Back to "Letters" Index
WHAT ABOUT DUNCAN MCGREGOR?
Was Ken Barnes - recently rescued after his Gulfstream 44 Privateer was dismasted off Chile - really the first West Coaster to attempt an east-to-west circumnavigation via the three southern capes? If I'm not mistaken, Duncan McGregor, originally from Southern California, not only tried it many years ago, but succeeded. And he did it both ways.
McGregor was more than 80 years old when he passed away about seven years ago in St. Croix, U.S. Virgins, where he spent many of the last years of his life. He'd made ambitious voyages right up to the very end. He had also been an early commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association.
A merchant marine officer and a merchant marine engineer, McGregor taught skippers during World War II. After the war, he made a living by skippering various yachts and doing deliveries. He never lost or abandoned a boat, although he had some close scrapes during some deliveries.
McGregor left Long Beach in the late '60s for good aboard a Blackjack 30, which was a cut-down version of the Columbia 34 MK1 centerboard design. She had a Mercedes diesel with a dry stack, a few orange crates for storage, and a level pad for Duncan's sleeping bag.
I'm not sure what happened next, but subsequently McGregor circumnavigated three times aboard Nordica, his 37-ft steel boat. He did east-to-west and west-to-east circumnavigations via the southern capes, as well as a third circumnavigation the conventional way, using the Panama and Suez Canals. His last major voyage, after he turned 80, was a circumnavigation of South America. He then continued on to Antarctica, and the following summer sailed as far north up the coast of Greenland as the ice pack would allow.
Nordica was later lost from her mooring in St. Croix during a hurricane. McGregor died a few months later.
Duncan was one of those sailors who never sought publicity, but 'did it all'.
I'm not making any judgements about Ken
Barnes, but there are many sailors who seem to have made a number
of significant voyages with no fanfare or expensive rescues -
and others who seem to seek publicity. It seems that the latter
have fewer successful voyages than the former. Having said that,
I wish Mr. Barnes well, and am glad that he was rescued.
Bob - Thanks for the info, as we were not aware of McGregor's considerable exploits, but did he solo non-stop? That somebody had done something like that with hardly anybody knowing about it doesn't particularly surprise us, because, as you say, there are lots of sailors who have done incredible things but have never bothered to tell anyone about them. We know a guy who has sailed his own boats across the Atlantic 25 times, and his 13-year-old son has already been across 16 times. For them, it's like the rest of us driving a car from San Francisco to L.A. and back, but nobody has ever heard of them. Remember the guy from Southern California who spent 10 years cruising to Asia aboard a catamaran he built for $500? Nobody had heard of him until we did an article in Latitude. As such, we wouldn't be surprised if some guy that nobody had ever heard of had done 10 circumnavigations.
As for Ken Barnes, he's a very humble guy, and we're convinced that he didn't attempt his voyage for fame or fortune. After he returned from Chile he said his greatest regret - even above not completing the voyage - was having to involve others in his predicament. When offered financial assistance he replied, "I thank you for the offers but would rather you spend your money on your own dreams."
IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS
You noted that, had Ken Barnes completed
his ambitious singlehanded trip, the press probably would have
ignored it. But since he was dismasted and had to be rescued,
it became a big story. It's not that his story isn't interesting,
but there are more incredible things happening in the world of
sailing. It makes you wonder how the press pick up on other stories
and how it shapes our perceptions. Or maybe they just like a
good disaster story.
David - The press loves a good disaster story for the simple reason that readers love a good disaster story. But hopefully the sailing press, writing to a more sophisticated and knowledgeable audience, will put the Barnes story more into the context in which it belongs.
While reading a recent 'Lectronic item about singlehander Ken Barnes, I clicked on the link back to your September '06 Sightings on him. I quote,
". . . he openly acknowledged that he had relatively little offshore experience, and therefore did not want to invite criticism from every armchair pontificator in the sailing world by seeking advance publicity."
Seeking advice is not the same as seeking publicity.
It's unfortunate that Barnes didn't talk to and heed at least one "armchair pontificator" who, I'm sure, would have suggested that he get at least one long-distance, crewed, voyage under his belt before even selecting a boat for this venture. If his long-distance voyage had been on a Pacific Cup boat or a return delivery, he may then have been aware that positively latched hatches and secured equipment, as well as a workable emergency rudder, are very important to have at sea. He would also have been made very aware that waves do not come from a single direction when you are away from the shore.
I'm looking forward to reading his 'story',
which I expect will appear elsewhere in this issue.
Bob - We understand what you're saying. On the other hand, if sailors had heeded all the advice of armchair experts, most of the world's great sailing voyages would never have taken place. For example, when the first Singlehanded Farallones Race - 25 miles out to the rocks and 25 miles back to the Gate - was proposed, many sailors, and not just the armchair variety, said it was the height of irresponsibility. Nowadays, even 14-year-olds are crossing oceans by themselves, and 70-year-olds with heart transplants have done circumnavigations on 27-ft boats. And we're sure armchair experts would have nixed the voyages proposed by the likes of Shane St. Clair, K.P. Chin, Serge Testa and many others. Who are they? Check out the next letter.
NOT THAT I WOULD RECOMMEND IT
In the December issue, reader Larry James asked if anyone had sailed a Catalina 25 to Hawaii. In your response, you mentioned that Frank Butler, the owner of Catalina, would tell him that the Catalina 25 was built for sailing in more protected waters.
I think that's an accurate response. Ironically, Shane St. Clair, a dock neighbor I'm proud to know, sailed an even smaller Catalina to Hawaii. He pulled the feat off with a Capri 18. He's recognized for that accomplishment on the Catalina website.
(By the way, if anyone is interested in sailing with Shane on something a bit more comfy than a Capri, they can visit his website at www.sailscovare.com.)
And former San Francisco resident K.P. Chin, who is a customer and friend of ours, sailed to Hawaii in a comparatively luxurious Cal 20.
It's amazing how far people get on pure sailing ability and resourcefulness. Both of these gentlemen took the boats they did because it's what they could afford at the time. And, of course, both men are top-notch sailors.
My visits to Southeast Asia have shown me that many in the cruising community are cruising boats that some Latitude readers would consider unsuitable for the voyage. For example, on my last trip I met a couple who have been doing an east-about circumnavigation on an old Islander 32. And a few years ago, I saw a small Wharram catamaran that sailed from Europe to Malaysia. You see some boats over there that readers would be afraid to take out on San Francisco Bay, yet the boats sailed thousands of miles from Europe, Australia or the United States. Good seamanship - and a ration of luck - have taken some of these voyagers far.
I wouldn't recommend an ocean crossing
in a small trailer-sailer designed for lakes, but I would never
say that it couldn't be done.
Dave - Small boat circumnavigations haven't shocked us since Serge Testa, subsequently a resident of Berkeley, sailed his 11-ft, 10-inch Acrohc Australis 27,000 miles around the world, starting and finishing in Brisbane, Australia. Nobody has circumnavigated in a smaller boat. Like you, we wouldn't recommend that anybody do it, but we wouldn't say it can't be done.
For what it's worth, 10 years later Serge and his wife Robin did a circumnavigation aboard Encanto, the 60-ft sailboat he built.
ALL THINGS MUST PASS
Good news. You may already have heard, but knowledge of Morse Code is no longer required for any class of ham radio licenses. The details can be found at www.arrl.org/news/stories/2006/12/19/101/?nc=1.
Steve - We've already reported on that in 'Lectronic and Latitude 38, but your letter will inform those who perhaps didn't get the news yet. For years we at Latitude have argued that Morse Code is no longer necessary in emergency situations, and that requiring applicants to learn code was really more a form of hazing that didn't stop 'bad apples' from trying to join Amateur Radio ranks. After all these years, the Federal Communications Commission has finally come around to agreeing with us.
Having said that, we want to salute all those who genuinely did learn code - as opposed to those who learned enough to pass the test and then forgot it all a week later. For, over the years, the folks who became fluent in code saved many lives and helped out in countless emergencies.
The other big news in the world of marine electronics is that certain older style EPIRBs are no longer legal. See Sightings for the details.
I SMUGGLED SUITCASES OF POT ON AIRPLANES
A friend of mine emailed me a copy of a letter that appeared in Latitude, where, at the end, you said you wondered what happened to me. So I thought I'd satisfy your curiosity.
But first, let's clear the air about one thing you wrote: "Rather than doing the smuggling himself, Perlowin recruited down-on-their-luck fishermen from places like Moss Landing."
First off, I couldn't do the smuggling myself because I don't know much about commanding a boat - and, by the way, remember that you still owe me a sail on your boat. So I had to hire the captains and crews. But, in the beginning, when I smuggled suitcases full of pot from Miami to Los Angeles on commercial airlines, I did the transporting. By the way, I don't know how to fly an airplane either.
Next, let's drop the "Perlowin recruited down-on-their-luck fishermen from places like Moss Landing" line. I used that story to place the blame of the smuggling activities on myself, and to elicit sympathy for my captains and crews. It worked, as I got 15 years in prison while almost everyone else got anywhere from probation to 18 months. I believe only one of them got five years. Although my marijuana-smuggling ring was the biggest in West Coast history, all those involved - except for me - received the least punitive sentences in U.S. history. So the 'poor fishermen' story was my way to help cut their sentences, not so much a real deal.
It is true that the fishermen were down on their luck at the time, as there were fewer fish than before, and the fuel prices had gone way up. However, most if not all these guys could chew me up, spit me out, and swap [sic] the decks with me. The reality is that they were a rugged and enterprising group of individuals, modern day pirates, as it were. In fact, I think they had 'the spirit of America' in them, or at least a certain element that is inculcated into a lot of Americans, especially the ones that live and work on the sea.
While I downplayed the involvement of the skippers and the crew to keep their sentences as light as possible, all of them couldn't wait to do the next smuggle as captain or crew. I paid $300,000 for the trip from Colombia to California. Captains got $120,000 a trip, while the crew got $80,000. Smuggler B, who saw green flashes at sunrise while holding a cup of coffee - green flashes at sunrise, what else was in that coffee? - was supposed to get paid $80,000 on his first trip. But since the captain got sick and couldn't go, and there was only my partner - a seasoned seaman - and B that went to do the off-load, he got an extra $20,000.
B was the eager captain for a couple more trips, and, like everyone else, would get upset if he didn't get the job.
Lastly, the amount of marijuana we smuggled was closer to $500 million than the figure I originally gave to you in my interview. I just didn't want to reveal the real amounts back then because the feds didn't know about a bunch of other smuggles we did - like the other two that B did. And don't worry, B, the statute of limitations is over, so you can't get busted for those trips now. But I didn't want the feds to figure out that the numbers didn't add up, and then have them start looking to find the smuggles they didn't know about, and thus catch other captains and crews.
So what am I doing today? It actually applies to the rugged individual readers of your magazine who go to sea, as I manufacture and market a biofrequency machine. In fact, they would be the perfect sort of first-aid kit at sea. I can't make medical claims for them, so I don't say my machines can cure anything - although I may be able to say that my machines create an absence of symptoms for about 200 conditions. Check out the two best websites we have: www.energywellness.net and www.energywellness.co.nz to see what the machines can do.
The biofrequency machine is really great for injuries at sea, when patients can't get to a doctor or hospital quickly. Again, I can't make any medical claim, but your readers should decide for themselves. We've been doing this for eight years now, and have seen all kinds of miracles - the absence of symptoms - occur. If I ever went for an extended sea voyage, I wouldn't go without one of my Energy Wellness® machines.
By the way, we are looking for salespeople in the marine industry, so interested people can just call 800-555-4082 and ask for Sales. To hear the updates on what we're doing just call back and say "Updates," and you'll hear about that. To reach me, just say, "Bruce."
I hope that B reads this letter, as there is talk of a movie being made about our adventures, which means we'd have to do the book first, the one we were working on earlier. And B, you'd be a great contributor, since you did more trips than disclosed earlier. So email me.
As for Latitude, I still hope to
go on that sailboat ride.
Bruce - The next issue marks the 30th year of publishing Latitude 38, and, looking back, the two interviews with you have to be among the top ten most memorable stories we've run. Not surprisingly, several of the other top ten were also interviews with people who smuggled drugs, although they actually did the smuggling.
As for B, we edited out his complete name because it seemed as though it might be in everyone's best interest to let sleeping dogs lie, regardless of the statute of limitations. By the way, B may not have had anything in his coffee but coffee, because as has been gone over numerous times in Latitude, you can indeed see a green flash in the morning as well as the evening.
As for that sailboat ride, just call us in May when our boat is back from Mexico. But be prepared to explain why you haven't used your organizational skills more fruitfully than for marketing a biofrequency machine. We doubt that even your most powerful machine could 'cure' our skepticism.
THE BLACK HOLE OF CUSTOMS IN GUADALAJARA
As most cruisers have discovered, it's not easy to ship boat stuff from the United States to Mexico. Unless it's a direct flight from the States, packages bound for Puerto Vallarta are off-loaded in Guadalajara for inspection and assessment of duty.
I ordered some halyards and shackles from Layline to be shipped to Puerto Vallarta. Layline was great and sent them out the next day via UPS expedited service.
But the order got hung up at Customs in Guadalajara. That agency said they needed several documents, a power of attorney from the consignee and a NAFTA certificate of origin. Vilma Yacht Services in Puerto Vallarta was quick to get my side's documents delivered, and Layline was equally rapid in their response for the NAFTA papers.
Think that was the end of it? Think again.
Customs then claimed that the contents of the package didn't match the enclosed invoice. They were unable, for example, to find the splices. No comprendo, they said. So I told them to log into the Layline's website and search for 'splice' - thinking there would be a picture of a splice for them to see. Well, someone at Layline posted a picture of the most beautiful dog ever in the places where they didn't have a photo to illustrate the item they were selling. So now I'm waiting to be asked where the dog is that is supposed to be inside the package.
As result, the halyards and shackles that
were supposed to be delivered on Tuesday will be delayed by at
least a week.
Dave - Delayed a week? Based on the previous behavior by Customs in Guadalajara, you'll be lucky if you get those halyards in two months - if at all. Apparently you weren't reading Latitude a couple of years ago when cruiser after cruiser related their horror stories of how their stuff was held hostage by Customs in Guadalajara. For when Customs in Guadalajara requests paperwork and documentation and such, they don't really want it, they're just jerking you around. In more than a few cases, the folks who were to receive the stuff - and often it was valuable - simply gave up after months of frustrating negotiations and even trips to Guadalajara. With each passing year there seems to be less corruption in Mexico, but it seems to be alive and well at the Customs department at the Guadalajara Airport.
The rule a few years ago was to never, ever ship anything through Guadalajara. We see no reason why that rule shouldn't still be in effect.
By comparison, in December of last year we flew Alaska Airlines from San Francisco direct to Puerto Vallarta, with our bags stuffed with tons of obviously brand-new non-tourist goods for our boat. When it came time for us to push the 'search' or 'no search' button, by which passengers are selected to see if they bullshitted on their declaration forms, we got the dreaded red light. That meant our bags had to be searched. We opened the bags, and the Customs guy stared at cellophane-wrapped box after cellophane-wrapped box without batting an eye. In no more than 20 seconds he waved us, and all our stuff, on through.
The moral of the story is to never have stuff shipped to Mexico, but rather have it brought down by yourself or friends as airline baggage. Based on all the reports we've heard, normally there is no better place to bring it in than Puerto Vallarta.
THE SMELL OF OUR CHARTER FROM HELL
Peg Hammer's What Would Jack Sparrow Have Done? letter in the November issue prompted my wife and me to remember our charter from hell. For us, it wasn't so much the boat as the charter company.
We booked a charter with a company in the Pacific Northwest, with whom we'd had a pleasant charter experience six years before. Our plan was to sail to Desolation Sound, and cruise for 10 days.
We paid for early boarding in order to stay aboard the night before our charter actually began, and accordingly attended our briefing prior to loading supplies and moving aboard. During the briefing we were told, in no uncertain terms, that we were not to attempt any major repairs. That is why, we suppose, the boat was only equipped with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. In case of a problem, we were to notify the owners of the boat, and they, or someone they would contact from somewhere in the Sound or islands, would attend to the problem.
During the checkout of the Catalina 310, the charter company employee told us that the boat had come in that morning with problems with the head - and therefore some very unhappy charterers. He said they had worked on the head for five hours, which probably accounted for the smell and the dirty footprints throughout the vessel. After loading our supplies and eating at a nearby restaurant, we returned to the boat.
Even though we had opened the hatches and ports to air out the interior, the smell still permeated the boat. And we noticed that the head was full almost to overflowing. We pumped it into the holding tank, but, in a relatively short period of time, the bowl was almost full again. This was repeated over and over again, with the smell becoming progressively worse.
We were, in fact, rinsing out the holding tank over and over, and my wife was getting sicker and sicker. At 11 p.m., we finally decided to look up the owner's home phone number, and called to tell him about the problem. I was greeted with a burst of outrage that we should not call them at home at night. The owner I talked to - or attempted to talk to - told us to run the macerator, meaning pump the holding tank into the marina. If that didn't work, I was instructed to shut the whole thing down and use the head at a local pub. He then hung up on me.
We tried everything we could short of repairing the head, which we had been admonished not to do, although we had experience doing it from the head on our Columbia 43. But nothing stopped the holding tank from filling the bowl. By this time my wife was physically ill, and we could no longer stay onboard.
Because I had born the brunt of the owner's previous outburst, my wife said she would call the owner and tell him that we were leaving the boat and getting a room. At first, she got the message machine. But when the owner heard that we were leaving the boat, he picked up the phone and started yelling at her. She told him she would not continue the conversation like that, and informed him we were leaving the boat. She then hung up, and we began to off-load 10 days of supplies and gear.
The owner showed up about 1 a.m., barged aboard without a word, and started to work on the head. He frightened my wife, but we continued off-loading. At 2 a.m., we had completely moved off the boat, and left to get a room. The owner was still working on the head.
The next morning we returned to the company office. Even though we were again told that the vessel was sound and ready to sail, our confidence in the boat and the ability of the company to provide friendly and competent support had been completely destroyed.
Neither owner was there, but we did explain to an employee that we would like to have a refund. We never did get it. Looking back, we're still amazed and disappointed that at no time was there an offer of another vessel or a room for the night. In fact, there was never even a simple apology. A "we're so sorry" would have gone a long way.
When we visit Puget Sound and Canada in the future, we will take the extra time to sail our own boat up and do the cruise on her.
After some discussion, my wife and I have
decided that Jack Sparrow probably would have scuttled the charter
company's entire fleet.
OUR CHARTER FROM HECK, NOT HELL
Nine months after our Morgan 45 Painkiller sank off of Colombia, and now living in Georgia, we decided a midwinter sailing charter out of Miami would be a good idea. It also would give us a chance to try out a catamaran as a possible next boat. I contacted a Miami-based charter broker and decided on a 45-ft cat operated by a private, one-boat charter operation.
The design had four staterooms with en suite heads. Based on this amount of accommodation, we arranged for several couples to join us for anywhere from three days to a full week. Our cruising range was from North Miami to the upper part of the Keys. It was to be a simple, nothing stressful, no-brainer sailing vacation in the warmest part of the continental United States in January.
Everything looked good on paper, as the owner promised the boat was in "better than new condition" and was "constantly being upgraded." Well, "better than new condition" turned out to be, "it floated, but it didn't float when it was being built." And "constantly being upgraded" meant that "repairs that should have been made two years ago will be made as soon as your check clears and you get off the boat."
We met the boat at a North Miami Marina and provisioned at a wonderful grocery store just across the street. While my wife led a team to the store, I spent time with the owner going through the vessel's systems. Almost immediately I became aware of some problems. For example, the starboard engine would start from the controls next to the wheel, but the port engine wouldn't. The owner said he couldn't trace down the electrical problem, but he could show me how to start it. This required that I drop down into the port engine room and, armed with a winch handle - there was no hammer aboard - tap on the solenoid while someone turned the key at the port engine control station. How convenient!
When I stepped into the dinghy that was tied up to the two hulls, my foot went through the wooden floorboards and jammed in tight. "I've been meaning to replace those floorboards" was the fellow's response to the problem. "Be careful that nobody hurts themselves on the floorboards during the charter."
As for the dinghy's 5-hp outboard, it wouldn't run much beyond idle speed. I was told that was a safety feature! Yeah, and a limp penis is a birth control measure! The tender itself was a 10-ft gray inflatable held together by patches. Some of the patches were the same color as the tender, but the majority were not. It appeared to be the resurrection of someone's discarded tender.
The forward head on the port side was missing the part that makes it a head. When I asked where it was, the fellow told me he'd removed it so the boat would have one large shower in case someone might like more space when they showered. When I asked where the people staying in that stateroom should go when they needed to use a head, he replied, "They'll have to go into someone else's stateroom, of course. But hey, you're gonna love that large shower area!"
Oddly enough, most of the overhead lights had been removed from the salon. "That's so that you don't run the batteries down overnight." Yep, I'm not smart enough to shut down unused portions of the electrical system before I retire at night.
There were a number of other items that simply didn't work, or, if they did work, only did so marginally. "When you set the main, you need to haul it up manually until you get about four feet from the top. That's because the halyard has a 2:1 purchase, and if you use a winch, you'll introduce twist into the halyard and the friction will lock it up." As it turned out, I had to remove twist from the halyard when the vessel was at rest. One day the halyard did get twisted up - even though we manually hauled it up to within four feet of the top. I had to hoist my grown daughter up the mast on a spare halyard to clear the twist.
The best part was the windlass. The anchor rode, which was all chain, was one size too small to fit the gypsy! When we retrieved the anchor, the windlass would grind away, and every few seconds the gypsy would slip and we'd lose 75% of the chain we'd raised. It was 10 feet up, 7 feet of slippage; 12 feet up, 9 feet of slippage - until we eventually raised the anchor. Besides being noisy and inefficient, it was dangerous when the chain slipped out. "You're the first person to complain about the windlass," I was told, "everyone else loves it." Loose translation? Other charterers love to watch chain fly out of the chain locker, across 12 feet of foredeck and over the bow roller at slightly less than the speed of sound. Yeah, right.
But here's the bottom line: The sailing was great! The destinations - be they anchorages, yacht clubs or marinas - were all fun. Our friends who joined us were all fun. The speed of the cat under sail was a real eye-opener. The food and beverages were fantastic, as I'm married to a chef who loves to cook aboard and who knows how to entertain large groups of people with interesting menus and plenty of appropriate beverages for whatever time of the day or night.
Would I do a charter from a small company
again? Probably. But I would have to do more research on the
vessel before the charter to make sure it was in "better
than new condition" and "being constantly upgraded."
DID A SELF-IMPOSED DEADLINE PLAY A FACTOR?
'Lectronic Latitude reported that a delivery crew of three was tragically lost off the Oregon coast while delivering Cat Shot, a 44-ft Voyage 440 catamaran, from South Africa to Seattle on or about December 11. Evidently, the boat was being delivered for the Seattle Boat Show.
According to various reports, the delivery crew, a British captain and two Americans, were in San Francisco before shoving off for a direct course to Cape Flattery. I wonder if they were behind an imposed schedule. As a fairly busy delivery skipper, I believe I can relate to their situation and the potential dangers they faced. At the risk of being judgmental, I'll keep it to general facts and assumptions.
First of all, delivering boats is not really cruising. There's little romance or time to absorb the local flavor. These guys were coming from a great distance and were nearly within reach of their destination. There may have been some self-imposed urgency to get it done, clean up and go home.
Coming from South Africa, they were probably feeling confident in their abilities. They'd had thousands of miles in which to dial the boat in, get their line and sail-handling in order, sort out any crew issues - one crew was apparently a non-sailor - and weather a few gales. I imagine that the skipper felt secure about the risks he was taking sailing the northeast Pacific in December. After all, he'd made it that far.
That brings me to my next point, which is that it may have been easy for this - or any skipper - to underestimate the weather conditions off the Pacific Coast. Few foreign sailors understand that the world's biggest seas and most treacherous coastal conditions often occur between San Francisco and Cape Flattery, and further on up to Alaska. On average, that's where you'll find the largest seas in the world. Force 11 and 12 storms of cold, dense air are common and cover huge areas, causing enormous fetch that pounds the coastline and closes down harbor bars. Heck, I felt the effects of the storm that destroyed the catamaran while some 1,500 miles away in Mexico.
Of course, the advantage of sailing on the West Coast is that the weather seldom surprises. A skipper should be able to see a storm coming from far away, giving him precious days to decide what to do. Finding safe harbor along the Oregon and Washington coasts has less to do with the wind than with waves. A certain angle or swell height can make all the difference between this port and that one, between entrances being safe and dangerous. As far as I'm concerned, a skipper should have three 'Plan Bs'.
On a recent mid-November delivery of a Tayana 52 from San Francisco to San Juan Island, we were holed up for 10 days in Coos Bay, Oregon, due to poor weather conditions. There were Force 12 winds and 30-to-46-ft seas outside. But as we only needed two good days to turn the corner at Cape Flattery, there was an inclination to want to finish the job at the first opportunity. In order not to let my desire to complete the job overcome my good sense about the weather, I enlisted my weather router to help me identify and confirm a proper weather window, and not to let me go until one appeared. That helped take the pressure off my decision-making process.
One could argue about the wisdom of sailing catamarans in heavy weather, but it's usually the large, steep seas that do the real damage. The cat was obviously capsized with all on board, as evidenced by the one tether tied to the saildrive. It's noteworthy that the crew had not staged their EPIRB in their crash bag, as it had been left in its holder belowdecks. No one could know whether it would have made any difference, of course, but I always suggest staging a water-tight crash bag, with internal flotation and long lanyard attached, within easy reach of the companionway. In it should be everything you need to survive less the liferaft and Gumby suits. By the way, I call it a 'crash bag' because that's usually the catastrophic event that sinks you.
This storm that claimed the crew of the
cat also claimed the lives of four local fishermen around the
same time. They were trying to cross the Rogue River bar, but
were caught in rough surf. And, of course, everyone heard about
the mountain climbers on Mt. Hood.
Arnstein - For most everyone, the mystery of the loss of the Cat Shot was what she was doing out there with such a big storm forecast so far in advance. And in an area well known - at least to West Coast sailors - for potentially ferocious conditions. Your theories about overconfidence, lack of familiarity with the area, and a self-imposed deadline - the Seattle Boat Show didn't start for another six weeks - seem the most plausible to us, too. But we suppose we'll never know for sure.
BE THE NAVIGATOR, NOT THE OFFERING
Hello Latitude staff, and readers of the finest sailing ragazine! In the January issue you asked for input on the weather and sea conditions here in the northern waters. I have been a boater for about 30 years, and have been sailing out of Eureka for the last nine years, a liveaboard for the last four years and work part-time for the Marina. My experience has been in the great lakes, the Bay Area and here.
Eureka is the first port north of Cape Mendocino, which, in my opinion, is the dividing line between northern and southern waters of the Pacific coast. This cape is dangerous, with unpredictable currents and rapidly changing conditions. Having sailed from Alameda to Eureka twice, heed my advice - watch NOAA carefully and be prudent! If the weather deteriorates, Fort Bragg is the only northbound port of return from this Cape and do not hesitate to duck back. Many cruisers make port here with damaged boats in the summer, fall and spring. Winter travel is for the extremely experienced - or the foolhardy. The water conditions are a grade or two of magnitude stronger than to the south, and it changes rapidly. Seventy-knot wind storms happen several times a year, usually from the northwest. Two years ago, we had two winter storms with hurricane force winds - a Category Two storm on January 1, 2005, saw 110 knots of wind, and on December 28, 2005, a Category One storm brought 70 knots of sustained wind, damaging boats at docks and ripping the docks apart here at the new Eureka Public Marina. Tsunami waves tore apart docks in Crescent City - the next port north - last fall. You are sailing over earth's fault lines.
In spite of this, we usually have great
sailing on a wonderful bay, albeit a smaller one than yours,
new marina facilities, wireless and a great chandlery in Englund
Marine. Our local fishermen are a great asset, as they are out
there for a living. We watch and listen to them and, if the medium
and smaller boats are out, then we can usually go out, too. My
advice to cruisers: be prudent, harbor hop, listen to NOAA, have
proper gear, gain experience first, and be safe. My submission
to Latitude's Wisdom section
sums it up well: Nav-i-gation - the root translation is "sacrifices
to the sea." Be the navigator, not the offering.
ONE STEP AT A TIME - BUT FIRST, LET'S EAT!
I've been a Latitude fan since almost forever! In my pre-boat days from '84-'96, I was an apartment dweller on the Peninsula. During my liveaboard days from '96-'01, I was an avid Latitude fanatic! And I've been a landlocked landlubber in the South Bay from '01 to the present. As such, I no longer have easy access to the freebie copies, so I'm forced to subscribe to the snail mail version. I'm not complaining, it's merely a fact. And I thoroughly enjoy every copy that I receive.
Hubbie and I are planning on getting back into a Bay-suitable sailboat soon. Right now we have a 16-ft sailing dink in which we play around on the South Bay lakes, but in the next year we hope to buy a 25-to-27-ft trailerable boat for the Bay. In the longer term, about five years, we think we'll buy something in the 35-to-42-ft range for bluewater sailing. But one step at a time, right?
In preparation for getting a Bay-suitable boat, I've given my hubbie - who is an electronics engineer and ham radio geek - multiple boatie gifts for Christmases and birthdays. Among them are a Garmin Land 'n Sea GPS. He's also been doing 'virtual sails' of the Bay and Delta aboard his PC. The trouble is, he can't seem to find 'boat-in' restaurants on the MapQuest and BlueChart software. I tried Googling the subject, but came up with very little info.
I know that the Bay has a limited number of boat-in restaurants, but there has to be more than zero! The Ramp in San Francisco immediately comes to mind, although I recall that you have to get there early on weekends unless you want to have to moor out and dinghy in. I also believe that the East Bay has quite a few restaurants where you can dock your boat, as do Sausalito and Tiburon. But I don't recall the specifics.
It would be great if Latitude could
create a list of boat-in restaurants, and then have a link to
that information on your website.
Nancy - It's been a few years since we ran a list of boat-in restaurants, so it's clearly time to do it again. We think it would be the most fun if our readers could come up with the info - as well as very short reviews of the docking/moorings facilities and the food. So let's hear from you.
AS RARE AS A CAT THAT SWIMS FOR PLEASURE
I read the following in December 20's 'Lectronic:
"We received the following desperate plea for help from Tom Turner, who was hoping our female readership might be able to help him.
'Your response in December's Letters to Liesbet Collaert, that you would have given the dogs away long before you'd sell your catamaran, is very interesting,' Tom wrote. 'What about a wife? My wife and I bought a 50-ft boat that we keep in Sausalito. I have fallen in love all over again, from my childhood, with being on the water, yet my wife hates it. We've even spent a couple of weeks on our friend's Nordhavn 57 in and around Vancouver and La Paz. How can it get much better? I'm not willing to sell the boat . . . so, like I said, I found Latitude's response to Liesbet Collaert interesting. Any seaworthy ladies have any advice for me? Can my wife be converted?'"
Having read all that reminded me of something my first wife said to me: "A woman who likes to sail is as rare as a cat that swims for pleasure." She hated sailing, so I kept the boat.
By the way, the accompanying photo is of
the boat I owned in '75 on the Santa Barbara sandbar, where I
was getting a free haulout. She was a knock-off of a Teak Lady
that had been built in Long Beach in about '57. She was my first
boat, and I had her for about five years from '76 to '81. I took
her to every - and I mean every - nook and cranny on Santa Cruz
Island, from Forney's Cove to Prisoner's Harbor. I last saw her
about 10 years ago when she was hauled out here. Someone had
taken what looked to have been about 80 grit to her with a belt-sander
all over the hull and white-primered the whole fucking thing.
WHAT TOM TURNER NEEDS IS A 'BOAT WIFE'
We had a good friend who had a 'boat wife' for years. She did all the sailing that the real wife didn't want to do. Over the years, the two 'wives' became good friends. Now that the fellow has died, the two women get together often, and even spend their holidays and other time together.
It was a very successful relationship for all concerned. Even the children, who are now adults, didn't have a problem with the arrangement.
The 'boat wife' is a single lady.
Sarah - We don't think the 'boat wife' idea is going to work out very well for couples in their 20s, 30s or 40s, but we've known quite a few reasonably successful - at least for a few years - 'boat wife' situations when couples were in their 50s and 60s, at which point their interests had diverged.
I DON'T SHOUT AT HIM BECAUSE I'M ANGRY
Does Tom Turner's wife like to do some things that he doesn't necessarily like to do? If so, does he go ahead and do them with her just to please her? Relationships are give and take, not one-way. What's in sailing for his wife? Why should she enjoy sailing with him?
On the other hand, if she is really frightened of being out in a sailboat, lessons in a calm place, given by a calm instructor, will help. Besides, it's good if she can sail the boat in case something happens to Tom.
If Tom's wife gets queasy or seasick, I've found that Bonine works without causing drowsiness.
Shouting is another issue. Some people, men and women, don't like the shouting that happens on boats from time to time. I had to explain to my husband that I shout so my instructions and questions can be heard, not because I'm angry, and that he has to shout even louder if I'm in the cockpit with the engine running.
Is Tom's wife concerned about her hair, nails, wrinkled or damp clothes, and/or feeling gritty from the salt air? Then she needs shorter cruises, access to a real bathroom and shower at anchorages, and another crewmember to do the 'nail-breaking' stuff. And she shouldn't be given any grief about how much toilet paper she uses.
Finally, I suggest that Tom's wife should do most of the driving, while he does most of the scrambling, hoisting sails, grinding, looking for markers, setting the hook, cooking underway, and tying up at port.
SHARING THE SAME PASSIONS
No, Tom Turner's wife can't be converted to sailing. It's not her thing. He should enjoy his sailing hobby with his friends, male and female, and accept the fact that his passion isn't her passion. When it comes to planning vacations, they should be made where there are water and land activities.
Note to single folks - marrying someone
with the same passions is a good idea.
Water Baby - As counterintuitive as it might seem, marrying someone with different passions isn't always such a bad idea. For some couples, being together and doing as many things as possible together is the ideal. For other couples, particularly when independent people are involved, just the opposite is true. One of the two likes sailing, the other might like horses, art, music or car racing. When each one does their own thing, they get to be in charge and make all the decisions instead of having to compromise about something they are passionate about. And when they get back together after their respective activities, they have lots of new stuff to talk about.
RULES FOR KEEPING A WOMAN HAPPY ON A BOAT
My husband Don and I have been living aboard our sailboat Locura very happily for about four years now. For us, living aboard has become a dream come true.
My husband says that to keep a woman happy on a boat, you first have to make sure that she knows, every morning, that she is your dream girl and the most wonderful thing that ever happened to you in your life. Then you have to do or have the following on your boat:
Endless hot water; a 50-gallon/hour watermaker so that you never run out; an 8kw generator for a curling iron, hot rollers and a hair-dryer; 240-volt reverse-cycle central heat and air-conditioning and a washer/dryer. Furthermore, there shouldn't be any leaks that could get any of her things wet.
In addition, there should never be any yelling. When anchoring or docking, only hand signals should be used. Moreover, no woman should be expected to do anything she's not well trained to do or not confident she can do.
She should also be sent to the Women's Sailing Convention at the Bahia Corinthian YC in Newport Beach. Log on to www.scya.org, click on Women's Sailing Convention, and read all about it. No guys allowed.
In addition, the woman should become actively involved in the yacht club, especially the sailing programs. She should be encouraged to learn to sail on a small boat, taught by anyone but the man in her life. This is a must for her enjoyment. Then she should be introduced to some 'all lady' racing crews, and the man should get out of the way, for she'll really be taught how to sail. Then all the ladies should come aboard the husband's boat, without him, so the woman can learn, with the help of the other women, to sail the boat.
Oh yeah, two more things. First, the man
should make the bunk every morning, and two, he should become
the world's best dishwasher.
Patty - We think you have a lot of good suggestions - particularly in the second to last paragraph. But if you have a man such as the one you describe, you'd better not let him out of your sight, not with all those members of the Newport Beach Princesses Sailing Club looking for someone just like him.
If we may be so bold, what, if any, responsibilities do women have?
[Psst - While the Wanderer, who responds to all the letters, is off in the Caribbean, I'm going to sneak in my two cent's worth. My husband is the dedicated dishwasher on our boat. I cook, he cleans. When I first moved aboard, I did all the 'pink' jobs and quickly got fed up doing all the grunt work, in addition to a normal amount of 'boat work'. Assuming a woman does her fair share of boat stuff, it's certainly reasonable that her man be expected to do some of the 'housekeeping'. After all, who'd do the dishes if she wasn't there? - ld]
IT'S A PROBLEM IN THE NORTH, TOO
Here in Portland too, a lot of guys wonder how they can get their wives to like sailing.
I own a Cal 20 and, over the years, when the guys would see me take my boat out myself and have a great day, they would come over and lament that their wives hated sailing. So I suggested they get their wives to the Oregon Women's Sailing Association meetings, and have them take lessons from the competent and enthusiastic ladies. Quite a few marriages were saved.
I think most women hate it when the guy knows it all, and when pretty much nothing she does is good enough. So we women foster confidence. We have women-only classes, Wednesday night cruising, boat maneuvering classes, mentors for women-only racing, and much more.
I know of several couples and families who have overcome the hurdles and already left for full-time cruising or are about to. But nothing stops a woman faster than a husband/boyfriend/significant other screaming at her.
So my recommendation to Turner is to get
his wife involved in all the women-only opportunities he can
for a while. For only then will she really know if she doesn't
I MADE THE CHOICE TWICE IN MY LIFE
Tell Turner that I was faced with the same
choice he is facing twice in my life. The first time was 30 years
ago, and more recently two years ago. My advice is that he and
his wife will both be happier if he just accepts it and keeps
sailing. After all, it doesn't do justice to either when a man
tries to serve two mistresses.
GET OVER THAT NAUTICAL CRAP AND GIVE HER ROOM FOR HER BOWLING BALL
Turner didn't mention what kind of 50-ft boat he currently owns, but I will take a stab at responding to his request. I've been married 25 years, and have spent 12 of those 25 years sailing with my husband - and close to 10 of those years it's been 'happily sailing'. The advice I give is from experience and feedback from the wives of friends and relatives.
1) It's better not to place your wife in a letter regarding cat and dog sales in the local rag while including your name.
2) Take it slow, as your idea of adventure may not be your wife's ideal trip. You name a couple of weeks on a Nordhavn up north. Was that sitting and drinking at the dock, two straight weeks in the wilderness, or did you add something interesting like stopping at local areas for some window shopping, restaurants or even quiet walking? Excursions ashore, if done correctly, may make you "fall in love all over again," as you say.
3) Fifty feet does not mean "camping in a larger boat." We have friends who still use plastic tableware, plastic cups and towels with anchors on them. Get over the nautical crap and the attitude that everything must be unbreakable. We use crystal glasses from the 99-Cent Store; Corel plates, which clean up much better than plastic; and have removed almost every nautical knick-knack that is not essential to the boat. That makes the boat feel like a home, not a bachelor pad for a sailor.
4) Speaking of camping, a boat the size of yours should include a fairly large battery bank. I will assume you don't scrimp on electricity, shutting down every light your wife turns on to save those precious amps. But if you do, stop, and turn on the engine when the battery goes down. Or use solar or generator power, or buy more batteries. Do whatever you have to do so there is plenty of power. Add an inverter if you don't have one, and invite her to bring her 1800-watt hairdryer onboard - and tell her not to forget the curling iron and toaster. Make sure your boat is a place that she doesn't mind coming to.
5) Give her a place to stow her comfort items. This doesn't mean letting her have a small corner in a cabinet to store tampons. Give it up, Tom. Provide some real estate so that she can store the big pots that she cooks pasta in; make room for the hairdryer; make space for plenty of nice towels and washcloths; leave room for shoes, magazines, and her favorite game or hobby materials. Heck, give her room for a bowling ball, if that's what she likes. Remember, you're already in love, so give her a chance to look forward to going out.
6) Prior to leaving the dock, give her a hand stowing things. Better yet, take the initiative and let her say some goodbyes to the folks on the dock. Additionally, when you do go out for the day or the evening, try lending a hand, if you don't already, with the cooking and cleaning up. There is nothing as sexy as a man with soap on his hands.
Lastly, and I won't even number this one,
you're not on an America's Cup team, so keep the rail out of
the water when you sail. If your wife's cosmo or martini is going
to tip over every time you sail, she's going to stay home or
stay at the club. Give her time to adjust to the boat. It won't
kill you to sail a little softer, and she'll be more willing
to take the helm as well.
MOST WOMEN DIDN'T SAIL AS GIRLS
Here are some of the reasons women I know hate sailing:
1) Many men take up sailing again in later life, when they can afford that really, really nice boat. Most women didn't sail as girls, and therefore feel extremely incompetent on board. This is usually worsened by their husbands trying to help them learn by shouting at them.
Solution: Ask your wife to consider going to a sailing school that has classes specifically for women, with no men aboard to help. Competence equals confidence equals enjoyment.
2) Just when the kids are less of a burden, and there is a little money for travelling or that new kitchen, wives find themselves trying to 'relax' by preparing sandwiches while heading upwind against a strong current while being told, "We'll be in calm water soon, honey."
Solution: Once a year take a holiday of her choosing. If you own a 50-ft boat, you can afford to do this as well as enjoy your boat.
3) You've backed down on job commitments to spend more time with your family. Your 'family' suddenly includes male friends who are always, always prepared to go down "and work on the boat with you." This is usually code for "my wife is mad at me and I need to escape."
Solution: Only let this happen once in awhile, not every weekend plus Thursdays.
4) Your wife finds herself in charge of cleaning your 50-ft boat as well as your house. Left to you, the boat would be a bit of a shambles, with nearly empty freshwater tanks.
Solution: Hire someone to make sure the boat is spic and span. Ensure that the hot-water shower system works impeccably.
I hope this helps. Oh me? I learned to
sail dinghies with my husband 15 years ago. Our only problem
is trying to find time to spend on our boat.
IF HER NAILS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN GRINDING A WINCH, I WOULDN'T HOLD OUT MUCH HOPE
Can Turner's wife be converted to liking sailing? Only if she wants to. To help, I suggest making sure the boat is warm, dry, smells good, and that she can use the head whenever she wants to.
Of course, maybe she doesn't like sailing because she doesn't know what she's doing. Or maybe she is not convinced that you know what you are doing. We mariners take for granted a lot of things that are totally confusing to someone who has never been around boats. Maybe some classes to get an understanding of what to do, when and why, would help. But she has to want to do this. If her nails are more important than grinding a winch, I wouldn't hold out much hope.
I know I thank my lucky stars every day
that my husband likes the water as much as I do. So good luck.
Oh, and could you introduce us to your friend with the Nordhavn
MAYBE TURNER'S WIFE NEEDS A CAT
Turner needs a wife who isn't seasick. I have the world's worst seasick wife. The cure? Get a catamaran. My wife and I had a beautiful week in the British Virgins aboard a crewed charter catamaran, and she never once looked close to getting sick. We are sold on the cat thing.
By the way, I'll never forget our experience coming back through the airport at Puerto Rico after that charter. Through a slight rum hangover, I saw this guy wearing shorts, a sun shirt and a boat hat tacking aimlessly through the airport, an Apple laptop in tow, looking as if he were the Flying Dutchman himself. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was the Wanderer, also heading back to San Francisco from the British Virgins. He was short-tacking to different areas in the airport looking for a place to plug in his computer. I don't think he ever got the Apple 'juiced'.
But the most amazing thing about the encounter was when we finally arrived at the San Francisco Airport late that night and we were at the taxi stand. The Wanderer appeared from the sleepy airport terminal, still dressed in shorts and a sun shirt, and jumped into a cab - without a bit of luggage. He really knows how to travel!
Thanks for all the years of making sailing
the best. I've met nice captains and crews answering crew ads in Latitude
38, and have enjoyed sailing on San Francisco Bay and
other places. I live in Angels Camp, race on a few Bay boats,
charter boats when I can, and sail my Hobie 16 Cataclysmic
on nearby lakes.
Bruce - Thanks for the kind words.
That probably was us you saw in San Juan, but we weren't coming from the British Virgins. We ended up there because of a broken plane in St. Martin. Our happy itinerary on that very long day was St. Barth to St. Martin to St. Thomas to Puerto Rico to Dallas and, after having to wait because of a second broken plane, to San Francisco. Having made numerous trips such as that, you can understand why we like to travel very light - the clothes on our back, a computer case and a camera case.
THE MAGIC WORDS
Having signed up for Baja Ha-Ha XIII, a week before the start I discovered that my boat had a bad cutlass bearing. I went to Shelter Island Boatyard and talked to Stan at Viking Marine. He told me it would be a couple of weeks before they could get to me because they were so busy. But when I mentioned that I was signed up for the Ha-Ha . . . they seemed to be the magic words, as he scheduled me in right away. The bearing was changed, the prop shaft coupling machined, the motor mounts adjusted for shaft alignment - everything accomplished in four days!
Many thanks to Joe and Stan at Viking Marine,
and the yard foreman at Shelter Island Boatyard.
Doug - We're certain that what got you to the front of the work line at Shelter Island Boatyard was not the Ha-Ha name, but wanting to make sure you got to participate in an event that you really cared about. Most folks in the marine industry enjoy boating themselves, so they really try to make things work for their clients.
RED BESS RACKHAM - WHAT A SAUCY NAME!
Terri and I were planning a Caribbean charter to St. Vincent with Randy and Sandy Devol for Randy's 50th birthday. Then Terri read your recent Letter response about the bad boat boys and pirates there. She was so scared that she decided to look to the Internet for pirate information.
She emerged less frightened. In fact, she's gone over to their side. She's even acquired a 'pirate name' - Red Bess Rackham.
The way she got the name was by taking the pirate quiz which, based on your answers to 20 questions, scientifically creates the best 'pirate name' for you.
Here are some of the questions and possible answers:
1) Do others often call you things like 'odd' or 'eccentric' or 'a raving psychotic'? A) Never. I'm as normal as they come. B) Only the raving psychotics. C) Occasionally, but those people are boring. D) Yeah, it's been known to happen. E) I have padding on my walls.
2) What kind of a leader are you? A) I'd get lost in my own museum. B) I'm a born follower. C) I can lead if I have to. D) Things seem to go a little better when I'm in charge. E) I took charge of my family five minutes after birth.
3) Are you tough? A) Tough like warm butter. B) Tough like a tender breast of chicken. C) Tough like a well-done steak. D) Tough like leather. E) Tough like Jack Palance on a bad day.
4) Bathe much? A) What's this 'bathing' thing everyone's always telling me about? B) Once a week, whether I need it or not. C) I've been known to skip a shower when I was in a hurry, but not often. D) Daily. E) Let's just say my feet are in tissue boxes and I've got really long fingernails.
5) How do you feel about a little bit of the old ultra-violence? A) I'd never hurt another living creature. B) I have issues about hurting the grass when I walk on it. C) I was in a fight once, but it was an accident. D) I prefer to solve my problems through non-physical means, like bribery and cunning. E) I'm a fighter, not a lover. I routinely assault the elderly and indigent.
Questions and potential answers like that. Take the test at www.piratequiz.com.
P.S. My pirate name is Cap'n Tom Vane.
Cap'n Vane - This may not be music to
your ears, but we can't help but wonder how long a woman with
a lusty-sounding name like Red Bess Rackham is going to be satisfied
hanging around with a guy with a straight-arrow name like Tom
Vane. We'd take that test over again as soon as you can. Meanwhile,
we wouldn't let Red Bess out of our sight.
I'm writing in regard to the editor's response to the letter from Liesbet Collaert in the December issue of Latitude 38. When it became clear that sailing and her dogs were not compatible, she and her husband gave up sailing. Good for them. Your editorial reply was, "We'd have given the dogs away."
I am not anti-sailing. In fact, this year I plan to start classes for my Keelboat and Cruising Basic certifications. But I'm also a dog breeder with 20 years experience, who still finds it distressing that so many people are selfish and clueless enough that they consider dogs to be disposable items to be tossed out with the trash when they are no longer convenient.
Frankly, I would have hoped that people who are in tune enough with our natural surroundings to enjoy and respect the adventure of sailing would have a better understanding of the basic concept that pets are not disposable like yesterday's newspaper. I guess I was mistaken. Thanks to attitudes such as the one expressed in your editorial reply to Ms. Collaert's letter, thousands of animals are euthanized every year.
For that reason, my wife and I, as responsible breeders, offer a lifetime guarantee to every home in which we place a puppy. If the owners can no longer keep the dog, no matter how long they have had it, they can bring it back to us. We do not want any of our dogs ending up in a shelter.
Different strokes for different folks is
indeed the catchphrase here. Given my choice between dogs and
people who advocate giving the dogs away, I will take the dogs
Anthony - Our flippant comment was made in jest, and we hope that most of our readers understood that. As much as we'd enjoy having a couple of pets, we realize that, with our lifestyle, it would be irresponsible. We salute your lifetime 'return' policy.
THE GIRLS WOULD SWIM TO THE BEACH
We'd like to add another surf landing strategy to those contained in December's excellent Surf Landing School article.
During our '02-'03 sail down the coast to Mexico, we ended up with a small inflatable powered by an unreliable 3-hp outboard. For those cruisers with similarly overloaded and underpowered dinghies, we offer these notes on the 'swim it in' technique.
Here's how it worked. First, we put on swimming gear rather than shore clothes, knowing that to do otherwise would merely tempt the shorebreak gods. Secondly, we put all of our shore stuff into dry bags. Then, just outside the line of breakers, the four of us - our two daughters were with us - would cock up the outboard, snap down the wheels, and jump overboard. The girls would then swim in to the beach, where they would wait to help pull the dinghy up the sand. Meanwhile, we two adults would help guide the dinghy in. In particularly nasty stuff, we would take a line ashore from the bow to help pull the dinghy in faster.
A variation was using the kayak, with a tight-fitting cockpit cover, to go ashore. Whoever was in the kayak would exit the kayak outside the breakers, seal the paddle and baggage inside, and swim it in. It's remarkable how easy it is to control a kayak in the surf if you are to seaward of it.
Yes, both these techniques involved swimming, but since swimming in the warm water was one of the things we enjoyed most in Mexico, getting wet going ashore seldom seemed a bother.
We certainly agree that a nice RIB dinghy
with a powerful outboard is the way to go on the west coast of
Mexico, but cruisers without them can still get by quite well.
Will and Joan - 'When in doubt, get out', is certainly an excellent strategy for making beach landings. And like you say, you always want to be to seaward of your kayak or dinghy, for if it pulls you too hard when hit by a wave, you can always let go. If you're in front of it, that kayak or dinghy will knock you down like a pin in a bowling alley.
We presume your technique for going back out through the surf in dicey situations is similar. Get the swim gear on, walk the dinghy out as far as you can without getting nailed by a wave or whitewater, then go like crazy when there is a lull. The beauty of this technique is that bailing out is simple, as you're already bailed out, and precious seconds aren't wasted waiting for four people to climb into a dinghy. After all, you only have about 12 seconds between waves, and that's not much.
SOMETHING'S BURNING ON BRUNO'S ISLAND
Following our second galley fire, I'm wondering if readers have had experience using electric stoves on their boats. We currently have an alcohol stove. Before that we had a microwave oven that used shorepower, but it got torched in the most recent galley fire.
Now, living in fear of that invisible 'safe' fuel, I'm wondering why you don't see more boats using electricity for a fuel. If you have a solid battery bank that gets recharged by solar panels or a wind generator, and a good inverter, wouldn't this make sense? I guess not, or I would see it on more sailboats. But that idea that you could be energy independent - other than diesel fuel - sure sounds inviting.
What am I missing?
Paula - At Bruno's Island in the winter, we think what you're missing is enough wind for a wind generator and enough sun for the solar panel - at least to cook a good dinner using an electric stove. And there are few things as discouraging as a half-cooked holiday goose.
Electric stoves are far more common on large powerboats, where huge gensets are allowed to rumble on 24 hours a day, than on sailboats.
That your microwave got torched in your "most recent" galley fire isn't entirely surprising, as, according to a survey by BoatU.S., 55% of all boat fires are caused by problems with AC/DC wiring and appliances.
Nonetheless, we personally would be hesitant to go to alcohol. It may not explode like propane, but we've always found it troublesome to use, and know people who have been badly burned. In any case, it's not the kind of stove fuel that you use that counts, but rather that the system was installed and has been maintained properly, and you use it correctly.
BOARDED BY THE MEXICAN NAVY
So there we were, motoring along from Mazatlan to Isla Isabella, minding our own business, when we saw a large grey military vessel off our bow. No biggie, as we've seen lots of U.S. military vessels in our past adventures and they just ignored us. But hmmm, we were in Mexican waters. And, crap, the vessel changed course and headed straight toward us.
We didn't hear them hail us on the VHF, but they did three complete circles right next to us as they motored along. What was it, a Mexican hat dance? Nobody on Adm. Ortiz, the Mexican vessel, would even look at us. We were totally baffled.
Finally they donned lifejackets, armed themselves with automatic rifles, and climbed into the smaller boat they were towing. When they pulled up to our Niki Wiki, three men boarded our boat. The man with an automatic weapon but without a smile stationed himself on the bow to stand watch. After a lot of sign language, mutilated English and Spanish, and the use of a dictionary, we signed some papers that stated we were "voluntarily" allowing our boat to be inspected. Do you think we had a choice? I mean, there we were, all alone on the ocean, and they had guns.
While I chatted with a nice young navy guy, the older man took Brett down below to "inspect" the boat. They were only gone about five minutes before coming back up all smiles. There was no problema! So they called back the little boat, which had been used to board a cabin cruiser nearby, and off they went. We resumed our travels, shaken and still confused, but mighty glad to be moving again.
We later found out that they had also boarded
Bohemian the following day, and spent 90 minutes going
through the galley herbs and spices, touching their underpanties,
and researching the medicine cabinet. Eeeew. So I guess that
we were 'lucky'.
Jonesy and Terry - Because of a somewhat successful crackdown on other drug-smuggling pipelines in recent years, the Pacific Coast of Mexico has become perhaps the biggest smuggling route to the U.S. of A., where the appetite for illegal drugs apparently knows no limit. As such, interdiction efforts have been greatly increased along the Pacific Coast. Another factor is that Felipe Calderon, the newly elected President of Mexico, has been aggressively going after drug smugglers as a way of consolidating his authority and distancing himself from his nemesis, Lopez Obrador, and his 'shadow government'.
The good news is that drug smugglers don't want to have anything to do with maritime tourists, so there is little danger in that regard. If you've got a clean boat and a clean nose, you shouldn't have any problems with smugglers or the government. But even though you are at sea, don't doubt their authority to board your boat.
In fact, don't even doubt the ability of the U.S. Coast Guard and/or U.S. Navy to board your boat in Mexican waters - or just about any other waters in the world. They get the authority to board in most places in the world from the government whose territorial waters your boat happens to be in. If that's not good enough, they'll board you on the grounds they think you are trying to smuggle something into the United States.
It's our experience that, when being boarded by the Coast Guard or Navy in an area known for drug smuggling, they will be professional, but deadly serious. When we got boarded in the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba a few years ago, a team of six Coasties with automatic weapons in an inflatable circled our boat several times, and were backed by a large Coast Guard cutter directly behind us. Innocent as pie, we were friendly and jocular. But they were having nothing of it. Three of the inflatable boat crew boarded, while the other three continued to circle, their automatic weapons at the ready. Under gunpoint, our crew - there were about 10 of us - were forced to the bow of the boat, while two members of the boarding team searched our boat for other crewmembers, weapons and/or a big load of contraband. After their initial search, we were allowed back into the cockpit, while a member of the boarding party, armed with some sort of hi-tech carbon identifier, did a thorough search of our boat. Since a ton of dope had probably been smoked on our boat prior to our ownership, we're surprised that the carbon identifier's alarm didn't go off. But it didn't.
The entire boarding took about 90 minutes. For about the first 87 minutes, the members of the boarding party never cracked a smile, nor did the three left on the small boat lower their weapons. It's not that they were friendly or unfriendly, they were just doing their job. If you get boarded, this is what you should expect.
IT ROCKETED TO 430,981 ON AMAZON
I wish to thank you for mentioning my book The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin on your "All I Want for Christmas" wish list on 'Lectronic Latitude (December 4). I appreciate the mention. It must be why my book has rocketed to 430, 981 on Amazon's book ranking. Took a long time to break that million mark. Maybe best sellers like You On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management by Mehmet C. Oz and Michael F. Roizen can inspire only so many dreams, while the Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin can inspire a few more.
Keep up the good work and have a great
A VERY LONG BUT INFORMATIVE LETTER
I actually wrote the following letter two years ago, but I think it's still appropriate today. I'd like to give everyone a 'heads up' regarding boat insurance and some of the difficulties I experienced in getting compensated for damages to my boat after Hurricane Marty hit La Paz several years ago. If I found out one thing, it's that insurance companies love getting money, and they hate paying it out.
I had left my 44-ft cutter at Marina de La Paz for the summer so that I could return to the Northwest to visit family and friends. My first indication that my boat had sustained damage was a phone call from my insurance agent. He said that my boat had sustained fairly significant damage and that I was to immediately send them my deductible amount of $7,600. They said this was required so they could pay to have my boat towed and hauled so no further damage would occur. My reaction was sort of "Wow, that's a lot of money." But I told them I would mail it in a couple of days.
At this time I re-read my policy, which seemed to say that my deductible was $3,800. I called the insurance company back to find out why they were saying it was twice as much. I was informed that the deductible for damage caused by a "Named Storm" was double that stated in the policy. They said I could confirm this by looking at section X, sub-section Y, point 3 on page 25 of the policy. I hate to admit it, but sure enough, there it was with all the other fine print in the policy. All I can say is "Shame on me," for not reading all the fine print and truly understanding it. But you learn from your mistakes.
With that behind me, I immediately made reservations to fly to La Paz to see firsthand what had happened to my boat/home. What a shock! I don't know what I expected, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. My once-beautiful boat - and home for the past four years - looked like a derelict. I literally sat there in a state of depression, just looking at her for the next three days. I was finally able to work myself out of the blue funk I was in and called the insurance company to find out what I was supposed to do. They told me to contact a local surveyor in La Paz, who was acting as their "Damage Assessor." I was well-acquainted with this individual, as he had conducted two prior surveys for me, and I felt comfortable working with him. However, he said he could not do the assessment as he had previously surveyed my boat, and it might be construed as a conflict of interest. So I was turned over to another local surveyor, who, by the way, also has a very good reputation.
I'm going to digress a moment to clarify my use of the term "Damage Assessor." I was informed by the insurance company that these individuals were not claims adjustors. With that said, my assigned D.A. and I called the home office to find out how to proceed. We were told to go to the various boatyards in La Paz and get bids for the repairs. I personally went to four different yards and received estimates ranging from $79,000 up to $120,000. The low estimate was from a yard that didn't have a very good reputation, and the high one was from a custom contractor who does excellent work, but is known to charge high prices. Regardless, the D.A. and I pretty much agreed that we were looking at something in the $85,000 to $90,000 range to repair the boat and replace all damaged items.
The D.A. and I then called the insurance company with the estimated costs, and asked to be informed how to proceed in getting the repairs completed. After the initial shock of the various estimates sunk into the insurer's head, I asked him how to proceed. He said, "If it were my boat, I would start having the repairs made." I then asked if they would be paying the boatyard directly, or if they were going to advance me funds for boatyard services and parts purchased. He responded that no, they do not do that. I was responsible for having the boat repaired, and when it was complete, they would reimburse me - minus various depreciations they deemed fit. When I responded that I did not have that kind of money available, and I thought that was why I carried insurance in the first place, he responded with a truly classic statement - "Well then, you have a real problem, don't you?!" I can honestly say that I have never heard a more unprofessional statement before in my life. I hate to say it, but if he had been in the room rather than on the other end of a phone line in California, I might still be in jail today.
Under normal circumstances, I would at that time have been working my way down to Panama and points beyond. Instead, I found myself living in a dingy apartment and accruing boat storage fees to the tune of $300/month. I am not a pauper. However, I could ill afford these extra expenditures. And I definitely was not living the cruising lifestyle I had enjoyed for the previous three years.
About this time, four things happened: 1) I heard through the grapevine that the company I was with was unilaterally denying the claims for all sailboats damaged by Hurricane Marty if they had anything on board that could catch wind (i.e. headsails, biminis, dodgers etc.). 2) I received a letter from the insurance company stating that, due to the age of my boat, effective back to the beginning of the year, various items on the boat - actually nearly everything - was going to be depreciated at the rate of 5% and some items 10% per year. 3) I received a questionnaire from the insurance company for my assessment of the safety and construction of Marina de La Paz, and 4) My D.A. informed me that he had been told to go back to the "cheap" boatyard and obtain new estimates - but that he was told not to tell me.
Well, in the case of 1), I had removed all sails, bimini, dodger, and solar panels prior to returning to the States. 2) Stupid me, I understood this letter to mean that the depreciation had begun as of the first of that year. Nope, it meant from the time of manufacture or installation. As such, many of the things would have been depreciated to zero. I found this out when I attempted to receive reimbursement for my dinghy and motor. What had been insured for $3,500 the year before was now worthless. 3) I was getting a little smarter by this time, and what I understood the questionnaire to say was: "Please tell us that you felt the marina was an unsafe place to leave your boat so we can deny your claim." 4) This one pissed me off because the D.A. had seen all of the estimates I had obtained, along with a detailed inventory of all parts required, including part numbers, SKUs and costs either directly from the West Marine catalog or manufacturer's websites. I had even stated that if the insurance company had any questions, I would be happy to review with them how the costs were derived.
By this time approximately four months had passed since my boat had been damaged. I was one depressed puppy! I had started writing letters to the insurance company, literally begging them to help me, but all to no avail. Then, to my surprise, I received a letter stating that they had decided to settle my claim with a lump sum payment that would be forthcoming. "There was a God after all!" I said to myself.
The long-anticipated settlement offer arrived about a week later. With trembling fingers, I opened it. I wish I could say the nightmare was over, but nope, the 'number' was based on the estimates derived by the D.A. and a parts list he had put together. It also said that "reasonable depreciation" had been applied. However, it did not indicate what had been depreciated, or to what extent. It further stated that this was a "one-time offer" that had to be accepted within 15 days or it was null and void. Even though it was only about half of what was required to repair my boat, I was half-tempted to accept it just to get the whole thing over with. However, upon a detailed review of the base costs which they were basing their 'offer' on, there were a few problems.
1) All of my deck hardware and ports were made by a company called Goiot, and are quite expensive. The insurance company had based their offer on parts from totally different manufacturers, and were not even close from a cost standpoint. In fact, the ports they specified were not even the same size as the originals. There was a difference of about $4,000.
2) Many of the parts that were destroyed had simply vanished from the parts list. That made another difference of $3,000.
3) The insurance company apparently assumed that a miracle would happen and that everything would just suddenly appear down in Mexico without any transportation or import costs. I realize that having a Temporary Import Permit for Mexico should mean no import fees. However, the reality of things can be quite different. In the case of transportation, they left off a small charge of $5,000 for shipping the mast from Seattle.
4) Yes, they do have a G&S-type tax in Mexico. In the insurance company's offer, it was just forgotten - to the tune of another $7,000.
I wrote the company a letter declining their offer and fully itemized all the reasons and cost discrepancies of why I was doing so. I once again begged them to treat me in a professional and fair way. I got nada for a response. I then started on a serious letter-writing campaign of a letter every two weeks. This went on for a couple more months. Voilà, another offer came in the mail. Once again it was a "one-time" offer, but still approximately $20,000 under what I deemed fair.
There were more letters and, after a couple of months, I received an email from someone identifying himself as an "independent claims adjustor" who had been assigned to settle my claim. My God, an actual claims adjuster was finally going to come down and see my boat and talk to me. (Incidentally, in a letter I received from the insurance company shortly after filing my claim, they stated that a claims adjustor would be assigned and personally view my boat within 15 days of the claim).
Well, down he came. I have to say that I was quite impressed, as he was very knowledgeable and professional in demeanor. He was, however, quite taken aback when he actually saw my boat. I don't think he was prepared for the extent of the damage. He asked why I had not accepted the most recent offer, and I once again went over all the items that were not considered. When I mentioned the tax issue and shipping, he basically stated that I was probably mistaken. We then went to the boatyard office, where they confirmed that these items were not included in their estimate.
At this time, he basically indicated that he was on my side. He asked me what I would be willing to settle for. The number I gave him was about $7,000 under verifiable costs - however, I just wanted the nightmare to be over. He said he thought my number was very fair. He further stated that he was highly respected in his field, and that whatever he recommended would be accepted by the company. He also stated that I would hear from him or the insurance company within a week.
Eureka! I was in heaven, the nightmare was going to be over. I was going to have my home back and be able to get on with my life! Well, the week came and went along with another, but still no contact. I sent an email to the claims adjustor and asked what was going on. He replied that he had been sick from bad Mexican food, but would contact me the following week.
I received an email from the adjustor the following week saying he was "happy to announce" that he had convinced the insurance company that X dollars was an appropriate amount. But you guessed right, it was $5,000 less than he and I had agreed upon in La Paz. I'm not sure, but I assumed he would pocket some percentage of the difference.
I finally decided that I had no recourse but to obtain an attorney. However, before doing so I wrote one more email, stating that I required specific answers to several questions so I could determine how to proceed. Specifically, that the claims adjustor had confirmed with me that many expenses were not considered, and how much they were.
I got an email back the very next day agreeing with the amount I had requested. Yes, it was finally, at last truly over. It had only taken nine months, and I was finally able to put the anxiety and depression behind me. Two years following the hurricane, I am happy to say all repairs were completed and my boat is once again beautiful.
These are the lessons that I learned and would like to pass on to others:
1) Don't pick an insurance company based on flashy ads and phrases such as "we insure more boats than . . ."
2) Talk to as many people as you possibly can to find out what their experiences have been with the company, especially someone who has filed a claim. Better yet, contact someone who is no longer with a given company and find out why.
3) Read the fine print - all 5,000 items - over and over again. If you don't understand something, have it explained to you.
4) Find out up front what the company's payment policy is. Get it in writing.
5) Don't wait as long as I did to consider getting an attorney.
6) Don't assume a large and supposedly reputable company will treat you fairly.
7) Don't quit trying if you know you are right.
No, not all insurance companies are the same. Some people who had boats damaged by Marty received fair and very prompt settlements.
I realize that this was a lengthy letter,
but thanks for letting me get it off my chest. I'm not sure it
will ever see print, but if it does, I will write another letter
on the dos and don'ts of getting a boat repaired in Mexico.
Lee - What an excellent letter. The calm - it must have been very difficult given your emotions - and clear way you recounted your experience makes your letter very powerful. As such, we'd love to get a letter on the dos and don'ts of getting a boat repaired in Mexico.
YOU'LL ALL END UP HELPING EACH OTHER
You won't remember me but I'll never forget you. I was preparing Renaissance, a Westsail 32 for her South Pacific voyage. It was January 1977, 30 years ago this month. You stopped by the Sausalito Cruising Club to offer encouragement.
I was having second thoughts, feeling unprepared for this giant separation from local chandleries, boatyards and grocery stores. I was scared.
You said, "Hey, you're not going to fall off the edge of the world. You'll find anything you need wherever you go. And you'll find other sailors with the same fears. And you will all end up helping each other. Relax. Enjoy your cruise. And write."
You cannot know the impact you had on me, how important those few positive words had on my resolve to slip the dock lines and get underway. And you were right about everything. How were you so smart, so brilliant that long ago?
It's been a long time, but I thought it's
not too late to say "Thank you with all my heart."
Virg - Thanks for remembering us after all these years and for the kind words. We hate to say this, but we can visualize your boat, but not you.
As for the advice, it was pretty good back then, and now. We have absolutely no idea how we came up with it.
/ Classifieds /'Lectronic Latitude