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October 2007

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Today, while 300 miles east of the Chagos Archipelago, we had way too much excitement with an Indian bulk freighter. As always, things like this happen when squalls are imminent and we need to get the spinnaker down.

Fortunately, during the past cyclone season I bought and installed a Sitex stand-alone Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, which alerts us to the approach of, and identifies, nearby ships. The alarm went off showing that there was a ship 12 miles away, long before we'd have been able to see her with our eyes. Heeding the alarm, we got the spinnaker down and a jib out. By the time we were done, we could see a freighter coming out of the rain at a distance of five miles, heading right for us. Our AIS never showed a name for the ship, but gave a course, 233 degrees, and speed, 15.4 knots. So I hailed the ship on VHF, saying we were the sailing catamaran Mystic Rhythms calling the freighter doing 15 knots on a heading of 233 degrees. Someone finally answered on my third try and asked what we wanted.

I told him that he was headed for us — at which point he asked where we were! He requested a bearing, so I gave him the one from us to him. I could hear him talking to someone on the bow using a handheld VHF, telling the guy to look for a boat four points off his starboard bow. I had to call the captain back and give him the bearing from him to us, and tell him to look off his port bow!

Eventually he said that he could see us and would alter course. I asked him what the closest point of approach would be. He didn't understand me, so I asked him how close his radar indicated he would come to us. He said he didn't have that information because he didn't have the radar on! Are we to suppose he has power issues on his ship like we do on a small boat? Somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, he altered course and passed 1.3 miles behind us. If he hadn't altered course, we might have had to take some serious evasive measures. If we'd been singlehanding — as many folks do out here — we may have just gone missing.

I have a triradial radar reflector, and I know that it works because other ships have seen us from as far away as 19 miles. A fat lot of good that does if the crew of the ship isn't using their radar. I guess the best thing a small boat sailor can have out here is an AIS transmitter as well as a receiver, but they cost too much and draw too much power. An AIS receiver alone is about $500. They are a bit of a pain to install, because you need a separate VHF antenna, and it must be at least three feet from any transmitting antenna. There goes the top-of-the-mast idea. I had to rail-mount mine, but it still usually works out to about 16 miles in calm seas, or about 12 miles in a little rougher stuff.

My Sitex brand AIS is pretty nice, but needs to have a few major bugs addressed. For example, it has what looks like a mini GPS display that is north up, not your heading up. Unlike most GPS units, the back lighting can't be dimmed, so it's too bright at night. But the worst bug is that sometimes, after a ship is detected, it just vanishes off the screen — even if it's gotten closer! I hate that bug, but at least the first warning does trip the alarm so you can turn on your radar to start searching if you can't see him with your naked eye. The alarm isn't very loud, however, which means that you can't play your boat stereo very loud. I emailed these suggestions to Sitex, but never got a response. Still, at times this unit is worth its weight in gold to get exact information — name, heading, speed, and distance from you — about ships in your area. And because ours is just a receiver, it uses very little power.

We stand watches 24 hours a day, nonetheless, and this AIS unit does add a bit of extra security out here. If the ship is transmitting its name as well, it makes hailing them very easy, and we almost always get a response. Sometimes all you get is the ship's DSC, a number which would take forever to enter into the VHF to hail them. One thing we've learned is that smaller ships in this part of the world don't have AIS transmitters, so by all means, don't rely on such units completely.

By the way, I have owned three monohulls and three multihulls. To be honest, I can't imagine doing what I'm doing now on a monohull. But it all comes down to what you can afford — and multihulls do cost more — and what sacrifices you are willing to make to get out here.

Richard Clack
Mystic Rhythms, Catana 44
Alameda / Indian Ocean

Richard — A very informative report, thank you. But AIS receivers can be found for much less than $500. Milltech Marine, for example, advertises that their receivers start at $189.


I'm responding to Latitude's response to Pete Malloy of New York, who wondered how sailing would be different if he brought his boat to San Francisco Bay from Long Island Sound. While I agree with Latitude that there are a limited number of places for one to enjoy daytrips on the Bay, you forgot to mention that there are several nice places here in Marin for folks with boats to daytrip. For instance, you can sail up to and dock at the Seafood Peddler restaurant in San Rafael, enjoy a lovely lunch or early dinner, and then head back to your home port on the Bay. Or you could continue further up the Bay and dock in downtown Petaluma as well. And let's not forget about beautiful Sausalito and Tiburon. So while it's true that San Francisco Bay isn't dotted with islands like the Eastern seaboard, there are still lovely daytrips to be enjoyed.

Terri Thornton
San Rafael

Terri — At the beginning of each season, we publish a guide to sailing in Northern California, and we usually include the places you mention and many more. And while it's nice to be a 'homer', we've got a greater obligation to the truth. The truth is that while you can have lots of fun sailing to those places on the Bay, comparing them to Long Island Sound, Block Island, Newport, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket is about as ridiculous as saying the weather in the Northeast is as good as it is in Northern California.


My friend and I have enjoyed many a nice lunch while anchored in Clipper Cove aboard his Sabre 34. But lately, I've noticed that the opening of the cove has seemed to become more silted, so if it's low tide, it can be hard to find a channel deep enough to navigate in. The charts and GPS maps seem to be out of date. Does anyone know of any current and accurate charts, or have helpful hints to prevent running aground?

And, is there any chance that someone might put channel markers in? I suppose that channel markers aren't going to happen because the cove is a jurisdictional 'no-man's land'.

Bob Wills
Santa Rosa

Readers — Sightings Editor LaDonna Bubak reports having good luck hugging the Navy pier when turning into the basin, then heading straight for TISC's docks before veering into the anchorage.

Maybe some of our readers know where the deepest water is going in. Of course, the most fun option would be to go there on a very high tide, take your own soundings, and make your own chart.

The departed Navy is still in charge of Clipper Cove, so don't expect any channel markers soon.


In the last issue, "Frustrated Boater" wrote you to criticize the mentality of those who are "squatting" with their boats at Clipper Cove, taking up the prime but limited space from recreational boaters and occasional overnighters. After speaking with some of them, F.B. said — and I'm paraphrasing — that their view was that "all waterways should be free for all" and "we got here first . . . too bad for you." Accordingly, he concluded that one couldn't reason with that type mentality.

Your response was "the problem is not so much the liveaboard gang, but crap government," claiming that jurisdictional issues — the Navy having withdrawn — and alleged Coast Guard ambivalence were the culprits.

You've got it wrong! Blaming law enforcement for the public's bad behavior conveniently overlooks the concept of personal responsibility. It's like saying that people who drive irresponsibly or unsafely do so because the CHP doesn't do an effective job of monitoring motorist behavior. No, they are just dangerous, inconsiderate drivers, period.

What makes a civilized society is for individuals to, indeed, satisfy their own needs, but also participate constructively and compassionately as a member of a larger community — in this case, the boating community. "Frustrated Boater" had it right: they are inconsiderate and unreasonable boaters, period.

John Gordon
Los Altos

John — We couldn't agree with you more about the importance of personal responsibility. In our view, the greatest failing of education and U.S. culture since the '60s has been the overwhelming emphasis on personal rights and freedoms, and the complete absence of any instruction on the critical importance of personal responsibility. A person can be free as a bird and exercise his/her rights to the hilt, and still be a failure as an individual, parent and member of society. But that can't be true of someone who truly takes responsibility for their decisions and actions.

That said, we couldn't disagree with you more about who is to blame for the situation in Clipper Cove. There are a number of places similar to it along the coast of California — La Playa Cove in San Diego, the free anchorage in Newport Beach, Cat Harbor in Catalina, and east of Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara just to name of few. While they are all similar to Clipper Cove and each other, they have very different regulations. At La Playa Cove, it's 72 hours and you have to get a permit first. At the free anchorage in Newport, it's also 72 hours, and while you don't have to get a permit, you're supposed to have someone aboard at all times. At Cat Harbor it's two weeks. Far enough east of Stearns Wharf, you can stay as long as you want. The point is that there is absolutely no consensus about how long a person can 'responsibly' stay in a given anchorage.

Indeed, you and F.B. seem to assume that all responsible mariners have 'normal' lives, meaning they work during the week and get to enjoy their boats on weekends and a couple of weeks straight in the summer. But that's a very restricted vision. What about people who have worked hard all their lives, are retired, and would like to spend a month or two on the hook at a place like Clipper Cove? Or somebody who might want to just sit on the hook for a summer and meditate to the drone of the cars on the bridge above? We don't think either of those would necessarily be unreasonable uses of the anchorage.

In our view, it's the role of government to set regulations for various anchorages, hopefully based on lots of stakeholder feedback, and then enforce those regulations. To have rules without enforcement will not necessarily lead to chaos, but it's a hell of an invitation. By the way, it's estimated that 10,000 automobile deaths a year in the U.S. are a result of the government doing an inadequate job of monitoring bad driving habits. This is based on the fact that speed cameras have reduced highway deaths by 33% in the United Kingdom, 21% in Sweden, 24% in Denmark, 31% in Queensland, and 50% in Victoria, Australia. Since San Francisco has installed cameras at intersections to catch people who run red lights, the number of pedestrian deaths and injuries has dropped by about one-third. On the other hand, after 32 states in the U.S. raised their top speed limit to 75 mph, highway fatalities have risen 38%. Based on those numbers, wouldn't you agree that government indifference to reckless and irresponsible driving has been a major cause of far too many innocent deaths?

The situation in Clipper Cove is convoluted, of course, because all boats that use that cove without the permission of the Navy — and none of them have it — are technically in violation of the law. In our view, this state of limbo, which has been going on for many years, is just another example of, yes, crap government. The Coast Guard called to say they were going to send us a letter for publication explaining why they supposedly couldn't do anything about the 'squatting' boats in Clipper Cove. Unfortunately, it apparently never got written. That's a shame, for we were eager to learn why they believe they are powerless to cite and/or seize boats that can't pass safety checks and/or aren't registered with either the state or federal government.

Flash! After we went to press, the Coast Guard sent us a letter about the situation at Clipper Cove. Look for it in the November 1 edition of Latitude 38.


Syren, our J/160, is the 64th boat signed up for this year's Baja Ha-Ha. Can you tell us about Temporary Import Permits (TIP) and if they are required? How can I do the paperwork?

Joseph Christian
Syren, J/160
Newport, Oregon

Joseph — Temporary Import Permits allow you to keep your boat in Mexico for longer than a normal six-month personal tourist visa, legally allowing you to return to the States without your boat. They cost about $55 and are good for 10 years, so we encourage everyone to get one. While it's sometimes possible to get a TIP online, we think it's more fun and culturally more interesting to get one in Cabo at the end of the Ha-Ha. Too busy to get one in Cabo? No sweat, just pick one up in La Paz, Mazatlan or another port of entry. This is nothing to worry about.


I'm sure this has been answered in Latitude 48 before, but I don't recall seeing it in my 10 years of reading your magazine. According to Rains' Mexico Boating Guide, if you don't want to clear into Mexico until Cabo San Lucas, you cannot stop at Puerto San Carlos in Mag Bay. And if you are boarded or have trouble down the Baja coast and haven't cleared in, you are technically in violation of the law. So are we talking speeding ticket-type violation here, or a few days in the slammer? As one of the approximately 200 boats planning on going straight from San Diego to Cabo, am I the only one concerned about this?

M. Jones

M. — Yes, you are the only one concerned about it. You need to clear into Mexico at your first port of entry, be it Ensenada, Cedros Island, San Carlos in Mag Bay, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta or any of the others. So if you stop at San Carlos, which is a port of entry in Mexico, on the way to Cabo San Lucas, you indeed have to clear in. But what would be the problem with that? As for going straight from San Diego to Cabo, what do you think all the participants in the various Mexican races do, stop at some port of entry along the way, sprint around to all the government offices to clear in, then rush back to their boats to reset their chutes?

What happens if you stop somewhere along the Baja coast that isn't a port of entry — such as Turtle Bay or Bahia Santa Maria — before clearing into Mexico? Nothing. We base this on the fact that we've done that for 14 out of the last 15 years with our own boats, and in over 30 years of covering cruising in Mexico, we have never heard of anyone who did it having a problem.

Anchoring along the coast of Baja before you've cleared into the country may or may not be a technical violation, but if it is, it would be right up there with ripping that 'Do Not Remove' sticker off your mattress. "Tickets? Days in the slammer?" If you haven't been to Mexico by boat before there is no way for you to know, but you're being way too paranoid. Mexico loves maritime tourists because they are by nature friendly and because we bring so much money into their economy. As such, as long as you don't behave like an ass, expect officials to treat you as a welcome guest, not a potential target.


There was an article in the July/August issue of Canada's Pacific Yachting magazine that said all U.S. boats that use a VHF radio in Canadian waters have to have a Ship Station License. It said such licenses were good for 10 years, and cost $160. Is this true? Would the licensing requirement also apply to U.S. boats traveling to Mexico?

Alan Hughes
Hopefully a Lagoon or Leopard
Vancouver, WA

Alan — All U.S. flagged vessels with SSB radios aboard, as well as all U.S. flagged vessels with any transmitting equipment aboard while in foreign waters, must have a Ship Station License. And yes, it costs $160 and is good for 10 years — or until you sell your boat. The license is non-transferable.

But wait, like they say on TV, there's more! Mariners operating marine SSB radios in foreign waters must also have a Restricted Radio Operator's License. This no-exam license covers the individual for any marine radio installation. It costs another $65, but at least is good for a lifetime.

We know all this stuff because we had an inkling that our old Ship Station License had expired about 10 years ago, and thought it would be nice to be legal in time for late October's Ha-Ha XIV. A Ship Station License will consist of three letters and four numbers that become your call sign. Our new one is WDD9575 — pretty snappy, don't you think? If you're going to have SailMail on your boat, your call sign will become your SailMail address, too.

We had Gordon West's Radio School process all the licensing for us because it can be a pain and some of it can get a little tricky. They also make sure that your EPIRB is registered and that you get your nine-digit MMSI number for your DSC-capable VHF and SSB radios. The Radio School charges fees for both licenses, and while we're normally pretty flinty, we thought it well worth the expense to get it done right and in just a day or so. Contact the school at 714-549-5000 for details about what's needed and the costs. This is Whiskey Delta Delta Nine Five Seven Five — clear!


We got a kick from reading in 'Lectronic Latitude about the problems Profligate's crew had when trying to weigh anchor — as well as two other anchors, a cinder block, two types of chain and three types of line — at Cat Harbor, Catalina. It reminded us of a similar problem.

In July of '05, we were anchored at Long Harbor on Ganges Island, British Columbia, having spent a great Canada Day with friends at the Royal Vancouver YC. We timed our departure the next day to hit slack water at Active Pass so we could continue on to Howe Sound. If you haven’t cruised in the Pacific Northwest, you may not realize how critical it is to transit these passes at the right time. If you don't, it can be hair-raising.

So at 8 a.m. we weighed anchor — or at least tried to. What chain we could bring up was very muddy, so Mary worked the windlass while I went at the chain with a special brush we'd made. It's actually three scrub brushes mounted on a triangular holder that fits on the end of a boat pole. When I work the device up and down the chain at water level, it really scrubs the mud off.

But halfway up, we found a rusty, shellfish-encrusted bicycle — complete with basket — entangled in our chain. How, we wondered, were we going to get the bike off? If the dinghy was still in the water, it would have been easy, but we'd already stowed it. And if we brought the bike up on our chain, we'd scratch the hull of our lovely boat.
First we tried to dislodge the bike with our boat hook, but the bike was so heavy that it kinked the pole's tubing! Then we pulled the bike just close enough so that, if I got down on my stomach, I could just reach it. Our chain was wrapped pretty tightly around one of the bike pedals, but after 15 minutes of huffing and puffing, we finally got the bike off the chain. After that, the anchor came right up.

If anyone wants an old bike, it's probably still there. Anyway, we still made it to Active Pass before things got too gnarly.

Bill Finkelstein & Mary Mack
Raptor Dance, Valiant 50
Paradise Village Marina, Nuevo Vallarta


We had our anchor raising problem just outside the entrance to San Francisco's South Beach Harbor. At the time, we were doing anchoring practice for our American Sailing Association BBC certification under the tutelage of Leslie Waters of Spinnaker Sailing.

When it came time to raise the anchor, there was a tremendous strain on the line, and initially we thought the flukes of the Danforth were just dug really deeply in the mud. We tried motoring over the hook to break it free, but that didn't work. Then, while hauling in the rode, we noticed that we were drifting downwind! How could it be that we couldn't get the hook up but were still able to use our engine to motor clear of other boat traffic?

By this time we were tired, wet, and frustrated. We started throwing rolling hitches on the rode, then tried to winch the anchor up using the primaries. When the chain finally appeared, there was another mystery — it was covered in mud. As we brought more up, the decks were not a pretty site. After an hour, the situation was bleak. The three of us were soaked in perspiration and covered in mud, the decks were wasted — and we still didn't have the hook up!

When the anchor finally broke the surface, we immediately saw the problem — it had snagged an old two-inch diameter steel cable. Ugh! No wonder we couldn't get it up, but could still move around — the anchor was sliding along the cable! Judging from the angles, the piece of cable was at least 100 yards in length. Whoever said things are easier to lift in water wasn't aboard with us that evening.

John Ryan
Pursuit, Beneteau 310


Speaking of pulling stuff up from the bottom with one's anchor, last summer I noticed a Hans Christian dragging anchor in Great Salt Pond at Block Island, Rhode Island. Nobody was aboard, but I was able to get to her before she went aground. Imagine my surprise when I got the hook to the surface and noticed it had been fouled on an outboard motor! I managed to snap this photo just before the Evinrude fell off.

Doug Gould
Water Torture, Marine Trader trawler
Block Island, Rhode Island


In the early '80s, I was the engineer aboard a classic 110-ft 1930s motoryacht. We were running charters along the coast of Turkey but, because of the laws back then, had to pick up and drop off our 'guests' in Rhodes, Greece, which is just a stone's throw from Turkey.

If you've ever visited the old harbor at Rhodes, you will know how tight things get, and that the bigger motoryachts drop an anchor, then back in to stern-tie to the quay. There is a protocol — first in, last out — amongst captains that enables everyone to squeeze in for the night. The smaller sailboats do the same, but across the narrow harbor on the other side of the seawall.

We were the first to leave at daybreak and, as engineer, my job was to stand by in the engine room until we got full ahead. Then, while the bow anchor was being hauled in, I was to assist the bosun on the back deck coiling docklines and taking in the fenders. As I came up on deck that morning, I couldn't help but notice that we had a vessel 'in tow'. She was similar to a Catalina 27 and flying a German flag. As we towed the boat backwards, a nude and irate German national came out of the companionway and began shouting obscenities at us. And why not, as we were pulling his small boat backwards out of the harbor entrance at 10 knots.

With our stern wake about to break over the little boat's transom, I ran up to the bridge to inform the captain that we had a German following us. "Don't worry," the captain replied, "we won the war!" Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

What had happened is that the German sailor had come in late at night, tied to the seawall, then dropped his anchor on top of ours. When we left, the poor guy was asleep, only to be awoken at the sound of us pulling the bow cleats off his boat.

Mike Wilson

Mike — We visited Rhodes Harbor with Big O back in the mid-'90s — long after the famous Colossus that supposedly spanned the entrance was gone — and yes, we know exactly how tight things can get there. Even when it seemed like there wasn't even room for another small boat, some guy with an 80-ft motorsailor would drop his hook, put his boat in reverse, and back toward your bow at ramming speed, gesturing wildly and hollering stuff in some foreign language. It was very exciting. You either made room for him or resigned yourself to an extensive bow repair. Once that guy made it in, about three more even larger boats would do the exact same thing. Sailors in California and Mexico have no idea how tame and civilized things are here compared to the Med.


I'm in a quandary. BoatUS has said they are going to cancel our boat insurance policy just because I inquired about having another non-owner partner listed on the insurance policy. It's clear to me that many boatowners have partners who pay a certain amount of money — often just enough to help cover monthly expenses. In fact, many of them advertise in Latitude. Yet it seems as if it's almost impossible to get insurance coverage. The brokers and other firms we've contacted act as though we're criminals when we ask them about it. And BoatUS certainly treated us unfairly — a matter I plan to take up with the California Department of Insurance.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if you have any advice for me, as I'm perplexed as to what others do. Surely other boatowners in these arrangements don't expose themselves to the legal risks associated with having uninsured partners. But like I say, the insurance companies are treating us like we have the pox, saying that we're running a commercial operation. But as a licensed sailing instructor for one of the major sailing schools in the Bay Area, I clearly know the difference between having a casual partner and running a presumably for-profit business.

Paul Jones
Om, Catalina 320
South Beach Harbor

Paul — We hate to not necessarily agree with you, but when you say that you clearly know the difference between having a "casual partner" and "running a business," we're not sure that there is one. That's particularly true when you refer to "another non-owner partner." How many do you have and/or do you want? When you talk of more than one, it certainly begins to walk and talk like a business, albeit a small one.

Further, your concept of a "non-owner partner" seems a bit like an oxymoron. Sort of like an 'unmarried spouse'. By definition you can't be a partner in something you don't own a part of.

We presume that there are indeed boatowners around the Bay who have people — usually trusted long-time friends — who contribute money to help offset boat expenses in exchange for use of their boat. There probably wouldn't be any problem as long as: 1) No claims are made, or 2) If a claim had to be made, everybody involved stayed absolutely mum about money having changed hands on a regular basis. After all, at least some policies allow for people other than the owner to use the boat without the owner onboard. But if there ever was a claim, and the insurance company found out that a significant amount of money had been paid on a regular basis in return for the use of the boat, there could be big problems. Indeed, if the claim involved a serious injury or even death, it could be financially catastrophic.

As we understand the Coast Guard regulations, people are allowed to contribute money toward the expenses of a sailing adventure and not be "paying passengers" as long as the money contributed isn't in excess of the boat expenses. (The concept of boat expenses isn't explained, so it's unclear if they are limited only to expenses specific to that one adventure or if it could also include prorated amounts of annual expenses of such things as boat payments, slip fees, insurance, the annual haul out and so forth.) But just because the Coast Guard might view it that way doesn't necessarily mean that your insurance company — and for that matter, the IRS — would do the same.

We don't claim to have any expertise in this area other than to know that it could be very tricky and sticky, so we urge you not to proceed without expert legal advice. As for going to the California Department of Insurance, if you already have one 'non-owner partner', we don't think they are going to look positively on your complaint.


I'm trying to find the paperwork necessary to form a partnership on a boat and mooring, as well as whatever other documentation I might need to take care of. Where can I get such forms? I'm in the process of buying out my partner in a Newport 28, and would like to protect myself. Currently, my partner and I only have a verbal agreement.

Thomas R. Hill
Central California

Thomas — It's a little confusing, as you seem to be saying that you're trying to form a partnership at the same time you're trying to buy out a partner. If you're buying out a partner, the important things to do are get a bill of sale signed by both of you and witnessed, have him/her sign off on the pink slip for the boat, then get the boat registered in your name with the DMV. It's just like a car for state registered boats. If you're taking on a new partner, you'll want to write up a partnership agreement, then register the boat with the DMV, either in both your names or in the name of the partnership.

Buying a mooring would be a completely separate transaction, so you'd need a different bill of sale from whomever or whatever entity owns the mooring and/or the land that it's on. Make sure it's a legal mooring, however, or you may be paying for something that is potentially worth nada.

We're not aware of any forms specific to boat partnerships, but you can find the basic elements of any partnership agreement on the Internet. When it comes to boat partnerships, you — and your partner — are best served by a written rather than verbal agreement.


Our cruising story began in Colorado three years ago, and I think a short recap would be illuminating for other new or soon-to-be cruisers. The impetus was when my future husband's mom gave him a gift of sailing lessons on Lake Dillon at Breckenridge. My future husband was immediately hooked, as it gave him something new to master. All he needed then was a girl and a scheme to combine his love of travel and his new interest in sailing. Little did we know that it would eventually lead to us getting involved in a potentially very sticky on-the-water personal injury situation with authorities in Mexico.

Before I get ahead of myself, the summer after the sailing lessons, Matt and I began to dream about being married, buying a boat, and sailing off into the sunset. There were obstacles, of course. First, we'd only sailed on a lake in Colorado, which isn't really an adequate primer for sailing on the open ocean. Secondly, we needed money. That second problem was easy to solve. In addition to our 40-hour-a-week jobs, Matt as a mechanical engineer and myself as a veterinarian's assistant, we took on second jobs. Matt tended bar and I did janitorial work. Did I mention that we were very motivated to quit our jobs, sell our stuff, and just go for it?

We got married, picked up our new-to-us Catalina 36 Soñadora in San Diego, and began acquiring ocean sailing experience. Our first trip was a short one, to Mission Bay, but we still got sick. But we kept learning with every 'baby step' up the coast. That was all fine and good, but we needed a guideline for our next phase — a cruise south to Mexico. We found it by signing up for the '06 Baja Ha-Ha. Since that event wouldn't start for six months, we found an expensive slip in Dana Point — nothing was available in San Diego — and worked on building up our cruising kitty. We also worked to further develop our cruising skills, sailing to Catalina a number of times, circumnavigating it once, and doing a cruise up to the Channel Islands.

Although we didn't have a ton of offshore experience, we were ready to sail to Cabo on our own, so that qualified us for the Ha-Ha. Going on the Ha-Ha was important, too, because we just had to get a couple of those neon Ha-Ha shirts. The six months passed quickly as we worked, purchased and installed some essential gear, and even trained our two dachshunds to do their 'business' on deck.

Thanks to the Latitude 38 Crew List, we found a couple of crew to help us do the Ha-Ha. Thank goodness for them, especially for the woman, whom we nicknamed The Iron Chef. At one point we were all seasick — except for her. She loved to be down below cooking or cleaning in the galley. In fact, by the time the Ha-Ha was over, she had our galley cleaner than when we started.

The Ha-Ha was just the challenge we needed for our first cruising season. One of the best things is that it gave us a deadline to be ready by. The other thing I liked best about it were the social activities during the R&R stops. We met so many terrific people, and because we were sharing a common adventure, it felt as though we'd known them for a long time.

We had some doggie excitement, too. During the start off Bahia Santa Maria, the stainless steel O-ring on Coner's doggie lifejacket broke, disconnecting him from the tether that kept him on the boat. So it was "Dachshund Overboard!" Matt was able to snag Coner's lifejacket handle with the boat hook and pull him back aboard.

The 10 days of the Ha-Ha passed in what seemed like a blur. All of a sudden we found just the two of us on our boat in Cabo and not exactly sure what to do next. So, like a lot of other folks, we decided to continue on up to La Paz. While there, we attended an intensive — four hours a day, five days a week — Spanish language school. Mucho trabajo! We recommend a program like this to all cruisers traveling to Mexico, as knowing the basics of Spanish opens up many special and colorful opportunities. We were surprised to meet folks who had been cruising in Mexico for more than a year and still didn't know anything more than, "Una mas cerveza, por favor."

We loved the culture of La Paz and her passionate people. But the residents of the 'City of Peace' sure get a kick out of honking their horns at all hours of the night! We even experienced our first Norther — three days of 35 knots — while on the hook at La Paz. Our boat pitched and bobbed up and down as though we were sailing in rough weather, but we were still anchored to the bottom.

After being in La Paz awhile, we were sort of surprised to hear that it can often be chillier than chilly in the Sea from November through April, and that the water is too cold for swimming. I may not have mentioned that we Coloradans didn't even buy foul weather gear until we'd been sailing — and often freezing — in the waters off San Diego for several weeks. Silly? Sure, but we'd been brainwashed by all the PR that says it's always sunny and warm in Southern California. That's not true, at least not along the coast. Anyway, some cruisers in La Paz explained that the smart thing to do is sail over to the warm mainland for the heart of the winter, then return to the Sea in the spring when it's warmed up again.

So with Christmas approaching and our parents slated to be in Mazatlan, it was time to cross the Sea to the mainland. We decided to buddyboat with some Ha-Ha alumni. After we had independently confirmed that the weather forecast was good — "light and variable winds, picking up on Wednesday" — we took off. We approached Mazatlan on Wednesday, after running with — and surfing down — 12-ft seas that had been generated by 35-knot winds. Had we left a week earlier, we'd have had to motor across to Mazatlan, which wouldn't have been as exciting as the heart-pounding, sleepless nights we spent trying to keep our boat from broaching. We arrived in Mazatlan a little weathered and salty, but eager to see the mainland.

From Mazatlan we continued south to Isla Isabel. For those of you who skipped it, you made a big mistake. The clarity and color of the water was astounding, and the fearless boobies were hilarious. We loved that place so much that we stayed for a week, exploring, snorkeling, and even getting into a volleyball game with the local pescaderos. Despite playing with bare feet on a concrete court, their game is competitive.

Sweet San Blas, our next stop, was so different from the tourist-oriented frenzies that we witnessed in Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. But the no-see-ums — ugh! My surfer husband had high hopes for Punta Mita, the first stop inside Banderas Bay, but it was raining and the waves were small. Nevertheless, we enjoyed some good hiking.

Many will find this hard to believe, but our seven-mile passage from Punta Mita to La Cruz featured some of the most drastic changes in the weather we've experienced. One minute it was raining and blowing 25 knots, the next it would be dry and we'd have to motor because the wind was so light. It took us an hour to reach La Cruz, where, unbeknownst to us, and because of circumstances beyond our control, we would end up having to spend more than a month.

Having anchored at the popular La Cruz anchorage, we made a number of trips to Bucerías and Puerto Vallarta but then, after 10 days, planned to continue on. We soon learned that it's foolish to make definite plans when cruising. We set our alarms for early on February 1 to depart La Cruz for points south. But before our clocks went off, we were awakened at 5:45 a.m. by the alarming sound of something violently slamming into our boat! Having just read an article about a sailboat having been hit by a ship, my immediate reaction was to think that we'd dragged anchor into the middle of Banderas Bay and been hit by a cruise ship.

Once on deck, we saw that a panga was impaled on the bow of our boat! And that there was chaos on the panga. "Está bien?" was all I could think to say in Spanish. "Why have you no lights?" a voice screamed back in broken English. But we did have an anchor light on. Matt turns it on every night, and because I'm always the first up, I turn it off in the morning. I later discovered that because panga bows become so elevated while they are underway, there was no way the driver could have seen us — or any of the other boats — in his path through the anchorage.

Before we knew it, the panga had been disengaged and abruptly rushed off. We were left to wonder if the collision had really happened, or if it was just a nightmare. But as we became more fully awake, the dark reality slowly started to sink in. We were in a foreign country where they have a different legal system, we weren't fluent in the language, and we'd just been involved in an accident in which somebody might have been injured. "Hmmm," I thought to myself, "I don't remember planning for something like this."

To be honest, the thought of just getting the heck out of there did cross our minds, as we thought we'd been involved in a hit and run, and didn't know what the consequences might be. But our sense of justice overcame our fears, and we did the right thing by reporting the accident to the Port Captain in La Cruz. While on the way there, we learned that one of the passengers on the panga had been severely injured — which explained why it had taken off so fast. Knowing that the accident involved a serious injury, things looked bleaker than before.

Using hand gestures and our limited Spanish, we tried to explain what had happened to the Port Captain. "Ustedes necisitan un traductor," he replied. Where does a cruiser in Banderas Bay go for information and assistance? VHF 22, of course. There were about 30 cruising boats in the anchorage, so we thought that surely someone would be fluent in Spanish and able to help us. Our gloomy mood was brightened somewhat by the compassion and loyalty expressed by fellow cruisers, and offers of help by folks such as ex-cruiser Philo, who runs the popular music bar in town. Ultimately, however, we were blessed by the assistance of an American who was crewing on a buddy's boat for a month. He not only spoke fluent Spanish, but had a winning personality as well. He stuck by us for two full days during visits to the Port Captain and, due to the injury of the passenger, the Ministerial Publico, which is similar to our district attorney. During this time we gave numerous reports of the unfortunate early morning incident. Before long, we learned that the panga that hit our boat had been going out on a fishing charter with Mexican tourists. Had he been heading to the east and the about-to-rise sun rather than the west and greater darkness, he might not have hit us.

The Mexican officials ordered us not to move our boat — it was evidence — until the Mexican Navy could conduct an investigation. And we as individuals were instructed not to leave the area until a judgement had been rendered. We didn't understand why there had to be an investigation, as it seemed obvious to us that the panga had hit our properly lit boat while she was anchored and we were asleep. But it was explained to us that in Mexico, both parties in an accident are presumed guilty until proven innocent. We also visited the driver of the panga and inquired about the condition of the injured man. It turned out that he was in serious condition — and would be for three weeks before being released from the hospital.

For the next month, we spent a lot of our time researching a series of questions: How could this accident have happened? Was our personal freedom in jeopardy? Could we lose our boat? And mostly, how long might the investigation take? To the latter question, we received some frightening answers. It might be months — or even years — before a decision was handed down. What sustained us during that difficult time was the love and support of fellow cruisers in La Cruz and our families back home. My mother-in-law was our biggest advocate, making contacts all over the United States and Mexico to get more information regarding our fate. She even contacted our Colorado Congresswoman, who worked with the American Consulate in Puerto Vallarta, with whom we had been in contact from the beginning. This was such a unique case that nobody could really provide us with answers to our questions. There was a lot of fear, too, most of it coming down from the United States. We were told how these situations usually were affected by corruption, greed and injustice. There was also the matter that we were gringos, and by Mexican standards appeared very wealthy.

For the record, our case was handled in a professional, fair — and by Mexican standards — very timely manner. Exactly a month after the accident, we received a judgement that said we had not been at fault. All the blame was put on the operator of the panga, as it had been determined that he'd been driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions.

We would never want to relive that experience, but believe that everything happens for a reason, and that reason was we — by necessity — got to experience Mexico on a much deeper level than do normal visitors. Further, our bonds with friends, family, and each other were strengthened. And last but not least, our Spanish improved greatly, as on a daily basis we had to listen to it and speak it correctly for our own well-being. We want to thank everyone for their love and support — we'll never forget you!

And for all you cruisers who anchor in high-traffic areas, our advice is to light your boat up like a Christmas tree.

April Rollins
Soñadora, Catalina 36
Dana Point

April — We suppose that you can thank your lucky stars that you were in Mexico, where the legal system seemed to have worked properly, and not Clear Lake, California, where D.A. Jon Hopkins probably would have tried to prosecute you for being responsible for the accident.

We often anchor Profligate on the north shore of Banderas Bay, usually at Punta Mita, but also off La Cruz. When we do, we take April's advice, and really light up our boat. That includes the masthead anchor light, of course, but because it's not at eye-level for nearby dinghy and panga operators, that's just the beginning. We also leave a light on in the main salon which, because Profligate's a cat, can be seen from all around. In addition, we also turn on a light in each hull, which shows through to the outside from at least two ports per side. Lastly, we put garden-style solar lights on each bow and each transom. Given the amount of nighttime panga traffic going in and out of the panga marinas at both Punta Mita and La Cruz, lighting your boat up "like a Christmas tree" is important. By the way, we also use the same lighting scheme at Catalina, where boat operators can be just as reckless.

We don't want to come across as an old grouch who whines about safety all the time, but another area in which mariners aren't careful enough is with illuminating their dinghies at night. You are absolutely reckless — and operating illegally — if you don't have a bright light on your dinghy when you're moving at night. Think it's not important? It's been a few years, but a cruiser in his dinghy was killed after a hit and run by a fishing panga at Punta Mita. And as we reported last winter, a couple that were going ashore in their unlit dinghy at St. Barth to celebrate their just-completed circumnavigation, were run down by a big shoreboat for a megayacht. The woman was badly injured, the man was killed. It's also very common to see unlit dinghies rushing around off popular Catalina destinations at night. Please folks, you're playing Russian roulette. Have a light and wave it around so it can be seen from all directions.


I have a modest proposal for the Lake County D.A. Jon Hopkins and his staff, who seem to be having trouble with the concept of what a safe speed would be for a boat on a lake on a moonless night. Since they apparently think that 45 to 55 mph would be a safe speed, we think they should have Deputy Perdock take them out for a night run.

Thanks for not letting this one go.

Tom Farr
La Crescenta

Tom — Great minds must think alike, because several days before we received your letter, we wrote the Latitude Safe Speed Challenge that appeared in the September's Sightings. The challenge would require D.A. Hopkins and Deputy Perdock to zoom around Clear Lake on a moonless night at 45 to 55 mph while various members of their families were aboard sailboats drifting in zephyrs.


I now live at the Ko 'Olina Marina on Oahu, but from June of '98 through September of '01 I lived in a beautiful home at Corinthian Bay, which is on the shores of Clear Lake. In fact, my home had a dock out back where I kept my Santana 25.

Clear Lake is a wonderful place to sail, with 10-to-15-knot westerlies almost every afternoon. Many times I sailed the four miles to Lakeport to have lunch or dinner, and I tried to catch as many of the summer evening concerts at Library Park as I could. For those, I would either cruise up and down in front of the park or take one of the side-ties and go ashore. Those events had such a great old-time, all-American feel to them.

I got to know Lake County pretty well, as I was the owner of a small business. As a member of a couple of local organizations, I had access to some of the well-traveled paths in this beautiful and historic place. I loved Lake County for what it had to offer, but also hated it for what others are now discovering about it — it's backward and inbred. Tradition is exalted in Lake County, while progress and change are not. The city and county government fiercely protect the status quo.

No matter where I've been, I've always tried to improve things. But I found that my attitude was not appreciated in Lake County. A partner and I invested in a lot on Main St. — yes, Main St. really is the main street — and began to build a commercial building. The lot was in an area where many visitors stayed and dined, but it was an eyesore, the kind of place where locals parked cars with 'For Sale' signs on them. You would think that the city would have jumped up and down with joy that someone was willing to help beautify the town. On the contrary, we were subjected to more scrutiny than a Mohammed at the San Francisco Airport. During a meeting with the City Manager, the City Planner and the City Attorney, I pointed out that the city wasn't acting like a partner with us in trying to improve the town. When I did, the City Attorney threatened to fight me. Let me repeat, the response on the part of the City Attorney was to try to fight with me.

With regard to safe boating on Clear Lake, I've been caught up in the stampede of boats that leave after a Friday night concert at Library Park. On one occasion, it was only the light of a large flashlight that saved me from being driven into the tullies by some folks on a large runabout. I managed to keep from being hit by them, but was terrified by the boats behind them doing 25+ knots in the dark and headed my way.

Clear Lake is one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, and there are several professional bass fishing tournaments there every year. Have you ever had the pleasure of witnessing the start of a large bass tournament? It's 200 high-powered bass boats screaming off in all directions to find their fish. Clear Lake is also used to host high speed water-skiing contests, during which boats and skiers would reach speeds in excess of 90 mph. The point is that Clear Lake is home to boaters who like to travel at very high speeds. As such, I'm not surprised about the circumstances surrounding the death of Lynn Thornton.

Robert Montgomery
Ko’Olina Marina
O’ahu, Hawaii

Robert — After Dan Noyes of Channel 7 News did his fine investigation into the Thornton death and the Lake County D.A.'s handling of the case, a retired Lake County law enforcement official wrote a letter to the local paper decrying what he described as Noyes' "feeding frenzy." Admitting that he knew nothing about boats, let alone intelligent analogies, he defended Deputy Perdock's traveling at an estimated 45 to 55 mph prior to hitting the boat Thornton was on. We found it interesting that he didn't mention what he thought a safe speed would be for a vehicle — without headlights or brakes — on a dark road on a moonless night.


Did you do it just for me? I mean the September cover, with a woman actively taking part in sailing, enjoying herself, and properly dressed for the activity. You lovely people! I shall keep this issue — it's timeless. Thank you!

And you included a piece on the Fastnet Race, in the country, England, to which I shall soon be returning. We will be living in a town called Truro, which is between Plymouth and Land's End. Therefore I'll watch the sailing scene, and I will send you material that might interest Latitude 38 readers. After all, you go where the wind blows, and I can tell you, it blows like blazes in Blighty.

Lyn Reynolds
San Jose

Lyn — If we were running for office, we'd lie and say we indeed did the cover just for you. But we didn't. It was just the most interesting photo for the cover that we could come up with and, in all honesty, we didn't pay any particular attention to the fact there was a woman in the forefront or what she was wearing.

We're not going to get into the whole "properly dressed for the activity" business again, but frankly, we're a little worried about how you're going to fare back in Old Blighty. It's not that "the wind blows the dogs off the chains" that worries us, but the way scantily dressed women are found in inappropriate places millions of times a day. We're speaking, of course, of the partially — if at all — dressed Page 3 ladies found so prominently on page 3 — duh! — of so many Brit newspapers. You're going to have to work overtime to get rid of that Brit tradition. And if you do a charter in the Med, you're going to have to wear blinders to shield your eyes from the sight of those Euro women who think nothing of stripping down to nothing on the dock for an after-sailing hose down.


With all the concern some readers have expressed about the May issue cover photo featuring Lisa, I have to report that my mom was arrested on a beach in Canada because her one-piece swimsuit didn't have a skirt that came halfway down to her knees. Of course, that was in '32. So what if I am 81 years old?

Bill Steagall
Channel Islands Harbor

Readers — People have written in about that cover for what, four out of the last five months? Pretty successful, no? By the way, we bumped into Lisa and her husband Wayne at the St. Francis Big Boat Series, and both of them were excited to be taking their J/120 J/World on the Baja Ha-Ha and getting back down to Banderas Bay, Mexico. As for us, we're already planning the next mischievous cover, one we hope will have tongues wagging for a year.


I don't know if I qualify as a boat genealogist, but I'm a Farallon Clipper owner, a Corinthian YC member, the unofficial keeper of the Farallon Clipper Roster, and I also have a set of the Farallon Clipper One-Design Class pages from the PICYA Yachting Yearbook for the years '55-'65. From all of this, I can advise Paul Oz, who is trying to figure out who might have owned Gauntlett, and what to do with the trophies she won and he came into possession of. I can report the following:

Farallon Clipper #10 was launched in April of '55 and was originally named Gauntlett. Her first owner/charterer, according to the '56 Yearbook, was Robert Potter, a well-known sailor for the Corinthian YC. The '57 Yearbook shows that Gauntlett was then owned by Barbara Gauntlett of the Sausalito YC. I can't explain the coincidence of the name. The next yearbook shows that Gauntlett had been sold to H. D. Trask of the Aeolian YC and renamed Hoyden II. Bill's exploits with Hoyden II are legendary, and well known to any racer of that era.

After Bill's death, Hoyden II fell on hard times. For years she lay up in the summer heat and winter cold of Stockton, accumulating birds and bees under her covers. A couple of years ago, she was acquired by a professional boat restorer in San Diego. He partially completed an extensive repair, then lost interest. As I understand it, she's for sale in unfinished condition.

My guess is that the trophies in question were won by Bob Potter in the Corinthian Midwinters of '55-'56, '56-'57. I think that Latitude 38 's suggestion of giving the trophies back to the Corinthian is a good idea, as they care about tradition and history. First, they will thank you profusely. Then they will complete the research on their history, clean them up, display them, and no doubt put them to some good use. The guy to call is Vice Commodore David Johnson, who can be reached at (415) 435-4771.

Gene Buck
Ouessant, Farallon Clipper
San Francisco


I enjoyed the great Sightings update on Elizabeth Meyer and the latest saga — cruising the Pacific Northwest with her husband Michael aboard their nearly 100-year-old 40-ft Lawley schooner Seminole — of her living life large. One of my favorite possessions is a great framed print on my office wall of Endeavour — the J Class yacht that Meyer restored, and in the process revived the great class — in the San Juan Islands. In '95 Endeavour was docked near The Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C., and I had the chance to look over the magnificent yacht while briefly chatting with her crew. I was aboard a chater sailboat out of Friday Harbor and had just checked in with the Canadian Coast Guard when I saw the great yacht.

While my several charters into B.C. waters over the years have never been as far north as Toba Inlet — where Seminole was taking her 'shower' in the Sightings photo, I will always remember the falls at Princess Louisa Inlet. The best time was when we sailed there on a rainy afternoon and docked for the night just downstream from the falls. Thanks to the rain that continued through the night, the next morning the falls were — wow! The additional water pouring over the falls made them that much more spectacular.

As a long-time subscriber to Latitude, I have a tiny beef. The disclaimer at the end of Letters dutifully instructs those who submit material to include name, boat name, hailing port, and contact info. Nonetheless, you proceed to publish letters hailing from "Planet Earth," "Name Withheld," with no boat name, and so forth.

The "Planet Earth" letters especially give me pause. For example, the September issue letter writer Paul Oz from "Planet Earth". Oz can't be his last name, it must be his internet moniker. And it was followed by — not again! — "Planet Earth." I betcha a lot of letter writers who own up to their real name and hailing port never get their letters published. I understand, you're the owner of Latitude and the Letters editor, and it's your prerogative to decide which of the volume of letters you receive to publish. Nonetheless, why have the detailed disclaimer when you don't follow it?

P.S. Why didn't I include my boat name? Because I don't own one. No doubt that explains most letters that appear without a boat name.

Jim Cox
Beaverton, Oregon

Jim — We don't know Elizabeth Meyer well, but we never got the impression that her life was about "living large." Both her parents were doctors, but apparently she made most of her money on her own, having been in Martha's Vineyard design and real estate at a time when it was appreciating wildly. When Meyer decided to take on the incredibly brave project of restoring Tommy Sopwith's 130-ft Endeavour, which was lying in the mud and in such poor condition that it couldn't be moved until the hull was repaired, she had to take out bank loans to do it. Talk about vision and courage in a woman of just 32! While the Endeavour restoration certainly brought Meyer a lot of publicity, we never felt she did it out of a Donald Trump-like need for attention. Indeed, the fact that she's continued to be such a prominent figure in the restoration of great yachts suggests to us that her love of sailing and great yachts always had a more spiritual motivation.

The "Planet Earth" homeport and/or other missing identification might bother you, but it drives us crazy! In these Internet and text messaging days, everybody seems to be on a first name — real or made up — basis, and they all reside in cyberspace. We can't tell you how many tortured hours we've spent over the years — especially in the pre-computer and pre-Google days — trying to track down complete information — full names, boat names, boat type, and hailing port — for each letter or Changes or article. We thought, and still think, that information is very important. Despite trying to email everyone back for all the info, we often still don't get it. And in the cases of some hand-written letters, we can't read the name or address.

Every time you read "Planet Earth" as the address for somebody, it means that we were unable to contact them for their complete address. We know Planet Earth sounds a little dopey. That's intentional, as we're trying to 'threaten' people with it in the hope they'll remember to include their hailing port or home address. In a perfect world, free of mitigating circumstances, and populated by people who weren't timid, we wouldn't publish letters that weren't signed. Alas, while the world is clearly getting better by the minute — ha, ha, ha — it's not quite perfect yet.

There are a number of factors we consider when evaluating a letter for publication — length, clarity, interesting factual information, entertainment value, and so forth. If we get two letters of the same 'quality', and one is signed and the other isn't, the latter doesn't make the cut. But while not being signed is a strike against a letter, it doesn't necessarily disqualify it. You're correct that as the Letters editor and publisher, we're the final arbiter of what letters do and don't get printed. We assure you that we do the very best we can, and hope that you're happy with the result.


I lived aboard in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu for 17 years, and can tell you that Roy Disney hit the nail on the head with his September letter about the problems with that marina. We watched the conditions in the Ala Wai deteriorate steadily for years until we finally had to leave. It's one thing for the visiting racers who come once every other year to have to deal with the deplorable and ever-declining condition of the docks, but something else entirely for those of us who had to live with it on a daily basis. It wasn't just unsightly, it was unsafe.

In the weeks leading up to the elections in Hawaii, we saw the various candidates for state and city office come to the harbor for photo ops. Even Governor Linda Lingle was seen walking around with her entourage. Then D dock was condemned, and we were moved to the 800 row by the breakwater while "temporary" repairs were to be made. Temporary was an apt description. Almost immediately after, we were moved back to our old slip, where the dock had been "repaired" by bolting lengths of angle iron and sheets of plywood to the old floating dock. The result was that finger piers resumed breaking off and sinking, and the plywood sheets came loose, bringing back the familiar uneven tilting of the main floating dock. The only repairs that I've ever seen in the Ala Wai have been cosmetic in nature, temporarily hiding the real problems. After the elections, the politicians weren't seen or heard from, and repairs to B and C docks had not begun by the time we left the Ala Wai on May 26th.

The only plausible explanation for this disgraceful neglect is that it is part of a deliberate plan to eliminate pleasure boats from the Ala Wai. With fully half the slips condemned, and with no apparent effort on the part of the state to make real repairs, I can come to no other conclusion. This is especially true considering the buzz around the harbor from time to time that the front row is soon to be opened to commercial tour boats. This would require the removal of G dock, the only area in the harbor in serviceable condition, to accommodate the larger boats.

Disney is correct when he says that privatization is the answer. Unfortunately, there is more money to be made by kicking privately owned pleasure craft out to make room for more commercial operations. This, combined with the misguided efforts of a small but strident group of activists who protest every effort to privatize the marina, based on their fear of increased slip fees, means, I'm afraid, that the Ala Wai is destined to become an extension of Kewalo Basin. In other words, a commercial vessel basin that's more convenient for getting tourists to the tour and sportfishing boats. As for private yachts, there will only be room left in the Ala Wai for the privileged few.

Chuck Rose
Lealea, Albin Vega 27
Honolulu / Currently in Port Townsend, Washington

Chuck — We have what we think is a more plausible explanation for the neglect at the Ala Wai, which is that the state government is incompetent. Based on historical performance, we don't think they are capable of coming up with a "deliberate plan" for the Ala Wai — even a terrible one.

In our opinion, Disney's call for privitization doesn't go far enough. Pardon our cynicism, but we think the citizens of Hawaii — save for those employed by the state — would be best served if all branches of government in Hawaii were privatized. We're almost serious.


My husband Alan and I left to start our dream cruise aboard our Morgan 43 Effie three years ago in August from Santa Cruz, then traveled up the coast of California and into the Delta before heading down to Mexico. When we entered Mexican waters in November of '04, we were aware of the Amigo and Southbound cruiser nets, but were somewhat timid on the radio and not sure how they worked. We would 'lurk' at times, but never really had the courage to jump in.

After three years of cruising in Mexico, all that has changed. We use and enjoy the SSB all the time, and I even have a year's experience as a net controller. I can assure everyone that knowing how to use the Mexican SSB nets effectively is a big benefit, especially when underway, because it allows you to check in with fellow cruisers and get the latest weather from Don of Summer Passage.

As someone who was a timid SSB novice just a couple of years ago, I'd like to share my knowledge with this year's group of SSB novices, and encourage all of you not to be afraid of SSB nets. If I can become competent at it, so can you. Here are the basics:

1) SSB stands for Single Sideband marine radio. You use your ship's radio call sign when checking into the net. You do not need to have a ham license to use your ship's call sign or to check into the nets. If you buy a radio like an Icom 802, it has to be enabled to transmit on ham frequencies, so don't worry about doing that by accident.

2) The Amigo Net comes on at 1400 zulu on 8122 USB (upper side band), while the Southbound Net is at 0145 zulu on 6156 USB. The Southbound Net may change by an hour once the season starts. If you're not sure when zulu time is, scroll through your GPS. It's also good to have an inexpensive digital clock near your radio that is set to zulu time.

3) Both the Amigo and Southbound are 'controlled nets', which means you must be recognized by the net controller before you check in. When the net controller asks for check-ins, respond with your boat name only. Net controllers usually take a list of boat names, and when it's your turn to check in, they will call you back and say something like, "Effie, come ahead with your check-in." At that time you respond with something like, "Good morning net, this is the sailing vessel Effie, WDB6206, with Margaret, Alan and boat cat Maggie aboard. We're currently anchored in Agua Verde where we have 5 knots of wind out of the southeast and flat seas. We have no traffic."

4) It's important to denote the type of vessel you are on and how many 'souls' — as Don of Summer Passage would say — are aboard. That's because net controllers keep records of vessels checking in, so if there is ever a problem, they know the boat's most recent position and how many people were aboard.

5) Underway vessels always receive priority, and are asked to check in first or will be put ahead of any other vessels checking in. When checking in underway, you give your last location, your destination, your coordinates, and the current weather conditions. For example, "Good Morning net, this is the sailing vessel Effie, Whisky Delta Bravo 6206, with Margaret, Alan and boat cat Maggie aboard. We're currently underway from Cabo San Lucas en route to Mazatlan. Our current position is 22 degrees 50 minutes north, 108 degrees 59 minutes west. We have 20 knots of wind out of the northwest with four to five foot swells. We have no traffic."

It's important to talk slowly and clearly. It's also important to give positions in degrees and minutes, and in single digits. For example, Two Two (not twenty-two ) degrees, Five Zero (not fifty) minutes north, One Zero Eight degrees, Five Niner (use niner not nine) minutes west.

6) 'Traffic' simply means you want to check in with another vessel. If you want to call another vessel at the end of your check-in, simply state, "I have traffic." The net controller will say, "Go ahead with your traffic," at which time you then call your traffic: "Java, Java, Java, this is the sailing vessel Effie calling." If you are unable to reach them, the net controller will usually try to call them for you. It's important to keep the conversation short. When you are done with your conversation, you notify net control by saying, "Thanks net control, this will be Effie clear (or standing by)." "Clear" means that you are leaving the net, while "standing by" means you're done with your conversation but still tuned into the net.

7) Fifteen minutes after the net starts, Don from Summer Passage comes on to give his weather report. He first gives us any official warnings, then short term, and finally long-term reports. He starts on the outside of the Baja, then does the Sea of Cortez, then the Cabo San Lucas to Mazatlan crossing, and finally, mainland Mexico down to Zihuatanejo. When Don refers to the "Southern Triangle," he's talking about Cabo Corrientes, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. For those of you heading further south, there are other nets and times Don monitors the radio. Simply ask any net controller, and they will be happy to email you a copy of Don's schedule.

Please note that Don typically gives weather for 20 to 50 miles offshore. Due to the complexity of the coast line, Baja terrain, and land masses, it's almost impossible to give an accurate coastwise forecast.

After Don gives his report, the net controller will ask for any questions. Again, give your boat name only after the net controller recognizes you and tells you to go ahead and ask your question. When recognized, give your boat name and location, then ask your question. It's frustrating for not only Don and the net controller, but everyone else listening, if people ask the same questions for the same locations again and again. Also know your location in relationship to other locations. For example, if you're in Muertos and you hear the weather for Los Frailes, assume that your weather will be the same. Please don't call in and ask for weather specifically for Muertos, since it's only 47 miles from Los Frailes and the weather won't be much different. Don does a great job covering all the areas, however there are times when a boat cannot hear Don or they need clarification. In those cases, feel free to ask a question if needed.

By the way, Don volunteers his time a dozen different times during the day to help his fellow cruisers. His services are greatly appreciated by all of us.

8) After the weather, the net controller will continue to take check-ins. First, they will again take vessels underway, then ask for any announcements. Announcements are usually reports of hazards, harbor closures, and so forth. After announcements, the net controller will ask for "General Check-Ins." The Southbound Net stays on 6516 USB for general check-ins and until the end of the net. The Amigo Net switches to 4B (4149 USB) to continue with General Check-Ins unable to get through on 8122. After switching to 4B, the Net Controller will ask for any further weather questions for those who were unable to hear Don on 8122.

The Mexican cruising nets are a great way to keep in touch and hear local weather conditions. In addition, on numerous occasions they have helped boats in trouble. So don't just lurk, but use the tips above to jump in and enjoy.

Margaret 'Mac' and Alan Mathison, and La Gata Maggie
Effie, Morgan 43 CC
Santa Cruz / Currently in Ensenada about to head south

Margaret — Fine report. It's funny, but lots of people are almost as afraid of getting on the SSB nets as they are of getting a root canal. But once they do it a couple of times — get on a net, that is — they quickly lose the fear.

For those who will be doing the Baja Ha-Ha, the major difference between the Ha-Ha net and the other nets is that when giving your position, the Grand Poobah asks you to please, please, please don't use single digits unless necessary, and don't include the words "degrees" and "minutes." For example, if you're at 22 degrees, 30 minutes north, by 122 degrees, 18 minutes west, all the Poobah wants is "twenty-two thirty, one twenty-two eighteen." It should take about five seconds. If all 170 or so Ha-Ha entries gave their positions in the approved way for the Southbound and Amigo Nets, and included all the degrees and minutes, it would take forever. Once the Ha-Ha is over, please resume doing things the 'right way'.


We always conduct man overboard drills on the second day of our sailing classes for beginners. But it didn't go so well on September 2 at 1:45 p.m. while a mile north of the Bay Bridge and about 100 yards off the pier on the west side of Treasure Island. For over an hour, my three students on a Santana 22 had successfully been retrieving our float — simulating a man overboard — in drill after drill. Then a sloop with a yellow stripe below the gunwhale named Sea Ya came out of the Oakland Estuary and interfered with us. And more. Despite our waving them off, shouting to them that we were doing emergency drills, and sounding five blasts on our horn three different times, they continued to tack back and forth in an attempt to get our float. At one point their maneuvering put us in danger of a collision.

Upon returning to South Beach Marina, I made inquiries at the Harbormasters office. They showed that three boats named Sea Ya had taken guest slips there. My sympathy to the owners of the Sea Ya's that weren't involved, but to the owner of the Sea Ya that was, try to see the larger picture.

Oliver Gildersleeve
Sailing Instructor for 23 years on San Francisco Bay

Oliver — It seems to us that there must have been some kind of misunderstanding, for who would want to steal something of as little value as a float, particularly when somebody was yelling at them. Is there somebody from Sea Ya with an explanation?


My friend Gerry Schumacher took the accompanying photo as these sailors crossed the bow of his trawler. If a professional photographer had snapped a similar photo of my Slocum 43, I would sure like a copy. So maybe you could run the photo and hope that someone who knows these folks will see it.

Mark Wieber
Planet Earth

Mark — We've happily done as you suggested.


I had to comment on the article about Palmyra in the August 22 'Lectronic. I spent three weeks on Palmyra last summer on a research and collecting trip with the California Academy of Sciences (CAS). We did most of our diving in the lagoons and saw some white tip and black tip sharks, but no threatening shark species. On the first dive outside the reef, we were passed by an 8-to-10-ft tiger shark that was cruising by but didn't threaten us. There were about 15 divers that went out every day, but none were ever bothered by any sharks. Many of the scientists also did snorkeling, but didn't have any shark confrontations either. I imagine that if you were fishing, the catch might be in danger, but not humans.

By the way, the Palmyra YC does not have any beer for sale. You can only drink what you bring with you, but we didn't bring any. There is no bar or bartender, but there is a lending library and facility for lectures and movies.

The Nature Conservancy has provided a wonderful facility for research, with an outstanding laboratory, comfortable two-person cabins, excellent food, and a very safe and well-equipped diving program. A charter plane comes in every two weeks unless delayed by weather or mechanical problems.

Each research team must provide a lead diver who is responsible for all of the dives in his/her group. We had teams from The American Museum of Natural History in New York, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC Berkeley and CAS, San Francisco. My role was as dive instructor/diving medical officer for CAS. There is careful adherence to established safe diving tables and computers. The nearest recompression facility is four hours away by air after the plane gets to Palmyra, which is four hours away itself. All this assumes that the plane would come instantly, and that's highly unlikely.

Allen Dekelboum, M.D.
Black Coral, Bayliner 3870


The photo you ran of the "Palmyra YC" in a recent 'Lectronic brought back many pleasant memories. My husband Eric and I sailed our Flying Dutchman 37 Nataraja to Palmyra from Hawaii in May of '02 on our way to the South Pacific. A year and a half later, we left Nataraja in Ketchikan, Alaska, and flew back to Palmyra to work for the Nature Conservancy for three months.

It's true that there are sharks inside the lagoon, but they are the smaller black tip sharks. We spent many afternoons in the swimming hole inside the lagoon and never had any problems. We would see an occasional curious black tip, but they kept on going. They have no interest in people because there is plenty of other food. Outside the lagoon, however, is a different story. Fishing was always exciting, and once someone hooked up the game was on. Many times we saw the jaws of a shark snap down on a fish that we were trying to land. It made for some very exciting moments.

Palmyra is truly a magical place with an incredibly healthy ecosystem. We consider ourselves very lucky to have been able to visit there and experience its unique beauty.

Emmy & Eric Willbur
Nataraja, Flying Dutchman 37
En route to the South Pacific


In the last issue you reported on Grunt, the powerboat that caught fire and sank at Catalina, but also the powerboat Crescendo that sank after running into the Newport breakwater earlier that night.

On his way back from Catalina on Tuesday, a friend of mine snapped this photo of Crescendo which, after a lot of time and expense, had finally been raised and was being towed into Newport Harbor. The rumor is that the owner is being fined big time for the oil and fuel spill the sinking caused.

Steve Price
Hula Girl, CHB 34
Southern California

Steve — Having been in and out of Newport Harbor many times, we're still having a hard time understanding how it's possible to run into the breakwater when the visibility is reasonably good.


Unless you're ocean racing, it's unusual to see any sailboats once you get 100 miles offshore. Indeed, it had never happened to me before this summer when I delivered the Schumacher 39 Recidivist from Honolulu back to San Francisco. But during this year's 'TransBack', it was proved to me that small boats do exist outside the edges of my toerail on the big ocean. For not only did we see another rag boat, we saw four of them! We even had a crossing situation one night that was so close that we actually had to give way — although I'm not sure that anyone on the other boat even saw us. I suppose it would have been almost funny for two small sailboats to have collided in the middle of the ocean.

We passed our first boat — an old full-keeler that was being singlehanded — about 300 miles north of Oahu. The only thing hi-tech — or even shiny — on his boat was his windvane steering system. He didn't have much else on that boat except perhaps a VHF radio. We gave him a "Hello thar matey" as we passed, and he gave us the old thumb and pinky Hawaiian sign. Since he seemed so content, the three of us on Recidivist proceeded to give him a 'three-moon salute', thinking that would make his day. In any event, our much lighter boat with a high aspect rig quickly left him in our wake.

We later saw a second sailboat, but she was too far to the west of us to deal with. They reached off into the sunset to avoid the train wreck-like bashing sounds you get when sailing close-hauled on a skewed sea. We never saw boat #2 again.

The third sailboat we saw, the 'Benny' 40.7 Inspired Environments, which had departed the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor six hours before us, would turn out to be our nemesis. We had been in daily communication with them and many other returning TransPac boats via SSB 4A since leaving Hawaii, and knew that I.E. had been well behind us days earlier. That they had made enough ground on us by day six to show up on the horizon did not sit well with us. In fact, their appearance caused our collective testosterone levels to skyrocket like the cholesterol count after a Big Mac junky. Well, the 'T' levels didn't rise in Holly cuz she's a girl, and they just don't get that kind of stuff.

That I.E. intruded on our patch of ocean could only mean one thing — battle stations! It was a crystal clear day with blue skies, a nice 10-knot easterly breeze, and calm seas — just like in the movies. We proceeded to bend on our war sail — a 120% delivery genoa — and hove to like sharks awaiting prey. They soon arrived, and we agreed over the VHF that this part of the ocean was too small for the both of us, and that there could only be one top dog. So at the sound of the horn, we were off!

It was obvious from the get-go that the testosterone of their crew didn't match the amount that was pulsing through our bodies. Maybe it was because they were older, or the fact that they also had a girl onboard. However, there's no such thing as an excuse at sea, so we soon left them in our wake. Some 1,200 miles from land and there we were, frantically working all our sail trim controls to squeeze every tenth of a knot out of the boat that we could. And that was that.

Until the next day, anyway. We thought they were well beyond the horizon behind us as I.E. was not in sight. They were ahead of us! What the &%#@! Without hesitation we went to full sail again, for we only had one goal that day — to rip their living guts out and use them to grease the treads of our tanks! (I've got to stop watching Patton re-runs!)

We soon began to gain on them, but this time we'd have a surprise in store. We would resort to the most childish thing that I could think of, a carefully orchestrated and choreographed full mooning! As we approached, we three 'boys' on board — Holly would agree with the term 'boys' — stood at attention with our backs turned. Then Holly gave the commands: "Ready!" We dropped our pants. "Aim." We wiped our bums with rolls of TP. "Fire!" We then turned and threw the rolls of TP at the I.E. crew, one of the rolls scoring a direct hit by landing in their cockpit!

(By the way, be careful when trying stuff like this at home. You see, when your passing speed is only .2 knot, you're not likely to get away fast enough before some amount of 'adult' embarrassment creeps in while your pants are still down. Besides, they were armed with cameras, and we didn't want to be immortalized on the Internet.)

But ours was a happy crew, for we'd surely done them a fatal blow. Surely they would be too humiliated to continue our race to San Francisco.

The next night we turned the corner of the Pacific High, and started racing along 39N toward San Francisco. Then a front came through with a northeast blow that pushed us south. The skies turned cloudy and there was an unending drizzle. This new breeze had surely separated I.E. and us for good, I thought to myself. We stayed with the squally northeasterly for hours until I finally blew the whistle. I awoke the crew with the shouted order: "We need to remove the preventer and go to the #3 jib." As I gave the order, a running light appeared to starboard. "Who could that be?" I wondered." Holly identified the vessel via VHF, and we found out that it was indeed our archrival, the dreaded I.E.!

Once the deck-side stuff was done, we came up to a fast close reach, making 8 to 10 knots. I.E. soon faded into the pitch black drizzle of the a.m. However, late that afternoon we spotted them again, off the starboard quarter and to the south! That was it — I couldn't take it anymore! Didn't they have the sense to quit?
But what could we do this time to humiliate them even further? We pondered the question for awhile, coming up with all sorts of crazy and disgusting foolishness. "Bed sheets. We'll make togas from bed sheets and wear crowns made from aluminum foil!" I decided. Then Gabe asked, "What about ammo?" "How 'bout these tortillas?" I suggested. Of course! Perfecto! And thus were born the 'Toga Tortilla Warriors'. It sounds pretty funny when pronounced with a thick Spanish accent.

Once we got into our togas and aluminum helmets, and prepared our ammo, we gybed twice and approached from the 'Master and Commander firing position'. "Prepare for a broadside," I said over the VHF, giving our enemy fair warning. Holly drove the boat alone on deck until we got to within tortilla range. Once alongside, the rest of us marched up the companionway ladder, danced around a few times shouting "Toga! Toga! Toga! Praise be to those who will soon die for Caeser," followed by "Sparta!" Yes, I know, wrong history. Nevertheless, the 'Toga Tortilla Warriors' then launched a massive flying Costco tortilla attack on I.E.'s crew. Unfortunately, all the tortillas fell into the drink just shy of their intended target. They don't make tortillas like they used to.

Although we pulled away from I.E. yet again thinking it was finally for good, it wasn't. Just three days out of San Francisco, we learned they were to the north of us and in the lead! But like I said, there's no such thing as giving up at sea, so the next day we turned in 188 reaching miles and got back in the lead. We passed beneath the Gate some 30 miles ahead of I.E. Victory never tasted so sweet!

Oahu to San Francisco in 15 days, 19 hours. But it seemed so much quicker than that!

Arnstein Mustad, Delivery Skipper
Northern California

Arnstein — In a world that's become so serious and sensible, thank god there are still the likes of you.


Firing on all cylinders! September's issue looked, smelled, and read like pastrami from a New York deli — not something thrown together at a truck stop. From the Letters that included both sides of the Barefoot Charter controversy, to the Spending Too Much article, to the Mel and Will Peterson interview, to the good Puddle Jump recap, to the Changes, it was a great issue. If somebody didn't get one, they should heed the words in the song by Eric Clapton "Please don't mess with mine."

Speaking of the Barefoot Charter matter, I must chime in on the side of the owner of Birdwing — only because Barefoot's response seemed to continuously dodge the issue of responsibility. In my business, which is transportation, those issues are clearly defined in the contract. Once Barefoot took possession of Birdwing and her possessions, it seems to me that they had a duty to take care of them. If Barefoot "cannot take responsibility," then it is clear that Barefoot shouldn't have taken possession. They could have told the owner of Birdwing to make other arrangements.

As for damage to pulpit stanchions, it should have been reported to the owner of Birdwing as soon as the damage occurred — with pictures and an explanation of why Barefoot felt it had been an "act of God." By the way, I took it upon myself to email a copy of that letter on to God, and asked if he/she would admit that it had been caused by one of his/her acts. No response just yet.

As for Latitude's Safe Boating Challenge to Lake County Deputy Sheriff Russell Perdock and D.A. Jon Hopkins, it was right on the mark. Any reader who has been outraged by the senseless death of Lynn Thornton and then the cover-up to protect Deputy Perdock from criminal prosecution, and who has not written, emailed, and screamed from the highest tower about it, should, as Bob Dylan sang, "You who philosophize disgrace, and criticize all hate, hang your head at your side, for now is the time for your tears."

Thanks for a great job, Latitude.

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46

Jerry — It takes a big man to give such compliments — since that issue also had a response to a letter of yours that wasn't particularly flattering. A tip of the Latitude cap.

And now, in a continuation of your '60s music theme, how about a little Leon Russell and "Back To The Island," the song that starts and ends with the sounds of waves breaking on the beach and monkeys talking it up in the jungle.


We see that the exchange of letters between the owner of Birdwing and us has been published in the September issue, and I'd like to respond to your editorial comment, "The things that strike us as most odd about the Birdwing situation are: 1) That Birdwing was allowed into the Barefoot program sight unseen. After all, she was eight years old at the time, had seen considerable use as a private yacht, and had all kinds of non-charter gear aboard — three big red flags. And why Barefoot would keep a 'problem yacht' in their program for years is as perplexing as Pastore leaving his boat in a program he wasn't satisfied with."

1) Barefoot Yacht Charters is primarily a 'second-tier' company, meaning that the majority of yachts that join our fleet are anything from four to eight years old. It is not at all unusual for second-tier companies to accept older yachts into the fleet, and is something that we've been doing for the past 23 years that we've been in business. So for an operation such as ours, this was not at all a red flag.

2) We were never aware of what you refer to as "considerable use as a private yacht," and are not sure where you get this from. What we knew was that Mr. Pastore had purchased the yacht relatively recently and, according to him, had spent a great deal of money on her. It was therefore very reasonable for us to assume that he would not have bought the yacht or expended large sums of money on her unless he had been satisfied that the yacht was in excellent condition. Further, had she been in prior private use, then it would also be reasonable to assume that she had received considerably less use than a yacht that had previously been in bareboat service. And since 99% of the pre-owned yachts that join our fleet have been in bareboat service prior to joining us, one might therefore also reasonably assume that she would have been in better shape than any of those former bareboats. Further, we were not aware of the extraordinary amount of equipment that she had on board until she physically arrived here.

3) Over the years, we, as a small company, have developed very personal relationships with our yacht owners. Many have become friends. Because of the nature of these relationships, it is never palatable to us to kick a yacht out of our fleet without first trying to work with the owner to resolve any problem areas. The 'big players' in the industry will do this, but it's not something that we like to do. Recently, we gently suggested to the owner of a 17-year-old bareboat in our fleet, as well as two other yachts of 11 and 13 years, that he place the yacht on a caretaking basis rather than have her continue in charter service. We didn't want him to suffer financially from the increasing wear and tear of bareboat charters and the increasing difficulties we were facing in operating her as a result of a lack of revenue. He accepted our offer and withdrew the boat from charter. Perhaps we're being too nice and should have kicked these yachts out years ago. But as I say, we prefer to work with our yacht owners rather than to simply dump them when we feel that the benefits to ourselves have been exhausted.

More importantly, however, in this particular instance, we did ask Mr. Pastore to remove his yacht from our fleet, but he asked that we retain her as his circumstances did not allow him to take possession of her. Against our better judgement, we did so. Hindsight, of course, is always 20-20.

On a lighter note, please note that my first name is Narendra and my surname is Sethia, so I'm Narendra Sethia, not Seth Narendra.

Narendra Sethia
Barefoot Yacht Charters & Marine Centre
Blue Lagoon, St Vincent & The Grenadines

Narendra — Our apologies for blundering your name. Now that both sides have spoken their peace on this issue, we're going to close it, assuming that our readers are now fully aware of the types of problems that can possibly arise between the owners of boats in yacht management programs and the yacht management companies. By the way, we're not suggesting this is by any means typical of relationships, as most people we know with boats in such programs have been reasonably happy to quite happy with them.


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