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June 2009

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After a very enjoyable time doing Sea of Cortez Sailing Week in early April, Easter Sunday found us on the hook at San Evaristo in Baja. The wind was blowing at 14 knots when, without warning, we seemed to start to drag. This was a surprise, since it had blown much harder the night before. Plus, it wasn't blowing hard enough for our 55-lb Delta not to hold, since it was well-set in sand with plenty of scope on an all-chain rode. But once we realized that the boat behind us was now next to us and that we were quickly headed for the beach, there was no doubt that we were dragging. We fired up the engine and tried to raise the anchor. Unfortunately, it was no longer at the end of the chain! After getting over the shock of seeing nothing but chain, we deployed our Fortress backup anchor. We spent the balance of the afternoon considering how lucky we were that we hadn't lost the anchor during the night or when we were ashore hiking.

The reason we lost our anchor is that the stainless steel swivel between the anchor and chain had come apart. We'd purchased it 3.5 years before from West Marine for about $110. Having read several reports in Latitude that some swivel shackles of this type seem to be prone to failure, we took it back to West Marine for their opinion. We were assured that ours was one of the "good ones." For the record, our swivel has a logo that looks like 'CKN', and beneath it, 'Italy'. On the other side it says, "INOX AISI 316, SWL Kg 2000". All this comes from the remaining half of the shackle that was attached to the anchor, which we were able to recover.

Some cruisers have speculated that the pin was not properly set, while others believe the pin simply broke. All we can say is that we've periodically inspected the shackle and everything looked to be in good shape. Unlike some swivels, ours was designed to better withstand loads from some directions than others. Whatever the reason for the failure, we now have an old fashioned galvanized shackle that is wired shut, and have no plans to go back to a stainless swivel-type shackle.

We know of two other boats in Mexico this season that have had similar swivels part. Fortunately, there was no serious loss of property, but neither of them was able to recover their anchor. If you haven't looked lately, anchors aren't cheap.

We suggest that anyone with this type of anchor swivel strongly consider whether or not to keep using it. For us, continuing to use it would result in too many sleepless nights wondering what's going on at the bottom, even in relatively light winds and current.

John & Gilly Foy
Destiny, Catalina 42
Alameda / Banderas Bay

Readers — Based on the photos John and Gilly sent to us, they had a Kong brand anchor swivel from Italy. There are about 12 different manufacturers of such anchor swivels, and the designs, manufacturing processes, quality and price vary tremendously. For what it's worth, the Kong is one of the less expensive anchor swivels.

We'd always been a little fainthearted when it came to such anchor swivels, so when we ultimately did buy one, it was from a manufacturer whose products cost about three times as much as similar size ones made by Kong. Our cat spends most of the year on the hook, and a swivel failure could easily cause us to lose the boat. Because of this, we weren't going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

We're not recommending any particular brand of anchor swivel, or even that one be used. But for what it's worth, we use an Ultra-Swivel that is imported by Quickline USA of Huntington Beach. It's design is very different from the one made by Kong, having far fewer parts and having been designed to accept loads equally no matter the direction. If you're thinking about using such a swivel, we strongly recommend that you do some research into the pros and cons of the different major brands — and be ready to pay top dollar for the best in breed. Anything else would seem to be false economy.


Our family has owned the Santana 22 Rick’s Place since 1978. The Santana 22 was designed by Gary Mull specifically for sailing in heavy-air venues such as San Francisco Bay. We purchased her new from Schock Boats, and took delivery in Newport. There were 747 Santanas built of this basic design. The boat came equipped with almost nothing in the way of sail control hardware. For example, there was no cleat for the mainsheet or any backstay control. Over the more than 30 years that we have owned her, we have modified the deck hardware to make her a competitive racer.

Our boat's name, of course, is a shortened version of the night club in the movie Casablanca. We've always kept the boat in dry storage in Santa Cruz, but she's been sailed on San Francisco Bay and up the Delta. She has also been raced with varying degrees of success. Our son Bob skippered her to second place in the '87 Nationals, won a national championship in '90, took third in the '05 Nationals and second in the '08 Nationals. In the last national championship, Rick's Place was sailed by three generations of Comstocks. Larry, son Bob, and grandson Chris.

The Santana 22 continues to provide our family with great pleasure, as it can be easily sailed by my wife Marilyn and me. We've never considered upgrading to a larger boat since the cost-fun ratio of Rick’s Place is unbeatable.

R. Larry Comstock
Rick's Place, Santana 22
Santa Cruz


We just noticed that Latitude has started a '30 Year Club' for people who have owned the same boat for that period of time or longer. We've not only owned our Westsail 32 for 32 years, we've lived aboard her for all that time. We spent our first 12 years in the Antioch Marina, and we've spent the last 20 years cruising. We're now in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, halfway through what we expected — back when we started in '89 — to be a five-year circumnavigation. We're still enjoying the lifestyle, so we have no plans to give it up anytime soon.

Don & Nancy Chism
Bag End, Westsail 32
Seychelles / Antioch

Readers — Living aboard the same boat for more than 30 years — we're giving Don and Nancy a VIP membership in the 'Over 30 Club'. We tried to contact the couple for more details on their trip, but their email address wasn't working. If anybody crosses paths with them, please have them contact us.


Members of the 'Over 30 Club' and 'Over 50 Club', for people who have owned the same boat for those respective years have my full respect. As for myself, I purchased my 42-ft R-boat Machree in 1939. I still sail her every week, year 'round, so I'm a member of the 'Over 70 Club'. If any sailor meets the qualifications, please leave a message courtesy of the Corinthian YC in Tiburon and we'll sign you up. But you'd better hurry up, because I'll be 96 years young on June 26.

Loran 'Doc' Mebine
Machree, R-boat
Corinthian YC, Tiburon


I read the April 29 'Lectronic item about Stephen Szukics of San Rafael's Loch Lomond Marina and his crew being rescued from his 55-ft wooden Baglietto powerboat Black Pearl while 50 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. According to your report, fellow boatowners at Loch Lomond said that Black Pearl needed a lot of work to be seaworthy, and that when they expressed their reservations to Szukics, he seemed unconcerned and said, "If I die, I die." Apparently Szukics was only slinging BS when he claimed not to care if he slipped off this mortal coil. For he had an EPIRB on his boat and activated it when he needed help. I can't help wondering how much it cost the U.S. taxpayer to retrieve his lame ass after his known-to-be-leaky boat sank.

Larry Watkins
Los Alamitos

Larry — How much such rescues cost the U.S. taxpayer is a very good question, but one for which we unfortunately can't provide a precise answer. The rescue of the Black Pearl required a search by a Coast Guard C-130, which also dropped off expensive gear that was no doubt lost or ruined. The Black Pearl's crew was later picked up by the crew of the 378-ft Coast Guard Cutter Sherman. No matter if the C-130 had come from Sacramento — as most do for rescues in this part of the Pacific — or happened to have been in Costa Rica, there was some expense. But it's likely to have already been in the Coast Guard budget, and if the money hadn't been spent on the rescue, it probably would have been spent on training for such a rescue. In the case of the 378-ft Sherman, the Coast Guard declined to tell us what she was doing down there. Gee, we wonder if maybe they were trying to put a dent in the flow of contraband to the United States. In any event, being diverted so she could rescue the crew of Black Pearl was probably also a relative drop in her operating budget.

Nonetheless, our feeling is that if somebody with a manifestly unsafe boat has to be rescued by the Coast Guard, they, on principle of personal responsibility, should be presented with some kind of bill. Maybe $5,000 to $10,000, depending on what it cost. We think this would discourage some folks with manifestly unsafe boats from getting into trouble, and the money could be used to pay the health and life insurance policies of Coasties who have to risk their lives to save such reckless folks.


I want to thank Latitude for organizing the Salute to John Guzzwell evening at the Oakland YC on April 16. Although we're seniors and fairly new sailors, we have hopes of doing long passages in the South Pacific. As such, we both thoroughly enjoyed the evening. John's presentation was heartfelt, personal and fascinating, and his film a real treat. In addition, we had interesting tablemates. What a truly wonderful event!

Joyce Gunn

Joyce — Latitude has received tremendous thanks and praise for putting together the Salute to John Guzzwell, but the person who is really responsible for it is Senior Editor and Assistant Grand Poobah Andy Turpin. While researching an article a year ago, he came across the factoid that 2009 would be the 50th anniversary of Guzzwell's magnificent circumnavigation with the 20.5-ft Trekka. Using this information as a springboard, Turpin put all the pieces together for what was a magical evening.


We just wanted to thank you for the great Salute to John Guzzwell at the Oakland YC, and also for the nice mention about Serge in the latest Latitude. We're going to be in the Brisbane, Australia, area for awhile, so stop by!

Robin & Serge Testa
Brisbane, Australia

Robin and Serge — It was our pleasure. By the way, looking over the West Coast Circumnavigator's List, we see that the 25th anniversary of Serge's circumnavigation aboard the breathtakingly small, 12-ft Acrohc Australis. will be in 2011. Maybe we can put on a salute to him also.


I will be leaving San Francisco Bay soon for the cruising life in Mexico, and eventually beyond. I'm concerned about personal safety, and therefore wish to take both a United States-legal 12-gauge shotgun and possibly a semiautomatic handgun. Can you provide me with some insight on the pros and cons of carrying weapons as I've described. Input from other cruisers would be great, too.

On a separate note, my gal and I were present at the Salute to John Guzzwell evening at the Oakland YC, and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Thanks to Latitude and the Oakland YC for putting it on. As a side note, what was up with the prices and 'service fee' for the beverages at the Oakland YC? I'm not a cheap individual, but damn! Whose Ferrari was I paying for?

No Name Because Of The Subject Matter

No Name — We've taken our boats to Mexico for about 24 of the last 32 winters, never carried a gun, and never once felt the need for a gun. We're going to Mexico again this winter, and we'll not be taking a gun this time either. Sure, we know all the stories about the narco wars in Mexico. They are true, but they are just that, wars between different narco groups, and sometimes the police, who are sometimes part of the narco groups themselves. In the highly unlikely event you were confronted with narco gangs, your guns wouldn't mean diddly compared to what they carry. But keep things in perspective. We spent about three months in Mexico last winter, and we never heard cruisers express concern for their personal safety — except to say they felt safer in Mexico than they did in urban areas of the United States.

Guns such as you've mentioned are also illegal in Mexico. In some cases you can get permits for hunting guns, but it's an enormous pain. Boats are being searched more often than before, so if you're carrying them, the chances of your getting caught are greater. We're not sure they would do it, but officials could confiscate your boat.

Furthermore, we see no need whatsoever to carry guns anywhere along the coast of Central America, Panama, Ecuador or on the Milk Run across the Pacific to New Zealand. Parts of Colombia can be dangerous, and parts of Venezuela have seen cruiser murders during the last several years. Much of the Caribbean is dangerous — but only at night and while ashore.

Those are our opinions. Like you, we'd be interested in hearing what other cruisers have to say.

As for what cost what at the John Guzzwell presentation, we're happy to provide full disclosure. The expenses were as follows: $500 for a speaker's fee, $217 for Marina Village Inn, $159 for Alaska Airlines, $20 for a bottle of champagne at Safeway, and $50 for John's airport parking in Seattle. That came to $947.50. The income was as follows: There were $100 donations from Scanmar Marine, Waypoint Marine, and Fine Edge Publishing, and a $150 contribution from the Singlehanded Sailing Society, which also covered the $100 fee for the bartender. The cash donations at the door were $318. That left a deficit of $179.50, which was picked up by Latitude. The Oakland YC waived their normal venue rental fee.

As for the price of drinks, as we remember beer, was $6 and wine was $7. That doesn't seem out of line for what yacht clubs are charging these days, and in light of the fact that the Oakland YC donated the use of their facility, we think it was reasonable. Want some good news? When you get down to Mexico, prices are going to be much cheaper.


When Somali pirates hijack a 500-ft ship, how the hell do they get up the side of the hull?

John Daigh
Oddie, Lehman 12
Newport Beach

John — The pirates throw grappling hooks over the transom of the ship, and then, protected by fellow pirates with AK-47s and other weapons, just pull themselves up and aboard. Apparently it's not very difficult, and many ship owners instruct their crews not to put up a fight.

It's hard to imagine that world governments can allow such piracy to flourish, as it can't help but give similar ideas to the equally impoverished locals in other areas of the world. The argument against carrying arms so the crews can defend themselves has been that there are too many legal problems when the ships call on ports. Maybe the ships should apply pressure on those ports by not calling on them anymore unless they are allowed to carry weapons. Or better yet, maybe military teams with powerful weapons should join ships at each end of the danger zone for the passages through the zone. If any vessel violates a safety zone of something like two miles, they get one shot across the bow, then they get blown out of the water. Once the ship made it to the other end of the danger zone, the military team would get off and board a ship headed in the opposite direction. No doubt some lives would be lost in the short run, but probably a lot fewer than if the situation were allowed to fester and the pirates allowed to profit wildly.


You might remember we had a spate of dinghy thefts here in Mazatlan about five years ago. As a group, we did manage to recover all five dinghies. But we ran into a problem — proving that each dinghy and outboard belonged to us in the first place.

My suggestion is that someone with computer skills could put together a database of all outboards and dinghies, such as an engine serial numbers, dinghy hull numbers and a digital photo, and post it on 'Lectronic Latitude. It would be a valuable tool for port captains and the Navy down here in the event of a dinghy and/or outboard theft. Stolen boat details could be posted on the site with a desktop alert so all cruisers could be on the lookout.

A few days back, I noticed a local in a panga with a nearly new 10 h.p. Yamaha four-stroke outboard. Curious about the fuel consumption because I'm planning an outboard upgrade, we chatted in Spanish about it. When it came to price, he told me he'd just paid 10,000 pesos — about $770 U.S. — and that it had come from el otro lado — meaning the other side — of Puerto Vallarta. I just priced such an outboard from a dealer and was quoted $2,500 U.S. Anyone out there missing a 10-hp Yamaha four-stroke?

Mike Wilson

Mike — Although almost nobody has taken advantage of it, we've always offered space on 'Lectronic so sailors could post notices of things stolen from their boats. That offer still stands.

Cruisers to Mexico should have the serial numbers of their dinghy and outboard in the paperwork for their Temporary Import Permit (TIP), thereby proving ownership.

People should also remember that the more unique your dinghy looks, the less likely it is to be stolen. For example, if you have a yellow Carib inflatable as opposed to a gray one, and you've painted the gray Yamaha outboard cover pink, thieves are likely to go for something less-conspicuous.


I can't help thinking there is something missing in all the stories about the Clear Lake boating disaster story. Shouldn't a sailboat under sail have the right-of-way over any motorboat — except in the case of ships that are confined to shipping lanes?

Latitude's description of the event seems to imply that the incident took place at night. There was no mention of running lights, leading one to wonder whether or not Beats Workin' II was displaying running lights at the time of the collision. If they had no lights, they might be guilty of some sort of contributory negligence — although Deputy Perdock's reckless speed was still the primary cause of the accident.

P.S. I've been reading Latitude since the first issue. We were at the San Francisco YC's Opti Regatta in April as spectators, and Latitude's description was spot on.

Charles Gay
Inverness / Kathmandu, Nepal

Charles — The tragic manslaughter incident on Clear Lake did indeed take place on a pitch black night. In all our many early stories on the case, we mentioned that there are claims and counter claims about whether the sailboat's running lights had been on. The prosecution claims that the sailboat's running lights were off. This is going to be tough to prove to a jury of 12 when everyone on Beats Workin' II says they were on, and even more important, so do independent witnesses on shore, including a retired law enforcement officer.

As we've written a number of times before, if the sailboat's running lights had not been on, we think it would have been a contributing factor in Lynn Thornton's death. In fact, we'd assign the responsibility for Thornton's death on a 80-19-1 basis. It would have been 80% the fault of Deputy Perdock, for the completely reckless operation of his boat and violation of numerous rules of the road. It would have been 19% percent the fault of Mark Weber, the owner of the sailboat, who was awake and presumably in charge of his craft. And at most, it would have been 1% the fault of Bismarck Dinius, who just happened to be sitting at the helmsman's position of the drifting sailboat when it was rammed by Perdock.

That Dinius, the least responsible of the three, is the only one to have been charged with the death of Lynn Thornton has outraged her family. In our view, Bismarck has been set up as the scapegoat for this tragic accident, and it's cost him a fortune. Since no jury on earth is going to convict him of vehicular manslaughter, it's wasted untold amounts of taxpayer money, too. We're disgusted by crap government.

There were alcohol issues, too. Deputy Perdock admits to having drunk alcohol earlier in the evening, and there has been no good explanation for why he wasn't tested until hours after the accident. Furthermore, the deputy who testified that he was ordered not to give Perdock a Breathalyzer at the scene is curiously no longer with the department. Weber, the owner of the sailboat, was well over the legal limit. Bismarck was also over the limit, but just slightly. In fact, up until a couple of years ago, he could have legally operated a motor vehicle on California highways at his level of intoxication. In any event, Perdock's boat was coming at them so fast that nobody on the sailboat had time to react.


I am a prior duty U.S. Coast Guardsman. I'm also a sea captain. In over 500,000 nautical miles, I've had no accidents or major injuries. Over the past three years, I have closely followed the fatal boating accident that occurred on Clear Lake in April of '06. This is the one in which Lake County Chief Deputy Russell Perdock slammed his powerboat into the nearly stationary sailboat Beats Workin' II, resulting in the death of Lynn Thornton, a guest on the sailboat. I personally don't know any of these individuals, but I have a strong feeling that justice is not being done.

First of all, after conscientiously reviewing the available reports, I must conclude that the wrong person — Bismarck Dinius, who was sitting at the helmsman's position of Beats Workin' II — has been charged with vehicular manslaughter. Since the powerboat was being operated in the dark of night, it was the responsibility of the operator of that vessel — Deputy Perdock — to not hit the other vessel. Why isn't he on trial? Operating a powerboat at high speed — at least 40 mph — in the dark of night without running lights was, in my opinion, not only stupid, it was criminal. And you have to wonder why Perdock was not tested for alcohol within an hour of the accident.

Second, Beats Workin' II was under sail so, under the COL-REGS of the United States Coast Guard, which applies to all inland waterways, had the right of way. Perdock had the obligation to not only avoid the sailboat, but provide it clear passage while it was under sail and he was under power.

After reviewing the writings of Lake County Deputy Attorney John Langan in regard to this prosecution of Dinius, the skipper of the sailboat, I must ask myself and others what is going on in Lake County? Does the possession of a badge and a gun mean you're above the law?

In the opinion of this experienced skipper, Lynn Thornton was killed due to the direct and malicious actions of Chief Deputy Perdock. Until this officer is prosecuted, I will be wondering if the pond scum from the shallows of Clear Lake has not permanently washed into the offices of the Lake County District Attorney and Sheriff.

Captain Rory Kremer

Capt Roy — For the record, nobody is claiming that Perdock was operating his boat without its running lights on. The prosecution is claiming that Beats Workin' II didn't have running lights on, and that it was therefore a cause, or the cause of the accident. According to those aboard Beats Workin' II, both the running lights and cabin lights were on. Even more significantly, witnesses on shore, including a retired marine safety officer, said the sailboat's running lights were on just prior to the collision.

To most people, what's going on seems to be very clear. The Lake County District Attorney has charged Bismarck Dinius with vehicular manslaughter in order to take attention away from and protect the truly guilty party, Deputy Perdock, who, after all, is part of the law enforcement community in Lake County. Why didn't the District Attorney charge Perdock? He told Latitude it was because he couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Perdock was operating his boat recklessly. This despite the fact that Perdock himself testified that he was doing over 40 mph on the lake in the black of night — and regularly made such reckless speed runs.

The safeguard to prevent such things from happening is that the State Attorney General can step in. That Attorney General Jerry Brown has failed to take any action in this case, while collecting lord knows how many state and municipal pensions, is pretty much all that needs to be said about the quality of public servants in the State of California these days.

It's noteworthy that the extended family of victim Lynn Thornton is convinced that Perdock, not Dinius, is responsible for her death.

Check out this month's Sightings for the latest details.


Here's my two cents' worth about your recent article on the Coast Guard's response to an EPIRB signal being received. When my young son Andy and I left for Oregon from San Francisco, I had a rental EPIRB from The Sailing Foundation aboard. Unfortunately, it wasn't hooked up to the GPS when my son went overboard 36 miles west of Pt. Reyes. The Coast Guard — which I will always hold in high regard for risking life and limb while trying to find my son alive — couldn't find our boat for several hours, and therefore couldn't find my son in time to save his life.

The terrible lesson for me is that all sailors have to be proactive in emergencies. You simply can't rely on anyone but yourself and your crew, and you have to train for the unthinkable. Yes, you should have all the latest safety gear, but you must be prepared to be your own 911.

And thank you, Latitude, for your kind thoughts over the past few years.

K.D. Brinkley
Andy's Dad

Readers — To summarize, the Coast Guard told us that it can take up to an hour for them to receive an EPIRB signal. Although the average time is a little over an hour, it can take them as long as three hours to know the position of the EPIRB. So yes, it only makes sense to assume that you are entirely responsible for your safety on the ocean.

K.D. — We've never met you, and we never had a chance to meet your son. Nonetheless, we continue to think good thoughts about him.


We at Team DB agree with John Liebenberg in his May letter, that the Duxbury Lightship Race should not have been cancelled at the last moment. As past president of OYRA (Ocean Yacht Racing Association) for four years and a current member of the YRA (Yacht Racing Association) board, I think the cancellation was a huge mistake on many levels.

First, were the predicted light winds going to present a danger to the participants? No. If there was a concern about the risk of having a 'bumper boat' start, the race committee should have known that all participants were required to carry two anchors and have a working motor with sufficient fuel. The same could be said about the risk of "the fleet sailing into a huge flood." If that had turned out to be the case, each skipper could have decided whether to anchor or turn the motor on. If the race had gone into the night and even the next morning, it still wouldn't have been a problem, as we were all required to carry sufficient provisions, emergency water reserves, multiple communication devices, emergency lighting devices, and various types of flares exceeding the U.S. Coast Guard minimum boating requirements,

Second, the race was completely doable. Bob Gardiner and his crew on the Olson 40 Spellbound proved it by going ahead and sailing the course anyway. They finished that afternoon, well before what would have been the 24-hour time limit.

Third, based on information from NOAA, the race committee said there was "little prospect of wind until much later in the day." They did not, however, mention what the NOAA forecast was for Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Indeed, a boat could have been becalmed for eight hours at the start, then averaged only two knots, and still finished the 31.8-mile race within the deadline. The Duxship is a 24-hour race, so the race committee should have been prepared for that possibility.

The race committee also should have known that there is no way to predict the weather off the coast of Northern California. Two weeks after the cancelled Duxship, there were similar light air conditions for the start of the Farallones Race. It turned out to be a very challenging event, with light air at the start followed by heavy air later on. In fact, we hit 18.1 knots — our fastest inside-the-Bay speed ever — on the way back in. And there was a J/105 in the Lightship Race that must have been doing over 20 knots.

Liebenberg asked, "Why did a race committee of three or four people deny this group of 200 sailors the opportunity to race?" The question was not adequately addressed by PRO Charles Hodgkins, nor by YRA President Pat Broderick, who endorsed abandoning the race. My understanding is that it was just Hodgkins and Broderick who made the decision. The '09 Duxship Race is not the first time a president of the OYRA has tried to interfere with a race committee's decision to run or not to run an ocean race. Unfortunately, this time his opinion prevailed for all the wrong reasons. I formally requested (points) redress from the YRA for the boats in the series that took the time and effort to show up at the starting line, but have received no answer to date.

With the exception of extreme and hazardous sea conditions, race committees should start races and let each competing skipper decide if he/she wants to continue — this is the race committee's obligation to racers. Last year's Windjammers was another good example of a light-wind race. Thirty-three boats signed up, 12 boats finished, 13 boats motored off to a DNF, and eight boats elected not to start. After doing some math, we on TeamDB, despite our rating of -36, decided not to leave the dock that day, even though we'd done a day of prep work and had paid the entry fee and for bottom cleaning. It was our decision, as it should have been, not the race committee's.

Douglas Storkovich, Skipper, TeamDB
Delicate Balance
Monterey Peninsula YC


Give me a break! Liz Clark of the Cal 40 Swell is begging online, and you're her helper. And her urgent need seems to stem from the fact that she has an aversion to getting a job — and a [unprintable]. The publisher of Latitude is an old fart, and there is nothing chivalrous about his being her agent in seeking the easy way out.

Why would I call the publisher an old fart? Because he never took his catamaran to the Pacific. Oh — too much trouble! It's so much easier to sit in St. Barth and write about the Pacific. You old fart!


Gary — You've got a reasonable point to make, so why undermine it with such misogyny and vitriol? Besides, that kind of talk brings shame to your mother.

The following surely won't affect you, but might provide a context for others with more open minds. We met Liz about five years ago in Santa Barbara while getting ready to do a race. Thanks to a patron, she'd acquired her Cal 40 on attractive terms in order for her to pursue a dream of a surfing-sailing safari. Such an idea wasn't out of the blue. She'd cruised Mexico with her parents, and she'd been a collegiate surfing champion at UCSB.

Some people have issues with the concept of somebody having a patron. Usually they are people who never had a patron, so that's somewhat understandable. But if you have a problem with Clark ending up in the position she's in, what do you have to say about someone like Paul Cayard, who would not have achieved the tremendous success he has without the benefit of patrons when he was young? (And if you want to know about having to beg for money to sail, we're sure Cayard could give you an earfull on what it's like trying to fund an America's Cup campaign.)

But even more to the point, what are your feelings about the following sailors who didn't earn the money for their boats and/or expenses: B.J. Caldwell of Honolulu, who circumnavigated when he was 19 aboard the Contessa 26 Mai Miti. Robin Lee Graham, went around on the Gladiator 24 Dove when he was in his teens. Teenager Zac Sunderland, who is nearing the completion of a terrific solo circumnavigation aboard the Marina del Rey-based Islander 36 Intrepid. Or even Bruce Schwab with the Wylie 60 Ocean Planet, who has been relying on the funds of others for many years? Does it make a difference to you that Liz Clark is a young woman? That she's attractive? What are your thoughts about the money that was given to Ellen MacArthur for her various sailing exploits? Or Sam Davies? And does it matter that Clark is adventuring rather than racing?

The truth of the matter is that many sailors have benefitted from patrons, be they their parents or others. Does it make a difference if it was a parent or friend? You tell us. And patronage is hardly limited to the world of sailing. We'll remind you that there are huge patrons in the world of sport, sometimes also known as universities. Patronage is rampant in the world of education, the arts, and just about every other field you can think of.

When we first met Liz, she was in her early 20s and in no way ready for such an adventure. But she was attractive in the sense that she had a dream, she had experience that leant credence to the dream, and was busting her ass as a waitress to try to help make it happen. Her trip got postponed for a year because neither the boat nor she was ready, and that was a good thing. In January of '06, she finally took off. We didn't encourage anybody to chip in any money to her effort at the time because we figured there was only a 50-50 chance that she'd make it to Cabo without wanting to turn back. After all, she was still a novice cruiser and was naïve about the challenges she'd face.

In the three years since then, Liz has faced many personal and sailing challenges. She's had help along the way to be sure, but who among us hasn't? During this time she's provided a lot of entertainment and inspiration to readers of Latitude and many other magazines and websites. As guys, it's impossible for us to fully appreciate the adversities that women experience while cruising, particularly women who are singlehanding. Many women readers have told us that Liz has made them proud and/or inspired them. But to be fair, some women agree with you, and say she should get a job.

Anyway, when we heard about Liz's recent problem with the leak, we offered to put a request on 'Lectronic for people who might want to contribute. She agreed. We didn't make a forceful request, just said that if people wanted to contribute, they could. It's a free world, man. And we're happy that we put the word out. By the way, it's far from the first time that we've mentioned there were sailors in need of funds.

As for us, the publisher of Latitude, we're always amazed at the number of people who are certain they know how to run this magazine better than we do. Indeed, the less they know about publishing and business in general, the more sure they are of themselves.

There are a number of reasons that we haven't taken Profligate to the South Pacific. First, we don't have the time. Speaking as the publisher, we produce over 30 pages of editorial a month, including many photos and layouts. That's an average of a finished page a day, weekends included, not counting all the stuff we do for 'Lectronic and the general running of the business. It's difficult enough to accomplish this during a Ha-Ha, where we at least have access to high speed internet in Turtle Bay after three days, and then again in Cabo after five or six more days. Perhaps you could explain to us how we'd keep the magazine going while doing an 18-day crossing to the South Pacific. And what we'd do without broadband internet in the Marquesas and Tuamotus. The longest crossing we've done was a fabulous 16-day crossing of the Atlantic aboard Big O, our previous boat. Combined with the downtime before we started and after we arrived, it was very hard on us. Indeed, it meant that we had to miss the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers by two days. Lack of time is the same reason we've never been able to do a TransPac, Singlehanded TransPac or Pacific Cup.

A second reason that we haven't taken our cat to the South Pacific is that — and this may shock you — we're not so crazy about the South Pacific. We've been to Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Moorea and New Zealand a couple of times. These places are beautiful, and we understand why they are the favorites of many circumnavigators, but they are not at the top of the list of places we want to cruise. The best explanation we can give is that we're not 'primitivists'. We're just too Type A to be fascinated by Polynesian culture. The place that whets our cruising appetite is Southeast Asia — Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bali and the like. So, for the first time in more than a decade, we're not be spending New Year's in St. Barth, but rather Southeast Asia. Our goal is to be cruising there the winter after this one aboard a Thailand-based F-31 trimaran that we plan to own with two or three partners. Our inspiration is Peter Carr, whom you can read about elsewhere in this issue.

The last, but not least, reason we haven't taken Profligate to the South Pacific is that it's Senior Editor Andy Turpin's territory. He knows it far better than we do and he knows the people, so why wouldn't we have him in charge? Because of his knowledge and connections, he was able to pull off the incredible coup of getting the very expensive bonds in French Polynesia waived for members of the Puddle Jump fleet.

Apparently you have a problem with our spending two months at St. Barth in the winter. Well, that's just too damn bad, because we've got plenty of good reasons for doing it. First, it's a crossroads of the Caribbean, with notable boats and sailors from all over the world stopping by. As such, there is no end to the number of great stories that come out of there. Second, because we have a charter boat in a yacht management program, we can spend all that time in St. Barth for almost nothing. Third, because we're able to set up a small office there, we can still get in five to eight hours of productive work done most every day. And finally, because St. Barth is the cleanest and safest island in the Caribbean, has some of the most spectacular beaches and sailing conditions, and because we have so many good friends there.

That said, we feel no need to answer to you for what we do and how and why we do it. If the result of our busting our asses every month doesn't result in a magazine that's up to your standards, don't read it. God knows you could use the extra time to clean out your potty mouth and change your attitude toward women.


With a big fleet sailing to Hawaii in the TransPac this year, I'd like everyone to know that the Nawiliwili YC of Kauai will again be hosting the Kauai Channel Race. It will start at 7 a.m. on July 31 from the Ko 'Olina Marina and Resort on Oahu, and end 78 downwind miles later at Nawiliwili, Kauai. The first finishers are expected to cross the line that afternoon. Last year we had 22 entries, but we're expecting even more this year. After all, the best way to sail back to California from Hawaii is via Kauai. For more info, contact Rear Commodore Terry Wells at (808) 828-1011.

MaryAnn Holden
Nawiliwili YC, Kauai, Hawaii


Come hell or high water, I'm going to do the Ha-Ha this year. In fact, I plan on doing no worse than third in class. Participants in last year's Ha-Ha may recall that I intended to do last year's Ha-Ha — until two hours before the skipper's meeting, when I fell off a scaffold in a boatyard and broke my wrist. I showed up at the skipper's meeting with my arm in a cast to ask other skippers in the Ha-Ha fleet to please find berths for the four people who were going to crew for me. In what I believe is true Ha-Ha tradition, my entire crew got rides on boats. Thank you skippers!

Tom Christensen
Julia Morgan, Morgan O/I 41
Long Beach


Do you know what this little six-meter vessel in the accompanying photograph is? She's Nomad, ocean weather station number 46005 in NOAA's Ocean Data Acquisition System. Since '76, she's spent her entire solitary life on the North Pacific, one of the world's roughest oceans. Nomad was anchored in over 9,000 feet of water some 315 nautical miles west of Aberdeen, WA. Her job was to signal back all sorts of ocean data to NOAA, which then used it to provide us mariners with important weather information. Nomad is equipped with sensors that provide data on barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, wave height (using an accelerometer), wave direction, and air and sea temperature. Over the years she's survived winds of well over hurricane strength and seas in excess of 50 feet.

On December 18 of last year, Nomad went adrift. But she was recovered on March 13. I saw her sitting on the docks in Newport, OR, looking a wee bit tired and in need of some TLC and a bottom job. I've been told that she'll be restored to service when it can be worked into the Coast Guard's schedule. For more information on NOAA’s Dial-a-buoy and ODAS services, readers should visit

Arnstein Mustad
Mustad Marine


Hey, why not help your readers out here, especially those who equip themselves and their boats with 'the latest' in gear and accessories? There is now a little-known device available that will solve the PFD problem that you wrote about in your May issue. The device is called a life jacket or PFD. I've owned many of these. Twice, I have worn one particular jacket for as long as 20 years without really testing it. So, after about 20 years, I put on my stylish life jacket and jumped into a warm swimming pool. Voila! Just as I had hoped, the lighter-than-water material that was sewn into the jacket's outer skin was still lighter than water and still, after all those years, kept me afloat. And looking good, too!

Hey, why don't you suggest to your readers that they think for a few minutes before purchasing the 'latest crap?'

Dave Vickland

Dave — Most of us are no longer sailing boats and using gear from the '70s, so evidently some of the "latest crap" is superior to the old crap. Not all of what's new is good, but it seems to us that a lot of the new stuff — particularly if we take the time to educate ourselves about why — might actually be better. While there is certainly nothing wrong with wearing a traditional PFD, many sailors prefer the inflatable type due to their comfort and the ease of maneuverability that they allow.


I work for a boatbuilding company in downeast Maine, and was offered a potential project for my own small boat shop. The project involved my taking a complete pair of molds off their hands and putting them back into production. The molds are the Lippincott 30 and Lippincott 36, boats which were built between '79 and the '80s.

I'm a very driven person and have been mulling the proposal for a year or two. I'm interested in your feedback as to whether it would be a good business move for me to acquire these molds for my first undertaking. I've read reviews about the two boats and there seem to be waiting lists on forums for used boats. But as I said, I'm interested in an independent point of view from someone who knows the boat business inside out. What do you and your colleagues think of a revival of what could be a family-budgeted sailboat with a small touch of style and nostalgia?

Peter Taylor
Downeast Maine

Peter — Yours is one of the easiest questions we've ever had to answer. We may not know the boat business inside out, but we know for sure you shouldn't even remotely consider such a proposal. Even in the best of times, building boats is an extremely risky business proposition that requires lots of capital. And you're thinking about trying to revive a design from the '70s and going up against the likes of Catalina and Hunter in terms of bang for the buck? It's not going to happen. We can imagine that being offered a complete set of molds for two boats might sound tempting, but it shouldn't. After the heyday of boatbuilding in Southern California, some boatbuilders offered complete molds for free to anyone who would take them off their hands. Being driven is a very good thing, but make sure you're being driven in the right direction.


Reading your editorial response to the May letter of M. Lee Fowler, in which you stated your views on life, including the importance of personal responsibility, reinforced my decision to drop my subscription to Cruising World. Latitude is the only sailing magazine for sailors interested in some serious philosophical ideas, and I'd rather read about them than lots of reviews of expensive boats.

I'm an 84-year-old retired engineer/systems analyst, and a sailor of 43 years — who still sails my '83 Catalina 30 every week along the coast. I say politics is only necessary for politicians, and I'll bet that you agree. To go from an oligarchy — which is what we have now — to a real representative democracy — which would be nice, would require publicly funded elections and deliberative polling. This would allow successful career people — such as the publisher of Latitude — to serve one term as a representative of the people as opposed to the regular political hacks. Instead of making policies based on special interests, you'd be doing what you do now, which is working for the public good. Furthermore, your loyal readers would stick with Latitude while we followed your service to humanity.

Walter C. Tice
San Diego

Walter — Thank you for the very kind words. Alas, being an effective representative of a citizenry requires a skill set — including patience and willingness to wade through endless details — that we don't possess. While we'd be a terrible representative — doing things like daydreaming about cruising in the Sea of Cortez during policy discussions — we have no doubt that we'd make a splendid benevolent dictator. For example, upon learning that in these most of difficult financial times the Bay Area Air Quality Management District just blew $75,000 to have New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman give a two-hour talk — which was already available online — the heads of those responsible would have rolled right down Broadway and into the Oakland Estuary. Figuratively speaking, of course. But they would be shit-canned and made to pick up the tab for Friedman's speech, his first-class plane ticket, and time at the Claremont Resort. As for the additional $125,000 that was spent to put on the shindig, it would be taken from BAAQMD's salary budget for the following year. You could be pretty confident that the BAAQMB wouldn't piss away taxpayer money like that again anytime soon, and that other taxpayer-funded boards would take notice.

Plato had it right when he wrote that the best recipe for public servants was for them to be paid "the expenses of the year, but no more." In other words, public servants should be true public servants, rather than pigs at the public trough for themselves and their extended families, friends and the pack of special interest groups they actually work for.

Hilarious Update: After the Chronicle's Phil Matier and Andy Ross broke the story of that preposterous fee, James Rainey of the L.A. Times wrote an article taking Friedman to the editorial woodshed for his major ethical flub. Before you could say 'The World Is Flat', Friedman returned the money — which amounted to nearly 50% of what he's paid a year by the New York Times. Through a spokesman — journalist Friedman was apparently too embarrassed to comment to the L.A. Times — he gave the pathetic excuse that he thought he was going to be speaking before a group that wasn't heavily involved in politics or lobbying. Who does he think is going to buy that nonsense? In any event, if BAAQMD is listening, our Assistant Editor LaDonna Bubak would be happy to give a presentation on how green it is to live on boats for a fraction of Friedman's fee.


In the February issue of Latitude, there was a letter by Richard Drechsler of the Catalina 470 Last Resort titled Cruising British Columbia Isn't So Cheap. There was no mention made that he spent the winter at the Port Sidney Marina, which is probably the most expensive marina in all of British Columbia. All the local cruisers I know avoid that place like the plague. There are a number of other less-expensive marinas only a few miles around the corner, as well as the free anchorage in Tsehum Harbour. All are within a few blocks of the public transit system that can take riders the 10 blocks to downtown Sidney or 15-mile distant Victoria.

Bob Beda
Vancouver, British Columbia

Bob — Thanks for the heads up.

Many first-time cruisers take off with the notion that marinas in the Third World — not that Canada is the Third World — will be less expensive than in the States. That's usually not true, because Third World countries normally don't have a sailing tradition, and therefore don't have marinas that were built and paid for many years ago. Most Third World marinas are relatively new, and they are often part of high end resorts — both of which spell high berth fees. For those cruisers who stay in a marina, the slip fees are often the largest monthly expense. So if you'll be cruising on a budget, you might want to spend extra money on a slightly larger anchor, rode and windlass.


Latitude's singling out "some nurse" in San Francisco, who allegedly was paid over $330,000 in one year, is, in my book, not much different than citing Bernie Madoff as representative of every investment manager. One individual does not necessarily represent a system that employs many thousands.

Speaking as a person who cannot obtain private insurance of any kind due to that wonderful insurance industry 'out' called "pre-existing conditions," going it alone is very tough. Imagine yourself with treatable cancer and a regime that will cost you $250,000 or more out of pocket. If you can afford this, and continue on as rugged sailors, things must be very cushy in your world.

I don't own a sailboat because I can't begin to afford such a luxury. I do have friends with a modest old Cal 30 who are kind enough to include me in their adventures from time to time, for which I am grateful for both their experience and company. Their boat is moored in Shilshole Bay Marina, a 1,400-slip facility here in Seattle that was built by the City of Seattle in 1963 with — oh my gosh — taxpayer funds after the receipt of a federal grant — more taxpayer funds — to construct the breakwater. Should I ask for my share back so that I can use it for my health care?

My point is that there is nothing 'rugged' about having to go it alone. It's the stuff of B-movies and dime store novels. It is the type of bravura expressed by those who have never faced an extreme personal financial crisis where their very lives were at stake. We have a responsibility for and to ourselves, and for and to our tribe — which in this case is my fellow Americans.

To live as you suggest, you would need to own your own private island. So the next time you travel on public roads, send children and grandchildren to public schools, or moor your boat in a public marina and so forth, be grateful that there are many out there who have helped pay for you to enjoy these privileges, who may themselves never use them.

Steve Hunter
Seattle, Washington

Steve — The pay for the nurse we referred to was not "alleged," it's a matter of public record. Go to and muck around, and you'll find a list of the salaries and overtime pay for government employees in many cities around the Bay Area. It's eye-popping enough without any mention of the lavish benefits. In the City of San Francisco, for example, it's not unusual for employees to get 44 days off a year. Maybe that's why the City of San Francisco is now facing a $575 million budget deficit. Unfortunately for the city, it's not like the old days when 7,000 different entities in the United States printed their own currency, or else they could continue to party on while sticking everyone's children and children's children with the tab.

Lest you think the individual in San Francisco was the only nurse who was paid over $300,000 a year, let us call your attention to Lina Manglicmot, a nurse working for the state at a prison facility in Monterey County. She earned $108,000 in base pay and nearly double that — $198,000 — in overtime, for a total of $316,000. It's also a matter of public record that 18 nurses, 23 prison guards and 274 shrinks working for the State of California made over $200,000 a year. Who said working for the government wasn't as lucrative as it is easy? And you can only imagine the pensions they'll receive.

Not that many people have heard of the city of Vernon, and probably even fewer have heard of Bruce Malkenhorst, who served as mayor and in other capacities there. But get this, old Bruce pulls in $500,000 — yes, a half million smackers! — each year as his state pension. Hilariously, he's collecting this ungodly amount while under indictment for embezzling public funds, a charge that ironically has nothing to do with his pension. As one L.A. Times reader commented, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out why California is bankrupt. You're up in Washington, so maybe you're not aware that the once Golden State is facing an annual shortfall of $21 billion. The state can't print money any more than the city of San Francisco can, or you know they'd be at it 24/7.

When it comes to single-payer insurance, you'd think we'd be the biggest supporters. After all, since day one we've provided health insurance for all employees, despite the fact it's cost a fortune and put us at a competitive disadvantage to competitors who don't provide such coverage. But for us it's been a moral imperative, a case of company and personal responsibility. So why wouldn't we simply want to turn the whole problem over to the state? Because to the depths of our soul, we believe that government programs at all levels are so corrupt, incompetently managed and inefficient, that it would be irresponsible to do so. Mind you, we're not lathered up or wild-eyed when we say this, but rather calmly stating a belief based on all the evidence we've seen. Note that our city, state and federal governments are already wildly in debt, and it's getting worse by the minute even if you don't take into account Social Security, which is the world's biggest Ponzi scheme. Despite these problems, there has been no effort to align spending with income. Surely you've heard about the $2.6 million the National Institute of Health is getting to study ways to help Chinese prostitutes drink more responsibly?

You might think twice about how well single-payer health insurance would work out for your "tribe." The April 16 edition of the Los Angeles Times had a fascinating story about the case of Ana Puente. She was born in Mexico, but brought to the States as an infant by her aunt because she had a liver ailment. She received a liver transplant, which is a rationed procedure, at a cost to California taxpayers of $490,000, plus $30,000 a year in medicine. Then she had another liver transplant, and yet another, both again costing state taxpayers $490,000 each. Now she needs a fourth liver transplant, but she'd 'aged out' of the state health insurance system. But lucky for her, she then learned that if she notified the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that she was in the country illegally, state health officials might grant her full Medi-Cal coverage. It sounds like an insane idea if you'd already cost taxpayers $2 million and were looking for another half a million in treatment, but here in California, where profligacy is the state's middle name, officials naturally granted her the coverage. California citizens better duck, because here comes another bill for $490,000.

We have tremendous sympathy for the unfortunate Ms. Puente, but we can't help wonder what you would think if Washington state officials were so generous to members of another "tribe" — and, to at least some degree, at your expense. And how long do you think California taxpayers — the numbers of which are dropping all the time — can fund ultra-sophisticated treatment for the rest of the world? We hate coming back to it, but the state is already facing a $21 billion shortfall, and that only after legislators have performed all the smoke and mirrors tricks they could think of. Imagine the interest on $21 billion, every dollar of which can't be used to pay for legitmate programs. And you want to turn the health system over to bureaucracy with a track record like that? And with absolutely no motivation to improve on it?

As for your not being able to get health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, we don't know any of the details of your personal situation, but we can't help wonder why you didn't have health insurance in the first place. If you had, you couldn't be opted out. We've gone to huge expense during our entire adult lives to make sure that we, our kids and our employees have at least had catastrophic health insurance to prevent finding ourselves in the situation you find yourself in. We didn't buy new cars every couple of years, we didn't buy furniture or jewelry, we didn't live in fancy digs, we didn't hire more employees so we could work less — all because those things are of a lower priority than health insurance.

The problem with the 'tribe' or 'it takes a village' concepts is that they assume most people will contribute their fair share. Alas, human nature doesn't work that way. When some members of a tribe realize that others will take care of them if they don't take care of themselves, you end up with — well, the budget deficits you see in San Francisco and California. Contrary to what so many people believe, there is no free lunch. And there is a limited amount of money.

Thankfully, your example of the Shilsole Bay Marina, and the taxpayer funds used to build it, brings us back to the world of sailing. Let us take a wild guess, but we bet that the loaned money was paid back, with plenty of interest, ages ago by the tenants, and that the marina has continued to generate a bundle of revenue for the state. We say that because that's how it's worked in California, where boatowners, via the Department of Boating and Waterways, have been paying their way for so long that the agency has been the object of never-ending raids to make up for shortfalls in the General Fund, which has never been able to pay for itself no matter how high taxes have been increased.

There's nothing you've said that makes us believe any less in the importance — to both the individual and "tribe" — of personal responsibility and its sidekick, rugged individualism. For if the vast majority of people were truly personally responsible — and/or the government operated with a modicum of efficiency — we believe the few who are genuinely in need could get most of the help they deserve.

We're going to end with the suggestion that perhaps you look to Mexico for a solution to your personal medical problem. Bill Vaccaro of the Chico-based Moody 44 Miela suffered a bad case of kidney stones about a decade ago while living in Chico. By the time it was all over, it had set his insurance company back $70,000. Poor Bill had a case of 'stones' again this winter while living on his boat in Puerto Vallarta, so he decided to get treatment in Mexico. The bill for the same procedure and treatment he'd gotten in Chico, 10 years later, mind you, was just $7,000. And we're not talking about some wacko mystical treatment at the border, but excellent treatment at the hands of a well-trained physican with top equipment at a fine facility.


I'm not a sailor, but that will change in the next six months as I fulfill the dream of learning to sail and experiencing the cruising lifestyle. I work as an outdoor educator for the Yosemite Institute in Yosemite National Park, and each day I take students on hikes in the park to teach them about ecology, stewardship, teamwork and respect for the human and natural worlds.

Every year the Yosemite Institute remembers Matthew Baxter, a particularly inspiring educator who died in a climbing accident 14 years ago, by awarding Matt Baxter grants to employees who propose life-changing experiences for themselves. After doing some research and submitting a proposal on sailing — cruising in particular — I became the '09 recipent of that grant. I love the ocean and have enjoyed many forms of ocean recreation over the course of my life, but have never lived on or navigated a boat before. After all, my life in the Sierra Nevada mountains doesn't afford me contact with saltwater. However, I was reminded of the allure of sailing in January when I passed the Santa Rosalia Marina in Baja at the end of a sea kayaking expedition. I was inspired by the culture of exploring seldom-visited places using just wind energy, and by the independence and complexity of sailing.

In June I'll be taking Basic and Intermediate Coastal Cruising classes in the 'cruise and learn' format at the Vancouver Sailing Club. I'll devote the rest of the summer to a crew position with an experienced skipper on a private boat. Nothing has been finalized, but I trust something suitable will materialize for July and August, which is the time I've taken off work in order to focus on this experience. In November, my entry into the world of cruising will culminate in the Exuma Islands where I'll be chartering a 21-ft Sea Pearl for eight days of sailing.

The prospect of pursuing something so far outside my comfort zone is thrilling. The more I learn, the more confident I become. One of the goals of my project to make contacts in the sailing world, so if Latitude publishes this letter, perhaps folks needing crew for cruises in July and August might be interested in considering having me along as crew. I'm 28, work hard and am good company. I can be contacted via email.

Bryan Batdorf

Bryan — Congratulations on your winning the award. The skills and attitudes necessary to be successful out in the wilds of Yosemite aren't that different from being on the ocean, so we're sure you'll have little trouble with the transition. In fact, lots of people do the mountains of California in the summer and cruise in Mexico in the winter. Good luck!


I’m starting to get the firm impression that the mainspring of most people’s lives is to die in some nursing home after drooling on their plastic pillows and pissing themselves for several years. I’m a sailor. I’ve been living on boats and going to sea in small boats with my partner Lisa for about 16 years and 60,000 miles now. We have a strong, safe boat, but we don’t have an EPIRB, a designated liferaft, a SSB radio, satphone or other long-range communication ability. Nonetheless, we have good common sense and a cautious, conservative approach to offshore safety.

We've met very few others who take a similar approach. Most of them have all of the safety gear mentioned above, and most are willing — if not eager — to put it to use. Safety is a hot topic among cruisers. I think cruisers have, since they were little kids, heard stories about wild storms at sea, pirate attacks, shipwrecks, and sailors adrift in liferafts. And I think those stories sparked a kind of primordial fear in their hearts. As these people grew older, the words 'sailor' and 'seagoing' became synonymous with 'tragedy' and 'rescue'.

As I write this, we're anchored near Hobart, Tasmania. Yesterday I stopped at a shop to buy some insulation for our exhaust system. An older guy, probably in his late 50s, waited on me. As he cut my insulation wrap to length, he asked me what it was for. I told him it was for my sailboat. He right away asked if I’d done much offshore sailing. I told him that I had. He then asked me if I had a good EPIRB. I told him no, that I didn't have one. By then we'd spoken long enough for him to ascertain that I was an American — or at least not an Australian. "You’d better not get caught without that stuff by the Australian authorities," he warned me. I replied that as mine was a foreign boat, those Aussie laws didn’t apply to me. He then said something that never fails to surprise me — even though, after hearing it for all these years, I should have expected it. In a loud and indignant voice, he asked, "Well, who do you think is going to rescue you?"

There it was, the seemingly indelible connection between going to sea and being rescued. I smiled, trying to defuse the situation, and told him that I really didn’t figure on anybody rescuing me. I said the idea is not to need to be rescued, and that should I ever have a real emergency, I’d either deal with it myself or die trying. "Aren’t you required to have an EPIRB to go offshore in the United States?” he asked. I told him that no, that it wasn't a requirement. After huffing and puffing, he looked me in the eye and said, "I guess that’s why the U.S. is in such a mess then, isn’t it?" Our conversation deteriorated from that point on, so I won’t get into the particulars.

The important thing for me was that it once again confirmed my suspicions about people’s approach to safety and security where boating is concerned. And it's really starting to bug me. Since arriving in Australia some five months ago, and having cruised down its East Coast, I’ve been shocked to the lengths the Aussies go to in boating safety and security. It's absurd! With few exceptions, Aussies going out on the water for as little as a two-hour jaunt around the buoys, radio their intentions to one of thousands of Coast Guardsmen maintaining hundreds of little stations along the coast. They tell them where they’re going, all their boat registration details, cell phone numbers, alternate phone numbers of friends or family ashore, ETA’s, ETD’s, POB’s, blah, blah, blah. All of this is recorded on a Tracking Sheet held by the Coasties until the trip is concluded, or is passed on — by fax? — down the coast to the next station. At that point, the skipper again checks in to give them course, speed, POB, ETA, ETD, blah, blah, blah, all over again. I have never seen anything so ridiculous in all my years of boating, and find it to be the epitome of the nanny state on the water.

What is always surprising to me is that those who go to the most extremes about their safety and security, both at sea and in general, are relatively old people. I’m not here to say that you can’t have some really good times in your life after you’re say 65 or 70 years old, but let’s face it, those years are no longer even close to your prime. Regardless of how many EPIRBs, liferafts, satphones, seat belts, bicycle helmets, health insurance policies and First World hospitals are at your fingertips, you are going to die. To state such an obvious fact seems like it should be unnecessary, given all the years everyone’s had to think about it. But people seem obsessed with trying to guaran-damn-tee that nothing is going to interrupt that appointment with the plastic pillows and those bed-wetting, drug-induced years awaiting them in an expensive nursing home. It’s downright weird.

I don’t have a death wish and would like to live longer. But when I say live, I really mean live. I know that someday I could die at sea. In fact, I've thought about it a lot. It seems to me it wouldn’t be all that bad a way to go. I could also die on one of my treks into the wilderness, where I also refuse to carry a radio, EPIRB and so forth. I could be killed by a grizzly, drowned in some wild river or die by falling through the ice on some lonely lake. I could also die in an automobile crash, of some disease or even by some maniac going 'postal' with a gun. But I can guarantee one thing — before I die I will have really lived. And I will continue to really live right up until the time I stop living. I’m not going to work my entire life at making damned sure I live to a ripe old age. Some of that 'ripe old age' stuff really doesn’t sound too appealing to me.

So maybe it's time to ease up a little on all the safety and security stuff. Maybe it’s time to start concentrating a little more on life and liberty, and a little less on security. Maybe it’s time to accept a little risk. To try to eliminate risk is not only an effort in futility, it’s also a sure fire way to forfeit a good chunk of your time for genuine living. Don’t forget, you’re going to die. There’s no question about it. The question is how much living are you going to do before it happens? Come on, live a little!

As Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it: In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Andy Deering
Author of The Best Life Money Can’t Buy

Andy — While we're generally in agreement with your the-only-thing-worse-than-dying-is-having-never-lived point of view, it seems to us you're being unnecessarily callous in making your point — and in some respects are just plain wrong. You say you are going to live life to the hilt right up until just before you die. We hope you do, but it might not be possible. If you end up suffering from the early stages of the four leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, vascular diseases of the brain, and lower respiratory diseases — or any other number of ailments, your mind might be willing to live vigorously, but your body won't be able to follow through. And don't you realize that it's insulting to exhort people who are no longer mentally or physically able to live life to the hilt? Our father spent the last few months of his life in a debilitated state in a nursing home, but we can assure you he would much rather have been playing in the park with his grandchildren.

Your assertion that "old people" are the most likely to be obsessed with safety is also curious. In the first place, we don't think that's necessarily true. There are all kinds of geezers singlehanding the oceans of the world who pick and chose among the safety gear they keep on their boats. In some cases it's because they are on tight budgets, in other cases it's because they no longer give a hoot about listening to what others tell them to do. Furthermore, it only makes more sense for older folks to be more concerned with safety gear, as they are physically less likely to be able to prevent or withstand mishaps than are younger folks.

Nonetheless, we agree that most modern cruisers would do better to devote their time and money to skills and gear that would make it less likely that they'd ever have to call for help, rather than with safety gear and ways to call for help. The old 'stitch in time saves nine' philosophy.

It is interesting, however, to see how dramatically society's perspective toward safety at sea has changed over the years. We just read Captain Irving Johnson's The Peking Battles Cape Horn, the Peking being a four-masted bark that had a sparred length of 377 feet and 45 feet of beam. What the German owners, captain and crew did with that 3,100 ton unpowered ship during that 1929 passage would strike any modern sailor as being completely insane. For example, if the captain, a huge man with the largest hands Johnson had ever seen, was unhappy with the steering by one of the two helmsmen, he'd sucker punch the man in the stomach with all his might. But that's just mild insanity compared to the astonishing risks the crewmen took on a regular basis, and with what little concern there was for their life and limbs. As for Johnson, he thought it was fun to scramble to the top of the 171-ft mast in the worst weather just to see if he could do it. And no, there was no bosun's chair or safety line. If he fell, he was dead, it was just that simple. Complete sissies, that's what we sailors of today are compared to those guys. And that goes for all but the very ballsiest of the modern offshore racers.

If we were on a very tight budget, our major emergency gear would consist of a quality inflatable dinghy to double as a liferaft, and an Iridium satphone. While we do have a dedicated liferaft, an EPIRB, strobes, a million flares, DSC, AIS and god knows what else on Profligate, we think the inflatable and satphone would handle 95% of all emergency situations quite well.

Readers may be interested to learn that Deering is the author The Best Life Money Can't Buy. Here's an excerpt from J. Lewis' review of the book on Amazon: "I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Deering, and I must say he knows what he is talking about! In a modern world where we are told that happiness is achieved through acquiring more stuff, and where we have less and less free time, even though we are overwhelmed with modern conveniences, Andy Deering proves there is a better way to happiness. His thoughtful analysis of owning a home versus renting is an eye-opener, and if this is the only part of the book you read, then you have gotten your money's worth! I think this is a wonderful message for our time and it is very entertaining as well!"


Thanks for publishing the April issue photo of my Cal 20 Asagao on the sand east of the Golden Gate YC. Perhaps a few words of clarification are in order as to how my boat ended up there on that Friday the 13th in March.

I'd been singlehanding my Cal 20 into the West Basin of the San Francisco Marina in about 18 to 22 knots of wind from the west. I'd taken in the jib and luffed the boat into the wind, which meant she wasn't moving very fast. On port tack, and having cleared the pilings southeast of the narrowest part of the opening, I tried to tack back to starboard as I approached the shoal so obvious in your photo. But as I passed through the eye of the wind, I missed stays. Asagao fell back onto the port tack and began moving backwards. Although I released the main sheet and the rudder answered to my putting the helm up, the westerly was too strong and still drove her onto the sand.

The grounding was gentle, and as the picture shows, she was heeled toward the beach. This meant that as the tide came back in, she gradually came back upright without any damage. After I refitted the rudder — which I had removed to prevent damage — I took in on the anchor rode of the anchor that had been so kindly set for me by the crew of Templeton Crocker, the inflatable from the St. Francis YC that had come to help. Just before midnight, Asagao, with the help of the anchor and an outboard, broke free of the sand.

What did I do wrong? I carried the jib too long, which meant I didn't have enough sea room to properly secure it on the foredeck. This is what caused the bow to blow off at just the wrong time, preventing me from being able to head up. I probably could have used a reef in the main, too. A more prudent sailor would have started the outboard, taken in the sail, and powered into the marina. The downside to that is that outboards often choose the worst times to stall.

What did I do right? I kept my cool. It was an unpleasant situation to be sure, but not really dangerous unless I did something to make it so. I simply waited for the tide to come back in and refloat my Cal 20.

By the way, five days later, after a singlehanded adventure to the South Bay, I sailed her back into the marina successfuly. I started by taking in the jib off the Fort Mason piers, which gave me plenty of time. When I got to the pumpout dock, I took in the main, then started my outboard to reach my inside slip. Doing it this way took a little longer than normal, but nowhere near the eight hours I spent on the beach with Asagao just five days before.

Mike Farrell
Asagao, Cal 20 #1709


Given the swine flu outbreak and scare, are you still going to do the Ha-Ha this fall?

Mark Slemmons

Mark — The most recent expert opinion seems to be that the H1N1 flu isn't as virulent or transmitted as rapidly or easily as had first been feared. Nonetheless, there has been a rush to develop a vaccine, and health agencies are being cautioned to be on guard for its return in the fall. Naturally, we'll be monitoring the situation, but we do intend to hold the Ha-Ha again this fall. Although the flu season usually starts well after the Ha-Ha, for what it's worth we plan to cruise in Mexico for much of the rest of the winter, too. We hope you can join us.


Although I can’t contribute to the search for the current location of Sea Runner, a schooner that's been written about a lot lately in Latitude, I can tell you of an adventurous night we shared with her and her owners George and Judy Knab. This was back in August of '71, when Geoff and I, and our two children — Lisa, then 12, and Nate, then 11 — were in Port San Luis on our way back to Newport Beach from a cruise to the Sacramento Delta aboard our Ericson 35 MK I Natalie. The San Francisco-based Sea Runner came in after us. The Knabs told us they'd originally taken off from San Francisco for Canada, but had to give up at Pt. Arena because the conditions were just too difficult. So they were headed to the Channel Islands and San Diego.

My brother Dick joined us for the trip to San Miguel and the rest of the Channel Islands, where we'd cruised every summer for 20 years. We met Sea Runner again at Cojo, where the Knabs decided to follow us to windy San Miguel Island, as. Once at Cojo, the Knabs had some trouble getting their anchor to bite, but she finally seemed secure a short distance downwind of us. It was a typical day at San Miguel Island, with white caps in the harbor and our Natalie heeling under bare poles in the gusts. We put the outboard on one of our dinghies, and Geoff ferried us and the Knabs ashore for an afternoon of hiking.

Later in the day, when the sun approached the yardarm, the Knabs rowed over for a drink. We had a delightful gathering in our cozy cabin until I happened to look astern. From my log: ". . . Sea Runner dragging sideways toward Judge Rock! The Knabs took our outboard dinghy — and swamped it almost immediately. There they sat in the dinghy underwater (52º water! 40-kt winds!) as their boat progressed rapidly toward the rock. Geoff jumped into their rowing dinghy, picked up George, and they went to save the boat. Dick took our little dinghy and extra flotation and went to help Judy and Jay — who were clinging to the outboard dinghy, which had now turned turtle. At the last minute, Sea Runner’s anchor bit, she headed up, and slowed enough for George and Geoff to get aboard and start the engine. An abalone boat saw Dick and went to rescue him, and wound up saving Jay, Judy, the outboard dinghy, and assorted floating gear and, incidentally, Dick and his dinghy.”

It took several attempts to finally get Sea Runner securely anchored. I need to elaborate on the 'several attempts.' With George at the helm, Geoff was forward in about 45 knots of wind, handling the anchor — and all 400 feet of chain — with one of those manual windlasses that brings in about four links a crank. Every time they tried to reanchor without success, all 400 feet of chain had to be brought back in. It just about did Geoff in.

It was after 9 p.m. before Sea Runner was secure, and Geoff, Dick and our outboard were back aboard Natalie. After dinner, Geoff dismantled the drowned outboard and had it running by midnight. Though we’ve spent a lot of nights in Cuyler Harbor, the evening’s events kept us on edge with whitecaps dolloping on board and the boat swinging to her anchor. Nobody got much sleep. The abalone boat came by the next morning with our dinghies and all the floating gear they’d rescued. Dick rowed ashore and combed the beach, finding our gas can, life ring, and a cushion.

Log: "Tucked in a reef and after breakfast we weighed our lovable — how she held! — anchor and headed for northwest anchorage on Santa Rosa, and anchored at our favorite place inside the kelp line under the cliffs. Sea Runner came in and, after the usual ups and downs, anchored beside us." The sea was calm here despite the 45-50-knot wind. “The Knabs came over about 8 am for guidance … They were looking for warmth (we sent them to Coches Prietos) …” After what we’d led them into, why would they ask for more guidance?

We lost track of the Knabs and Sea Runner, but we remember them for giving us one of our wilder cruising adventures. As for our Ericson 35 Natalie, we sold her in January after owning her for 43 years.

Nancy Baker
North Tustin

Nancy — Great story! It also makes us wonder, does anybody ever keep a real log anymore. We mean a consistent, day-by-day log. We know just about everybody starts out with a log, but as with exercise programs, most people drop out. Have they gone the way of sextants?



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