Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Letters' Index Letters
August 2007

Missing the pictures? See the August 2007 eBook!


I may be moving to San Francisco from the Big Apple, and am trying to get my hands around the sailing scene for San Francisco city dwellers. Currently, I keep my little Island Packet in Orient, New York, which is at the end of the North Fork of Long Island. This is a beautiful sailing area, as within a day's sailing distance — even for me — there are a number of wonderful islands and sailing grounds, including Block Island, Newport, Long Island Sound and the Atlantic out around Montauk.

I need some advice and comfort about sailing in the Bay Area, dockage in San Francisco or areas close by, and the overall differences from sailing on the East Coast. I'm sure this is a well-trodden issue, but I sure would appreciate a refresher as I'm a little nervous about how to get my sailing fix.

Pete Malloy
Quint, Island Packet 31
The Big Apple

Pete — There are major differences between sailing in the San Francisco area and the Eastern Tip of Long Island, Block Island, Newport area:

1) The Northeast sailing season is generally four months, which seems preposterous to those of us in California, where the sailing season is all year, and conditions are particularly pleasant from March to November. As you know, it can often rain and/or be hot and humid in the Northeast during the sailing season, neither of which are problems on the Bay during the summer. However, don't forget your cold weather gear, as you can freeze your ass off sailing in The Slot during the hottest days of a San Francisco summer.

2) The wind is much more consistent and reliable on the Bay than in the Northeast. From March to October, San Francisco sailors can almost always find at least 20 knots of wind if they go to the right places. As such, anyone who comes from the Northeast to San Francisco will no doubt need to invest in a much smaller headsail and brush up on reefing. Another of the charms of the Bay is that you can often pick the amount of wind and temperature you'd like. While it can be very windy and cold in the Central Bay, it can be blazing hot and nearly still just a half mile away in the lee of Angel Island. And if you're looking for something different, there's always the Gulf of the Farallones, just west of the Golden Gate Bridge. The unspoiled scenery there is fantastic and, depending on the day, it can either be lovely or challenging to even the best sailors and boats.

3) It's more convenient for sailors who live in The City to go sailing than for folks like you who have to drive 90 minutes or more to get from the Big Apple to your boat in places like Orient. From April to the end of September, it's common for San Franciscans to pop down to their boats after work for an evening sail or to participate in one of the scores of beer can series. And when it comes to spectacular urban/nature sailing venues, few can compare with San Francisco.

4) The wind in the Northeast can come from all directions of the compass. From March to October it only blows one way — west — on the Bay and northerly in the ocean.

5) There is no question that the Northeast has many more attractive weekend sailing destinations, facilities and places to gunkhole. It's not even close. The Bay has several islands and scenic anchorages, but with limited, if any, facilities. It would be nice, for example, if there were a couple of sail up restaurants and bars at Clipper Cove, but the Navy doesn't offer those kinds of services to civilians. The most popular weekend destinations are up the Petaluma or Napa Rivers, the Delta, or down to Santa Cruz or Monterey. For longer summer sailing adventures, there's always Southern California.

Both the San Francisco Bay and the Northeast have their sailing charms. If you love the sailing part of sailing, and the opportunity to do it all the time, there's no place like San Francisco Bay. But if you primarily enjoy gunkholing and tying up to fine waterfront restaurants, you may find yourself pining for the Northeast.

The closer slips are to the Central Bay, the harder they are to come by. The best thing to do is get your boat out here, get a slip in an outer area marina, then start working toward the Central Bay.


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Singlehanded Sailing Society's LongPac last month — my boat was struck by a humpback whale while about 10 miles outside the Gate. Before the whale huggers — of which I am one — get too excited, I want to report that he/she swam into my boat rather than my boat ramming into him/her. The reason I'm confident that the whale struck my boat is that it didn't come to an abrupt stop, lurch, and or rise at the bow. Any of those would have been expected if I'd hit a large object. My boat and the whale are both about 40 feet, but the whale weighs about four times as much — 80,000 pounds versus 18,000 pounds.

So rather than my boat coming to an abrupt stop and me being thrown on my backside, there was a loud bump on my boat's keel, followed almost instantly by the rudder slamming hard to one side. A heartbeat after the contact, I looked over the stern and saw a large, dark blue, flat thing the size of a large door about 10 feet down. Since I have blue bottom paint, I first thought that I'd lost my rudder. But as the whale rolled over to look at me, I saw the white of its ventral edges, and realized that it was a pectoral fin of a whale. I'm sure that he was wondering what I was doing in his 'breathing space', because I was wondering what the [expletive deleted] he was doing in my path. Fortunately, both the whale and my boat parted company, apparently neither of us the worse for wear from the 'friendly encounter'. I've not yet pulled my boat to check the rudder, but the steering was still as smooth as before the collision, so I didn't drop out of the LongPac.

I don't think humpback whales bother to look where they are surfacing. Their eyes are on the side of their head for maximum lateral vision, which means they would have to roll on their side to look up. Besides, this whale was traveling with another whale about 50 yards away, and I suspect they were playing the whale version of 'grab ass'. If you think about it, it's only in the last 100 years or so that whales have needed to look up where they were surfacing. Before that, there probably were not enough seagoing sailing vessels to be of concern.

I'm confident that whales can hear motorized vessels and avoid them. Of the approximately one million breaths they take in their lifetime — four breaths per hour, 24 hours per day, 365 days times 40 years — I'm sure that they don't need to look 99.9999% of the time. So based on habit, they don't look up. After all, they have no natural predators from above.

Anyway, it's nice to know that all's whale that ends whale, (sorry about the pun) and that Doug Peterson designed a hull that is so hydrodynamically silent that she apparently can't be heard by a whale even when moving at six knots.

Rick Vulliet, Fleet Veterinarian
Paradesia, Peterson Islander 40
Davis / Berkeley YC


In the June issue, John Kelly of Hawkeye wrote, "The cost of cruising might be higher" than what most people think. I think his letter was right on — as was Latitude's editorial response. We buddyboated with John and Linda on Hawkeye from the Galapagos Islands to Tahiti, where we had to hurry on to Tonga to catch an airplane for a business meeting — it's amazing how much business you can carry on in the middle of the South Pacific — and they had to wait for parts. But we had a great time together on the passages and through the islands.

We found the cost of almost everything, including flights, to be very reasonable all the way through Mexico, Central America and South America. However, once we left the mainland, the expenses went up almost exponentially. West Marine was fantastic in getting parts to French Polynesia, but the freight charges were ridiculously high. John didn't mention the injectors he had shipped to the Tuamotus. The lesson learned was that you can't carry enough spare parts, but you can get anything anywhere for a price, if you're willing to wait long enough. It's nice to be able to spend those waiting days dining with someone who cooks, but you can't always be that lucky.

It's been four years since we did the Ha-Ha, and Esprit is presently in New Zealand, getting a much deserved complete refit. John is correct, things are not cheap in New Zealand any longer. We will spend over $100,000 Kiwi, about $75,000 USD, before we are done. New Zealand Customs has allowed Esprit to stay there for another year in order to get all this work done and, of course, contribute to their economy.

We enjoyed your articles on Commodore Tompkins and Barritt and Renee of Serendipity — the latter did the Ha-Ha with us. I bring these two articles up because Esprit is the last Kelly Peterson 46 (Hull #30) and, while talking to Commodore in Tonga, it became clear that he thought all Kelly Petersons were 'Cheatersons', meaning knock-offs of the real things made by other yards in Taiwan. Based on the number of 44s and 46s that were built, 200 and 30 respectively, we see a very large percentage of these boats still out cruising.

Every day we're out cruising, we thank you for giving us the Ha-Ha deadline to make us get going — and go now! After almost 16,000 miles of cruising, we look back and thank God that we signed up for the Ha-Ha in '03. We're also thankful that we had to turn back after our first Puddle Jump attempt, and joined the Southbounders to Ecuador instead of jumping across the Pacific right away. Central and South America were such wonderful experiences — and a great way to gain much-needed experience prior to crossing the Pacific. In fact, I would recommend it to everyone contemplating the Puddle Jump. We want to thank Latitude's Andy Turpin for the suggestion.

Chay, Katie & Jamie McWilliam
Esprit, Kelly-Peterson 46
San Diego / New Zealand


I heard a rumor that there was going to be another Moët Cup-type America's Cup match race on San Francisco Bay this fall, like the one four years ago between Oracle and Alinghi. Have you heard anything about it?

Michael Rosauer
Planet Earth

Michael — We not only heard about it, we reported that it was being planned, and that as many as eight America's Cup syndicates were expected to participate. Then, after BMW Oracle was eliminated with surprising dispatch by the Italians in the Louis Vuitton Quarter Finals, the event was called off.

Lest you think that Larry Ellison and Oracle — as opposed to BMW Oracle — have abandoned Ellison's America's Cup aspirations, you'll read elsewhere in this issue that Oracle is attempting to legally force Alinghi to accept their challenge to compete for the Cup: 1) Next July! and 2) In boats that will be 90 feet long, 90 feet wide, and, except for the daggerboards, no more than three feet deep. For those who have trouble reading between the sailing lines, that means near maxi-size trimarans! Oracle apparently has the support of all the other challengers except for Spain, which is being described as Alinghi's 'poodle' of a Challenger of Record. Many people believe the 90-ft trimaran threat is a ruse by Oracle to get Alinghi to come to the negotiating table — but wouldn't it be great if things turned out so they had to race in multihull monsters? And by the way, if big multihulls do become the weapons for the 33rd America's Cup, we're taking the credit, having been the only ones to have consistently pushed for just that.


A while back you ran some letters on vessels being abandoned on the hook in Clipper Cove. As I recall, some were hauled off, but it's clear that others remain. The cove is one of the few protected anchorages on the Bay, and it would be a shame if it became cluttered. Who has responsibility?

Russ Cooper
Liberty, C&C 37
San Francisco

Russ — As we reported in the March issue, the anchorage at Clipper Cove is technically still a restricted area controlled by the U.S. Navy. As such, "No person and no vessel or other craft, except vessels owned and operated by the Commanding Officer, Naval Station, Treasure Island, shall enter the restricted area." As you've probably noticed, nobody pays any attention to that regulation. Nonetheless, on March 19, the Coast Guard and the San Francisco Marine Patrol descended on Clipper Cove and issued citations to boats that appeared to have been there for a long time. The citation was for discharging waste, a misdemeanor under Section 780 (a) of the California Harbors and Navigation Code. Let's hope the Coast Guard and Marine Patrol are little bit more consistent in their law enforcement.


There was a letter in the last issue that explained that the Uniden UM525 VHF, which happens to be the radio I bought in September in preparation for the Ha-Ha and cruising, won't work in Mexico as long as anybody in the area is using Channel 70. So I promptly took the Uniden radio and remote mic back to the West Marine where I'd bought it, and got full credit. While researching a replacement unit, I noticed that Icom VHF units also use Channel 70 for DSC, so I sent them a query to find out if their radios can be used in Mexico and other countries. This was the response from Rick Waedekin of Icom Technical Support:

"None of the Icom radios will be affected in this way, as they are designed properly, and the DSC operates independent of the main comm. What happens with the other brand VHF is that their main comm audio is tied to the DSC audio, so when the DSC sees traffic on Channel 70, it cuts off the main audio. When any model Icom sees traffic on Channel 70, all that happens is that it won't allow you to send a DSC message until the signal on 70 drops. When that happens, the DSC message will be sent. All other functions, including RX audio, operate normally."

Glenn Twitchell
Beach Access, Lagoon 380
Newport Harbor

Readers — To make sure everyone understands what DSC is, we're reprinting excerpts of an explanation by Chuck Husick of Boat US:

"With the press of a button, all DSC-equipped VHF radios can send a distress call in digital form on Channel 70. The call, sent in much less than one second, includes your unique identification number (MMSI) and, if the radio is connected to a GPS or Loran C, the precise location of your boat. The distress call will continue to be sent until it is answered by another station. The station hearing the call will likely call your radio on Channel 16 or, in the case of the Coast Guard, on 22A, and begin the process of bringing you the help you need. Having a highly automatic way of making your need for assistance known has obvious advantages.

"With widespread use, the VHF/DSC system will gradually eliminate the need to monitor the often busy and noisy Channel 16 for incoming calls or, as required by regulation, for distress calls. At some time in the future, monitoring of Channel 16 will no longer be common practice for most boaters and will no longer be a legal requirement for vessels on the high seas."

But for those who bought Uniden VHFs, the next letter suggests that there is a low-cost solution.


We've got an update on the problems — and a solution — to the problem with Uniden VHF radios that don't work when somebody is using Channel 70. We purchased our Uniden 525 from San Diego's Offshore Outfitters in the summer of '05, and had it installed on our Perry 43 cat, which we live on and cruise all the time. We almost immediately noted occasional clipping, independent of all other boat functions, while it was in the receive mode. And it seemed location dependent.

Shea Weston, who installed our radio, was unable to find the cause. When we called Uniden Tech Support, they denied there was any such problem, and told us to send our radio in to be checked out. Given that we were constantly traveling in Mexico, sending the radio back to Uniden wasn't a viable option. We finally ended up in certain places — such as Zihautanejo — where the radio was all but unusable.

During a short trip back to California, Weston made arrangements to replace our radio. Alas, it seemed to work even worse than the original! When we came back to California in the summer of '07, Weston promised to try to come up with a solution. He worked with Jim Corenman and Uniden to try to find out what was wrong, and was good enough to keep us in the loop via email. When we arrived back in San Diego, they'd come up with an explanation and a fix. It seems that the Uniden 525 and 625 VHF radios don't have a dedicated circuit for reception of DSC (Channel 70) signals, so when there is anything on that channel, whether real or just interference, it cuts out all the other channels. For us, the effect was like 'packet errors' one can get when talking on a digital cell phone in a fringe reception area.

Anyway, Uniden fessed up to the problem and is offering a fix, but the radios have to be sent to their Texas service center for hardware and firmware fixes. They do it for free, but you have to pay to ship your radio to them. We sent ours out on Monday — the same day we sent our Icom 802 SSB back to Icom to eliminate the well-publicized clipping problem. Uniden radios should be sent to: Uniden America Corp, Attn: Kent Newman, 4700 Amon Carter Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76155. Their number is (817) 858-3300. We were promised a 2-3 week turnaround. We weren't required to get a return authorization, but anyone planning to do this might check with Uniden or their supplier for details.

Holly and I are taking a brief sabbatical from our sabbatical before heading further south, but will be on the move again in November. Having owned a cat for awhile now, we think that at some point in Latitude's reports on them, you should touch on one of the dark sides of catamaran ownership. Prior to our return to the U.S. for the summer, we spent a couple of months banging away at phone calls and emails trying to find a spot for our cat in a marina between San Francisco and San Diego. We ended up at Ventura Isle Marina, the only place that could accommodate us.

Getting a slip hadn't been an issue until then because we'd been traveling constantly. Nonetheless, when we now describe all the virtues of catamarans to our friends, we're forced to add the very serious warning that they had best find a slip before signing on the dotted line! Dreamy eyes, enthusiasm and persistence won't create berthing where it doesn't exist. An even darker note has to do with the reaction we got from all but a couple of the marinas we talked to in San Diego. For instance, one marina that we won't name actually had plenty of space, but wouldn't accommodate us because, as full-time cruisers, we were planning to live on our boat. The problem was they'd already exceeded their quota of 10% liveaboards. Arrggghhh!

Denis Michaud
Tango, Perry 43 cat
Ventura Isle Marina

Denis — We're also one of the many folks who bought a Uniden 525, so thanks for the news of a factory fix. It's still hard to imagine how they made such a blunder.

Your caution about the lack of slips for cats is also well taken and, looking back, we've probably been negligent in that regard. But here are a couple of thoughts on the subject. First, in the prime areas it's hard to get almost any kind of slip, monohull or multihull — although it's clear that multihull slips are the rarest of the rare. Second, calling a marina and asking for a slip almost never works. You've got to show up in person, so the marina staff can see what shining examples of non-trouble you would be, and what a credit your fine boat would be to their marina. It's all about relationships, because no matter what anybody says, most harbormasters have a lot of leeway. And if you're likeable, and a slip just happens to become available, who is the harbormaster going to want give a slip to, a nice couple he's met and likes, or some complete strangers who might have a derelict? Third, in Northern California, forget the Central Bay and look to the marinas in the South Bay or up in the Delta. Between their many trips to Mexico and the South Pacific, Blair Grinols would always haul his boat out at Napa Valley Marina. Lastly, the proper response to the question "Do you live aboard?" is always, "Of course not! We live in the mountains and just like to come down to our boat from time to time for a change of pace."


I have read the comments dealing with the terrible boating accident involving a member of the Lake County Sheriff's Department motor vessel and a civilian sailing vessel. Allow me to bring forth a couple of points. I have 25+ years experience in the investigation of both vehicle and boating accidents, both of the nonfatal and fatal variety. I have 30+ years of experience as a Sworn Law Enforcement Officer, involved in all facets of the Law Enforcement art.

First, when it comes down to the final cause of a boat accident, the thing that most directly caused the accident is what's used to find fault. There can be many contributing factors, but there is only one 'primary cause'. In the case of the Clear Lake accident, if you have presented all the pertinent information, the District Attorney acted correctly by charging the man at the helm of the sailboat and not the Deputy Sheriff. The incorrectly lighted sailing vessel became, for the lack of a better phrase, invisible. The person actually in control of any vessel is required to insure the vessel he controls is operating legally and safely.

Was there a contributing factor? For instance, the deputy going too fast for the conditions? Maybe, but how fast is too fast to see something that is invisible?

Can the speed of the motor vessel be proved, "beyond a reasonable doubt?" Maybe, depending on which 'expert witness' is hired to prove the point. The problem with expert witnesses is that they are paid by one side and/or the other to give their opinion favorable to the side that hired them.

Since my retirement from active law enforcement to the private sector, I've actually become somewhat ambivalent towards law enforcement and the district attorney's offices in general. I am not actually defending either position, I'm just pointing out that, in law enforcement's defense, they must work within what is provable and falls under the law.

Finally, remember that unless we were there, directly involved in the investigation of the accident, a witness to the accident, or involved in the accident itself, then all any of us has said or will say is simple conjecture. None of us has any firsthand information on the incident, and if we did, then we would be witnesses, require interviewing, and shouldn't be talking about what we know until interviewed.

Anything we say here, in any other media, or even person-to-person in specific locations, could have a direct influence on the trial(s) by prejudicing a potential juror's mind even without that juror knowing it is happening. At the end of the day, what we all want is justice for the victims and proper prosecution of the guilty. This case is for the courts to decide, not us.

Michael Gregory
Planet Earth

Michael — We've got a lot of problems with your perspective:

1) How are the courts/juries to decide whether Deputy Sheriff Russell Perdock is guilty of manslaughter if the District Attorney won't charge him?

2) How could it be impossible to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" how fast Perdock was going when he testified that he was doing 40 to 45 mph based on the engine's rpm? Furthermore, how could you have investigated car and boat accidents for so many years and not know that it's easy to determine approximate speed by the damage to the vehicles/vessels involved?

3) Was the sailboat really "invisible?" Even on a dark night, a 28-ft boat with a 40-ft mast and both main and jib up is hardly invisible. Particularly since the sailboat's main saloon light was on.

4) Indeed, wouldn't you agree that it would be much more accurate to say that Perdock was "blind" rather than the boat "invisible?" The next time you drive your car at night, get it up to 40 to 55 mph, stick your head out the window, and tell us how good your night vision is — assuming that you can see through your tears at all. There's a reason that many California lakes don't allow powered vessels on the water after dark, and where there is a speed limit, it's 5 mph.

5) Perdock's lack of boating knowledge also blinded him both literally and figuratively. In his official testimony — not conjecture — he foolishly testified that he aimed his boat at the lights on shore in order to help him "see" any unlit boats that might be on the lake. As one who has investigated boating accidents, you surely know that Coast Guard navigation rules direct boat operators to do just the opposite for the obvious reason that background lights blind operators to the existence of navigation and other lights as well as other potential hazards.

6) What do you call it when somebody is aware of a potential danger but ignores it? Perdock testified that he was aware that unlit boats were on the lake at night, having seen them himself. Despite that knowledge, and even after a woman was killed as a result of his boat slamming into her, he still insisted that 45 mph in the blackness was a safe speed and, in fact, was something he did all the time! If that's not gross negligence, what would you call it?

Please don't ask us to shut up and let the investigator, the D.A. and the courts do their job, because it's not going to happen. Elsewhere in this Letters section, you'll read that eye-witnesses to the accident have been told that their testimony wasn't needed! If a member of your family had been killed in an unnecessary accident, wouldn't you like to know what all the eye-witnesses saw? Unless things change, Perdock isn't even going to be charged. Legal experts, however, tell us that when it comes to the civil cases, it won't even go to trial, as Perdock's insurer will pay to their limits, and that Thornton's estate will go after whatever other assets Perdock might have. We're not saying that Perdock got divorced after the tragedy in order to put as many of his assets as possible into his wife's name, but lawyers tell us that's a common tactic for people who believe they are going to have big legal judgements go against them.

We've always known that American tort law is basically government sanctioned extortion, but perhaps naïvely thought the law enforcement and district attorneys were, at least in California, relatively clean. It's with deep regret that we have to admit that the current status of the Lake County case has made us very cynical about California law enforcement and the criminal legal system.


Lynn Thornton's stepdaughter sent me all of what Latitude has written about the boating accident on Clear Lake that killed Lynn. I'm so happy that someone other than the Lake County Sheriff is following up on this.

I worked with Lynn for more than 10 years. She was my boss, then partner and, of course, my very best friend. I think about her everyday. We both worked for the State of California, and I still have some of the cases that I took over from her after she was killed. It puts a hole in my heart every time I see her signature, her notes and other effects. Lynn was the best person I ever knew. She always looked out for me in every way. She always protected me, but not just how a partner does in law enforcement, but rather like a big sister. Every time I needed advice professionally or personally, she was there to give it. Everyday, I miss working with her, I miss laughing with her, I miss crying with her. There was one time in particular that she stood by me. I've always respected her for it, and knew from that day forward that she would be a wonderful friend and partner. I always said that I would do the same for her some day, but I never got the chance.

I guess I'm having an especially hard time because Lynn told me something two days before her death that I haven't told anyone before now because I didn't want to cause more pain for her dear family, but I want to tell you. Lynn and I spoke on the phone frequently while we were driving up Highway 80 or 680 working cases. The second to last time we spoke, she and I talked about her son. Shortly after hanging up, she called me back and said that she really wanted to work on her Sacramento house that weekend to get it ready to sell, and didn't really want to do the race on Clear Lake. I told her just to tell Mark Weber that she didn't want to go that weekend. But Lynn being Lynn, she decided that she would go so Mark wouldn't feel bad. I told her to call me when she got back from the race on Sunday.

The phone call I got after church on Sunday wasn't from Lynn, but from Karyn, another friend and co-worker, one who normally didn't call on weekends. When I answered my cell, Karyn told me that Lynn and Mark had been in a boating accident, and that Lynn was at the U.C. Davis Hospital. I remember telling Karyn that I was going to give Lynn heck for going when she really hadn't wanted to, and that I was going to go to Davis right then and see her. Karyn was silent for a moment, then said, "No, Nancy, you can't talk to Lynn because she isn't going to make it. She's on life support." I remember my heart beating and felt like I was going to faint.

How did this happen? How could the deputy whose boat killed Lynn not be charged with manslaughter?

Nancy Butler
Northern California

Nancy — There is no doubt in our minds that Lynn Thornton is dead because speed kills, and because Deputy Perdock, who of all people should have known better, operated his boat in a reckless and negligent manner. Based on Perdock's own words — that he knew unlit boats were on the lake at night; that he thought 40 to 45 mph was a safe speed in the pitch black; that he often operated his boat at high speed in the dark — we're convinced that he should have been charged with manslaughter by the Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins. Why Hopkins has refused to charge Perdock is a mystery to many — unless, of course, they theorize, he's simply covering up for a member of the local law enforcement community. In any event, we think it's an outrage.

We suggest that you call Hopkins at (707) 263-2251, explain who you are, your relationship with Thornton, and the kind of person Lynn was. Then ask him why he refuses to charge Perdock. Better yet, maybe this is the chance you always wanted to pay Lynn back for all she did for you. Why not go see Lake County D.A. Hopkins in person, and make him look you in the eye when he tells you why he thinks Perdock shouldn't be charged.

If anyone else feels compelled to file formal complaints, send an email to California Attorney General Jerry Brown through his website at, where you'll find a form. Snail mail, which is often more persuasive, should be sent to Public Inquiry Unit, Office of the Attorney General, Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Letters can also be sent to District 1 Assemblywoman Patty Berg at State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001 or online at


I'm the one who towed Mark Weber's O'Day 27 sailboat back to shore after the tragic incident on Clear Lake. According to the state of California, the safe boating speed limit at night requires that you be able to stop in half the length of your visibility. This means that Perdock, who never backed off his throttle before hitting the sailboat, was in violation of the law. If you can't see a 27-ft sailboat with her sails up, even at night, then you're going too fast.

One of the witnesses to the accident, a retired boat patrol officer, did not have his statement taken. He says he called 911 many times, but each time he was told they had things under control and didn't need any witnesses. By the way, none of the other witnesses listed in the Sheriff's report have been interviewed either.

Latitude should look into the time at which Perdock's blood was tested. I heard a rumor that it wasn't until 10 hours after the accident.

Peter Erickson
Lake County

Peter — It wouldn't surprise us if it's true that eye-witnesses to the accident haven't been interviewed. We read the investigation of the case that was done by a Sacramento Deputy Sheriff who, by the way, drove all the way to Lake County to interview Perdock in his office. To our thinking, the investigation was incomplete at best.

According to Perdock, he told officers that he wanted his blood drawn immediately, which sounds a little staged. For whatever reason, the blood wasn't taken for another 90 minutes or two hours. Some have suggested that such a delay gave fellow law enforcement officers the opportunity to do something with the evidence. We have no reason to believe that is true — other than that there seems to be so much other injustice with the case.


I was once headed home from Annapolis around midnight at about 30 knots. I was sober and not exceeding any posted speed limit. I nearly hit a Cal 25 that was showing no lights. Would you seriously suggest this would have been my fault?

Joe Della Barba

Joe — Are you familiar with Rule Six, Safe Speed, of the Navigation Rules? "Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions. In determining safe speed, the following factors shall be among those taken into account: 1) The state of visibility; 2) At night, the presence of background light, such as from shore lights or from backscatter of her own lights."

So the answer to your question would be, 'Perhaps not entirely, but to a very large extent.' After all, would you charge through a thick fog at 30 knots? You wouldn't because of the reduced visibility. But if fog reduces visibility, the black of night reduces it many times more. Just because there aren't posted speed limits on the oceans, bays and rivers doesn't mean you can go as fast as you want.


It does sound like the music for the film Deliverance is playing in the background up in Lake County, as D.A. Hopkins moves forward with his gross miscarriage of justice. Suppose that all the occupants of the sailboat had been asleep and their boat adrift, what harm would there have been if Deputy Dawg and his gas-guzzling powerboat had not come along? It's the deputy's hopped up need for speed that killed Lynn Thornton, and any person with at least two marbles can see that plain as day.

What a shock! The men and women of law enforcement screw up as much as the rest of us! The exception being that the good ol' boys cover each other's anatomy like a fraternity.

P.S. As a former member of Uncle Sam's Confused Group, aka the U.S. Coast Guard, I'm wondering why they haven't offered an opinion on the case.

J.H. Captain 9 Fingers

Capt 9 Fingers — Asleep and adrift doesn't cut it when you're on a boat anymore than it does when driving. There is no question that the sailboat should have had her running lights on, even if it's unlikely Perdock would have been able to see them at the speed he was traveling. As such, if we were assigning responsibility for the accident based on what we know, it would be 80% to Perdock for blindly operating his boat at grossly excessive speed for the conditions, 19% to the sailboat's owner Mark Weber for not having the running lights on and being under the influence, and 1% to Dinius Bismarck for being at the helm under the influence and not making sure the running lights were on. But to charge Bismarck with manslaughter, rather than Perdock and Weber is, in our opinion, a mockery of common sense and the law.

According to folks who use power and sailboats on Clear Lake, and who have also shared lunches with the Lake County deputies, they are a great bunch of guys, many of whom are retired cops from big cities. Alas, even great guys make mistakes. And if they are bad enough mistakes at the wrong time and place, people die, and they need to be held accountable.

The Coast Guard, if we're not mistaken, doesn't have jurisdiction on inland bodies of water that don't front more than one state.


My wife and I did the Konocti Cup on Clear Lake the day that Lynn Thornton was killed. We'd left the after race party earlier than those who were later involved in the accident. I remember that the night was very clear and calm, and that the lake was as flat as a mirror. We didn't learn about the accident until the following morning. Right away people reported that the deputy was saying that the sailboat wasn't operating with running lights. But having seen the lake that night being as flat as a mirror, and with all the lights from the houses and other stuff around the lake, I doubt that running lights would have made any difference. A small stern light would have been difficult, if not impossible, to spot at the speed with which the deputy said he was operating his boat.

What's more, an off-duty law enforcement officer should have been aware of the risks he was taking by traveling so fast in the dark. I see the accident as the result of a number of unrelated things, involving both the sailboat and powerboat, that came together at just the wrong time and place for the tragedy to occur. Nonetheless, the deputy's operation of the boat was just dumb. He could have just as easily hit a log and badly injured his passengers.

I'm shocked that a 5 mph speed limit is not in effect on Clear Lake after dark. I grew up water-skiing on Lake Berryessa, and not only was the 5 mph limit the law of the lake after dark, it was enforced with no ifs, ands or buts about it. In fact, my dad was stopped by the sheriff once and given a big lecture.

During this year's race on Clear Lake, we had a bass boat going full tilt weave between us and another sailboat in the race. They came so close — and they came out of nowhere so fast — that they scared the crap out of my wife and me, as well as the folks on the boat near us. The guy had the whole lake open to him, but he decided to thread his way between our two boats, with five people on them, while doing 50 mph.

Trent W.
Clear Lake

Trent — In our opinion, Deputy Perdock should have more than known that he was taking risks, he should have known that he was breaking the law.

Three things to remember about his visibility issues: 1) While the sailboat's stern light may not have been on, her main salon light, which often casts a bigger light, was. 2) As if the darkness wasn't bad enough to limit Perdock's visibility, imagine what the wind blowing into his eyes at 45 mph did to it. 3) Contrary to good navigation practice as taught by the Coast Guard, Perdock headed toward, rather than away, from background lights. We can't think of anything more — short of splashing lye in his eyes — that Perdock could have done to further limit his ability to see potential hazards.


Having read of many boat accidents and sinkings in Latitude, we might ask how we can make sailing safer. I suggest looking into electric drives as alternatives to gas and diesel propulsion systems. Electric drives take up less space, and the space saved could be used to install flotation to prevent boats from sinking. Another benefit for those with gas engines is not having to worry about potentially explosive fumes collecting in the bilge. I worried about that, particularly after I read a Coast Guard book that said fires on boats can burn down to the waterline.

So why not replace gas and diesel propulsion systems? Foster City has about 100 electric drive boats. Submarines were all driven by battery powered electric drives 50 years ago. General Motors made electric cars that only failed because there was no easy means to recharge the batteries. But most Bay Area marinas come with shore power, which can recharge batteries in about six hours.

I switched to electric drives six years ago, primarily to reduce the time and cost of maintenance on my gas engine. I rarely found time to sail because I had to remove and clean the carburetor 13 times, replace fuel pumps and fuel filters three times, and replace the coolant pump, thermostat, and engine zincs. I also had to change the oil monthly and redesign and replace the muffler to prevent seawater from backing into the engine cylinders.

In contrast, the only required maintenance for my electric drives is to wash them down with water.

It seems strange, but the initial cost of installing the two electric motors, six deep-cycle marine batteries, and additional flotation, came to less than one-third the cost of installing a rebuilt gas engine.

By switching to less complicated electric drives, sailors can afford more time to enjoy the pleasure of sailing.

Sam Fogleman
Mystic, Ericson 27
Foster City

Sam — Electric drives are becoming more popular. In fact, we're planning to do a story on Glacier Bay, the Union City company that produces the OSSA electric power system for yachts. However, it would have been helpful to our readers if you provided more details. What kind of gas engine did you have, how old was it, and in what kind of boat? While electric motors are ideal for some boat applications, we still think there are plenty of instances where a diesel engine is by far the most efficient solution.


I was crew in the '99 Baja Ha-Ha and would like to do it again. What's the best way to try to get a crew slot this year?

Al Lankford
Green Bay, Wisconsin

Al — You might be the only person in Green Bay willing to pass up the Packers' Monday Night Football game with Denver for the Ha-Ha, but we think it shows that you've got your priorities in order. Because we're such techno pioneers, we're finally getting around to putting our Mexico Crew List on our website. See this month's Sightings for details, then expect to see the first of the listings posted relatively early in August.


Last month I wrote about how I'd been cruising in Mexico for five months when a friend brought by a copy of a Latitude with a Classy Classified for an Iroquois 32 MKII cat. Even though the Iroquois were built in England back in the '70s, it's always been my favorite cat — in part because they have just 15 inches of draft. So I cut my cruising short and rushed up to Port Sonoma Marina to make an offer. It was accepted and she surveyed perfectly, so I purchased her from David and Susan Hafleigh, who were her original owners. Lucky me! And thanks to Latitude, my 10-year search is over.

What a boat! She looks fast just sitting at the dock, and has almost 14-ft beam. The cockpit is huge and has wraparound seating. The aft deck can house an inflatable dinghy, kayak or other water toys, and it's nice to lie on when underway. She has a solid teak interior that's in factory condition — even the original cushions look new — and sleeps six in two doubles and two singles. She's also got a propane stove with oven, pressure water, a stereo, a spinnaker and a 28-hp Johnson outboard. All for an asking price of $27,900.

Pretty nice, huh? I think so. And remember, this cat is known more for speed than comfort, so her interior and exterior are just extras.

I plan to have a custom trailer made for use in Mexico, so I can haul her out of the water when there is bad weather and for storage on land. I'm also going to invest in an electric winch system aft, so I can haul her back into the water after I've beached her on soft sand. In the future, I'm planning to build a radar arch with eight solar panels. I'm also going to install a silent, lightweight, electric motor that's more environmentally correct than the heavy, costly, dangerous, noisy, smelly and vibrating outboard she has now.

They say "The two happiest days in a boatowner's life are when he purchases his boat and when he sells his boat." Based on the smile on the face of the proud new owner, me, and the faces of her original owners, David and Susan Hafleigh, I'd say that's true.

Jim Barden
No Me Quitto Pas, Iroquois 32 MK II
Northern California

Jim — Having gazed into our just-cleaned crystal ball, we see that you're going to have a great time in Mexico with your very economical, new-to-you cruising cat. Congratulations.


Thanks for your July Sightings titled The Rainbow Circumnavigation. I wish that it wasn't important to bring it up, but when you least expect it, you can still occasionally encounter hostility for being gay. So it's great when I can be reminded that the challenge of long-range cruising does not necessarily include the additional burden of personal hostility when making new acquaintances and landfalls outside one's normal sphere of friends, society and comfort. The sailing community is certainly subject to stereotyping, and I would suggest that one of those stereotypes is of manly masculine men doing manly masculine things — to loosely quote a sea-themed Saturday Night Live skit from many years ago. Booze and boobs may loom large in the lives of some sailors, but your reporting helps remind all of us who love sailing that we are part of a large and varied community, full of people just like us who have gotten out there and done it. So, no excuses!

Steve Ripple
Deva, J/100
San Francisco

Steve — While we believe the sailing community is pretty open-minded, that wouldn't necessarily be true of all the places that circumnavigators go. Same-sex behavior that doesn't raise an eyebrow here would be anything but overlooked in the public areas of many Latin and Middle Eastern countries.


In July's issue, after reporting that several gay couples have circumnavigated, you posed the question, "Have any lesbians gone around the world?" Was your inquiry geographical in nature?

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46
Mazatlan, Mexico

Jerry — With comments like that, there's no telling how many women are driven to lady love by men. Just because we don't always have the time to be as precise with our writing as possible — it should have read, "Have any lesbian couples circumnavigated? — doesn't mean you have to start channeling Beavis and Butthead. That kind of comment reminds us of the guy who overheard two women discussing Roe vs Wade, butted in, and asked if they needed help crossing a river.


In the July 9 'Lectronic, you wrote " . . . the bad news for the boats in the first TransPac starts, which leave Pt. Fermin today at 1 p.m., is that there's going to be very little wind for the first week. In fact, the Pacific High is so poorly formed that it won't even get its act together for the second start, and that winds for the third start on Sunday, while forecast to be considerably better, aren't going to be giving any helmspersons white knuckles . . ."

"Helmspersons"? Get real.

Robert Zimmerman
Zim, H36
Southern California

Robert — We are real. With this photo of Cirrus skipper Lindsey Austin accompanying the text for that 'Lectronic item, would you have wanted us to use the term 'helmsman'? We know what helmsmen look like, and the lovely Lindsey is no helmsman. We salute the whole new generation of women sailors and therefore, when appropriate, are happy to use terms such as helmsperson or helmswoman to acknowledge them.


We've been having a great time sailing south on the schooner Coco Kai, but wonder if Latitude readers have heard about some of the things that have been happening in Nicaragua. We don't want to scare anyone away, but two days after we headed south from Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua, with six other cruising boats, our friends John and Mary on the Nordhavn 46 Navigator followed in our wake. At about 9:30 p.m., while about 14 miles offshore and about halfway between Puesta del Sol and Santa Elena, Costa Rica, they noticed on their radar that two pangas were headed straight toward them. When they got closer, they could see six men in one and four in the other. Neither panga had official markings or running lights. The panga with the six men pulled up close and demanded to be allowed to board, while the other hung back just beyond the range of Navigator's searchlight. Four of the six men in the closer panga were wearing matching shirts, had lifejackets on, and were carrying automatic rifles. The other two were in civilian clothing. All six yelled "Policia! Policia! Policia!" and demanded that they be allowed to board.

John and Mary were suspicious because the panga had no markings, no running lights and no radio, and it seemed as though no one person was in charge. Other than the matching blue shirts that four of them wore, there was nothing to make them believe they were the police, nor did they have any identification to that effect. Besides, what would the police, as opposed to the Navy, be doing boarding vessels at sea? Furthermore, Navigator had had contact with the Nicaraguan Navy at a prior port, and their vessels were grey and had official markings.

John finally told the guys in the panga that he would follow them into port. They didn't like that. By this time, John and Mary had come to believe that they were pirates. The yelling back and forth went on for about an hour. During this time, Navigator sent out several maydays on Channel 16 and pressed the DSC button on their SSB radio. Neither brought a response.

Finally, John shot a flare into the air. The men in the panga responded by sending two volleys of bullets across their bow and firing a volley of bullets into the water. Mary later told us she thought she was as good as dead. After the gunfire, John gave up trying to communicate with them. The couple barricaded themselves inside their boat and headed for the open sea. Their hope was that the pangas didn't have enough fuel to follow. Before too long, and much to their relief, the pangas did head back to shore.

When John and Mary told us the story aboard their boat in Bahia de Santa Elena the next morning, they were still shaking from the encounter. All of us gathered around became convinced that they had been attacked by pirates masquerading as officials, and were lucky to be alive. Jamie and Brandon of Gaviota, one of the boats in our little caravan, reported that they had also been approached at high speed by two pangas at sunrise. Brandon was so unnerved that he woke up Jamie and told her to grab his machete and speargun. The pangas ended up veering away at the last minute, but it seemed as though they might have been part of the same group. For what it's worth, the lovely Gaviota is an older DownEast 32, not nearly as inviting a target as a swanky Nordhavn would be.

But the story gets more interesting. When John downloaded his SailMail later in the day, he found several emails from family and friends saying they had been contacted by the Coast Guard in response to their distress signal, and wanted to know if they were alright. There was also an email from the Coast Guard saying that they had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua, that the Embassy had spoken with the Nicaraguan Navy, and the Nicaraguan Navy said that Navigator had been in restricted waters, the men in the pangas were indeed from their Navy, and the tracer shots were fired after they were denied boarding. The Coast Guard wanted to know John's version of the events.

It still seemed suspicious to us. Why would the Navy be using the policia in dilapidated pangas to board boats 14 miles offshore? Why didn't they have any official insignias on their persons or boat? They had no bullhorn, no radio, no paperwork and nobody appeared to be in charge. And what was this about "restricted waters?" After some discussion, we all agreed that the best course of action is to stay farther offshore — 20 miles or so — and out of panga range. We will probably never know what the real story was, but we believe that if their boat had been boarded, it would not have been a typical boarding.

A couple of other comments about Nicaraguan officials. The marina paid for the hour-long taxi ride to bring out the Immigration and Custom officials, and served them lunch. This seemed to increase the number of required visits. For example, we wanted to leave very early on Monday morning in order to reach Costa Rica by daylight. Greg tried to check out on Saturday when the officials were there for an arriving boat, but they said they couldn't do it, and they would have to come back on Sunday for us to leave on Monday. Then different guys showed up on Sunday, and they said they couldn't check us out on Sunday because they needed to see us leave the dock! The officials wanted a little extra from the cruisers for their efforts as well. From not having change for the fees — ever — to telling one friend, who speaks fluent Spanish, a sob story about being robbed on the bus right before, the officials clearly wanted money. The cruiser got the message, and gave them $10 and toys for his kids, plus a couple of beers each. Alas, sometimes less Spanish is more.

We enjoyed our time in Nicaragua, but the poverty is still a big issue, and it can breed bad behavior. I don't know that we would warn people from visiting Nicaragua entirely, as we felt safe at Marina Puesta del Sol, but just want people to be careful.

Jennifer & Coco Sanders and Greg King
Coco Kai, 64-ft staysail schooner
Long Beach

Folks — There are four reasons we're confident that the men in those pangas were not pirates: 1) Nicaragua has no history of piracy. 2) If they really were pirates, they would have shot a hundred holes in Navigator, killed John and Mary, taken all their possessions, then scuttled their boat. After all, if that was their goal, John's little flare gun wasn't going to stop them. 3) The simple explanation for all your suspicions about no markings, no uniforms, no hailer, and no radio is that Nicaragua is astonishingly poor. It's true that Mexico has lots of poverty, but its per capita income is approximately eight times that of Nicaragua, where the average person only makes $66 a month! It hasn't helped that Nicaraguan President Ortega has swore allegiance with Iran and Venezuela, two countries that have horrible poverty and cratering economies — even though they are swimming in oil. The kicker is that the Nicaraguan government confirmed that the pangas and men in them were part of their navy. What more would it take to convince you they weren't pirates?

"Restricted waters?" According to the United Nations Convention of Law of the Sea, a country can claim waters to 12 miles out as their Territorial Sea, waters to 24 miles out as their Contiguous Zone, and to 200 miles out as their Exclusive Economic Zone. With each of these zones come certain rights, such as fishing. Take a Nordhavn with paravanes, and you have something that very closely resembles a commercial fishing vessel. No wonder they were investigating. By the way, can you imagine what would happen if the skipper of a foreign vessel told the U.S. Coast Guard they couldn't board? Yes, there would be shots across the bow and volleys into the water. But the U.S. Coast Guard wouldn't let it go at that.

For as long as we can remember, Nicaragua's offshore law enforcement has been a poorly equipped and ragtag group. Back in the '80s, for example, our friend Three-and-a-half-fingers Max took his Sausalito-based Bounty II Maverick to Nicaragua with his wife Vera. We can't remember the details, but the Navy/police wanted to board their boat while she was anchored in some very rough conditions. Max refused to allow them to board, not because he was afraid, but because he thought it was unsafe for the men and his boat. The Nicaraguans were hopping mad. As soon as the boarding party headed back to their mothership, Max and Vera took off. Later, while in Managua, they came across a newspaper article with the story of how a member of the boarding party had drowned trying to get back on the mothership. Max and Vera left for Panama as quickly as possible.

The other very interesting bit of information to come from this story is the rapid response — cough, cough — as a result of pressing the DSC button on the SSB. A lot of good it would have done them had they come under attack or had been sinking. It's a powerful argument for carrying an Iridium satphone, wouldn't you say?


Do you have any recommendations for PFDs for pre-teens? Our daughter will be 10 when we head to Mexico this fall. She's 4'8" and weighs 93 lbs, so she has just outgrown her Youth-sized vest. I spoke with a woman at the California Dept of Boating and Waterways, who recommended an Adult Small (as opposed to Adult Universal) vest, and mentioned both Mustang Survival and Stearns brands. It would be great to have an auto-inflate size vest for smaller people, but auto-inflates are only approved for ages 16+, per the manufacturers' recommendation.

I imagine lots of the folks heading down on the Ha-Ha are faced with a similar situation. Have you found something safe and Coast Guard-approved, with minimal bulk and inconvenience? Our daughter is still on the smaller/younger side, but I'm also wondering what people do if, for instance, they have a 14-year-old.

Susan Detweiler
Planet Earth

Susan — Here's what Chuck Hawley, West Marine's 'Tech Guy', had to say:

I have exactly the same problem with my daughters, although I am lucky in that they tend to inherit their sisters' PFDs so I am not constantly buying new ones!

As you point out, the Youth size range is from 50-90 lbs, and that has worked well for my daughters up to the age of about 9-10. Very few vests are intended for kids in the upper end of the range, and have a size range for 70-90 lbs, like Extrasport's Ute Vest. I recently moved my 10-year-old, Sasha, into an Adult Small, which fits her well. There's a lot of selection in the $30 to $60 price range from popular vendors like Stearns, West Marine, Mustang, Extrasport, and Stohlquist.

When possible, I like to select single-sized vests (S, M, L) or dual-sized (S-M, L-XL), so that the vests are more tailored for a particular person. While we sell a lot of Universal-sized vests, these are designed to fit a very wide range of chest sizes so they are not as form-fitting, and the excess strap length looks cluttered when worn by a smaller person.

There are also some great vests intended to fit women better than conventional unisex vests. Stolhquist, in particular, has tailoring that works well with women's figures, and they tend to be offered in colors that women prefer.

The challenge, unfortunately, is buying vests that have very high in-water performance for those under 16 years or 80 lbs. I am not aware of a wearable (that is, compact and flexible) high buoyancy PFD for kids other than the old hybrid vests that were made by SOSpenders about five years ago. West Marine has encouraged other vendors to bring children's hybrids to the market, but none have. These vests offered up to 22 lbs of buoyancy yet were compact like Type IIIs.

The critical issue, of course, is getting everyone on board to wear PFDs religiously. As much as I favor high-buoyancy inflatables for offshore sailing, it's far more important to wear something than to fret over the incremental safety of a Type III compared to a Type I vest. And virtually no one will want to wear a classic Type I when boating.


File this year's Coastal Cup under our 'lessons learned' category.

We — Kevin Clark, Tom Rankin and Michael Andrew — raced the Santana 22 Bonita hard in the Coastal Cup from the start on Thursday until 8:20 p.m. on Friday, when, about nine miles offshore between Arguello and Conception, we stopped racing and began sailing simply to finish with the boat intact and crew safe. Our spinnaker pole broke in a knockdown earlier in the day, which proved fortuitous in some respects, because we weren't tempted to continue trying to carry a kite. Instead, we put up the class jib — a 120% sail — and continued on with it winged-out opposite the main until 8:20 p.m., when we found ourselves in a lull and began plain sail reaching. First we headed further out to sea to find more breeze to help us manage with the large seas, and then towards the Santa Barbara Channel. Once around Conception, we sailed into the protection of the coastal mountains, and rode a light onshore breeze to the finish.

I have mixed feelings about our doing relatively well — 5th overall — in the race. Although the wind was never more than the boat or we were capable of handling, the seas generated by gale force winds were beyond what a 22-ft boat can be sailed in with a reasonable margin of safety. Kevin, Tom and I will never sail down the coast again in such a small boat. All of my friends who cautioned me that sailing a Santana 22 in the Coastal Cup was not a good idea were right. My mixed feelings about doing well stem from my desire to not inspire anyone else to sail a similar-sized boat in a race down the coast. Given the opportunity, I would vigorously try to dissuade anyone from doing so.

Michael Andrew
Bonita, Santana 22

Readers — For the record, Andrews, Clark and Rankin aren't sailing slouches. They often race Clark's Melges 24 Smokin', and have extensive inshore and coastal experience on a variety of boats. The trio expanded their repertoire beyond sportboats when Andrews purchased his brand new Tuna several years ago. From their first discussion last year about racing Bonita down the coast, they worked hard to prepare the boat and themselves, with an eye toward taking overall honors. However, with the big winds and big seas of this year's race, it's an understatement to say the race was more than they bargained for.

For what it's worth, there is quite a history of small boats — such as Cal 20s, Coronado 25s, Moore 24s, Santa Cruz 27s and so forth — racing from San Francisco to Southern California and even Ensenada in the '70s and early '80s. As we recall, nobody was ever killed but, thanks to several races with winds up to 55 knots, many of the sailors saw God — even those who weren't taking any of the hallucinogens that were so popular at the time.


Wind Dancer recently completed her seventh pilgrimage to San Francisco for the Encinal YC's Coastal Cup, which is unquestionably the West Coast’s toughest test of heavy weather seamanship. That being said, it still requires light air skills because the wind usually disappears southeast of Point Conception during the night, which is when most of the boats are on final approach to Santa Barbara.

This year was the first time we were able to sail beneath the Golden Gate under full main and light #1, as in the past we always had to use the #3. As predicted, as we pressed on past Half Moon Bay, the wind filled in at 25 knots true. The rest of the way to Point Conception saw sustained winds of 35 to 45 knots, with occasional gusts to 50 knots, and seas that progressively built to 16 feet. Many boats spent considerable time under either just the main or jib. For six hours we sailed with just the #2, and for another four hours averaged over 10 knots with a full main and the #2 swung out on a spinnaker pole.

For safety, we kept our hatchboards in from Pidgeon Point to the west end of the Santa Barbara Channel, and the crew wore PFD’s, harnesses and tethers from the start until we ran out of wind southeast of Conception. We got pooped twice, and had one long round-down off Conception after going over the falls at 15 knots while running wing-and-wing. Despite those white-knuckle incidents, no water got below. Good crew work limited our damage to five popped mainsail slides and an associated seven-inch vertical tear in the main alongside the luff tape. Other boats were not so fortunate. One was dismasted, two broke booms, and two spinnaker poles were broken. One boat was pinned down for 25 minutes.

Despite the Four Star rating that Latitude gives the event, concerns are emerging about its future, as it has continued to see a decline in participation. When we first did the race in '97, there were 50 boats. That was a good fleet, but even that represented a decline from the previous high of 89. This year only 24 boats accepted the challenge, and one has to wonder why. I’d like to suggest two possible reasons, the relative impact of each varying according to one’s bias.

The first of these is the fact that the Coastal Cup is a dangerous race, and requires experience, preparation, and commitment that most skippers don't have. This substantially reduces the pool of potential participants. That pool is further reduced by the actual history of the race, which validates how tough it can be and the risks involved.

Secondly, with a fleet of only 24 boats and no established handicap limits, it is impossible for race management to form classes that are remotely competitive. One class had a PHRF handicap spread of 276 seconds per mile and, when the Pacific Cup modifications were applied, it increased to 345 spm. The 'other' class got a better deal with a Pacific Cup spread of 'only' 181 spm. The rational for one class having a handicap spread of almost twice that of the other escapes me, and is certainly worthy of an explanation. One thing is certain — it will be a very long time before I support an event that requires me to give another boat 135 spm. It's not fair to either boat.

Paul Edwards, M.D.
Wind Dancer, Catalina 42

Paul — We agree that the Coastal Cup has the potential to be more dangerous than most races on the West Coast, and that it's not for everyone. However, some years it's been a medium or even light air affair, and during years when the winds are particularly heavy, the skipper always has the option to not start or retire at any time. And make no mistake, we think there are times when it's foolish to start or continue a race. We entered Profligate in a particularly windy Heineken Regatta three years ago, and made the decision not to start one of the four races because we thought the conditions presented an unnecessarily high risk to our crew and the boat. The fact that 5 of the 19 multihulls were dismasted, incurring great expense and knocking them out of action for who knows how many months, suggested that it wasn't the worst decision we've ever made.

As for the large gaps within the classes, that's obviously undesirable, and we're sure the Encinal YC will try to remedy it in the future.


Do you know of anyone who has had problems with the Tempur-Pedic mattress on their boat? Problems such as mildew, mold, making the body sweat, and slumping where the body lies? I'd love to hear from anyone with solutions.

Gordon Cornett
Planet Earth

Gordon — We don't, but we don't spend much time talking about boat mattresses, so that may not mean much. Mildew is mold that grows in fabric when the relative humidity gets above 60%. The best way to control the growth of mold in the California coastal climate is by limiting the moisture — which can be hard, because humidity causes condensation on cold surfaces, such as sometimes can be found beneath mattresses. Lots of air circulation is important. On Profligate we have HyperVent beneath the mattresses to keep them from ever coming in contact with the fiberglass surface they sit on. So far we haven't had any mildew problems.

As for the mattress "slumping," that's outside of our area of expertise, so you should consult whomever sold you the mattress.


I enjoyed your July 11 'Lectronic about the Pyewacket controversy in the TransPac. While I have no first-hand knowledge of the facts of the matter, I personally know all the players that you mentioned. If only the rest of the media in the country wrote stories that were as even-handed as the one you wrote. My compliments.

Doug Deaver
Santa Barbara

Doug — Thanks. We tried to be as fair as we could, but if the truth be known, there are so many large gray areas and nuances that a medium-sized book — that only 11 people would be interested in reading — could be written about the subject. Our belief is that all the people involved are good and honorable, but there are any number of inherent conflicts of varying degrees, some of which can never be eliminated.


Controversy is nothing new to TransPac. Charles Ullman's Legend corrected out first in fleet in '57, and thereafter was banned for being too light. Then all through the '70s there was controversy over the Ultra Light Displacement Boats (ULDBs) and loud complaints about the penalties they were given for being so light. Many considered the Cal 40s, the most famous design ever in the TransPac, to be dangerous because of their "radical" spade rudders.

Let's face it, racing is expensive, and the people who want to win — especially the big boat people, who have money to spend — have a tendency to want to push the envelope.

One reason why the TransPac fleets have been so small in recent years was the cost of adapting to rule changes and the speed differences between cruising capable boats and the sleds. When I went in '81, we still had one fleet and one start. The numbers for the Cal 40s are down in this year's TransPac, and that's disappointing, but maybe we'll get a bigger fleet in '09. We wanted to do it this year, but couldn't get it together in time. But if you can get a big enough group, class racing is still the best racing of all.

In my opinion, Disney deserves the Barn Door Trophy for all he's done. Besides, those guys are in a different race from the rest of us anyway.

Mike Kennedy
Conquest, Cal 40 #96
Audacious, '81 TransPac

Mike — It seems to us that the most anybody can hope for is a stable rule, one that's at least reasonably fair. Of course, "reasonably fair" is always going to be subjective and the result of the success of various special interests. For example, it's easy for a race committee to skew the results by doing things like adjusting the rated distance of the course to favor some kinds of boats/over the others. We're told that's why big boats generally correct out well in the TransPac, which likes to be seen as a glamour event, while smaller boats tend to correct out well in the Pacific Cup, which likes to be seen as more of an 'everyman's' race.

Two other thoughts. We've repeatedly asked TransPac officials why they thought there was a big dip in entries a few years back, and why the last two TransPacs have had near-record entries. Nobody has a clue. As for Disney "deserving" the Barn Door Trophy for "all he's done," that's not right at all. The Barn Door Trophy should be awarded based on a boat finishing first, nothing else. By the way, as we write this at the Letters deadline, Pyewacket is two days into the race, and her speed of 1 knot indicates that she is having some serious problem. A new course record and the Barn Door Trophy seem, at this point in time, to be in jeopardy.


I read with interest all your 'Lectronics, including the one about the controversy regarding Pyewacket's entry in the TransPac. Of course, I come strongly down on the side of Disney in the dispute.

But why, I wonder, do the rules prohibit powered winches, such as are found on the 30-meter boats, and was one of the reasons they weren't allowed to race, while boats, Pyewacket included, are allowed to have 100-hp engines run continuously in order to swing their canting keels? This seems beyond ridiculous to me. Wouldn't it be a question worth debating?

Tom Perkins
Maltese Falcon

Tom — According to Pyewacket navigator Stan Honey, the only time MaxZ86s, 30-meter boats and others run their engines continuously to swing their canting keels is during around-the-buoys racing when they constantly 'trim' their keels. Because of the generally stable off-the-wind conditions in a TransPac, the keel doesn't need to be trimmed often, and therefore it can be done using battery power. How is using battery power to adjust the keel any different than using battery power to drive the winches that adjust the sails? It isn't.

Some knowledgeable observers, notably Matthew Sheehan of Yachting World, have long been troubled by the double standard. But if all the owners of the glamour boats agree that that is the rule they want to play by, what are race committees to do? It's our understanding that 30-meter boats will be allowed to use power winches in the next Bermuda Race.


I just received a tax bill for my rented boat slip in the Martinez Marina. I called the Contra Costa County Assessor's Office to find out what was going on. From what I understand, there is a law, possibly fairly new, that allows the county to tax us slip renters for the portion of the marina property that we are using! Apparently, they can do this because they can't tax the city of Martinez. I'm not a resident of Martinez, but even residents of that city who have boats in the marina have to pay it. The tax monies don't go to the city of Martinez, but rather Contra Costa County. The Assessor's Office told me that there is a similar tax on berths in the Pittsburg Marina and Alameda County's Berkeley Marina.

I feel that I'm being taxed unfairly, as I already pay property tax on my house and boat, which I own. Why should I have to pay tax on a slip that I rent? The owner of the marina should have to pay it. To my thinking, this is robbery, double-dipping, and abuse of the power we give our counties to tax us. Public property can't and shouldn't be taxed.

Mark Johnson
Tanglefoot, Balboa 26
Martinez Marina

Mark — We didn't realize they could institute such a tax, but the reality is that every level of government is going to tax as much as they can at every opportunity they can. If they didn't, how would they be able to provide 'we the people' with all the wonderfully efficient and effective programs they do? And please, don't give us any smart-ass comments about things like the 30 prison guards who made over $100,000 in overtime alone last year.


This is a copy of a letter I sent to Gary Salvo, because I think more people should know what's going on at the Golden Gate YC:

"I just wanted to let you know how much all of us participants appreciate all that the Golden Gate YC does to put on the Friday Night Beer Can series. Nine races for just $90, plus trophies after every race — what a bargain! And dinner is available, too. Of course, it would be nice if more boats showed up. Perhaps next year the races should be strictly non-spinnaker to encourage more participants. We did the first race with a chute, but since not many other boats used them, didn't for the second race. But then the 1D35 showed up with a chute, so we had to defend ourselves — particularly since one of our crew is friends with a young lady on the 1D35. But to tell the truth, we have more yuks racing without the chute.

Chris Boome
One Trick Pony, J/105
San Francisco

Readers — We think all the clubs hosting beer can series do a great job, offering some of the most fun and perhaps the biggest bang for the sailing buck. We salute them all!


As a long-time racer who has just scaled down to a small yawl, I was wondering if the Bay sailors with split-rig boats — yawls, ketches, schooners — had any interest in creating an informal class similar to the SF30 group. We could use existing PHRF ratings, but try to get our own class for starts and scoring at the more popular events. Other activities could be developed if there was enough interest. Hopefully, this would encourage more people with traditional rigs to get out there and race in something other than the Master Mariners Regatta. Anyone interested can email me.

Todd Craig
Vixen, Custom Island Packet Yawl


It's fascinating that Alinghi, having just won the 32nd America's Cup, has already mounted their first defensive tactic of the 33rd Cup by announcing it will be sailed in new 90-footers, the parameters of which they won't release for many months.
The Cup has gone through many of these cycles, as Defenders have found creative ways to try to hold on to the Cup. But this year, the sailing world was blessed with a most extraordinary show of the Cup at its best, as it was a test of sailors rather than technology, and the results were memorable. But it looks like we'll now return to the dominance of the designers, as the players fine tune yet another ‘rule’, much as they did when the 12s were retired. It could be a great opportunity for the likes of a Bill Koch to once again gather a killer design team. You might recall that Dennis Conner taunted him by saying, "My grandmother could win with that [your] boat!” while approaching an upwind mark against Kaanza.

John McNeill
San Francisco

John — It might have seemed like it was a sailor's Cup, but Alinghi's Brad Butterworth insists that it was a "designer's Cup" this time around.

We were thrilled at the announcement that there will be new America's Cup boats because, as exciting as this Cup was, a lot of it had to do with — as was frequently pointed out by commentator Peter Isler — the surprising number of tactical and other mistakes made by both teams. It seems to us there was nothing about the boats themselves that was particularly exciting, at least in a Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-flying-along-at-35-knots-in-the-Volvo-Race kind of way. However, if Alinghi dictates the right kind of design parameters, and the Cup is moved to Cascais, Portugal, where it regularly blows in the high 20s and low 30s, the America's Cup could see some unprecedented excitement. If that were to happen, not only would the crews wet their pants, but all the spectators would, too.

Update: The above response was written before Larry Ellison and Oracle challenged the Spanish Challenge, and are seeking to force the 33rd America's Cup to be held next July in 90-ft by 90-ft trimarans.


In your review of the America's Cup, you said that four billion of the world's six-and-a-half billion people watched the America's Cup on television. Are we sure that four billion people even have access to a television, much less interest in the America's Cup? Despite my nit-picking, your 'Lectronic review of the event was great.

Edward Killeen
Planet Earth

Edward — According to America's Cup officials, "the 32nd America’s Cup has been the largest, most open and widely accessible America’s Cup in 156 years of history. Over six million people have visited its venues, and its television footage has reached four billion viewers." We don't know exactly what "has reached" means, but there was television coverage in 150 countries, including seemingly unlikely places such as Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and the Gaza Strip, Syria, Ajman, Dubai, Fuairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharijah, Umm al-Quwain, Yemen, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Djibouti, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia — and on and on. Even Al Jezeera carried America's Cup coverage, presumably interspersed with Top Fifty Terrorist Bombings shows. It's such a wacky world that it wouldn't surprise us if Al-Qaeda didn't field an entry in the next Cup.


During the winter here in Australia, it's always great to read about what's going on in the United States. Latitude's coverage of the recent America's Cup has been great, but being an Aussie, I noticed one small error in your always-interesting and appreciated publication. You mentioned that Dennis Conner beat the Kiwis to reclaim the Cup in '87. Actually, it was us, the Aussies, that he and his crew thrashed.

Brian Hansen

Brian — Thanks for the correction.


Regarding the cover of the May issue of Latitude that I referred to in a letter you published and commented on, I admit that it was a clumsy attempt to use a bit of silly humor to get you to see the cover as I saw it — unnecessarily suggestive and, on the skipper's part, disgracefully negligent.

Latitude frequently uses titillating imagery. For example, see the expression on the face of the woman holding the electronic devices in the Sightings photo in the June issue. And, in the Letters section, the picture of the three women who are naked from the waist up with their backs to the camera. I think stuff like that is in bad taste. Even worse, it's counterproductive from the viewpoint of mature women who might otherwise read your magazine. Why can't you — with sensitivity and intelligence — promote the joy of activities on the water that includes the interests of all ages of women? And while you're at it, show male skippers, who make life on a small boat an extension of their immature egos, how to behave so as to include women in the enjoyment.

But the most serious problem with the May cover was that it displayed recklessness on the part of the skipper, as he allowed a woman to pose in a dangerous position on a sailboat underway. The model was barefoot, standing on a sailbag and a safety line, holding on with just one hand, and not wearing a safety harness or PFD. The message, to me, a member of the older generation, is that you, as the boat's skipper, were much more interested in a sexy picture than in prudent, seamanlike behavior. Hence, my silly suggestion that, once again, I regret.

Based on your editorial remarks, it seems to me that Latitude prefers not to be associated with readers and contributors of the '50s era and earlier. Well, copy that. Unless I hear from you that this is another of my misperceptions, I wish you good luck and goodbye.

Lyn Reynolds
San Jose

Lyn — Titillation is obviously in the eye of the beholder, because we have no idea what kind of problem you could possibly have with the expression on Olivia's face when she was holding up the various phones for the June Sightings photo. It's just a smile for, god's sake! By the way, we'd never met Olivia before she joined Profligate for the last Ha-Ha, and she turned out to be terrific crew both for us and the family she joined after the Ha-Ha. Having grown up in the Bay Area but now living in Manhattan, Olivia is an educated, sophisticated adventurer who was happy to pose, and picked out the photo you so object to. If someone tried hard enough, we suppose they could be titillated by the expressions of the faces of the underwear models in a Sears catalog, but we think that would be an individual problem.

Latitude is about sailing, not men's sailing or women's sailing. We can't remember the last time we ran a gender specific article, and don't see any reason to start now. After all, what role on a boat is limited to one gender? On Profligate, we do all the cooking, often seen as a woman's job, while Doña de Mallorca is in charge of the engines, watermaker and other systems, often seen as a man's job. Gender specific roles on boats are rubbish And even though we cook, don't ever expect to see any recipes in Latitude.

The worst thing one can do in any endeavour is try to please everyone, so we just produce the best sailing magazine we can, and let the chips fall where they may. If "mature women" don't like Latitude — something we know to generally be untrue — there are many other sailing publications and websites they can choose from. Good for them and the magazines they prefer. If, on the other hand, some "mature women" pass over certain items in Latitude they don't particularly care for — similar to the way some non-racers often pass over racing articles — good for them and us, too. It's called freedom of choice, and it's a very good thing.

Were we trying to get a semi-sexy photo for the cover? Of course! Were we being reckless in doing so? Absolutely not. Indeed, we'll bet you a quarter that Lisa and the dozen or so other people who were on the boat at the time would howl at the intimation that we were doing anything dangerous.


It appears that the city of San Leandro is very seriously considering closing the San Leandro Marina. The key issue is dredging expenses, as the city bears the entire cost of dredging most of the harbor as well as the cost of disposing the spoils from the federal dredging of the channel. At present, it appears that the only privatization proposal they've figured in is a 2004 proposal from Pacific Marina, which would have left the dredging responsibility to the city.

My gut reaction is that San Leandro has carefully destroyed support for the marina by not keeping up with dredging recently, which has pushed the occupancy down to about 50%. The city says they have no current plans to dredge and, while dredging isn't easy, they make it sound harder than it is. Although there is a long entrance channel to the San Leandro Marina, it's still one of the largest marinas in the Bay and, in my humble opinion, is a valuable resource for South Bay Boating.

For those interested, there's a lot of detail at Included are links to several PDF files, notably including a June 12 presentation with significant detail on financial and occupancy issues, a couple of May 22 reports with dredging details, and — the kicker — a March 20 report which resurrects a 1993 plan to seal the harbor mouth and use the resulting lagoon for rowing, dinghy sailing and houseboats.

The bottom line appears to be that the city believes the annualized dredging cost to be about $1 million going forward. (They are, of course, ignoring the fact that closing it would still leave them with around $600,000 in annual debt expense for the outstanding harbor loans, as well as $325,000 in otherwise unexplained "intrafund charges" [612RPT2, slide 28].) They also project another $600,000 or so per year for facilities replacement, including new restroom/shower facilities, new marina office and fuel dock upgrades. It did not appear to me that they considered the financial impacts of increased occupancy, were they able to support it, in their calculations.

Eric Artman


Thanks for the update in the June issue regarding Fantasia and the Swedberg family (especially Krista) from Santa Cruz. They were a BIG part of what kept us looking on the bright side after our electrical meltdown the night after the start of last year's Ha-Ha. They were coming through Ensenada just as we were 're-starting' the leg to Turtle Bay, so we buddy-boated on the way south. Thanks in great part to them we enjoyed a fantastic one-week layover while we all waited for the last hurricane of the season to decide which way it was going to go.

We were really bummed out we couldn't stay with the Ha-Ha, and Carole was especially disappointed at not being in PV with the other boats from Sacramento in time to celebrate her birthday. Krista to the rescue! Krista baked a cake and the Swedberg kids invited several other cruising kids over to their boat for a birthday party. We celebrated Carole's birthday with Arctic Willow and Sassona from Canada, Croque from French Polynesia, as well as Fantasia. In fact that was just the beginning of Krista's baking. Our families had Thanksgiving together just before we continued south, and Krista and her sister Julie made pies from scratch for the occasion.

We kept in contact with them through Christmas, Easter and even as they were starting to head back up the coast, but then we got too far into the Sea of Cortez, where it's hard to hear people checking in on the morning net.

I remember how hard it was to say goodbye to them when we first parted after Bahia Santa Maria but it wasn't long before we found them anchored off La Cruz. What a great experience it is to greet friends again­ — just like our cruising friends had told us.

So many friendships form, and truly wonder-filled experiences happen, when you least expect it. Everybody who is out cruising, whether for one season or indefinitely, can tell you an endless litany of stories like this.

Just a year ago we were selling the house and getting ready to move onto Espiritu. We ended up doing our shakedown cruise on the way south. Since that time, we have run the gamut of extreme joy to "Let's get rid of this damn thing." Espiritu is now on the hard in San Carlos, and we are already talking about what to take down in a couple months for our second season.
If there's one message I'd pass on to anyone who is thinking about taking off but isn't sure, it'd be this: If your health is good, but you just haven't got all the 'bugs' worked out of the boat yet, GO ANYWAY. You can work out the 'bugs' along the way. What you'll learn if you stay home is just more of what you already know. If you go, doors you didn't even know existed will open to amazing people and experiences, and you too will wonder why you took so long to cast off the lines.

I have included a photo of Espiritu at anchor in Turtle Bay, with only a dozen boats in the whole bay. Please note our Baja Ha-Ha flag is flying. While we were there, a few boats came through on their way north after the rally. We logged in with the harbormaster in Cabo as the last boat to finish.

Richard, a special thanks to you, your 'rag' and the Ha-Ha crew for all you have done to make cruising so accessible, safe and fun! Also a big thanks to all those who helped us along the way! If we can take a turn at helping somebody else, we'd be happy to.

Pat & Carole McIntosh
Espiritu, Hunter 430

Readers — Just to make sure everyone understands, this letter, like all the other letters that say favorable things about the Ha-Ha, was unsolicited.


'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2014 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.