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I plan to sail my MacGregor 26M from San Diego to Ensenada this summer using the 'follow the coast route' at about four knots. Once there, I'll probably spend about four days at the new marina. My question is "What's the nautical distance between San Diego and Ensenada?" That's apparently not easy to find.

Rick Gordon
MacGregor 26M
Planet Earth

Rick - Without any disrepect, you're scaring us a little with your lack of knowledge about something that is extremely basic yet critical to navigation. We highly recommend that you either take some basic navigation classes or have a mentor go along with you. If you go to a chandlery, you can buy the nautical version of maps, which are called charts. Almost all charts have a scale in which 1 degree of latitude is equal to 60 nautical miles. Once you get the appropriate chart and use the scale, you'll have no trouble determining the distance from San Diego to Ensenada.

We presume you're going to use the 'follow the coast route' because you're not familiar with any navigation methods more sophisticated than visual. There's no problem with this - unless, of course, it gets foggy. And it often does get very foggy between San Diego and Ensenada. We were in Ensenada once and it got so foggy we couldn't even see the far end of the fish taco we were eating. How would you find your way in such a fog?

The ideal solution to navigating in the fog is a GPS. When first introduced, they cost about $25,000 each. Fortunately, today's far superior models cost as little as $100. If you pay a little more, you can get a GPS with a built-in chart. With just a little scrolling, a GPS can tell you how far it is from San Diego to Ensenada. Once you're underway, it will also tell you the course to Ensenada, the speed you're making over the bottom, your heading, your estimated time of arrival, and in some cases things like the exact amount of the national debt.

One mistake novice navigators sometimes make when it's foggy is to forget it's not always possible to make a straight line from one place to another. There may be obstacles, such as outcroppings of land and/or islands. We know it sounds stupid to point this out, but expensive mistakes have been made.

If you're armed with a GPS and common sense, you'll be in pretty good shape when it comes to navigation. At that point your primary danger would probably be getting hit by another vessel in the fog. The best solution to this is radar. Unfortunately, such units are a little expensive relative to the rest of the cost of your boat. As such, you may simply want to invest in a radar reflector, which will hopefully make you visible to most other vessels, which commonly do have radar.

Good luck, have fun, and if possible, take a mentor.


The topic of the green flash at sunrise has been pretty well flogged to death in Latitude, but I have another sunrise story that I just have to share. On our way from Toau Atoll to Tahiti in 2002, Eleanor and I were in the cockpit together at sunrise. We were both looking to the east as the sun rose full above the horizon - then it stopped and went back down again!

I looked at Eleanor and said. "Uh-oh!" A minute later the sun came up and stayed up. I can only guess that what we saw the first time was a reflection of the sun on some clouds - but it was pretty convincing.

By the way, I've seen the green flash four times, and two of them were at sunrise.

Jim Hancock
Solstice, Freya 39


I'm writing in response to Julie of Wildflower, who wondered why there have been plenty of saucy photos of female sailors in Latitude, but not very many saucy photos of male sailors. During a dock party in Mazatlan last night, Julie's letter came up in the conversation. It turns out that most of us cruising gals have at least one or two tasteful shots of our 'confident, sexy, and audacious sailors'. But until now, we were just too selfish to share. But I'm feeling generous today, so to to encourage the other cruising ladies out there to share their photos, I've decided to get the ball rolling - no pun intended - with a photo of my husband Teal from my collection. Enjoy!

Linh Goben
Commodore, Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club
Savannah, Williams 43 tri

Readers - We have absolutely no idea why anyone would have any interest in a photo of a guy's bare butt - but we're open-minded to a limited extent, so we asked LaDonna, 'the new guy' on our editorial team, what she thought. After looking at the photo and dabbing up a few spots of drool with a towel, she admitted that she thought a few readers might be interested. So as dubious as we were, we decided to let it run.


Regarding the founding of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, as reported in 'Lectronic: Whatever. It was a lot better 10 - or even 20 - years ago before you 'discovered' it and hyped it all to hell. Thanks for driving up the cabana rates, slip fees, platas de mariscos, and crowding the surf. Guess we'll have to go 'farther and deeper' once more because of your self-infatuated schmooze. Go hype some other planet. Gringos suck.

The Dunns
On Punta De Mita Since '86

Folks - Dunn, that's an unusual indigenous name. You Aztlan or what?

We've been sailing to Punta Mita since the late '70s and there on our own boats since the early '80s - so you can imagine what we've been thinking of newbies like you all these years.

As for us hyping the place, how about at least acknowledging the fact that we waited until there was already a Four Seasons Resort, two Nicklaus golf courses, a four-lane highway, six waterfront restaurants, four surf schools, numerous charter fishing operations, and many villas and condos along the beach and up on the bluff. All that, plus the articles in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and you still want to argue that we ruined it? We suppose you're also going to blame us for what's happened to Cabo, Zihua, Honolulu, St. Tropez, and Sydney.

By the way, we don't know how much extra you're paying in marina fees because of us, but we've got a feeling you're getting screwed because there isn't any marina there. The nearest is 12-mile-distant Paradise Marina, which suggests to us that you might have gone a little too far and deep already.


Thank you for publishing the Dead Man Swimming interview with Craig McCabe in the February issue. We never thought that we would be able to use something from your fine publication in our Men's Group/Bible Study at our church, but that is exactly what we did. We used Craig's story as our text for the morning!

While we are not sure of the theological advantages/disadvantages between reciting the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm in a life-or-death situation such as he was in, we are sure that knowing the whole story is an awesome benefit to one's life.

P.S. Perhaps this makes up for the time I saw one of our choir members with a Latitude hidden in his hymnal.

Jay Gardner
The O'Dark Thirty Men's Group, 6:30 am every Wednesday, First Presbyterian Church

Jay - It was an incredible story, wasn't it? The last we heard, some folks were hoping to get Harrison Ford to play McCabe in the movie they hope to get made based on the incident. Amen!

But what interests us more is if McCabe continues to believe that his boat Heather is a materialistic extension of his ego and therefore an impediment to his spiritual development - as he did during and shortly after his near-death experience. In short, did he sell Heather or will he be back aboard her at Catalina's Cherry Cove for parts of the summer, reveling in nature, which, to our way of thinking is about as spiritual as you can get?


I just read the interview with Craig McCabe in the February Latitude. In it he mentions sisters Wendy and Missy, who were crew on his brother's J/130 Braveheart on a race to Ensenada about eight years ago. Well, this is the same Wendy who, during the last Baja Ha-Ha, took care of the man who had a stroke during the layover at Turtle Bay. I know because she was the skipper of the 48-ft Dawn Treader that I was crewing on. She owns the beautiful 28-ft Pacific Seacraft Willow that is based out of Dana Point and Avalon. A retired L.A. City paramedic, Wendy is now an Avalon Harbor Patrol Officer in the summer.

If any sailor needs to be recognized as Sailor of the Year, it's Wendy Cummings.

Tom Kenngott
Del Rey YC

Tom - Thanks for making the connection for us. We met Wendy in Cabo at the end of the Ha-Ha, and think she's terrific.


I thought that Joe Elliot's March article titled A Fresh Perspective on California Cruising was interesting and informative. My only real quarrel with the article was his observation, as a 40-year-old, that most cruisers he met were twice his age and that most people don't have the time or money for a boat until they are too old to really enjoy it. He's of the 'do it now' school of cruising.

My response to those of you who are young is to 'don't do it now'.

The 'go now' mandate flies in the face of human nature. Man is basically a worker ant. Generally, we are never happier than when we are accomplishing things. We pursue our educations. We work hard and try to do good jobs, whether it's building houses or websites. We raise families, mow our lawns on weekends, wash our cars, make mortgage payments, and try to be productive members of society.

But we enjoy our leisure time, too. We veg on the couch in front of the tube in the evenings, BBQ in the backyard on weekends, coach and watch our kids play soccer and little league, enjoy sports ourselves, go to concerts, and enjoy other activities. These are the things most of us do during what is usually referred to as the prime years of our lives.

As we get older, our children begin to leave the nest to have families of their own. As retirement approaches, most of us have achieved many worthwhile objectives, including a certain amount of financial security. 

Retirement is a beautiful time that is often and accurately referred to as the golden years. It's also a time when we start to look for other mountains to climb, problems to solve, oceans to cross. We don't lose our basic wants, needs and desires when we get into our later years. What we do is pace ourselves. Granted, age brings with it physical problems and infirmities. Some of these can be dealt with, some can't. Does that mean that we should disrupt our lives during our prime to run off and go cruising because we might not be as fit or well in 20, 30 or 40 years? 

It seems to me that the actual route followed by Mr. Elliot is a viable alternative to the one he proposes. All he did was to cruise Central and Southern California on what appears to have been an extended vacation. That is available to most all of us. That way we get to have our cake and eat it, too.

I tried it both ways. I went cruising in my 20s. I also remember, so vividly, sitting on the deck of our 30-ft Piver trimaran in a boat shop in Hamajima, Japan, in the dead of winter telling my sailing buddy Buck Weimer, "Buck, I can't continue this senseless existence. I've got to go back to the States and accomplish something." Now, a lifetime later, my wife and I sail out of Channel Islands Harbor aboard our Hunter 34. It's two hours from the harbor to the East End of Anacapa Island, where we are a world away from civilization.

Do I regret going cruising when I was young? No. But I would have regretted not coming back to the States and leading a 'normal life' had I continued cruising.

Bill Hinkle, age 69
Minnie Maru, Hunter 34
Channel Islands Harbor

Bill - Yours is a very interesting letter and makes a lot of sense. But perhaps not to everyone, and not to a growing percentage of the younger generations. Having grown up in 'normal lives', many of them lust for something different and more interesting. They are sick of television, don't give a hoot about lawns, and realize the classic careers aren't necessarily as secure or as satisfying as they once were. In addition, there's a growing movement toward less materialism, thanks to their having had so many 'things' in their lives that didn't bring as much pleasure or satisfaction as they'd expected. For some, an interesting life is the new materialism. And speaking of senseless, many see living in California and spending a significant portion of their time stuck in traffic as being the very definition.

Another factor is that it's a much smaller and more open world than it was even a decade ago. It's as cheap and easy to stay in touch with somebody on a boat off Cape Horn as it is on the other side of a harbor. And younger generations are completely comfortable travelling and living in the far reaches of the world, with or without kids.

When in life and how much to cruise is a very subjective thing. There are reasons to do it while young, while old, throughout one's life - and even not at all. It all depends on what people need and want in their lives. Speaking of which, the following letter is from George Backhus, who is into his 12th year of a five-year circumnavigation and still hasn't even made it halfway around. It would be nice to hear if he's found the last 12 years to be more meaningful than the years he ran an office supply business.


I know I'm a bit behind, as I'm just getting through your February issue. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter as Latitude doesn't really have a shelf life.

I just have a comment to make to Jeff Coult, who wrote all about his excitement and then disappointment. After waiting 10 years for the Morse Code requirement to be eliminated for getting an Amateur Radio license, he read that it was going to be eliminated - and then read it wasn't going to be eliminated after all.

My comment to Jeff is simply this - FUGEDDABOUDDIT!

I've been cruising now for nearly 12 years and have covered about 60,000 miles - and I still don't have a ham license. In fact, I think one would be about as useful to me as my ex-wife. I can't be bothered with all the rules, regulations, limitations, interruptions of service, and so forth that ham-licensed cruising friends regularly endure and constantly whine about.

With all due respect to the many hams out there who provide excellent and sometimes lifesaving services, I can't get my head around all the barriers to entry into that 'club'. Why can't they provide the same services on non-ham frequencies, like many of the cruiser-run nets?

Personally, I do just fine with my SSB - which I can use to tune into ham frequencies - VHF, cell phone and occasionally my Iridium satphone.

George Backhus
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62
Langkawi, Malaysia / Formerly Sausalito

George - Hopefully you won't have to be behind on your Latitudes much longer. Starting in the middle of May, we hope to be able to have each issue available over the net, exactly as it appears in print, but with much better color photos, shortly after the print version hits the streets.


So, as per the April 14 'Lectronic Latitude, Richard, the publisher of Latitude, is going to 'bag it' and go sailing for awhile. Good for him! I am, of course, jealous as all get out, as most people do not know how hard he works to make it all come together for deadline every month.

Claudia and I still have a child with two more years of college to go, so we figure we better stick around and make sure that we are there as his support system as opposed to taking off cruising again. But I have to say that both boys learned a lot of self-reliance in the year that we went cruising after the 2000 Ha-Ha. Here's proof. When David got back, he skipped his last year of high school and started community college early, put together a 3.97 GPA, transferred to UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, graduated, and now works for Deloitte and Touche. Alex skipped his last two years of high school, is finishing at San Francisco City College next month, and starts San Francisco State as a business major in the fall.

My wife and I are convinced that taking the boys cruising was a lifelong gift towards their growing up self-sufficient, as they really learned to be independent while we cruised Mexico. Often we would arrive at an anchorage with mom and dad beat, so the boys would inflate the dink, mount the outboard, and go ashore with the radio to scope things out. When they got back, they would tell us the locations of the grocery store, the Internet cafe, and where we could get just about anything.

We continue to make improvements and maintain Favonius as a cruising home. We just moved her from Marina Bay to Brickyard Cove, which means she's a little closer to the Bay for sailing and that it will be a lot less windy at the dock. She's pretty much ready to cruise again - all we need to do is add food and fuel. My project for next year is to upgrade the keel cooler for the refrigeration and add an auxiliary fuel tank. When you have a 50-hp Perkins diesel, 40 gallons of fuel isn't enough to cruise Mexico. We carried 13 jerry jugs of fuel on the bow during the Ha-Ha, and don't want to do that again.

Michael Pordes
San Ramon

Michael - 'Bagging it' is not the most accurate description of what we, the publisher of Latitude for the first 29 years, will be doing after the May issue. We will still be selecting all the letters and making the editorial replies, the latter being the primary feature that gives the magazine its editorial voice and perspective. We'll still be doing all of the Changes. And we probably won't be able to keep ourselves from writing the occasional cruising profile and doing interviews. The bottom line is that we still expect to do at least 30 pages of editorial a month. When you consider that Sail and Cruising World typically have 60 to 70 pages of editorial in an entire issue, we won't exactly qualify for slackerdom.

We're happy to hear that your sons are doing well. So many kids who have gone cruising seem to return more mature and well adjusted than those who stayed behind and were so significantly shaped by their peers, video games, television, and advertising.


We just received two of the latest Latitudes courtesy of Bay Area cruisers Jim and Mary Neil of Festina Tarde. What a surprise to find color inside!

Last month Foster and I enjoyed a fantastic week chartering a Sunsail yacht in the British Virgin Islands. The long overdue doses of sunshine, the snorkeling, and sailing a brand new Beneteau 393 in the tradewinds was a balm for the soul.

We are now back in France, enjoying life aboard Vagabond, our 1910 Dutch-built barge. By the way, Fellowship, the Yamaha 33 that we cruised from Alaska to all over the South Pacific for all those years is still cruising up and down the east coast of Australia with owners Rod and Helen at the helm.

While house-sitting in the United Kingdom over the winter, I posted two sites to the Internet - one is an ebook of our travels in the Pacific called Caught in the Pacific Eddy. It can be found at, and includes a slide show and photo pages. I also posted a photo essay of our four years in France at Perhaps Latitudians would enjoy taking a look. ( .... /livingaboard is also now on line at the same host).

All the best from the far side of the Atlantic!

Sally Andrew and Foster Goodfellow
Vagabond, Canal barge

Readers - It doesn't sound as though Sally and Foster found their "12 glorious years" of cruising in the South Pacific to be "senseless". In fact, they only stopped after Foster became afflicted with inner ear problems when at sea. For the last four years they've been going around the canals of mostly France aboard their barge, which apparently has been giving them enough of a sense of accomplishment to continue. In any event, it's worth checking out their websites.


Years ago, maybe 1981, I bought a Fujica HD film camera on your recommendation. That hearty little camera travelled twice around the world, and for many years pulled yeoman's service for my wife and me.

More recently, 2003, I took your recommendation and bought the Fujifilm digital camera. It has been awesome, although not as hearty as the first one. The Fuji died. A trip to the service center restored the basic function, but muddled the color program.

It's time for a new camera. How about a new review for those of us shooting a lot of outdoor, on-the-water photos on a semi-budget? I remember well your comparison online of photos taken with the Nikon and the Fuji.

Bill Wilson
2003 Ha-Ha

Bill - These days it would be hard to find a digital camera that wasn't really terrific. Unfortunately, we have limited insight on which are the most durable in the marine environment.

We've long been big fans of the color of Fujifilm cameras, as the blues and greens, which are so prevalent in sailing photos, come out so people-pleasing without having to do any messing around in Photoshop. In the last six months or so, about a third of the color photos we've published in Latitude have been taken with a Fujifilm E550. This is a 3-million pixel, 'point and shoot', pocket camera with a 32.5 to 130mm optical zoom. Despite terrible abuse from the marine air, saltwater, and getting banged around, it just keeps on going. Currently available for only about $250, we think the E550 is a hell of a bargain. The only downside is that, like almost all 'point and shoot' cameras, it has quite a bit of shutter lag, so it's not good for action photos.

For occasions where we need almost zero shutter lag and/or the ability to change lenses, we used to use Fujifilm S-2 Pros, which ran about $2,000 for the body alone. The color was spectacular on these cameras, but they crapped out so often that we finally gave up on them. Because we had Nikon lenses, we picked up a Nikon D-70 as an emergency replacement in the Caribbean, which cost less than $1,000. It was a better camera in all respects than the Fujifilm S2 - except in the all-important color category. Subsequently, we tried the even less expensive - about $600 - six-million pixel Nikon D-50 - which oddly enough turned out to be an even better camera than the D-70. Alas, the color still wasn't quite up to Fujifilm standards in the blues and greens, but it wasn't as bad as previous Nikons.

We currently travel with a Nikon D-50, with a 17-55mm lens and a 28-200mm lens, for the highest resolution and action shots, and the Fujifilm E550 that we put in our pocket when we start the day and carry with us until we come home late at night. Other than the Nikon D-50 having color inferior to the Fujifilm color, we want for nothing in the photo gear department.

As we mentioned in the beginning, all the newer digital cameras are terrific, so much of one's decision will come down to personal preference. We've never tried any of the Canon models because our old Nikon lenses don't fit, but they are the leading brand in both 'point and shoot' cameras and cameras with interchangeable lenses. So you should check those out, although we still think their color is inferior to Fujifilms.

The bottom line is that it's hard to go wrong and you're going to get three times the camera for the money than you did just a few years ago. Better still, all the forms of memory and flash cards have tumbled in price to ridiculously low levels. Whatever you do, don't go cruising with film.


Hello to the readers of Latitude 38! I live in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgins, and have found a boat in Latitude that I'm very interested in buying. She's a classic wood Tahiti ketch, and I want to sail her from San Francisco to the Caribbean. Soon. Is there anyone out there with some sailing experience who is up for some adventure? I will provide an airline ticket. Successful candidates will know how to use a sextant, how to cook on a boat that is under sail, and have a tremendous sense of humor. People who enjoy Scrabble get top priority. I would love to hear from your readers. I can be reached by email.

Stephanie Labonville
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S.V.I.

Stephanie - We don't want to squall on your dreams, but you're putting out a call for masochists rather than adventurers. Sailing a Tahiti ketch the 2,700 miles from San Francisco to Panama is feasible - although given the light winds it wouldn't be a very fast trip. But trying to sail a Tahiti ketch 1,200 miles from Panama across the Caribbean to St. Croix - all upwind and upcurrent in strong to very strong trades - is something that only the Marquis de Sade would wish upon anyone. It would be the trip from hell - assuming that you could make it. And frankly, we don't think anybody could sail a Tahiti ketch directly from Panama to St. Croix.

And what's with the sextant fetish? You could buy three GPS units for what you'd have to pay for a sextant and tables - which in any event would be useless in overcast conditions. Plus, we don't think anybody would be able to take accurate sights on a Tahiti ketch trying to slam upwind across the Caribbean.

To be consistent, the crew uniforms would have to be hair shirts.


I enjoyed your very informative First Timer's Guide to Mexico, but that's a harbor too far and a little too ambitious for us. What might you suggest for passagemaking strategies from San Francisco Bay - especially around points such as Arguello and Conception?

I tried researching past letters and responses without much success. My wife and I plan to depart shortly after Labor Day and return in mid- to late- October, harbor hopping our way down and back. I've got Brian Fagan's Cruising Guide, which has been a great help in making plans, but feel we would also benefit greatly from your expertise and experience.

Thanks in advance - and thanks, too for Latitude, a 'must read' every month.

Jim and Joan Bueto
Sandpiper, Hunter Vision 36
Emery Cove Yacht Harbor, Emeryville

Jim and Joan - A trip to Southern California would be absolutely fantastic, and there's no better time to do it than September and October. Why that time of year? More sunshine and less fog, generally less extreme winds and seas when coming up and down the coast, and less crowded anchorages and facilities. It's so fine that we'll be down there with Profligate, too.

When it comes to passagemaking, we divide California into two parts - all that is northwest of Conception, and all that is southeast of Conception. All the waters to the northwest - don't underestimate Pt. Sur - are frequently subject to the kinds of conditions that can really smack a boat and crew around - although much less so in September and October than March through August. To the southeast of Conception, weather is rarely a major concern - except out at San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands.

The strategies for couples making passages between San Francisco and Conception are simple - be patient enough to wait for favorable weather and know every safe harbor along the way. Even if you follow all these rules, you can still be hit by unexpectedly strong weather - particularly along the Central Coast - so know how to handle your boat in those conditions.

Our recommendations? The Cojo anchorage is wonderful as it affords fabulous views of relatively pristine California coast. Santa Barbara has delights of every kind, but on those god-awful mornings of drippy fog, rent a car and head for the heat of the San Ynez Mountains. Santa Cruz Island has plenty of natural attractions and is ideal for those seeking solitude. One of the most lovely stretches of the Southern California coast - and one that often has a nice breeze - is from Pt. Mugu to Pt. Dume.

Marina del Rey is a good place to reprovision, travel inland, and/or have friends fly in to LAX for trips to Catalina. Redondo's King Harbor is much quieter on weekdays, and like Marina del Rey, usually offers a sweet point of sail to Catalina. Two Harbors is very quiet during the week, but on weekends there is live music and a mob of USC alumni who will be drinking to forget January's football failure against Texas. It's a weekly yin-yang you might enjoy. We did a lot of after dark BBQ-ing at Two Harbors last year, and we're looking forward to more of the same this fall. Stop by and have a little Q and a glass of wine. For a dose of bright lights and restaurants, Avalon is also great during the week. It's a zoo on fall weekends - although there are some interesting music programs and other activities designed to stretch the season.

By this time you might find yourself getting cranky for the lack of a good sailing breeze. Head for the San Pedro-Long Beach area, as it's not only going to be the most lively point of sail, but will have about the strongest wind on the Southern California coast. Newport Beach is a great place for friends to join or leave the boat because of the proximity of John Wayne Airport. Did we mention that mooring balls are just $5 a night at Newport, and that you can stay for two weeks? You won't find a more cruiser-friendly accommodation on the coast. Newport is also a gateway to Catalina, but if you want to sail over, you might start by motoring up to the windline at Huntington Beach.

We've just scratched the surface with our suggestions, so you can see there is plenty to do and see. Have fun, be safe, and don't forget to send some photos.


Those vessels that you sometimes so blithely classify as 'boats' are so big, expensive, and require so much professional crew that they can no longer be classified as boats. They must be deemed 'ships'. To be a 'boat', you have to be capable of being readily hoisted aboard a 'ship'. Good luck on those behemoths.

Captain Tom USN (ret.)
Lovely Lady, Cal 2-27
San Diego

Capt Tom - Times change, and the definitions of words have to change with them. When referring to large, privately owned vessels, we don't think 'ship' cuts it because of the connotations of rough exteriors and cargo-carrying intent. 'Mega-yacht' is far more accurate and descriptive. But in casual conversation, we see nothing wrong with referring to mega-yachts as 'boats'. As in, "I'll be back in a few minutes guys, as I'm going to put these gold bars in the helicopter and fly them out to the boat."


I'm writing to say what a great time we had at this year's Banderas Bay Regatta in Mexico!

My wife and I wanted to meet cruisers, and thought that flying to Puerto Vallarta to participate in the Banderas Bay Regatta might be just the thing. We rented a condo within walking distance of the Vallarta YC, and once there began searching for a boat to sail on and learn more about cruising. Having read Latitude for well over 20 years, I knew that it would be all about fixing broken equipment and having dinghies stolen.

I landed a crew position aboard Chuck Harmon's Morgan 38 Moonshadow. Chuck set sail from the Bay Area several years ago - I believe on the '03 Ha-Ha - and is currently based out of Mazatlan. His other crew for the race were Chris and Mike Brown, fellow cruisers who also keep their boat in Mazatlan. I had a great time asking them questions and listening to their answers.

After a nice opening ceremony featuring the Folklore Pacifico dance troop, everyone was told about rules for the parade out to the race course the next morning. Rule one was no mooning the audience - which on Moonshadow severely limited our options. When it came time for the parade, there were 45 boats staged in a very cramped area waiting to get out the channel. At the time, it appeared that this might be the most hazardous part of the regatta. It soon appeared that the theme of the parade was debauchery.

There was plenty of wind for the 1:30 start of the first race. It was like being on San Pablo Bay - except it was very warm. Everyone watched the two cats that were in the first division. It seemed as though Profligate and the 70-ft Morrelli & Choy cat Humu Humu were on different courses.

When I showed up at Moonshadow the next day for the second race, I bumped into Chuck who was holding a broken alternator bracket in his hand. This is where my real cruising experience began. I could have jumped ship for another boat, but decided to stay with my captain. After unsuccessfully trying to find someone in the marina to weld the bracket, we took off for downtown Puerto Vallarta for another welding shop near Wal-Mart. They did a great job for just $10 - although the cab fare was $16 each way. We had the bracket back in place at 1 p.m., so we never would have made the start.

Everything appeared to be fine on Sunday, the final day of racing. The conditions were much calmer, and we saw lots of dolphins and three whales. In fact, just before our start there was a whale between us and the starting line. Once again everybody watched the two big cats, who seemed to be sailing two different races. When Profligate returned to the starting line, we assumed they must have run out of beer and were going back for supplies. Because of the flukey conditions, the boats in just about all the classes rounded the weather mark at pretty much the same time - with Profligate somehow in the lead.

By this time, the sailing conditions were perfect, with the wind filling in. As we got to the wing mark, Capt. Chuck had Mike and me prepare the spinnaker. As we waited for the command to hoist, we were surprised to hear Chuck say, "I have no steering!" Yikes. We dropped the sails quickly, then discovered that a cable around the quadrant had broken. Thanks to the emergency tiller and autopilot, we were able to make it back to the dock without assistance. No problema.

The awards banquet was around the Paradise Resort pool that evening, and featured a great band, more delicious food than the hundreds of people could possibly have eaten, and all the free tequila and other beverages anyone could drink. Even though Moonshadow didn't place, we'd had a wonderful time. I felt as though I got the complete cruiser experience - except nobody stole the dinghy.

The staff at the yacht club were great, and all the racers were very hospitable. I learned a great trick for breaking the ice - I brought five current Latitudes with me and handed them out to cruisers. This worked so well that next year I'm bringing 20 copies.

I will definitely be back for next year's Banderas Bay Regatta. And with a little luck, will one day before too long sail my boat to Banderas Bay and enter her in the event.

Stephen W. Dale

Stephen - Thanks for your report. The Banderas Bay Regatta really is a fine event, with perhaps the greatest venue and sailing conditions of any cruiser regatta in the world. As for the whales and dolphins, they were all over the place - as usual. Many more cruisers ought to enter this 'strictly for fun' regatta, and more sailors ought to fly down from the States to crew on this long weekend of great fun. We hope most people know that it's only three hours from San Francisco to tropical Mexico - about 15 less than it takes to reach the Eastern Caribbean.

As always, Profligate was the last boat out the channel in the parade, and if there was debauchery, we're sorry to say that we missed it. Since we're more shallow than ever, buffoonery and debauchery are two of our favorites types of behavior. Thanks to a moderate effort on the part of Profligate's crew - including motoring out the channel in reverse with the crew waving burning flares - we somehow managed to win second place in the decorated boat contest. Our prize? A mere 600 pesos - or well over $500! We can promise you that we'll be making a real effort next year to win the first prize, which is nearly $900.

To keep out of each other's dirty air, Profligate and Humu Humu were often on opposite tacks on the way to the first weather mark. But boy did we and Humu Humu skipper David Crowe - and his assistant, Farr 40 owner Mary Coleman - have a heck of a lot of fun playing together. Both our cats were doing about nine knots when we crossed the first time, and we shaved Humu Humu's port transom by no more than 10 feet. They returned the favor when we crossed ahead of them a few minutes later. By the way, neither of us would have cut it so close had we not known and trusted each other's skill and judgement. The first downwind leg was even better, as for much of the time we were sailing side-by-side in low teens, separated by less than a boat length.

Question for Capt. Mike: What was the deal with the broken alternator bracket knocking you out of the second race? We and a dozen other boats would have been happy to tow you to the starting line, and to make sure you made it safely to your berth after the race. Welding shops are open most of the year. Banderas Bay racing is limited to three days.

The third race did indeed feature one of the all-time great fliers in yacht racing. With Humu Humu slowly but surely pulling away from Profligate sailing upwind to the weather mark, we did what desperate people do - something desperate. We set the screecher, jibed, and headed back in the general direction of a point halfway between the starting line and the leeward mark. For some of the time our VMG to the weather mark was as 'high' as a negative 7 knots. But having sailed on the bay several of the previous days, we'd noticed a southerly along the shore. Son of a gun if we didn't hit that southerly and sail so deep into it that we were able to tack around, reset the screecher, and lay the first weather mark - beating every other boat in the fleet, all of whom had floundered in a fading westerly. This is the one time in a thousand that our strategy would have worked. Our crew and the spectators think we're a genius, and there's no need to shatter their illusion.

The only disappointing aspect of the event was that there weren't more boats and sailors to take advantage of all the fun. The venue, facilities, and sailing conditions are as good as there are in the world for a cruisers' regatta - and it's free. What more could anybody want? Next year's Banderas Bay Regatta will be sometime in March. Don't miss it.


In a 'Lectronic Latitude report just before the start of the Banderas Bay Regatta, you wrote, "You'd have to be insane to miss this one. But you know, there are a lot of insane people around."

There are many other reasons besides being insane that prevent us all from enjoying Banderas Bay as much as you do.

Joseph Oster
Santa Cruz

Joseph - In order to create more colorful prose and to emphasize a point, authors will sometimes resort to writing figuratively rather than literally. This was one of those instances. You'd have to be crazy not to realize it. But once again, we're expressing ourselves figuratively, not literally.


Thanks so much for your quick reply in Changes to my question about the best way of rounding Pt. Conception aboard our new-to-us Mariner 31 Scandia Dream. But I was curious about your suggestion that I be careful about being pooped. I'm trying to guess why this could lead to a problem. I assume that the wine glass stern/transom lessens the possibility, so am I right in guessing that it has something to do with the shoal keel and a rocking horse effect?

Matts Djos
Planet Earth

Matt - It's all about the speed of your boat. Longer and ultralight boats tend to outrun breaking waves, while shorter, slower displacement boats are more prone to taking waves over the transom - no matter what kind of transom it is. But if you go south in any kind of moderately decent weather, and if you remain attentive when it gets rough, you shouldn't have any problem.


Your recent report on the merger of Sunsail and The Moorings parent company was interesting. I've done many Moorings charters over the last 25 years, all of them in the Caribbean. But our late April '05 charter was different from previous ones. I'm not sure when The Moorings went with Great Expectations, but our '05 trip wasn't like our '02 trip - even though both of them were out of Roadtown, Tortola.

For our most recent adventure we - four couples - chartered a 47-ft cat from The Moorings. We also had a cook, which made nine. This was my first cat charter, and we were all pleased with the way the boat handled - and she wasn't the dog we assumed she'd be going to weather. And with all that deck space, what a party platform!

The boat had a couple of problems during our 10-day charter, but hey, that's sailing, and nothing broke.

However, I don't think the boat had been as carefully prepared for our charter as in previous years. One of the heads siphoned water underway even with the thru-hull valve shut. This wouldn't have been too big a deal except the sump pump in that head didn't work. The folks who cleaned the boat must have known that the pump didn't work when they cleaned the boat. Oh well, we got it fixed at the Bitter End a few days into the charter.

The Moorings was going to send us out on charter with a dinghy but no outboard motor. This isn't a very good deal when you have a bunch of people who like to explore. I whined enough to get a motor before we left Road Town. I also had to make several requests to get a snatch block to use at the base of the mast - or else we couldn't possibly have tightened the reef outhaul(s) because it wouldn't have been a fair lead. I'm glad we insisted on the block, as one day we had as much as 35 knots across the deck. What a ride! With a reef in the main, we had the cat doing 13 knots on a beam reach with hardly any heel. And hardly a drop of beer was spilled.

It also bugged me that we were only given one set of bed linens per cabin versus the two sets we'd been given in the past for a longer-than-one-week-charter. True, we could have returned to Road Town for fresh linens, but that didn't fit into our plans. Plus, one roll of TP is all we could get per head. That's for four guys and five ladies for 10 days. You do the math. I also had to beg for a day ice chest. We had a ton of drinking water, sodas, and about a million adult malt beverages. There was no way we could have gotten by without an auxiliary ice chest.

It also bugged me that we had to pay $18/person each way to get from the airport at Beef Island to The Moorings base. I would have thought they could have worked that into our multi-thousand-dollar charter.

All in all we had a great trip, and there's no point in picking nits. However, methinks the Moorings service isn't as good as it used to be. They just don't seem to have the great attitude that had been their trademark for so many years.

Douglas Lent
Citrus Heights

Douglas - Charter Editor Andy Turpin agrees that taxis are very expensive on Tortola - which is why The Moorings offers prepaid airport transportation for about $5/person. One roll of toilet paper per head is standard in a charter 'starter kit'. If you had them fully provision the boat for you and only got one roll per head, you should raise a stink. By the way, The Moorings starter kit is more generous than that of some competitors. The only thing that strikes us as odd is that you didn't get an outboard-powered dinghy for a boat that size. Turpin was under the impression that The Moorings provides outboards on all their charters in the Caribbean.

All in all, it doesn't sound like you had a bad charter at all. But if you were disappointed in some aspects of it, by all means drop a note to The Moorings. All good companies are very interested in constructive criticism.


I used to go to the marina and dream of having a sailboat - that's when I discovered and subscribed to Latitude. The following report is, for the most part, a direct result of reading your magazine cover to cover.

My wife Anne and I have created a game plan so we can participate in the 2011 Baja Ha-Ha. While I've sailed a lot of different boats in my younger years, there was a 20-year period while raising children that Anne and I couldn't afford the time or money to own a boat. But with our last child on the verge of leaving the nest soon, and my retirement in 2010, we have begun to implement our plan.

We bought our first boat - an 8-ft Walker Bay - two years ago at an auction. We added a Sabot rig, then made a daggerboard and rudder out of oak. If your intent is to stay dry, small boats such as this will teach you to sail quickly. After a year sailing the 8-footer, we purchased a 1968 C-15 hull #135 from a used car lot. We named her T&A - for Tim & Anne - and she also proved to be a great teacher. The bonus was that, unlike with the Walker Bay, Anne and I could sail together. We soon found that Oceanside Harbor was too small for our very fast boat, so we began taking T&A to San Diego Bay. Sailing on a much larger bay afforded us the opportunity to compete with other boats and meet more sailors.

One evening at a holiday party for Anne's work, I spoke with a fellow who seemed to have similar interests as ours. He told me about some fancy yacht club he belongs to on Harbor Island, and how they have regattas and parties at their swimming pool in the marina. I have to admit that I was a little bummed out that I was talking with another rich guy about something I couldn't afford - you know, like going to the boat show and looking at all the boats you can't afford. During our conversation he mentioned the name of the club, so the next day I decided to do some snooping and looked it up on the Internet.

It turned out to be the Convair Sailing Club, which is a nonprofit club that is run by its members. Apparently, it was started by the good folks who worked for the General Dynamics Convair division as a recreation department. When the company left town, the members took over the fleet and the new club was born as a California corporation. The cost is something even a state employee can afford, and membership comes with classroom and on-the-water instruction by very knowledgeable members. The fleet includes 16 well-maintained sailboats from 21 to 26 feet, but we don't think all of them are ever in use at the same time.

Needless to say, Anne and I joined the club, and our sailing skills have improved by leaps and bounds. We are beginning to talk about Coast Guard classes and the possibility of taking club boats for coastal cruises. Now on a steady course, we have your wonderful magazine to thank for helping get our cruising dream started.

The only bad news is that we don't need to subscribe anymore, as we can pick up copies for free at 'our yacht club'.

Tim Mueller
T&A, C-15
Convair Sailing Club, Oceanside

Tim - We're delighted the magazine could be of assistance. We doubt that you can currently appreciate how beneficial your small boat training will be for when you eventually cruise a larger boat. With small boats the feedback is much clearer so you learn faster. Plus, when you make mistakes they aren't as destructive or expensive.

We're also glad you wrote about your initial misconception about 'yacht clubs'. Except in rare cases, they are not snootatoriums or all that expensive. And most have excellent low-cost entry level sailing programs. If any readers out there want to learn how to sail, you should contact several of the nearest yacht clubs and ask what kind of programs they offer.


I cringe a bit when I hear someone on television saying something like, "The Queen Mary 2 weighs in at 150,000 tons." On page 120 of your March issue, I believe you did something similar.

The term 'Gross Register Tons' means size in cubic feet. Each 'ton' represents 1,000 cubic feet - and has no relation to a ship's displacement. For merchant ships, this figure is used for figuring port and canal charges. Fighting navy ships use load line displacement - 2,240 pounds to the ton. I don't believe the term 'gross' is used with displacement numbers.

I believe the term 'ton' originated from the medieval wine casks called 'tuns' that were used to ship wine. A ship was rated by the number of tuns she could carry.

Very likely, the QM2 displaces less than the 150,000 plus gross tons listed, as much of the ship above the main deck is made of aluminum. In the case of the Titantic, her gross tonnage was 46,329 (size), while her loaded displacement was 66,000 tons (weight) - but she was built of steel. I must note that the Titantic was the 'biggest ship in the world' then because the forward end of the promenade deck was closed in after some experience of her sistership Olympic (54,524 gross). The displacement of both remained the same.

While I'm ranting, allow me to disagree with a spate of learned comments some months ago concerning the effect of displacement on transiting Canal locks. In July 1945, I was a crewman on the USS Colonial LSD 18 transiting the Panama Canal heading for the landings in Japan with a load of some 40+ LCVPss stacked over the well deck. About an hour behind us in the adjacent lock set came the Lurline, painted in Army colors with a load of European Theater soldiers also heading for Japan. The Lurline caught up and passed us before noon. We all believed this was because she displaced about four times our 4,500 tons and thus required less water to be pumped into the chamber. Some days after entering the Pacific, we were told about a bomb that had been dropped - and we were turned back to go to San Francisco where we docked on August 14!

Ben Matlick

Ben - As we understand it, there are three different types of displacement - volume, mass, and weight. The first is the size of hole in the water occupied by the ship as measured in cubic meters; the second is the quantity of water displaced by the vessel, and the third is weight of the water displaced by the vessel.

To quote the experts, "The displacement weight and ship weight are equal when the ship is at rest in still water. In real life, the displacement weight of a vessel is always changing as it takes on fuel, food, cargo, and people."


I was interested in your March '06 article on the new Latitude trophy to be awarded in the West Marine Pacific Cup for "the boat with the most convincing win relative to its own division" - and how such a formula would have changed the results in previous West Marine Pacific Cups.

You might want to look further into the data for the final standings and consider other performance results. In '96, my Island Packet Andante finished first in Division A ahead of Springbok in Division B. The uncorrected elapsed time was 12:04:09:02 vs.13:02:05:20. In corrected time, Andante finished ahead of Springbok winner of B; Stop Making Sense, winner of C; Recidivist, winner of D; and Rollercoaster, winner of E. That we lost third overall to Skip Allan on the Wylie 28 Wildflower was both a disappointment and an honor.

By the way, Chorus, which placed second in A, was the Latitude favorite before the race. Andante was not even mentioned in the pre-race article.

After the '96 race, Andante cruised around the islands for about a month, and then sailed home without any changes to the rig or outfitting. Andante returned to Hawaii in '03 for a one-year visit, with stays at Honokahau, the Ala Wai and Ko Olina. She returned to the Bay Area in July after an extended visit to the San Juan Islands, Vancouver, and Victoria, B.C.

Dave Jones
Andante, Island Packet 38

Dave - We're not completely sure we get your point, but we'll offer a couple of clarifications. First, the reason for the trophy. Pacific Cup boats start on four different days, and it's not uncommon for one of the four to start in very light winds while the other three start while it's howling. If your boat starts on the calm day, your chance of placing high in the fleet is almost eliminated from the very beginning. By awarding a trophy to the boat that does the best relative to the other boats in her division, everyone is in contention for a top award, no matter how poor their luck was with the weather on the first - or any other - day.

Second, we did not come up with the trophy, but agreed to lend the magazine's name to it in order to help generate more interest and enthusiasm.


God, do I miss La Paz!

Thanks for printing my letter last month - but I need to clarify a couple of things that might have gotten lost in the 'translation', things that might otherwise might make your readers think that I'm a complete idiot!

What I'd attempted to convey in my letter was that I took my Irwin 52 Shere Khan to Marina La Salina, located halfway between San Diego and Ensenada, by myself in October. The marina offered to do the check-in for me, but I knew I was one document short, so I didn't want to waste their time. My wife drove down a couple of days later with the missing document, so on Monday morning we hit the office. We got everything taken care of in about 45 minutes - checked in, got the Temporary Import Permit, got the visas, got the fishing permit and licenses. It went very smoothly.

Fast forward to February. My trip to La Paz was sort of on the spur of the moment, and started with me driving to the boat at La Salina Marina from Marina del Rey. So I didn't have time to order visas for my three friends. I just gambled that they'd be able to get them at the Ensenada office. As luck would have it, they could have got them if we'd arrived before lunch on February 17. But as we arrived after lunch, the rules had changed - and the guys couldn't get visas there unless they'd arrived by boat. It was then that a mildly unpleasant Immigration official told us we had to drive back to the U.S. border and get the visas there - or pay a $44 per person penalty in his office.

My guys decided to try their luck by sailing to La Paz and trying to get the visas there. And as you said in your response to my letter, it was a piece of cake. There were no questions asked and no penalty!

I hope this clears up the confusion. Besides, I'm supposed to be the expert, since I've spent over six years of my life in Mexico and have crossed the border at least 250 times. And I still can't get enough of it!

P.S. And thanks for printing a second picture of Shere Khan in Latitude on page 126 of the April issue - although we have a feeling that the 79-ft Kialoa III was probably the actual focal point. That's us in the background just behind the flag on their transom. We'd delayed our departure from Two Harbors that day by a couple of hours because there were a ton of boats jockeying around before the start of some race back to the mainland. Luckily nobody was in a rush to get back home.

Richard Booth
Shere Khan, Irwin 52
Marina del Rey / La Paz

Richard - Your new letter certainly clarifies things, as you didn't mention Marina La Salina in the first one, totally confusing us. As we understand it, the only reason for Mexican tourist visas is so Mexico can collect $20 off every visitor. As long as they get their money before you cross back into the United States, it's not that big a deal.

Speaking of Marina La Salina, we always remembered it as a shallow harbor that was useless to sailboats. But after getting your letter, we checked out their website and the current photos. Somebody with money obviously figures there is considerable value in waterfront condos and a big marina in Baja - albeit extreme northern Baja where the weather conditions aren't any different than Southern California. There has obviously been a lot of dredging done at La Salina, and according to the website, eventually it'll be home to hundreds of marina slips. Maybe this will take a bit of pressure off the slip shortage in San Diego.


I have recently noticed that the reliability of HF SSB USCG weather broadcasts from Pt. Reyes is not what one would expect from such an essential service. Failure to transmit, failure to transmit on all published frequencies, and incomplete transmissions are all too common. Nor does a call to any of the HF emergency frequencies always assure a response.

For those of us voyaging offshore - and I consider being 50 miles off the Baja coast to be offshore - this is not an insignificant problem. I wonder if others have encountered these same problems.

According to official published data, available from the Internet, USCG Pt. Reyes (CAMSPAC) transmits at scheduled times, voice, WXFAX, and SITOR (text) weather information. In addition, four HF frequencies are identified as emergency channels and are monitored 24/7.

Comments from other users of this service would be appreciated. Hopefully, it ain't just me who's complaining.

Pete Kantor
Tsaritsa, WDC3884
Ensenada, Mexico

Readers - Anybody else complaining?


Our bags were packed and ready to go, as a bunch of us nuts had chartered a Moorings 51.5 out of La Paz, and were slated to fly to them on April 7. Then, on the week of our slated departure, I got the following note from Expedia:

"As of April 2, 2006, Aero California ceased operations due to a mandate by the Mexican Civil Aviation Department cancelling all flights indefinitely."

Unless we were each willing to spend thousands on standby tickets routed through Denver, we were out of luck. So, there were some bummed-out sailors lurking around the Bay Area that week.

One piece of good news is that The Moorings is willing to permit us to reschedule sometime later this year at any of their bases worldwide.

Art Hartinger
South Beach Harbor

Art - The shutting down of Aero California adversely affected a lot of sailors - including some of the crew who helped deliver Profligate from Puerto Vallarta to La Paz.

Flying to La Paz, however, is not the only way to get to La Paz. It's only about 90 minutes from the much larger and busier airport at San Jose del Cabo - which also serves Cabo San Lucas. If you split a cab fare among six or so people, it's quite reasonable. Best of all, if you take the mountain road, the scenery is spectacular.

There is nothing nuts about chartering a boat out of La Paz, especially in April as you planned. It's an excellent place to cruise, and April is the perfect time of year to do it. In fact, as soon as we got this issue off to the printer, we headed down there ourselves.


So far the charter season here in the Caribbean has been pretty good. We've been as busy as we want to be, yet had enough breaks to keep us fresh and sane.

The Christmas winds aka 'reinforced trades' came in with a vengeance in late January and much of February. One day we were sailing with our guests from West End, Tortola, to Norman Island, and it was blowing consistently in the high 30s with gusts of 40 knots. It's always interesting taking non-boaters out in rough conditions. I catch them looking at me for reassurance, as if I'm the flight attendant on a turbulent flight. I always laugh and smile, even though I secretly wish it would drop back to the normal 15 knots for their sake so they can have a more comfortable ride, and for our sake, so nothing breaks on the boat. Most guests love to ride up on the trampolines of our Lagoon 410, but on that day it would have been like being blasted with fire hoses!

At the other extreme, we've had many days of flat calm. Such days have been great for snorkeling, but we've twice had to motor to Anegada from North Sound - which is usually a beautiful beam reach. One time it was so calm and clear that we could see starfish on the sandy bottom at 60 feet!

This season there have been more mega yachts, helicopters, and private jets than ever. Larry Ellison's Rising Sun, which at 450 feet once was the largest American-owned motoryacht but is now just the second largest in the world, was anchored in Great Harbour on Peter Island for a few days. Great Harbour never looked so small!

As far as our guests go, about 95% of them are good, and the 5% who are oddballs make us wonder why we do this. But it does make for good stories of odd human behavior. Despite weather extremes, unusual individuals, and long hours, we'd still rather be running charters in the Caribbean than anything else we can think of at the moment.

Our last charter of the season will be on May 12, after which we plan to head to Puerto Rico, haul out Moonshine, and fly home in late May.

Lynn & John Ringseis
Moonshine, Lagoon 410 Catamaran
British Virgin Islands/Bel Marin Keys

Lynn and John - If Larry Ellison's 452-foot Rising Sun has fallen into second place, what is the world's largest privately owned yacht? The aging Prince Abdul Aziz, a 482-footer, and Al Salamah, a 456-footer from the '90s, are larger, but they are considered government rather than privately owned. So we're left without an answer for this very important question.

While looking at the list, we noticed that Bill Gates is listed as the owner of the new 299-ft motoryacht Ice - making her just a foot shorter than Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Tatoosh, the second largest of his three motoryachts. It almost makes you want to write some code, doesn't it?


It was nice to meet you Latitude folks again the other night at the Crew List Party at the Golden Gate YC. I was the guy who sails a Dreadnought 32, and am related to Harry Heckel, the very senior citizen who has sailed his Dreadnought 32 singlehanded around the world twice.

I should have mentioned at the time, but didn't think about it until later - Latitude 38 is actually responsible for my knowing that I am related to Harry. The article you published about him several years ago caught my eye because I had just bought my boat, and was interested to hear about another Dreadnought owner doing such extensive travelling with his boat. I showed your article to my mom, to illustrate to her what a safe and seaworthy boat I had purchased.

"Hey! We know that guy!" she responded. It turns out that he's my father's aunt's brother - if you can follow that thread. I just call him my uncle for simplicity.

Anyway, I met Harry last Thanksgiving down at my father's aunt's place in Palo Alto, and we talked Dreadnoughts and sailing stories. He's definitely an inspirational character. At age 90, he is as sharp as sharp gets in mind, although a bit frail of body. He is still sailing, although no longer singlehanded. He's currently on the East Coast, somewhere between Florida and the Carolinas.

Anyway, thanks for a great publication. I read it cover-to-cover every month, as well as online every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I hope to see you at the Ha-Ha this year. I didn't line up a ride on Wednesday, but I'm undeterred.

Kevin Baldwin
Pato, Dreadnought 32
San Francisco Bay

Kevin - We hope to see you on the Ha-Ha, too. A great place to network will be at the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party at the Encinal YC in Alameda on October 4.


A couple months ago, I asked about the idea of a pre-Ha-Ha get-together in Northern California. This is a follow up.

The first weekend of April, ten of us got together in Sacramento and had a fun potluck while we discussed various places in Mexico and the ways to get there. We were lucky to snag Phil and Nora McCaleb, who did the Ha-Ha last year aboard their Hunter 42 Shiraz, to come over and share their experiences. As you can imagine, the topics ranged from types of watch schedules, to what unexpectedly went wrong, to what broke and how it was fixed, to how many whales were seen in a day, to how long batteries held up, to how much it cost to cruise. And boy, were we surprised when Phil told us they were only spending about $750 a month - not counting regular boat maintenance and flights home.

Anyway, it was a fun gathering, and we'll have one or two more before we all head south late in the summer. If anyone wants to attend, they can call me at (916) 488-4140. While we all got good ideas at the meeting, the wives in particular seemed to appreciate the firsthand information they got from Nora.

I know some 'long-time Mexican cruisers' think that all of us who will be doing the Ha-Ha are looking for a babysitting co-op to help get us to Mexico - but that's pure B.S. What we're looking for is the extra edge to insure we'll have a safe and fun transition into the cruising life. We're not novices. For example, all 10 participants already have a pretty good amount of cruising experience up and down the Pacific Coast - and my wife even sailed aboard Orange Coast College's Alaska Eagle from Tahiti to Hawaii last fall to gain bluewater experience. The folks in our group have 15 to 50 years of boating experience, and include a past national champion in the Catalina 22 class. Our boats are all very seaworthy, and range in length from 27 to 48 feet. It's my guess that the members of our group are probably not unlike most of the Ha-Ha participants in the past. I did the Ha-Ha aboard Bright Angel in '03 and Jelly Bean in '04, and based on my observation, the preponderance of sailors on those nearly 300 boats were able-bodied, well-prepared, and not looking for babysitting.

This is finally our year to go! By the time this issue of Latitude hits the streets, our house in Sacramento will be on the market - and maybe even sold. We expect to be moved onto our boat in June so we can spend the summer in the Delta and the Bay cruising until mid-August, then we'll gunkhole down the coast and be in San Diego in plenty of time to fix whatever needs fix'n before we take off on the Ha-Ha. The kids are all grown and on their own, and our health is still good, so it's time to go. I'm going to buy the Poobah a beer in Cabo, Mazatlan, and P.V.

Pat & Carole McIntosh
Espiritu, Hunter 430

Pat and Carole - We think get-togethers such as yours are a great idea, and we're sure that the McCalebs offered a perspective that we couldn't. But how could you have been surprised that they were only spending about $750/month? Haven't you believed all the similar reports we've published from other cruisers? Cruising in Mexico can be an extremely enjoyable and adventurous proposition - even for those who have to make ends meet with a social security check.

Who cares what 'long-time cruisers in Mexico' think about people they don't even know? People who identify themselves in such a way usually haven't raised their main in five years and spend most of their time moored to a bar stool. The only justification anybody needs for wanting to do the Ha-Ha is that it sounds like fun. Rest assured that you'll get a warm welcome from the overwhelming number of cruisers who have already been enjoying Mexico.

By the way, we'll be having an official but casual Ha-Ha Preview at Two Harbors, Catalina, once again this year. The date is August 12 and we'll be starting about 5 pm. We'll have a big BBQ going, show a few slides, answer everybody's questions, and have some live music. We hope to see a lot of you there.


I know it might seem early, but I'm getting ready for the '06 Ha-Ha, and I really need a confidence booster on doing all this paperwork stuff. When are you going to write a new article about what it's going to take to cross the border this year?

I hope you guys are doing well - I still remember our sail on Profligate from Santa Barbara to Redondo as a high point of our lives!

Rocky Shelton
Pasado Mañana, Newporter 40

Rocky - Wow, we're glad you had such a good time on the cat!

As for the paperwork for Mexico, there's almost nothing to it. Just make sure you have your boat registration or document, and a passport for everybody aboard - that's it. The Ha-Ha stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, but since neither of those are ports of entry, you won't have to clear into Mexico until Cabo. But once there, it's easy to clear and get your visas and Import Permit. You can either do the paperwork yourself or have an agent do it for you. So there's nothing to worry about. If you're planning on staying in marinas, make sure to bring a copy of your boat's Mexican liability insurance. You can purchase this in the states or in Mexico.


Thank you for today's (March 10) Photo of the Day in 'Lectronic - the one featuring the rainbow over the beach at Anegada in the British Virgins. It hailed here in Mountain View a half hour ago, and it's freezing cold. I know some crabby people don't like the tropical photos and stories, but I'm not one of them. I love them! The accompanying story was cool. More please.

Sylvia Seaberg
Mountain View

Sylvia - When some people see other people having fun, they seem to get jealous and angry. We don't understand it, as it makes us feel good to see other people having fun.

But in truth, the credit goes to Northern Californian Peter Whitney, who took the photo while serving as captain aboard one of the Moorings 6200 catamarans.


World's shortest letter - where can I find hawse pipes for my 1963 Islander 32?

Planet Earth

Chris - The world's shortest answer - Dunno.


Sorry about Richard Woods and Jetti Matzke having to abandon their 32-ft catamaran Eclipse because of getting caught in storm conditions in the Gulf of Tehauntepec. Nonetheless, I can understand their concern about being capsized in those conditions, having experienced a similar storm while aboard my San Juan 24 Slow Dancer doing the '82 Doublehanded Farallones Race with Dennis Beckley.

We were the only boat in our division to finish that tragic race. Two boats, a Ranger 22 and a Moore 24, which we saw on our way out as they disappeared and then reappeared in the deep troughs, were lost along with their crews. The storm conditions were about the same as Woods described, with wave crests blowing off the tops of the waves, waves crashing completely over Slow Dancer, the tremendous noise of the vibrating rigging adding to the noise of the storm, and everything below thrown into several inches of water on the cabin sole that had been flooded even though the hatches were closed.

I did MORA racing for 10 years with the little San Juan, including three races to San Diego, and a 36,000 mile circumnavigation. That '82 Farallones Race was the most grueling survival test of all.

In stark contrast to Richard and Jetti's experience, my wife Emily and I had a flat, calm crossing of the Gulf of Tehuantepec aboard our Cal 46 III on the last leg of our circumnavigation in mid-April 2000. It's true that we had experienced some squally conditions the two days since leaving Barrillas YC in El Salvador. One night, for example, we spotted a waterspout that fortunately dissipated before it reached us, followed by a blinding lightning storm and terrific thunder and 40-knot winds. We also had five inches of rain in one hour. It was such a torrent that it flattened the seas.

Conditions started to ease as we approached Puerto Madero at the southern end of the gulf. The 6 a.m. weatherfax from New Orleans indicated that there would be light winds for the Tehuantepec area - which looked like a weather window for our crossing. Just past Puerto Madero, we called the port captain to get corroboration of our weatherfax analysis. He said after three days of heavy conditions, he expected light winds and calm seas. We had thought about hugging the coast, the old 'one foot on land and one at sea', which other cruisers have espoused. But given the weather, we decided to veer to port and make a course directly across the bay, saving thirty miles. Two other boats finishing circumnavigations had gotten blasted in the gulf, having crossed earlier.

That night, while crossing the middle of the gulf, we experienced zero wind and absolutely calm seas. The surface was so flat that it reflected the bright moon like a mirror. I went below while Emily stayed topsides to enjoy the surreal scene, and there was no apparent motion, making it seem as if we were tied to a dock at a marina. Only the hum of the engine broke the silence. It was so smooth that I took a penny out of my pocket and balanced it on edge on the salon table. We were at about the same location as Richard and Jetti when they were rescued. On that night we had the flattest seas of our 36,000-mile circumnavigation. We must have hit all six numbers on the lottery that night.

Ernie and Emily Mendez
Quiet Times, Cal 46 III (since sold)
San Jose

Ernie and Emily - Given today's modern weather forecasting, and the well-known conditions that create Tehuantepeckers, they are easy to forecast well in advance. In fact, they are easier to predict than Papagayos, and therefore are usually less troublesome to mariners.

That '82 Doublehanded Race remains the most destructive sailing event ever on the West Coast. In addition to the lives lost, there were wrecked boats scattered all up and down the coast. We remember publishing a map of where they went down or were wrecked ashore. No traces were ever found of the Moore 24 Bad Sneakers or Larry Ohs' Santa Cruz 27. Obviously, we hope nothing like that happens again.

As you'll read in Sightings, Wood's catamaran has been found, stripped, far out in the Pacific. He's already making plans to build a replacement in England.


In last month's Racing Sheet it was reported that the San Francisco Pelican is so old school that we don't even have a website. But I can report that Muriel Short, the widow of Pelican designer William H. Short, maintains such a website and can be reached by email for info on the various fleets.

Pelicans comes in all sizes, from the Pelican that is just over 12 feet, to a one-off 27-footer that lives in the San Diego area.

By the way, the black boat in the photo in Latitude is Dos Equis and belongs to Martin Flaherty of Stockton. He doesn't go for spit and polish. In fact, the boat is stored outside his home sans cover. Dos Equis is the only Pelican that is known to have flown on her own, as she was picked up by a twister a while back and spun around. I can't remember if Martin was aboard at the time. Martin built his Pelican over 20 years ago with the aid of Isleton boatbuilder Chris Bell.

I have some black and white photos of an encounter between the Pelican Transbay Race and the Big Boat Series fleet in 1972. Ondine and High Roller are looking good in the pictures. But it was frustrating for those of us in Pelicans as there was little wind and we didn't have tall sticks like the big guys. During that same race I remember a bunch of motoryachts, probably on a predicted log race, yelling at me to get out of the way because they were 'racing'. I gave them the finger.

Thanks for the Pelican photo.

Mike Harper
Palo Alto

Mike - It's true that there is a Pelican website, but there's little on it besides the design specs. There are no race results, schedules, or anything else.


Things are still beautiful here on Guatemala's Rio Dulce, so if anybody comes this way, it's a must-stop. The people who manage the Tortuga Marina and Resort are among the best.

My sweetheart, Lupe Dipp, and I were thinking about leaving for Panama, but then the winds and waves came up in the southwest Caribbean, so we decided to wait for awhile. Nonetheless, I came down a week earlier than Lupe to do the normal stuff like change the oil. Another job that needed doing was waxing the mast. I sure wasn't going to do it, so I hired Freddy, one of the local workers at the marina who has done some good work for us, at $2.50/hour. Yeah, the word exploitation crossed my mind, but he's happy, so I guess I am, too.

Upon his assent, Freddy noticed some insects buzzing around the top of the mast but said, "No problem." My first mistake was to accept this because it turned out they were bees. Freddy had to come down early due to rain but finished the job the next morning. The rain didn't bother the bees and they were still buzzing aournd. Leaving them was mistake number two.

That night during a meal at a better-than-average restaurant, the subject of scorpions came up. One of the resident workers had caught one and used nail polish remover in a jar to subdue the critter long enough for mounting on a display. I know that scorpions are tough critters, so if nail polish remover can take one out, wouldn't it do the same for the bees at the top of our mast? I didn't have any finger nail polish remover, but I did have acetone, which is basically the same thing. A plan started forming in my mind.

The following is not recommended, but it's a true story. Freddy and I were convinced that we could dispatch the stow-aways using my newly-hatched acetone plan. I warned everyone in the area, and words like "Africanized" and "Killer" kept entering the conversations.

Our Catana 47 cat Moon & Stars has internal halyards, so we chose the spinnaker halyard for our little experiment. We started by tying a small rope to a snap shackle and pulling the halyard down. This upset our buzzing friends, who seemed to be building a new home on the halyard, which was abundantly clear from the all the bees and bee's was covering the line.

Spectators began to flee the area, but Freddy and I stood our ground. We waited for a bit, then soaked the halyard in acetone, and ran it back up the mast. That really pissed the bees off! We did this four or five times over the course of the next hour, and half-dead but mad-as-hell bees started falling all around. Finally, we saw an exremely large bee gasping and near death on the deck, with other, smaller bees crowded around.

We finished the job by wrapping a rag soaked in poison around the halyard and runing it up the mast. It will be refreshed before we leave the boat again.

All this had to be done because Lupe is allergic to the sweet little critters. We don't want Lupe pissed off, because that would be worse than a few bee stings.

I've heard of boats in the La Cruz anchorage having similar problems wiht bees. I'm not sure how the cruisers dealt with them, but it would be nice to know, as spring comes early in Latin America, and the swarming of bees is a real problem. I have no idea why the tops of masts are so interesting to bees, but they are. Perhaps a beekeeper could provide some insight - and suggestions for keeping them away from boats.

I have no idea what kind of effect acetone has on spinnaker halyards, but the next time the spinnaker goes up, we may have another story.

On a sad note, Manuel, the dockmaster at the marina, was killed in a single-car accident recently. He will be missed by all who knew him.

J.R. Beutler
Moon & Stars, Catana 47 cat
Puerto Vallara, Guadelajara

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