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November 2007

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Back in '99, Latitude 38 did a little story on me when I was an active duty Coast Guardsman on Yerba Buena Island. In the article, I indicated that I was just treading water for my last seven years of service so I could take my pension, retire, and go sailing. Well, it's happening this month — although I did have a bit of a bump in the road when, in July of '05, the Coast Guard decided to ship me back to Woods Hole on Cape Cod. If only the service had the patience to let me sail Christa, my 1975 Westsail 32 and home for the past nine years, to the East Coast via the Panama Canal. Of course, I probably would have failed to report for duty, as I would have already been out sailing, and that's all I really give a crap about.

It was also in July of '05 that, with a heavy heart and waves of jealousy, I watched my true amigo and fellow Coast Guardsman Tom Larson retire after 20 years. He and his lovely wife, First Mate Amy, bugged out on the '05 Baja Ha-Ha aboard their Yorktown 35 Sandpiper, and now are in Indonesia. I've had the mental struggle of checking in on their blog for the past couple of years. I was very excited for them, but it made my daily rising and heading to work that much more challenging. I'm not sure which was more traumatizing: knowing I was two years behind Tom and Amy, or watching my much-loved Westsail leave KKMI shipyard on the bed of a tractor trailer. Like a nervous Nelly I called the driver daily for position and GPS reports. The thought of my boat transiting Donner Pass was almost too much.

Christa safely 'sailed' across our beautiful country, and landed safely at Silver Springs Marina in Wakefield, Rhode Island. Since then, I've sailed her up to Woods Hole, lived aboard her, and worked on her while biding my time until retirement. I endured two New England winters aboard at Woods Hole, but who am I to complain? And this summer I had the privilege of living aboard at the Navy Base in Newport, Rhode Island, making last minute preparations for my upcoming circumnavigation.

This summer I took some leave and sailed Christa from Newport to the Rappahannock River in the Chesapeake Bay, via New York City, Delaware Bay, and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Now I'm back in New England for my last 10 days in the Coast Guard. My retirement ceremony will have been on October 10, and October 11 will find me on Christa making tracks south toward the tropical latitudes. Man, am I jacked! I'm 40 years old, healthy as can be, my boat is paid off, I have money in the bank, and a life-long pension to boot. Now all I need is a first mate in a flowery sundress. But I couldn't be more grateful to the American public — and especially our troops in combat, past and present — for giving me this freedom. I certainly got the better end of this deal.

On the horizon, I see myself sailing (motoring actually) the ICW until Charleston, where I'll make the jump to Florida. Hopefully, I'll be celebrating Christmas in the Bahamas. I intend to spend the winter of '07/'08 in the Caribbean, and lay up in Cartagena for the '08 Atlantic hurricane season. Then it's onward to the western Caribbean for another season of bliss before transiting the Canal into the South Pacific. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

My connections to San Francisco Bay remain strong. I was stationed in the Bay at the Command Center on YBI, aboard the Cutters Morgenthau and Point Brower, both of which are homeported in the Bay. I even endured a tour at Lake Tahoe, where I purchased my first sailboat. Let's not forget that I lived aboard Christa in Horseshoe Cove and at the Sausalito Yacht Harbor for several years. I used to sail to work, anchor up in Clipper Cove, and take the dink the rest of the way in. What a life I have led thus far, and I'm just getting started. To solidify my Northern California connections, I even own a home in Sonoma that I intend to return to someday.

Christian Allaire
Christa, Westsail 32
Formerly of Sausalito / Heading to the Caribbean


As captain of the Port, Federal On Scene Coordinator, and operational commander for all Coast Guard activities in the greater Bay Area, I would like to respond to several items that appeared in the September issue of Latitude 38.

In regard to the "We Apologize For Their Mistake" letter, both Mr. Spitz and Latitude 38 are correct. The Coast Guard erred in citing Mr. Spitz for a Rule 9 violation on July 6, 2007. With no commercial traffic in the area that might be confined to the narrow channel, a Rule 9 situation could not exist. As Mr. Spitz' vessel Sandpiper was sailing and not under power, Mr. Spitz obviously had the right of way over recreational power vessels in the area. Coast Guard San Francisco has provided additional training for their Boarding Team on the exact requirements of a Rule 9 violation, and also on ensuring that all our members exercise the utmost professionalism and courtesy when interacting with mariners. I invite Mr. Spitz to provide my Chief of Enforcement, Lieutenant Commander Sean Ryan, with a mailing address so that we may send a written apology.

In regards to the "I Got Here First, And I'm Not Moving" letter concerning boats anchored in Clipper Cove and Richardson Bay, the Coast Guard's jurisdiction for these issues is, according to the Code of Federal Regulations, limited to safety, security and hazardous materials. If a vessel is not a clear threat to navigation, a threat to the security of the port, or a threat to the environment, the Coast Guard has no authority to take action. The state Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) is charged with protecting the water, fish and plants in state waters, but normally only responds to larger-scale acute releases of hazardous materials. The state Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) is charged with ensuring that facility and vessel discharges do not negatively affect the quality of waters inside the Bay and up to three miles offshore, but generally responds to larger-scale chronic releases of hazardous materials. It is left to the local agencies to enforce whatever regulations they have on the books regarding vessels anchored in their jurisdiction. That said, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco is well aware of the issues — liveaboards, crime, squatters and potential derelict vessels — in both Clipper Cove and Richardson Bay. During one storm last winter, CG Station Golden Gate retrieved 14 adrift vessels in Richardson Bay in a matter of hours. We are actively working with the state and local agencies to assist them whenever possible in enforcing their regulations, and to access possible funding available to dispose of boats officially deemed 'derelict'. The Coast Guard has increased our patrols three-fold in these locations, and we are constantly on the lookout for any signs of illegal activity.

Finally, two corrections on the Loose Lips entry regarding the reported collision between the M/V Eva Danielson and the F/V Boucka Madre near Pt. Reyes on August 13. While the official Coast Guard investigation is not yet complete, it's clear that the alleged collision took place at approximately 5:15 p.m., and while it was not in the designated Vessel Traffic Lane, the reported collision was in the well-established route that commercial vessel traffic takes when exiting the northern traffic lane and continuing west and northbound.

I appreciate Latitude 38's efforts to keep the maritime public informed of events around San Francisco Bay and the Delta.

W.J. Uberti
Captain, U.S. Coast Guard
Commander, Sector San Francisco

Commander — We can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear someone in government admit that a mistake was made and that steps are being taken to prevent similar ones in the future. This is particularly true after the Perdock/Hopkins debacle in Lake County, where it seems clear to us that the D.A. has been willing to play blind, deaf and dumb to the obvious facts, and charge the wrong man with a felony, all in order to protect a deputy from having to face up to what we see as his responsibility in the death of a woman on a sailboat.

But the thing that confuses us is how there can be so many boats/derelicts on the water that either aren't registered or documented, and/or don't meet the safety or environmental standards. Are these boats just never subject to safety inspections like other boats, and/or if they are and found in violation — no registration or documentation, etc. — why is nothing ever done to follow up? We ask because a disproportionate number of these boats end up on the shore in the winter.


I read Latitude 38 with anticipation each month, and I appreciate your 'tell it like it is' approach without regard to political correctness. In the September issue, the letter from Ron Spitz described the unprofessional actions of a Coast Guard safety team in the Oakland Estuary. Such reports used to be common in Latitude, and it now appears that nothing has changed.

I have personally suffered the rudeness and threatening attitude of these boating safety inspectors, and I have no respect for them. Or for the Coast Guard hierarchy which continues to support it, and, in fact, appears to encourage more of the same.

Most American citizens start out with a feeling of admiration for the Coast Guard because of their reputation as life-savers and helpers of mariners in trouble. One experience with the boating safety teams is enough to change this attitude to one of trepidation of any dealings with them. I was boarded years ago, and I have since looked at the Coast Guard as an anathema to be avoided at any cost.

For every life the Coast Guard has saved, there are 10 others who have had their boats boarded and been intimidated by what I call jack-booted thugs, and I will do anything to avoid further contact with the organization. When is someone in the Coast Guard going to wake up and correct this problem? All it would take is a little courtesy.

Cmdr. F.C. Taylor
San Diego

Cmdr. Taylor — We can't cite any statistics, but have a sense that relations between the Coast Guard and mariners are much better now than in the past, and for sure better than the bad old days of 'Zero Tolerance / Zero Intelligence'.

We think one of the problems is that most mariners — ourselves included — view the Coasties as sort of glorified lifeguards rather than what they really are, which are members of a branch of the military. Since they are the 'good guys', we feel we can be casual with them. Unfortunately, their orders and training don't permit them to be quite so chummy. As you say, they need to be courteous, but they have to be professional, too.

Like most mariners, we become somewhat annoyed when we're pulled over for a 'safety inspection'. "What gives them the right?" is the thought that always crosses our minds. Once we remember that, like it or not, the Coast Guard does have the right, we've simply cooperated as best we can. Maybe that's why we've never had what we'd describe as a bad incident. We and our crew were once held at gunpoint by a Coast Guard boarding team on the bow of our boat for 20 minutes or so in the Caribbean, but have to admit that they held us at gunpoint in a most professional manner.

This is not to say that a few of the leaders of the boarding teams don't get a little intoxicated by their authority from time to time. Nor are we trying to suggest that the Coast Guard never makes any mistakes. As you read in the previous letter, Sector San Francisco Commander Uberti acknowledged that his boarding team made a mistake in the Spitz incident, says the training will be improved, and that he wants to write an apology. We don't think that's an example of Coast Guard hierarchy perpetuating intimidation of mariners, and hope that Uberti's leadership is typical of all Sector Commanders.


You mentioned a few months back that your somewhat jaundiced opinion of the theory of global warming/climate change was melting — pun intended — and you were beginning to believe in it, at least a little. Your skepticism was refreshing, and I would urge you to hold your ground because the jury is still out on this one.

Repetition simply does not make something true. The media love the theory because it is so negative, but the scientific data is not nearly convincing. The data indicate some changes. But remember, the only constant is change. The data indicate some temperatures increasing, some decreasing; some glaciers receding, some advancing; some ice melting, lots of ice increasing; none or precious little increase in ocean levels; and that precious little of the minuscule changes can be attributed to mankind. Reducing our CO2 output to the levels stipulated in the Kyoto Treaty — even if we signed it, which I hope we don't, and if everyone adhered to it, which they won't — would have an insignificant effect on the overall climate of the world.

I believe we should conserve and recycle. Conservation is common sense. I am old and crotchety, and don't care very much what anyone else believes, especially as long as it does not affect me. But one of the articles on global warming indicated that we should do away with cattle because they produce so much methane. Doing away with cattle would affect me. I enjoy a good beef steak every now and then, and hope we stop short of doing away with cattle.

Larry Brown
Merlot, Hunter 426
Palisade, CO

Larry — We're skeptical by nature, and the fact that science has become so politicized it's become very difficult to know who or what to believe. Nonetheless, there seems to be such a growing consensus that the earth is warming faster than it has in the past, and that man is the primary cause, that our skepticism is fading even more. The fact that Bjorn Lomberg, the Danish author of Cool It, The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, doesn't deny man-induced global warming pretty much seals the deal for us.

What's much less clear to us is what the macro changes will be, and whether they will amount to a net gain or net loss. This might sound preposterous, but we remember one big El Niño year in the '80s when all the California piers were damaged and half the houses fell off cliffs and into the ocean. U.S. officials initially estimated that the damage was something like $6 billion. But when the effects of El Niño on the East Coast were included — meaning fewer hurricanes, warmer weather, fewer weather-related car accidents and deaths — there was an estimated net savings of something like 245 lives and $9 billion. The way we see it, nobody has a clue what the net effects of global warming will be. There are so many weather and climate variables that we can't even come up with accurate predictions for a hurricane season — in the middle of the season, let alone years out.

But here's some really great news for true believers in global warming and skeptics alike! Even if someone is skeptical about global warming, there are two very good — and by that we mean selfish! — reasons to behave as though global warming were taking place. The first is financial, the second is security.

Experts agree that the best thing individuals can do to reduce their contribution to warming is to get better gas mileage. Even if a climate change skeptic doesn't believe that getting better mileage will have any effect on the planet, he/she should at least know that it's good for his/her pocketbook. We recently purchased a 50 mpg vehicle, which means that compared to folks who get the average 20 miles, our gas was only costing about $1.25 a gallon. That's a significant savings, especially for road warriors. In addition to being good for one's pocketbook, the better gas mileage puts less money in the hands of individuals and countries who seek to destroy the Western world's relatively free way of living. After all, every time any of us fills up a tank, it's sort of like buying war bonds for Al Qaeda. As such, we kind of wonder at people who buy new cars that don't get at least 40 mpg. And while we're not inherently anti-powerboat, the same thing goes for anyone who would be interested in a boat that burns 20 or 30 gallons an hour.

But we also have to put those who oppose more nuclear power plants up there with folks who buy 10-mpg Hummers. We're all for conservation — we just got solar panels for our catamaran, believe in alternative energy, happily live in a land residence that's less than 600 sq ft, and invest in cars that get 50 mpg. But we're realists, too. Activists, senators and congressmen can call all they want for 40% of U.S. energy to come from alternative sources by 2025, but unless it's actually possible, their calls are doing nothing but adding more hot air to the environment. They might as well call for a cure to all cancers by next year, pigs to fly by 2015, and abolishing the laws of gravity by 2025.

As much as we support conservation and alternative sources of energy, we think only fools would stake a nation's future on totally unproven energy sources. The Europeans, for example, have already drastically cut back on the estimates of how much power they'll be able to get from alternative energy 20 years from now. Unfortunately, it's just not going to be as easy as everyone had hoped. Meanwhile, France gets 76% of their electricity power from 12 nuke plants located all around their lovely countryside, Japan gets 33% of its electrical power from 53 reactors, and we in the U.S. have been getting 20% of all our electrical power from 110 or so nuclear reactors. While not ignoring the potential dangers of nukes, it is a clean and proven alternative to coal and oil. We have no doubt that the number of people coming around to nukes will increase as the price of a barrel of oil levitates past $100.

You often see people holding up placards saying "no blood for oil." They don't seem to understand that oil — a.k.a. energy — is just as critical to human survival as blood or oxygen. The relationship may not be quite as obvious or direct, but it's every bit as strong. Civilization as we know it has become wholly dependent on massive amounts of energy, and there's no turning back. After all, it's not like the 300 million people in the United States or the billion plus people in China are going to be able to return to agrarian lives. If the economy and social order were at risk because of the cost of or shortages of imported oil, we have no doubt that the United States, the Saudi Arabia of coal, would burn that filthy stuff like crazy, the possible effects — including maybe some flooding in Manhattan — notwithstanding. And so would the Chinese. There are 1.3 billion people in that part of the world who would happily roll the dice by having to live with the consequences of global warming rather than return to abject poverty.

Global warming and the growing shortage of clean energy presents a real challenge to the people of the United States and the world. Although it's still very early in the game in the sense that the problem has only recently been realized and accepted, the collective response to date deserves, at least in our minds, a D at best. After all, what percentage of the population has made or even intends to make any significant sacrifices in lifestyles?

Furthermore, we're not sure if anybody is more deserving of an F than some of those who claim to be the biggest friends of the earth. No matter if you think he's exaggerated the case or not, there is no doubt that Al Gore has done an excellent job of alerting the world to what looks to be human-caused global warming. But talk about a guy who is destroying his own credibility! The former Vice President continues to have several residences, one of them a 10,000-sq-ft monster that uses 20 times the U.S. average of gas and electricity. Furthermore, he's been documented as flying around in one of the dirtiest private jets ever, when over 100 commercial flight alternatives were readily available, and then stepping into a gas-guzzling pig of a limo. And then there's environmental lawyer and eco-warrior Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has made a complete fool of himself by battling against a wind farm that would ever so slightly interfere with the view from the Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port. Are we nuts or are these guys just as hypocritical as televangelists who cavort with hookers before getting in front of the cameras to preach to the masses about the virtues of fidelity?

If there is any hope of combating global warming, billionaires like Gore — who knew you could become so rich by losing the presidency? — are going to have to convince other billionaires and multimillionaires like Kennedy that they are really going to have to change their ways. There are now 10,000 private jets in the United States, and manufacturers can hardly build them fast enough. The demand for mega motoryachts, which burn 250 gallons or more an hour while cruising, is greater than ever. And despite the housing crisis, palatial homes are still being built by just about anyone who can afford one, even if they are hardly going to be used. As long as the 'little people' of the emerging nations of the world see the American high priests of the environmental movement wasting fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow, there is no way they are going to buy into the "earth in crisis" argument.

The way we see it, what governments and populations around the world are going to have to do is encourage/require a reduction in energy and resource consumption without destroying economic growth — at least until the earth's population starts to decline in about 40 years. Unfortunately, that's going to be as easy as swimming a mile without getting wet. On an individual level, we think the best response is to be very long on energy investments, while using as little of it as possible. And to be ready to adapt. After all, it's no longer 1923, when metropolitan Los Angeles produced 25% of the world's oil, and when the creation of CO2 seemed to have no effect on the environment.

So what does this long-winded and highly opinionated editorial response have to do with sailing? Just that we can't think of a more energy and resource-efficient living space than a boat, a living space that can conveniently be moved to other climate zones. As for you, Larry, living on a boat leaves you with such a small carbon footprint that you can eat all the steak you want without any guilt.


It occurs to me after hearing the news of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize that we, as residents of planet earth, should all be working towards dramatically reducing our carbon footprints. I've been thinking of adopting the cruising lifestyle for some time now, trading in our lake/river/bay cruiser for a real cruising vessel, one to live on and see the world.

I was thinking of doing this even before crewing on the good sailing vessel Ursa across some 6,500 miles of South Pacific, a trip which gave me a sense of the cruising dream many people have. But now, with the emphasis on the world's climate changing, and the question of what the heck we're going to do about it, I'm thinking that jumping into the lifestyle is perhaps my humanitarian duty! Think of it — a home completely off grid, powered at least for the most part by wind, for sailing and generating electricity; and sun, for both electrical power and sun tans.

Combine this with adopting a lifestyle that by its very nature pushes one to walk to cafés and bars instead of walking to the garage and getting into the SUV to drive there. In fact, I wouldn't even need a garage! Combine this with no workaday commute, which pumps out even more carbon just to earn a few more bills that aren't really needed other than for a bigger house to heat/cool or a bigger SUV to feed. Yes, I think it's my duty to cruise and save the world. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a prize!

Pablo Close
Another Snafu, O'Day 25
Lake Tahoe

Pablo — If you were to buy a relatively simple existing sailboat, you could certainly enjoy a cruising life while having a very low impact on the environment. Glenn Tieman of Southern California, who has always been one of our heroes, cruised the Pacific and Asia for 10 years aboard a 26-ft Wharram cat he built for $3,000. He lived on $1 to $3 a day, and didn't have an engine in his cat or the outrigger canoes he used for dinghies, so his life was ultra low impact.

If his approach is a little too basic for you, consider Jack van Ommen of Gig Harbor, Washington, whom we've featured frequently in these pages. If memory serves us, Jack's cruised more than four-fifths of the way around the world on his Najad 30 Fleetwood, and over the course of three or four years burned less than 100 gallons of fuel. And if you read this month's Changes, you'll learn that Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman, also of Gig Harbor, cruised the Pacific and Asia for seven years aboard their Wylie 30 Velella. They "sailed everywhere" because their boat only had a 10-gallon fuel tank. Surely this couple had a tiny carbon footprint, too.

You can be low impact and frugal on larger and more comfortable boats, too. For example, check out Evan Dill, the subject of this month's Latitude Interview. He's been cruising Java, the Crowther 48 cat he bought in Australia, from Oz to California to Mexico, living on between $150 and $350 a month. He's able to do that because he rarely motors, doesn't use an engine on his dinghy, and is a vegetarian who eats natural foods with locals. While Liz Clark's Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell is slightly more power-hungry in the sense that she's got refrigeration and a watermaker, she's nonetheless very conscious of her impact on the environment. A vegetarian who also tries to eat local foods, she went a month in the South Pacific swimming or paddling between her boat and shore instead of using her outboard-powered dinghy.

We're not suggesting that everyone is cut out for this kind of simple, nature-based, low-impact way of life, but for many it's not only doable, it's the only way to live. Because of obligations to the magazine, we only get to do it about a third of the year, but for us, it's the best.


I read the October 8 'Lectronic report on Alinghi's Ernesto Bertarelli paying a visit to the St. Francis YC to argue for his new plans for the America's Cup — 90-ft box rule boats, one-boat campaigns, and the Defender match racing with the Challengers all along.

As you might recall, the New York YC used to hold a Defender's Challenge. If Bertarelli wants someone to race against prior to the Finals, there’s nothing stopping some other Swiss consortium from building a boat and challenging for the right to defend. Lacking such a challenge, the man needs to shut the hell up.

On the other hand, I agree that changing designs is a good thing — provided that everyone is privy to the rule with enough time to build a competitive boat.

Nick Salvador

Nick — We'd forgotten about the Defender challenges, as there hasn't been any for a number of years. Of course, we're not sure how thrilled the Challengers would be if they could only have one boat, but there could be Alinghi I and Alinghi II syndicates for the Swiss.

Like you, we don't see how anyone could be against faster and more exciting boats in the America's Cup, as long — as you stipulated — as everyone had enough time with the new rule to design and build a competitive boat.

We're not sure if you were at the St. Francis when Bertarelli spoke, but we thought he was a relatively sympathetic figure. He noted the positive changes that he'd made to the Cup — the Acts, which brought America's Cup action to many new venues, dramatically increasing the general public's interest, and sharing some of the revenues with the other syndicates. And he outlined why he thought his other proposed changes would make the Cup even better.

It was also clear that Bertarelli has a genuine passion for sailing — but that the America's Cup has at times severely tried his patience. He mentioned, for example, that he brought the Cup to his bedroom for one night after retaining it, and related that his wife said she didn't want to see it again. He also mentioned that he "hoped" he would be out of the America's Cup 10 years from now, clearly because it's just not that much fun to have all the responsibility. Finally, he also spoke of the difficulty of having to both put on a race and compete, likening it to being both a judge and a litigant in a legal case.


You might want to give your readers a heads-up on their rights regarding the increasing sea lion problem in Newport Harbor. The Northwest Regional Office of NOAA has published a guideline titled Deterring Problem Seals & Sea Lions (Pinnipeds). This can be found at Contrary to what the Newport Harbor Sheriff's Department tells you, as the owner of the boat you have broad latitude in deterring the kind of problem the guy in the accompanying photo is encountering.

Em Black
Lani Kai
San Diego YC

Em — We hate to tell you this, but you're giving people bum advice. As we reported several months ago, the NOAA guidelines say that certain people in certain situations can use a variety of methods to deter sea lions. Included in these are things like rubber bullets, cattle prods, paint ball guns, slingshots, nontoxic mace or pepper spray, high pressure hoses, and things of that nature.

However — and it's a big 'however' — the guideline also goes on to say that "the use of some deterrence methods may be prohibited or restricted by federal, state or local governments." They also warn that, "It's your responsibility to check with the appropriate authorities to ensure that any deterrence methods you use comply with local, state and federal requirements."

As such, we urge people to read the guidelines carefully before contemplating any action, then contact the local police or sheriff's department to find out if any of your plans would violate local ordinances. If you don't, you could find yourself in a heap of trouble. And nobody should even begin to get the notion that it's open season on sea lions, because it's not.


As a fairly new sailor, and a new cruiser in Mexico, I've always read with interest the letters about dogs on boats. We view our dogs as family members, and I can understand why some people would — and even have — discontinued cruising due to the fact they can't get their dogs to go to the bathroom on their boats. I've got some ideas that might solve their problem.

When Nelson, my husband, first hatched the whole boat ownership idea a couple of years ago, I was adamant that if the dogs didn't go, neither would I. He happily agreed — but I don't think either of us thought the bathroom issue would become so critical. We own McDougal and Maggie, Scottish Terriers, not exactly the breed that cleans up in obedience competitions. We had to deal with the inherent stubbornness issues that come with them. It's a Scottish thing!

When we left Vancouver southbound to Mexico in September of '06, we gunkholed all the way to San Diego. The dogs usually got to go to the bathroom on shore in the morning before we left and in the evening when we reached port. I also brought along a 2-ft by 5-ft piece of Astro Turf that I assumed they would use as substitute-land if they really had to go and we couldn't get them to shore. Boy, was I wrong about that assumption!

At one point between Eureka and Bodega Bay, we got caught in some strong winds and huge swells, and the dogs refused to use the Astro Turf. They suffered for 30 hours before we reached Bodega Bay. I felt really bad for them, and it became obvious that we'd have to take a more proactive approach.

One thing we had in our favor is that dogs are pack animals. Even a Scottie dog looks at you as the pack leader. I mean, really, look at what an efficient hunter you are. In just a few minutes every day, you rummage around in a cupboard, and voila, you come up with the day's kill, nicely presented in the house china. They also look at the boat as their den, and no self-respecting dog poops in its own den.

Anyhow, once we got to San Diego, we started to realize that, due to the size of the surf at the anchorages in Mexico, there was no way we were going to be carting dogs to shore in the dinghy for bathroom breaks. I decided to get the dogs to finish peeing by carrying them, midstream, so to speak, onto the AstroTurf, and have them finish there. I then rolled the wet stinky thing up in a garbage bag and took it with us.

Our first anchorage was Punta Colnett, so out came the turf, and we laid it on the bow. We then took the dogs out on a leash and let them have a good sniff, hoping they would pee. Wrong again! They looked up at me in bewilderment, wondering what the ridiculous exercise was all about. Well, remember the pack animal thing? After looking around to make sure there was nobody around for miles, I peed on Astro Turf. Yes folks, you read that right, I myself peed on it. After all, we were getting desperate.

Immediately afterward, McDougal decided that what was okay for the boss, was all right for him, so he peed on it. Then Maggie got into the swing of things. Everyone got lots of praise and cookies, so even the Scotties were thinking that this was a pretty good gig. I left the turf out that night, and in the morning, the dogs got right at it, peeing and pooping. Hell, at that point we just about broke out the champagne, for our life had suddenly become a lot easier. I gave the turf a quick rinse this time, and hung it to dry. It was important to leave some scent on it for awhile so the dogs didn't get confused.

Since that day, we've only had to devote a few minutes each day to the elimination process. On long passages, we can heave to and run the dogs up to the bow — on their leashes, of course. In really rough weather, we've gotten them to go on the Astro Turf in the cockpit — and even in the dinghy while its been on the davits! But we always use the Astro Turf.

Another concern for dog owners is that many dogs don't seem to drink enough water while underway, which can cause dehydration, constipation, and other problems. Fortunately, both my dogs like watermelon and cantaloupe, so I feed them lots of those, which keeps them well hydrated. Some dogs will also be more inclined to drink water if you put a very small amount of milk in it. I've had them drink it down like crazy after they'd turned up their nose at straight water.

I sure hope that some of this helps another dog-crazy person such as myself. But just remember to pick an empty anchorage for the peeing lessons, as I don't think humans will look upon peeing on the bow quite as favorably as your dogs.

Sandy Tilbury
Stormcat, Hunter 41 DS
Vancouver, B.C.


I can recall when Latitude 38, back in the days of Big O, was an advocate for cruisers and critical of 'official interference' affecting the ability of cruisers to anchor as long as was necessary or as long as they wanted. Nowadays, Latitude advocates for a larger role by government in controlling how long and where we may anchor. It's not clear to me why this is so. Perhaps if you pulled out the stops and revealed your class bias by saying exactly what you think about the so-called 'anchor-outs' and 'liveaboards', I'd get it.

I'm not talking about the folks who leave their boats unattended long enough that they can be appropriately described as abandoned. Nor am I talking about moored boats — a pox on the face of the earth if ever there was one. I'm talking about cruisers. Latitude seems happy enough as long as cruisers are far away in Mexico, the South Pacific, and other far flung destinations. But what about those of us who are still plying, and yes, needing to anchor in U.S. waters? It is impracticable to believe cruisers, who must micromanage their cruising kitty, should be pushed into marinas or onto buoys with fees. Your suggestion that the retired guy who may want to spend a month at anchor is o.k., but anyone wanting to anchor out indefinitely reveals your shortsighted and biased take on the issue.

So far, most letters you publish regarding the matter are critical of those who choose to anchor over the long term. How about the letter I sent you last month? When I wrote that letter, I had not yet been to Clipper Cove. But I can now unequivocally state that the anchorage there is large enough to accommodate many boats — even though the ideally sheltered spots are mostly taken by long term 'anchor-outs'. A practical remedy to the moorage problem and inadequate sharing would be to require boats to move within the anchorage every 72 hours. Moored boats couldn't do so unless they had a system anchoring or mooring their boats that could be practicably weighed every three days. The Sausalito situation is a nightmare for anyone looking for a spot to anchor where their boat can swing with changes in tide and wind direction without having to worry about colliding with a 'moored' boat. It doesn't matter if your boat clears three out of four moored boats, the fourth is always the fly in the ointment.

So, you want more government regulation of anchorages?

I arrived at Clipper Cove last Wednesday and, after my experience there, I can say that I object to the roughshod way DPW (Department of Public Works) is treating people wanting to access shore from their boats. DPW has been seizing kayaks, dinghies and bicycles belonging to mariners without providing any kind of information regarding why this is happening and where the items are taken. It's clearly an effort to interfere with and harass anyone who dares anchor in the Bay. There are several boats apparently left unattended by their owners, but the DPW, under direction of Marc McDonald of the Treasure Island Development Authority, is indiscriminately targeting anyone who comes ashore.

My bicycle was recently taken by a DPW worker who broke or cut a $30 lock securing the bike with a chain. No information concerning who was responsible for taking the bike or where it could be recovered was provided. The police told me the bicycle was probably taken by DPW. So the police assigned to Treasure Island are looking the other way when they must know what the DPW employees are doing is illegal. In fact, a police sergeant refused to provide a form for reporting the theft by DPW of my bicycle, and instructed another officer to not let me file a complaint! I had been in the cove for less than 24 hours. I have emailed Marc McDonald demanding the lock be replaced. DPW employees are obviously exceeding their authority when forcibly breaking or cutting devices meant to prevent theft of dinghies, kayaks and bicycles. Their justification for doing this is found in the minutes of the meeting mentioned below:

"Discussed a recent tour of the beach at Clipper Cove with DPW staff; much trash was found and now Clipper Cove is on the regular maintenance schedule for trash pick-up." To any reasonable person, kayaks, dinghies and bicycles would not be seen as 'trash'. To those who object to boats anchoring in Clipper Cove however, trash is what they say it is.

Proponents for government regulation can rest assured they will get what they want and more. More than they expect in the way of restrictions and interference by law enforcement. Sooner rather than later.

Bob Lorenzi
Armido, Nor'Sea 27
Fourteen-Year Liveaboard and World Cruiser

Bob — We don't believe that our view has changed at all. We think all boats should have to be either registered or documented, and that all need to comply with safety and anti-pollution regulations. We don't have anything against anchor-outs, as long as those who are semi-permanent be in organized fields and pay a reasonable sum for the use, upkeep and administration. But we're a little more open-minded than you in that we don't necessarily have anything against moored boats, provided they meet all the requirements mentioned above and their owners pay a reasonable fee. After all, in many areas low-cost moorings are the only thing that allow medium income boatowners to be able to sail. In addition, we think there should be free anchorages for cruisers with limits of, depending on the area, something like one to three months. After one to three months, you'd have to move on to the next one. Finally, we believe that there should be facilities for tying up dinghies, going to the bathroom, dumping trash, locking bikes, and so forth.

We're all for small government, but aren't so foolish as to think that society can function efficiently with no government at all. In fact, it seems to us that if the Richardson Bay Regional Agency followed our plan, they could get rid of the derelict boats and prevent boats from going ashore in the winter. There would also be much more room for liveaboards and cruisers to moor or anchor out, and there would be reasonable facilities ashore. It's not like this isn't done in many other places in the world.

Do we believe that people should be able to anchor anywhere they want, for as long as they want, for free? Sure, in the less populated areas of Mexico, French Polynesia and elsewhere. Why not? The reason 'why not' in places like San Francisco Bay, Santa Barbara, Marina del Rey, Long Beach, Newport and so forth is that you'd have chaos. People would get three or four derelict boats and take over entire prime areas, squatting in busy channels, denying the use of those waters to everyone else. We're not in favor of that anymore than we're in favor of allowing people to homestead on the side of freeways in broken down RVs or in tents in Golden Gate Park.

It's hard to argue that we have a class bias against anchor-outs when we liveaboard on the hook — and love it — a significant part of the year. When we do it in relatively crowded areas, we usually have to pay, and sometimes have to move along after a period of days or weeks. When we're out in the middle of nowhere, there is no charge and we can stay for as long as we want. It all seems very reasonable to us.


Please let all southbound sailors and members of the Baja Ha-Ha coming down to Mexico know that they are invited to visit the Vallarta YC, located at Paradise Village Marina, Nuevo Vallarta, on the shores of sunny and tropical Banderas Bay, just a few miles from Puerto Vallarta.

Banderas Bay is one of the best sailing bays in the world, as it has the most consistent wind in Mexico, flatwater sailing, and lots of whales, turtles and other sea life. It also has a wide variety of destinations, such as the big city of Puerto Vallarta, the accessible-only-by-boat jungle village of Yelapa, La Cruz, Punta Mita, the Tres Marietas islands, and much more. In addition to great sailing, the bay also offers great fishing and some excellent surfing.

No matter if you're anchored out or tied to a dock, please stop by and enjoy the welcome and company of fellow sailors at our club. We host many sailing and social events during the season, capped off by the 16th annual Banderas Bay International Regatta for Cruisers in March. We hope to see you!

Laurie Ailworth
Vallarta YC
Paradise Marina, Nuevo Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Mexico

Readers — The Vallarta YC is a terrific club made up mostly of cruisers and retired cruisers. It has a great facility — sorry, no docks — lots of activities, and special memberships for active cruisers. Take note of their Chili Cook-off for Charity on December 1, and the Banderas Bay Blast on December 7, 8 and 9, an event to be held in conjunction with the Punta Mita Yacht and Surf Club.

Despite the following letter, cruisers and members of the Ha-Ha should expect a warm welcome throughout Mexico from, for example, the Club Cruceros and various communities based in the marinas in La Paz; the Hidden Port YC in Puerto Escondido; the communities at Marina Mazatlan and El Cid Marina in Mazatlan; the cruiser community in Tenacatita Bay; the cruiser community in the lagoon and in the marina at Barra; Rick's Bar and the cruiser community in Zihua; the good folks at the Acapulco YC; and many more.


I'm compelled to write a follow-up letter to my wife April's 'Light Your Boat Up Like A Christmas Tree' letter that was published in the October issue. You may remember that it was about a panga hitting our boat while we were anchored off La Cruz.

Unfortunately, at my request, she had tried to remain vague concerning the issue of whether our anchor light had been on or not. When the edited letter was published, the issue of whether or not our light was on was misrepresented. I’ve read the letter she wrote, and can easily see how it could have been misinterpreted. But the fact is that our anchor light was off.

For reasons that were explained in the letter, we told the authorities that "we habitually turn our light on." But seeing what I know to be a blatant lie appear in Latitude 38 has made me realize that I need to be upfront with myself, my wife, and the sailing community.

I know that Latitude would not have knowingly printed a lie, so I owe you and April an apology for having tried to hide the truth. I don’t want cruisers to feel unsafe while cruising because they’ve read a story about a young couple who had their light on but still were hit by another boat. The truth is, accidents like ours are rare, and there are a lot of measures cruisers can take to make them even more unlikely.

Once again, I'm sincerely sorry to have misled you, and I hope that my letter can be helpful to other cruisers. 

Matt Rollins
Soñadora, Catalina 36
Dana Point

Matt — Your case reminds me of when we were 16 and had had our driver's license for all of two days before we managed to flip a friend's parents' truck in the Oakland Hills. Miraculously, nobody was hurt, but there were reasons for letting the police believe that our classmate had been driving the truck rather than us. So we quickly gathered all the kids together and got the story straight for the cops. They believed it, too. But we could only live with the lie for about 10 minutes before having to fess up. Despite the short term pain, it was one of the best decisions of our lives, and turned out to be a valuable lesson for the rest of our lives.

The truth of the matter is we doubt that your having an anchor light on would have prevented your being hit. We love the pangañeros, but most of them are hot-doggers who love to hot-dog for their guests. That's why we always light the salon level of our boat up "like a Christmas tree" when in Mexico — and everywhere else, too. And when we're in our dinghy at night, we always wave a light around like crazy. Boats and dinghies getting hit by recklessly operated pangas or dinghies may not be common, but it's not rare enough.


I'm writing this letter on behalf of several cruisers who have been sailing in the Sea of Cortez and mainland coast of Mexico for many years. Many of us have watched with both amusement and concern as the yearly migration of Baja Ha-Ha vessels enters this area. While in some way we applaud your efforts to organize such an event, the following are our observations having sailed 15,000 ocean miles in our collective 100 years of ocean experience.

We don't know about your group 10 years ago, but in the past few years we've observed more and more outrageous incidents perpetrated by the captains and crews of boats bearing your little yellow Ha-Ha flags. This includes shouting matches between boats in anchorages, extraordinarily rude and obnoxious behavior in local businesses by people wearing Ha-Ha shirts, and completely unsafe anchoring, docking and sailing procedures.

In speaking with many of these boatowners, we found many of them are inexperienced and from the Los Angeles/Southern California area. Unfortunately, they carry their home habits with them — they think they know it all, think they are very important people, and want to make sure everyone knows it.

The boats, the equipment they have on board, and most important, their ability to use it, are all highly suspect at best. I have met several Ha-Ha participants who would be much better suited to driving a motorhome than a boat. They had absolutely no idea about weather, tides, VHF or SSB use, motor maintenance or repair, or even basic navigation skills.

We understand that you really can't control much of this, and undoubtedly your staff does its best, but it seems that you are much more interested in the partying and self-aggrandizing of your Grand Poobah status than screening your participants — and perhaps suggesting that they take up another activity or at least wait until they are better prepared.

We realize that in some cases you are helping people 'realize their dream', but you are also helping to clog the marinas and anchorages with a new group of 'mariners' who would be much better suited to trailer parks. Yes, this will always be the case, but your position as the self-appointed Mexican sailing god also places you in a position of responsibility that includes more than just organizing parties on your big party boat.

Lest you think that we're just a bunch of old fuddy-duddies in wooden boats, our ages are 36-51, on boats from 32 to 46 feet, and all of us elected to make our way south on our own or by joining a couple of friends' boats rather than join the circus. It's not an indictment of your event, just a simple choice. Our point is that perhaps you're better suited to promoting full-time partying at an RV park on land than running a boating rally to Mexico.

Enough said. We simply believe that sailing, while at times a wonderfully social pastime, is best left to those who have the guts and wisdom to do it on their own as well.

Jon Alden, Allure
Mike Canelli, Migracion
Susan Boucher, La Dolce Vita
Capt. Ken Corrock, Looking Glass

Jon, Mike, Susan and Capt. Ken — Whew! For a while there we almost thought we weren't going to get the annual whine about the Ha-Ha from a few grouchy 'master mariners' in Mexico. As usual, the whine comes from people who have surprisingly little cruising experience. After all, let's do the math together: 15,000 ocean miles in 100 years — that's an average of a whopping 150 miles a year among the four of you, or a mere 40 miles of ocean sailing a year per skipper. The average entry in the Ha-Ha sails many times that just to get to the starting line. You four aren't just fuddy-duddies — which, by the way, is a mental rather than chronological condition — you don't even sail much either, at least not compared to the crews on an average Ha-Ha boat.

Compare your experience, for example, with that of Mike Harker, a man you'd have banned from the Ha-Ha in '00 because he was so new to sailing. Harker then cruised Mexico by himself, singlehanded across the Atlantic, did the Med, recrossed the Atlantic, sailed to French Polynesia, Hawaii and California, and in the last six months has completed 15,000 miles — most of it singlehanded — of an 11-month circumnavigation. What sailing have the four of you, with all your "guts and wisdom," done with your boats in that period?

It's just a wild guess on our part, but we're betting you sailed to Mexico from somewhere in the States and have been pretty much collecting slime on your bottoms ever since. We've been cruising in Mexico since the late '70s, and think we know your type. Relieved to have made it to Mexico, and particularly the Sea of Cortez, any dreams of Central America, French Polynesia, and the Caribbean have faded, and now a 150-mile trip from La Paz to Loreto is a big deal, and would never be attempted without a huge weather window as forecast by Don Anderson.

But the funniest thing about the letters from whiners such as you is that they're always from people who have never done a Ha-Ha, and don't have any idea what they are talking about. What do you folks do in your spare time, review movies you've never seen, write cruising guides to countries you've never been to? Now would be a good time for the four of you to join hands and sing a few refrains of Jimmy Buffett's "don't try to describe the ocean if you've never seen one."

Let's consider some of the Ha-Ha facts instead of your ignorance-based generalizations. There is no telling what will happen in this year's Ha-Ha, of course, but in the 13 Ha-Ha's to date, a total of 1,713 boats have completed the 750-mile course for a collective total of 1,284,750 miles — or the equivalent of about 52 circumnavigations. Not one boat has been lost, and the only death was a woman who suffered a massive heart attack. While we have the utmost respect for both the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and Caribbean 1500, the Ha-Ha has a better safety record than both of them. As for you guys, when you've sailed 86 times as much as you have now — it should take another 8,465 years — give us a call and we'll compare safety records.

One of your silly claims is that Ha-Ha participants "have absolutely no idea" about VHF and SSB use. Is that so? Then could you explain how 150+ boats check in with the Ha-Ha net each morning via . . . that's right, VHF and SSB radio? What's more, they do it extremely efficiently, despite the many relays involved, because there are so many boats and so little time. Similarly, if Ha-Ha participants know nothing about navigation and tides, how could all 1,713 of the finishers over the years have found all the finish lines? And how it is none of them have run aground in the event?

Perhaps your biggest misconception is the common one that the Ha-Ha is just a wild party. At the end of every Ha-Ha, we're approached by people who tell us they are so happy that they did it because they made so many great friends — but almost hadn't participated because people who had never done a Ha-Ha had told them it was just a frat party on the water. As anyone who has done a Ha-Ha can tell you, the kick-off party in San Diego, the parties in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, and the beach party and awards ceremony in Cabo are just typical cruiser social gatherings. Sure, people drink beer and wine, but they are all G-rated, kid-friendly events. If alcohol ever became a problem, it would be the end of the Ha-Ha, because we're never going to babysit irresponsible people. The one party that can get a little wild and crazy is the unofficial one at Squid Roe the night everyone arrives in Cabo. And why not? It's the perfect time for Ha-Ha participants to celebrate their achievement and blow off a little steam, as it's in a totally controlled and supervised environment. Only people with Taliban-like mentalities could complain.

As for your claim that Profligate is the venue for wild parties, you're once again advertising your ignorance. We defy you to name a single wild party that ever took place on our cat. The reality is that we've often had lots of people aboard for charity fundraisers, such as the SailFests, the Pirates for Pupils, the Turtle Bay Cup, and so forth. We may have drinks, play music, dance and fool around, but our cat isn't ever going to be the party venue for irresponsible or drunken fools.

It's true that every year some of the Ha-Ha skippers are new to cruising and Mexico. Is that some kind of crime? Usually they bring a mentor, but even if they are just a couple relatively new to cruising, can you name a better time and place than the Ha-Ha to get their feet wet? With so many boats around them, new cruisers learn about the importance of anchoring etiquette and radio protocols. And most of all, they learn the basic cruising ethos — that you missed somehow — which is that you help rather than belittle your fellow cruisers. At the first stop at Turtle Bay, the Ha-Ha net goes on for an extra hour or so in order for newer and even veteran cruisers to ask questions and/or perhaps get assistance with radios, engines, autopilots, watermakers, refrigerator, spinnakers — everything you can think of. And it's always great to see how many experienced folks are happy to share their knowledge. The Ha-Ha way is to try and help other cruisers, not belittle them for trying to learn or make holier-than-thou comments about where they came from.

We love your line about Ha-Ha boats "clogging" marinas. If a Ha-Ha boat clogs a marina, what do your boats do when they take a slip? Or are you somehow cruisier-than-thou?

As for your accusations that Ha-Ha folks are evil boors, we're discounting that almost entirely. We know that the overwhelming majority of folks who have sailed in the Ha-Ha are wonderful and courteous people. And trust us, we've spent a lot more time with them than you have. Sure, there have been one or two incidents over the years of rude behavior, but when considered in the context of many thousands of participants, that's negligible.

As for your alleged little squabbles in anchorages with Ha-Ha boats, there are always two sides to every story, and it wouldn't surprise us in the least if you weren't the ones who provoked the incidents. There's something about the Baja sun that seems to dry up the brains of a few Mexico vets, and they begin to think they own the place. Let us give you an example. We pulled into Puerto Escondido about 18 months ago, and took one of the 150 or so vacant Singlar moorings. While we were hiking around, the 'Baja master mariner' on a boat on a mooring near ours came over and told our crew that we had to move. He insisted that we were on "his mooring," and said that he no longer wanted the one he was on, or any of the other 149 others. Absurdly, he wanted us to move so he could have our mooring, even though we were going to be leaving a day later. We checked with Singlar, and they confirmed it was their mooring, that moorings are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and that we'd paid the rent on the mooring. They advised us to ignore 'Mr. Master Mariner', and we did. But that's the kind of behavior Ha-Ha boats and other new cruisers in Mexico can expect from a tiny minority of old-timers, particularly up in the Sea. They'll tell you to re-anchor because you're blocking their view, because gigantic Caleta Partida isn't big enough for more than three boats, because they 'own' the anchorage, and other such nonsense. We try to humor them, but there are limits.

The Ha-Ha isn't for everyone, and there have even been a few people who didn't have as much fun as they thought they would. Fair enough. A few people have not liked us personally. That's fair enough, too. But the one thing we know for sure is that the Ha-Ha has brought thousands of people a great amount of pleasure, and more than a few have told us it's literally changed their lives. So if you think we're going to change the event to please the misconceptions of bigoted fuddy-duddies such as yourselves, you're mistaken. Besides, you "wise and gutsy" folks have had plenty of time in Mexico. Maybe it's time for you to move on to greater challenges. Got the guts for Central America or the Caribbean? How about the South Pacific or New Zealand? Why not try Thailand or the Red Sea?

Despite our little disagreement and your unsolicited advice on what we should do with our lives, we wish you the very best of cruising this winter.


I need to start planning right now if I'm going to be able to get off work for the '08 Baja Ha-Ha. Do you know what day the fleet will be leaving San Diego next year?

Dave Weiss
Kaitline Marie, Catalina 34
South Beach Harbor

Dave — Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler says the current plan is for the 15th annual Ha-Ha fleet to depart San Diego on the morning of October 26, and the awards ceremony will be in Cabo on November 8. The dates will be confirmed with Marina Cabo San Lucas after this year's Ha-Ha, so please hold off making plans for a little while.


It's been almost 10 years since you were so generous with our 1st place finish and award in the '97 Ha-Ha. When I was in Cartagena last year, I had the interior of Merinda upgraded, so I temporarily had to remove the 'trophy' from the bulkhead. When I did, I noticed that some of the ink has dissolved from the ribbon. But that takes nothing away from the good memories that I have of the '97 Ha-Ha.

I'm currently in Bocas del Toro, Panama, but I plan to return to Columbia in October or November.

Don Marcy
Merinda, Cal 34
Olympia, WA

Don — It's great to hear from you, and we're glad to hear that you've still got your 'trophy'. In fact, it's pleased us no end over the years to see how many Ha-Ha participants continue to have them hanging in their nav station as a reminder of good times. We must admit, however, that we copied the idea from Tim Tunks of Marina del Rey, who cruised Mexico many years ago aboard an Islander 37 named Scallywag.


Thanks for publishing Margaret Mathison's fine primer on using SSB/Ham radio nets in Mexican waters. After 10 years of cruising western Mexico, one of the most frequent comments we hear from new cruisers in Mexico is about their lack of familiarity with radio procedures and protocol. Margaret's primer should help.

We'd also like to add to the list a couple more nets that we've found to be very useful. The first is the Sonrisa Net (3.968 LSB, 1430/1330 UTC), which is managed by Rick Oliveira of Tortuga, who is also the weather guru par excellence for the Sea of Cortez. Rick understands the funneling and adiabatic effects of land on the Sea of Cortez winds that can account for the differences between general weather forecasts and actual local conditions. The second is the Chubasco Net (7.294 LSB, 1530 UTC), which not only provides general information, but also has net managers who will do phone patches back to the States for mariners who don't own a satellite phone and can't wait for email via Sailmail.

Both the Sonrisa and Chubasco Nets are ham nets. This means that, while everybody is welcome to listen, only those with ham licenses can transmit on them.

Jon and Nancy Doornink
Seadream, Morgan Out Island 37
Newport, Oregon / San Carlos, Sonora

Joe and Nancy — That new cruisers are unfamiliar with SSB/ham procedures and protocols shouldn't come as a surprise, as few if any of them had any use for SSB/ham radio in the 'real world'. As such, we agree with you, Margaret's primer — and encouragement for those new to SSB/ham not to be afraid of it — was very helpful.

We were also happy with Gordon West's An Idiot's Guide to SSB, which we customized for Latitude readers, and which also appeared in the last issue. It came out so well that even San Diego ham guru Shea Weston has requested reprints to hand out to all his customers.


I'm forwarding you some photos that you might want to use in your magazine. The story behind them is simple. I just returned from a 12-day trip to Spitsbergen aboard the Dutch topsail schooner Oosterschelde. We had about every kind of condition that you could imagine, from windy to calm, to bright blue skies to heavy snowfall. We even made it north of latitude 80.

The folks with Oosterschelde have been doing trips to the high latitudes for a couple of years now, and it's a great way to visit this beautiful part of the world. Anyone interested can contact them at

As for myself, I'm a Dutch travel photographer specializing in adventurous assignments and/or destinations. I'm happy to announce that my photobook of two Antarctic expeditions aboard the barque Europa, in '05 and '07, will be published in November. Titled Cold, the book will be 162 pages of the highest quality photos and the highest quality printing. I recommend them as Christmas gifts.

Thijs Heslenfeld
The Netherlands

Readers — Heslenfeld's work is absolutely superb. Check it out at


I try to check out every 'Lectronic and Latitude to see what's new or interesting. It's always worth a read.

But the October 3 'Lectronic blurb — kind of an ad, actually — about Nobeltec seemed like something from a time warp of about 10 years ago. Heck, even Mac Addict magazine changed its name a while back to reflect the mainstreaming of the MacOS these days. Anyway, the tone of the article seemed to imply that this was how one would do navigating and charting on a Mac computer. It was very odd information at the least, and actually misleading.

I have used Nobeltec a little on a delivery, and it was alright, but a dedicated Mac navigation application such as GPSNavX does everything I need for about $60 — or about 10% of the cost of Nobeltec. Plus, you would still have to have a legal copy of the current WinOS to run it on, even with a newer Mac. The total cost might be close to the price of a Mac laptop. While it might be easy to run this and other Win apps on one of the newer Macs, after paying for the WinOS license, it would seem quite inefficient and expensive.

Or was that article just a test to see who reads your web site?

Loren Beach
Fresh Air, Olson 34

Loren — It was actually a test to see if we really know what we're talking about when it comes to computers and navigation programs. Obviously, we don't know jack, so thanks for the correction and tip. Being in publishing, we're Mac people. So while Doña de Mallorca fools around with Nobeltec on her Toshiba PC on the Baja Ha-Ha, we're going to order up a GPSNavX for our MacBook Pro and compare the results.


It's great to see Macs being recognized. I suggest you look into MacENC, a native Mac navigation program. You can find out about it at I've been using it for two years in and around the Bay and like it. It interfaces with instruments and supports AIS.

Ray Irvine
Crew's Nest, Catalina 34
South Beach Harbor


I took particular pleasure in reading your October 8 'Lectronic item about the rough weather at Catalina, and was glad to hear that Profligate made it through another harrowing experience. But we at Sail Time Channel Islands also had an interesting experience with the weather in Southern California that weekend, which I wrote about in my blog:

"Southern California is known the world over for its incredibly dull weather. Sun, sun and more sun. Clouds? If I'd been born here, chances are I wouldn't know what they are. Nonetheless, for mariners down here, things can get interesting without much of a hint. At least the talking weather heads on the television hardly ever give you a hint. They get excited about temperature fluctuations of three to five degrees from day to day, but they hardly ever see strong winds when they are coming.

"On October 4, a pitiful Small Craft Advisory was issued for a front to pass just to the north of us in the Oxnard/Ventura area. My favorite weather saying is, "It won't be the front that gets you, but the tail surely will." Fronts come through down here all the time, but they tend to be so weak you don't even realize it. But when the tail of a pressure cycle reaches us — bam! — we get hit hard!

"That Friday it blew in the 30s all day, with gusts into the high 40-knot range. As far as I'm concerned, this warranted a gale warning, which would have prevented many mariners from getting caught in it. Saturday was posted as a Storm day, which was followed by a Santa Ana condition beginning at 4 a.m. A Santa Ana occurs when the low pressure is replaced by a high that races into its place in the desert. This phenomenon causes a lot of friction. So there we were on Sunday, with offshore winds in the 20-knot range, gusting to the high 30s. Nonetheless, there was nothing but pitiful Small Craft Advisories once again.

"We had a member plan his ASA 104, which consists of a multi-day trip out to Santa Cruz Island. Captain Dan shows them all the great anchorages, and they work on their navigation skills and self-sufficiency aboard. We knew they might have some wind on Friday, but heck, NOAA posted nothing more than a Small Craft Advisory. So they went out to the island. They were lucky to escape back to the mainland on Friday, having gotten some heavy weather sailing experience thanks to the winds gusting to the 40s and the seas to 15 feet. They probably felt sheepish on Saturday for having come back, for the weather was fine. But they didn't know about the Santa Ana on Sunday, which hadn't been forecast until late Saturday night. What makes the Santa Anas tricky is that it makes normally safe anchorages unsafe in a moment's time."

We're now off to the British Virgins to lead a member flotilla. One of these days we'll get to the Baja Ha-Ha.

Chris Tucker
Sail Time
Channel Islands

Chris — The NOAA forecast for Catalina that Friday was 20 knots with gusts to 25. Windy, but not that big a deal. However, it was already blowing 20 by 7 a.m. on Friday, and blew consistently in the high 20s and low 30s off Two Harbors. Out in the Catalina Channel, it blew in the mid-30s with gusts in the low 40s, which eventually resulted in the cancellation of all ferry and helicopter service to the island. One ferry captain said it was the roughest weather he'd seen in the channel in 15 years. In any event, NOAA's forecast had certainly underestimated the strength of the wind.

We're not sure about the Saturday and Sunday forecast for Ventura and Oxnard, but as early as Friday afternoon — with the northwesterlies still blowing at their peak — NOAA had already forecast mild Santa Ana conditions for the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas on Saturday and Sunday. Moderate Santa Anas usually mean 15 to 25 knots of offshore winds at the beaches, with the wind diminishing every mile further offshore. The old hands at Catalina said the moderate Santa Anas wouldn't have any adverse affect on the island, and they were correct. There were very light Santa Ana conditions at the island on Saturday, Buccaneer Day, which meant a light, warm, dry onshore breeze, and lots of sun and blue skies. It's interesting that there were 30-knot Santa Anas where you were further up the coast on Sunday, because it was even warmer and dryer at Catalina that day, and virtually dead calm. In fact, staff members said it was the island's finest weather of the entire year.

As you and other Southern California mariners know, strong Santa Ana conditions can be very dangerous for boats in the popular anchorages at the Channel Islands. The wind blows hard onshore, and the normally calm beaches can be slammed by waves. Most people have seen the historic photos of the mooring fields and beaches at Avalon being pounded by huge waves during Santa Anas. And older mariners will recall that strong Santa Ana conditions at Santa Cruz Island one Thanksgiving in the late '70s claimed something like 27 boats.

Of course, it doesn't take a weatherman to know when a Santa Ana is going to blow. The telltale signs are unusually clear skies along the coast and dry air. And there's no need to worry if you're at the islands. The best thing to do is go around to the backside of the island and drop a hook wherever you can reach bottom. Or you can heave to. It sure won't be a lee shore, and the further out you are, the lighter the wind will be. Another possible option is to make a dash back to the mainland. That's fine if you make it in time, but the closer you get to shore, the stronger the wind will be blowing on the nose.

By the way, October 5 wasn't a "harrowing" experience for us on Profligate. Cici Sayer, who was watching the boat for us, said it was tiring being on alert for so long, but that it had actually been "comfortable" on the cat. If a mooring hadn't suddenly become available, the obvious option was to just motor out into the channel and drift. After all, the cat had been through much worse weather with no problems.


Your October 8 'Lectronic report of conditions at Catalina on Buccaneer Days Weekend made for good reading — and gave me a question for you. Long ago, when I was a young lawyer and non-sailor with a maritime insurance defense firm in Beverly Hills, I defended the skipper of a 25-ft sloop who was sued after a guest was injured when the boat was swamped at the entrance to Oceanside Harbor. After talking to the skipper, I was convinced the case was defensible. But when my boss learned that a Small Craft Advisory had been in effect, he declared the skipper negligent for taking such a small boat out of the harbor in those conditions. He told me to settle the case — much to the irritation of the skipper.

A year later, I moved to San Francisco and learned to sail with a friend aboard his Dana 24. When I expressed doubts about sailing with Small Craft Advisories in effect, he laughed and said that it would be a long wait for a day on the Bay when there wouldn't be Small Craft Advisories, and that sailing would be boring if they weren't in effect. I came to learn that he was correct. And until now, I chalked up my boss's advice to Southern California wussiness.

But Profligate's experience makes me wonder if all Small Craft Advisories are equal. For reference, Wikipedia says that Small Craft Advisories generally cover winds of between 22 and 33 knots, and Beaufort Scales 6 and 7. It sounds like Profligate faced the high end of that scale.

So does the sheltered geography of San Francisco Bay allow us to sail in conditions which would be dangerous elsewhere? Conversely, do the open ocean conditions and resulting long fetches for waves in Southern California make their Small Craft Warnings worthy of more serious attention, even if the winds are comparable to those we face every summer weekend?

Fred Walter

Fred — The Small Craft Advisory business is, like a lot of government constructs, so nebulous that it's almost useless. For one thing, there is no legal definition of a "small craft." Even more bizarrely, NOAA tries to define it in reverse, saying that if your boat was "adversely affected" by weather when Small Craft Advisories were in effect, your boat is a small craft. Great. "Other considerations" in determining whether your boat is a small craft include "the experience of the operator, and the type, overall size, and seaworthiness of the vessel." In other words, depending on who is operating a boat, a Cal 20 isn't necessarily a small craft, while a Columbia 50 could be one.

Want more? Small Craft Advisories don't always mean the same thing. In fact, they differ in at least six areas. In some places, such as Minnesota and Ohio, advisories come into effect when sustained winds or frequent gusts (on the Great Lakes only) are between 22 and 33 knots inclusive, and/or seas and waves are greater than four feet. In the Caribbean, it's when there are sustained winds of 20 to 33 knots, "and/or forecast seas seven feet or greater that are expected in more than two hours." In the Western District, which includes Washington and California, it's when there are sustained winds of 21 to 33 knots, "potentially in combination with wave heights exceeding 10 feet (or wave steepness values exceeding local thresholds.)" In Hawaii and Samoa, the sustained winds have to be 25 knots or greater and the seas 10 feet or greater.

Honestly, have you ever read such useless definitions in your life? What makes it all the more bizarre is that the same definition of Small Craft Advisories is used on San Francisco Bay, where it commonly blows 25 knots, as for the quiet waters off Newport Beach, where it rarely ever blows over 15 knots.

When it comes to sailing when there are Small Craft Advisories, it makes a huge difference whether you are in relatively sheltered waters, such as San Francisco Bay, or in the open ocean, such as halfway between the Golden Gate and the Farallones. Most skippers and boats don't have much trouble sailing in 25 knots of wind in the relatively flat waters of San Francisco Bay, but if they get outside the Gate when it's blowing 25 and — more importantly — there are 10-ft seas, it's a different story.

As far as we're concerned, if you don't know that Small Craft Advisories are worthless, you probably shouldn't be sailing when they are in effect. But once you have a decent idea of what you're doing, you'll only care about the wind speed and size of the seas, and then make your own determination of whether it's safe, depending on where you'll be sailing.


We did the Baja Ha-Ha last year with our Beneteau 38 Sea Fox, and later learned that flat-bottom boats aren't the most comfortable for doing a Baja Bash. Anyway, we're in our 30s and still work, so we couldn't do another Ha-Ha this year. So we settled for Latitude's suggestion of the next best thing, a one-month mini-cruise from San Francisco to Newport Beach.

However, contrary to the usual articles — such as the September 26 'Lectronic, in which it was maintained that there isn't much wind in Southern California — we found it just as windy as the Bay and with bigger waves. Specifically, on September 10, we had 20-25 knots of wind close-hauled all the way from Newport to Catalina. All three girls puked. On September 12, we motorbashed in 20 knots of wind the entire 50+ miles from Two Harbors to Oxnard.

On the other hand, our 4 a.m. rounding of Points Conception and Arguello were done in less than 10 knots of wind. In fact, we had pretty easy motoring from Conception all the way home — although we did spend a windy Wednesday waiting out the breeze at the Morro Bay YC.

Andrew Vik
Sea Fox, Beneteau 38
Northern California

Andrew — We were writing based on our personal experience this summer, the law of averages, and the fact that sailboat charter companies from Santa Barbara to San Diego routinely leave the sails up on their boats for weeks on end.

It's not uncommon, of course, to have 20 knots of wind between Pt. Dume and Oxnard, as it's one of the windiest places in Southern California. But 25 knots of wind between Newport and Catalina is well above the norm. The big snort in the Southland this summer was on October 5, when a surprisingly strong front came through with 25 to 40+ knot winds. While weather like that isn't common along the Southland's inshore waters, it does happen from time to time, so you always have to be prepared for it.


My wife Dawn and I sailed from Blaine, Washington, near the Canadian border, to Mexico in '06. Having now spent a year in Mexico, we're gearing up to do the Puddle Jump from Cabo in March of '08. I haven't been able to find a website for the Puddle Jump like there is for the Baja Ha-Ha, but would like to know how to register and contact the other folks who will be running it.

Have a great time on this year's Ha-Ha. We'll be looking forward to seeing the members of that fleet this winter in La Paz and Mazatlan.

Tom & Dawn Baker
Warm Rain
Blaine, Washington

Tom and Dawn -— Although Latitude coined the phrase "Pacific Puddle Jump" 11 years ago when we began acknowledging this annual migration to French Polynesia in print, it's quite different from the Baja Ha-Ha and other cruiser rallies, because there is no concrete starting date and no Rally Committee. However, Latitude holds two Puddle Jump Kickoff Parties, in Zihuatanejo (in February, right after ZihuaFest) and Nuevo Vallarta (also in early February), where potential passage-makers can get to know one another and compare notes. In the past two years we've had cooperation and input from the Tahiti Tourisme Board, which hosts a free Sailor's Rendezvous at Papeete and Moorea, aimed at welcoming the fleet to their spectacular islands (June 27-28 this year).

You should also know that, a few years ago, four-time Puddle Jumper Bob Bechler of the Gulfstar 44 Sisiutl set up a Puddle Jump group at Yahoo, which has become an amazing resource for Pacific voyagers, as it contains a wealth of useful info while serving as a central database of each year's fleet. Go to Note also that Latitude's own Pacific Puddle Jump website will soon be up and running (reachable via

Although the majority of each year's fleet typically jumps off from PV or Zihua, others start from Panama, the Galapagos and elsewhere, all converging on French Polynesia between April and June. A net is usually established so that the leader can relay weather info down the line. Hope you can make it to one of our kickoff parties so we can give you your 15 minutes of fame in the mag.


We obviously totally disagree on the concept of privatization of things like the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu, but let me give you and other advocates a different perspective.

The current privatization craze was started by Ronald Reagan's administration when he was president. The idea was to cut taxes — which the rich and other selfish people always support — enough to starve government institutions so they wouldn't be able to function adequately. Then, the same people who caused this would announce that the institutions didn't work because government was incompetent, corrupt, or whatever, and that these institutions must be privatized in order for them to operate competently. This plan has been well documented and is far from being a secret, though you might have to do some research beyond the corporate media to learn about it.

Privatization is nothing but theft of public goods and services by the rich, who own the businesses that profit from this theft. In this specific example, all the government has to do is to raise the ridiculously low slip fees at Ala Wai and use that money to fix and maintain it. (And charge powerboats a lot more than sailboats for slips — it's about time that people who take part in motorized recreation begin to be held accountable for all the needless environmental harm they've caused and are still causing.)

The Berkeley Marina is owned by the city and is one of the most desirable marinas around, proving that it's not necessarily who owns and operates the marina, but instead how much money the owner/operator has to operate that determines whether the marina is run in a competent manner.

And I certainly hope you were kidding, and not just 'almost serious' about "privatizing the government of Hawaii." Doing that would be the classic definition of fascism, which is when big business runs the government — some of us think this has already taken place to a large extent. At least we supposedly have a voice in government by voting and/or otherwise participating. We have no voice in how corporations and other businesses are run. They are completely tyrannical.

Jeff Hoffman
San Francisco

Jeff — What would you recommend, another 30 years of monumental state mismanagement, during which time mariners, taxpayers, and the state would all continue to suffer? At what point would you agree that it would be time for a change? When the entire marina has been condemned? When the marina loses $100,000/month of revenue? It always boggles our mind how long some people are willing to support government incompetence.

To say that the operational success or failure of something like a marina is dependent on the amount of money they have to work with — as opposed to the quality of management — is often wrong. The history of marinas — as well as businesses and even governments — is full of well-documented examples of management teams coming in and totally reversing the fortunes of marinas/businesses/governments. It's our contention that the 10th grade economics class at Punahou High School could have done a better job of running the Ala Wai than the State of Hawaii has for the last 30 years. How could they have done worse?

In any event, don't blame anyone but the State of Hawaii for not having enough money to run the Ala Wai properly. After all, despite having complete control over the berth rates for decades in a total monopoly situation, they insisted on charging some of the lowest rates in the entire country — despite having one of the most desirable marina locations. Why? Because they obviously don't have any idea what they're doing.

We're not arguing that no government bodies should run marinas. After all, many do a good if not excellent job. It's largely about the quality of management. But when an entity such as the state of Hawaii has tried management team after management team with nothing but failure to show for it, we think it's time for a change. By the way, when a private company does a poor job of running a government marina — and that happens, too — they get their butts kicked out as soon as the contract is over. Why not hold the government to a similar standard?

It's not uncommon for city or state governments to have private firms operate things — garbage collection, payrolls, computer systems, golf courses, marinas, and such — on their behalf. And why not, as governments can't be expected to have expertise in everything. But to claim "the people" or government have "no voice" in how privatized operations are run is absurd. All the conditions in the world could be put on the way a privatized marina is run, from the slip rates to the number of employees to the schedule of maintenance, etc.

By the way, we think your dictionary is broken. Fascism is "an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization, and tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leaders, and a strong demagogic approach."

As for our being 'almost serious' about privatizing all of the government in the state of Hawaii, we'd be completely serious if their handling of the Ala Wai was any way indicative of the skill with which they are able to carry out their other duties.


The September Latitude had an article about Bruadair, our boat, being boarded in Panama while we were aboard. Latitude's editorial made the following comment on our situation:

"When it comes to things that spook cruisers, having your boat boarded is, understandably, near the top of the list. Fortunately, things like that rarely happen. And it seems to us that it would happen even less often if boats had audio rather than silent alarms. As for being disappointed that other boats in the anchorage had their radios turned off, we have to say you'd be disappointed in us, too. For unless we're expecting a specific message at a specific time, we never have the radio on. After all, we go cruising to unplug, not to monitor the radio in the very unlikely chance that somebody needs help. If, on the other hand, we heard the repeated sounding of an air horn, we'd respond immediately."

The alarm on our boat is not silent by any means. It sets off a chime from the base unit on our boat, and a 120-dB piezo siren is attached to the 10-amp relay built into the base unit. We only utilize the siren when we are off the boat, as it's much too loud when we're on the boat.

I agree that air horns are great to have to notify other boats whether it's a boarding, theft, or even if a boat is dragging and the owner is down below sleeping — which happens more than you would think here in Bocas del Toro. But have you tried to buy an air horn in, say, Honduras, Colombia or even in the Bocas area of Panama? We tried in every port since Guatemala, but haven't been able to find any. And they'll be confiscated if you try to fly with them.

If I had the time to make repeated blasts with an air horn while trying to get an intruder off my boat, and you were in the anchorage, how would you be able to know what was going on aboard my boat? How would an air horn blast tell you if I had an intruder, a medical emergency, or any other emergency going on? I would not have had time to blast the air horn, wait for you to turn the radio on and explain my situation while trying to get this guy off my boat.

One quick call on the radio is all it took, because there were people who had their radio on. I understand wanting to be unplugged or to save a couple amps, but if I see someone stealing your dinghy or gas can, wouldn't you like to know? That happened here one night. We watched as a gas can was taken out of a dinghy while the boatowners slept. We tried calling, but there was little else we could do but try to alert them with a spotlight. And it's a shame that most radios are off when the wind pipes up to 30 knots and boats are dragging. I guess most people aren't concerned enough to want to be informed if a boat is dragging towards them, or even if they are dragging. With the wind howling, I would probably be able to hear an air horn, but I probably wouldn't be able to hear any voices to see what the commotion is about.

Yes, I've been in places where radio traffic at night is annoying, and then I just turn down the volume. That way I can still receive DSC distress calls. But here in Bocas, the amount of traffic on the radio between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. is about one call every few days.

In the end, I'm happy to keep my radio on and to help others in need if the situation arises. At least I know that if there's an accident from a dragging boat involving my boat, having a radio on relieves much liability, just like having an anchor light on — have you checked the USCG regs regarding both the radio and anchor light rules? That's another subject I won't get into, as out of the 20 or so boats anchored here, only two boats bother to keep any light on whatsoever.

The great thing about the cruising lifestyle is that we can afford to make our own decisions without worrying about what others think. Unfortunately, sometimes these decisions put one or others at risk of not receiving help in a timely manner. While it's disappointing that some of one's neighbors prefer not to know what's going on around them, I'm sincerely glad to know that there are more responsible boaters who do care.

I'm not sending this email to create an argument in any way, I'm sending it to agree with you that I would be very disappointed if I were ever in the same anchorage as you.

Damon & David
Bruadair, Hans Christian 33T
Bocos del Toro

Damon and David — It wasn't an intent to be critical, but rather let readers know that in most anchorages we've been in — but not all — you'd be lucky to find anybody monitoring 16 after dark. In the busy places, they usually use a yachtie hailing channel other than 16, or people just turn their radios off after dark to listen to music or watch DVDs.

For what it's worth, VHF radios are not required on boats less than 65 feet, but international law requires that all boats over 40 feet be equipped with a sound-making device capable of being heard at least a half-mile away. While we suppose a whistle could suffice on calm days, you have to remember that a short blast is one second and a long blast is four to six seconds. Blowing an SOS or other warnings to vessels could leave you gasping for breath. And yes, we can imagine that air horns are all but impossible to find in the places you've been.

We're not trying to come off as pious. We know it's the law that we're supposed to monitor 16 when the radio's turned on. But the reality is that we — and many, many others — don't have it on in calm weather. But if it's blowing 30 knots and boats are likely to drag, we're certainly going to have it on.

To each their own. If you think you'd be best served by trying to make a call on the radio to perhaps a nonexistent audience while fending off an intruder, all the more power to you. Personally, we'd feel vulnerable trying to do both those things at once. We'd feel better trying to send a SOS with an air horn at the same time we'd be bashing the intruder with it, knowing for sure that somebody is going to hear it and that the intruder would also know that others would hear it.

If we heard an SOS with an air horn, or even short, insistent, repeated blasts, we wouldn't just sit there and not respond because we didn't know if it was a heart attack or a boarding, we'd just respond, knowing it was some kind of emergency.

If you would be very disappointed to ever share an anchorage with us, that's your business. As for us, we wish you pleasant and safe sailing, and wouldn't mind if you dropped your hook near ours. In fact, we'd even be happy to give you an air horn if you hadn't been able to buy one.


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