign. Not surprisingly, one was referred to us by Cal 40 superstar Sally Lindsay Honey who, along with husband Stan, had given us many helpful hints and advice throughout our two-year project. We are particularly indebted to our new crew Mark English and Paul Kamen. They improved our program a bunch - a big bunch! And they were both such a pleasure to have along with us. It was easy to take their suggestions and direction before and during the race, and we were all still talking and laughing together in Honolulu.

This was an incredibly successful campaign for us. It exceeded our expectations in every way. Steve and I are very grateful to Allison Lehman, Mark English, Paul Kamen, the other Cal 40 owners and everyone who contributed their experience and support! Cal 40s really are quite wonderful boats. Good Sailing,

Don & Steve Grind

Readers - Far Far finished 5th out of 14 Cal 40s, proving that you don't have to win, place, or even show to have a great time racing to Hawaii.


We had a great time at the Baja Ha-Ha Preview at Catalina. However, we got so caught up talking with people that we forgot to ask about the Globalstar satphone during the Q&A. We have one of those phones and would like to get a car kit for a permanent installation. But we're hesitating to spend the extra $850 before confirming some rumors.

We haven't found anyone with direct experience, but have heard stories like, "Everyone we met in Mexico with a Globalstar phone would like to give it away because they can't make it work," and, "Years ago we couldn't get customers hooked up with data because the Mexican landline portion of the link didn't work well enough."

Don't you guys have a Globalstar phone? Are you getting satisfactory data - weather and email - north of Acapulco?

Also, we've gotten great reports on Verizon North America Choice for cell phones, which at $60/mo. gives 450 min/mo with no roaming charge for Canada, the United States and Mexico. There is said to be good dial-up email performance in Turtle Bay, Mag Bay, and all the villages in the Sea of Cortez.

Dudley King
Stormy Weather, Hatteras 48 LRC

Dudley - We've used a Globalstar satphone in Mexico for many years, and would give it mixed reviews. North of Acapulco, about 80% of our calls went through and weren't dropped. When the calls did go through, the audio quality was fantastic. We never used the phone enough to justify the car kit for permanent installation. We have used it for short text email messages, but it's way too slow and expensive for sending photos.

There are three things we don't like about Globalstar. First, they assess a roaming charge in Mexico that makes the calls more expensive than on an Iridium satphone, which, in any event, covers the entire globe and has a higher data rate. Second, Globalstar's 'bent pipe' technology means the system won't work much more than 250 miles offshore. Finally, Globalstar's claimed coverage area is rubbish. None of our scores of calls worked south of Acapulco and across to the Eastern Caribbean - even though their coverage map indicated they should have.

There are other changes in communication choices in Mexico that would further make us disinclined to invest a lot of money in a Globalstar phone - at least at the current prices and rates. As you noted, Verizon and others have cell phone plans that allow you to call back to the States and/or get Internet dial-up at very reasonable rates with your cell phone. We know the coverage is good in cities and lots of villages. However, there would still be lots of anchorages and offshore areas where you would be out of touch.

In addition, high speed wireless Internet access is now available at most marinas and even some anchorages. We intend to get it set up at Punta Mita, and Rick, of Rick's Bar in Zihua, says he'll be providing such a service in Zihua Bay. We're sure it's going to happen in other places, too.

As such, it seems to us that there are fewer and fewer places in Mexico where a Globalstar Satphone would be either the only or the best way to fulfill your communications needs. But you can decide if there are enough to justify the expense.


I noted all the positive things said about biodiesel in last month's Letters. But I want to add that, on the negative side, biodiesel can increase the NOx emissions, which leads to smog and global warming, more than regular diesel. Depending on how much biodiesel is used and the age of the engine, the difference can be over 30%.

When the Blue & Gold fleet did studies a couple of years ago with a ferry, the NOx increased 24% with 100% biodiesel and 11% with 20% biodiesel. There are numerous studies to determine what additional additives to add to prevent this, and at least make biodiesel neutral when compared to regular diesel.

Jim Haussener
Beautiful T-K


I read your response to the fellow who wondered if it was environmentally all right for him to buy a trawler. Your answer was excellent, and I couldn't agree more. You also mentioned that your next car will be one of those 49 mpg Volkswagen diesels. Well, I've had a VW TDI since 2001, and just love the car! It's not an old-style diesel, so it has good power, doesn't pollute, and gets 10k between oil changes. Best of all, I only have to fuel up every 550 miles.

Jay Gardner
Cross 42 Trimaran

Jay - We've noticed that with fuel prices higher - diesel was selling for over $4/gallon in Catalina last month - people are behaving differently. The guys in big powerboats, for example, weren't roaring around like they used to and hauling ass back and forth between the island and the mainland. They were not only talking in the bar about the hundreds of dollars it cost them for a round trip, but they were doing something about it - throttling back to be 25% or more fuel efficient.


Having owned my own marine business for many years, then worked for another marine business for several years, on January 1 I started another business of my own, Seaportal Ltd. It all started last November when I sold a drop dead gorgeous Swan 77 to a pair of Polish-American businessmen. As part of the deal, I helped manage the boat, getting her flagged in Bermuda and hiring a South African captain and cook as permanent crew.

The goal was to get the boat out of Newport, Rhode Island, by December 15 and sail to the warm waters of the Caribbean. However, the South African captain had other ideas and inconveniently resigned the night before the boat was supposed to head out! Feeling a bit guilty, I agreed to take the boat south in January myself, confident that a Swan 77 is about as good a boat as there is.

When I arrived to take the boat south, she was under a foot of snow. Well, it was January in Rhode Island. But since the boat had been built in Finland, I figured shoveling snow off her deck before putting to sea was standard procedure for a Swan. But I have to admit, it really was cold. In fact, the Swan was the only boat at Little Harbor Boat Yard. Everybody with any sense had left long before.

As for the voyage to the Caribbean, it was great. Even at that time of year the Gulfstream was warm, the boat performed beautifully, and sailing into Soper's Hole at the west end of Tortola in the British Virgins was a treat.

While in the Caribbean, I hired a new captain and cook, again South Africans, to look after the boat and sail her across the Atlantic to the Med in the spring. Oddly enough, right before the scheduled crossing, they resigned! What is it with these South Africans? An urgent phone call from the owners in Poland convinced me to pack my seabag again, and a few days later I was in Tortola meeting my new crew. I had arranged for two Poms, an Irishman, a Kiwi, and a Polish student - all eager and ready to go.

Once again, I had a great trip. The Swan, although very heavy, sailed like a dream. It helped that she has a custom hydraulic roller furling main with a captive main halyard. The system worked so well that I could reef the main by myself via remote without leaving the cockpit.

Once back in San Francisco, I got a call from another distressed fellow, the owner of a new Swan 62 in Tahiti. Before I knew it, I was on a plane to the South Pacific. There was no snow down there, thank goodness, just sunshine, warm water, and gorgeous hula girls. We had beautiful sailing around Moorea while the crew and I worked out a few procedures to make the boat run more smoothly. All in a day's work.

Patrick Adams
Mill Valley

Patrick - Your tales of flaky captains are chilling reminders of the years we owned the Ocean 71 Big O in the Caribbean. Repeatedly, we'd find a captain we liked, come to an agreement on terms and a plan. But more often than not, the arrangement would fall apart in a matter of months, usually when there was some work to be done. The excuses were legion: a missed girlfriend, not liking the humidity of the Caribbean, deciding to take up mountain climbing, finding out they didn't like other people on 'their' boat, taking a better offer on a bigger boat, etc, etc.

As if that weren't bad enough, many of them weren't punctual about reporting their change in plans. One captain called us 12 hours before the start of a charter to say he no longer wanted to be a captain and was abandoning the boat that very moment. Another guy - who was actually more a boat-sitter than a captain - called us from 100 miles east of Antigua. "I just wanted to let you know I've joined the crew of another boat sailing to England," he said.

"Well, what about our boat which a month ago you insisted that you really, really wanted to be in charge of watching for the summer in Falmouth Harbor?" we inquired.

"She's still there."

"Anybody watching her?"

"Oh, you have nothing to worry about. I got a mate of mine to take my place. He'll do a really good job for you, and has promised to stay through the summer."

"What's his name?"

"Oh, ah, it's slipping my mind right now."

"What about the money in the safe?"

"There's not much left, actually. A lot of it went to Midwatch Maintenance, and I decided that you'd surely want to give me a bonus."

"What is Midwatch Maintenance?"

"That's a boat maintenance company I set up to make money in my spare time. I decided I needed them to wash down the boat and stuff."

As you might expect, about a week later his mate took off also, having not realized - despite being told over and over - that Antigua becomes a very quiet place once the season is over.

Dealing with unreliable captains made us decide that we'd never again own a boat that required a captain and crew. We wish you better luck in finding reliable people to fill those positions on boats you manage. There certainly are good and qualified ones out there, but given the boom in mega boats in recent years, we're not sure how many are available.


We own a Chris White 54 catamaran, which was repowered from Volvos - a whole different story - to Yanmar 4JH3s with SD40 Saildrives in 2001 and 2002. The 2002 Saildrive's cone clutch failed after 500 hours and the 2001 Saildrive's cone clutch did the same after 700 hours. I am aware of numerous other SD40s with the same problem. The fact that Yanmar has now introduced the SD50 speaks to the design problem.

Yanmar stonewalled us, but eventually paid for the failure of the first saildrive. "Negotiations" are underway for #2.

Obviously, we hope nobody else has a similar saildrive problem, but if they have or do, I'd like to hear about it because there is strength in numbers when it comes to negotiating. It's my understanding Latitude has had some problems with the saildrives on Profligate.

By the way, after the first failure, we learned that the saildrive does not care if it is in reverse or forward. So when we couldn't get the transmission into forward, we replaced our Martec folding props with an opposite handed set of blades, and using these, were able to 'get home' from Mexico.

Tom Purcell
Planet Earth

Tom - For the record, over the course of about 5,000 hours, we've had two SD31 Saildrives fail - although one failure didn't have anything to do with the clutch cone. In December of '03, we replaced the SD31s with SD40s - only to later learn Yamaha also made more robust 50s. We'd have rather put those in, although we've yet to have problems with our 40s.

Thanks for the tip about the saildrives running in reverse as well as forward - but what were you doing carrying some opposite handed props?

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

Subscriptions / Classifieds / 'Lectronic Latitude / Home

© 2005 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.