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July 2008

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For background purposes, I am a retired Deputy Chief from the Sheriff's Office in Reno. My last assignment at retirement was command of the Detective Bureau. During my career — specifically at the ranks of deputy, sergeant and lieutenant — I investigated and supervised investigations of fatal accidents of all sorts, including boating accidents.

I have followed the details of the Lake County case against Bismarck Dinius through the media, and it is my opinion that this case just cries out for an independent investigation. Independent in the sense that the Lake County Sheriff's Office and the Lake County District Attorney's Office should never have proceeded to investigate the possible culpability of one of their own. Law enforcement professionals should have recognized immediately the necessity for these local agencies to recuse themselves from the matter.

I can tell you from personal observation that there indeed can be a 'blue wall of silence' formed when agencies investigate one of their own. I am not alleging that this is so in this case, I'm merely saying that there should never have been even the opportunity for such an accusation. There should have been a request made at once to an independent, outside agency to conduct the entire investigation and prosecution.

I urge the California Department of Justice to conduct an inquiry into this tragic accident and the subsequent investigation. Justice for the defendant, Mr. Bismarck Dinius, and for Deputy Perdock, cannot be fairly applied until this is done.

Rod Williams,
Deputy Chief (Ret.)

Rod — The Bismarck Dinius case is back in the news again because on June 11, Judge Richard Martin in Lake Port ruled that there was enough evidence for Dinius to stand trial in the fall for vehicular manslaughter. A pox on the California Department of Justice, headed by former Governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, for allowing this outrage to continue.


How corrupt does the Lake County Sheriff's Department have to be before a citizen's opinion is needed on whether to enforce the law?

Maritime law seldom absolves anyone completely from blame in an accident. Blame is usually assigned in percentages. As I see it, the following Rules of the Road applied in the Lake County case:

Rule 2: "Nothing in these rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master, or crew from the consequences of any neglect to comply with the rules, or the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case." Deputy Perdock, as owner and master of the powerboat that hit the sailboat at high speed, did not take the precaution to proceed at a safe speed in limited visibility caused by the darkness and background lights.

Rule 5: "Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision." Given the fact that Perdock hit the near-stationary sailboat only a split second after he saw it is proof in itself that nobody on his boat was standing a proper lookout.

Rule 7: "Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the circumstances and conditions to determine if a risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt, such risk shall be deemed to exist." Not being able to see because of the darkness and background lights, and knowing that it was not uncommon for people and floating objects to be on the lake without lights, Deputy Perdock was required to assume there was a risk of collision and use all available means — proceeding at a slow speed — to avoid such a collision.

Rule 18a: "A power-driven vessel shall keep out of the way of: i) a vessel not under command; ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; iv) a sailing vessel." Perdock slammed into a boat that was both a sailboat and, because of the zephyrs, was restricted in her ability to maneuver. Had he kept out of the way of the sailboat by travelling at a safe speed, the accident never would have happened.

Rule 19: "Conduct of vessels in restricted visibility. (b) Every vessel shall proceed at a safe speed adapted to the prevailing circumstances and conditions of restricted visibility." Forty to 45 mph on a pitch-black lake while headed toward background lights is not proceeding at a safe speed given the restricted visibility.

Whether the sailboat's lights were on or hidden by the background lighting may be of importance to Mark Weber, the owner of the sailboat, or the family of Lynn Thornton, but they should be all but irrelevant to the criminal case. One could argue that the sailboat operator was under the influence, and that the lights of the sailboat were off — both have penalties under law — but it's obvious that neither was the predominant cause of the collision. The sailboat did not speed in front of nor broadside to Perdock's high-speed powerboat, but rather the powerboat rammed the sailboat on the stern quarter. Even if the sailboat's lights weren't on — which is disputed — the powerboat shouldn't have been travelling at such a high speed that the operator couldn't see her 40-ft mast with the sails up.

Either Perdock saw the sailboat or he did not. If he did not see it, he was in clear violation of Rule 5, Rule 7, Rule 18a, and Rule 19. If he did see the sailboat, he was in violation of Rule 2 as a negligent seaman, Rule 16, and Rule 18a.

An average mariner such as myself would have been held accountable for the death of Lynn Thornton under such circumstances. For a member of the law enforcement community to try and dodge his responsibilities indicates a much higher crime than bad seamanship or poor judgement. If Deputy Perdock had immediately apologized and taken responsibility for his unsafe and deadly actions, it would have been easier to put some of the blame on the group out sailing and drinking in limited visibility. But for the Sheriff's Department to hold their own blameless, and prosecute a sailor who couldn't have done anything to prevent the crash, is a travesty of justice. Even if Beats Workin' II had been a "vessel not under command," Perdock would still have been bound by Rule 18a(i) to avoid it. Perdock was clearly going too fast for the conditions, period. The only thing that made the collision deadly was Deputy Perdock's negligent and irresponsibly high speed, which was in violation of many of the rules of the road.

Mark Wieber

Mark — It's true that blame is assigned on a percentage basis in many maritime accidents. As we've previously written, if it's true — and there is strong evidence to the contrary — that the sailboat's running lights were not on, we would have assigned the blame as follows: 79% to Deputy Perdock for violating Rules 2, 5, 7, 18a, and above all, 19, which requires a boat operator to proceed at a safe speed in conditions of restricted visibility. 20% to Mark Weber, the owner of the sailboat, who was standing in the companionway. Under California boating law, Weber was in command of the vessel, therefore it was his responsibility to make sure the lights were on. He was also under the influence of alcohol. For whatever reason, he's not been charged at all. 1% to Bismarck Dinius, for being under the influence — although not by much — while at the helm.

If the defense witnesses and experts are correct that the sailboat's running lights had indeed been on, we would assign 100% of the blame to Deputy Perdock. After all, given the conditions, even the world's best and most sober helmsman couldn't have done anything to avoid the speeding deputy's oncoming powerboat. But for Bismarck Dinius — a guy we don't know and have never met — to be made the scapegoat, and for the other two to be charged with nothing, is preposterous.


I'm a professional captain and in the marine management business. So I know what I'm talking about when I say in no uncertain terms that what Deputy Sheriff Perdock did — operate his powerboat at high speed in total darkness — was negligent. He, rather than a guy sitting next to the helm on a drifting sailboat, is the one who should be held responsible.

Stan Gibbs
Planet Earth


I've been following the Lake County prosecution of Bismarck Dinius closely, and I thought it worthwhile that I relay a conversation I had with an analyst at the Public Investigations Unit of the California Attorney General's office. The analyst mentioned that the Attorney General's office was following the case to determine if there has been some impropriety in the actions of the Lake County District Attorney, and that the general public should their opinions. The person I spoke with was very clear that no one would reply to anything sent to that address, and that the letters would primarily be used for statistical analysis purposes to determine the scope of the level of public interest — outrage? — in the case.

If any Latitude readers care about the case, please consider sending an email, perhaps as follows:

Dear PIU:

I am concerned that the Lake County DA has acted improperly in pursuing charges against Bismarck Dinius. Mr. Dinius was operating a sailboat at 5 mph with cabin and navigational lights on when a powerboat piloted at 40+ mph by Russell Perdock hit the sailboat and tragically killed Lynn Thornton of Willows. Marine safety experts have testified to the state of the nav lights and the speed of Mr. Perdock's boat.

Mr. Dinius may have been intoxicated at the time of the accident, but marine safety experts have testified he would not have been able to avoid the powerboat even if he was sober. Mr. Perdock may have been intoxicated at the time of the accident, but an investigating officer was told not to apply a breathalyzer test to Mr. Perdock at the docks after the incident.

I believe that the Lake County DA made the decision to prosecute Mr. Dinius solely due to Mr. Perdock's employment with the Lake County Sheriff's office. The Lake County DA has overlooked key evidence, ignored statements by eyewitnesses, and pursued a prosecution that goes against common sense and maritime right-of-way rules.

The criminal prosecution against Mr. Dinius has important ramifications for civil suits that have since been raised. If Mr. Dinius takes a reduced-sentence plea offered by the DA, civil claims against Mr. Perdock may be seriously limited. By prosecuting Mr. Dinius, despite clear wrongdoing by the other party, the Lake County DA has taken a clear initiative to protect Mr. Perdock despite his role in the death of Ms. Thornton.

Furthermore, I believe the Lake County Sheriff's office may have been involved with evidence tampering — the sailboat's navigational light switches were noted as being switched 'on' at the scene, yet were switched 'off' during the inspection at the police impound yard two days later. It's also interesting to note that an investigating officer was instructed not to give Mr. Perdock a breathalyzer test on the docks after the incident, as that officer recently confessed to television reporter Dan Noyes.

These facts lead me to believe that a 'good ole boys club' is operating in Lake County, and I strongly encourage the California Attorney General to act in this matter. I recommend that the Attorney General start an independent investigation into this impropriety, and evaluate illegal actions at both the Lake County DA and Sheriff's offices.

Your name
Your city, your state
Your phone number

Will Sitch
San Francisco

Will — It's not true that the sailboat was moving at 5 mph. There were only zephyrs on the lake, and she was described as drifting, and thus would have been unable to make any swift change of course. The sailboat — and Lynn Thornton — were sitting ducks.


There must be a defense fund for Bismarck Dinius. Do you know where we can contribute? I'd donate to that fund.

In addition, as with the O.J. case, can't the estate of Ms. Thornton file a wrongful death civil claim against Perdock?

Russ Irwin

Russ — You can contribute to defense fund for Bismarck Dinius by sending checks made out to Bismarck Dinius, with “Bismarck Dinius Defense Fund” in the memo section, to Sierra Central Credit Union, Attn: Brian Foxworthy, Branch Manager, 306 N. Sunrise Ave., Roseville, CA 95661. The estate of Ms. Thornton, and others, have filed suit against Deputy Perdock. We'll bet a nickel there is no way he's going to have enough insurance to cover all judgements that will go against him.


I agree with Latitude about who was and was not at fault in the boating accident on Clear Lake that claimed the life of Lynn Thornton, and who should and should not be charged as a result of that accident. However, your castigation of Judge Richard Martin leads me to believe that you have a basic misunderstanding of how the legal process works in this instance.

If 1) Bismarck Dinius was at the helm, 2) he was over the blood alcohol limit, and 3) the boat's running lights were not on, Dinius is, by law, liable for manslaughter. When determining whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial, the judge's job is to determine whether each of those three elements have legally admissible evidence that supports them. If so, his decision was correct. In making this determination, all legally admissible evidence is to be taken as true, and evidence to the contrary is to be ignored. Which legally admissible evidence one believes is a matter of fact for trial, and is not considered when determining whether to proceed.

As I've said in previous emails, the big problem here is bad law that allows travesties like this to take place. If the operator of a powerboat that was in violation of any of the rules of the road, and that collided with a manual- or sail-powered vessel, were automatically liable for the accident, Russell Perdock would have been charged and Bismarck Dinius almost certainly would not have been. Dinius is just serving as a patsy to take the focus off Perdock, who is the real cause of the accident. A campaign by sailors to change the law would go a long way toward preventing this type of travesty of justice from happening again.

Jeff Hoffman
San Francisco

Jeff — Are you saying that it's up to us, the general public, who are by and large the victims rather than beneficiaries of the U.S. legal system, and are certainly impotent against the mighty legal industry lobby, to change the laws to make them more just? Great. What next? Suggest that American motorists take the bull by the horns and get Arab countries to pump more crude at lower prices?

We understand enough about law to realize that Judge Richard Martin probably had his hands tied in making the decision he did. But as nearly powerless victims of the legal system, and seeing what we believe to be massive injustice in Lake County, we feel we have no alternative but to confront the problem in sometimes asymmetrical ways. As such, we're going to use every opportunity to raise hell and let more people know about the travesty that's occurring.

While Bismarck Dinius is certainly a major victim in this case, an even bigger loser is law enforcement and the legal system. Like a lot of folks, we previously believed that, with a few exceptions, cops and district attorneys were at least reasonably honest people who cared about justice. No more, not after the nonsense in Lake County, which even more tragically has been blessed by the silence of the Attorney General's Office in Sacramento. The next time we're called to jury duty, we're going to be hard pressed to believe the law enforcement officers and the district attorney have any credibility whatsoever.


I found Jamie Gilardi's letter about the damaging effects that idling has on diesels — and Latitude's reply — to be quite interesting.

I'm the owner of Inspiration, a 50-ft steel Garden ketch that has been well-used since she was built in '67. I had her in Mexico for 20 years, but now keep her at Channel Islands Harbor near Oxnard. Inspiration is equipped with a six-cylinder, seven-liter Volvo MD-70 engine rated at 165 horsepower. Based on fuel consumption at one-half pound per horsepower hour, the engine develops just 25 horsepower at hull speed, with the fuel consumption being just 1.7 gallons per hour at 1,350 rpm. Full power — resulting uselessly in stirring water — is 2,500 rpm.

In other words, my Volvo has basically idled for 40 years, during which time it's only required minor maintenance. The only thing that's been done in all that time is to remove the head — yes, there are two cylinder heads on this inline, six-cylinder engine (to have all six cylinders covered by one large cylinder head would mean a very heavy cylinder head, so Volvo used two cylinder heads, each one serving three cylinders) — to correct head gasket leaks. This engine has some dozen small cylinder head gaskets, one for each oil and one for each water passage, in addition to the cylinders themselves. That was done twice, more than 10 years apart.

My idling Volvo has been as reliable as a rock, so I wonder how bad idling actually is for an engine.

Bill Steagall
Inspiration, 50-ft Garden ketch
Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard


I just returned from Arizona, where I located and visited the gravel pit where I operated my first diesel bulldozer. I worked there 66 years ago, meaning 1942, while helping build Kingman Air Force Base. Since '54, my family construction companies have owned hundreds of diesels in our equipment, and as a hobby, I still operate diesel-powered machines a couple of days a week.

In all these years, I don't recall ever paying to repair a diesel that was damaged from idling. Keep in mind that air compressors and diesel generators are required to idle for as many hours as necessary until they sense a demand, at which point they instantly power up to full throttle until the load is reduced, and then return to idle. Many of our other diesel-powered equipment was also required to work at low speeds a majority of the time. So based on that considerable experience, I have never hesitated to operate my sailboat diesels at low speeds or for charging batteries or running the freezers. In 45 years of owning diesel-powered sailboats, I've never had to replace a fouled injector or had other problems caused by carbon buildup. Mind you, I do most of my motoring between 1,000 and 1,200 rpms, for maximum fuel efficiency, using the biggest prop that will allow my diesel to reach its maximum-rated rpm.

It's also worth considering the experience of diesels on the Alaskan Pipeline or in the Northern Plain states. The block heaters and glow-plugs do not put out enough heat to counter the sub-zero temperatures in the winter that allow the motors to start. So it's common to let equipment idle 24 hours a day, if necessary, to have it available for use during the coldest weather. As a result, a piece of equipment sold when the pipeline was completed may have had 10,000 hours on the engine, but only a third of that on the transmission and tracks. I do not recall hearing that that equipment had any more problems than engines that were worked normally for that number of hours.

On the other hand, I'm absolutely convinced that running diesel engine at cool temperatures does damage, and must be avoided to the best of our abilities. The best temperature for running a diesel is between 180° and 200°, but using saltwater heat exchangers means we have to limit the temperature to 170°, as salt precipitates out of sea water much faster at higher temperatures. So 170° thermostats are very important, and should be used at all times.

I'm not sure my years of experience alone makes me an expert, but paying for repairs sure makes a person pay attention to the causes of damage to engines.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Long Beach


I was recently sailing in the San Francisco ship channel, the one outside the Gate, in varying spells of rain or thick fog. Because of the lack of visibility, we were monitoring the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) and heard that a tug was pulling a barge one mile east of Buoy 8. Since we had about one-mile visibility, we looked around and there was the tug, astern of us. As we tried to sail further west, the tug overtook our position by a course that was just north of the San Francisco channel buoys, and therefore not in the channel.

I'd been told that, in conditions of reduced visibility, the best place to be is just outside the shipping channel. I have since asked around and have been told that tugs sometimes travel outside the channel if they are pulling a hard-to-handle barge or are heading for a dump site. In quarter-mile visibility, it would be a great surprise to come across a tug outside the channel.

What is the official ruling on occurrences such as this, and how often does it occur? Any thoughts or wisdom will be greatly appreciated.

Bob Wills
Santa Rosa

Bob — We're under the impression that ships/tugs/commercial vessels can go wherever they want unless strictly prohibited by law — or if the water is too shallow. As such, it wouldn't shock us at all to find a tug/ship/commercial vessel outside of the San Francisco ship channel. We're not sure how often it happens, but that it happens at all is reason to always be on guard against it.

It may also surprise you that inbound ships often get permission from Vessel Traffic Service to use the outbound lane inside the Bay, and vice versa. So we wouldn't make many assumptions about 'lanes'.

Our attitude is that you always have to be alert to the approach of ships no matter where you are, and that if you're on a small boat, there should never be an excuse for getting hit by a ship — even if the captain goes insane and tries to run you down. That's why we keep a close watch, rely on radar to know what's around us during times of poor visibility, and give ships plenty of room. Furthermore, before long we're going to invest in an Automatic Identification System (AIS) unit, which is a much less expensive yet more informative way to be alerted to the approach and intentions of ships.


Regarding the letter in a recent issue commenting on vessel traffic situations in the Estuary, the author of the letter mentioned that sailboats that overtook him complained that he was in their way. While the author may have been motoring his boat, in light of Rule 13 of the Rules of the Road, perhaps you'd like to reconsider your reply that sailboats have the right-of-way over motor vessels.

Mike Farrell
Lassie, Pearson 28
Pt. Richmond

Mike — What we should have written is that sailboats "almost always" have the right-of-way over boats under power. The exceptions — when in restricted waters in which the vessel under power can't maneuver; when the boat under power is at anchor or not under command; and in Rule 13 cases, when overtaking a powerboat. We sort of assumed that people realized that boats under sail don't have the right to ram into anchored boats or the transoms of powerboats that are moving slower than they are, but we should have been clearer about it. Thanks for bringing it up. Sailboats also have to stay clear of powerboats if the powerboat is in a specific traffic lane — although there are no such lanes in the Oakland Estuary.


Four years ago, I was at the end of a very long chapter in my life. I was in the midst of a divorce and it seemed likely that I would lose my business and my home. The ugly process of two lives being torn limb from limb was in full swing.

As I began to come out of my divorce, one of the nicer experiences was beginning to date again. The first woman I dated asked me if I was interested in sailing. I had sailed all over Southern California aboard my dad's Ericson 27 as a kid. When I was 14 years old, I'd read Robin Lee Graham's book Dove, and dreamed of sailing around the world as he had done. On our next get together, the woman brought me the April '04 issue of Latitude 38. I still have it. Since then, Latitude has been my primary connection to the vibrant sailing community that radiates outward from San Francisco Bay. Like many other readers, I wait anxiously each month for my subscription to arrive. The day it gets here usually finds me up late, unable to put the magazine down until I have completed my first pass.

Since reading that first issue of Latitude, my interest in sailing — and specifically long-range cruising — has continued to grow. As my passion for sailing grew, it was time to do something about it, so I chartered a boat for three weeks in the British Virgins. I thought this would be a good test run for the cruising lifestyle. Everything went wrong with that three-week charter, which was on a crappy boat from a budget charter outfit. But I took it as a good sign that I couldn't wait to get back on the water after that diesel-soaked, cockroach-infested, anchor-dragging fiasco of a charter.

So I joined SailTime in San Francisco, which I found to be a great way to pretend like you own a boat without the huge time and financial commitments of actually owning one. For 18 months, I learned and enjoyed the challenges of sailing on the Bay, all the while using Latitude as my guide to sailing resources. As I began to think about owning my own boat, I decided to try another charter in the British Virgins, but this time on a brand new Beneteau 47.3 with all the trimmings. One of the first things I realized was how much my skills and confidence had increased in such a short time.

But prior to the charter, something strange and evil began to happen. While at the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Oakland, I took a test sail on a SeaWind 1160 catamaran. Prior to that, I had never sailed on a cat and had the usual negative bias about the supposedly jerky motion and the risk of capsizing. But as the list of features for my own cruising boat came into focus, I couldn't deny that catamarans seemed to have a lot to offer. It was too late to change my charter booking from a monohull to a catamaran, so off I went to the BVIs and the shiny new Beneteau. I loved that boat. She was fun to sail, comfortable — and I knew there were several available in California in my price range. The only problem was that, while in the British Virgins, I couldn't take my eye off the catamarans.

After returning to the Bay Area, I began to ratchet up my boat shopping. I set a one-year deadline for buying a boat, so I began to kick monohull tires around the Bay. Meanwhile, I executed a plan to sell half of my business — which I didn't lose after all — which allowed me extended periods of time for cruising. As part of my boat search, I decided to take a test sail on a unique cat with Gary Helms. I'd asked Gary about the availability of catamarans in the area, and he said there was only one Seawind 1000 available. So I asked him about the F-41 that I saw listed on his website. "Oh," he said, "that cat . . . that boat is kinda special. She was custom made and requires a special kind of person to appreciate her." Gary is definitely on the low pressure side of the sales world, but after a little arm-twisting, he agreed to let me see the catamaran.

And not long after, we sailed the Ian Farrier-designed 41-footer in typical Bay conditions. As we beat up through the Slot, we passed Alcatraz going 12 knots with one reef in the main and our beverages sitting undisturbed on the cockpit table. All that room and stability — and she was fun to sail, too. Well, I was quickly hooked. The next six weeks were a blur of offers, bankers, insurance brokers, surveyors, emails to various sailors and cat owners as well as Ian Farrier, and appropriate big decision stress. But in August, I became the proud new owner of the F-41 sailing catamaran Endless Summer!

When I stepped aboard Endless Summer for the first time, I was immediately impressed by the function over form approach to the cockpit layout. There is no wood, no fancy trim, no fluff. The only thing shiny in the entire aft half of the boat are the five large chrome winches. One is set horizontally in the center of the aft section of the cockpit area, serving as a line clutch with about 10 lines led aft from the rotating mast. There are two stainless steering wheels, one on each side of the cockpit, each with a full complement of engine controls and electronics. The entire boat is cored fiberglass, and finished inside and out to a high gloss. Endless Summer sports a retractable 11-ft carbon fiber bowsprit, a carbon fiber cross beam, carbon fiber chain plates, and only weighs 13,000 lbs. when fully loaded. The cabin top has an aft-facing opening and removable windows, creating an indoor/outdoor feel to the raised saloon and galley area. Warm hardwood floors complement the clean, airy-feeling interior.

The boat had been built in '01 for Scott Meyer, and he and his family had spent 2.5 years cruising Australia and the South Pacific. They eventually brought the boat home to San Francisco. Anyone interested in this boat should check out Scott's website at, where he's done an amazing job of detailing the features of the F-41 and explaining the pros and cons of the design. For me, Scott's website was an incredible treasure of information.

I can't think of a major purchase that is more complicated and stressful than that of a cruising boat. First of all, they are insanely expensive. Plus, you must become an instant expert in assessing hull integrity, rig stability, and the condition of thru-hulls, rudders, keels, electronics, sails, anchor gear, plumbing, engine, and electrical systems. And wait — all of these assessments could mean the difference between life and death. It's crazy. Having Scott's very detailed review of his boat and his account of how she behaved in his Pacific crossing was immensely helpful. I poured over the pages, making notes and lists of questions. Eventually, I just pulled the trigger and made the best decision I could — which was buying the boat. Since owning the boat, I have come to appreciate the design and quality of workmanship that went into Endless Summer. To me, she is beautiful in an all-about-function way — and fun as hell to sail.

During this time, I was also blessed by meeting a wonderful woman named Manjula. Among other things, she is a natural sailor. One day it was blowing over 40 knots, and I was trying to decide if we should go out and practice some rough-weather sailing. "If we go out there, you're going to get cold, wet, and scared," I told her. Her reply was, "I might get cold and wet, but not scared."

The real test came on this year's Doublehanded Farallones Race. It was very rough, but Manjula was a total trooper. On the way in, she drove the boat as we surfed to 20 knots under a double-reefed main and a jib. She likes how fast Endless Summer sails. I feel very fortunate to have found a life companion who is willing to share my cruising dream.

So here I am, 42 years old, semi-retired, the owner of a fast, fun cat, and spending my time getting ready for my first cruise. I plan to join the Ha-Ha this fall, spend about six months cruising Mexico, then figure out what to do next. My dream is to continue cruising and exploring Mexico and Central America, and then hopefully move on to Ecuador. I've already been to the Galapagos Islands, but would love to visit aboard my own boat. After that, I hope to continue through the South Pacific to Australia, and eventually Indonesia, a place I've already been twice.

Through all of the learning, Latitude 38 has been at the center, providing inspiration, information, and access to the sailing community and businesses of the Bay Area. I truly appreciate the important role your magazine has played during this pivotal time in my life. Thank you. I look forward to seeing you on the water.

Steve May
Endless Summer, F-41 catamaran
San Francisco

Steve — It's an honor to have been of service, so to speak. Now, for some random thoughts:

1) You're the first person, male or female, we can ever recall who came out of a divorce and described dating again as a "nice experience."

2) We've always thought the Beneteau 47.3 is a cool-looking and fine-sailing boat. If we were looking at monohulls, she'd be a major temptation.

3) People understandably have different reasons for liking boats but, like you, our credo is function over form.


I read with interest Latitude's response to Russell Houlston's letter on his somewhat harrowing experiences in this year's Doublehanded Farallones Race. Your facts are usually correct, however, you made a mistake with the name of the skipper of Sweet Omega who was lost in the '82 race. It was Janice White, not Janice Rice.

Janice was an Oregonian who taught me sailing aboard Sweet Omega on the Columbia River. She was also an intrepid member of the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol. We climbed Mt. Hood and sailed The River with gusto and a sense of adventure. But Janice was most excited about sailing in the Doublehanded Farallones Race. She trailered her boat from Portland to San Francisco and, before the fateful event, had successfully completed the Singlehanded Farallones Race.

I remember the day she started the Doublehanded Race, and the wild evening/night of El Niño wind and rain when she failed to return. I came to realize then, and still do, that there are some things in our control and some that are determined by the fates. The weather had been forbidding and the forecast was for it to get worse, and her boat was small. The questions have all been asked and there are no satisfying answers. I still miss her.

Carl Kirsch
Sea Horse, Cal 2-29
San Francisco

Carl — We apologize for the error.


With regard to the discussion of whether to report what might be a shooting star or a flare, I always report what might be a flare to the Coast Guard — even if I don't think it is. I give the Coast Guard what information I've got, and my opinion of it. My reasoning is that the Coast Guard can use the info in conjunction with anything else they might have, and that they have better skills to decide what it really is.

But if anyone is reporting the position of what might be a flare, they should be specific with their latitude/longitude position. I've always used degrees, minutes and seconds. But one time when I reported what had for sure been a flare — but almost certainly fired from the beach — the Coast Guard couldn't interpret the seconds. They persisted in reading back the position in degrees, minutes . . . and 10ths. Even though I repeatedly emphasized the seconds, I could see their helicopter scanning the erroneous position about one mile away. Since then I have acquiesced, and use degrees, minutes, and 10ths, just to avoid missed communications.

Bill Nokes
Someday, Gulfstar 41

Bill — It seems to us, the problem with reporting what might be a flare even if you don't think it's one, is that the Coast Guard would be overwhelmed with such reports, most of which would be false, and not take them seriously. It's the old 'crying wolf' syndrome. You might remember that this is what happened with the original EPIRBs, as 99% of the supposed emergency reports were just false alarms.

As people who sail offshore, we think it's our responsibility, in cases of emergency, to make sure others know that we have a problem. That means we're equipped with one or more VHFs, an SSB, a cell phone, an EPIRB — and yes, probably the least useful of all, some flares. And if it ever came down to the case where we'd fired our last flare, and somebody like us decided that it was probably just a shooting star, we'd blame ourselves, not them. For when on the ocean, it's all about personal responsibility.


Thanks for including the photo of my Westsail 32 Tortuga in a recent 'Lectronic, serving as a sistership for the Westsail 32 Bag End that Dan and Nancy Chism reported having done half a circumnavigation with in 18.5 years.

Just in case anyone decides to talk smack about Westsails being slow, they should check out the accompanying photo of Tortuga that was taken in the New Boreas ocean race a few years ago. We had her surfing downwind with a few bursts of over 10 knots on the way to Moss Landing. Giddy up!

Capt. Randy Leasure
Tortuga, Westsail 32
Half Moon Bay

Capt. Randy — Are we being deceived or is Tortuga sailing without a boom?


In the June 13th 'Lectronic, you ran the following item under the title, A 40-Year Circumnavigation?

"We're now in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, and have finally crossed the longitude line that means we've done at least half a circumnavigation," report Don and Nancy Chism of the Antioch-based Westsail 32 Bag End. "This is no great feat for most people, but it's taken us 18.5 years to get here."

I might be wrong, but didn't a Westsail 32 win the Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii once, finishing after everyone had gone home?

Michael Carlson
Planet Earth

Michael — David King's Portland-based Westsail 32 Saraband was indeed the corrected time winner in the '88 Pacific Cup Race. Some might argue that when you race PHRF, every boat theoretically has an equal chance of correcting out first, so what's the big deal? The counter argument would be that Saraband also beat a lot of boats in her class with longer waterlines on a boat-for-boat basis, too. They were: Cal 35, Coronado 34, Crealock 37, Hans Christian 33, C&C 37, Tartan 35, and Pacific 40. The fact that she beat those seven boats on a boat-for-boat basis also means that she finished long before "everyone had gone home."

In the '90 Pacific Cup, Saraband corrected out third overall, but once again won her class, beating the following boats boat-for-boat, as well as on corrected time: Ericson 35, Yamaha 29, Hans Christian 33, Pacific 40, Coronado 34, Hans Christian 40, and Roughwater 45.

What conclusions can be drawn from these results? Pro-Westsail 32 folks will argue that it proves Westsails are faster than a lot of boats of the same waterline length and therefore aren't slow at all. Folks who don't like Westsail 32s will respond, "Yeah, they're faster when the competition sails their boats poorly." We think the truth is somewhere in between. There's the classic axiom in racing that there are "different horses for different courses." Westsail 32s are going to have a very hard time sailing to their rating in events that are upwind in light air and chop. Off the wind in a breeze, they have a much better chance to sail to their rating. But as always, the most important factor in making a boat go is the skill of the skipper and crew.


I've been cruising around the internet looking at handheld GPS units, as the Magellan I have is a little old and is no longer supported. But as I shopped, I discovered why I bought the Magellan over the Garmin in the first place. Garmin insists on putting the screen at the bottom of their units and the control buttons at the top. This means the screen is covered by your hand when you're entering data. Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's a very basic and dumb way to do it?

Since I bought my Magellan over five years ago, Garmin has not changed their evil ways. I recently went to their website, hoping to email an inquiry to the company as to why they insist on doing this. But there was no way to give them feedback. Maybe Garmin doesn't care what potential customers think?

Joanne Jackson

Joanne — We have a handheld Garmin GPS 76 that we've used from time to time as a backup to our two main units, but don't ever recall being annoyed by the way the screen and controls are arranged. But since you brought it up, we went to the Garmin website, and you're right, all of the controls are on the top of the units while the screens are on the bottom. While we wouldn't characterize this as "evil," it certainly does seem strange, as working the controls often does block the screen.

As for your complaint that there's no way to provide Garmin with feedback on such matters, in their 'Contact Us' section on their website, they write "We appreciate your business and value your feedback. How may we help you?" And while they have 11 categories under which to contact them, you're right again, none of them is really appropriate for the "feedback" they claim to want and you want to give them.

We think Garmin is a fine company that produces many excellent products. Nonetheless, we think both your observations are valid.


After reading the June Latitude cover to cover on the Saturday after it came out, I took my boat out on Sunday. Imagine my surprise when I hoisted the main — and was showered with a bird's nest and a couple of little eggs that broke in my cockpit. This after just reading about a similar thing happening on Profligate. I'm just glad that baby birds didn't fall out of the sail.

Gregory Clausen
Wisdom, Santana 30/30
Marin County


We recently had a great exchange with Christian Mancebo regarding the Nayarit Riviera Marina's slip rates for this fall and winter, and it looks as though they'll be doing a 180° turn in their pricing. He quoted us a 35 cents/foot/day rate for October, which is 15 cents/foot/day less than Paradise Village, and he said that, once the season starts, the Nayarit Riviera Marina will be very competitive with Paradise Village. We think that might make a lot of boatowners happy.

John & Gilly Foy
Destiny, Catalina 42
Alameda / Punta Mita

Readers — Perhaps the greatest evidence that price does matter to boatowners is that Paradise Marina is now, during the offseason, running at nearly 100% occupancy, while the Nayarit Riviera Marina, which opened with significantly higher rates, is operating at something like 10% occupancy. Nayarit Riviera Marina Manager Mancebo tells us they are also working on other ways of attracting boatowners. For instance, they are awarding a perpetual trophy to the first Ha-Ha boat of the year to move into the marina. Last year it was won by Bill Thomas' Vallejo-based C&C 30 Capt. George Thomas. In addition, the marina is in talks with Philo Hayward of Philo's Bar and Music Studio to hold Wednesday night concerts in the amphitheater that's built into the marina breakwater. They are also thinking about addressing the serious problem of not having a pool by putting one in, along with a snack bar, at the entrance of the breakwater, a spot that would afford a great view of the bay and mountains. We think these are all great ideas.

Of course, nobody should forget that Emilio Oyarzabal Garcia, Director General of Marina Nuevo Vallarta, has told us he expects many of the 230 slips — at what will be an entirely rebuilt and vastly upgraded Marina Nuevo Vallarta — will be ready by the start of the winter season, and that they intend to be very competitive with their pricing.

If things work out, mariners will have more and better choices in Banderas Bay — perhaps the best sailing area in Mexico — than they've had for years.


I'm attaching a photo of the GPS we installed in Puerto Vallarta last January, shortly before heading back down to Panama and into the Caribbean again. In May of this year, we were making the passage from Panama's San Blas Islands to Cartagena, Colombia, and enjoying a 10-knot-reach breeze in what were just wonderful sailing conditions. We knew there was a slow-moving low in the area, but there hadn't been any squall activity.

But at midnight there was a sudden blast of cool air, and Little Wing started to accelerate. She got going so fast that there was spray everywhere, and we cut the crests of waves with the crossbeam as we bore away. The velocity just kept increasing, so there was no time to shorten sail. What a rush! It would have been much more pleasant, of course, had it been daylight, and had we not left the port open that allowed spray to drench a computer.

I remember seeing the speed predictions that Morrelli & Melvin did for a cat of theirs that was similar in size and displacement to my Little Wing. Their predicted top speed of 32 knots seemed a little farfetched to me, as in my experience, we'd been able to hit 18 knots easily but found that it had been very tough getting over 20 knots. But on that night in the Caribbean, with just a main and headsail, we almost effortlessly bested our previous high speed of 23 knots. And mind you, that mark had been set in 37 knots of true wind while carrying a massive 4,300 square feet of sail. With that sail configuration, Little Wing's bow was down, her stern was up, and I felt we were right on the edge. But this time, with just the main and a regular headsail, we had much better control and, as the photo of the GPS shows, hit 29.5 knots, and thus were going much faster.

P.S. Unlike in the Banderas Bay Blast last December, we'd had our bottom cleaned before leaving the Hollandes Cay, so it was no longer like a shag rug.

John Haste
Little Wing, Perry 52
San Diego / Colombia

Readers — Wow, that's moving! We can't help but wonder if any of Bob Perry's designs have ever sailed as fast as his 52-ft Little Wing, which, make no mistake about it, is a full-on cruising cat. As a result of Little Wing's tremendous burst of speed, we got on 'Lectronic and asked the owners of other cruising cats to report their top speeds. Their responses appear below.


In the June 4 'Lectronic, you asked owners of cruising cats to report their top speeds. My Eclipse was only 32 feet, so we never hit 29.5 knots like John Haste did with his Perry 52 Little Wing, but we did hit 21 knots with her shortly after she was launched and before I started using her as a liveaboard cruiser. Later, we hit 16 knots while crossing the Atlantic. We then sailed the 60-mile-long north coast of Puerto Rico, anchor to anchor, at an average speed of nine knots, something we repeated on a 60-mile stretch of the north coast of Cuba. Both of those passages were under autopilot. As veteran sailors know, the peak speed of any passage is usually near double the average speed on that passage.

However, I must say that I was even more pleased with Eclipse's windward, rather than offwind, performance. This was most notably true in the 60-mile '02 Round the Island (Isle of Wight) Race in England, an event that attracted 1,700 entries, 50 of them multihulls. My cat was the only cruising catamaran to stay in contact with the Farrier trimarans and, in fact, we even beat a couple of them. Our start was 10 minutes before that of the high-performance Mumm 30 monohulls. I was somewhat surprised that they caught up with us on the run, and we rounded the leeward mark in the company of three of them. But then, much to their surprise — and disgust! — we overtook them on the beat home, despite the fact that, unlike us, they weren't carrying a dinghy in davits. By the way, I had a journalist aboard from Practical Boat Owner who can confirm this story. So who says cruising multihulls don't go to windward?

We're currently sailing our 25-ft Merlin catamaran in British Columbia. We've raced her with some success, and have cruised her when the weather has allowed. I've also been doing some racing aboard Bad Kitty, a 25-year-old, 35-ft one-off catamaran that was designed by Karl Utoff. We finished first in the Cape Flattery Race, just beating the F40 Dragonfly — which admittedly had a terrible race. But again, the best part was overtaking performance monohulls such as Santa Cruz 52s and the Wylie 70 ULDB Rage to windward in light winds. And yes, we do have a video to prove it. So again, who says cruising catamarans don't go to windward?

Jetti Matzke of Oakland and I recently bought a new — to us — cruising catamaran, Bombay Duck, which is a 34-ft Romany design of mine. This is to replace our much-missed Eclipse, which you'll recall we abandoned in a Tehuantepecker. Our new cat is currently located in Virginia. We plan to cruise her in the Bahamas this winter, then probably head further south in '09-'10.

When not sailing, I'm building the prototype Strike 18, which is a beach cat/trimaran conversion. I started by buying an old 18 m² Morrelli cat for just $600, and then spent another $900 for the plywood and epoxy for the main hull. So, for under $2,000, we'll have a fast daysailer/weekender.

On an entirely different subject, my non-sailing friends attended the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Oakland a few months ago. They thought the show was nice, but came away without really knowing what to do next if they were interested in buying a boat. It would have helped if there had been a general information stand with a sign that said 'Welcome to Sailing' and provided information on things such as whether you needed to take classes to sail a boat, what was involved with buying a boat, what kind of equipment is mandatory, what sailing clubs there are to join, and so forth. Sort of a dummy's guide to getting into sailing. Maybe they could do something like that next year.

Richard Woods
Woods Designs
Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN United Kingdom

Readers — Anyone interested in small cruising cats may want to check out Woods' site at


I've enclosed a photo of the knotmeter on my Lidgard 43 catamaran RotKat after an exhilarating sail from Pier 39 in San Francisco to Sausalito a few weeks ago. We probably hit the top speed near Alcatraz, where I estimate the true wind was in the low 30s. We'd 'forgotten' to reef because it hadn't looked that windy. But that's not a bad speed for a 43-ft cruising cat.

Arjan Bok
RotKat, Lidgard 43
San Francisco

Arjan — Not bad indeed. For readers who may not remember, Arjan did the '00 Ha-Ha with his much-loved Newport 33 Tiger Beetle, after which he decided he might want a larger boat for cruising. He bought the plans for a Lidgard 43 cat and spent years building it in San Francisco. The result is fantastic, in a very clean, simple and hi-tech way. Bok is a bargain hunter, and managed to incorporate many used items in his new boat. The wheels, for example, were originally on Profligate!


Despite carrying just a staysail and a double-reefed main, we hit 23.5 knots in the Med with our Switch 51 Beach House when she was new and light. It happened off Cabo Creus at the border between France and Spain, which is also known as the 'Cape Horn of the Mediterranean'. The wind was blowing 30-35 knots, with a few gusts to 40.

We've been cruising for almost a year, and are currently in La Paz. It's hot!

Scott & Cindy Stolnitz
Beach House, Switch 51
Marina del Rey / Mexico


When discussing top cruising cat speeds, you noted that, "while high speeds are often possible, they're not necessarily always desirable." Then you continued to say, "As far as we're concerned, hitting the 20s during the day for a few hours isn't bad, nor is hitting 15 during the night. Beyond that, it's more relaxing and comfortable to sail a little slower, thank you." It gave me a laugh because, when we sailed past Isla Cedros before dawn on Profligate in the '06 Ha-Ha, I seem to recall that Assistant Poobah Andy Turpin hit 24 knots while the Grand Poobah was sleeping.

My wife Leslie and I will see you on this fall's Ha-Ha, as we'll be sailing down with friends.

Ron Sherwin

Ron — Because the wind often funnels down from the tall peaks of Cedros, we always like to be ready for a big increase in wind speed. So when we knocked off that night, we remember giving specific instructions to the crew to keep the boat speed under 15 knots. So there we were in our bunk, trying to get a little shut-eye before getting up and doing the net early the next morning. Every half hour or so we'd glance at the GPS mounted above our berth to make sure everyone was taking it easy. Every time we glanced at the GPS, the boat was within the speed parameters that we'd given. But the last time we peeked, the GPS read a steady 21.5 knots. We bolted out of our bunk, not liking it at all. But once on deck, everything was not only fine, it was great, with the cat sailing as smooth as silk. So the problem is really with us, not the cat.


In 'Lectronic you reported that the 100-ft ICAP Leopard set a monohull record across the Atlantic for boats with power-assisted winches. But you also reported that it was about a day slower than the mark set by the 140-ft schooner Mari Cha IV, which presumably did not have power-assisted winches.

One would think the power-assisted winches would be considered an advantage, and the phrase would only exist on a record that eclipsed a monohull record set by a boat with manual winches. If Leopard crossed in a slower time than Mari Cha, she doesn’t hold a record. Yes, it may have been the fastest crossing by a boat with the advantage of power winches, but it still wasn’t as fast as the disadvantaged Mari Cha — so who cares? It was probably also the fastest passage by a gray boat, by a boat named after a cat, by a boat with a skipper with initials C.S., and so forth. But again, so what?

It seems like an impressive boat, a top skipper and fast crossing — but not a record.

Jonathan Ogle
Serendipity, Pisces 21

Jonathan — Even though we've sailed with owner Mike Slade and captain Chris Sherlock on the previous Leopard, and consider them friends, there is no way we can deny the validity of your argument. It is a little bogus to characterize Leopard's time as a record.

In Leopard's defense, one might argue that 100-footers are sort of the standard of large racing yachts these days, and that few if any of them would have a chance against a boat with a 40-ft longer waterline.


I decided to forward the accompanying photo that a friend sent after sailing between Manzanillo and Ixtapa in Mexico. It will help mariners know to expect something unusual — members of the Mexican military wearing masks.

I was told that members of the military wear masks to protect their identity when stopping vessels. The reasoning is that, if they are lucky enough to nab smugglers, they won't be identified, and they and their families won't be threatened or killed by members of the drug cartels. If this seems strange, remember that some of our DEA agents also wear masks when they conduct raids.

I'm told that the members of the boarding party were professional, and didn't mind having their photos taken — with the masks on.

Bill Seals
Planet Earth

Readers — Mexico is in the midst of a very serious battle to determine whether the country will be controlled by a democratically elected government or vicious drug cartels that exist only because of the insatiable appetite Americans have for controlled substances. We don't know of anyone who objects to members of the Mexico military wearing masks, given that drug cartels are trying to scare off the government by killing as many members of law enforcement as possible, often in the most gruesome ways. So the next time somebody gets ready to do a line of coke, they might look to see if it's colored by the blood of lots of innocent victims.


The May issue interview with Glenn Tieman, who has done, and is doing, amazing things with primitive catamarans, was fascinating. I was hoping that you could elaborate about two things he mentioned.

First, he said he could receive hourly weather reports from WWVH in Hawaii. What is the least expensive radio for receiving such broadcasts? I thought VHF reception was only good for about 30 miles. Could a sailor receive weather reports from a mainland station for the first half of a trip between San Francisco and Hawaii?

Tieman also mentioned 12-inch by 12-inch solar panels with the "smallest deep cycle batteries." Do you know where these items can be purchased?

Jeff Stump
Indifference, Buchan 37

Jeff — VHF radio is only good for line-of-sight, meaning about 35 miles — except in unusual cases when it can skip hundreds of miles. But they are more expensive than what Tieman paid for his simple radio with shortwave capability. According to NOAA's website, many such radios are available ranging in price from $20 to $200. Check the internet. But just because NOAA broadcasts on that site every hour doesn't mean you could pick up the broadcast every hour. Radio propagation isn't that reliable over long distances.

Carrying such a basic radio was consistent with Tieman's simple approach to cruising. Almost everyone else who sails from California to Hawaii would have more sophisticated — and admittedly more expensive — ways to access weather. Among them are SSB or ham radio, which with proper software, could provide text and graphic images of the weather. In addition, those who own satphones could contact professional weather sites for forecasts.

Small solar panels and deep cycle batteries are commodities that you can find in all marine stores and many other retailers. Solar panel technology is improving rapidly, so you may want to look for the newer models. We finally got two of our four 85-watt solar panels hooked up on Profligate, and are very pleased with the results. While she anchored off Catalina, they are keeping the batteries topped up, despite the use of anchor lights, the stereo, the computer and, the most draining, the refrigerator/freezer. We used to have to run the engine about an hour every other day and are now down to running it about an hour every week. When we double our solar panel capacity in the fall, we expect that we'll seldom have to use the engine except for propulsion. There's a sizeable initial investment in solar, of course, but once you make it, the power is free, you eliminate much annoying engine noise, and you leave much less of a carbon footprint. We highly recommend it. And for more ways to lessen your boat's 'footprint', be sure to read 10 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint starting on page 132.


In 'Lectronic you asked for reports on Baja Bashes this year. We had a surprisingly easy trip from Cabo to San Diego. We even had it good all the way to Morro Bay, after which Pt. Sur gave us a little schooling.

We were late for the big window around April 12, as we'd continued playing around near Agua Verde following the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week. But we left Isla Partida and covered 95 miles to Frailes under a full main and poled out jib in just over 10 hours in a mild — 20 knots or so — Norther.

We got to Cabo the following day, and found no boats waiting, as they'd all left in the good weather a few days before. But as the weather was supposed to stay good for another 24 to 48 hours, we provisioned and left at dawn the next morning. We had flat calm all the way from Cabo Falso to about 10 miles from Turtle Bay — which is about half the distance from Cabo to San Diego — and covered it in just 48 hours. We had thick fog most of the way to keep us on our toes.

We spent the whole next day in Turtle Bay, packed up the dingy, davits, and everything else we could, and departed at 5 a.m. Initially, the forecast was for another three-day 'window', but Don Anderson of Summer Passage shortened it to about 36 hours. As a result, a bunch of boats that left Turtle Bay with us turned back. But we continued on and made San Diego in 43 hours.

We had a little breeze around San Carlos, but never saw over 15 knots the entire way from Cabo to San Diego, and 90% of the time it was five knots or less. Our Bash took a total of just under six days — including the 48 hours we spent in Turtle Bay.

After a short stay in San Diego — including a side trip to Disneyland — we made it to Morro Bay in just over 48 hours, including a nice overnight stay at Avalon. There were mild Santa Anas, so we rounded Pt. Conception in calm conditions with occasional offshore blasts of warm air! Arguello gave us a short stint of 30 knots, but that was all until Morro Bay.

Making it around Pt. Sur required some persistence. In our first attempt, we departed San Simeon at night in a moderate breeze, but by the time we got to Pt. Lopez at 4 a.m., the wind was blowing a steady 36 knots and gusting to 42. In addition, the waves had a diabolic nature characterized by occasional sidewinders that would really soak down the cockpit. Since it was night, there were only two of us, and the forecast called for a full gale within 24 hours, we retreated to Morro Bay to try again a couple of days later.

During our second attempt we had the same high 30 and low 40 winds at Pt. Lopez but, as it was daytime, we soldiered on through the last 10 miles and dropped the hook at Pfeiffer Cove. You've got to love the name of the beach at Pfeiffer — Shipwreck Beach.

After a rolly night on the hook, we left at dawn again, and had high winds in the high 20s and low 30s to Pt. Sur and again to Año Nuevo. But after that, it was mostly 15 knots to San Francisco. Note that on both occasions, the forecast for the Pt. Sur area — Piños to Piedras Blancas — was for 10-20 knots. This seemed generally accurate, except that the Pt. Sur acceleration zone reached 20 miles south of the point and doubled or tripled the wind north of the Point.

All in all, our Bash conditions were much better than expected, but we did intentionally wait around for good weather, and when we had it, we went straight through without stopping, even though there were only two of us. We made the decision to go with just us, as it allowed us more flexibility with timing. It seems to have been a good decision.

The availability of accurate weather information — especially GRIB files via SailMail and Anderson's radio forecasts — helped make it an easier trip.

Brendan Busch & Baba Muller
Isis, SC52
La Honda


It's been rough out there doing the Bash this season because of all the storms in Southern California. In fact, after spending about 20 hours making it up to Mag Bay in late May, I decided to return to La Paz. It was taking longer than I thought, and I was under some time constraints, so I'll try again in July. I'll let you know how it goes.

Axel Heller
XTerra Firma, Formosa 47
Temple City

Axel — Based on the reports we've gotten, it's been a typical Baja Bash season. Those who got good windows, or were able to wait until they got good windows, had pretty easy trips. Those who didn't have the luxury of being able to wait for a window, had every kind of trip imaginable — great, good, bad, or terrible.


After having a great first time cruising to Mexico with the '07 Baja Ha-Ha, we had our daughter Chancy and son-in-law Gabe — he had only been home from Iraq for two weeks — join us in the Sea of Cortez for more great sailing, snorkeling, and diving. But we all had to fly home when my mother suffered a heart attack and passed away a week later.

Having left Cool Breeze in San Jose del Cabo, I decided to fly back and do the Bash singlehanded. It took me a total of 11 days to make it to Ensenada, two of them spent on the hook in Turtle Bay.

It was rough three times. Two of them were on the second and third evenings of my Bash. On both occasions, the swells and current became so strong at about 7 p.m., that my autopilot was unable to hold a course. As a result, I was glued to the helm for both nights for about 10 hours. And when I took my eyes off the compass to look at the radar screen for a second or two, I'd be thrown 20° off course.

The third rough time was the first night I was anchored at Turtle Bay, when I woke up at 2 a.m. to find the wind blowing 35 knots and Cool Breeze dragging closer to the reef. It was a little hard to keep my bearings as I tried to raise my anchor, when a power outage on shore blew all the lights out. I finally did get the anchor up and was able to motor to the north shore and reset my hook. The shore lights came on about two hours later.

Checking out of Mexico in Ensenada went smoothly. Fortunately, I'd purchased Mexican liability insurance at the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party in San Diego in October. I didn't think that I'd need a copy of my insurance to clear out, but they made it clear that either I had to go back to my boat to get a copy, or I was going to have to buy a new policy. I did the former. But I was really surprised that I needed to have the insurance to check out.

The next day I checked back into the States in San Diego. I made it from San Diego to Bodega Bay in seven days, including a stop in Santa Barbara. I left Cool Breeze in Bodega Bay until there was a beautiful weather window a month later. That window allowed me to make a three-day sail up to Winchester Bay, Oregon. The only mishap occurred at 11 p.m. while I was rounding Pt. Mendocino, when the block on the main's outhaul snapped, allowing the foot to fly freely.

I docked at my home port of Winchester Bay at 10 a.m. on May 18, having had a great time. I'm looking forward to a future Baja Ha-Ha, and want to thank Latitude and the Ha-Ha crew for that wonderful event.

John Beane
Cool Breeze, Catalina 42
Winchester Bay, Oregon


Here's our Baja Bash report: Scott from Adios Pirate and I left La Paz on May 15, six months after doing the '07 Ha-Ha (our second) and arrived in San Diego 10 days later. We sat out a gale in Turtle Bay for three days, but other than that, had a pretty easy trip.

We fueled up in San Jose del Cabo to avoid entering the Cabo San Lucas madhouse. We were hit with about 30 knots off Cabo at 6 p.m., and it took us two hours to clear Cabo Falso. Several other boats turned back, but we broke out and the wind backed off at about 9 p.m.

We had 25 to 30 knots the next day, and an ugly 6-ft swell. But that let up around dark. After that, we probably didn't see 15 knots at sea for the rest of the trip. As previously mentioned, we did wait out a gale in Turtle Bay.

Vinmar uses a half gallon of fuel per hour at 2,500 rpms. We ran at 2,800 rpms to Turtle Bay and, as a result, used 50 gallons of fuel, quite a bit more than our average. We motored at 2,600 rpm from Turtle Bay to San Diego, and used only 35 gallons.

Customs in San Diego asked for our passports and boat registration, and didn't even step aboard. It took 10 minutes.

Two problems revealed themselves once we were back in our slip in San Diego. First, we had fried the four-year-old batteries by not having a three-stage charger on the engine alternator. Second, we shook crud loose in the fuel system and filled the filter bowl.

The best Bash advice I received — and it came from several different sources — was to keep moving whenever possible and as fast as possible. Several boats left Turtle Bay when we did, but stopped at San Quintin and had a lot worse weather the rest of the way than we did.

A big thanks to Don of Summer Passage for his weather information. His forecasts for the gale were spot on.

Scott Haselton
Vinmar, Ranger 33
San Diego


My wife, Debbie, and two stepsons, Matt and Jake, did the '06 Ha-Ha aboard our Westsail 32 Sosiego, and based our 'commuter cruising' out of La Paz. In the spring of this year, Joey, my youngest son, and I, delivered the boat home. We learned a lot about the local weather patterns and how to best tackle a Bash on that trip.

Our first challenge was getting through Customs in the La Paz Airport. Naturally, my bag with the new tiller pilot inside was the one they wanted to 'inspect'. I was taken to an office, and after some 'negotiations', my wallet was lighter.

Our next hurdle was provisioning, which required some communications with the taxi driver. The fact that my wife is fluent in Spanish has resulted in me relying on her abilities, so my Spanish is beyond atrocious. Wanting to go to the supermercado, I said, "Cuanto cuesta C.C.C.?" I pronounced the name of the well-known store as 'Si, Si, Si'. After much gesticulating, I learned that C's in Spanish are pronounced like 'Say', and therefore the store is 'Say, Say, Say'.

With provisions loaded, anchors stowed, bottom scrubbed, and boat rigged for sea, we made an overnight dash to Cabo San Lucas. We had to motor the entire way because there was no wind. Was our delivery going to be a piece of cake?

In preparation for the trip north from Cabo, I bought and reread a copy of Capt. Jim Elfers' Baja Bash. This book is a wealth of knowledge and just plain good seamanship. Joey and I topped off the tanks, then called Debbie, who was to be our weather router for the Bash. She reported a two-day window, so we bunked down early to make a 4 a.m. attempt at Cabo Falso. As Cabo veterans know, the disco music doesn't end until 4 a.m., so sleep was hard to come by at best. We had confused seas at Cabo Falso, but no gusts over 25 knots.

After six hours of 'washing machine' fun, we had a foot on the beach and were making good time toward Mag Bay. I must confess, however, that this was the scary part of the trip for me. A friend had lost his 40-ft ketch on this stretch of coast the previous fall. The pounding had opened up a seam, and he eventually lost a fight with rising water. He lost his boat, but was rescued by fishermen before he had to take to his liferaft. We made it to Bahia Santa Maria — 175 miles north of Cabo — in two days, with the strongest wind being the 20 knots we had on approach to the bay itself at sunset.

With the anchor holding well, my son and I slept like the dead until our planned departure at noon the next day. Despite Bahia Santa Maria remoteness, I had cell phone reception and was able to call Debbie for a weather report. She said the forecast was for building conditions toward the end of the week, but it looked as though we could make it the 240 miles to Turtle Bay.

Points along the coast accelerate the wind, and nothing demonstrated it more to me than what we faced the next two days. In Baja Bash, Elfers recommends anchoring in the lee of Abreojos. Instead of taking that advice, we continued on. Oops! For the next 24 hours we averaged one knot an hour to the good, went through five fuel filters, and discovered some leaks in my previously dry boat. Lesson learned!

The next afternoon, we were abreast of Asunción, so we ran in to anchor for the night rather than battling on to Turtle Bay. An old dog can learn new tricks! Well rested, we made the hop to Turtle Bay without incident — but just in time. Within hours of our arrival, we were joined by the Mexican tuna fishing fleet, which was also seeking shelter. We spent the next five days having fun with the locals while waiting out gale force winds. My son and I practiced our Spanish with the captain and crew of a fishing boat over a few beers while they practiced their English. By the way, we got the cleanest fuel of our whole trip at Turtle Bay.

Once the weather eased up, we motorsailed for three days and two nights to Ensenada in light winds — nothing over 15 knots — and flat seas. We checked out of Ensenada without difficulty after spending the night tied up next to the Black Pearl! How cool is that?

All in all we made it back under the Gate within two weeks of leaving La Paz. We even had a following wind around Pt. Conception, with a pod of whales as an escort. Even better, we were able to sail wing-on-wing from Monterey to the Bay!

Would I do it again? Hell yes! It was a great time to bond with my son, improve my skills, and meet some of the amazing people of Mexico. I also want to thank the Poobah and everyone else for the fun and memories of a lifetime we got from the '06 Ha-Ha.

Joe & Debbie Graham
Sosiego, 32 Westsail


As many of your readers know, Jim Gray went missing without a trace on January 28, 2007, whilst singlehanding his C&C 40 Tenacious to the Farallones to spread the ashes of his mother. As reported by Latitude and other publications, an extensive three-week search by the Coast Guard and private individuals resulted in no trace of Gray or his red-hulled sailboat.

Last month, over 700 people, including family members, friends and colleagues, gathered at UC Berkeley to honor and remember Gray, and to recognize his wide-ranging contributions to database design and application. One of the ways Gray's family and friends would like him to be honored is by contributions to the U.S. Coast Guard. During the active search for Jim, and in the months that followed, Jim's family and friends worked closely with Coast Guard and found them to be very caring and amazingly competent. Throughout the strain of the search, the members of the Coast Guard were unfailingly polite, respectful, and responsive.

While working with the Coast Guard, Gray's family and friends noticed that certain technological improvements would have helped in the search. For example, if the cameras on the Golden Gate bridge that keep track of boat traffic had higher resolution, they might have recorded a possible attempt by Jim to return to the Bay. Or, if there had been a portable cellphone base station that could be flown during the search, some sign of his cellphone or PDA might have been found.

As such, Jim's widow, Donna, has asked those who want to make a contribution to make it directly to the Coast Guard, San Francisco Sector, for their acquisition of better technology for Search and Rescue operations. This is both as a thank you to the Coast Guard, and to help the next time there is a search.

Donations in honor of Jim Gray may be sent to: USCG Sector San Francisco, Attn: Deputy Sector Commander, One Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco, CA  94130.
Joel 'Not The Weatherman' Bartlett


The May Letters section featured the usual interesting reading, as it was populated by pirates, jungle boys, and surfers who warmed their wetsuits by illegally urinating within the three-mile limit. The pirates were outwitted, the jungle boys adopted by yachties, and the surfers urged to wear diapers. Woo-hoo!

But Steve Granville from San Rafael won my Golden Tiller award for his comments on the unconventional boat Virgin, which he described as a "tragedy" that he wanted to call an "art boat." If it wasn't "a homeless person's mobile quarters . . . at night to be kept away from prying eyes . . . the seamanlike flourishes form a thin veneer on life at its nadir."

Then the vocabularious correspondent Capt. Granville tops his literary survey with a picture of the Virgin in all her PVC-pipe, epoxy-covered, spray-on foam glory — despite a sign on the bow that reads 'Do Not Photograph'. I guess spring is as good a season as any to be de-Virginized.

Robert, the master of the Virgin, hasn't just sailed from Bolinas, he's navigated all the way from Valdez, Alaska, on Virgin and six similar craft. He says the trip began after the Exxon Valdez spill on March 24, 1989 — including 543 miles from Chief Joseph Dam to Astoria, Oregon, on the Columbia River. The heavily bearded Robert still dresses like an Alaskan sourdough, and considers himself Amish. He refuses to ride in cars, buses, trains or anything with an engine, and doesn't watch television or movies.

If Latitude were courageous enough to speak with him about his many adventures down rivers and oceans, logging more sea time under very challenging conditions than many who call themselves sailors, you could bring a tape-recorder. He doesn't mind those. You can do a painting or charcoal drawing of his boat, too.

After a visit to my Frisco Flyer Titania in Richardson Bay, Robert valiantly paddled against 45-knot winds trying to avoid being sucked out the Golden Gate again. I thought to myself, "There goes a guy with the guts of a sea warrior."

If the American Way of Life were more like Robert's and the Amish, existence would be sometimes uncomfortable. It would also be freer of oil addiction, inequality, ecological suicide, climate change, and war fevers.

The seaworthiness of a boat can't be measured by the varnish or the reflection of a well-fed, shaved face in the brasswork. However distorted that reflection, it's still more truthful than judging another without talking with them first — no matter how different they appear.

Jeff Chase
Titania, Frisco Flyer
Richardson Bay

Robert — Members of our staff have considered visiting Robert, but have found him to be somewhat unapproachable. But if he wants to follow the Amish way of life, we've got no problem with it.

Just to bring non-Amish readers up to speed, perhaps the two core Amish values are the rejection of pride and the willingness to submit to God — which also means a reluctance to assert oneself in any way. Being Amish is all about conforming to the group norm. This anti-individualist bent is, of course, totally in opposition to the classic American — and seafarer — outlook. It's also the rationale for rejecting labor-saving technologies, such as electricity and roller furling, as they would make one less dependent on the community. The fear is that this could lead to things like vanity and status goods — such as photographs. It's also the general reasoning that explains why the Amish are against education beyond the eighth grade.

For what it's worth, we at Latitude believe in almost everything the Amish don't — individualism, self-reliance, education, and technology. Sure, we've found the American Way of Life to be wanting in some regards . . . until we compare it with everything else that is available.


I was called out of class by the sheriff, who instructed me to call the Coast Guard immediately. I did. The Coast Guard told me that they had my Santana 22 at Yerba Buena Station, and that I needed to come and get it that day. They apparently had picked her up drifting around the Bay Bridge. "WTF?" I thought to myself.

I ran out of class and rushed to the marina, where I have my real boat, and left for the station to retrieve my 'dinghy'. When I arrived, the Coasties at the station were very professional and helpful. In fact, I couldn't believe how nice they were. I'm not one for big government — or for government at all, really — but these guys were fantastic. They even had me wanting to join the Coast Guard Reserve. But my distaste for people barking orders at me won out, and I have not yet enlisted. But I digress.

When I got to the dock, I asked what had happened. They told me they'd gotten a call that there was a boat floating aimlessly around the eastern towers of the Bay Bridge — where all the construction and barge traffic is — and so they picked it up. Strange, I thought. I had the Santana securely on the hook in Clipper Cove for the week. And I know how to set a proper anchor. I walked over to my boat, and I immediately noticed something odd. The remaining two feet of anchor rode was cleanly cut — not frayed at all. It was obvious to my eyes that the line had been cut. And to the eyes of the Coasties, once I pointed it out to them.

I know that I shouldn't have expected otherwise, having left my boat unattended for a week or more on the hook, and especially with my already stated inclination towards lawlessness. I guess I was hoping that piracy was not the name of the game in these waters. In fact, it has been quite the opposite of my San Francisco Bay experience. My Santana 22 is not particularly valuable, nor was anything in her. And nothing seemed to be stolen. I guess the spot my boat had been occupying was the plunder that the culprit(s) were after, or perhaps just some sense of malicious gratification.

My Santana is now safe in a marina, undergoing an overhaul, and all is well. A hearty thanks of appreciation to the Coast Guard for softening the brine in my politics. And to the scurvy rats that cut my line, I'll come to collect my bottle of rum, Pusser's please, and take your apologies — lest you extend this invitation to join you in the world's second oldest profession, in which I am equally capable and willing to play.

Avast ye that ply the Bay of the Golden Gate, for there be pirates in these waters.

Capt. Maximus
Pacific Coast and Ocean

Capt. Max — Modern life being what it is, leaving a boat unattended often leads to unintended consequences.

As for the "world's second oldest profession," we checked the internet, and there were no less than 34 candidates, from vintner to accountant. What's your nomination?


My idea for stopping the theft of items for their scrap metal value — such as reported in June's Sightings — is to require scrap yards to hold the items turned in for a week to 10 days, withholding payment as well. This would allow items reported stolen to be claimed, and the thieves to be caught. I doubt the thieves would be willing to wait for the money or risk being arrested when it came time to collect. Sure, it would be a bit of a hassle for those involved in the business, but far less than the hassle endured by those who get ripped off or suffer the effects. These thieves are causing thousands of dollars of damage to sell stuff for just hundreds of dollars. It's got to stop.

Tim Donnelly
Chewink, Goldengate sloop
Pier 39

Tim — We're not familiar enough with the business to know what measures might be both workable and effective, but perhaps requiring sellers to register and document some chain of ownership for the materials they sell might deter some of the thieves.


I appreciate Latitude's Northern California ethos and the inbred Bay Area need to slam Los Angeles whenever possible. So I had to smile when the editor wrote in the June issue, "If we're not mistaken, the City of Los Angeles still pays millions of dollars a year in fines for polluting Santa Monica Bay because it's less expensive than fixing the sewer system."

Well, you are mistaken. A Gannett newspaper study this month, for example, found that L.A. paid a grand total of $1.6 million in fines over the last five years for sewer spills from its 6,500 miles of sewer lines. Contrast that to the $3 million in fines assessed against New York City, and the $6.2 million in fines to San Diego, which has the leakiest sewer system in the west.

Since '98, Los Angeles has met full EPA secondary treatment standards at its Hyperion treatment plant near LAX. All sludge is removed from the 340 million gallons of waste a day before the treated liquid is discharged five miles offshore. L.A. residents have paid extra fees for years to rebuild trunk lines and improve the sewage treatment plant. Sadly, sewage spills do happen, but major upgrades have replaced the oldest section of main lines.

You should also be aware that San Diego is the only city in the country that does not remove sludge from its outfall to the Pacific. San Diego argues that the nutrients — (!) — in their sludge are nothing more than fish food. San Diego has fought hard in Washington for its cherished — read money-saving — federal exemption to the Clean Water Act for 30 years. Yummy.

Hans Laetz
Environmental Reporter
Zuma Beach

Hans — We apologize to everyone for the mistake, and thank you for taking the time to correct us. We'll try to do better in the future.

We're equal opportunity slammers when it comes to pollution. Perhaps you didn't see our earlier reports on the 5.15 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage that ended up in the Bay as a result of January 26 and January 31 raw sewage spills from a treatment plant here in Mill Valley. Almost a month later, Sleepy Hollow and San Rafael had raw sewage incidents involving 8,000 and 6,000 gallons respectively. But according to state records, Richmond has been the worst in the last 12 months, with 60 spills totalling 2.3 million gallons. Records show that in the last 12 months there have been 276 sewage spills in the Bay Area involving 1,000 gallons or more. So it's not like Northern California poop doesn't stink — or end up in the Bay.


When I got back from a vacation in Cancun, the first thing I did was grab a copy of Latitude — and was amazed to find that the Lee Helm character in the Max Ebb feature was reading a book about partial differential equations. Amazed because my father, John Crank, was instrumental in figuring out how to solve such things. I'd like to know how Max Ebb thought of it being a topic for reading in a Coast Guard class.

By the way, you can Google my dad's name to find his obituary.

Peter Crank
Los Angeles


Joel Ross of San Diego wrote in saying he was looking for the boat used in the movie Captain Ron. I know where she is. She's owned by At The Helm charters in Kemah, Texas, which is on the Gulf Coast not far from Houston. The outfit can be reached at (281) 334-4101.

James "Boof" Henderson
Bryght Endeavors, Gossard G41
San Pedro Bay

Readers — Captain Ron, the '92 flick that starred Kurt Russell, has become a cult film among sailors because of dialogue such as this:

Captain Ron, while they are lost in a big storm: "We should be okay. 'Cause I know we're near land."

Martin Harvey, owner of the boat: "Great, Cap. Great. Ya hear that? We're almost there. Explain to the kids how you know that, Captain Ron."

Captain Ron: "All right, now stay with me: When we left, we had just enough fuel to make it to San Juan. And we are out of fuel."

According to Amazon, 97 of the 119 people who rated the film gave it five stars. What they really meant was that it was among their "favorite stupid movies."


I have a question regarding coastal cruising. I'm delivering a catamaran from Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay, and find that the lesser mass of a catamaran is a disadvantage when powering into headseas. Currently we're at Port San Luis awaiting more favorable conditions to continue on.

You've probably moved Latitude's catamaran Profligate north along this route many times. What time of year do you find best for the passage? What weather patterns are conducive to southwest or southerly winds between Pt. Conception and San Francisco Bay? Do you hug the coast or go offshore?

Charles & Karin Coleman
Bay Area

Charles and Karin — You didn't mention what size or kind of catamaran you're talking about. Shorter cats can have trouble with strong headseas because they'll pitch a lot and, if they're heavy, they'll also slam into seas like a monohull. But longer and lighter cats can actually motor into headseas rather well, as their bows lift over the seas instead of bashing into them. But when the seas get big enough, there is simply no alternative to slowing down, and if it's bad enough, really slowing down.

Percentage wise, the best time of year to come north is November through February, as there are often long calm spells between storms. Fall is probably the second best time. Spring and summer are probably the worst, but unfortunately, that's when most folks want their boats brought north.

If you can have a flexible schedule, you can still find windows in the spring and summer. When you do find one, go like hell for as long as the window is open. But no matter what the forecast, you should always assume that you'll get hit by 30 knots of wind or more along the Central California coast, so know where your shelters are. The two worst stretches are usually Pt. Conception and just south of Pt. Sur.

Southerly winds between L.A. and San Francisco? They are very common with storm fronts in the winter. In the summer, you'll only find them when the normal summer weather pattern goes completely wacky. By the way, we just checked, and based on their forecast, it looks as if the normal summer weather pattern will be wacko for the next week, and as such, you're in for one of the best and longest spring-summer weather windows we've seen for the Central California coast in years. Good on ya!


It's us again. Thanks very much for informing us about the website. What a great tool that is! Right now I'm coordinating with the owner and another crewmember to leave on Sunday. We'll let you know how accurate that forecast was when we get to Vallejo.

Update: When I first contacted you, we'd interrupted the Gemini 34 cat delivery at Port San Luis because of gale force northwest winds along the coast. On May 24 — the beginning of the window of relative calm was identified by — we resumed the delivery and motored nonstop to Vallejo in 43 hours. The conditions were ideal — light southerly winds and a very gentle 4-ft swell from the northwest. I've never experienced a better weather pattern for going north along the coast. The website is an excellent tool and gives a more complete look at future conditions than the NOAA forecasts.

Charles Coleman
Delivery Captain

Charles — We're glad it worked for you. We don't think it ever pays to fight gale force winds, as you do nothing but beat up the boat and the crew. As for, we think it's like a lot of similar sites in that they get most of their information from the U.S. government. The difference is that much of the same information is presented differently, with some being more user friendly than others.


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