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November 2009

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In a recent 'Lectronic, you asked for sailor's stories about the storm of October 12.

I normally berth my boat at Basin 3 of Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, but I decided to sail her over to South Beach Harbor on Sunday and stay on her for the week of the Oracle Open World Conference in downtown San Francisco. Staying on my boat would be much less expensive than staying in a hotel, would normally have been more comfortable, and would allow me to attend all those late night 'meetings' without having to drive home to Marin.

After spending a pretty sleepless night aboard once the storm hit, I got up in the morning to make the trek to the showers at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday. In the pre- and post-washing, I took a 'shower'. While getting dressed below in my boat, I watched the rain fly by horizontally. I wondered how the heck I was going to get to my meeting at the Moscone Center still looking somewhat presentable. After all, I would have to get out into the cockpit, lock up my boat, and take a very wet two-block walk to the Muni station in front of AT&T Park. Then I'd have to wait for the train and walk the three blocks from the Montgomery Station to Moscone.

Then it hit me. Thirty minutes later, I walked into my meeting completely dry and looking good — at least in my opinion — while everyone else looked somewhat worse for wear. No one suspected that my complete offshore foul weather gear — boots, pants, and jacket — were stuffed in my backpack. I even gave my umbrella — useless in the wind — to some poor fellow who had no jacket and was already soaked to the bone. "Don't you need it?" he asked me. "No," I replied, "I'm a sailor."

Gary Ryan
i'liohale, Hanse 341


My MacGregor 26D rode out the October 12 storm on her trailer. A 60-ft tall oak tree broke off at the base and crashed down around the boat. The Mac was covered in limbs, but they were all small and did no harm. But a truck parked next to my boat was badly damaged as a result of being hit by a 12-inch limb. It might have been fatal if it had hit my sailboat.

Dave Hector
Mountain Ranch


The September 28 ‘Lectronic report on the mishaps — striking a ship and being dismasted — that took place during 16-year-old Aussie Jessica Watson’s shakedown for a solo circumnavigation attempt should be a warning. Years ago, officials in the sport of soaring — gliders — realized that attempts to set records for the sake of records for time aloft was intrinsically dangerous. As a result, duration records are no longer recognized.

I'm also reminded of the tragic fate of seven-year-old Jessica Dubroff who, in '96, died while trying to be the youngest person to pilot a plane across the United States. After her death nobody much cared about being the youngest anymore.

There are some records we just don’t need.

Jim Wallis
Axel Heyst, Custom Camper-Nicholson
Vallejo YC

Readers — For those who don't remember, Jessica Dubroff, who was born in Contra Costa County and lived in Pescadero, attempted — sort of — to become the first second-grader to pilot an airplane across the United States. Despite the fact that it was a totally bogus attempt — she was accompanied by both her flight instructor and her father — the uncomprehending child became an instant media celebrity. But as if to emphasize both the bogosity of the attempt and the pressures brought on by attempting such stunts in front of the media, the trio left Cheyenne, Wyoming, not only in heavy rain and stormy conditions, but with the flight instructor rather than Jessica at the yoke. Minutes after taking off, the plane crashed, killing all three aboard.

Aussie Jessica Watson started her non-stop solo circumnavigation attempt via the Southern Ocean on October 18. We wish the young lady well, but we're convinced she doesn't have a clue what she's getting herself into. As for 15-year-old Abby Sunderland of Marina del Rey, her family was most recently trying to rush the purchase of an Open 40 they found in Europe and hoped to ship to Fort Lauderdale, where Abby would presumably begin her attempt. The problems are that it's already late in the year to start and make it around the Southern Ocean during the southern hemisphere summer and, even in the best case scenario, young Abby will have to start without having spent much time getting to know her boat. But when you're aiming for a youth record, you can't wait until next year.

It's just our opinion, but we think that, by attempting to circumnavigate via the Southern Ocean, both young women are lacking in adult supervision. We don't believe either one has a chance of making it as planned. We just hope some higher power keeps them safe.


I'm among the throng of people who were disappointed that the Blue Angels had to cancel their show at the last minute. It's the second year in a row that weather modified the schedule. Last year it was the parade.

I think the organizers should consider moving the event one month earlier in the year, and start the Angels program at 2 p.m.

The event communications were awful. Apparently nobody bothered to tell the Coast Guard that the show was cancelled. As such, all of us on boats had to wait for the 'crash zone' to open. And, of course, there was the Coastie inflatable, complete with a mounted machine gun, darting in and out of traffic, with various crew members yelling at skippers of recreational boats to relocate to some imaginary line. All the boats that I saw were well behind the cutters, so I think these guys were protecting some setback from the cutters, not the 'ditch zone'.

Anyway, I found it to be a pathetic display of authority, and in the end, it added to the considerable public relations disaster for Fleet Week.

Peter Earnshaw
Kailani, Catalina 30

Peter — It's not as though Fleet Week is the only event or activity that can be negatively impacted or even cancelled by weather. The same happens with America's Cup races, World Series baseball games, tennis and golf tournaments, KFOG Kaboom fireworks shows, countless airplane flights, and afternoon commutes. Nature rules.

It probably wouldn't be too hard to reschedule just the Blue Angels for a month earlier in the year, but they are part of the much larger and logistically complicated Fleet Week. We imagine it would take years to change the dates, and even then, there is no guarantee that the weather would cooperate. We would characterize the cancelling of the Blue Angels as a disappointment rather than a "public relations disaster."


While the Blue Angels canceled their Fleet Week performance because of the fog, they did make one pass, and I caught it with my point n' shoot camera. I even got the Golden Gate Bridge and a sailboat in, too!

Stuart Kiehl
Santa Rosa


In the September 28 'Lectronic, you ran a photo of a circle raft-up in Alameda. They said if anyone had proof of a larger one, they should send it to Latitude. Well, that's what I'm doing. The accompanying photo shows 30 — I think — boats from the Corsair YC rafted up in a circle in Newport Harbor. We started this annual event in March of '07 with about 18 boats, and have nearly doubled in size. We expect even more next year.

We start on a Friday by choosing four 'corner boats' to anchor the raft-up. As new boats, they arrive are tied to one of the anchors or a previously secured boat. In the second photo you will see how it looks before we close the gap with the last boat in. It looks like a big 'C'. We always leave about a boat’s width path for dinghies to enter the center of the circle.

Everyone in the raft-up on Friday night takes their dinghy to a local restaurant where all of us dine. By noon on Saturday, the last boat is usually in place. We then have dinghy raft-ups inside the circle, with cocktails and appetizers. Dinner on Saturday night is often a progressive boat event. It's great fun. If anyone feels a bit monkey-like, it's possible to walk over all the boats in a complete circle. I've even done it.

In case anybody is wondering, yes, we do get permission from the Orange County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol way in advance. It's truly a blast!

Denise Neptune
Corsair YC

Readers — The last letter was from Stuart Kiehl, this one was from Denise Neptune and the next is from Mark Haesloop. It's getting pretty nautical around here, isn't it?


The Seattle YC does a 'star' raft-up every year or so. The accompanying photo is of one such raft-up at Montague Harbor, Galiano Island, British Columbia. As you might imagine, the strength of the wind can be a determining factor in the success of such attempts.

You start a star raft-up by getting the four biggest boats with the best ground tackle to take up positions at each of the four compass points. Once they drop their hooks, they need to back down hard to get their hooks set securely. Then helpers in dinghies take a stern line from each boat to the boat opposite of them. When these four boats are relatively secure in their positions, the other boats fill in the gaps and set stern anchors. Once that's done, the roving party commences.

The art to creating a symmetrical star raft-up is to get the four key boats to position themselves not too close together, but not too far apart either. One-and-a-half to two boat lengths apart seems about right.

Mark Haesloop, crew
Perseverance, Valiant 42, Seattle YC
San Carlos


Is there any organized filibustering going on in Sausalito to stop the development at the site of Anderson's Boat Yard? Why can't the Sausalito Planning Commission prevent the Anderson site from being re-zoned to allow for condos, as we've heard the owner of the property would like? Won't the loss of Sausalito's biggest boatyard have a negative impact on the boating community?

Curious Mind

Curious — There is a lot of misinformation going around with regard to that property. As we've reported, sometime after the first of the year it will become the KKMI Boatyard. There will be no condos.


I understand there is some misinformation about whether KKMI will opening up a service facility in Sausalito. The answer is absolutely yes, we will be opening our facility in Clipper Yacht Harbor, and no, there is no truth to the rumor that Clipper, which owns the land, is planning to use the area to build condos.

We've been working with Clipper for some time in the development of their plans to expand and improve the quality/quantity of the maritime services offered at their facility. The first step in this process is the redevelopment of the former boatyard facility to insure that it is fully compliant with all environmental and occupational regulations. We've had advance meetings with the City of Sausalito Planning Department, and will be submitting our construction plans shortly so that we may get on the department's consent calendar.

Until we submit these plans, Clipper has made the decision to keep things as quiet as possible. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this silence has been the circulation of rumors such as those about condos. Let me assure Latitude readers that there is no foundation to any of these stories. While it may seem crazy to be investing in the marine industry at this difficult time in our economy, the commitment by Clipper and KKMI is steadfast, and built upon our long-term belief in our sport and the maritime industry.

Paul Kaplan


If I were to crew on the Ha-Ha this year, what do you think a fair contribution to the effort would be? If you have any ideas, I'd really appreciate the information.

Eager To Crew

E.T.C. — Financial arrangements are all over the map depending on the skipper, boat, crew, the experience of the skipper and crew, the level of friendship and so forth. At one extreme, you have inexperienced skippers who pay crew to mentor them. At the other, you have inexperienced crew paying experienced skippers what are close to charter rates for the learning experience.

Then there are special situations where, for example, a group of five friends decide that, in return for one guy's agreeing to take his boat, the other four will pay all the expenses, including the considerable expense of having the boat delivered home.

So if someone told us they got paid $2,000 to crew on a Ha-Ha boat, we wouldn't be surprised or think it a bad deal. One the other hand, somebody could tell us they paid $2,000 to be on a Ha-Ha boat, and that could be a good deal, too.

The thing that skippers who accept money should realize is that, at some point, they could be considered to be carrying passengers-for-hire. In that case, there could be all kinds of negative implications for insurance coverage and liability issues. It's unlikely to come up unless someone gets hurt, but if that happens, it could be a major problem. Some say it's best not to have any agreement in writing. Or that if value is to be contributed, it be done in the form or boat gear or food rather than cash.


We were in Venezuela some years ago, and took a trip inland to see some waterfalls. When the sun set, the moon came up at the same time. If I hadn't had a compass, I wouldn't have known east from west. I wonder if anybody else has been in that situation before.

Cal Chamberlain
Leeway, Buccaneer 240
Red Bluff

Cal — We're confused. After all, you couldn't have been confusing the sun for the moon, and the moon has no effect on the fact that the sun always sets in the west. What are we missing?


In last month's Changes, you wrote about a USA Today article that reported how Americans who get an FM3 visa in Mexico can become part of the IMSS — sort of Mexico's social security system — health system. As the article pointed out, for a maximum of about $300 a year — not a month! — Americans who signed up can get treatment with no deductible for everything from tests to surgery to medicines to X-rays to dental and eyeglasses.

If I might add, two of the greatest things about the Mexico IMSS Health Plan is that there is no limit on pre-existing conditions and no age limit. So if you are a 75-year-old U.S. citizen who's never paid a cent into the system, you can still sign up for coverage as soon as you get your FM3 visa. I can't think of any other ‘civilized’ country where you can enter, become a legal resident for about $140, and get full medical coverage for about $250 CN/year.

For example, I tried to get a Canadian residency visa about five years ago, but since I was over 55, it was nearly impossible — even though I had sponsors to run a small boatyard and boat restoration program. After 55, you need to have about $1 million U.S. before they even let you apply. They won't even accept doctors or dentists who don't have the million!

The Mexican health insurance system is actually quite amazing, as it takes only a month or so — and lots of paperwork — to get an FM3 visa. If you apply at a Mexican Consulate in the U.S., it can take about a week. But then you have to get registered at Migración in Mexico within 90 days at the location of your choosing. Keep in mind that the FM3 has to be renewed each year at the same place you originally registered. For a cruiser living in Mexico, or staying there for at least a few months every winter, it's not a big issue.

I got my original FM3 at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, and registered at Migración in Guaymas, where I have to renew it. One can change the residence location, but it requires a little paperwork to do it. You cannot, for instance, register in Guaymas and then renew it next year in Puerto Vallarta.

I have known many sailors and others who have had extensive medical care in Mexico — including a friend from Schoonmaker Point Marina in Sausalito who was treated for colon cancer in La Paz. Once, when the local clinic was closed, he even had a nurse come out to his boat and give him his chemo treatment at anchor. You won't find that kind of service in the United States.

I know a lot of Canadians who get medical treatment in San Carlos, too, because if they leave Canada for more than three consecutive months, their coverage in Canada lapses. They have to return home for something like six months before it takes effect again. For many Canadians, this was a big issue, as they had to rush back from Mexico to Canada when there was still snow on the ground! But now many of them just stay in Mexico and get treated there — they say that in some ways the treatment in Mexico is as good as or better than what they get back home in Canada.

John 'Woody' Skoriak

Readers — Lots of Americans are getting discouraged because the standard of living in the States is going down while the cost of health care continues to rise. As we've said many times before, folks on fixed incomes who enjoy sailing can have a much richer and more abundant life in Mexico than in the United States. And they can get a much bigger bang for the buck when it comes to health care, too. So yes, there's more to look forward to in life than watching television and shopping at Wal-Mart.


Thank you for referencing the USA Today article about Americans getting low-cost health insurance and medical treatment in Mexico. In addition to the excellent care we have gotten the few times we needed it, our daughter has gotten fine treatment, too. She's lived in San Carlos for the past 16 years, during which time she gave birth to three children in the States. Her fourth child was born in Hermosillo, Mexico. Not only did she think her doctors and hospital in Mexico were superior to the ones in the States, she got to stay in a suite, which meant her husband could stay with her. Furthermore, the Mexican hospital required her to stay in the hospital longer than would have been allowed in the U.S. The cost of our daughter's having a baby in Mexico was half of that in the United States.

Many doctors practicing in Mexico trained in the United States, although local medical training is excellent too. We would never hesitate to seek medical care while cruising in Mexico.

Dennis & Lynn Cannon
Pura Vida, Catalina 400
Scottsdale, Arizona


There was an interesting article in an October issue of the San Francisco Chronicle that reported that all the detritus from the hydraulic mining of the Gold Rush is finally being flushed out of the Bay, leaving the water clearer than it's been in more than 100 years. Perhaps counterintuitively, some environmentalists don't want a clearer, more "natural" Bay because it will have adverse affects on some wildlife and waterlife.

I have very strong feelings on the subject, but making sure folks are aware of this potential controversy is more important than my own take. Readers can find the article at

Eric Artman

Eric — We thought the article, by staff writer Kelly Zito, was one of the better ones we've read in the Chronicle lately. It reported that hydraulic mining in the Sierra during the Gold Rush created more sediment in Delta and Bay waters, and that over the years nature adapted to the more murky water. But now that time has washed away most of the sediment to nearly the original state of water clarity, the plants and wildlife that adapted to the murkier water are now endangered. As a result, there is now a battle between environmentalists who are in favor of the pre-1850s water clarity and environmentalists who are in favor of the post-Gold Rush water clarity.

Unlike you, we find it hard to pick which side to be on. The one constant in nature is change, no matter if it's caused by man or by more natural occurrences such as volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and earthquakes. With every change there are winners and losers. Every time man chooses the winners, things seem to get even more screwed up.


Some time ago, Latitude wrote an article about some of the supposed remedies for sea sickness. I remember one of them being a medication called Spurgeon. I may have the spelling wrong.

I first purchased some of this medication from a pharmacy in Mexico in ‘95, after hearing about it from other cruisers. It worked marvelously for me. I found that by taking a pill several hours before the approach of bad weather, I didn’t get seasick.
I haven’t been cruising in 15 years, but am considering chartering in the Caribbean this winter. I would appreciate any information you might have on this drug. Also, what’s the best choice these days for the prevention of seasickness?

Andy Buchan
Planet Earth

Andy — You’re referring to cinnarizine, a.k.a. Stugeron, an anti-histaminic drug primarily used to control vomiting due to motion sickness. While it’s available over-the-counter without a prescription in many parts of the world, it’s not legally available in the United States or Canada. The manufacturer simply didn't want to pay for the extensive testing required in the U.S.

The drug acts by interfering with the signal transmission between vestibular apparatus of the inner ear and the vomiting center of the hypothalamus. The disparity of signal processing between inner ear motion receptors and the visual senses is abolished, so that the confusion of the brain with regard to whether the individual is moving or standing is reduced.

We’ve never used Stugeron ourselves, but know sailors who swear by it. We’ve also heard from a few who reported having mild to strong side effects, including hallucinations. We’re certainly not in a position to recommend that anyone use Stugeron, but if someone decides they want to try it, they should first carefully investigate which drugs it can’t be used in conjunction with — such as some types of anti-depressants — and what dosages to take.

Seasickness seems to be a very personal reaction, with some people rarely, if ever, suffering from it, and others coming down with it on even the calmest days. When it comes to supposed methods of prevention, the results seem to be equally personal. The things that some people swear by — be it Bonine, ginger, wrist bands, looking at the horizon — don’t work at all for others.

Where you charter in the Caribbean will also have a big effect on whether you and the rest of your crew get seasick. If you stay in the confines of the relatively flat waters of the British Virgins, for example, you’ll be far less likely to toss your cookies than if you try to sail upwind from St. Martin to Antigua.


I read with quiet dismay Doug Nash’s letter about how his wife Sylvie died in front of him on their Dana Point-based Spindrift 43 Windcastle after taking MMS, the self-described Miracle Medical Supplement. Just so everybody is aware, Amazon sells this product on their website.

Allan Lim
Penang, Malaysia

Allan — Thanks for the heads-up. We wrote a 'review' for the product, indicating that it appeared MMS was a potentially deadly supplement. We referred everyone to Nash's letter in the October issue of Latitude 38.


For some months, the tug Sea Viking has been anchored about .75 miles from the Southampton Shoal light at approximately 37? 53.114 N,122? 23.090 W. Although at times it has shown an anchor light, it hasn't recently. Nor does there seem to be anyone aboard. Although the tug is close to the boundary of Anchorage #6, it’s not within any designated anchorage.

I recently made an inquiry to the Coast Guard about the tug, and separately sent them an ‘Abandoned Vessel’ report. They responded by saying they were “aware of the tug Sea Viking, and at this time there is no concern of pollution.” In response to my report of an abandoned vessel, they wrote, “vessel was not in our database but has since been added.”

The tug was originally anchored to the east of its current position, and dragged anchor for some distance before being re-anchored in its current position. Having unattended vessels anchored upwind of a wildlife sanctuary such as Brooks Island seems ill-advised. And for it to be legal, shouldn’t it at least be showing an anchor light?

Perhaps someone has further information about the tug that justifies the Coast Guard’s apparent lack of concern and/or action.

Mike Carnall
Cape Farewell, Westsail 32
Brickyard Cove

Mike — We talked to the Waterways Department of the Coast Guard, and they are indeed concerned. In fact, a spokeswoman told us that they “desperately” want to get the tug moved to a secure location before the onset of winter storms. One of their main concerns is that it might break loose and damage one of the bases of a bridge or something else of value.

The 100-ft tug had previously been anchored in or near a designated commercial vessel anchorage, and was therefore issued a ‘Captain of the Port Order’ to temporarily move to its current location. The problem seems to be that the tug is owned by a private individual who apparently doesn’t have the funds to have it repaired or towed to a secure berth. Thus the Coast Guard finds itself in the position that gives so many harbormasters fits — being responsible for someone else's abandoned vessel. In this case, however, the vessel is very large, and it's going to cost a lot of money to break it up or keep her in a berth. It's not right, but if you pay taxes, you're no doubt going to end up helping to foot the bill.


The October issue Sightings reference to the Coast Guard having strange conversations with sailors — such as telling skippers of racing boats they need a support boat when practicing for races — reminded me of a similar conversation I had last week. As I was in the process of launching my singlehanded racing dinghy, a member of a Bay Area police force that shall remain unnamed came up to me and said, "Where's your CF number?"

Me: "The office manager at my local DMV office told me that engineless dinghies used for racing don't need CF numbers."

Policeman: "But you're not racing."

Me: "Are you saying that if I'm sailing to the race area or training before a race, I need a CF number for my boat, but don't need one if I'm actually racing?"

Policeman: "Yes. That’s what I’m saying."

Iain Woolard
San Francisco Bay

Readers — For the record, almost every sail-powered vessel over eight feet in length that isn't documented by the Coast Guard must be registered with the State of California. So El Toros, which are eight feet, don't need to be registered while Vanguards, which are 15 feet, do. This is not to say that lots of dinghy sailors don't shine on the need to register their boats.

The two exceptions to the 'over eight-foot rule' are boats brought into California for racing purposes only, which get exempted for tune-ups and races only, and sailboards, meaning "non-motorized surfboards propelled by a sail and with a mast that the operator must hold upright."


Having just read the October Sightings item about the curious behavior by the Coast Guard with regard to recreational mariners, I'd like to point out that such behavior is not limited to San Francisco Bay. On two occasions over the last several weeks, I have observed the Coast Guard cutter Narwhal, stationed here in Newport Harbor, motor through the harbor sounding the five-toot danger signal. They were apparently claiming right-of-way in the harbor.

The second time they did this was right in the middle of the start of a Balboa YC beer can race. The Narwhal proceeded through the harbor sounding the danger signal, forcing numerous sailboats to alter course to avoid them. It's not a big deal, of course, but it blew our start.

On this same occasion, there was an 80-ft day fishing charter boat just behind the Narwhal. The fishing boat did what is the norm for large boats in Newport Harbor — they gave the sailboats the right-of-way. A couple of times the fishing boat even came to a dead stop. The Narwhal, on the other hand, continued to blunder through the racing fleet, and continued to sound the danger signal.

If an 80-ft fishing boat — and lots of other bigger private boats — can maneuver and stay clear of right-of-way boats in crowded Newport Harbor, I don't see why an 87-ft government-owned boat can't obey the Rules of the Road as well. Come to think of it, the Catalina Flyer, which is a 90-ft power catamaran, and is therefore probably at least twice as large as the Narwhal, arrives in Newport from Catalina right around start time of the Thursday night beer cans. Yet I can never recall them sounding a danger signal or claiming right-of-way under the 'tonnage rule.'

If the Narwhal had waited 15 minutes, they would have had a wide open channel, since all the sailboats would have been farther up the bay by then. The Balboa YC has been running their Thursday night races for 40 years right in front of the Narwhal's berth, so it's not as if the race came as a surprise to the Coasties. It didn't help the Coast Guard's reputation that, when we came back down the bay toward the finish, we could see the Narwhal tied up at a fuel dock. So she'd disrupted the racing fleet for a mission of going to the fuel dock.

A number of us on the boat had a discussion about whether the cutter, if not responding to an emergency, had a different status than other powerboats. Some claimed that Coast Guard vessels always have the right-of-way, not just in emergencies. But there have been bigger government vessels in the bay than the Narwhal, and I've yet to hear them sound the warning signal. Most courteous sailors will cut a large Coast Guard vessel some slack because of its size, but they often have to change course and speed to avoid other boats.

The question still hasn't been resolved: Is there some rule that gives Coast Guard vessels special rights on the water when not responding to an emergency? Or was the Narwhal's captain either ignorant or arrogant?

Since I'm paranoid about the ability of civil servants to punish citizens who call them on their shit, please withhold my name.

Newport Beach

Paranoid — We spoke with Lt. Junior Grade Mark Whittaker, who is the captain of the Narwhal. He notes that Rule 9 of the Rules of the Road prohibits vessels under sail from restricting the passage of a vessel which can only safely operate within the limits of a channel. Just because the channel in Newport Harbor isn't a registered restricted channel, such as those on San Francisco Bay, doesn't mean it's not restricted. Because Narwhal's 6.5-ft draft restricted its ability to maneuver, Whittaker said that the beer can racers were obligated to stay clear of the cutter. In non-emergency situations, Coast Guard vessels have no special navigation rights.

There are a lot of gray areas in the navigation rules, and this is one of them. As you note, there are many vessels larger than Narwhal that navigate Newport Harbor but don't insist on being given the right-of-way because of the restricted channel. But they could if they wanted to. As for the Narwhal pushing the issue despite knowing there is a beer can race on Thursday nights, it probably wasn't the best public relations move.

Those who race on San Francisco Bay have to give way to other vessel traffic on a regular basis, and think nothing of it. Personally, we believe that it adds yet another random element to the competition that rewards superior strategy and boathandling. On the Bay, we wouldn't say that the Narwhal screwed up your start, but rather that you did by failing to adapt well to yet another variable on the course.


I was hoping that you'd know how much time I should set aside to do a Baja Bash after the Ha-Ha. I’m crewing on a boat down to Cabo, but have to look for another boat coming back north. I have until the 16th off work, and if the Ha-Ha awards party isn't until the night of the 7th, I probably only have about a week at best. If I can't get more time off work, I might have to fly home instead.

Evan Halstead
Baja Bound

Evan — Obviously, this letter is now dated, but the 'How long does it take to do a Bash?' question is such a common one that we decided to respond to it here anyway. As much as we'd like to give an exact answer, there are too many serious variables. The biggest are: 1) the weather; 2) the determination of the skipper to continue even if the weather gets a bit sloppy; and 3) the speed and reliability of the boat.

It's roughly 750 miles from San Diego to Cabo, so if you want to make it in a week, the boat you're on would need to average 4.5 knots or 100 miles a day the entire way. The problem is that you have to maintain that speed 24 hours a day while almost surely heading directly into the wind and seas. If you were to encounter a front with 30 knots on the nose, it could set you back three or more days. You might also lose a day stopping for fuel at Turtle Bay.

While we know of boats that have done the Bash in less than four days, we also know of others that have taken three weeks. Given the average Ha-Ha boat, and a skipper who was intent on making it back to San Diego but not willing to bust his boat, we think the average Bash would take between 7 to 12 days.


We left California in May of '08 on an extended cruise. So far, we have traveled to Hawaii and the Marshall Islands, and are currently in Kosrae, Micronesia. Our boat was registered in California, but is now a U.S. Coast Guard-documented vessel with a homeport of Florida. We are also legal residents of Florida, and no longer have any ties with California.

However, the Alameda County Tax Assessor requires us to provide proof of a permanent berth outside of Alameda County. We’ve provided receipts of ports we’ve visited and explained to them that we are a yacht in transit, and therefore won’t have a permanent berth until we reach Florida several years from now. They refused to take our word for it, so they put a lien on our vessel for unpaid personal property taxes.

We’ve written letters and tried to call the Alameda County Marine/Aircraft Division, but all we get is an answering machine that advises us to leave a number. Since we are full time cruisers, we don’t have a phone number we can leave with them.

Has anybody else run into this problem, and does anyone know how to clear it up?

Ken & Katie Stuber
Sand Dollar, Bristol 32
New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Ken and Katie — Unfortunately, many Californians who have gone cruising have run into similar problems. As we've reported many times before, for some reason different county assessors in this state are allowed to interpret the personal property tax laws in different ways.

The result is that some boat owners get letters from their assessor's office that make them happy. As you may have read a couple of issues back, Steve May of the Gualala-based Farrier 41 Endless Summer recently got a letter from his county assessor telling him that he had a personal property tax refund coming because he'd had his boat out of the county and country for more than six months, and had the receipts to prove it. Then there are boatowners from other California counties, such as yourselves, who don't owe the tax, yet get a letter from a tax assessor that makes them unhappy. Even if your boat had been in Hong Kong all year, and you no longer reside in the state, they'd still bill you for personal property tax on your boat. And as you know all too well, they'll ultimately put a lien on your boat and, for all intents and purposes, make themselves unavailable for you to respond in defense. As we recall, some cruisers from L.A. County were out cruising the far reaches of the world for six years, and their county assessor still insisted they owed six years worth of personal property tax on their boat.

We're not sure what the solution is in your case, because it might be less expensive to pay the tax than fly home and confront the Alameda County Assessor face to face. On the other hand, you might collect your receipts from the Kosrae YC — wink, wink — and send them to the Alameda County Assessor as proof that you now have a permanent slip for your boat.

But let this be a lesson to everyone in California who plans on going cruising but doesn't want to get stuck with personal property tax they shouldn't owe. Well in advance of leaving, determine the tax policy of the assessor in the county where you keep your boat. If he/she is going to assess your boat even when it's on the other side of the world, move your boat and get her on the rolls in a county with a more friendly assessment policy. If your boat is worth a chunk of money, you might want to have it owned by an LLC in a corporation-friendly state such as Delaware. It only costs about $150 and can be done over the internet in about two days. There is an annual LLC fee, but depending on the value of your boat, it could be substantially less than the personal property tax would be. And if we're not mistaken, when it comes time for somebody to buy your boat, they don't have to pay sales or use tax, because all they are really buying is the stock in the LLC.


Did you see the report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, that said there was more sea ice at the end of this summer than there was at the end of summer in '07 or '08? I'm just not sure I believe all the claims about global warming.

Ted Lewis

Ted — That report reminds us of the old joke that statistics are like prostitutes because you can do anything you want with them. We did a little checking and found that at the start of the winter refreeze this year, there was indeed more ice than in either of the previous two years. But to put things in perspective, the least ice ever was recorded in '07 and '08, so we wouldn't be in a rush to buy a Hummer. It's apparently also true that the last year or two have been cooler than previous high years, but don't make too much out of that either.

It's our two cent's worth that man's understanding of the world's climate is on par with what we knew about the workings of the brain 100 years ago. That is to say, it's rudimentary at best. So while we're not saying climate change might not become a big problem, we're not ready to call for dykes to be built around the shores of San Francisco Bay in order to prevent flooding in low-lying areas — such at the Latitude 38 World Headquarters.


I'm thinking about sailing to Mexico this winter, and have heard that Mexico has legalized a lot of popular drugs. Is that true?

Name Withheld By Request

N.W.B.R. — On August 21, Mexico “decriminalized” individuals being in possession of small amounts of certain drugs. The limits are five grams of pot, half a gram of coke, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams of meth, and .015 milligrams of LSD. Ingest all of the legal amounts at once, and you won't be in Mexico anymore.

Before anybody heads off to Mexico with dreams of being stoned all the time, they should remember that there would be risks involved, not only from taking the drugs, but also from buying them. Historically, the cruising world has been very safe in Mexico, but historically, the drug-buying world in Mexico has been anything but. We don’t know about the rest of you, but the last thing we want to do in Mexico is try to score some pot from a guy — or group of guys — who are high on meth and need money to buy more drugs for themselves.

How would Mexican authorities know if you are in possession of drugs, and whether the amounts are too great to be legal? Simple. All Mexican law enforcement officers, without any excuse or reasonable cause, may perform a revisión precautiva, or precautionary inspection, of your stuff and your body. This means that anytime they want, they can inspect your wallet, purse, bag, clothes — and body orifices — looking for drugs, knives and guns.


For what it's worth, I just learned that Catalina Yacht Anchorage, which is Catalina Yacht's proprietary dealership, is now installing a one-ft length of chain between the anchor and the swivel on their boats. This is in response to the reported failure of anchor swivels. The idea behind the one-ft length of chain is to eliminate the strain. It sounds like a good idea to me.

Richard Drechsler
Last Resort, Catalina 470
Long Beach


I was delighted by the photo of the 31-ft Vixen in the full page ad for Pineapple Sails inside the front cover of the September Latitude. The accompanying text described how the new owners had done a wonderful job of restoring the boat, and had participated in Master Mariners Regattas with considerable success.

But there is even more of a back story to Vixen that I'd like to share with your readers. Vixen was built in the Frank Stone Boatyard on Beach Road in Tiburon/Belvedere. Started on February 23, 1904, she was finished on May 14, 1904. Initially she was a 27-ft gaff-rigged sloop, but four feet were added to her length in 1922.

Vixen has had a dozen different owners, gone from yacht club to yacht club, and managed to accumulate many honors along the way. For example, she was the winner of the San Francisco to Vallejo to Bluff Point Race in '12 and was the winner of Richmond YC's first YRA Season Championship in '34.

In the late '50s, Vixen began to disintegrate. At one point, the bilge pump had to run continuously. At that time, she was owned by a group of casual day sailors that included my colleague and mentor, Wladek Swiatecki, a physicist at the University of California Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. During the period '61-'68, while I was getting my PhD under Wladek's guidance, he undertook rebuilding Vixen. In an epic labor of love, he eventually replaced every single piece of wood, and in the process converted her to a yawl rig. With a self tending jib, main and mizzen, it was easy to tack Vixen out of the Estuary from her berth at Oakland's 5th Avenue Boatyard. Wladek and his wife Uta often entertained visiting scientists with a sail out the Estuary, followed by a quiet downwind drift back to the slip.

A few years ago, it became clear that Vixen wasn't being used much, and her upkeep and annual haulout had gotten too much for Wladek to do himself. He started to look around for someone who would care for the boat as much as he had over the years. The present owners, Steve and Linda Kibler, fit that bill. And everyone who knows Vixen is delighted with her latest rebirth.

I have a lot more details and photos from the old days. If any of Vixen's old friends would be interested in them, they can contact me via email.

Bill Myers
Cirrus, Standfast 40
Kaneohe YC


Knowing that Profligate was having some repairs made to her cockpit in San Diego, I decided that our group would cover the always entertaining Buccaneer Day festivities at Catalina on October 3. Unfortunately, our photographers failed in their mission to get some interesting photographs. Sorry. But from what we could tell, it was a good crowd this year. Yes, it was shoulder-to-shoulder at the various bars on Saturday night, but everything was under control for as long as we were there. And we didn't hear of any problems later.

Just as we failed in the photography department, I also failed to make it over to the seawall at midnight to get a head count — if you know what I mean — on the number of couples there. More than a few sailors have met at Buccaneer Day. For instance, Greg King and Jennifer Sanders of the Long Beach-based 65-ft schooner Coco Kai, who have been out cruising for a couple of years now.

While Buccaneer Day itself was fun, the big action took place on Sunday, as there was a gale warning in effect when the hundreds of boats headed back toward the mainland. Indeed, lots of boats turned back to Catalina after deciding the trip back to the mainland would be too rough in those conditions.

As for us, we were having a great sail back to the mainland. But just five miles out from the island, Judy, my girlfriend, took a sip of Coke from a can that had a wasp inside. The wasp stung her at the top of her throat. Her having previously had an allergic reaction to bug venom, the wasp sting had the potential to be serious. As a result, we brought out the anaphylaxis kit, had Judy down some Benadryl, and monitored her vitals. We also got the Two Harbors paramedics on the line, and headed back to Two Harbors.

Having made so many passages to and from Catalina hoping there was more wind, this time I found it different. It was blowing something over 30 knots, with legitimate eight- to nine-ft swells. As such, transferring Judy to the lifeguard boat wasn't a viable option. Those poor lifeguards got blasted by waves until we made it into smoother water. I guess we did the right thing, since Judy was still pretty stable when we got back to Two Harbors. In fact, she declined the lifeguard's offer to take her to the hospital in Avalon.

We ended up spending another night at Two Harbors. Given the rough weather in the channel, we weren't the only pirates and wenches to turn back. As a result, the restaurant at Two Harbors was much busier than it had been staffed for, so the service was a bit slow. But since we ended up having Mika as our server, it was worth the wait.

We weren't the only ones to have excitement over the weekend. The sailboat Dream Weaver was dismasted a few miles from the Isthmus and had to be brought back by Sea Tow. We also heard that the Coast Guard was looking for a couple of kayakers who were reportedly trying to paddle from the Isthmus to Redondo Beach. I don't know the resolution of that case, but if the two survived, they should be committed — against their will, if necessary. We also heard a call that a 13-ft center console Carib inflatable was found drifting west of Palos Verdes. Apparently the Coasties were already aware of it, as they basically blew off the call.

Even more exciting was the case of a powerboat with five aboard that blew up near the West End of Catalina. The paramedics who helped us said everyone was safely rescued by them and a Sheriff's chopper.

You know how we Southern California sailors are — when it blows over 20 knots, we think the world is ending. I had a friend aboard who has done a lot of sailing in Sydney Harbor, and he told me they often didn't want to go out until it was blowing 25.

Bill Lilly
Moontide, Lagoon 470
Newport Beach


For what it's worth in the long ongoing dispute between Alfred Eggert of the Long Beach-based Bayfield 32 Raven and local Santos Torres in El Salvador, I’ll put my support with Torres.

I met both of them shortly after the legal settlement. I found Alfred to be a somewhat effusive character who, even in three or four meetings, never told me the same story. In one, Torres had supposedly threatened him with a gun, but he never mentioned the gun in other versions of the story. Sometimes he said that Torres had broken his arm, other times he said that Torres had only hit him on the arm.

When we first met, Eggert was introduced as someone who knew how to beat all taxation by declaring himself a sovereign government. When I asked a few questions about how this was possible, he mumbled vaguely, then quickly changed the subject. He couldn't even explain how one goes about declaring oneself a sovereign government. He reminded me of some talk show hosts.

Conversely, I later took my crew on a dinghy trip up the bay to the public market. It was a fair distance. When almost back to our boat, but with a strong current against us, my outboard crapped out. I was able to paddle us to where we could grab the anchor chain of an unoccupied trimaran. While we were fussing with the motor, a panga came out from shore and asked if we needed assistance. The young man then graciously towed us to Someday. While thanking him, I learned that he was Torres.

Having already met Eggert and deciding that he wasn't a reliable source of information, I asked Torres about the problems between Eggert and him. He mostly deferred, in effect saying that they had a dispute over a bill and that tempers had gotten out of hand. But he said he'd never touched Torres. There was something about his mother's being involved, but I can't remember in what way.

Bill Nokes
Someday, Gulfstar 41
Brookings, Oregon / San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Bill — As we've said all along, we don't think any of us will ever really know what went on between Eggert and Torres. But our gut instinct is that neither is capable of giving an entirely accurate account of what happened.

If Eggert doesn't always tell the same story, that's certainly not in his favor. But it is consistent with his stateside character reference describing him as a rather different kind of fellow with some unusual but strongly held beliefs. As for Eggert's having some unconventional ideas about taxes and governments, isn't that pretty much the norm for a lot of singlehanders and ex-pats?

It certainly was nice of Torres to give you and your dinghy crew a tow to your boat, but that hardly seems a rational basis on which to believe his account of the troubles. If Eggert's story is to be believed at all, he and Torres had quite a bit more than a minor dispute over a bill. As we recall, Torres was arrested for threatening Eggert and given detention. Eggert was then arrested and spent five days in jail for allegedly damaging $3,000 worth of Torres's stuff. Torres was subsequently sentenced to jail for allegedly threatening Eggert with a gun, allegedly having previously killed a 17-year-old. Then Torres' mother accused Eggert of demanding $10,000 from her, and saying that if she didn't pay the extortion, he was going to have Torres killed in jail. That landed Eggert in prison for 44 days. But after all that, a new judge decided that Torres should face 14 to 17 years in jail for his armed threats, and that his mother should pay big fines for trying to extort Eggert. If even 10% of all this was true, we'd do our best to steer clear of both Torres and Eggert.

Before being so certain of Torres' complete innocence, you might want to ask yourself how it would be possible for Eggert, a foreigner who can't tell the same story twice, to convince a Salvadoran judge that one of his countrymen had so badly wronged a gringo. It doesn't pass the smell test to us.


I’m not surprised by Chip Megeath’s response to my June letter, in which I basically said that sailors, particularly older sailors, are obsessed with safety. After all, most sailors I run across are so terrified of going to sea and engrossed with all the latest safety stuff, that I can imagine them really being rankled by my letter. Their knee-jerk response is to attack those of us with differing views, and it seems par for the course for them to call us things like "stupid” and “double dumb.”

I’m a 'live and let live' sort of a guy, and if someone wants to have all the safety stuff imaginable, I say go for it. Never in my letter did I suggest that people should go to sea without a liferaft. I merely stated that my partner Lisa and I have chosen to go without one. But I do think something should be said about EPIRBs.

My philosophy goes something like this: We non-commercial mariners sail the oceans not because we have to, but because we choose to. I assume we do it for enjoyment, although I suppose racers could do it for the glory. But as we're sailing for pleasure, I personally can't justify pressing a button from the middle of some gigantic ocean and expecting that everybody should jump to my rescue from whatever country — rich or poor — I'm near, no matter how many thousands of miles away. Those rescues often cost tens of thousands of dollars — perhaps much more — and generally endanger the lives of far more people than just the two of us. How can I justify this? Why should I think that everybody else except myself needs to be responsible for me? And why do people seem to get so rankled when someone such as myself wants to take full responsibility for their own actions — i.e. going to sea in a small boat?

I like the Latitude editor's view that a good inflatable tender and a satphone would be a good alternative to an EPIRB and a liferaft. It implies taking matters as much as possible into one's own hands, having some control rather than simply drifting — especially if it included a simple sail rig — until somebody rescues you.

The satphone is a big improvement on the EPIRB in the sense that it at least affords the caller the opportunity to explain what kind of help or assistance might be appropriate. After all, it's one thing to be without a rudder, and another being on the verge of slipping beneath the surface.

We carry two high-quality inflatable kayaks on our boat — in addition to being our dinghies, they double as our liferafts. We also carry some excellent ditch bags, stocked with what we would need to stay alive for a fair amount of time. We also carry a handheld VHF with lots of spare batteries.

We figure that if we really did lose our boat, we’d do our best to rescue ourselves, since the kayaks are at least as mobile as liferafts. And we'd certainly be willing to try to hail any ship or signal toward any ship's light that we saw. By the nature of VHF, such a ship wouldn't have to travel too far to get us. As such, it would be unlikely that our being rescued would endanger the lives of too many other folks or cost the poor taxpayers of some country an obscene amount of money.

And if that wasn't good enough to save our lives, hey, like I said in my letter, we've all got to die sometime. And honestly, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think dying at sea would be in the top part of my list of “best ways to go."

I’m sorry if what I say sounds callous, but I mean it from the heart. It really deserves more philosophical thought than a knee-jerk reaction such as in Mr. Megeath’s letter. I would suggest that he, as well as anyone else who is interested in delving into the philosophical side of this discussion, read my book. Who knows, Mr. Megeath might even love it. Most people who read it do.

I agree with Mr. Megeath in one respect, anyway — I’m also grateful that I’m not on the TransPac Race Committee.

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

Andy — Like our most of our readers, we understand what you're doing. Statements in your first letter such as, "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," were deliberately provocative and made to call attention to you and your book. And now that Mr. Megeath has obliged your request to be verbally punched in the nose, you respond with a second letter in which you've suddenly become Mr. Semi-Reasonable, Mr. Live and Let Live. Did you just graduate from the University of Al Sharpton or something?

As for your apparent assumption that Chip Megeath is some kind of wimp who lives in fear, you don't know how silly that is. After all, his R/P 45 Criminal Mischief is, in the parlance of youth, one sick boat. In the last TransPac, for example, this 45-footer had three 300-mile days in a row, followed by a 298-mile day. Had you been aboard for a run down the Molokai Channel, we suspect that your white shorts would have turned brown. We're talking about surfing in excess of 20 knots for long periods, where human skills, technology and untamed nature intersect for high risk and high adventure. And like all top athlete-adventurers, from football players to race car drivers to downhill racers, Megeath insisted on outfitting his boat with state-of-the-art safety gear.

You claim that you don't want to expose other people to the risk and expense of searching for and rescuing you if your boat sinks. But what century are you living in? Ever since COSPAS-SARSAT — part of the greater Global Maritime Distress Safety System — was founded in '82 by the United States, Russia, France and Canada, the use of EPIRBs and satellites has resulted in 24,798 lives being saved in 6,766 distress situations. And the newer EPIRBs have GPS which, because they "take the 'search' out of 'search and rescue'" — have made rescue attempts easier and more successful all the time.

The fact is that by not having an EPIRB, you have chosen to opt out of a tremendously efficient and effective worldwide SAR system that's been in place for more than a quarter of a century. As such, you have the potential to make the lives of rescuers more difficult and a rescue effort more expensive.

If someone sets off an EPIRB because their boat is sinking, rescue authorities quickly learn the boat is in trouble, and even without the GPS feature on the EPIRB, have a very good idea where to find the distressed mariners. And except for the Southern Ocean, there are few places on earth where a ship would have to travel more than a few hours out of its way to rescue a mariner in distress. And trust us, the captains, crews and owners of such vessels are more than happy to save lives.

Indeed, the real problem for rescue folks and the taxpayers who have to support their services, are mariners such as you, who, presumably out of ignorance, decide not to be part of the system. Suppose your boat quickly sinks, giving you time to only put out a single mayday over the VHF before you have to jump into your inflatable kayaks. And suppose just one other boat manages to hear your call, but not get your position. Having decided to ignore 20th century technology, you've presented rescue folks with a monumental — and expensive — problem. By not having your GPS position, they are confronted with the task of trying to find your sorry ass — pardon the emphasis — over 1,000 square miles of ocean. Is there any way you could have made their job harder, their task any more expensive? If you don't want to cough up the $700 for an EPIRB for the sake of your wife, yourself and your family and friends, do it for the sake of the folks who might have to rescue you and those who would have to foot the expense.

If EPIRBs are so great, why did we, in the last issue, say that if we could only afford to have either an EPIRB or a satphone, we'd go with the satphone? It's because the satphone is more versatile. If we needed to call the Coast Guard in an emergency, we could do it with the satphone and give them our GPS position, too. But we could also use the satphone for other emergency purposes — such as health advice in the case of a heart attack or major injury — and for a host of non-emergency purposes — such as calling friends to tell them not to report us overdue if our passage takes longer than anticipated, to order boat parts, to make reservations in marinas, to hear the voices of our kids, and so forth.

We have tremendous respect for the capability of inflatable kayaks, such as you use for liferafts. In '56, Dr. Hannes Lindemann made his famous 72-day trip across the Atlantic aboard his stock Klepper Classic two-seater. But we're also realists about the shortcomings of kayaks in the wrong environments.

The name Victoria Seay may not mean anything to you, but on December 1 of '05, she and two other female athletes from Vancouver set out on a 15-mile kayak trip from Isla Carmen to the Baja mainland. Then a Norther came up, and before long Seay became separated from the other two women, who later made it to shore. Despite being so close to land, and Seay's being in voice contact for 12 hours with two large rescue boats searching a very small area of water for her, they couldn't find her. Her body was found the next day. To our mind, kayaks are not suitable rough weather or cold water substitutes for liferafts. And we will note that had Seay had an EPIRB, she would almost certainly be alive today.


I contacted the publisher of Latitude via email to inform him of a growing concern about the budget crisis in California, and how it might affect the drawbridges of Alameda County. My first mistake was in assuming that the publisher would want to contact me to have an intelligent conversation and get a more detailed explanation of just what was going on. My second mistake was using the word "closed" in regard to the drawbridges. I figured that I would be able to explain the USCG 33 CFR 117.181 drawbridge regulations to the publisher. But instead of contacting me, the publisher decided that he had all the information he needed, and published my letter. I read his editorial response, and refused to become part of the immature 'slam festival' just for the fun of the readership.

Then Skip Edge, the Public Works Inspector in Alameda, decided to, without contacting me, join in on the bashing party. Had Mr. Edge decided to speak with me directly, he would have learned that, not only am I the shop steward with 21 years of proud county service, but I spent every one of those years as a bridge tender. I don't need him to tell me what the Coast Guard regulations are with regard to bridges.

Because of the lack of desire on both the part of the publisher of Latitude and Mr. Edge to find out a little more information before trashing me, I have found myself in the unfortunate position whereby I must explain to my co-workers that I really do have a good understanding of the situation, and that I really do care about their jobs. The thought that my actions had something to do with fearing a reduction of the dues collected by the union, as suggested by Mr. Edge, never even crossed my mind. But I thank him for asking.

I must also, to the best of my ability, regain the trust, loyalty and respect of my workers after both of you carelessly did what you could to destroy it. Yes, I feel that you have personally disrespected me, and would like to officially inform both of you that I will no longer tolerate direct personal attacks from either one of you. If you want to correspond with me in a mature, intelligent and direct manner, I invite you to do so.

Furthermore, I will do everything in my power to ensure that any information I give to anyone from here on out is true and accurate to the minutest detail — regardless of the import. I have learned that you cannot assume anything.

For your information, Mr. Publisher, the bridge tenders of Alameda County are required to perform a wide variety of preventative maintenance that requires heavy lifting, hardhats, eye protection, double hearing protection and a full body harness for safety, and requires that they reach many remote areas of the bridges. Not many elderly people I know would be able to do such work, or would be willing to work in this environment with solvents and grease in tight places while upside down in dark and dirty crawl spaces. A little more effort on your part to communicate with me would have made your ridiculous suggestion that bridge tenders could be replaced by retired mariners who would volunteer to do it. We bridge tenders must also be intimately familiar with the normal and emergency electrical drive systems in order to provide flawless service to the boating community during any unforeseen breakdowns.

Thank you for your attention, no matter how this situation may end up.

Dave Kelly
Shop Steward, Local 342

Dave — We're sorry if our inherent journalistic curiosity caused you to get into hot water with your co-workers, because we have no doubt that you're a nice guy, a good worker and truly care about your fellow union members. Nonetheless, most of the your injuries were self-inflicted.

We're also afraid that your current letter doesn't accurately characterize the situation. You say you assumed that your initial email to Latitude would cause the publisher of this magazine to contact you to have an intelligent "conversation." If you really wanted to have a conversation with us, wouldn't you have included your phone number? As it was, you ended your letter with, "We need to call all of our representatives who will be going back to Sacramento . . ." You then listed the telephone numbers of State Senator Lori Hancock, State Senator Ellen Corbett, Assembly Member May Hayashi, Assembly Member Alberto Torrico, and State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny. Frankly, your email came across as very intimidating — support our union with calls to these legislators or the bridges will be closed on you mariners.

As for your having mistakenly used the word "closed" because it wasn't really what you meant to convey, that also strains credulity. After all, this is what you wrote: "Without this money, no traffic signals will be repaired, no roads will be repaired, flood control will be shut down and, most important to local boaters, all of the Oakland/Alameda Estuary draw bridges will permanently be shut down and all personnel laid off. They will not open for vessels at all." How could your letter have been any more threatening to mariners?

To strain credence to the breaking point, you — a bridge tender for 21 years and a shop steward — made the claim that you didn't know how much bridge tenders get paid. We understand that as a bridge tender, debating isn't your field of expertise, but trust us, in a situation like this, you've got to respond by either providing the information we requested or telling us that it's none of our damn business. The problem with the latter option in that we the taxpayers are your bosses, and that we have every right know what we're paying for the services you provide. This is particularly true in these challenging economic times, when cities, counties, states and the federal government are all going bankrupt, and drastic cuts are going to have to be made.

It's an unfortunate fact of the current economic situation, but lots of government jobs have been lost, and lots more are going to have to go. Either that, or government workers — like many workers is the private sector — will have to agree to give up some of their pay to keep as many of their co-workers as possible employed. Why government and union workers aren't as willing to share the pain as employees in the private sector are has always puzzled us.

As a taxpayer who cares deeply about the terrible financial straits all our levels of government are in, and what it means for the future generations who are going to get stuck with all the bills, we're interested in looking everywhere to see where efficiencies could save lots of money. That's why we suggested that it might be possible for retired mariners, in teams of two, to operate the bridges on a volunteer basis. You listed all the hazards that bridge tenders face in keeping the bridges maintained. But as any experienced offshore sailor could tell you, what bridge tenders face in terms of nasty chemicals and hard-to-reach places is nothing — in fact, absolutely nothing — compared to what sailors commonly have to face while making offshore passages. And unlike boats, bridges don't get tossed around by strong winds and high seas when the work has to be done. We're not saying this to slight bridge tenders, but just to make a statement of fact about the mechanical challenges regularly faced by offshore sailors. In any event, we weren't talking about retired mariners doing the maintenance on such bridges, but just the opening and closing of them. After all, isn't this done by pushing a button or pulling a lever? Bridge tenders don't actually have to lift the bridge by hand, do they?

Please understand that our questions and editorial responses are not personal attacks on you. As a member of the Fourth Estate, some of our responsibilities are to be nosy as hell and try to make sure that taxpayers are getting their money's worth.


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 any interesting ports that I should stop at? I have all the large ones plotted, but you may have a few to suggest 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 up 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 well known, as you'll pretty much just be following the coast. You'll get the latest and best info from cruisers headed in the other direction. Because of problems that a number of cruisers have had with officials, the one place you may want to avoid is Puerto Madero, Mexico. Two very interesting places that often get passed over are the Gulf of Fonseca and the islands off the northwest coast of Panama. But if you have only two months, you're not going to have a lot of time.

There are a few exceptions, but don't expect to find cheap berthing anywhere in the Third World. In the case of U.S.-style marinas, expect the berthing to be higher than most places in the States. Once again, cruisers coming the other way can give you the latest on the least expensive berthing and mooring options, as well as the best places to anchor.

Similarly, don't expect to find cheap fuel anywhere — until you get to Venezuela, where it's dirt cheap because they have so much of it.

To our knowledge, there have been very few, if any, recent pirate attacks on recreational boats off either coast of Central America. It's even been very safe ashore as long as you exercise normal precautions. Costa Rica, however, is considered to be one of the bag-snatching capitals of the universe. No matter where you are, carefully guard your backpack and money when around places like bus terminals and when on trains and buses.

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 hit the Pacific Coast of Colombia on your way to Ecuador. The Pacific Coast of Colombia is not only remote, it's home to lots of drug smuggling activity and therefore is largely lawless. Be on your guard if you cruise that coast. Although Eric Baicy and Sherrell Watson of the Seattle-based Pacific Seacraft 31 Sarana were the victims of a violent attack in November of '08 at Punta Pedernales, Ecuador, most of that country, and particularly the Bahia de Caraquez area, is considered to be quite safe.

If, on the other hand, you're talking about the Caribbean coast of Colombia, you shouldn't have any problems when sailing between the San Blas Islands and Cartagena. However, the coast between these islands and Cartagena has been lawless for many years, so don't push your luck. A few years ago there were a number of violent attacks on cruisers when anchored on the coast of Colombia between Cartagena and Cabo Velo. This being the case, you'll want to get the latest updates on that stretch of coast from the very active cruising community at Club Nautico in Cartagena. We assume you're aware that the passage from Cartagena to Cabo Velo is, between mid-December and June, one of the nastiest in the world of cruising. And it's not much better the rest of the year.

Lots of cruisers still go to Venezuela, but violent incidents have been on the rise, particularly in the more dangerous eastern part of the country. Once again, check in with the local coconut telegraph to get the most recent information.

There is no convenient place to put a boat on the hard for hurricane season south of Venezuela, because you'd have to fight the current all the way down to Guyana. Fortunately, there is no reason to go so far south to get out of the hurricane zone. We'd start by looking into marinas in the Puerto La Cruz area of Venezuela or at the Chaguaramus area of Trinidad. While Trinidad is north of Venezuela, it's still south of the hurricane zone, as evidenced by the countless number of boats that spend the summer on the hard there.

Your biggest personal safety concerns should be about criminals ashore, not on the water. Nonetheless, always be vigilant along the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.


I just read LaDonna Bubak's September issue article on China Camp, and agree that it's a great place to spend a weekend. My wife and I have spent a number of thoroughly enjoyable nights there.

However, I think she missed one of the greatest features about anchoring at China Camp. The tide keeps you pointed either east-west or west-east the whole time except for the short periods of slack current. This means that you're either pointed directly into or away from the big wakes created by the ships that transit San Pablo Bay. Combined with minimal side-to-side rolling in the early morning, this gives you a better night's sleep. At least we find this so.

Contrast this to Paradise Cove on the lee side of the Tiburon Peninsula. When anchored there, we always seem to be beam-to the wakes from ferries and large ships. Plus, there are always the fishermen who seem to enjoy racing through the anchorage at 30 knots at 6 a.m., and who seem to get a kick out of watching the indignant crew of anchored boats 'prairie dog' from their companionways to curse them. China Camp has been far more restful for us.

China Camp also makes a great halfway stop for us South Bay boaters who are making our way to or from the Delta.

Edwin & Margaret Hoogerbeets
Cipriana, Bavaria 38


I'm back on Cozumel, Mexico, for about 10 days. I'd recently taken the auto ferry to the mainland and rode my motorcycle down the coast to snorkel in cenotes, which are sinkholes filled with groundwater. The first one I visited was El Eden, a beautiful pool in limestone, with channels and caves connecting it to other pools. The fresh water is incredibly clear, with about 200 feet of visibility. El Eden supposedly is home to eels and turtles, but all I saw were small tropical freshwater fish.

After an hour of snorkeling, I continued south to Dos Ojos cenote, which is the subject of an IMAX movie, Hidden World. I got there too late to dive, so I ventured on to Tulum. I found a hotel for $30/night, and had dinner with two gringos who live there. One, a really nice guy, is a dive master and tour guide. He retired from the British Navy about five years ago and settled in Tulum. The other guy was a 31-year-old vagabond who makes his living singing and playing guitar.

The next day I got up at 7 a.m. and walked a mile to the beach at Tulum. The English dive master gave me directions to the 'local's road' to the beach that passes Tulum Park. As I walked from the road across the beach through the coconut trees, I was startled to hear a soft voice crying, “Save me! Save me!” I cautiously walked toward the sound and saw the hulls of a Hobie 18 resting on poles. The cat had a torn tramp and no mast or rigging. Her hulls weren't in bad shape, but she'd nonetheless been abandoned.

Miss Hobie went on to tell me that about a month before, she'd been sailing in 30 knots of wind when the idiot driving her steered her into an accidental gibe. She couldn't help but pitch-pole, which caused her to turn turtle. She told me that she was towed upside down to the beach, which damaged her mast, and was then stripped and abandoned. I gently tapped her hull for soft spots, and softly rubbed my hand over a repair from a prior accident. I told her that I couldn't save her. She appreciated my concern, and understood that I would've helped if I could have.

You may wonder why a Hobie Cat would cry out to me for help. I've have owned and raced Hobies for 30 years, and I think she could feel my simpatico spirit. I can think of no other explanation.

David Hammer

David — A boat calling out to a sailor is not uncommon. In fact, wood boats, particularly yawls, are known to be among the most loquacious. Indeed, they are known as the sirens of sailboats.

We don't wonder why the cat would cry out to you in help, we wonder why you didn't trade your motorcycle for a Hobie mast, tramp and sails, then set sail for Cuba.


I did the '07 Baja Ha-Ha as crew aboard the San Diego-based Hallberg-Rassy 46 Merry Rowe's. But now I'm looking to get into a catamaran, and wanted to know your thoughts — having done the Baja Bash numerous times — on the upwind abilities of your cat.

Dave Rowe
San Diego

Dave — Let us preface our remarks with the wisdom of Bruno Peyron, who set the around-the-world course record with his 120-ft catamaran Orange II: "When sailing a catamaran, I'd rather reach for 200 miles than sail upwind for 100 miles." As for us, we'd rather reach 400 miles than beat 100 miles in rough conditions.

The deal is, if you're sailing in relatively flat water, such as on San Francisco Bay or Banderas Bay, cats are great fun sailing upwind. They may not point as high as weatherly monohulls, but it's a very fast and pretty smooth point of sail. Sailing upwind in a decent ocean swell is an entirely different story. Not only are lots of cats prone to bombs under their bridgedecks, but if they pick up any speed, they start leaping over the waves and, as a result, slam into the next wave. It can be very nasty.

In the case of Profligate, she has an unusual amount of bridgedeck clearance, so she doesn't suffer from 'bombs'. On the other hand, both bows tend to pound rather violently. It's stupid for us not to slow her down or fall off in such conditions.

When it comes to the Baja Bash, there are two reasons that it's always a delivery under power for Profligate: 1) The coast of Baja is cold as heck during the spring and summer, so who wants to sail upwind day and night in that stuff? 2) What's the point of beating up the boat, the sails and crew by slamming to weather for 750 miles? We'd put as much wear on the expensive main doing one Bash as we would doing 10 Ha-Ha's. By motoring 30° off the wind and slowing down when it gets rough, it's a much more pleasant and less expensive trip.

As for the issue of pointing ability, cruising cats have a lot of great things going for them, but pointing ability isn't one of them. We've had a lot of owners tell us how high their cats can point, but having done dozens of races in Mexico and the Caribbean against different kinds of cats — including many with daggerboards — we've yet to see one that could tack in much less than 105 degrees and maintain good speed. Any decent monohull will outpoint a cruising cat by a significant margin.


I worked in the sea urchin diving business for many years. Urchin divers anchor and re-anchor many times a day when working. Being divers, we were able to check and recheck our ground tackle as we worked the bottom. We also often anchored close to the surf break or rocks, or both, because that’s where the urchins live. As such, we needed to know that our anchor gear was very robust and that it got well set on the bottom.

Knowing this, the only type of swivel I use is the American-made eye-to-eye galvanized steel type with no cotter pins and few moving parts. I attach the swivel with well moused shackles. I like to use big swivels. Because the swivel is one of the weakest components in ground tackle, it seems silly not to. In my opinion, if your bow roller won't accommodate such a swivel, it's not because your swivel is too big, but because your bow roller is too small. After all, if you anchor in rocks when there is a lumpy swell running, the strain on your roller and anchor gear is tremendous. Strange things can happen under such loads, as I can tell you.

It was 1978, and it was my first day on the job as a commercial sea urchin diver. This was back when the sea urchin business was just getting started. I went out with some of the top commercial abalone divers on a custom 30-ft Radon powered by twin Volvo diesels with outdrives, then one of the newest and nicest commercial diveboats.

We left Pillar Point Harbor and dropped the hook near the now famous Mavericks surf spot. The tide was high but falling, and in a couple hours we had bagged a pretty decent load.

As the tide began ebbing rapidly, it became alarmingly clear that we would have to curtail diving and leave our spot ASAP. The surf began to break right behind the transom of the boat. This wasn’t a jumbo size Mavericks wave, because generally speaking we stopped diving when the swells got to be higher than seven feet. But even moderate surf is no place to park a 10,000-lb boat.

With the tide falling fast, we divers boarded quickly and the tender coiled the hoses rapidly. But before we could get under way, a large wave broke almost amidships. Thankfully the anchor was still holding, because we were right against the reef. If we had been any closer to the reef, we would have been on it, and the surf was breaking under the boat.

As the skipper pulled the slack out of the anchor rode by hand, the Radon rose to every wave. The lead diver gently motored the bow directly over the anchor, and momentarily shifted into neutral. As long as the engines didn't quit, we were out of danger. We moved away from the rocky reef and out to sea as the skipper pulled the anchor onboard. I watched intently, as this was all new and exciting to me. I’d never seen a wave break under a boat before and I certainly had never seen a boat anchored so close to rocks and breakers.

But when the anchor hit the foredeck, the skipper and I stared in shocked disbelief! The shackle pin fell from the shackle, leaving the anchor no longer connected to the chain. The anchor lay by itself on the deck, the shackle in another spot, and the pin in yet another. We'd been unbelievably lucky that it had all separated when the anchor hit the deck and not while we three divers were in the water and the boat was backed up to the reef. Had it happened then, it would have been a gnarly mix of breakers, divers, and hundreds of feet of floating hose, with spinning propellers churning up the whole mess as the skipper tried to extricate his pride and joy from the rocks. We were darn lucky that day that we didn’t lose the boat and no one got hurt.

The skipper had risked his $100,000 boat and our safety on the lack of ten cents worth of wire mousing.

It’s 30-plus years later and I’m still seeing boats sporting weak but attractive looking swivels and shackles without mousing. I get the impression that some boaters don’t know what mousing is, why they need it, or how much strain anchoring can put on a swivel.

John Dervin



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