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October 2009

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The following is an excerpt from a group email sent to me by Doug Nash of the Dana Point-based Spindrift 43 Windcastle, who is a veteran of the '04 Baja Ha-Ha. It's about the tragic death of his wife Silvie Fink at Epi Island, Vanuatu. She died 12 hours after taking MMS, a so-called alternative medicine prophylactic and remedy for malaria and many other diseases. It was sold to her by another cruising couple. The 76-year-old Nash and his wife Silvie, who was from Mexico, had been cruising the South Pacific for several years.

"My life during the past five weeks has been a nightmare, but I've been supported by many people in the cruising community here and abroad, plus all Silvie's friends and relatives back home in Mexico and in the States. The outpouring of grief has been overwhelming. But no one else can answer all the questions people have asked about what happened to her, so I must do that. Here is a summary:

"While in Port Vila, Silvie decided to purchase some MMS that she'd heard about from a cruising couple. The guy is from Belgium and his wife is from California. I was not happy about her wanting to try the stuff, but I didn't interfere because I knew nothing about it at the time. Besides, she was a grown and savvy woman with lots of experience with all kinds of good and bad medicines. She'd even done a little internet research on MMS over several weeks before trying it. Neither of us thought she would be in any danger from taking it. How dreadfully wrong we were!

"We left Port Vila on August 4, and sailed 90 miles north to Epi, which is another island in the Vanuatu group. We anchored at Lamen Bay the day after their annual canoe race festival. Having decided to stay an extra day at the nice anchorage, Sylvie decided to try MMS. Its proponents had told her that it would prevent malaria, which is prevalent in this part of the world.

"From almost the moment Silvie drank the mixture of MMS and lime juice — which she'd brewed up according to the instructions of Jim Humble, the principal proponent of the stuff — things went wrong. She became nauseated, and was soon both vomiting and suffering from diarrhea. But since the MMS literature emphasized that this was a normal reaction, she assumed it would pass. It didn't.

"It turned into a day of torture, with Silvie gradually getting worse, to the point of having severe abdominal pains, then urinary pains. I helped her all day, bathing her, comforting her and trying to get liquids into her. But she couldn't keep anything down. About the time it started to get dark, she began to feel faint. That's when I became fully alarmed. She fell into a coma while I was on the VHF calling for assistance.

"With her unresponsive, I put out another radio call, this time for immediate emergency care. Fellow cruisers rushed to our boat within minutes. For over an hour we administered CPR and oxygen. But neither they, nor an adrenalin shot administered by a physician from the village, were able to revive her. Sylvie died aboard Windcastle around 9 p.m., just 12 hours after she'd taken that fatal drink of MMS. Her body was flown back to Port Vila the next day and put in the hospital morgue. I brought Windcastle to Port Vila the next day.

"Since then, there has been — because Sylvie hadn't died a natural death — a three-week-long police investigation involving Vanuatu criminal investigators. For one thing, it's illegal for anyone to promote or sell MMS as a medical remedy in Vanuatu. Australian joint command investigators, who aid in law enforcement in Vanuatu, also became involved. That led to a court order and, eventually, a senior pathologist's being flown from Melbourne to conduct a post mortem autopsy. That was two weeks ago. Then Silvie's son and daughter agreed that her body should be flown to New Zealand for cremation.

"Last week, I accompanied Sylvie's body to Auckland by plane. I was present for the cremation and arranged to have her ashes sent to her daughter Aretha in Mexico City. I'm now back on Windcastle in Port Vila, where I await the results of the autopsy from Australia's Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne. I'm also dealing with the need to secure our boat against the approaching cyclone season, which may mean having to sail her to another country.

"My heart has been absolutely crushed by the sudden loss of my dear wife Silvie. It's so shocking I can hardly believe it. I miss her immensely, and Windcastle is empty without her presence. But with all of her relatives and friends, Silvie, who brought so much joy and happiness into the world and to us, will live on forever in our hearts and minds. I've been told that the villagers at Epi, who had been so entertained by Sylvie's dancing the night before she died, have built a shrine to honor her.

"As for MMS, I wish I'd done a better job of preventing Sylvie, who had become the love of my life, from messing with it. I know now that it's a dangerous, toxic chemical which, if ingested, can be lethal. MMS killed my wife, Silvie."

So ends Doug's letter.

John Nelson
Crew on Tres Estrellas, 35-ft Horstman tri
Cat Harbor

Readers — We feel terrible for Doug's loss.

We looked up MMS, which stands for Miracle Mineral Supplement — oh boy! — at a site called the Alternative Medicine Network. There we learned that the "miraculous" product, which is actually chlorine dioxide, and which needs to be "activated" by vinegar or lime juice, was accidently "discovered" by Jim Humble. He's a gold miner rather than a chemist or physician, and supposedly stumbled upon it while prospecting for gold in South America. According to the literature, "the proof of the efficacy of this simple protocol was in successfully helping over 75,000 people in several African nations — including Uganda and Malawi — rid themselves, primarily of malaria, but also hepatitis, cancer, and AIDS." As we continued to read, we began laughing so hard we never got to the part that we're sure claimed that MMS isn't generally available because of the vast global conspiracy by the medical profession, big pharma, the American Cancer Society and others. If it weren't so terribly tragic, it would be hilarious.

We're not sure where the couple who sold Silvie the MMS are right now, or if some authority will charge them with something along the lines of wrongful death.


Your message about 13- and 15-year-old girls — Laura Dekker and Abby Sunderland — being too young to sail around the world is bang on. Or is it?

While it may seem reasonable to state that these young people are not old enough to take on these challenges, it overlooks the fact that in many places 14-year-olds can fire lethal weapons and 16-year-olds can drive and join the Armed Forces, where they are put into far more dangerous situations.

If these girls can pull off just getting to the starting line, they will have accomplished more than most 'world class' circumnavigators. If they can dream it, prepare for it, work their way up to it, and then get going, I say we should let them go. After all, this is what youth and adventure are all about. Risky? No doubt. But it's also risky for kids trying to live in most inner cities in North America.

A 17-year-old sailing around the world via the Southern Ocean in a $250,000 boat? Youth dreams big and pushes the limits. And yes, some of them don't come home. But when they do, they inspire the youth of the world with their dreams and daring.

The idea of a 13-year-old who has lived her life on a boat, who has completed some pretty good passages, and who will have a ton of support along the way, sailing around the world singlehanded might seem crazy. But let's not forget that many other countries don't coddle their kids the way we do. Kids from other places are expected to fully pull their weight from a very early age. I applaud the Dutch for taking a serious but open-minded look at whether Miss Dekker has the skills and capacity to sail a boat around the world.

Is age what really matters? After all, one of California's finest, certainly over the age of majority, has recently demonstrated that age is no guarantee of competence, knowledge, skill or judgment — even for a trip across Clear Lake. And while on that note, thank you, Latitude, for the great work you did showcasing the Bismarck Dinius case to the world.

Wayne Bingham
Atlante, Bris de Mer 34
Victoria, Canada

Wayne — What in the world could you possibly mean when you write, "if these girls can pull off just getting to the starting line, they will have accomplished more than most 'world class' circumnavigators?" How could they accomplish something before they even started? Besides, there are any number of six-year-olds who could motor a boat to a starting line. What's the big deal about that?

It's correct that youth dream big and push limits. That's precisely why society tries to make sure that youth has some kind of adult supervision. God knows there's plenty of evidence of what happens to kids when there isn't enough supervision. You should also note that eight-year-olds are physically capable of taking drugs, driving motorcycles and having sex. But as adults, we realize they are not psychologically or emotionally ready to make intelligent decisions about engaging in such activities. Maybe they never will be, but at least we give them time to develop to the point where they can make a reasonable evaluation about what they're getting themselves into.

Let's also talk about specific cases, because the two in question are very different. First, there is the case of Laura Dekker, the 13-year-old from the Netherlands, who wanted to depart in September on a two-year solo circumnavigation. It came as a huge relief to Dekker's mother when the courts refused to let the girl go. Though she initially supported her daughter's bid, Mom finally admitted that she thought Dekker was too young for the trip and only said otherwise because the girl threatened to never speak to her again if she didn't. Mom stated what we thought would be the obvious: Dekker isn't mature enough. We'd also be willing to argue that she might not be physically strong enough to handle some situations that would likely develop.

The case of 15-year-old Abby Sunderland is at least as extreme. While we wouldn't bet our boat on it, we wouldn't be surprised if she had the physical and emotional chops to do what her older brother Zac did. But the problem is that she wants to surpass him on two counts. Abby wants to do it while she's two years younger, which is pushing it a little, but she also wants to do a non-stop circumnavigation in six months via the Southern Ocean in an Open 40. This is a supremely greater challenge, sort of like the difference between climbing the highest peak on Catalina and climbing Mt. Everest. In the last Vendée Globe, which is essentially the same route that she's planning to take, only 12 of the 30 highly experienced and well-equipped sailors managed to complete a similar course. So in the case of Sunderland, we're talking either the monumental arrogance of youth or, more likely, a monumental ignorance of the dangers of the route. It strikes us as being like a novice surfer's wanting to catch her first wave at the Pipeline.

But it all comes down to risks and rewards, doesn't it? Since you acknowledge that 'some won't come home', we're curious about what kind of mortality rate you deem to be acceptable for female sailors in their early and mid-teens. And even if they do survive, there is no guarantee that they'll be the same when they come back. The great Ellen MacArthur, who was a very experienced ocean racer before she took off to set an around-the-world record, has never been the same person since. So even if these girls survive, and survive with their faculties intact, you still have to ask yourself what their lives are being risked for. A segment on Good Morning America? A minor book deal? In our opinion the risk/reward ratio has reached the point where these things are nothing but publicity stunts and, as such, reflect poorly on sailing in general.


While refueling this morning at St. Peter Port, Guernsey, I noticed a sailboat that appeared to have spent the night at the fuel dock. Her name was Nereida. As the dock was crowded, the surge significant, and the woman on deck apparently alone, I offered assistance casting off. When I asked if she was singlehanding, the woman said she was. She asked if we read Latitude 38. Since we're from San Francisco, we said that of course we do. Then she told us that she had been written about in Latitude several times.

Now that we have internet access again, I've searched Latitude for Nereida references, found some, and am now confused. An article from June 30, 2008, has Nereida lost on the beach between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo. But an October 31, 2007, article had Nereida leaving Cocos-Keeling bound for South Africa. It's definitely the same boat and person — Jeanne Socrates. Both boat and person seemed undamaged in '09 when we saw them in the English Channel. How do you explain this?

Shirlee Smith & John Forbes
Solstice, Sceptre 41
San Francisco
Baja Ha-Ha '07 / Currently cruising in Europe

Shirlee and John — The very simple explanation is that it's not the same Nereida. As reported in the August 2008 issue of Latitude, the original Nereida's autopilot failed, and drove her up on a beach just short of Zihua — and just 50 miles short of Socrates' completing a singlehanded circumnavigation. The boat was a total loss. Thanks to an insurance settlement, the irrepressible Jeanne was able to commission a new Nereida, this time a Najad 380 instead of a Najad 361. That's the one you saw at St. Peter Port. But get this: Jeanne is planning to start a second circumnavigation — this one non-stop — at the beginning of this month. (We're giving her credit for the first one.) Read more about it in Sightings.

And a tip of the Latitude hat to you, too. You folks have covered a lot of ground since the '07 Ha-Ha.


Regarding Don Perillat's letter in the September issue, the boat on the cover of August's Latitude is a TP 52, not a Farr 40. It makes a difference to those of us who crew on the two Farr 40s on the Bay. It probably also makes a difference to the crews of the TP 52s as well, because we're all pretty decent people, and racers who pride ourselves on being good citizens.

While the Bay does indeed belong to all, it would be really good for non-racers to note that these boats are moving a lot faster than they might seem. So while it might appear that there is enough time to cross in front of a racing boat, there might not be, and therefore the crews of the two boats might be put in jeopardy. In addition, what are actually multiple boat lengths of clearance may seem to be mere feet to someone on a slower boat who is watching a fleet of 40- to 50-ft boats coming down at them at 15-20 knots.

It bears noting that what we're doing is pushing already fast boats as much as we possibly can. And sometimes things can go a little pear-shaped, either through a mechanical malfunction or boat handling error. While we do appreciate the attention, keeping a safe distance from an obvious race course is probably a good idea.

Nick Salvador

Nick — We enjoy racing and love shaving transoms as much as the next sailor. And we agree — for folks not used to racing, a boat coming at them at 15 knots may seem a lot closer than it actually is. Nonetheless, we think you've got everything backwards. Racing on the Bay is an exception to the normal use, which is why race organizers are required to get permits for races. People doing regular old sailing don't need a permit. So on some level, racers should always think of themselves as being the burdened vessel.

As for the notion that folks on non-racing boats should "keep a safe distance from an obvious race course," we find it ridiculous on two counts. First, race courses on the Bay are rarely obvious. For instance, sometimes Little Harding will be a rounding mark, and sometimes it won't. So how is anybody without a course sheet to know whether the fleet is going to sail right by, make a 90-degree rounding toward the Cityfront, or make an 180-degree turn and head back down the Bay? Second, there are many situations when racing boats sail upwind in the middle of the Bay to take advantage of an ebb and then hug the shore to sail downwind in the flood with their chutes up. Do you really think that folks on a six-knot boat headed from Mile Rock to South Beach Marina should have to sail around the north side of Alcatraz to 'keep a safe distance from an obvious race course'? Or to make sure a racing boat having a mechanical malfuction or boathandling error doesn't T-bone them and their crew?

For the record, when we ran the boat on the cover of the August issue, we identified it correctly as a TP 52.


Our crew of eight recently completed a day on the Bay. We anchored out in the Berkeley Circle and ran the 505 Worlds. Unfortunately, the day ended on a sour note.

During the 505 racing we felt completely safe. Despite being surrounded by 505s travelling at high speeds, we knew they were being sailed by some of the best small boat sailors around. Shortly after the last 505 finished, we were also delighted to see some boats practicing for the Big Boat Series. After one of the big boats headed downwind and popped their chute, they started coming our way. To my amazement, a boat similar to the TP 52s I've seen in your magazine headed right for us!

As this big boat came closer, there was no indication that they intended to obey the Rules of the Road, which requires that a boat sailing keep clear of a boat at anchor. Instead of staying clear, when the boat got to less than 20 yards of us, her crew began waving at us to move out of their way! It seemed the skipper made no attempt to avoid collision, and collide with us they did.

Could somebody please inform racers that the Bay belongs to all mariners, not just them?

This incident scared the hell out of me and my crew.

Scott Gordon
W.L. Stewart, Grand Banks
San Francisco

Scott — What you've described is not a case of bad manners, but what would seem to be incompetence or worse. We're curious what their explanation was for hitting your boat.


Your responses to letters are usually right on, and I really appreciate your ability to admit when you were wrong. Some of us old farts who have been sailing for 50 years have trouble admitting we occasionally make mistakes.

In your response to Don Perillat in the September issue, you say that had you been him, "we would have held our course and speed to the bitter end" when sailing through a fleet of large boats racing on the Bay. Having raced and cruised on the Bay and many other locations, I don't think that this was good advice, and it is not consistent with other advice you have given.

In your response to Jordan, Kelly and Marnie in the same issue, regarding a problem of there not being enough room for two boats to exit the San Francisco Marina at the same time, you state: "We can think of countless situations when we voluntarily gave up our rights to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from developing.” That is good advice and consistent with what you have written in the past.

When cruising on the Bay during a weekend, I watch out for racing boats and make every effort to stay out of their way. Although the racing vessels may not have any greater rights than I have, why get in the way of a fleet of boats that are competing against each other? I think that courtesy and common sense require that boats not racing make a reasonable effort to stay out of the racing fleets. When racing, I have sometimes yelled at a cruising boat: "We're racing!" Most boats respond by tacking or taking appropriate action to allow us to hold our course.

P.S. Your thumbnail report on cruising to Southern Cal may have been more appropriate as a separate article, rather than a three-page response to a letter to the editor.

David Hammer

David — Like you, we're always happy to make an effort to stay well clear of racing fleets. After all, we know how much fun it is to try to get every bit of speed out of a boat, and therefore take pleasure in not interfering with other sailors having a good time.

But in the case of the Perillats, it's our understanding that they didn't sail into a racing fleet, but rather were surprised to find themselves being overtaken by such a fleet. Such situations happen all the time on the Bay. When they do, we still think holding course and speed is the best option, as it gives the skipper of the overtaking boat the easiest and best chance to avoid hitting them. As courtesy and common sense are a two-way street, we think it's incumbent upon the skippers of racing boats not to scare the hell out of daysailing boats they are overtaking.

As for the very long response to the inquiry about sailing in Southern California, we had intended for it to be the heart of a 2.5 page article. But when it comes to laying out a magazine, there are lots of variables that aren't decided until a day or two before we go to the printer, so we have to be flexible. Having been at this for over 32 years, we ask you to trust us that we did the best we could under the circumstances. But we'll try to do better in the future.


We saw the letter about the Delta-based Westsail 32 Bag End being members of the 'Over 30 Club'. Dan and Nancy Chism were recently in the Seychelles, still cruising after 30 years of living and raising three kids aboard in Antioch. They left Antioch to start their cruise almost 20 years ago, and are currently on their way to South Africa.

We met the Chisms in the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean in April '08. At the time, we were on a friend's boat sailing from Malaysia to the Seychelles. It was Dan and Nancy who convinced us to make our dreams happen now rather than making a five- or 10-year plan. They said if we waited five or 10 years, it would never happen. We took their advice! So although we're just one year into our five-year plan, we're starting our shakedown sail right now and will be setting off for Mexico in November. Although this will not be our first sailing trip, it will be our first boat. In 30 years we hope to become members of the '30 Year Club' ourselves.

Kim & James Knull
Doin' It
Maui, HI

Kim and James — Congratulations! We hope to cross paths somewhere down the line. And thank you for the Chisms' email address. The last one we tried didn't seem to work.


It sure looks like those fine people enjoying "harnessing the power of the wind" in your most recent 'Lectronic are doing so thanks to the power of those nasty petro chemicals, what with that fiberglass boat and Dacron sails and all.

Brian Guck
Planet Earth

Brian — We're not sure which boats or what 'Lectronic you're referring to, but your point is well taken. However, it's worth considering the astonishing durability of fiberglass boats and Dacron sails. Many of the fiberglass boats built 50 years ago in Southern California and other places are not just going strong, many of them are being cruised around the world. And most of them will probably be good for at least another 50 years. In addition, some cruisers are sailing around the world with Dacron sails that were built 30 years ago. All things considered, fiberglass boats and Dacron sails seem to be some of the most lasting uses of petrochemicals — wouldn't you agree?


The photos you ran in the September 14 'Lectronic of the wreckage found on Muir Beach sure looks like the fuselage of a small Piper Arrow or similar small plane. Are you sure it was a wrecked boat?

Brian McGuire

Brian — Unless they've started to put boat cleats on the outside of airplanes, we're pretty sure it was a sailboat.


I bow to the Cactus Lady and her infinite wisdom regarding the SOS sent out by Liz Clark on Swell for funds to help repair her boat. I — like many other sailors — return to the grind to replenish the kitty, upgrade our boat, and for other reasons. As Nacho said, "I am the gatekeeper of my destiny, and I will have my day in the sun." But hell, if someone wants to play Santa Claus for other people, who am I to stand in their way? Joy to the world!

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46

Jerry — Pardon our ignorance, but who are Cactus Lady and Nacho?


First, regarding the Liz Clark controversy, it may have been a wee bit brash of her to make a request for money, but I'm shocked at some of the vehement responses. Some people just need to re-calibrate what it is they choose to get worked up about. If somebody doesn't agree with her request for money, just don't send her any, end of story.

As for Liz, I'd be happy to kick in to help refuel her dream, but perhaps she can offer some time aboard Swell to help offset expenses. I also dream about cruising the South Pacific, but regrettably don't know of anybody that I can crew for. By the way, I'm a physician — read: responsible community member and upstanding citizen. I'm also a novice sailor, having regularly sailed in ocean races out of the Morro Bay YC. But I yearn to break the coastal sailing bonds and experience sailing trips to exotic locales. Oh yeah, Liz would have to agree to teach me to surf as well. As of right now, I can just paddle, stand, wiggle and fall.

Actually, I don't think it would be a bad deal for her. She would get to keep on cruising in trade for a temporary boat buddy and some surfing lessons. Heck, I'd even submit to a thumbs up or thumbs down inspection by her parents, just so she wouldn't be inviting a total stranger aboard. So maybe the wise and omnipotent Latitude 38 gods will ferry this offer to Liz.

Gary Hatch
Former owner of Thalia, 26-ft Privateer ketch
Cayucos, CA

Gary — We know you mean well, but despite having graduated from medical school you're flunking Men and Women 101. If Liz wanted to run Swell as a charter boat, she could pack her Cal 40 with guys 52 weeks a year. You're not understanding what she's dedicating this phase of her life to. Offering to present yourself to her parents for inspection also proves you mean well, but that you're also clueless. Young women will make their own decisions about who they will spend 24/7 with, thank you.

But here's some good news. If you want to sail across the Pacific, you shouldn't have much trouble getting a bunk. You can meet people at the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party in San Diego on October 25, in Cabo on November 6 at the end of the Ha-Ha, or at the Pacific Puddle Jump events: the PPJ Seminar at the San Diego West Marine on October 24 or the Kick-Off Party at Vallarta YC in Nuevo Vallarta on February 6. And don't forget to sign up on our online Crew List — as we went to press, there were no fewer than 150 skippers looking for long-distance crew. Check out the listings and create your own profile.


I disagree with people who are whining about Liz Clark "begging" for money. I've enjoyed reading her many reports — keep 'em coming, Liz! — in Latitude. So when I learned that she was in need of funds to repair the problem with her keel, I just jumped right on PayPal and sent her some money. She did not ask or expect anything. I just wanted to help.

I did the same thing when I heard that Bismarck Dinius needed money, too. His was a different need, but a need nonetheless.

My donation was a modest $100 to both Liz and Bismarck. It wasn't going to break the bank for me, or make them rich. I just care about both causes, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Besides, I don't smoke, drink coffee, or drink that much alcohol, so I could send them the money I might otherwise have used for those things.

I don't have a boat right now and don't sail that much either. But I chartered a monohull in the British Virgins four years ago. And this summer I'm going to Belize to charter a catamaran with my wife, daughter, brother, brother's girlfriend, nephew and ex-girlfriend over Thanksgiving. The wife, bless her, approved of the ex-girlfriend coming along. I still enjoy my limited time on the water and reading about peoples' sailing adventures.

Vance Sprock


I did the Ha-Ha last year with my little Gemini catamaran Double Play!!, and had a great time. We later cruised down as far as Manzanillo, then returned north to leave the boat on the hard at Puerto Vallarta. We'll fly back to the boat in January and head farther south.

While back in the States, I bought some new stuff for my boats, including a 44-lb Bruce anchor, 200 feet of chain, and three gallons of bottom paint. It's all top quality, but not exactly the kind of stuff I could bring on an airplane. Luckily, my friend Arjan Bok is doing the Ha-Ha this year with this homebuilt 43-ft cat Rotkat. Although Bok is anxious to show off his cat's speed, he has nevertheless offered to carry all my heavy stuff to Puerto Vallarta. So it sure would be nice if the Ha-Ha folks could adjust his handicap in return for his carrying the extra weight to help a fellow sailor.

Don Parker
Double Play!!, Gemina 105Mc

Don — It's great the way cruisers help other cruisers. We'll plug that info into the program that calculates the handicaps for each boat, so don't worry, he's covered.


I love the idea that the fireboat in San Diego, with all its hoses squirting, will be leading a parade of boats out to the Ha-Ha starting line this year. And that it's likely there will be other spectator boats coming out to the starting area. I think Ha-Ha vets should fly their old burgees. We'll be there with our '07 flag flying!

Debbie Farmer
Oasis, Mariner 48
San Diego

Debbie — It should be something. We'll see you there.


For two years, I cruised with my dog Perra Bonita aboard my Gulfstar 41 Someday. But last year I left her home when I went cruising, and I missed her dearly.

Other than the cost of airfare back and forth, and finding a place to stow her travel house, I had no problems with her in Mexico. I obtained a 'Pet Passport' that shows all her shots. It was cursorily examined each time I returned to the U.S.

Perra Bonita is a 70-inch-long mutt who loves kids and who could outswim Mark Spitz. At Matanchen Bay, she swam nearly one mile from the boat to where I was on the shore. I think she was worried that I was spending too much money — or maybe getting too drunk to drive the dinghy home. I believe she was perfectly capable of running the dinghy, and not only that, could most likely have landed it in 3-ft surf.

Perra Bonita doesn't have a death wish, though. While exiting the river at Tenacatita Bay, big rollers — and I mean huge! — started to break just as we hit them with the dinghy. My dog was smart enough to bail. To restore her faith in my ability to negotiate waves, I made her wait until we were outside the surf line before I let her reboard. When she shook herself, she sprayed my hair and clothes.

Bill Nokes
Someday, Gulfstar 41
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Bill — In a remarkable coincidence, Mark Spitz just dropped by the office. He says that while he's not as young or as fit as he was when he won all those Olympic medals, there is no way he'll be beaten by a dog.

Sailing Trivia: What boat did Mark Spitz race in the TransPac, and in what year?


I just read the September issue, and loved hearing about different places in the Bay I can visit with my boat. I used the information to spend a few nights at Angel Island with my brother from San Diego. By the way, Angel Island has a web cam that shows the dock and mooring field at Ayala Cove. It's a good way to see how crowded it is and if the sun is out at that time.

And having now read about China Camp in the current Latitude, I'm planning on doing an overnight there over a long weekend.

Greg Clausen
Wisdom, Santana 30
Marin County


On the evening of September 1, I received a phone call from an old sailing buddy who was obviously distressed. He called because he needed information on getting from Avalon to Long Beach with his Cal 34, and getting a berth there. My friend, who lives at Pearlblossom in the high desert, had just received an alarming call from his family that the gigantic Station Fire was threatening his community and home. He called me because, until I moved to Seattle last year, I'd kept my boat at Long Beach's Shoreline Marina.

My friend had asked the harbormaster at Avalon for a mooring, saying that he needed to get home as soon as possible. If he'd been assigned a mooring, he and his wife could have caught a ferry for the hour ride to Long Beach, where he could have picked up the car that I leave there. But the Avalon harbormaster told him the moorings weren't the property of Avalon, and he therefore couldn't give him permission to leave his boat. So my friend called me.

Ultimately, my friend and his wife took their boat to Long Beach, where they arrived at 9 p.m. The marine patrol told them that while slips were available, they had to wait until the office opened the next morning at 10 a.m. to get one. As a result, my friend and his wife sailed through the night and half the next day to get to Ventura, where they have a slip. It was hard and frustrating but they had no alternative. Fortunately, when they made it home, their house wasn't damaged.

I'm appalled at the lack of cooperation and lack of empathy displayed by the authorities at both Avalon and Long Beach! There wasn't anyone in the United States who didn't know that the biggest fire ever was burning in Southern California. I'm shocked that my friend didn't get more cooperation. Has the boating community gotten so callous as to not lend a hand to someone obviously in need?

Per Curtiss
Aquavit, Freedom 44

Per — Let's make sure that we distinguish between the "boating community" — which invariably takes care of itself — and the law enforcement agencies in Avalon and Long Beach that run the moorings and slips in those respective places. Even so, something sounds a little funny. The Harbormaster's office in Avalon is the agency that rents out the moorings, so your friend must have misunderstood at least part of what he was told. It may have been that all the moorings were taken or reserved because it was just before Labor Day weekend, one of the busiest weekends of the year there. And trust us, officials at places like Avalon have been burned countless times by earnest people who "must have" a mooring because of one claimed emergency or another. Then, too, maybe the harbormaster did a little checking and found that your friend's home wasn't in immediate danger.

That the marine patrol in Long Beach wasn't more cooperative doesn't seem right, particularly if there were open berths. Of course, your friend could have anchored off one of the oil islands for the night, then gotten a slip at 10 a.m., and would have been able to get to his house six hours earlier than he did by going all the way to Ventura.

Had we been in your friend's Top Siders and been turned down by the harbormaster at Avalon, we either would have anchored our boat off Avalon, and been careful to let the people on other anchored boats know about our emergency, or we would have taken our boat to Newport Beach, knowing that the Sheriff's Office, which rents out the slips and moorings, is open 24 hours a day, and that they always have open slips or moorings.


Last week three dolphins cruised through Pete's Harbor in Redwood City. Presumably they were there to take advantage of the full moon high tide and the bait fish buffet that comes with it. I got in our dinghy to take photos. The dolphins were toying with us a bit, but then skedaddled when too many curious boaters came out to gawk.

Cynthia Shelton
La Bonita, Lyndsey 30
Redwood City


On August 21, my son John and I departed Channel Islands Marina headed for Mariner's Basin in Mission Bay, San Diego, some 145 miles away. Staying inside the shipping lane, my San Juan 24 hit 7.8 knots sailing wing-on-wing, which is in excess of her theoretical hull speed. It was a glorious run in 20 knots, although having gybed in those winds once, I impressed upon my son the inadvisibility of doing it again.

I was feeling good, as I'd just spent three delightful weeks in the Channel Islands with my fiancée. I'd proposed to her at Coches Prietos, and she said yes! In addition, we'd stopped everywhere, visiting old friends and making new ones. When we got to Oxnard, my son showed up with the car and traded places with her.

We rocketed cross Santa Monica Bay, crossed the L.A./Long Beach shipping lanes at night with all lights on and the spotlight handy. Despite having no engine, we dodged eight container ships before we ran out of wind at the oil rigs off Huntington Beach. After we'd slatted for two hours, there was a sudden 25 knots from the southeast, meaning it was right on our nose. After it hit, NOAA was nice enough to issue a weather alert. Thanks.

Down to a storm jib and a reefed main in big and sloppy seas, John sudden yelled, "Whale!" It was a broaching blue whale not more than 30 feet in front of us. Its spume hit the main of my boat. I didn't think I'd be able to miss what appeared to be an 80-ft long beast, and I know for sure that we sailed over its flukes. Running through my mind in a nanosecond were these thoughts: Where's the ditch kit? I need my belt knife to cut away the lashings on the kayak. Will there be time to get the paddles and my passport and driver's license from down below? Will there be time to get off a Mayday?

Miraculously, the whale didn't hit us with its flukes. "Camera!" I yelled to John. He grabbed the Canon from below, and got a photo of the whale's flukes back in the air a few seconds later. Then we saw the whale-watching boats come pouring out of Newport, packed with people who had paid $50 each for a chance to take a photo of a whale from 200 yards away. John and I high-fived each other, for none of the people on those boats had the remotest chance of experiencing what we just had.

It was a hard sail the rest of the way to Mission Bay, but my boy is a trooper. He was born in Bequia, so he can hand, reef and steer, and has great reserves of fortitude. When I caught some sleep, I was comfortable with him at the helm — which is more than I can say when I'm with a lot of so-called sailors.

Like my old buddies Don Street and John Smith, I'm a sailor, so my boat doesn't have an engine.

William 'Billy Bones' Pringle
Sea’Scape, San Juan 24
Mission Bay

Billy — Congratulations on your impending nuptials!

You sound like an experienced and intrepid sailor to us, so we're puzzled by why you would be concerned about gybing in 20 knots of wind. If you were doing 6 or 7 knots, the apparent wind would have been only 13 or 14 knots. Gybing in such conditions wouldn't concern us anywhere near as much as trying to dodge ships in Southern California without an engine. We admire your 'sail-only' attitude, but there are so many ships out there now.

Based on our experience and that of others, whales seem to have made a huge comeback from Alaska all the way down to mainland Mexico. This being the case, everyone sailing from California to Mexico should have a plan of action ready in the event of a collision with a whale.


In last month's Changes you ran a photo of just two tips of the sun showing over the horizon because the rest of it had been blocked by the earth in a solar eclipse. [Ed note: You can see the photo here.] When the earth, moon and sun are all aligned — which they had to be in this case — it's called syzygy.

Ken Schulze
Williwaw, Hobie 33
Santa Cruz

Ken — Thanks for that answer. But we're actually wondering if there isn't some name for just the two tips of the sun showing over the horizon.


The article about Bill Joy’s 190-ft sailing yacht Ethereal was interesting — but I didn't like the photo showing the oversized surfboard flying a foreign flag. Having often cruised the ECW, I'm sick and tired of owners who are ashamed to have their national flag flying on their boats. And that goes for Tiger Woods and his big powerboat on Lake Worth, Florida, too.

I know foreign flags are flown to avoid taxes, but I believe that if you use the benefits and privileges of your country, you should fly that country's flag. Maybe we should make the owners of such boats turn in their passports. I bet many of these 'foreigners' wear American flag buttons on their suits at political rallies. And I'm writing this as a tree-hugging, bleeding-hearted liberal.

Jack Mooney
Utopia Too, Westerly Centaur 26
Hudson, Florida

Jack — There are several good reasons why all big yachts — which for a whole different set of good reasons are owned by corporations rather than individuals — are flagged outside of the United States, and these reasons have nothing to do with being "ashamed" of this country. First of all, flagging a vessel outside of the United States means that the corporation can have anyone be the master. Because of what many perceive to be archaic U.S. law, foreign citizens can't master a U.S.-flagged vessel in U.S. waters. Second, vessels flagged outside the United States do not need to provide USL&H Workman's Compensation, which means fewer hassles and lower insurance premiums. In addition, foreign-flagged vessels don't need to report payroll taxes for employees.

But let's not kid anyone, the main reason such vessels are flagged outside the United States is to save money on taxes. People might have differing opinions on the morality of taking steps to limit one's tax liability, but it's pretty clear that just about everyone does it. For some people, it's buying stuff over the internet from out-of-state sellers; for others, it's taking delivery of expensive jewelry or art at a second home in a no-sales-tax state, and for yet others, it's using the income tax code to their best advantage.

It would be easier to get angry about it if passing out huge tax breaks to favored friends wasn't so popular with cities, states and the federal government. Just the other day Berkeley — about as left-wing a place as there is in the universe — fell all over itself rushing to give mighty Bayer $100 million in tax credits to keep and upgrade its facility in that city. The state of Michigan has given the most lucrative Hollywood studios tens of millions in tax credits to film in their state rather than California. And there is a whole host of states that 'steal' from neighboring states by having either no state sales tax or no state income tax.

Given such an uneven playing field for being assessed taxes, and the number of people in the higher levels of government who have been found to have outright cheated on their taxes, it's not hard to understand the reasoning by the people who own the corporations that own the big yachts.


Can you tell me what the policy is on drinking in the Ha-Ha, both while offshore and at the stops along the way? I'm a moderate drinker, but I don't like being around people who drink to the point they make fools of themselves and endanger themselves and others.

Name Withheld By Request
San Diego

N.W.B.R. — We're on the same page as you, because while we do enjoy a few cocktails a week, we detest irresponsible drinkers. Our recommendation for people in the Ha-Ha — and everybody else sailing — is to not drink at all while underway. We know some folks will have a glass of wine with dinner, but we think anything beyond that would compromise safety and therefore be foolish. While ashore, those who choose to drink need to do so responsibly, for not only are there more physical dangers in Mexico — potholes in sidewalks, rickety ladders up piers, and shorebreaks — but everyone in the Ha-Ha is also a representative of the United States and sailing. The general rule is that you should behave in public the way you would behave in front of your best friend's children.

Once everybody makes it to Cabo, of course, a little celebration is in order. That's why there's an annual gathering of a couple of hundred Ha-Ha folks at Squid Roe on Thursday night for group dancing and, for those who wish, cocktails. It's usually quite wholesome for the first couple of hours, but once the younger folks and locals take over, it sometimes gets a bit more adult. While the large security team at Squid Roe is pretty lenient, the police on the streets will not put up with noisy or obnoxious drunks. Misbehave in public, and six serious cops will jump out of the back of a white pick-up and unceremoniously take your butt to jail. Unlike cops in the States, they won't discuss the matter with you, they'll just haul you off. And Lord help you if you try to resist. We're pleased to say that, despite all the fun Ha-Ha folks have had in Cabo, we're not aware of any who have had so much fun that they were hauled off to jail.

For 15 years the Ha-Ha has been a sailing and social event, not a drinking event, and we're confident everyone will do their part this year to keep it that way.


Having done the Ha-Ha last year as a hired gun, I was hoping to do it again this year with my new-to-me boat. Unfortunately, it looks as if I won't be able to blow the Ha-Ha staff's minds with my newest boat until next fall's Ha-Ha 17.

After having some issues with the owner of the boat I sailed aboard to Cabo, I shut down my yacht repair business and went into chartering. By doing this, I figured I could at least control who goes and stays on my boat. (By the way, I'm happy to report that the owner of the boat I did the Ha-Ha on and I have made amends and become good friends.)

Anyway, my new boat is Cloudia, a 1920 85-ft LOA Colin Archer design. She's currently at the Driscoll yard in Mission Bay getting a refit. Cloudia is probably one of the last of the big wood hulls to be re-planked. I even had a hard time finding vertical grain planks — and I grew up in the Northwest where my family was in the lumber business. The problem in finding the wood is that the government won't let us harvest the good trees needed for this purpose anymore. But by buying a semi-truck and scrounging from Alaska all the way down to Eugene, I managed to get 7,000 board-feet of Alaskan yellow cedar to redo the entire hull one last time. You don't want to know what it cost for the wood or the fastenings, but I'm pretty sure that I'm stimlulating the U.S. economy more than the government is.

My restoration was going to be the whole shebang — planks, deck, machinery — the works. But then I got a fright! The man who was going to plank the boat backed out at the last second. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we decided to cold mold the hull instead of replanking it, and it's turning out much better all the way around. To all but the Colin Archer purists — who live in Norway — Cloudia will still look planked.

I sometimes complain about the refit's being an expensive pain, but I just love old wood boats because they have something that the newer ones lack. For instance, I have an Islander 34 that's a rocket ship. While she's a blast and all, Cloudia is just classier in my book. Believe it or not, she's faster, too. Yeah, my big Colin Archer really hauls ass. The trick is stopping her!

Work hard, sail free!

Captain Thaddeous Blanchard
Cloudia, Colin Archer 85
San Diego

Thaddeous — Your boat, which has more character than 25 fiberglass boats, would certainly be welcome in the next Ha-Ha. Good luck with the refit — and thanks for all that you're doing for the economy.


We think you made a mistake when you corrected George Backhus in his Changes in Latitude. He said Paul Allen's Tatoosh, which was anchored near Backhus' Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow at Taormina, Sicily, was 200 feet. You said she was actually 420 feet. Well, when we were anchored near her at Falmouth Harbor, Antigua, a few years ago, we understood her to be about 302 feet. By the way, she had a 40-ft powerboat and a 40-ft sailboat — both Hinckleys — on her sidedecks.

Barritt Neal & Renee Blaul
Serendipity, Peterson 46
San Diego

Barritt and Renee — Allen has had so many large motoryachts that we get confused. But you're right, Tatoosh is 302 feet, which makes her the 26th largest yacht in the world. We'd been thinking of Allen's newer yacht, the 413-foot Octopus, which is the 8th largest yacht in the world.

While doing research, we were surprised to learn that Larry Ellison is no longer the sole owner of the 453-ft Rising Sun, the sixth largest privately owned yacht in the world. According to Wikipedia, David Geffen, a brilliant businessman, is now listed as a co-owner.

For those keeping score, if you eliminate motoryachts owned by Arab heads of state, the biggest private motoryacht in the world is Russian Roman Abramovich's recently launched 548-ft Eclipse. Rising Sun is second and Octopus is third.

Kids, are you having trouble convincing your parents that you should drop out of college or university? Here's your best argument: Paul Allen dropped out of Washington State University and convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard so they could start Microsoft. Larry Ellison dropped out of the University of Illinois and then the University of Chicago before living hand-to-mouth in Berkeley and starting Oracle. As for David Geffen, he dropped out of what was then called Santa Monica City College to take a job in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, where he laid the groundwork for starting his fortune by representing rock 'n rollers.


Just a quick note to point out that your coverage of Hurricane Bill's threat to St. Martin had some pretty basic historical errors. St Martin does not get hit by a hurricane every year. In fact, since the extreme Category 4 Hurricane Luis in '95, there have been only two: Lenny in '99 and Omar in '08. There's a big difference between a hurricane every few years and every year.

Bob Wise
Paradise Connections Yacht Charters
St. Martin, French West Indies

Bob — Our sincere apologies. What happened is that we ran that factually inaccurate claim by Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3, then corrected it in the next paragraph. But as a result of having to juggle the layout at the last minute, the corrected paragraph was mistakenly left out. We hate it when we do that!

While St. Martin certainly does not get hit by a hurricane every year, it's gotten hit a little more frequently than you remember. We know this thanks to — an extremely informative site with data based on detailed study of multiple sources. The overall picture is that St. Martin has been hit, or at least brushed — meaning an eye within 60 miles — by a hurricane a total of 49 times in the last 139 years. That averages out to once every 2.8 years. But these statistics can be very misleading because, for example, St. Martin wasn't hit or brushed in the 29 years between Faith in '66 and horrible Luis in '95. To prove the inconsistent nature of hurricane occurences, St. Martin was hit just 10 days after Luis by Marilyn. Anyway, here's the hurricane history for St. Martin for the last 15 years:

— 1995, Hurricane Luis hit on September 5 with 140 mph winds and a barometric pressure as low as 27.65. Fourteen people were killed on the island or on boats, 1,000 were left homeless, and over 700 boats — most of them in Simpson Bay Lagoon — were destroyed. Indeed, debris from many of the boats destroyed by Luis still litter the lagoon.

— 1995, a week after Luis, Hurricane Marilyn brushed the island to the south and west with 105-mph winds. Most of the buildings in Grand Case were destroyed.

— 1999, Hurricane Jose hit on October 20 with 100-mph winds, but the damage was relatively minor because the hurricane was rapidly fizzling to just 70-mph winds when it got close.

— 1999, Hurricane Lenny, with 120-mph winds, parked between St. Martin and St. Barth for November 17 and 18, and severely punished both islands. Thirteen people were killed, and the south-facing beaches of St. Martin were devastated. Since the island had been hit or brushed by five hurricanes in just seven years, insurers either cancelled policies or greatly increased the premiums.

— 2000, Hurricane Debby hit north of St. Martin. Damage was light as there were ony 75-mph winds and Debby was moving away to the WNW at an amazingly fast 21 mph.

— 2008, Hurricane Omar, which had been heading right for the British Virgins, jogged to the east, and brushed St. Martin with 60-mph winds. The damage was not severe.

But that's the way it goes with hurricanes. None hits St. Martin in 29 years, then there are five in seven years, then none for another seven years. Try to make sense of that.

For what it's worth, we had our Ocean 71 Big O in the Caribbean from '86 to '96, and thank goodness she never got hit. There were two close calls, however, with Gilbert in '88 and Hugo in '89. Most people on the West Coast probably don't remember them, but they featured winds of 160 knots and 140 knots respectively, making them among the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the Caribbean. We've had our Leopard 45 'ti Profligate in the British Virgins for the last three years, and she hasn't been hit — although Omar came very close last year. Please keep your fingers crossed for our cat and everyone else who has a boat in a hurricane zone.


I'll be sailing our Hunter 36 Delight in the Ha-Ha again this year. We had a great time when we did it in '07 — even though we had some big problems. As you might remember, once south of Turtle Bay we lost our engine, had to steer with the emergency tiller for 13 hours, and were taking on water at a little over a gallon per hour.

Anyway, I have a bit of a problem, and wonder if somebody might be willing to help me out. My wife is legally blind, so she won't be doing the Ha-Ha with us. But she and I will later cruise Cabo and the Sea of Cortez until we get tired of it. My problem is that I'd like to find a way to get my wife and dog to Cabo without having to rent a car and drive up to San Diego to get her. Is there anybody driving down to Cabo right after the Ha-Ha who would be willing to take them? Naturally, I'd be more than happy to help out with the cost of fuel. I can be reached at (916) 972-0706 or (916) 849-5961.

By the way, Delight is a very different boat now, as she sports 400 watts of solar power, a genset, a new steering system, and a new autopilot.

Al Miller
Delight, Hunter 36


As a retired naval officer and sailboat owner, I have always believed that there was more than one person to blame in the accident on Clear Lake that claimed the life of Lynn Thornton. As a lifelong resident of the area, I know there is a good 'ol boy club up here. But please remember that while Deputy Perdock may have been at fault for the way he operated his powerboat, the folks on the sailboat were at fault, too. And sad to say, if you acept the helm, as Dinius did, by definition you are operating the boat. So both Perdock and Dinius should have been on trial. Not for manslaughter, but for reckless endangerment.

Skip Lethin
Lake County

Skip — If you read Latitude regularly, you know that from the outset of our coverage we said there was shared responsibility for the accident — assuming that the sailboat's running lights were not on. We put Deputy Perdock at 80% responsible, Mark Weber, the owner of the sailboat at 19% responsible, and Bismarck Dinius, who happened to be at the helm, at 1% responsible.

But if you followed the recently concluded trial in Lake County, you know that there were five witnesses for the defense — including a retired police officer — who testified that the sailboat's running lights were indeed on. Even an eye-witness for the bumbling prosecution testified that the sailboat's running lights were on!

As a retired naval officer, surely you know that the burden to stay clear is on the overtaking vessel, that a safe speed must be observed by all vessels, and that when navigating against a background of lights, you never head for the lights and try to avoid other vessels by hoping to see their silhouettes. Perdock broke all of those rules. Based on the evidence, nobody on the sailboat did anything wrong, nor was there anything they could have done to avoid being hit. That's why the jury voted 12-0 to acquit Dinius on the charges of felony BUI resulting in death and BUI, and 11-1 on operating with a BAC over .08 (that charge was then dropped by the D.A.).

With all the evidence in, it seems clear to us that there is only one person responsible for the collision and the death of Lynn Thornton, and that person is Chief Deputy Russell Perdock. We hope he is prosecuted. A lot of people are assuming that the accident was the result of Perdock being drunk, but there doesn't seem to be evidence to support such a belief. We think he was just getting his kicks by recklessly hauling ass through the black night — as he testified he'd done many times before — without being able to see because it was black out, he wasn't wearing his prescription glasses, and because the speed would have made his eyes water up. It was just an instance of really poor judgement.


I'm surprised that I haven't heard anything about it, but can you please assure me that, in the light of the death of Lynn Thornton, there is now a 5 mph speed limit on Clear Lake after dark?

Carl Chesney
Ghoolie, Catalina 22

Carl — An attempt was made a few months ago to establish a night time speed limit but it was quickly quashed by Lake County's powerboater-filled Clear Lake Advisory Committee. Regardless, the California Harbors and Navigation Code does require that all vessels "be prepared to stop within the space of half the distance of forward visibility." Just how much forward visibility does one have on a pitch black night? Not much.

By the way, having travelled from shore to our anchored-out boats well over 100 times this year — including in Mexico, the Caribbean and Catalina — we consider ourselves to be experts on operating sailboats and fast dinghies at night. We can report that on nights when the moon is full or close to it, visibility is actually pretty good. But on moonless nights, such as the night that Perdock rammed the boat Lynn Thornton was on, you're all but blind. No wonder two unlit pangas slammed into each other behind Profligate one night last December while we were anchored at Punta Mita.

The worst conditions of all are moonless nights when there are background lights — as was the case the night of the Perdock collision. The biggest problem with background lights on moonless nights is that you have no depth perception, making it all but impossible to know if the light you're looking at is 100 feet or 1,000 yards away. And Perdock's stated concept of avoiding boats by looking for their silhouettes against background lights is sheer lunacy.

For everyone headed south to Mexico this season, try hard to reach your anchorage or harbor while it's still light. If you must enter in the dark, proceed very slowly. We've entered the harbor at Santa Barbara countless times, but on a recent dark night, we felt that anything over two knots was still too fast to safely pick out the channel markers from the background lights reflected on the water.


The Gold Country YC celebrated Bismarck Dinius' victory after three long years of his having to fight charges that he was responsible for the death of Lynn Thorton in that terrible boating accident on Clear Lake. Our little yacht club here in the foothills of Nevada County on Scott's Flat Lake has been behind Dinius, who is one of our own, for what's been a long and hard road for him. He was welcomed to cheers of joy as he arrived at our most recent general meeting. We, along with much of the sailing community around the country, had been praying for him all during the ordeal. And we haven't forgotten about Lynn Thornton. Our prayers are with her family as well. We can't thank Latitude enough for your coverage of the story and support of Bismarck. We're sure it helped the outcome of this unbelievable injustice. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Your readers might be interested in the following letter that Bismarck sent to us after the meeting:

"I'm so glad that I made it up to the yacht club for the meeting. It was wonderful to see everyone and be able to say thank you. The club has really embraced me, and I have been moved by everyone's genuine kindness. It was great to hear the cheers as I walked up. You made me feel like family, and you were all there to lift me up when I was down. I am truly grateful.

"I owe a few special thank yous. One goes out to Bruce. He is the one who contacted Latitude and really got the story going. He also took me aside one day and really encouraged me to open a defense fund. He said, 'Look, there are a lot of people who want to help you and donate to your cause. People keep asking me where they can send money. Suck up your pride and open a fund. Everyone needs a hand now and then, and people want to help you. You are a wonderful human being.' That was some of the best advice I have ever received. The fund has helped immensely."

Joe Day, Commodore
Gold Country YC
Daydreams, Pearson 385
Mental Floss, Catalina 22

Joe — We're so happy for Bismarck. On the other hand, we're still livid that it took a jury to finally bring some sense to the case, and that Perdock still hasn't been charged.

By the way, Bismarck is a little off on how Latitude got involved. One morning about a year after Thornton was killed, the publisher rolled over in bed and said to Doña de Mallorca, "We wonder whatever happened in the case of the woman who got killed in the boating accident on Clear Lake?" So when we got into the office, we asked Editor LaDonna Bubak to call the D.A. in Lake County to find out what was going on. It turned out that he'd just then made the foolish decision to charge Dinius rather than Perdock for the wrongful death of Thornton.


In the 'Triangulation' photo aboard Profligate in last month's Sightings section, I noticed that your cat's port daggerboard has what appears to be a hole in it a few inches down from the top. As I am building a Schionning Wilderness 1100, which is the little cousin to Jim and Kent Milski's Berkeley-based Sea Level, I have been pondering daggerboard system designs. Do you secure your boards in various positions via an athwartship pin through the board near deck level? I like the simplicity of that concept and was thinking of using it on my cat.

Brian Timpe

Brian — For reasons we prefer not to go into, we have what we call a 'Flintstones System', so named because it's about as sophisticated as everything was on that cartoon show. For better or worse, our daggerboards are limited to two positions: all the way up or all the way down. As it turns out, the only time we have the boards down is when we are beating or close reaching.

Our daggerboards are 14 feet long. Even though they are heavy, they have a certain amount of positive buoyancy. If not secured in the up or down position, the top nine feet float in the daggerboard case. When we want a board in the up position, it gets held in place — as you suggested — by a 1.5-inch dowel that runs athwartships at the deck level. It sounds stupid and looks a little silly, but it's worked out well. The dowel broke the only time we hit bottom with a daggerboard, allowing the daggerboard to pop up and avoid any damage beyond a scratch.

If we want to put the board in the down position, we have to lift it slightly to be able to slip the dowel pin out. It's a one-person job when we use the electric halyard winch. If we're in a hurry, two guys muscle the board one quarter inch up, and another member of the crew pulls the pin. Then we step on the top of the board to counteract the positive buoyancy and make it flush with the deck. At that point a person in the head pushes the pin through a hole in daggerboard case and the daggerboard, which secures it in the down position. To raise the board, someone has to step on it just right in order for another someone in the head to be able to pull the pin out. Once the board pops free, it has to be lifted to the full-up position, either with a halyard or by hand.

To date we've been happy with our ultra KISS system. Good luck with your cat and daggerboard system design.


I'll be sailing from Guaymas, Mexico, to the Panama Canal in November of this year, and expect to take two months to reach the Canal, including a week or so in Costa Rica. I have a few questions about my route. First, can you suggest interesting ports that I should stop at? I have all the large ones plotted, but you may know a few that are small, inexpensive and interesting. Second, are there places that I should avoid because of known piracy or other factors such as very high mooring or fuel prices?

I'm then going to sail south from the Canal, and was told to avoid Colombia. What information do you have on ports in Venezuela and the Lesser Antilles? And last, I will need to put the boat on the hard out of the hurricane zone, and therefore need to know of a place south of Venezuela.

By the way, I did the Ha-Ha last year and had a really fun experience.

Roger Behnken
Jolly Roger, Bombay 44

Roger — Thanks for the kind words about the Ha-Ha. As for places to stop between Guaymas and the Canal, they are all pretty well-known, and as you near each place you'll be getting the most current info and recommendations from fellow cruisers. Puerto Madero, Mexico, is a place where some cruisers have had trouble with officials, so keep your ears open once you get in that area. Lots of cruisers rush past the islands off the north coast of Panama, but those who stop seem to really enjoy them. But you may be in too much of a hurry to do that. Berthing and moorings in Third World countries tend to be at least as expensive as in the States, so if you're on a budget, ask around for the best places to anchor. There are plenty. As long as you take the normal precautions, you shouldn't have any problems with crime.

You confuse us when you say you're going to sail south of the Canal, but then seem to suggest that you'll be doing it on your way to Venezuela and the Lesser Antilles. If you sail south of Panama, you'll pass the Pacific coast of Colombia on your way to Ecuador. The Pacific coast of Colombia is not only remote, it's largely lawless. Some cruisers were attacked there a year or so ago while anchored out, and think they only survived because their shouts attracted the attention of another cruising boat that just happened to be nearby. This is not the safest place.

If, on the other hand, you're talking about the Caribbean coast of Colombia, you shouldn't have any problems at the San Blas Islands or Cartagena. The last time we were there, the coast between the two was a no-man's land. Lots of folks in the San Blas can give you the current info. A few years ago there were a number of violent incidents against cruisers — including some Ha-Ha vets — on the coast of Colombia between Cartagena and Cabo Velo. You should consult with the big cruising community at Cartagena before deciding whether to stop. We assume you're aware that the passage from Cartagena to Cabo Velo is frequently one of the nastiest upwind passages in the world of cruising, particularly between mid-December and June. And it's not very easy the rest of the year either, so make sure you gird up for it.

Lots of cruisers still go to Venezuela, but violent incidents have been on the rise, particularly in the eastern part of the country. There's no convenient place to put a boat on the hard for hurricane season that is south of Venezuela, so we'd recommend either a marina in the area of Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, or at Trinidad. While Trinidad is north of Venezuela, it's still south of the hurricane zone.

No matter where you go, your greatest security risks will be while you're ashore. Nonetheless, we suggest that you always be vigilant along the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.


In a recent 'Lectronic there was a piece about the Delta, with a photo of boats anchored in Middle Slough. The far boat looked like a Searunner trimaran, which is the kind of boat I own.

Having established a connection, I know you've run many Delta articles in the past, but here is how it works now. I go to and drill down to see what I want to see. The point is, I want to orient myself on a map/chart, so I look for 'waypoints' — places that were mentioned in the article — on Google Maps. That's the way it works these days, not just for me, but for any internet-savvy person.

Name Withheld By Request
Bay Area

N.W.B.R. — We're a little bit confused about what you're recommending, but we're enormous fans of Google Maps and Google Earth. In fact, some of our favorite 'sailing porn' is using Google Earth to revisit anchorages we've been to around the world.

Ever since Google Earth came out, we've recommended that cruisers heading to Mexico — and other places — print out a color aerial photo of each anchorage they might want to visit. Such aerial views are great safety aids in that they correct inaccurate 'chartlets' found in many cruising guides, and give a great overall idea of the lay of the land and possible dangers. So, of course, mariners should use Google Earth to help plan and enjoy their sailing adventures in the Delta and elsewhere.


My wife Mary and I are currently moored at Avalon, and have just finished watching a movie on the 65-inch screen inside our 40-ft boat. It sounds crazy, but we'd like to let everyone know how easy it is to have an actual theater in one’s boat.

Mary and I rented our north Orange County home out in October of last year and moved aboard our Island Packet 40 in Los Angeles Harbor. It's something that we'd been looking forward to doing for many years, and the time was right. There were only a couple of things that we missed from our shore-based life: the hot tub and the big screen TV. I couldn’t really do much about the hot tub, but I figured we’d at least work on the TV.

When I spoke with Mary about upgrading our tiny 15-inch flat panel television for something larger — say 20-22 inches — she asked me, "Why don’t you look at a projector?" Man, I love it when she says things like that! So, I embarked on the research mission from hell to find a projector we could use. Voila! I discovered the digital DVD projector system called Movietime from Optoma. Movietime is an “all in one” digital projector that has built-in speakers and a top-loading DVD player. It is a 'short throw' projector that is really meant to plop down on a coffee table, plug in, and project on a wall or screen. This thing can easily project a 100-inch or better high-quality picture on a wall.

Being thrifty, I found a used one on for about half the $600-900 retail price. I placed the unit on the shelf above my starboard settee, and initially used a white sheet hung on the port side just to get an idea of how big a screen I would need. I found the projected image to be 64-65 inches wide, and about 35 inches high. After a quick shop around on the internet, I was able to locate a couple of screen dealers with really reasonable prices. I ordered a manual 50- x 67-inch screen for less than $100. I mounted the screen with quick-release hooks to two padeyes located above and to either side of the port settee. With the screen up, you have to look twice to even notice that it is there, because the white housing blends in with the background. Thanks to the quick release hooks, I can take it down in about five seconds and stow it in the aft stateroom.

You have got to see this thing to believe it! We now do the Netflix thing, and watch movies nearly every night. Our 'boat theater' has blown away just about everyone who has visited us — it's really funny. From sports to movies to concerts, the viewing is just great.

As I kept the little flat screen mounted on the starboard bulkhead for 'morning coffee' television, I had to buy a digital converter. But I found that I was able to hook a pair of cables from the back of the converter to the input at the rear of our Movietime, allowing us to project the digital broadcasts with the projector!

Mike & Mary Kelley
Island Time, Island Packet 40
Los Angeles Harbor

Readers — Please, let's not have any smart ass remarks about Mary being a 'screen size queen'. What are the Kelleys' favorite movies? "Captain Ron is probably our favorite, so it's what we usually put on when we demonstrate the set-up to friends," says Mike. His other favorites are Black Hawk Down and Meat Loaf Live With the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Mary’s favorites are Sex in the City, True Blood and Metallica S&M.


As I was scanning the July Changes, the reference on page 135 to The Nature Conservancy jumped out at me — because I'm now working for that organization in Nevada.

The caption on the photo spread that said TNC "kicked out" cruisers struck me as making us seem, well, unfriendly. But that's something that the TNC is definitely not. In fact, TNC is so successful at finding "solutions that benefit people and nature" because we are non-confrontational and we work with everyone to protect critical habitat for biodiversity. And as far as there being "all kinds of rules . . .", one of our biggest challenges is how to allow people to enjoy fragile habitats without unduly impacting them. In fact, I was impressed that the crew of Cocokai got to stay at Palmyra for four whole days! I guess that doesn’t seem very long to bluewater cruisers.

To learn more about why Palmyra is so special, go to There readers will learn that if TNC had not purchased the Palmyra Atoll in ‘00, it might be home to a nuclear waste dump or a casino by now.

Anne Thomas
Raven, CM1200
Gardnerville, Nevada

Anne — We don't like to disagree with you, but if The Nature Conservancy came across as being "unfriendly" for kicking the Cocokai crew out after "four whole days," we think it's because The Nature Conservancy was unfriendly. If they owned the only water hole in a massive desert, we shudder to think how few drops they would allot each parched traveller who came by.

Maybe four whole days would seem like a long time to the billionaires who are the core supporters of The Nature Conservancy, and who often travel to Nature Conservancy sites by private jet or megayacht. But it's not to sailors to who make big sacrifices to arrive at such remote places in such an eco-friendly fashion. As anyone who has crossed an ocean can attest, it takes at least 24 hours to recover from an ocean passage and 24 hours to prepare for the next leg — which would have left the Cocokai crew with a pitifully short two days at Palmyra to relax and have a peek around. Geez, thanks a lot.

As we recall, Cocokai burned only 15 gallons of diesel on their three-week, 3,000-mile trip from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. That's about one quarter of what self-proclaimed ocean-loving mini-megayacht owners burn using one generator for one day while tied to the dock. And a fraction of what they use in a single hour while underway. So we think The Nature Conservancy should not only welcome visiting sailors with a week's stay at Palmyra, but should also honor them with an exhibit celebrating what a small footprint they've left in getting there.

Yes, we understand the need to protect critical habitats and for such places not to be overrun by crowds, but we don't think respectful cruisers staying a week would pose any danger to Palmyra. As for the contention that remote Palmyra might have become a casino had the Conservancy not bought it, come on — that was about as much in the cards as our becoming the next black President of the United States.


My wife and I have just spent the past two months in the river/estuary of Playa del Sol, El Salvador, aboard our boat Freedom. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place to pass the days, explore, do boat projects, and enjoy the cruising lifestyle. During this time, we’ve come to know the people and politics of the small community quite well.

The May edition of Latitude featured a letter titled "44 Days in an El Salvador Jail," that was written by a man named Alfred. The man painted a colorful picture of his experiences here, and described how a local man named Santos allegedly assaulted him, broke his arm, and threatened him with a pistol. As a result of the dispute, Alfred claims to have spent 44 days in an El Salvadoran jail.

Alfred writes an entertaining article, and while we must admit that we weren't around when the alleged incidents occured, there are clearly holes in what he presented as facts. In the two months that we've spent here, we've learned that Alfred changed his story many times. For example, I read court documents that said his left arm was broken, but at a later hearing, his right arm was in a cast. Furthermore, Alfred never presented an X-ray of his broken arm, proof of the injury, or even evidence that he'd visited a doctor.

Alfred sued Santos for $15,000 to settle the case, far more than any medical care or legal fees would justify. The suit that had been dragging on well over a year just came to a close in mid-July, and Santos was given two options: 1) Sign a confession and pay Alfred $3,000 U.S., or 2) go to jail for six years, with his mother being incarcerated, too.

There was no jury or any semblance of a legal process in the case. It was a confess-and-pay-or-go-directly-to-jail choice. It’s a shame what an American cruiser might do to replenish his cruising funds.

Santos signed the confession, and will have to struggle greatly to make the payments to Alfred over the next six months. It’s a real tragedy, because the Santos we know is an honest, kind, humble, hard-working family man, who only wants only to provide for his wife and young son.

Santos provides moorings and marine services to cruisers. We got exceptional service from him at a very reasonable price. We've spent enough significant time with Santos and his family to know that the charges again him are false and that he's been wronged by this whole episode. Santos is a good man, and we support him.

Robert & Keli Parker
Freedom, Downeaster 38
San Pedro, CA

Robert and Keli — To put a little perspective on things, it should be noted that while cruisers have had few problems in El Salvador, the country has one of the highest crime and murder rates in the Americas. It's a country where gangs and extortion are rampant. According to National Public Radio, almost all small businesses in the cities have to pay daily la renta to gangs. Some bus drivers even say they get hit up more than once per route. So we're not talking New Zealand or Switzerland.

Like you, we weren't on the scene during the Santos-Alfred troubles. As such, we think it's impossible to know for sure who is guilty of what. But our two-letter response to your claim that you've gotten to know Santos well enough to know he has been wronged is: O.J. The prisons are full of charming people who have committed heinous crimes that their friends and relatives can't fathom.

We're particularly puzzled by your assertion that Alfred somehow got in a dispute with Santos "to replenish his cruising kitty." His case might be the one-in-a-million exception to the rule, but generally speaking, foreign visitors — particularly those on "yachts" in extremely poor countries — get the short end of the stick from local authorities and judges. After all, what kind of leverage could Alfred, a budget cruiser, possibly have had against a citizen of El Salvador in El Salvador? Particularly after Alfred had already spent 44 days in a Salvadoran jail?

We're never going to know for sure, but if we had to give odds, it would be that Santos and his mama might not be as angelic as you think. And for what it's worth, remember that Santos and Alfred started out as great friends, too.



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