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A long ago letter in Latitude suggested saving water on cruising boats by using baby wipes. The suggested uses were for such things as washing one's hands and face, cleaning those places that need attention and, of course, the usual. And there are galley uses as well.

After I tried them once, I began using them every day to save water. My letter is a reminder to everyone that they are a great way to save water.

There is a choice of brands. My favorite is Huggies, which I find to be by far the best. I like the small, refillable holders, and the big packs Huggies sells. They are available almost everywhere, too - you know, all those babies.

I shouldn't have to mention that one should never try to put one through a marine head!

William F. Steagall, Sr.
Recently returned from 20 years in Mexican waters
El Segundo

William - We're parsimonious, so we stick with the house brand baby wipes from the big box stores. But if we ever feel flush, we may try a box of Huggies. Baby wipes really do save water, and can make life aboard much more pleasant. When cruising, for example, there's nothing like washing your hands, arms and face after a day in the salt air when you don't really need a full shower.

Our baby wipes sit on shelves that are at eye-level when sitting on the throne, so we've spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how the manufacturers keep the darn things from ever drying out. It seems like a miracle to us.

But our question for you, Bill, is what kind of a mind warp has it been for you to be living back in California after 20 years in Mexico?


On Saturday, October 7, we, along with many other boats, anchored just outside 'the box' between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to watch the air show. After setting our hook, I looked astern and saw the Beneteau 55 Macondo, flying nothing but a big blue spinnaker, coming down on us. I have to say that I was very surprised - to say the least! Flying a spinnaker in that situation didn't seem to be using very good judgement. The skipper did avoid a collision, passing on our starboard side, but without much room to spare. He then continued to weave his way between hundreds of anchored boats until he was out of sight - but not out of mind!

Linda Simms
Aquadesiac, Tayana 42

Linda - About 20 years ago, the Singlehanded Sailing Society scheduled the first day of their Vallejo One-Two Race for the same day as the Blue Angel Air Show, and the course took the small racing fleet through the large spectator fleet. We can remember singlehanding our Olson 30, chute up, in just about the same situation as Macondo. The wind was blowing about eight knots, and we felt in complete control, as we could instantly have made any number of dramatic changes in course. Nonetheless, our completely extended boom sometimes passed within about 10 feet of other boats. A lot of people waved, and nobody said anything negative - until we came within 150 feet of a big powerboat. A woman - with a huge crown of hair - stood up on the bridgedeck, grabbed the loudhailer microphone from her husband, and thundered, "Hey asshole, pull your boom in!" We never laughed so hard in our lives.

What's considered to be a safe and prudent distance between boats both at anchor and while underway varies tremendously from place to place and person to person. In Mexico, where there tends to be lots of space in anchorages, the norm is for folks to leave plenty of room between anchored boats. However, in places such as Antigua's English and Falmouth Harbors, there is very little space, and the norm is for boats to anchor very close together. In Europe's more crowded places during the month of August, boats might as well be rafted together.

When sailing, 150 feet might not seem like very much room between boats for non-racers and new sailors. For racers, however, crossing tacks with just 10 feet between boats is plenty of room. So individual 'comfort zones' vary tremendously.

Tradition also plays a roll in what might be considered a safe and prudent distance. A few years back we and a bunch of local kids were invited for an afternoon sail aboard the 212-ft luxury private schooner Adix, which was anchored out in St. Barth's very-crowded Gustavia anchorage. The talented and experienced skipper and crew sailed the huge yacht off the hook and through the crowded harbor. At the conclusion of the sail, the skipper weaved the massive yacht through the many anchored boats and dropped her hook under sail in the center of the anchorage. The folks on bareboats were freaked, the old salts applauded.

We're sorry, Linda, but we can't tell you how close is too close because of all the variables. But our general operating principle is that we don't want to come so close as to cause a reasonably experienced sailor to be concerned about the welfare of his/her boat. In the case of Macondo, the photo doesn't tell us enough about the wind speed, density of anchored boats, and number of possible escape routes to make a judgement. We're pretty sure we wouldn't have been concerned, but we can understand how other boatowners might have been.

However, rest assured that if Macondo had hit your anchored vessel, the skipper would have been completely at fault under the rules of the road, the principle of relative manueverability, and negligent operation.


I took this photo recently just south of Yerba Buena Island. It looks like the Navy is keeping about a half-mile 'clear zone' of warships such as the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

With all the traffic, ferries and such, it looked as though it would be possible to go right up next to the carrier. However, there were six patrol boats that you can see in the photo, and their cannons look very large up close, as they encourage boats to take headings that allow for greater clearance.

Kevin P. Welch
Northern California

Readers - Just to remind everyone, no private vessels are allowed within 100 yards of a warship, and when closer than 500 yards, private vessels can only travel at "minimum speed."


Regarding Doug Springstead's October letter expressing exaggerated concern about "goldbrickers and freeloaders" who use the Latitude Crew List, you were very kind and showed much restraint in your response to him. Springstead wrote that he believed the norm for crew is for them to pay their way for food, diesel and berthing fees. I don't think that's true, and I would be very skeptical of a skipper who "needed" expenses shared to the degree that he would insist that it be made a big part of crew list criteria.

Springstead's comment, "If I wanted paid help, I would look in the paid ads," along with his colorful language, says much about him - as in stingy. My response is that if I wanted to pay to do a sailing trip, I would look for a boat or cruise ship with accommodations to match.

While normally I would be perfectly willing to chip in with expenses, I wouldn't if it was demanded by someone with an attitude. When we raced during the '80s, we always provided crew lunch, beer and sometimes dinner at the yacht club. And yes, I know that racing is different, and the proper care and feeding of crew is an important way to keep them coming back.

In '77, five of us crewed with a friend, his wife and daughter to Hawaii. It was the first leg of their extended cruise. We were each asked to chip in $200 for food and stuff. You'll recall that $1,000 bought a tremendous amount of groceries in '77. You may also recall that back then gas was 62¢/gallon, postage stamps were 13¢, and a dozen eggs were 82¢.

We left San Francisco in mid-October and landed in Hilo 15 days later. It was a great trip except for the fact that for the first nine days our dinners were either spaghetti with canned red meat sauce or macaroni and cheese. The boat had no refrigeration. The only break to that dinner routine was when we caught albacore a few times, after which we enjoyed a real feast.

Then, on about the ninth day, one of the crew found the 'good food' locker! It was stuffed with canned hams and other delights. There was a bit of a mutiny from a very angry crew. We enjoyed ham & eggs and ham steaks for the remainder of the trip.

My point is that, if Springstead is so concerned about his guest crew paying their "fair share," I would steer clear of him. Sailing is a guarded pleasure. I prefer to share it with people I like. If you sail on our boat, the first thing I want is for you to enjoy it.

I suspect Springstead's letter was the product of unsatisfactory responses he has been getting from his attempt to round up crew to help him afford his trip. If someone is making a cruise to Mexico, they should be able to afford it on their own. If you have crew to help you sail your boat, stand watches and share the fun, good. If they can chip in for food, great. Do not look at crew who are willing to give up sleep, change sails in the middle of the night, and share watches as a means to subsidize your cruising adventure.

Mike Robinson
Pt. Richmond

Mike - We've heard of and participated in just about every kind of owner-crew arrangement there can be, and think they are all fine, as long as everybody is honest about what they are bringing to the table and what they expect in return.

If Springstead is predicating doing his cruise based on whether or not he can find crew willing to share the costs of food, fuel and berthing, we think that's fine, and wish him the best of luck. The only proviso is that he doesn't slam folks who aren't looking for that kind of situation.

When it comes to crew and crew positions, it's a free market out there, which is how it should be, provided that nobody engages in false advertising.


In the October Sightings, you reported that Jennifer Sanders is trying to learn more about the history of Cocokai, the 64-ft schooner she bought a couple years ago. The boat's history is cloudy because it was once used for smuggling, and then seized by the Feds. Sanders is under the impression that her schooner was once owned by a pot smuggler who lived on the Big Island.

If it helps, that individual is Stan Litwin, and his ex-wife still lives in the islands. Litwin worked for me when I was part-owner of Aloha Marine, the old Texaco fuel dock in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.

I was off-island when Litwin escaped, but as far as I know he managed to do it via a regular commercial flight back to the mainland - even though the authorities were in pursuit. He then fled to Mexico.

In '02, I tried to find out from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) whether Litwin had been caught and whether he was in prison. But they treated me as though I were a suspect, so I left.

Stan is a big guy, a fine sailor, and has a distinguishing white slash in his right eyebrow. He's a nice guy who made some bad decisions. He'll probably drop by to say 'hi' when the schooner gets to Mexico at the end of the Baja Ha-Ha.

Mike Dixon


With regard to Jennifer Sanders' 'mystery schooner,' she sure looks like a Dominique Presles design from the '70s.

Jean Vaury
San Francisco

Jean - We agree that she certainly looks French. In fact, we were once in the Virgin Islands when we saw a former buddy from San Francisco take off as crew on a similar-looking French schooner for the Med. The funny thing about that trip was that they had an American guy who was so rabidly vegan that he kept his own single utensil, a wooden spoon, on his belt, and refused to take his turn washing dishes because they might have traces of animal by-products on them. The not washing dishes business eventually grated on the rest of the crew, and we're told that halfway across they cut the wooden spoon from his belt and threw it overboard. As for the vegan, we're told that years later he became: 1) Extremely obese, and 2) A senior officer on a mega motoryacht. We always wondered if the loss of the wooden spoon had anything to do it.


We're sailing off into the sunset. We arrived here in the Bay Area a little more than four years ago on a journey that we knew would take us around the world in no great hurry. As a matter of fact, our original estimated time for a circumnavigation, 15 years, now seems a little fast.

We started in Seattle in late '99 with a 50-ft Garden Sea Wolf ketch appropriately named the Sovereign Nation. She was a lovely old wooden sailboat that laughed at us while trying to sink as we sailed up to British Columbia and all the way down the coast. We learned a lot about sailing and sailors from that boat and from 48° North.

While in Eureka, Sovereign Nation was hit by a 42-ft motor yacht. We're told the boat was rushing north so the owner could dodge the California luxury tax. Running out of time, he tried to warp off a lee pier into a wind that had kept the entire Eureka fishing fleet in port. The result was that he plowed into our boat at full throttle, tearing off the taffrail, mizzen boom and dinghy davits. The best part is that he then tried to get away, leaving pieces of our boat hanging and floating in the water. Fortunately, marina workers saw the whole thing.

But as a result, we had to sail our boat with a jury-rigged mizzen and towing our 1924 Herreshoff lapstrake dory in 40-ft seas around Cape Mendicino. Yes, we should have stood further off. Anyway, we mourn the fact that we lost that dory, as we'd spent weeks the previous summer taking her down to ribs and planks, and rebuilding her.

When we arrived in Emeryville, our first Bay Area port, we immediately picked up a Latitude. We've diligently read all 51 issues since making landfall here. Thank you for the great articles, Classy Classifieds, and especially the smart, on-target letters and the snappy editorial responses to the sometimes not-so-smart letters.

While here, we sold Sovereign Nation to a crew from the Czech Republic. They are now sailing her in the Adriatic Sea off Croatia. We wish them all the best.

Our new boat is Sapien, a Gulf 32 also designed by Bill Garden. She's a pilothouse sloop that can be singlehanded easily by either one of us. Using this boat, we've learned that she is an amazing sailor's training ground - just as so many have said. Last year, we sailed the Delta as far as Decker Island, and around to Korth's Pirate's Lair on Brannan Island. This year, we sailed down to Monterey and then returned home via Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. In all, we put 1,082 miles under Sapien's keel in the Bay Area. We also sailed many more miles aboard the City of Oakland's Estuary Fleet boats. James was the director of the fleet and nurtured this under-recognized sailing treasure of the Bay Area.

We're now turning our bow toward Hawaii, from where we will continue to Kiritimati, the rest of Kiribati, and the rest of the Central and South Pacific Islands. Major destinations in store for us include New Zealand's Bay of Islands, Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, and - who knows - maybe the Med. We are not rich people. We plan to work wherever we go, and we hope to become temporary parts of many communities - just as we've become a part of the Bay Area. Folks can follow our adventures at

Thanks again to everyone at Latitude, all the sailors of the Bay and San Pablo and Suisun Bays.

Dena Hankins & James Lane
Sapien, Gulf 32
Marina Bay, Richmond

Dena and James - Bon voyage - and don't forget to email!


In a recent 'Lectronic, and in a reply to an October Letter, Latitude wrote the following: "For folks buying really expensive boats, the nearly 10% 'discount' for keeping a boat in the wonderful waters of Mexico - or Canada - for a year is very tempting."

We in Canada do have wonderful waters. But it's widely recognized in global tax circles that we also have about the most efficient tax system in the world. Our revenue 'leakage' is minimal. Canadians generally are not proud of both facts. Canadian tax officials probably are.

Your article today seemed to suggest that the U.S. sailor could casually park his vessel up here in Canada for up to a year to avoid the incidence of U.S. taxes. Doing that just might expose the sailor to a blizzard of Canadian tax, immigration and health regulations and forms.

The sailor who fails to comply with these rules may run afoul of the Customs Act (Canada), and run the risk of having his vessel seized and forfeited. Seizure could really spoil an otherwise great trip to Northern waters.

Those U.S. citizens owning property in Canada - 'seasonal residents' - may qualify to bring their vessel to Canada without payment of tax and duties for up to six months, provided they remain on or 'adjacent to' their vessel at all times.

The visiting sailor may also bring his vessel to Canada for up to three months without a visa, or up to six months with a visa, again without payment of tax and duties. There are extensive forms and other regulations to comply with.

The California sailor remaining in Canada for a year most likely will be presented with a bill for Goods and Services Tax at 6%, and an additional Provincial Sales Tax at 7% (British Columbia), both as calculated on the 'appraised value' of the vessel. Copies of Bills of Sale are needed, and the appraiser cannot be the sailor's elderly grandmother.

Even foreign vessels under repair in repair yards are likely to be inspected by customs officers, who seem to spend their days prowling around marinas looking for fresh un-taxed vessels.

We now also have the prospect of harsh new Canadian sewage regulations that may result in sailors only ever dumping at approved facilities, of which there are virtually none. Those sailors may need to write up and carry a 'poop' log on board and obtain 'shit chits' or 'turd tickets' from facility operators. Needless to say the RCMP, municipal and city police, customs and other bylaw officers are not exactly tripping over themselves to be first in line to monitor compliance. Dipping holding tanks could get boring real quick, as well as expose those officers to all sorts of nasty illnesses.

Before being tempted, the U.S. sailor may want to explore the Canadian tax, immigration and health requirements imposed upon sailors entering Canadian waters for extended periods.

Mexico and those tall, cool piña coladas may be a lot more attractive and save the sailor considerable time, hassle and hard cash.

Capt. Pete Canuck
Up North

Capt. Pete - Thanks for correcting our misinformation with regard to Californians trying to evade state sales tax by taking their boats to Canada. We are going out front right now to take down our 'tax advisor' shingle.


Adding to your September 18 reports on sales and use tax due on boats, the California Franchise Tax Board seems to be omniscient when it comes to the purchase of a used boat that could in any possible way be related to the state of California.

I happen to live in California, and have purchased two used sailboats outside the state. One was purchased in Washington and registered in Oregon, for the purpose of cruising to Mexico. It was kept in Washington for about a year or so before being brought to Calilfornia on the way to Mexico. The second was purchased in South Carolina for the purpose of cruising the Caribbean. It spent a summer on the East Coast and the winter in the Caribbean, and eventually was trucked to California to prepare for a Mexico cruise.

In both cases, the Franchise Tax Board tracked me down and sent me bills for use tax on the vessels. You have to look at the fine print pretty closely to find the option that says you don't believe you owe the sales tax - for which you need to provide the justification and paperwork to back up your case. Fortunately, I had stacks and stacks of bills for marina fees, fuel purchases, repairs, etc., as any boatowner would. In both cases, I returned the forms along with a hefty stack of copied bills showing not only storage but use of the boat outside of California. In both cases that seemed to do the trick.

Boat buyers need to be careful where they will keep a boat outside of California, as Massachusetts has similar tax structures and the state of Washington only allows you to keep your boat there for a certain number of months before you are charged an annual excise fee (unless it's in a yard having work done). In addition to just being nicer places to have a boat, these are reasons why it's better to keep your boat in Mexico or the Caribbean.

By the way, I learned that South Carolina seems to be one of the most boat-purchase friendly states, as their formula for sales tax on a used vessel is capped at $300. And the marina we stayed in had dock boys who were there every time we departed or arrived to help with the lines. It's the only place in the U.S. I ever experienced that!

Mike Moore
Ayu, Hallberg-Rassy 46


The September 18 'Lectronic had a report on taxes owed when buying new or used boats. Aside from keeping a boat in Mexico for a year, there is another alternative. A limited liability company (LLC) can be set up in a state without sales tax or use tax, such as Montana. You, the boat buyer, own the LLC. The LLC buys the boat. Because the LLC is a Montana entity, and the boat/RV/airplane/etc. is registered in Montana to a Montana entity, the LLC doesn't have to pay any use or sales tax.

Reggie 'The Tax Man'
No Need To Know My Address

Readers - We're obviously not tax experts, so we have no idea if there would be such a simple way to not be liable for taxes on the purchase of a boat. However, such a plan seems a little too good to be true. For if it were true, why would so many people take their boats to Mexico for a full year?


I'm a fanatical reader of 'Lectronic Latitude, and when I saw the ad for the Islander 36 Geja in Spain for $10,000, my heart nearly skipped a beat. You see, Sara, my wife of six weeks, and I have been dreaming of sailing the Med for years. In fact, we've frequently talked of quitting our jobs, going to Spain and looking for a decent deal on an older sailboat. So when I saw the ad for Geja sitting on the hard 90 miles north of Barcelona, I thought it was too good to be true. I poured my soul into an email giving Shirley Sandys every good reason that I could come up with why she should sell the boat to us, and sent it the day the ad was posted.

Shirley called me back later that day, and again I used every power of persuasion that I had to convince her to give me a chance at the boat. Apparently, I was actually the first person to get her on the phone, and I didn't let her get away. I offered to immediately drive to her house with a check for $10K to seal the deal. As it turned out, Sara and I didn't meet with Shirley and her friend Lowden for a few more days, but when we did, it only took 20 minutes to complete the deal.

Sara and I have been on cloud nine ever since, and we can't stop dreaming of our upcoming adventure. We're planning on heading to the boat next spring, and if all goes well, spending the next summer cruising the Med. Having recently gotten married, we're looking forward to a last big hurrah before settling down and having a family. Both of us went corporate right out of college and have been working our tails off ever since. For many years now Sara has dreamed of travelling in Europe as she didn't get to do the post-college tour that so many of her friends were able to do. As for myself, I was stuck in a job and industry that I wasn't able to walk away from at the time, and have been dreaming of cruising for many years. Our short sailing trips - including a two-week bareboat charter in the British Virgins - only fueled the fire. By the way, it was during that trip last summer that I proposed to Sara on Sandy Spit off of Jost Van Dyke. Now we get to combine both of our dreams into our ultimate vacation.

At the end of our summer in the Med, we'll probably put the boat back on the hard and see if any of our friends or family want to use our boat the following summer - unless, of course, we decide to go back ourselves. We're also going to look into how much an outfit such as Dockwise would charge to bring the boat from the Med to the West Coast.

Do any Latitude readers know about VAT in Europe? I presume that we'll have to pay it since the boat's been on the hard in Spain for one year, and we won't be able to get there for another six months. Is there any way for us to avoid paying the tax or at least keep it to a minimum?

We're also wondering how we can bring gear into the EU to refit the boat without having to pay major taxes on the stuff. The boat needs a new mainsail, and I've found a used one at a sail loft for $1,200. I'd also like to bring all new running rigging, my stainless tools, a portable Honda generator, new electronics, and so forth. I know from shipping computers to the EU for work that you can really get hit with major import duty, but is there a way to ship gear to myself and avoid paying VAT? After all, wouldn't it be better if I bargain shopped for the next six months rather than showed up in Spain with dollar signs written all over me?

When we get to the boat in Spain next year, what should we do for the six months we'll have? We'd like to just do daysails from town to town, hopefully finding cheap moorings and/or free anchorages. Are there any good books out there written for someone in our position? Can you recommend any?

Again, sorry for rambling, but I've got a million questions in my mind. Thanks so much for putting Latitude together, as I've probably read every issue in the five years I've been sailing. The magazine is first-rate, you have some excellent writing, and you're an invaluable resource to the community. Besides, it's where we found Geja. You're welcome to join us anytime!

Eli & Sara Bottrell
Geja, Islander 36
Northern California / Spain

Eli and Sara - Congratulations on your new boat - it sounds as though you were meant for each other. We don't know enough about VAT strategies and exceptions to comment on them, but we do have some other recommendations for you. First off, forget the idea of having the boat shipped to the West Coast when you're done in the Med, as it will cost you far more than she's worth. We suggest you clean the boat up a little, make her functional, then sail the hell out of her for a summer or two in the Med. When it comes time to start a family, put an ad in 'Lectronic and find another young couple who have the same dream as you, and pass the opportunity on to them.

The Islander 36 has been an active racing class on the Bay, which means there are probably a lot of very decent mainsails just taking up space in garages. You might contact the class association to see if any owners want to get rid of theirs. If you fold an Islander 36 mainsail well, you should be able to take it on the plane as baggage.

When it comes to buying rigging, a generator and stuff like that, we'd wait until you get to Europe to decide what you really need. And in any event, it's probably not worth the time and trouble to drag it over to Europe. Electronics? Since you won't need more than a GPS and Windex, just stick them in your carry-on bag.

Our biggest advice to you is to keep reminding yourself what's unique about your opportunity - that you've got a boat in the Med, a place you really want to explore. Therefore your goal should be to make the boat functional as quickly and inexpensively as possible - and then get going! It would only be natural for you to want to fix the boat all up the way you want it, but you need to remember that you bought the boat to cruise the Med - not to spend a summer restoring a boat in a country where you don't speak the language and the chandleries are nowhere as efficient or convenient as West Marine.

If we were in your shoes - and we wish we were - we'd spend the first day taking everything out of the boat to allow you to examine all the important stuff - such as the thru-hulls, rudder, steering, mast and rigging. If they look like they'll be good for six months, we'd leave them the way they are. Since there often isn't any wind in the Med, having a reliable diesel is more important than in other parts of the world. If you're going to go a little overboard with money on any part of the boat, that is where we would do it. Once you get underway, you can gradually start working on making the boat more comfortable and luxurious.

As for where to cruise, that's easy. Assuming you'll get there in the spring, immediately head down to the Balearics, where it tends to get warmer earlier than other places in the Med. As you cruise Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca, you can both tour and work on your boat. After the Balaerics, head for Barcelona, then continue working your way east to Turkey - the best place to leave your boat when your six months of cruising are over.

Just thinking of the places you'll get to visit makes us green with envy: Marseille, St. Tropez, Villefranche, St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Monaco, Genoa, Portofino, Cinque Terre, Portovenere, Elba, Corsica, Fiumicino, Naples, Capri, Sicily and into the Adriatic. If you're only going to do one summer, you'll regret it if you don't continue on up to Croatia before continuing on to Corfu, Athens, the Cyclades and Turkey.

Almost everywhere you go, you'll be able to find places to anchor for free. Rob Heikell's cruising guides are often the best ones in English for any given area. They're expensive and you'll need a number of them, so if money is an issue, we'd wait until you get to Europe to buy them from folks headed in the opposite direction rather than buying them in advance.

The other thing we strongly recommend is that you also plan trips away from your boat. For example, find a place to keep the boat in Marseille for a night or two, as it's less than 3.5 hours on the train to Paris and, if you've never been to Europe, you don't want to miss that. In fact, it's only about three more hours from Paris to London, and you've gotta check that out, too. If you book on Ryan Air now, you can probably get a flight back to your boat in Marseille for about $7 each. Similarly, when in the South of France, take day trips to the great destinations in Provence and, when in Italy, take one or two-day trips to places like Florence and Venice. The trains make such trips very relaxing. If you stop at Fiumicino, you'll no doubt want to make several trips to Rome, as it's only about 45 minutes on the subway.

Spain to Turkey may sound like a long way, but the Med is pretty compact, so the mileage isn't any different than a typical one-way cruise from San Francisco to Zihua, so six months is plenty of time. Presuming that you'll be on a pretty tight budget, and knowing that prices in Europe are high and the exchange rate stinks, remember that the two big budget killers are marinas and tourist restaurants and bars. Avoid those, and you can expect to cruise relatively inexpensively.

We hope it all works out well for you. And if it doesn't, what the hell, you went for it and are only out 10K, right?


A sailing trip up the Petaluma River can only be topped by the jewel at the end of the voyage - the Petaluma Turning Basin. There are few places like it where you can dock your boat and be in the middle of a quaint, historic town with world-class restaurants, clubs and shops. But lately this jewel is being tarnished.

During the last 20 years I've made the trip up the Petaluma River at least 10 times. But during the recent trips, I've noticed a steady decline in the area caused by lack of policing and dock security. Shorepower pedestals are covered with graffiti, and others get kicked over in the middle of the night by vandals. In addition, we've seen and heard roving bands of young adults yelling, cussing and fighting near the docks. A few years ago a 40-ft boat in our group was set adrift from the dock, and the cooler they'd been using as a step was taken and thrown in the river. Luckily, I was still awake and was able to get a line on the boat before the ebb had her banging up against the D Street Bridge. The police were called but they, of course, couldn't do much after it had happened.

There were other similar incidents, but the last straw was what happened to a good friend of mine who made the cruise to Petaluma with his wife and his wife's elderly father on the weekend of September 23. That night they awoke to footsteps on their boat, then heard a loud thud followed by someone shouting, "Let's get out of here!" This was followed by a group of 25-30 kids yelling and fighting for almost an hour between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. The next morning my friend noticed that the custom bolsters in their cockpit had been slashed. They cut their stay short by a day and headed for a peaceful night in Sausalito.

The way I see it, the problem of kids on the docks can only be solved by putting a gate at each access ramp to the docks and by having a significant on-foot police presence. I know many others who have refrained from cruising to Petaluma because of these problems, and hope the City of Petaluma realizes that their economy will suffer by continuing to allow such behavior. I know that I won't return until the situation improves, and I'll encourage others not to make the trip, too.

Let's not let a civic blind-eye ruin another jewel of our Bay Area like has happened in Clipper Cove. Make the City of Petaluma aware of the situation and its impact.

P.S. I'm a powerboater, but have read Latitude every month for 20 years. Keep up the good work!

Capt. Mike Giraudo
m/v Fishing Luhrs
m/v Pane e Vino

Mike - We were a bit shocked to hear about your negative experiences in the Petaluma Turning Basin, as the downtown area is generally considered to be quite safe. And because the Basin is in the heart of downtown, live music, shops, restaurants, bars and a theater are all easily accessed by foot. An alternative to berthing in the Basin is getting a guest slip at the Petaluma Marina ($20/night) - about a mile and a half downriver - which has locked security gates, heads and showers, and saves you the potential hassle of having to cross beneath the D Street bridge. You could dinghy to town from there or simply take a cab.


For the very first time I have to disagree with one of your responses to a letter, namely the one you made to Steve Howard's letter complaining about cruisers not taking care to fly reasonably nice-looking courtesy flags.

During our circumnavigation aboard Dolphin Spirit, we'd barely dropped anchor in a small Turkish bay when the captain of a nearby local boat came over to tell us, very politely, that our courtesy flag, which had been made in Australia, was incorrect. And he gave us a new, correct one. After a later trip to Greece, we returned to Turkey and, by mistake, raised the incorrect flag again. Within minutes another local captain was alongside to tell us of the problem and to give us another correct flag.

To me these incidents support my contention that courtesy flags are there only in part for the government, but also for the local yachtspeople. It is to them that you have to show respect and demonstrate pleasure to be sharing their waters. Tattered flags, missing flags, upside-down flags - we saw them all in our circumnavigation - are indications of a poor attitude of the captain toward his boat, his surroundings and perhaps himself.

Having said that, we finished up our stay in many countries with sad-looking courtesy flags due to wear and tear over the months. If it was in the South Pacific or up the Red Sea, we kept it flying, as all the other yachties were visitors, the locals were too laid back to care, and the nearest flag shop was over 1,000 miles away. But if we were in Europe, we replaced the flag as soon as any wear appeared.

With respect to a young woman flying a pair of her panties in place of the courtesy flag because she'd had sex the night before, that's totally inappropriate. The correct place to fly such a flag, because it's a trophy of sorts, is on the port halyards, below the yacht club pennant, but above the boat battle flag. If the panties are intended as an invitation, the correct position would be below the battle flag - so that they could be quickly removed when the invitation is accepted. I recommend the 'crotch in' or 'crotch out' position, for when it comes to panties, position is everything.

Laurie Pane
Dolphin Spirit, Mason 53
Newport Beach / Brisbane, Australia

Laurie - We consulted an online psychiatrist to ask him if flying a tattered courtesy flag could really be an indication of a captain's low self-esteem. "Maybe. Maybe not," the shrink replied helpfully.


As someone who was raised in the Bay Area on sailing and Latitude, I have to thank you for putting out such a wonderful magazine. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that where I am today and where I'm headed can be attributed in part to the inspiration provided by your magazine.

I'm currently a senior at Whitman College and majoring in environmental studies and geology. I'm also applying for a Watson Fellowship, which funds a year of international travel and study for graduating seniors. For my project, I would like to sail the west coasts of Mexico and Central America, studying the issues surrounding marine conservation. I plan to visit Baja, mainland Mexico and Central America, read the history of the region, talk with locals, and volunteer with environmental organizations to better understand local and international marine conservation. And every day I will be living a life immersed in the sea through sailing, surfing and all that fun stuff. The main focus of my project will be documenting whatever I find through writing and photography.

I'm trying to find a way to get some of my stuff back to the States during my year abroad, and was wondering if Latitude would be open to printing some pieces in either the magazine or 'Lectronic. Depending on what you're looking for, I could write with either a focus on cruising and/or the history and environmental issues I'm studying. Incidentally, if I receive the Watson, I will technically not be able to work for money, so this would be strictly volunteer reporting.

I was also wondering if, during your years sailing in Mexico and beyond, you encountered specific places or organizations that would be especially interesting from an environmental perspective. If I get my project, I will be buying a boat in the Bay Area and preparing her for my trip in the early summer of '07. Depending on my timing, I may even be able to join you on the Baja Ha-Ha. If my parents follow through with their plans to take Auspice down to Mexico that year, that would make for two Coggan boats in the rally.

Brian Coggan
Whitman College

Brian - Thanks for the kind words. If you were to narrow your focus just a bit, we think you stand on the precipice of a tremendous opportunity. Trying to cover marine conservation in Mexico and Central America seems far too broad a subject, so why not limit yourself to the Sea of Cortez - or better yet, one aspect of marine conservation - or the lack of it - in that area?

The Sea is - or was - one of the most bountiful marine environments on the globe, which is why Jacques Costeau described it as "the world's aquarium." Unfortunately, things have gone way down hill since skinny Jacques last visited.

For reasons that baffle us, the big international environmental organizations have seemed to ignore the plight of the Sea almost entirely. If some company wants to build another salt plant along a relatively small lagoon on the Pacific Coast of Baja, deep-pocketed environmentalist groups work themselves into a lather. But the destruction of all of one of the world's most prolific sealife habitats doesn't seem to quicken any environmentalist pulses. Curious.

To date, the only organization that seems to try to get the word out is Sea Watch (, which was founded by a group of Americans and Mexicans in '93. Unfortunately, they have limited funds with which to work. But if you were to take a minute to visit their site, the photos alone would alert you to the gold mine of an opportunity there is to further document abuses.

If you were to write one or more articles about the lack of marine conservation in the Sea, and/or why the area seems to be ignored by mainstream environmental organizations, we'd be delighted to publish them. For your sake, and the sake of the Sea, we hope that you do get your Watson Fellowship.


Following the Baja Ha-Ha, I will be part of a crew delivering Club Nautique's Hunter 410 New Moon from Cabo back to Marina del Rey. I was wondering if you had some tips to ensure the quality of water in the boat's tanks before leaving Cabo. I looked on the Ha-Ha Web link, but didn't see any mention of the topic.

Gary Scheier
Marina del Rey

Gary - When it comes to water that we're going to drink or use when cooking, we always use the bottled stuff. People all over Mexico use bottled water, so we do the same, and it's actually never been much of a hassle.


Your retort to Garry Hubert's point that Latitude erred in the September issue by reporting that the Santa Cruz 52 Lightning had been first to finish in this summer's West Marine Pacific Cup sounded more than a wee bit petulant. What's worse, in defending the September issue's erroneous statement, you denigrated the fine sailing job done by doublehanders Shawn Throwe and Neil Weinberg who, in fact, were first to finish with The Contessa. That's not fair.

Granted, you and Garry seem to be talking a bit past each other. Garry points out the error in the statement that Lightning was first to finish, whereas you defend your statement of a 'clean sweep'. However, a journalistic misstatement as to who finished first - which you made - should have been acknowledged, not defended at the expense of an outstanding doublehanded performance.

The only bone that we have to pick with you is that, despite your two protests that "we don't want to take anything away" from Shawn and Neil, your defense of your misstatement reads exactly like that is what you were doing. You could have simply stated that you acknowledged the error, and applauded Lightning's time-corrected brilliance. Instead, you critically comment that The Contessa "only" corrected out 24th in fleet, without acknowledging the great corrected lead this was over any other doublehanded boat. You uncharitably state that The Contessa was first to finish "only" because the race committee had her "start earlier than perhaps she should have" in order for the doublehanders to start together. However, you do not acknowledge the great difference in demands there is between racing over 2,000 nautical miles with only two people aboard versus the fully crewed boats. I would suggest that the latter is what justified the race committee's decision that The Contessa start where she did and, in fact, "should have."

The race was won on corrected time. Who crossed first is only a matter of curiosity and banter. Lightning garnered all of the timed laurels that you report for her. Lightning sailed a beautiful race. The Contessa won the doublehanded victory and, as a matter of curiosity and banter, was first to finish. Shawn and Neil on The Contessa sailed a beautiful race. It was unfair and uncharitable of you to imply anything different. The high standards of journalism would best be served with an acknowledgment.

Eliot Hudson
Gatecrasher, C&C 41
San Francisco

Eliot - Maybe you missed the end of our response to Mr. Hubert, where we stated that "we will always recognize Shawn and Neil as having been the first boat to finish the '06 West Marine Pacific Cup." How much clearer could we have been?

It's true, we could have never raised the concept of fairness of that result were it not for two things. First, to our thinking, "high standards of journalism" require that you not just report the facts, but analyze them. Second, this writer was a philosophy major at UC Berkeley in the late '60s, which means we have a natural inclination to spend hours pondering mind-numbing concepts such as the nature of beauty, whether thinking proves we exist, whether words mean more than the things they describe, and yes, the nature of fairness in transoceanic racing. As such, what you mistook for anger and petulence in our response was merely dispassionate intellectual curiosity.

It's also noteworthy that we've never had the pleasure of meeting Neil or Shawn, and hadn't met Tom Akin of Lightning before we wrote the article, so our musings were not colored by personalities.

One area where we will agree with you is that because the way the Pacific Cup race committee structures the race, the first to finish is mostly a matter of, as you say, "curiosity and banter." You'll note, however, that just the opposite is true in the L.A. to Honolulu TransPac, where the really prestigious award is not corrected-time honors, but the Barn Door Trophy for being first to finish. Indeed, the arms war for that honor has sometimes been so great that the TransPac has seen fit to put a maximum limit on what boats may rate. The Pacific Cup doesn't have any such limit, which is why 144-footers like Mari-Cha can enter.

But here is what is interesting and, we think, in support of our point of view. Up until '91, all the TransPac boats started at the same time. In order to get them to all finish in a matter of two or three days, as opposed to a week or more, the race decided to go with a staggered start in '91 - such as is used by the Pacific Cup. But immediately realizing that the staggered start might result in an early starting but not necessarily very deserving boat finishing first, the Barn Door Trophy, despite the words 'first to finish' engraved on it, no longer goes to the first boat to finish, but rather the boat with the fastest elapsed time. So in the TransPac, a 'clean sweep' that entitles a boat to fly a broom from her masthead consists of: 1) First in class on corrected time, 2) First in fleet on corrected time, and 3) Fastest elapsed time. In other words, the TransPac's race committee agrees with us.


I don't see your general point in your reply to the letter How About a Semi-Clean Sweep? As the owner of The Contessa, please let me correct some of the misinformation you have provided your readers about my boat.

She is, in fact, half a foot shorter than the SC 52 Lightning overall (52.5-ft vs. 53-ft), and has 9.9 feet less waterline (39-ft vs. 48.9-ft). Her sail area is 592 sq. ft., while a SC 52 has 1,327 sq. ft. The handicap calculated by the Pacific Cup estimated The Contessa to finish in 13 days 48 minutes, and Lightning to finish in 11 days, 7 hours and 24 minutes. The Contessa was doublehanded, and Lightning was sailed by a well-seasoned crew.

The Contessa corrected out to 24th in the fleet, but none of the doublehanded boats corrected above her - which might say something about the fairness of calculating doublehanded against crewed boats. Do you really think it's an equal playing field having a crewed boat race level with a doublehanded boat?

I do not mean by this response to diminish the great accomplishments of Tom Akin, who was very kind to me after his arrival, or his fine crew. Lightning did have a 'clean sweep' as to the available awards, since only two prizes exist, one for corrected time in class and another for overall in fleet.

Finally, I want to thank your magazine and the author of the very kind August issue article on the Pacific Cup that included the story about The Contessa.

Shawn Throwe
The Contessa

Shawn - We apologize for all this, as we should have foreseen that raising the issue of the effect of race committee pre-race starting decisions based on just one example was a recipe for disaster. But now that we've created this mess, we suppose we might as well slog through it.

Your suggestion that doublehanded boats don't do well versus fully crewed boats is contradicted by Pacific Cup history. The top doublehanded boats have regularly kicked the booty of larger and faster fully crewed boats - and often on elapsed-time as well as corrected-time. For example, just off the top of our heads we can think of two husband and wife doublehanded teams - Stan Honey and Sally Lindsay on the Cal 40 Illusion, and Bill and Melinda Erkelens on the Dogpatch 26 Moonshine, who corrected out first overall in the fleet. But a doublehanded boat correcting out in the top five has not been unusual.

Let's forget about Lightning for a minute, and consider The Contessa versus Sweet Okole, a 36-footer with far less waterline and sail area. Even though Okole finished fourth in class, she still had a faster elapsed time than The Contessa. Our whole point has been that it was a little odd for the race committee to have your much larger boat start a day earlier than Okole, at least if they wanted the first to finish trophy to have a lot of meaning. But the race committee set the rules; you were first to finish based on those rules, and so our congratulations.

And we're not saying that insincerely, as your boat isn't the only one that benefited from a race committee's pre-race decisions over the years. Although a lot of regular sailors might not realize it, race committees have a huge influence on what types of boats win races. In races to Hawaii, this is done by deciding on how the normal handicaps are adjusted for the mostly downwind event. Decisions on how to modifiy the normal handicaps of boats - primarily through length and displacement - and by how much the rated distance of the course is shortened - do affect which types of boats are likely to do better.

For example, the L.A. to Honolulu TransPac has always been considered a racer's race, and therefore the handicaps have traditionally favored the longer and lighter boats. In the Pacific Cup, which tries to maintain more of a family image, the more family-oriented moderate displacement racer/cruisers have been slightly favored. That's why boats such as a Newport 30 could win corrected-time honors in the Pacific Cup, but never stand a chance of winning in the TransPac.

Anyway, Shawn, we're sorry we dragged your name into this whole mess, as we could have made our same point using a host of other boats, not just yours. Maybe we can leave you with a bit of history that might make you feel better. Were you aware that you and your doublehanded The Contessa had an elapsed time of just one hour more than the Jim Walton's Swede 55 sistership Temptress in the '82 Pacific Cup? It's true that the course was 55 miles longer back then, but Temptress was sailed aggressively by a small but talented group of maniacal sailors - including the then-young Cliff Stagg and Stevie 'let's go steal some cars' Baumhoff. They swear - and we believe them - that they carried their chute in winds in excess of 50 knots for several hours during that race. That you and Neil did nearly as well as Temptress on nearly the same course is, to our mind, a real feather in your cap.


You guys wrote that every time you start putting the Mexico Only Crew List together, a song, with the initial lyric being "They say Mexico is the place to go," starts playing in your head.

I've got what I think is a better song to get your readers' juices flowing for sailing fun south of the border. It's Romance in Durango by Bob Dylan from the 1976 Desire album. Its starts out great:

Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun
Dust on my face and my cape,
Me and Magdalena on the run
I think this time we shall escape.

The song features the familiar Dylan-as-an-outlaw-on-the-run fantasy, in which he thinks somebody may have died at his hand:

Was it me that shot him down in the cantina?
Was it my hand that held the gun?

And then there's the possibility of death:

Quick, Magdalena, take my gun
Look up in the hills, that flash of light.
Aim well, my little one
We may not make it through the night.

The lyrics are good, but the muy Mexicano mood of the music is even better. Bob sings in Spanish, too. You can get Romance in Durango for just 99 cents from the Apple Music Store. If that six minutes of heavy romanticism doesn't get your juices flowing for a sailing trip to Mexico, you should probably sell your boat.

Juan de Mexico

Readers - It's been a while since we've asked for great sailing music for Mexico. If you've got what you think is a great suggestion - but please, nothing from the familiar-to-every-sailor Jimmy Buffett catalog - we'd like to hear it.

Dylan, by the way, was a sailor of sorts. Back in the '80s he had a pretty large traditional wood boat built in Bequia. According to his recent book, he and his family sailed her up and down the Caribbean chain for the better part of 10 years before her rudder broke and she was lost in Panama. Anybody know any more about that boat?


I read your publication cover to cover, and enjoy it thoroughly. However, I have one minor correction. It wasn't Pythagoras who made the famous quote "You can't step in the same river twice (because the water keeps changing)," it was Heraclitus. Thanks for the cultural moment.

Pete Phillips

Pete - You're absolutely correct. We're so embarrassed that we were going to return our philosophy degree to UC Berkeley - but then we remembered that, in our case, hanging around for five years still wasn't good enough for the piece of parchment.


I love Latitude - especially the Letters and Changes. I was spending a happy Sunday afternoon here in Arizona, reading the Letters online, and came across the September letter about Hesperus - and your response about Pythagoras. I can't help but point out that Heraclitus, not Pythagoras, was the philosopher famous for saying that you can't step in the same river twice.

Emily Fagan

Emily - What screwed us up was that we'd just been reading the list of boats entered in the Baja Ha-Ha, and had just gone by entry #175, Dale Winson's Laguna Beach-based Olson 40 named . . . Pythagoras!


Thanks for publishing the fabulous picture of Mistral as seen in the October Big Boat Series. Your surmise was correct about us and the sailboarder. Just after we veered off to pass the Anita Rock marker buoy, I expected to be able to turn sharply back to starboard to get the sails drawing properly. But just then the bowman called out about the boardsailer in our path. As a result, I had to veer even more sharply to port, which set off the sequence of events so beautifully captured in the pictures.

P.S. The photos are a good testimonial for Dan's bottom-cleaning service.

Ed Durbin, skipper
Mistral, Beneteau 36.7


Thanks for putting out such a great free mag, as it gives those of us who don't own boats a chance to read about far off places and learn a thing or two about hardship and perseverance. That said, the letter you printed in the October issue regarding a sailor's observations of inexperienced kiteboarders struck me as misinformed and elitist.

I have been boardsailing off of Crissy Beach for nearly 25 years, and have never once been "too close" to a large vessel or forced any craft to change course - except perhaps another boardsailor approaching on a port tack. I consider myself to be an expert sailor, which means that, not only can I manage my rig in most wind and sea conditions, but I know the rules, and I know when it's not a good idea to go out. I also never expect, and have never required, assistance back to the beach - although I know that sailors and fellow boarders would typically be the first to render assistance.

But I take offense to your reader's suggestion, and your follow up comment, regarding restrictions to boardsailing and kiting in the Bay or anywhere. First of all, 'sails' and 'kites' and their respective boards are completely different, and should not be lumped together in your editorial opinions. The biggest difference between the two is that when a kiter is down, he is essentially helpless if unable to relaunch his/her kite and, when underway, the kite is a hazard to everyone and everything within a 100-ft downwind radius. In addition, an inflated kite cut loose remains a hazard; the rare, yet increasingly common, cold-water man-of-war.

A sailboarder down, on the other hand, creates a visible hazard of about 20 feet, and a broken sail rig can be ditched in seconds. The sail rig will sink and the board can be paddled to safety.

To reinforce this distinction, I witnessed more than a dozen kiters receiving assistance from various private parties and the Coast Guard on a recent Sunday in September. I also saw some 'boarders' swimming for the beach, but I didn't see any receiving assistance. In my nearly 25 years of sailing the Gate, I can't recall seeing a half-dozen sailboarders getting a ride back to Crissy on the Coast Guard boat. But that very same Coast Guard boat that patrols the area stopped me once and asked if I had seen any kiters down in the area. Thanks for doing your job, Coast Guard, but huh?

The majority of kiters are long-time boarders and know the ropes, but the class in general is giving the beach-launched crowd a bad reputation. Crissy and the Gate are not where sailors go expecting to get a ride back if the wind dies or hoping that 750-ft container ships and champagne-sipping boaters will see them flailing.

J.C. Martin
San Pablo

J.C. - Thanks for your letter, as we'll be the first to admit that we'd never appreciated the now obvious distinction between sailboarders and kiters. Back in the early days we picked up our share of boardsailors with our photoboats and delivered them back to shore, but it's been years since we've done that. For whatever reason, we've never had occasion to pick up a kiter, but we accept your explanation that they have to be rescued far more frequently.

What's the deal with referring to boat sailors as "elitist" and "champagne-sipping"? Anyone who buys a boat because they think it will make them part of some elite group will surely be disappointed and take up some other activity. Maybe horse racing. And having sailed the Bay for over 30 years, we personally can't remember ever sipping champagne off Crissy.

As we've said many times, we think there is plenty of room on the Bay for folks to enjoy all nautical activities. All it takes is a little courtesy and cooperation. Nonetheless, if the Coast Guard is having to rescue numerous kitesailors from the path of ships each weekend, we can see why eventually they might try to prohibit the activity in that area. Can't you?


The letter from Bill Kinney in October's Letters on the subject of board and kite sailors reminded me of a question I've been meaning to ask for a long time. When it comes to commercial ship traffic on the Bay, it's obvious who is required to yield to whom. But when I'm beating to weather in my Morgan 38, trying to clear the Golden Gate Bridge, just who must I give way to among the swarms of little mariners - such as kayakers and kitesailors?

I've read the Rules of the Road and several related articles, but nowhere have I found anything about the rights or obligations of small, maneuverable craft such as these. The rules all seem to address only power and sailing vessels.

For example, is a kiteboarder a sailboat? And if so, just how does one determine which tack they are on? What about a hand-powered vessel such as a kayak? Where do they fall in the right-of-way scheme?

If someone could clarify this, I would appreciate it. As the numbers of these craft increase at what sometimes seems like an exponential rate, these issues are going to become more critical. I certainly don't plan to run over any kayaks if I can avoid it, but if everyone knew what was expected of them, we'd all be better off.

Jimmie Zinn
Dry Martini, Morgan 38
Point Richmond

Jimmie - Those are excellent questions that we think most mariners don't know the answers to. That's probably because in many situations there are no exact answers.

Except for lighting requirements, there is no specific mention of rowboats, kayaks, canoes or other human-powered vessels in the COLREGS or the Inland Rules of the Road, writes Charlie Wing in his new book, The One-Minute Guide to the Nautical Rules of the Road. Nonetheless, says the author, since rules 1 through 11, and 13, apply to all vessels, this would include human-powered vessels.

Of these, Wing says Rules 9 and 10 are the most applicable. Rule 9 states that vessels of less than 20 meters shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway; 10 says that a vessel of less than 20 meters may use inshore traffic zones, however, they shall not impede the safe passage of a power-driven vessel following a traffic lane. Wing summarizes by saying, ". . . human-powered vessels should, whenever possible, stay out of channels used by large vessels."

Anyone who sails San Francisco Bay knows that many board and kitesailors push this to the limit. We're not necessarily against this, as long as they don't push it to the limit when big ships are in the vicinity and they would be endangered if they fell and became temporarily helpless in the water.

Nonetheless, the rules of the road still don't clearly cover a whole host of other possible situations. According to the Coast Guard, two principles come into play when situations aren't specifically covered by the rules of the road: Relative Maneuverability and Negligent Operation. Under the principle of Relative Maneuverability, whichever vessel can best avoid a collision under the circumstances is generally required to keep clear. Under the principle of Negligent Operation, one can't operate a vessel in violation of common sense or without using reasonable precautions.

In the case of kitesailors, we take this to mean that while they are sailing - and therefore much more maneuverable than regular sailboats - it's primarily their responsibility to keep clear of other vessels. If we're sailing our cat around kitesailors, we try to sail as steady a course as possible, making it as easy as possible for them to keep clear of us. But in the case where a kitesailor has fallen and is helpless in the water, regular sailboats and all other vessels must stay clear.

All of this stuff seems like pretty common sense to us. But for everyone's safety, everybody ought to give each other as much room as soon as possible in order to avoid problem situations from developing. It's not hard to do.

Here's to everybody having a great and safe time on all the bays and oceans of the world!


Something has been bothering me for a while on the various cruising forums such as Renegade Cruisers and Lats and Atts - racism now seems to be all right. Based on what I read in such forums, the Caribbean would be a much better place if there were no locals down there.

Sadly, most people bring their own problems with them when they come down to the Caribbean. Having lived in the Caribbean for 10 years, I see it play out again and again. But these days it seems somewhat acceptable to even express it in writing.

There was a long thread in one such recent forum that was nothing but a collection of rumors of crimes and assaults, but it was ugly, and it did hurt the cruising community. Sure, there is crime here in the Caribbean, and yes, a lot of the locals don't like what tourism has done to their islands - or tourists, for that matter. For someone who works and lives down here, a lot of cruisers and tourists have given ample cause for being disliked.

P.S. Latitude has always been the best of the sailing mags, and I just thought that you should take a look at the stuff that gets said on the various forums. It sucks.


W.H. - Thanks for the kind words. We've spent almost no time on Internet forums because we don't have the time and because too much of the information we've read has been flat out wrong.

The seeds for resentment in the Caribbean couldn't be more clear. The resident West Indian population is poor, poorly educated, and doesn't have much in the way of prospects outside of service jobs in the tourist industry. Alas, the idea of serving the seemingly never-ending stream of white visitors, almost all of whom are affluent beyond what the locals can ever imagine for themselves, is unpalatable to many. This is particularly true for testosterone-fueled young males who are descendants of slaves. It's no secret that, for many years, an unfortunate number of them have resorted to dealing drugs, theft, semi-extortion, and other crimes. That's not racism, it's fact.

Having once owned and sometimes run a charter boat all over the Caribbean for 10 years, we've seen more than our share of American tourists. While some of them have been loud, obnoxious and arrogant, the vast majority never gave any cause to be seriously disliked - other than for their ability to afford such vacations and their propensity to tip far better than people from other countries. What kind of behavior have you seen that we haven't?

What are the solutions? For charterers, it's pretty simple. Be alert, be particularly cautious when straying from normal tourist areas, don't get too drunk, don't stay out too late, don't buy drugs, don't flash wealth, and have neighboring boats watch your boat and dinghy while you're ashore. When visiting notorious places such as Cumberland Bay in St. Vincent, you need to assume that you're going to have to shell out a certain amount of money. We suggest that you view it sort of like the entrance fee to Disneyland. One common strategy used by the captains of crewed charter boats is to pick out the biggest and baddest looking dude in the area, and appoint him your 'agent' to arrange for guides, buying local food, and so forth. It's not a long-term solution because it encourages thuggery, but has been effective in the short term.

A long-term solution for the West Indians is much harder to come up with, as other than Trinidad's oil and Jamaica's pot, the islands have few resources. With banana and sugar subsidies soon to be cut, these islands are going to be in more desperate financial straits than ever. Tourism may not be the most attractive industry to young males, but there aren't many other choices. Even now, tourism accounts for about 50% of the GDP at islands such as Antigua and St. Lucia. If the tourists leave or are driven away, where do you think the replacement jobs are going to come from?


I just wanted to drop you a quick line to let you know how well the Classy Classifieds worked for me. I put my Hallberg-Rassy 35 in the last issue, and she sold by the 3rd of the month. Thanks.

Scott Rhoads

Scott - Not until the 3rd? What a shame! Just kidding. We're glad the Classies worked so well for you. And we like to think they are going to work even better in the future, as we now are putting entire issues of Latitude 38, in magazine form, on the internet. Just go to, then click on Latitude 38 e-Books.


Thurman Smithey of the Rawson 30 Venture reporting in. I am one of the Class of '80 Singlehanded TransPac, although my trip ended 17 miles from the start - I could still see the Golden Gate Bridge - when my backstay gave way and the mast broke at the spreaders. The lower part of the mast remained standing, supported by the lower shrouds. The upper part bent over until it rested on the lifelines, with the masthead nearly in the water.

Within half an hour, I had retrieved all of the wiring and other stuff that was in the water, had started the engine, and had used the emergency VHF antenna we were all wisely required to have to make contact with the Coast Guard. It was agreed that I didn't require assistance, although I could keep in periodic contact with them.

At that point I rigged my Ham radio backup antenna and called a Ham friend in San Diego. He promptly patched me through to the (now) San Diego Union-Tribune sailing reporter Bill Center, who had been following the efforts of Kathy Senelly of the Cal 25 Eramus and myself, the two San Diego entrants in the race.

I spent the rest of the summer of '80 motoring around the Delta awaiting a new mast, then singlehanded back to San Diego.

In '81 I sailed with crew from San Diego to Fanning Island, then I singlehanded home. I was ready to do the '82 TransPac, but declined to enter - in part because of what I remember to be an eight-fold increase in the entrance fee. So I just singlehanded from San Diego to Hawaii by myself. It wasn't a quick trip, but it was without incident.

I kept Venture for 32 years, but I parted with the boat in 2000 after she was doing more sitting than sailing.

I am presently 85 years old, and am looking forward to her new owner, Walt Shannon, taking me on one last sail he has promised on Venture. He presently has the boat in a yard in Sacramento where he is giving her a lot of the TLC that she needed. But who knows, maybe Walt will have a go at the Singlehanded TransPac himself with Venture.

Thurman Smithey
Chula Vista

Thurman - Well done!

When some folks whine that they can't go cruising because boats are too expensive, we like to point to folks such as yourself who have made long and successful ocean passages with modest, inexpensive boats. For example, there's a Rawson 30 in Napa for sale right now for $9,500 - and we suspect the owner might be open to offers. Assuming the boat would check out reasonably well, a sailor could have a ball cruising a boat such as that in Mexico and beyond. It obviously wouldn't have a glamorous interior, but it could do the job.


Want to know how to access your Winlink or SailMail messages from shore using a memory stick? The following tip isn't well known, but I've tested it myself.

The original method is to access your Winlink or Sailmail inbox by logging in directly or via and downloading the messages one by one. Now, using Telnet - a module in Airmail - you can save a lot of time by using your airmail software directly when using your laptop hooked directly to a phone line. But this means finding a place that will let you connect your computer into their network!

The following alternative method is easy, as you only use your USB key, but it works just as fast! While on your boat, you copy the following from your laptop to your memory stick: one folder with the Airmail installation zip file (see latest version), and the second folder containing a copy of your entire Airmail folder just before you go to the internet café.

When you get to the internet café, you plug your memory stick into the computer's USB port. First you open the Airmail install zip file and install Airmail on the computer you are working on (deselect the option to have a shortcut on the desktop and a place in the menu, as those are not necessary). Then you open your second folder (with all your own Airmail files) and open your airmail.exe file. Now Airmail opens (yours, on your memory stick) and in Modules, you open the Telnet window and there you go! Your outgoing message will go out and your incoming messages will come directly into your inbox as when you are using the terminal window connecting to your Pactor modem. In less than a minute you will be done. Phone lines are faster than SSB radio!

Once back on your boat, you delete your older Airmail folder in your Program Files and replace it with the Airmail folder that's in your memory stick (with all the newest emails!). You then start your Airmail program on your laptop as usual, and there you go. This procedure allows you to avoid carrying your laptop to the internet café,

You only have to install the Airmail installation files if nobody has installed it before you, so if you use the same computer later, you can skip that first step.

Here's another big tip that has been written about so many times it's hard to believe that so many users still don't know about it! First, turn the power output of your radio to 50W - not the 100 or 150W that is the default setting. If you do, you will have a faster connection because there is less reflected power. You will also use less electricity. Furthermore, anybody around you in the anchorage won't get the whole spectrum wiped out when you connect.

Another big tip is to listen for a few minutes to make sure a frequency is unoccupied before calling. Only one user can be connected at a time, so calling on top of someone already connected only slows down everyone. Sometimes you can hear some weak noises but you might not be sure if they are Pactor or not. If so, call five times, and then stop calling by clicking twice on the Stop button. If the station was available, you will connect within five calls. If someone else was busy on the station, you only disturbed them for a very short time.

Email users might also consider a 12-volt mini desktop computer with laptop components. Laptops are rarely repairable in the islands as nobody has the required spare parts and it costs a fortune to ship computers back to the manufacturer. Using a home PC, however, would force you to use an inverter, causing HF interferences. I discovered a very knowledgeable and serious cruiser who assembles 12-volt computers with generic laptop parts, so it's very easy to replace parts yourself. You get all the advantages of low power computing with the ease of repairs. Check out his Web site at

I'm hoping this will help everyone enjoy interesting cruising and trouble-free email communications!

P.S. I've been one of the beta users of pactor technology since the early '90s and have helped countless cruisers with email communications since then. I am a SCS dealer in the South Pacific, and can be contacted with questions or queries by email, or check

Luc Callebaut (and Jackie Lee)
New Caledonia


I've wanted to do the Baja Ha-Ha for a number of years with my Coronado 25 Christie. I think she's a capable boat, as I've cruised her in Southern California, western Canada, back down to Southern California, and back up to San Francisco Bay - which is where I now live. But I was under the impression that the Ha-Ha only allowed boats that are 27 feet or longer. I have been looking at bigger boats, but can't really afford a 35 to 40-footer. Besides, I'm really happy with Christie. I'm just disappointed that she doesn't meet the Ha-Ha's minimum length requirement.

In fact, I was hoping that I'd be able to take Christie in the Ha-Ha next year and, because of time constraints, ship her back north. I'll bet the Ha-Ha would have more entries if experienced skippers with good boats less than 27 feet were allowed.

Peter Schmidt
Christie, Coronado 25, Wesco hull #703
San Francisco Bay

Peter - Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler had the following response:

"With more than 180 paid Ha-Ha entries this year, we certainly don't need to encourage any more participants. However, we certainly don't want to deny participation to well-qualified sailors with suitable boats. The 27-ft minimum length is just a guideline. Folks with shorter boats can apply for special dispensation, and several have over the years. A couple of very experienced sailors with a Cal 24 were given permission to do the Ha-Ha years ago, and this year I was pleased to approve the entry of Randy Ramirez and his Stockton-based Flicka 20 Dulcinea. Ramirez has already sailed his boat to Canada and back, which clearly demonstrated to me that he was qualified for the Ha-Ha. Given you and your boat's sailing experience, I'd be happy to do the same for you next year. My biggest concern for the Ha-Ha is that everyone be safe, and I know that it's skill and experience, not boat size, that is the primary predictor of safety."


The following is a recounting of the problems we had with a boat we chartered in the British Virgin Islands earlier in the year. I'm sorry it took so long for me to write, but after arriving home it took me quite a while to calm down enough so I wouldn't write something that was rude.

Although the charter for the four of us didn't start until May 14, we were told that if we arrived on the 13th, we could attend the briefing that night and stay aboard our boat that night for free. And we did. The following morning we were unable to find the bilge pump handle and appropriate size screens for the ports. Since the bilge was full of water, we tried to jury rig a wrench as a handle to get as much water out as possible. It didn't work.

Once we got underway, we found that the knotmeter wasn't working. We tried everything we knew, but it wouldn't register anything but dashes. The depthsounder appeared to be working, but it continually beeped, and we couldn't figure out a way to silence it.

A charter company repairman came to our boat at Cooper Island, our first stop, and got the bilge pumps to work. When he left, he said he would have a pump handle, screens that would fit the ports, and a new transducer for the knotmeter delivered to the base at Virgin Gorda.

By the time we got to Marina Cay the next day, we didn't have any water left at all, so we put in another 81 gallons. We'd assumed that somebody back at the base had forgotten to fill the water tanks, but when we tasted the water in the bilge, it was fresh. Obviously the tank was leaking.

When we got to the base at Virgin Gorda, a couple of the charter company's staff arrived to fix our problems. They were helpful, but didn't have the promised transducer, screens, or bilge pump handle. The woman told us to call her when we arrived at Little Harbor and she'd have a bilge pump handle for us. We called when we got there, but nobody showed up.

Within 36 hours of filling the water tanks, we noticed that we were down to one tank of fresh water - and also noticed that the freezer was continuing to thaw. By Wednesday, the food was thawed, and the only way we could keep it from spoiling was by buying ice and keeping it in the freezer portion of the refrigerator. We tried to save the desserts, but they had thawed and were inedible.

On Thursday we filled the tanks again - 79 gallons.

The next day a charter company repairman arrived with a new speedo/depthsounder and installed it. It worked, but only for a short time. At least one problem had been solved - the depthsounder no longer beeped.

We didn't call the charter company again, and continued our charter with the boat in 'as is' condition.

While off Norman Cay on our last night, we decided to go ashore. On the way, we found that the dinghy had developed a leak and was taking on water.

When we returned the boat to the base, we learned from several captains of the fleet that seven of the 12 boats that had been chartered had experienced problems. They also told us that one of the dock hands had told him that the boat the company had leased to us had just been restored after sinking. We were the shakedown cruise! This was a shocker - but it explained the new finish on the interior wood, the fact the exterior of the hull wasn't scratched, and that there were new pots and pans and dishes.

We registered our complaint with the hostess who greeted us upon our arrival. She immediately set up an appointment with the charter company manager. We told him of the problems we'd had, as well as the report that our boat had previously sunk. He vehemently denied that any such thing had happened, at least not in the two years he'd been on the job.

One of our crewmembers requested monetary settlement for the grief we had during the cruise. The manager said that he couldn't do that, but he did offer to give us an additional two days on our next charter within two years. We rejected that offer because we've decided that we'll never charter with that company again. The company did, however, reimburse us for the money we spent on the two tanks of water we had to buy.

Peg Hammer

Peg - We don't want to make light of your complaint because you're obviously sincere, but you sound a little like a first-year law student. And using the word "grief" is way over the top. Grief is what a person feels when their child is killed in an automobile accident, not when somebody forgets to bring them a bilge pump handle.

We're probably more casual than the typical charterer would be, but we wouldn't have been bothered by any of the problems you experienced. If there wasn't a bilge pump handle, we'd have found something else to do the job - or more likely have borrowed handles as needed from one of many other charterboats that were no doubt anchored nearby. "Say mate, our boat doesn't have a bilge pump handle, could you hand us yours - and that bottle of Pusser's Rum you're holding!"

You were on a charter in the islands for God's sake, you should have been more swashbuckling, seeing every minor problem as an opportunity for a hilarious solution. "What would Jack Sparrow have done?" should have been your motto.

Neither of the knotmeters on Profligate have worked in nine years, but it never crosses our minds. Besides, when it comes to speed-over-the bottom, a knotmeter is going to constantly lie in that part of the world because there's always a west-setting current. If you want to know how fast you're sailing on a charterboat, you should bring a $99 GPS - which in any event is a much more entertaining instrument than a speedo. But since when has anybody cared about boat speed on a charter in the Virgins?

Depthsounder alarm won't shut up? Turn it off or readjust the depth setting. If you can't figure out how to do either of those, disconnect the unit's 12-volt source - except when in shallow water. No sense in a boat sinking twice, is there? No screens and a leaking water tank? Were these not just minor annoyances amidst the fabulous week of sailing, swimming, snorkeling and socializing? The refrigeration system didn't work toward the end of the week? Sabotaging the refrigeration is the oldest trick in Doña de Mallorca's book when looking for an excuse for having to go out to dinner again.

We tend to believe administrators of big companies more than the second-degree hearsay of guys on the dock, so we sincerely doubt that the boat you were given had ever sunk. But wouldn't it have been cool if it had, as you weren't able to tell, and it would have given you a great opening line when you got home: "Yep, just back from the Caribbean. Did a little island-hopping on a boat fresh off the bottom. The dang of it is that we never would have noticed were it not for the smell of the barracuda decomposing in the diesel's air-intake."

We suspect that if you pressed the skippers of all 12 boats in your fleet, they all could have listed at least a few problems with their boats. It's the nature of the game, as the boats have to operate in a hostile environment and are often mistreated by charterers who aren't familiar with them or their systems. Based on your version of things, we think the charter company's offer of a couple of extra days of free chartering was about right.

But that's just our opinion. What do other readers think? And have you ever had a true charter boat from hell?


I think you're getting a bit far from your core competency when you joke about things such as diesel airplanes. First off, you can buy diesel-powered airplanes - see Note that these are prop airplanes. Unfortunately, propellers are exceedingly inefficient when used at altitudes and speeds flown by large commercial jetliners, which incidentally run on kerosene. They could run great on diesel at low altitudes, but that fuel turns into jelly at the very cold temperatures the planes normally operate at.

But I'm not sure why any of this would eliminate "carbon guilt," as both diesel and kerosene are fossil hydrocarbon fuels. If you want to eliminate the guilt, sail!

Joe Della Barba
Northern California

Joe - We were actually referring to large passenger airplanes, and were trying to get our readers to visualize the comedic sight of a bunch of Perkins 4-107s, or three-story ship diesels, mounted on the wings of a 737. Nonetheless, you're correct, we really don't know what we're talking about when it comes to airplanes. If someone in a bar bet us 25 cents that there were such things as diesel-powered airplanes of any sort, we would have taken it in a second, and been dumbfounded that we were wrong.


In the October 4 'Lectronic, you reported that a new 1,300-ft-long, 183-ft-wide container ship, the biggest in history, was under construction for Copenhagen-based Maersk, the world's largest shipping company. The Maersk Emma actually sailed several weeks ago.

She was built to transport 11,000 teu, teu meaning twenty equivalent units, or 20-ft sea containers. Most of the sea containers you see on the road are 40-footers, with a sprinkling of 45s. You occasionally see 20-footers, which look truncated sitting on trucks. They measure 20-foot containers as the standard is that only 20-footers will fit in certain areas of ships due to the hull shape.

By comparison, the very biggest container ships coming into the Bay now are in the 8,000 to 8,500-teu range.

Bill Wilson
Northern California

Bill - We appreciate that kind of information. But the thing that amazes us more than the size of the ship is the fact that it's often less expensive to transport a container by ship from China to Europe - a hell of a long way - than it is to truck it 100 miles from a port in Europe to some other city in Europe.

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