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March 2008

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This letter is in response to questions posted on your magazine’s website under the December '07 Letters section. The questions centered on the terms 'passenger for hire' and 'consideration', and the U.S. Coast Guard’s interpretation of these terms.

First, the definitions. Title 46, United States Code, Section 2101 defines both terms:

"'Passenger for hire' means a passenger for whom consideration is contributed as a condition of carriage on the vessel, whether directly or indirectly flowing to the owner, charterer, operator, agent, or any other person having an interest in the vessel."

"'Consideration' means an economic benefit, inducement, right, or profit including pecuniary payment accruing to an individual, person, or entity, but not including a voluntary sharing of the actual expenses of the voyage, by monetary contribution or donation of fuel, food, beverage, or other supplies." This generally means that if someone with interest in the vessel promises a service and receives a benefit in return, then they are operating with passengers for hire.

The Coast Guard’s interpretation is that it's completely acceptable for recreational boaters to share the common daily expenses such as gas, food, and other supplies. Boat payments, insurance, haulouts, and maintenance do not qualify as trip expenses. The "actual expense of the voyage" is the cost associated with that specific trip, and not for any expenses that occurred before or after the trip in question.

The Coast Guard makes a determination of "passengers for hire" on a case-by-case basis. This determination will be based on the actual operation of the vessel and the facts of each case. The key to making this determination hinges upon whether or not the owner or operator received "consideration" — such as wages — and whether he or she benefited beyond sharing the expenses of the trip.

I hope this answers your questions, and helps to clarify the definitions of these important terms for your readers. If your readers have additional questions or concerns, they should contact their local Coast Guard vessel inspection office for additional assistance.

M. P. Rand
Captain, U.S. Coast Guard
Chief, Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis
Washington, D.C.

M.P. — Thanks for the response.

There's one line — "the actual expense of the voyage is a cost associated with a specific trip, and not for any expenses that occurred before or after the trip in question" — that seems a little troubling. Many times Northern California sailors will 'share expenses' on a race or rally that will end up with the boat finishing in either Hawaii or Mexico, with the boat needing to be returned to San Francisco. No matter if the boat is shipped home or delivered back by professionals, it can be a relatively expensive proposition. Given that the Coast Guard's determination is on a "case-by-case basis," we suspect that such a post-race delivery expense might be something that could be split among willing crew.

We can see another 'gray area' or possible loophole. Boatowner Jones decides that he needs a new set of sails for his boat, and is going to race to Hawaii. Five potential crewmembers say they'd be happy to chip in for the sails. While the sails would be a legitimate "actual expense of the voyage," they would also likely serve the boat for another five years or more.


I can't let your 'Lectronic article on David Vann’s planned circumnavigation with the quickly and inexpensively built 50-ft aluminum trimaran Tin Can pass without comment. I think there is at least one inaccuracy in your article, and you have missed some information that gives a more complete picture of Vann and his project.

To bring everybody up to speed, here's what you wrote in the February 8 'Lectronic Latitude:

"After a test sail on San Francisco Bay on Saturday, 39-year-old David Vann of Tallahassee, Florida, hopes to leave Sunday on a four-month non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation via the Southern Ocean aboard his trimaran Tin Can. Given that Frenchman Francis Joyon recently did the same thing in just 57 days with his 97-ft trimaran IDEC, it sounds like an exciting possibility . . . until you hear the details.

"Unlike Joyon, whose IDEC is as modern as she is basic, Vann intends to do his 26,000-mile voyage in the 50-ft aluminum trimaran that he built in a matter of months with a total budget of $25,000. To say that Tin Can is crude in design and construction would be generous, as she's what a kid's homemade go-cart is to a Mercedes-Benz. But she's not as ill-conceived as she could have been. After Vann's first naval architect quit as a result of having nightmares about the project, his new naval architect, Yves-Marie Tanton, was at least successful in convincing him to heighten the house from two feet to four feet, and then widen it from 18 inches to 30 inches. Yeah, she's one of those dream boats.

"Having had his first boat sink — and written the book A Mile Down about the experience — Vann is championing his tri's positive flotation as being the magic characteristic. He says that his inspiration for this voyage is Ken Barnes of Southern California, whose attempt at a singlehanded circumnavigation with the Gulfstream 44 Privateer ended when it was dismasted after just 6,500 miles. Vann claims his tri is superior because she can't sink. We can understand Vann's desire to never have a boat sink from beneath him again, but positive flotation is not the be all and end all for sailing vessels. Peter Hogg of the Corinthian YC can confirm that. After all, Hogg's trimaran flipped just outside the Gate during a race many years ago, and was next seen — big parts of her still floating and intact, mind you — on the other side of the Pacific. And Lord knows the Atlantic is littered with the still-happily floating debris of many ORMA 60 trimarans.

"Several readers have asked us what we think of Vann's project. We're mostly indifferent, as we sense too much form and too little content. Vann likens himself to Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Everest — seemingly forgetting that Hillary made use of the best climbing gear of the time. To continue with that analogy, it's as though Vann wants to join the club of those who have made it to the top of Everest, but wants to be the first to make it having sewn his own shirt, pants, socks, and having cobbled his own boots — and not having spent more than $25 in the process. The greater wonder is not whether he could do it, but why he would try.

"One reason Vann might is money. He's only had to ante up $25,000, so if he makes it long enough for things to be interesting — and they can't help but be — there will certainly be fodder for another book. As it is, the blog of his adventure appears 'exclusively' on that well-known journal of serious adventurers, Esquire Magazine. Check it out at

"Could Vann make it around the world in four months? No. For one thing, by the time he gets down to the Southern Ocean, the relatively good weather of summer will be over, and the nights will be longer and colder. Vann hedges his bets a little by saying that he doesn't have a death wish — even while dropping the fact that his father and another extended family member committed suicide — and that he'll feel free to stop whenever and for however long he feels it necessary for safety.

"Given an unlimited amount of time, could Vann make it around the world with Tin Can? It's certainly possible — assuming that the Coast Guard doesn't declare it a 'manifestly unsafe voyage' and prevent him from leaving. Remember that Glen Tieman of Southern California sailed all the way across the Pacific over a 10-year period in the 26-ft catamaran Peregrine that he built for 1/8th of what Vann has spent on his tri.

"The main determinant for Vann will be the weather. If he gets lucky, we think he could make it — but it's going to take an awful lot of luck given the amount of time he's going to have to spend in the Southern Ocean. We certainly hope this doesn't happen, but we suspect there's a greater chance of Tin Can flipping before getting to Pt. Conception — rendering all the positive flotation in the world meaningless — than getting enough good weather to survive the Southern Ocean. But only time will tell.

"Two other critical factors involve strength. Are Tin Can and her gear tough enough, and does Vann have the mental fortitude? Again, only time will tell.

"If nothing else, Vann's project has got us thinking about all the various sailing stunts there have been over the years. We've been able to come up with about 20 so far, our favorite being the French guy who, in the early '90s, cut a wine cask in half, put a keel on the bottom and a mast on the top, and sailed it across the Atlantic. Can you add to our list?"

Where you're wrong is that the ill-fated Bird of Paradise was not Vann's first boat. He previously owned and chartered the CT-48 ketch Grendel out of Brisbane. At the time, he taught creative writing at Stanford during the academic year and ran weekly charters aboard Grendel in the Gulf Islands during summers. I crewed for him aboard Grendel on one of his return passages from Victoria to Brisbane. At the time, he held a 50-ton master’s license.

After the sinking of Bird of Paradise, Vann built Paradiso, a 90-ft aluminum catamaran that he has been successfully chartering in the Caribbean. He did much, if not all, of the welding himself, which explains his choice of aluminum for Tin Can. By doing much of the fabrication, he could keep the costs down.

While Vann's proposed circumnavigation appears a bit eccentric, he's not merely some newbie who has lost his only boat from beneath him. I think it's arguable that he has more experience than Dodge Morgan did before his successful circumnavigation with American Promise.

Frankly, it would be refreshing for Vann to pull off his dream on a shoestring while all the big names are throwing big money at their attempts to break the solo circumnavigation record. It's not exactly how I would envision doing a circumnavigation, but it would show you don’t have to be a millionaire.

Greg Barker
Cherokee, Cross 42
Morro Bay

Greg — We can think of all kinds of low-budget things that would be refreshing — such as $25,000 airplanes capable of flying across the continent. That doesn't necessarily mean they are possible.

As we said, we believe it's possible, but not likely, that he could make it around the world, but don't believe it's possible for him to do it in four months. It's a moot point for the time being anyway as Vann's journey ended almost as soon as it began (see Sightings for the full story), though he's told people he plans to try again next year.

Do we feel bad saying that we don't believe he can make it in four months? Absolutely not. When we started Latitude 38, almost everybody said there was no chance we'd be successful. Those doubters helped us out by making us even more determined to make it. So if, assuming he decides to give it another go, there comes a time when it really gets rough for Vann, and he decides to continue "just to show those assholes at Latitude and other doubters," well, good on him.

Although Esquire magazine hasn't contacted us about it, we'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to them for the use of some boatyard photos of Tin Can that they had exclusive rights to. An internal error at Latitude resulted in their being used in 'Lectronic, and we removed them as soon as we realized it. The later photos of Tin Can sailing on the Bay were taken by Latitude and Peter Lyons.


I operate a sleek 30-ft long, 7-ft wide custom sloop that has a maximum of about three feet of freeboard. I can handle her well when it gets rough in the Delta.

I'm thinking about the Baja Ha-Ha, and am wondering if there are some general requirements for a boat that would do the event in comfort?

My boat has an encapsulated concrete keel, and I know that’s a shortcoming, as it can be ruptured if she's grounded.

I'd like to see a list of things to look for when buying a first cruising boat in the 28- to 30-ft range.

Thanks for the great magazine, as I've learned a lot while reading issues over and over in my v-berth.

John Gardner
Serenity, Custom sloop
Owl Harbor, Isleton

John — Thanks for the kind words. What boat would be comfortable for the Ha-Ha depends on the weather in any given year, plus the durability of the boat's crew. After all, comfort is a very subjective thing. The Ha-Ha folks, however, have an objective standard for all boats — they must have been "designed, built and maintained" for offshore use.

And make no mistake, there's a huge difference between rough weather in the Delta and rough weather out on the ocean. That difference is the seas and the waves. We're just making a guess, but given your boat's concrete keel, we suspect she's an older wooden boat. There's nothing wrong with older wooden boats — but they do require a lot of maintenance, and many of them haven't gotten it over the years.

What would we look for when buying a first cruising boat? The first, second and third things are proven ocean capability. Everything else is details and personal preference.

It's hard to make recommendations for a first cruising boat in the 28- to 30-ft boat range because we're unaware of your specific needs and desires. But if you're looking for a huge cruising bang for the buck, and don't need or care for an interior that's as big as or looks like a London men's club, we'd suggest a Wylie Hawkfarm. These are basic but capable and fast boats that were built locally. Skip Allan has cruised and raced his Hawkfarm prototype Wildflower with great success all over the Pacific. Synthia Petroka has sailed her Eyrie in a Pacific Cup and a Singlehanded TransPac, and Hawkfarms have a long history of being raced in the ocean. Because this was a popular one design class, there are often a couple of them for sale, even in the $6,000 or less range. Because they were raced, there's an ample supply of good used sails sitting in garages that could be bought on the cheap.

If our total budget was $10,000 for a year of cruising pretty much anywhere in the Pacific or the Caribbean, we'd go for a Hawkfarm or something similar. Make no mistake, we're not talking about luxury, but we are talking about capability and small bucks. If you wanted more of an interior — but also a project boat — there was recently a Classy Classified for an Ericson 32 that needs TLC for $6,500. The bottom line is that there are many Ha-Ha-capable boats out there for very little money.


I'm writing to ask the best way to find a sailboat heading down the coast of Mexico. I'm an avid sailor from Santa Cruz and a longtime reader of Latitude 38. From reading the November and December issues, I know there are a lot of Baja Ha-Ha boats headed to points south at this time of year.

I'm currently camped at the beach at the surf break just south of Todos Santos and a little further north of Cabo. I would be able to leave my car with friends here should I be able to find a boat. My ultimate travel goal this winter is to get to Cuba. If I need to take a plane, so be it. But I would like to try to crew for a sailboat for at least part of the way.

I'm a longtime surfer, diver, and spearfisherman. I've also sailed a Hobie 18 for the last six years, and have chartered a Morgan 41 and a Gemini catamaran for a couple of weeks each in Baja and Florida respectively. I've been traveling in Mexico for 20 years, so I speak decent Spanish. I love the ocean and this part of the world, and I am easy to get along with, so I think I'd be a valuable crewmember for just about any boat. I worked on commercial fishing boats in college and currently am in construction in Santa Cruz.

So if you have any ideas, I'd sure appreciate them.

Thanks also for putting out such a great magazine. When home, I read the local paper, The New Yorker, and Latitude. Of the three, I'd say that Latitude gets the most attention.

Jorge G. Mickey
Baja California Sur

Jorge — We need to separate the issues a little.

If you want to catch a ride on a boat headed south, you'll have the best chance if you hang around the more crowded marinas in Mexico or become part of sailing events. If you're in Todos Santos, it's a relatively short trip to the marinas in La Paz. Spend a day or two visiting the marinas and getting your name around. Unfortunately, most of the Ha-Ha boats will already have migrated south to at least Puerto Vallarta, if not Zihua, so you're a little behind the curve. However, you might come over to Paradise Marina for the Banderas Bay Regatta to see if anyone is about to dash south right after that event.

Nonetheless, there aren't going to be many — if any — boats headed to the environs of Cuba from the Pacific Coast of Mexico right now. It's a long way, most people don't want to rush, and neither they nor their insurance companies want them in hurricane zones during hurricane season, which is likely when they'd get there if they left now.

The whole issue of visiting Cuba, by boat or otherwise, needs to be addressed separately. If you're an American citizen and your ultimate goal is to get to Cuba, you've got a big legal issue. The laissez-faire attitude of the Clinton administration toward U.S. mariners sailing to and staying in Cuba is long gone, having been replaced by the Bush administration's policy of really cracking down on U.S. mariners in Cuba. It's our understanding that there are very few, if any, American boats in or are going to Cuba at this time.

If you want to run the legal risks — and there are potentially big fines involved for "trading with the enemy" — the Cuban government would be more than happy to help you. For instance, instead of stamping your passport, which would later be seen by U.S. officials, they stamp your tourist visa, then keep it when you leave.

Your best sailing option for going to Cuba is getting a ride on a non-American boat in the Caribbean that's headed to Florida via Cuba. The closer you get to Cuba, the greater the chance of finding a boat heading there. As such, you might try the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, or the Caribbean coast of Mexico. In late spring, the French sometimes run rallies that start in Martinique or Guadeloupe and end in Cuba. It's great downwind sailing.

The other option is to fly to Cuba from Jamaica, Mexico, the Bahamas or Canada along with, among others, all the sex tourists. Activists claim that foreign men visiting Cuba are able to order sex with Cuban girls and women as easily as they can order a mojito. Sex with children is another terrible offshoot of poverty in Cuba. If you fly to Cuba and are found out by U.S. officials, you could be in hot water.

As we've written repeatedly, we think that U.S. citizens shouldn't just be allowed to visit Cuba, it should be mandatory, if only to make everyone realize how much better — although far from perfect — our political and economic system is, and just how terrible the Cubans have it.


We on Maltese Falcon passed through the Panama Canal in early February in company with my classic motoryacht Atlantide, which is now heading north to San Francisco. The Falcon cleared the Bridge of the Americas at low tide by a couple of meters without incident.

Our Canal passage reminds me of the long-standing dispute over the question of whether it takes more water for a large ship or a small yacht to go through the locks. Some years ago, Latitude 38 readers concluded — based upon a letter from some Canal official, and an 'experiment' performed by the crew of Endeavour — that each vessel requires the same amount of water to be lifted through the Canal, so that there is no difference at all.

Being the compulsive didact that I am, I have to correct that conclusion. If the Canal were operated with pumps, using saltwater, that answer above would indeed be entirely and perfectly correct. But the Canal is operated by the gravity flow of freshwater from Lake Gatun, which happens to be the world's largest man-made lake.
Here's what happens: The vessels enter their separate locks in 100% saltwater. The gate then closes and the freshwater is admitted. The fresh and saltwater mixes, the difference in density causing quite a bit of turbulence in the lock, and the mixture becomes brackish. Both the yacht and the ship sink lower in this less dense water, obeying Archimedes' Principle and continuing to displace their weights. But the ship, being much heavier, displaces much more of this mixed water than does the much lighter yacht. As the ship now displaces more water than it does in the ocean — and thereby raises the level of the water in the closed lock by the amount displaced — less new (or fresh) water is required to lift it to the water level of the higher lock than for the lighter boat, (displacing, incrementally, less brackish water). So less freshwater is required, in total, for the ship to transit the Panama Canal. The larger the ship, the more true the effect.

Again, if it were all done with ocean saltwater, there would be no difference for the yacht or the ship.

There is an easier 'thought experiment' which might help people understand the physics. Picture a ship in the lock just after it had entered it from the sea with the lock gates closed, but before the (fresh) lifting water is admitted.  If — suddenly and magically — the saltwater was turned into fresh water, the ship would sink a few inches, and the water level in the lock would rise by the amount of the additional displacement. This would also be true for the yacht, but the effect would be too small to be noticed.

Since the level rose significantly for the big ship, less additional freshwater is needed to lift it to the next level. If saltwater were used, there would be no difference in the amount of water required, since both vessels displace their final and full amount before they enter the lock.

Tom Perkins
Maltese Falcon, 289-ft Dyna-Rig, heading deeper into the Pacific
Atlantide, 122-ft 1930 Philip and Sons motoryacht, heading to San Francisco

Tom — While you're technically right, we, who have argued that a ship and yacht use the same amount of water to make a transit, aren't ready to throw in the towel. Let us explain.

The general context of the dispute was a discussion about whether small boats, such as recreational yachts, should use the Canal locks at all, or should be trucked around them instead in order to save precious fresh lake water for the Canal's operation. After all, when Lake Gatun runs low on water, the Canal has to slightly curtail operations by limiting the draft of vessels going through. And if, for some reason, it didn't rain in Panama for a long time, the Canal couldn't operate.

The basis of the specific argument about whether ships and small boats use the same amount of water, however, came about as the result of some people making the false assumption that a ship would displace hundreds of times more water than a yacht because it would occupy so much more volume of the lock. The error in such an assumption is not realizing that both big ships and small yachts come into the locks floating, and therefore all they both need is the lift provided for by an 84-foot tall 'block' of water.

We suspect that the difference in densities of fresh and saltwater are insignificant for the purposes of the operation of the Panama Canal. In other words, whoever controls the amount of water that goes into the locks simply pulls a lever or pushes a button, and 55 million gallons — or whatever is required to make an 84-ft tall 'block' of water — spills in. The operator doesn't have to fine tune the quantity of water depending on whether it's a big ship or small boat in the lock, because the difference is so small. Which would explain why the Canal official said they always use the same amount of water no matter the size of the ship.

So we're willing to agree that you're correct in a strict scientific sense, that a big ship uses a slightly smaller amount of water, but we're still going to maintain that we're practically correct in saying that there's not a big enough difference to cause the Canal operators to change the amount of water they allow in.

Archimedes' Law or Principle states that a body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. By the way, if you're curious and have a scientific bent, you might spend a few minutes reading about Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC), because he was a giant of the ancient world. He was not only one of the greatest mathematicians ever, he was also a physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Among other things, he came up with a theoretical design for machines capable of lifting attacking ships out of the water and setting them on fire using an array of mirrors.


When reading the December Latitude 38, I came across your reference to the abbreviation for Universal Coordinated Time being incorrect. In English, it would be UCT, but it's always written as UTC. I don’t know if you give a rat's-ass, but it comes from the Frogs, because the French for Universal Coordinated Time is Universel Temps Coordonné, which translates to UTC. So it's right for them.

It seems to me that those bloody French have a different word for everything.

P.S. I'm from Kelowna, British Columbia, but my buddy down in Chula Vista sends me Latitudes so I can keep up with the goings-on down there.

Kenny Lindsay
Great Life, 32-ft Bayliner
Kelowna, B.C., Canada       

Kenny — Having just spent a couple of months on St. Barth in the French West Indies, we've become more than a little familiar with the ways of the French. They do many things differently, and invariably they're convinced that their ways are surely the best.

At times, the differences are charming. For example, when you are introduced to a woman, you're to respond by saying that you're enchanted, and giving her an air kiss on both cheeks. At other times, the differences are annoying as hell. For example, if you stop at a patisserie and they've sold out of baguettes with ham and cheese, and you ask if they could please make one using the baguette and ham and cheese that's right in front of them, they'll say, "Impossible!" And they are right, for there is nothing in the world you could do or say to get them to do it. It's this kind of 'can't do' attitude and disregard for the customer that explains why McDonald's and similar enterprises could never have started in France.

With respect to the language, you might think the French have a different word for everything, but the French Culture Ministry aren't buying it. In fact, they have a General Commission on Terminology and Neology that battles to prevent English words from slipping into the French lexicon. For example, a few years back the Culture Ministry announced a ban on the use of the word 'email' in all French government ministries and documents, insisting on that 'courrier electronique' (electronic mail) or 'courriel', a fusion of the two words, should be used instead. As has been the case with many other English words slipping into the French language, the general French population hasn't given a hoot what the Culture Ministry wants them to use.

On the other hand, by putting in 10 minutes a day with our French Made Easy in 10 Minutes a Day book, we've become pretty good at reading basic French, in part because so many of the words are similar, if not identical, to English. Speaking French is a different matter, as they: 1) often don't pronounce the last couple of letters in each word, such as 'comment' being pronounced 'koh-mah' or 'anglais' being pronounced 'ahn-glay'; 2) regularly slur words together in strange ways, such as as 'Qu'est-ce qui', all of which is pronounced as just 'kess-key'; and 3) pronounce words in ways that are, if we may be frank, perverted. For instance, the city of 'Axiat' is pronounced 'ah-gzee-ah'. Yeah, right!


I enjoyed the New Things To Do With Your Sailboat in 2008 article that appeared in the February issue. But I was surprised to see that you didn't make any recommendation of visiting Clipper Cove, the very secure anchorage on the lee side of Treasure Island.

I've been to Clipper Cove twice now for Summer Sailstice, and found it to be quite a spectacular place to anchor. In addition to the great protection, there are fabulous views, and when it's not too cool or windy, a great beach at the head of the cove. I'd say it's a 'must stop' among our somewhat limited options in the Bay.

I also have a sailing friend who spends nearly every summer weekend anchored off the Sausalito waterfront. For those of us who keep our boats berthed here, it might be a little too familiar, but for folks who keep their boats in the South, East or North Bay, it's a pretty cool destination for a long weekend.

Hap DeJohn
Ellen's G-Spot, Ranger 33


In your February 8 'Lectronic, you quoted circumnavigator Mike Harker as saying, "I was sitting in the Hooters restaurant in Miami having a burger and watching the sights outside the window . . ." Come on now! Responsible journalism would have led you to challenge that statement immediately. Who goes to a Hooters to eat the food and look out the window? Really.

Rob Murray
Avant, Beneteau First 435
Vancouver, B.C.

Rob — Since Mike had visited us in St. Barth a short time before, when he spent more than a little time on the sand at Shell Beach, he may have had his eyeballs satiated with female pulchritude. So yes, maybe he actually went to Hooters for a burger. But honestly, who goes to Hooters, which describes itself as "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined," anyway?


Being a Hobie catamaran dealer here in Santa Cruz, I feel that it’s part of my job to keep up on all of the crazy sailing adventures that people have done on Hobie Cats. There are many, with Drakes Passage, Antarctica, and crossing the Atlantic being a few.

I’m all for adventure, but sailing an open beach cat across the open ocean sounds like a lot of misery to me. I dug up an article from the May/June '86 Hobie Hotline in which it was reported that two men, Tony Laurent and Daniel Pradel, sailed a Hobie 18 across the Atlantic. The account of their saga is incredible, and they were lucky to fare as well as they did — even though they arrived malnourished, dehydrated, and so badly ulcerated that Laurent needed a skin graft to repair his feet.

The disclaimer that appeared along with their story in the Hobie Hotline said it all:

"Editor’s Note: The Hobie Hotline is printing the following story for two reasons. First, it is a remarkable adventure, one of the most incredible journeys ever attempted on a Hobie Cat, and we would be remiss by not including it. We hope you enjoy it and thrill with the sailors and their amazing achievement, a milestone in ocean crossings. Secondly, it is also a warning. Hobie Cat and the Hotline do not endorse offshore Hobie sailing. Hobie Cats were made to sail within sight of land whether in the ocean or on a lake. Some specially controlled events such as the Hog’s Breath 1000 include offshore sailing, but the safety measures are extraordinary. Tony Laurent, profiled in the January/February 1987 issue, is one of the most experienced Hobie sailors in the world. Daniel Pradel is a seasoned French sailor and veteran of many races, including a lot of Hobie sailing experience. The two men thought they were prepared. We hope others who may be planning such adventures take note."

Jeremy Leonard
Surf City Catamarans
Santa Cruz

Jeremy — Sailing beach cats across oceans not only involves a lot of misery, but is extremely dangerous, too. More than a few sailors have died trying.

Our January Sightings piece about Benoit Lequin and Pierre-Yves Moreau sailing their 20-ft beach cat across the Atlantic in 12 days was by no means an attempt to encourage others to try to duplicate their feat or anything similar. Yes, there have been a number of French sailors who have crossed the Atlantic in beach cats, but these were sailors with vast experience in both small cats and offshore sailing. And even they were aware of the tremendous risks they were taking. Nobody should ever underestimate the power of the sea.


What's all the fuss about Sterling Hayden and the schooner Wanderer? I just read his autobiography Wanderer, and wasn't particularly impressed with him or what he did.

Tom Seltzer

Tom — It had actually been many years since we read Wanderer, so we gave it another go. Having done so, we were shocked to find that our memory had played tricks on us. We have to agree with you — Hayden didn't paint a very attractive portrait of himself and seems to suggest that much of his success happened in spite of himself.

While it's clear that Hayden dearly loved his kids, and was truly a heroic figure during World War II, he constantly lost his battles to stop or at least moderate his drinking and smoking. In addition, he hated the acting profession despite the fact that it was the hand that fed him — and floated his boats. And he certainly wasn't above throwing tantrum-like demands at the movie studios, threatening to walk out on half-made movies he was starring in, for instance, unless the studio immediately bought him such and such a boat. Oddly, he never again mentioned any of those boats.

Hayden, of course, is most famous for defying a judge's orders and sailing to Tahiti with his kids on the schooner Wanderer. But upon our rereading, we were reminded that it was not a bold philosophical statement by a principled man. In the days before setting sail for Tahiti, Hayden flip-flopped about the decision repeatedly. And once underway, he even continued to waver about whether to give in and make port at Los Angeles or keep going. And once he reached Tahiti, he wasn't at all sure he'd done the right thing.

Furthermore, Hayden portrayed himself as a very unpopular captain, and seemingly for good reason. Once the schooner made Tahiti, the entire Wanderer crew, including his dear friend Spike Africa, were fed up with him and ready to jump ship.

It gives us no pleasure to have to say this, but if somebody is looking for a book about a principled and heroic rebel figure, Wanderer would be a poor choice.


I read with great interest your piece on Sterling Hayden’s schooner Wanderer in the January Sightings. You've probably already been corrected in your mistaken account of a scene from the film Dr. Strangelove. Hayden’s character in the film, Jack D. Ripper, did not machine gun the Coke machine. That was done by Keenan Wynn’s character, Col. Bat Guano.

In my opinion, the scene you described was the only flaw in an otherwise brilliant film. The slapstick humor, with Coke spraying Keenan Wynn in the face, was out of place with the biting satirical humor that was so wonderful throughout the film. Stanley Kubrick filmed, but did not use, another ending involving more slapstick: a food fight in the war room. That explains why the war room had such a long and fully stocked buffet table.

I just love Latitude 38. My month wouldn’t be complete without a day spent reading it. I especially admire your calm, well-balanced, commonsense approach.

Ken Danko
Grace, Catalina 320

Ken — Thanks for the kind words, but 'calm' and 'well-balanced' are words that have never been used to describe us before. We had no idea that Stanley Kubrick directed Dr. Strangelove. After all these years, we're going to have to give it another viewing.


I’d love to do my second Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, but I'm back in New Zealand for awhile until the kids are through with school.

But I still remember beating a certain yellow Freya 39 belonging to the publisher of a certain sailing magazine in the second Sea of Cortez Sailing Week back in '83. Or was it '84? I was on my Cavalier 32, which is a production boat that was built here in New Zealand. In my case, however, I bought a bare hull and took it to John Lidgard for a different deck and interior. I sailed that boat from Auckland to Mexico in the early '80s via Sydney, Tahiti, Hawaii and Alaska.

When we got to La Paz, Latitude 38's Freya Contrary to Ordinary was there, along with about 80 other boats. We were in the same division, and I got past Latitude's boat on the last leg of the last race by staying a little wider from the land and getting steadier breeze. You guys cut the corner, but it didn't pay. It was great fun, and I had my non-sailing sister and brother-in-law as crew. They went home to Los Angeles and promptly bought a sailboat — which they still own.

I eventually sailed my way around to the Eastern Caribbean and, while at Dominica, met the Dominican woman who became my wife. We returned to New Zealand for seven years, after which we and our two daughters flew to the U.S. and bought another boat. We enjoyed another 10 great years of cruising with growing kids.

We're now back in New Zealand trying to repair our finances so we can take off cruising again once the kids have flown. Until then, I'm surprised to find myself to be the owner-operator of the website I regularly steal from Latitude 38, but I do give credit. You guys are still one of the best — if not the best — sailing rags around.

Because I can't be without a boat, I built a proa last winter.

David Howie
New Zealand

David — With a memory like yours, you should turn your brain over to science. Thanks for the kind words. We hope to see you at another Sea of Cortez Sailing Week in the future.


Please, give me a break about wanting to limit the number of entries in Sea of Cortez Sailing Week to 30 because of environmental concerns. I have cruised the Sea of Cortez enough years to know it’s not the cruisers who foul the environment out at the islands, but rather the Mexican fishermen and mariners.

If you simply requested that everyone in the event be sure to use their holding tanks while in the anchorage, and policed the area when the event was over, after a few days nobody would ever know that you'd been there — even if 100 boats showed up.

It really doesn’t matter to me since I can’t be there, but it sure makes the case that environmental concerns are going over the edge. And yes, I've seen Caleta Partida, and have spent some wonderful times there. I really enjoy Latitude 38, so please take this as a constructive comment.

Bill McBain
Tucson, AZ

Bill — We appreciate the spirit in which you make your comment. And we agree that most — but not all — of the pollution at the islands is caused by ignorant or uncaring Mexicans. It's shocking to Americans, but many Mexican families still think nothing of having a big picnic on the beach, then leaving all their trash to blow down the beach when they go home. The government has been trying to change such attitudes and behavior, but it's taking time.

To be honest, we have two reasons for limiting the number of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week boats to less than 30. First, one Baja Ha-Ha-size event a year is plenty for us. Second, there's a political aspect, too. We want to demonstrate to the Mexican authorities that we're taking a responsible, proactive approach to minimizing the human impact on the islands.


You commented on my letter in February’s Latitude 38 regarding 'sneaker waves'.

I also don't know if the waves we experienced fit the 'sneaker' definition, but they sure looked sneaky to me because they waited until I was looking the other way before attacking Razzberries. We did not seriously consider returning to Port San Luis for fuel rather than continue into Morro Bay, because we had no reason to expect a second wave, and because we were almost in the harbor. Had we turned back at the wrong time, we could have encountered the second wave on the beam and been rolled.

I attempted to quantify the size and speed of the waves simply to give an order of magnitude. I'm not at all confident of my 50 mph estimate of the speed of the waves, as they could have been moving much faster or slower. But I do have a vision that the waves were moving about as fast as a car on the freeway — and not at rush hour.

Bruce Nesbit
Razzberries, Olson 34
Richmond YC

Bruce — You're a very experienced sailor, so we're not doubting you, but we had to ask because we can't recall waves moving anywhere near 50 mph. Has anybody else had a similar experience?


I'm responding to the February letter from Ron and Linda Singerman about the best spot in Mexico to retire and still be close to their boat. I’ve never sailed on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, but have lived and sailed on the Caribbean coast quite a bit. The weather on the Caribbean side is nice year 'round, and the water is always at least warm enough for swimming.

The sailing around Isla Mujeres and Cancun is particularly nice, and remains good all the way down to Belize. These are not, however, protected waters, except when behind the reefs that line the coast or in the area between Cancun and Isla Mujeres.

The entire Caribbean coast of Mexico is accessible by car, so a trailerable boat might be a lot of fun. Food and rent on the Caribbean coast of Mexico can run anywhere from really cheap to very expensive, so there are options for everyone.

Eldon McMullen
Slo-N-Ezy, Morgan 30 OI
Glide, Oregon

Eldon — Thanks for the information. Readers looking for more information on sailing Mexico's Caribbean coast should consult the latest edition of John and Pat Rains' Mexico Boating Guide which, to our knowledge, is the only Mexico guide with information on that coast.


Talking about sailing stunts, such as mentioned in a recent 'Lectronic Latitude, I seem to remember something about a guy from Tomales Bay who made a sailing canoe out of a hollowed-out redwood log. He set sail from Tomales and — this is where my memory gets foggy — I think sailed to somewhere in the Central or South Pacific. I believe he also wrote a book about his voyage. Since the guy was from Northern California, I’m confident that someone with a better recollection than mine can fill in the details. I'm guessing that this took place in the '60s or early '70s, and think the guy's first name was Chuck.

David Schachter

David — It doesn't ring any bells with us, although we didn't start publishing until '77. Can any of our readers help?

We do know there was a Mexican fellow from La Paz who sailed a Finn, which is a cat-rigged 14-ft singlehanded Olympic class boat, from Mexico to the South Pacific. And this was long before electronic navigation. Upon returning to Mexico — not by Finn — he was going to hollow out a log and try to duplicate the voyage. We're not sure if he ever tried it.

But as anybody who has ever sailed in the Panama's San Blas Islands can tell you, the Kuna Indians still sail hollowed-out logs to get between the islands and to fish. Hollowed-out logs are similarly still used in parts of Africa and Asia. We doubt that anyone intentionally uses them to cross oceans, however.


You asked about sailing 'stunts'. About 15 years ago, I did a demo sail with a Pearson Triton on San Francisco Bay for a local broker. The potential customer was a middle-aged woman, and she brought along a middle-aged male friend. Both of them looked like burned-out hippies from way back.

We were sailing along when the guy said to me, "I built my own boat once with materials I bought at the hardware store. Cost about $150." I made some friendly comments in response, but was smirking inside.

Awhile later, he said, "I sailed that boat to Hawaii." My head did a U-turn. I thought, "Wow, that's really something." I tried to get some details from him, but he was a really burned-out, laid-back hippie, so he didn't give me any.

After sailing a bit further, he said, "Later on I sailed the boat to the South Pacific, and ended up in New Guinea." By then I was thinking, "Holy cow, this is really something."

But apparently the guy hadn't been too hot at navigation, for he crashed his boat into a reef, and she was destroyed. He said the natives found him, brought them to their village, and he was so happy there he didn't want to leave. But word got back to Port Moresby, and the government sent an official to bring him to the capital and repatriate him to California.

It was hard to get many facts from the guy, but he definitely wasn't a braggart. My guess is that these events could have occurred as long ago as the '60s. Assuming, of course, his is not a drugged-up story.

Graeme Coughlan
Planet Earth

Graeme — The way we see it, either the guy made the voyage in his mind or he was full of baloney about how much money he spent building the boat. We know that $150 bought a lot more in the '60s — we were getting paid $1.89/hour at a newspaper job back then — but there's no way he could have built a boat for such a small amount.


Thank you for your coverage of the dangers that the recent raw sewage spill posed to hull cleaners in Richardson Bay. Every winter this kind of thing happens in the Bay, although perhaps not on such a large scale, but the media never mentions that there are people who must earn their living working in those now-contaminated waters. Not only should there be earlier and more widespread warnings of such events so that swimmers, beach-goers and hull cleaners can be alerted — as you suggested in your article — but the water quality control agencies need to be aware of who may be negatively impacted, both physically and financially, by such spills.

Matt Peterson
FastBottoms Hull Diving
East Bay

Matt — We're also bothered by the double standard that often exists with spills. When a government agency intentionally and/or unintentionally discharges raw and/or partially treated sewage into bays, rivers and oceans — and the former happens a lot — newspapers generally quote health officials as saying that it's really terrible but that the negative health effects are few and will be naturally cleared up in about 20 minutes. But if a 'Lincoln Log' should find its way out of a boat less than 50 miles offshore, it seems to be a national health hazard. We're not suggesting that people pump crap from their boats — just that it becomes increasingly more difficult to believe the government's spin on everything.


At the Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show a year ago at Jack London Square, a Coast Guard 44-footer came alongside the dock in the Estuary. A horde of show-goers rushed over to get a better look at the vessel and the superb boat handling by the young crew. It occurs to me that it would be great if the Coasties could have one of their boats on display at the show this year, do guided tours, and answer questions from the public. These 18- and 19-year-old Coasties are a pretty gung-ho bunch who might enjoy playing their PR-hand for a few days. The resulting interaction could go a long way in promoting a better understanding and improved relations between the Bay Area boating community and the Coast Guard.

It's been my impression that Latitude 38 has always supported the Coast Guard, so I think it would be great if the magazine could work with the Coast Guard and the boat show to make this come about.

Larry Westland
Wired, Choate 27
San Mateo

Larry — Despite a few rough spots over the years, we have always supported the Coast Guard. Back in the days when Capt. Larry Hall was in charge of Group San Francisco, he had 44-footers, helicopters, and we don't know what else come to the Latitude Crew List parties and other events for various demonstrations. In terms of public relations, they were tremendous successes. We like your idea of having a Coast Guard boat at Strictly Sail Pacific — which, by the way, runs April 16-20 this year — and we'll see if we can't make this happen. The biggest obstacle would seem to be that the Coast Guard is now part of Homeland Security, and has been saddled with many additional responsibilities.


While I appreciate the notoriety that comes with being in Latitude 38, I must point out an error in our correspondence that was printed in the Letters section of the February edition. It's true that I'm leaving Los Alamos to become the Harbormaster at Kwajalein Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands and is 2,200 miles to the southwest of Hawaii.

What's not true is that my friend Jim Brainard is putting together the Bay Area team for this year's Heineken Regatta in St. Martin — although Jim does kick butt on the race course. The real organizer of this effort is Stan Phillips, who is a member of both the Sequoia and Los Gatos YCs. While Jim is a great guy and deserves a lot of credit, he doesn’t deserve credit for this effort, and I wouldn't want Stan Phillips, Dawn Riley, or anyone else involved to think otherwise.

Guy Sandusky
Headed for Kwajalein

Guy — Sorry about the confusion, and our apologies to Stan, Dawn and Jim.

Here are some fun facts about where you're headed. Kwajalein, which is comprised of 97 islets, is one of the world's largest coral atolls if measured by area of enclosed water. All of the 2,600 residents, most of whom are Americans, live there with the express permission of the U.S. Army. Kwaj has been used by the U.S. for military purposes ever since 1944, when American forces captured the atoll from the Japanese in the Battle of Kwajalein. While it was never used as a site for nuclear detonations — as were the nearby atolls of Bikini, Rongelap and Enewetak — Kwaj was the main support site. It's now part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.


In last month's Changes, you asked if any readers had used tidal grids. Up here in Ketchikan, it's the way to do annual hull maintenance. I've used both the Bar Harbor and Thomas Basin grids. I've used them to clean and paint three of the four vessels that I've owned up here.

I've never had a bad experience using the grids, but the first time I used one, when drying out my Cape Dory 25D Katrina, it was pretty stressful. The problem was that she had a cutaway full keel that was shorter than the distance between grid caps. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a 4"x12"x20' plank that I floated to the grid at high tide. At low water, I fastened the plank at a right angle to the caps. Then all I had to do was wait for the tide to fall and Katrina to come to rest on the plank. She came to rest perfectly in the center of it, and I was able to begin pressure washing and painting.

I know that the Assistant Harbormaster at the Ketchikan Harbor Department has some "interesting" grid stories — if you could pry them out. For instance, there was a French aluminum hull sloop that had a strange landing at low water back in the mid '80s. Boating is such fun.

Larry and Kay Meehan
Evado, Pearson Vanguard 33
Ketchikan / Currently In Washington


We have a have a Paragon Junior freshwater pump that was on our boat when we bought her in '97, so the pump is probably older than that. It's pumped a whole lot of water, as we've lived aboard for most of the last 10 years.

The brushes in the motor finally wore out, so we emailed Carolyn Stewart at Groco, which makes and markets the pumps. Even though our pump has an obsolete motor, Stewart found an end cap with new brushes — and mailed it to me the same day! Unfortunately, we're in Hawaii, and it took seven weeks by normal mail to get to us. But that wasn't her or Groco's fault.

About the same time, we had the brushes go out after only 500 hours on the Oberdorfer waterpump that's used as a boost pump in our Aquamarine Watermaker. Unfortunately, neither Aquamarine or Oberdorfer could come up with a way for us to buy replacement parts for the motor, forcing us to buy an entire new waterpump.

We find it nice to know that some companies, such as Groco, still believe in the kind of service that we consumers appreciate.

Larry and Trinda Littlefield
Katie Lee, Passport 45


After reading the report from Hawkeye about the changes in the rules for how long foreign boats will be allowed to stay in both Fiji and Tonga, we would echo your editorial comments about three to four months a year in each location being more than satisfactory. In fact, if we were on a fast pace, we would blow by Fiji altogether and spend the time in Vanuatu!

After spending three months in Fiji last year, we planned on a short stop in Vanuatu, then New Caledonia, on our way to Oz for the cyclone season. But once we got to Vanuatu, we didn't want to leave! Not only is the scenery magnificent, but the ni Vanuatu (locals) are without a doubt the friendliest people we've met since setting sail from the San Juans four years ago. We found the place to be a very pleasant change from the rest of the South Pacific — Niue being an exception. It's not that the people of the South Pacific are unfriendly, it's just that their continued exposure to tourism has diminished their excitement at seeing another boat pulling into their bay.

In Vanuatu, on the other hand, we visited many anchorages in the archipelago where ours was the only boat for days. We received many invitations to dine with village families and experience the warmth of the happiest — according to a U.N. survey — people on earth. That, along with secluded anchorages and lots of palm trees — you know the drill — makes us think we'll return again and again.

Paddy and Alison Barry
Zafarse, Baltic dp42
San Diego / Currently in Bundaberg, Oz

Paddy and Alison — We appreciate your comments, but favorite places to cruise is a very subjective business we'd like to stay away from.

For details on the proposed restrictions in Tonga and Fiji, please turn to this month's Changes from John Kelly and Linda Keigher of the San Francisco-based Sirena 38 Hawkeye.

Our reaction to the announcement remains the same — nobody should get too worked up about it for two reasons. First, neither country is about to rob cruisers of the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in each place. Second, such regulations tend to be set in sand. Indeed, in one place the rule had already been on the books for many years, but just wasn't enforced. As it's not in either impoverished country's best interest to kick out people who arrive with much-needed dollars, and who are visited by friends bringing many more needed dollars, we don't see the rules sticking or scores of 'exceptions' not being granted.


When writing about the new fishing regulations that have gone into effect in Mexico, you editorialized, "These all seem like fair rules, so please abide by them."

What a dumb thing to say! Those are the rules of Mexico, so they must be obeyed! It doesn't matter if you think they are fair. Would you say, "These rules aren't fair, so see what you can get away with"?


Robert Lockwood
Planet Earth

Robert — Sometimes countries that don't have a long history of dealing with recreational mariners end up having bureaucrats who are ignorant of the subject and, therefore, write wacky regulations or even ones that aren't logically possible to obey. If you were to cruise and follow all of the regulations on the books of every country you visited, you'd not only lose your mind, you wouldn't get far. If the regulations are reasonable, sure, you follow them. If they are some kind of mistake based on not understanding the subject, or are unnecessarily punitive, many cruisers often don't. Our point about the Mexican fishing regulations was that they are reasonable and for the good of all, so cruisers should respect them.

We won't even go into the subject of many long-time cruisers viewing themselves as sovereign citizens of the planet, and therefore not recognizing the legitimacy of any governments. Once 'out there', you meet a few hard-core cruisers who don't recognize authority, and who, therefore, go for years without doing things like clearing in and out of countries. It's amazing how long some of them can go without being caught.


In a recent 'Lectronic Latitude you wrote, "Gitana 13 is . . . hove-to . . . under bare poles with the wheel tied off." How do you heave to with bare poles without broaching? I asked on a sailing message board, but only monohull sailors took a stab at the answer.

Ed Skeels

Ed — You, of course, are referring to the maxi cat Gitana 13, which, by the time this reaches print, should have broken the New York to San Francisco record, if nothing goes wrong (see the article on their attempt later in this issue). We presume the crew rotated the mast to an angle where it served as a small sail and thus provided a small amount of forward motion to keep the cat head to wind. But since we don't know the answer for sure, we'll ask one of the crew when they get here.


Many of us have experienced situations where someone on a boat thinks they know more than the captain/owner, and starts doing something that affects the control or safety of the vessel.

In my case, it happened while I was making a turn to avoid a cargo ship. A guest — who had been a fine crew up until that point, and who has been fine crew since — began working against me to prevent my boat from coming about. I told the person to stop, took the line out of their hands and off the winch, and threw it in a tangle so the they couldn't haul it in. At the same time, I screamed, "Stop!" and "Let go!" — but to no avail.

In the end, the person went up on the foredeck and desperately hauled in on the clew of the sail so that the bow of the boat couldn't come through the wind. It was too late to jibe when I realized they just wouldn't stop. Physically overpowering them would have been questionable and, had I tried, I would have had to leave the tiller.

Only after the actual collision could they be made to let go of the sail. Thankfully, it was light air, so there wasn't any damage. I shudder to think what would have happened in high winds.

My question is this: What can one reasonably/legally do to maintain safe control of a vessel in hazardous conditions when someone 'loses it' and begins acting dangerously or even fighting the captain/owner of the vessel for control? 

San Francisco

Anonymous — Wow! For the record, we've been on boats where there have been disagreements — usually about which sail to set or which way to go on a race course — but never about what to do to avoid a ship. And Lord knows, a boat shouldn't ever get close enough to a ship for such disputes to ever occur.

On the basis of just a little research, it seems that professional captains have absolute control of a vessel at sea. Even if they have a superior officer aboard, the superior can only say what they want done — "Take us to Cabo" — not how the vessel is to get there or be run. Professional captains are responsible for all aspects of a vessel underway, and have enormous rights — including the the power to use deadly force to suppress mutiny and piracy. However, if you're a captain, you don't want to get drunk with that power, for you'll later have to explain the dead body or bodies at inquiries and in court.

We assume, but haven't been able to confirm, that amateur captains have similar rights and responsibilities. Maybe somebody with more knowledge than we have could give some guidance.


With my son R.J., who just turned 10, we took a look at his 'baby book'. He got really excited reading the 10-year-old Changes article about us and seeing his baby cruising picture. We stopped cruising when R.J. was 10 months old, vowing to go again. Well, after another son, Leo, a few jobs, a house, and so forth, it's almost time.

Awhile ago you wrote a great article about buying a charter cat in the Caribbean so you can sail there six weeks a year. Can you point me to this article — I can't seem to find it?

We're looking to go cruising 18 months from now, and are thinking about putting a boat in a yacht management program before then as a way to get started. Would it be a good plan to buy the boat right now, sail her a few times before cruising, then buy her out of the charter program when we are ready to go? Once we start cruising, we want to be out for two to three years, then sell the boat again.

By the way, we want to buy a cat in the Caribbean so we can sail on that side of the world this time.

Jane Pimentel
Azure, Cal 40

Jane — We think you and your sons are going to have a blast!

Yacht management programs vary tremendously in what they have to offer, and some probably wouldn't work for you. For example, in some of the programs with the big companies, you're often very limited about when and how much you can use your boat, and often times you just get to use an equivalent boat, not your own. We suspect that you wouldn't like that. This doesn't mean these aren't good programs — we know quite a few people who have been very happy with them — just that they wouldn't match your needs.

You might find a more compatible situation with a management company in the traditionally more flexible 'secondary' yacht charter market. Our cat, for example, is with B.V.I. Yacht Charters, one of the companies in the 'secondary' market. Under their program, we get to use our cat when we want and for as long as we want. On the downside, we had to pay cash for our boat because banks will not loan money on boats in secondary yacht management programs. (We actually got a loan against some of the equity we'd built up in the house we've owned for 28 years, and used that to buy the cat.)

It's hard to say whether buying a cat before you're ready to go cruising is a good idea — philosophically or financially — because there are so many variables, such as what cats would be available when, at what price, and in what condition. Sometimes the primary yacht charter companies release a bunch of boats from their programs at once, flooding the market. Sometimes there are very few good cats around. We suggest you speak with several companies to see what their programs have to offer and what advice they might give you.

We've basically done what you're proposing to do and, in our case, it's worked out very well. In fact, we're going to have a full report in the April Latitude on the experience, the cat itself, and the financials. The only problem we're facing is what to do in the future. Our plan was to have the cat for three winters in the Caribbean, then have one in either Europe, Thailand or the east coast of Australia. But we've been having such a fabulous time in the Caribbean, we might extend for another year . . . or even two.

What we can tell you is that cats such as ours — which have been in The Moorings, then the secondary charter market — need very few extras to be cruise-ready for the Caribbean. We'd add food and go. As time permitted, we'd add solar panels and a wind generator both to be green and for the quiet. But that, as well as a radar, are about all they need. Like we said, you folks are going to love it.


Not long ago we returned from another great sailing adventure aboard our Belize-based catamaran Hope and, even though we thought topping last year’s great time with her would be difficult, we managed to pull it off with the Weiglans, our new boating buddies. We discovered three new-to-us islands — Seal Caye, Queens Cayes, and Laughing Bird Caye — along with visiting last year’s favorite, Rauguana Caye, where we’d celebrated last Christmas with friends Pat, Ben and Vincent, and the local caretakers.

Rene and Kevin Brown, who are The Moorings base operations managers in Belize, do a fantastic job, as they make things run smoothly. For example, two weeks prior to the start of our trip, we’d received word that our cat had been put on a reef and had sustained significant keel damage as well as the loss of a prop! But we were not to worry, as The Moorings had just taken delivery of a brand new 4600 cat, and had already assigned it to us.

Based on our experience with the 4600, we can report that Robertson & Caine, who make the cats for The Moorings, have been working hard to make improvements and upgrade the design. In particular, they’ve completely redesigned the dinghy davits and swim platform. They’ve also included some ‘nice to haves’, as well as a flat screen TV/DVD in the main salon, along with a blender. As Rene puts it, “the TV is for the kids and the blender is for the parents!” Not only have these upgrades become standard on the new boats, they’ve also been retrofitted on Hope as well.

We’ve chartered all over the Eastern Caribbean and a bit of the Sea of Cortez, and they are all great. Nonetheless, when it comes to unspoiled nature, an abundance of marine life, and the welcoming nature of the locals, Belize is really special. We’re guessing it’s a lot like Mexico was 15 to 20 years ago. And we’re not saying Mexico isn’t still great — in fact, we’re headed there for spring break.

Like all great places, Belize won’t stay the same forever, as there is talk of paving the main road and lots of other ideas for development are tossed about. As such, we would encourage everyone to go earlier as opposed to later.

There has recently been a series of letters about boats in charter fleets and how it's worked out for the owners. In addition to owning the cat in The Moorings fleet, which has been a great experience to date, we also had our Catalina 36 in the local OCSC fleet for two years, where Anthony and Rich do a fantastic job. Overall, we’ve elected to not be as aggressive as some, and limited our deductions to the mortgage interest and have treated our boat like a second home for tax purposes. The only real downside was that the boat was used a lot at OCSC, which meant that things got broken and needed more frequent replacement. The folks at OCSC were great about it, but it still cost money.

The other thing folks considering putting boats in charter management programs need to be aware of is that they can’t be particular about the finer details of how you find your boat when you visit. Lines aren’t coiled just so, some of your things are misplaced, and so forth. We finally decided that we preferred to have just one boat in a yacht management program, and keep one just to ourselves. We’re trying not to get too attached to Hope just yet.

Doug and Leslie Petty
Perspective, Catalina 36, Alameda
Hope, Moorings 4600, Placentia, Belize


I've been sailing the Bay and California coast for 53 years now. In the last few years, Hank Lewis, my boat partner, and I have become interested in visiting the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary, which is about 24 miles west of Pt. Reyes. We've been out there twice, and it was stunning during our last trip which was in the fall. We went to Drake's Bay overnight, spent the next day on the Bank, then returned to Drake's Bay.

Cordell Bank is purported to be the richest marine ecoystem in the northern hemisphere! Albatross fly in from Hawaii to feed there, then return to the islands to feed their chicks.

So no, you don't have to go down to the Sea of Cortez or up the Inside Passage to Alaska to see fabulous wildlife. We had about 30 humpback whale sightings, saw 'pride' of sea lions feeding with the humpbacks, had two blue whales cruise by us like slow-moving freight trains, and saw humpbacks breeching on the horizon. On our first trip, one humpback even did a 360° flip just off our stern. Only later did I have a mini-anxiety attack about that one. Jeez, what if one of those guys landed on us?!

Another time, we had a whale come right at us from astern. I awaited the thump, but thankfully he passed beneath us. As per federal regulations, we didn't pursue the whales, but we didn't run away when their curiosity brought them close to us.

We also had a yellow-rumped female warbler join us for two hours while we were headed back to shore. At first we thought she just joined us because she was lost and fatigued. No way! After drinking some freshwater on deck, she spent the rest of her time energetically cleaning the boat of the kelp flies we had picked up at Pt. Reyes. She must have caught and eaten 50 or so. I figured that she would leave us when we closed in on Pt. Bonita, and sure enough, she did.

For anyone interested in nature, the Cordell Bank is a fabulous experience waiting to be enjoyed close to home. I wonder if the local sailing community is as informed about this treasure as it deserves? On our first trip we saw just one other boat, while on the last one we had the nine-mile by four-mile seamount to ourselves.

O’Neil S. Dillon
Lagniappe, Ericson 38


I thought you might enjoy these pictures of Paul Allen’s yacht Octopus. The yacht was passing by near where we were staying at Ko Olina, Oahu, and appeared huge even from shore. A quick check of Wikipedia yielded the following interesting information about the yacht:

"Octopus, currently the world’s sixth largest superyacht, is owned by Paul Allen, and is the second largest not owned by a head of state. Octopus is measured at 414 feet and was delivered in 2003 to its owner, Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Octopus sports two helicopters on the top deck (one in front and one on the back), and a 63-ft tender docked in the transom (one of seven aboard). Octopus also has a pool on board located aft on one of her upper decks. She has a submarine on board. She also has a remote control submarine for studying the bottom of the ocean. Side hatches at the water line form a dock for jet skis."

By the way, we're looking forward to Sea of Cortez Sailing Week in April.

Mark and Rebecca Covec
Magstar, Bristol 27
La Paz, B.C.S.

Mark and Rebecca — We're sort of surprised to see your photo of Octopus in Hawaii, because we jibed around her while racing aboard Altair in the St. Barth New Year's Eve Regatta less than two months ago. At the time, somebody — probably a rock star such as Bono — was lifting off in the forward helicopter, their guitars having just been loaded aboard. Nearby was Rising Sun, Larry Ellision's 450-ft motoryacht which, based on the Wikipedia information, must be the world's largest motoryacht not owned by a head of state.

There was a time several years ago when these yachts held a certain attraction for us in the sense that they demonstrated what magnificent things modern man can create. But we're way over that. In this day and age of what appears likely to be human-caused climate change, and certainly dwindling natural resources of almost every kind, such mega motoryachts seem to be in terribly bad taste. Especially when some people, like Allen, own several of them, and commute between them on 757s or other large jets.

It's even more discouraging to us that the mega motoryacht industry reports that nearly 800 motoryachts of 125 feet or longer are currently under construction. The sad truth is that there is so much demand that the industry simply can't build them fast enough. One owner of numerous casinos in Vegas and Macao has an "interim" motoryacht of just under 200 feet simply because he couldn't get anything larger for four or five years.

Yes, we understand that in absolute terms these yachts represent the most minute fraction of the world's consumption of fuel and resources. We're not impressed because the per capita consumption is so badly out of whack.

What about mega sailing yachts such as Tom Perkin's 289-ft Maltese Falcon, Barry Diller's 310-ft Eos, Jim Clark's 295-ft Athena, and Joe Vittoria's 247-ft Mirabella V? While these boats don't consume as much fuel or resources as the mega motoryachts, their carbon footprints are still very large. Indeed, Perkins has often celebrated the "extravagance" of his yacht. But since all these boats were designed and began construction years ago, before the apparent crisis in the climate and the run on natural resources was so obvious, we're willing to give them something of a pass. Our hope is that yachts this size will become a fad of the past — but we doubt it will happen anytime soon.


Let the rich guys spend the money!

I've been reading article after article on how the America’s Cup has been taken hostage by billionaire financiers. Almost every article states it is ridiculous that a syndicate must spend $150 million to be competitive. While true, what comes of this is a great and much anticipated sporting event, better sailing products, better tactics, and so forth. Elite yacht racing has always been far out of reach for the vast majority of yachtsmen, so why do we mere mortals care how much money they spend?

If you compare the America’s Cup to say, Major League Baseball or the National Football League, I think we’d all quickly realize that the America's Cup is conducted with class and sophistication — save for the silly court proceedings. Every baseball and NFL team spends way more than $150 million a year, and guess what we get for it? Yep, overpriced tickets, bad food, stadiums named after pet stores, and most importantly, athletes who make ungodly sums of money.

Although these athletes are idolized, for the most part they are terrible role models for our children because of drug scandals, dog fighting, and other criminal behavior. The last time I checked, the sailors participating in the America’s Cup have dedicated themselves to the sport and are also top athletes. I’d much rather my kids consider Paul Cayard or the late Sir Peter Blake as a role model than Barry Bonds or Michael Vick. Even Ellison and Bertarelli, like them or not, have to be respected for what they’ve accomplished.

So how about we all lighten up on the America’s Cup and spend our time and effort supporting the only U.S.-based syndicate in hopes that they may one day bring the oldest and most prestigious sporting event to the best sailing venue in the world.

Tom Price
Vitesse, Beneteau 473

Tom — We don't think that the America's Cup has always been conducted with "class and sophistication," but nonetheless find your perspective interesting.

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, of course, but don't you find that Paul Cayard and John Kostecki's around-the-world victories, or MacArthur and Joyon's solo circumnavigations, to be much more compelling mental and physical achievements, and greater tributes to the sport of sailing? We just find it hard to get excited with racing boats that top out at less than 20 knots when other slightly larger monohulls, such as Rambler, have hit over 40 knots.


I want to thank Thomas Blandford for his nice comments on the spear fishing article I wrote for the October issue. Additional information from an expert is always appreciated, and Thomas's comments on using a reel gets us thinking it might be time to try such a setup.

Shortly after starting our cruising season in November, my brother Bruce did run across a fish larger than he normally takes, and the temptation was too great to pass up the shot. While Bruce finally landed the fish, he found that the shaft had bent 90 degrees during the struggle. This probably wouldn’t have happened with the reel setup Thomas described.

As to having four spear guns, I should have been clearer. Since there are two of us, and we each have two guns, we only have a total of four between us. We agree with Thomas that two guns will handle most any situation. I did hear that pneumatic spear guns are not legal in Mexico, so we replaced this gun over the summer just to be safe.

About my comments on spearing rocks, Thomas has a point in that it is tough on equipment. However, I have taken some fairly large fish — larger than I would feel comfortable doing with a pole spear — deep within caves. In caves, no shot is possible except against a rocky background. But I do miss on occasion, and it's tough on tips. So I keep a half dozen spares onboard, as well as two extra shaft. We also have files to keep the tips sharp.

Again, I do very much appreciate Thomas’ comments, and certainly would like to hear from anyone else with additional information on this subject.

Steve Albert
Far Fetched, Beneteau Oceanis 390
Port Townsend, WA


In response to your response in the January issue concerning "reaching Doug Peterson," I have one of only a very few Calkins 40s. I know of only one other, somewhere up in Northern California. I spent four years on a complete rebuild, with everything but the hull and mast being replaced. The grandson of the original owner called me after seeing an article in a local sailing rag about the relaunch, and came to my slip with original pictures and articles on the boat and Skip Calkins. At the time — around the late '60s and early '70s — Peterson worked for Calkins, and later, when Wendel got older, it was vice versa.

All of this happened in San Diego about the time Rolly Tasker, master sailor, designer, builder, and sailmaker was in town. These guys all knew each other well. By the way, I just returned from Thailand, where I visited the Tasker loft. They had built my set of sails, and I brought along a photo of my Hejoha for Rolly to see. But what an operation he's got there — 30,000 sq. ft., with expert craftsmanship.

Anyway, my boat is slipped a short distance from where Doug had his Kathleen until just recently when he reportedly sold her and moved to Italy. Peterson had raced Kathleen whenever possible on San Diego Bay, and consistently won his class.

By the way, the original Calkins 50 raced the TransPac — and was then banned for the next two races because her fin keel and spade rudder, of all things, was considered to be too "radical." My 40 can do over seven knots in 10 knots of wind — which I think is fast for an old woody.

By the way, I think Peterson can still be contacted through his office in San Diego.

Joe Moore
Hejoha, Calkins 40


Has the publisher of Latitude 38 ever sailed alone? I've singlehanded on both short voyages and to Hawaii, so I have great respect for those who have done long trips.

Sailing the seas singlehanded has become an almost commonplace activity.

In the many years since Joshua Slocum sailed around the world on Spray, singlehanding has become an almost commonplace activity. Many men and women have emulated him in both the deed and in writing a book about it. Singlehanders have their style of sailing in common, but if you read their books, their motives and views of the world are diverse as the boats they sailed on.

In my opinion, Slocum’s adventure and his book, Sailing Alone Around The World, have been at least equal to two of any of the others that followed. His story is the touchstone against which I judge all others. Being first confers a uniqueness upon an adventure that can never be diminished by subsequent adventurers, and so is the case with Slocum. We are fortunate that he was first, for imagine if an illiterate sailor, or one of meager imagination, had gone first in his place.

I want to close with a final word to those who put off their great singlehanded adventures — don’t wait! I can no longer sail, and regret those voyages I didn’t make because something seemed important at the time.

As for the problem with a reader’s GPS not reading 00' at Greenwich, the datum you select for your GPS affects the position you see from the satellites. I used WGS 84 at Greenwich and never thought of trying different datums. Live and learn.

John Hill
Ariel, Columbia 29

John — We’ve done a lot of singlehanding over the years, with our Bounty II, Freya 39, Olson 30s, and Profligate. We even singlehanded our Ocean 71 Big O a couple of times, but not having any electric winches on a boat that displaces 90,000 lbs. is brutal. Indeed, one of our primary motivations in moving from the 71-ft ketch to a much lighter 63-ft cat is that the cat is as easy to singlehand as the ketch was difficult. And we don't ever want to own a boat that we can't singlehand — or more accurately, requires crew.

While we did several singlehanded races around the Farallones years ago, and singlehanded races in the Bay more recently, we’ve never had the opportunity to singlehand across an ocean. We discussed it with Mark Deppe, who has done numerous Singlehanded TransPacs, when he crewed for us on the last Baja Ha-Ha. The thought of sailing out the Gate for Kauai with a small jib, a reef in the main, and a screecher furled and at the ready is sure enticing. Maybe in '10.

We agree that it was good that Slocum went first, because his book is terrific. If any sailor hasn't read it, they have a treat awaiting them.


I'm not sure if you heard about it, but four yachts at Port Vell Marina in Barcelona, Spain, were sunk after catching fire. The fire began about 7:45 a.m. aboard a 20-meter yacht, and quickly spread to three others of similar size. All four vessels were burned out and sank, while a fifth yacht was damaged when her mast collapsed.

The fire was attended to by 40 firemen, the Guardia Urbana, the Port Police, and two tugs. The black smoke from the blaze could be seen from all over Barcelona. Fortunately, the wind was blowing offshore.

George Backhus
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62

George — It's certainly been fire season with boats. There was a big fire one boat away from Mike Harker's Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3 in Miami shortly after he completed his circumnavigation. About two weeks before, George Eccedstone's 94-ft sloop Keturah burned and sank in the early morning hours in Antigua. It's not clear what started the fire or if it was related to the powerful lightning storm going on at the time. And now this in Barcelona.

The lesson everyone needs to take away from this is how deadly boat fires can be. Once they get a little toe hold, they are almost impossible to extinguish, and the smoke is highly toxic. Most fires are electrical in nature, so everybody should know what switch to throw or knob to turn to kill the electricity, and where the extinguishers are. If you have a fire in the middle of the ocean, getting it out immediately could be a matter of life and death.


I'm writing you in response to a letter by Tony and Linda Keeling of the Roberts 44 Veritas that was published in the December '99 issue. It was about an eight-man Givens liferaft the couple had bought in December of '95 and, during later repacking, was found to be without important equipment.

According to the couple's letter, they were in Mazatlan about to make a run to the South Pacific, so they brought their liferaft up to San Diego to have it checked and certified by Oceans West. Technician Mel Ruiz had no problem with them being present while the raft was checked. It deployed as it was supposed to, but there was a smaller than specified inflation cannister, there were no batteries in the raft lighting system, and the fresh water packets were just tossed in the raft as opposed to being bagged together as required. But the real shocker was that, although the couple had paid for a watermaker and EPIRB, neither had been put into the raft! When the couple called Givens to complain, they were told that Givens had sold the company and they were not responsible for his previous dealings.

I realize that the company was purchased by someone else, and that they also have to deal with the headaches that Givens had created. I worked for Jim Givens for about a year in '94-'95, but the reason I quit was his lack of caring and the shady things that I saw him do. There were innocent people's lives he was dealing with!

I saw Givens pack liferafts that were dated 1978. They were supposed to be destroyed, but Givens would insist that the customers sent them back for failure analysis. That was the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard. He'd then repack the faulty rafts and sell them as used. Some of those rafts would have only held air for an hour!

Givens did all these shady things because he was so broke! It was a constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario.

I went to several boat shows with Givens, and he would have a pockets full of checks written to him from customers. By the time we got back to Rhode Island, he would already have spent the money. Customers would get very angry because he wouldn't deliver their rafts, so he'd pack up a '78 pink one and say it was new. He would also have them sent back every year — he used to pay the shipping to get the customers to do this — so he alone would be servicing them. He didn't want anyone in the industry to find out about his shady operation.

Givens himself serviced all the shady liferafts and signed the inspection reports. I refused to pack any of the shady liferafts I saw come in. Things were so bad that his own factory — RPR — would require payment in full before they'd send him a raft.

Like I said, I left the job because I couldn't take it anymore. When I tried to file for unemployment, I told the Unemployment Office about all the things he was doing wrong. They asked me if he paid me weekly. He did, too, although $8/hour wasn't a lot of money. That's all the Unemployment Office cared about. They didn't care if he was doing anything illegal. Because I'd quit, I couldn't collect unemployment. I contacted the local Coast Guard, but never heard back from them.

I know a lot of time has gone by, but I have a conscience. I feel for all the people who got screwed by Givens. I also feel for all the people who weren't able to tell their story because their liferafts didn't deploy.

Matt Mosher
Planet Earth

Matt — You're telling us that you watched a man pack faulty and ill-equipped liferafts 13 years ago, but because you have a conscience and feel for those who might have died, are finally coming public with the information!!?? That's almost as hard to comprehend as the inexplicable things that Givens was accused of doing. For as we wrote in our response to the Keelings' letter:

"As a follow-up to a recent Marine Safety Alert regarding improper servicing of Givens Life Rafts, Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, Providence, Rhode Island, is publicizing the findings of life raft examinations to raise awareness of this serious safety hazard. Recently Coast Guard inspectors examined 19 liferafts from fishing vessels and pleasure boats serviced by Jim Givens Survival Company. All 19 of the liferafts examined had deficiencies. Three rafts were taken out of service and two were condemned. Sixteen rafts had missing equipment. Five carbon dioxide (CO2) cylinders on rafts had problems. Seventeen of the rafts contained items which were expired at the time of the last servicing. One raft had dry rot and tears in the fabric that had been glued back together. Problems with the CO2 cylinders — which are required to inflate the rafts — included two cylinders that had not been tested in seven years, and one that weighed half its required weight. Some of the missing items included sea anchors, radar reflectors, flares, medical supplies, flashlights, food, water, drinking cups, can openers, whistles, bailers, jackknifes, repair kits, heaving lines, instructions and hand pump parts — rendering pumps inoperative. Expired items included Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and other batteries, flares, medical supplies, food and water. On one raft, all but three of the 72 required water bags were missing, broken or expired. Many other items, such as oars, interior and exterior lighting and hand-held pumps, were inoperative and required repairs or replacement.

"Although problems have been found with 100% of the rafts examined by the Coast Guard, the seriousness and type of discrepancies have varied from raft to raft. Upon seeing his raft taken out of the cannister, one owner whose raft was in particularly bad condition was visibly shaken and expressed great concern for the safety of his family and crew who had been out on his vessel. The Coast Guard wants to make it clear to all mariners that this is not the typical safety alert that the public is used to, where only one in a large number of items is found defective. Records kept by the servicing company indicate that more than 200 rafts, mainly fishing vessel and pleasure boat rafts, may have been serviced at the facilities. Attempts by Coast Guard personnel to notify mariners whose rafts are affected have been significantly hindered by poor record-keeping on the part of the life raft servicing facilities. The Coast Guard urges recreational and commercial mariners to check their life raft servicing records and to schedule servicing as soon as possible if the raft was last serviced at the above facilities. Please contact your local Coast Guard Marine Safety Office prior to scheduling servicing."

The release went on to specify that people should not confuse the companies above with Givens Marine Survival of Portsmouth and Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Our mind is reeling. How could a human betray the trust other humans put in him to perhaps save their lives? And how could you just stand by and watch? We'd have kicked him in the nuts and then gone and raised hell with the Coast Guard for as long as it took for them to do something.

The only good news is that, to the best of our knowledge, no deaths were attributed to the shortcomings of any of the rafts.


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