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January 2009

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I was very saddened to hear of George Olson's passing. He was a true genius and superb craftsman. The Latitude article on George was very well done. However I would like to shed a bit more light regarding George's natural skill for boatbuilding — which far exceeded and predated mine. I hired George when we built the 40-ft Panache in '72. In reality, he probably should have hired me. Panache still remains one of my favorite projects. George may have learned a few tricks of the trade from me, however I learned much, much more from him. His hands-on feel was exceptional, and that's something that is harder and harder to find these days.

We will miss George.

Bill Lee
Wizard Yachts

Readers — As many people know, Bill and his Santa Cruz Yachts brought ultralights to the sailing world's attention back in the late '70s, most notably with Lee's earth-shattering 67-ft Merlin. If we're not mistaken, Olson was a crewmember aboard Merlin for that first run to Honolulu, which crushed the old record and stood for many years.

Before getting into boat design and boatbuilding, Olson made surfboards. He was shocked to learn that back in the early '60s the publisher of this magazine owned a 10-ft Olson Surfboard. Ironically, it was no lightweight. Having owned two different Olson 30s, we'll also miss George, a soft-spoken guy who let the quality of his work do all the shouting for him.

As for Panache, one of the original ultralights, we saw her at Catalina about a year ago and are happy to report she looked to be in fine condition.


Might you or someone you know own a sailboat that they would like moved from the West Coast to the East Coast? Three friends and I have an idea, and wonder what Latitude thinks of it.

We want to have a West Coast to East Coast or Caribbean sailing adventure, but don't want to buy a boat. Instead, we'd like to lease a boat from somebody who wants their boat taken to the East Coast or Caribbean. We'd be willing to pay for the expenses and transit insurance. Mind you, we're not professionals, just four very experienced lifelong sailors who would like the adventure of sailing through the Canal to somewhere like St. Martin, Miami or Annapolis.

I've personally skippered boats to 55 feet, but we'd be looking for a boat in the 45-ft range and in good condition. We estimate that it would cost the owner about $15,000 to move a boat through the Canal and to the East Coast, so not only could we save them that amount of money, but put a few thousand in their pocket.

Jon Christensen, Stu Seymour & Friends
San Diego

Jon and Stu — In the very general sense, we think what you're proposing is a fine idea. In fact, it's not at all uncommon for friends to do part or all of long deliveries for owners in return for getting to mess around with the boat on the way. However, we'd probably advise against the leasing business, as it might run you into all kinds of unnecessary insurance and legal hassles. We think there would be fewer issues if you were just 'friends' of the owner doing a delivery, but were perhaps willing to do stuff like pay the Canal fees and/or get the liferaft certified.

The devil would be in the details, of course. You'd have to find an owner with an appropriate boat that was in fine condition, because you sure wouldn't want to commit yourself to a junker that was going to have one serious problem after the other. You'd also have to work out how much 'free time' you'd get with the boat, and who would be responsible in the event of major expenses, such as screw-ups that blow out sails and/or rigs, or wrecked engines. But if the owner were reasonable and experienced, it shouldn't be a major problem. Indeed, he might otherwise be faced with the prospect of paying $15,000 to somebody he has no more reason to trust than you.

We suggest you make a real effort to look at the potential deal from the owner's point of view. Can you and your friends satisfy him/her that you're responsible and competent enough to be trusted with such a valuable asset? And that he/she isn't just being used? If you were lifelong friends with the owner it would be easy, but as you're probably going to be relative strangers, it will be natural for him/her to have doubts. One possible way to establish trust would be to prove yourself on the leg from San Francisco to Cabo, at which time the owner will hopefully be happy to turn the boat over to you.

You also might think about being willing to go in the opposite direction. There are lots of cases where West Coast folks buy boats coming out of charter programs in the Caribbean, but don't have time to deliver them all the way to the West Coast by themselves. Maybe they'll do Antigua to Panama, and need to turn the boat over to somebody else for Panama to San Diego. Maybe somebody like you can pick the boat up in Panama and do some cruising time while you're delivering it to San Diego.

A more relaxing but less adventurous variation might be for you guys to offer boatsitting-plus services to a boatowner in some luscious locale like Mexico, Panama or the Eastern Caribbean. Lots of boatowners need to return to the States for the holidays, tax time, or even longer periods, and would just as soon have reliable people staying on the boat at anchor — and using the boat occasionally — than leaving her unattended in an expensive marina.

If anybody has experience doing something like this, we'd love to hear from you.


I'm trying to contact other cruisers who will be making the Pacific Puddle Jump this year. I have gone to the website, but have been unable to sign up with the group because I have an old computer. Can you help with contacts?

Joyce & Glen Mickowski
Rhumb Line, 45-ft Rainier Catamaran
San Diego / Puerto Escondido

Joyce and Glen — We assume you mean that you are trying to join the Pacific Puddle Jump group at Having an older computer shouldn't prevent you from doing so. Perhaps you just need to upgrade your web browser software to a newer version. We should clarify that, while not directly affiliated with Latitude 38's Puddle Jump events, that webgroup contains a database of would-be 'Jumpers' plus a wealth of info on many issues related to making the crossing from the Americas to French Polynesia. It was created by longtime cruiser Bob Bechler of the Gulfstar 44 Sisiutl, who will be making the crossing for the fourth time this year.

As in years past, Latitude 38 will devote lots of editorial coverage to this year's westward migration, and will hold special events in both Mexico and Tahiti for 'Class of '09' Puddle Jumpers. Our Zihua Puddle Jump Kickoff Party is slated for February 9 (the day after the Zihua Fest, specific location TBA). Our Banderas Bay event will be February 12, from 2-5 p.m. at the Vallarta YC, at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. We anticipate that both events will be co-sponsored by Tahiti Tourisme, whose representatives will present an enticing and highly informative digital slide show. Each crew will be interviewed and photographed for inclusion in Latitude. Plus, we'll have guest speakers, party games, free drinks and snacks, and more.

To celebrate the arrival of this year's fleet in French Polynesia, Latitude 38 will assist Tahiti Tourisme in hosting the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, June 19-21. This free event is focused on cross-cultural appreciation and will include a cocktail party, a sailing rally to Moorea, Polynesian music and dance performances, and cruiser participation in traditional Tahitian sports — the highlight of which is the six-person outrigger canoe races. The Rendezvous is always great fun for both young and old, so we urge you to time your arrival at Papeete to coincide with it.


As reported in 'Lectronic Latitude, and as widely reported in the mainstream media, the piracy off the coast of Somalia is a serious concern for sailors and others. However, there has been even greater criminal activity off the Somali coast that has gone largely unreported. When the government in Somalia broke down, major companies — especially European ones — started dumping all sorts of toxic waste off the Somali coast.

A December 1 article found at quotes Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Program as saying, "European companies found it was very cheap to get rid of the waste. It cost as little as £1.70 ($2.50) a ton, whereas waste disposal costs in Europe were something like £670 ($1,010) a ton. And the waste is of many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, hospital wastes, chemical wastes — you name it."

The dumping was so bad that, after the Asian tsunami of December '05, tons of this waste washed ashore in Somalia, and tens of thousands of people got sick. Several hundred died.

According to the same article, and other articles, the United Nations refused to act, despite repeated requests to prevent this poisoning of the seas. As a result, angry Somali fishermen began arming themselves and patrolling their own shores.

To quote that same article: "Januna Ali Jama, a Somali pirate leader, explained that their actions were motivated by attempts to stop the toxic dumping. He said that the £5.4 million ($8 million) ransom they demanded for the return of a Ukrainian ship would go towards cleaning up the mess. Ali Jama said the pirates were 'reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years.' The Somali coastline has been destroyed. We believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas."

Never one to let an opportunity pass, the transitional government of the time saw a chance to enrich themselves, and they transformed these acts into pure piracy for the purpose of enriching themselves. Who backed this government? Why, the Western countries!

This article is confirmed by a series of others that can be found online with a Google search using the words 'Somali coast toxic dumping'. It is also confirmed by the Somali student of an ESL teacher I know. This student reported that after the government broke down there, super-size foreign fishing boats started fishing in Somali coastal waters, driving the small fishermen out of business. In turn, the Somalis started arming themselves to patrol their territorial waters.

I want to make very clear that I don't condone piracy. However, I think we should look at this even more devastating form of lawlessness on the high seas and understand how it helped lead to the present criminal activity that is getting so much press.

John Reimann
Y-Knot, Catalina 36

John — We don't deny that the last government in Somalia might have made some unscrupulous deals with disposers of Western toxic waste, and that foreign fishing boats might have violated what the Somalis consider to be their territorial waters. But if you think Januna Ali Jama isn't just shucking and jiving the hell out of you and certain members of the international press, you — in our opinion — are as gullible as they come. What's next, you're going to tell us that you believe Larry Flynt was actually a warrior for the First Amendment as opposed to just a sleazeball who made a fortune from pornography? Or that Hugo Chavez is playing it straight with his people when he tells them a U.S. invasion is imminent? You've got the gain turned way too low on your bullshit radar.

As for the United Nations, what would make you think they'd ever do anything in Africa to save lives? After all, think of the tens of millions of lives that have been ruined or lost — and are being ruined and lost now — because the United Nations did nothing? Mind you, we're fully aware that by its very make up, the U.N. is rarely going to be anything but a mostly impotent debating society.


From one sexist pig to another, I guess I was misguided because I thought Latitude was doing a public service by running that picture of Heather Corsaro showing the best way to wear a PFD in warm weather. Having now read the Excelsior Vagina letter — you made that up didn't you! — I have seen the error of my ways, and have decided to buy copies of The Beauty Myth for everyone on my Christmas list.

However, I must take issue with Myth author Naomi Wolf's idea of how women are "required to dress in Muslim countries." Burqas are seen everywhere in Saudi Arabia, of course, but are very hard to find in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. Dress requirements come from the meeting of religion and culture, not just religion. And just because a woman wears a burqa on the street doesn't mean she can't wear a hot dress and make-up underneath. When I worked in the Middle East and visited Tehran, I saw some amazing-looking women emerge from under a burqa when they arrived at parties. It was sort of like models emerging from limousines with tinted windows. But I'm sure they weren't objectified because they wore burqas when they left their homes.

Sorry to write about this subject so late, but having just singlehanded from Portland to San Francisco, I was late getting to read the November issue. It's great to be back on the Bay! And my wife Marta, who is about the same size as Heather, is looking forward to your illustrated feature on sailcovers. We've been having trouble putting ours on since we swapped out our furling main for a conventional one, so we need some tips.

Marty Gilmore
Dawn Treader, Jeanneau 40
Great Salt Lake, Utah

Marty — Not wanting to overexpose Ms. Corsaro, who was just installed as the Commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, we've decided to save the 'how to put your sail cover on' feature for a later issue.

Excelsior Vagina resides in the — where else? — Excelsior District of — where else? — San Francisco. The Excelsior District is the area along Mission Street south of Interstate 280 and north of Geneva Avenue. It's one of the City's most culturally and sexually diverse areas — and is also host to 'Jerry Day', because it was once the home of the Grateful Dead guitarist. One of the cool things about the district is that there are some intersections with great names. For example, Paris and France Streets, Naples and Italy Streets, and Moscow and Russia Streets. There used to be Germany and Japan Streets, but the names were changed because of some war. We've been told there is even an intersection of Penis and Vagina Streets, but it doesn't show up on Google.


I recently bought a Tohatsu MFS 8, which is a 9.8-hp outboard, for my Santana 525. The input I've gotten varies from "it's too heavy" — 83 lbs — for my boat, or "has too much torque," or "is perfect for my boat." I've tried to contact the people who manufactured the boat to no avail. Can you suggest a source of information so my concerns can be put to rest?

Until March of this year, I'd been away from sailing for 30 years. But the sailing bug bit me again, and I'm loving it. Plus, I enjoy reading Letters.

A short while back, you had a article concerning Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins. As I recall, he was a friend of my identical twin brother Ron, who was also an excellent sailor. This was back in about '48 in Mill Valley.

Don Shafer
Per Nulla, Santana 525

Don — The Santana line of boats were built by Schock of Newport Beach, and they are still around. But there's no need to call them. The deal is that the outboard you bought is total overkill for that boat — unless you plan on towing a couple of waterskiers. Most 9.8- or 9.9-hp outboards are actually 15-hp outboards that have carbs rejetted so they only put out 9.9-hp and then can be sold for less money than the 15s. To us, the biggest problem is that an 83-lb motor would be a monster to lift in and out of place.

The Santana 525 displaces a mere 2,400 lbs, so even a 4-hp outboard will get her up to hull speed — unless you're doing a Baja Bash or motoring back from the Delta. If you're not in a hurry, you could even get away with a much easier-to-lift 2-hp outboard. If the motor is still in good shape, we'd try to sell it to a cruiser looking for a dinghy outboard.

Speaking of Commodore, we've got another report from him in this issue. Yes, 60 years after being a sailing friend of your brother, he's still cruising, now in Vanuatu.


Prior to his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama will decide whether or not Americans may go to Cuba in '09. He has the power not only to undo the harsh restrictions mandated by President Bush in '04, but can better former President Bill Clinton by granting general licenses that don't require an application in one of 12 very broad categories of non-tourist travel.

Yes, by the stroke of a pen, and instruction through the Treasury Secretary to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Obama can continue general licenses for professional research, and similarly authorize family visits, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, exhibitions and humanitarian projects free of time-consuming, costly and politically-motivated licensing procedures.

Obama's leadership should also encourage Congress to adopt legislation to end all travel restrictions, which are an international embarrassment — and a violation of our Constitutional and human rights — that only apply to Cuba.

What can you do to help him make the right decision? Go to Obama's website and write, in your own words, how you think he should change our policy with Cuba. Articulate comments should be made. And if you have any way of getting in touch with any members of the transition team or high level advisors, write them, too.

How will Obama's decision affect private mariners? It will help encourage commercial tourism, but that would have to wait until Congress repeals at least part of the current embargo.

Jo McIntire
St. Augustine (Florida) Baracoa (Cuba)
Friendship Association

Jo — Like more than 75% of Americans, we're feeling at least somewhat confident about President-elect Obama's chances to guide the country to a brighter future, despite an unusually heavy load of challenges. But it's not going to be easy, as there are always two sides to every issue. So no matter what stands he takes on issues, he's invariably going to piss off some people.

With regard to Cuba, Obama has been giving what would seem to be mixed signals. On the one hand, he says he supports continuing the embargo, which seems so ridiculously last century. In addition, he's said things that would clearly infuriate the tyrannical Cuban leaders: "My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: 'libertad.' The road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, and it must lead to elections that are free and fair. I won't stand for this injustice; you will not stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba. That will be my commitment as president of the United States of America." Took the words right out of the mouth of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, didn't he?

On the other hand, Obama has also promised to eliminate travel restrictions for Cubans travelling to the island to see family members, and on the amount of remittances that can be sent to the island. But what about the travel restrictions on regular Americans who want to visit Cuba for fun? When President Clinton was in office, it was a violation of Treasury Department rules for Americans to spend money in — and therefore visit — Cuba. But Clinton simply gave orders that violators were not to be charged or prosecuted. So countless American mariners — including us — took our boats to Cuba. When Bush took office, he unfortunately took the total hard-ass approach, and said any Americans violating the "trading with the enemy" laws by spending money in Cuba would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The number of U.S. boats visiting Cuba plummeted to all but zero, but lots of Americans still fly there via third countries.

Our feeling is that Obama is going to take the Clinton route as just one way of trying to chip away at the frozen relations between the two countries. It's going to disappoint a lot of people on both sides of the issue, but it's possibly the most effective way to try to make some real progress. We wish him luck.

If it becomes possible for Americans to visit Cuba by boat or otherwise, we urge as many people as possible to take advantage of the opportunity. Indeed, it's likely we'd sail there with 'ti Profligate. A visit to Cuba is a real eye-opener, as it's not often that we Americans — who have scant appreciation for the rights we enjoy — get the chance to see what it's like for people not to have any rights.


It's interesting to note that the residents and "belongers" of the British Virgins Islands were so in favor of Barack Obama prior to the election in the United States. This is a correct observation. However, when Obama's stance on offshore tax havens came to light, those in the know in the BVIs were less in favor of him. After all, the BVIs typically ranks among the world's top three when it comes to offshore accounts. The change in opinion was obvious from letters to the editor in the BVI Beacon.

Many sailors assume that the local economy of the BVIs relies on the charter trade, but they might be surprised to learn how much it relies on offshore trust banking. (Check out the letters posting to the BVI Beacon to confirm the local concerns and shift in sentiment.)

Anonymous for Business Reasons
British Virgin Islands

Readers — Here are some fun facts. The British Virgins have just 22,000 residents, but some 600,000 International Business Companies (IBCs) are registered there. In the last year, twice as many IBCs were formed as there are residents. Thus, it's safe to assume that people and companies have accounts in the British Virgins because it saves them big money. This is money that the countries where the account-holders reside don't get. The leaders of these countries — including the soon-to-be-President Obama — want that money. So the British Virgins stands to take a big hit.


Listen up everybody, as I've got something to say — and it's not about the recent election. There are a lot of us poor cruisers out here who have nothing left in the world but our old sailboats. On these boats we have a bunch of expensive marine gear, most of which seems to have been developed by folks who obviously had no idea that it would be used in a marine environment — or at least away from a stateside marina. I say this because after they sell us the stuff at high prices, too much of it rusts, jams, shorts out or just plain stops working before we thought it would.

For example, I give you the Name Brand $6,000 linear autopilot that crapped out on me twice in Central America. One time the magnet fell out of the motor! Needless to say, it's no fun for a singlehander to hand steer for six months. And try shipping something like that back to the Northeast via one of the express companies that charges over $100 just to move your flat mail!

By the way, the folks who made the autopilot also made my radar/chartplotter, which crapped out on me three times! Then there was the time that my Name Brand refrigeration went out. I traced the problem down to a little black box on the unit that had “No User Serviceable Parts Inside” molded into its face. I scoured El Salvador for an ice chest, finally found one — but no ice — in a shoe and furniture store in Usulután. I spent a year bumming ice from shrimpers and sportfishing boats. When I finally got to Panama, I found a Central American refrigeration guy who took the cover off the black box. What he found inside was that the red and black wires went in one side and came out the other. The problem was that the red wire was burned in half! There was no high-tech widget inside. A simple wire splice got my refrigeration working again. Thankfully, all that stuff happened on my previous Witch of Endor, a CT-41.

So that’s the type of stuff we have to put up with in order to live the tranquilo lifestyle that we have adopted in some sort of civilized manner.

But to continue with my story, I was up on the bow of my new Witch the other day at the Texan Bay Marina here on Guatemala's Rio Dulce, checking things in preparation for flying back to the States. While looking around, I noticed that one of three little flathead screws holding together the Harken roller furling for my jib were missing. And I figure they'd probably been missing since before I bought the boat. I believe this because I noted a penciled notation of the diameter and length of this screw alongside its picture in the installation and maintenance manual. Yes, I actually found the documentation for the roller furling. But no screw. They probably weren't available in the Caribbean at the Do-It Center. And, if they had been available, they would have been made of mild steel.

What the heck, at about 8 a.m. I got on the internet and shot off a message to Harken. I know what most of you are thinking: a lot of good that would do me. In most instances you'd be correct. For if we ever finally succeed in breaking down all of the barriers that these companies erect to keep their customers from contacting them after the initial purchase, we get the promise that someone will contact us within two working days. In reality, that rarely happens.

So imagine my surprise when — at about 9 a.m. on the same day! — I got a response from Neil at Harken Technical asking if I knew how old the furler was. I was flabbergasted! I also didn’t know the answer to his question.

At noon I responded that I didn't know how old it was, but attached a PDF file showing the cover of the installation/maintenance pamphlet, and a copy of the pages therein showing the screws in question. At 2 p.m. the same day, Neil emailed me to thank me for the PDF, saying it told him everything that he needed to know. He said the screws were on their way, via the mail, to my sister's place in Florida. At no charge!

This just doesn’t happen. Except at Harken, I guess. So I emailed Neil back and told him that I was leaving right then for the local watering hole to tell everyone who would listen about this miracle of modern boating stuff support. I just did that, and am now trying to widely disseminate this information to cruisers everywhere.

Steve Cherry
Witch of Endor, Vagabond 47
San Diego

Steve — We're glad that Harken stepped up to bat for you, but in our experience that isn't unusual in the marine industry. For example, prior to the start of this year's Ha-Ha, we had a question for ICOM regarding our 802 SSB radio. Despite the fact that we called at 4:55 p.m., a technician immediately answered the phone and happily worked with us to solve our minor problem. Then it took just one call to Gordon West for a free check-out of how well our SSB was transmitting and receiving. It also took but one call to Forespar to get several questions answered about our mast. It did, however, take two or three calls to find out who could service our Revere liferaft in Southern California. But once we found out who it was, they not only made sure we got it back in time, but didn't charge us to pick up the raft in Newport Beach or deliver it all the way down to San Diego after it had been repacked. We also needed to get a Blue Sky controller in order to add additional solar panels to our boat and Downwind Marine didn't have the right one in stock. One call and two days later, Blue Sky made sure there were several on Downwind's shelves.

During the second leg of the Ha-Ha, the clutch cone on our port-side Yanmar engine failed. Using our Iridium phone, we called Boatswain's Locker, Yanmar's West Coast distributor in Newport Beach, and got a tech guy who correctly diagnosed the problems. We also got information that Cabo Yacht Services had a technician who could replace the clutch and gears — without having to haul the boat. This was sensational news! Thanks to a few more Iridium calls, we arranged to have a Ha-Ha participant's wife pick up the part in Newport and fly it down to Cabo, and then have Cabo Yacht Services do the work on Friday. It all went like clockwork. Our boat and the engine parts arrived separately in Cabo on Thursday, and by Friday at noon, Devan from Cabo Yacht Services had completed the repair. And the price seemed very reasonable.

Lest anybody think this kind of stuff only happens close to home, we'll remind you that on a Wednesday four years ago, Profligate was charging toward the Panama Canal when we decided that both saildrives needed to be replaced immediately. By the following Tuesday, just six days later, the saildrives had made their way from St. Pete to Miami to Panama City, been installed despite having modifications made to the engine bed, and Profligate was motoring through the Canal.

Think that stuff doesn't happen in the Caribbean? At 10 a.m. on a Thursday last January, we discovered that 'ti Profligate needed a new water pump for one of her Yanmar diesels. It, too, was going to have to come from St. Pete. Because of the impending weekend and holiday, FedEx told us to expect the delivery to take six days. Well, at 4 p.m. the following afternoon, a mere 28 hours after we placed the order, the FedEx guy pulled up to our office in St. Barth in his quad and handed us the pump.

Yes, we're familiar with manufacturers and distributors not being as responsive as they should be — particularly when not returning customer calls in a timely fashion — and of parts taking forever to reach someplace, but in our experience, those things have been infrequent.


RE: Maltese Falcon. Why?


A. — Back when we were philosophy majors at Berkeley, there was a legend about a philosophy course final that consisted of one question: 'Why?' According to the legend, the only student to get an A finished far earlier than anyone else. Her entire answer consisted of two words: 'Why not?'

A more satisfactory answer to the 'why' about Falcon is that throughout history some individuals, because of a combination of genes and life experience, have been compelled to try creating magnificent things and achieving great dreams. Others are less visionary and ambitious — to the point that they almost seem too timid to identify themselves in letters to editors.


We're thinking about following in your footsteps and buying a former charter boat in the Caribbean — something like a 34- to 37-ft monohull. The idea is that we'd sail it ourselves for six months in the winter, then have it in a charter program for the six months of the summer while we travel the U.S. in our RV. We know we probably wouldn't break even on such a deal, but it would put us where we want to be at the right times of the year.

By the way, your report in Latitude was the second one we've read from someone who felt they got great value from that kind of program. But we've got some questions:

Do you think there is a difference in charter activity in the BVIs versus the Grenadines? Given the current worldwide economic problems, European chartering preferences, North American chartering preferences, and the different cruising regions of the BVIs and the Grenadines, do you think one area would be busier than the other?

With a small boat and no watermaker, we’d need to fill up fairly frequently. Having done five short-term charters in the Caribbean over the years, we’ve only had to get water once. That was in '06 at Marina Cay in the British Virgins, where we were charged 15 cents a gallon. Have you found that other places charge for water, and do you think there would be a justification for putting in a watermaker? And what do you do for drinking water?

How and where did you outfit the boat with the things that make life a little more comfy onboard — such as nice seat cushions with moveable/fixed seat backs, your own charts/guidebooks, your own binoculars, masks/fins, small TV/DVD, small inverter(s), CDs/DVDs, handheld VHF/GPS, kayak, special galley items, throw rugs, extra water jugs, etc. Whenever I’ve chartered, I’ve really missed the little goodies that make your own boat 'home'. You can put up with anything for a week, but if I was aboard for six months, I’d prefer to have it be more homey. So did you outfit your boat with any extra goodies, and did you ship them to the British Virgins or buy them in Road Town? And did you leave these on a boat, or did you put them in storage in the British Virgins?

Thanks! Latitude is an inspiration! And thanks for letting us 'plain clothes people' into the Baja Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party in San Diego!

Emily & Mark Fagan
On the Road

Emily and Mark — We recommend that you first make sure a charter management company would be willing to accept the kind of boat you want if you were going to use her for the entire high and shoulder seasons. If your boat were only available for the low season, it might not be worth the management company's time and effort. In general, such management companies would prefer that you make your boat available during the entire high season — while you maybe RV around New Zealand or Australia — and then you use the boat for as much as you want of the low season. Both you and they would make a lot more money that way. In addition, management companies might have some concerns about what kind of shape your boat would be in after six months of daily use. But it just takes a phone call to run your idea by the various companies.

The British Virgins are the charter boat capital of the universe, which means they get more business — but they also have more boats competing for that business. You'd have to call the various companies to find out where the demand-per-boat is the greatest. A couple of other considerations: If the airlines are going to cut service, they are going to do it to the less busy islands, not the BVIs. And, it's far easier to get repairs and parts in the British Virgins than places such as the Grenadines.

We've found that our water needs in the Caribbean are modest — about 100 gallons per month for two. After all, our morning and evening showers consist of jumping in that wonderful blue water and then having a quick fresh water rinse. Ah, what a great way to live! Water is in short supply in the Caribbean, so you usually have to pay for it. But if you're only using 100 gallons a month, 15 cents a gallon isn't a major expense. Like everyone in the French islands, we drink bottled water. But even that's not too expensive. Bottom line, we would not install a watermaker.

B.V.I. Yacht Charters — and we assume all the other management companies — don't want any personal stuff whatsoever left on boats when they go out on charter. They especially don't want any tools left. The experience of all charter companies is that personal stuff and tools left on boats just results in mischief and tears. As we're in the minimalist stage of our lives, this is just fine with us. Besides, to our way of thinking, being on a boat in the Caribbean is all about getting close to nature, and all those extras are nothing but impediments. About all we bring is snorkeling gear, a small iPod and an additional GPS. DVDs? This is just a personal thing, but the farther we can get from Hollywood and its rubbish, the happier we are. But yes, most yacht management companies have storage areas where owners can rent space to leave their personal gear.

We hope this helps, and good luck to you.


I agree with Latitude on most things, but having had a Hugh Angelman-designed Sea Witch gaff ketch for nine years as my first boat, I think you've been too harsh in your assessment of them. In December 3's 'Lectronic Latitude, in response to Rob and Lorraine Coleman of Honolulu getting fuel dropped to them and their Sea Witch ketch Southern Cross for the second time in the 1,400-mile passage from the tropics to New Zealand, you wrote the following:

"Just as you never want to second guess someone's choice of a spouse, you want to refrain from second guessing their choice of a boat. Nonetheless, if a novice sailor asked us if we thought it was a good idea to join a heavy, gaff-rigged ketch for a trip from the tropics to New Zealand, we'd have to tell them no, not unless they were masochists. Boat design has come a long, long way, both in comfort and performance."

My Sea Witch taught me much more about sailing and seamanship than I would ever have learned on a modern boat. Granted, she didn't go upwind very well, but I have heard similar things about catamarans, and I usually hear that their other good points outweigh that one drawback. On all points of sail but upwind, my Sea Witch was a delight — easy, comfortable, forgiving and very enjoyable. A novice could learn a lot about sailing from a trip on one — including why it's best not to sail to windward.

If the Colemans had sailed west to Fiji before turning south to New Zealand, they might not have had as much headwind, which would have resulted in a better sail. But who knows about those things in advance?

By the way, I met the Colemans in Mexico in about 1980 when they were still cruising their Berkeley-based Columbia 30 Samba Pa Ti. Southern Cross, which they now own, was also out cruising at the time. I assume that had a lot to do with their buying her later.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Long Beach

Ernie — Let us first emphasize that Rob and Lorraine are respected cruisers and friends from way back, so we didn't intend to slight them or their boat — which was designed way back in '37.

Nonetheless, we think the fact that they only averaged a little more than two knots on what's often a difficult passage is evidence enough that it's not something we'd recommend to a novice. Indeed, given the rather slow speed, we couldn't help wondering if Rob and Lorraine had second thoughts about the Sea Witch design for such passages. As is clear from their response in the following letter, they didn't have any second thoughts.


I'm writing in response to Latitude asking what we thought of our classic gaff-rigged Sea Witch as a cruising boat for passages, such as from the South Pacific to New Zealand. Sea Witches are among the finest cruising boats ever built, and Southern Cross performed excellently throughout our extended voyage. Among her advantages is that she has many small sails that are easily handled. For instance, Lorraine can haul up the main without any problem. It's noteworthy that Southern Cross heaves-to very well, which made our passage much more comfortable.

It's true that our gooseneck broke on the passage, but so did the goosenecks on two other boats. We didn't suffer a knockdown like one of the other boats, but we did have a 180? windshift that tore our main. Now that we're here in New Zealand, both the gooseneck and sail will be easy to repair.

When we motor, Southern Cross cooks along at 6.7 knots in flat seas. The problem we ran into on our passage from Tonga to New Zealand is that we thought we'd be able to sail most of the way, so we didn't fill our 35-gallon bladder tank before departing. Had we known how much motoring we'd need to do to get to New Zealand — a Sundeer 56 motored four days out of eight — we would have carried all the diesel we could.

With regard to the two fuel drops at sea, they were not easy to pull off. The cruise ship pulled up to within 100 feet of our transom to pick up our empties, with the captain keeping his bullet-shaped bow pointed into the seas and toward us. The bulb, normally underwater, would lunge out of the sea, looking like a massive cannon coming at us. The ship would lift skyward, then the bow would slam through the crest of the following wave, spilling mega-gallons of seawater over the deck. I was too busy talking on the handheld VHF radio and trying to stay out from underneath her to take video, but it's difficult to find words to describe the fear and awe that surged through our minds during the ordeal.

After the cruise ship picked up our jugs with a grappling hook at the end of a long line, we motored around behind them. This time we watched their stern deck pitch below sea level, and when it rose back up, spill tons of ocean water off the deck. The crew was high and dry on the port side deck, and lowered our full jugs — and other goodies — 30 feet into the wild sea. As we motored up from behind, Lorraine grabbed everything with a boat hook while I kept our bowsprit from smashing into the heaving stern of the ship. It was more exciting than anything at Disney World. We lost one bucket full of goodies due to a broken handle, but circled again and grabbed it as Southern Cross rocked heavily in the seas. Having recently turned 59, I can report it was a job for 20-somethings!

Their mission accomplished, our new friends steamed off. We spent the rest of the evening securing everything, as the buckets and jugs tried to slam each other off the boat like billiard balls. We wolfed down fresh eggs and sausage, then hove to, waiting for the seas to diminish so we could continue south the following morning.

For those who have not had the chance to pour diesel from jugs into a 5-inch diameter Baja fuel filter on a bouncing boat in a seaway — and without getting any saltwater in the fill hole — it's not a piece of cake. But we managed to get enough in the tank to make our final approach and arrival at New Zealand without spilling a drop in the ocean, which we both revere. We arrived outside the entrance to the Bay of Islands in the wee hours of December 1. As we are not comfortable entering unknown harbors and channels at night, we drifted until sunrise, then steamed down the long channel to the quarantine dock in New Zealand.

Rob Coleman
Southern Cross, Angelman Sea Witch
Honolulu, Hawaii

Readers — We don't want anybody to read too much into this, but having achieved their long-time goal of sailing to New Zealand, Rob and Lorraine report that, after two decades of ownership, they have put Southern Cross up for sale for $125,000.


My first response to the letter by Captain Tom of Shelter Island, who asked whether any permits or fees were required to spread ashes of deceased in the ocean, was, 'uh-huh'. Then I read the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished letter by Dennis Kavanagh, which described how the owner of a boat, who had been nice enough to take out a family to spread ashes of a loved one, was sued because one of the family members unnecessarily jumped off the boat back at the dock and broke his leg. I let out another 'uh-huh'.

I understand and respect the generosity of Captain Tom's offering the use of his boat to friends. And I bet that he earned the appreciation of his friends by doing a good thing. But if he'd done the right thing, and suggested that his friend contact a professional and licensed ash scattering service, such as one that people like me provide, he would have earned our appreciation. I'm not against good deeds in the right situation, but if his friend were looking for a dentist, architect or professional photographer, would Captain Tom have provided those services to his friends himself?

Because we spread ashes for a living, we pay high insurance premiums to cover things such as people jumping off the boats early and breaking their legs. We get state and county licenses for burials at sea, report the burials to the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau on an annual basis, and perhaps equally as important, advertise in publications such as Latitude to attract clients. But all these things cost money. For example, when my boat was operated as a private yacht, the insurance was $1,040 a year. When I started doing ash scattering, my insurance jumped to $4,300 a year.

For what it's worth, the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau requires us to be licensed as a Cremated Remains Disposer. But squeezing every penny out of us business owners is not enough for the great state of California. They also make us file annual reports — even though individuals can do the same without a license or permit, and don't have to report anything to the state.

It reminds me of something else I've never understood. How in the world can it be legal for the unlicensed operator of a 70-ft motoryacht to take 20 friends out on his boat, when it's illegal to drive a motorscooter without a license? I guess that's the main reason why too many of the Coast Guard-licensed Master Captains, such as myself, and even those of us with 100 Ton licenses and experience, can't find decent jobs in this state. Of course, if the Coast Guard required that every boat above a certain size and tonnage be operated by a licensed master, our beloved California would turn into a haven for licensed boat captains.

By the way, I hope Captain Tom's friends had a valid California Burial Permit that states disposition as "at sea off the coast of San Diego." Because if not, the rules and regulations sent me by the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau Management suggest what he did was illegal. According to them, the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau requires that a Permit for Disposition be obtained from the county Health Department prior to the burial, and the Environmental Protection Agency be notified after the scattering.

Just a heads-up from one captain to another. By the way, a typical professional ash scattering, where the importance of dignity is understood, costs about $140 to $200.

Capt. James A. Davis
USCG Master 100 Ton

Readers — We spent some time looking into this spreading of ashes business, and in the course of our investigation discovered one thing that seems to be wrong with state and local government — hardly anybody is at work, and those who are don't seem to know anything. First we called the California State Cemetery & Funeral Bureau to ask if there were fees for dispersing ashes. The woman who answered the phone said nobody was allowed to speak to the press except a member of the state's public relations arm. A number of hours later, we were called by Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees cemeteries, funeral homes and the like. He said ashes could legally be dispersed 500 yards from shore, and that no permit was needed. He suggested that we read Health and Safety Code 71.17 for details. We're not stupid, but we couldn't find any pertinent information among the Proustian-like jumble about funeral homes and such.

Just for kicks, we decided to call the Department of Health in San Diego to see what they had to say. The first woman who answered seemed unhappy we'd interrupted her day. She told us that if we wanted information about the legalities of spreading ashes, we should "call a mortuary or something." We taxpayers pay for this kind of work? She later passed us on to another woman, who informed us that people are required to obtain an $11 permit before spreading ashes. When we inquired why there was a need for a permit, she thought about it, then explained it was "to close the loop." But when asked, she had no idea what loop she was talking about. When we asked her what would happen if we scattered ashes without a permit, she seemed shocked, and said it would be "against the law." When we asked if it was true that people spreading ashes needed to file a report with the Environmental Protection Agency, she said she didn't know anything about it. We weren't surprised.

As it turns out, if you spread ashes, you are supposed to fill out a report with the EPA. It asks basic stuff about the deceased's name, the date, the lat and long of where the ashes were spread, and so forth. It's not clear why they need the information, and we suspect it would just end up filling a speck of memory in the government's computers.

Except in cases where professional companies spread ashes, we bet hardly anybody gets a permit from the city or reports the spreading to the EPA. When our father's ashes were spread in the ocean off Stinson Beach a few years ago by a kayaker, we didn't know that a license was required or that a report had to be filed with the EPA. And to be honest, if we had that knowledge, we probably wouldn't have bothered.

We also looked into the price of burials at sea, and found out that Capt. Davis is right — you can get them for as low as about $150. However, that assumes the deceased didn't have a big family or many friends, for once there are more than six people — the limit on uninspected vessels — the prices rapidly jump to five to ten times that much. It's this level of pricing that we suspect encourages people to spread ashes from their own boats or boats of friends.

For those who decide to go with a professional service, be aware that sometimes more than one ash spreading ceremony is booked for the same boat at the same time, usually to keep the cost lower. "We'd have Group A come to the bow and spread the ashes," a captain of one boat told us, "while Group B waited in the stern. After Group A's allotted time of mourning was over, the two groups switched places, and the second set of ashes was dispersed. It resulted in some pretty uncomfortable situations, particularly in cases where the mourners were in different states of mind."

We think the professional ash spreading industry is a good option for some people, but be advised there have been some big scandals — at least two of them involving the biggest ash spreading organization of them all, the Neptune Society. According to Wikipedia, 10 years ago the State of California brought a class action suit against the Neptune Society and others. Apparently they and other organizations had taken as much as $1,000 from the families of at least 54 people to have their ashes spread at sea, and despite providing a GPS location of where they were spread, actually dumped them in an arroyo near Tehachapi in Kern County, many miles from the sea. And two years prior to that, the Neptune Society paid nearly $7 million dollars to settle claims that they'd co-mingled and otherwise abused remains entrusted to them in the San Diego area.

Ironically, the day we were doing research on the subject, we received a press release from none other than the Neptune Society announcing — and we're not making this up — the opening of the 16-acre Neptune Memorial Reef on the ocean floor 45 feet down just 3.25 miles off the coast of Miami Beach. "The unique underwater destination recreates the legendary Lost City," says the press release, "and offers room for more than 125,000 remains. It is also an environmental and ecological masterpiece, a superb laboratory for marine biologists, students, researchers and ecologists, and an aesthetically exquisite, world-class destination for visitors from all walks of life."

There is more. Marco Markin, the CEO of BG Capital Group, "a privately owned leading merchant banking firm" that owns the Neptune and Trident Societies, which have 38 locations in 10 states, praised the manager of the new operation as follows: “Stephen’s track-record of success in the hospitality arena and knowledge of operating large resorts and hotels places him among the leaders in the industry. We look forward to working with him to make The Neptune Memorial Reef a premier destination for loved ones, divers and eco-minded tourists alike."

"World-class destination for people from all walks of life?" "Success in the hospitality area . . .?" Who writes their stuff?


I'm kind of shooting in the dark here, but I'm looking for a good link to get the current status on the Bismarck Dinius case, or any material related to that incident. I'm a Boat U.S. member and read about the story in the October issue of Seaworthy, and also on your website. I'm concerned about the way the case is being handled and would just like to know how it turns out.

Ed Weil
Uniontown, OH

Ed — Bismarck Dinius told us that things have been pretty quiet since Judge Richard Martin ruled back in June that Dinius will have to stand trial for manslaughter in the death of Lynn Thornton. You'll recall that Dinius happened to be holding the tiller of a drifting sailboat on Clear Lake on the night of April 29, 2006, when Lake County Sheriff Deputy Russell Perdock slammed into it, killing Thornton. Dinius is being prosecuted while Perdock, the number two man in the Sheriff's Department, is free to live his life without a cloud hanging over his head. Honestly, we wonder how he sleeps at night. Moreover, we wonder how the residents of Lake County sleep knowing he's out there 'protecting' them.

The trial is tentatively scheduled to start in January but Dinius believes the date will be pushed back. "We're just in a huge holding pattern right now," he said.

Incidentally, that Seaworthy article has generated national interest in what we believe is a case of gross injustice. "I was surprised at how very generous people have been," Dinius remarked in reference to donations to his legal defense fund. "From this point on, everything is coming out of my pocket, so anything helps."

To aid in his defense, send a check made out to Bismarck Dinius, writing "Bismarck Dinius Defense Fund" in the memo section, and mail it to Sierra Central Credit Union, Attn: Brian Foxworthy, Branch Manager, 306 N. Sunrise Ave., Roseville, CA 95661.


I discovered Latitude in a San Mateo taqueria in 1997, and have been an avid reader ever since. From the late '90s until 2002, I owned a series of boats — and even signed up for the '01 Ha-Ha. But life ended up having other plans, as a failed marriage and huge financial disasters caused me to drop out before the start. Before it was over, I'd lost my boat along with almost everything else, and I ended up moving to Canada.

But as I've been slowly rebuilding my life from scratch, 'Lectronic Latitude, the Letters, and the Changes sections have been a welcome respite from the daily grind of dealing with back taxes, divorce lawyers and trying to come to terms with the fact that the life I had before is over. If nothing else, your website has helped me fondly recall how much happiness I found in sailing. After all, as the old saying goes, there's nothing better than being on or simply messing around in boats.

Someday I will have another boat, and am looking forward to finally heading south with the rest of the fleet in an upcoming Ha-Ha.

Ben Jones
Vancouver, British Columbia

Ben — Sorry to hear that things went south for you. If it's any consolation, it's a buyer's market so now is the time to buy if you can. In addition, a common observation made by people who have done the Ha-Ha and continued cruising in Mexico is how inexpensive it can be to enjoy a happy and healthy cruising life.

One of the reasons is that health care is so inexpensive — at least compared to the States — south of the border. While in Mexico last month, we joined Philo for one of his cruiser-musician expeditions to San Sebastian, which is a beautiful 90-minute drive to 4,500 feet above Puerto Vallarta. During the drive home the next day, Philo's 86-year-old mother became ill. A doctor from San Sebastian picked her up in his own car and drove her to the clinic. She was given a bed and was treated, including being given medicine to treat her low blood pressure. The doctor decided she should be taken to a clinic in Puerto Vallarta for further evaluation, so an ambulance was called, and she was accompanied by the doctor and a nurse for the 90-minute drive to P.V. The charge for all these services, including the ambulance, was $50 U.S. Anyone care to guess what it would have been in the U.S.?


During a normal physical exam in Oakland last September, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which, in the simplest of terms, is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to a stroke. I saw a cardiologist, who confirmed the diagnosis and said that I should have electrocardioversion — basically an electric shock to the heart so that it can hopefully return to its normal rhythm. All this would take at least six weeks, and since my wife and I had already been away from our boat in Mexico for three months, I chose to seek further treatment in Puerto Vallarta instead.

Through friends and the internet, I found three cardiologists in the area. I chose one who last year had successfully treated an acquaintance of ours. On my first visit, the doctor confirmed the diagnosis with an EKG, checked my blood pressure and carefully listened to my heart. He spent an hour with me in a first-class environment, and did everything himself. No nurses or technicians were involved. The doctor prescribed medication, which he felt provided a reasonable chance for my heart to return to its normal rhythm. The total cost for this visit was 800 pesos, which at today's exchange rate is around $64 U.S. My U.S. health insurance calls for a $25 co-pay, so my net cost was really $39.

I've had three subsequent visits with the doctor, and each time he's followed the same basic procedures for the same 800 peso fee. The good news is that after the third visit, my heart had returned to normal rhythm. The doctor was as excited about this as I was!

During my first visit, the cardiologist had ordered full blood work for me. That total cost came to $270 U.S., which is much less than it would have cost in the States. By the way, the lab was squeaky clean, I didn't have to wait, and the technicians were very professional.

This wasn't our first experience with medical care in Mexico. About a year ago, my wife got a badly infected elbow, and received excellent care for a fraction of what it would have cost in the States.

While down here, I also get my teeth cleaned. I've been paying $30 and can't tell any difference between the treatment I've been getting here and the teeth cleaning I was paying $120 for in San Francisco.

So my wife and I have become big fans of medical and dental treatment in Mexico, as all our experiences have been positive — and cost effective.

It may surprise some cruisers to learn that you can have problems with your boat as well as your body. A short time ago the transmission on our 42-footer failed. We had the 16-year-old transmission pulled — and discovered there was nothing wrong with it. The problem was that the bolts holding the damper plate to the engine had worked loose, causing the transmission to no longer be connected to the engine. Assuming all goes well with the re-installation of the transmission, we will take off this weekend for points south.

Name Withheld By Request
Banderas Bay, Mexico

Readers — We know there are lots of wonderful and caring health care professionals in the United States, so we're only half-joking when we say that one answer to the health care crisis in the United States is to send everyone to Mexico.


I've been having some challenges lately, and I'm hoping that you can give me some suggestions to help me figure things out. I left the Coast Guard last year, and since then have been working in a small business with my husband, and teaching sailing classes on the weekends. My challenge is that I would really like to be on the water more instead of in an office.

While in the Coast Guard, I was a Deck Watch Officer and Assistant Navigator. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard doesn't automatically give their officers USCG Captain's Licenses. I'm working on the paperwork for my 100-Ton right now, but that means I'm currently unqualified.

Do you have any suggestions for ways that I can find more work on the water or with a marine company? I'm not really sure where to look anymore. I've called the local ferry companies and they aren't hiring, and I've run through my other personal contacts with no success. Is there anyone who wants a former Coast Guard Officer, trained navigator, ship driver, or sailing instructor for part-time or full-time work? My resume is at

Tiffany Norte

Tiffany — Our two suggestions would be to teach sailing lessons with one of the sailing schools, which you're already doing, and do boat deliveries. The more time you spend on and around boats, the more likely you'll hear about the kinds of jobs you're looking for, or at least gain experience leading to such jobs.

The good news for women is that there seems to be an ever increasing number of opportunities on boats and ships. It's no longer a surprise to see a woman captain on a large vessel. Jim Milski of the Colorado-based Schionning 49 Sea Level recently told us that the six-month cruise his family did in the Caribbean a number of years ago wasn't as successful as he'd hoped because the younger kids didn't enjoy it as much as they'd hoped. But it did have one redeeming career feature. While they were at St. Martin, his then 17-year-old daughter Samar was — surprise, surprise — a big social hit with the young crews working on the big charter boats. So it wasn't long before she was getting tours of some of the finest yachts in the world . . . and decided she liked what she saw. As a result, she entered the Cal Maritime Academy in Vallejo. Now 30, Samar has most recently been the first officer on ships taking cargo all over the world, and a captain's position would be next. So get all the education and experience you can, and go for it.


Garth and I have finally come to our senses and moved back into our old house. I suppose that depends on your definition of 'coming to our senses', but when attempting to live a land-based life in a marginal climate in the dead of winter, doing it in a house makes more sense than on a cold, dark boat.

The last year has been a really tough one, particularly for me. After cruising in the tropics for seven years at our own pace and on our own schedule, I failed to grasp the magnitude of acclimatizing we'd have to do to life in the frenzied U.S. and to the wet weather of Seattle. After finishing a trying 49-day passage from Japan — my personal version of climbing Mount Everest — I expected to be able to kick back and celebrate. But to my dismay, the hard part was only beginning when we reached Seattle.

We returned to find an intense shortage of moorage space, meaning we had a hard time finding a place for our boat and us. It was not the welcome we'd hoped for. And then we had what by everyone's account — and certainly mine — was a pretty tough winter. It probably wasn't too bright on our part to continue living on our boat through last year, but I secretly — or maybe not so secretly — wished Garth would get bored with his harebrained idea of working and resume adventuring. I didn't want to do anything that jeopardized our ability to take off again at a moment's notice. Alas, Garth really enjoyed the new challenges of his job, so he didn't have the amount of interest in escaping that I did. This is not to say he didn't find the readjustment challenging at times as well.

My life of denial sucked! Thank God for the friends that helped me (mostly) keep my sanity. I realized that while I could have been anywhere on our boat, I was in a cold wet climate — and without my best friend for companionship because he was at work all day. When you live on a boat, you're so much more aware of it because there's no escaping it. During the winter in Seattle, most people find refuge at work, keeping busy in well-heated buildings and such. But I was in a cold, dark boat by myself and feeling isolated. Talk about a recipe for disaster!

After realizing that Garth wanted to stay in the Pacific Northwest for an extended period, and considering I really like the guy, I knew I had to do something besides keep leaving Seattle by airplane to sustain. After each of my trips to California, Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico, Hong Kong and Thailand, I'd get off the plane and realize that I still hadn't done anything to solve my problem — which was finding a way to be content in Seattle. So rather than suffering through another Seattle winter living on our boat, we kicked the renters out and moved back into our house. Things haven't been as bad since we moved back into the house.

As for Velella, she sits in her slip patiently waiting for her next opportunity to go sailing.

Wendy Hinman
Velella, Wylie 30

Readers — After people go cruising for a year or more, it can be extremely difficult to return to life in the States. Temporary mild depression or worse is not that uncommon.


We recently returned from our annual SailTime Flotilla to the British Virgin Islands. This year we chartered 12 boats to participating members from the U.K., Canada and the U.S. — including three teams from California. Our group was captained by me, owner of SailTime Channel Islands, and included Roby Hyde, owner of SailTime San Francisco Bay. Being somewhat price-conscious in these challenging economic times, we looked into chartering a boat from a 'second-tier' yacht management company. As it turned out B.V.I. Yacht Charters offered us a '00 Leopard 45 (ex-Moorings 4500) catamaran for a price that was below even that of the group rate offered by the two large top-tier charter companies. And the cat offered to us was 'ti Profligate, owned by the publisher of Latitude! Having read about 'ti Profligate and the management company, we decided to give it a try. We ended up having a great experience!

One of the things that we found noteworthy of your Leopard 45 was how well she sailed. Over the past five years, we have chartered several Lagoon 410s, Belize 43s and Voyage 440s, and I'd have to say 'ti Profligate outperformed them all. We saw 11 knots of boat speed on a flatwater run from Anegada to Little Jost Van Dyke in 18 knots of wind — after we set up a preventer and a barber hauler. And we consistently sailed in the mid-8s to mid-9s on close reaches in the Sir Francis Drake Channel with the wind blowing 16-18 knots. So this was very impressive.

The only thing we felt was lacking on 'ti Profligate was an electric main halyard winch. Indeed, the crew assigned this job began to revolt a bit toward the end of the week. A new bimini would be a nice upgrade as well. Not for the sun, but for the rain, which it did most nights of our charter. But the ice box is something to behold!

However, we do want to report some misfortune we experienced in the form of being burglarized — although I actually take the blame for it. In a few words, the lesson we learned is that even though you may be on vacation in the British Virgins, thieves aren't, so it's very important to lock your boat. Locking up is important no matter whether you're berthed in a marina or on the hook.

We were the victims of not one, but two boat boardings/burglaries. Incredibly, the first occurred in the middle of the night at the charter base while we were asleep. Two of our three boats were boarded by a lone individual who brazenly scooped up our pocket money from each cabin's night stand. One of our crew finally heard the thief, got up, and literally bumped into him on his way out! The police arrived soon after we notified the base manager the next morning, and we heard that the perpetrator was apprehended. But in our estimation, the Port Purcell area could use more security.

Being burglarized the second time was much more expensive and harder to accept. While at dinner at Cane Garden Bay, our boat was boarded, and nearly all of our electronics, as well as the cash we left behind, were taken. As we'd all brought a lot of stuff, the loss came to nearly $10,000 in computers, iPhones and iPods. Apparently, we or the boat next door must have spooked the thieves, for all of our camera gear had been stacked up on the table in the main salon, but was not taken.

Once again, the police arrived promptly. This time there was the full CSI-type investigation, complete with a full boat fingerprint dusting of 'ti Profligate. The police here were very professional and caring. In fact, every local we met and talked to about the thefts was horrified at our misfortune — as you would expect of a small nation whose main source of income is tourism, mainly charterboat tourism. In fact, the Tourism Ministry has been trying to contact me, and the charter base has stepped up to act as our emissary in retrieving any items the police may find. We're told that this thief was also caught.

That he was caught is a good thing, too, because more than one boat was hit on the night of November 13 at Cane Garden Bay. The other boat was a Moorings charterboat with her owner aboard. He apparently lost much more of value than we.

We have nothing to compare it with, but we're told that there has been more violent crime and theft around Tortola this year. We also heard from a local bureaucrat that there is a huge construction project on Scrub Island, which is adjacent to Marina Cay, that went bust this past spring. They had imported many workers from across the Caribbean to work on the project, and some of them got abandoned without a final paycheck or a way to get home. We can't substantiate this, nor do we even know if it might be a contributing factor to the changes that are said to be occurring on Tortola.

When I say that I take the blame for the thefts, I mean that we could have prevented them by being just a little more vigilant — as we are when we leave our home in Southern California. So I write this not as a 'Chicken Little' story, but rather to encourage folks headed to a Caribbean charter to take a few moments to lock the hatches and companionway doors when leaving the boat, even if for just a short period of time.

These incidents will in no way stop us from making our annual trek to sailing Mecca. The people of the British Virgins are some of the kindest, most helpful, and friendliest locals we have met anywhere in our travels, and as far as we're concerned, the British Virgins are heaven on earth. We urged every local we could to get together in their churches and community to come up with a grass roots plan to curtail criminal activity and return the BVIs to the carefree place we know it really is.

Chris Tucker
SailTime Channel Islands

Chris — We're glad that you had a great time with 'ti Profligate, but are terribly disappointed that you were the victim of thieves. The suggestion that it might have been the doing of construction workers from out of the area seems plausible to us. Similar things have happened in Mexico where there have been huge construction projects. Countless workers are brought in from the poorest parts of the country, and often paid very low wages. With no ties to the community, and no family or girlfriends in the area, these young men often turn to drugs, booze and stealing to get their kicks and to subsidize their income. Then, too, the pirate tradition dies hard in the Caribbean. A common scheme is for local thieves to watch an anchorage with binoculars until they see a group of charters dinghying ashore at dusk for dinner. While the happy vacationers are enjoying a wonderful meal, the thieves or their associates go out to the boat in a dinghy and loot it. Some West Indians claim this is 'tithing' or compensation for slavery. In addition to remembering to always lock your boat, take a few minutes to make friends with the folks on boats around you in the anchorage, and offer to take turns watching each others' boats when folks are ashore. It also doesn't hurt to leave the radio and a few lights on.

We're glad you found 'ti Profligate to be so fast. She'd just come out of the yard, so her clean bottom no doubt helped. She'd be a lot faster with a folding prop, of course, but none of the charter companies will allow them. Why? Too many guests don't realize it takes time for folding props to go from forward to reverse, with the result that they slam the boats into docks. 'ti Profligate actually does have an electric winch for the main halyard — the anchor windlass. But you have to temporarily set up a block on a short line to get a fairlead that will allow it to work. We find it interesting that you loved the freezer. We so dislike running the engine that we never use it.

Do you think it's wrong that the publisher of Latitude, the sailing friend of all Latitude readers, doesn't give discounts on his cat in the Caribbean? We do. So if anyone wants to charter 'ti Profligate in the months of March, April or May of this year — which are really some of the best weather months in the Caribbean — the publisher of this magazine will personally pick up the tab for a nice dinner in the Caribbean for everyone aboard. But you have to have to run the charter through us, and you can't wait long, because 'ti looks to be a busy little cat this winter and spring. .


I'd agree with Lee Helm's statement in December's Max Ebb about in-mast furling systems. A sail with no battens and a hollow leech, such as Lee refers to on page 137, is a poor performer. My Hunter 356 had the factory in-mast furling sail and suffered from that problem. Then last March I tangled with a channel marker in the South Bay, bringing down the rig.

The good news was is that the replacement mast is for the current Hunter 36, which has a large extrusion allowing for vertical battens. Robin Sodaro of Hood Sailmakers in Sausalito made a new main for me with vertical battens and a positive leech — like the one in the Hood ad on page 41 of the December issue. What a difference in performance! Plus, it's easy to sail and carries a great shape. Now I finish in the middle of the racing fleet rather than at the end.

By the way, I believe the in-mast furling systems for the new Hunters have partial vertical battens, giving them better sail shape.

P.S. The publisher of Latitude may remember that my wife Anne and I met him in St. Barth and Antigua back in the '90s when he was sailing the Ocean 71 Big O. At the time we were on our Liberty 458, which was also named Murmur. We were all in Antigua for Sailing Week, where we discussed his getting ready to pick up crew in the Dominican Republic for a trip to Cuba.

Doug Murray
Murmur, Hunter 356
San Francisco

Doug — Of course we remember you from the Caribbean. Our trip from the Dominican Republic and Cuba was a great time, in part because we had so many fireworks to dispose of before we reached Castroland. With any luck, Americans will be able to sail to Cuba again within just a few months.


I was in South America when all the talk of "prurient drool" got started, but I thought I'd like to take the conversation back a few years. Like 30 years.

Does anyone out there remember the beginnings of our fun local sailing magazine? If you do, then you should remember the poster in the accompanying graphic — and get a life. Yes, I know I'm opening myself up to ridicule, but life is short, and sailing should be about fun.

Tony English
Pleasant Hill

Tony — When you're a new publication, you try to make a splash to get readers. So in our second year, we came up with the Latitude 38 Sailing Pervert's Calendar, free with each subscription. We were going to run for President last year, but when our exploratory committee found out about this skeleton in the closest, they insisted we didn't have a chance.


We met lots of friendly people and saw several good restaurants in the little town of La Manzanilla on Tenacatita Bay on Mexico's Gold Coast. But the most incredible sight was a 15-ft croc sunning itself on the beach! There was no protective fence and no posted warnings. There were a number of other crocs, but the big one was known as Abuelo. The locals respected him, but did not fear him.

We then motored down to Barra de Navidad in order to top up the batteries. When I awoke on the hook the next morning in the predawn light, there was a covey of pangañeros all vying with each other for the best spot to hurl their nets to catch bait fish. There was a melee as they all seemed to be getting in each other's way. But it didn't last long, as there was plenty of bait fish for all, and they quickly headed out to sea.

After our great experiences in Chamela and Tenacatita Bay, Barra was a bit of a disappointment. It's pretty enough, with a luxury hotel, Bahia Grande, owning the marina. But there aren't many boats here and the hotel is nearly empty. The slip fee was $100 for one night, plus electricity. That's excessive, but we needed the shore power for enough time to bring the batteries up to snuff. After that we'll anchor out to give us more time to see the town.

An employee told me that at this time last year, the marina and hotel were both full. Is this a sign of the trickle down of the stock market troubles? It may be necessary for places like this to readjust their marketing and prices. When we ate in the large restaurant, we were the only ones there.

Bill Nokes
Someday, Gulfstar 41
Brookings, OR

Bill — We still can't figure out why crocs in Australia will attack and eat every human they can sink their teeth into, but the ones along the coast of Mexico — and there are lots of them — don't. Maybe the Mexican crocs have gone vegan.

In recent years, Barra has become a huge cruiser favorite. There are two reasons it may have been so quiet when you got there. First, it was still a little early in the season, and the fun doesn't really begin until there is a 'quorum' of cruising boats. Second, all manner of tourism is down the world over, and Mexico is no exception.

It's funny that you mention businesses in Mexico might want to "readjust" their prices due to there being fewer customers. In the United States, supply and demand is the economic rule of the land, and businesses battling for customers is a way of life. Inexplicably, it's not that way in Mexico. We've both observed and been told by a number of people that if a house, boat or car doesn't sell in Mexico, it's not uncommon for the owner to raise the price. This makes no sense to us, but it seems to almost be gospel in Mexico. Maybe that's one reason why it's so common to see restaurants with few or no customers at all. Or why 90% of the moorings at the Singlar facility at Puerto Escondido have been vacant since it opened years ago. Haven't they heard of yield management?

Indeed, more than a few things about business in Mexico perplex us. For example, when the new shipyard opened last month on the grounds of the Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz, their prices were higher than that of their competitors on Banderas Bay, and even higher than those of many yards in the States, where labor costs are much higher. In addition, the new yard wouldn't let anybody do their own work on basic stuff. As a result, four different cruisers we know who had their boats in the marina — which has gotten absolutely rave reviews this year — decided to take their boats to Puerto Vallarta and haul out at Opequimar instead. As red-blooded Americans, we assumed the shipyard — which was operating at about 1% capacity — would have fought like crazy to match or beat the prices of their competitors, and perhaps would have made some allowances for parsimonious cruisers to do the basic work on their boats. But no, the shipyard management was content to see many thousands of dollars of business head off to a competitor.


Last July I did a 24-day passage from the Canary Islands to St. Martin as the middle leg of a delivery of a brand new cruising catamaran from France to Florida. Not having any downwind sails contributed to its being a rather long crossing. Nonetheless, there were two things that made the crossing noteworthy.

First, I actually sailed the entire way, something I really wanted to do but hadn't done in years. There are a couple of reasons that people don't cross entire oceans under sail anymore. In the case of deliveries, time is usually of the essence, and we often do passages in the 'wrong' season, so diesel gets burned. In the case of cruisers, not many folks have the patience to do three knots in light air. If they only did 70 miles a day, they'd tear their hair out and think it had been a disgrace.

When I do an Atlantic crossing, I always carry at least 700 miles worth of diesel. And most of the time I use it. As for us cruisers, if we stop to think about it, we'd probably be ashamed to discover how often we motored.

The second noteworthy thing about this particular Atlantic crossing is that the cat I was sailing was a hybrid, meaning she had a big battery bank, a powerful generator, and was fitted with electric drives rather than two diesels. I had my usual autonomy to power as little or as much as I wanted, but I decided to prove a point, at least to myself, by sailing the entire way.

During the course of the 24-day, 3,000-mile crossing, the generator was only turned on three times for total of six hours, and that was when we wanted hot water for showers and when there had been unusually heavy use of the electric winches. Nonetheless, we still had full use of all the nav instruments, lights, autopilot, electric toilets, refrigeration, water pumps, electric winches and inverter. And when we finally dropped the sails at the entrance of Fort Louis Marina in St. Martin, the catamaran's batteries were fully charged and healthy.

How was this possible? Because when we sailed in excess of four knots, the props would spin freely, generating energy to silently recharge the battery bank.

It was more than five years ago that I delivered the very first hybrid cruising catamaran from France to Annapolis. Since then I've been keenly following the debate over the feasibility of hybrids, and the fate of specific hybrid-powered yachts and their systems providers. I've heard and read a lot of skepticism about hybrids from specialists, and am aware that many cruisers sneered or passed judgment on hybrids based on just a test sail in a harbor or somebody's secondhand remark. These people would point out the hybrid's shortcomings and failures, but they'd never take the time to investigate the circumstances or causes of those failures. It didn't help that some brokers overhyped the hybrid concept, giving new owners unrealistic expectations.

When the first hybrid cat got to Annapolis for the boat show, the salespeople told customers, "It got here from France, so the technology has been proven." It would have been more accurate for them to have said that hybrid technology was on its way.

Between '03 and now, a lot of technical problems needed to be fixed, debugged, and otherwise solved. And various companies poured huge amounts of money into research and upgrades. Large numbers of highly qualified technicians at any number of companies worked -— sometimes together, sometimes in competition — to solve the hybrid problems. This is not a 'one guy in a shed coming up with a gizmo' technology, but rather a revolution of sorts, and shouldn't be allowed to fade away.

Based on my experience, I think the hybrid technology is now tried, tested and proven. I realize that now this will come as small comfort to those who jumped onto hybrid powered boats early, as they have had a long list of legitimate grievances. But my experience should encourage people who are considering hybrid-powered boats, and who have been held back by misgivings which, in my view, are no longer legitimate.

I'm not touting any particular type or brand of boat or hybrid maker, and I don't even know the initial cost difference between hybrid systems and traditional diesel systems. But I am saying that we know the environmental, economic costs of traditional diesel-powered boats. And I know true sailors, who are only looking for auxiliary power, can eliminate much of the smoke, noise and high fuel bills associated with traditional diesel propulsion.

When I say that hybrids are the best development since diesels were invented, and that they are the future, readers will want to know how much experience I have on the ocean. Since writing this letter, I have sailed a 44-ft cat from San Diego to Peru, a 50-ft cat from Annapolis to Fort Lauderdale, a 57-footer from Annapolis to Tortola, and am now flying to France to deliver a Lagoon 430 hybrid cat, which, regrettably, is supposed to be the last hybrid they are building. The hybrid technology is just not taking off as it should.

Jorge Ventura
Delivery Skipper

Jorge — Thank you for your insight and opinions. If anyone else, particularly an owner of a boat with hybrid power, has any thoughts on those kinds of systems, we'd like to hear from them.

We think one of the reasons hybrids haven't taken off as much as some had hoped is that folks with traditional diesel power have learned — thanks in part to what had become sky-high diesel prices — how to be more energy efficient. Skippers — particularly on fuel-guzzling powerboats — have learned the value of throttling back, as the savings in fuel greatly overcomes the slight reduction in speed. And folks with catamarans, such as us, no longer engage in the idiotic practise of running both engines at once. Furthermore, it's now rare to see a cruising boat that's not equipped with a slew of solar panels, if not a wind generator, too. In combination with much more efficient LED lights, watermakers and refrigeration systems, most cruisers find they rarely if ever have to use their engines except for propulsion. In the case of Profligate, it's gotten so bad that we've even begun to worry that our engines aren't run enough for all the seals and gaskets to stay properly lubricated. And mind you, we've still only got two of our four solar panels installed, and we've yet to put in our ultra-efficient Blue Sky controller.

No matter which way you do it, hybrid or efficient use of a traditional diesel in combination with solar, it's great to save fuel, money, the environment — and not have to listen to and smell the diesel when it's not necessary.


Thanks for all the great times, not only on this year's Baja Ha-Ha, but also for putting together the Banderas Bay Blast. What a hoot! It was a super fun three-day sailing adventure that really brought a lot of folks together. And what ideal conditions for all three legs — close hauled to La Cruz, beating to Punta Mita, and a great spinnaker run home to Nuevo Vallarta. All in wonderful tropical weather. Does it get any better? Particularly at the finish of the last day, where six big boats converged on the finish area at the same time after a huge windshift. We were all smoking!

Your passion for sailing and sharing it with others is fabulous! But we have a passion for sailing, too. We met in 1966 during a college party on Balboa Island. You know the kind of party I'm referring to — one that was a little bit out of control. About midnight, I asked Di if she wanted to go sailing with me on my Star. She didn't know what it was, but had been hoping for something larger than a two-man 23-footer used in the Olympics. But Di agreed to come along, and we brought another couple just for fun. We set off after midnight with portable running lights, albeit reversed, on the bow. The wind picked up, the boat had no lifelines or anything else to hold on to, so the other couple slid off the bow and into Newport Harbor. Di was undaunted and went out with me three more times before I proposed. The rest is sailing history.

I did my first Ha-Ha in '99 aboard Guy Blacks's Kelly-Peterson 46 Savage Lady, and we won our division. I've tried to duplicate that result in three more Ha-Ha's, but just haven't found the right conditions. We've done the Ha-Ha with our Di's Dream in '01 and '08, and on a friend's Catalina 470 in '06.

After I retired the first time in '99, we went sailing for a couple of years until I was offered a dream job of selling Catalina Yachts at Farallone Yachts in the Bay Area. As a result of that, I've sent lots of boats on the Ha-Ha over the last eight years to experience all the wonderful things the cruising lifestyle has to offer. It's such a great introduction to cruising and a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends planning similar adventures.

Di and I are cruising in Mexico until the spring, while the economy is bad. We had a great month in October, before taking off on the Ha-Ha, selling six boats — including a Catalina 470 that was headed for Greece!

Rog & Di Frizzelle
Di's Dream, Catalina 470
San Francisco

Rog and Di — Thanks for all the very kind words. We love doing stuff such as the Ha-Ha, the Banderas Bay Blast, the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity and Sea of Cortez Sailing Week because we think we were put on earth to help folks have fun and challenge themselves with their sailboats. No, it's not finding a cure for cancer, but we still give it our all.


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