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In Joe Elliott's article about cruising the coast of California, he urged readers to make such a trip while they were young . . . while you remember where you went yesterday and before you need to wear a diaper."

My wife and I take umbrage at his remarks about older people. We've been cruising our 1986 Wauquiez Centurion 40 since buying her on the East Coast in '99. After spending time on the East Coast and in the Caribbean, we sailed her to Europe. In fact, I celebrated my 67th birthday while on the crossing. We're still in the Med and have, among other things, participated in two Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rallies, crossed the Aegean four times, and generally been active. And, with the exception of the first two legs of our Atlantic crossing, we've been doublehanding.

I'm now 72, and we're heading back to pick up our boat in Lefkas, Greece, so we can spend time cruising Croatia and the Western Med.

We know exactly where we've been and when, and have found no need for diapers. Just because we've got some years on doesn't mean we're doddering. Au contraire, we're having a ball! And because of our lifestyle, we're probably healthier than a lot of much younger folks.

Glenn & Dana Meyer
Mahalo, Centurion 40
Sausalito / Lefkas, Greece

Glenn and Dana - We like Elliott's opinionated writing style, so we didn't want to edit that comment out. But we think it was even more foolish than it was insensitive, for one of the great things about sailing is that if you take care of yourself, and with a little luck, you can enjoy cruising into your 70s and 80s.

Later in this issue there is a letter from Bob Dickson of Newport Beach, who writes about racing to Tahiti in '48, meaning he's got a few years on him. But he's still racing aboard the 84-ft maxi Sorcery. Good on all of you who keep loving the sailing life.


I very much enjoy reading Latitude, but I'm curious about Cabo being the destination of your annual Baja Ha-Ha. I've been reading former Northern California resident John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez, and came across the following quote: "Many people had come to Cape San Lucas and many had described it . . . to a man straight off a yacht, it is a miserable flea-bitten place, poor and smelly."

So why does the Ha-Ha stop and end there?

Gary Wyngarden
Wanderlust, Hunter 37.5
Orcas Island

Gary - First a clarification. Although Latitude founded the Ha-Ha, for years now it's been owned and run by an entirely independent company.

Cabo has always been the final destination because of geographical destiny. The event needs to end in the tropics, and it needs a big airport so the crews can fly home. That means the Ha-Ha can't end anywhere north of Cabo. Going beyond Cabo wouldn't work for two reasons. First, about a third of the fleet wants to go up to La Paz, about a third of the fleet wants to sail over to Mazatlan, and the other third wants to continue down to Puerto Vallarta. Second, most crews can't take the extra three to five days it would take to make the natural stop in Cabo and then continue on to La Paz, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta. The more we do the Ha-Ha, the more we're coming to believe that the Turtle Bay - Bahia Santa Maria - and Cabo itinerary is about as perfect as a 10-day schedule can be.

As for Cabo being a "miserable flea-bitten place, poor and smelly," did you happen to notice that Steinbeck wrote those words back in 1951? A lot has changed since then. Think of what Anaheim was like in the '50s before Disneyland, and what it's like now. Cabo has gone through a transformation of a similar magnitude - although it's happened in just the last 20 years.

This is not to say that we didn't prefer viejo Cabo. Back then you had to set a bow anchor and back up to the cannery to get fuel. If you wanted water, you had to anchor off the arroyo and swim to shore to get the farmer's hose. And if you wanted bread, meat, and beer, it required visits to three shops in different parts of town - and often at different times because they were open on different days and often ran out of whatever they were selling. The cruising life is much more convenient in Cabo now, but with all the mega hotels, villas, restaurants, pizza places, bars, and other crap, we don't think it's better. And certainly much of the natural beauty is hidden by man-made creations.


First of all, let me tell you how much we like Latitude. Okay, we admit that we're addicted! Living in Lake Tahoe makes it somewhat of a challenge to get copies, but we always manage because we need to get that fix at the beginning of each month.

Laura and I were recently married by our friend, Capt./Minister Russ Norda, aboard his boat on the lake. We chose Latitude 38 as our 'bible'. We slipped our vows in, and away we went. Here's a sample of our vows:

"Do you both promise to share all responsibilities on your boat, including, but not limited to, hoisting the main, varnishing, diving for the anchor and scraping the bottom?"

And my favorite: "Do you, Mitch, promise to take full responsibilities as Captain?" And, "Do you, Laura, promise to give Mitch permission to be captain?"

As far as our honeymoon goes, we plan on joining the Ha-Ha this year to start an open-ended honeymoon.

Mitch & Laura Manina
South Lake Tahoe

Mitch and Laura - We're flattered and dumbfounded. We'll look forward to seeing you at the start of your open-ended honeymoon.


I'm writing in reference to actor Errol Flynn's 118-ft schooner Zaca, which was built in Sausalito in 1929, and which I understand is now in Monaco. I came across your site while researching the Zaca, and thought you might be interested in how the Zaca saved a life.

In 1947, Errol Flynn was arguably the biggest and most controversial star in Hollywood. He decided to visit and stay with his parents, who lived in Port San Antonio, Jamaica. Flynn sailed to Jamaica from California aboard Zaca, which he'd bought from the U.S. Navy. Once he arrived at Port San Antonio, he greeted his parents, then went out for the night to the Titchfield Hotel. Andy Hamilton, a local saxophonist who specialized in jazz and calypso, was the bandleader at the Titchfield.

Flynn liked the music and asked Hamilton to write a song for him. Hamilton agreed and wrote an uptempo jazz calypso song he called Silvershine. Flynn loved it - and liked to dance to it. Flynn then hired Hamilton as Music Director to play on his yacht. On and off for the next two years they cruised the Caribbean together aboard Zaca, hosting parties for celebrity visitors and friends. In 1949, Flynn returned to films, and a short time later Hamilton moved to Birmingham, England.

In addition to raising a family of 10 in England, Hamilton became a highly respected figure in the local jazz community. Unfortunately, he was barely known beyond a small and shrinking number of local jazz venues. By 1986, at the age of 68, his career seemed to end when he fell into a diabetic coma from which he was not expected to recover. According to the medical staff, at one point he was clinically dead.

To everyone's surprise, Hamilton eventually did recover. When I visited him shortly after that in hospital, he excitedly described in detail a vision he'd had. He said that he'd seen himself back aboard Zaca with his band, with Flynn dancing to Silvershine - a song Hamilton says he had completely forgotten and hadn't played since leaving Jamaica nearly 40 years before. He says that as Flynn danced, he pointed at Andy and repeatedly said, "Andy, keep playing that song."

Once out of the coma, Hamilton almost immediately telephoned his pianist and sang the song to him so it would never be forgotten. It was to be the start of a new life for the saxophonist.

After making a remarkable recovery and discharging himself from hospital, Hamilton put his band back together. He booked a venue and, once on stage, told the story of the song and played it for the audience. They danced wildly to it.

Val Wilmer, an eminent London jazz writer who was researching a book on musicians from the Caribbean, reviewed Hamilton's 70th birthday gig. The article became a large feature in The Independent, a national newspaper. As a result, Hamilton was invited to play at the Soho Jazz Festival in London. Hamilton intended to play Silvershine as his last number, but the festival was running over, so he could only briefly explain the song before saying good-night.

Nick Gold, a record producer in the audience, was sufficiently impressed with Hamilton's playing that he offered the saxophonist his first-ever record deal - at the age of 71. The album was called Silvershine and became the biggest selling jazz album of the year in the United Kingdom, The Times Jazz Album of The Year, and one of Sony's 50 International Albums of the Year.

Since then, Hamilton has played at major festivals and venues in Paris, Milan, St Lucia, Jamaica - and went to Cuba to play with the Buena Vista All Stars. He also did a live BBC concert with Patti Austin at Symphony Hall in Birmingham on his 85th birthday. He has received national and international public honors for his work in music and education.

Hamilton is soon to celebrate his 88th birthday, is still playing beautifully - and would dearly love to play aboard the Zaca one more time. But to this day, Hamilton is clear about what he saw and heard in the coma, and it has totally changed his life. He says that not a day goes by without him thinking of Errol Flynn and Zaca.

Alan Cross
Jazz Correspondent, Birmingham Evening Mail


We had to write in response to Bill Taylor's March letter about the origins of the Sea Wolf ketch and other boats from the Far East. We are the owners of Gallatin, a wood Sea Wolf ketch that Taylor sold us while he was working at Mystic Cove Yacht Sales in Marina del Rey.

Now, 30 years later, Gallatin is berthed at slip 507 in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. She'll probably be around longer than the Ala Wai docks. We wooded Gallatin last summer for the first time in 35 years. She had four leaks, all of which have been taken care of. She had no blisters, of course, and no worms. Her Russian spruce masts are still fine.

The accompanying photo is of our Sea Wolf hauling ass during a wooden boat race - of which she won two. When the PHRF folks lowered our handicap, we stopped racing.

All of our Sea Wolf ketch is made from trees, and she's been one of the loves of our lives.

Bob & Beverly Leitelt
Honolulu, Hawaii

Bob & Beverly - Thanks for sharing your story. We enjoy hearing from people who have owned the same boat for many years.


I was moved to respond to your editorial response to Barbara Brown's letter regarding her unhappy crewing experience on a trip down to Mexico. I'm not sure that you're aware - indeed I sincerely hope you weren't - of how sexist your response was. Yes, Barbara may have been naive to expect an excellent crew situation, although she did what she could to anticipate and prevent it. And yes, there are usually personality clashes on boats.

However, that's where any naiveté on her part ends and your insensitivity begins. The gift of foul weather gear from the captain to her does not imply a commitment to a sexual relationship. If he meant that, he should have made that clear. You said she should have been clear at that point. And at how many other points? It seems to me that he was the one who wasn't clear about his intentions, not her. She did state her expectations. Does every woman who gets on a boat and dons her gloves need to wear a button that says, 'No sex, please'?

Your statement of "Guy + Girl + Sailing Adventure = Why Not a Little Romance?" is ridiculous. Your opinion that a man is not responsible to make his meaning clear, and that a woman's job is to assume that he's assuming she'll sleep with him, and in turn to say no to something he hasn't asked is straight out of the '50s. If she turns him down before he asks, that could rightly be seen as quite presumptuous. Also, sexual coercion, which is called 'rape' if physical, comes in many other forms, particularly when there is a power differential between the two parties. This captain behaved like a petulant toddler denied a treat, but he had the power to retaliate.

You began your response by saying "having heard your side of the story . . . ," but I don't think you did. You disregarded her side, inferred his side, and then defended it. You might want to revisit your own stated caveat: "Even people as insensitive as us . . ." Sensitivity can be achieved with a little effort. It's worth it.

Judith Wood Mintz, LCSW
Where's Emily?
Chicago, Illinois

Judith - You and we view the world in different ways. You're a utopian and we're a realist. You think the world should be all sweetness and light, and then get angry because it's not. We accept that parts of life stink, and then decide how to best deal with the unpleasant parts and people.

As you know full well, nobody suggested that Barbara, by accepting the gift of foul weather gear, was committing herself to anything - let alone a sexual relationship. Nonetheless, unless she lives in a world where people regularly give her things worth relatively significant amounts of money, or just fell off the turnip truck, she should have been at least a little curious about the motivation for the largesse. We don't know of any females over the age of 15 who wouldn't. After all, once a person accepts something of significant value from another, there is almost always a shift in power. An assertive woman will easily overcome such an imbalance by saying something like, "Watch the hands, pal, buying my foul weather gear doesn't entitle you to jack." Less assertive women are better off buying their own foul weather gear and keeping their personal boundaries in good repair.

Talk about sexist, what could be more arrogant than for you, a woman, to dismiss our description of a prevalent male thought process - "guy + girl + sailing adventure = why not a little romance?" as "ridiculous." Not only are you in no position to make any judgement about it, it's not ridiculous at all. We'll let you more sensitive types judge if such a male thought process is right or wrong, or if it's what keeps the species perpetuating itself, but it's reality. Encouraging women to think it's not is both foolish and irresponsible.

How can you say we disregarded the women's side when we wrote, "We won't discount the possibility that the captain was a complete asshole and that you are right to be upset." If that's defending the guy, we didn't do a very good job.

No matter if you're a man or a woman, our recommendations for crewing are simple: 1) Make sure the money matters are clearly understood at the outset. 2) Do more than your share of the work. 3) Be as accommodating as you can to others on the boat. 4) Hope for the best, but assume that the next port will be your last. 5) Have the financial resources on hand to be able to leave the boat and return home. 6) If you're a woman, always assume that romance/sex is a potential issue. It goes without saying that all romance/sex needs to be consensual.

Since you think we're sexist - actually we are sexist, ageist, racist, and all the other -ists, just like everybody else is - perhaps you'll give more credence to another woman's take on Ms. Brown's unhappy trip. Mabelle Lernoud's letter appears next, and we think she says it all.


I'm writing in response to Barbara Brown's letter in the March issue.

Woman to woman, Barbara, I feel your pain. But if you really like sailing, don't quit just because of a bad experience. Grow thicker skin. Captains are people, and they come in all varieties.

You cannot blame Capt. Tom for grabbing as much sleep as he could. You should have done the same. Now you know. It is all a learning process. Chalk it up to experience.

I agree with the editor's reply that you need to make it very clear from the very beginning if you are not interested in sex. Men won't believe you, but at least you have said it, and you can stand your ground. For me, the best way to bring up the subject has been to directly ask, "Are you looking for just crew or for a girlfriend?" Then you can both take it from there. Smoking, alcohol, sex and money are issues I have always needed to be clear about from the start. Set your boundaries.

People can get weird after a few days at sea. It happens often. I had a captain who had me stand watch every time it rained, for all the time it rained ("since you are already wet . . ."). He didn't even pass me a cup of something hot. Another captain, whom I told I would crew for, but was not interested in romantically, luckily found another woman who obliged. He made a cockpit-wide bunk for them. He expected me and the fourth crew to sail all the way to Cabo belowdecks so as not to interrupt their romance! I gave them plenty of privacy for their naked photo sessions, but showed up promptly for my watches. The other guy never came up. There were hours on end without a proper lookout. We both got thrown off in Cabo, and the captain's girl left. You can't play along with people's delusions. They had a cabin, but the cockpit is a common area. Mutual respect is a two-way street.

Being thrown off the boat is unpleasant, but you deal with it. I've had to jump ship a couple of times to save my skin. Captains having problems with alcohol, drugs, negligence and inexperience were some of the reasons. I had to lock myself in the forepeak once until the rest of the crew slept off their drunkenness. And yet, the lone night watches, sunsets and sunrises, the vastness of the ocean and the sky, the magic of sailing, the wonder of distant landfalls, all kept me coming back. I've done thousands of miles across wide oceans with people with whom I had very little in common - other than being on the same boat. But they had a boat and needed help, and I wanted to go to sea. You are a team. You can work together even if you don't love each other. It's a quid pro quo. Don't expect it to be idyllic. But be safe. It's a calculated risk. Know what you are doing.

It's important that you set your own boundaries and respect everyone else's. Do your part willingly, and be grateful that you have the chance to do what you like. If you are in danger, leave the boat. There will always be things that you don't like. But for me, such opportunities were my ticket to be where I wanted to be, so I put up with my share of BS. I was crewing on a boat once in a tropical paradise, and a guest, upon seeing that the owner's wife treated me like a maid, and once didn't put a plate out for me at the table, said, "You must really like what you do!" Yes, I did. This wife could not stand that I liked sailing and working on deck, as she was utterly miserable on the boat. You cannot take such things personally or let them ruin your day.

Some trips are better than others, and I have made lifelong friends, and sailed in places I would have missed otherwise. I also have wonderful memories of great trips with very nice people. A thick skin and a strong inner center are the best protection. I wish you many happy sea miles.

Mabelle Lernoud

Mabelle - By the way, lest anyone get the impression that there are more weird captains than crew, that's not the case. The tales of unpleasant behavior on the part of crews is endless. Usually they have to do with crew being lazy, slobby, or having too much affection for alcohol, but there are many other variations. We can't remember who told us this story, but a year or two ago they were doing a Baja Bash aboard a very nice 75-ft yacht. Everyone was preparing dinner one night, and the delivery skipper's lady friend went in the head, which unfortunately was located directly across from the galley. More unfortunately, she needed to go #2 instead of #1. But worst of all, she refused to close the door while she tended to business. "This is how we do it in Alaska," she explained.

If you've ever had crew who have done strange things, why not share your story with us? But please, leave the names out.


May I write a three-part letter? Why not?

I loved the letter from Bill Taylor about the Bill Hardin line of 'Garden' boats from Taiwan. When my wife Vickie and I first came out to the Bay Area, we both lusted after first the 31-ft Sea Spirit, and later the 40-ft Sea Wolf - two of the saltiest ketches ever built. It was the $23,000 price tag that prevented us from becoming proud owners. Later, when I'd become a rich airline captain, we flew to Taiwan to get a quote on their building an aft-cabin boat of my own design based on the 40-footer. The price was again too high, so we took my plans back home. But they'd copied my plans, and only three months later a model of my design was off-loaded on the dock in California. Whazoo!

Jeff Chamberlain said it well - outboard engines run best when they are worked every day. Run an engine and it will last forever. Keep it secured to the stern pulpit, and before long it will morph into a mediocre anchor.

Finally, you've been publishing Latitude for almost 30 years now - what a swell time you've had and given. I've enjoyed every issue from the first to the current. You've superbly filled a need, so thank you. After all, it's all about fun, isn't it?    

Dave Case
Northern California

Readers - Perhaps some readers aren't aware that earlier this year Case published a book called Sailin' South. Here's the description from "In the fall of 1979, Vickie and Dave Case set out from San Francisco in a 29-ft sailboat built from a semi-kit. They harbor-hopped down the coast to Manzanillo, Mexico, before bravely heading the 2,700 miles over open ocean to the Marquesas. Using a compass, sextant and sumlog, they covered the distance in 22 days. Then it was off to Tahiti, the Society Islands, Rarotonga and Pago Pago, before heading back to Honolulu and home to San Francisco. The sailing was very primitive by today's standards. Weather and mechanical problems were a constant challenge. The people met along the way made it all worthwhile."

Case not only used to be a pilot who often flew into Hong Kong's Kai Tek Airport, one of the most dangerous in the world, he trained other pilots to land there. The accompanying photo is of one of his students crabbing toward the runway, hoping to get things straightened out before he ends up in the South China Sea.


As with many cruisers, Latitude seems to manifest an attitude toward cruising that is puzzling to me. You seem to suggest that the best part of sailing is getting over the sailing part - and on to the all-important destination, destination, destination. Even if this involves as much - or more - motoring than sailing. From this perspective, the oceans are just sort of a convenient inconvenience that we put up with so that we will have our vessels with us when we arrive at our all-important D-word. The ocean is but a medium through which we transport our land-based habits from one place to another.

This perspective seems to reflect our sort of Western-world concern with efficiency and results. The important thing about racing is who wins, places and shows. The important thing about cruising is "Where'd ya' go?" "Who'd ya' see?"

While it's clear that silence, serenity, peace, quiet and natural beauty will probably never sell anything as much as a kind of cheerleading, rah-rah attitude and tone will, I wonder if there aren't any sailors left who go to sea for the sheer love of being at sea. For the magic of being propelled on water by wind. For the privilege of traveling on a medium that both spawns whales - and dwarfs them. For the tangible, indescribable darkness and silence of a calm anchorage when you arrive at night - and the surprise at seeing the different colors and shades of water and bottom when the sun comes up in the morning.

So mine is a simple plea for a greater emphasis on sailing for the love of sailing, for the love of the sea, and for those qualities - peace, quiet, silence, serenity and beauty - that aren't products of motors, results, efficiency, or land-based urban gregariousness.

P.S. Although I did go on the 2004 Baja Ha-Ha, I never did find the cheerleaders.

David Stephens
San Diego / Ensenada

David - Perhaps you're reading the magazine so quickly you're missing stuff. In our January report on Mazatlan and the Jungle Coast, we wrote about our sail from San Blas to Chacala. We noted that it started in a nice breeze with good boat speed, but then the wind faded. Rather than fire up the engine, we reported that we savored the serene conditions close to shore, even at the end when it took us half an hour to cover the last quarter mile, and even though it meant we didn't get the hook down until after sunset. And that's not atypical. During our last trip from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina, with Doña de Mallorca and Suzi Todd as crew, we decided to put the chute up even though it was late in the afternoon and there was only about three knots of wind. We heated it up way off course to try to generate some apparent wind, and kept at it for so long that we didn't get back to the marina until well after dark. And we loved doing it.

As a vet of the Ha-Ha, you'll also recall that the biggest honor in the event is reserved for those skippers and crews who sailed all the way, which often required gutting out calm conditions for long periods of time. In our report on the last Ha-Ha, did we not specifically honor Nels Torberson and the crew of the Morgan Out-Island 41 Bronco, as well as Michael Ganahl and Leslie Hardy of the 60-ft schooner Millennium Falcon - all of whom waited out something like 40 hours of no wind in order to sail the entire first leg of the Ha-Ha?

Yes, there are times when we and others have to motor to keep schedules, but we love light-air sailing, and know full well that there are many times when sailing at three knots is a lot more satisfying than sailing at 13 knots.


Today I went out for a leisurely walk around Whangarei, New Zealand, enjoying the first sunny day in the last week. My girlfriend stayed aboard because she'd just had foot surgery and couldn't move around much. It was lucky for us that she was laid up, or we'd have lost our boat!

She said the boat had filled with smoke, and her foot made it impossible for her to get into the engine room to find out what was on fire. Luckily, folks around here listen to channel 16, so she put out a request for help. The nice folks on boats on both sides of us immediately came over in their dinghies, armed with fire extinguishers. We have five on our boat so we were fine in that regard, but it was nice of them to come prepared. When they opened the engine room door, they couldn't see a thing for all the smoke. They were some brave folks.

Fortunately, the cause of the problem turned out to be the solar controller, and they caught it before any significant fire could spread. Our boat now has scorch marks on the hull and a few scorched wires and hoses, but our boat is safe.

Normally I would blow the incident off as a one-time fluke - but this is the second time it's happened. Just before I bought this boat in early 2004, the previous owner had had the same Morningstar SunSaver controller fail in the same way. He got the company to replace it, since, as they say, it must have had a defect. As such, I believe the defect is in the unit's design! The replacement unit has only been in place for two years, and the company claims a five-year warranty.

Anyway, the unit was installed correctly, but I also added a 20-amp fuse between the unit and the solar panels. The controller is rated for 20 amps, and only has to control three Siemens 75-watt panels. There is no way the three panels could have exceeded 20 amps, even on the brightest day. The 20-amp fuse never blew, so I know for a fact that the charge controller unit never went over its rated power.

Now we have an electrical problem, as only two of our five solar panels are working, our Fisher-Panda generator is in pieces - it's a long story about using saltwater to cool an engine - and we have no access to shore power. Luckily, the fire did not damage the engine, so at least we can use it for charging until I can find a proper solar controller.

I'm not sure what is going on here, except that the other folks with controllers by Morningstar Corporation should be notified about the potential problems.

P.S. I attached a photo of the unit. The manufacturer suggests consulting the manual first before requesting warranty repair to verify if the unit has a problem.

Richard Clack
Mystic Rhythms

Readers - We contacted Morningstar to get their side of the story. Bill Mellema, a design engineer at the company, said that he, the owner of the company, and several others had been in contact with Clack, and tried to explain that 'resistive connections' had been the cause of the fire, not a faulty Morningstar product:

"When two conductors - a wire and screw terminal, for instance - are mated, there is a resistance at that connection. Usually this contact resistance is very low and poses no threat. However, when connections become loose, oxidation builds on the surfaces, or corrosion accumulates, and the resistance at the connection can increase to a dangerous level. When current passes through resistance, power is dissipated in the form of heat. If the value of the resistance goes up, so does the power dissipated (for the same amount of current). When a connection has lots of resistance, the heat generated at the connection can melt surrounding materials - such as plastics - and actually catch fire.

"Resistive connections can occur on any electronic device that carries significant amounts of power. It is important to periodically check the tightness of the connections and inspect for corrosion - as suggested in the Maintenance section in the Operator's Manual. In my years here at Morningstar, I have found that resistive connections are more common in mobile applications such as boats and RVs because motion and vibration work cables loose. But they are not unheard of in stationary applications.

"System fusing is necessary, but fuses do not prevent resistive connections. Resistive connections can dissipate dangerous levels of heat with normal system current. Here are a few tips to prevent resistive connections: 1) Periodically check and tighten the terminal screws. 2) Install cable reliefs (p-clamps) to prevent wire sway, which can work connections loose. 3) Apply dielectric grease - the black gooey stuff you put on car battery connections - to the power terminal connections to avoid corrosion build-up on the conductor surfaces."

According to Mellema, Clack cited ring terminals, wire length, wire gauge, and fusing as reasons why he didn't believe that resistive connection was the cause of the fire. "None of these factors has anything to do with resistive connections," said Mellema. "The SunSaver design is well proven and reliable. Over 400,000 have been sold since the mid-'90s, and the failure rate has been one in 1,000."

We're not experts in electrical systems, so we don't know what to make of this situation. On the one hand, Morningstar's explanation sounds logical, but then two fires on the same boat from resistive connections seems rather unusual.


I think Dennis Conner was channeling Donald Trump in the February 22 'Lectronic item you had about him welcoming everyone to North Cove Marina in Manhattan, the marina where he serves as "chairman of the board" of the management team. But at least the North Cove Marina Management are up front about some things. Consider the following paragraph from their Rules and Regulations:

"17) Holding Tank Pump Out: The Marina is equipped with a passive holding tank pump-out system. This system is currently inoperative and has not been operating for many years. NCMM will endeavor to restore this system to operating condition. The discharge of holding tanks into the marina is strictly prohibited. Owners should make arrangements to discharge their holding tanks at other facilities around the harbor. If the marina pump-out system becomes operational, vessels may use it for a separate fee to be determined in the future."

Several harbors I know would be improved by such a straightforward approach.

Eric Artman
Planet Earth

Eric - You can also say this for Conner and his management group - they didn't get the contract because of his celebrity, but because they made the highest bid.


A lot of readers have written to you for advice on the best type of boat to buy. I'm doing the same. Not knowing much about sailboats, I took basic and coastal cruising classes. But even after that - and reading Latitude for more than a year - I still know very little about what kind of boat to get. I'll be retiring in 18 months, and a short time later will hopefully be owning a boat in the Puerto Vallarta region. From that base, I would hope to be able to continue to Ecuador and French Polynesia.

I'm single, not rich, and will be looking for a boat built around 1980, at least 32 feet in length, but not bigger than 35 feet. I'm hoping to find something in that range with a good diesel for about $30,000.

We readers look to you as sailboat authorities, and want you to help us get the best for what little we can afford. For instance, now and then a boat will show up in the Classy Classifieds - such as a Yorktown 35 in the February issue - that has all the right gear and seems comparatively inexpensive. Or what about a Hunter 37 with a shoal keel?

Finding the right boat is a big problem for many of us new sailors, so it would be nice if you could write a little booklet on the subject. I know that I would buy a copy.

Jim Prevo
Northern California

Jim - As we've written before, readers asking us what boat they should buy doesn't make a lot more sense than asking us who they should marry. It's too subjective. Nonetheless, we've got a few guidelines. First, you should have a good gut reaction about the boat, as in "I like the looks of that!" Second, stick to boats that were designed and built for offshore use, and have been maintained reasonably well. Lots of cruising dreams have gone unfulfilled because folks bought 'fixer uppers' not realizing how complicated and expensive it can be. Even very experienced sailors get burned on this. The year a boat was built is almost irrelevant. All you should care about is whether the specific boat you're interested in is good or not. For example, most Yorktown 35s were built from kits. Some of the better-built ones were circumnavigated with no problem. Poorly finished ones, in which corners were cut on critical systems, might be nothing but problems. As such, don't buy anything without getting a good survey.

The best boat-buying wisdom we ever heard came from multihull designer Dick Newick - or was it Walter Greene? - who said you can only get two of the following three qualities when buying a boat: speed, comfort and low cost. Since your budget is $30,000, you're in the moderately low-cost range, and will have to decide whether speed or comfort is more important to you. To our way of thinking, speed is often the greater part of comfort and safety.

Roughly speaking, there are three types of boats. 1) Pure cruising boats, which usually have rather heavy displacement and are relatively comfortable. If you shop around, you might be able to find a Westsail 32 or Dreadnought 32 in your price range. 2) Racer/cruisers, which marry varying degrees of speed with comfort. It's just a wild guess, but we'd estimate that 75% of people out cruising are on racer/cruisers. Some, however, are much racier than others. There are so many boats in this range - Cals, Ericsons, Columbias, Catalinas, Coronados, Islanders - that we don't even know where to begin. If you don't need a ton of room, you might take a look at something like a Peterson 34. 3) Racing boats. If you're the right kind of person and know what to look for, discarded racing boats can offer the biggest bang for the buck. A friend of ours is getting ready to go cruising with his daughter on a 28-ft Wylie Hawkfarm. He'll have gotten his boat with a nearly new diesel, a bunch of sails, and all the electronics he needs for less than $10,000. This isn't the biggest boat in the world, but as Skip Allan has proved with his Wylie Hawkfarm prototype Wild Flower, they can be raced and cruised all over the Pacific with great success.

When buying your first boat, it's critical to remember the priorities. Number one is not how nice the teak overhead or cabin cushions look, but whether the hull keeps water out of the boat. Number two is having a reliable steering system. Three is having a reliable mast and sails. Four is having a reliable engine, primarily to provide electrical power and propulsion in tight situations. If you've got all that stuff, all you need is a couple of GPSs, a VHF radio, a bag of groceries, and you're good to go to at least Mexico. In fact, we bet that 75% of the boats over 30 feet could be sailed to Mexico just as they are. So keep it simple.


That was a great article on St. Barth in the February issue, ol' boy.

And I liked the letters on French medicine. I agree with the editor in that it's free and it's good. And I should know - at least here in the French West Indies - for every time I've gone to - actually been taken to - the hospital, the services have been great, up to date, and efficient. When they passed out the French insurance forms for payment, I gave them the old "What dat?" And then they realized that I was a foreigner living on a sailing yacht. Well, no problem, they just took back all the forms and kindly sent me on my way.

And all the West Indies are like that - at least as far as I know. And I have been taken to the hospital in Grenada for a mashed-up hand, in Antigua for a mashed-up head, and even had my eye put back in. Yeah, that was the Mistress Quickly thing. I also took a broken foot to the French side hospital on St. Martin, and got a surfboard through the arm in St. Barth. Luckily I never had to pay a thing. I am, after all, the poor.

So when I'm back in the old U.S.A. and everyone asks me about health insurance, I simply tell them that if I have to be taken to a hospital, air ambulance me down to the Islands!

I'll be aboard Altair for the St. Barth Bucket and Elenora for the Classic Regatta in Antigua. Come on down!

D. Randy West
St. Barth

Readers - D. Randy is a Caribbean legend in his own mind - and the minds of quite a few others, too. When he took us out on his 60-ft Spronk cat Shadowfax in Antigua about 15 years ago, it was our first sail on a large cat. He became our cat guru, and we've lived by his basic recommendations ever since: "Long hulls, light weight, lots of bridgedeck clearance, huge main, and small jib."

The Mistress Quickly comment is all about why multihulls are not allowed at Antigua Sailing Week. After years of D. Randy lobbying to allow multihhulls to participate in the famous event, the race committee finally relented. So what happened? In the second race or so, D. Randy T-boned the great 72-ft maxi Mistress Quickly, one of the glamor boats in Antigua back then - with his 45-ft Spronk cat Skyhook. Multihulls were immediately banished from ever competing in Antigua again. Everybody else in the cat-crazy Caribbean lets cats play in their sailing games, but not Antigua.

We don't know if it's all the surfing, all the tropical sun, or even all the 'ti punches, but D. Randy has at least one big hole in his memory. One night we'd anchored Big O off Gustavia, and after dark there was a faint noise on the side of our boat. It was D. Randy and a lady friend. D. Randy was almost too weak to hand us his painter or climb aboard. "I've been in the hospital at St. Martin for a hernia operation," he whispered as though he were about to draw his last breath, "and they just about killed me. I almost flat-lined as they just stood around watching. I had to get out of there." D. Randy was in such bad shape we thought we might have to do a burial at sea right there off Fort Oscar.

In an earlier Latitude, we made the comment that the French consume massive amounts of prescription drugs. Since a few of you readers apparently didn't believe us, here's a quote from Adam Gopnik's well-written bestseller Paris to the Moon, describing his wife's treatment by French obstetricians:

"[My wife said that the female French obstetrician] said it was far too dangerous [to do all the tests that New York obstetricians recommend before childbirth], and then prescribed a lot of pills for pain. I've got antispasmodics, antinausea drugs, painkillers, and some other ones, too. Then she told me I could drink red wine, but absolutely not eat any raw vegetables. She kept asking me if I've had any salad. She says 'salad' in the way doctors in New York say 'uninsured'."

"French doctors like to prescribe drugs as much as New York doctors like to publish books. I suppose that it fills a similar need for self-expression with a pen, without having to go to the trouble of having your photograph taken with a professional yet humane grin. You cannot go into a French doctor's office for a cinder in your eye and emerge without a five-part prescription made up of pills of different sizes to be taken at irregular intervals."


With regard to the seeming discrepancies in prices for having boats shipped on Dockwise Yacht Transport, 10 feet of length can make a huge difference. When I advised them that my boat was actually 48.5 feet long instead of just 48 feet long, the price went up 30%. The other major factors with Dockwise are when you book, as there are big discounts for booking early, and when you ship, as arriving someplace later in the season is going to be cheaper because there will be less demand. If you think airline seat pricing can be complex, those guys have nothing on Dockwise! All that aside, they are running a business, and their pricing is based on supply and demand. I've used their service and would do it again.

As for the relatively small additional fees charged when a boat arrives on a Dockwise ship in Ensenada, it's understandable. When a boat arrives on a ship, it's brought into the country as cargo but then has to be converted to a private vessel. I faced the same situation when my boat was shipped from Mexico to Vancouver. Based on my experience, the difference was that all of those fees were included in the Dockwise prices and handled by the agent Dockwise uses in Vancouver. One could just write it off to helping the local economy - or if it really is irksome, check with Dockwise's rep in San Diego as to whether the extra fees in Ensenada were appropriate. After all, it would be good for the company to know if their clients are getting stiffed by their agent in Mexico.

Mike Moore
Formerly of Ayu, Hallberg-Rassy 46

Mike - Thanks for the info. One of these days we're going to have to sit down with those Hallberg-Rassy folks and have them explain to us why their HR-46 is actually 48.5 feet long. It seems they are being way too modest.


You're being asked if you are becoming a prude in your old age because you don't show enough skin in the magazine any more. I know how you can redeem yourself very easily, and how you can get yourself more interested in cruising. Anybody out there have a picture of the Bingo Boys in the buff?

Jayne Wyatt


While I appreciate a G-rated Latitude, I know there are others out there who enjoy some of your racier photos. In all fairness to your female readers, where are the pictures of scantily-clad men? Surely, there are confident, sexy, audacious sailors out there who would be willing to share their good fortune with us?

And keep up the good articles.

Julie Bassett
San Diego

Julie - Turnabout is indeed fair play, so we were all set to share a great bare buns photo of former Alameda resident Bruce Schwab, who twice raced his Wylie 70 singlehanded around the world. Unfortunately, when we called him to make sure it was cool to run the photos, he said, "Oh no, no, no! I do most of my stuff through the Ocean Planet Foundation now, and they wouldn't be happy with that kind of publicity."

So hey, it's going to be up to you gals to share those racy photos of your guys in the buff. And by the way, let's get the terminology straight. Men are never "scantily clad," they are "buck naked."


I am writing in response to your comment about using Stugeron™ for seasickness - and your annoyance that the Federal Drug Administration doesn't approve it for sale in the United States.

I talked about medical preparations for cruising at the 2006 Zihuatanejo SailFest, and used that opportunity to review medications for seasickness - including Stugeron™, which is a brand name for cinnarizine. Even though many people have found that cinnarizine is effective in preventing seasickness without noticeable side-effects, it is not a good drug. Cinnarizine is a 'sloppy' drug that interacts with at least three different receptors in the brain and the rest of the body, histamine and acetylcholine receptors like most drugs for seasickness, along with dopamine receptors. In addition, it is a calcium channel blocker. Incidentally, almost all adverse effects of cinnarizine are found by looking for information under the generic name. There is very little literature criticizing the brand name drug.

Low-dose cinnarizine, 25 mg, is sold in many countries as Stugeron™ (among more than 40 brands) for vertigo and motion sickness. Cinnarizine is banned - even in low doses - by airline pilots in the United States because it impairs judgement. Higher dose cinnarizine, 75 mg, is sold as Stugeron Forte™ in countries where it is available, and is used to relax arteries due to its calcium channel blocking effects. High doses have also been reported to unmask Parkinson's disease, or make Parkinson's disease worse due to blocking dopamine receptors. Drugs that have such different uses with such small differences in dose are just not good drugs - even if they are effective in some instances.

In these many regards, cinnarizine is similar to other medications taken for nausea and seasickness - including Phenergan™ and Compazine™, which are available in the U.S. and have similar physical and psychological side effects. In fact, all of the drugs for seasickness - including original Dramamine™, meclizine (non-drowsy Dramamine™), and Transderm-scop™ - have many significant side-effects and need to be used with caution, especially if someone is operating complex and expensive equipment in situations where good judgment and clear thinking are critical.

Cinnarizine is commonly sold in other countries as 25 mg tablets, but it is usually effective at lower doses. Cinnarizine is not safe for pregnant women, or children younger than five. People who have taken cinnarizine, and who have found it to work without side-effects, should take the lowest effective dose. But they should consult their physician, especially if they have Parkinson's disease, take medications for depression, or have heart disease. Higher dose 75 mg tablets of cinnarizine, such as Stugeron Forte™, are aimed at a different problem than seasickness.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the FDA to approve it for sale in the United States.

Roy Verdery, M.D.
Jellybean, Pearson 36
Northern California / Santiago Bay, Mexico

Roy - We're not annoyed with the FDA, we're just confused as to why the FDA and the drug approval agencies in many European countries have come to such dramatically different conclusions about the wisdom of using Stugeron. After all, if we're not mistaken, you can buy the stuff over the counter in countries on the other side of the Atlantic.

Just for the record, we're going to remind everyone that it's very foolish to take any drugs without consulting a physican - especially as people get older and tend to take more medications.


While on Tuia in the 1948 race to Tahiti, John Jordane - author of Ice Bergs Port & Starboard - and I were talking about the green flash. I told him that I'd read in Scientific America that there should also be a green flash at sunrise. About halfway to Tahiti, John figured the exact time the sun should appear and from what direction. The next morning we both saw the green flash. And we saw it again two days later. Until the recent letters in Latitude, I'd never heard of anyone else seeing the green flash in the morning.

P.S. I'm still sailing on Jake Wood's 84-ft Sorcery.

Bob Dickson
V.P.O.P.O. (Vice President Of The Pacific Ocean)
Newport Beach

Bob - Thanks for the letter - and the great news that you're still sailing aboard Sorcery.


I am buying a new Beneteau 423 that we hope to sail on the 2006 Ha-Ha. Do you have any recommendations for insurance companies that will insure me in Mexico?

Lewis Guthrie
Boulder, Colorado

Lewis - We're biased, but we recommend that you contact an insurance company that advertises in Latitude 38. That's what we've done, and we've been happy with the results.


Your doubt about green flashes at sunrises surprises me. Is the phenomenon caused by or dependent on the apparent motion of the sun against the horizon? The only difficulty in observing such flashes in the morning is knowing exactly where to focus one's attention in order to catch the fleeting event. Actually, it might not be so fleeting. It was reported that Admiral Byrd observed a very protracted sunrise in Antarctica, complete with a green 'ray' that lasted for 35 minutes!

Peter Smalley


Your story last month about a popular model 44-ft sloop losing her rudder in the middle of the Atlantic and ultimately having to be abandoned is bringing attention to what seems to me to be an increasing rate of failure of sailboat rudders. In addition to the 44-footer, you mentioned several other yachts that have lost rudders in recent years. And in the '05 West Marine Pacific Cup, no less than three boats lost rudders.

I think the reason that more rudders are being lost is the increasing popularity of spade rudders. In the 'old days', rudders were at least partially hidden behind the keel and were supported from the front and bottom as well as the top. Spade rudders have certainly proven themselves to be strong and efficient, but I believe their exposed placement means they are more vulnerable.

Another problem is that it's sometimes difficult to determine the structural condition of a rudder from the outside. Corrosion, bad workmanship, a faulty design, and inferior materials are all possible causes of the inside of a rudder being in poor condition - no matter what the exterior might look like.

Many races require that boats carry emergency rudders, but they put the burden of proof on the skipper to certify that such a rudder would actually work. And if you check paragraph 4.14 Emergency Steering of the ORC safety recommendations for offshore sailing, you'll find there are a lot of gray areas.

My company, Scanmar International, first got involved with emergency rudders through our involvement in the BOC/Around Alone singlehanded races. We worked with several of the racers, as well as the now-deceased Lars Bergstrom of B&R, and the Race Director Mark Schrader, to first develop the MRUD - an emergency rudder conversion system for the Monitor windvane - which we also make. That unit proved itself in the 1998-99 Around Alone when Robin Davie lost the rudder on his 50-footer and had to use his MRUD for 2,000 miles.

The MRUD later evolved into a stand-alone emergency rudder called the SOS because a customer who always raced with a full crew didn't want to have to mount a windvane to use a MRUD. He wanted a stand-alone unit, so a few months later the SOS was born. This emergency rudder - the only one in production - was designed and built with the help of Tim Murison, a well-known Bay Area delivery skipper and surveyor.

The design brief was for the emergency rudder to be small enough to store in a locker, but large enough to steer a 50-footer back to port. The rudder also needed to be light enough to install at sea and be reasonably priced. Because of our 30 years of experience installing windvanes on boats, we've been able to make these emergency rudders with custom mounting systems that use many of our ocean-proven parts.

Those who would like more information on these emergency rudders should visit, where they'll find a list of 50 different sailboat designs for which installation drawings are available. After losing her rudder, Jonathan Livingston's well-known Punk Dolphin was fitted with an SOS Emergency Rudder and became our 'poster boat'. There are several photos of that installation.

If a sailor about to go offshore has reason to suspect the durability of his rudder, it should be inspected and possibly replaced. But even if you feel that you have a good rudder, you still might feel that good seamanship and/or peace of mind require that you have some kind of emergency steering. Some sailors think they can rely on a jury-rigged rudder made from a galley door attached to a spinnaker pole, or by alternately dragging a bucket from different sides of the boat. These ideas might sound good in theory, but their viability should be confirmed in real world conditions. The other options are a custom emergency rudder or a product such as our SOS Emergency Rudder. No matter what system you end up with, you should prove that it works before you need it.

Hans Bernwall
Scanmar International
Point Richmond


I'm interested in buying a piece of coastal property on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, either in the Sea of Cortez or further south. After viewing numerous websites of questionable nature selling Mexican real estate, I thought I would rather have the input from Latitude readers who have researched the subject and/or have bought property. Anyone?

Michael Jones

Michael - Americans have been buying up coastal property in Mexico at a furious pace. Alas, buying property south of the border is a bit of a complicated undertaking, so this isn't the correct forum. But having bought some coastal property in Mexico ourselves - one of our favorite visions is being anchored off our place and taking the dinghy ashore to collect the rent - we'll give you a few things to consider.

1) Nobody needs a license to sell real estate in Mexico, so lots of 'agents' don't have any idea what they are talking about. 2) Almost all transactions have been in cash, as financing generally hasn't been available. This is changing, but interest rates are much higher than in the U.S. Similarly, very few transactions are done using title companies, although this is also changing. 3) The quality of construction in Mexico - much of which is earthquake country - varies greatly. There are condo projects, for example, where people on the third floor can hear people talking on the first floor. In general, the quality of construction seems to be improving, but you still have to be very careful. 4) By July, Mexico will have elected a new president. Currently the leading candidate is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a one-time avowed leftist who is peddling to the center as fast as he can. If he wins, it's not likely that he would try to nationalize foreign-owned holdings, but some think he'll try to boost the tax rate on foreign holdings. 5) Make sure the title to the land you're thinking about buying is clear and is not subject to 'ejido' claims. 6) Even after you've paid all the money for property, it's normal not to get the actual deed for six months to a year. 7) The price of coastal property in Mexico has exploded in the last five years, so you have to accept the fact that you didn't get in on the ground floor. The way we see it, the risks are higher buying coastal property in Mexico than in the U.S. but the rewards might be higher, too.


We moved to Mexico in September and are just loving it! Our 34-ft Searunner tri Corazon (ex-Slick) is anchored in front of our home in San Carlos. I can row out to her and be sailing in 10 minutes. In fact, I do it all the time.

The only negative is that the ospreys recently decided that it was easier to sit and watch than fly around all day, looking for fish. I didn't mind - until they started to bring the fish back and eat them onboard. What a mess! Still, it's better than the 'acid cement' that the pelicans leave on decks. Mexico is no place for a 'yacht finish' if you want to relax.

I also fish in the Bering Sea part of the year.

Jack & Joanne Molan
Corazon, Searunner 34 tri
Tucson / San Carlos, Mexico

Jack and Joanne - What an amazing phenomena, all the Mexicans coming north to the States for work, and all the Americans sailing south for a retirement filled with warm air and water, low prices, friendly people and a very tranquil environment.


I just got home after 12 days of sailing Shere Khan, our Irwin 52, down the coast of Baja and up to La Paz. Of that time, we spent just five days sailing and 18 hours motoring. We enjoyed overnight stays at Turtle Bay and Cabo, and then enjoyed some more time at La Paz before coming home. We had 30 knots of wind west of Cedros one night and broke some stuff, and it happened again at night off Los Frailes. But nobody got hurt, and Shere Khan is now berthed at Marina Palmira, a terrific place, for $510/month.

I'm writing to let you know about our experience at Customs and Immigration in Ensenada. Before leaving L.A. with the boat, I drove my three crew down to Ensenada and took them to the one-stop place to get their visas on February 18. But lo and behold, a new law had gone into effect the day before which says that mariners can't get visas if they arrive by car, only if they arrive by boat!

The official behind the glass - who wasn't very friendly, by the way, said that we had to go back to the border and pick up our visas there - or pay a $44 penalty. After some discussion, the three guys decided to take their chances on getting their visas in La Paz. They're still down there at the moment, so I don't know yet how it will work out.

Richard Booth
Shere Khan, Irwin 52

Richard - If we understand you correctly, you felt that there was some reason for you and your crew to get your visas in Ensenada before you crossed the border on your boat. There is no reason to do that at all.

Clearing into Mexico couldn't be easier. Just make sure you have the boat's registration/documention, plus passports or original birth certificates for each member of the crew when you cross the border and check in at your first port-of-entry. Your first port-of-entry doesn't have to be Ensenada - in fact, we've known people who have cruised the coast of Baja for months without stopping at a port of entry, and therefore without checking in. But when you do arrive at your first port of entry - which in your case was Cabo San Lucas - you need to clear your boat into the country and get tourist visas for you and your crew. You can do the paperwork yourself or have a ship's agent do it for you.

That you didn't clear into Cabo was wrong, but nobody is going to make a federal case out of it. Since you checked into Marina Palmira, we assume they made sure that you checked your boat into the country properly. What puzzles us is why they apparently didn't get your crew tourist visas at the same time. But there's still no problem. Just have your guys go to Immigration in town or at the airport, and explain that in the midst of some wild dancing at Senor Frog's, their tourist visas fell out of their pockets. People lose their tourist visas all the time. The Immigration official will then have each of your crew pay the normal tourist visa fee for 'replacement' visas, at which time everyone can take a break for a beer.

Since you've had to come home already and not gotten out to the islands just to the north of La Paz, we thought we'd throw in this photo as a teaser of the pleasures to come from cruising that area.


I've lived in La Paz, Mexico for the last 17 years - except for the five years I came back to the States to build an airplane. I consider myself a sailor - even though I'm also a 500-ton operator and close to 80 years old. I have driven Mexico's Highway 1 about 37 times between La Paz and the States or vice versa, and used to make the entire drive in one day. But in the last year or so, I've taken about three days. It's not because of the dangers on the Mexican highways that have been referred to, but because I've gotten a little older. Honestly, I can no longer tell the difference between driving during the day and at night.

As Jerry Metheany wrote in his letter to you, "If risk is what you are in a tizzy about, get an armchair. Get fat, watch the boob tube, and die - cause you're going to die any way you look at it."

I get a kick out of people. I was returning a friend's boat one year after he and his bride did the Ha-Ha, and she told me that she could do anything on a vessel that a man can. When it came time to add some fuel to the tank from a jug, I asked her to hold the funnel. It was then she told me that she 'didn't do diesel'. She also screamed as we neared Ensenada and about a mile to the west of us was a white ship heading south from L.A. The ship was doing about 20 knots, we were doing about six knots. Even though our two vessels were doing a total of 26 knots and we still had a mile between us, she screamed that we might hit it. I reminded her that on a daily basis she probably comes within a couple of feet of oncoming traffic on the L.A. freeway when she's doing at least 60 and the oncoming traffic is doing at least 60, and that she doesn't scream then. So I told her to shut up. This is only one person.

The reason I'm writing you about this is to point out that people are weird. They think nothing of taking a vessel 2,000 to 3,000 miles across an ocean, but are afraid to drive a car a couple of hundred miles at night. Well, I declare, what a bunch of wimps.

I liked the 'to your health' photo that you published. Even though I'm approaching 80, I can dream, can't I? After reading Latitude for about 20 years, this is the first time I've written. Most of the time, but not always, I agree with your opinions.

Bud Balone
Marine Surveyor and Delivery Captain
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Bud - We've safely driven the length of the Baja Peninsula towing a trailer twice, and otherwise have spent a bit of time on Mexican roads without incident. Nonetheless, we try to avoid being on those roads, especially at night. It might have something to do with all the roadside shrines memorializing those who've died in car accidents, the inordinate number of head-on collisions we've seen, the less-organized traffic patterns, the macho attitudes of many Mexican drivers, or even the propensity of Mexicans to drink and drive. We don't think of ourselves as wimps for avoiding Mexican highways, we're just playing the odds. We think it's unlikely that cruisers will get into traffic accidents south of the border, but that they are much more likely to than in the States.


It was with keen interest that I read your March 3 'Lectronic piece about Norm Goldie of San Blas. You can count me with Jay Hall and many other cruisers when it comes to Norm.

When we were in Bahia Matanchen and San Blas back in '01 and '02, we only had terrific praise for Norm and Jan. Like Jay, we radioed ahead from Matanchen and Norm gave us excellent directions to make it up that tricky channel into town. He even met us near the first curve in the estuary to offer more exact points on where the channel became dangerously shallow for our 5'7" draft.

Norm then invited us to his home to meet his wife Jan, and to sign their Cruisers guest book - which was full of words of thanks for their help. Jan, who is an artist as well as a champion fisherwoman, showed us her beautiful drawings of the local Quichol Indians of Nayarit.

The charges of trading in antiquities is more than likely trumped up, since Jan has received many unusual art objects from those Indians that she has befriended. They actually gave us a very unusual Quichol carving after I inquired about where I could find one. This was followed by our gift to Jan of some fishing poles that we had on board but were taking up valuable space. The next thing we knew, we had the 'gift wars' going on. Jan and Norm are special in our book - helpful, kind, generous, and yes, independent with a hint of New York zany.

Back then we were aware of the folks who were generating the bad press on Norm. We still feel that it was a personal vendetta. But it unfortunately influenced many cruisers who believed what they heard rather than seeking their own truths.

Nancy Birnbaum
formerly Saga, Alberg 35
Brickyard Cove / Ft. Lauderdale

Nancy - A lot of cruisers like Norm Goldie but, unfortunately, there are a lot of other cruisers who don't like him at all. We're not taking sides because, despite making a number of visits to San Blas, we've never crossed paths with him. No doubt it's because we rarely turn our radio on.

We're not sure what to make of the San Blas newspaper reporting that Goldie has been charged with taking antiquities, having firearms, and other illegal behavior. One of our translators said, "It just sounds like somebody is trying to run him out of town."


My wife and I have owned Hunter sailboats for 10 years. One drawback of being a Hunter owner in the Bay Area is that there isn't a Hunter group. Catalina owners, on the other hand, have what seems to be an active group - which has left us with Catalina envy.

I recently posted a query on and there appears to be a strong interest in a Hunter group. On March 10, some of us met at the Ballena Bay YC, and our idea seems to be catching on. We are looking to have an event at the Ballena Isle Marina sometime this fall, with workshops on how to trim sails, take care of diesels and so forth.

Our group also discussed the possibility of having a race. We know Hunters aren't usually purchased for racing, but this could be an event in which a Hunter was sure to win.

If any Hunter owners in your readership are interested, they can email me, and I'll put them on our distribution list. When emailing, please let me know if you're interested in helping promote the event.

Stephen W. Dale

Readers - Creating an owner's group is a great idea, as it would enable folks to share knowledge specific to their boats, generate enthusiasm about the various designs, and ultimately tend to make Hunters worth more money in this area.


I am a professional chef and have cut up countless birds - but did you have to run photos of it being done to a boobie on the back of a sailboat? And then have a bloody close-up of a sailor? Anyway, great magazine, I've been a fan for years.

Gregory Clausen
Northern California

Gregory - We want to be sensitive to the wishes of our readers, so we promise not to run anymore boobie photos of this nature again.


If this is the 369th note you've gotten suggesting that maybe you'd gone over the line on the booby pictures, you can put a checkmark in the box and move on. Although I generally admire that you don't recommend yachties openly flaunt the laws of their host country, killing wildlife and eating it is exactly that.

Oh, it's funny as hell, and if I saw any signs of Photoshopping or a chicken breast in there, I'd kudo you for a masterful hoax. But the photos look real. I suppose some leniency can be applied since you did note the yachties in question were "French" - but I would have enjoyed seeing bare-breasted French boobies being served up just as much.

We will be coming to take away your Environmental Sensitivity merit badge very soon.

Planet Earth

E.J. - How could anyone think that graphic photo sequence of a helpless bird being plucked and skinned was funny? The photos were not manipulated, and were our quiet way of encouraging everyone to embrace veganism. We know that not everyone will be successful - we weren't - but at least everyone should try. But here's what puzzles us: is there a fundamental difference between killing and eating a fish and killing and eating a bird? If so, what is it?


When my family began cruising our Triton throughout San Francisco Bay in 1976, many a pleasant day/night were spent anchored close in to the beach at Treasure Island's Clipper Cove. There seemed to be, whether real or imagined, a four to five-day limit on stays observed by all mariners. After that, you were expected to clear out to another location so others could use the anchorage. At various times the navy would require anchor lights - as per Coast Guard regulations for a non-specified anchorage - and all vessels, no matter if pleasure, commercial, or public safety - were expected to cut speed/wake and observe courteous boating protocol as one passed the outlying concrete pier entering the anchorage.

My retirement job now occasionally takes me to Clipper Cove for a tour of that very pretty spot during the summer and fall months. I noticed that things began to change about three years ago: 1) The Navy pulled out; 2) the Bay Bridge workers began their work schedules, and 3) the Port of Oakland began closing some of their oldest and most rundown marinas.

Since that time, I've observed that eight to ten unattended boats now seem to be permanently anchored in Clipper Cove. Evidently the old convention of short-term usage has been altered by a group of boat owners who want to moor their boats for free. As such, the public at large needs to decide whether we want poorly maintained boats with questionable ground tackles left in public anchorages. In my opinion the answer is no. Before long, one of those boats will go on the rocks in a storm, adding another hazard to navigation and sticking the people of California with a bill to get it removed.

Why the Treasure Island YC and/or the management at the marina allows this group of boat owners to use their bathrooms, parking, and garbage disposal is beyond my understanding - unless all the owners of the anchored-out boats are members of a PICYA yacht club.

I think the Coast Guard should enforce the anchor light rule from dusk until dawn, and make sure all boats are current on their registration and/or documentation. Let's not turn Clipper Cove into another Richardson Bay, Fisherman's Cut, or Potato Slough, with derelict boats and sunken hazards.

Jim Kearney
Castro Valley

Jim - On March 19, the Coast Guard and the San Francisco Marine Patrol descended on Clipper Cove and started issuing citations to boats that appeared to have been there for a long time. The Coast Guard assisted the Marine Patrol in issuing a citation to a man with three rafted vessels. The citation was for discharging waste, a misdemeanor under Section 780 (a) of the California Harbors and Navigation Code. If he was caught doing it again, he could have been arrested, so he chose to move his raft-up.

Ironically, the anchorage at Clipper Cove is technically still a restricted anchorage controlled by the U.S. Navy, and "No person and no vessel or other craft, except vessels owned and operated by the Commanding Officer, Naval Station, Treasure Island, shall enter the restricted area."


You asked for opinions about long-term anchor-outs in Clipper Cove and elsewhere.

It seems that San Francisco is being held hostage to its reputation of being liberal. They 'have to' let everyone 'do their own thing'. I disagree. Avalon and Capitola are exactly how I would like to see (all) the anchorages handled. The junk that exists in Richardson Bay is the nautical equivalent of homeless/squatter campgrounds. There is no ambiance in either.

Whoever handles Avalon's anchorage should handle the others. If, however, it's a local municipality, then I think one umbrella for-profit company should be responsible for all. Then there is some uniformity. Indeed, you could have 'passes' that would give a discount at all the California anchorages. But there would have to be a time limit - maybe one month. And the person couldn't come back to the same anchorage for another, perhaps, six months. This would alleviate the problem, which is similar to cars stored on public streets. Owners simply move them a few feet to get around the law and leave them in the same space for months at a time.

I have been sailing San Francisco Bay for about 20 years, and I still avoid taking people to Sausalito because there is no place to dock or anchor. At least I don't know of any. If there were mooring buoys and maybe a water taxi, it would put some class into Richardson Bay - like Capitola and Avalon.

(Mr.) Leslie D. Waters
San Jose

Leslie - The 400 or so moorings at Avalon are run by the City of Avalon. The rest of the 700+ moorings on Catalina are run by Two Harbors Enterprises. The situation with mooring buoys around Catalina is very different than with anchorages in the Bay Area because there's such a greater market for using them. People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a mooring buoy in Avalon Harbor, and all they get is the right to put their boat on it. When they don't use it, the City of Avalon rents it out and keeps all the money. And the rentals fees for buoys aren't cheap. The mooring buoy fee for a 40-footer arriving Friday at noon and staying through Sunday afternoon would be $84. Yet you'd be hard pressed to find an open mooring on a summer weekend. So we're talking a substantial amount of annual revenue. It's not much different for Two Harbors and their mooring buoys. On summer weekends, when all 700 moorings are taken, they must gross about $50,000. There would never been those kinds of revenue streams at Clipper Cove or Sausalito, because unlike Catalina, it would be so easy and safe to anchor outside of any mooring field that might be established. Plus, given the much cooler weather and water, neither spot would attract that much business. In our opinion, transient mooring buoys just aren't viable at Clipper Cove, and maybe not even in Richardson Bay.

We're personally not necessarily opposed to boats being semi-permanently moored in Richardson Bay, because there has been a long history of people living on boats there. But we think it would be in everyone's best interest if boats staying longer than three months - or over the winter - were required to be on inspected mooring buoys, be in navigable condition, and show proof of being serviced by a honey barge. Naturally there would have to be a fee to pay for the maintenance of the buoys. Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan has proposed just such a plan, and we support the concept.

By the way, if you pick up a copy of the free Sausalito Maritime Map, you'll find there are five legal places to row ashore - the dock next to the Horizon Restaurant, the boat launch ramp near the foot of Turney Street, Galilee Harbor at the foot of Napa Street, Schoonmaker Beach, and the Clipper Yacht Harbor fuel dock.


My wife and I recently anchored out in Clipper Cove for a quiet weekend. There were no other people around - so we were amazed to find 18 other boats anchored in the cove. They appear to be part of an extended free storage program. Most of these squatting boats were nearly derelict sailboats that clearly aren't sailed much, if at all. Worse yet, most of them are anchored in some of the most protected spots in the cove.

As I understand it, either the City or County of San Francisco now has jurisdiction over this area, but does not enforce any kind of regulations to prevent freeloaders from spoiling the cove as a pleasant protected anchorage for legitimate sailors.

A week after our stay at Clipper Cove, I ran into a group of folks at my yacht club who were ranting about the situation. Several of the guys were talking about going out to Clipper Cove one night and cutting the lines of these illegally anchored boats. Although I don't condone the vigilante approach, I understand their frustration. Furthermore, I would hate to see other boats being damaged by those that were cut loose.

Perhaps some of these scofflaw boatowners will read Latitude and do the right thing by retrieving their boats before someone decides to send them to a watery or rocky grave.

Thom Kay
Toujours, Beneteau 411

Thom - The Navy has not yet turned Clipper Cove over to the City of San Francisco, but as mentioned above, the Coast Guard and San Francisco Marine Patrol have started to take action and promise continued enforcement. As one officer said, "We're not going to allow this to become another Richardson Bay." So please, there's no need for vigilante action.


It would be most helpful if Latitude could publish an article about Clipper Cove, as the various letters and wishes are getting difficult to decode.

My understanding is this:

The control and ownership of Clipper Cove was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the City of San Francisco on January 24, 2004. This was after a federal bureaucrat slowed things down by invoking 'base cleanup regulations'. (Amy Jo, BRAC, CFR 334.1070)

Almar Marinas is now in charge of the Treasure Island Marina, but not the anchorage.

The Treasure Island YC is hanging in there, operating out of nicely refurbished containers, but unsure of their future.

CalTrans is obviously working in a corner of the cove on the new span for the bridge.

Clipper Cove is not 'navigable water', so the Coast Guard has little or no interest in it. However, the Coast Guard can board any floating boat they wish to board, no matter where it is located in the world. Clipper Cove is no exception.

Rumors are that there is a plan to almost completely fill the basin with a large marina - as has been done at Roche Harbor in Washington. I think it is senseless, inaccurate and misleading for everyone to keep comparing this situation with Richardson Bay - for except for the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), all the players are completely different, as is the size of the area.

So who is in charge? Under the Navy ownership, it was very clear and published in Latitude. But it's no longer clear.

Mike Chambreau
Impetuous, Cal 34
Los Altos

Mike - It's a very confusing issue, but our understanding is that the U.S. Navy has not yet turned over Clipper Cove, and therefore it's technically still a restricted anchorage. However, the Navy hasn't enforced the restriction in a long time. Nonetheless, the Coast Guard and San Francisco Marine Patrol can still issue citations for violations of state and federal law - which is what they have started doing.

The bottom line? If you want to stay at Clipper Cove for a weekend, a week, or even a couple of weeks, and your boat is navigable and doesn't pollute, you're not going to have any problems. But if you plan on using the Cove for long-term storage, you can expect a citation, and ultimately for your boat to be seized. See this month's 'Sightings' for more.

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