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WHAT'S THE DEAL IN AQUATIC PARK?
I have long - meaning the three years that I've been sailing here - been under the impression that motoring inside Aquatic Park in San Francisco is strictly forbidden. One may sail in and anchor, but in order to protect the swimmers for whom the cove is reserved, using an engine is prohibited.
I've anchored in Aquatic three times this summer, and each time boats have motored right in. On more than one occasion, they nearly mowed down a swimmer or two, in flagrant disregard for the rules.
I saw the worst incident this past Sunday, when two Catalina designs motored right in, proceeded to rev their engines to high rpms in both forward and reverse - apparently because they were having trouble maneuvering into a good position to anchor. Seizing the moral high ground, I yelled at them as forcefully as I could, but they ignored me. As we weighed anchored and sailed out of Aquatic Park, they screamed a surprisingly long and varied string of obscenities at us.
So I have several questions, some of them admittedly rhetorical. First, is it true that motoring isn't allowed in Aquatic Park? Second, if so, who, if anyone, enforces the rule? Third, is the park patrolled at all? And finally, wouldn't these particular sailors be happier in smoke-belching, heavy-metal blaring, floating lounges rather than the sailboats they bought?
John - According to Bill Doll, former Harbormaster and current Curator of Small Boats at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, you were in error yelling at the other skippers. As the National Park folks interpret the sign, only motorized vessels are prohibited. Since rowing and sailing vessels are capable of other means of propulsion, they are permitted - even sailboats with their engines on. In fact, Doll says it's prudent for sailors to use their motors in the cove because the strong winds and currents make for difficult maneuvering under sail alone. We have to admit, it seems like a little bit of a tortured interpretation to us, but we'll go with it. For one thing, it's easier for a swimmer to hear a sailboat with her motor on than when she's just sailing.
While it's true that people swim everywhere in Aquatic Park, even directly across the entrance, Doll says there has never been an incident between a sailboat and a swimmer - although there have been between powerboats and swimmers. Aquatic Park is apparently a popular place for sailboats to anchor for lunch. There are no moorings, but the park is hoping they might get some in a year or two. All but powerboats are permitted to anchor for 24 hours. If a longer stay is required, a request may be made to Harbormaster John Muir - he's a distant relation of you-know-who - at (415) 859-6786. Aquatic Park is not patrolled on a regular basis.
We have tremendous respect for the Bay
swimmers, so we encourage anyone who takes their boat into Aquatic
Park to be extremely careful. If you see a swimmer, please give
him/her plenty of room, for that kind of swimming is as much
a meditation as it is exercise, and you don't want to ruin it
Latitude rocks! And I have been reading it for 25 years. This is the first time I've written in, however. My question is, when anchored at Aquatic Park on the San Francisco waterfront in front of Ghirardelli Square, where in the heck is the most appropriate place to take your dinghy and go ashore? We went ashore a few times, but never without being told we weren't supposed to be there. It seems like such a wonderful place to go ashore and have a drink or dinner. Am I missing something?
Renee - It's a real problem. The aforementioned
Bill Doll says there is no place to securely leave your dinghy
when going ashore for dinner. You're perfectly welcome to pull
your dinghy up on the sand, but you won't be permitted to chain
it to any of the lightposts. We're not sure why, but they've
stopped mariners who have tried it. During the day, you can leave
your dinghy at the junction of the Hyde Street Pier and the sandy
beach - but only until 5 p.m. After that, there's no access.
So that's not much help if you want to go out for dinner.
You said that you'd love to get reports from veteran cruisers on how much it costs them to cruise in Mexico. So I'm adding my two cents' worth - although my costs will probably establish a baseline.
I cruised Mexico for one year, then spent about another 10 years cruising through Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Micronesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. This was from 1984 to 1995. While in Mexico, and during the five years I spent crossing the Pacific, I averaged spending one dollar a day - this included maintaining my boat - the 26-ft cat Peregrine that I'd built - and all the various fees. I frequently had less than $100 to my name while cruising.
After reaching the Philippines, I flew back to California and worked as a substitute teacher for six months. Thanks to my newly earned wealth, I was able to cruise extravagantly in Southeast Asia for five more years. By 'extravagant', I mean that I never cooked my own meals, drank too much, and so forth. During this five-year period, I lived on $3/day, everything included.
In my opinion, having too much money can actually be an obstacle to cruising enjoyment. When I went cruising on a very small budget, the once gray life I'd been living in California became more colorful and vivid than I ever could have imagined.
I'm just finishing construction of a new boat, a replica of an ancient Polynesian catamaran, and will start cruising again in Mexico this year.
Readers - Glenn is further proof that the biggest impediment to going cruising is not so much money as desire. Of course, the younger a person is, the easier it is for them to cruise on a small boat and small budget.
In the December
issue we'll be publishing an article by Tieman about his
unusual cruise. By the way, he spent just $14,000 on materials
for his new 38-ft cat, which he's set to launch and take off
cruising on in the near future.
I want to thank you for your informative and encouraging information in response to my letter asking how much it really costs - boat parts and maintenance not included - to cruise Mexico. We greatly appreciate the extensive information and we've had lots of fun showing the responses to all of our friends. And we were delighted to see the follow-up responses from other experienced cruisers.
However, I doubt if we could really live in Mexico on $3/day - unless the country has free happy hours!
Gary - For readers who might have missed
the larger discussion, we at Latitude
think the typical cruising couple in Mexico spends between $1,000
and $2,000/month, which affords them a very pleasant life with
lots of meals out and other pleasantries. As always, marina slips
and lots of drinks and meals in tourist bars and restaurants
can bust any cruising budget.
I've just received a response from Senator Diane Feinstein to my letter opposing U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's (Rep.- PA) National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005, which would basically privatize weather information, the data for which has already been paid for by taxpayers. Her response was noncommittal. She said that she understood my concerns, but didn't say she was opposed to the legislation. That wasn't at all satisfying to me. The only useful information I got is that Senator Feinstein is not on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee currently considering the bill, but that she will "keep [my] comments in mind" should the bill reach the Senate floor.
Jeff - For what it's worth, the proposed legislation didn't just come out of nowhere, but was in response to the National Weather Service last year repealing its policy against competing with private weather forecasters. According to Santorum, the NWS expanded into areas already served by the commercial weather industry, 14 companies of which are - surprise, surprise, - based in his state of Pennsylvania.
Generally speaking, the government tries not to compete with private business. And even in the marine realm, there has been a precedent of the government getting out of competition with private enterprise. If you're old enough, you'll remember that the Coast Guard used to provide mariners with AAA-type 'boatside assistance' for when mariners ran out of gas, had a dead battery, and so forth. But then private tow companies argued that it was unfair for government to interfere with their providing those services on a for-profit basis. After a brief uproar, the Coast Guard indeed stopped providing that kind of assistance, and the gap was filled by various local and national 'tow boat' organizations. It actually seems to have worked out quite well.
There are clearly cases, though, when the U.S. government has competed, and continues to compete with, private enterprise. For example, the U.S. Post Office is in direct competition with FedEx and other companies for the express mail market.
However, there is a fundamental difference between the Coast Guard getting out of the boatside assistance business and the NWS being asked not to compete with private weather services. The difference is that we taxpayers have already paid for all the expensive stuff, which is collecting and analyzing the data. The private weather companies just want to avail themselves of the taxpayer-provided information, slap their brand on it, and try to market it back to us. It would be analogous to the tow boat companies saying they wanted to be given the Coast Guard vessels and personnel, and all the funding necessary to operate that service under their brand. That obviously would have been ridiculous - which is why we believe that Santorum's proposed bill is also ridiculous, and when and if there's a vote on it, reasonable legislators like Sen. Feinstein will vote it down.
Then again, we wonder if this isn't all a tempest in a teapot. For even if the NWS couldn't compete with private weather products, we think there would be such tremendous competition that it would be offered free all over the Internet. Even right now tremendous weather products are easily available free. For example, in less than a minute we went to www.buoyweather.com, where we learned that at Cape Horn it was blowing 35 to 40 knots with 15 to 23 foot seas at 9 second intervals. It cost us nothing. And if we wanted to pay $29/year, we could get seven-day forecasts for any lat-long position on earth.
So while we're against Santorum's legislation
in principle, and will encourage everyone to fight it, we're
not going to lose any sleep over it. By the way, check out the
free part of www.buoyweather.com
- it's terrific fun and extremely informative.
For the October 14 to 16 weekend, my wife and I decided we'd like to take our boat from Corona del Mar to Avalon. We'd been to that part of Catalina many times, and were very much looking forward to another weekend at our local paradise. As always, I checked the weather, and noticed that there was a 20% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. The forecast didn't cause me too much concern, as the winds were predicted to be light. Since both my wife and I are experienced sailors, we had no qualms about the trip and arrived at Avalon early on Friday.
It was a lovely weekend - until about 5 a.m. on Sunday, when I was awakened by the dreaded sound of strong northeast winds whistling through the rigging. Those familiar with Avalon know that these winds and the seas they create pour right into the normally sheltered anchorage, and have a long history of creating extensive damage.
We were on mooring #187 and pitching heavily in the swell. To make a long story shorter, that morning turned out to be a dreaded experience - and arguably the most stressful of my life with boats. The swells were four to six feet, close together, and accompanied by winds in the low 20s. All the boats in the harbor were hobby-horsing violently.
I tuned in to VHF 12 to hear the Avalon Harbor Department dispatcher calmly, patiently and professionally handle the dozens of calls from frightened mariners. There were lots of problems, as boats were tearing loose from their moorings, tenders were drifting up on rocky shorelines, and waves crashed against the seawall next to Armstrong's restaurant, exploding two stories into the air. In addition, boats were banging into each other and equipment was being lost overboard.
Even though it was early in the morning, several Harbor Patrol boats responded to the panicked boatowners. I watched in disbelief as some of them braved the dangerous conditions to jump onto the floating dinghy docks that had torn loose from in front of the Tuna Club. I saw a female patrol officer expertly get on to one of these floating docks and help her partner, who was in his boat, tow it away. I also watched as two other harbor patrol boats corralled a powerboat that had broken loose from her mooring. They then guided the boat, much to the relief of the distraught owner, out to open water so she could return to Dana Point. All this was happening in what I estimate were six-foot seas inside Avalon Harbor. It was a nightmare.
When there seemed to be a break in the weather at 1 p.m., my wife and I decided to make a dash for open water. I called and asked for assistance in getting our sailboat off her mooring, as I was concerned that the quartering swell would push me into a neighboring powerboat. The officer arrived and expertly and cheerfully led us into an area where I could safely motor out to open water.
I wanted to use Latitude as a forum to recognize the heroic efforts of all the Avalon Harbor Department officers on that Sunday.
John - Avalon Harbor officials concede that October 16 was indeed a nasty day in the harbor, and that the mooring you were on was in one of the hardest hit areas. They also noted that this weather and bad swell direction had not been forecast, and therefore had caught them by surprise. But as you note, they responded quickly and skillfully.
From now through March is the most active time of year for the northeasterly Santa Ana winds that are such a threat to Avalon and the rest of the face of Catalina. Some years there aren't very many Santa Anas and/or they are weak, but other years there are lots of them and they're strong. Last year was a pretty bad one for Santa Anas, and quite a few boats and tenders were lost on the shore in Avalon Harbor and along the face of the island. The most dramatic loss occurred when the backwash of a wave poured into the cockpit of a 60-ft sportfishing boat at a mooring in Avalon Harbor. She sank at the spot almost immediately.
We have a lot of admiration for the
skill and attitude of folks of the Avalon Harbor Department,
as they demonstrate that a government-operated - in this case
the City of Avalon - marine facility can be superbly run. In
fact, it wouldn't hurt for a couple of state legislators from
Hawaii to fly over and see what a well-run marine facility looks
like - and maybe poach some of the Avalon staff to replace the
current folks overseeing the unintentional destruction of the
Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
Catalina doesn't get electrical storms in the summer - at least that's what I thought until the early morning hours of September 20, when we were aboard our Baba 30 Always Lucky at the A-7 mooring at Emerald Bay, just west of Two Harbors.
The evening before, my wife Linda and I had been sipping cocktails in the cockpit, enjoying the sight of lightning flashes in the distant clouds. The storm appeared to be many miles to the southeast and of no threat to us. So we retired, with our two cats, to the V-berth and didn't give the weather another thought.
My sleep was interrupted at 3 a.m. by loud thunder and a heavy downpour. The flash of nearby lightning shook me into the realization that we were in real danger. Coming up into the cockpit, I saw the flashes just beyond Indian Rock, about a mile away. It was frightening.
With our aluminum mast sticking up some 40 feet above the water, by far the highest object in the vicinity, we were a prominent lightning rod. Having read accounts of how lightning had devastated other sailboats, I felt very vulnerable indeed. Since electrical storms are so rare in Southern California at this time of year, I hadn't made any provisions to protect the boat from lightning strikes.
We immediately did what we could to get ready for the worst. First, I grounded the backstay to the paddle on our Monitor windvane - using an aluminum boat pole to connect the two. Then I dropped the vane paddle into the water. Our rigging was also grounded via the bobstay to a tang that is just under the waterline on the bow. None of this is ideal, but it was the best I could think of.
I then disconnected the built-in VHF radio and the radar, and got the handheld VHF radio ready in case we needed it. We turned off the propane at the tank, got out PFDs and headlamps, took a fire extinguisher into the cockpit, and made sure we each knew where the other two extinguishers were. We also opened the hatch over the salon in case we had to exit there because of fire near the companionway.
If we were struck, we each planned to grab a cat, get into our fiberglass dinghy, and row to the 100-yard distant shore. We had knives ready to cut the lines in case we didn't have time to untie the dinghy. As a last resort, we knew we could just jump into the water and swim to the beach.
I gave some thought to our getting off the boat immediately. However, I didn't relish the thought of being the highest thing in the water as we rowed to shore. It would have left us very exposed. That, combined with the fact that it was raining - we would be wet and miserable on shore - persuaded me to stay on board and hope we didn't get hit and/or that the jury-rigged grounding would protect us if we were. I later learned that the sole occupant of another sailboat had left his boat in the middle of the night to take refuge in the Boy Scout Camp at Emerald Bay.
Linda managed to fall back asleep, but I remained awake until dawn. Looking out of the portholes, I repeatedly saw the sky light up bright white, heard the thunder and the rain, and waited anxiously. Several times things seemed to quiet down for a while, only to soon come crashing down again in another angry outburst. Each time I dreaded that something terrible would happen to the boat or us. Finally, as the sky lightened in the east, the lightning subsided. Relieved but tired, I fell into an uneasy sleep.
Although the forecast called for continued scattered thunderstorms in the area, the sight of the sky around us clearing up was most welcome. We left mid-afternoon, had a pleasant passage under cloudy skies, and arrived safely at Marina del Rey shortly after dark.
Always Lucky was lucky that night - and so were we.
Harris - Lightning is scary as hell to us Californians, in part because it's nasty stuff, but also because we're not used to it, unless we cruise to places like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, where wicked lightning storms are an almost daily event during the wet season. They are also common on the East Coast of the United States. In fact, our friend Morgan Wells got hit by a bolt while taking some folks around the Chesapeake. He lived.
We're not lightning dissipation experts,
but it's our understanding that lightning wants to get right
to the water in the shortest path possible. As such, we like
attaching big battery cables from the base of the shrouds to
the water - and then staying away from all metal. Your V-berth
was probably the safest place you could have been.
I just wanted to let you know how much my husband and I enjoyed reading the banter in recent issues about sailboat names - and to thank you. He's been wanting to christen our boat Blow Me, but I think the idea has finally blown over.
Debbie - We're not prudes, but for both
your sakes, we hope your husband's original choice for a boat
name is indeed history. If he's really stumped, we suggest the
Debbie M, which has a nice ring
to it. But asking your spouse to name a boat after you doesn't
always work. Melanie Craft, Larry Ellison's wife, told reporters
that she suggested Larry name his new 450-ft motoryacht after
her. It was a non-starter. "He shot that idea down right
away," she said.
With regard to the subject of boat names and good taste, I hope you can stand one more. As a lad back in the mid-'60s, I recall that Skip Allan - who went on to an illustrious career as a helmsman, shorthanded sailor, and cruiser - used to race a yellow 505 he'd christened Lemon Douche. They wouldn't let him race in the Mid-Winters at the staid Los Angeles YC unless he put duct tape over the name. I thought it was funny then, and I still do today. I think any 505 sailor would agree. Bottoms up!
There's a sailboat in Santa Barbara Harbor's Marina 2 owned by a witty linguistics instructor at UC Santa Barbara. Of course, the name on the transom had to be Cunning Linguist. While most people got quite a chuckle over the name, there were a few who thought it was in, uhhh, poor taste.
There's another boat named Pisagna, a word one won't find in any Italian dictionary. It was quite entertaining to be monitoring the VHF and hearing the vessel hailing another station, e.g., "Coast Guard Group Channel Islands, Pisagna . . . Channel 16."
Juan Richard Posa
Over the summer we made a trip to Monterey with a few other boats from the Oakland YC. While motoring home in a light wind, our motor faltered and died about four hours north of Santa Cruz. After several attempts to restart the engine, I raised sail and headed back towards Santa Cruz, hoping to be able to find someone there to look at our engine. Sailing companions on another boat were from Santa Cruz, and suggested that I look up 'Tony', a mechanic working out of his dinghy at the harbor. They didn't know his last name or have a phone number, but assured us that "everyone knows Tony."
After sailing for about 30 minutes, I tried the motor again, and it ran well the rest of the way to Santa Cruz. Several times I was tempted to turn north and continue the trip back home, but decided not to risk the engine stopping again. On approaching the harbor, I called ahead for docking instructions and to get Tony's number. I was assigned a slip, but nobody in the harbor office knew who Tony was. However, as we motored into the harbor, a dinghy pulled alongside, and a guy with a friendly face said, "Hi, I'm Tony." He helped us dock our boat.
We told him we wanted him to check out our engine so we'd feel confident heading north the next day. He checked our engine, and ended up replacing fuel filters, as well as tightening and bleeding fuel lines. He also went though the whole process with me, making sure that I'd know how to do it, too. He was done in less than an hour, and only billed us his minimum service charge. In addition, he called us when we got home to make sure we didn't have any further problems.
We're sure glad we found him - or more accurately, he found us. His full name is Tony Munda, he monitors 16 and 9, but can also be reached at (831) 419-8112.
My wife and I are active coastal cruisers. We've spent three years in Mexico, and a year in Costa Rica and Panama. We cruise with a powerboat but - don't tell anyone - we'd seriously consider a sailing cat if we could afford one. We're also avid readers of Latitude.
I read your item about 'shallow water blackouts', which can happen when free-diving, a sport that is becoming more popular with cruisers. I'm an avid free-diver and a member of the Long Beach Neptunes, which is a group of free-divers who spear fish while breath-hold diving. We shun the use of scuba while hunting.
I've lost three friends to this insidious condition which you correctly referred to as 'shallow water blackout'. As you pointed out, it is a serious consideration for dedicated free-divers. It generally - and I would like to stress the word generally - affects accomplished free-divers who are fairly new to the sport, in good physical condition, and who have a strong competitive nature.
However, the real culprit in SWB may very well be the act of hyperventilating just prior to the dive. As most of us know, hyperventilating will extend the length of a breath-hold dive. If one can stay down longer, it's logical to conclude that one may also be diving deeper. Length of dive and depth of dive affect the onset of SWB.
A breath-hold diver's desire to breathe while underwater is not triggered by a lack of oxygen, as might be expected. The urge to take a breath is caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide. Hyperventilating does not cause your body to take on more oxygen, but rather lowers the amount of carbon dioxide that is normally present in your lungs. By lowering the level of this gas in your system, you effectively postpone your desire to breathe. While postponing the desire to breathe, your body runs out of oxygen, you pass out underwater and drown. Unfortunately, there are no warning signs for the onset of this syndrome - nothing tells your body it's time to breathe. Some even suggest that it could be a pleasant way to die as there is no gasping for a breath of air.
When I first started free-diving, I would hyperventilate - 20 to 25 exhalations. It worked, as I could dive longer and deeper after excessive hyperventilating. Dives to 60 and 70 feet were possible, though difficult. I knew there was some risk involved, but all the good divers did it. As I got older and less inclined to take risks - maybe that's part of getting older - I realized how foolish it was to hyperventilate excessively. I now make three shallow exhalations prior to a dive. I don't dive as deep or stay down as long, but my comfort level with the sport is much greater. It's probably smarter to avoid hyperventilating completely, but a little risk in life is an acceptable trade off if it allows me to enjoy a sport that I'm passionate about.
Your advice about diving with a buddy is certainly prudent. The only diver I know of who survived SWB did so because of his alert diving companion. However, free-divers, especially those who spear fish, tend to go their separate ways, even when diving with a buddy. The only way buddy diving will work is if your buddy stays on the surface and does nothing but watch the descending diver. This practice will only work if the water visibility is greater than the depth to which you are diving. Unfortunately, spearfishing is a macho sport. The guys and gals - there are a few very accomplished gals who shoot fish - are reluctant to ask their diving companion to stand guard while they hunt.
My humble advice for cruisers who free-dive is to avoid excessive and deep hyperventilating. And, if you feel safer diving with a companion, understand that the surface safety-diver, your buddy, must keep you in visual contact during the entire dive.
Here's the good news: Casual snorkelers, such as most cruisers, generally have nothing to fear from SWB.
Keep up the good work, you do a great service to the cruising community - even us powerboaters!
Tom - Thanks for sharing your expertise.
As for sailing cats, it's a shame they
are so expensive, because we truly believe that they make better
powerboats - more spacious, stable, economical, and fun - than
'real' powerboats. And when the conditions are right, they are
so fun and easy to sail.
Here's my problem. I'm an avid sailor, I have years of experience, have owned four different boats, and own a tried and true, well-found boat at present. But I have no crew! I've taught quite a few people how to sail, some at their request and some by invitation, but all have either moved, retired, changed hobbies or died. I berthed my boat at Sierra Point in Brisbane for the last eight years, but when I moved down to Monterey - I finally got a slip - I lost more crew. I know you run the Crew List every spring, but can't wait until it comes out. Can you get the word out?
Anybody out there care to sail Monterey Bay? Guys, gals, couples - it doesn't matter, I just want to go sailing and want some company. Email me or call Don at (831) 663-0208 or 596-2903.
P.S. I've been a fan of your great mag since about the time it started, and would like to be one of the many people to say congrats on your success. Back then did you ever imagine that it would turn out like this?
Don - Normally we'd have shuttled your request off to the Classy Classifieds, but since you're down in Monterey, we're going to a make an exception just this one time.
When we started Latitude in 1977, we
determined that we'd never be able to sell more than 14 pages
of ads, and that the magazine would never be more than 48 pages.
Obviously, we didn't have any idea what we were doing, but we
did have - and still do have - a lot of passion. We owe our success
to an informed and intelligent readership, and a terrific, hard-working
Help! I'm on the Crew List - and very happy with the results. But my phone number changed, and I desperately want to change the number that is shown online on your website. I'm getting hits on my email address and they are paying off, but I realize that I am not getting the phone calls and why.
Please, please change the phone number. Here is my info:
Men To Crew On A Cruising Boat, David Berke, 40, (408) 406-7872, exp 3/wants 1,2,3,4,5,8/offers 1,2,3,4,7,8 (dive master, private pilot). My new cell number is: 408-458-6044.
Here's an idea of how the Crew List has worked for me over the years. My first hit got me aboard the N/M 56 Learjet for the '01 Ha-Ha, which was great. I'm currently aboard the F/P 56 cat Dolce Vita, which I sail on the Bay and will be taking south to Mexico this month. Mai, the owner, got my name from the Crew List. By the time this issue hits the streets, I will have flown to Rome to board the Bruce Roberts 58 Amor Fati. The San Diego owners got my name from the Crew List, flew to San Jose to meet me, shook hands, and away we go. I plan to sail from Rome to San Diego via the Panama Canal.
Dave - All right, but as with the previous
letter, just this one time only.
In response to the letter from Andrew Hartman, who was wondering if he should take his sheltie cruising with him, we think the answer is 'yes'.
Our family of five, with our sheltie Hogan, departed San Diego in 1997 on a circumnavigation which we completed in 2001. Hogan was a wonderful addition to the crew as the security chief, watch companion and ice breaker for the crew of Windflower! I'm not sure, but he may just be the first sheltie to have circumnavigated on a private sailboat. True, we didn't go to New Zealand due to restrictions, and never planned to stop off in Hawaii anyway, but overall, he never caused us to feel as if we missed out on a single thing. During our cruise, we never stayed at a marina and only Med-moored a couple of times.
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 him and the boat while we travelled a bit. 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
With the start of a new cruising season, we aboard Pizzaz - who have been out for quite a few years now - would like to share some thoughts on relationships. Cruisers spend lots of time preparing their boats, but many don't prepare for what sometimes is the darker side of cruising - the stress cruising can put on relationships. We don't care how long you've been married, when you live together 24/7 in a relatively small space, the changes are huge. It's almost like starting a new relationship, as there are so many new things that you'll learn about each other.
We think relationships are like bank accounts, and that you've got to start making deposits so when there is the inevitable withdrawal, the relationship won't be bankrupted. To our way of thinking, the key to happiness afloat is simple: having a strong relationship by constantly making deposits and limiting withdrawals.
You make deposits by building your spouse or partner's confidence, spending special time together alone and ashore, remembering cards and gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, taking romantic walks on the beach, saying "I love you," encouraging visits home, and so forth. Withdrawals would be anything that scares or causes stress for a spouse - usually the woman. These would include yelling, criticism, fighting, rough passages, wet dinghy rides or landings, dragging anchor at night, having too many guests over, a dinghy that isn't reliable, and so forth.
As such, if you've had big withdrawals - such as a rough passage followed by a dinghy dump in the surf - you have to remember to slow down and make some huge deposits. So many of the withdrawals are weather-related that we recommend trying to become an expert on the weather. Your relationship is worth it! Other withdrawals can be rectified by just spending some real money. Get a bigger anchor so you won't drag. In fact, get the really big one! Get a good dinghy that keeps you both dry in most conditions, and have it powered by a reliable outboard that's easy for her to start.
In a lot of instances, men can help reduce their spouse or partner's stress and fear by getting them involved in everything. Knowledge and experience build confidence and pride. For example, Lourae always steers our boat in tight quarters, such as at the fuel dock or in marinas, because she can back up like an expert. She's an expert because she practiced by backing up every time we weighed anchor.
Cruising is all about potential for couples. The potential to destroy a relationship, or the potential to develop a closer and more loving relationship than ever. It should be a priority, and with a little bit of effort, every couple can do it.
Lourae & Randy Kenoffel
Lourae - We think it's hard to generalize when it comes to cruising relationships - except to say that if one person is miserable, the relationship and the cruising aren't going to be so hot. So we agree that at the start of a first cruise, couples need to be particularly supportive of each other. And if anything, the man should be particularly aware of this, because going cruising was probably his dream.
Because of the importance of couples getting along, we asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love who was born from sea foam, to share her Seven Suggestions For Sailors Who Don't Want To End Up Single:
1) The smaller the boat, the better the man needs to treat the woman. She's not looking for prestige, but personal space.
2) Every woman must have some private space on the boat that is hers alone. Be generous with it - perhaps an entire quarter berth. And then keep your dirty underwear and greasy tools out of that area.
3) Keep it clean. The only thing women hate more than a dirty boat is a filthy head.
4) Keep yourself clean. Women also appreciate a clean and well-groomed partner.
5) The woman gets to choose how much she wants to participate in the operation and maintenance of the boat. Don't whine if she declines in those areas, because 'singlehanding' isn't that bad if it still includes companionship and sex.
6) The woman gets to opt out of any passage she wishes, for whatever reason she wishes. If she'd rather fly home to spend time with family and friends while you sail the boat from Mexico to the Marquesas, support her wish.
7) Women like to be taken out to dinner,
visit the salon, occasionally stay in a hotel, and feel like
they can fly home whenever they feel the need to hang with the
kids, family, and friends. The money for these things is very
well spent, so budget for it.
You absolutely have to tell all the cruisers to get their WiFi going before cruising south to Mexico. Here's why: Right now I'm sitting in front of a computer store in San Carlos, Mexico, surfing the web and emailing on my little Dell PDA.
That's not all. Last night I talked to my sailing pal Anh for 40 minutes using this same PDA and VOIP. We have the Skype system on the home computer and also on the PDA, so we talked all that time for absolutely nothing, free, gratis, nada, zip! It doesn't get any cheaper than that.
If whoever you're calling back home doesn't have Skype, you can call their phone - but that costs you 20 cents a minute, albeit anywhere in the world. All you need is access to WiFi.
P.S. No, I don't have any stock in Skype (www.skype.com).
Readers - We got a similar message several
months ago from Leif Vasstrom of the San Francisco-based Beneteau
51 Solar Planet - who, by the
way, checked in to say he couldn't wait to get back aboard his
boat in Puerto Vallarta.
In the September issue, you mentioned that there are 200 slips in ruins at Oahu's Keehi State Marina alone. According to a marine surveyor who has worked here on the island for 30 years, there are currently more than 800 State of Hawaii-owned and administered slips that are "unusable."
Unusable? Hell, a huge number of them haven't even existed for years along with all the other slips that are currently rented at only $3.50 per foot - would have generated and would currently be generating if they had been properly maintained and rented at the market rate of $10/foot. It boggles the mind.
You also wondered what the real problem is with state-administered slips over here. It's always money and politics - which, of course, are inseparable. Who benefits by keeping the state harbor system in its deplorable condition, and who would 'suffer' under privatization? Among the biggest beneficiaries are the liveaboards and slip renters - including wealthy ones with political clout - who pay far below market rents and, of course, don't want to lose their incredible deal.
The operators of private marinas benefit because dilapidated state marinas insure that their expensive marinas stay full.
Also benefitting are all the government employees who administer the dirty, dilapidated harbors, as they are guaranteed high-paying jobs and generous government benefits for life.
And let's not forget the politicians who are kept in office by campaign contributions from special interest groups that benefit from this broken system. These legisla-tors have no reason to buck the status quo, and indeed would 'suffer' the most under some form of privatization.
Yesterday I spoke with a state senator who, in his words, has been "working on the problem for six years." He explained that the State of Hawaii government employees' union is so powerful that they basically control the state legislature, and they will not allow any form of privatization to take place. They fear for their jobs.
According to the senator, the only solution is to elect legislators who cannot be coerced, intimidated, frightened or bought - the last is my word - by the state employees' union. Know any? Now accepting applications. Until then, what used to be the hub of the Pacific for mariners of all sorts will sadly just be an armpit.
Readers - Here's what Ray Pendleton, the boating columnist for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, wrote about the situation on October 9:
" . . . according to [Hawaii's] Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's administrator Richard Rice, the state has authorized funding of capital improvement projects of $1 million for Kahului, $1.8 million for Keehi Lagoon, $2.7 million for Kawaihae and $700,000 for Waianae. Whereas the Ala Wai Harbor, which has been described as DOBOR's "cash cow" for its contributions to the Boating Special Fund, continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate with no reconstruction funding in sight. Could partisan pork barrel politics have anything to do with the harbor's lack of funding? After all, Sen. Gordon Trimble (R, Downtown-Waikiki) and Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki, Ala Moana), who represent the district, are both in the legislature's minority party. I'd like to think not, but how else to logically explain our state's seemingly irrational refusal to maintain a marina in the heart of the most populated real estate in Hawaii? The Ala Wai should be as much of a first-class facility - as well as a world-class destination - as the hotels in the adjacent Waikiki Beach."
SOME GOVERNMENT MARINAS DO A FINE JOB
I'm an employee of a city-run harbor, and would like to respond to Paul Kaplan's letter in the September issue that marinas would be better served if they were operated by the private sector. It should be noted that many marinas operated by county and city governments do a fine job. A visit to Brisbane, Santa Cruz Harbor, South Beach Harbor in San Francisco, or those run by San Mateo County would provide good examples.
Certainly government operations can be run well or poorly - 9/11 versus New Orleans - and certainly they encounter problems that privately run operations would not. San Francisco Marina has problems not because the staff ignore problems - quite the contrary - but because they continually run up against politically well-connected neighbors, boatowners and tenants who are against development and fee increases. Privately run marinas can just as easily slip into disrepair. In fact, there's evidence of this if one looks around.
The problem is not always the government, as many free market advocates would argue.
Larry - Based on our travels by boat, we agree that many government-operated marinas are well run. Generally speaking, they don't seem to be quite as efficiently run as private marinas, but generally the rates are lower for comparable facilities.
But some government marinas really are very poorly run - the most glaring example of which, of course, is the broken-down Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. Of all the prominent marinas in the world, it's the most pathetic. While we don't think the Ala Wai has ever had really inspired staff, the main source of their problems is the state legislature and the government agency that controls the harbors. Citizens of Hawaii should be furious with their state legislators, not only because they are failing mariners, but because they are failing taxpayers by starving what should be a cash cow for the state.
DOESN'T GET AWAY FROM THE DOCK TOO OFTEN
I'm tempted to think that Bobby Rohrer's 'Doesn't get away from the dock too often' letter, referring to Sig Baardsen, and the publishing of it, are a joke. After all, the Baardsen's recently completed a 13-year circumnavigation aboard their Offshore 40 yawl Mary T. By the way, Sig said the trip was "too short!" I won't go into details about their voyage, but suffice it to say that they are skilled and knowledgeable sailors.
Readers - To refresh everyone's memory, a few months ago, Baardsen wrote a letter critical of the Ha-Ha, in which he said, "The consensus here [in La Paz] doubts that the U.S. West Coast 'graduates' a class of 150 competent new skippers each year, yet the Baja Ha-Ha brings 150 neophytes down each year. It is commendable that you want to introduce so many people to cruising. On the other hand, it's courting disaster. Having met some of the late arrivals here, I have to agree with the negative opinion others have of the event."
To which Rohrer responded: "As a member of the Ha-Ha Class of '04, I find Sigmund Baardsen's negative comments about that event to be all wet. What an education I got from the Ha-Ha - followed by the Run to Paradise to Banderas Bay, Philo's for Thanksgiving, Rick's in Zihua for Christmas, the Banderas Bay Regatta, and then putting two boats on the hard at Marina Seca! What experience and knowledge I gained. I also love La Paz - but won't be influenced by someone who doesn't get away from the dock too often."
Obviously Baardsen had gotten away from the dock plenty of times - something that can't be said for most of the so-called sailing 'experts' in La Paz. However, as the following letter indicates, Baardsen had a change of heart about the Ha-Ha.
SEEING MORE CLEARLY AWAY FROM LA PAZ
I stand corrected regarding my negative comments on the Baja Ha-Ha. I just met Lori Warner, the skipper and owner of Wild Rose. Lori and her crew were well served by the Baja Ha-Ha. While at sea, one of her crewmembers was stricken with a life-threatening health emergency. His life was saved by an air-ambulance evacuation from Turtle Bay, arranged with the help of the Baja Ha-Ha - and Profligate in particular.
Lori set me straight - in no uncertain terms - that:
1) The Baja Ha-Ha is not responsible for all of, or even part of, the twits sailing in Baja California. On the contrary, the Baja Ha-Ha makes a great effort to prepare people for the trip and further cruising.
2) My letter to Latitude was insulting to you, your staff, and friends.
3) I had antagonized hundreds of people who enjoyed a good experience in the Baja Ha-Ha.
4) I completely obscured my point that the Baja California coast can be hazardous and requires more thorough preparation than is sometimes seen.
I am away from La Paz at Puerto de Illusion, and see things more clearly now. Please accept my apology.
Sigmund - Apology accepted, with no hard feelings whatsoever. Lord knows that we've said and written enough things that we would like to take back.
To recount that rescue, Phil Hendrix, crewmember aboard Wild Rose, was coughing up blood and was quite ill during the second half of the first leg to Turtle Bay. When the Grand Poobah received the news, he put out a call for a doctor, several hands, and a boat to rush north to help. Doctors Roy Verdery and George Rab of the just-arrived Pearson 36 Jelly Bean, agreed to help, as did Profligate crewman Roberto Sutherland. Dave Lenartz quickly volunteered the use of his Maxum 4600 motoryacht, Megabyte, one of the few powerboats in the event. They immediately charged north, had a rendezvous, and in the darkness managed to transfer the very ill Hendrix to the powerboat. He was then rushed to the tiny clinic at Turtle Bay, where Dr. Jesus Moreno managed to stabilize him and gave him medication. Hendrix seemed to make a remarkable recovery - until the drugs wore off. With Hendrix in very bad shape again the next morning, Banjo Andy, the Assistant Poobah, spent the day arranging to get Hendrix flown out on a stretcher with his passport strapped to his chest. Hendrix did make it out of Mexico and survived - although his doctor says his offshore sailing days are done. It was a great Ha-Ha team effort, involving members of crews from about six boats.
Speaking as the Grand Poobah of the Ha-Ha, the only thing that offends us a little is when somebody who hasn't done the event criticizes it. While we certainly understand that the Ha-Ha may not be for everyone, we know for sure it's brought much happiness - and quite of bit of cruising education - to thousands of sailors. From the bottom of our heart, we believe it's the best possible first step for prudent and prepared first-time cruisers.
We hope to cross paths with you in Mexico this season, Sig, as we'd love to hear about your long circumnavigation.
SAILING PSYCHOLOGY 101
In a recent 'Lectronic, you indicated surprise when a woman told you she didn't want to do the Ha-Ha because she was worried about excessive drinking. And then later that evening you saw her smashed.
It's a basic principle of human nature that people are most worried about other people committing the offenses they feel - possibly subconsciously - they will commit. The most common example is a cheating spouse accusing their own spouse of cheating. Likewise, pickpockets are careful not to get their pockets picked, and parents who got into one form of trouble or another as youngsters worry most about their own children experiencing the same pitfalls.
Sure, she was worried about some drunk hitting her boat - because she was really worried that she'd get drunk and be the one who drove into someone else's boat.
In the August issue Sightings, under the heading Galilee Harbor Celebration, there was a reference to the origin of the name being "lost in the mists of time." I hate to think that describes me, but I can relate at least some of the history.
When the heyday of commercial sailing vessels came to an end sometime in the '20s, many of the old wooden boats were laid up in Bay Area backwaters and left to rot. Some were burned to salvage the metal in them. The Alameda Estuary, Benicia and Richardson Bay were the final resting places of many fine old vessels that had outlived their usefulness. The Galilee was one of those vessels.
She was a freight-carrying sailing ship.
My memory tells me that at one time she held a record for making
the fastest passage from the West Coast to Tahiti with a cargo
of lumber. I believe that record was never beaten by a commercial
vessel under sail. When her useful life was over, she was grounded,
stern to, opposite the foot of Napa Street in Sausalito. As a
young man, I remember that her transom was prominently visible
to everyone who drove by on Bridgeway. People lived aboard her,
as was evidenced by the flower pots on her stern. As years went
by, she gradually became more decrepit.
By the time I first saw her, her rig was already gone. This was many years ago, so indeed, many of the details have probably been lost "in the mists of time."
WHAT STYLE OF CRUISING DO YOU PREFER?
In the October 14 'Lectronic, you queried readers as to whether they would prefer to cruise in 'primitive' areas or more 'First World' areas. It would be difficult for Jane and me to pick one over the other as the absolute. Each has its attractions and both have a downside.
One of the many wonderful things about cruising is that the choice of one style of cruising doesn't necessarily preclude the other. In that regard, Mexico comes to mind. You want a vibrant big city with art, music, theater, upscale restaurants, and all the rest? Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan have it all. You want remote, quiet anchorages in a pristine paradise? Beautiful V-Cove on Isla Carmen in the Sea of Cortez is waiting and almost empty.
Furthermore, the opposite kinds of cruising experiences don't have to be that far apart in Mexico. For example, we frequented a perfectly protected little anchorage that we had all to ourselves for weeks, in a setting without any visible sign of development. Yet it was just a short distance from a major Mexican city that is one of the most popular cruiser stops on the mainland. Oddly enough, the anchorage is rarely visited by other cruisers because they are busy headed somewhere else.
When Jane and I headed south in August of '01 aboard our Morgan 38, we had visions of idyllic South Sea islands on our horizon, but Mexico so seduced us that we never continued on. Going farther south would have taken us to brown water, bad food, and a constant battle against mildew. The South Pacific route to simplicity takes you a very long way from those complexities that alternately plague and ease one's life.
As for the Caribbean, it offers extraordinary beauty, a bazillion charter boats, and way too many cruise ships. The Med? Well, just take a lot of money. The transportation in that part of the world might be inexpensive, but the last time I was on the Cote d'Azur, a cup of coffee was seven bucks.
Perhaps the best idea is to pick the style of cruising that suits you best, and make it your focus. With all the money saved living a primitive cruising life in Vanuatu and Fiji, one could always fly somewhere for a quick fix of crowds and culture. If, on the other hand, one prefers the advantages of urban life and their budget will support it, then perhaps it might be sufficient to allow an occasional charter getaway to 'paradise'.
Now where did I leave that lottery ticket?
Jimmie - It really isn't an 'either or' proposition, is it? Not with Ensenada Grande so close to La Paz, Yelapa so close to Puerto Vallarta, the Perlas Islands so close to Panama City, the San Blas Islands so close to Cartagena, and Ile Fourchue so close to St. Martin.
For what it's worth, First World cruising doesn't have to be that expensive - not even in the Med. You might remember that two years ago Mike Harker took his Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 466 Wanderlust around the western Med, and reportedly lived happily on only $500 to $700 a month. That's not bad at all, particularly since you could have somebody watch your boat on the hook in the Calanques near Marseilles, take the afternoon TGV to Paris - just 3 hours and 15 minutes - for dinner, and still be back on the boat that night. And with the proliferation of Easyjet and other low-cost airlines in Europe, you could be anchored in one of the coves between Nice and Monte Carlo - St. Jean Cap Ferrat is fabulous and free - and catch a low-cost flight that would leave you in London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Vienna or a host of other great cities in less than two hours. And if you believe Easyjet's website, round trips can cost as little as - we're not making this up - $50. Alternating between a quiet cove in the warm Cote d'Azur and the cool of Dublin or Edinburgh has a great appeal for us.
By the way, after years of extremely expensive domestic flights in Mexico because of the near monopolies by Mexicana and Aero Mexico, it has been reported that as many as five low-cost carriers will be flying domestic routes in Mexico within the next year or so. These might make for some great inexpensive cruiser trips inland - not to mention home to the States via Tijuana.
I ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT BIG CITY
In the October 14 'Lectronic, the editor posed an interesting question - What stirs your imagination the most, the thought of cruising in primitive areas, or cruising in the first world or urban areas where there are many examples of human achievement?'
I've had a taste of both styles of cruising and, like the editor of 'Lectronic, always look forward to the big cities - particularly coastal cities which, for centuries, have welcomed seafarers. After crewing on deliveries to Tokyo, Manila and New England, I started hitchhiking full time starting in '96 from Darwin. I loved looking in on remote islands in the Banda Sea and all through Indonesia. There were great people living simple lives. But what a thrill it was to sail into Jakarta, and then into Singapore! My favorite was Cochin, India, the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea', followed by Aden and Yemen. And although it's not on the coast, a short train ride to Cairo topped the long list of stops in the Red Sea.
After finally buying my own boat - a C&C 34 - in Cyprus, my favorite stop in the Med was Barcelona. I kept the boat there for four years, cruising the western Med, but always returning to that great city. When heading out across the Atlantic, I was frustrated that I had to pass up Casablanca, but it had no safe port facilities.
I found the Windwards to be like a bad trip to Disneyland, so I was thrilled to get to Venezuela. From the coast, it's just a short bus ride to Caracas, which is fabulous. My boat is currently in Cartagena, Colombia, and I can't wait to get back to her in February. I think I'll do some cruising around the western Caribbean, but I'll probably find myself right back in Cartagena, the most enchanting city I've found so far.
I haven't done the South Pacific, so who knows, maybe I'm saving the best for last. But I guess I'm with the editor of 'Lectronic, I like to get away, but I'm always looking forward to the next big city - and the older the better.
Fred - Interesting response. By the way, if you've got photos and a good memory, we'd love to have a Changes article - even if it was somewhat dated - on Cochin. It's our understanding that cruising India is almost impossible because of the suffocating bureaucracy.
For what it's worth, boats do stop at Casablanca. Alameda's Jim Drake, who was running Big O for us at the time, pulled in there to escape a gale on his way to the Canaries and the start of the ARC. And we've subsequently had other reports of boats that called there. At last word, Casablanca wasn't exactly set up to welcome yachts, but they were stopping. And no, it doesn't look anything like the movie.
WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST RIDE IT OUT?
I can't quite get an answer to why Blair and Marian Thomson - as reported in the October 5 'Lectronic Latitude - reluctantly abandoned their Vancouver-based 40-ft sloop DragonSpirit due to extreme weather conditions off Eureka. She wasn't sinking at the time, and was reportedly afloat days later when they were offering a reward to anyone who found her.
Okay, let's assume that the weather was indeed absolute crap, and they'd had no way of knowing that the conditions they were going to run into would be so bad - which is hard to believe, but I guess it could happen. Since they were already hove-to, why didn't they just batten down the hatches and ride it out?
It seems to me that if they were prepared for a circumnavigation, they'd have the requisite sea anchor, liferaft, and other storm gear. So why abandon a floating vessel?
"Rookies," is the answer I got, in various forms, from my dockmates. But that still doesn't explain why.
Susan - We assume that the explanation is probably quite simple - the Coast Guard agreed with the Thomsons that they stood a lesser chance of suffering severe injuries or being killed if they were taken off their boat.
We weren't there, of course, so we don't know exactly how bad the weather was. Maybe it wasn't so bad and the Thomsons were just in over their heads. On the other hand, there is considerable documentation that it can be a very dangerous stretch of coast. John Neal of Mahina Tiare told us that his first sail down from the Pacific Northwest was the roughest of his more than 200,000 ocean miles - including several roundings of Cape Horn. And in just the month of July a few years back, four private sailboats were lost in that vicinity. We also recall that Gene Haynes' Alameda-based Nor'West 33 pitchpoled in about that same area. His wife Dotty suffered a punctured lung and nearly died. Other mariners have died.
Being hove-to sounds like a simple and neat solution in textbooks, but if the sea conditions are really bad and the boat doesn't respond well to such a tactic, in real life it can be a different story. After all, plenty of hove-to boats have been rolled, and crewmembers in hove-to boats have been flung headlong from one side of the cabin to the other.
In addition, we understand that this was the couples' first real offshore passage, and they'd been in the rough weather for quite some time. So we presume that they were extremely cold, fatigued, and frightened - as we bet you and your dockmates would have been. Sure, the couple might have been rough weather 'rookies', but we don't think that's any reason to look down on them. After all, what sailor hasn't been a rookie at one time?
We're delighted that the Thomsons are safe and sound, and until there is evidence to suggest otherwise, we assume they did the right thing by getting off their boat. We hope they can recover DragonSpirit and resume their dream cruise, for it's likely they could sail around the world without encountering such adverse conditions at sea again.
By the way, despite all the improvements in weather forecasting, forecasts are not guarantees. The Coastie Group Commander at Humboldt Bay once told us that one day it can unexpectedly blow 60 knots to the north of Cape Mendocino and be calm to the south of it, and the next day unexpectedly blow 60 knots on the south of the Cape and be calm on the north side. "You never know what to expect up here," he said.
WORRIED ABOUT CAPE MENDOCINO
Way up here in the white swirling Arctic wastes of Vancouver, Canada, Latitude is one of our oracles, our mystic marine guru. There's so much information - often learned the hard way - freely exchanged between mariners of all sorts in your pages. Just fantastic!
Next year I shall be sailing my 50-ft cat down to visit you all in San Francisco while on my way to the South Pacific. I was wondering if any of your readers might recommend some info that would guide me past the area of Cape Mendocino. Up here we have heard ghastly tales of epic horror in that area, where sailors were driven mad by fear, with blood, guts and veins in their teeth. It's all a bit unsettling. According to reports that filter back, undersea mountains create waves the size of Wal-Marts, and boats come apart like cheap British motor cars.
I must confess, I'd considered just trucking my damn boat down the Eye 5, but as she's a 50-ft catamaran, we might be in for a bit of bother picking up our Egg Muck Muffins at the McDonald's drive-through window. So any advice as to how to stand clear of danger and discomfort on this hideously perilous area would be most welcome.
Iain - The reports you've heard are correct. Pt. Mendocino can be a very nasty area - as can the entire coast from Juan de Fuca to San Francisco and even Pt. Conception. But if you allow yourself plenty of time, you can pick good weather windows. This doesn't guarantee a safe passage, of course, but it improves your odds.
If you haven't spent much time in the ocean or in heavy winds with your cat, know that you want to reef the main early - much earlier than with a monohull. Because if you wait too long, there's no way you're going to be able to get it down. The sailors on the maxi cat PlayStation found that out when they got caught with their full main up in 60 knots. You also might employ the strategy that Chris Bridge of the Corona del Mar-based Outremer 55 cat Cheval used when sailing the often-rough downwind passage from the Eastern Caribbean to Panama. He and his single crewmember never put the main up at all, alternating between a small spinnaker and small jib. He still averaged nearly 200 miles a day.
By the way, if anybody sees Chris, Carolyn and their rascal kids aboard Cheval in the South Pacific, tell them we'd love to get an email.
DRIVING AT NIGHT IS DANGEROUS
Driving on Mexican highways at night won't lead to a certain death - contrary to what was reported in a letter last month. But it will multiply the chances by orders of magnitude.
In Mexico, it's not uncommon for vehicles to travel at night at walking speed with no lights, for buses to pass other vehicles on blind corners and hilltops, for cattle to wander along the centerline, and for drunks to hit you head-on in your lane.
But the worst is when there are a couple of trucks stopped on either side of the road miles from the nearest headlight or crossroad. They would be there so the gang of murderous carjackers, with pipes and clubs, can attack you. You're left with the decision to either speed on or run one or more of the potential attackers down - probably fatally - or stop and see what the gathering in the night might hold for a foreign driver.
Of course, any accident will be settled in criminal court, and the driver in the head-on with the drunk will go to jail - perhaps for days - before being taken to the hospital. I guess it's all how you look at it, because Russian roulette is safe too - most of the time.
The Mexican government has specifically warned about continued car jackings on specific sections of the free highways. But be serious, driving at night on Mexican highways can be extremely risky.
Name Withheld By Request
WHAT'S BECOME OF THE PACIFIC SEAFARERS NET?
Greetings from us vets of the '96 Ha-Ha and '99 Puddle Jump aboard the Hans Christian 41 Laughing Buddha. We're still wandering about the South Pacific, currently on passage from Vanuatu to Cairns, Australia.
We noted that in the last week or so - we're writing in late September - that the Pacific Seafarer's Net seems to have gone off the air. We hope this is a temporary thing.
For those who don't know, the Pacific Seafarer's Net has a history of being very professionally run by a group of network controllers who are all Ham radio operators and who are all using their own equipment and funds. The controllers operate from many locations, including the Pacific Northwest, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. They had integrated their behind-the-scenes action with the web, and include YOTREPS details as well.
Recently the website had been upgraded to include not only the position reports of boats on passage, but streaming audio of the net session as well. The net controllers would not only take your contact details, but when available many could make a phone patch - collect from their station - to your folks at home. There was no charge at your end, you just had to have a licensed Ham operator onboard and you were able to participate. It was quite a nice feature for friends and family back home, and a special treat for birthday calls and such.
Has someone pulled the plug? Did all controllers hang up their mikes and headphones? Has traffic been so light that some of the regulars are just taking a break?
A few other Hams have been trying to fill in - in the true spirit of amateur radio. Unfortunately, their coverage has been thin and some lack the really big rigs and rotating beam antennas needed to pick out some of the lighter signals.
We're just thinking there might be some story here.
Jim and Nancy Hegland
Jim and Nancy - For a short time the net was in jeopardy based on a combination of controller burnout and the lack of new blood. It's back up and running, apparently with more help on the way. We'll have a more detailed report in the next issue.
A CLIPPER 32 FOR THE SEA OF CORTEZ?
A friend and I just graduated college, and are planning to sail the Sea of Cortez from January 1 until May 1. We are currently in the process of buying our boat for the trip. We recently found a Clipper Marine 32 sloop for sale in San Carlos, and on first inspection she seemed like the perfect boat for us.
But after reading some of your responses to letters about this design, it seems that you have a somewhat negative perception of her seaworthiness. Our plan is to do strictly coastal cruising around San Carlos, and hopefully make a crossing to sail in Bahia Conception for several weeks before coming back across to San Carlos. We would have the boat surveyed before we bought her, but would still like your opinion on whether she would be suitable for our desired purpose.
Jesse - We would have preferred it if you'd written in and said, "We have X bucks to spend on a boat for a five-month cruise this winter in the Sea of Cortez. Any suggestions?" And, it would have helped if you explained how much you know about boats and sailing in open water.
Although we often used to see a guy sail a dark blue Clipper Marine 32 on windy days on San Francisco Bay, it's also true that: 1) We believe Clipper 32s are among the least robust over 30-ft sailboats ever built, and 2) we would not like to be caught aboard one during a Norther in the Sea of Cortez. This is not to say that you might not have a safe and wonderful time with such a boat, especially if you're good sailors, the boat is in great shape, and you're very careful not to get caught in rough weather. The sailing experience is the most important thing.
You didn't ask, but if we bought a boat in San Carlos on January 1, the first thing we'd do is sail our butts down to Banderas Bay, where the air and water are warm - and where there are a lot more attractive and eligible young women for a couple of young guys like you. After all, you don't want to spend half your cruise not being able to swim because the water is too cold. And by March, you could sail back up to the Sea of Cortez and still have plenty of time to enjoy that beautiful area during its best time of year.
LEARNING TO LIVE THROUGH HURRICANES
It's late September as I write this, and we here in the Florida Keys are once again under a hurricane watch. Rita has come out of nowhere and has been busy trashing Great Exuma and Andros Islands in the Bahamas, and people are fleeing the Keys. We also got sideswiped in August, again by surprise, by Katrina when she was a modest Category 1 hurricane. Rita may be a Category 2 by the time she gets to Key West, with sustained winds of 83 knots. If she lingers, we will get a nice thrashing.
Originally from Santa Cruz, Layne and I did the 1998 Ha-Ha with our Gemini 105 cat Miki G, cruised to Florida, and eventually took up residence in Key West. I now work as a dispatcher for the police department. We're already getting our usual quota of panicked calls from people who don't have hurricane plans, but this time we have Katrina's handiwork in the back of our minds as we cut down coconuts, attach storm shutters and shut off propane tanks.
Mariners in Key West got beaten up by Hurricane Dennis a while back, and then by Katrina last month, and now we're looking at northerly and westerly winds from Rita as she churns down on the Keys. As such, we can expect more than a few boats to end up sinking or getting washed off their moorings and anchors.
Jerry, a former colleague of mine, died in Dennis. A retired lawyer who lived aboard in a funky marina on Stock Island, he decided to stay aboard when Dennis, a relatively modest Category 1 hurricane, sideswiped Key West. His boat sank so fast that his body was found trapped under the overhead in the forepeak - essentially he died in his bunk. His mother lives in a house 80 miles away, and, had he taken refuge there, my friend would still be alive today.
I always urge everyone to get off their boats before a hurricane hits, no matter how modest it looks. Layne - who is a teacher these days - and I talk frequently about what our retirement plans might be after we've fed the cruising kitty. We're forced to the conclusion that it will probably be in a moveable home that sits out the hurricane season in Panama or Venezuela. It's just one more reason to keep saving to sail away - permanently!
Readers - As this letter is getting ready to go to the printer, it's late in October, and the Beatties and others in Key West are seemingly days away from getting whacked again, this time by Hurricane Wilma.
WHAT'S THE FORMULA?
As you know, the covers are stripped off the halyards to save weight aloft on many racing boats. Of course, this results in the need to replace halyards more frequently, as the core is exposed to the elements.
I'm wondering if there's a computer program which can compute the relationship between the weight saved in the mast to the weight no longer needed on the rail to have the same stability? I would love to program in the height of my mast, the weight of the cover that would be removed, the beam of the boat, and have the computer tell me whether it's worth it to take the covers off. Then, once and for all, I would know whether this costly practice is truly efficient or only saves about as much as the over-stuffed wallets of some rail meat.
Dean - It would be very complicated to get the exact answer because you'd be eliminating weight along the entire length of the mast, so you'd need to do a lot of measuring and weighing in different configurations. Fortunately, naval architect Tom Wylie was able to give us a good rule of thumb: "One pound aloft - meaning 40% of the way up the mast - while sailing upwind is equivalent to five pounds in the keel or 2.5 pounds of rail meat." So if you could save 100 pounds of weight by removing the cores - which, of course, you couldn't - you could eliminate one 250-pounder on the rail without any loss of performance.
"It's one of the safer ways to make a boat a little faster upwind," concluded Wylie, "but it's certainly not cost effective for most sailors."
SHIPPING A BOAT TO MEXICO
I was wondering if you knew of the approximate cost to have a sailboat transferred from Los Angeles to San Carlos for a summer of sailing in the Sea of Cortez. I have a 41-ft boat. I'm wondering if it would make sense to do this instead of making the long sail down the Pacific coast of California and Baja.
Lance - It wouldn't make any sense to us, because sailing your boat from L.A. to Cabo would be a much faster, cheaper, and a hell of a lot more fun way to get your boat to the Sea of Cortez than trucking her.
If you wanted to truck your boat from L.A. to the Sea of Cortez, you'd have to have her hauled, the mast unstepped, and the both of them trucked to Tucson. Once there, your boat and mast would have to be transferred to a Marina Seca truck, driven to San Carlos, then relaunched and the mast restepped. From start to finish, it could easily take a couple of weeks, require a lot of work on your part, and probably cost $5,000 with everything included.
The alternative is the almost-certain all downwind sailing trip from L.A. to Cabo, which you should be able to do in six or seven days - assuming you don't stop at any of the great anchorages along the way. A sailing trip from L.A. to Cabo should be looked upon as a wonderful opportunity, not something to be gotten out of the way.
And remember, you're going to have to get the boat back to L.A., too. Would you really want to go through all the time and expense of having the boat trucked twice?
We know of hundreds of people who have
sailed their boats to the Sea of Cortez and had them trucked
home from San Carlos - because it makes a lot of sense. We don't
know of anyone who has done the opposite.
I read your response to the July issue Next Time We'd Take A Bigger Boat letter by the folks who had a very long passage to the Marquesas with their heavy displacement Dreadnought 32. You suggested, among other things, that rather than getting a bigger boat, they might have had a considerably faster passage if they had honed their sailing skills.
I think you were right on every point you made - including the one that racing is the fastest way to learn how to get the most out of a boat. As such, I'm taking your advice and plan to do the Banderas Bay Regatta in March. By then, I'll hopefully know at a glance what all the fine adjustments are that have to be made. One more season will make me a better sailor, and in the long run, a happier boatowner.
Bobby - Some people are perfectly content to just mosey along - and there's nothing wrong with that. But there are real advantages in becoming a much better sailor - faster passages, more confidence when the weather turns crappy, and more fun. It's just speculation on our part, but we think a good sailor could get 33% more performance out of a boat off-the-wind, and 100% better performance upwind, over someone who didn't care or know how to sail better.
POSITIVE WE MAYBE FIGURED IT OUT - AGAIN!
Thanks for publishing the October Changes about our trip from Huatulco to El Salvador. We're sending an update because we've finally found the reason why our diesel stopped and then wouldn't run.
You might remember that at first, we thought we'd run out of fuel. Then we thought it was air in the fuel lines. By the end of our article, we thought that we'd just needed to heat the glow plugs before starting.
Since sending the article, we discovered that the engine still wouldn't start. We've replaced the fuel shut-off solenoid, which we thought was the problem. Then I cleaned all the connections to the instruments, ignition, and start switch, and also the terminal strip from the instrument wiring harness to the engine. The engine still wouldn't start.
Then I discovered that if I jumpered a wire between the glow plug solenoid and the fuel shut-off solenoid, the engine started right up. Feeling very confident, I replaced the wire from the ignition switch to the fuel shut-off solenoid. But then engine wouldn't start again!
So I wired in a replacement ignition switch - and the engine started right up! At least we don't have that problem to deal with while underway again. After all we've been through, I'm absolutely positive we may have found the answer.
We'll be leaving Bahia del Sol, El Salvador on the 27th of October, heading to Nicaragua, then Costa Rica.
Frank Nitte and Shirley Duffield
Frank and Shirley - After seven false
solutions, you've got to be getting close.
Last month you published my letter about liking to drive in Mexico at night. I'd like to add a few more thoughts - and a warning.
Anyone thinking of taking a car to Mexico can get a Temporary Import Permit for their vehicle at: www.banjercito.com. Just click on the heading to the left of Importation temporal de Vehiculos. You fill out the page, print it out, and present it at Kilometer 21 on the other side of the border, and you'll quickly be presented with a permit and sticker. When you leave Mexico, you must turn them in.
I also wanted to point out how important it is to drive defensively, and slowly, when passing through towns. The roads have these half cannon balls implanted in the asphalt that must be driven over very slowly - or your dental fillings will be knocked loose. Signs reading Vibradores or Topes means slow down, speed bumps ahead.
Everyone also needs to know that the legal ramifications of getting into an accident are severe, and can include jail time until the authorities are convinced you have insurance. Therefore, an inexpensive legal binder to your insurance policy that will provide you with a lawyer to expedite your release is a cheap price to pay should the situation get ugly. The best insurance, however, is to simply drive exceedingly slow, being prepared to stop in any circumstance before an accident occurs. Should you find yourself behind a slow-moving truck, turn on your turn signal, and wait for the truck ahead of you to turn on his signal - his indication that it's safe to pass.
The highway system in Mexico is divided into two parts, Cuota, which are toll roads, and Libre, or free roads. Cuotas usually have two lanes, each way. Libres are either one or two-lane highways. The toll road must be exited in order to go into a town to find a place to eat or sleep, while the free road will take you through the town, allowing you the opportunity to grab a bite to eat and a chance to stretch your legs. Everyone I have discussed this with in Mexico prefers the free road to the toll roads. Just take it slow when you are going through the towns and watch the signs.
I'm writing in response to Frank Holland's October inquiry about his Formosa 51 ketch. By sheer coincidence, we have the same last name - and I've had a Formosa 51 sistership for 20 years.
Latitude's response and analysis of the Formosa 51s was pretty much right on. I have managed to get on top of the varnishing problem by not varnishing at all. Instead, I put down a coat of Smith's Penetrating Epoxy and used a Canadian product called Tufshield on top of that. I put this finish on the mast 14 years ago and have never had to take them down again. I use one or two coats of Cetol on the teak decks because it looks better. It's no longer slippery after a brief period of use, but keeps its good looks for six months or so. It's also easy to scuff up when preparing to apply another coat.
The spars were rotten on our boat when we bought her - and a lawsuit resulted in our recovering money - so we were inspired to go through the boat thoroughly looking for and eliminating dry-rot. We did find some, but not much.
The wiring has been okay. The metal does tend to be Taiwanese stainless steel, the surface of which rusts. Although it's easily wiped off with a scrubber pad, it's nonetheless a pain. When we had the masts down, we had all the turnbuckles, fittings, and tanks dye-penetrant tested. They were fine.
As for current problems, we have small leaks in two of the original water tanks, a problem rumored to be common on all Formosas. I was able to take care of a similar problem in the fuel tank several years ago with a chemical liner on the inside of the tank.
Naturally, I also have some small leaks in the teak decks that I have to get after. The decks look good, though. Generally, the boat feels very safe and indeed has been.
She had a lot of small blisters when we first hauled her out. But after popping, drying, filling, and putting on several coats of Proline Epoxy, almost all were taken care of.
I have the boat rigged for singlehanding, with a roller-furling main and staysail, so she's easy to sail - after the 20 minutes that it takes to get all the sails set. She's not a racing boat, and I admit that we don't tack a lot. Nonetheless, we've sailed our Formosa all over San Francisco Bay, the Delta, up to Fort Bragg, regularly to the Farallones, and numerous times to the Channel Islands. She really is a comfortable sea boat.
Anyway, cousin Frank, good luck with your Formosa 51!
Ted - Enjoying the same boat for 20
years is a darn good recommendation.
I'm glad you noticed the "grounded boats in Canada." Who would have thought, but yes, we are running out of water up here. And yes, our boats are high and dry. Did you see any snow-capped mountains in your photos? No. We are becoming the New Mexico of the North!
The cause of our dehydration is global warming which, as every scientist knows, evaporates seawater! The effect of this evaporation is that, not only have our rocks moved from their charted positions, but chart data has been recalibrated, causing untold numbers of groundings.
The cause of global warning? We already know the answer. When Americans and Canadians stop driving idiot vehicles like the Hummer, and when Americans and Canadians turn off the air conditioners, then maybe our waters will return to their original charted depths. Have a good day, but to be safe, keep your depthsounder on.
Malcolm - We're confused. Pacific Islanders claim they are about to lose their homes because of rising ocean levels, but you're telling us that Canadian waters are getting shallower from evaporation. One of you must be wrong. But in any event, how could evaporation move rocks from their charted positions?
We're all for greater energy efficiency and conservation, but given the hundreds of millions of people who are coming out of poverty and eager to become active consumers, many environmentalists are coming around to embrace nuclear power as the only possible solution. We're not sure what to think about this ourselves. What do you think?
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