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My father, Ivan A. Getting, is heralded as being 'the father' of GPS. In your November '03 issue, you published a note about his death. In the January '04 issue, you raised the issue of charging people in other countries for the use of GPS. I don't recall my father ever expressing such an opinion, and didn't respond at the time - though my feeling was that sometimes it's a damn good thing to just make the world better for everyone possible. 

Subsequently, a new GPS satellite was dedicated to my father, and on it was a plaque with an inscription quoting his favorite description of GPS: "Lighthouses in the sky serving all mankind." I guess my old man and I saw eye to eye on this one. 

GPS was developed by the military, for the military. They pay for it and it serves their needs admirably. I'm happy to count it as an extra benefit that people all over the world benefit tremendously as well. It serves to unify all of us in many ways, ways beyond having a self-consistent system of navigation and timekeeping over the entire planet. It makes me proud that our country provides this service to the world.

Ivan C. Getting, (son of Ivan A. Getting)
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado

Ivan - Sure the U.S. military paid for GPS, but you can't gloss over the fact that the military's only source of money is the U.S. taxpayer. So it was really taxpayers who paid for GPS.

It's reasonably fine with us that individual foreign fishermen and other mariners - whose lives have been convenienced and sometimes saved by 'the lighthouse in the sky' - get a free GPS ride courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. Indeed, perhaps every GPS unit sold should be required to have a label that reads "This humanitarian service is graciously provided at no charge by the wonderful citizens of the United States."

What we object to is the many large international corporations and foreign governments that benefit tremendously from our GPS technology. Is it so wrong to ask those who profit so much from the system to chip in a little for the cost? We're sure you know that the shaky European Union has long been trying to set up their own Galileo GPS system, but will be lucky to be get it up and running by 2008. The primary obstacle to becoming operational is that many of the E.U. countries can't see the point of having to shell out $4.5 billion for their own system when the U.S. taxpayers provide them with premiere GPS service gratis.

So as we said, if the English and Europeans are going to charge us Americans for riding on their Undergrounds, Metros, and so forth, we should charge them for using our GPS.


How cool is it that our boat Fetchin' Ketch should end up on the January cover of Latitude 38. Of course, my wife and I are probably the only two who would recognize her as our boat, but we'll take what we can get!

In case anyone who looked closely at the photo is wondering what we are doing with our jib backed, the answer is simple - we hove to waiting for the container ship to pass so we could cross the channel. Knowing how to easily and safely heave to is not just a skill for heavy weather in the ocean, it comes in handy in the Bay whenever you might want to just sit and wait for a bit without taking sail down. We all want to know how to make our boats go as fast as we can, of course, but sometimes the best thing to do is stop and wait.

In order to heave to on our boat, we just back the jib, ease the main, harden the mizzen, and put the helm to leeward. We come to nearly a complete stop in a very short period of time. By easing the mizzen and putting the helm to windward, the boat spins back on course. For many situations, from getting a quick bite to eat to waiting to cross a channel, this approach is worth knowing and practicing on your boat.

Bill Kinney
Fetchin' Ketch, Northstar 80/20

Bill - The fact that your jib was backed was almost enough to get the photo eliminated from consideration for the cover. Thanks to your helpful explanation about how and why to heave to, we're glad we went ahead and ran it.


We read your articles on the Silverwood family's loss of their San Diego-based Lagoon 55 catamaran Emerald Jane in French Polynesia. We recently purchased a catamaran that we base out of San Diego. If they want, we'd be delighted to take them sailing sometime aboard our Fountaine-Pajot 38, Limerick. They can contact us by email.

Bill & Sue Houlihan
San Diego


First, I want to say, "Great publication!" I read almost everything - much of it very enviously - every month except for the race results. My family is the proud and hopeful owners of a very beat-up Rawson 30 that someday we hope to have sailing around the Bay.

I read Mike Miller's January letter saying that the Coast Guard reports had always been his favorite part of Latitude, and your editorial response that you wish the Coast Guard still provided them.
For the record, Group San Francisco is now Sector San Francisco, and it now includes the former Group, Marine Safety Office, and Vessel Traffic Service under one command. And if you folks at Latitude could make space for them, we would be happy to resume the Coast Watch reports. Much like captains Larry Hall and Tim Sullivan did previously, I envision a synopsis of several of the more interesting cases of the past month. They could be interesting because a life or lives were saved, because of lessons learned, or because of the mere entertainment value.

In addition, I'd like to see the Coast Guard develop a cooperative rather than adversarial relationship with the area's recreational boaters and sailors, and the Coast Watch would be one way to do it.

Capt. David J. Swatland
Deputy Sector Commander, USCG Sector San Francisco

Capt. Swatland - Resuming the Coast Watch would be terrific news for both our readers and the Coast Guard. It was always one of the more popular features because it often made for juicy reading, but it also regularly presented the Coast Guard in a very positive light. We can't wait to start again in March.


I read last month's comments about the 'inside route' around Mag Bay. Some 15 years ago, we took our Sundeer down to the south end of Mag Bay. From the naval base to the Rehusa Channel, we carried eight to nine feet of water at high tide. During the lower half of the tidal cycle, we 'parked' in the mud bottom. Our boat drew 6'5". The whale-watching was spectacular, but the breaking surf on the way to the open sea didn't look like anything we'd want to test.

Going north from Mag Bay on the inside, the channel through the mangroves is a bit twisty. It took a long time and required some backing off the mud now and then to make our way. Once again the channel to the open ocean didn't look like something we'd be happy trying.

However, the weather in the intervening years might have made things easier.

Steve Dashew
Dashew Offshore

Steve - Although we don't yet have all the details, shortly before we went to press we received word that a 33-ft boat was beached while trying to navigate the Canal de Rehusa at dusk. Fortunately, the crew apparently were not harmed, but at this writing we're unsure if the boat was lost or rescued.


Mac and I enjoyed reading the suggestion made in the January issue about using the well-named Rehusa Channel to avoid a small piece of the Baja Bash.

In early November of '63, Mac and I - and our son Neil as well, but he didn't make an external appearance for another three months - were coming south on a 24-ft Piver trimaran which Mac had built. We had visited Bahia Magdalena, and found that there was still quite a bit of junk left at Punta Belcher from the whaling era. We continued south in the bay and anchored off the naval base, which is a whole other story. But we asked them about going out of Mag Bay via the Rehusa Channel, thinking it might save us some miles and time. "Sure, you can do it," we were told, "the shrimpers do it all the time."

A key part of this tale is that our trimaran had a 5-hp Seagull outboard, which some of you may remember had an exposed spark plug. As we motored west under Punta Tosca, a series of waves broke across the entire entrance. We did have the sails up, but we had to motor in order to stay beneath the point. Then we went up and over a wave - which doused the outboard and killed it. We sailed southwest more or less in the troughs between waves - which were breaking two or three times over the various bars before reaching the beach - while Mac replaced the wet plug with a dry one. Once the new plug was in and the engine started up again, we could turn away from shore and head straight into the waves again. Until the next dousing - and the next and the next and the next - required that the spark plugs be changed again.

Obviously, we survived exiting the Rehusa Channel, but it's not an experience we'd like to repeat. But come to think of it, we tried something similar on the coast between Topolobampo and Mazatlan.

As for departing Bahia Magdalena via Boca de Soledad, you'd have to have a death wish - unless you were aboard a powerboat following a shrimper that knew where the bars were. And the bars are different every year, and perhaps even after every storm. Getting north through the Devil's Elbow from San Carlos to Lopez Mateos is not that simple either - unless the channel is better marked than it was five or six years ago.

All things considered, the outside route sounds pretty good to me.

Mary Shroyer
Marina de La Paz
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Mary - We had a chuckle visualizing you and Mac cruising down the coast of Baja aboard a Piver 25 trimaran. Cruising boats sure have changed over the years, haven't they?


It's true, there are green flashes at sunrise, too. I observed a spectacular green flash at sunrise off the coast of Baja some years ago while sailing aboard Sayula II - but no one would believe me. Since then, I have always alerted the morning watch to be on the lookout for a morning green flash. The latest AM green flash reported to me was this year by two trainees on the barque Picton Castle on a passage from the Galapagos to Pitcairn.

As for multiple flashes, I'll have to leave that to those who have had multiple other things.

Ray Conrady
San Francisco

Readers - Ray Conrady can lay claim to a part of sailing history. He was the navigator aboard Ramon Carlin's Swan 65 Sayula II when she won the first Whitbread Round The World Race in '73-'74 - the race that spawned the modern era of crewed around-the-world racing.


I would never have brought this up were it not for the fact that the Wanderer announced that his New Year's resolution was to become a more superficial person. In the vein of superficial goals, for a long time my boyfriend and I - we hope you'll allow us to remain nameless - have been working on being able to have simultaneous orgasms. And we've gotten pretty good at it.

In fact, we've gotten so good at it that we decided we needed a greater challenge. About the time we were trying to come up with something, all the letters started appearing in Latitude about the green flash at sunset. It was like a light going off, for what could be cooler than us having simultaneous orgasms at precisely the instant of a green flash? As you know, this is not an easy goal to achieve, because even in places like Mexico where the conditions are often ripe for green flashes, they don't always happen. But we're young, we're trying to be shallow, and we don't have much money to spend on other activities - so why not?

Such a challenge has its drawbacks, of course. For example, we have to decline all invitations for sundowners on afternoons when the horizon looks as though it will be cloud-free.

So far, the best we've been able to do is have a near-simultaneous orgasm within about 20 seconds of when a green flash would have occurred had the atmospheric conditions been right. We have seen two green flashes since we've accepted the challenge, but didn't come close to having simultaneous orgasms on either occasion. The one time we were a little mad at each other and didn't even bother to give it a try. The other time my boyfriend's skin was salty and sandy from swimming, and there was so much friction that only he was able to achieve liftoff, if you will.
We know it sounds stupid, but we've actually learned quite a bit about each other and about sex through our crazy quest. It's been especially educational for my boyfriend, who has become a more patient and accomplished lover. But going for the 'big triple' requires a lot of effort on both our parts. Since it's hot down here in Mexico, we - like all the other cruisers - don't wear that much in the way of clothing. As such, my boyfriend isn't as easily stimulated by the sight of my naked body as when we lived in the Pacific Northwest and were always bundled up. So you know what I do to get him going now? I dress up. I think it's pretty funny.

While we've yet to achieve our goal, we hope that when we do, the Wanderer will deem it to have been superficial enough for his new low standards.

Cruising Mexico On A Bugdet

J and J - The Wanderer salutes your ignoble endeavor.


In the January issue you asked if anyone has seen the green flash at sunrise - and indeed I have. For many years I have worked as a naturalist on trips aboard the San Diego-based Searcher on natural history trips on the west coast of Baja and into the Sea of Cortez. This last year, while anchored at Punta Colorada on the east side of Isla San Jose, we not only saw the green flash at sunrise, but there was 'virga' - which is rain that evaporates before coming down to ground level - that created a rainbow to the west. What a show! As there were 20 passengers aboard, I have lots of witnesses.

I have to admit that before becoming an eyewitness myself, I was also skeptical, as I'd only seen the green flash at sunset, and only a handful of times - despite a 35-year sailing career that included several ocean passages.

If anyone still doubts the green flash at sunrise, they should read page 882 of the 1977 edition of Bowditch. It reports that blue or violet images are also possible in addition to the green. "These colors may also be seen as sunrise, but in reverse order." The attached photographs are from that sunrise looking both east - right after the flash - and west - of the rainbow in the virga over Punta Colorada.

Paul Jones

Paul - We don't doubt you. We've got a bunch more green flash at sunrise letters ready for next month.


There's a world of difference between a skipper living on a boat in an anchorage for a few days while on a passage, and leaving one's unattended boat at anchor - such as was described at Clipper Cove in last month's Latitude. It's the difference between pursuing a life-expanding activity that harms nobody else, and living the cheapest possible way by selfishly grabbing a precious resource. And if you look at San Diego's experience with anchor-out ghettos, the problem only gets worse with time.

However, a buoyed-off area in Clipper Cove - but not in the prime area that's currently used by the anchored-out boats - would be a reasonable gesture to those who want to live an alternative lifestyle. This would encourage weekenders to anchor away from the buoyed-off area, and would be easy for the police to oversee. Shore toilets and trash pickup services would have to be installed to satisfy the rest of us that the place doesn't become an aquatic slum - and I'm sure that the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) would agree.

By the way, is anyone going to dredge the unmarked channel into Clipper Cove? It sure would be nice.

Lyn Reynolds
San Jose

Lyn - It seems to us that you're missing the essence of the question, which is whether or not, and under what conditions, private individuals should have the right to use public lands for housing and/or long-term boat storage. If you're going to allow free land at places like Clipper Cove - and why not other public lands such as the Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Park and Yosemite? - we're sure you'd get about 10 million 'alternative lifestyle' folks who would be happy to accept the offer. Alas, based on past experience, we're also pretty sure those areas would quickly look like hell and likely become centers of criminal activity. And by the way, which police department would you expect to patrol an area of Clipper Cove buoyed off for 'alternative lifestyle' people? And who would pick up the tab for police salaries, patrol boats, and such?

We're not against people being able to live on public lands in all cases - just most of them.


I have little sympathy for liveaboard anchor-outs because you'll never be able to convince me that they religiously empty their holding tanks into an approved shore station. The fact that they have found a way to 'beat the system' should bother all of us who take the privilege of boating seriously.

Jack Buday
Northern California

Jack - There are mobile holding tank pump-out services, and for some anchorages they are subsidized by government agencies looking to prevent water pollution. But like you, we're not convinced that the rate of compliance is very high.


I read with some interest an article in the October edition of Yachting World magazine in which the 'illness' of seasickness was discussed. It's not an illness at all, but rather a condition caused by histamine produced by the brain when disturbed by 'illogical' movement.

Histamine production can be cut by high doses of vitamin C. You have to take three, four or even five grams when feeling the onset of seasickness. Recovery comes immediately. The link between seasickness, vomiting and histamine was discovered by German professor Dr. Jarisch.
My wife, who suffered severely from seasickness on every sailing trip, tried out the vitamin C remedy on our last trip in Croatia. She took three grams. She felt great shortly after drinking the vitamin C cocktail.

Heinz Ernst Daester
Madany Yachting
Obfelden, Switzerland

Heinz - Are you sure your wife wasn't more cured by the placebo effect than by vitamin C? We'd like to hear from anyone else who might be willing to vouch for the remedy.

Before doing the Around St. Barth Race in the Caribbean last month, a number of sailors took Stugeron, a product that's available over the counter in England and much of the rest of the world, but is a highly-regulated medicine in the United States. We have no idea why the FDA has a different attitude toward this apparently very effective product than do other medical officials in other countries.


I'm anchored in Chalong Bay on the east side of Ko Phuket, Thailand, about to fly home - deep breath - to my place in Idaho. That's where I started building what, strictly speaking, is a boat, but in reality has been so much more - the fulfillment of a dream. I hope I can be forgiven for saying that I have a great boat, and my last two years of cruising have been a really great adventure.

Perhaps a quick summary will inspire others who have the same dream to follow in my wake:

Longest Passage: 2730 miles, Chacala, Mexico, to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia.

Longest Time at Sea: Almost 15 days, sailing from Mexico to the Marquesas.

Most Miles Covered in a 24-hour Period: 240 miles.

Most Miles Covered In Eight Hours: 96 miles, from the hot springs in the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.

Scariest Experience: Doing 27.3 knots off the coast of southern Oregon with full sail up, baby! After that, I did have a talk about it with my crew Ben, aka Dr. Dripplestein.

Biggest Mistake: Sneaking into Heart Castle. No, wait a minute, that may have been the most fun part of the adventure. Perhaps it was not listening to ol' Capt. Seaweed', the grizzled, toothless, old bastard in Australia who told us about the storms of the dreaded 'build up'. It seems that Darwin, Australia, is notorious for flash storms in the spring. Just hours after arriving in Darwin, Ben and I ignored the warnings of Capt. Seaweed and went to the movies. The Manchurian Candidate is a great film, but damn if my tri wasn't getting all smashed to hell while we were watching it. Maybe my real mistake had been buying some cheap-ass chain from a little tienda in La Paz.

Most Magical Moment: The time I caught a nigh un-catchable Aerobe toss by Ben, aka Sir Tossalot, while running free down a beach. Of course, I had to dive for it, and it would have been ecstasy if it were immortalized in slow motion on video. Funny, but it could have been my biggest mistake, too. I could see the headline, "Man Paralyzed Diving for Toy." An Aerobe is similar to a Frisbee, but flies much, much further.

Friendliest Folks: Everyone we've met. Really. Friendly people are everywhere - well, except perhaps for those Russians we met in a bar. Actually, going into that bar without my trusty first mate Ben, aka Scootch Cornbuckle, the Kentucky fisherman, was probably my biggest mistake. I coulda pounded those Russkis hard if he'd been with me. But still, it just never would have happened. But you live and you learn - or you die young. That incident was the closest I've come to death since starting this voyage. That battle is a whole different story.

Greatest Dive: The one I had to make on the anchor in Tonga. We were anchored in 35 feet of water, the anchor was pinned under a boulder, and it was getting dark. I had no motor, and no Ben - just Jenny, the young and fragile niece of the owner of the local yachtie hangout. I told Jenny to count to ten after I dove down, then give me slack, then count to ten again, take up as much slack as possible, then tie it off. It's true that 'there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, but in this case I emerged a great hero, glistening in the moonlight, and we were off again.

Worst Weather: On our passage from Nuie to Tonga, we had two days of continuous 40-knot winds and, of course, the seas got rather large. The skipper of a 40-ft monohull who left shortly before us, and had already been around the world once, said they were the worst seas he'd ever experienced. Never before, he said, had he had waves breaking over the stern and into his cockpit. He and his son looked pretty beat up after the ordeal. We, on the other hand, had a pretty easy time of it. We just put out the storm jib, set the tiller pilot, and went below to sleep and play cribbage. We had our average 200-mile days, at one point hitting 18 knots while we were sleeping, and we certainly didn't have any waves break over our stern.

Having had other similar experiences to this makes me wonder why so many sailors think we are crazy doing open water passages in our trailerable foam-and-carbon folding trimaran. I mean, let's think about this for a second. Where is the sense in hauling a couple of tons of lead - which sinks - around the world? It makes a boat heavy and slow. And I can't adequately describe what a tremendous advantage having a shallow draft boat - as little as 14 inches - has been. For example, in Rorotonga, all the monohulls had to stay in the commercial harbor - a nightmare for the poor bastards. Most would leave after about two days of getting smashed into the pier. We snuck into a lagoon on the south side, which was like paradise, and enjoyed a month-long stay. I could go on with other examples, but it would be rubbing it in.

Lots of people ask me if it isn't dangerous sailing such a light boat around the world. Sure it's a little dangerous, especially for someone like me, who didn't have any offshore sailing experience before I started this voyage. But I think it would have been far more dangerous if I'd done what I've done aboard a heavy, deep draft, monohull. We make passages in about half the time of similar-sized monohulls. If we hit a reef or sand bar - something we've done many times - it's no big deal. We either sail or kedge off - whatever it takes. Then we'll roll her up a beach with our big inflatable 'rollie', and slap a little glass and resin on her if she needs it, and call it good. Had I made the same mistakes I have with a monohull, it would have meant game over, go home, get a job. And because my tri can't sink, we don't have to store those ridiculous liferafts onboard. We also have heaps of uncluttered deck space to play around on, don't bob like a cork while at anchor, and we win all the races. All right, I guess I am rubbing it in a bit.

Most Fun Place: Tonga gets the nod here too, cause it was there that I ended up completely stripping seven beautiful, female Santa Barbara Bible college students of their bikinis. If you've not done this, it's a must. Yes, fate smiled on me that evening. I had just finished an impromptu 'fire show' on deck, which is where you light the ends of a pole on fire and start spinning like Bush's advisors. This attracted my prey. No, honestly, they lured me into the whole underwater grab-pants game. It was funny, throwing all their suits up on deck and listening to their screams of mock horror. I mean, I'm pretty sure it was 'mock'. Nobody filed any charges.

Trickiest Navigation: We had a hell of a time getting down off Look-Out Mountain in the Kimberlies of Northern Australia. The damn thing had caught fire while we were up on top, and we barely escaped being BBQ'd. The fire stayed with us for several days while we sailed down the coast, moving with the wind. It was like a race with a tremendous herd of Tasmanian fire devils.
As for sailing navigation, getting over the bar into Eureka Harbor was a trick. We pulled up just as the sun was setting and a thick fog was rolling in. Not a good time for the shackle to the main-sheet tack to break, and an especially bad time for the motor to fall off. It was just then that I realized that I'd built the motor mount a little too lightly. Fortunately, the Coast Guard came out lickity-split to escort us in. Sadly, they wrote me a ticket for not having a "throw pillow." I threw my inflatable kayak - which I always keep on the trampoline - and asked the five Coasties this question: "Given the choice, gentlemen, what would you rather swim to, the kayak or a little pillow."

"The kayak, sir," all four responded. And one added, "The kayak is clearly a superior floatation device, sir." The fifth Coastie, who outranked the rest, handed me the ticket.

Biggest Fish Caught Trolling: We got one so big that when we pulled it out, it collapsed under its own unfathomable mass into a neutron star. Only through quick thinking and an abundance of line was I able to save my trusty crew Ben, aka Wally VonMcscurvypuss, from what was sure to be an ignominious ending to an otherwise brilliant fishing career. No, we didn't eat so well that night, but rest assured, my friends, we were happy.

Curtis Nettleship
Kellowyn, F-31 trimaran

Curtis - You're a very naughty boy, but you have some entertaining stories. So when you return to your trimaran and resume your adventures, don't forget to write.


Let me tell you why there are waiting lists for boat slips at places like Lahaina, Maui, and why people on the lists never seem to move up.

Yesterday, my wife Suzie and I walked down to the Lahaina Harbor and asked the harbormaster where our name was on the waiting list for a slip.

"What list?" replied the harbormaster, with a jokingly sadistic smile. "Oh yeah, that list. It hasn't changed, sorry."

"If the list hasn't changed," replied Suzie, "why are all these new boats in the harbor?"

"Well," said the harbormaster, "some lawyer found a loophole in the state regs, and there you go."
"What kine of loophole, bra?" I asked.

"It's sorta like this," said the harbormaster. "If an individual registers their boat slip with the harbormaster as an LLC corporation, and that corporation pays the slip fees, then the corporation shares can be sold to another party - meaning another boatowner with another boat - for whatever fee the market will bear. As far as the harbor is concerned, there has been no change in ownership."

What a great system. It means the slip fees stay way low, it creates a very expensive secondary market for slips, it allows private individuals and their lawyers to profit wildly on taxpayer-owned property, and means nobody but rich fucks can afford slips. I heard the going rate is $80,000 extra to get a slip.

The State of Hawaii needs to get out of the harbor business by turning the operation of their marinas over to private firms. It's much better for common folks.

In other news, Suzie and I just got back from New Caledonia, which is an amazing place. It's like the Hawaiian Islands in terms of weather, but it has a huge fringing reef that makes for great cruising, and great windsurfing. It's French, so the food is good, too. Naturally, there are lots of froggie boats - hard-chine aluminum liveaboard cruising boats. We'd show you some great pictures, but we left the memory card for the camera at home.

Jonathan 'Birdman' Livingston
Punk Dolphin, Wylie 38
Pt. Richmond / Lahaina, Maui

Jonathan - Are you trying to suggest that some wealthy people and lawyers conspired to get the wealthy people favorable treatment? Shocking!

But the slip transfer thing is complicated. On the one hand, there's a need for people to be able to transfer the slip when they sell their boat, or else in areas where there are no open slips, they'd never be able to sell their boat. And whoever owns a slip should be able to replace their old boat with a new one. Nonetheless, everybody knows there are loopholes and abuses of the system.
Of course, there's a similar system to Lahaina's in Santa Barbara, where the supply/demand ratio for slips is also way out of whack. We met a Santa Barbara couple who had sailed all the way to the Caribbean in anticipation of a Med cruise - but had to rush back home. Why? Because after a million years their name came up for a slip, and if they didn't occupy it quickly enough, they'd lose out on it.

Although it's not a complete solution, we think one way to alleviate the problem is to have a 'use it or lose it' policy for boats kept in the water. Boats that aren't used a certain number of times a year would have to go into dry storage until such time as they would again be used frequently enough.


My only real criticism of Latitude, which I love to read, is the same one I have for Cruising World and, frankly, most of the sailing publications - the target audience appears to be the cruising wannabes. We see their boats sitting dust-covered in marinas all around the Bay, decked out with lots of expensive gear, much of which just makes the boat a pain to daysail. The truth is that few people have the time to do more than daysail. I think there would be more happy sailors afloat if smaller, easier-to-own, and easier-to-use boats got more attention in the sailing media.

I realize that it's the builders of big yachts, watermakers, and chartplotters that are paying the journalistic bills, but on the whole, I think a 'back to the basics enjoyment' of sailing, with less focus on having all the right hardware, would be good for the long-term health of the sport. I am always delighted when I see a 'where to sail' or a 'how to sail' piece rather than a 'what to sail' article. You are already way ahead of the rest in this regard, but there's still room for improvement.

P.S. I sail an O'Day 192 and the ever-anachronistic West Wight Potter 15

Dave Kautz
Northern California

Dave - We appreciate your feedback. We don't read boat reviews and we rarely read equipment reviews - which is why we never run articles like that in Latitude. To us, sailing is about people, places and adventures.

As for the 'cruising wannabes', we think you'd be surprised how many of them actually go cruising or have been cruising. For example, in the last Baja Ha-Ha, an average of 140 boats and more than 500 people sailed to Mexico. And that doesn't count all the boats that left before or after. Or the folks who headed to the Pacific Northwest. Or the thousands of boats that are already out there cruising.

Having covered the world of cruising for the last 30 years, we can tell you that there are far more people 'out there' than ever before. In a large part, it's due to much improved boats and cruising gear.


We purchased a so-called 'waterproof' Navman 4150 Fishfinder from Boat/U.S. in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, in October prior to sailing to Charleston, South Carolina. In less than two months, this allegedly waterproof unit was so full of water that it actually dripped out the corner. However, we salute West Marine in Charleston, which allowed us to exchange the defective unit for a different brand, which we hope will work better.

Christine Watson
Clarity, Cal 36
Wickford, Rhode Island

Christine - Not too long ago, West Marine ran tests on a bunch of so-called 'waterproof' VHF radios - including ones they sell - and found that most weren't waterproof after all. So a leaking fishfinder isn't all that much of a surprise to us.


Before heading south, we purchased a Wifi marine amp kit that I had seen on another boat heading down the coast. The owner of the other boat said he'd had great success getting signals everywhere he'd pulled into - including some anchorages. So I bought such an amp before we left San Diego. When I did, I hardly knew anything about how to even get a Wifi signal, but now have become pretty good at getting it just about everywhere we've been.

I bought my wifi marine amp from This kit includes a marine antenna, whatever length of antenna cable you need, an amp, and a card. It was a little hard to use at first, as the kit didn't come with any instructions and you have to download a driver from their site. But since I got all this figured out I haven't had any problems.
Although probably not legal, I have gotten signals everywhere we've been - even when anchored off La Cruz. We're now moored at Paradise Village, where we're paying to use the Vallarta YC's signal. But I can still get a booming signal on my boat, which saves me from having to carry my laptop around trying to get close to a signal.

You can permanently mount the marine amp on your boat, but I chose not to hardwire it. I just run the antenna up the mast with a halyard and then plug everything in. The only downside is that the amp has a 110-volt plug, but works in a 12-volt cigarette plug.

Tom Larson
Sandpiper, Yorktown 35

Tom - Having conducted a brief poll in 'Lectronic Latitude, we've learned that wifi amp kits have been very effective in Mexico. We'll have more detailed results next month.


Recently you put out a request for photos of winter sailing in the Pacific Northwest. The enclosed one is of me sailing off Brookings, Oregon. My son Dylan, who took the photograph, and I went out on Tom Thumb, my Fiskstara 25 Swedish sloop. We motored up the coast a few miles hoping to see some whales. Eventually we caught a light breeze. It was a quintessential lazy day.

John Boye
Tom Thumb, Fiskstara 25
Brookings, Oregon


I'm a longtime reader, great mag, blah, blah, blah. Actually, I don't mean to shortchange you, as your responses to Letters over the years show the publisher to be a well-balanced individual with a remarkably insightful view of events. It must be your surfing/sailing/pot background on top of a UCSB and Berkeley education.

I'm sending this letter from the Isthmus at Catalina aboard my Searunner tri, which is one of only two non-local/commercial boats here today. And it's a near perfect weather day. I don't know if you're aware, but a Verizon PC card gets you Internet access here at three times dial-up speed.

Here's my list of things I don't care for in Latitude: All the San Francisco racing results. I totally dismiss them - and the same for the endless Ha-Ha and Puddle Jump interviews and the reports on megayachts from St. Barth. I'm all for Caribbean reports, but couldn't care less about some fat cat's megayacht or the Antigua whatever race.

My favorite things in Latitude are Changes, Letters and your responses to Letters, and the Latitude interviews.

Now on to surfing. You realize, I hope, that you're on shakey ground by being too specific about surfing spots and egging the masses on to various anchorages. It's one thing to have a single report, but it's entirely in bad taste to relentlessly urge everyone to visit a particular spot. Can you say Punta Mita? By the way, I've been there about 10 times over the years and have never seen it over chest high. If surfing was food, I'd starve at Punta Mita. Try Nexpa for real surf. But then, it's just a roadstead, and there will never be an issue with boats massing there.

I suggest that it's time to take your cat into the South Pacific so that the readers can get some new content and perspective. I think you'd enjoy the lefts at Fare. Do send some reports, but just don't go on and on about a particular spot. In a world where overpopulation is one of the biggest problems - and the root of so many other issues - crowding is a main concern.

P.S. I'm curious about what, if anything, you'd change about Profligate if you were to build another cat.

Don Longfellow
Searunner tri
Isthmus, Catalina

Don - Thanks for the nice words - and very interesting feedback.

We have written frequently about Punta Mita, but we think with good reason. First, we can't think of another surfing area where those with boats have such an advantage over those without boats. Land-based surfers either have to hoof it a long way to the best breaks or pay $60 to hire a panga for a couple of hours. That usually keeps the better breaks relatively uncrowded, if not empty, for sailor-surfers.

Second, most Punta Mita breaks are best for geezer surfing - which is what most of us sailor-surfers do anyway. You younger, hotter, and more aggressive surfers can go over to Burros, up to Sayulita, or down to Nexpa. That's fine with us geezers, because we no longer have anything to prove. We're just looking to get in a few good bottom turns and nose rides, commune with nature, and admire what tiny suits women surfers favor in the tropics these days.

Third, the surf at Punta Mita can be inconsistent - which also works to the advantage of sailor-surfers. On waveless days, land-based surfers go stir-crazy while sailor-surfers go sailing. Banderas Bay has some of the most consistent wind and enjoyable flatwater sailing in all of Mexico. Further, there are great nearby destinations such as La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa. And when the swell eventually comes back up, sailor-surfers are right there to catch the waves before the land-based folks arrive. It's like cheating.

And we're hardly spilling the beans about surfing at Punta Mita. If there are any west coast surfers who don't know about the place, the surf shop on the bluff has a map that lets everyone know where all 16 of the named breaks are.

So yeah, we've reported on Punta Mita a lot, but only because it's one of the best warm water places in the world we know of for sailing and surfing, where sailors have such a distinct advantage. In fact, last night we dreamed that we'd retired, taken Profligate to Punta Mita, and started a new business: The Wanderer's Liveaboard Academy of Sailing and Surfing for Women. It could happen.

Doña de Mallorca has never been to the South Pacific, and is forever urging us to sail there with Profligate. Unfortunately, the logistics of doing such a voyage and publishing the magazine at the same time are insurmountable. Besides, we have a greater desire to sail up the East Coast of Australia and around Thailand.

Speaking of Profligate, if we had the opportunity to build another cat, it would be a near sistership. The only significant change we'd make would be to move the front beam forward a couple of feet in order to increase the area of the self-tacking jib by about 20%. Everything else - the length, beam, bridgedeck clearance, layout and basic simplicity - is just fine with us. And if somebody gave us the money to build the new cat of carbon from the top of the mast to the bottom of the daggerboard, that would be nice.

Readers should also know that while a 63-ft cat is wonderful, not even a large family needs such a big boat. If we were building a cat for just ourselves and not for editorial purposes such as doing the Ha-Ha, a smaller sistership in the 47 to 55-ft range would be more than adequate.

Since you don't particularly care for the megayachts, Don, we've got some news from St. Barth that might please you. The word on the coconut telegraph is that, despite being less than two years old, both Mirabella V, the 247-ft sloop that wouldn't fit beneath the Golden Gate Bridge by 80 feet, and Larry Ellison's 450-ft largest-in-the-world motoryacht Rising Sun, are both available. Apparently Mirabella V is more complicated than expected, and the sailing loads are a little too spooky to be conducive to much pleasure sailing. The problem with Rising Sun is that she's so damn big she can't fit into the harbor at places like Valencia, Trapani, Monte Carlo, Antibes and all the rest. And when everybody's tied up inside the harbor and having a blast, it's apparently not that much fun being tied up at a distant commercial dock or anchored out.


Thanks for the article on us in the January issue. By the way, the waves have been four to six feet at Punta Mita, and the surfing is great. "You really missed it" - as all the surfers would say. Having finished painting our boat, we're heading out for Huatulco tomorrow.

Robert Crozier and Marta Mijelman
Pacific Spirit, Kendall 32
Headed Further South


You guys are so darn entertaining! Stuart forwarded me the link to your January 9 'Lectronic Latitude items about St. Barth and such, and I've read them twice this morning. I laughed out loud at some of the cruiser antics - and can't wait until we get to join everybody out there on a more regular basis.

Jean Kaplan
Duetto, Norseman 43
Chula Vista

Jean - We love it when people laugh at what we write.


As I sit in my dark, dreary office, I'm not sure if I envy or hate the Wanderer. The 'Lectronic posts from St. Barth featuring Buffett, babes, booze, boobs - man, what's not to like? Landlocked New Mexico has never looked so uninteresting in comparison to the Caribbean. You're my hero.

P.S. Want to buy a nice cabin?

Guy Sandusky
New Mexico

Guy - We'd be the first to admit that there's nothing not to like when doing editorial 'research' in St. Barth. But you, like so many others, don't get to see the larger picture. It's not quite so enjoyable coming home and having to spend 12 or more hours a day - most Saturdays and Sundays included - banging on a keyboard and going blind in front of a monitor. We've done about 350 issues so far, and during the deadlines of almost every one of them we've sworn it would be our last.


Happy New Year! The 'Lectronic reports from St. Barth have been great. Let's hear it for superficiality! And thanks again for the best and most inspirational sailing periodical on the planet!

Dave Fiorito
Northern California

Dave - Thanks for the kind words. The reports from St. Barth seem to polarize readers. People either love them or seem to get angry about them. Since you like the reports, here's a little story of billionaire buffoonery that might give you a laugh.

There was a very wealthy guy from across the Atlantic who owned a very large sailboat and lived something of a double life. While in his native country, where religion plays a major role in all aspects of society, he was seemingly devout. But once outside his country, he displayed a penchant for the libertine. As a result, his boat was known from Antigua to Antibes for some wild times.

Anyway, one time the owner said to his longtime skipper, Jack - not his real name, of course - "Let's take the boat down to Miami and have some fun.'' So they did. In fact, they spent three months tied up to the dock having a good time. At the end of the three months, the owner was going over the accounts when he saw something that disturbed him - an entry of $35,000 for 'diesel'. How could they have spent so much on fuel when they'd never left the dock? Suspecting that Jack might be engaging in some financial funny business, the owner confronted his captain: "Jack, how is it possible that we spent $35,000 on fuel when we never left the dock?"

"We didn't," replied Captain Jack. "But I just thought $35,000 for 'diesel' looked better on your expense report than $35,000 for 'hookers'."

For all we know, some part of the story might actually be true.


I'd like to offer an unsolicited book review. As a present, someone gave me a copy of A Mile Down, The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea by David Vann (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005). I don't know David Vann or anyone who does, but I'd like to offer an unsolicited book review.

Vann's book describes his financing the construction of a large yacht in Turkey, his plan to run literary-historical sailing tours, the boat's subsequent poor performance, his financial ruin, and the boat's sinking in a storm. The author presents himself as a tragic dreamer, fully qualified and, he keeps reminding us, impeccably educated. But he's beset by bad luck, unscrupulous contractors, lazy employees, inert bureaucrats and predatory creditors. All these conspire to dash his personal quest for fulfillment, which he justifies by being constitutionally unable to accept a working adulthood.

Personally, I can't seem to buy it. Maybe Vann did exactly what lots of professional owners/masters do in their businesses, but it seems to me he was floating his dream on credit extended by a lot of friends, and that he made some remarkably poor decisions along the way. The thing that rankles me most, however, is his incessant invocation of his Stanford education - as if it should somehow differentiate him and his peers from the rest of an ignorant herd. It's the same smug sense of entitlement that makes Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun so unreadable. Maybe Vann is a terrific sailor, scholar, writer and entrepreneur, but I can't help feeling like this is a cathartic work of vanity.

Anybody else read this book?

Sandy Stadtfeld

Sandy - Such a trenchant review! If you'd like to continue your career as a reviewer of nautical books, we've always got a big pile stacked up in our office.

We didn't read Vann's book, but we spoke to him by phone. As we recall, he told us he built something like an 80-ft aluminum catamaran near Sacramento a year or two ago to replace his boat that sank. He then took her to the Virgin Islands where she is now in charter.


Before I rant, let me say that my husband and I thoroughly enjoy your magazine and eagerly await each and every issue, no matter if we are cruising in Mexico or cruising the canals of France.
Your response to Catch the Wind regarding the level of expertise of pharmacists in France is way off the mark. For the last three years my husband and I have been spending four to five months each summer aboard our canal boat Cruzy in France, and we spent two winters in Mexico aboard our previous sailboat MaKai. We found ourselves needing medications in both countries, and can tell you there is a vast difference in one's ability to obtain medications in France as opposed to Mexico.

French pharmacists are well educated, polite and extremely helpful - but they absolutely will not, I repeat, will not, dispense medications without a prescription. And such prescriptions must come from a French physician. We have found the French medical system to be open and available to cruisers from all countries. Visits to physicians for examinations or simply to obtain prescriptions are extremely reasonable at about $25.

An Australian friend of ours was treated in a hospital emergency room for several hours after receiving serious burns while working in his engine room. The total charge for his treatment was about $35. As in Mexico, medication costs in France are affordable. Sadly, the French government is looking at making changes to their current social programs, and I'm sure that medical care will suffer.

We are spending this winter in San Diego outfitting our recently acquired Pearson ketch for a return cruise to Mexico next fall. Keep up the good work.

Myrna Keitges
Blue Moon, Pearson ketch
Cruzy, canal barge
San Diego / France

Myrna - Thanks for the kind words. We learned most everything we know about French pharmacists by reading Peter Mayle's A Year In Provence. So if we mischaracterized that group of professionals, it's all Mayle's fault. We do know, however, that the French are/were the world leaders in the consumption of Valium. When Doña de Mallorca got a tight shoulder in St. Barth a few years ago, she visited the doctor, who gave her a little rub - and enough Valium to knock out half the skippers on boats at anchor in Gustavia harbor!

It's true that the French will indeed be making changes to their social programs - for the simple reason that they can't afford them. Their scheme of trying to pretend they were above globalization didn't work out as well as they'd hoped, so now their economy is in the toilet, and their rate of unemployment is a fright. Did you see where President Villepin recently authorized the sale of some toll roads to help pay for social programs? No wonder the French are gobbling down all that Valium. We Americans, of course, are much more fortunate, because our Republican and Democratic leaders have worked closely together to make the tough decisions necessary to insure that there will be no financial crisis in our country's future.


Your October issue editorial comments about the Taiwan-built Formosa 51 ketches - with which you claim to be intimately familiar - expanded to include near sistership boats such as those built in Taiwan by Hudson Enterprises and others. No matter who designed this family of 51-footers - and they all certainly resemble drawings found in one of William Garden's books - we'd like to stand up in defense of those marketed as Force 50s.

True, the engineering and construction techniques of the Taiwanese yards that built them may not have been cutting edge, but with any boat the true indicator of construction quality is how well she stands the test of time. Considering that our Force 50 Sea Venture has been sailing the seas for almost 30 years, and she's getting her first refit since new in '77 (except for an engine repower), we think she has proven her durability. In addition, when we opened up her original spruce masts, we found the joints to be sound. And when replacing all the thru-hulls, we found a very well laid and solid hull.

Yes, her decks leaked. But so do the teak decks on lots of other 28-year-old boats. While boat shopping, we considered the cost of replacing the teak and ferreting out rot in almost every boat we examined. Now our Sea Venture has leak-free non-skid and beautifully painted topsides. She's gorgeous.

It's also true that we're replacing or upgrading all her systems. But that's also common in a boat of that age. We're completely redoing the wiring, not because there was anything wrong with the original materials or work, but because subsequent owners got fancy with their jury-rigged messes and it was easier to start over than to try to separate the tangles. (To cite one example, the last owner had wired the hot lead to the ground lug on the AC-powered water heater. Michael was almost electrocuted before discovering it!)

Yes, the black steel tanks have rusted through. But I've read countless articles describing the need to replace black steel in older boats. The old ones are out, the new ones are in.

Yes, we're replacing the pilothouse windows with new glass, but the original stuff served the boat well for nearly three decades. The only one that failed was struck by a flailing object while she was on the hard in Mexico.

We've replaced all the standing and running rigging, of course. Even if it looks good, experts say that standing rigging should be replaced every seven to 10 years. None of the rigging we replaced was substandard. Nor were any of the other items we took off - including the boat's windlass. It was too small for the heavier anchor we got, and now sits and works well on the bow of a smaller boat.

The hull of our Force 50 is still solid. And, unlike many of the production boats made in the States during the '70s, it doesn't have any blisters. Our previous boats, a Coronado and a Clipper Marine, both suffered from moderate to severe blistering. In addition, they also had fiberglass problems, as well as others with portlights and leaks.

Most of our boat's original systems still worked, but because we'll be setting out on a multi-year voyage, we wanted to start with all new ones. So we've replaced them.

Our Force 50 has some of the most gorgeous wood we've seen on any boat. As for the teak toe rails and other outside trim, Cetol may not be the choice of perfectionists, but Sea Venture's wood had been untouched for more than 18 months under the relentless sun of Mexico before we bought her - and still looked wonderful. We redid all the wood this fall, so now she just needs regular maintenance coats. It's easier work than the varnishing that I do on my wooden East Coast sharpie. For the sailor who doesn't want to touch wood, I say buy a boat without it. But for us, the beauty of wood is worth the trouble.

Counting the cost? We paid very little for a solid hull, for gorgeous wood inside and out, and for a boat big enough with its two salons to afford us comfort and privacy when we have family aboard. The money that we've poured into her to make her better than new - and all together, it's still about half of the price of those new boats we coveted yearly at the Strictly Sail boat shows in Oakland. Plus, Michael will know that all the work has been done to his high standards. Having done so much of the work himself, he'll be able to troubleshoot, repair, or replace everything on board.
By the way, if we had had to contract out all the work, we couldn't have afforded to bring Sea Venture to this state, so I hesitate to recommend a boat of this size or age to anyone who isn't either mechanically adept or wealthy. But because we both like to mess about on boats, restoring Sea Venture has been a work of love. Look for us out there in a few months, as we'll be sailing that pretty girl with a dove on her Pineapple-made mainsail.

Michael & Normandie Fischer
Sea Venture
Marshallberg, North Carolina / Rio Vista, California

Michael and Normandie - We were indeed familiar with some of the early Garden-type 41 and 51-ft ketches marketed under the Formosa name, having sold some of them as new. The earliest ones often had long lists of minor issues, and some had a few really funky problems. But generally speaking, the quality quickly improved. And in any event, with all the work you've done to your boat, we can't imagine she's not a wonderful yacht. We've seen a number of 41s and 51s that have been fixed up and are well maintained - and they are nice-looking boats.

Next month we'll have a long letter from a fellow who was around in the '60s when yachts started to be imported from the Far East, first from Japan and later Taiwan. Don't miss it.


The reason I'm writing is to inform you that, contrary to the item in the November 'Lectronic in which Gordon West announced the death of the code requirement for the General Class Ham license on January 1, no final decision has been made on the issue.

I've been waiting for over 10 years for the code requirement to be dropped and got really excited. But I called West's office today and he confirmed that no decision has been announced. Still, I'm so sure that it will happen soon that I went ahead and installed a Ham rig on my boat. So I'll continue to wait patiently.

By the way, thanks for the great reports from warmer places, as they make 'Lectronic the first place I check on the web each day. It sounds as though you had a great time doing 'research' in the Caribbean. As for your resolution for the new year to be more superficial, I can't see how that would be much different from how it's been all along. Your ideas and style have always been right on.

Jeff Coult
Juneau, Alaska

Jeff - Gordon was a little ahead of his time with that report, but, like you, we're sure the antiquated code requirement for a Ham license will be dropped shortly.


Surely I cannot be the only person on the water who cringes whenever he/she sees the San Francisco Police out on the water. I have never had any incidents with the Coast Guard where they have been pushy or tried to intimidate me or others around me. The Coast Guard has always seemed to be professional. On the other hand, the Marine Division of the San Francisco Police Department will approach and treat you as a criminal.

I was on my way to the Golden Gate YC midwinter series on January 7 with five others coming from South Beach Marina. Just north of the Bay Bridge we were approached by the Coast Guard, who informed us they were going to perform an on-the-water inspection, and they would be boarding our boat. I told them I had a Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection sticker on the port side of my mast. They looked at each other, then told me that the Auxiliary's had been a dockside inspection and they wanted to do an on-the-water inspection. After confirming that we didn't have any weapons aboard, we were boarded.

Two of the Coasties stayed up top, one in the Coast Guard vessel, and two of them came below with me. I asked if we could maintain our speed as we were on our way to a race. They told us to proceed as planned. We went through the inspection book with a new member of the Coast Guard. The second Coastie was assisting him in going by the book by pointing out which questions to ask. I asked the more senior Coastie if ours was basically a training stop, and he confirmed that it was.

For a boarding, it was a pleasant experience. They all smiled, and while we joked with them, they were very professional. When we told them there would be about another 80 boats around the corner getting ready to race, the one fellow jokingly rubbed his hands together and said with a smile, "Eighty boats!"

I didn't return to South Beach until the next morning, but when I did it was just me, and I was motoring against a huge ebb. Then there was a Pan-Pan on Channel 16. Somebody had just fallen into the water at the Ferry Building. Mariners were asked to be on the lookout and assist the Coast Guard, if possible. The Coast Guard was already searching with several boats and rescue jet-skis.

I stayed close to the piers to avoid the current, and was keeping an eye out for anybody in the water as well. As I passed the Ferry Building, a San Francisco Police RIB flew past me. There were three officers aboard, and two of them were pointing back towards the Ferry Building. They were going so fast that they'd overshot their destination.

A few minutes later, I was between the fishing pier and the Bay Bridge - when the same police boat quickly approached me. The driver started yelling at me about security zones and staying 100 yards away from the Ferry Building pier.

I asked if I had to stay 100 yards off all piers, but they said just off the Ferry Building pier. Then they took off.

I was shocked. They abandoned a search and rescue effort for a person who had fallen into the water to come and yell at me?

I'd never heard that the Ferry Building or pier had a security zone requiring a 100 yard separation, so I contacted the Coast Guard and spoke to the person in charge of security zones. He said that they didn't consider the Ferry Building or its pier a security zone. He did say, however, that they were in the City of San Francisco's jurisdiction and that the city's authorities could make up their own rules.

But if such a separation is required, how are mariners supposed to know? Not even the Coast Guard knew.

That wasn't my only negative experience with the Marine Division of the San Francisco Police. Once I motored our 10-ft dinghy out of the nearby South Beach Marina, carrying two 12-year-olds, a 10-year-old, and a six-month-old puppy - all of whom were wearing lifejackets. Another adult and I were not wearing lifejackets.

We were soon hailed by the 41-ft San Francisco Police Patrol boat to follow them to the ferry dock at McCovey Cove next to the stadium. I was then given an on-the-water inspection. With the boat registration and my driver's license back in the marina, I sat quietly while I endured a chewing out by the police officer. When I asked "What?" to one of his comments, he went off on a tirade asking me how much trouble I wanted, because he could give it to me.

My children got an education in being polite to a person of authority - when every part of my being told me I shouldn't be treated like that and I should shout back. Ultimately, I had my driver's license number and dinghy CF numbers run by the police. During the radio response, my personal information was transmitted over a loudspeaker that could have been heard at home plate during a baseball game. Despite having two Type IV cushions for the adults, I was given a $156 ticket for inadequate flotation devices.

Two weeks later a friend of mine was hailed by the San Francisco Police while he was rowing his dinghy through McCovey Cove. When they complained that it took him a long time to get to their patrol boat, he explained that he was rowing. According to the police, his problem was that he'd been in a no-motoring zone with his dinghy, which had a motor.

"But I was rowing," he said.

"Well, we don't want you here," they told him.

Chris Lewis
Carmelita, Catalina 42,
South Beach Marina

Chris - It's just a wild theory, of course, but could it be possible that differences in behavior displayed by the Coast Guard and the San Francisco Police are a reflection of the kind of people they have to deal with on a daily basis? The men and women in the Coast Guard get to work with relatively normal and sane people. The San Francisco Police, on the other hand, spend their days contending with the worst of drunks and drug addicts, lunatics, thieves, abused women and children, murder victims, people injured in all manner of terrible accidents, and God-knows-what-else. We think a person would have to be nuts to become a cop in San Francisco. And if they weren't nuts going in, the people they had to deal with would make them nuts by the end of the first week.

So yes, based on your version of events, the San Francisco cops in the Marine Division could have conducted themselves in a better manner. But since they didn't beat you or demand a bribe, we're willing to cut them a little bit of slack.


I saw the photo of the junk-rigged Pacific Enterprise in the December Latitude and, as the owner of the junk-rigged Nor' Sea 27 Sea Blossom in San Diego Bay, I would be interested in contacting the owner to exchange knowledge and experience. To my knowledge, the only association of junk-rigged sailors is in Great Britain. Any persons with junk-rig info, please feel free to contact me by email.

Lance G. Jobson
Chula Vista

Lance - We can't give out addresses, but we'll publish your request and email address.


We're writing in hopes that some of your readers can share their experience with a situation I expect to face as we sail south to Mexico next year. My wife has a non-life-threatening yet chronic medical condition that requires several prescription medications - not insulin, marijuana or anything addictive - that are not over-the-counter in the United States. If we travel to Mexico and perhaps beyond, how do we deal with this?

We obviously can't fly home every month to resupply. I suspect that if we take a six-month bag of pills, we should declare them at the border. And if we did return and needed to resupply at six months, how does one get permission to carry a new bag across the border? It certainly seems like something that we should be prepared for in advance.

I also believe that I read in Latitude that Mexico requires such drugs to be obtained using a Mexican doctor's prescription. If true, how does one get that in advance? And what about in Guatemala, San Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and other countries? We would appreciate any input.

P.S. We were boarded by the Coasties in the Delta in August while on our way to the Bay. They were very polite and professional, and they didn't even have us slow down!

David & Carolyn Cammack
Aztec, (formerly Bob Towle's) Cape North 43

David and Carolyn - We've sailed our boats to Mexico close to 20 times, but not once has anybody asked us to declare any prescription drugs. Nonetheless, this isn't our area of expertise, so we'll throw your question out to our readers.

And good luck with Aztec. We remember first meeting Bob and Ginny Towle aboard her at English Harbor in Antigua. It must have been 15 years ago.


I'd like to thank reader Jeanette Heulin of the Bristol 32 Con Te Partiro for the note about NOAA's Coast Pilots being available online. I would never have thought to look there for accessible materials. As a blind sailor, such detailed nautical information is difficult to find in accessible format. Although PDF files can create some messy problems in trying to make them easy to read with synthesized speech systems, I'm now working with the fine folks at NOAA to solve these problems.

I strongly recommend this excellent series of books about our coasts to any sailor, as they contain a wealth of fascinating information about our coastal waters. The style is quite readable - and often verges on the literary.

I also can't say often enough how much we appreciate Latitude for being such a great and accessible mag.

Tom Fowle
BAADS, the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors
San Francisco

Tom - Thanks for the kind words. We hope you folks at BAADS are looking forward to another great season of sailing.


As for the Canadian who wrote in to say that global warming was causing the waters of the Pacific Northwest to evaporate and coastal rocks to be exposed and/or moved, the only rocks he must be familiar with are the ones in his booze balls!

There is all kinds of water up here. In order to avoid the rocks, a mariner just has to use current charts, stay sober, and stop whining about global warming. After all, 'climate change' is just the natural function of the earth going through normal cycles. Didn't we all learn in high school science that "nothing can be created or destroyed?" Sooner or later it all recycles into something.
As for remote and/or busy places to cruise, the Pacific Northwest has the best in the world. You can find busy and civilized places to cruise, as well as more primitive and uninhabited areas too. The people are wonderful everywhere, in the right places the shopping is excellent, the majority of passages are close to shore, there are plenty of safe harbors, and it's safe from pirates - except those representing the governments. Although I now have a large power yacht, I thoroughly enjoy your 'blow boat' magazine.

By the way, if the fellow concerned about this trip north around Cape Mendocino has too many concerns, he should drop into Eureka and buy the local fishermen a beer or two. Soon enough they'll share the information he'll need to have the most comfortable rounding of the Cape.

Dennis McMurtry
In The Deep Waters Of Vancouver, British Columbia

Dennis - We live in a self-absorbed age, so we suppose people can be forgiven for believing that any variation in the current condition of the earth is necessarily wrong or unnatural - as if the many cycles of global warming and cooling that occurred prior to the existence of man and the internal combustion engine never happened. The terrible truth that we're all going to have to make peace with is that the world really doesn't revolve around each one of us, and, unlike what we've always assumed, we're not the masters of our universe. Please pass the rum.

Having said that, the concept that "nothing can be created or destroyed" is no reason to dismiss concerns about climate change - no matter if they are the result of man's actions or of a natural cycle of nature. We humans need a stable mix of relatively moderate temperatures in order to survive. For example, if the temperature at the poles dropped to 200° below and the temperature at the equator rose to 200° above, it would soon be curtains for our species. The main mechanism that keeps the poles from getting ultra cold and the equator ultra hot are the winds and underwater rivers that mix and 'average out' the temperature extremes. If, for some reason - natural or man-made - the moderating influences of the winds and underwater rivers were thwarted, we'd ultimately all end up being roasted or frozen.

It's kind of a fun topic to toss around while cruising - by power or sail - in the delightful waters of the Pacific Northwest.


I read Latitude cover-to-cover each month. In the December '04 issue - I know that was a long time ago - some questions were raised about garbage. Since I haven't seen any responses, I thought I'd reply.

Generally, resource use and pollution from production and distribution outweigh disposal issues. For every ton of product waste we dispose of, about 70 tons of upstream waste are created. Glass bottles or metal cans at the bottom of the ocean or in a landfill don't cause huge environmental problems. But what's worse is the loss of valuable invested resources. That's really why we want to reduce, reuse and recycle. As we hit global peak oil production and approach the end of petroleum - with corresponding skyrocketing prices - conservation is increasingly critical.
With toxic materials, we need to also be very concerned about the disposal. Used motor oil, antifreeze, leftover paint, batteries, electronics and so forth should be recycled, not put in the trash. Plastics should not be burned, as some types - especially PVC - can also release toxic chemicals such as dioxin.

We should encourage marinas and marine suppliers, at home and in the countries we visit, to offer more recycling services. Then we should use them properly. Let's all take better care of the resources we enjoy and depend on.

Robert Haley, Recycling Manager
San Francisco

Robert - Thanks for the information. We're glad to see that mariners and marinas, both in the United States and Mexico, seem to be far more environmentally conscious and compliant than just a few years ago. In many foreign countries it seems to be the yachties who are leading the way.


After years of reading about all the great times everybody has had sailing down to Cabo in the Ha-Ha, we decided that we're going to join the fun this year. Where do I have to write to get the information package?

Roswitha Hutson
Big Bear Lake

Roswitha - Where did you get a name like that? We love it!

Right after the end of each Ha-Ha, the Ha-Ha folks go into hibernation until the following May 1, so information on this fall's event won't be available until then. But before crashing for the winter, Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler reported that this year's Lucky Ha-Ha 13, featuring a full moon during the stop at Bahia Santa Maria, will start from San Diego on October 30.

By the way, the Wanderer, who wouldn't miss serving as the volunteer Grand Poobah for his life, is getting a feeling that this might be the biggest Ha-Ha ever. "Ever since the last Ha-Ha ended, all kinds of people have been telling me they're going to do this year's Ha-Ha. For example, after we hired a guy to sheetrock our flood-damaged editorial offices, he said, "By the way, I'm doing the Ha-Ha this fall on my girlfriend's Freedom 44." We've heard stuff like that over and over.


I thought you and your readers would enjoy seeing these 20 Christmas baubles. The photo was sent to me by Don Trask, my old sailing pal and former Northern California dealer for J/Boats. I have no idea where the photograph was taken.

Jim Hill
Northern California

Jim - For some reason we get the feeling the photo wasn't taken in the Virgin Islands.

Did you see the report that the New England Journal of Medicine published by a female German doctor? It said studies showed that it was very healthy for males to look at photos of women's bare breasts for about 15 minutes each day. According to the study, it increased heart rate, was as good as 20 minutes of exercising in the gym, and, on the average, added five to seven years to a man's life. Unfortunately, the report on the report was a fraud. No such article appeared in the NEJM.

Of course, that theory hasn't been disproven either.


Driving at night might be dangerous . . . if you wore a white hood while carrying a flaming cross down Martin Luther King Blvd. The world could be, might be, and oh my . . . lions, and tigers, and bears - oh my! Yes, at any time, at any place, the world may come to an end, so let us all hide behind our doors and live in fear of all things of mice and men.

But as I said in my October letter, if you follow close enough behind a truck or bus, but far enough behind not to take a rock in your windshield, you shouldn't have any problems with livestock or tequila-ridden car-jackers waiting for you around every corner.

I happen to know it is far more dangerous to drive in the United States, having done so for 16 years, than it is in Mexico.

Having once again returned to the States via the free road, I will say that I forgot to mention that the free road from Navajoa to Obregon needs some serious repair and should be avoided. However, that portion is not Highway 15.

Regarding the Mexican government giving warnings about car-jackings, I have heard nothing about Highway 15 that runs from Nogales south. Regarding the degree of risk referred to by 'Name withheld', I would point out that there is a degree of risk in all adventures, including walking out one's own front door. For as Gandalf said, "No one knows where it will lead you."

If risk is what sends you into a tizzy, then forget hoisting that anchor. Grab an armchair instead and snuggle into the current issue of Latitude. We risk-takers will keep you up on which way the wind blows, the world turns, and in which direction. For those who have been given a little nudge out the door, I welcome you to the world of those who have gotten busy living.

P.S. Those no-tell motels can be dangerous, too.

I'm not withholding my name because I don't give a damn.

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46
Now in Puerto Vallarta


The letters about the dangers of driving at night in Mexico have been of interest to us. While we had our boat in Mexico, we also had a pickup. And we had a blast driving all over Mexico during the hot summer months. We left our boat on a mooring in San Carlos, then drove all over in the highland until the Mexico City News reported the temperatures had gone down again in Guaymas.
We didn't drive much at night, but we did try the 'no tell motels'. We found them to be as Mr. Metheany reported, cheap, clean and fun!

David Wilson & Sandra Synder


We don't know anybody who knows anything about "gangs of murderous car-jackers" in Mexico, as mentioned by the author of a recent letter to Latitude. However, we agree with his saying that driving at night in Mexico is a no-no. Drunk drivers, animals and large trucks on sharp curves are among the hazards. But perhaps our firsthand near-death experience will make the biggest impression.

A couple of years ago, Martin and I broke the first rule of driving at night - which is don't do it! - by leaving the Paradise Village Marina in our Dodge Ram van at 4:30 a.m. while it was still dark, and heading to Guadalajara. We had approximately 600 pounds of iron and steel in our van that we were taking to be galvanized, and the owner of the shop told us we had to be there by 8 a.m. or we'd be out of luck.

Well, about 90 minutes into the drive we were hit head-on while driving on the two-lane road from Puerto Vallarta to Tepic. There was nowhere for us to go to avoid being hit, as there were culverts on both sides of the road. All Martin could do was stomp on the brakes as we watched this small truck come right at us in our lane!

When we both realized that we were still alive after the impact, we crawled out of our totalled van. The entire road was blocked. The driver of the other vehicle, who was badly injured, was removed from his truck and laid on the road. He'd never even stepped on the brakes before hitting us. Eventually an ambulance arrived from the small town just up the road. I was loaded into that ambulance along with the driver and the passenger of the truck that had almost killed us. We were taken to the local hospital, and we all shared the 'emergency room' together.

When the ambulance left the scene of the accident, my poor Martin was left there alone, unable to speak Spanish, and having to face the police. To say that I was petrified is an understatement. For six hours I was in the hospital being very well taken care of, but I had no idea what had happened to my husband, our van, or our belongings. However, a policeman came to interview me about the accident.

Meanwhile, the driver of the small truck was transferred to Guadalajara under police escort. I was assured that my husband was probably with the Ministerio Publico, which is like a local District Attorney. After being X-rayed, given a shot for pain, being watched for possible internal injuries, and having a neck-brace made for me, the emergency room doctor gave me a prescription for pain meds and told me that someone would take me to the Ministerio's office. I was not charged one peso, asked to sign any forms or papers, or questioned about insurance coverage!

I found Martin at the Ministerio's office, along with the insurance agent for the Mexican auto insurance that we had on the van. This is very important! Since we had the insurance, and because it was evident from the skid marks of our van in our lane of the road, no one even questioned who was culpable. The insurance agent had arrived on the scene to assist Martin, and stayed with us and helped us locate a mini-van-taxi to load all of our belongings. These belongings included the metal parts - all of which had lodged themselves in various parts of the van rather than beheading either of us. We then drove back to the marina.

It was a horrible experience, and we lost our van. But there were also many positive things - such as our experience with the police, the hospital and the insurance agent. But never drive at night in Mexico, and always carry Mexican insurance on your vehicle.

As long as I'm on a roll, I'd also like to let all sailors know that some of us powerboaters are cruisers, too. We don't cause big wakes around anchorages or marinas, we don't run our generator all day or night, we aren't any more loaded down with money than many people with average sailboats and, generally speaking, we are no different than most cruisers on sailboats. The only differences are that we can provide the muscle if and when needed to pull sailboats off the shore, we can provide faster response time to many emergencies, we have stronger antennas for relaying radio messages, and we have ice for warm beer.

There are plenty of big fishing boats and large yachts that are a nuisance, but they are a nuisance to us, too! And they are not cruisers. It really pisses me off when I see a negative reference - for example, Dan Fitzpatrick made a slur in his recent piece - to those of us who prefer power to sail. We have many close cruising friends who happen to be sailors, and we all get along very well, and do not hold on to the useless 'sailor versus powerboater' standoff. So it would be nice if the sailors in the cruising fleet would refrain from referring to all powerboaters as scum or otherwise being less than desirable.

Lastly, the Sea of Cortez island cleanup that Latitude intends to organize sounds like a great idea, and we are sure many boaters will be ready to lend a helping hand. However, it's been our experience that the majority of the trash in the Sea of Cortez comes from the pangero fish camps or from the Baja peninsula pueblos and cities, not from cruisers. Most cruisers we have observed have taken good precautions to dispose of their trash and pick up trash in the anchorages as well. Putting garbage in proper containers, and then having it removed and disposed of, is a fairly new concept in the Mexican culture. Therefore all manner of stuff gets out into the Sea and floats around until it hits land.

Robin Hardy
The Cat's Meow, Custom 52-ft Trawler
San Pedro / La Paz

Robin - Thanks for your sobering report on driving in Mexico at night. We have a theory that the relative leading causes of vehicle accidents in the United States are high speeds and drinking, while in Mexico they are drinking and reckless passing on two-land roads.

Some readers may remember that you, Martin, and The Cat's Meow were responsible for pulling something like 10 sailboats off the rocks and beaches in the Puerto Escondido area following the devastation of Hurricane Marty in September of '03.

Your report on the lack of cruiser garbage on the islands in the Sea of Cortez confirms what we've heard from Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz and others. So now we're not sure whether we'll do an amped-up island cleanup or just a private low-key effort.


Like the reader of the January issue letter complaining about Dockwise Yacht Transport's delays in shipping his boat, we also experienced extreme delays and problems with a recent Dockwise shipping of our boat from Central America to Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. Their lack of good communication via their agents was one of the problems that made the whole situation worse. And yes, they do have all the 'disclaimers' to protect themselves from legal action.

However, we also want to report that the actual shipping was great, and the folks in the corporate office of Dockwise were exceptional in the manner in which they responded to customers and their complaints. In the end, we feel satisfied with Dockwise's performance.

We also want to put in a good word for Bruce and Tim at Banana Bay Marina and Land/Sea Marina in Golfito. They were in constant communication with the boats and the company.

Jerry & Sandi Zaslaw
Romanc'n the Zea
West Coast

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