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November 2008

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I can't imagine anything more humiliating than steering my sailboat into a world famous 289-ft yacht in broad daylight, right in front of God and a photographer. Ouch! I have, however, steered my sailboat into a 26-ft boat, one that belonged to my best friend, no less. It happened on a gray and blustery day in front of almost no one, but it was still plenty humiliating, I can assure you!

In my case, I had too much sail on. Close-hauled and showing off, I passed too fast and way too close in the lee of my friend's Tollycraft. A gust — one of many I'd experienced that day — caused my boat to heel over and round up — not for the first time that day — smack into the only other boat within a mile. A $7,000 ouch! Among the several lessons that I learned: don't put any expensive and/or immovable object close to windward while on a beat in gusty conditions.

By the way, I wonder whether Stand-By's "inexplicable luffing up" might have been precipitated by turbulence or altered air currents from being in the lee of Maltese Falcon. Regardless, the skipper was too damned close, and too damn bad. I can almost empathize.

Paul Brogger
Lifelong Student, School of Hard Knocks

Paul — Imagine, you and we attend the same institution of higher learning! It takes guts to admit foolish mistakes, but it's not just 'good for the soul', it's also helpful in educating others so they don't make the same stupid mistakes we have. Thanks!

We doubt that being in Falcon's lee had anything to do with the boat luffing up. Either Stand-By was driven up into the wind, or the boat went up there on her own as a result of the main being sheeted in too tight.

It may be small consolation to the skipper of Stand-By, but thanks to the incident, he and his boat have become immortalized as a small part of sailing history. We know this, because any number of the Peter Lyons photos of the incident are available for purchase from PPL in England. Indeed, for just $750, you can get a 60" x 40" print on canvas of the moment of contact. We expect to see such photos on the walls of nautical-themed bars and restaurants the world over.


I just received my Latitude and flipped to the article about Skip Allan scuttling his Wylie 28 on the way home from Hawaii. When I finished reading the story, I realized that my breathing was shallow and slow, and that I had probably been holding my breath while reading the story.

Latitude readers may recall that I lost my Morgan 45 Painkiller while sailing across the Caribbean in April of 2000. We were in only 12- to 15-ft seas, and the boat was probably holed by a log. Naturally, I thought of that experience while reading Allan's story. I remember sitting in our liferaft, looking at my watch, and waiting for what I thought was about 30 minutes before looking at my watch again. But when I did, 30 minutes hadn't passed, but rather just three!

While I haven’t been in weather conditions that Allan was in, I believe he made the right decision by saving himself. Who knows what the result might have been if he had attempted to 'tough it out' for up to three more days? Personally, I'm glad he did the prudent sailor thing and is still with us to enjoy the tops of the waves as opposed to looking up at us from the bottom of the Pacific.

By the way, I’ve owned two more sailboats since Painkiller went to the bottom, so new boat love is not only possible, it's a must!

Ron Landmann
Minden, Nevada

Ron — The good news is that if Skip is interested in a near sistership to Wildflower, he pretty much just has to give the word.


I've seen a number of feature articles in glossy sailing magazines about "starter boats" for $150,000. What are these people thinking about?! It's got me thinking about writing an article about 'big bang for the buck' boats.

I'm a marine surveyor, and every week I survey some exceptional starter boats that are going for well below $80,000 — and in some cases closer to $20,000. These bargain boats are mostly production boats or retired racing boats from the '60s to the '80s. Nonetheless, they are fully capable, if updated a little, of providing good, safe cruising boats for couples and families. Magazines on the other side of the Atlantic, such as Yachting Monthly and Practical Boatowner, give considerable space to these kinds of older boats, but not U.S. sailing magazines.

Having surveyed and sailed on many of these boats over the years, I've gotten to know many of them intimately, including their structural idiosyncrasies and sailing foibles. I could write an interesting piece on perhaps a dozen boats that would include such 'insider' information. Making good boats into great boats with some simple improvements is both a speciality and a passion of mine. And such an article would be directed to people who want to get into sailing and are looking for the maximum fun per dollar. These boats would not just be good for things like sailing on the Bay and from Long Beach to Catalina, but beyond, too.

On another subject, the emails sent by Skip Allan, as well as Latitude's article about the scuttling of his Wildflower, are perhaps the most informative published pieces on dealing with extreme sailing conditions. This stuff goes way beyond theory — it's real life stuff that was executed by one of the most experienced racing/cruising skippers on the planet. I was shocked to read about Allan's troubles and the loss of Wildflower, but I am absolutely confident that if he decided to scuttle his beloved boat and get on the container ship, that was unquestionably the right thing to do. Period.

I first met Skip and Wildflower in Santa Cruz in '78 when I was bringing my Cal 28 up from Santa Barbara to San Francisco for the start of the first ever Singlehanded TransPac. I vividly recall our meeting because I accidentally knocked over his entire assortment of nuts/bolts/cotters/clamps and other assorted bits into the bilge of his boat! A few days later, just before the start of the Singlehanded TransPac, we skippers were being interviewed by the press about our race strategies. Everyone voiced a pet theory about working their way around the Pacific High without adding too many miles the course. I had a more simple and reliable strategy that I called IFS — or, I'm Following Skip.

Mike Pyzel
Caballo Blanco, Cal 30
Santa Barbara

Mike — We'd very much like to get a 'big bang for the boat buck' article. For readers who are unsure of your credentials, you might have mentioned that you sailed your Cal 28, which is one of those '60s boats, to Hawaii and back as part of that first Singlehanded TransPac, then from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz Island 500 — no typo — times, and cruised her down to Mexico as well.


Latitude never ceases to amuse/amaze/enlighten me. Your offer to Skip Allan of a near sistership to the Wylie 28 Wildflower he had to scuttle coming back from Hawaii is fantastic! As one who had to build/rebuild all of the 12 boats I've owned, I can appreciate your offer. I hope Skip does the same.

Joe Moore
Hejoha, Calkins 40
San Diego

Joe — Whoa! You're trying to give us credit for the good deed of another. For those who didn't read the item that appeared in the October 10 'Lectronic, we'll reprint it here:

"As most Latitude readers know, Skip Allan of Capitola, one of the best racers and cruisers that has ever come out of Northern California, scuttled his Wylie 28 Wildflower in rough weather on September 1 on his way back to California after winning the Singlehanded TransPac. The whole story appeared in the October Latitude. There are many people, ourselves included, who don't think the world is quite right with Allan not having his Wildflower. After all, he'd been racing and sailing her since before Latitude started publishing, and that was nearly 32 years ago. Fortunately, one of the people who also feels that way is Tim Redfern of Spokane, Washington, who owns a Hawkfarm, which is close to being a sistership to Wildflower. He sent us the following letter:

"'Tim here from the Sail Loft up at Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho. I have my Hawkfarm 28 advertised in your current issue of Latitude, which, lo and behold, also had the story of Skip Allan's adventure and the loss of his boat. I have no idea if a replacement Wylie is something he might want right now, but if it is, I would make a heck of a deal — like maybe transport costs only. I would be proud to know that my boat had gone to a very fine home in the hands of a brave, wise and caring — and still alive — sailor such as Skip Allan. My Hawkfarm has a diesel, folding prop, 13 sails, and all sorts of other goodies.'"

Our editorial response was: "A tip of the Latitude hat to you, Tim, for such a generous offer. As for the transportation costs, we know lots of folks — ourselves included — who would be happy to chip in for them. So it's up to you Skip. If you're moving in some other direction, that's cool. But if you're not, please don't give us any of that 'I couldn't accept such an offer' crap. As Tim said, he'd be proud for you to have the boat, and we — and everybody else who knows you — know exactly what he means."

Almost as soon as that 'Lectronic was posted, Will Baylis wrote to say that he'd be happy to put a "few bucks into the Wildflower II kitty."


We at the XOJET Leukemia Cup wish to give a heartfelt thanks to the skippers of the 116 boats and their crews, as well as the 50 youth sailors, who competed in the Leukemia Cup on October 4-5, plus all the many non-sailing supporters, and the host San Francisco YC. You truly are the best! We're also grateful to Tom Perkins of Maltese Falcon and Saturday night VIP speaker Rupert Murdoch, who without a doubt were pivotal reasons for the event's overwhelming success. After dinner on Saturday night, two couples bid $15,000 each for cigars and nightcap with Perkins and Murdoch on Maltese Falcon.

This year's regatta was all about breaking records. Given these challenging economic times, we're pleased to announce that we've raised a total of $662,674, with more money still rolling in. This is more than double the amount raised last year, and more than any of the other Leukemia Cups in the country. Ian Charles, our dynamic event chairman, raised $216,000 of that, more than 32% of the total, which made him the top individual fundraiser in the country! I'd also like to recognize our Fantasy Sail Qualifiers, all of whom raised at least $8,500 to try to find a cure. They were: Onne Broek, Ian Charles, John Collins, Matt Cromar, Jeff Cusack, Matt Frymier, Simon James, David Joyner, Torin Knorr, Suzie Moore, Bill Nolan, Molly Prahl, Robin Reynolds, Bill Smith and Kendra Thomas.

There are so many others to thank, both for participating and helping put this great event together. Thank you so much, we're looking forward to seeing you next year!

Robin Reynolds
Leukemia Cup Regatta Consultant


Who says there aren't enough boat slips in California? As I was making my way south for the start of the Ha-Ha, the nice folks at the Pacific Mariner's YC in Marina del Rey made room for my F-41 catamaran — by allowing my 23-ft wide cat to straddle two of their 35-ft slips. Quite a few folks have stopped by to observe the somewhat unusual sight.

Steve May
Endless Summer, F-41
Emery Cove Marina

Steve — Terrific! Actually, we remember a small cat doing the same thing at Marina Plaza in Sausalito. We hope they didn't charge you for two slips.


I was the pilot of the Jet Airways B-777 that helped Ron Simpson of the San Diego-based Bounty 41 La Cenicienta through his initial rescue call and prep for rescue while he was sailing toward Hawaii. He seemed to take instructions well over the radio, although he was fatigued and anxious. Simpson became so scared of capsizing that he made the mistake of inflating his liferaft in the cockpit of his boat, and then lost it in the wind.

I was once in a similar situation in the Gulf of Mexico. We were 100 miles offshore, and in the course of getting hit by 60-knot winds in a very strong cold front, had the steering cable come off the rudder cam. Thank God I wasn't singlehanding at the time.

I'm glad I was able to help Simpson by relaying a good lat/long for him. We lost contact on HF HAM 14.300 as we passed north of him en route to San Francisco. I was afraid we'd lost him, and didn't learn that he was absolutely safe aboard the merchant vessel until morning when the emails came rolling in. I'd given my email address to the Maritime Service net operator, and God knows how many hams wrote it down so they could contact me, but I was glad to hear of the safe outcome.

I'll be in Shanghai for another 10 days or so, at which time I'll be returning to the West Coast. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to meet Simpson in person.

Glenn Brown
Capt, B-777, Jet Airways / USCG Master 100 ton


I'm writing with regard to Ronnie Simpson's attempt to singlehand his Bounty II La Cenicienta "through the tradewinds" to Hawaii, and his subsequent rescue a few days into that voyage. I think his was a downright dangerous trip, and I hope other active — as opposed to armchair — sailors will support my evaluation. Any positive twist on it would only encourage similar foolhardy adventures that might end up in a rescue, or even loss of life.

It's true that you gain experience through experience, but that experience is best gained incrementally. Both the Singlehanded Sailing Society and Pacific Cup YC require real offshore experience prior to entering their races to Hawaii.

Then there's the question of the boat. It's my understanding that Latitude was started aboard a Bounty II in Sausalito. A Rhodes Bounty is certainly capable of ocean sailing in almost any conditions, but the condition of an older boat becomes a concern when the basics, such as the water supply, fuel management, and bilge pumps are compromised. Gas in the V-berth? Then total steering failure? Again, that's why both the Singlehanded TransPac and Pacific Cup require careful inspection of boats and equipment, including emergency steering.

I don't presume to know all the facts, such as what kind of advice he received from "old salts on the dock," or what kind of experience those "old salts" had, but I do know the best way to prepare for an extended ocean voyage is through preparation of both boat and crew — even if it's only one person — including both coastwise and offshore shakedowns.

I think Latitude's concerns about the son of an old friend who built a questionable trimaran — the $25,000, 50-ft trimaran Tin Can, which didn't even make it to Santa Cruz — saying he was going to sail around the world in a ridiculously short time, were more in line with reality. I don't think your coverage of Tin Can would encourage anyone to undertake such a risky trip, while I think your report on Simpson in the October 10 'Lectronic might have.

Pat Broderick
Former SSS Commodore

Pat — We agree that you only gain experience through experience, and that experience is best gained incrementally. As such, if Simpson had shared the plans of his voyage with us, we would have strongly encouraged him to do a couple of laps around all the Channel Islands with an experienced sailor before taking off to Hawaii. But other than that, we wouldn't have had anything against his proposed voyage.

You talk about the Singlehanded Sailing Society and the Pacific YC inspecting all the boats that enter. Are you suggesting that such a pre-race inspection would have revealed that the Bounty's rudder post was going to shear off in heavy sea conditions? When Cal 40s, which were built at the same time as the Bountys, enter the races to Hawaii, how carefully are their rudder posts inspected? Furthermore, it's not as though rudders/masts/booms haven't broken on boats in both those events.

Yes, secondary steering would have been nice. But few cruising boats that cross the Pacific have them. And when it comes to getting caught in heavy weather, a lot of boats don't have bilges and bilge pumps that are up to the task.

As for the gas tank in La Cenicienta's bow, all the Bountys had a double-hull kind of fuel tank up forward. While it's a bad idea for weight distribution, and certainly doesn't sound like the safest arrangement, we never had a problem with ours and didn't know of any Bounty owners that did. And for the record, the gas tank that spilled was a jerry can for the outboard.

The bottom line for us is that we're not going to dump on Simpson's attempt. In fact, we hope he gets another boat, does a couple of laps around the Channel Islands, and then takes off around the world once more.

Who is Ronnie Simpson? The bio he presents on his website,, is very interesting:

"I was born February 18, 1985 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. My mother remarried at an early age to an amazing man. He became our step parent and adopted all three of us. I have a 25-year-old brother in Hawaii and a 27-year-old sister in Georgia. We were mostly raised in Georgia, where I grew up riding dirt bikes and bicycles, playing hockey, getting in trouble in school, and being a spoiled brat. We had a lot of money and I liked expensive things. That's just how I was raised.

"After getting into some trouble in high school, I moved out of the house during my senior year. I lived in a few apartments and drove a $700 Volvo station wagon, which was all I could afford at the time. I actually managed to graduate. Having been raised a conservative, rich, white Republican, joining the Marines seemed like the right thing to do in a time of war. I joined the Infantry, went to Iraq, and was blown up. I was behind a .50 cal gun in a Hummer when we got hit by a rocket propelled grenade. That was June 30, 2004.

"I was put into a medically induced coma and had a machine breathe for me. I would remain like that for six weeks, at which point I woke up to my mom, dad and brother in San Antonio, Texas. My left lung, eyes, gastrointestinal system and left ear were pretty badly damaged. I had suffered burns, been torn up by shrapnel, and was covered in bandages. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but I had a tube down my nose, I was hooked up to oxygen, couldn't eat, and I had to be strapped into a chair to keep from falling out. I dropped from 180 to 119 pounds and thought I was going to waste away and die.

"But then I just started getting better. By the end of that year I was somewhat back to being myself. I went out and bought the fastest motorcycle made, and started being a 19-year-old Marine again, riding around, drinking, meeting girls, and so forth. Six days later my dad died in his sleep while I was visiting family. I was utterly beside myself. His death was the worst experience of my life, far worse than getting hit by a rocket propelled grenade. My father, who spent his whole life working in an effort to make as much money and have the nicest stuff possible, had literally worked himself to death.

"I returned to Texas as an active duty Marine. But I started to hate being in the military because they wouldn't let me go back to Iraq and fight. I'd regained most of my strength and fitness, but my vision was bad. In January of '06 I was medically retired from the Marines. I waited tables for a while, but by the end of the year had started selling motorcycles. When not working or in school, I rode and raced dirt bikes.

"As a result of being blown up, I'd come into some money. Plus I was making some money. As a result, I just went crazy buying stuff and accumulating material wealth. By the time I was 21, I owned a house, and by the time I was 22, the house was full of motorcycles, expensive bicycles, big TVs and stuff like that. I was making good money, had more stuff than any 22-year-old I knew, and was working my way towards a business degree. I was following directly in my father’s footsteps, doing everything I had been told to do since I was four years old. But wait, dad had died, I was miserable, I hated what I was doing and felt I was wasting my second shot at life.

"In December of '07, my brother and I began talking about sailboats and going around the world "in a few years." It just sounded like the right thing to do, but I didn't see the point in waiting. So I sold my house, put a deposit on a boat in San Diego, and should be leaving Texas soon. My goal is to sail around the world while filming a documentary. I want to break the mold and see what's really out there. I want to find my own personal horizon and encourage others to find theirs. We’re bred to go to school, get a degree, get a job so we make as much money as possible, start a family, and spend our whole life working to acquire as much stuff as possible. Then we die. I don’t want to spend the majority of every day, five or six days a week for the next 40 years, working. I want to go live my life and I hope to inspire others to do the same."

No, there is no way we're going to dump on Ronnie Simpson or his attempt to singlehand to Hawaii as the first leg of a trip around the world. He may be young and a bit brash — which is how the young should be — but we see tons of potential in all aspects of his life.


It was with disbelief that I just read the letter from "Kathy of Sonoma" regarding human trafficking — which was written in response to the 'Lectronic piece on cruising in the Adriatic by Andrew Vik of the Islander 36 Geja. Having just returned from three weeks touring Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and the Dalmatian Coast, I can say that I saw no evidence of the things she described. On the contrary, what we saw were the people of Croatia working very hard to join the European Union in 2010. We saw construction everywhere — including the building of highways, bridges, generating plants of all types, major shipbuilding, housing and other infrastructure-type projects. The historical sites, including those damaged in the '91 war, have been replaced or restored. In general, there is very little obvious physical evidence of the war.

As to the Russian influence, there is more development money coming from other EU countries such as Germany, France, Italy and England (not EU) than Russia. It is true, however, that Russia and Serbia have invested significantly in Montenegro.

The people in Croatia were friendly, the hotels and restaurants were squeaky clean, and we saw no trash on the streets and highways. I was especially impressed by the young people, who were very polite when we needed directions or help in stores or restaurants. We found the people in general to be well-educated and aware of the problems we are having in the United States. They are following our election process and financial meltdown with great interest.

As to the nightlife described in the September 17 'Lectronic report, yes, there are many clubs, cafes and discos in the major cities. And like young people everywhere, they do like to party. However, we never saw anybody get out of line, even late at night.

My wife and I, and our friends, went out at night walking the streets of Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Opatija, and never felt threatened by groups of young people. Without exception, we were treated with respect. In Zagreb, we even used the very impressive public transportation system, and saw no evidence of panhandlers, hookers or street people. I, for one, was highly impressed with this part of the world and would not hesitate to revisit.

Roger England
Orizaba, Cal 2-30

Roger — We're on the same page as you, but at the same time don't want to totally dismiss Kathy's general concerns. Everyone should recognize that human trafficking exists almost everywhere in the world — and most certainly in the United States and the Bay Area. 'Human trafficking' is defined as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is not yet 18 years old; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

According to a June U.S. State Department report on the subject, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across borders a year, and millions more are trafficked within their own countries. Approximately 80% of the trans-national victims are women and girls, and up to half of them are minors. Overall, it's a pretty disgusting indictment of the male species.

According to the June report, 14 nations are considered to be in Tier 3, the worst classification of all. Some may surprise you. They are: Cuba, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Iran, Moldova, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, as well as U.S. allies Saudia Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. Last year there were 16 Tier 3 countries, so there has been some slight improvement. In addition, there are 40 nations on what's called the 'Tier 2 Watch List', which means they are in danger of falling into Tier 3. Croatia is in Tier 2.

While Croatia is also a transit country located on the so-called 'Balkans Route', it is more frequently the starting point and destination for the girls and women who are trafficked from Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and elsewhere in Eastern Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation. While Croatia is criticized for often giving one-year suspended sentences to convicted human traffickers, the report also emphasizes that Croatia offers shelter and legal, medical and psychological help to victims of trafficking, and makes it possible for victims to stay in the country for up to two years if they would face difficulties upon their return home. Croatia is also recognized for trying to raise public awareness of the human trafficking problem through television advertisements as well as posters in the Macedonian, Ukrainian and Romanian languages along highways, at border crossings, in harbors and at airports and police stations.

So we agree with "Kathy of Sonoma" that the human trafficking problem is real, that women are usually the victims, and that it's disgusting beyond belief. On the other hand, not all women, and certainly very few women who are moving about freely — be they in San Francisco, Berkeley or Croatia — are victims of sex trafficking. And as we pointed out last month, a youthful and good-looking guy like Vik, who has neither much trouble meeting women nor much money — would hardly be a prime target of women caught in such unfortunate circumstances. So we're confident that the women in the photos he sent were just regular girls looking to have fun, not victims of sex trafficking.

How to reduce sex trafficking? We think mandatory lifetime imprisonment for perpetrators would be an appropriate place to start for such hideous crimes.


I read Andrew Vik's Changes about cruising the Islander 36 Geja in the Med and Adriatic. It was terrific! Over the course of many years, my late husband Dick and I cruised Geja more than halfway around the world, from San Francisco to the Med. Dick's spirit sails on with the boat.

Shirley Sandys
Palo Alto


I'm pissed off about the two-page photo you ran of Heather Corsaro in the September Sightings, the one where she was wearing nothing but a smile and a PFD that barely covered her obviously large breasts. Your pretext for running the photo was to encourage sailors to wear their PFDs. You brain addled male jerk! Do you think we women are too thick-skulled and naïve to believe male rubbish such as that?

You should pick up a copy of Naomi Wolf's bestseller The Beauty Myth. A good San Francisco-born woman whose mother wrote The Lesbian Community, Wolf argues that women are under assault by the 'beauty myth' in five areas: work, religion, sex, violence and hunger. She forgot to mention that women are under assault by Latitude, too!

In her later work, Wolf wrote favorably about the way women are required to dress in Muslim countries. "The West interprets veiling as repression of women and suppression of their sexuality. But when I travelled in Muslim countries and was invited to join a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes, I learned that Muslim attitudes toward women's appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one's husband. It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling — toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life and the attachment that secures a home."

I'm not the only one who thinks Corsaro would be better served sailing in a burqa — except when sailing on all-women boats.

Excelsior Vagina
Where Else but San Francisco

Excelsior — What a great first name — especially for a feminist. Wolf's third-wave feminism is way beyond our testosterone-diminished intellect, so rather than reading The Beauty Myth, we just skimmed over the review in The New York Times by Caryn James. Either Wolf wrote a terrible book or Ms. James hates women, because The Beauty Myth was described as "sloppily researched polemic as dismissible as a hackneyed adventure film. Even by the standards of pop-cultural feminist studies, The Beauty Myth is a mess." As if that wasn't enough, James went on to write, "Ms. Wolf doesn't begin to prove her claims because her logic is so lame, her evidence so easily knocked down, and her statistics are shamefully secondhand and outdated." Wolf had claimed that 150,000 women a year die of anorexia, which apparently is off by about 149,900.

It seems to us that Corsaro, the model in that trying-to-save-lives photo, might agree with Wolf when she argued that women should have "the choice to do whatever we want with our faces and bodies without being punished by an ideology that is using attitudes, economic pressure, and even legal judgments regarding women's appearance to undermine us psychologically and politically." After all, check out the accompanying photo of her being punished during the costume party at the last Sea of Cortez Sailing Week. And the other one for a future article about how to put on a sailcover.


We were pleased to see that Latitude published our letter about the fuel issues in Turtle Bay. In general, we can see your point of view. I've travelled over 4,000 miles in Mexico during the last year, and found cheating on fuel to be unique to Turtle Bay. Hower, the "passive aggressive" nonsense you spouted at the end of your response is hogwash. We didn't realize how Enrique would react until we provided the tip to the kids manning the fuel barge.

With respect to tipping in Mexico, we don't see nearly enough of it. Folks should remember that the living wage for these folks is about 100-125 pesos a day, which is about $10 to $12. And a large number of people — from bagboys at the market to the guy who watches your car in the lot — get nothing but tips. Cruisers need to be more aware of this cultural difference, pry a few pesos out of their wallets, and spread that gringo wealth around.

It was also interesting to read the profiles of the people who will be doing the Ha-Ha in the last two Latitudes, as it adds a nice bit of human interest. I can only suggest that they step off the Ha-Ha conveyor belt and stop and smell the roses along the Pacific Coast of Baja. I was paid crew on a 40-ft sailboat from Mazatlan to L.A. in September, and we stopped at four anchorages during the Bash, all of them empty, windswept and beautiful. Folks should consider some of the alternatives to the Ha-Ha — especially those who have already done it once.

In addition, I've got a few thoughts on Mexico. In May we, considered putting our boat on the hard at Marina Seca in San Carlos, which is the largest dry storage area in Mexico. We didn't because the boating life in Mexico seems to have been agreeing with Marianne so much that it appears she won't need to have back surgery, which means we didn't have to rent a house. So we made our way down to Mazatlan, and spent the summer at the El Cid Marina.

(By the way, the folks at Marina San Carlos will haul your boat, store it at Marina Seca for a mere $150 a month, and then launch it again when you return in the fall or winter. But beware, as San Carlos is about the hottest place in Mexico in the summer. The marina gives you a long list of things to do to protect your boat from the heat, but it doesn't cover everything. A guy got on the radio to report that the main pump on his watermaker had failed after the boat had been on the hard for two years. He'd probably forgotten to take the pump out of the system, lubricate all of the seals and bearings, and store it in a cool place. So if you're not careful, there can be more expenses than just the dry storage fees.)

But not many other cruisers stayed in Mexico for the summer. In fact, it seems like just about every other cruiser had somewhere else to go. They had houses, campers, RVs, parents' houses or friends' houses where they could stay. We ran into a couple with a 50-ft aluminum boat who were going back to Canada to what the woman characterized as a "little cruisers' house". Since the two of them — who aren't even very big — cruise on a 50-footer, I can only imagine the size of their "little house."

Some of the exodus north from Mexico in May is because the Canadians have to spend six months back in their homeland or risk losing their medical insurance. In addition, summer in the Sea of Cortez can get brutally hot and muggy, so lots of people like to avoid that. Indeed, many of the folks who stayed on their boats in the Sea last summer weren't going to do it again this summer.

But we were frankly surprised to learn that so many cruisers keep one foot on land — meaning a place to retreat to — in addition to their boat. We thought everybody who sailed to Mexico was going to be like us, meaning they'd gotten rid of all their junk back home, had cast free of the burdens of urban society, had set forth on a new journey of discovery, were living the dream, blah, blah, blah. The reality is that most have kept all of that stuff back home — with the attendant costs — and have just gone on long vacations.

In fact, in some cases it almost seemed as though these 'cruisers' had to head back home almost as soon as they got down to Mexico. This behavior and outlook is so different from ours, as we devoted so much time, money and energy to getting down here that we can't imagine wanting to go back to the States and sit around for five months. What would we do? After all, there is so much to see and do in Mexico, and our time here will be short. I wouldn't want to give any of it up for the dubious pleasures of the urban American scene — as much as I miss good chocolate and fine British gin.

A lot of folks seem to cruise in a migratory pattern. They spend the four good months cruising around Mexico, then the next eight back home or doing something else. Then they come back and do it again the following year, taking the same routes, visiting the same anchorages, stopping at the same towns, meeting the same people. And sometimes they do it year after year. Others have been here for just a year or so, and are making one pass around the Sea before setting off across the Pacific next year. In any case, San Carlos in May has the same sort of atmosphere of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk after the end of summer and all the kids have gone back to school.

To try to make sense of it all, we've come up four types of cruisers we've found in the Sea of Cortez:

The Denizens. These are one step above non-boaters, for even though they live on boats, they never travel more than 20 miles away. They have a car and permanent relationships in a community, and they tend to be a bit older. They may have been active cruisers once but have swallowed the anchor in some ungodly place not fit for man. These folks invented the cruiser festivals that are everywhere, as it keeps them in touch with their more seagoing brethren. If your idea of a good mooring is car hubcaps welded together with some rebar found in a field, then you are a Denizen.

The Migratory Landlubbers. These folks cruise four months on, eight months off, and have houses, cars and lots of money. Their boats are configured for near-shore cruising and carry more junk than a Conestoga wagon crossing the prairie. The boats are usually at least 20 years old and often not well maintained because their owners don't have any world cruising aspirations. We also call them Permacruisers, since they aren't ever going to leave Mexico. The ones based out of San Carlos, however, may migrate down to Puerto Vallarta once every five years or so.

The Distance Cruiser Wannabes. These folks — and we include ourselves among them — came down the coast last winter, have ambitions of sailing farther, but haven't made the jump yet. We may or may not be putting our boats on the hard during the summers. Most Distance Cruiser Wannabes don't maintain houses since they are Distance Cruiser Wannabes, and part of that is getting rid of the house and minimizing possessions. We tend to be a bit younger — early 50s — and have well-found, ocean capable yachts with things like windvanes, and keep less junk on deck since the ocean can sweep it off. We talk a lot about weather, sea state, routes and other macho sailing related matters.

The World Cruisers. These folks sweep though Baja on world class yachts, disdaining any break in their agenda of crossing vast oceans. They sail Baja in the winter, and then move on quickly, writing articles in magazines about the pathetic bunch of us beginners left behind at anchor in late December moaning about having no Christmas lights. There aren't many of these, but you'll know them when you meet them because they'll come over to cheer you up — and fix whatever is broken on your boat!

In any event, we found San Carlos in May to be a bit of a sad place because we'd made a lot of friends and were not sure if we'd see any of them again. They might be in the Sea again this winter and so might we, but then again, we and they may go different places and never see each other again. What is true is that San Carlos is the end of the trip for many cruisers. More than a few cruising dreams will be shattered on the hard, and these boats will have to find new owners.

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

Gary and Marianne — With all due respect, it seems as though you're a little adrift and are searching for some order in the world of cruising. Alas, you're not going to find it because cruising is about nearly total freedom of choice, and all cruisers are in different life situations and have different resources and desires.

You seem to find the fact that everybody leaves San Carlos in May — and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk at the end of summer — troubling or sad. It's nothing but the cyclical nature of things, for they are as seasonal as ski resorts. As you continue to cruise, you'll discover that almost all sailing is seasonal. If you're in Mexico or the Caribbean, the season ends in late April or early May, with everybody taking off in order not to get stuck in the oppressive heat, humidity and rain of summer. Sailors in Mexico either head back to California or across the Pacific for the start of high seasons in those areas. The Caribbean boats head to either the East Coast or the Med and the beginning of the high seasons in those parts of the world. When the summer high seasons end in California, the South Pacific, the East Coast and the Med in October, just about everybody who can continues on to the next high season cruising areas of the world, which are Mexico, New Zealand/Australia, and the Caribbean respectively. Cruising is all about moving with the seasons because low season weather is unpleasant.

Saying goodbye to wonderful cruising friends that you've made during the high season is — unless you're as insensitive as we are — one of the hardest things in cruising. But it's no different from when you graduated from high school. The more you cruise, the more you get used to it. And look on the bright side — with each new season you're going to meet a whole new group of friends to add to the old ones who are still around. On the other hand, if you're a cruiser who continues to sail with the seasons, you'd be with a core group of friends from your cruising class. Indeed, one of the things people like about the Ha-Ha is that they are likely to make friends that they'll still be sailing with on the other side of the world.

There are a number of other things you said that struck us as curiously judgmental; almost as if you're bothered that not everybody cruises the way you think they should. Here are some examples:

1) It sounds as though you feel double-crossed that not all cruisers or folks who have sailed to Mexico have sold everything and put all their eggs into their cruising basket. But where is it written that cruisers have to do any such thing? While many circumnavigators go around without taking an extended break, probably an equal number go around sailing only three or four months a year. This is very popular with folks like teachers, who get summers off but have to work the rest of the time. In addition, lots of people find cruising 'six and six' or 'eight and four' to be more enjoyable than nonstop cruising, as it gives them a 'foot in both worlds', and a little variety is often the spice of life. You snarkily dismiss these people by saying they are just on "vacation," but it would be more accurate to say they enjoy a multi-faceted life. And what's wrong with that?

2) You seem uncomfortable that some people have homes/condos/recreational vehicles/friends' houses to go to in the summer after putting their boats on the hard in San Carlos. So what if they do? Does cruising 'six and six' or 'eight and four' somehow make them traitors to some mythical concept of 'correct cruising' that dictates once you start you can't stop or take a break? Furthermore, some people don't like following the seasons with their boats, nor do they want to suffer through a low season. So 'six and six', or some variation of it, suits them perfectly.

3) You say you don't know why anybody would come back to the United States in the summer when there is so much to see and do in Mexico. The simple reason is because summer weather along coastal Mexico makes it a relatively crappy time to see and do those things in Mexico. It's the same reason you don't see many folks taking their snow skis to the Sierras in the summer, or girls putting on bikinis and heading to California beaches in January. We may not have learned much in our lives, but the one thing we do know is that there is always a good reason why places have low seasons, and that's because it's not so nice to be in those places at that time of year.

4) You speak disparagingly of so-called Denizens who "swallowed the anchor in some ungodly place unfit for man." If these people thought the places they settled down were "ungodly and unfit for man," they wouldn't have settled there, would they? Why not let people decide for themselves what they think is desirable. We, for example, could never imagine living in cool and gray Seattle, but lots of people love it, so why shouldn't we be delighted for them?

5) You imply that there is something wrong with people who don't cruise slowly and "smell the roses." Well, it just so happens that there are a lot of people who, thank you very much, are much happier doing long passages and keeping up a fast pace. Think of Mike Harker on Wanderlust III, who singlehanded around the world in 11 months, and Stephen Mann and Kathleen Torres, who plan to do it in even less time. But once again, it's curious that you're bothered by the fact that some people like to cruise in a way that doesn't particularly appeal to you.

6) Similarly, you seem to be bothered that so many sailors love doing the Baja Ha-Ha one or more times. But here you are, somebody who has never done a Ha-Ha and has less than a full year of cruising under your belt, and you feel compelled to tell other people to "get off the conveyor belt" — and certainly not do the Ha-Ha more than once. Having never done a Ha-Ha, how do you figure you are qualified to make such a recommendation? What's next, panning movies you've never seen and books you've never read?

The fact is that many sailors with far more extensive cruising experience than you seem to get a kick out of two weeks of Ha-Ha-type fun every year, taking the opportunity to make tons of new friends, before resuming more normal cruising. Each year a number of cruisers bring their boats back from Mexico for the sole reason of doing another Ha-Ha. In addition, there have been a few who have done a Ha-Ha, cruised around the Pacific for many years or even done a circumnavigation, then hurried back to San Diego in late October just to participate in another Ha-Ha. In the most extreme example, Rich and Sheri Crowe, who spent three months this summer sailing the S&S 65 Alaska Eagle around the South Pacific for Orange Coast College, got off Eagle, dashed down to their Farr 44 in Ecuador, then sailed three weeks, nearly nonstop through the Eastern Pacific hurricane zone at the height of the hurricane season, to San Diego in order to do their third Ha-Ha. Why this couple, who have been everywhere and done everything you can with sailboats — including Cape Horn, Antarctica and scores of seasons in the South Pacific — would go to so much trouble to do another Ha-Ha is beyond us, but it's very flattering.

Mind you, many people do the Ha-Ha for more practical reasons. In many cases, two weeks is all the time that the owners and/or their crew can take off work or from their families. So a month of cruising down the Baja coast would be out of the question for them. And remember, most folks who sail in the Ha-Ha either can't or don't want to sell everything and go cruising at this time in their lives, so they either return home right away or 'commuter cruise' for the season. And what's wrong with either of those options?

6) You seem troubled that some cruisers do the same Mexico circuit every year, sailing the same route, stopping at the same anchorages, and seeing many of the same people. Once again, why do you have a problem with it if that's what other people like? If they've found a cruising area that they really like, why shouldn't they continue to enjoy it until it's not fun anymore? This is especially true if it's as close, inexpensive, and friendly as Mexico. Again, where is it written that cruisers always have to go to somewhere new? We've been lucky enough to be able to return to old cruising haunts in Mexico for 30 years, and in St. Barth and parts of the Caribbean for 22 years. While we also love to go to new places, it's soooooo much fun to be able to return to the old haunts, and in particular, all the dear, dear friends we've made in these places over the years. In fact, we've got 10 times more good friends in Mexico and in St. Barth than we have on our street in Tiburon.

7) It seems to bother you that some cruisers have more money than you do. When it comes to the world of boats, somebody always has more money — way more money — than you. The thing to realize is that money doesn't buy cruising happiness. Indeed, some of the people having the most fun cruising have the smallest and least equipped boats, and the least amount of money.

Just for fun, we consulted a cruiser psychiatrist, and he seems to think that your apparent need to tell others how they should cruise is actually a reflection of your feeling a little insecure about what you're doing and how. He advises that this is normal with relatively new cruisers who don't have a plan etched in stone, particularly those who stayed behind during a low season and felt a little sense of abandonment. But he's got good news. "There's a new high season about to begin in Mexico, there are hundreds of new cruisers about to sail down, eager to meet you, and you have the entire world of cruising options before you."

We hope you take all this with a sense of humor, and above all, enjoy the upcoming season.

As for tipping in Mexico, we see it exactly the way you do. And you're correct, some people in Mexico work for tips alone. This includes, for example, the sweet older women who cheerfully bag groceries in places like the Magna superstores. If you don't tip someone in the States who expects it, they grouse or come after you. If you don't tip one of these bagging ladies at the Magna stores, they still give you a big smile. Some cruisers criticize our tipping habits, claiming that we're spoiling Mexicans and ruining everything for cruisers who follow in our path. We understand the argument, but we don't agree with it.


I've been reading Latitude since starting my first job at West Marine in Long Beach in '84. Latitude is a great magazine, and it's been fun watching it grow and improve over the years. In a funny way, though, I do miss the early Latitudes that were all black and white in the cut-and-paste days of the '80s.

I've included a photo of my daughter Shelby and me, taken on the Potomac River just south of Alexandria, Virginia, as part of a gratuitous attempt to get our photos in the magazine.

Stefan Svilich
Currently boatless in Virginia

Stefan — Few things warm our hearts as much as seeing dads with their beloved kids, so getting your photo in was a slam dunk.

The part we miss about the early days of Latitude is that we could be such editorial smart-asses. Now that we're respectable, it seems we find it harder to be wise guys. What we don't miss about the early days are the black and white photos, the enormous amount of time and labor that went into producing each issue, and how hard it was getting reports and news from distant parts of the world. Thanks almost entirely to technology, we're able to produce a far superior product and do it much more efficiently. Were it not for technological advances, we'd have gone out of business many years ago.


I've have always read Latitude's points of view on all things nautical with great interest. As such, I was interested to read "If It All Goes to Shit" in the October Sightings, which was basically your thoughts on what sailboat owners might want to do if the U.S. and world economies really go down the tubes. In short, you suggested that for those it would be appropriate for, to hop on their boats, sail to Mexico, and basically enjoy a healthy and active life until the economies come back.

Well, that was my plan, too!

But please don't publish this letter, because imagine how bad it would be if every boatowner on the west coast of the United States headed to Mexico. It would be a literal Ha-Ha — meaning 'Hordes Afloat, Hordes Afloat'.

It should be noted that Latitude isn't the one to have let this cat of an idea out of the bag. A year ago, a bunch of us were sitting around the yacht club bar musing about what we'd do if everything went down the tubes. We discovered that many of us would do just what you recommended. It's actually kind of scary, because if things really did get bad enough, these people wouldn't just talk about it but would actually do it! Mexico does have the islands and remote spots where it would be great to hang out — but not if they were flooded with hordes of other Americans on boats. Of course, there are spots right here at our Channel Islands, too. I'm thinking especially of Santa Cruz Island, as it has fresh water.

Most of my friends scoff at the thought of a 'doomsday plan'. But they are the very same people who will be the first to realize that the nice safe home they live in now will become a prison in less than a week if everything really goes to crap. For it the economy was truly shot, the infrastructure would quickly go, so that no matter how hard local communities tried to keep it together, there would be no trucks bringing food to markets, no water, no power or electricity, no working hospitals and no police. In such a case, 'getting out of Dodge' would be the one and only thought that would come to most people's minds, but by then it would be too late for that. Unfortunately, the only people who would have options would be the ones with guns. So no, nothing but a sailboat on the sea with a working watermaker powered by solar panels and equipped with lots of fishing gear would offer any last chance for survival. Yes, I know this sounds like Waterworld or some other bad B movie, but there is something to be said for having a plan just the same. We all need a head start to make sure we have that extra week to get out before others learn of our plan.

Other thoughts: Powerboaters would quickly see the folly in trying to live on their boats, for there won't be fuel to keep them going until the economies come back around. They'd realize that in the first month. When I shared my 'doomsday plan' with another person, his response was that he'd steal a sailboat — and learn how to sail it as he went along. I'm sure any boat would be a target for the undisciplined and ruthless crooks, who, learning that our plan worked, would want to try it, too.

Jim Barden
Martes, Iroquois 32 Mk2a / Ann Marie, Morgan 28
Marina del Rey / Mexico

Readers — Although Jim's view of things sounds a little on the apocalyptic side to us, we thought it was unfair that he wanted to deny his opinions and knowledge to our reader. So we appealed to him to let us run the above letter. His response appears in the following letter.

By the way, we can't see that Santa Cruz Island would have that much to offer in a doomsday scenario. After all, it has no food or supplies, no internet access, very cold water, cold-as-heck air temps in the winter, and is often even cold during the summer. Compare that, for example, with Banderas Bay in Mexico, where the water is always warm, there's great fishing, surfing, hiking, and a great variety of places to go within 12 flatwater miles, the food is cheap, and perhaps most important of all, the friendly population has a wealth of experience knowing how to enjoy life with very little.


You are the editor, so if you feel the thoughts expressed in my letter would do some good for others, of course, go ahead and print it. But I think that Mexico might become a sea of displaced Americans on displaced boats, all in competition for the little there will be available. We wouldn't be able to turn around in an anchorage, let alone forage for food or find protection in the once available islands or protected anchorages.

Nonetheless, maybe you should write a short article about a plan that boatowners might think about putting together, such as equipping their boats with watermakers, SSB/Ham radios, fishing poles and lures, spear guns, vacuum bags good for five years, and those kinds of things. And they could read some Mormon literature on how to be self-sufficient for a long period of time. You might also want to tell your readers about the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa and other small islands far away from the continents. Those parts of the world wouldn't be as affected as our overpopulated cities, where the real problems would develop. And hey, why not go ahead and tell them about Santa Cruz Island, for I won't be there. I'll even tell you about the four water sources that I know about.

Now that I think about it, there will be room for all of us. After all, there always has been.

Jim Barden

Jim — We don't envision a no-food, chaos-in-the-streets scenario like you. Nevertheless, just for fun we did a little research on how little people actually need to survive during times of hardship. To get an idea of how some First World populations survived deprivations that came on with shocking speed and severity, one only need to look to the lives of Londoners and Parisians during World War II. It was worse in occupied Paris, of course, where people were reduced to fighting over rats for dinner, but it was bad enough in London, too.

In January of 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed in England, followed by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit. One of the few foods not rationed were fish and chips. Lots of people became vegetarians. The following is the average rations per person, per week: Nineteen ounces of meat. Four ounces of bacon or ham. Three pints of milk. Two ounces of butter, two of margarine, two of fat or lard, and two of loose tea. One egg, two ounces of jam, three ounces of sugar, one ounce of cheese, three ounces of sweets, two pounds of onions, plus a small amount of tinned and dried food. In other words, about the equivalent of a single Grand Slam Breakfast at Dennys.

There is a famous story about Winston Churchill asking to see what typical British rations amounted to during this period, He was presented with a life-size wooden mock up. "All in all a fine meal," Churchill proclaimed. He quickly became enraged, however, when someone was brave enough to inform him it was actually a week's worth of food.

Despite the food rationing, many people in England seemed to be healthier after the war. In the case of the lower classes, it was because they were actually getting more food than they had prior to the war. In the case of the upper classes, it was because they were eating less food than before.

Ironically, food rationing became more strict in England after the war, in a large part because the populations of devastated countries needed to be fed also. It got to the point where even bread was rationed in England. If anybody thinks times are tough now, be aware that the rationing of sweets, bananas and some meats didn't end in England until nearly 10 years after the end of the war! It's something to think about when strolling down the aisles of Costco checking out the mountains of meat in the display cases.

Clothing was also rationed during the war in England. By 1943, individuals were allotted just 36 points' worth of clothes a year, with a pair of knickers counting for two points, a man's shirt five points, a man's suit 26 points, and so forth. A winter coat — which everyone needed in London — used up almost an entire year's worth of clothes rationing. Based on that type of rationing, we imagine the average American would have about 100 years of clothes in his/her closets right now.

We don't share Barden's predictions of dire shortages for the simple reason that we in the United States — and to a lesser extent in the rest of the First World — are not only very resourceful, but also because we're such massive wasters of resources and end products that it would be relatively easy to cut back. For from water to food to fuel, our discretionary consumption is off the graph.

Nor do we produce anywhere near what we're capable of. When we bought our first — and only — house in '80, there was a 75-ft by 25-ft plot of not particularly good land in the back. Feeling the farmer vibe, we bought bunches of packs of seeds and began planting. Our technique was not particularly sophisticated. Each day for about two weeks, we took about two minutes to scratch a v-shaped groove the length of the yard with a hoe, tossed a couple of thousand seeds of whatever happened to be around in the trough, kicked some dirt over the seeds, and finished our labors by squirting a little water at it all. Then we'd water whenever we remembered to. Fearing that the result might be embarrassingly scant, we also tossed around about 1,000 sunflower seeds and another 1,000 marijuana seeds, just so we'd have a few 'sure things'. Either we've got a green thumb or growing stuff just isn't that hard, for you can't believe the bounty we got from our crap garden. We had carrots, melons, squash, lettuce, beets — we can't remember it all. By late November we still had so many tomatoes on the vines that we had no choice but to hold a tomato fight. It's true, we didn't raise perfect specimens of whatever we'd planted, but we could eat them, and they tasted pretty good. Furthermore, it was a lot of fun. As for the sunflowers and pot, we don't believe Tiburon had ever seen such a harvest of either. By the way, we never harvested or smoked the pot because we were working on the magazine day and night.

The most comforting thing about a doomsday scenario on a sailboat in the tropics is that it's not a gloomy prospect at all, at least not to us. Indeed, it wouldn't be that much different from regular old cruising. The best way to get through tough times is by living small and simple, and having fun. It seems to us that the best way to accomplish this would be by living on a sailboat equipped with a watermaker, solar panels and lots of fish hooks, in tropical Mexico. You'd certainly be the happier and healthier for it.


I liked your Sightings piece titled "If It All Goes to Shit," suggesting that a good solution for some sailors to a depression-type economy would be to take their boats to Mexico and enjoy a minimalist but happy existence until the economy got back on track. That's exactly my mindset, and I'm glad to have the skills and the wherewithal to follow through if it comes to that. Perversely, since I haven't managed to acquire a large investment portfolio prior to heading to Mexico, and with my divorce having greatly diminished what I did have, I am not experiencing the angst of the many who are seeing their retirement investments dissolve. So I'd be happy to host some of those potluck nights aboard my cat, and we'll all help each other manage as best we can.

It all reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, which is by Robert Heinlein: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Glenn Twitchell
Beach Access, Lagoon 38 catamaran
Sea of Cortez


In your response to Alex Shombec's October letter about overcharging for diesel and gas in Turtle Bay, you responded by saying, ". . . Mexicans like to joke around . . . you are supposed to laugh and joke along . . ."

I consider your response to be not only stupid, but irresponsible. I say this having lived in Mazatlan for the past nine years on my boat. I read the papers and watch the news, and therefore know that the Mexican government is trying to educate the people to report corruption and fraud.

Mexico is making progress in bettering the quality of life, at least for some of the people. They are doing this by educating the young — and adults — to get rid of bad habits such as throwing trash on the ground, pissing in the streets, allowing merchants to defraud the consumer, and letting the police and government functionaries get away with bribes.

This being the case, you can see how telling people who travel to Mexico that it's all right to expect such things as overcharging, and to consider them a 'joke', is counterproductive. Mexicans are very aware of what is said about them in the media, and I'm sure the Mexican government wouldn't appreciate the kind of statements that you made.

I also want to touch on a subject that's been bugging me for many years, even before I sailed south. Latitude always seems to be promoting Mexico and other countries as destinations. That's all right in itself, but you also make it seem like sailing south is a piece of cake, that all anyone needs is a GPS or two or three. This misleads inexperienced sailors, giving them a false sense of security that could lead to disaster.

Having sailed for more than 40 years, and having singlehanded as far down as Acapulco, I consider myself to be a fairly experienced sailor. In addition, I have a fairly large and seaworthy vessel. Nonetheless, on my way down to and back from Acapulco, I found myself in a few life-threatening situations that could have caused me to lose my vessel and/or life. I can't help wondering what would have happened to a less experienced sailor, particularly one on a lighter boat.

It's true, I've seen many young people in small boats, either alone or with a partner, sail down the coast of Mexico. They may not have had any serious problems or encountered dangerous situations, but who knows? They are here today and then gone to Maui.

Don't get me wrong, I like Latitude and have enjoyed reading since the very beginning. So I don't mean anything but constructive criticism. You encourage your readers to express your opinions, so these are mine.

There's one area where I'd like to say that I really agree with Latitude about Mexico, and that's that the people — at least 98% of them — are really friendly. And that's even when they have to put up with more exuberant — to put it mildly — visitors. So if you've got a good boat and adequate sailing experience, please do come down to Mexico. And especially to Mazatlan, which truly is 'the pearl of the Pacific'. Once you visit Mazatlan, you'll want to return over and over again. I guarantee it!

P.S. I'm presently in San Francisco. I come up about once a year to visit family, and each time I take several copies of Latitude with me to distribute to fellow cruisers in Mazatlan.

Aldo Salvato
Evening Star, custom 45-ft cutter

Aldo — We appreciate your constructive criticism. However, you may have misunderstood us when we talked about Mexicans liking to joke around. We weren't referring to overcharging for fuel, but only to the guy up on the pier swinging the money can just short of the deckhand on the boat, trying to lure him into making a too long reach with the result he would fall into the water. That kind of horseplay is a way of breaking the ice and saying 'let's be friends'.

We agree, the quality of life has been getting much better in Mexico. More people are taking their trash home from the beaches, you see fewer people pissing in the streets than in San Francisco, we can't remember the last time we experienced consumer fraud, and in most places it's far less expensive to pay a speeding ticket at the police station than force — and we mean 'force' — a police officer to take a bribe. There's still a long way to go in Mexico, but we've seen — and written about — the great improvements in recent years.

Is getting ripped off a little on fuel in remote Turtle Bay, where sales are few and far between, a little different from most consumer fraud? A lot of mariners seem to think so. And if we're honest, we'd probably put ourselves in that category. If, on the other hand, we got ripped off by a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, or had to pay a bribe to clear in at Cabo, we'd be very vocal about it.

As for sailing down to Mexico being a "piece of cake," there are obviously no guarantees on the big ocean. However, based on average weather conditions, sailing from San Diego to Acapulco would be a piece of cake compared with sailing from: 1) the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco; 2) San Francisco to Santa Barbara; 3) anywhere on the West Coast to Hawaii; 4) anywhere on the East Coast to the Caribbean; and 5) up and down the Caribbean chain. To be honest, on the average we can't think of an easier long distance sail than from Southern California to Mexico, as normally the relatively light winds are from aft, the seas aren't too big, and there are many places to take shelter along the way.


I'm getting close to finishing The Legend of Imp, the namesake being Dave Allen's San Francisco YC-based Holland 40, which became one of the most famous racing yachts ever. Written in my spare time, it's both a memoir of racing from the late '60s to the '80s and a blow-by-blow account of racing on Imp.

It actually starts with a chapter on George Kiskaddon's St. Francis YC-based S&S 33 Spirit, perhaps the first Northern California boat to race in Europe. Guys like Doug Peterson sailed the engineless boat to the East Coast, where other crew joined him to sail across the Atlantic on the boat's bottom. He and the likes of Ron Holland, Tom Wylie, Derek Baylis, Robert Flowerman, Gary Mull and Bill Green sailed Spirit in the '66 TransAtlantic Race to Denmark. West Coast sailors hadn't done things like that back then. Spirit won so many races in England that they were forced to put an engine in her.

Then Dave Allen took the Mull 42 Improbable over to England for the Admiral's Cup, the world's most prestigious sailing event at the time, in '71. Since they arrived too late to effectively qualify for the U.S. team, they had to enter the Admiral's Cup as a one-boat entry for New Zealand. They really stood out in the then-conservative world of yacht racing, because they were all hippies or at least looked like them, wore gaudy American flag bandanas and shirts, and sometimes smoked funny smelling cigarettes. Among those on the boat were Skip Allan, Dave Wahle, Commodore Tompkins, Jim Gannon and Ron Holland.

Dave Allen had what would be the world-conquering Imp sailed across the Atlantic to England for both the '77 and '79 Admiral's Cup. She won the whole thing in '77, which set the world on fire. The '79 Fastnet fleet was hit by the famous storm that claimed 15 lives. It blew over 65 knots for a good many hours, and the seas were massive. Skip Allan and I remember being lifted 60 feet up one wave. We, along with the crews of Williwa and Aires, were reported lost with our boats by no less than The New York Times. The truth was we'd been asked to maintain radio silence except in an absolute emergency, so we stayed silent. We finished fifth in that Fastnet, which was won by Ted Turner and his S&S 67 Tenacious.

Incidentally, next year will be the 30th anniversary of the tragic Fastnet Race. Many of her crew from that event are hoping to reunite to do April's Charleston Race Week on Imp, which is currently owned by Irishman George Radley, who keeps her all polished and ready to hunt in Teddy Turner's boatyard.

Right now, The Legend of Imp looks to be about 400 pages, but I'd like to use this opportunity to put out a last call for input or stories from anybody who raced on Imp or in that era. I can be reached via . The current manuscript has been given to Kimball Livingston for feedback and polishing. I hope to have a first run of about 500 books published in March.

Bill Barton, PhD
San Francisco

Bill — We can't wait to read the book, as Imp was featured in the very first issue of Latitude. Furthermore, Dave Allen, her rather proper owner, was the first successful establishment sailor to encourage our riff-raff selves and very rough-around-the-edges sailing magazine.


A reader asked for information about do-it-yourself boatyards in Mexico. While I can't speak to that question, I feel I should report that Jean and I were floored by the quote we got from a yard in Ensenada for a simple bottom job. It was more than Svendsen's in Alameda would have charged us. At the time, we were weighing the decision to spend 90+ plus days in Ensenada with our new-to-us Amel Maramu, which had not been painted since '04. We now intend to paint the topsides and remodel the galley when we get to Southeast Asia.

Dave Benjamin
Exit Strategy, Amel Maramu
San Francisco


Following up on the "Sailing With Soldiers" item that appeared in Loose Lips last month, I'm developing outreach programs for a nonprofit educational organization called Call of the Sea and their Sausalito-based 82-ft schooner Seaward. After reading your article, I contacted Nathan Johnson, Veterans Outreach Coordinator at the Concord Vet Center. As a result, we've arranged to have a group of 10 vets join us for a complimentary sail aboard Seaward on November 15. We're also hoping to raise funds to sponsor 10 vets for one leg of our Sail Mexico program in 2010.

Thanks for the introduction!

Lynn Davis
Consultant, Call of the Sea

Lynn — And thanks to you and the Call of the Sea for all the good work that you're both doing.


I just got around to reading the Destination: Delta article that appeared in the June issue, and would like to report an error that appeared in the sidebar on page 134. It was suggested that sailors "travel on a flood tide and you'll be off soon enough" if they've run aground. That's not the best advice. In the Delta, one should travel on a rising tide in case one runs aground. To the uninitiated, this might seem like the same thing, but it's not. There can be two hours or more difference between the slacks beginning or ending the flood, and the low or high defining the beginning or end of the rising tide.

Whereas a skipper needs to use the current tables to determine the way that the currents will affect the speed and direction of the vessel, especially a slow moving sailboat, a prudent skipper knows to refer to the heights in tide tables to know how deep the water will be. And the larger the estuary system — the Delta being a very large one — the more important it is to do it. In San Francisco Bay and the Delta, only seldom do the tides coincide with the currents. And when using either table, mariners need to know how to apply the corrections — unless, of course, the point of interest is at the station upon which the specific table is based.

My other comment is that when travelling down river from Benicia to the Bay on days with strong currents, I've made better time going with the ebb in the choppier water than going against a flood. The ride isn't as comfortable, of course, and your speed through the water might not be as great, but the boost from the current more than makes up for the difference. If one leaves Benicia or Martinez when the current table shows slack before ebb at Fort Point, it's possible for most sailboats to make it all the way to Richmond or Sausalito in four or five hours.

I've been reading Latitude since the beginning, and still find it the most useful sailing rag — even though I haven't sailed or lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for three years.

Sam Crabtree
Catch The Wind, Cal 39
Currently in Mexico / Delta sailor for 37 years


It's true that seeing Maltese Falcon on the water was much more amazing than seeing her on the cover of magazines. We were out on the good ship Martha Rose, skippered by friends Dean and Kopi Carmine, for Falcon's arrival, and all became giddy with the moment. We first saw Falcon hull down in the fog as she approached the Gate. Later we were slightly astern her as she passed beneath the Gate. And finally, we came within a few boat lengths of her as she stalled in a lull at the west end of the Raccoon Straits before blast reaching across the Bay and back. It was glorious! In fact, we can't remember a more glorious moment in sailing than seeing her nearly rail down on that reach!

Guy & Deborah Bunting
Elan, M&M 46 catamaran
South of the Border


We were spellbound from the moment we saw Maltese Falcon approach the Golden Gate. We watched from Fort Baker for more than three hours, then from Bridgeway in Sausalito.

Sandy List & Doris Seashore


We wish we'd been on San Francisco Bay to see Falcon sail beneath the Gate. Having seen her on 60 Minutes, we've marveled at her beauty and innovative engineering. We've also sailed on the Bay a few times, and enjoyed every minute of that, too. So the biggest treat would have been a Bay sail on Falcon. What a great country this is, where someone is able to start with nothing, yet achieve so much, and be so successful and creative. We also like it that Perkins is happy to use Falcon to support worthwhile causes such as the Leukemia Cup.

Steve & Pauline Weeks
Laconia, New Hampshire

Steve and Pauline — As part of Perkins' support of the Leukemia Cup, we were invited to sail aboard Falcon on the Bay. What an experience! The thing that impressed us the most was not the yacht's sheer size or dazzling interior, but rather that Dyna-Rig. We'd never been sure quite what to think about the rig, but having experienced in person how brilliantly it works, our admiration for Falcon has grown immensely.

The United States does have warts, but it's still the greatest country. Anyone who doubts it should try to go from nothing to a success in whatever country they think is second best. Perkins arrived in the Bay Area with nothing but smarts and drive, so he started his sailing on the Bay with a humble 17-ft Teak Lady. And yes, we think the way a person makes his/her money does make a difference. Perkins started his way up by making engineering breakthroughs with lasers, then management at Hewlett Packard, but most of all through venture capitalism that was critical in providing the funds necessary for companies — such as the ones that have made it possible for Latitude to exist — to operate and grow.


When I learned that Falcon was going to enter the Bay on September 27, I was thrilled, as I was going to be in San Francisco all weekend attending my daughter's soccer tournament in Golden Gate Park polo fields. Between my daughter's games, I headed up the Great Highway hoping to make it to the Golden Gate Bridge for Falcon's scheduled 2 p.m. passing beneath the bridge. Alas, I got caught in the traffic along Ocean Beach. While stuck, I searched the horizon for a sign of the big boat — and there she was! I could easily make out the three huge masts and 15 sails ghosting through the mist and fog far in the distance. What a sight! I quickly found a parking spot near the Cliff House, grabbed the binoculars, and ran to the Sutro Baths overlook. From that vantage point I could see the deep blue hull powering through the waves, her silver superstructure gleaming brilliantly, and all those massive white sails.

"That MF is huge!" I thought to myself.

I couldn't see the Golden Gate Bridge from where I was, so I ran as far east as I could, and found a spot that would afford me a great view. I was lucky the fog had intensified a bit, because the Falcon appeared to slow down a bit waiting for it to lift, giving me time. She played hide-and-seek with the fog for about 10 minutes, then she and her entourage of several hundred boats — including Perkins' 122-ft 1930 motoryacht Atlantide — made their way for the bridge. As she crossed beneath the Gate, I could hear the horns of many of the other boats in attendance, and saw the shadow of the bridge cast across her sails. It was a very memorable event!

Bill Harrington
O'Day 14
San Jose

Bill — Perkins enjoys 'sharing' his yacht as much as possible, and told us that he was very gratified that so many people, both on boats and along the shore, showed up for the arrival of his yacht.


To describe Maltese Falcon as "awesome" is an understatement. There was stunned silence as Maltese Falcon arrived out of the fog, and we had the feeling that we were looking at something unreal. As she sped across the Bay, the mass of sailboats surrounding and trying to follow her made for an inspiring vision.

Carl & Carol Clark
Planet Earth

Carl and Carol — We stopped by Yellow Bluff several hours after Falcon arrived in the Bay, and there were hundreds of people standing and staring in near silence. And it's not like they stopped, looked for 10 minutes and left. It really was a special moment on the Bay.


Great report on the arrival of Falcon. She's truly an awesome sight. We were on the water in the lee of Lime Point when she passed beneath the Gate, and again in Raccoon Strait on our way back to the San Francisco YC when she passed a few boat lengths away. I assume Falcon was flying the New York YC burgee in order not to play favorites with the local clubs.

But maybe you can explain to me the almost total lack of coverage of Falcon's arrival in the local papers. It seems like the Bay and sailboat racing reporting disappeared with the departure of Kimball Livingston from the Chronicle many years ago. One wonders what would happen if the America's Cup came to the Bay. It's very sad indeed.

Jim Cornelius

H. James — We called Carl Nolte at the Chronicle to alert him of Falcon's arrival, and he did have a front page story on her the day before she sailed under the Gate. Unfortunately, the photo accompanying the piece was an uninspiring one of Falcon at anchor in Drakes Bay. Those who read the article learned that the publisher of this magazine had been invited by Perkins for "a cruise of the Mediterranean." We're sure any our old high school friends who read it were dripping with envy, so unfortunately it's not true. Perkins invited 100 guests to attend the launch party in Italy. We were fortunate enough to be among them, and to have the dates correspond with a research trip to Europe.

The Marin IJ did have major front page coverage of the Falcon's arrival. KGO Radio did an interview with us about the yacht coming, but either it was a very busy news day or we're even more boring than we thought, because we don't think it ever aired. We also alerted weather guy Bill Martin of Channel 2 News, thinking at the very least some video of Falcon would make a spectacular backdrop for his weekend weather report. If he or anyone else at Channel 2 acted on it, we didn't hear about it. But we agree with you, we think the local media really missed out on a story that would have been of great interest to even the general public.

You're also correct that mainstream reporting on sailing and sailboat racing in the Bay disappeared with Kimball Livingston many years ago. According the Chronicle honchos at the time, they felt they didn't have to cover it because we at Latitude were doing that. And we thank them for that. By the way, we're pleased to report that our good friend Kimball didn't disappear with his Chronicle race coverage. He's now the West Coast Editor of Sail magazine — and was also one of our shipmates for the Bay sail aboard Falcon in support of the Leukemia Cup.


Maltese Falcon is jaw-droppingly magnificent! All the snarky comments I've been seeing online about it being a "rich man's toy" and "conspicuous consumption" are, as far as I'm concerned, just so much sour grapes. If I had that kind of money to throw around, I'd probably be doing something similar — and enjoying every moment of it!

I have never been in the midst of such chaos as when Falcon arrived on the Bay, and the sheer number of sailboats was only the start of the tale. We heard one skipper talking to the Coast Guard about a new hole on the starboard side of his hull, and were surprised to not hear more such reports. There were lots of yahoos out there in need of a refresher course in Rules of the Road 101. We got through the mob without mishap, but it sure as hell wasn't a place for anyone who wasn't paying attention.

In the midst of all the madness were the inevitable racers trying to convince everyone in their path that they had the right-of-way! I heard one skipper of one non-racing boat get on Channel 16 and tell the skipper of a racing boat, "If you can show me where in the ColRegs it says racing boats have the right of way over boats not racing, I'll take you and your crew out to dinner." There was no response from the skipper of the racing boat, but raucous laughter from everyone else within hearing distance was priceless!

Kudos to Tom Perkins for letting everyone see his great boat, and to Latitude for letting us know about it.

Peggy Droesch
Catalina 38
Pt. Richmond

Peggy — Thank you for the kind words. For what it's worth, we give racing boats the right-of-way whenever we can. We're not always required to by the rules of the road, of course, but we get a lot of pleasure from seeing other folks enjoying themselves. So if all it takes for us to not mess with the pleasure of racers is bearing off or throwing in a quick tack, we're happy to do it. If, one the other hand, other non-racers have rights and want to maintain their course, it's their right, but they should at least try to maintain a steady course for the safety of all. There's plenty of room for all of us, we just need to be a little courteous.


Maltese Falcon's Dyna-Rig is very cool. I'm surprised that it wasn't used on a smaller boat first as a test. It will be interesting if the rig catches on for normal size boats, perhaps as an update to the freestanding rigs used on boats such as the Freedom 40. I used to race dinghies and big boats, but for the last 25 years I've been a sailboarder. Sailing a 7'6" board in 20+ knots is a blast, too.

Jeff Blaney

Jeff — There are many great and inexpensive ways to have a blast on the water, and sailboarding is certainly one of them. As for the Dyna-Rig, Perkins spent $10 million to determine that the theoretical rig would work in reality before committing to the rest of the Maltese Falcon project. The first working model was on a small boat that was tested in the canals of Amsterdam. While Perini Navi has drawn plans for a two-masted Dyna-Rig on a somewhat smaller yacht, we don't think the concept would translate well to boats in the 30- to 50-ft range.


Latitude's lead Sightings item last month about what to do if the merde hits the fan was great. Like Latitude, I've lived by the philosophy of hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Actually, I'm surprised that we made it this long before it all hit the fan. But it is comforting to own a self-sufficient cruising boat.

As I write this, the financial markets are tanking again, the fires have started on schedule down in Southern California, and we have an election looming the likes of which I've never seen. It looks like we're in for some tough times indeed. But like you wrote in that Sightings piece, the simple life on a self-sufficient boat would be pretty good — provided that Mexico doesn't kick us out.

By the way, as you guessed in the last issue, I did the original Baja Ha-Ha in '94 with my Pearson 34 Northstar, and can report that it proved to be a pivotal event in my life. I'm eager to get started with the Fabulous Fifteen Ha-Ha. There will be lots of great people on it — including some of my good friends. And if everything in the States goes down the tubes, count on me to join some of the potlucks on Profligate in Mexico.

Dave Fiorito
Shenanigans, C&C 36

Dave — A semi minimalist life is the best in challenging times. Often it's a most satisfying way to live, too, because it quickly helps you prioritize what's important in your life. And we can't think of a more minimalist — or enjoyable — way to live than cruising on a boat in the tropics. Particularly in Mexico, where over the last three months the U.S. dollar has gained 30% in value against the peso.

Mexico isn't going to kick cruisers out. With a faltering economy of its own, they need foreign income more than ever. It wouldn't surprise us, however, if they try to do something like limit diesel sales to foreigners. After all, Mexican taxpayers are subsidizing the cost of their low-priced diesel.

This is a little off the subject, but we can't resist. As we write this on October 16, the price of a barrel of oil has fallen from a peak of $147 to under $70. The result is that Americans are now shipping billions less to our good friends in Iran, Venezuela and the Middle East. Rather than going overseas, that extra money that we would have paid for oil is staying is our pockets and in the United States.

This time around, the drop in the price of oil has been a direct result of the world economy tanking. But in the future, greatly decreased demand could be a result of something as simple as we Americans driving cars that get 50 mpg rather than 15 mpg. How much difference would that make? The Wall Street Journal calculated that if we only had to pay $80 per barrel as opposed to $120 per barrel, the annual savings would be $750 billion. If that staggering number has a familiar ring, it's because it's the same number as the Wall Street/Main Street/Children's Wooden Arrows/Puerto Rico Rum Bailout recently passed by Congress.

Driving highly fuel efficient cars would be the most effective way for us to keep the price of oil down, and as a result, it would make it easier for our economy to right itself. So please, let's collectively think long term for once, and use the savings to get higher efficiency vehicles rather than joyriding in the SUVs like it was 1999 again. And while inefficient powerboats aren't collectively such a great problem, fuel conservation is also something to think about when choosing a boat.


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