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January 2010

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I was going through some old Latitudes last night, and reread the heartbreaking story from '08 about the loss of Skip Allan's Santa Cruz-based custom Wylie 27 Wildflower. He scuttled her about 250 miles off the coast in very heavy weather on his way back from winning the Singlehanded TransPac.

I know that Skip, who had owned the boat for more than 30 years, and who had sailed her all over the Pacific, received a couple of offers of other boats. Did he ever get another boat?

Chris Waddell
Ad Lib, International 110 #430
Tomales Bay

Chris — We contacted Skip for the answer.

"No, I have not yet replaced Wildflower. She was such a special boat, and such a part of my life, that trying to replace her would be most difficult. I did receive a generous offer of a Hawkfarm in Idaho, but upgrading a 32-year-old lake boat was not in the works practically or financially. Nevertheless, I walk the West Coast docks most weekends surveying the fleet. But I'm not in a hurry to be paying slip rent, as I've had my hands full caretaking two elderly parents suffering from dementia. So, for the present, my yacht is a kayak, and my horizons are lakes, streams and backwater sloughs. The accompanying photo of me was taken at the old Rubicon Point Lighthouse, which is in a forest overlooking Lake Tahoe. Abandoned in 1921, Rubicon Point is — or was — the highest lighthouse in the northern hemisphere."


I loved your December issue Sightings piece about using the iPhone as a navigational aid. I'm among those few Luddites remaining who have not yet bought in to the iPhone concept, but am slowly getting there. Your article has given me an additional push. We're taking our boat Princess, a Sabre 402, to Alaska for the '10 season, and the concept appeals to me — especially the AIS target display feature you mentioned in the article. I have a Garmin GPS chartplotter, but it doesn't have the AIS feature.

The prices for the iPhone navigation charts and programs seem ridiculously cheap. Where do you recommend purchasing the iPhone with the navigational features you describe? I doubt that places like Best Buy understand the navigational nuances of these devices.

Bruce Munro
Princess, Sabre 402
San Francisco Bay

Bruce — You might be a little further behind the curve than you realize, but you'll be impressed. When you buy the iPhone at an Apple store or Best Buy, you put a credit card number on file with Apple and set up a password in order to buy music and apps. When you want to put an app or some music or a video on your iPhone, you simple go to the 'App Store' icon on your iPhone, and select what you want. If the app or music is free, you just hit 'Install' and, as long as you have a WiFi or 3G connection, it immediately downloads. If an app costs money — the Navionics programs are $9.99 for each huge area — you click 'Install' and the cost is automatically put on your credit card and a receipt is emailed to you. It's remarkably quick, easy and seamless, so there is none of that rubbish about going to a store to buy an app. Apps take anywhere from a few seconds to about 10 minutes to download, and it can be done while eating at a restaurant, driving your car or sleeping — as long as you have an internet connection.

The Chronicle did a piece on iPhone navigation apps recently and mentioned that Philippe Kahn used an iPhone to help him navigate in last year's race to Hawaii. One reader responded that sure, it was great for Kahn, a guy who can afford to pay for being connected to the internet all the way across the ocean. He missed the point. The latest iPhones have an internal GPS, and the Navionics charts are stored in the phone itself, so you don't need an internet connection to use the navigation programs. It's pretty slick.

If you haven't used an iPhone, you will be astonished by all it can do using the various apps. But also be aware that the small screen means that it does have some visual limitations. That being the case, unless we were on an extreme budget, we would not carry it as our only navigation aid.

Have fun in Alaska — don't forget to email some photos.


Isn't it time that we did something about the shoddy marine forecasts for San Francisco Bay? For instance, on the afternoon of November 28, the forecast called for 15 knots dropping to 12 knots. It actually blew 44 knots. It’s not as if this surprised anyone who knows anything about weather systems. For example, the local media and had predicted a big blow.

I wouldn’t be complaining but for the fact that my class, the Finns, had a regatta that weekend on the Berkeley Circle. One competitor based his decision to sail from Alameda to Berkeley on the basis of the benign and completely misleading marine forecast. He didn’t hit the worst of it until he was north of the Bay Bridge, by which time it was a toss-up whether he should continue on or sail back home. It’s downright dangerous in a singlehanded dinghy when it's blowing Force 8 and nobody else is around. Three other Finns set out to the course from Belvedere. One skipper actually made it to the Berkeley Marina, while two fetched up on Treasure Island for the night.

I’m curious how many of your readers’ safety has been impaired by negligent marine forecasts?

Iain Woolward
Redwood City

Iain — It would be interesting to know why the National Weather Service's forecast was apparently so different from that given by media outlets. After all, everybody relies on the same raw data. We find it hard to believe that even different computer models would come up with such differing forecasts.


Ya'll asked if the weather forecasts should be better? Hell, yes! And not just on the West Coast either. Three weeks ago, I left Reedville, Virginia, aboard my Coronado 30. I did this because four days earlier the NWS marine report said there would be 1- to 3-ft seas, building to 2-3 feet later that evening. The winds were to be 5-10 knots, building to 10-15 knots that night.

But when I got out on Chesapeake Bay, the wind was 20-25 knots and the steep seas were four feet and building on my port quarter. I lost my engine, then my mainsail got stuck halfway up the mast because a broken car twisted in the track. Unable to let the tiller go to get to the mast, I was set on my beam ends twice before I managed to find a place to drop the hook. For the next three days I rode out a Nor'easter on the Chesapeake. I did gain a lot of faith in 35-lb CQR, which didn't drag in winds of 35-45 mph.

So yes, forecasts need to improve because they are more than just an inconvenience, they are dern right life-threatening!

Bill Leggett
Pretty Lucky, Coronado 30
Reedville, VA

Bill — Relying on a four-day old marine forecast is like eating sashimi that's been sitting in a display case for four days — it should be avoided at all costs. After three days and sometimes even two, the accuracy of weather forecasts rapidly deteriorates.


I fully concur with Iain Woolward's opinion that National Weather Service forecasts are not only highly inaccurate, but dangerous to anyone who needs accurate forecasting for planning purposes. Based on my experience, no matter how powerful the approaching system may be, the forecast is always for light winds — even just a day in advance of the forecast period.

As I recall, the NWS missed a nearly identical situation November 28 last year, when a Norther that hadn't been forecast resulted in high winds. As a result, boatowners found themselves in unexpected emergencies. Yet wind forecasting is the best understood and forecastable weather phenomenon. It should be accurately disseminated at least 24 hours ahead of the forecast period.

I understand that the federal government, in its drive to automate weather forecasting, relies heavily on two forecasting computer models that are obviously inadequate for the job. This, coupled with the closing of many local meteorological offices, and the reduction of experienced staff meteorologists, means that there is no oversight to catch these erroneous forecasts.

Winds for storms approaching the San Francisco Bay Area are almost always underestimated days before the system's arrival. Cold fronts typically advance at around 25 knots, yet the forecasts almost always predict 5-15 knots for the event. Richardson Bay and Pt. Blunt routinely experience 40-60 knots during these same storms.

Computer models alone are not the answer. We need more experienced meteorologists to backstop this imperfect automation. Could the couple lost while fishing near Bodega Bay recently and the sailor lost from Sunyata near Half Moon Bay been saved by more accurate forecasting?

Steve Knight
Wandering Star, Islander 37
San Francisco

Steve — We're surprised that you and so many other readers seem to think that forecasts can be so easily be improved, as if it were a matter of just buying more computers or getting lazy-ass meteorologists off their duffs. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe there are technical limitations? If getting technical progress were as simple as wishing for it, we'd all be driving cars that got 100 mph from a drop of saltwater, cancer would be a thing of the past, and we'd be travelling the world via teleportation. We'll bet you a quarter that the computers and modeling programs needed for the kind of accurate forecasts you want don't exist yet — and won't anytime soon.

We don't think the closing of meteorological offices has much to do with the problems of inaccurate weather forecasts. After all, everybody has access to all the raw weather data, and there are countless free weather sites on the internet where professional and amateur forecasters have gone over what the NWS computers have put out. The truth is that, in general, weather forecasting is far superior to what it was only five years ago.

Perhaps the thing the NWS does worst is fail to inform the public of how inaccurate their forecasts can be and why. And maybe there should be more warnings about the dangers of being off the coast of Northern California in the winter. Unless you have to be out there, or unless the conditions are ideal, we think pleasure sailors and fishermen are better off staying inside the Bay. We don't even need to refer to hard data to know that the rate of mariner deaths outside the Gate soars during the winter months. Please, please, please be careful out there!


I can’t really say that my safety has been impaired by bad weather forecasts. However, that's largely because the marine forecasts have so frequently proved to be faulty that I try always to sail with a Plan B if conditions are different than expected. This is pretty easy to do inside the Bay, but not outside the Gate.

I’ve written to the local television stations requesting that they expand their weather coverage to marine conditions on a more regular basis. But they don't seem to be interested. That seems odd given that we live in one of the world's prime sailing areas.

Greg Thornton
Refuge, Catalina 36
San Francisco Bay

Greg — Having a Plan B — and maybe a Plan C — is always wise, especially in the winter.


I always use a few sites to verify weather conditions and forecasts. NOAA always seems to be a little conservative, as I usually find that conditions are more gentle than they forecast.

Using the regular sources of weather information, I was aware of all the big blows that hit last year. I have never been surprised by bad conditions.

Gary Scheier
Serenisea II, Hunter 37
San Rafael


No offense to my friend and fellow Finn sailor Iain Woolward, but my safety on the water has never been impaired by anything other than my own poor judgment or lack of ability. I think Iain needs to re-read Rule 4: "The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone." At the risk of sounding harsh, blaming one's situation on a bad weather forecast is shirking your responsibility as the skipper.

Real-time weather information for San Francisco Bay is readily available online through sources such as the National Buoy Data Center (,,, Real Time S.F. Bay Wind Patterns (, and a few yacht club websites. Heck, making a couple of phone calls or sending a couple of emails can also get you the information you need. As a last resort, I’ll even take a short drive to check things out before I launch my Finn in conditions exceeding my ability — and it doesn’t take much to do that. If you’re out by yourself, it might be prudent to stuff a handheld VHF and a pair of flares into the flotation tanks.

Lastly, using the term "negligence" in regard to weather forecasts is probably ill-advised, given that it is a legal term connoting blame, and therefore damages to an injured party. I dare say that it would be nigh on impossible to prove negligence against a weather forecaster.

Nick Salvador
Finn, USA 1109

Nick — This is America, where every victim of misfortune/poor judgment usually tries to find somebody — hopefully backed by the taxpayer money — to pay big damages. We quote an Associated Press story out of Washington, D.C.: "A judge's ruling that the National Weather Service must pay the families of men lost in a storm it didn't predict has given some meteorologists the chills. The award of $1.25 million to the families of three lobstermen in Boston last week was the first ruling against the weather service in the memory of many meteorologists."

Granted, this story was from the '80s and the judgment may have been overturned on appeal, but never say never when it comes to other people trying to put the blame on somebody else.


With regard to the November 30 'Lectronic item On The Tasman Sea, in which it was reported that German singlehander Bernt Lüchtenborg had to be rescued by the 700-ft Regent Seven Seas Mariner during what had been his attempt to do a twice-around non-stop circumnavigation, I'm thinking that there might be more or less to the story than was reported.

To me, it seemed like an advertisement for the German singlehander and the cruise ship. Plus, the photo with the article didn't match the ocean or sea state that was described. Also, what was your reporter doing that allowed her to be on the bridge listening to privileged information?

I've sailed the Tasman, and have seen classic water-skiing conditions. I've also seen her when it was blowing 70 knots. The weather I saw depicted by the photograph was not catastrophic, instead it was weather sailors long for when sailing from Point A to Point B.

Robbin Bryson
Robbin's Nest, Santana "21"

Robbin — Let us answer your questions in reverse order, as it may make more sense. First, Kevin LaGraff and Susan Atkins of Sausalito, our 'reporters', are friends of many years from a swim club. The last time they wrote was after a similar incident off the Cape of Good Hope. For years they've worked in the travel industry in some capacity that allows them to spend much of the year on cruise ships. They are the kind of responsible and reliable people — Kevin graduated from the Naval Academy — who are very good at what they do.

It doesn't surprise us that Susan was allowed on the bridge, as most cruise lines find it valuable to share the mystique of the bridge with certain guests. What "privileged information" are you referring to? It's not as if there was any attorney-client or doctor-patient relationship. Susan apparently just struck up a conversation with Lüchtenborg after he was rescued. Why not?

As anyone who has taken photographs of rough weather can tell you, the foreshortening effect of the lens makes the conditions look only half as bad as they really are. We're sure Lüchtenborg would not have called for help had his rudder not been damaged beyond repair, and that neither he nor the cruise line was fishing for any publicity. We're certain that it was a straightforward and legitimate story.


I'm writing mostly in reply to Bill Murphy, who wrote asking what outboard to use to power his Newport 27. I’ve owned seven different outboard-powered sailboats from 21 to 28 feet. I currently have an Excalibur 26 that is powered by a Johnson Sailstar two-cycle, 8-hp with an extra-long shaft. Here is my advice:

1) I have seen a number of Newport 27s that are powered by outboards, so I know it will work. But getting the outboard bracket positioned just right is crucial. It needs to be down far enough to keep the shaft in the water, but not so far down that it’s impossible to access without hanging off your boat by your ankles.

2) Many boatowners buy more engine than they need. For a Newport 27, I'd go with an 8-hp Honda — with the longest shaft they make.

3) If you're going to keep your fuel can belowdecks, make sure you have adequate ventilation so fumes don’t accumulate.

4) The extra weight and cost of a four-cycle outboard are worth the tradeoff in terms of better mileage and a better environment.

5) If you are going to be taking the motor off a lot, invest in a lifting harness made from nylon webbing.

In my opinion, the tradeoffs involved with an outboard-powered sailboat are generally worth it. For one thing, the cost of a new or nearly new outboard, plus a good bracket, is less than half the cost of a rebuilt Atomic 4 gas engine. But make no mistake, there is definitely a tradeoff involved. While you get lower initial cost and lower maintenance costs, you definitely give up a considerable amount of convenience and efficiency in the process. When it's windy and choppy, and you have to lower the outboard and start it, you might wish you'd spent the money to have your inboard engine rebuilt.

Alan F. Shirek
Tao, Excalibur 26
Santa Barbara


Regarding Bill Murphy's seeking advice on the proper outboard for his Newport 27, when my Eupsychia was engineless — as she was for much of last year’s cruise in Mexico — and the wind failed us, Heather and I would tie my outboard-powered dinghy alongside. Pushed by the dinghy powered by an 8-hp outboard, my 15,000-lb Cal 36 would easily do five knots around the harbor. Just about any boat will move right along powered by a small engine — until the wind is on the nose or it gets choppy. In such conditions not even Eupsychia's new 20-hp diesel is adequate.

P.S. The Banderas Bay Blast was really great. Thanks for the picture of Eupsychia in the 'Lectronic feature, as my family appreciates your efforts to keep them informed of my otherwise unknown life.

David Addleman
Eupsychia, Cal 36

Readers — Feeling the need for more speed than provided by the Cal 36 that has been in the family for something like 40 years, David is currently in Malaysia trying to close a deal on a cruising version of a Santa Cruz 50. An ultralight, it will power very nicely.


Thanks for all your work in pulling off the '09 Ha-Ha. But we have a paperwork snafu. We arrived on November 5, and like a lot of people, paid to have Charters de Los Cabos do our paperwork. A delivery captain is now bringing the boat back to California, and he's looking for a Temporary Import Permit. We didn't get one back from Charters de Los Cabos. But I have an embarrassing question. Do we need this permit if we're coming right home?

By the way, it was our first Ha-Ha and we had a great time. We were impressed by your organization and effort. I also admire your patience in dealing with questions. We look forward to seeing you next year.

Jim Schmid
Formula Won, Beneteau 473
San Diego

James — It's a good question, and the answer to whether you need a TIP or not is that it depends on what you'll be doing with your boat. Technically, you're supposed get a TIP at your first port of entry. But that's not always possible because you have to pay the $50 fee for a 10-year permit to a banjercito — which is a military bank — and not all port of entries have banjercitos.

Temporary Import Permits were created about 15 years ago because, prior to that, there was no legal way for the owner of a foreign boat to leave Mexico without taking his boat with him. So if you were in Puerto Vallarta with your boat and wanted to return to California for your kid's birthday, the only legal way to do it was to take your boat with you. Everybody returned home without their boats anyway, and officials never did anything about it. But ultimately the government decided to create a mechanism — Temporary Import Permits — to allow boat owners to legally leave their boats in Mexico while they returned home. A TIP basically makes a marina responsible for your boat while you are gone. That's why most marinas will insist on seeing your Temporary Import Permit when you check in.

If, as in your case, a person brought his boat down to Cabo and immediately returned to the States, there is no need to get a TIP. Indeed, if you're never going to stay in a marina, you can probably get away without one also. But if you're in Mexico for more than a few months, things could get sticky. We think getting a TIP is $50 well spent.


When I wrote you a month ago with my "embarrassing question" — did we need to get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) if we had our boat delivered back to California right after the Ha-Ha? — I promised you a summary of the answers we received on the question:

1) From our delivery captain: Yes, our boat needed one.

2) Source #1 at Charters de los Cabos, where most Ha-Ha boats checked into Mexico: You have to go to La Paz to get a TIP.

3) Source #2 at Charters de los Cabos: You don’t need one if you are staying in Mexico less than two months.

4) The Mexican Customs office: You need to get a TIP. If your boat is stopped and you don't have one, your boat could be impounded.

5) The Marina Agency in Ensenada: You don’t need one if you’re just going back to the States.

6) From the internet: You can get a TIP over the internet, but you have to get it signed at a government office in Mexico.

7) From an experienced skipper: "I've never gotten a TIP for a boat I was on, and have never been asked to produce one — except at U.S. Customs. I told them I didn't have one, and there was no problem."

8) From another source: You don’t need one unless you stop in a city that has a banjercito that issues them.

9) We tried to talk with the Mexican Consulate about the subject, but it was closed on U.S. Veterans Day for reasons that I didn’t bother to pursue.

Other than that, the rules were clear.

When we received Latitude's advice on the subject — don't bother getting a TIP if our boat was going right back to the States — we followed it. Formula Won motored back to the United States without incident.

Jim Schmid
Formula Won, Beneteau 473
San Diego

Jim — We're glad our advice worked out for you. Had you been planning to keep your boat in Mexico for more than a few months, or put her in a marina, we would have certainly recommended getting a TIP.

But just for the record, Mexico is doing a much better job of keeping track of things than they used to. J.R. — a great guy, sailor, and longtime member of the Vallarta YC — recently told us that he was unable to bring a motorhome into Mexico last year. The problem was that their records showed that he'd already brought in the one vehicle he was allowed about eight years before. J.R. was stunned that they'd been able to keep track and call up the record, and so were we. The message is that boat owners aren't going to be able to play quite as fast and loose with the regulations as in the past.


The seven-minute sinking of J World in the Ha-Ha brings to mind the grossly inadequate dewatering capabilities of most production boats. The usual equipment is a low-volume electrical pump and a slightly higher-volume hand pump.

The intake of water after losing a rudder and its shaft — assuming that's what happened to J World — or losing virtually any rubber hose fitting on such boats, cannot be managed by the factory-equipped pumps. The boat will sink in time. In order to enter any offshore event, I think boats should be required to have a real dewatering system so that repairs can be made to save the boat.

For example, in addition to two high-capacity manual pumps and one high-capacity electrical pump, we also have configured our two Lavac heads — which use Whale-brand manual pumps — to source water from the bilge rather than the ocean should the situation ever get that serious. Of course, we would than need four different people to pump, but that might be better than four people having to get into a liferafts.

It's time that production sailboat builders be required to supply pumps that can keep up with a 1.5 to 2-inch hole in their boats.

Scott Brear
Samantha, Nauticat 38
San Francisco

Scott — The report that it took only seven minutes for J World to sink was the result of an early misunderstanding between Capt. Eugenie Russell and Wayne Zittel, the owner of the boat. The boat actually took 45 minutes to sink.

Your understanding of the damage to the boat is also incorrect. The rudder and rudder shaft were driven up and aft, creating something like an 8-inch by 14-inch hole in the very aft bottom and transom of the boat. While the captain and crew battled to limit the inflow of water by plugging the hole the best they could, and by raising the transom as high and as often as possible, we doubt that your four pumps would have bought them much more time. A boat with that big a hole in those kinds of conditions wasn't going to last long.

All boats have to be built to certain Coast Guard standards. If the Coast Guard thought more or larger pumps would be helpful, we can only assume that they would require them. After all, the cost would be slight compared to the overall cost of the boat.

Major boat leaks are usually caused by thru-hull hoses breaking or coming off ,and problems with prop shafts. The bilge pumps on most boats provide enough time to find the source of the leak and stop it. But when you're talking about leaks caused by relatively large holes in a boat's hull, then even the biggest engine-driven bilge pumps probably wouldn't be up to the job.

By way, if you're particularly concerned about your ability to dewater your boat in an emergency, you might want to modify the raw water intake on your engine. If the need arose, you could then use your main engine as a bilge pump, sucking water out of the bilge rather than the ocean. It would give one of the people working your Lavac pumps a chance to make more calls on the radio and get the liferaft ready. But you have to make sure that your engine room bilge is clean and that you have a good strainer on the intake hose.


After reading about J World's unfortunate encounter with a whale, I did some research on Google to find ways to keep them clear of boats. It seems the most popular way is to bang two partially submerged 2-inch steel pipes together. This was the method used to 'herd' whales out of the Delta. Maybe a reader can devise a system that makes some noise when whales are spotted, or while cruising in an area where whales are likely to be present. It appears that there have been more problems between sailboats and whales than powerboats and whales. Is it because of the engine noise?

I want to thank you and your staff once again for producing such a great publication. As I recall, a couple of years ago the publisher was going to retire or at least semi-retire and let somebody else take the reins. I guess things changed. But now that I'm looking to semi-retire, I wonder how you're able to go cruising and still be able to work. It sure sounds nice!

Dave Biron
Big Break Marina
The Delta

Dave — If we banged two partially-submerged pipes together every time we'd been in the vicinity of whales in the last six months, our biceps would be bigger than a weightlifter's thighs and our crew wouldn't have gotten much sleep. We're not sure if engine noise is enough to keep whales away, as even big ships have T-boned whales. But it certainly would be great for sailors — and whales — if somebody could come up with an effective 'deer whistle' for the big boys down under.

Thanks for the kind words about Latitude. Our attempt to semi-retire was a resounding failure after just two weeks — not an unusual outcome for a first attempt. We did schedule an appointment with a therapist who specializes in treating workaholics but were too busy to keep the appointment. Apparently that's also not uncommon.

Thanks to relatively high speed internet access being much more prevalent, and the incredible efficiencies given away by the gods at Google, we've been able to work at as much as 70% efficiency from different parts of the sailing world. That said, the magazine still requires a monumental amount of work each month — as all our ex-wives and girlfriends will be more than happy to tell you — and Third World internet problems can be infuriating beyond belief.

As for your situation, some jobs naturally lend themselves more than others to being done over the internet. Writing, day-trading, consulting, phone sex and similar professions aren't impossible if you've got phone and internet connections. On the other hand, if you're a chef, cosmetologist, surgeon or crack dealer, you have to be physically present at your job. We wish you the best of luck in trying to semi-retire — but god help you if you don't have something to replace work to keep your mind busy and your desires alive.

By the way, this year's cruising class has been giving Telcel's modem high marks for internet speed, access and reasonable cost. The hassle of trying to find decent WiFi or an internet cafe is history. The downside is that high-speed internet access can be like crack for some people, so cruisers have to be very careful with their priorities.


Thanks for running my haiku in the December Changes. But I think you took advantage of the short form I was forced to use by your website, and responded at length to an argument I didn't have the space to make. In essence, you said Americans' access to the Mexican health care system amounts to de facto reciprocation for illegal aliens' use of the United States health care system. And besides, you argued, we're all global citizens, free to pick and choose among the social welfare programs offered by the various governments of the world.

Again, I say, WTF?

If enough Americans flock to Mexico to exploit its health care system as you suggest, rising demand and deeper pockets will inevitably result in higher prices. That might be mildly unfortunate for those Americans arriving late to the fiesta, but it would be catastrophic for many Mexicans who could no longer afford their country's 'affordable' heath care. Rather than your encouraging this scenario, I encourage you to use your considerable editorial clout to push for reform of the system in the United States. If, as you say, our government has devolved into complete incompetency, whose fault is that? Certainly not indigent Mexicans'!

By the way, you can see related effects in places such as Guatemala, where foreign money has made real estate so expensive that most Guatemalans can't afford to own desirable property in their own country.

Something's really screwy in the world when a knuckle-dragging Texan like me is apparently more concerned about the effects of globalization on the welfare of indigenous people than you more highly-evolved folks on the Left Coast.

B.L. Sachs
Dripping Springs, Texas

B.L. — Sorry if we seem to have hijacked your letter. You're right, if enough Americans exploited Mexico's social security health care network, it would probably result in rising demand. But we don't think it would ever get to that point. Even if it did, we think it would result in more doctors being trained and practicing in Mexico. Better yet, if enough Americans went to Mexico to get MRIs at $300 a crack rather than five times that in the States, wouldn't that put a powerful downward pressure on the costs of MRIs in the States? Furthermore, Mexico badly needs jobs and foreign income. If they can provide visiting and ex-pat Americans with fine health care at a huge discount to what's available in the States, why wouldn't that be good for Mexico, the patients and relieving the stress on the American medical system? When businesses compete, the customer wins. When health care systems have to compete, we think the patients win.

And remember, Americans seeking excellent but reasonably-priced health care don't have to tap into the Mexican social security system's health care plan. They can either pay for care out-of-pocket or by purchasing Mexican health insurance — which is inexpensive because the cost of medical care in Mexico is so inexpensive.

For those looking for factual costs and experiences on paying out-of-pocket annual health care check-ups, we have an example from a late middle-aged woman and late middle-aged man.

"I got a mammary ultrasound and a mammogram. A female assistant confirmed the results right then. I got kidney, liver, stomach, and pelvic region ultrasounds. I could see the ultrasound on the screen. I got a Papanicolaou smear test by a female assistant. My female doctor — I get the same one every year so I can have consistency — confirmed the results of all the tests right then and there. She was very thorough, too. The pap smear test came back in a couple of days. I received a written confirmation of all my tests. The total cost in April of '09 was 1,500 pesos — or about $120 U.S. During one check-up, something was detected on my right kidney, so I was referred to a specialist. I had to wait one day to see him, but only because I had to take a test that required fasting first. I underwent a comprehensive test with frequent x-rays to monitor the progress of whatever they were running through my system. It took several hours. The actual process cost 1,800 pesos or $144. The doctor's fee for before and after consultations was 400 pesos, or about $32. I was also referred to a gynecologist. Her fee for two consultations, plus a bone density test, was 900 pesos or about $72.

"My husband's check-up consisted of a prostate blood test, ultrasound tests for his liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas and prostate, plus a chest x-ray, and a consultation with a urologist. It came to 1,600 pesos or $128. He paid an extra 380 pesos or $30 for a cholesterol test.

"We both felt well cared for, and liked the knowledge and networking of referrals, as well as the speed and ease of getting appointments. And even though we come from a country with nationalized health care, we found the costs to be very reasonable.

"By the way, when we arrived in Mexico nearly 10 years ago, we signed up for the IMSS health plan, which is the one that is part of Mexico's social security system. It cost something like $300 a year for the two of us. But we found it to be just like our system back in Britain — underfunded, too many patients, not enough doctors, inadequate facilities and no preventative medicine. When our year was up, we did not renew with IMSS. A friend on that plan had a heart attack. He was taken by truck to the nearest clinic. They didn't have the necessary equipment to treat him, so he had to be taken by ambulance to Vallarta. First the ambulance had a flat tire, which had to be changed. Then they had to stop off for gas — which the patient had to pay for. But he did survive. Others have raved about the IMSS system, but based on our experience nearly a decade ago, and how much we can get for so little when paying out of our own pockets, we can't recommend it."

Gee, a woman's thorough annual check-up for $130, and a man's for $150. There couldn't be a much stronger argument for a medical tourism visit to Mexico, could there?

But to continue on, B.L., how would you propose that one push for "true health care reform" in the United States? All elections in California have been foregone gerrymandered conclusions for decades, courtesy of the two major parties, which are either the bitches of big business or the bitches of unions and trial lawyers. As for our ensconced Senator Boxer, she headed the spineless Senate Ethics (oxymoron!) Committee that couldn't see fit to kick Illinois Senator Roland Burris out of the club despite the fact he relentlessly misled his fellow Democratic Senators and played them like trout in order to get his seat. On the House side, we've got House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who says a year hasn't been long enough for a House Ethics Committee to send head tax legislation honcho — and head tax evasion specialist — Congressman Charles Rangel to the prison in which he belongs. Mind you, this isn't a Democratic or Republic issue — both Oakland Mayor (and Democrat) Ron Dellums and the Republican Governator have tax issues, too — but rather is because the whole country has been sliced and diced up into special interest groups for the perpetual reelection of what walks, talks and quacks like racketeers. If you're a member of one of the special interest groups, the system works pretty well for you. But if you're like the majority of Americans, you get screwed. And as we've said before, we're not protesting on behalf of ourselves, but for the majority of people who don't have a place at the trough and, even more, for future generations who are going to get stuck with all the bills for the malfeasance.

The reason indigenous Guatemalans can't afford desirable land is because of crap government, not foreign money. You can have all the money in the world, but you can't buy real estate in Australia unless you live there. You can have all the money in the world, but you can buy real estate only in one isolated section of St. Kitts. Good and honest governments can simultaneously prompt much needed foreign investment while preventing their people from having their resources plundered. As St. Bono has said, the world needs more, not less globalization, as it's precisely what has brought hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty in the last decade. Alas, such globalization has to be administered by politicians and officials who aren't corrupt, and god knows where they're to be found.


While I agree that the apparent loss of singlehanded sailor Hubert Marcoux between Canada and Bermuda aboard the 45-ft Mon Pays was "preventable," I thought the 'tsk-tsk' tone of your report was unfortunate. Marcoux may well have been an experienced sailor simply living his life and sailing life the way he needed to.

Before ascending the high road, recall this popular Latitude 38 'Wisdom' snippet: "Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about."

I've done several passages on well-found yachts. At age 35, for example, I was crew on a 29-footer that we doublehanded from Sri Lanka to Thailand. The only radio we had was a VHF, the diesel was dodgy, and we didn't have a liferaft. There were moments I wondered about that choice, but I have to say, my world became and remains brighter and more alive for the experience.

Now, at age 50 and being the father of a young daughter, I would voyage only with 'proper' safety gear. But alone and in my grayer years, I may just play it a bit more loose again. It's my choice. Beats fading away. As it may have been for Marcoux.

Was his a preventable loss? Likely. Regrettable or worthy of disapproval? Not necessarily ours to say.

Erik Pedersen
Mental Floss, Aquarius 21
Santa Cruz

Erik — If we came across with a disapproving tone in writing about Marcoux, it was unintentional and we apologize. But do we find Marcoux's loss regrettable? Absolutely. If you were to be lost at sea 'in your grayer years' because you didn't invest in a way to receive weather while offshore, we think your daughter would find it regrettable, too.


We were saddened to read of the presumed loss of Canadian singlehander Hubert Marcoux and his yacht Mon Pays. We had only recently learned of the fascinating and adventurous life of this enterprising man, as we just finished Around the World in 18 Years, his autobiography.

As a novice sailor, Marcoux extensively sailed his first yacht, a 32-ft Canadian design named Jonathan, often by himself. While sailing alone one night, he fell asleep, and Jonathan — named after Jonathan Livingston Seagull — fetched up on a reef at Pohnpei, FSM. That just happens to be where we're anchored now. In any event, the uninjured Marcoux was forced to leave Jonathan to the mercy of the sea and reef. Nonetheless, he went on to build and sail Mon Pays.

Ironically, some time later, a couple managed to free Jonathan from the reef, patch her up, and sail her 300 miles east to Kosrae, FSM. Unable to complete all of the repairs that Jonathan needed, the owners sold her to Mark Stephens in Kosrae. Mark, an American, is the co-owner and manager of the charming Pacific Treelodge Resort in Lelu, Kosrae. With his effervescent Italian wife Maria, Mark is a great resource for cruisers. Yachties are also welcome to join the variety of activities, some free, at his riverside resort.

Jonathan currently resides on jackstands on the front lawn of Pacific Treelodge while Mark works on a complete refit. It was Mark who loaned us Hubert Marcoux's book, personally inscribed to Mark by its author. We couldn't put Marcoux's book down, and highly recommend it as a great read and an entertaining glimpse into the life and adventures of a remarkable man.

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


What is the straight scoop on the KKMI takeover of Anderson's Boat Yard in Sausalito? I first heard about it nine months ago. Was it a hostile takeover or what? I later heard rumors that condos were going to be built on the site. We need some investigative reporting to clarify the situation.

Jim Cornelius

Jim — As we've reported before, the long lease Anderson's had from Clipper Yacht Harbor expired, and KKMI made the best bid for the new lease. While Ron Anderson may have preferred to stay on the site, there was no "hostile takeover." And no, condos were never going to be built on the site. These days, more than ever, you have to consider the source of your news.

The new yard will not open immediately as various improvements have to be made to get all the permits and for the KKMI folks to get things set up as they like them. But rest assured, you'll know when they start hauling.


Sorry to bother you about such a mundane issue, but could you direct me to a list of all the boats that participated in the '08 Ha-Ha? The other day I met a couple who mentioned they'd been on the rally with us, but now I can't recall the name of their boat. But if I saw it, I'm sure I would recognize it. Thanks for your help — and congrats on yet another great rally. Our only regret is that we've been in Sausalito this season!

Scott Brear
San Francisco

Scott — Your question is no bother at all. In fact, we think a number of people might be interested in knowing that everyone who has ever signed up for a Ha-Ha can be found by going to, clicking on 'Alumni Lists' and choosing the year they're looking for. If, on the other hand, you know only the boat or person's name, enter it in the Google search box at the bottom of the home page. In a fraction of a second, you'll get the answer you're looking for. It's how we reminded ourselves that you did the '08 Ha-Ha aboard your San Francisco-based Nauticat 38 Samantha.


I think an error was made in the computation of fuel consumption in last month's Max Ebb article.

If the fuel consumption is .05 gallons per horsepower hour — something that I'm not sure of — it is per horsepower hour actually used, not per rated maximum horsepower. For instance, my Cal 39 has a 48-horsepower diesel. Forty-eight horsepower times .05 gallons per horsepower hour equals 2.4 gallons per hour. Maybe that is my fuel consumption rate when using full throttle to make an emergency stop or to quickly start — and before the prop starts cavitating. But even then I doubt that my engine really consumes 2.4 gallons per hour. My actual measured fuel consumption at cruising speed is between .6 and .7 gallons per hour. So the calculation run in the article should be made with the actual developed horsepower during the steady run, not the rated horsepower. As a naval architect student Lee Helm should understand that.

Sam Crabtree
Catch The Wind, Cal 39

Sam — Since we're writers, not naval architects, we asked Lee for her response:

"For sure, your boat needs only, like, a small fraction of the installed hp for motoring in good weather. That's how sailboat auxiliaries are sized — the reserve power is there to move you into strong headwinds and waves, which have a severe effect on small sailboats. Engines on ferries and ships are sized to run much closer to rated continuous power.

"Also, that 48 hp is probably a 'recreational' rating. A similar engine would have a considerably lower power rating for commercial service.

"All that aside, we now have some actual measured fuel consumption data for the new 149-passenger boats, presented at a recent meeting of our local Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. Running at a slightly reduced speed, they are consuming 3.7 gallons per mile. At an average passenger load of 30%, that's, like, 12.08 seat-miles per gallon of diesel.

"And, to be really rigorous, if we're comparing seat-miles per gallon to automotive mpg, we also have to take into account the energy content of diesel fuel vs gasoline (130,500 btu/lb for diesel vs 115,000 btu/lb for gasoline). The passenger-miles per gallon of gasoline having equivalent energy works out to 10.64.

"This is, like, a little better than the 9.1 mpg estimate based on installed power and engine data, but they are also running the ferries a little slower than design speed.

"You still have a lower carbon footprint if you drive your own SUV across the bridge. It's a no-brainer. You can easily do five times better with a mid-sized car in the HOV lane."


A reader asked for suggestions on launching a dinghy from a small boat. I have a Catalina 30 and I carry a 10-ft Zodiac 'Zoom' model that just fits on the foredeck. The wooden transom is all the way back against the mast and the bow is just inside the lifelines.

If I'm going to be sailing a long distance before using the dinghy, I keep it rolled up and in a bag belowdecks until I want to use it. Then I unroll it on the foredeck and insert the folding plywood bottom. Yeah, it's old and low-tech. I use a foot pump to inflate it, and then I attach a bridle to it. The bridle consists of three lines attached to a stainless steel ring at one end. The other ends of these lines are attached with spring-loaded snaps to the two rings on the bow that are normally used to attach a painter, and to an eye on the wooden transom. The lengths of these three lines are adjusted to keep the dinghy horizontal when it's lifted by a line attached to the stainless ring. I lift the dinghy using a block & tackle that is normally used in the Lifesling MOB system. This tackle provides enough purchase to lift my dinghy without the use of any winches. I'm 70 years old and of relatively small build, so if I can lift it by hand with the block & tackle, almost anybody can.

I then attach one end of the Lifesling tackle to my spinnaker halyard, and the other end to the stainless ring on the bridle. I pull the spinnaker halyard up far enough that the dinghy will clear the lifelines when the tackle is pulled to its maximum extent. I lift the dinghy over the lifelines using the tackle, then push it over the side, then slide it down the side of the boat and into the water.

It's amazingly easy to reverse this process to recover the dinghy. This will give you practice hauling an MOB aboard — although you'll need a winch to get enough lifting force for a human body,

I have occasionally attached the outboard motor before lowering the dinghy into the water, but I prefer to put the outboard on at the stern after the dinghy is in the water. That way I don't have to carry the outboard forward to attach it.

I've been able to get the dinghy in and out of the water in less than 15 minutes by this method. Try it, you'll like it!

Lloyd Chase
La Chasse, Catalina 30
Berkeley Marina


For what seems like forever, I've been disgusted by what seem to have been the never-ending legal battles between Alinghi and BMW Oracle over the America's Cup. But it raised a question in my mind, and when I get the answer I'm afraid I'm going to be even more disgusted. I can only assume that we, the American taxpayers, are having to pay for the courts, the judges and the staffs in this pissing match. Please tell me I'm wrong.

Jeff Grathe
San Jose

Jeff — If we're not mistaken, each side has to pay certain 'court fees', but we suspect they don't cover all the associated costs. Perhaps someone in the legal field can give us a better answer.


We’re sitting in the Knight & Carver Yard in San Diego, not 30 feet from the railroad tracks. We’re trying to get some last-minute work done before we maybe/hopefully/finally get to sail south. While enjoying a glass of wine, I read the December issue letter about the near collision between the Marquesas 56 Dolce Vita and another unnamed boat in the Ha-Ha. We had a similar experience in '01. Dave's description of the incident really got us fired up.

For us, it occurred on windy Leg Two. We were on a port gybe, not starboard, and were gradually sliding eastward toward a vessel under power. Our radar tracks indicated a collision course. We hailed the other boat on VHF and it turned out to be one of the few powerboats in the Ha-Ha that year. One of the ones that was doing incredibly well fishing while we were catching nothing but kelp. In any event, they said they would watch out for us. We continued on our course, and became more and more nervous as we kept getting closer and closer. As we drew within about 100 yards, we got back on the VHF in near panic, and asked that they please do something to help us avoid a collision. By this time we were so close that our options were very limited.

We got as close as one boat-length of each other, at which point the powerboat finally gunned their engines. They zipped just in front of us, and we luffed up a bit to get behind them. It was way too close a call for two boats doing about 10 knots on a dark ocean.

We got a chance to chat with the folks on the powerboat down the road. They were apologetic and very reasonable about the whole episode. They explained that they had made some miscalculations:

1) They had a hard time visualizing precisely where we were, given that we had a tri-color rather than boat-level running lights.

2) They had seriously underestimated how fast we were going because we were "just sailing." They expected to pull in front of us without incident.

3) They didn't fully understand the limitations we had in our course with respect to the wind angle — especially since we were sailing shorthanded.

What got me really fired up about Dave’s letter was the bit where he and the rest of his crew suggested that if the other boat "had just fallen off a bit, he would have had plenty of time to cross our stern." It reminds me vividly of the predicament we were in with the powerboat. It was windy! We were sailing as deep as we safely could! We were doublehanded, so gybing would have been a bit of a project, one we probably didn't have time to pull off safely once we'd gotten to within a few hundred yards. While we couldn't fall off any deeper, we couldn't head up either to get behind the power vessel, because heading it up in such conditions would have increased our speed so drastically that we wouldn't be able to get behind the boat without a big broach or round up.

Unless I have the facts wrong, the crew of Dolce Vita made a serious miscalculation. The other vessel would have had to head up rather than fall off to pass behind them. Often times, such as when it's breezy, it's tough to do on a boat sailing downwind without risking a big mess. It's one of the reasons that it's important to figure out right-of-way early, monitor closing boats like crazy, and work on your bail-out plans should things not go as expected.

Pete and Sue Wolcott
Kiapa, M&M 52 cat
Kapaa, HI

Pete & Sue — Because most of us normally drive cars, which are much more maneuverable than sailboats, we suspect that many of us don't adhere to Rule 16 — regarding Stand-On Vessels — as closely as we should. It reads, "Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear."

Of course, if changes are made early enough — say from a half-mile to a mile away, depending on the wind strength and boat speeds — they don't even have to be substantial to be adequate. But what the skippers of all give-way vessels must understand — and what may not be so obvious to powerboaters — is that sailboat speeds often vary dramatically in just a few seconds. It can be hard to gauge if they are on a collision course with you or not.

We hope everyone is also up on Rule 17a

"1) Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other shall keep her course and speed."

In other words, it's not a 'let's-both-change-course-and-speed-a-little-bit' situation, because that could lead to confusion and collisions. The stand-on vessel needs to be as constant as she can be in order to help the stand-off vessel keep clear of her.

"2) The latter vessel may, however, take action to avoid collision by her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these Rules."

So even if you're the stand-on vessel, if the situation gets serious enough, you have to try to avoid the collision. Even if you have no choice but to crash jibe or round up.

Then there's Rule 17b

"When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision."


In regard to the loss of JoJo, and the Coast Guard's apparent inaction, I no longer depend on the Coasties. They seem overwhelmed by their drug interdiction work. I have friends whose boats have been boarded rather roughly at night between Catalina and the other Channel Islands. I'll bet they would have had a hard time finding the Coast Guard if they got in trouble.

Mike Kennedy
Conquest, Cal 40
Southern California

Mike — If a boat got into so much trouble that there was a risk of life at the Channel Islands, there is no question that the Coast Guard would be there as fast as they could. That's what they do best. One thing we learned from investigating the JoJo incident is that the Coast Guard doesn't do 'beach rescues' or 'sand rescues'. Those are left to local 'coastal incident' squads. Where were the ones that should have showed up at Stillwater Cove? That's a good question.

See page 108 for in depth coverage on that incident.


Once a mariner puts out a mayday, he/she has decided that help is needed to save life and limb. But I don't think anyone should have to risk his life for a possession. However, human nature being what it is, if I'd been in the same situation as the Livengoods, I'd probably have called the Coast Guard for help, too.

Jim Revard
Planet Earth


Our hearts go out to the Livengoods. Having heard only their side of the story, we feel that the Coast Guard could have done more. But we can't help wondering if the Livengoods didn't have a secondary anchor they could have deployed to stabilize things. And if they didn't, why not?

The other side of this — and we've seen it all too often — is that many Americans seem to think that their life comes with a guarantee, and that everyone else is responsible for bailing them out when they get in a sticky situation. Sailors, mountain climbers, trekkers, back country skiers, backpackers and so forth need to understand that these sports can be extreme, and many times there is nobody to rely on but oneself. Everyone must be responsible for saving their own ass. If someone happens to come along and save you, that's nice, but you can't expect it. In addition, if you put yourself in a bad situation, you can't blame others.

Our point of view is perhaps colored by the fact that we did a circumnavigation. When you do that, you quickly learn that you make your own breaks and have to count on yourself to get out of situations. It's not like sitting on a couch at home, where you can just grab a phone and call for any kind of help you might need. Each one of us is our own first line of defense — not the Coasties or anyone else.

Name Withheld By Request


It's important that mariners get the message that the Coast Guard is sending, which is that they save people, not boats. Karl Livengood's ultimate conclusion — that he would have been better off calling a commercial salvage company — seems to reflect the new reality. Before, I'd have probably issued a mayday, too, but after reading the Livengoods' account, I'd call BoatUS for a tow.

Richard Deep
Discovery, Hunter 31
South Beach

Richard — The only tow and salvage boat service between Pillar Point and Morro Bay — a distance of about 150 miles — is Vessel Assist in Santa Cruz. According to the Coast Guard, the Livengoods called them, but the Vessel Assist boat didn't arrive in time to save JoJo.


The Coast Guard's mandate is to save lives, period. I wasn't at Stillwater Cove when the incident happened, but if the Livengoods were setting the anchor when their windlass jammed, why didn't they motor back to where they came from? And didn't they have a second anchor they could have set after they ran aground?

Bill Sherman
Cyclone, Catalina 30
Blaine, WA

Bill — Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but in retrospect it seems there were a number of operator errors that contributed to the loss of JoJo.


The Coast Guard crew on the 47-footer was probably of the generation trained to interdict drugs and stop terrorists, not to help mariners in the old way of saving lives first and then, if possible, the boat. Oh yeah, and to make sure those on-the-water safety inspections get done. I'm glad to hear that no one was seriously injured, as this could have been much worse. But it still sucks to lose your boat, particularly after what began with such a minor problem. The bottom line for me is that you don't depend on the government — your own tax dollars — to save your ass.

I'd be shocked if it's true that the Coast Guard didn't have a launch on the 47-footer that they could have deployed. In fact, I'd like Latitude to get an explanation — not a canned press release — to explain why they didn't launch an inflatable.

Lani Schroeder
Balance, Endeavour 43

Lani — The 47-ft motor lifeboat didn't launch an inflatable because they don't carry them. In fact, Station Monterey Commanding Officer Lt. Michael Kahle told us that "small inflatable rafts are not a standard Coast Guard platform." We were surprised at the answer, but he insists that it's true.


My expectation is that any person — Coast Guard, sailor, paddler, bystander — would do everything he could to help secure a boat in JoJo's situation. It's very disappointing to me that anyone would simply stand by and watch the boat be destroyed on the beach.

Chip Prather

Chip — Careful. If you start expecting bystanders "to do everything they could" to secure boats in situations such as JoJo's, we don't think it would be long before somebody got seriously hurt or killed. Well-intended folks who aren't familiar with grounded boats, the ocean and waves can be a big danger to themselves and others. A couple of years ago a cruiser in Mexico was killed when he was hit in the head by a grounded vessel rolling from side to side.


The Coast Guard should have done more. Why not help save the boat? They were on site with no other distress calls to handle. It would have been as good as simulated training, and would not have cost them any more than standing by.

We, along with lots of other cruisers, watched and helped the Mexican Navy rescue of the 55-ft trawler Cat's Meow after it went on the rocks in the Sea of Cortez. I think the Mexican Navy was there for two or three days. They worked their butts off. Why couldn't the Coast Guard do the same?

Greg Rodgers
Me Gusta
Formerly of MV Mikelali

Greg — The reason they couldn't do the same is because — and you're not going to like this — it would have been illegal. Don't yell at the Coast Guard, yell at Congress and Homeland Security, who give the Coasties their marching orders.

The operating policies of the Mexican Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are as different as night and day. And so are the cultures. While in Mexico last year, we saw a car that had missed a turn and was teetering halfway off a cliff on a main highway. All traffic stopped in both directions and everybody poured out of their cars to help. Ten guys risked their lives by standing beneath the front of the car and holding it up. Then a bunch of other guys found a huge polypro line and tied it from the car to the back of a fully loaded transit bus that had turned around to position itself to give a tow. Engines roared, the bus throbbed up and down, the men grunted as they pushed — and suddenly the car was back on the main road. Everybody ran back to their vehicles and took off as though nothing had happened. No police or highway patrol was involved.


Over the period of years that I lived aboard my Columbia 43 in the Monterey Harbor, I witnessed the beaching of several boats that had come adrift from their outer harbor moorings. Twice I watched a Coast Guard boat stand by and virtually escort the drifting boat into the line of breakers. They had plenty of time to prevent the beachings and consequent loss of the boats — which weren't derelicts. I asked a Coast Guard buddy why that was, and he gave the same response about saving people, not boats.

I applaud the Coast Guard for the much-publicized and truly heroic rescues they've done. But I'm blown away and disappointed at their policy to stand by and do nothing in situations like JoJo's, where they could have easily prevented the Catalina from going on the beach. If they had a life-threatening event going on somewhere else at the same time, then I would understand their prioritizing that. Instead, they were acting in an inspection role, probably to document any environmental damage so more fines could be dumped on boat owners and insurance companies.

Dave Morris


I'm sure the Coast Guard policy is to save people, not boats. If they started getting involved in salvage work, they would start getting hit with claims. Why did you tow my boat that way? Why didn't you just wait for the next high tide? My boat would have been fine if only you hadn't (fill in the blank).

Isn't this situation exactly what Vessel Assist is for? Call the Coast Guard and tell them you're stuck. Call Vessel Assist and let somebody very experienced help with what they deal with all the time.

Kevin R. Crisp
Planet Earth

Kevin — Vessel Assist was called. JoJo was breaking up on the beach before they could arrive from Santa Cruz.


It seems to me that the Livengoods have it backwards. The Coast Guard didn't put JoJo on the reef, they did. And then they got ticked off that the Coast Guard didn't want to follow in their footsteps by putting their million dollar rescue boat on the same reef.

Arjan Bok
Rotkat, Lidgard 43
San Francisco


I'm torn about the JoJo situation. On the one hand, my heart goes out to the owners, as losing your boat is a bitter pill to swallow. On the other hand, blasting the Coasties for not pulling his fat out of the fire makes Mr. Livengood sound like a petulant child. Rescuing the property of every ill-prepared and/or unlucky sailor is not the Coast Guard's job.

I don't buy the Livengoods' 'saving the environment' argument either. First, it appears JoJo was recovered with fuel tanks intact. Good on that. Secondly, there is a good chance that if our nanny government had extended the safety net to the extent Mr. Livengood was demanding, it would only encourage many more unprepared sailors to put to sea loaded with diesel and just looking for a good place to run aground and foul the waters.

I'm willing to give Mr. Livengood the benefit of the doubt, as people under stress say and do things they sometimes later regret. Hopefully this will be the case with him. If not, I would suggest he take up another pastime. Sailing, in my humble opinion, is for self-reliant, competent individuals who are aware of the risks they are taking — and who would never whine about people not helping them enough.

Russ White


JoJo was ill-prepared and not knowledgeable of the conditions at Stillwater Cove. Furthermore, she was brought there at the wrong time of year and in the wrong conditions. This wasn't the first JoJo incident either.

Name Withheld by Request

NWBR — There didn't seem to be anything inherently wrong with taking a boat into Stillwater Cove on October 20. According to Coast Guard records, the wind was 10 knots out of the north and the swell just one foot.


Hell yes, the Coast Guard should have done more! What an unnecessary tragedy. How did the Coast Guard’s mission ever get away from saving both people and vessels?

Doug Thorne
Tamara Lee Ann, Celestial 48
San Francisco

Doug — The Department of Transportation handed down a very decisive policy change in 1982, one that dictated that the Coast Guard leave all towing and salvage to private businesses. The Coast Guard now only saves boats in cases where they have to in order to save lives.


Yes, the Coast Guard could have done more. I would expect that, once on the scene, they would want to do everything possible, not just sit there and watch. Disgraceful.

Steve & Edie Hollen
Andalucia, Irwin 37
Yorba Linda

Steve and Edie — You have to distinguish between what the Coast Guard crew might have wanted to do, and what they were legally and physically able to do. As you'll read later in this issue, there's another side to the story.


All prepared cruisers should carry two anchors. What were the wind conditions like that day? Stillwater is a graveyard in a southerly. I would be hesitant to enter during the winter months.

Tim Stapleton
San Rafael

Tim — Weather wasn't a factor on October 20. It was blowing 10 knots out of the north and the sea was reported to be one foot.


Absolutely the Coast Guard should have done more, especially after the boat floated free. The Coast Guard could have shot a line to them and assisted with a tow. What a crime to see unnecessary damage.

Steve Morrow
Westbrook, ME

Steve — The Coast Guard doesn't do 'beach rescues' or 'sand rescues' because those are out of their jurisdiction. Once you hit something hard, you belong to the coastal incident folks.


Absolutely the Coast Guard should have done more! To arrive on scene without the proper equipment to at least attempt a tow or to try to pull the boat free is disheartening! After all, they had a shallow draft boat compared to the 5'3" draft of the Catalina 30. I know, I have one! And especially with an incoming tide! I would like to think that the already exorbitant tax dollars we pay would go for more than just a good look!

Stuart Gregor
Solitude, Catalina 30

Stuart — JoJo was a Catalina 36, a design which, depending on the keel, can draw as much as 5'11'. The 47-ft motor lifeboat draws 4'6". The Coast Guard's navigation rules require that the 47-footers operate only with three or more feet of water beneath their keels — making a total of 7.5 feet of water.

The coxswain of each 47-footer also has to do a continual risk analysis of every rescue situation. Other risks in Stillwater included extremely heavy kelp and known rocks and reefs in the area. Most importantly, the Coast Guard can — in most cases — rescue boats only if it's necessary to save lives. That wasn't the case in the JoJo situation. If you object to these policies — and we have certain issues with them — don't yell at the Coast Guard, yell at their bosses, meaning Congress and Homeland Security. For the record, the policy of not saving boats was instituted more than 25 years ago.


Without hearing the Coast Guard skipper's version, it is difficult to judge. But if it's a Coast Guard policy to only preserve life and never assist a boat, the policy would seem too rigid. If the Coast Guard could easily have thrown JoJo a line, but didn't do so because of policy, then the policy needs to be changed.

From the one side you presented in the article, it seems that there was a lot of potential damage to the environment, and the loss of a boat could have been prevented by more earnest Coasties. You can bet that had I been there with my boat and my dink, I'd have gotten out my 300 feet of half-inch line I use for my Angel Island mooring. I then would have tried to pull JoJo off — as would most of the sailors I know around here.

From reading Latitude, I seem to recall a lot of stories about the Mexican Navy's pulling American boats off the rocks, and a lot of other tales about the navies of little countries in the South Pacific getting involved with saving boats on reefs.

So we need to hear the rest of the story. If the Coast Guard was not responsive due to fear of litigation, then we need a maritime 'Good Samaritan' law that covers the situation for them as well as other boaters.

This is an important topic. Glad you brought it up.

Bruce Adornato
Amelia, Krogen 42
San Francisco

Bruce — The irony is that, no matter how much the crew of the 47-footer might have wanted to help save the boat, it would have been against the law. Does that mean that private citizens could have done more to save the boat than the Coast Guard? It's weird, but the answer is yes.

What most boat owners don't realize is that the Coast Guard does only 'maritime rescues'. If a boat hits the bottom, the responsibility then transfers to a coastal incident group made up of the fire department, police, sheriff, lifeguard, EMS and others. Why didn't they show up? Station Monterey Commanding Officer Lt. Michael Kahle told Latitude it was because JoJo originally gave them a wrong position, indicating they were north of Stillwater Cove. "Had we known they were in Stillwater Cove from the beginning," says Kahle, "we would have alerted the coastal incident team right away." We would be surprised if the C.I. team doesn't have access to inflatables and Jet Skis, either one of which could have rushed a line out to the other boat.


In Canada we're taught to issue a mayday when the boat is in danger of sinking, but not for medical purposes. Is it really the opposite in U.S. waters?

Randy Brown

Randy — Yes, it is the opposite.


Let's be clear. The Coast Guard is a Safety of Life at Sea organization. They are not meant to be, nor should they be, a maritime version of AAA. It's difficult enough saving what counts, which are lives. Saving one's ship is the skipper's responsibility.

Jeff Berman
Perseverance, Catalina 36
San Francisco


It's a sad situation for sure, but would it have been possible for the sailors to row a rope over to the Coast Guard and have the boat towed to deeper waters? It's hard for me to blame the Coast Guard for anything. We're not yet a complete nanny state, and part of being a sailor is to be as self-reliant as possible.

And while the boat was lost, no one was hurt, so a new adventure begins with the insurance company.

Richard Frankhuizen


The captain was at fault. His windlass did work. Plus, he could have motored back out to deeper water. Besides, his VHF should have had DSC. The Coast Guard most likely did not realize they had to do a shore rescue when they responded. He was responsible for his vessel and his crew.

Jim Peta
Kids Money, Catalina 30
Oakwood, GA

Jim — As best we can understand it, if JoJo had given their correct position at Stillwater Cove, the Coast Guard would have immediately turned the rescue and possible salvage over to the coastal incident team.


Wow, this a tough one. I've heard many times that the Coast Guard will not tow boats. But I've also read stories about their having done so. I'm left completely confused as to what to expect in terms of assistance from them. After reading about the JoJo incident, I think if I were in a situation where nobody’s life is in danger, my first call might be to Vessel Assist rather than the Coast Guard. I'm also surprised there was no RIB on the Coast Guard motor lifeboat. That would seem to really limit what assistance they could provide. I’d love to hear the Coasties’ side of this story.

Jennifer Neumann
Planet Earth

Jennifer — The Coast Guard tells us that, for the most part, they can tow boats only if it's what is necessary to save lives. Or if the boats are full of drugs or illegal aliens. Vessel Assist was called, but couldn't make it in time.


How deep was the water JoJo was in? Did the Coast Guard vessel have enough water to go in and get her?

Bill Clune
ex-Coast Guard

Bill — Depending on the keel, Catalina 36s had a draft of either 4'5" or 5'10". Since JoJo was hitting the bottom when the Coast Guard arrived, the depth was no more than perhaps 5'5". A 47-ft motor lifeboat draws 4'6". Coxswains are forbidden to operate the 47-footers in less than 7'6" of water.

But don't get distracted. The real issue is that policy precludes the Coast Guard's performing salvage operations. Further, by touching bottom, the responsibility for the incident should have gone over to the coastal incident team. They didn't show up, apparently because JoJo had initially given a position that indicated they were not at Stillwater Cove.

For more on this story, see page 108.


Anyone who claims that the Ha-Ha is more difficult and hazardous than the Caribbean 1500 should be examined forthwith for mental competency. Or perhaps just for memory loss. The list of boats damaged and lost in the 1500 is a long one, arising from the need to make a North Atlantic passage across the Gulf Stream on or after November 1. Participants are almost sure to get hit by one of the lows that form off Cape Hatteras, and there’s always the chance of a late season tropical storm. And for those who say there’s no place to hide in the Ha-Ha, try being 350 miles east of Cape Henry in the middle of a 40- to 50-knot gale. I'm a vet of the '97 Caribbean 1500.

Bob Schilling
Tuckernuck, Cherubini 44
Long Beach

Bob — We're not sure what we might have written to give the impression that we think the Ha-Ha is more difficult and hazardous than the Caribbean 1500, because we've often stated the opposite in print. In fact, we often note how lucky we California sailors are because it's so much easier for us than our East Coast brethren to get to the tropics. After all, our winds to the tropics are almost always from aft and light to moderate, plus we have numerous great places to take shelter from the prevailing conditions along the Baja coast. The 1500 is twice as long, the fleet faces stronger winds and bigger seas from a variety of directions, and other than Bermuda, there is no place to hide.

Steve Black, who has organized the 1500 all these years, would be quick to deny your suggestion that the 1500 is some kind of destruction derby, but there is no doubt that it's harder and more challenging than the Ha-Ha.



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