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September 2008

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I keep hearing about a 'garbage heap' out in the center of the Pacific Ocean, but don't remember Latitude ever writing about it. If it's as bad as people seem to say, wouldn't it be a navigational hazard to small boats such as 30-footers? Do the weather folks ever fill in mariners on how to best avoid such an area?

By the way, I was sad to note the passing of Mark Rudiger. I was inspired by the stories you did on him years ago when he modified his 29-ft wood boat to race in the Singlehanded TransPac and cruise to New Zealand.

Steve Cooper
Rainbow, Rawson 30

Steve — If people use the word 'heap' — meaning "a mound or pile of a particular substance" — we'd say they were exaggerating about the amount of garbage in the Pacific. What most folks refer to are chunks of styrofoam, plastic bottles, big plastic bags, glass balls, fishing buoys, tangles of fishing line and other things that are such striking a contrast to the blue waters of the Pacific. It's theorized that there is a Pacific gyre from which most of this trash can't escape. Unfortunately, it's reputed to be the size of Texas, so it would be hard to sail around. In any event, if you have a decently built 30-footer, your boat shouldn't have any problem with the normal kind of garbage.

Abnormal garbage is another matter. For example, on the way back from the Singlehanded TransPac, singlehander Mark Deppe of the J/120 Alchera came across a full-size refrigerator, minus a door. Fortunately, he was in the calm waters of the Pacific High, because it conceivably could have caused damage to his boat if he'd been surfing down a wave. Other atypical garbage includes containers that have fallen off ships, barrels, half-sunk and off-station buoys, cylinders from Air Force rockets, eight-ft-tall Lego men, and god only knows what else. Perhaps the best place to find out about the possibilities is Beachcomber's Alert, an entertaining non-profit quarterly newsletter.

There are stretches of water besides the mid-Pacific where we think there are greater floating dangers. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, logs are a major hazard. Floating logs are bad enough, but the deadheads — logs which float vertically — can be particularly destructive to hulls. And as far as 100 miles off the coast of Colombia, there are dead cattle, trees, bushes, and other stuff that has travelled down the Rio Magdalena and 'streamed' far into the Caribbean Sea. We remember surfing down waves on the way from Antigua to Panama, and having to change course rapidly to avoid small logs and other solid objects. Debris at sea is certainly a danger to think about — particularly on dark and windy nights when you're fatigued — but regular garbage shouldn't cause you grief.


In last month's Hiking the Channel Islands article, mention was made of an easier hike up Santa Cruz's Mount Diablo from Coches Prietos. Unfortunately, that was an editing error, as there is no access to Mt. Diablo from Coches Prietos — without crossing the Central Valley, and that's off limits, even to Nature Conservancy permit holders. It may not seem like a big deal, but info about how to climb Mt. Diablo is impossible to come by, and I’d feel terrible if people found out the hard way that the article was wrong.

Chad Kominek (‘03 Ha-Ha Vet)
Bella Dama, Islander 36

Chad — We apologize for that editing error to your otherwise very informative article.


Regarding your Eye on the Bay spread in the August issue, the Bristol you weren't able to identify is Gypsy, one of Cass' Marina's four nifty rental Bristol 27 daysailors in Sausalito. The other three are Nomad, Hobo, and Vagabond. These boats have been in service for many years. In fact, I remember renting one of them in the late '60s! Cass' has obviously done a great job maintaining the Bristol 27s, as they do all with all the boats in their fleet.

The Bristol 27 is a sweet looking and sweet sailing design from the board of great naval architect Carl Alberg. I remember seeing one on a mooring in the Benjamin River in Maine while on a charter, and she had that look that grabs one who appreciates what sailboats used to — and should — look like.

I left the Bay Area in '82, but return occasionally to visit. When I do, I usually try to rent a boat from Cass'. It's always a treat.

Larry Cooperman
Columbia Challenger
San Diego


I was shocked and saddened by the premature passing of Mark Rudiger, but I thought the Latitude piece by John Riise really captured the character of this great sailor and human being.

I first met Mark before the Singlehanded TransAtlantic Race (CSTAR) in '88, an event in which Mark sailed the Newick 40 trimaran Ocean Surfer to second place in Class 4. Mark had caught the keen eye of designer Dick Newick who, recognizing his great talent, chose Mark to skipper the trimaran. I sailed my Shuttleworth 42 trimaran Damiana in the same event. I kept a close rhumbline course, and was ahead of Mark most of the way across. But Mark reached up from the south in the last few hundred miles, crossed in front of me, and beat me to the finish.

It was obvious from way back then that Mark was very sharp, a great sailor, and an all around great guy with a wry wit. Ocean Surfer was an overweight racer, and not as fast as advertised, but Mark got the most out of her. I remember him reporting that a leaking hatch had resulted in the trimaran becoming Ocean Submerger.

After building the high-powered Shuttleworth 30 trimaran Nai’a, I asked Mark to join our crew. He didn't hesitate, as he loved fast boats of any kind. He immediately fell in love with her. I warned him that the tri was overpowered and hadn't been fully shaken down, so I wanted to know if he was ready for it. "I was born ready," he replied, and he wasn't bragging.

On our first race with Nai'a, the Windjammers in '92, we chased the Antrim 40 tri Aotea down the coast off Davenport. Mark was driving hard with full main and spinnaker in strong afternoon winds and big seas, when the rudder ventilated. Nai'a rounded up into the wind and capsized backwards. Mark came up apologizing profusely, but it hadn't been his fault. With a 50-ft wing mast and very fine bow, Nai'a's stern would often lift, causing the rudder to ventilate. But Mark, a great competitor, was always going for the win.

Mark went out with us on the salvage boat, and helped us bring Nai’a back in. I have a picture of him standing on the flipped trimaran hooking up the tow line. We ended up lengthening Nai’a to 36 feet and fitting her with three rudders. Mark later helped sail her to victory in a Silver Eagle Race and a Doublehanded Lightship Race.

A few years ago I called Mark to ask him to do the weather routing for me on my next solo record attempt to Japan with my monohull Thursday’s Child. Mark said sure, if he could fit it into his busy schedule. I ended up not going. I sold Thursday’s Child 2.5 years ago, and bought a Grainger 43 trimaran I've renamed Dolphin Spirit. I'm getting her ready for another go at the solo record to Japan next year, and had planned to have Mark do the weather routing. He would have loved the lines, the power, and the speed of Dolphin Spirit. My sail to Japan will be dedicated to ending the dolphin slaughter in that country, but I also will sail with fond memories of Mark, and try to summon up some of his skill and determination when I need it.

Michael Reppy
Dolphin Spirit Project
Earth Island Institute

Readers — We were friends with Mark Rudiger when he was a 'nobody' installing various boat systems in Sausalito in the '70s. Over the years we raced with him and against him, saw him at any number of TransPac finishes, and even cast off the lines of his Carlsen 29 when he and his then-wife Kay left the Ala Wai for New Zealand. We last saw Mark at last year's St. Francis Big Boat Series, as he'd just flown in from the Maxi World Cup in Sardinia. He hadn't changed a bit. For despite having become well-established as one of the most respected sailor/navigators in the world, he was as friendly and modest as ever. Mark was a special sailor and an exemplary person, and we'll miss him.


Regarding the crew overboard training piece in the August Sightings, it contains the following quote: "There's no way my wife could get me onboard with a 3:1 tackle". The man quoted was speaking about his LifeSling, so I guess that I'm a little confused by that product.

I participated in the Latitude 'sponsored' Crew Overboard Program (COB) a few years ago, and I remember a seminar at which the speaker said that the block and tackle — included in the LifeSling — was to be used to connect the main halyard to the person in the water, but not to actually lift the person out of the water. Main halyards are typically not long enough for the shackle to connect directly to the person in the water. So, you use the tackle to connect the halyard to the person, and take up slack with the tackle. Then you winch-up using the main halyard. Indeed, most tackles I've seen are made using small line, which would cut a person's hands if they tried to lift a person with it.

Incidentally, I don't see any tackle in the photograph. Am I right that Mary SwiftSwan's rig doesn't use one? Is that line an integral part of her rig, or is that line the main halyard? I'm guessing it's not the main halyard, considering there are at least two 'figure eight' knots in the line, which would make it hard to be used as a halyard.

P.S. I've loved Latitude since I first took up sailing back in 1987.

(Mr.) Leslie D. Waters
San Jose

Leslie — Mary Swift Swan responds: "Actually, more than one boat under 40 feet in our group discovered that a higher-ratio block and tackle worked much better for them. Remember that hoisting tackle are optional for LifeSlings, and must be purchased separately.

"The pre-packaged 3:1 line is indeed small. Under pressure, the line hurts the hands and is hard to pull. Gerhart's 30-ft boat has small winches, which made it hard for his wife to pull a person of his size out of the water. The 5:1 or 6:1 tackle worked much better with thicker line. The larger boats didn't have a problem with the lower-ratio hoisting tackle as the larger winches accommodated more wraps.

"Here's how to use a block and tackle with a LifeSling:

1) Heave to or douse sails to free the main halyard

2) Connect the top of the tackle to the main halyard

3) Raise and secure the halyard 10-15 feet off the deck

4) Lead the line that exits from the top of the tackle through a fairlead to a multi-speed winch in the cockpit

5) Clip the other end to the LifeSling

6) Grind the winch to bring the person up and out of the water, and clear of the lifelines

"The Swift Recovery device you noticed has a 50-ft 'soft touch' floating line. There are a series of eight knots in the line near the floats which are meant to be used as handholds. There is indeed a hoisting tackle clipped into one of the knots, but it is optional because the line provides extension and can be connected directly to the halyard if a two-speed or electric halyard winch is available.

"I hope that answers your questions."


My only question about the Ha-Ha is the deadline for signing up for the '08 Baja Ha-Ha Crew List as crew.

David Stephens
San Diego

David — You can sign up for the Ha-Ha Crew List right now by following the instructions and filling out the forms found at The other big opportunity is during the Northern California Ha-Ha Kickoff Party at the Encinal YC in Alameda on September 10. The last chance is showing up at the Ha-Ha Kick-off and Costume Party at the West Marine Superstore on October 26 in San Diego, which is the day before the start of the rally. The latter is admittedly pretty late in the game to sign on, but almost every year four or five people have done it and lived to tell about it.


I had the opportunity to go for an afternoon sail on June 20 with Bob and Sandy Goldberg aboard their Sausalito-based Catalina 380 Barca Vela. It was dead calm and hot when we left the berth at noon. We motored out the Gate into a decent flood on mostly glassy waters. After we were abeam of Baker Beach — we could see that the beach was packed, as it was sweltering, even in the City — an 8- to 12-knot westerly breeze filled in, so we spent several hours lazily tacking back and forth into the flood, dodging lots of freighter traffic.

Visibility out to sea was quite good, but a little hazy, as the heat waves coming off the Pacific made things shimmer a bit. We could see the freighters turning north and south as they passed the Lightbucket. Then something odd happened. We had two good-sized ships in sight offshore near each other in the main channel, when the shape of another ship appeared from the from the north. We saw the dark outline of the new ship that was easily twice as long as the other ships. And it appeared to be at least three times taller than the others! There was no way we could imagine a freighter that large.

As the gigantic ship came closer to us, it shrank in size until it was eventually the same size as the others. We could only guess that this optical illusion was some type of mirage caused by the heat of the warm air passing over the colder air on the surface of the sea.

By then it was about 3 p.m., and a nice 20-knot westerly had built, whisking us back through the Gate on what was left of the weakening flood. The buildings in the Financial District were shimmering eerily in the heated waves of air passing over unusually warm San Francisco.

Then, to our surprise, we saw another mirage which made it look like the main suspension cables of the Bay Bridge were bending and distorting crazily — as if a major seismic event was taking place. So I took the accompanying photo.

On the way back to Sausalito, it looked like the distant, normally low-lying Richmond shoreline, was four or five four stories high.

I've been sailing the Bay for almost 40 years and have never seen anything like this. Have you heard of any similar reports from that Friday?

Bill Nork

Bill — We haven't heard of any other such reports, but we're not surprised, as such mirages are very common on San Francisco Bay. We've seen so many over the years we don't pay them any mind. According to scientists, mirages are naturally-occurring optical phenomena in which refracted or bent — because of the heat — light rays produce displaced images of distant objects.


You asked to hear from sailors about their top speeds with monohulls. While delivering the Wylie 37 Absolute 88 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz on a very windy day a few years ago, the speedo kept showing ever higher numbers. We finally saw a top speed of 19 knots. But later, when checking the 'maximum speed' feature on the GPS, it showed 24 knots.

Keith MacBeth
Planet Earth


My '84 Catalina 38 Barking Spider 2, hit a top speed of 17.1 knots while surfing big swells on the way from the San Francisco Buoy to the Golden Gate. We were carrying a full main and 135% genoa in winds to 25 knots and 15-ft swells. I think the big swells gave us the lift, as we repeatedly surfed into the teens going down the faces.

Later, aboard my '87 MacGregor 65 Barking Spider 3, we reached the low 20s anytime we sailed downwind in 30 knots of breeze. Our top speed was 25.3 knots, which we hit on three different occasions. The most memorable of the three was the time we were surfing north from Catalina to San Francisco. We'd caught the front end of a February southerly and saw steady winds of 30-35 knots, with a top gust of 43 knots. We were flying a double-reefed main and a 100% jib.

David Kory
Pt. Richmond / Buenos Aires

David — Over 25 knots while sailing up the coast of California — that could be a record.


Our Valkyrie is a hard chine Roberts 44 steel boat that we spent too many years building. In fact, if Latitude is ever in the mood to do another article on people building their own boats, we can offer some unique insights. Nonetheless, we love our boat dearly, and participants in the 'Lucky 13' Baja Ha-Ha may remember her. Valkyrie is very comfortable and has a sea-kindly motion — mostly due to her slack bilges and 25-ton displacement when in fully loaded cruising mode. While she may never plane, she doesn't pound either.

Enough of that. Let's talk about top speeds on our true cruising boat. It was blowing a steady 25 with gusts to 30 in the Slot one July a few years back. We were beam reaching in four-foot chop while carrying just a double-reefed main and staysail, and were doing a steady 8.5 knots. When hit by gusts, Valkyrie would get into the mid-9s, and for a brief moment hit 9.8 knots. The odd thing that I remember is that we didn't really speed up when we got hit by a gust, it was only after the gust dissipated that we accelerated. It was as though Valkyrie absorbed the energy, but took just a little time to translate it into boatspeed.

Valkyrie's all-time speed record was set one day in late September while on our way to the start of the '06 Ha-Ha. We left Santa Cruz Island early in the day on our way to Pt. Mugu. We started in light air, but the wind continued to build. Soon we were on a very broad reach with the full main all the way out and prevented, the 110% jib poled out, and the staysail pulling like a mule. While snoozing on the foredeck and enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun on my buns, I woke up with a start because of the loud roaring of the bow wave. I realized that it was really windy and that we had too much sail up. I asked Rosey about our boat speed, and with great delight she told me that we were doing 9.5 to 10 knots. When I asked her about the windspeed, she said it was 30-32 apparent — which meant the true wind was in the 40s. Even though our autopilot, One-Eyed Willy, was having no problem steering, it just seemed like we were on the verge of spinning out. After we reduced sail, the knotmeter registered our top speed — 10.32 knots!

If you ever want to do a article on ways of setting sails on a cruising boat so that there is no need for a spinnaker, I can tell you about some old tricks that modern racers never think of.

David & Rosey Eberhard
Valkyrie, Roberts 44
In San Diego, prepping for the next voyage

David and Rosey — Good stuff. By the way, we corrected a misspelling in your letter, one of the most humorous we've come across. You wrote " . . . on our way to Pt. Magoo." But rest assured that we're laughing with you, not at you, for over the years we've made every blunder that could be committed with a keyboard.


I’m proud to have achieved some surprising speeds with our '92 Beneteau 38 Sea Fox. It happened during a delivery down to Southern California for the start of the '06 Ha-Ha. With the wind blowing a steady 25 knots, and the boat carrying a full main and a poled-out 120% genoa, we surfed down 8-ft seas. Our GPS recorded speeds between 10 and 14.4 knots. It was better than any roller coaster ride that I've been on, and the best part is that it lasted for hours. If anyone wants to see what it was like, they can check out

Fredrik Hakanson, Part Owner
Sea Fox, Beneteau Moorings 38
San Francisco


The Catalina 27 is said to have a hull speed of about 6.2 knots. In a cruise from Half Moon Bay to Monterey in September of '95, my Enigma II, a then-21-year-old boat, averaged 7.1 knots on the 36-mile stretch from Ano Nuevo to Monterey, never dropping below 7 knots. There were several periods when the Loran and GPS indicated over 9 knots, and the top speed achieved was 9.2 knots while sliding down a roller on Monterey Bay. And, mind you, we had five sailors aboard, none of us ultralights.

We were sailing with the spinnaker up, of course, but had no round-ups or other problems, even when the tillerpilot was driving. I would later do two Ha-Ha's, and some of the rest of the crew would later circumnavigate the South Pacific. But we still agree that was the best spinnaker run we've ever had!

Peter Hine
Enigma II, Catalina 27

Peter — It must have been a great sail for you to remember it so fondly 13 years later. We wonder if anyone on the East Coast has had as memorable a sail.


On the trip home to Newport, Rhode Island, from Bermuda aboard my '78 Pearson 35, we were routinely pegging the knotmeter at 12 knots. The apparent wind was blowing 35 to 40 knots, and we hit the top speed while surfing down waves in the Gulf Stream. Later, when things had calmed down a bit, we looked up the 'maximum speed' on the GPS, and found that we'd hit 16.9 knots! Since we were travelling across the Gulf Stream rather than with it, that's probably pretty close to our through-the-water speed as opposed to current-assisted speed-over-the-ground. It was a wild and wonderful ride!

Dave Thornton
Scheherazade, Pearson 35
Newport, RI


Wind Dancer, a Catalina 42 owned by Dr. P.K. Edwards out of Ventura, hit 16.8 knots plowing down a big wave while doing a heavy air Coastal Cup a few years ago. We got our own Catalina 42 up to 10.9 knots coming back from San Clemente Island a number of years ago. That was pretty exciting, so I can't imagine what a 16.8 would be like.

Garry Willis
Breezn, Catalina 42
Marina del Rey


In the fall of '04, while racing from Annapolis to Oxford, Maryland, during the tail end of a hurricane, my Catalina 27 Four Little Ducks hit a top speed of 14.4 knots. This occurred while surfing downwind in 45 knots of breeze with a reefed main and a poled out #2 genny.

Tom Walsh
Four Little Ducks, Catalina 27
Annapolis, MD


The strong winds you reported that a group of cruisers had seen last month on the way from French Polynesia to Suwarrow reminded me that you were asking what kind of peak speeds cruising boats have hit. Back in '92, we sailed the Santa Cruz 40 Defiance from Santa Cruz to New Zealand. On the way from Bora Bora to Penrhyn in the Cook Islands we had southeast winds of 35 to 45 knots for about 12 hours. We hand steered most of the day under single-reefed main and no jib, but I remember we still hit a high of 18.5 knots.

But that was far from the end of it. Late in the day, we double-reefed the main and let the autopilot steer. The result was an accidental jibe, during which time the mainsheet caught on the steering pedestal and ripped it right off the cockpit sole! Fortunately, the autopilot was connected directly to the rudder post, so it kept steering a good course while the wheel and pedestal flopped around in the cockpit, connected only by the steering cables. It required several hours of work to reinstall the original tiller and patch up the hole. By that time the wind had dropped down to about 30 knots, which seemed benign by comparison.

Don & Katie Radcliffe
Santa Cruz

Readers — Since something like 80 boats sailed to Hawaii last month in the Pacific Cup and Singlehanded TransPac, we're still open to reports on top speeds for monohulls.


Thanks so much for the 10 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint article in the July Latitude. As an environmentalist, it's everything I could have hoped for from a sailing magazine, and then some — you even mentioned buying locally grown food. Once again, Latitude shows that it's head and shoulders above the rest!

Jeff Hoffman
San Francisco

Jeff — Thanks for the kind words. God knows we've got a long way to go, but we're finding that it's not that difficult — and often times a lot of fun — to use less energy and fewer resources. LED boat lights, here we come!

It's nice to learn that we Americans have used less fuel every month for the last six months, and that the Chinese have cut back, too, as reduced consumption has been a major factor in the price of oil having plummeted 34% from its all time high. If we Americans, still the biggest per capita users of energy in the world, could cut our usage by another 10%, the downward pressure on oil prices would be tremendous and the supplies would last that much longer. Some people have mocked the little things — such as correct tire pressure — that can increase fuel efficiency. Idiots. Sure, that's not going to solve the long term problem, but every little bit helps. In fact, it reminds us of the TransPac a few years ago when sailing great Stan Honey and his Cal 40 Illusion crushed the rest of that one design class. He and his crew did it not by having a different boat, but by just doing scores of little things a little better. No matter if you're sailing or trying to conserve fuel to exert a downward push on prices, the little things do add up. Having said all that, we still fully support the development of nukes and clean coal as well as wind and solar. We're going to need them all.


I enjoyed reading your article on eco-friendly boating. I know that you only have so much editorial space, but I was surprised that no mention was made of the simple and solar-powered SunShowers. I have used them for decades, both up in the Delta and while at anchor after a lively sail. They are inexpensive, simple, and refreshing.

P.S. Thanks for all the years of great reading!

John Chille
Love In Vane, Golden Gate 30

John — Thanks for the kind words and the SunShower reminder. Probably 95% of all showers on Profligate have been taken using a SunShower. We're big on simplicity, and a SunShower is about as simple as you can get. We usually get two to three showers out of a five gallon Sun Shower. We're not sure how much water is used in a typical onboard pressure water shower, but a typical home shower uses 12.5 gallons of water — while a typical bath uses an astonishing 35 gallons.

We realize that most people — particularly women — enjoy luxury more than we do, so we're not advocating SunShowers for everyone. But we're fine with them in most situations, particularly when cruising. And when you finally get to a land shower, it truly seems like extreme luxury. The only proviso about Sun Showers is to use them before it gets too late in the day, or they'll be more invigorating than you'd like.


With regard to the recent letters about Clipper Cove, I definitely agree that there's plenty of space for folks to anchor. The 'unattended' boat issue is more about aesthetics than space — at this point anyway. I was anchored there this past weekend, and counted about 15 boats that appeared to be unattended. Three or so were in good repair, a half dozen looked as though nobody had been aboard in a long time, and another half a dozen looked completely abandoned and in bad shape. But they certainly didn't slow us down from having a great time. It was Delta-warm on Saturday — even the swimming was great.

Russ Cooper
Liberty, C&C 37
San Francisco

Readers — This letter first appeared in 'Lectronic, and we're running it to make sense of the following letter.


Regarding Russ Cooper's comments about Clipper Cove in the August 6 'Lectronic, in which he observed, "The 'unattended' boat issue is more about aesthetics than space — at this point anyway." I agree that aesthetics are involved, but perhaps not the same aesthetics as he thinks.

Cooper noted that there is still plenty of room to anchor among the semi-permanent derelict fleet anchored in Clipper Cove, several of which have liveaboard owners. That may very well be so, and I didn't necessarily disagree — until he concluded with the comment, "It was Delta-warm on Saturday — to the point that the swimming was great!" Uh oh!

In the photo he provided, it shows smiling people, holding beverage containers aloft, and swimming in the cove astern of rafted up boats. I'm guessing these people in the water were only smiling because it hadn't occurred to any of them that the liveaboard owners of the grungy, off-the-grid boats aren't very likely to have visited a pump-out station. Based on a look at the anchor rhodes of those boats, my hunch is that they haven't been moved in quite some time. I wonder what they do with their waste products?

And speaking of Delta-warm, I was anchored in the Bedroom One anchorage on Potato Slough in the Delta one recent Saturday, where at sundown everyone was treated to a bagpipe performance by Harley Gee of the Catalina 42 The Taproom. It has become a summer weekend evening tradition for Harley to play two or three songs from his cabintop just as the sun drops to the horizon. His wife, Anna, who later admitted to having had a little wine, could be seen through binoculars dancing a jig on the foredeck during the mini-concert. Harley is pretty good, too, although he modestly noted that playing bagpipes usually means no one notices when he misses a note or two. But the haunting sound of "Amazing Grace" carrying across a quiet anchorage is charming beyond description.

Rod Williams
Azure, Catalina 42

Rod — It is, of course, against the law and common courtesy to poop in either Clipper Cove or the Delta. Nonetheless, given the much greater number of boats, fishermen, little kids, and hikers, we wonder if the fecal coliform count might be higher in Bedroom One than in Clipper Cove.

No, it doesn't sound very nice, but during the winter in St. Barth we frequently swim in the lee of scores of anchored boats that don't have waste treatment or use pump-out stations. We've learned to live with it, as the water is so clear you can usually spot approaching problems. Besides, life is otherwise just so pleasant there that we don't even think about it.

One government agency in the Caribbean — we can't remember which — did a study of the health effects of pumped discharge from boats in Caribbean anchorages. As we recall, the detrimental health effects were slight, thanks primarily to the fact that almost all Eastern Caribbean anchorages are swept by strong winds and current that quickly whisk floating feces offshore toward distant Central America. In the few places where water isn't so clear and/or doesn't flow so freely — Falmouth or English Harbours in Antigua come to mind — we'd be less inclined to swim.


Contrary to what you suggested in 'Lectronic, the results of the reader survey on the culpability of Deputy Perdock in the death of Lynn Thornton probably just ensures that a change of venue motion would be easily sustained. What judge could deny that pre-trial publicity has influenced the jury pool?

Isn't the District Attorney an elected position? When is Hopkins up for re-election? If 70% of the voters disagree with him, perhaps he'll get his due at the next election.

Russ Irwin
New Morning, Swan 44

Russ — If the results of the Lake County newspaper poll -— that the overwhelming number of respondents think that Thornton's death was mostly or totally the fault of Deputy Perdock — are accurate, why would the defense want a change of venue?


Yale Cordage, where I work, receives Latitude 38 along with many other marine magazines each month. I have followed the Bismarck Dinius case that's the result of the boating death of Lynn Thornton on Clear Lake. It's amazing that such a Kafkaesque case could unfold in the United States.

A critical aspect of the case is whether the sailboat's running lights were on prior to Deputy Russell Perdock's powerboat slamming into the sailboat's aft quarter at high speed. If any of the bulbs were broken, experts can examine the filament and determine whether the light had been on or not. A heated filament will break differently than a cold one. The results of such examinations are commonly used by crash reconstruction experts to determine if someone's car directionals were on during an accident involving a turn. If done by a properly qualified person, this evidence will hold up in court.

However, if the authorities are on Deputy Perdock's side, it sounds as if it may be difficult to locate a qualified expert. And perhaps all the broken bulbs were removed and replaced with suitably altered ones?

I've never been able to understand why people who would never consider driving their cars full speed at night with no headlights would do the same thing on a boat. The results are often fatal. Last year we had a nighttime collision on Long Lake, Maine, between an 870-hp Sunsation Dominator powerboat and two people in a fishing skiff. The fishermen were killed, and the Sunsation left the water and proceeded quite a ways into the bushes before stopping. The 47-year-old skipper and his 17-year-old female companion were only slightly injured. More recently, there was another nighttime collision on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, starring the owner of a marina and a smaller craft, again with fatal results.

Professional mariners try very hard to avoid groundings and collisions, as it usually leaves them 'on the beach' for the remainder of their careers. Maybe similar penalties need to hang over the heads of recreational powerboaters!

David Saunders
Biddeford, ME

David — It's our understanding that the defense hired an expert, who testified in the preliminary hearing that the sailboat's running lights had indeed been on when she was hit. In addition, a San Francisco television station found other witnesses — including a retired law enforcement officer — who also testified that the sailboat's running lights were on. So when the real trial begins next January, the prosecution will presumably have to try to convince 12 out of 12 jurors, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the forensic expert is an idiot and the independent witnesses are blind.

As we've said from the beginning, the case against Bismarck Dinius is so preposterous that we don't even believe the Lake County District Attorney thinks he can get a manslaughter conviction. How could he after the recent Lake County Record-Bee poll showed the great majority believe Perdock — who still hasn't been charged — was primarily if not entirely at fault? No, it seems that the prosecution's strategy is to use the phoney Bismarck trial to obscure the fact that their main intent is to shield Deputy Perdock from prosecution.

With Thornton having been killed as a result of a boat driven at high speed in the dark on Clear Lake, you'd think they had learned from the tragedy and imposed a 5 mph speed limit on the lake at night. Will it surprise you to learn that they haven't? What will it take for them to learn that speed kills on the water as well as the roads, particularly at night.


I was very sad to learn that Jeanne Socrates lost her Najad 361 Nereida on a beach in Mexico just a few miles shy of completing her circumnavigation. I had somewhat followed her adventures through the Singlehanded TransPac and then through Latitude's updates of her sail almost all the way around the world. I'm glad that she is safe and made it as far as she did. I'm sure that she'll continue sailing, because when it gets in your blood, there is no stopping it.

Greg Clausen
Wisdom, Santana 30
Marin County

Greg — In addition to sailing being in Socrates' blood, the thing that will keep her back on the water is a nice settlement from Lloyds of London. Yes, she's one of the few singlehanders we know who popped for the hefty premiums for offshore singlehanding coverage.


I have been cruising the waters of Thailand off the coast of Phuket for several years aboard my Jeanneau 41 Koumbele, and have frequently seen charterers do strange things on boats. But the following is perhaps the silliest.

A local charter outfit, run by a fellow named Max, chartered a new Wharram 38 catamaran to a customer for a two-day sail. While sailing in 15 knots and flat seas, a headstay shackle parted, and the rig came down, falling onto the yacht itself. There was little harm done to the crew or boat. The charterers then proceeded to unfasten the entire rig — including the turnbuckles, Pro-Furl roller furling, sails, and mast — and jettison it over the side! They had probably read some wild sailing story where a boat was dismasted in a terrible storm and the crew had to throw the rig over for safety. To make things worse, they didn't bother to take a GPS fix, so it was impossible to retrieve anything.

The final irony is that when they returned to the base, the charterers complained to Max that the boat didn't have any bolt cutters aboard, as it would have made it easier to dump the rig over the side.

P.S. I love reading Latitude online here in Thailand.

Richard Buckminster
Koumbele, Jeanneau 41
Phuket, Thailand

Richard — That's a pretty good charter story. It ranks up there with the folks who called a charter base in the British Virgins and asked to have more chain and anchors delivered to their boat. They assumed you just used them once, then left them on the bottom when taking off again.


Been shorted of fuel by Gordo's at Turtle Bay like the Hartfords on Nomotos who wrote in to complain about it last month? Uh, hell yeah! When a buddy of mine noticed that his fuel can was nearly a gallon short and complained, it got to the point where Enrique threatened him physically. I think the Hartfords got off lucky if their tank was filled to within inches of the top.

The people at Gordo's got on the radio and told us they had "cleaner fuel" than their competitor. In fact, they claimed that their competitor's fuel would "ruin your engine" and that their competitor was dishonest. In my life experience, I've never heard the reputable dealer of anything directly trash a disreputable competitor, but I've had plenty of dishonest guys tell me how honest they were.

I also heard a rumor that the federales had to be called in during the FUBAR powerboat rally because Enrique was threatening to shoot his competitor — and their customers! I'm not saying this is true, just that I heard the rumor.

What I do know to be true is that we were given fantastic service by Gordo's competitor and her extended family, and that there's no reason for anyone to use Gordo. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the woman who is the competition, but her son took me ashore in their skiff and then carried me — I'm six-feet and 160 pounds — so I wouldn't get wet! Her grandson, who is maybe 12, drove me into town and picked me up again. We'd agreed on $5 for the ride, but how could I not give them $10?

Frankly, I’d gladly pay Gordo's competitor a vig on the fuel just because they are so damned nice and friendly. But you don't have to because they're honest, too. Further proving my point, when I asked them, "What's up with Gordo?" they rolled their eyes and shrugged. Sort of like a reputable business person would have done here in the States.

Aaron Lynch
Ra, Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 54
Redondo Beach


I can only assume the Hartfords on Nomotos were kidding when they complained about Gordo's. The folks in Turtle Bay provide a huge service to the boating public by providing fuel at all — much less at very favorable prices. And someone has a beef over a couple of gallons? What a very depressing nine years it must have been for them to sail around the world with an attitude like that.

I have fueled in Turtle Bay multiple times. Most recently I took on 140 gallons in April while doing a Bash. I was very happy to get fuel at all, and honestly expected to pay about 40% more than I did. The fact that it was delivered to the boat was a bonus. I knew the tank capacity of my boat and received what I paid for.

I have yet to see signs in Mexico, like the ones in the United States, that read "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." But with an attitude like the Hartfords', it won't — and shouldn't — be long!

Capt. Pete Sauer
Big Sky Yacht Delivery


We were in Turtle Bay at the same time as the Hartfords of Nomotos, the ones who wrote in last month complaining about Gordo's fuel service. We also took on the fuel we needed to complete our 25+ year circumnavigation — but we got our fuel from Gordo's competitor, whose panga is called Servios Anabelle. We're sure Latitude folks and others have seen their big sign on the hill above the beach just west of the center of the village. They say they are available 24/7.

The Servios Annabelle guy first visited us in his panga. Then he came alongside in a real fuel barge, complete with a proper meter and filters. In our opinion, the amount of fuel dispensed was accurate. Servios Annabelle was recommended to us by Ray of Adios who, along with Mike of Las Otras, had done six Baja Bashes this year as of June. Ray had nothing but good to say about them.

Paul & Susan Mitchell
Elenoa, 36-ft steel ketch
Back in San Diego after a quarter of a century of cruising

Paul and Susan — We're familiar with Servios Annabelle and have been happy with the amount and quality of fuel that we've purchased from them. However, it seems like there's an ongoing legal battle between Gordo and them, and sometimes Servios Annabelle seems to have been shut down.


We got fuel-gouged at Turtle Bay, too. Our only experience with Enrique at Gordo's is when we arrived at Turtle Bay in November of '07, a few days after the Ha-Ha had passed through. We'd spent the month before in Ensenada, then sailed south by ourselves to anchorages at Islas San Benito and Isla Cedros before moseying into Turtle Bay. We only needed 20 gallons or so of fuel, so for us a gouge of 10% wasn't going to break the bank. But to make a long story short, yes, like others, we got gouged by 10-20%.

To make the long story long, Enrique at first delayed by about 12 hours the panga fuel delivery that he'd promised. At the time we hadn't been in Mexico very long, and thought this was 'the Mexican way of doing things' — as opposed to a ploy to encourage us to buy whatever he offered when he eventually showed up. It was almost sunset by the time Enrique's two boys — one might have been all of 20 — came to our boat in the panga. Neither of the two had ever operated the jury-rigged fuel siphon system on Enrique's panga. We had to show them how, as well as provide the battery for the power necessary to make it work.

As we and the two boys were transferring the fuel into our boat's tanks, Enrique was nowhere to be found. But when it came time for us to pay, he showed up in a high speed panga to calculate the charges — and to make sure all the cash went directly to him. The price turned out to be more than the rates that he'd had quoted other boats over the radio. We complained mildly, but at the time chose not to push the matter because we wanted to take off at first light. And because 'it was Mexico'. However, I made it a point to tip the two panga boys in Enrique's presence — which visibly made him unhappy and the boys uncomfortable. I wonder if Enrique let the boys keep the tip? We got out of Turtle Bay the next morning and never looked back.

I want to emphasize that this is by far the worst gouging experience we've seen so far in our travels in Mexico. And we prefer an up-front 'dockage fee' that we've had to pay at some fuel docks as opposed to Enrique's way of doing things. And dockage fees for fueling are certainly not universal in Mexico.

Turtle Bay is unique because the major cruising guides — and the Ha-Ha and the FUBAR powerboat rallies — publicize it as a destination not to be missed. I think those rallies have, in part, created the price-gouging situation in Turtle Bay. I want to reassure Latitude readers that the rest of Mexico we've seen is not like Turtle Bay, and after having lived here continuously for the past nine months, sailing and traveling inland in six states, we've found that most folks in Mexico are like most folks everywhere else. They work hard, getting along by being honest and helpful to all us goofy gringos.

Yes, we sometimes have to pay a bit higher prices for services, but we always chalk up a mild premium as a 'language barrier' or 'gringo tax' that's not worth arguing about. And yes, we do complain on the rare occasions — once, actually — when the charges were unreasonable. Now that we have more experience in the country, we believe the reason Enrique is doing what he is doing is because Turtle Bay receives a large influx of boaters new to Mexico during the Ha-Ha and FUBAR rallies that are dropped into his lap like ripe fruit from a tree. He will never see most of those boats again, so why shouldn't he charge extra for fuel? Wouldn't you? I don't want to be harsh about this because I like Latitude, but I also feel that due to their economies of scale, it must fall to the organizers of the Baja Ha-Ha and FUBAR to curb the fuel-gouging in Turtle Bay. If worse comes to worst, Ha-Ha'ers can top off their tanks in Ensenada at the Hotel Coral Marina and in Cabo San Lucas, bypassing Turtle Bay altogether, but still enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a cruising rally.

Marianne Smith & Gary Barnett
Gallant Fox, Malo 39
In Mazatlan for hurricane season

Marianne and Gary — We don't mind you suggesting that the Ha-Ha is responsible for price gouging fuel at Gordo's in Turtle Bay, but we think there are two good reasons not to believe it. First of all, it's well known that price gouging has been going on at Gordo's for more than 30 years — in other words, more than 15 years prior to the founding of the Ha-Ha. Second, it's not like Gordo's has a lock on the Ha-Ha business. Most of the Ha-Ha boats don't have to refuel because they sail much of the first leg. If they do need fuel, it's likely to be a relatively small amount, which they can purchase as easily from competitors Servios Annabelle, the Pemex station in town, or even from other cruisers. And because of the Ha-Ha net, anybody who feels they got shorted by Gordo's can immediately alert the rest of the fleet.

In the case of your having to wait 12 hours for the fuel to be delivered, our reaction would indeed be "that's the Mexican way of doing things." And we make that judgement based on having stopped in Turtle Bay every year for 15 years. They have a different sense of time there. Besides, if macho Enrique is going to put a little bite on you, he's not going to waste 12 hours trying to be cute about it.

You say you were charged a different price than was quoted other boats over the radio. Is it possible that the other boats were going to be taking on large quantities of fuel? Discounts on volume fuel purchases are standard in the United States, and may be in Mexico, too.

As for your making a point of tipping the boys in front of Enrique, why would you do something that clearly made him unhappy and the boys uncomfortable? That's passive-aggressive as hell. How would you like visitors from Mexico coming into your place of business and telling you how to compensate your employees and undermining your authority? If you saw that your gesture was making everyone feel bad, we think you should have figured out a more subtle way to tip the boys.


I can't believe it! Could it really be possible that some fuel pumps in Mexico are set to deliver something less than the indicated amount? Oh my! The next thing you know, people will discover that it rains in Oregon in January.

Jimmie Zinn
Dry Martini, Morgan 38


No wonder the guys in Turtle Bay always take care of the sportfishing boats first! I've sailed and driven boats to Turtle Bay a number of times. Considering its remote location, I'm always surprised that there is anything there — let alone diesel at a reasonable price. Maybe Senator Gramm was correct when he said there are too many "whiners" in the United States.

Chris Maher
Blarney, Morgan 38

Chris — Did Gramm include the Canadians? The Hartfords are from Canada.

We'll have more responses to Gordo's business practices in the next issue, as there has been a lot of diverse reaction.


In the July 21 'Lectronic, you wrote, "Tom Kirschbaum's International Folkboat Feral is one of the 'poor' boats experiencing lighter winds." Feral is an 'IF Boat' — nothing more and nothing less. She is not a so-called 'International Folkboat'.

True, when the IF Boat was introduced in Sweden several decades ago, the designers intended to capitalize on the immensely popular wooden Nordic Folkboat. Although the IF was made of fiberglass, the hull and many features were copies of the Nordic Folkboat. After litigation, however, the imitator was forced to abandon the use of the word 'Folkboat' in any association with the fleet. The press should respect this.

Olof Hult
Culver City

Olof — Tord Sundén, the man credited with designing the Nordic Folkboat — of which there is a thriving fleet right here on the Bay — also worked up a more 'cruiser-friendly' version that was built by Swedish yard Marieholms Bruk for 17 uears. During that time, more than 3,400 of these stout little boats were launched.

The design was originally introduced in 1967 as the International Folkboat, and you're right that in Europe they are known as IF Boats, as the hard-core Nordic Folkboat aficionados felt the name was misleading. But in the U.S., the name stuck.

Chris Herrmann, president of the San Francisco Bay Folkboat Association, says "I've heard of International Folkboats referred to as IF Boats, IF Folkboats, Marieholm Folkboats, and International Folkboats somewhat interchangeably. But it's probably more common to hear them called International Folkboats or Marieholm Folkboats." Even Bay Area author Dieter Loibner refers to them as "International Folkboats" in his book The Folkboat Story.

Semantics aside, IFs are different enough in design that they are not class-legal to race in the local Folkboat fleet. But that shouldn't stop their owners from starting their own fleet.


Our 50-ft Mikelson powerboat Dos Abogados IV has twin 435-hp Cat diesels — and a carbon footprint like Sasquatch. We went down to Mexico with the FUBAR powerboat rally in November and stayed through mid June. It was our second time down there, having done it before in the winter of '06. We bought a lot of fuel — something like 6,000 gallons. Mainly, we were always glad to just be able to get fuel.

We have Floscans and a Tank Tender, and we feel that we never got shorted. We know it was all good clean fuel because we never had to change a filter. I don't think we ever paid more than $2.45/gallon. Sometimes it might have been a dime a gallon or so less. These prices include the docking charges at some fuel docks. The Mexican government and Pemex tell the fuel docks what to charge, so the 'bite' was the docking charge. That said, we still felt we were getting a great deal. In fact, we hope it continues when we're able to go back again — maybe in '10.

We generally took on about 600 gallons at a time: at Ensenada; Turtle Bay (Annabelle's panga, not Gordo's); Cabo (at the cheaper place on the left as you enter); Las Hadas (in the little marina from the big white fuel tank); Puerto Vallarta (the Straits of Opequimar); Mazatlan (the new facility in the back by Marina Mazatlan, not at El Cid, aka El Surge); La Paz (Costa Baja, although we stayed at Marina de la Paz); Puerto Escondido; La Paz again; Cabo again; Turtle Bay again; and Ensenada again, where we figure we were the last boat to get a full load with no wait on June 10, 2007.

We're now at Avalon, Catalina, still burning the inexpensive Mexican diesel. We're hoping to make a long weekend of it — probably in October — for a fuel run down to Ensenada. The San Diego Union regularly reports that the Mexican diesel is heavily subsidized by the government. Actually, it's the other way around, as the Mexican government is subsidized by the oil revenues of about $90 billion a year. Mexico has three major oil fields. One is not really the good stuff, a second is not really being developed, and the third is good but is producing significantly less than in prior years. Mexico can develop more oil fields but has been unable to because of the Pemex unions and political interests that prevent the country from getting the necessary technical help and capital to develop those fields. So I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. I'm just selfishly hoping we can make one more good run down to Mexico, during which time we'd concentrate in the Sea of Cortez.

Although we're powerboaters, we read Latitude all the time. Currently, we're surrounded by sailboats here in Avalon. Many of the powerboats are being left on their moorings all the time instead of being taken back and forth each week by their owners. With $5 diesel, the owners are finding it much less expensive to commute back and forth by ferry. As a result, we're told that some local businesses are off by as much as 50%. It seems very quiet, too, as the boats are here but the people aren't.

My wife and I are very glad we left work and abandoned everything for two six-month adventures in Mexico. I always said that we were going to be among the last to be able to cruise under power — I just didn't realize that it was going to come to an end so quickly. If our powerboat becomes a 'Catalina barge', then that's the way it goes. We're beyond 50, so we won't be changing boats or learning how to sail. Nonetheless, we have many good friends who are sailors.

John Houts
Dos Abogados IV, Mikelson 50
Southern California

John — We take no pleasure in the predicament of powerboaters, but we do have mixed emotions about powerboats. As fellow mariners, we want powerboaters such as yourself to be able to follow your passion. On the other hand, we and everyone else who is becoming more resource-aware can't help looking askance at relatively inefficient uses of any natural resource. Powerboating doesn't quite reach the 'let them eat cake' level of flying around in private 757 jets — as is not uncommon by people like our past presidents — but neither is it the most socially responsible use of oil. Fuel prices temporarily tumbled in August, but there is no way they aren't going to surge again in the next 5-10 years. When they do, we think society is going to cast a jaundiced eye at the more inefficient users of oil.

And it would seem as though the future is going to get tougher on powerboaters on an individual level, too. It's only by pure luck that West Coast powerboaters live in a country where fuel is half the price of most of the rest of the world, and that the country on our southern border, Mexico, sells diesel at a ridiculous 50% discount onto our already comparatively low prices. Imagine if you'd wanted to cruise French Polynesia, the Med, or most anywhere else in the world, where diesel sells for close to $10/gallon. The fuel bill for your six-month jaunt would have been $60,000, not $15,000. Ouch! Even worse is the likelihood that at some point officials in Mexico — where the huge low-income segment of the population has been suffering from the dramatic increases in the cost of food — are going to start feeling the heat for subsidizing the outsized fuel habits of foreigners with big boats.

We can understand folks at your age making the decision to hold pat with your boat, even if it means your future cruising might be somewhat limited. But for younger boat buyers, Bob Dylan sang it best: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."


I really like Latitude and 'Lectronic, but I think your first 'Lectronic report about Class B AIS units with transponders being available at West Marine is incorrect. The Class B transponders haven't been approved by the FCC yet — despite the Coast Guard and everyone else wishing they'd get on with it already.

For those who will be sailing outside of U.S. waters, Class B AIS units with transponders are readily available. The Class A AIS units, all of which have both receivers and transponders, are pretty expensive.

I don't have AIS on my boat but have used it doublehanding my friend's Mini-Transat Dingo, and I can confirm that it's really cool to see the ships on the chartplotter — especially if you're in the fog. With a lot of ocean races using the channel marks as racing marks, it's nice to have some idea of what ships are out there.

Mike Holden
California State University Maritime Academy

Mike — Thanks to some bad information and shoddy research on our part, we were wrong in our initial 'Lectronic report. Class B AIS units with transponders are available all over the world — except the United States. Class A units, which all have receivers and transponders, sell for as little as $ 2,400.


Our Wylie 65 Convergence is in Australia where we're having a Class B AIS transmit and receive unit installed. We're looking forward to checking it out in October when we resume cruising, sailing from Brisbane to the Whitsundays.

During our approach to Brisbane last October, we crossed wakes with five ships in daylight. We had to alter course, but had no problems. But we did turn on the radar to get the course and speed of the ships and make sure there wouldn't be any close encounters. AIS should provide another level of security, especially at night. Of course, the most important thing is that the watchstander be fully alert and aware of the vessels, reefs, islands and other hazards in the vicinity.

I can also tell you that West Marine will be adding to our lineup of AIS offerings in the near future.

Randy Repass
Convergence, Wylie 65
Santa Cruz

Readers — Randy Repass is the founder of West Marine Products, and now spends part of the year on the water testing the products that West Marine sells.


I've had an AIS receiver unit installed and interfaced with my Nobeltec Visual Navigation software for almost three years on my Brickyard Cove-based LaCoste 42 Favonius. I purchased the AIS unit by mail from the U.K. for $150 — more for the curiosity factor than anything else. But it's been more beneficial than I thought it would be for watching for the ferry traffic that seems to be zipping across the Bay all the time. While the ferry captains are trying to maintain a good lookout from the bridge, they are often traveling at 30 knots or more — according to my AIS — so you want to stay clear out of their way. The ability to see the name of the tug shooting up the Richmond Channel and into the Bay makes it far easier to call them on the radio to be sure they see you.

I have noticed that not all commercial ships are good about changing their status on the AIS. Often times they are in a designated anchorage in the Bay and reporting on the AIS status that they are 'underway'.

By the way, I installed a separate VHF antenna and cable on my radar arch for the AIS. But when I first tested the AIS, I used the masthead antenna. Wow, what a huge difference it makes in AIS reception to have the antenna 60 feet higher in the air! Using the masthead antenna, I saw the ships lining up at the sea buoys at the entrance to the ship channel five miles out, the ferry leaving the dock in Vallejo — both while sitting at my berth in Brickyard Cove!

I think that AIS will prove to be an even more worthwhile tool for the bluewater sailor. I hope to someday get out of the Gate again and turn left for a few thousand miles to find out.

Michael Pordes
Favonius, LaCoste 42


Hello from jolly Brighton, England!

We installed a Raymarine Class B AIS receiver only two weeks ago in Sweden, and found it to be a fantastic tool for staying out of the way of ships while recently crossing the North Sea from Germany to Holland and England. When I checked the overall list of AIS targets, many times it was at the unit's maximum of 100 vessels. But overall, it really made things easier — particularly at night — figuring out where ships were headed and what the best way would be for us to alter course. The only downside is that fishing boats are not required to have AIS, and every now and then a target would show up on the radar but not the AIS. We quickly learned that these targets were either fishing boats or sailboats.

We tried to have a True Heading (Swedish-built) AIS receiver and transponder installed before we left the boatyard in Sweden, but incompatibility issues and a possible defective diplexer — plus the impending four-week vacations by the boatyard and the AIS manufacturer — stymied us. We're sure looking forward to being able to transpond on AIS as well as receive.

P.S. We're soon off to Falmouth, England, then south to Spain and Portugal.

John Neal & Amanda Swan Neal
Mahina Tiare, Hallberg-Rassy 46
The Oceans of the World


We purchased a Class B receive-only AIS unit from Milltech for $200. It came in the form of a little black box with connections. Dan hooked the unit up to our Raymarine C-series system. The unit also requires a separate VHF antenna. We already had an extra coax cable running up the mast, so it was an easy installation. Fortunately, we'd kept the switch for going back and forth between the antennas. After digging it out of the parts box, we reinstalled it for the two antennas — one for VHF radio, one for the AIS — atop our mast. Even if we have the switch on the AIS side, we can still receive VHF radio transmissions. But if we want to transmit on VHF, we have to flick the switch to change antennas.

When you put the cursor on the image of a ship in the Raymarine screen, it activates an information sequence in the radar unit for the particular ship. When our screen receives that information, we learn all kinds of helpful stuff: the name of ship, where it's headed, and much, much more. But what we look for first, of course, is the 'closest point of approach' and the 'time of closest approach'. Our comfort zone with ships is two miles. We don't change course for ones that won't come closer than that, but we do monitor them visually and electronically.

What's great about the AIS information — especially at night — is that it allows you to change course very early to avoid a ship getting close to us. For example, one night we picked up a ship 15 miles away that was going to come within a quarter mile of us. But with our AIS providing such an early warning, we were able to change course for 10 or 15 minutes, then resume our original course. This left the 'closest point of approach' at an acceptable three-quarters of a mile. That alone made AIS worth it to us, as our radar wouldn't have picked up the ship that far away.

But here's an example of the beauty of having both AIS and radar. One night I had two ships coming in opposite directions on our starboard side. They were going to meet about half a mile from us. In addition, we had a storm cell on our port bow that we wanted to avoid because it had lightning. So I found myself in a squeeze situation, with a ship coming up our rear, one coming down on our nose, and a storm cell blocking our best escape route. I ended up making a 90-degree turn and just getting the heck of there, letting the ships come at each other without involving us at all, and letting the storm cell pass to our starboard. The good information from both the AIS and the radar allowed us to take early action and stay out of trouble.

We love our Class B receive-only unit, but we don't think recreational boats need transmitting capability. Let's leave the transponders to just the big boys so our screens aren't cluttered with too much information. Ships are fast and dangerous to small boats, but small boats move so slowly there are rarely collisions, so that's not an issue. On the other hand, we think it should be mandatory that all vessels capable of doing 20 knots have AIS units with transponders. Plus, even the Class B receivers should be equipped with a feature that sounds an alarm when a bogie is moving faster than 20 knots.

Reylyn & Dan Cox
Tropical Dance, Gulfstar 50
San Clemente


I just read your updated 'Lectronic piece on AIS units, explaining that you can't get Class B AIS units with transmitters because the FCC hasn't approved their transponders yet. No wonder there are no U.S. cruising boats here in the South Pacific with Class B transponders.

However, a surprising number of European cruising boats — and nearly every professionally crewed boat — out here is equipped with Class B AIS units with transponders. I'm told most paid less than $500 U.S. for them. One popular unit seems to be the True Heading CTRX Class B transponder, although looking on the internet they are listed for 650 euros — or about $1,000 U.S. The power consumption averages six watts — half an amp at 12 volts.

Wayne Meretsky
Moonduster, S&S 47
South Pacific / Alameda

Readers — We'll have more on AIS units in Sightings and in next month's Letters.


From '69 to '71, I taught ship stability at the U.S. Navy West Coast School's Command on Treasure Island. Although it was almost 40 years ago, I think I still remember the basic theory. And I think Lee Helm's statements in the May issue may be a little misleading to your readers.

She says, "A heavy boat with the same waterline shape would heel over just as easily as a light one." I think that the erroneous conclusion some readers might reach is that weight is not that important. The amount of weight added to a boat, and the distance from the center of gravity, is very important in determining the effect on transverse stability.

Adding weight below the center of gravity will increase the righting arm. Adding weight above the center of gravity will decrease the righting arm. The amount of shift in the center of gravity is a function of total displacement. So adding the 100 pounds five feet above the center of gravity on a 200-pound boat will have a greater negative effect on stability than adding 100 pounds five feet above the center of gravity on a 100-ton ship!

I am sure Lee that will correct me if I wrong.

David Hammer

David — We asked Lee herself for a response.

"You're not wrong, but you're answering a slightly different question.

"I keep running into people who think heavy boats are more stable just because they're heavier. They believe that increased stability justifies loading up with extra cruising gear, or contributes to the seaworthiness of their heavy-displacement crab-crushers. There is a misconception that adding weight — even adding weight that doesn't change the height of the center of gravity — will increase righting moment. But recall the formula for metacentric height: Transverse moment of inertia of the waterplane divided by displacement. When displacement goes up, metacentric height goes down. Righting moment is proportional to displacement times heel angle times the distance of the metacenter above the center of gravity. All other things being equal, it's generally a wash for righting moment when weight is added to a cruising sailboat, because the drop in metacenter cancels out the increase in the displacement term.

"Max didn't seem to get cognitive purchase on this one either, but like, I'm sure you have the chops to follow the math, even without the diagram."


That was a nice photo of an 18-ft skiff in the August 11 'Lectronic. She isn't exactly flying — but almost. And she's not sailing, at least not the way most of us experience it. What she's doing seems to need a different name. Perhaps 'Flailing'?

Steve Richard
Kanalu, Catalina 34


It seems as though there are plenty of activities for maintaining upper body strength while cruising. But what about for the lower body and cardio? My solution would be a pedal-driven system that could also help charge the boat's batteries. It would be green, have a low carbon footprint, and offer aerobic workouts. Does any such thing exist?

Reggie Good
Knot Ready, Cal T/2
Submit, Cal Cruising 36
Lakeside, MT

Reggie — We know of a number of people who carry small 'stair climbers' on boats, but none that are hooked up to the charging systems. But we think somebody should invent one. They'd not only be useful on boats, but also in high schools, where students expend so much energy but have very little to show for it.


In your July Loose Lips, you ran a segment on the late Alameda naval architect Carl Schumacher. In addition to the boats you listed, he also designed a line for Oyster Yachts. Yes, the very successful Oyster brand in England.

Schumacher designed the Oyster Lightwave 48, and 20 hulls were built in the late '80s. Mine was hull #2, named Chant Pagan. Based on my research at the time I purchased her used, the Lightwave 48 was the fastest, lightest, center-cockpit, aft-stateroom sloop under 50 feet that was ever made. It is six seconds/mile faster that the Swan 46, but much larger inside. Scarlett O'Hara, a Lightwave sistership to my boat, won her class in the Fastnet again this year.

We sailed our Lightwave across the Atlantic in the '04 ARC, where we rated mid-fleet at 113 out of 22 boats. We finished in St. Lucia 16.5 days later, the 27th boat to finish.

We bought our Lightwave 48 in England for $220,000 in '02, and sold her three months ago for $200,000.

Capt. Steve Woodruff
Dana Point


Someone told us to check out your website for issues concerning the ICOM 802 SSB radio. You've got a lot of stuff on the site, but I haven't been able to find out much about the 802. In any event, we've heard that we have to have a clipping issue taken care of, and that we'd also want to have an output limiter overriden. Can you help?

Bill & Diane Stevens
Argonaut, Brewer 45
New York, NY

Bill and Diane — Some ICOM 802s had problems with clipping, and eventually the company came up with a free fix. Alas, it's one that requires you to ship your radio back to the factory. Visit their website at for instructions on how to do so.

Some other SSB radio experts believe that the ICOM 802 unnecessarily limits its power output. If ICOM won't make this software fix for you at the factory, other qualified technicians can and will. While they are at it, we recommend that you have the new ICOM package of channelized frequencies downloaded onto your radio, which will result in your Channel 73, for example, being the same frequency as the one on almost everybody else's Channel 73.

We had all three fixes made to our 802 and have been very satisfied with the results.

By the way, our Idiot's Guide to SSB Radio article was such a big hit last year — even SSB and ham experts have requested reprints for handing out — that we've run it again in this issue.


I have a theory that the average wind speeds on the San Francisco Bay are on the rise. I've been sailing the Bay for the past 24 years, and over the last two years it has been much windier than usual. Could it just be that the ebb and flow of water temperatures are causing it? Or, in a small way, could it be because of global warming?

San Francisco Bay winds are created by a very cold ocean and a very hot Central Valley. As the wind travels down from the northwest, it causes an upwelling of cold water from the deep. As the sun shines hot on the valley, the hot air rises. Think of wind like a stream of water. As the hot air rises, the cold air rushes in to take its place. The bigger the difference in temperature between the two, the higher the wind speed on the Bay.

Then there are the gaps in the coastal mountains at the Gate and at other valleys, which funnel the wind, causing the windspeed to increase. If you've ever sailed in The Slot on a typical summer day, you know about funnels.

So my theory is that as a result of higher temps in the valley over the last few years, the windspeed on the Bay has increased. Usually we have wind between 20 to 25 knots every day from about May to September, but lately it's been blowing 30 to 35 knots every day. Yesterday it topped out at 36 knots at Angel Island.

I'm just a sailor, and I don't have any real data to back up my theory, but I would love to hear from any other Bay Area sailors who have noticed this.

Craig Russell
Addiction, Newport 30 MKIII

Craig — Just before we received your letter, we were talking with Associate Publisher John Arndt, who was bemoaning the fact that "there's hardly been any wind for the Corinthian YC beer can races this year." And if you look at the June 18 'Lectronic, there's a photo feature about how warm and light the winds have been on the Bay this year. So when it comes to anecdotal evidence for your hypothesis, the data would seem to be conflicting.

Trying to make sense of the weather is complicated to the nth degree. There are so many interacting factors — around the globe and even as far away as the sun — that even the most powerful supercomputers can't make very accurate weather forecasts beyond three days. So we'd be slow to jump to conclusions based on scant and anecdotal local evidence. For if you don't, you'll have to deal with folks who jokingly claim we're really undergoing global cooling based on the fact it was unusually cool in Mexico last winter.


In the April '08 Changes there was an article by Gary Barnett of Gallant Fox that included some inaccurate information about a situation in which Ken Douglas of the Pearson 365 Mermaid almost lost his finger. The following is — in Ken's own words — what happened:

"I singlehand the Pearson 365 ketch Mermaid, and in February of last year I was stupid enough to check the V-drive with my hand. For all practical purposes, the end of one of my fingers was severed. Fortunately, I had a guest aboard who helped me reposition the end of the finger and stop the bleeding. I then got on VHF 22 and asked if anybody in San Blas knew if there were any medical facilities. A cruiser anchored in the bay came back and advised me that there was such a facility. Then Jama, also known as Norm Goldie, came up and took over. He contacted Ishmael, the fellow who has the restaurant on the beach and who provides various cruiser services. So when I drove my dinghy onto the beach, Ishmael was waiting to drive me to the Naval Hospital which, thanks to Norm Goldie, was expecting me and knew the nature of my problem. Four hours after my initial call, the end of my finger had been reattached. I was told if it turned black, it was going to have to be cut off. The whole cost was just $7 U.S., including medication. I thank the sea spirits that Norm was in San Blas and had the connections to set this all up, for today my finger works normally, and other than an ugly fingernail, looks great. As far as I'm concerned, Norm saved my finger."

I just want cruisers to know the facts, which are that many years ago I was asked by the Port Captain's Office and Mexican Immigration to help cruisers in any way that I was able. I've been doing this for 42 years — not just the 30 as mentioned by Barnett. I help to the best of my ability and without a salary or receiving commissions. When I get on the radio, I ask cruisers if I can help them, I don't force myself on them.

And I have never said that I was the 'king of San Blas', nor would I like to be called that. Not on your life. I'm just a guy who likes to help seafaring newcomers enjoy a beautiful little fishing village. Over the years, my wife Jan and I have assisted over 4,000 vessels who have come from all over the world to visit San Blas, and we will continue to do so.

Barnett also claimed that cruisers can check in with the port captain's office by VHF. There are lots of people who work in that office, so I don't know who told him that. But I can assure everyone that the Assistant Port Captain has told me repeatedly that he wants cruisers to stop by his office and fill out two short forms. The problem with checking in by radio is nobody speaks English in the port captain's office and few cruisers speak Spanish well enough to be understood. It only takes about 10 minutes to fill out the forms, and there is no charge.

Norm Goldie
San Blas

Readers — Clearing between domestic ports in Mexico is, oh, about 10 times less hassle and less expensive than it was only a few years ago. And the rules are inconsistently enforced. Under the law, cruisers are supposed to check in with the port captain every time they arrive in a new port captain district. Checking in is a very short process, there is no charge, and it's not like you have to do it the second you arrive. While some port captains are very casual about boats checking in, others take it seriously. So whenever you arrive at a new port captain's district, make sure you find our what the port captain in that area wants, then comply.

As for Norm Goldie, there is no doubt that he's helped many cruisers over the years in San Blas. But neither is there any doubt that he's driven a large number of cruisers a little crazy, too. He's sort of like the Hillary Rodham Clinton of San Blas — a polarizing figure.


We did the Ha-Ha last year and loved it. We're going to do it again this year, but with our 10- and 11-year-old kids as we start our extended cruise.

If there wouldn't be any objection on the part of the Ha-Ha folks, we'd like to make a DVD of the event. We'd try to include everything from the Halloween Costume Kick-Off Party, to the actual sailing, to the activities and parties in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, as well as interviews with the participants. The Ha-Ha lends itself perfectly to such coverage.

Because we can't be everywhere during the event, we'd also encourage other participants to submit some of their video and still shots for inclusion in the DVD. And once the DVD was edited, we'd like to try to sell them in order to help finance our cruise and fund some of the aid work we plan to do during our five-year cruise. What do you think?

Richard Boren
Third Day, Pearson 365 ketch

Richard — It's nice for you to say such good things about the Ha-Ha, and to care what we think about your proposed DVD. Like you, we've always thought a DVD of the event would be terrific. We have videos for most of the Antigua Sailing Weeks we did back in the '80 and '90s, and they are some of our most prized possessions. Unfortunately, we've never had the time to both run the Ha-Ha and document it on video. So, sure, speaking as the owner of the Ha-Ha once again, go ahead and make a DVD. We're not going to say it's the 'official' Ha-Ha DVD, at least not until we see it, but we'll be happy to let other folks know what you have planned. And if they want to contribute, that sounds like a great idea, too.


It's not that long before this year's class of cruisers set sail for Mexico, so we thought it would be timely to remind folks about Temporary Import Permits or TIPs. Cruisers should get their TIP at their first port of entry in Mexico, which for most folks will be Ensenada or Cabo.

When getting a TIP, cruisers will have the opportunity to list all their important gear — engines, electronics, computers, and other valuables. We encourage people to do this, carefully noting the make, model and serial number of each. You may even be able to attach a prepared list of this information to the TIP along with an official stamp.

Why list all this valuable equipment on the TIP? If you need to take anything back to the States for repair, or replace them, it should be much easier to do if they are listed on the TIP.

Yes, we expect there will be numerous responses about how it's not necessary to do all this, that this person and that have never been asked to pay duty when bringing stuff into Mexico. But we say that having it all listed at least makes it official in the eyes of Customs in Mexico.

We're currently in Santa Rosalia while we wait for our Icom radio to be repaired and returned from the States.

Chuck Houlihan & Linda Edeiken
Jacaranda, Allied 39
San Diego / Santa Rosalia

Readers — TIPs serve several purposes. Since you can't get a TIP unless you are a foreigner, they are a way for the Mexican government to be sure all nationals have paid duty on their boats in Mexico. For cruisers, they are the document that allows them to legally leave Mexico without their boats and, in theory at least, bring repaired or replaced gear back into Mexico without having to pay duty on it. Mexican Customs being what it is, you often can just bring stuff in without having it listed on your TIP, or you can have a TIP and still not be allowed to bring replaced or repaired stuff back into Mexico without paying duty. By having the stuff listed on your TIP, the odds greatly in your favor that you won't have to pay duty.

TIPs cost about $50, are easy to get, and are necessary if you're going to be in Mexico for longer than your tourist visa.


The last I heard of actor Errol Flynn's 75-ft ketch Sirocco was last year when she was up for sale. She had been refurbished and was sailing under her original name of Karenita. Do you know what's happened to her? I think she ended up in Monaco or somewhere in the Med.

From Down Under

Pete — The ketch that was designed by John G. Alden and built by George Lawley and Son, and which was described as a "floating bordello" under Flynn's ownership, is still in the Med and still for sale. For a mere 1,500,000 euros — or about $2,203,348 in what used to be called 'real money' — you could own her yourself.


I've been reading Latitude a lot, and would really like to go on a long-term trip of my own. Can you tell me how much time it would take to sail a 40- to 45-ft catamaran from San Francisco to Costa Rica? I can't seem to find an answer for this anywhere online, and thought you'd be able to help more than anyone.

Genevieve Lacroix
San Francisco

Genevieve — Thanks for having confidence in us. There are so many huge variables in a San Francisco to Costa Rica sailing trip that it's difficult to answer your question with precision. For instance, are you talking about a delivery kind of trip or a cruise? Will the motor be used in the light air that's bound to be encountered along the way in Mexico and Central America? Will you be sailing hard on a fast cat, or easy on one that's loaded down?

The distance between San Francisco and Costa Rica is roughly 2,800 miles. Given the large areas of light air, you might average as little as 100 miles or less a day if you don't motor at all. If you used the engine periodically and at the right times, you might average as much as 125 miles a day. So we'd figure on between 22 to 28 24-hour sailing days.

However, only delivery skippers would be crazy enough to make such a passage without stopping, and even most of them would stop at Turtle Bay, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Zihua, Huatulco, and El Salvador to catch some sleep, look around, and perhaps take on fuel. The average cruiser would take the better part of a winter season — November through March — to sail to Costa Rica, not wanting to miss the many cruising charms of Mexico.


Having just read the February article on duct tape, I have an off sailing anecdote that readers might enjoy. I was recently at a presentation in Monterey given by one of our foremost former astronauts, Capt.(ret) Dan Bursch. One of his slides showed him dressed out in complete space suit gear as he prepared to go out of the Space Station. A particularly observant member of the audience asked about a grey band on the astronaut's arm. Sure enough, it was duct tape! In this case it was being used to strap an extra meter to the astronaut's arm. Kind of redefines the old axiom, 'don't leave home without it'.

Mike Faulk
Gitana Azul, Pearson Electra
Santa Cruz


Several years ago, I was going to sail my boat to St. Barth for the winter holidays to meet Latitude's catamaran Profligate and a group of other catamarans for some sailing fun. Alas, a shortly before I could my Leopard 47 cat was whacked by hurricane Francis in the Bahamas. After she was repaired, I sold her.

For the last few years, I have researched several catamaran manufacturers in hopes of eventually buying a new cat. Well, that day may not be that far off. So my question for Latitude is, if you had a large budget, what would your ultimate catamaran be?

Prior to owning the Leopard, I had a Fountaine-Pajot 42, which was a good starter cat. I'm not sure today's cats are as well-built. In any event, I'm looking for something in the 45- to 65-ft range that would have a huge 'wow factor', be fast under sail and power, have composite hulls, be safe, and handle well. Your opinion would be of a great help to me. So if I handed you a big check, which cat would you get?


G.K. — If you handed us a check with lots of zeros, we'd build Profligate all over again, but with carbon everything, a three foot longer J, fairer hulls, and better non-skid on the decks. We'd keep the systems almost as ultra simple because we like to sail more than we like to do maintenance and repairs. We'd continue to eschew luxurious stuff, because we think luxury is overrated. It's also heavy and makes cats lazy. Sixty-three feet is a larger cat than anybody really needs, but it's still small enough to singlehand — the most important quality in any boat — and we have to confess that we've grown fond of having as much deck space as some small countries. Because of her long waterline and relatively light weight, Profligate is plenty fast for us in everything but zephyrs. As you can tell, we love our cat, warts and all, so we can't imagine ever selling her.

While you could have a custom cat built, it's pretty risky business. Probably a third of the people we know who have done it have been less than happy with the experience. The other option is a production boat. You pretty much know what you'll be getting at what price, but you are limited to buying only what they have to offer. Except for the Gunboats, Outremers, and Baie du Mondes, the trend in larger cats has been to more luxury and less performance. It's tough to have both, although some manufacturers do better at managing that compromise than others. Unless you plan to have a large paid crew or you sail with a large family, we'd suggest getting a cat in the 47- to 56-ft range. Why? Today's cats in that range tend to feel much larger than the same size cats of 10 or 20 years ago. We wish we could direct you to one place to see all the cats you should, but that's just not possible. You're going to have to do at least one relatively lengthy trip to the Caribbean and to the Med to see them all. Happy boat shopping!


In a recent issue, you published a letter from a man asking about a winter charter in Mexico. You discouraged a winter charter in the Sea of Cortez on the basis that the water would be too cold for swimming. Perhaps you didn't publish all of the man's letter, but I didn't read anything about him saying he or his family wanted to swim.

We spent a winter in the Sea of Cortez in '92-'93, and it was delightful. True, we didn't swim, but the anchorages were uncrowded and the weather was good. It's a beautiful area. Speaking of cold water, we spent a winter in Turkey, and even the Med is cold in winter.

It seems to me that you'd do better if you paid attention to what readers asked rather than reading something of your own into their letter.

Maxine Bailey
Shingebiss II, Sceptre 43

Maxine — Thank you for your opinion, which we value tremendously based on your 14-year circumnavigation; however we couldn't disagree more. Our job is to inform, and we know that many folks are so unfamiliar with the Sea of Cortez that they don't even know what questions to ask. As such, we feel it's important for us to not only answer their questions, but to anticipate questions they should ask. If the man and his family don't care about swimming, they could ignore the information and no harm would have been done. If they did care about swimming, we may have saved them from an unsatisfactory experience. Too much information is rarely a problem, while too little information often is.

As for the Med, yes, we know it's too cold for swimming in the winter. So if somebody asked us for information about doing a winter charter in that part of the world, we'd make sure they knew it was cold at that time of year.

Our take on the Sea of Cortez is that it's usually warm enough for swimming until the early or middle parts of December. And November is almost always a terrific month in the Sea. But once a few Northers have come through, the water temperature usually drops quickly and doesn't get warm enough for comfortable swimming again until April. As you point out, not everyone cares about swimming during a charter, so for some, water temperature won't be an issue.


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