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January 2008

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I just completed the '07 Baja Ha-Ha, and want to express my thanks for the great job the organizers did toward making this a safe and informative start to a cruising experience for my wife and me.

We sailed in a division with two heavy displacement sisterships and quite a few lighter displacement boats of the same length. We didn't break any records for speed with our boat, but were gratified to find out at the awards ceremony that it wasn't how fast you got there, but how much you sailed in getting there.

But we do think that the Poobah missed awarding a significant prize for the one boat in our division that was able to defy the laws of physics — although he did get the first place award for having sailed all the way. Let me explain:

During the second leg, we sailed side by side with this boat, crossing paths three times during the first day and night. During the second day, the winds were too light for our vessel — we need at least 10 knots of wind to do three knots — so we motored down the rhumb line at 6.5 knots directly toward Bahia Santa Maria. Imagine our surprise to see the sistership that we'd been competing with all day anchor next to us an hour after we got there, saying that they had sailed the entire way. Somehow he must have made six knots of speed in 10 knots of wind directly to Bahia Santa Maria, or perhaps he made more like eight knots — even though his boat has a hull speed of 7.8 knots — if he sailed outside to find winds that no one else could. In either case, he defied the physical laws of the universe. At the least, one would have expected the lighter displacement boats in our division to have beaten a heavy displacement boat that had sailed all the way.

During the last leg of the trip, we needed to get a crewmember to Cabo by a certain time that required we make a six-knot average speed during the entire leg. So we sailed directly down the course line wing-on-wing and, whenever the wind fell below 15 knots, brought in the sails and cranked up the engine to maintain the six knots we needed to reach Cabo on time. I believe the entire fleet ran into light winds by the evening of the first day, which can be handled by the lighter displacement sailboats, but not by those of us with heavy displacement boats. But during the 6 a.m. position report, we noted that our miraculous sistership was just ahead of us, outside of Cabo, having "sailed all the way."

I think you need to institute a special prize for sailors who either defy the laws of physics, or have a helping hand from the Almighty with special winds that are denied the rest of the fleet. I plan to notify the factory that they need to find out how they manufactured the sailboat that was produced two molds after mine to make it so fast in light winds, so as to retrofit my boat with whatever they did.

Please Withhold My Name To Protect The Innocent

P.W.M.N.T.P.T.I. — We're not being flip when we say we've got some good news for you — your boat is much faster than you realize. How do we know? Because she has a PHRF rating of about 120, which means if you're only getting three knots out of her in 10 knots of wind, you're missing out on at least half of her potential speed. And make no mistake that the difference in speed between sisterships can be dramatic. For example, if you watch the J/120 class at the St. Francis Big Boat Series, you'll see that the distance at the finish between the best-sailed boats and the less-well sailed boats is very large — and everybody in that class is an experienced racer.

There are a lot of seemingly little things that add up to make one sistership much faster than another, particularly with cruising boats. For example, how clean the bottom is, how much weight is being carried, the trim of the sails, the size of the spinnaker, how well the boat is being steered, and the course chosen.

In the case of the second and third legs of the Ha-Ha, the way you played the typical north to northwest shift of the winds from morning to afternoon, and then back to the north again at night, made a tremendous difference, not only for the apparent wind angle, which is critical for boat speed, but also for whether you aligned with or crossways to the swell. If you were on the wrong jibe at the wrong time, or even if you were doing rhumb line, you were losing out big time.

If you assume that everybody got the same amount of wind from the same direction on those last two legs, check out, select the map for the coast of Baja, then click on the Wind Flow Viz map. If you examine the chart over a series of days, you'll see that if you approach Punta Hughes/Bahia Santa Maria from the inside, you're going to be sailing very deep — and therefore very slowly. But if you were coming in from the outside, you'd be on a steaming reach, and therefore have more apparent wind and much more boat speed.

By the way, your boat is a rather high-performance, medium-displacement boat, not a heavy-displacement boat. As such, she's at her best — compared to light-displacement boats — in 10 to 15 knots of wind and flat water — such as we usually have in the Ha-Ha.

We're very familiar with the boat and skipper that you believe didn't really sail the whole way. He and his boat have done several Ha-Ha's as well as trips to the South Pacific, to the Pacific Northwest and many other places. Not only is he a fine sailor, but he's got a very large and vibrantly colored asymmetrical chute that he trims well and sails on the curl for maximum speed. We were right next to him with Profligate in the early stages of both the second and third legs and found his boat to be very fast, particularly in the light and steady stuff. When he said that he sailed the entire way, there was no doubt in our mind that he did just that.

Our suggestion is that the next time you cross paths with the person you suspect of foul play, that you compliment him on his performance, and ask him for tips on how to sail your sistership faster. We bet he'd be happy to take you for a sail to show you what a big asymmetrical can do for performance, and the difference it makes in speed when it's trimmed perfectly. As we said, you've got a terrific boat capable of surperb performance, and you'll be thrilled once you learn to extract it.

For those who didn't do this year's Ha-Ha, there were 10 members of the 150-boat Ha-Ha 14 that sailed the entire distance, earning the title of Soul Sailors. We'd like to acknowledge them here. Please note how many of them had 'ordinary' boats as opposed to speedsters. Phil MacFarlane of the San Mateo-based Ericson 35 MK II Sail A Vie; Albert Miller of the Sacramento-based Hunter 36 Delight; Steve Lannen of the Beneteau First 405 Full Quiver; Dan Swett of the Bonita-based Hunter 41 Deliverance; Richard Bernard of the Oceanside-based Valiant 42 Surf Ride; Peter Bruckman of the Kamloops, B.C.-based Beneteau 46 Quickstar; Garland Bell/Jim Taylor of the San Rafael-based Beneteau 47.7 Sooner Magic; Patsy Verhoeven of the Portland-based Gulfstar 50 Talion; Wayne Zittel of the Alameda-based J/120 J/World; and Duncan Hicks of the Incline Village-based Corsair 31 trimaran Flying Fox. Lyman Potts of the Portland-based Royal Passport 43 San Cles would have sailed the entire way, too, had he not heeded a call to tow a boat just a very short distance from the finish of the third leg at Cabo Falso.


I wanted to take a few minutes to compliment you on your response to the December letter from Jim and Dianne Currah of the British Columbia-based Ladysmith. In the letter, titled "I Didn't Know We Could Reserve A Slip There," they expressed their displeasure in the service they received from a representative of the San Diego Harbor Police Department when inquiring about slips at the police dock.

As the Sergeant of the Harbor Police Professional Standards Unit, the unit responsible for investigating Citizen Complaints, I found Latitude 38's response refreshing. You thoroughly and appropriately explained to the Currah's our procedures for accepting complaints, while at the same time educating your readers in these procedures.

Although we don't have any means of contacting the Currahs to follow up on their concerns, I can assure you that we will look into this matter. The Harbor Police take this type of complaint very seriously, and take great measures to ensure that citizen encounters, such as the one described by the Currahs, are an anomaly.

We are aware of the significance of our role within the boating community, and take pride in maintaining excellent relationships with those we serve and protect. We continually look for opportunities to enhance our professional performance, and we appreciate your contribution in this instance.

Thank you again for taking the time to educate your readers as to our complaint procedures. I truly appreciate your professionalism and your service to the San Diego boating community. Keep up the good work.

Sergeant John Reilly
Professional Standards Unit
San Diego Harbor Police Department

Sergeant Reilly — We're happy to help out — and pleased with your response.

We've had two previous occasions to contact waterfront law enforcement agencies in Southern California with complaints on behalf of our readers. Once was many years ago with the San Diego Harbor Police, the other time was about five years ago with the Orange County Sheriff's Department. On both occasions, the respective heads of the departments looked into the matters, concluded that their officers could have handled the situations better, and instituted changes. We were very impressed. And rather than becoming angry with us for raising the issues, both departments became friends with us. In fact, after that, officers from the San Diego Harbor Police would stop by our Ha-Ha Kick-Off and Costume Party. They were a big hit, and we hope some officers will visit the party next fall.


The most important and overlooked part of the dinghy disaster scenarios is that you have to look behind you as you go to shore. During our four years of cruising, there were innumerable times when I watched people go to shore from the anchorage and had to scream — "Look out for the wave behind you!" They couldn't hear, of course, so it was pretty entertaining at times.

John Bavin
Monakewago, Passage 34
Vancouver, B.C.

John — It's our understanding that one of the first things that Hawaiians — who spend much of their time near the water — teach their children is "never turn your back on the ocean." And for good reason. Folks taking dinghies in through the surf should, as you say, keep this in mind.

By the way, while in Banderas Bay last month, we bumped into Jim Hosie, the owner of the dinghy featured in the tremendous dinghy flip at Turtle Bay during the Lucky 13th Ha-Ha. Although Hosie had only started sailing a short time before that event, and took one of the worst dinghy dumps we've ever seen, it hasn't deterred him. He cruised his beautifully maintained Folsom-based Catalina 42 Renaissance as far south as Zihua last year, and is about to continue on to Panama this season.


In answer to the question that was posed in 'Lectronic Latitude, yes, I find Francis Joyon's attempt to break the singlehanded around the world record with his 97-ft trimaran IDEC to be both compelling and riveting. From the moment I saw videos of the huge, red, three-bladed craft scything through the waves, I've been hooked. And since my French is awful, I've been relying on 'Lectronic for updates. So thanks, and keep them coming!

Darryl Tillman
No Boat Yet
Aberdeen, Scotland

Darryl — If Joyon continues to the finish at the pace he's been going — which is about 30% faster than Ellen MacArthur's record with her trimaran B&Q Castorama — we think it will very possibly be the greatest singlehanded sailing achievement ever. If we lived in Aberdeen, there's no way we wouldn't make our way over to France to see Joyon finish.


I don't know about anybody else, but I find Francis Joyon's attempt at the singlehanded circumnavigation record with his 97-ft IDEC to be very compelling and newsworthy. I also think it's commendable that he's doing it with little or no carbon footprint. Please keep up the regular updates.

Given the world's energy situation, power may very well have to give way — back — to sail. Can you imagine a 20-masted schooner container ship? A catamaran, of course, so the containers don't fall off.

George Backhus
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62
Finike, Turkey/Sausalito/'Home' in Auckland for summer

George — Like you, we're extremely impressed that the top transoceanic and circumnavigating sailors of Brittany are going 'clean' by choice. We don't want to slam the America's Cup any more than it deserves being slammed, but what a waste by comparison. After all, didn't each team make something like 500 sails?


The cover photo for the November issue — the one of the two boys on the bow — was a real delight. They seemed to be having such a blast that it made me want to get out on the water.

Lance Carlson
Whatever, MacGregor 26 Power/Sail
Oxnard and Ventura Harbor


The kids on the bow of that boat are stoked! I've had some experience teaching kids sailing, and I know the look. For example, just after the TransPac one year, the Andrews 56 Stealth Chicken was parked at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, with her delivery crew soaking up the view before setting off on the long sail back to the mainland. I had a class of juniors in 14-footers going for it around a course we'd laid out through the anchorage. Two of the kids on one boat just missed T-boning the Chicken when their dink got hit by a puff and they lost rudder control for a few seconds. I was watching from the beach — this was their first solo trip around the course — and still remember the looks on their faces after they'd missed the Chicken and made it around the course successfully. It was the look on the kids' faces on the November cover.

By the way, your spin on "small craft advisories" went into my boating safety files. I've read and written on the subject, but your take is the best I've seen.

Pat Durkin
Waioli, Tartan 34C
North Island, Hawaii

Pat — You gotta love the kids! By the way, the photo was taken by Latitude's LaDonna Bubak, and we think it's terrific, too.


Thank you for the outstanding report on the Cosco Busan hitting the Bay Bridge and the resultant oil spill. It was a breath of fresh air after the trash the mainstream media has been putting out ever since. Your article was inclusive, well-researched, and without a hidden agenda. I wish you could give journalism lessons to our local newspapers and TV news reporters.

The first I heard of the incident was from television, and they said they didn't know when or how the pilot got off, where he went, and that he'd been "laying low for 20+ hours." There was a correction a few hours later, but where was the apology to him and his family? If the media, elected politicians, and bureaucrats would have spent as much time on finding a solution as they did searching for blame and someone to sue, I'm sure the problem wouldn't have ended up as bad as it did. And they're still at it. I don't think it has anything to do with saving birds, but is all about bucks and litigation!

Stuart G. Sall
Red Rover, Hans Christian 34

Stuart — Thanks for the compliments. We're glad you liked our coverage, but we certainly wouldn't be as critical of the other media reports. After all, many of them had to write about the event right after it happened and, having been there, we know how hard it can be to get the straight story.


Once upon a time I sailed to the South Pacific on my Farr 30 Antipodiste. While underway, my fresh water consumption was on the order of a few gallons per day. My electricity consumption was way under 500 watts, augmented by a few candles and a pint or so of stove alcohol. I was a happy guy.

The joke, though, was that the half-life of a 'cruising relationship' was 1,000 sea miles or a month in port. This bit of humor, as with most good bits of humor, was based on observation. Another observation was that American girls washed out fast, and few circumnavigated. The only recidivist circumnavigating family I met was from South Africa. Life in a small boat, something like the Old West, seems to be "great for men and dogs, but hell on horses and women."

So what does this have to do with anything? The relevant question is probably something like, what sort of political system would you need to take away the energy-driven comforts Americans love? The next question would be, what sort of world economic order would you need to deny those comforts to those who presently lack them?

The market solution is to rely on prices, but there is no clear connection between the cost of energy production and the costs of climate change. Those costs are poorly understood anyway. The political debate is muddled in shades of authoritarianism between energy taxation — vive Pigot! — and a new post-Mao Cultural Revolution. Al Gore, Prince Charles, and like-minded wealthy visionaries can buy indulgences — at least for awhile.

Perhaps we need to celebrate Sputnik's 50th anniversary with a new commitment to space exploration and exploitation. First, if we're only going to do experimentation with our atmosphere, the only breathable one in our solar system, maybe we need to provide a bolt-hole for at least a few if it goes wrong. Second, once out of the earth's gravity, building large structures may take time, but not a lot of materials or energy. In a century, we could probably build a respectably sized parasol for our planet. Maybe it could also generate power. Maybe we could find a way to use that to reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuels, of which we have no more than a few centuries' supply of anyway.

Charles Warren
San Francisco

Charles — There may be "no clear connection between the cost of energy production and the costs of climate change," but market forces — i.e. higher prices — could certainly "take away the energy-driven comforts Americans love." For example, if the price of fuel at the pump ever reached that of bottled water at 7-Eleven, Americans would be doing a hell of a lot less driving — or would at least drive cars that got a lot better gas mileage. As we Americans are already sending $1 billion a day to Arab countries for oil, it behooves us to reduce our consumption — and build lots of nuke plants — now rather than later.

As for American girls, we see a growth in the extremes. Unfortunately — for them — there seem to be more Paris Hilton wannabe princesses than ever. Fortunately, there seem to be a lot more adventuresses, too. Speaking as a guy, there are few qualities we find more attractive in a woman than an adventuresome spirit.


We're pleased to announce the launching, on American Lake, of our 28-ft sailing trimaran Bluebird. She has 16'6" of beam with her amas extended, and 9'3" with them retracted. She draws 12 inches, weighs approximately 1,820 pounds, has a sail area of 330 sq. feet, and is powered by an 8 hp Honda outboard. She travels to weather at 55 mph on a 40-ft King trailer, and will soon be voyaging at speed to Banderas Bay, Mexico. She was designed by Jack Taylor and built by Synergy Systems Co. in Lakewood, Washington in '06 and '07.

Jack and Muriel Taylor
Bluebird, 28-ft tri
Lakewood, Washington


I'm writing in response to the December letter from Michael Walsiewski, who is seeking to gain approval from the court system to raise a child on a boat. Having gone through the same process myself as a father and single parent, I can provide Michael with some advice.

As a single father you already have points against you, for we are still in the dark ages when it comes to an equal "shared" custody for fathers, and worse, "reasonable" visitation. A father is profiled as the working parent who has less time to be with his children.

Although I see the beginnings of change, the courts lean toward the traditional motherly role. And I agree with the courts — in the early stages of a child’s development. However, from ages six through 18, especially for a boy raised by his father — as in my case — a boy needs the male bonding more than the nurturing from his mother. A boy will have it one way or another, for a male child will seek out alpha males as leaders through sports, gangs or the military. I was more fortunate than many as, for reasons that were apparent to the court at the time, I was granted primary custody during my son’s developmental years.

I was able to take my eight-year-old son with me to Mexico to spend a year sailing the Sea of Cortez on my 28-ft boat. I was his teacher and home-schooled him along the way. We sent emails to the third grade class that he left behind. He was a hero to his classmates when he returned the next year.

Being with my son 24/7 was an incredible experience, something that is beyond a court's understanding. They do not — and cannot — possibly know what it's like to sail with your son. With my case it was argued as being dangerous. Living in Los Angeles is dangerous! But I was allowed to leave with my son as long as there was communication with his mother on a regular basis. I completely agreed with this requirement, although it was a daunting task to say the least.

It was a miracle that I was able to convince the court to allow me to do this, for they were unaware of the countless positive experiences it gives a child of eight. Being able to identify the stars and have them guide us, being able to meet kids on boats from different backgrounds, and having his father as a teacher, mentor and friend was the most incredible experience that he and I have ever shared.

I don’t expect Michael to be another Sterling Hayden and run off with his child, nor do I give him much of a chance of talking his ex-wife into letting his son sail to another country with him, but I do offer this as motivation to do more than the ordinary. Don't let what I have seen in the past happen to you. If all you are doing is living on a boat and not taking it out with your child, you are missing out on the best moments the two of you can share. Here in Southern California, we have the Channel Islands. In San Francisco Bay you have the Delta, Angel Island or just pulling up to the docks of restaurants. If your boat is a sailboat, introduce your child to racing. Do something with your boat that involves both of you, or you might as well live in the corner of a small, dark, cold and cramped garage — for that's what it will seem like to a child who wants and needs an adventure with his parent. If your boat isn't seaworthy, join an active yacht club, one that sponsors youth programs. Or just purchase two Sabots and teach him the basic sailing skills. There isn't a sailor alive who doesn't remember his first times and how great they were.

I remember taking Zach out on our sailboat and catching a fish while sailing to Catalina. I'm not a fisherman, but tried to have a similar father/son experience with my son as my dad had with me. We caught a huge fish — I think it was a yellowtail — and, not knowing what to do next, I left it flopping around in the cockpit of our boat. Zach was four, and asked the normal questions. "When is he going to die? Will we eat him? Is he an old fish?" Zach and I decided to take the hook out and throw the fish back into the sea. After we did, he looked up at me and said, "I feel better about letting him go. Is that okay?" I hugged him and told him, "Yeah." In any situation, both you and your child can learn new things together.

My advice is not to think about what the courts ask of you at this point. Do the steps to convince them that this will benefit your relationship and the development for your child. Persevere. Go outside the approved boundaries, for the right motivations can do more than the ones you are given. In the end, if you do the right thing for the child, they will see that and grant you the visitation you need to provide the lifestyle you'd like your child to have.

Zach is now 18 and attending UC Berkeley on a scholarship. He's not on drugs, with a gang, or living at home trying to decide what to do with his life. I know the year we spent sailing together — and all the activities we did together in between — made a lasting positive impression and influenced him toward the direction he is now sailing on his own.

Jim Barden
Ann Marie
Still In The Sea of Cortez

Jim — Thanks for the observations.

We got divorced when our kids were six and four. It was not a good thing, because kids desperately need both a stable environment and ongoing male and female influences. But the kids' mother and we made the best of it. She was in charge of nurturing, while we were in charge of adventuring. With the support of their mother, we dragged those kids on sailing adventures all over the world. And now, 20 years later, we relive them with laughter frequently, as they were some of the best times of our lives.


Thanks for turning a positive spotlight on the kids that were part of the recent Baja Ha-Ha. Emily Applewhite of Bainbridge Island, crew on Volcano and one of our students at Woodward Middle School, was a participant, and came back with changed ideas and attitudes about what's important in life and her world. There is lots of learning to be taken advantage of outside our hallowed halls.

My husband Brian and I are avid sailors, and have done a circumnavigation aboard Shibui, our Norseman 447. You can imagine my excitement at seeing our student and classmate in the pages of Latitude 38. Never mind that Woodward Middle School has been in national publications. Being mentioned in Latitude was far more exciting. Life is about balance!

Mary Alice O'Neill
Principal, Woodward Middle School
Shibui, Norseman 447
Bainbridge Island, WA

Mary Alice — Thanks for the very kind words and the observation. And don't think that we don't remember meeting you and Brian — what was it, 12 years ago? — somewhere in Tonga or Fiji. In fact, check out the accompanying photo of you and Brian that we managed to pull out of the archives.


What an enjoyable experience it is to be boarded by the Mexican Navy! They are always very courteous, concerned about not leaving footprints on our boats, and love to practice their minimal English. Best of all, they give mariners a satisfaction survey to complete before they push off and say adios. Imagine if the U.S. Coast Guard handed out satisfaction surveys at the end of their safety inspections.

Jerry Jordan
Manu Wai, Cape George 38
Seattle / Mazatlan

Jerry — We think it would be a great idea — both for the public and the U.S. Coast Guard — if they did pass out satisfaction surveys.

As we've mentioned before, Mexico really seems to be getting into the customer satisfaction business. Just before we flew out of Puerto Vallarta in early December, a clean-cut, friendly young Mexican man who was fluent in English asked if we'd let him conduct a survey about the airport. He was so nice that we couldn't refuse. It was a detailed survey, and he took care to record our responses accurately. As such, it comes as no surprise that the Puerto Vallarta Airport — which has greatly expanded recently to handle the huge upswing in business — is terrific. The lines were all short and quick, the airport staff were friendly and professional, and the whole facility — including the restrooms — sparkled.


I'm writing in hopes of finding the answer to whether or not there is a law that requires a marina/boatyard or a mariner who damages someone's boat to, at a minimum, supply the name of their insurance carrier. I've never needed to utilize my own insurance, but it seems to me that the law, regarding property damage, would be similar to car insurance. As motorists, we are required by law to provide insurance information in the event of an accident, as well as file an accident report with the DMV.

Here's where I'm going with this: Last summer a boatyard in the East Bay relocated the 1947 Lyle Hess-designed classic Lady Elizabeth, which a friend of mine had recently purchased, to the shallow end of their fuel dock. The Lady E was negligently grounded, which caused the keel to be torn off — something that supposedly went unnoticed by all the marina personnel. My friend tells me that the keel is still sitting there, in just six feet of water, posing a serious hazard, all because the dockmaster refuses to cooperate with my friend in resolving the matter. I honestly don't know what he could be thinking — other than if he waits long enough, the whole nightmare will just disappear. The boatyard has refused all communication with my friend, including her numerous registered letters. As a result, she feels that she has no other recourse than to contact the marina's insurance company directly. The problem is, they won't tell her the name of the insurance company.

Surely, there must exist some legal agency to prevent such ridiculous and dangerous matters from going without resolution. Her boat could sink without the keel attached — and she could be on it. Does it take a death in order to get someone's attention to something like this?

In all my years of boating, this is a horror story unlike I could ever imagine, and has left me, along with all of my 'solo' female boating friends, terrified of going near unfamiliar marinas — especially in the Bay Area — ever again.

I have a much smaller boat than Lady Elizabeth, and fortunately, my Harry P. is resting safe in my backyard — and will remain there until I completely familiarize myself with boating insurance law.

Mary C. Furch
Harry P., West Wight Potter 15
San Diego

Mary — If there's a collision between boats in which there is damage of more than something like $500, both parties are required to file a report with Cal Boating. But since even the smallest boat nick is likely to cause $500 in damages, you can imagine how seldom mariners comply with that law. But more to your question, we're not sure you have to provide the other party in a boat accident with insurance information, as boats, unlike cars, aren't required to have insurance.

When there's a dispute such as your friend apparently has with the boatyard, and the boatyard doesn't respond, the normal course of action would be to consult a lawyer. If the lawyer thought your friend had a good cause for action, he/she would write the boatyard demanding some sort of remedy. If the boatyard didn't agree or respond within a reasonable amount of time, the lawyer — if he/she felt it was worth his/her time — would file a lawsuit on her behalf. If the damages weren't so great, the matter could be taken to Small Claims Court. Having said this, it's rarely in anybody's interest to go to court, as only the lawyers and government employees usually win.

In addition, the potential problem we see with your friend's case is that a boat's keel shouldn't fall off just because it hits bottom — unless the boatyard staff hit the bottom with her at about 25 knots. As such, a court might find that the condition of your friend's boat was the cause for the keel to fall off, in which case she might have to pay the cost of removing the keel from the boatyard, back berth fees, the boatyard's legal fees — and still have a disabled boat.

In any event, we can't imagine why this would make you and your friends "terrified of going near unfamiliar marinas." If we may be frank, you and your friends should be more terrified of 60-year-old wooden boats, as they require a lot of time and money to maintain.


I read the letter from Jeffrey Keeton regarding Horseshoe Cove with great interest and a little sadness. In '74, while on active duty in the Army, I was assigned to duty at Fort Baker. Within a month I owned a Columbia 26 MkI, and was a member of the Presidio YC. Even though I had just completed a four-year assignment in Hawaii, where I sailed a Cal 20, which wasn't bad duty, I felt I'd died and gone to heaven after arriving at Ft. Baker and San Francisco Bay. I subsequently kept my Hawkfarm Courageous and One-Tonner Rolling Stone at the Presidio YC.

A common misconception, which Latitude 38 expressed, is that the Presidio YC and the Travis Marina at Ft. Baker are "Treasury-draining boondoggles." The truth is that they've always paid their way via member's dues and, in fact, provided a considerable positive cash flow to support the Morale activities of the Army and Air Force. The docks and so on were built and paid for by members. In addition, a typical monthly workday would find 30-40 members building fingers, pounding nails and picking up trash on the beach. The one great advantage, of course, was that the Army owned the land and buildings.

The Presidio YC is a 300+ member club that actively participates in all boating activities in the Bay, including sponsoring YRA races, PICYA activities, the normal inter-yacht club cruises and so on. The membership is less now, but the activities are the same. The only difference between members of Presidio YC and other clubs is that, in addition to a common sailing bond, we also have the common bond of military service.

By the time the Army decided to leave the Bay Area, I was long retired and cruising aboard Rolling Stone with my wife, Dolores, and we ultimately ended up in Scotland. I recognize that all the sailing, racing and cruising I was able to do over the past 40 years was a result of the military-supported boating activities at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, Hickham AFB, Hawaii, and the Presidio YC at Ft. Baker. I don't think anyone thinks of military service as much of a "boondoggle" these days.

I agree with Jeffrey that Horseshoe Cove is a poor location for a recreational boating facility for Travis personnel because it's such a long drive. And I'm afraid that the nail in the coffin was driven long ago when the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and its advisory panel decided not to house a "military yacht club" in Horseshoe Cove. I feel sad about that, as many, many people put a lot of sweat into it and continue to do so. The Presidio YC could be an asset to the park.

As for me, we moved on to the Point San Pablo YC in Point Richmond, which is a great and fun club that owns its land. We sold Rolling Stone in Scotland, and she now resides in Germany. I still read Latitude every month, even though our latest boat, Dolores E, is a converted salmon troller. I periodically help Hans from Scanmar sell Monitor Windvanes at various boatshows and bum rides on friend's sailboats.

Robby Robinson
Sergeant Major, U.S. Army (ret.)
Mill Valley

Robby — We agree with you, it makes a lot of sense for the Travis sailing program to be located some place closer to Travis Air Force Base. However, that doesn't mean it makes any sense for the military to give up a facility that their other members could use. And with a Bay dying for berths close to the Central Bay, what's the sense in encouraging the elimination of 70 berths?

It's true that the best time to make sure the Horseshoe Cove marina and Presidio YC wouldn't be lost was years ago during negotiations with the National Park folks. But as an irregular veteran of the Telegraph Avenue Army while a student at Berkeley in the '60s, the one thing we learned is that it's not over until it's over. And even then, it's still not over. The war for People's Park, for instance, has been going on for what? 40 years? And it still — for better or worse — hasn't been lost.


I would not agree with Jeff Keeton's portrayal of Horseshoe Cove as being as "gloomy as a foggy and windy February afternoon in the Cove," since any day in the Cove is better than a sunny day across the Bay. It isn’t that the marina wasn’t a good fit for the military, it's that the military once again fell victim to local politics. The Park Service snatched the marina out from under the Air Force, forcing the Air Force into a rental agreement. Then along comes a wolf in sheep’s clothing, big business under the guise of a convention center, and bye-bye military, which has controlled the area since 1866.

I take exception to your portrayal that the Travis Marina is nothing more than a military boondoggle, draining the U.S. Treasury, since it is so obvious that you have no idea about the history of the Bay Area. The Army purchased the Fort Baker area in 1866 because the United States was very concerned with protecting the strategically important Golden Gate strait from potential enemies. The intention at the time was to build a brick fortification just like the one at Fort Point, but by the time the foundation was completed, technology had bypassed a fort, and the military instead developed the area as batteries in the 1870s to 1890s. By controlling land on each side of the strait, the Army possessed unique advantages in defending San Francisco Bay.

World War II brought antisubmarine minefields and nets, as well as antiaircraft guns being added to the batteries. Fort Baker became the depot for the underwater minefields. The wharf that is deteriorating in front of the Presidio YC was built as a submarine mine wharf to accommodate the large mine-planter ships. In 1943, the marine repair shop was built to repair all boats, and had three boat launchways, one of which still survives in front of the Presidio YC. In order to protect the boatyard, the Army built the existing breakwater. During the 1950s and 1960s, Horseshoe Cove was the home of the 561st Port Construction Engineer Company, which was the Army’s version of the Sea Bees, and constructed and/or repaired ports. They also conducted rescues, aided in civil emergencies, inspected piers, welded deteriorating ship hulls from underwater, and cleared ship wrecks. In 1972, legislation created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area that included Fort Baker within it. Since the defense program was reduced in size, the Army felt no need to maintain their presence in San Francisco and gave over their Bay Area property to the National Park Service in 2002. So much for your boondoggle theory.

The Air Force was given the use of the marine repair shop in 1959 as an MWR facility for all branches of the military, and allowed the Presidio YC to set up their club within the confines of the marina. Civilian contractors have run the marina from the beginning. As for being "Treasury-draining," the marina is a self-sustaining entity. It has been the leading income-producing program of the Travis Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation and Services for the past two years, making more income than all Travis services combined. In other words, the Travis Marina and the Travis Sailing Academy have been the sustaining forces behind keeping the Travis Outdoor Recreation and Services in the black for as long as I can remember. We are not layabouts on the military dole.

I agree that the cove is a rare and unique site. Under current plans, it will no longer be a marina, as mooring balls do not a marina make. Seventy, plus or minus, boats — both power and sail — will be displaced by the plans of the "folks or organizations with greater vision and resources." So, no sir, we don’t agree with you and your staff who are so obviously on the side of the National Park Service allowing big business onto a historical site and an MWR facility the minute they were ceded the property.

Is it any wonder that those of us at the marina, who have dedicated so much of ourselves, our time, and our resources to further the recreation of those fighting in foreign lands, are so against the convention center, and look at Louie with jaded eyes? Is it any wonder that the military keeps withdrawing from the Bay Area, with the political maneuvering and anti-military stance we see everyday, which shows so clearly not only in your attitude, but in the attitude of our own harbormaster? This rare and unique marina site is available to folks and organizations right now. However, the convention center’s "greater vision and resources" have already changed our environment for the worse. How much worse is yet to be seen. I will take great delight in saying I told you so when you pay to enter Fort Baker through locked gates that do not currently exist. The Travis Sailing Academy will be sitting elsewhere and we will have smug smiles on our faces.

Phyllis Burns Keeton, Sailing Master
Travis Sailing Academy
Travis Marina, Horseshoe Cove
Fort Baker

Phyllis — We'll grant you that you know your local military real estate history much better than do we, but your arguments make no sense, and you completely misunderstand our point of view.

If Travis Marina and the Presidio YC are not a boondoggle, and if, as Jack Machun, President of the Presidio YC Governing Council, claims in the next letter, they are both self-sustaining, why do you want to let them slip away? If you and Jeffrey Keeton — who we presume is a close relation, if not your husband — want to press for the Travis sailing school to be moved elsewhere, that's fine. But we don't understand your desire to eliminate the possibility of other military personnel — or some other entity — restoring and using it?

Where did you get the idea that we're in favor of a convention center at Horseshoe Cove? We hate the idea, as for more than 30 years Horseshoe Cove has been our secret shoreside hideaway when we've needed to chill out. Plus, the last thing Southern Marin needs is more people, cars and buildings at the expense of open space. Our fervent desire is that the Travis Marina and Presidio YC be fixed up — as Machun claims can be done — and be used by the military. But if that can't be done, or if you military people don't have the fight in you to try to make it happen, then we'd like to see some other entity take over the facilities and update them. Our only goal is that a marina facility yacht club not be lost. You and your husband's goal — which makes no sense to us if you love sailing and support recreation for the military — seems to be to make sure such a cool and unique facility is lost. It makes us wonder if you're not double agents for the evil forces of the convention center crowd.


Latitude is correct, Jeffrey Keeton's portrayal of the Travis Marina at Horseshoe Cove was "as gloomy as a foggy and windy February afternoon in the Cove."

Fortunately, the real picture is not nearly as grim as Keeton painted it. The boat rentals and sail training have provided a significant amount of recreational activity to members of the Armed Forces and their families. During 2007, over 550 active duty personnel, their dependents and community members, went sailing in Travis Marina boats, and countless went sailing in private boats. In addition, military and non-military members and guests participated in social functions such as Workday Dinner, Opening Day, Independence Day Picnic and the Fleet Week Picnic. Travis Marina also regularly hosted weddings, birthday parties, and musical events that were well attended by locals and out-of-towners alike.

As far as the docks being in disrepair, there is some truth to that claim. However, a large capital expenditure hasn't been made recently because of the short-term nature of the lease extensions that have been granted to the Air Force by the National Park Service. The three-year lease extension negotiated in '06 does not lend itself to large investments. Once the National Park Service and the Air Force agree to a long-term lease, it's certain that the general infrastructure will be greatly improved.

The Air Force document describing the relationship between the Travis Marina and the Presidio YC states, "The Presidio YC is an integral part of the Travis Marina." The Travis Marina/Presidio YC get full support from officials at Travis Air Force Base. The Base Commander has met with Brian O'Neil, Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent, initiating discussion for a longer-term agreement with the Park Service. The Wing Commander at Travis truly feels that Travis Marina is a significant recreational asset.

You were wrong in being curious about "what kind of Treasury-draining boondoggle created" the Travis Marina/PYC. The marina is a NAF (Non-Appropriated Fund) facility. Not one cent of taxpayer money is spent on it. It is entirely self-supporting from revenue generated by club dues, slip rental fees and facility rentals. According to Air Force policy, if the marina does not continue to be self-sustaining it will be shut down. In fact, the marina generated excess revenue that assisted other Morale, Welfare and Recreational activities such as the base day care center that provides day care at less than cost.

You were wrong again when you said "the marina ought to be made available to folks or organizations with greater vision and resources." I cannot think of a greater vision than providing recreation for the men and women of the Armed Forces, who daily make sacrifices in the defense of our nation.

Jack Machun
President, Presidio YC Governing Council
San Rafael

Jack — We thank you for your two corrections. Given Keeton's gloomy assessment, we somehow assumed that the facility was a big money loser. If it's not, why are they so intent on it being lost?


Thank you for printing my September letter about the problems that I was having getting to use my Vallejo-based Marquesas 56 catamaran Amani. I got several generous offers of help, and Latitude 38 's reply and advice were most helpful to me — and others, I'm sure.

I've already taken some of your recommended steps. I have most enjoyed tacking against the current going out to Point Pinole with no crew. My cat tracks as well as my Volvo. I have also beat into 20-knot winds — not such a good idea with a cruising cat. I also ran aground near San Rafael with the tide going out. But the worst was when I rammed the dock hard enough to bend the seagull striker, the A-frame structure on the forward beam that maintains the structural integrity of the bow and keeps the hulls from being pulled together. The one thing I haven't practiced is sailing into the marina, something that I wouldn't want to try with a crosswind.

There were several things about your suggestions that really stood out. First, making a commitment to weekend sailing. This would mean gathering several crew who would always be there. That would be an opportunity for me to expand my social network on the waterfront. I knew this all along, as I had frequently been advised to do similar things such as join a sailing club and take a navigation class. But I had an excuse. I was so wiped out by my work at Napa State Hospital that I just wanted to kick back on the weekends. Yes, I 'retired', but kept working. My next job required me to stay in hotels during the week and drive long distances through traffic — when all I wanted was to be home on Amani. Every night I used to walk down to the dock thinking how nice it would be to go sailing right then — but whoops, there was nobody to do it with. And with such a big cat, I needed a second set of eyes, as well as somebody who knew the meaning of 'head up' and how to secure a line to a cleat. It had me thinking that I could have just jumped into that little racing boat in the next berth and gone sailing myself in the perfect weather. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

The idea of trading down to a smaller cat and starting over would have given me the do-it-yourself thing again. It would also have given me some much needed money. I dreamed about spending the night on the hook at China Camp, a place recommended by Harriet and Tibor on Baja, the huge cat next to mine in Vallejo.

Unfortunately, I have other complications besides money and work. I have problems — and not just figuratively — with my brain and my heart. I take pills to prevent seizures, but they give me an unsteady gait that gives me a tendency to trip and hurt myself. And that's on solid ground, not a boat that's moving. In addition, I had very serious heart surgery in '92, which has left me with an arrhythmia and low blood pressure. I needed to be shocked a few months ago to get me out of it. I don't want to die at sea, nor do I want a full-time paramedic and/or babysitter following me around.

What's the solution? If I wanted to stay on the water, it might be a Grand Banks 42 Europa, which I could enjoy on the Bay and up the Delta. There's just one problem — it would require using fuel for propulsion as opposed to the wind. So I guess it would be best if I just had a small, easy-to-singlehand sailboat at Vallejo, where I like living.

What irony! I just retired for real. No more professional work for me. But I'm lonely, miss all the human contact that I used to have, and need to keep myself busy. Now I could really devote time to going out sailing all the time and making waterfront social connections. I will do this anyway on another path, but without fulfilling my big dream of sailing far away.

So Amani is for sale. I moved to a friend's house in order to clean her up and cherry her out. My big girl sure does have sexy lines. Anyway, I'm getting over the loss gradually, and am holding on to the vision of my next vessel.

Doug Smith
Amani, Marquesas 56

Doug — Big catamarans are fabulous boats, but given your health issues, we'd have to agree that such a boat isn't right for you. What a shame.

By the way, sailing a big cat like Amani into a harbor, particularly one like where you keep your boat in Vallejo, would be insanity. There are some things you can do with a Moore 24 that you can't do with a 28-ft-wide cat. But when it comes to beating in 20 knots on San Pablo Bay, it's not only a great idea, it's some of the most fun that you can have with a cat. You grind the smallest jib tight, lower the main traveller all the way to leeward, sheet in the main so it's as flat as a piece of plywood — and go like a bat out of hell!

Anyway, good luck on selling your cat and finding a new boat of your dreams.


Hola from a sunny cruising destination!

Here we sit in the shade of a palm, toes buried in the sand, watching the sweet sun melt below a crimson horizon whilst sipping on iced tea or coconut water laced with rum. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? It is.

We are here and you are there. We wish you were here, too, but not all at once! The 'we' I speak of are marine professionals, some ex-Navy, some with certain attributes that far out-qualify our chosen trades and lifestyles, but all with a tale to tell and many sea miles under the belt. We offer our experience and skills to folks who just might need it. Sometimes we do it for a handshake and a nod, sometimes for a bottle of wine or a meal, but sometimes for the great Greenback, too. After all, we've all made our investments in time and experience to have gotten this far.

Most often you'll find us in far away places where there is no one else to help you keep your dream afloat. But we've been there, and having spent a lifetime afloat all over the world, know what breaks down, how to fix it, and have had the foresight to bring along all those little bits and pieces that will keep us — and maybe you — going. I'm speaking of the stuff that keeps the diesel engine running, the nav lights burning, the beer cold, and the ice cubes tinkling.

But we're a dying breed and, as the immediate cruising grounds of the West Coast become more commercialized and the basic cost of living continues to rise, we're forced to move further off the beaten path.

So for those of you who make it past the Baja Ha-Ha, look out for us lifetimers! We'll probably have more wrinkles for our given age, but we might have some interesting stories to tell, too. Our boats won't be quite as shiny, but they'll be clean on and below deck, and just as seaworthy, if not more so, than your boats. We ain't gonna tell you where it's at, figuring that you can work it out for yourselves.

Anyway, welcome to the cruising lifestyle. We bet you'll wish you made the break sooner.

Miguel Miguel
Somewhere South Of The Border


In the October 5 'Lectronic Latitude, you reported that a West Coast family purchased the 180-ft Adèle through KKMI in Richmond. Who designed that ketch — Bob Perry?

P.S. We sure love Latitude 38 . What a service to West Coast sailors!

Ted Johnson
Liveaboard on a Bob Perry-designed Islander Freeport 36

Ted — Thanks for the kind words. Adèle was designed by Hoek Naval Architects in the Netherlands, which was started by Andre Hoek in 1986. In the last 21 years they have been responsible for a tremendous body of superb work, much of it being large classic-looking yachts with modern underbodies using high-tech techniques and materials. The average sailor is most likely to be familiar with the Hoek line of Truly Classic — and truly expensive — yachts. If you enjoy looking at beautiful yacht design, we suggest you visit

Adèle was built at Vitters, which is also in the Netherlands. Designed by Hoek and built by Vitters is about as fine a pedigree as a yacht can have.


Can you or anybody else tell us how to get in contact with naval architect Doug Peterson? He custom designed my Peterson 35 back in '73, and over 40 of the boats were eventually built. Pacific Yachting Magazine would like to do a story on the history of the design, and we'd like to get some comments from Peterson.

Vernon W. Ruskin
Jolly Olly IV, Peterson 35
Royal Vancouver YC

Vernon — For those who weren't sailing in the '70s and '80s, Doug Peterson came out of nowhere — and San Diego — to rapidly displace Sparkman & Stephens as the premiere designer of non-ultralight racing boats. As we understand it, Peterson did it the old-fashioned way — his grandmother gave him the money necessary to design, build and ship a boat to the One Ton Worlds in Europe. The success of his boat at that and subsequent regattas quickly propelled him to worldwide prominence.

However, Peterson has never been the gregarious type and didn't give a lick for publicity, so it comes as no surprise to us that he's hard to find. He's done a lot of America's Cup design work in recent years, mostly for Prada. His interest in boats is as keen as ever. It's our understanding that he owns an 8-Meter, a 9-Meter and a 12-Meter, all in Europe, and is partner in a Caulkins 50 in San Diego. Of these, the 8-meter is the most interesting. Originally known as Lillian II, she was built by Fife in 1907 and was later renamed Synnove III. After purchasing her in Newport Beach, Peterson disappeared and the historic yacht sank at her mooring. He immediately had her shipped to the renowned Argentario yard in Italy for storage and restoration.


There is a better way to use a Mac computer to navigate than, as you reported in the September issue, using something like Nobeltec while running Windows on a new Intel-based Mac computer. GPSNavX is a small company that has been making excellent native Mac navigation software for a few years. I've been using it for five or six years, and have been very happy with it. I don't work for them, but I do like to support small outfits. Readers can check out their website at

John Swain
Planet Earth

John — We apologize for being more than a little behind the times with that funky recommendation. In fact, we've gotten a number of letters from Mac users such as yourself who have reported very high satisfaction with GPSNavX. They report that, not only does it do everything that Nobeltec does, but it costs a fraction of the price.

Speaking of Mac, it boggles our mind that, thanks to the recent dramatic run up in the price of Apple stock, that company now has a significantly greater market capitalization — $170 billion versus $150 billion — than IBM.


Jim Innes offers server space for Mac users to store and share their digital charts at He has charts for all over the world and adds more all the time. I was able to get some charts for Western Mexico to use with GPSNavX, but they don't have as much detail as I'd like.

Since the charts are not specific to Mac or PC, I assume they are just not available. This seems unbelievable since there is so much nautical traffic in Western Mexico.
Maybe some of your readers have had more success at getting digital charts for Western Mexico that are compatible with GPSNavX.

Richard and Tudy Taylor
Elysia, Cheoy Lee Offshore 40 & La Brisa, Mason 43
Durango, CO

Readers — We'd like to find out, too. Anyone?


As a first-time participant in the Baja Ha-Ha, I want to say a big 'thank you' for such a well-run event. My crew and I were among the 72 who got stranded on the beach at Bahia Santa Maria because of the high surf and darkness, and I want to thank Doña de Mallorca, Chief of Ha-Ha Security, for helping to arrange for sleeping cots for our crew.

I'm also the guy who was surfing the inflatable surfboard at the point at Bahia Santa Maria, and I think the Grand Poobah might have gotten a photo of me riding a wave. My friends are doubtful that the waves were that good and that my inflatable board worked that well. So is there any chance that you could publish a photo of me riding my board?

Greg Boyer, Crew
Fidelitas, Tayana 460

Greg — How about two photos, one of you dropping in that shows your inflatable board, and another of you moving on down the line? The Poobah can confirm that you not only got a ride, but that you got one of the better rides of the day.


In the December 10 'Lectronic there was the following item about Commodore Eugenie Russell of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club: "Commodore Eugenie had reason to smile while signing membership cards for the Punta Mita Yacht and Surf Club. She'd been at the top of a 100-ft mast on a main halyard the day before because the splice failed on the halyard."

I hope that this means that she went up to replace a halyard with a failed splice, because if it meant that it broke after she went up, and she's smiling because she survived it, then maybe it needs some amplification.

The tallest mast I've ever been up was the one on the 82-ft M boat Sirius II, so I can relate to some of the risks — and rushes — of going up tall masts. But if there's a lesson to be learned, please pass it along.

Fin Beven
Radiant, Cal 40
San Pedro

Fin — We apologize for the confusion, as there was an error between our reporter in Mexico and the editors in Mill Valley. What happened is that Eugenie went to the top of the mast of the Morrelli & Melvin 70 cat Humu Humu to do a little work. Once it was done, she came down safely. However, when the boat was taken out for a sail the next day, only the top batten of the main had been raised when the same halyard she'd gone up on the day before failed! Why it hadn't failed the day before with her at the top of the mast is unclear.

There are two lessons. The first is to never go aloft without a safety line — a rule Eugenie vows to adhere to for the rest of her life. The second is to be very careful when splicing lines, particularly newer ones with older ones.


I'm in the market for a catamaran that's about 33 feet long in the $50-60,000 range. Can you tell me if there is a consensus of opinion in the catamaran community as to whether some brands are better than others? I realize that each have different characteristics, and that I'd always opt for diesel over gas, and inboard over outboards. There seem to be a lot of Geminis out there and a smattering of others, but most of them are out of my financial league. Any suggestions?

Curt Christensen
Planet Earth

Curt — We think you're discovering one of the major drawbacks of cruising catamarans — that even the used ones are quite expensive relative to monohulls. To be honest, we doubt that you could find a 33-ft cat with running diesel inboards in that price range. And even among those that are outboard-powered, there just aren't going to be many to chose from. In fact, the only semi-modern one that comes to mind would be a Crowther 33, such as Chewabacca, the one the Winship family cruised from Alameda to Colombia.


We decided to start our cruise down the coast of Baja from Ensenada on November 19, the same day and place the Baja 1000-car/motorcycle race started for La Paz. Rather than making a straight shot to Mag Bay and then Cabo, we decided that we'd gunkhole our way down. The news for our sailing friends is that the anchorages along the coast of Baja are, almost without exception, very poor for getting a good night's sleep.

We did have fog some of the time. For instance, we were going to stop at Isla San Martin, but bypassed it when we couldn't see more than 150 feet ahead. We ended up at Bahia San Quintin, which is well protected from the northwest swell, but is shallow and has many shoals. We reluctantly anchored in 13 feet of water — but that was only the beginning of the excitement.

As we were settling in for dinner, I heard a whale blowing — and then smelled a tremendously foul odor. It was a 35-ft gray whale. He or she circled our boat for a bit, then came in straight to our port beam, and gently began to rub its nose on the keel and side of our boat! This went on for about 20 minutes. Then it began to rub our rudder. When I felt our boat rise up, I'd had enough. We started the motor and revved it in neutral a few times. This kept the whale away for a few seconds, but then it returned. By then it was almost dark, so I grabbed the flashlight and shined it in the whale's right eye. He didn't like this, so off he went to circle us a few more times before vanishing in the bay. I learned that you can be awestruck and still be scared to the point of shitting yourself. We barely slept the rest of the night because every time we heard a little noise we thought you-know-who had returned.

Other noteworthy stuff:

— We stopped at San Carlos Bay, which turned out to be a surfing mecca, of a sort. In fact, we felt as though we were treated to a surfing exhibition. Later, a boat from Santa Cruz anchored next to us, and we watched a crewmember from Santa Cruz climb to the spreaders and dive into the water.

— After an exhausting 95-mile overnight leg to Cedros, during which time we had stronger wind and bigger seas than we would have liked, we pulled into Cedros around 9 a.m., having gotten very little sleep. We were welcomed by three boys flying kites on the breakwater, but after waving hello, went below to nap before taking a more active parental role. The thing is that Phoebe can sleep through anything, so she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and awaiting our attention. But she was nice and quiet while we napped.

— The Cedros anchorage is often ignored, apparently because it's only 30 miles away from Turtle Bay. But others told us that the port captain at Cedros Village is a very engaging personality who has been known to take visitors around on personally guided tours. He apparently wishes that more cruisers would stop to enjoy the village's hospitality.

— After leaving Cedros the following morning at 9 a.m., we quickly got clear of the island's influence and, with 18 knots of wind and following seas, made Turtle Bay in six hours. It was the best sailing of our trip to date.

Jeffrey, Patti and Phoebe Critchfield
Paxil, Beneteau Oceanis 423
Brickyard Cove, Point Richmond

Jeffrey, Patti & Phoebe — Yours are some of the best whale-rubbing-a-sailboat shots that we've ever seen. Congratulations!

But what's this about Baja anchorages not having good anchorages for sleeping? As coastlines go, it's got lots of anchorages, and good ones, too.


We recently visited Puerto Vallarta, then went over to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle to visit the new Nayarit Riviera Marina. It's going to be beautiful! But on our way through the airport, we picked up one of the glossy tourist magazines that describes all the 'adventures' you can book in that tourist area. One of their suggestions was to go sailing. According to the publication, it's easy — as long as you follow their "5 Basic Steps To Sail:"

"1) Locate the broad reach.

"2) Displace the rudder until you get the sails in direction of the wind.

"3) Keep a course.

"4) When you get to a point where it will be necessary to tack (to turn around to change the course), displace the rudder at the time the backstays are loosened up.

"5) Tense the backstays to guide the sail according to the new position which is sought in front of the wind."

According to the publication, that's all there is to it — unless something was lost in the translation.

David and Jill Wolfe
Escapade, Catalina 400 Mk II
Marina Village, Alameda

David & Jill — That publication does English about as well as we do Spanish, so we're not going to be too critical. However, one of the many free glossy publications around Vallarta is Vallarta Nautica, which was started 10 years ago by cruisers Lew and Anneke Jennings, with all proceeds donated to local charities. They subsequently sold it, and it's now become "a world class, full-color magazine, covering everything in, on and under the waters of Banderas Bay." We've seen it, and it's not only very well done, it's accurate, and has a Resource Guide with 680 listings in 97 categories. New publisher John Youden reports that a substantial amount of the proceeds will still go to charity. While the glossy guides are free in Vallarta, they can also be downloaded at for $10.

As for the Nayarit Riviera Marina, we've stayed there a few nights and agree that it's going to be a much-needed addition to Banderas Bay, one that gives mariners yet another choice. Vallarta Marina is terrific for those who want to be surrounded by restaurants and in the middle of what's becoming a very crowded and busy city. Paradise Marina is for those who want an excellent facility with all the extras of a fine resort, and one that's away from the traffic but still not too far from town. The Nayarit Riviera Marina will be perfect for those who want to berth their boat in what's still an authentic and quiet little Mexican town, but one that's only 20 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from the booming downtown.


I particularly liked two articles in the October issue of Latitude. The one on HF radio was very informative, and you can't say too many good things about Don Anderson, who provides all the free weather reports to cruisers in Mexico. It's actually Dr. Anderson, as he has a PhD in chemistry. I've been to Don's home and checked out his 90-pound Harris HF radio and his 75-ft directional antenna, the design of which he borrowed from the CIA. Very impressive.

The article on spear fishing was also good, but I'd like to add a few comments without trying to sound too officious. The author gets points for not using scuba gear to spear fish, and almost all the info in the article was accurate. But he wrote that he uses four spear guns and was considering the purchase of yet another. I'm a spear fishing fanatic, but I don't believe you need five spear guns. I only carry two, although I do carry a lot of spare parts.

I'd also like to point out that it's not a good idea to shoot at a fish that's in front of a rock. A good underwater hunter, like a good police officer, will always be aware of his/her background and avoid shots that will damage his/her equipment. The tip of a spear shaft needs to be needle sharp, and killing 'rock fish' will quickly dull the point. When shooting fish in caves, I'd recommend a pole spear as a better choice. They are very simple, yet they work well on small fish.

The author also stated that he doesn't use a reel on his guns as he doesn't shoot large fish. But here's the problem I see with that approach: a nice 30-pound yellowtail swims right in front of his gun. It would be almost impossible not to take that shot, but without a reel or a trailing-line, the fish — and perhaps the hunter's gun — would be lost. A trailing line is simply a floating line, 50 to 75 feet long, that's attached to the gun, and, like a reel, allows the diver to swim to the surface for a breath of air while fighting the fish.

Regarding the selection of spear guns, pneumatic guns are high-maintenance and they lose power at depth. But if you always hunt in shallow water, the loss of power wouldn't be that significant. A bent shaft will render such a gun inoperable. The Riffe spear gun is outstanding, but it's also very expensive. The JBL is a very good workhorse, but stay away from the early guns, circa 1970, as they tend to pre-fire — meaning they go off without pulling the trigger. That's not a good thing.

A few more tips I'd like to share: Never aggressively pursue a fish, as you'll almost always lose it. Avoid making eye contact with a fish, as it's a strong indication to the fish that it's potential prey. Just before making a dive, remove the snorkel from your mouth. If you don't, air bubbles will slowly flow from the snorkel during the beginning of the dive, and they will scare the fish away.

Steve Albert of Far Fetched did a fine job on the article, but I hope I was able to add a little to the subject. By the way, I'm a graying member of the Long Beach Neptunes, the oldest active spear fishing club in the United States.

Thomas Blandford
M/V Imagine Me and You
San Carlos, Mexico


We'd like to thank the Grand Poobah and the Ha-Ha staff for helping us have such a great experience on the last Baja Ha-Ha. Despite all of the warnings about the possibility of injury and death — which was one of the reasons we almost didn't go on the Ha-Ha — in the waivers we had to sign, the Poobah and his staff really did support, assist, and truly look out for the safety and enjoyment of every participant.

This was our first lengthy passage and, while we experienced no problems, we would have felt safe and supported if we had encountered any mechanical, electrical, or medical issues. In addition, we truly enjoyed sharing our experiences with other mariners at each of the stops, and felt that having one planned event at each stop was just perfect. The only improvement we can think of would be an extra day at Turtle Bay and an extra day at Bahia Santa Maria. However, we realize that you really try to keep the event to less than two weeks. Anyway, we really appreciated the Ha-Ha staff's hard work as well as the local expertise for each destination. We're certainly going to recommend the Ha-Ha to all of our friends who will be heading south in the future.

There was some talk of a site being set up where everyone could post the photos they took — particularly of other boats under sail. For example, we know that the vessel Ticket got some of our boat while we were flying our blue and gold chute, and we'd love to get digital copies. Has there been anything done with that?

Anyway, thanks again for giving us all the opportunity to experience what some of us believe will be the preface to our adventure of a lifetime.

Jan and Rob Anderson
Triple Stars, Island Packet 380

Jan and Rob — Thanks for the very kind words, but what makes the Ha-Ha work is all the great participants.

We've just created a simple-to-use Ha-Ha '07 photo-sharing site at Participants can view, download and upload photos to share with others.


Living in the Pacific Northwest, we didn't have ready access to Latitude 38 and all the great articles from people cruising all over the world. We had, however, heard stories of the "notorious" Baja Ha-Ha, including tales of exuberant Ha-Ha participants ruining anchorages along the Baja peninsula. One person described the Ha-Ha as being like a swarm of locusts coming through and devastating the landscape. As such, when we planned our cruise from Vancouver to Mexico, we planned to arrive at Ha-Ha stops well before or after the Ha-Ha fleet had come through.

As it turned out, we needed to get some parts that weren't available in Ensenada, and contacted Tin Soldier, a boat we knew from the Blue Water Cruising Association, and one that was going to be in the Ha-Ha, to see if they would be able to help us get the items. We arranged to meet up with Tin Soldier when the Ha-Ha fleet was in Turtle Bay. In fact, we were anchored at Isla San Benitos when many members of the Ha-Ha fleet went sailing by. The local fishermen even came out to our boat to ask why so many boats were sailing past. We explained that there was going to be a big sailors' fiesta in Turtle Bay.

Anyway, we left San Benitos the next evening for a short overnight to Turtle Bay. Thanks to 25-knot winds for most of the night, our planned eight-hour trip turned out to be much shorter. Not wanting to enter an unknown harbor at night, we hove-to outside Turtle Bay. But the sight inside the bay was amazing, as it was lit up like a city, thanks to 150 masthead lights glowing brighter than the stars!

We entered the bay at first light and sort of kicked ourselves, because the entrance is easy, even at night. After dropping the hook and having breakfast, we went in search of Tin Soldier. It wasn't hard to find them, as they were one of the few boats flying the Maple Leaf flag. After collecting the parts they had kindly picked up for us, we joined them on the beach for tacos, beer and Ha-Ha frivolities. We had a great time meeting the participants in this "notorious" event, some of them new cruisers, some of them very experienced, but everyone enjoying themselves in this new cruising environment. It was a fun afternoon in the sun and sand, with fellow cruisers swapping tales during the potluck and beach game activities. There was none of the outrageous, out-of-control, drunken debauchery that we had been led to believe happened at the Ha-Ha.

We also listened in on the morning roll calls, and were very impressed with the organization of so many vessels, the Grand Poobah's control of the daily details and gossip, and the obvious camaraderie the participants were sharing. It made us wish that we'd joined the fleet in San Diego.

We hung around Turtle Bay for several days after the Ha-Ha fleet had left on a spinnaker run south, and can report that it wasn't as though the town had been overrun by a plague of locusts. The tiendas still had lots of fresh tortillas, produce, and even beer.

A few days later we carried on into Bahia Magdalena, bypassing the Ha-Ha stop at Bahia Santa Maria for no real reason other than the winds were right for us. It was only later that we heard about 72 Ha-Ha participants being stuck on the beach overnight thanks to a combination of high surf and darkness.

A week or two later, we arrived in Cabo San Lucas, having enjoyed a leisurely trip down the outside of Baja, exploring the coastline. Cabo is such a busy tourist town, it would have been hard for the Ha-Ha to have had much impact.

From what we could tell, the 150 boats and 601 people in the Ha-Ha were a positive experience for the local communities on the Baja peninsula — as were the 50-or-so-boat-strong FUBAR powerboat fleet that came through a week or so later. Neither of these events presented a problem for cruisers on individual boats, such as ourselves, along the coast of Baja. The only downside that we see to the Ha-Ha is that the participants don't have the time to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the other beautiful anchorages that Baja has to offer — anchorages that we enjoyed immensely.

I'm not sure how rumors get started, but we're out to dispel the "swarm of locusts" one about the Ha-Ha — and are even considering heading north next fall to join the Ha-Ha fleet of '08. So please keep up the great work and good times.

Geoff Goodall, Linda Erdman and Jessie the sailing dog
Curare, Bowman 36
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Geoff, Linda & Jessie — On behalf of the Ha-Ha, thank you for the very kind words. We've been extremely proud of the way the Ha-Ha participants have conducted themselves over the years. We're glad you saw fit to join everyone on the beach, as everyone is always welcome at the Ha-Ha social events.

By the way, we couldn't agree with you more that it would be great if the Ha-Ha could be a month or so long in order for folks to enjoy more of what Baja has to offer. Unfortunately, something like that just wouldn't be practical for most folks, and to our thinking, after two weeks it's time for folks to go off on their own or at least in much smaller groups.


I'm writing this letter in response to those whiners who criticize the Baja Ha-Ha but have never done one. They have no idea what they are talking about.

My wife and I did the '06 Ha-Ha aboard the Morgan Out-Island 41 Bronco. One of our crewmembers suffered a broken rib and multiple fractured ribs — and got excellent medical treatment at the clinic in Turtle Bay. A radiologist on another boat reread the X-rays for us so we would know exactly what her condition was. Another doctor gave us extra medication to ease the crewmember's pain. On top of that, other medical professionals in the fleet regularly inquired as to how our injured crewmember was doing.

I applaud Latitude's response to those whiners. Maybe they'll change their tune if they find themselves in need of help and some Ha-Ha veterans come along.

Bob Bauer
Lady Ann, O'Day 27

Bob — Thanks for the kind words. We probably got more positive reaction to our response to the 'Whiners' letter than any other in the last five years. If folks do a Ha-Ha and don't like it, that's fair enough. And while we certainly don't lose any sleep over it, we think it's lame for people who haven't even done a Ha-Ha to criticize it.


The loss of the crab boat Good Guys on December 4 brings up the subject of wave period and dangerous conditions for small boats. Although we hashed out this subject in the May and June issues of Latitude, I still feel an important point has to be understood about dangerous long period swells.

I totally agree with you that such swells are no problem as long as you are sailing in deep water. But a long period swell of 15 seconds or greater becomes a danger in shoaling bottoms like the ones surrounding the entrances to San Francisco, Tomales Bay, and surrounding the entrance and approaches to Half Moon Bay.

These distant swells come from far away storms and, when they approach our coast on a windless day, can appear to be relatively harmless. But these 'sneaker waves' have claimed many lives along our coast and just a short distance out to sea. These long-period swells are most common in the fall and winter months, and into early spring. It's very easy to get suckered into thinking that conditions are calm, and therefore cut over a shoal area or enter a harbor or bay that has a shoaling entrance, and get caught by a large, breaking sneaker wave.

Before I go out the Gate during the winter and early spring, I always check the offshore buoy data for the dominant wave period. It takes less than a minute, and gives other important data as well.

Nobody is going to argue with you that sailing into a short-period wave system of the same height as a long-period swell is going to be very uncomfortable. But the long-period swell, of the same height, has far more energy and is much more deadly as it passes over a shoaling area.

I'm only speculating, but I think this is what claimed the Good Guys, and it took them all at once and fast. The swell period that day was 17 seconds.

Tony Badger
Kingfish, Fisher 37

Tony — We're glad you brought this subject up, because it's indeed the time of year for mariners to be particularly vigilant for sneaker waves. That said, a lot of people — and even safety authorities — don't seem to have a clue what a real sneaker wave is, confusing it with what surfers commonly refer to as the "wave of the day." Waves of the day might be considerably larger than the other waves, and they may be part of the set of the day, but in no way are they sneaker waves. Sneaker waves — at least what we consider to be sneaker waves — are large waves that inexplicably come out of nowhere on days when the surface of the ocean is very flat before and after the wave has hit. So flat that there's almost no discernible wave period. That's why they call them 'sneaker waves' rather than 'bigger than normal waves'.

We can remember a fishing boat being nailed by a sneaker wave near Baja's offshore Roca Ben, an Olson 30 being pitchpoled in otherwise flat conditions off Marina del Rey, and boats being creamed at places like the entrance to Tomales Bay, Half Moon Bay and elsewhere. In all cases, the waves came out of nowhere on otherwise flat days.

According to the literature, sneaker waves are caused when a number of smaller waves become focused, meaning the individual wave peaks coincide to create a new wave that is the sum of those superimposed. We think this is a bunch of baloney, because there have been big sneaker waves when the ocean has otherwise been as flat as a mirror and where there were no smaller waves to coincide. Nor would this explain the fact that true sneaker waves only seem to occur between November and the end of February. And why don't waves coincide at other times of year? And please, let's not refer to what surfers call ordinary 'f--ckin' doubles' as sneaker waves — because they aren't.

Some authorities believe that most true sneaker waves occur along the coasts of Oregon, Washington, California and Baja. Others say it's a universal phenomenon.

What should Latitude readers take away from all this? Exactly what Badger suggests — stay in much deeper water than during the summer, and don't cross the bars outside the Gate. But if you must cross a bar or area of shallow water, do it as quickly as possible. It's true that more than a few people have been killed.

Have you ever seen or been hit by a true sneaker wave? If so, .


I read Thomas Hill's inquiry about boat partnerships, and wanted to report on my experience. I've been involved in three boat partnerships — a homebuilt boat in Italy, and a Pearson 22 and C&C 29 in the Bay Area. All were done with cash and a handshake. All have worked out very well, especially since I turned out to be the most frequent user of all the boats, which allowed me to enjoy lots of great sailing on Lake Como and off Alameda and Santa Cruz. Maybe I was just lucky, but I don't think you have to get that legal if you have a good feeling about the people you are joining.

Michael Faulk

Michael — Maybe it's more than just luck. Maybe you and your partners are responsible, easy to get along with, and able to see things from other partners' points of view.


It sure seems to me that Larry Ellison and the BMW Oracle America's Cup team has been taking a lot of flak for what no other team seemed to have the huevos to do — and that is stand up to the Swiss rapscallion Ernesto Bertarelli of Alinghi. What he was doing really was B.S., and it did my heart good to see that things didn't go well for them for once. But I also find it appalling that folks aren't giving Ellison and BMW Oracle a standing ovation. Good on ya', BMW Oracle — and kick those lake sailors' butts!

Gary Watson
Abreojos, Ericson 27
Olympia, WA

Gary — You make a good point. Personally speaking, we'd have been more enthusiastic about BMW Oracle's court victory had we not been suffering from an extreme case of America's Cup Legal Proceedings Fatigue. Furthermore, we're finding it increasingly difficult to get excited over a sailing event where it takes $150 million to be competitive, where the event's prestige is based primarly on the fact that so many rich guys are willing to spend so much money, and where there appears to be so little regard for the environment. As we've said elsewhere, we think what Francis Joyon is doing is far more admirable in all respects.


I'm prompted to make several comments concerning the great December issue.

First, on page 48 of Letters, the photo of the Santana 22 mast being worked on from the balcony of a house reminds me of the '70s when I was working at Sailboats, Inc., the larger boat dealership in the East Bay. On many occasions we did mast work on our boats from the balcony at Quinn's Lighthouse in Oakland. The advantage of that location was that beer was right at hand as soon as our work was completed!

Second, in John Riise's very fine Diesel Diagnosis article, he discusses some reasons why a diesel may not turn over. One of my current pet peeves is the use of wing nuts on battery terminals for boats. Indeed, West Marine supplies many of their batteries with wing nuts. However, the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standard E-10 Storage Battery section reads, "10.8.3 Battery cables and other conductors size 6 AWG (13.3 mm2) and larger shall not be connected to the battery with wing nuts." I have seen wing nuts on many of the boat batteries on vessels I have surveyed this year and, in three cases, the engine would not turn over even though the battery cables appeared to be tight. In each case, tightening with a wrench or pliers completed the connection enough so that the engine then started. So please, replace the wing nuts with hexagonal nuts, then torque them properly with the proper size wrench.

Finally, in the letter on page 74 regarding the San Diego Police Dock, I took this photograph from my room at the Kona Kai Inn on the afternoon of October 27 during the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors® (SAMS®) annual international meeting. I was surprised that there was not a bigger raft-up.

Jack Mackinnon, AMS®-SMS
San Lorenzo


If readers follow your advice to drop by the Cutty Sark when in London, they'll be sorely disappointed, for the last of the tea clippers was all but completely destroyed by fire months ago. There are big intentions to rebuild — if the money can be raised.

Nonetheless, as you stated, Greenwich is well worth any sailors' time, regardless. As for the evident 200-ft error in the location of the Prime Meridian reported by your readers, the following may explain it:

You mentioned that the Royal Naval Observatory was established by King Charles II in 1675 to "figure out a way to accurately determine longitude," but it wasn't until an Act of Parliament in 1714 that England got really serious about accurately determining longitude whilst at sea. It was decreed that 20,000 pounds — a few million of today's anemic dollars — be awarded to whomever built a timepiece that, after being carried from Greenwich to the West Indies and back, could prove accurate to within 30 miles. A piffling couple of hundred feet were probably no big deal back when someone plonked down the line that, by today's nano-technological standards, we expect to be spot on.

Just in case some readers don't know the tale about determining longitude, it took an enterprising amateur John Harrison literally a lifetime to build such a timepiece necessary to determine longitude, and he bettered the required accuracy by 20 miles. A naïve 20-year-old with no clock-making experience when he began the work, he was an old man by the time he accomplished the feat on his fifth West Indian trial. All the while, he had been jealously observed by professionals from (appropriately) the Royal Observatory. Harrison's trick was to use perpetually self-lubricating lignum vitae wood that didn't expand or contract detrimentally with changes in the temperature and humidity. However, he was literally on his deathbed by the time he was actually awarded his prize. There had been a change of heart in Westminster since their navy had their hands on the holy grail of clocks — the one Capt. Cook had already 'borrowed' for his last two voyages. It was only when Harrison's son William pleaded his father's claim all the way up the governmental ladder to King George III that the prize was awarded.

Iain Woolward
Krystyna Alicja, Vanguard Finn
Redwood City

Iain — We knew and reported that the Cutty Sark had burned during restoration on May 21 of last year, but had forgotten that she'd been so badly damaged. Thank you for correcting us. Authorities estimate it would cost $50 million U.S. — about the price of a small apartment in expensive London town — to repair the historic tea clipper. We hope they do.

For those who love learning where ships — and whiskies — got their names, 'cutty sark' is, in Scots, a short undergarment. It was also the nickname of the character Nannie in Robert Burn's comic poem Tam o' Shanter. Nannie wore a linen cutty sark that she had been given as a child, so it was much too small for her. But the erotic sight of her dancing in what today would be the equivalent of a thong from Victoria's Secret — caused Tam to cry out, "Weel done, Cutty Sark!" — and it became a popular expression.


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