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February 2008

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I was pretty surprised to see Evan Dill's update in the November Changes section, where he blamed cruisers in the northern Sea of Cortez for breaking into his Crowther 48 cat Java in Puerto Don Juan, where he'd left her unattended at anchor for several months. In my opinion, his accusation was not only unfounded, it was insulting.

There is a lot of traffic in and out of PDJ. For example, local fishermen come in to clean their catch, and everyday there are perhaps a half dozen sportfishermen who come in to take a break and have a swim. On the weekends, PDJ is a destination for Mexican tour pangas that bring people out from Bahia de Los Angeles for a day on the water.

Most days there are also a few cruising boats anchored in PDJ. However, several times this summer we passed the entrance to PDJ and could see Java at anchor alone. With no other cruising boat nearby to watch over her, what's to stop a group of rowdy 20-somethings, down from San Diego for a weekend of fishing, from going aboard and having a look around?

I'm not trying to blame someone else specifically, I'm simply saying that for Evan to blame cruisers for his loss is insulting. After all, he left his boat anchored unattended in a hurricane hole. If a hurricane had come along and driven his boat ashore, you can be sure that it would have been cruisers who would have saved his boat from looting.

Due to the pressures of weather — violent thunderstorms with wind gusts in the 60s, daily temperatures in the 90s, and, of course, the threat of the odd hurricane — cruisers in the northern Sea of Cortez are a smaller and closer knit group than high-season cruisers on the mainland. As a result, they are very supportive and protective of each other. I call on Evan to apologize to the summer northern Sea of Cortez cruisers, as they don't deserve to be accused of the theft of his gear.

John Gratton
Nakia, Hans Christian 33
Mazatlan, Sinaloa


First, let my apologize to John Gratton of Nakia and any other cruisers who were offended by my observations of who I thought had stolen stuff from my boat while she was at anchor at Baja's Puerto Don Juan anchorage this fall. My intention was not to point a finger at any group of people, but rather draw a possible conclusion that I came up with based on the evidence. So let me share the facts of the matter, and let everyone draw their own conclusions.

I left my Crowther 48 catamaran Java unattended at Puerto Don Juan for seven weeks. Before I left, I placed a sign on the companionway door explaining, in English, how to get inside my boat. I did this because I knew that should any threatening weather — in the form of hurricanes or elephantes — approach, many cruising boats would flock to Puerto Don Juan for protection. I also left diagrams of the placement of my three anchors, their scope, and instructions on how to start my engine. I gave instructions on how to raise the anchors if Java presented a threat to boats anchored nearby.

As it happened, George of Southern Belle did enter my boat and look at the provided information, as about 25 boats had come to Don Juan preparing for a hurricane — that thankfully never hit.

I'd like to think that the fact that I left this message on my door should prove to everyone how much I do trust my fellow cruisers . . . and the Universe.

When I returned to Java, everything initially appeared to be as I left it. Nothing was ransacked, there were no open cabinets, no obvious problems. It wasn't until I started looking for things that I noticed what was missing. In fact, now that I'm on the hard in La Paz doing repairs, I'm finding more stuff that's missing. Here is the most current list:

1) One laptop computer — although the older one with my navigation software wasn't taken.

2) Two handheld GPSs, one that had been in the salon, and an unused one in a cabinet.

3) One handheld VHF radio, taken from the salon.

4) Two rigging knives, one hanging by door and the other tucked away.

5) Two snatch blocks, also one hanging by the door and the other tucked away.

6) Two Hella 12-volt fans that were carefully removed, with their bases, from two cabins.

7) Some $800 in cash that I'd attempted to hide in my clothes in a cabinet.

8) Some miscellaneous lubricants, such as LPS sprays, that are hard to find in Mexico.

9) A Dremel tool set and epoxy pump kit for West System Epoxy.

It's seems to me that what's even more telling are the items that were not stolen, despite being in plain view:

1) A 5-hp Mercury outboard that had been stored in the salon.

2) Three spear guns and two fishing poles.

3) A VHF radio, radar, and ham radio — all of which simply sat on shelves and weren't built in.

4) Surfboards, a kite board, a paraglider, a scuba regulator, beer, wine and liquor, and hand and battery-operated tools.

Based on what was and wasn't taken, my conclusion was that the thief knew what he/she wanted, and that it didn't appear to be the work of panganeros, "rowdy 20-somethings from San Diego," sportfishers or tourists. What conclusions would others have drawn?

Evan Dill
Java, Crowther 48 catamaran
La Paz, B.C.S.


I’ve been trying to locate contact information for the owner or captain of the Herreshoff 72 ketch Ticonderoga. Due to your mention of the boat in Latitude 38, your website popped up. Could you please provide me with contact information for the owner or Capt. Tom Reardon?

After a 31-year career, I’ll soon be coming out of the military, and want to take some time off to do something fun. Based on an online story by a novice sailor who said he nonetheless caught a ride on Ti for the Marblehead to Halifax Race, I'd like to volunteer my services as crew on Ti. I'm a long time admirer of that historic boat. Despite being a landlubber of a soldier, I have a fair amount of sailing experience.

Bob M.
Planet Earth

Bob — We hope you can understand that we can’t provide personal contact information. But since we spend January in St. Barth, we see Tom on Ti almost everyday, we asked him about a novice sailor getting a ride for the Halifax Race. He thought hard for a minute, then said it didn't ring any bells with him.

What you have to understand about programs such as Ticonderoga's is that, by necessity, they have to be strictly professional. As such, Tom, who has been the captain for something like 20 years, usually starts each season with three new crew. He likes them young — 18 to 22 — and relatively inexperienced so he can train them the way they need to be trained for Ti. When they come off the boat at the end of the season, they're generally considered to be very employable.

But "volunteer" help just doesn’t fit into such boat programs any more than it would with IBM or the San Francisco 49ers. The only exceptions might be for deliveries between the Northeast and the Caribbean. About 10 years ago, for example, John Beattie of Fairfax, who had spent much of the winter aboard Latitude’s Big O in St. Barth, and therefore was well known to Tom, got to crew on the delivery to the Northeast.

You also need to understand that crewing on a boat like Ti is usually more about cleaning and maintenance than it is about adventure. When it comes to big boats, crews spend the overwhelming majority of their days cleaning, sanding, varnishing and catering to the needs of guests. It's not glamorous. And when the crews get time off, you have to remember that they're young and horny, and therefore looking for some pretty wild social life. As such, it's off to night spots for them for drinks they really can't afford, and dancing on tables until 5 a.m. Just a few hours later, they need to be back sanding and varnishing. Nobody over 30 could keep up the pace.

Tom suggested that a more suitable position for an ex-military person such as yourself might be bodyguard or deck officer on a mega motoryacht. But if it's really sailing adventure that you're looking for, we've got two suggestions. Assuming that you're East Coast-based, put your name on the crew list for the Caribbean 1500 Rally from Virginia to the British Virgins that takes place in early November. Boats always need crew, and by the time it’s over, you’ll be a known entity to the owners of about 70 boats, some of whom surely will be looking for crew for the winter in the Caribbean. If you don’t hook up with one of those, make your way down-island to St. Lucia, where over 230 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers boats arrive from the Canary Islands shortly before Christmas, many of their skippers looking for crew for the Caribbean season.

The second alternative — and the one that we think is by far the best — is for you to buy your own boat in the Caribbean and follow your own personal cruising bliss. After all, would you really want to be a crew/prisoner on a boat, being able to go only where the owner wants to go, and only being able to leave the boat when you're off duty? We sure wouldn't. You can get a big bang for your buck boat on something like a 36-ft charter boat coming out of a program in the Caribbean. You can cruise her for a season or three, and, if you maintain her, should be able to get almost all your money back when you sell her. If you do that, you’ll never have to go looking for adventure, because as God as our witness, adventure stalks the captain of every boat in the Caribbean. Your life will not be dull, nor will you soon forget your time as a boatowner in the Caribbean.


I just returned from Ecuador after answering a Crew Wanted ad posted by a woman skipper. It turns out that the gal is, in my opinion, a nut job and a drunk. Matt Olson and I answered the ad, and the woman said that if we came ASAP, she'd get us to Mexico, as there was a weather window.

To make a long story short, I had to buy a return ticket to the United States at a cost of $884. Matt, however, is stranded in Canoa, Ecuador. I believe the woman at least owes us return airfare. After all, it was her fault that we didn't leave on schedule.

Dave Hohman
Planet Earth

Dave — We're sorry that things didn't turn out for you and Matt, but we do our best to warn everyone that the world of Crew Lists — like the world of internet dating — is as unregulated as it gets. That means everyone has to be diligent in vetting all possibilities, and always expect the worst while hoping for the best.

If we were looking for a crew position and the skipper told us to hurry from the United States to Ecuador because there was a "weather window", that would be the end of it. After all, what kind of weather window would allow you to fly to Ecuador, provision and go through the boat, complete the time-consuming clearing out process, and then sail 1,500 miles to Mexico? You can't let your dreams of adventure run roughshod over your common sense. Similarly, your complaint that you didn't "leave on schedule" is a bit naïve. What cruising boat ever left on schedule?

As for your opinion that the skipper is a "nut job and a drunk," we can only imagine what she'd say about you. Maybe you're right, but there's no way for us to take sides in 'he said, she said' situations, particularly when we don't know any of the people involved.

Let this be a cautionary tale for all — before anyone flies off to a distant port to join an unknown boat and skipper, they should, at the very least, get recent letters of recommendation from previous crew, as well as a report from neighbors on the general condition of the boat and captain. If the skipper looking for crew isn't willing to provide these, you've got to be skeptical of how good an opportunity it is. And no matter how glowing the report on the skipper and boat, we'd always assume that things might go bust and that we may have to pay for to get home.


In the December Letters, John Hill writes that his GPS missed the prime meridian by a couple hundred feet. You suggest that the folks at Greenwich might create a new 'accurate' line. I believe that the line was set and accepted, and therefore any instrument that doesn't find where it actually is, is the one in error. The prime meridian is where it is!

George Dresbach
Nevada City

George — When you're cruising close to the coast of Mexico and the GPS shows that you're two miles inland, is it the GPS that's in error, or is it the charts that are based on positions inaccurately plotted more than 100 years ago?


John Hill was correct in his December letter when he stated that his GPS would not match the Greenwich Observatory's Prime Meridian line. And Latitude's response to Hill's question was a good one — and I say this as an engineer and GPS-aholic who is therefore a stickler for details that are sometimes trivial.

A couple of observations:

1) If Hill's measured position was 088" W, which direction is 0?. I'd say east, not west. It was probably a typo. In addition, a GPS cannot read 088", as it would be 88 seconds. Hill was most likely reading 0.088 minutes — or 08.8 seconds.

2) Hill didn't indicate what type of GPS he used, nor what its EPE (estimated position error) was at the time. When comparing multiple GPS in my area, they seldom read the exact same values. But . . .

3) . . . the location of the line at Greenwich is not the prime meridian that the GPS is based on. Enter the title Plotting the Globe at for an extract from the book by Avraham Ariel and Nora Ariel Berger that explains it.

It's also very important to remember that the GPS datum — usually WGS84 (1984) — be matched to any other reference material you are using, as you stated in response to a letter in October of '97.

Jack Everett
Lemon Drop, Challenger 24

Jack — We were just taking a wild guess in our response. Since you think so highly of it, we'll repeat it here:

"We presume, although aren't certain, that there's a very simple explanation, and that it's the same one that results in GPS charts not corresponding with reality in various places in Mexico. The problem is that the charts, which were based on less-accurate pre-GPS navigation methods, are simply wrong. If this is true, we think the folks at Greenwich should create a new, accurate line, and then use both the old and new to show how navigation accuracy has improved over the years."

As for your being a stickler for trivial details, we'll agree, as anyone who can remember anything we wrote 10 years ago would have to be.


Latitude 38's request for firsthand information on the Cabo Storm of 25 years ago got us going. The morning after the storm, our schooner White Cloud was one of only eight cruising boats still at anchor at Cabo's Outer Harbor. Here's our story — and more.

It happened on December 7 — Pearl Harbor Day — of 1982. Cruising was very different back then, as there were just two sources of weather information, neither of them very helpful. First, we could all listen to the Coast Guard's High Seas Weather, but that didn't tell us much about conditions in our part of Mexico. Weatherfaxes were also available, but only on expensive, dedicated machines that nobody in the cruising fleet could afford. They didn't provide much useful information anyway, as the isobars on the faxes were too far apart, there was nothing in them for the Sea of Cortez, and no one on the airwaves was able to interpret how the highs and lows moving across the mainland United States would affect the weather in southern Baja. So there was neither the technology, nor a Don Anderson — or anyone even remotely like him — giving good weather forecasts. Indeed, about a month before the Cabo Storm, we'd set out from Cabo to Mazatlan and got hit by a Norther that blew a steady 35 knots for two days. If that was going to happen today, we'd have gotten plenty of advance warning.

Ham radio was the only method of long distance communication available in those days, but most cruisers didn't have licenses, so they could only listen. It's true that there were SSB radios also, but they were so expensive that they were only found on large powerboats and commercial boats. Each day at 7:00 a.m., an ex-pilot would get on the 40-meter ham net and do his best to interpret the Coast Guard High Seas Weather forecasts and apply them to the Sea of Cortez. The 20-meter Mañana Net, which came on about 11 a.m., gave no weather forecasts back then, and was used mostly for long distance communication and ham phone patches to cruisers' families back in the States.

It's also important to remember that in December of '82, nobody had heard the term 'El Nino'. After the winter of '83, when storm after storm lashed the Southern California coast, it became a household word. After that, nobody on a boat could sit in the Outer Anchorage of Cabo and say to themselves — as we did in '82 — "it always blows offshore at this time of year."

On that fateful day, about 35 cruising boats were anchored bow and stern along the beach, in two rows, quite close together, in 25 to 50 feet of water. A dozen sportfishers sat on big moorings farther out, in about 90 feet of water. There was no marina in the Inner Harbor at the time, although the area had been dug out and sea walls put in place. Perhaps 15 or 20 boats were anchored in there, but the holding was poor because of all the construction going on.

There was unsettled weather all day on the 7th, but nothing that seemed really threatening. Then about 4 p.m., a 25- to 30-knot squall came through from the WSW, meaning it hit all the boats on the beam. It was enough to make us all a bit nervous, but the anchorage was protected from that direction, so no boats dragged. A guy on a powerboat with a weatherfax came on the local VHF net afterward and said that we could expect more squalls like that during the night. Most of us battened down, put dinghies on deck, checked ground tackle, and stayed put, but there might have been one or two boats that left. Just before dark, the wind started to come up from the SSE — right into the open part of the bay — meaning we were all now on a lee shore. Two boats moved into the inner harbor, and a couple more went out to sea. The rest of us stayed put, thinking that it was just another squall.

But the wind didn't die as expected. Instead, it built to gale force in less than an hour. Soon after, it was blowing a solid 40-45, with gusts to 55 knots. Waves built to an estimated 14 feet and were breaking. Everyone knows the story of what happened after that.

The blow lasted for about eight hours before it even started to lay down. Twenty-seven cruising sailboats and several other vessels were driven ashore that night. Six were refloated; the rest were total losses, some leaving hardly a trace. Many skippers tried to get their boats out after their anchors dragged or chains snapped, but almost none of them made it. Because of the size of the waves, sailing out was all but impossible. For most boats, motoring was impossible, too, as the water was quickly covered with debris that clogged engine water intakes, and loose lines fouled props. The schooner Elias Mann, well known in Puerto Vallarta today, was one of the lucky few to make it out that night, charging dead into it with her powerful motor. A few others did too, but encountered even worse conditions at sea.

There were some curious aspects of the disaster. For instance, the crew of a Hans Christian that was anchored in about 15 to 20 feet of water, watched helplessly as their anchor windlass was ripped off the deck — but then jammed in the bow roller. They spent the night bouncing their keel on the bottom in the troughs, but were still there the next day. The name of that boat was Miracle. Another survivor, also in that row of boats closest to the beach, was named Karma. What does that tell you?

After the shock wore off and the salvaging was complete, many of us spent hours talking about that fateful day and night, of what we did right, what we did wrong, and how the whole thing might have been avoided. Certainly the weather forecasts at the time did not alert us to a rapidly developing storm just offshore. But to this day, 25 years later, we tell people that the desire to anchor close to the beach and, most of all, sheer inertia, were the things that got us caught in the Cabo Storm.

May it never happen again!

By the way, we first met the publisher of Latitude when he came down to interview the survivors, and to meet the crew of his Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary, who arrived a day or two later, not knowing why so many boats were on the beach.

Paul and Susan Mitchell
Elenoa, 36-ft steel cutter
The Seven Seas

Paul and Susan — As many readers know from a story we published about them in the July Latitude, Paul and Susan continued cruising White Cloud for a number of years before they had to abandon her in the Coral Sea. They subsquently purchased their 36-ft steel cutter Elenoa in Australia and, after 25 years, are still cruising.


As an avid mariner and a longtime reader of Latitude 38, I take serious issue with a statement in the January Loose Lips that said stuffing boxes — cutlass bearings — should be set up not to leak at rest. This is extremely dangerous advice.

Several years ago, I replaced the packing in both shaft bearings on a Grand Banks trawler, setting them up tightly enough to stop the drip at rest. Three days later, in the middle of the night off Mag Bay, there was a tremendous crash when the starboard bearing seized and nearly tore the starboard engine off its mounts.

I was later informed by a knowledgable person that these bearings must drip at least six drops per minute in order to lubricate the shaft and prevent overheating and seizing. There is no distinction between at rest and cruising.

Frank Taylor
San Diego

Frank — As you found out the hard way, a traditional shaft log must drip while the prop shaft is turning, which helps cool and lubricate the bearing surfaces. However, when the shaft isn’t turning, most experts think there is no reason for the shaft to leak. For example:

"Done right, on a properly installed and aligned engine, the packing will not leak when the shaft is at rest. When the shaft is turning, two or three drops a minute are needed to keep the shaft lubricated." (Nigel Calder, Marine Diesel Engines, third edition, 2007)

"A properly adjusted stuffing box can be watertight when the shaft is stopped, but it must drip when the shaft is turning. Two or three drops per minute are adequate." (Don Casey, Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual, 2005)

But to be fair, we did find one expert who agreed with you:

"When the flax has bedded in, it should be adjusted for a rate of one or two drips a minute when the shaft is still. When the shaft is turning, of course, the rate will be somewhat greater." (John Vigor, The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating, 2004)

The problem far more prevalent than counting how many drops per minute are coming through a shaft log is ignoring it completely. Most shaft logs leak far more than they should, which can lead to all sorts of problems — especially if your bilge pumps stop working. On top of that, even if you are concerned enough to check regularly, some shaft logs are so hard to get at that they require special tools and/or professional attention to adjust or repack. This is doubtless the reason that dripless shaft logs have long been gaining in popularity.


Wow, it was amazing to see that 10 Cubans would risk their lives drifting on raft just trying to get away from Cuba! I'm referring to the December 14th 'Lectronic photo taken by Rod Williams at San Pedro Reef in Belize. Most of us wouldn't even think of going a few miles offshore in our seaworthy boats. I go offshore often, but only with a huge respect for the sea.

Gregory Clausen
Wisdom, Santana 30/30

Gregory — That 10 people would risk their lives trying to drift to freedom on that pathetic raft is a pretty strong indication of what some Cubans think of life under Fidel and now Raul. It's also noteworthy that the number of Cubans caught trying to enter the United States in '07 — 400 of them in one weekend alone — is at a 13-year high, suggesting that Cubans don't see their lot improving anytime soon.


What the heck were you thinking with your editorial comments in December 14 'Lectronic Latitude item about the Cuban refugee raft washed up on Belize? A Google search of 'U.S. - Cuba embargo', in my view, provides as much insight as to whom actually 'designed' what you call the "Fidel Castro Freedom 32." For the 13th year in the row, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the U.S. economic boycott of Cuba by a vote of 179-4.

I'm amazed that someone who has experienced firsthand the ongoing economic benefits accruing to the many Mexican citizens as a result of tourism has apparently missed what might have prevented the 'U.S.-designed, and George Bush-condoned, Freedom 32'?

For many years I have been extremely impressed both by your willingness to publish views contrary to your own, and by the depth of your knowledge, followed by a carefully considered, and invariably accurate response. However, I think you screwed up big time this time around, and I suspect — hope — that most of your subscribers would agree. Nonetheless, I await my whipping, which I'm sure is coming.

Bob Smith
Pantera, Custom Cat
Vancouver, British Columbia

Bob — Cuba's problem is not that the United States won't trade with it, but that nearly 50 years ago Castro tried an economic and political system that simply didn't work. There's nothing wrong with trying something different and failing, but you need to learn from your mistakes. Unfortunately, Castro's monumental ego prevented him from admitting his error and charting a better path for the people of Cuba.

You can't make a comparison between Mexico and Cuba because they are entirely different. Mexicans coming to the United States aren't escaping anything, they're seeking economic opportunity. They're not only allowed to travel freely, but their government encourages them — wink, wink — to do so, knowing they'll send back remittances. Cubans, on the other hand, are not free to travel — which comes as no surprise, because they don't have freedoms of speech, congregation or the press, either. They truly are trying to escape their country. What's more, many Mexicans want to — and do — return home, with money to build homes and start businesses. Nobody returns to Cuba because nobody would want to return to slavery — which is what you've got when you're not free to leave. And even if Cubans did return and want to build a home or business, Castro either wouldn't permit it or would simply expropriate the assets.

If you survey the globe, you'll invariably find that the freer the people are politically, the better off they are economically. Which is why Iranians and Venezuelans are so impoverished, despite sitting on oceans of oil. While there are certainly many problems left to be solved in Mexico, the quality of life there has been steadily improving for decades, while in Cuba it remains so bad that the number of people who risked their lives trying to escape last year was at a 13-year high.

As we've said many times before, we're vehemently against the U.S. policy that prohibits Americans from visiting Cuba. Indeed, we think it should be mandatory for Americans to visit, for the simple reason that it would give everyone a much better idea of exactly how lucky they are to live in the States. Since you have a Canadian-flagged vessel, Bob, we can't encourage you strongly enough to visit Cuba yourself, and see what it's like for people to live without freedom or hope. Our bet is that it wouldn't be long before you started to help them design and build two-hulled escape rafts.


It's obvious that you folks at Latitude 38 are sailors rather than fishermen, because you've once again confused a yellowtail with a yellowfin. A yellowtail is a member of the jack family, while the snacks in the photo you ran were from a yellowfin, which is a member of the tuna family. No matter, I wish I'd been there catching them.

Dave Schachter
Sam I Am, El Toro
Kneeland, CA

Dave — Thanks for setting us straight yet another time. In order not to make this mistake again, we're going to remind everyone on our staff that yellowfin have long, smooth snouts, aerodynamic bodies, yellow fins — duh! — and a bronze stripe that fades to yellow toward the back. It's also rare to catch one over 50 pounds in Mexican waters. Farm-raised yellowfin in Japan are sold in sushi bars around the world as hamachi. No matter if it's the farm raised stuff from 'Cipango' or the wild stuff off the coast of Baja, it's delicious raw or cooked.

Yellowtail, on the other hand, have bright yellow second dorsal fins and anal fins to go along with metallic blue bodies that are white on the bottom. Found up to 440 pounds, the Hawaiians call them ahi which means fire. That's because when they tried to pull them aboard their boats in the old days, the ropes would smoke as they passed over the wooden rails.

Now that we know the difference between the yellowfin and the yellowtail, the only controversy left is which tastes better, and whether it's raw or cooked.


Curt Christensen inquired about cats in the 33-ft range that cost less than $60,000. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to find cats in that range. But the ones he will find will probably require a major refit. Prout brand cats are the most abundant, and were well-built until the company went bankrupt. A 30-foot Iroquois also shouldn’t be hard to find, and would most likely fit Christensen's budget. Catalac, Witness, Telstar, Endeavour, Performance Cruising, and the occasional Gemini might be found for this price, but all would require work.

Christensen is probably going to have to abandon the idea of getting running diesel inboards for that price. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as engine compartments and tanks require an enormous amount of space on cats under 40 feet. They also require a hole in the boat — a stuffing box — that’s intended to be always leaking, and suffer far more damage than a simple shear pin if the prop hits debris. In my opinion, they offer no advantage over 4-stroke gas outboards, which are more accessible and can be removed for service. While gas rather than diesel, they are unlikely to blow the boat up, since the gas and motors are essentially outside. Outboards on the cats Christensen is looking at are also likely to be decades newer and more reliable than inboard diesels. Since you can now buy a gas generator that’s quieter, lighter, and more efficient than a large alternator, it doesn’t matter that diesels can charge batteries better than outboards. Catamaran designers solved the problem of mounting outboards decades ago, so dunking in heavy seas and aeration are no longer problems.

Christensen will also have to give up the biggest multihull advantage — speed — since these older cats were built like tanks. But they still have the advantage over monohulls of great space and no heeling. And while their aesthetics will also be a bit dated, at least they don’t look like modern condomarans. For some reason the wall of tinted Lexan on the bridgedeck of the giant new Lagoon cats, and others of their ilk, make me think of a storm trooper’s helmet.

On a completely different subject, Latitude 38 was wrong, as it wasn’t Sterling Hayden who shot open the Coke machine in the movie Dr. Strangelove. It was actually Col. 'Bat' Guano, played by Keenan Wynn, who was getting Capt. Mandrake, played by Peter Sellers, a dime to call the White House and warn the President of the United States, also played by Peter Sellers. Since Latitude’s sailing-related content is always impeccably unassailable, I had to jump at the chance to offer a correction, no matter how irrelevant.

Bill Quigley
Tatiana, Farrier 32
Columbus, Ohio

Bill — We think your analysis of older multihulls is very good, although we believe that inboard diesels are far superior — although also far more expensive — than outboards and a gas genset. Well-maintained diesels are more reliable, last longer, and get more miles per gallon. But you're right, there isn't much space for them on small cats.

We apologize for the mistake about Sterling Hayden’s role in Dr. Strangelove. We were on a particularly hot high school date the night we saw it, so our memory was apparently clouded by teenage lust.

We’re delighted that you think our sailing coverage is "impeccably unassailable" but, despite our best efforts, we make more than our share of mistakes.


Sterling Hayden was indeed, as reported in last month's Sightings, a larger-than-life adventurer with many admirable qualities. His role in the film Dr. Strangelove, as U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, the paranoid maniac who launches a surprise nuclear attack on the U.S.S.R., was a great performance. However, Latitude made a mistake. It was, in fact, the actor Keenan Wynn who, as Army Colonel 'Bat' Guano, shot open the Coke machine for coins with which Peter Sellers needed to call the President of the United States. Despite your mix-up, it was still a very funny scene, and the movie remains one of the best satires on the Cold War and the 'theory' of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).

Among its ironies was having Sterling Hayden portray a delusional, rabid — and impotent — anti-Communist, which he may have relished as partial atonement for cooperating with Joe McCarthy’s notorious House Un-American Activities Committee, to which he confessed his brief Communist ties and "named names." Hayden later repudiated his cooperation, stating in his autobiography, "I don’t think you have the foggiest notion of the contempt I have had for myself since the day I did that thing." So even great men can make grave mistakes, and live to regret them.  

Anton Muzik
Zeus, Swan 391


I am responding to what I consider to be the absurd letter from Frank Hubach and Jane Pitts of the Valiant 40 Shore Loser in the January issue. Down here they are often referred to as 'Sore Loser', a deliberate misnomer based on what many of us consider to be their nasty attitudes. Most cruisers are relaxed, loving, kind, gentle, and generous.

Frank and Jane said they came down to Baja seeking the peace, beauty and tranquility of the Sea of Cortez. Unfortunately, their pursuit of this has, in the opinion of many, been at the expense of other cruisers. Many of us have found them to be arrogant, rude, abusive and officious, and think they feel as if they own the Sea. Let me give an example:

When they were on their boat, it was not unknown for them to radio approaching vessels and advise them whether or not they were willing to share the anchorage with them! And if so, what 'rules' they would insist on. They would tell you whether or not you'd be allowed to run your generator, during what hours, and for how long. This behavior drove some of our friends from the area. As for those of us who have stayed, we find some of the couple's behavior to be hypocritical. For instance, one of the rules for their boat was that you're not allowed to drink soda pop. On the other hand, you could drink tequila to your heart's delight.

There was a big hoopla about the safety of the mooring balls when Singlar first installed them at Puerto Escondido. There is no way anyone on this planet, including Frank and Jane, could have been unaware. It had been discussed in Latitude, on the ham nets, and so forth. And in their letter, the couple even admitted their boat was on an "improved Singlar mooring." So there were no secrets.

In fact, there was an interesting display by Jane at the beginning of the first Loreto Fest following the installation of the mooring balls. Singlar was not yet charging to use them, so there was the usual crowd who had been around all season. A nice-looking sailboat came in with a lovely young family aboard, but when they approached a mooring near Shore Loser, Jane came up on deck and, in what I would describe as a scream, told the approaching boat that the mooring was unsafe. As soon as these cruisers left to find another ball, Frank took a marking pen and wrote 'Danger' on the mooring ball. When Frank and Jane left, other cruisers erased the writing.

Nonetheless, they claim that it "bothers them" that word the moorings aren’t safe hasn’t been getting around? And that Americans in the area who know better — meaning us — aren't telling others. What a selective memory!

The Singlar moorings are being rebuilt now. Even though the price is half of what they originally wanted to charge, it's still ridiculously high. That's why not many moorings are being used. But the high rates are no fault of the local Singlar employees, who are wonderful and caring people. They take their orders on things like the prices from Mexico City, and they abide by Mexican law. They did not deserve the wrath Frank and Jane showered on them.

Shore Loser was not the first cruising boat broken into, and I doubt it will be the last. Unfortunately, stuff like that happens all over the world. The owners of other boats that have been plundered in the Puerto Escondido area came down and took care of business, filing their reports. But unlike Frank and Jane, they didn't see fit to blame the surrounding community.

Why do Frank and Jane feel it necessary to impeach everyone in the Puerto Escondido area? We don't know who they think they are in Berkeley, but down here in Mexico, we're all 'in the same boat'. If they had suffered a similar loss in a marina in the States, the marina would not have been held responsible, nor would it have been expected to make restitution. That's what insurance is for! Furthermore, they want to take action against Singlar and Singlar employees when it's my understanding that they haven't even paid for their mooring in two years!

As for the couple not getting support from local cruisers and members of the nearby land communities, their unfortunate loss was not "an emergency." And this community has not changed. Had it been a genuine emergency — as in the sinking of a boat or a life in peril — there would have been an immediate response. In past real emergencies, locals on boats and shore have come crawling out of the woodwork to assist. It happened with The Cat's Meow, the Joan D III, La Tortuga, our own Cat House, and with Victoria the Canadian kayaker. The list of rescues and attempted rescues goes on and on. How is it that Frank and Jane don't realize that the lack of response from the local community has everything to do with the way the members of the local community feel they have been treated by them. Haven't they ever heard of the Golden Rule?

As for their derogatory comments about the people who live in Juncalito, ours is a warm community, and we love having people come and stay in 'our' bay. We are people who have chosen to live a little rustically — with no electricity, for example — and, yes, we have our share of characters. But we're not a group of pirates or outlaws, as Frank and Jane tried to portray us. The residents of the Juncalito area, whether Mexican or gringo, have always gone above and beyond to help each other, which is one of the reasons it's such a great place to live. There are many examples of people in our community coming through not only for those who we know, but for complete strangers, too.

As for the accusations that Juncalito residents have knowledge regarding the thefts from boats, or that we are hiding our heads in the sand, that's both ridiculous and offensive. Some of their speculation is based on the fact that there was a dinghy found stashed in the mangroves in the northwest cove of Puerto Escondido, and Juncalito happens to be the nearest community. Whoever stole stuff from their boat could have gone in any direction, by land or sea, and not necessarily through Juncalito. In addition, Juncalito covers a fairly large area, and even if the thieves made their way through the playa, villagers would not necessarily have seen anything, and the campers wouldn't have had reason to suspect anything. No, we don't hide our heads in the sand. When we are robbed or threatened, we file reports with the police. But as guests in Mexico, there is only so much that we can do. The police have been made aware of the robberies. What more did Frank and Jane expect us to do, form a mob and go after any possible suspects?

The fact that the crews from only two or three boats offered Frank and Jane assistance should tell them that maybe they need to work on their attitude toward others. From our perspective, it's not us, but rather them, who are the "sad commentary on human nature." They need to take some responsibility for the choices they make and their consequences. We're sad — but also angry — that they felt the need to become so foolishly and publicly vindictive. All they have accomplished is to show their true colors.

Vicky Power
Cat House, 43 President
Juncalito / Puerto Escondido / Northern California

Readers — Frank and Jane very much wanted us to publish their letter, and Vicky very much wanted to defend her community. We have no idea which accusations are true and which aren't, but as both have had their say, we think it's time to move on to more important questions — such as how wise and how fair it is to leave well-equipped boats unattended for long periods of time, no matter if they are on the hook, such as was the case with Evan Dill's boat — see this month's first two letters — or on moorings, such as Frank and Jane's Shore Loser, where it's all but impossible to provide security for them.

One issue is theft. Since unattended boats are such easy pickings, do they not make all anchored or moored out boats more attractive targets for thieves? In recent months there have been significant thefts from cruising boats in Puerto Don Juan, Puerto Escondido, and La Paz Bay. The one thing they all had in common was that the boats were unattended.

Another issue is etiquette/safety. Over the years, unattended boats in Baja have broken loose during storms in disproportionate numbers compared to those that had crews aboard. Loose boats put the other boats and crews in danger of being hit and themselves being set free. And once other boats have gone ashore, most cruisers on site feel the need to go to great ends — and personal risk — to try to save the unattended boats. Is this fair?

We've been on both sides of the issue. Shortly after buying Big O in the Caribbean in the mid-'80s, we left her unattended for two months of hurricane season on the hook in the middle of Charlotte Amalie Bay, St. Thomas. Another time we tied her up in the mangroves of one of the back bays of St. John for two months. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. But as we look back, it seems very irresponsible, both for our interests in our boat and her contents, but also to other people and property we may have subjected to danger.

What do you think? Were we stupid and irresponsible when younger or, now that we're older, have we become too grouchy and conservative?


We’re planning on cruising down to Mexico, and perhaps as far as Panama, for a year or longer. We're currently very happy with our '99 center cockpit Beneteau Oceanis 36, but think that in order to cruise comfortably, we'd ideally need the following: watermaker, generator, bimini, solar panels, SSB radio, dinghy davits, emergency steering (external rudder), and liferaft.

Our boat currently has none of the above. Could you comment on the relative usefulness of the above items for the cruise? 

Brad Brown
Eagles Nest, Beneteau 36CC
San Diego

Brad — Every sailor has a different need for comfort, as well as financial means and mechanical skills, so it's hard to make generalizations. But here's our crack at it:

Watermaker — Having nearly unlimited amounts of fresh water is a real pleasure in the tropics, and today’s watermakers are much more reliable and efficient than the early ones. On the down side, they are a chunk of money, require power, and need maintenance. While many sailors go without watermakers, we think that, for your boat and the trip you have in mind, the pros outweigh the cons.

Generator and/or Solar Panels — These really need to be considered together, as it may be possible to generate most, if not all, of your electrical needs with solar panels plus the occasional assist from your main engine. If not, or for backup, you might want to go with a 2,000-watt — not 1,000-watt — portable generator. We wouldn't add a diesel genset to a boat your size.

Bimini — A dodger and bimini are essential in the tropics. Don’t go south of San Diego without good ones.

SSB Radio — You don’t have to have one, but given the email capabilities of SailMail/Winlink, the GRIB problem files for weather, and the various cruiser nets on SSB, you’d be missing out on a lot. When you returned from your cruise, the SSB would still have considerable value. The other option, particularly if you like to hear the sound of family and friends back home, is an Iridium satphone. These are also good for weather forecasts and superb in a variety of emergencies.

Dinghy Davits — When cruising in Mexico and Central America, you'll be using your dinghy all the time, so it's essential that you not only have a good one, but find some sort of easy and effective system for raising and lowering it. We're not sure if the solution is davits or what, but make sure you come up with a proven solution because it will be critical to your happiness.

Emergency Steering — Beneteau-built boats don’t have a history of rudder and rudder shaft failures, and your boat is relatively new, so this would be pretty far down on our list. Besides, it’s not like you’ll be doing a lot of downwind sailing in heavy weather. And if you do, just make sure you periodically check the sail trim to make sure you're not putting undue strain on the steering system and rudder. If you want to be conservative, Scanmar makes an emergency rudder that might be adaptable to your boat.

Liferaft — This is a call that only you can make. If money isn’t an issue, get one. If money is an issue, you might consider investing the liferaft money in a better dinghy/outboard combo and a satphone.

Only you can make the final decisions, but we hope this helps.


Lina and I have made many passages to Southern California on our Olson 34 Razzberries over the past 14 years. Our southbound passages are generally in May, with the return trips in September. We can recall three 'sneaker wave' incidents of note. One in May, and two in September, while motoring in calm winds and otherwise flat seas.

Two times we were hit by unseen seas that washed us off the rail into a cockpit full of water, but with no damage other than to the electrical system. We wear our tethers whenever we're in the cockpit, so these events were not a big deal. But I can remember feeling like a rubber ducky floating in a bathtub.

For us, the mother of all sneaker waves hit us at the entrance to Morro Bay several years ago. The Morro Bay Harbormaster has some great shots of thrilling attempts at entering or leaving the harbor in his office, including one of a large powerboat suspended 20 feet or more atop a huge wave. Well, we duplicated that event!

It was a sunny, September day with glassy seas and no wind when we approached the Morro Bay entrance buoy under power. I called the Harbormaster, and he updated me on the channel conditions inside the breakwater, which was about a mile away. Basically, we had to make a hard left turn after passing the breakwater to stay in the dredged channel. Halfway in, I turned to make sure there were no overtaking boats behind us. So far, so good, as there were no boats. However, there was a 20-ft wall of water a couple hundred yards back, and coming at us fast! I yelled for Lina to hold on, accelerated to full throttle, and steered straight down the wave that was on us in just a few seconds. We rode up the wave and down the backside in a few seconds. No harm. But when the wave reached the harbor entrance, it broke like a bomb going off!

We celebrated our good fortune for a couple of minutes as we approached the entrance, but then I looked back — and saw an identical wave, fast approaching! This was starting to look serious. It appeared as though we might be on the crest of the wave just as it would hit the entrance. We rode that wave the same way we did the first, and were less than 100 yards from the entrance when it broke. We motored through the turbulent water and made our left turn into safety. Whew!

We don't have any hard statistics or photos to validate Razzberries' surfing event, but I would like to try to describe the scope of the waves with some educated guesses. I believe that the wave heights were at least 20 feet. The waves were very steep, but probably no more than 200 feet wide, and traveled at an estimated 50 miles per hour. The speed of the waves is probably what saved us from pitchpoling when they broke. And after they passed, it was flat seas again.

Bruce & Lina Nesbit
Razzberries, Olson 34
Richmond Yacht Club

Bruce and Lina — We don't want to split hairs, but if you had two huge waves in relatively close succession, we're not sure if they'd fit the definition — if there is one — of a 'sneaker wave'. Maybe they were just 'waves of the day'. And while not trying to second-guess you, after seeing the first huge wave, did you give any thought to seeking shelter in an alernate port such as Port San Luis?

To us, the most interesting thing about your report is that you estimate that the waves were travelling at 50 mph. We're not aware of any waves — other than the shockwaves from tsunamis — traveling even remotely that fast. Are you pretty confident in that speed estimate?


My crew and I experienced a 'sneaker wave' in September of '78 while returning from Hawaii aboard my Nor' Sea 27 Sea Pod. We'd made a reasonably fast passage of 21 days, and were in the main San Francisco shipping channel, not far from the Pt. Bonita Lighthouse, when a wave of well over 20 feet broke not 30 feet off our port beam. Had we been just 30 feet to the side, we surely would have pitchpoled. The swell was very large where we were, but it did not break.

At first, I thought I had made a serious navigation error and feared that we might be out of the channel and in the shoal areas to the north or south. But that was not the case. I later learned that there had been an earlier storm in the Gulf of Alaska that caused the swells, that under certain conditions, waves do break in the main shipping channel, and that even large ships don't enter in those conditions.

Prior to the wave breaking, it had been a beautifully calm day with moderate winds. The rogue wave appeared out of nowhere. I can assure you that the experience sent adrenaline surging through my veins. I could even taste it on my tongue!

On January 12, a big wave surfing contest was held at Mavericks near Half Moon Bay. The day before the event, the significant swell period was 19 seconds, and the significant wave height was nine feet. The wind was calm and, looking out to sea, the ocean looked more like a lake than the scene of killer surfing waves. On the day of the contest, the swell period at the San Francisco approach buoy had dropped to 17 seconds, and the wave height was even less than the day before.

I went down to Mavericks to watch the contest, and was somewhat disappointed, as the waves were considerably smaller than in previous years. Then, out of nowhere, three very large waves in the 40-ft range, came through and made everyone's day. But once again, looking at the sea away from Mavericks, the ocean looked like a lake, and there was virtually no wind.

Long period swells are generated from storms a long distance away, which is why you can still have them on clear and windless days. They are virtually invisible in the open ocean, but when they approach shallow water, they can become the sneaker waves that have taken so many lives. The longer the period, the less discernible is the wave until it hits shoaling water. And the longer the period, the more energy is stored in a wave of the same height. The state of the tide and current can, of course, create even more dangerous conditions.

So I again point out that it is a good idea to check the offshore buoy data to see if the significant wave period is a long one — say anything over 15 seconds. If that's the case, it's telling you that storm swell is coming from far away, and that it's a good idea to stay in deep water.

I'm not an oceanographer. These are just my observations over many years of trying to figure out and make sense of waves that I have witnessed and found hard to explain by just local conditions.

Tony Badger
Kingfish, Fisher 37

Tony — We're not oceanographers either, but based on checking worldwide data on sites such as, we don't find any evidence to confirm your hypothesis that there's a necessary link between long wave periods and distant storms. On the contrary, in many cases where the wave periods decreased from say 16 seconds to 15 seconds, the size of the swell increased considerably.


I never thanked you folks for the kind words you wrote when I lost my son Andy overboard. It's your request for information on 'sneaker waves' that has prompted me to write.

It was on the morning of June 6, 2006, while 36.5 miles west of Pt. Reyes, that a 20-ft wall of green water swept over our Cal 29, throwing two sailors into the drink. Paddy was clipped on, my son Andy was not. I managed to retrieve Paddy, but through poor planning, bad decisions, shock, and bad luck, I lost my boy.

Paddy later told me it was a wall of green water approximately 20 feet high that swept the boat. As he's an architect by trade and a Brit who has done several Fastnet races, I think it's likely he underestimated the size of the wave. Up until that one wave, the weather had been a bit snotty, with seas averaging six to eight feet, and the swell a bit less.

Paddy says the wave "sprang out of nowhere," and then was gone. Andy only had seconds to warn Paddy before it hit them. Unfortunately, I was asleep below, and only responded to the "Man overboard!" call of Paddy, who was clinging to the side of the boat. He'd been washed under the boat, but as she righted herself, he managed to grab the rail and hang on.

I read Latitude a bit more regularly these days, and find a bit of solace living on the Columbia River and restoring an old Cal 29. It's a bit of a struggle, but I don't have the option of bailing. My daughters and friends have suffered enough, so it's my responsibility to try to ease their pain.

I hope this helps.

Ken Brinkley
Albatross, Cal 29
Portland, Oregon

Ken — We can only begin to imagine the pain of your loss, and hope that you and your family are finding some peace.


I'm 11-year-old Jaryd from Tin Soldier and, in November, I did my second Baja Ha-Ha. It was awesome! I was only four years old when I did my first one, but I can still remember that I had tons of fun. But now that I'm 11, it was so much better because there are so many wonderful things that I didn't notice when I was younger.

I loved making new Mexican friends. One of the best things we did in Bahia de Tortuga was set up a soccer game with the local kids. It was fun — even though they whipped us! I also felt good about giving some of my toys to kids that I met. In addition, I donated my bike — which I won't need on the boat — to the principal of the elementary school so she could give it to the most needy child. It makes me feel good to know that I can bring happiness to someone else.

I also made good friends with kids on the other boats, and had a lot of fun hanging out with them. I went hiking and skim-boarding with Emily from Volcano, played on the beach with lots of other kids, and attended the Ha-Ha Awards Ceremony with friends like Sophie and Maddie from Meridian.

Since I’m from Canada, I'm used to the ocean water being really cold. I loved swimming in the tropical waters of Mexico because they are so warm and transparent. Just before we got to Cabo, we stopped out in the open ocean for a swim. That was sure different. I later made it 20 feet down to the bottom.

All the Ha-Ha parties were pretty cool, and I even got to go to the Squid Roe nightclub in Cabo. I liked the crazy lights and had a good time — until all us kids had to leave at 10 p.m.

I'd also like to apologize — not! — for hitting the Grand Poobah with water balloons while he was trying to organize some games for the kids on the beach at Turtle Bay. But he made such a good target!

Would I recommend the Ha-Ha to anyone with kids who like adventure and fun? Yes!

P.S. My parents would like to thank the Poobah for "masterminding such an incredible event," as they say they appreciate how much effort goes into making such a successful event. However, my mom would also like to know if the Poobah turned off the thermostat here in Mexico when he went to the Caribbean. It's been overcast and unbelievably cool here in Mazatlan, where we're doing boat jobs. In fact, right now it's only 68 degrees. There are five other Ha-Ha boats here at El Cid Marina, four of which have crewmembers down with colds or the flu. My dad is so sick that mom won't even let him get in the bunk with her. Anyway, after he gets well, we're heading for Isla Isabella, Chacala, Banderas Bay, then Zihua — and across the Pacific on the Puddle Jump!

Jaryd Middleton (11)
Tin Soldier, Waterline 50
Vancouver, British Columbia

Jayrd — Thank your parents for the kind words. As for you, you really have a knack for making your presence known, especially in Turtle Bay. When you were four, it was because you followed some older kids into a ravine they could get out of but you couldn't. Your being "lost" scared the daylights out of your parents, but thankfully a full Ha-Ha search eventually found you safe and sound. And we won't soon forget that, during the most recent Ha-Ha, you stole many of the fleet's biodegradable water balloons and proceeded to use the Poobah's back as a target. You can do the Puddle Jump, Jaryd, but we've some advice for you: Don't ever turn your back because, somewhere on the waters of the world, the Poobah intends to hunt you down to exact water balloon revenge.


Having done a few charters in the South Pacific — always with the aid of a hired skipper — in '06 my wife Marsha and I decided that it was time we learned to sail ourselves. So we began to take ASA (American Sailing Association) lessons at the Santa Barbara Sailing Center to familiarize ourselves with basic sailing techniques. At that point our knowledge was embarrassingly slim. You could have convinced me that a sheet was something that was used in the V-berth to keep warm, and that a bowline belonged on a bass fiddle.

Anyway, we passed our basic keelboat training that summer, and did a few daysails around Santa Barbara for fun and practice. Nonetheless, we still weren't confident that we could handle a boat offshore by ourselves. In the spring of '07, we took the next level of training, Coastal Cruising. But even after that we felt as though we needed more training and practice.

Having subscribed to Latitude for years, I was intrigued by the Baja Ha-Ha as a way to finally get some real offshore sailing experience. With that in mind, Marsha and I — we're both 57 — decided to put our names on the Crew List to see if we could get a ride. Only willing to go as a couple, we realized that this might reduce or eliminate our chances, but figured we had nothing to lose. In the meantime, we signed up for the third level of ASA training, Bareboat Cruising, which would give us potential access to charter boats up to 50 feet to get even more experience.

About two weeks after signing on with the Crew List, Jim and Doris Maxwell, owners of the Freedom 32 Jim N' I, interviewed us. When done, they told us we had a 50-50 chance of being by selected when they made their final decision two weeks later. At that point, I wanted the experience so bad that I'd have done it in a bathtub with a bedsheet for a sail. Fortunately, we got the call that said we'd been selected.

It turns out that Jim had been sailing since he was 12, while his wife Doris didn't have any sailing experience at all. Even more interesting, both of them are in their 80s. In fact, Jim won the Pusser's Award in the Ha-Ha for being the oldest skipper.

The couple's cat-rigged Freedom 32 had been purchased sight unseen by Doris just a couple of months before. They had only taken Jim N' I out to Catalina once, and had to motor all the way as there was no wind. The week prior to the start, we did some sailing on San Diego Bay, but there wasn't much wind. We also had some practice anchoring. But we basically had to learn the boat as we did the Ha-Ha.

We thought we were ready to set the gennaker at the start of the first leg in San Diego, but had never flown a chute before. I was on the bow and Marsha was on the sheet. This proved to be a bad idea, because on the command to hoist, I raised the sail in the building wind, putting a heavy load on the sheets. Unfortunately, the spinnaker sheet hadn't been run through a turning block or around a winch. As a result, Marsha was yanked to the side of the cockpit, bruising a rib. When I looked back to see why the sail was thrashing around, I could see that Marsha was hanging onto the sheet, being jerked around as if she were atop a bucking bronco. By the time we got everything under control, all we could see were the transoms of the other boats.

We had some trouble with the chute again that night, as it got wrapped in a windshift. This was my first experience trying to untangle a sail on the bow in the dark. To compound my lack of experience, the Freedom 32 has an unstayed mast, and therefore very little to hang onto when at the bow. I worked on it for about 45 minutes, but in the end had to tie it off until morning.

After returning to the relative calm of the cockpit nearly exhausted, I took some time to reflect on what was transpiring. I decided that it was one of my most exhilarating experiences in years, and knew that sailing was 'in my blood'. A few days later I told Marsha that I thought I was in my element, and she agreed.

This has created a dilemma for us. Before the Ha-Ha we'd only toyed with the thought of buying a boat and sailing as a lifestyle. But we're now seriously developing a plan to purchase a boat, do the Ha-Ha again, then sail the Sea of Cortez before heading further south and west. The Ha-Ha gave Marsha and me the confidence to know that we can handle a boat, and that we're ready to do as much cruising as possible. We're both moving toward full retirement, so we feel that it will only be a matter of time before you hear from us — about adventures on our own boat.

As for those folks who haven't done a Ha-Ha but criticize it as a glorified booze cruise, they have no idea what they're talking about. We had three-on, three-off watches through the night, hand steering the whole time. We had four battens blow out, lost some bearings on the traveller, and got bruises the size of a watermelon.

But the tribulations were offset by things like catching five yellowfin tuna, relaxing after a day of sailing by logging into my journal, enjoying the beautiful anchorages at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, taking long walks on the beaches while picking up sand dollars, seeing Marsha get dunked when the tide came up quicker than expected, getting to try our Spanish on the panga drivers, basking in the fine weather and blue seas near Cabo, and even trudging around Cabo with an outboard motor looking for a part for the throttle. All these experiences made me feel like I was back in San Diego's North County as a kid, living on the beach during the summer. I could write a couple more pages about all the fun experiences we had and how we can't wait to do it again — but I'll just thank Latitude and the Ha-Ha folks for creating the spark that inspired us to pursue sailing and cruising. We're truly excited to see where this takes us.

Earl and Marsha May
Jim N' I, Crew

Earl and Marsha — We're glad you had a great time and, as you were undeterred by the various problems, think you are prime candidates to enjoy more extensive cruising. Our only caution is to never underestimate the potential for injury when at sea. We don't imagine that you or your wife will ever be on a boat again that sets a chute without the sheet led through a block and to a winch. But the fewer lessons you have to learn at the school of hard knocks — and watermelon-size bruises — the happier you'll be.


What a pleasure it is for me to be back in La Paz — if only by plane. I'm here for dental treatment by Dr. Martin Tirad Cruz, who is fluent in English, French and Spanish, and who can be reached by or 122° 34' 05". The treatment I get from him is far better than I can afford in the United States.

In fact, medical treatment in general has become so expensive in the United States that it's economical for me to fly to La Paz, stay for a week of treatment and relaxation, and fly home. The same is true of a hip a replacement done in New Zealand or a gall bladder removal in Spain. Britain's National Health Plan pays for medical-tourism, while U.S. Medicare only pays for treatment inside the States. Who are the winners and who are the losers in such a system?

While in La Paz, I was happy to see that the Shroyer family of Marina de La Paz, who have done so much for the cruising community and for La Paz, are in good health and prospering. Mary and Mack are looking as good as La Paz itself. While Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas, and Los Angeles get bigger and uglier, La Paz just keeps getting better, with more trees, parks, statues, municipal art and municipal amenities. Both the infrastructure and ambience get better every year.

Sigmund Baardsen
Mary T, Cheoy Lee Offshore 40
Glen Cove Marina

Sigmund — We hear it over and over from cruisers, that they get what they feel is equal or better dental and medical treatment outside the U.S., and at a much lower cost.


After reading an October letter in Latitude 38 with secondhand information about my Farallon Clipper Gauntlett, I feel the need to inform the yachting public and the Farallon Clipper fleet about the current condition of my boat.

Gauntlett, Farallon Clipper #10, has been restored to 'better that new condition', and is floating in her slip at Half Moon Anchorage on San Diego Bay. As some Latitude readers know, I acquired her in derelict condition, rotting away at a backwater dock in Stockton. Since Father's Day '06, I've replaced seven floor timbers and corresponding frames, sistered 28 frames, and installed new floor frames and sub-floor. She has a new transom, including new carlin, deck beams, and transom frames. I fabricated a new backstay chain plate and exhaust pipe, copying the latter from a Ferrari tail pipe. The weather damaged cabin top has been completely restored, and all portholes have been polished and reinstalled.

Over the summer my boat has hosted many receptions for visiting artists who have performed at Humphrey's Concerts on the Bay, a venue adjacent to my marina. Among the artists have been Lyle Lovett, k.d. lang, Welsh superstar Tom Jones, and the great Stevie Wonder — who loved the boat — to name just a few. As an additional public service, I've been conducting free sailing onboard sailing lessons for adult women who want to learn sailing in a gentle, nurturing atmosphere without any yelling. Gauntlett has served her students well.

It is true that I've had her up for sale the entire time, hoping that she may someday return to San Francisco Bay and once again compete against her proud sisters. Up until now, a buyer has not emerged. Anyway, she looks and sails great, her engine purrs like a kitten — all thanks to the experts at DC Boatworks in Coronado, and the many friends who helped make this great classic live again.

If any adult women are interested in sailing lessons, they may call the 'enrollment office' at (619) 507-6129.

Dan Payne
Gauntlett, Farallon Clipper
San Diego


Thanks for the article about the Berkeley/Olympic Circle.

I thought you might be interested in the following: All the courses on the Circle, when the digits are added together, always total 9. It's a great way to remember them. For example, 45; 4+5=9 or 270; 2+7+0=9. You can prove it to yourself all the way up to 315; 3+1+5=9.

Why did the ancient mariners/astronomers choose 360 degrees for a circle? Check it out: There go them dang Babylonians again. First they invent writing, then math, then they put most of the world's crude oil under their kingdom.

Steve Sarsfield
Tomales Bay


We love the Latitude 38 website, but have a question. If Yankees such as ourselves were going to retire in Mexico, and wanted to be able to sail often, with our boat as close at hand as possible, where would you suggest? We have a Rhodes 22, which is considered a pocket cruiser, and we'd do daysails as well as overnighters. Although the boat is capable of some limited offshore sailing, we’re not going to do any bluewater stuff. We’re presently from New Hampshire, although we’ve spent many years in the Southwest.

Ron & Linda Singerman
Sunapee Lake, NH

Ron and Linda — No matter what you're looking for in a residential-sailing combination, Mexico has it. The only thing we'd caution you about is that coastal Mexico isn't really a comfortable place to live year 'round. The Sea of Cortez is terrific in the fall and spring, but is terribly hot in the summer, and while there are warm days in the winter, the water certainly isn't warm enough for swimming. Mainland Mexico is fabulous in the winter, but it's too hot, humid and rainy for most people in the summer. As such, Mexico is the perfect place for sailors who want to spend the six winter months in the tropics, and six months elsewhere — such as New Hampshire.

If you're looking for an urban environment in the Sea of Cortez that stays pretty warm in the winter, La Paz would top the list. It has lots of marina facilities and terrific islands for overnight cruising less than 20 miles away. San Carlos/Guaymas is also popular with folks from the Southwest, has good marina facilities, and several good local destinations. Bahia de Los Angeles and Puerto Escondido/Loreto both have great nearby islands to sail to, but have few bright lights.

Our recommendations on the mainland would include Banderas Bay, the Tenacatita-Barra area, and Zihua. Banderas Bay has perhaps the most consistent flatwater sailing conditions in Mexico, lots of local destinations, plenty of marine facilities, and a happening big city to boot. You can pick how urban a setting you want to live in, and still have your boat nearby. Tenacatita Bay-Barra is great, but it's not very urban. Zihua really only has one good sailing destination, but sailing the bay could be a lot of fun in a 22-footer. The downside of Zihua is that it doesn't have the most reliable sailing conditions.

In our estimation, you should start your search with La Paz in the Sea of Cortez and Banderas Bay on the mainland, not immediatley eliminating any of the other spots. By the way, all of the places mentioned have lots of Americans living and sailing there already, with lots more coming all the time. Good luck!


The January Latitude 38 was by far the best one I’ve read in a long time — maybe the best ever. It was chock full of sailing stories, as opposed to stories about other things such as repairs, how-to advice, other cultures, or history. While all of these other things are useful and sometimes entertaining, the stories about sailing are the biggest reason that I read Latitude every month. I went to sleep dreaming of the sailing adventures I read about in that issue — including the storm in Cabo 25 years ago that wrecked so many boats.

Another reason that I liked the issue so much is Latitude saying that laid back Francis Joyon of IDEC is your sailing hero and that "it makes a difference to [you] that Joyon’s assault on the record is a ‘green’ one." Right on! I applaud all those real sailors who sail without engines, and even those who have engines but who use them rarely. Not only are these people sailing as opposed to motoring, they aren’t destroying the planet by having fun.

I also loved the passage from Sterling Hayden’s autobiography — although I strongly disagree with the part about cruising without money. This is different for everyone, but my experience was that running low on cruising funds while thousands of miles from home was rather stressful — and not in a good way. Personally, I’d rather not have to think about money while cruising, as there's plenty of adventure to be had in the sailing itself, including navigation, heavy weather, avoiding reefs or otherwise running aground, fishing, seeing wild marine life, and hiking and visiting natural areas. One doesn’t need to be stressed about money to have an adventure.

Jeff Hoffman
San Francisco

Jeff — We're glad that you enjoyed the January issue, but have to tell you that there's never any unanimity of opinion about which issues are the best or why. The ones we think are good seem to go relatively unnoticed, while some of the ones that seemed more average get high praise. One of the reasons, of course, is that different people have different interests. For example, you're not into the 'how to' articles, while the author of the next letter wants even more of them. What's a publisher to do? Just the best we can, and leave it at that.

As many readers know, we're in the middle of a two-month working vacation in the Caribbean aboard the 45-ft cat we have in a British Virgins yacht management program. The thing that strikes us about daily life here is how much fun you can have while having so little impact on the environment. The four-stroke outboard is a real gas miser, we use no heat or air conditioning, use very little fresh water, and haven't ridden in a car in two weeks. The only thing that grates us about these charter cats is that they are designed to have to run the diesel twice a day to keep the refrigeration systems happy. Solar panels in this sunny part of the world would seem like a great solution.


I want to express my gratitude for your recent Idiot Guide articles on things like SSB radio and diesel engines that are directed toward do-it-yourselfers such as myself. They've been very helpful, so I hope you plan on making such articles a regular feature in the magazine. Some of the other subjects I'd be interested in seeing covered are rigging and re-rigging, electronics, marlinspike, and issues with heads.

Ted Biggs
Starship Mega

Ted — We're glad that you liked them, and we'll see what we can do about more in the future.


We've been liveaboards at Marina Village for 17 years, and, during that time, we've seen various ads in Latitude 38 by non-profits requesting boat donations. As we've now moved ashore and I'm no longer physically or financially capable of keeping our Perry 47 Lua Makina in seaworthy condition, we're considering donating her to a non-profit rather than selling her as a 'fixer-upper'.

Built in '79, Lua Makina has an all-teak interior and is an extremely robust and good sailing yacht that has been to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Venezuela, Central America and Mexico. She's set up perfectly for living aboard, as she's got an electric fridge, electric heat, a stove, microwave and stereo. It's been awhile, but she got a complete refit in '90, including a teak floor, engine rebuild, and her bottom stripped to glass then coated with two coats of epoxy and 13 coats of barrier coat. Her Hogin sails have less than 200 hours of use.

On the negative side, her bottom hasn't been painted in five years, she needs a battery charger, the engine hasn't been run in several years, and there is some delamination of interior woodwork.

Can Latitude provide the names of any charitable entities that might like to acquire Lua Makini?

Arthur & Cathye Schubert
Lua Makini, Perry 47
Bay Area

Arthur and Cathye — Not wanting to favor one over another, we're running your letter to advise non-profits to contact you by for further information.


Having grown tired of my job at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and even more so of politics in the United States, I'm making a bit of a career/life change. To that end, I've taken the harbormaster's job on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. I'd actually put in for a marina job there last March after seeing an ad in 'Lectronic, but didn't get it. I got the harbormaster's job instead.

At any rate, my wife and I are getting ready for the big move by doing things like selling our little Beneteau, the cabin we built, and all that stuff. As if that weren't enough, my subscription to Latitude is running out. And by the way, I got one reminder from you guys, which I love, as opposed to the 10 notices I get starting a year in advance from other sailing magazines. But your subscription info states that you don't do international subscriptions. Since Kwajalein is an Army Base with an APO, can I get my Latitudes sent there? After all these years, I don't want to give Latitude up.

By the way, the publisher may remember me, as I was the guy who crewed aboard Profligate in the Heineken Regatta in St. Martin back in '04. I'll understand if he doesn't remember, as so many people have sailed on that cat.

In a Heineken-related note, Jim Brainard, a friend of mine who owns the Alameda-based J/35C Brainwaves that I occasionally crew on, is chartering a 48-ft French boat for this year's Heineken, plus a 48-ft cat as a support boat. Brainard, who is new to the Bay, kicks butt, having finished second in the Singlehanded Farallons Race last year. But get this: he's hired Northern California's Dawn Riley — the only woman to have ever put together an America's Cup campaign — as their coach. It's my understanding that the whole crew will be from the Bay Area.

P.S. Before to long I hope to see the publisher of Latitude step off Profligate and onto one of my docks at Kwajalein.

Guy Sandusky
Los Alamos, New Mexico

Guy — It's true that we can't remember half of the thousands of people who have sailed aboard Profligate over the years, but we remember that Heineken and you. After all, it was the debut of Roy Disney's and Hasso Plattner's canting keel MaxZ86s Pyewacket and Morning Glory, and we beat them both to the first weather mark. It helped, of course, that we boats in the multihull division got that 10-minute head start. We also remember that John Haste was there with his Perry 52 cat Little Wing, that the Black Eyed Peas were the free entertainment, that it blew so hard that 5 of the 19 multihulls were dismasted, and that if all of the cans of Heineken consumed had been placed back to back, they would have stretched from one end of the island to the other.


When I was in the Navy, every time we left San Diego Bay on a ship, an announcement would come over the 1MC — the ship’s public address system — warning, "Stand by for heavy rolls." It wasn’t announcing a poorly made batch of breakfast pastry, it was warning that the ship was about to experience some excessive rolling due to the swells outside the harbor. If you weren’t prepared for the sometimes sudden and violent rolling, you could be thrown on your keister. Forewarned was fore armed, so to speak.

I thought I’d send you this notice of a study of outboard motor fuel tanks being conducted by the Air Resources Board. Regulatory agencies are notorious for not knowing anything about what they regulate, so "stand by for heavy rolls."

"The California Air Resources Board is conducting a study of portable outboard marine tanks (OMTs) used to supply fuel to outboard marine engines. Primarily constructed of plastic, the fuel tank is connected to the engine by use of a rubber fuel line and a hand pump is used to prime the engine and start the flow of fuel. Our study will include an evaluation of evaporative emissions from the fuel tank, fuel hose, and primer bulb, as well as an analysis of the California tank population. Together, this information will be combined to determine statewide emissions impacts and support future regulatory programs. If you have questions related to OMTs, please contact Joseph Fischer at (916) 323-1169 or by , or Dennis Goodenow at (916) 322-2886 or by ."

Ron Harben
Puka Kai, Fantasia 35

Ron — Based on CARB's (California Air Resources Board) literally breathtaking work on gas jerry jugs, it's so very reassuring to hear that they now intend to inflict their expertise on outboard motor tanks. Most mariners are familiar with the way the CARB-mandated tanks reduced the amount of fumes released while at the same time dramatically increasing the amount of raw fuel that was spilled in the water, on the ground, on people, on hot engines, and just about everywhere else. When we discussed the matter with CARB, they assured us that they were familiar with the fact that their mandated tanks were something of a disaster, and that they'd probably get around to changing them in a few years. We don't know about you, but we haven't noticed any changes.


A while back I watched the movie Underwater!, a 1955 Howard Hughes production that starred Jane Russell, Gilbert Roland and Richard Egan. The main characters were looking for treasure, supposedly in the Caribbean, although it sure looked like Mexico to me. As far as I'm concerned, the real star of the film was the 50-ft gaff schooner on which much of the action took place. The movie featured many shots of the schooner underway and at anchor, but I was never able to see the schooner's name. A Google search didn't yield much either.

I wonder if any Latitude 38 readers can help. After all, they came up with a lot of information on my earlier question regarding Errol Flynn's schooner Zaca.

Larry Watkins
Moondance, Beneteau OC 400
Long Beach

Larry — Though we've never had the pleasure of watching Underwater!, we did manage to dig up a little information on the boat used in the film.

Her name is Te Hongi de ClumperteeTe Hongi for short — and her construction began in Hokianga, New Zealand, in 1934. She's traded hands many times through the years, gone through several name changes, survived a near-sinking, went aground in Hawaii, was gutted by fire, was rebuilt (several times) and starred in a sexy Jane Russell film.

It's our understanding she's on the East Coast and, as of 2000, was the base for some electronics testing. Perhaps readers know more about her history?


I loved the October issue article on Glacier Bay's efficient diesel-electric hybrid motors for sailboats. With oil pushing $100/barrel, greenhouse gas emissions accelerating in the Far East, and the Arctic ice cap melting fast, their timing couldn't be better.

Our family has been pushing the envelope in "green building" for years now. For instance, we built our first house 10 years ago out of, among other things, recycled McDonald's styrofoam cups, and on the lot next door, just finished what we believe is the world's first permitted structure made out of reused, insulated shipping containers, known in the trade as 'reefers'. And for almost 10 years, I rode an electric hybrid bicycle marketed by Santa Rosa's ZAP — until the third controller got fried on our steep hills. All this is by way of explaining why, when our Yamaha four-stroke 4-hp outboard had to go in her for annual maintenance, and we had to find some way to get from the Richmond YC to the Sausalito YC for the first midwinter race, I figured we'd try a new electric outboard.

On the off chance that we might actually buy one, the folks at West Marine were kind enough to lend us the Torqeedo 801 for the weekend. They were honest enough to warn us they weren't sure it would take us as far as we wanted, so we made arrangements to buddyboat with a boat that had a trustworthy iron genny to act as a sag wagon in case the electric outboard didn't cut it.

As it turned out, I had the beginnings of a bad cold and the kids were less than enthusiastic about drifting around the Knox course, so we opted to go for a motorsail around Brooks Island instead of racing. This still gave us a chance to try the electric outboard.

The German-engineered 801 is advertised for boats up to 1.5 tons, and the 'Tuna 22' fits at just under at 2,600 pounds, not counting assorted gear and people. The 25-pound outboard is light, easy-to-assemble and, if you have 15 minutes, actually folds up. It comes with a lithium-manganese battery that fits on top, but can also be plugged into a bank of regular lead-acid batteries in case you happen to have one or more on your small boat. The battery takes overnight to charge, and has five LEDs on top to tell you the charging state. It's easy to read these lights at 2 a.m. when most people are sleeping, but really hard to read in full sunlight when you really need to know how much juice you have left. And if you want to go anywhere far or fast, you will be peering at those LEDs — unless you have a good backup plan.

Besides the environmental advantages and the light weight, this puppy has three other things going for it: it always starts immediately, it's pretty quiet, and it's cute. But as my wife confided to the West Marine rep when she brought it back on the following Monday, cute is not really something you need in an outboard motor.

My pre-teen sons liked that I could let them safely play with the tiller throttle, and especially enjoyed the impressive bubbles that it makes in reverse. But even at full throttle — which drains the battery quickly — we only got up to 4.3 knots in flatwater. This compares with 5 knots with the 4-hp at two-thirds throttle. At the maximum range setting, the electric outboard only had us putting along at 2 knots. Fortunately, there was enough breeze to do our standard island tour — don't try it with a deep draft boat — by sail, and we ended the day with one LED still lit, indicating that we had about a 20% charge left. Alas, we never would have made it to Sausalito — let alone back to Richmond — unless we were willing to take two hours to make it each way.

In short, this electric outboard seems like it would be great for a medium-small lake, especially one with environmental restrictions. Or for fishing. Or maybe you could use it for the dink on a cruising boat — assuming that you had a lot of solar panels or a wind generator, as charging it off your diesel would kinda defeat the purpose. But at $1,500 — half of it for the battery — the price is pretty steep for that application. So until somebody comes up with a better, cheaper battery solution, a 2- to 4-hp four-stroke seems a lot more practical for a small keelboat on the Bay. The 2-hp outboards for under a grand don't even need water cooling.

Jan Grygier
Carlos, Santana 22


I have an interesting side note to John Williamson's October letter about elderly sailors. But first, didn't we used to call John 'Mr. Mexico'? He sure raced his boats down there often enough — and sailed them back home San Francisco — to be called that.

Anyway, here's my story. I can't remember what boat I raced on down to Mexico, probably one of Mike Campbell's, but once we got to Cabo all the boats rafted stern-to along the beach inside the Inner Harbor below the Hacienda Hotel. We had to because there were no slips or docks in the basin at the time, and it was the only spot that could handle a 30-boat raft-up. The only problem was that there was just one exit to shore. That meant if you finished late and wanted to get ashore, you had to climb over 20 or 30 sets of lifelines and cockpits just to get to dry land. We certainly made a lot of new friends because of it, but you can just imagine what would happen around 2 a.m. when the guys were coming home from the bars.

One of the boats in the raft-up was the old SC70 Citius, owned by a Los Angeles YC syndicate headed by the prominent Long Beach physicians Bill Wilson, Curtis Spencer and John Messenger. I was to deliver her home, so I was aboard with my wife Cristina when we heard the news that John 'Mr. Mexico' Williamson, had broken his forearm the night before while climbing over a myriad of lifelines trying to get to his beautiful yacht Pericus. I tracked down the Citius doctors, who were staying at the Sol Mar, and they quickly came down to the boat.

Williamson was already in the cockpit of Citius when Drs. Wilson, Spencer and Messenger arrived. After my wife gave John a couple of shots of rum, we laid him down on a cockpit seat. The doctors instructed me to center the boom over the patient and secure it like a rock. We filled a 5-gallon bucket with water and placed it under Williamson's arm. Dr. Spencer took some small stuff and tied John's hand and fingers so his arm would hang from the boom the right way. Another line was then passed around John's elbow and down to the big bucket of water. His forearm was now quite stabilized.

It happened quickly. Drs. Wilson and Spencer, I believe, gave John a big bear hug, and with a sudden jerk they pulled down. With a 'snap!' they'd set the broken bone perfectly. Williamson, of course, let out with an incredibly loud primal scream that reverberated through the marina. I'd never seen anything like it. After putting a cast around John's arm, the doctors returned to the hotel. Wow!

I'm not sure if John would like that story repeated, but it was one from the good old days.

Rob Wallace
Newport Beach

Rob — 'Mr. Mexico' is quite a guy. We met him for the first time after we'd both raced our boats in the '81 Long Beach to La Paz Race. His face looked familiar, and then it came to us — he was "the man on the 1,000 bill." At the time he had some kind of home loan business, and he ran television ads with his smiling face on phony $1,000 bill. After sailing another Mexico race against him, and learning of the many others he'd done, we dubbed him 'Mr. Mexico'.

Latitude readers may also remember that it was John who, a few years ago, tripped on the steps of a restaurant at Marina Vallarta, and ended up breaking his hip. Because he'd had heart surgery before, the doctors in Puerto Vallarta recommended that he fly back to California for treatment. The owner of an American Express card that supposedly offered transportation home by charter jet for free if injured, John ordered up a Medevac jet that night. Before noon the next day, he'd already been patched up by his doctor in San Jose. It wasn't until later that John learned that you couldn't just order up a Medevac jet, it has to be approved by American Express first. Before any real squabbling over the $24,000 bill could begin, Amex told him he had to at least go through the formality of running it by Medi-Cal. To the shock of everyone, Medi-Cal picked up about 90% of the bill. That's your hard-earned tax dollars at work for you. By the way, nobody should assume that Medi-Cal would pick up a bill like that again.

We're not suggesting that our friend John is accident prone, but there was also the time he rode his little motorscooter off the end of the dock at Paradise Marina. Geez, we sure hope Harbormaster Dick Markie doesn't read this.


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