Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Letters' Index Letters
May 2010

Missing the pictures? See our May 2010 eBook!


Regarding your editorial response to Bruce Munro's letter describing the reasons that the America's Cup should be held on San Francisco Bay, in which you said San Francisco officials would be a major obstacle, all I can say is that you sure know how to sweet talk local government officials. You said some pretty negative things about them.

As for me, I'd love to come to the Bay Area to watch the Cup races. One solution for team compounds could be to simply build them on big barges. But if you've sufficiently irritated the Board of Supervisors so that they reject the Cup on the Bay out of spite, I'm sure we can figure out a way to host the Cup down here in Long Beach, where we have both ideal winds and an actual summer.

Bill Waterhouse
Honu, Corsair 24
Alamitos Bay

Bill — How much do you know about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors? For a group facing a half billion dollar deficit starting in July, they have a strange set of priorities. We give you Chris Daly who, despite moving his wife and children to Fairfield — where unlike the City by the Bay, residents are discouraged from using public parks and streets as toilets — started the new year with a resolution to use the word 'fuck' in Board of Supervisor meetings no fewer than 60 times during the year. No, we're not making that up, but it's the kind of issue that obsesses what passes for leadership in San Francisco.

Even former Mayor Willie Brown, who was about as liberal as can be, says he thinks the America's Cup will end up being held in San Diego or Newport, Rhode Island, ". . . if the man from Oracle gets another brush-off from San Francisco — as he has in the past." San Francisco is an unusual place. The priorities of the politicians and the citizens up here are rather different from those in most cities in the country — although that's beginning to change now that all the bills are coming due.

Speaking of Long Beach, we were surprised that your city hadn't made a big pitch for the Cup. After all, you've got quite a bit of dormant waterfront land across from San Pedro, and the sailing conditions off Long Beach are much livelier than off San Diego. But we now hear that Long Beach is actually about to make a pitch for the Cup.


In your editorial response to my April issue letter on the feasibility of holding the America's Cup on San Francisco Bay, you mostly agreed with me, but took exception to my contention that our local government would get behind a San Francisco venue for the 34th America's Cup match. On this point of the debate, you agreed with Dick Enersen's contention that we will never get the support of our political leaders for such an event. You went so far as to ridicule our Board of Supervisors, suggesting that in order to have an America's Cup match on the Bay, each team would have to be composed of 'politically correct' crewmembers. It was humorous to be sure, but off target, as recent developments will attest.

During the past week, our Board of Supervisors passed a resolution congratulating Larry Ellison, the Golden Gate YC, and the BMW Oracle team for winning the 33rd America's Cup. The most important part of the resolution was the last statement, which states that it will be the policy of the City to ". . . work diligently and with enthusiasm to develop a worthy plan for a San Francisco waterfront venue to host the 34th America's Cup." Now that is what we are looking for. Are you ready to change tacks and join with us who see a San Francisco venue as a Cup half full?

Bruce Munro
Princess, Sabre 402
San Francisco

Bruce — We're surprised by and even more impressed with the progress to date. But we're still cynical enough to note the qualifier that the plan be a "worthy plan" means that the resolution doesn't count for all that much. After all, one can only imagine what might constitute a "worthy plan" in the mind of a supervisor such as Chris Daly.

Kyri McClellan, at the Mayor's Office in San Francisco, wrote a letter to Latitude's Assistant Publisher John Arndt in which she noted that, in addition to the support for the event expressed by the Commission of the Port of San Francisco, the Recreation and Parks Commission, the Bay Area Council, and the Board of Supervisors, she hopes to get a similar expression of support by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which will meet on May 21 to consider a resolution on the issue, and fully expects to get the support of the San Francisco Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Commission. She wrote that she hoped this "might change the tone" of the editor of Latitude, which would be us.

We'd say that our 'cup' is more than half full right now, but hardly overflowing. After all, we've seen how it has taken ages for there to be any real progress in San Francisco's takeover of Clipper Cove from the Navy, we've seen how the attempts to improve the San Francisco Marina have been thwarted, and we're familiar with agencies such as the BCDC doing things such as classifying boats as 'Bay fill' for their own purposes. And as former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown noted, this area has become so politically correct that nobody knows how to have fun anymore. What surprises us more than anything, however, is the amount of time and energy that less cynical folks than we are putting into bringing the Cup to San Francisco Bay. We salute them all.

If we were the betting type, we'd currently put our money behind the general idea that the next America's Cup will consist of four or more Acts, such as there were leading up to Valencia in the 32rd America's Cup, hopefully in some of the windiest locations in the world, and that the Finals, or perhaps the Semi-Finals and Finals, would be held on San Francisco Bay. And hopefully, as you'll read Stan Honey suggest in Sightings, the wind for the Semi-Finals and Finals would have to be between 20 and 40 knots for racing to commence.


There has been discussion in the last several issues of Latitude on how to get out of the water if you fall in at a marina. In a tragic coincidence, Dave Gish, a much-loved dock neighbor here on E Dock at Ventura West Marina, died on the evening of April 9 after apparently falling into the water.

According to the Ventura County Star, the 64-year-old Gish, who lived aboard his 30-ft Mele Kai, had left a gathering of friends to get a beer. When he was gone for a longer time than thought necessary, friends searched for him around the dock, in the bathrooms, and in the parking lot. When they didn't find him, they called the authorities. The Ventura Harbor Patrol found Gish's body only a few feet from his boat. The coroner said the cause of death was asphyxia by drowning. Friends who had been with Gish shortly before he died insist that he had not been intoxicated.

There are two facts that weren't reported in the article. First, Gish had a disability in one eye that made it difficult for him to judge distances. Second, the water temperature was 55°. I'm sure both factors contributed to his tragic death.

Not surprisingly, everybody on our dock has been re-evaluating their strategy for getting out of the water in the event they fall in. Personally, I have taken note that many docks, including ours, have at least one powerboat with a swim-step located much closer to the water than are the docks. I also noticed that there are many inflatable boats in the water. Of course, you'd need good situational awareness and more than a little body strength to make use of either of these options for getting out of the water.

My main lesson learned is that, like having a plan for exiting a burning building, you need a plan for exiting the water before you fall in. For my family, I'm investigating installing a ladder attached to our boat or dock, with a means of pulling it down in an emergency. In a related coincidence, the marina next to Ventura West, operated by the Ventura YC, already has dock-attached ladders that pull down into the water.

Dave, who loved his boat, the blues and the simple life, was a vital member of the community on E Dock. He thought he was living in paradise. Dave was always friendly and always willing to help anyone. We will miss him. But perhaps this tragic loss will generate more public awareness, thereby improving the chances of survival of the next person who falls in at the dock.

Bill Willcox
Faith, Scandia 34
E Dock, Ventura West Marina

Bill — We were terribly sorry to hear about Gish's tragic death. According to reports, he was such a fervent recycler that his family made sure that his organs were donated. They said he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

The County Star also reported that on April 3, just a week before, authorities had found the body of Steven Gnehm, 57, floating near his boat at Channel Islands Harbor at nearby Oxnard. The cause of his death was also found to be asphyxia by drowning. Presumably Gnehm also fell into the water and couldn't get out.

As you say, these tragic deaths should alert everyone to the dangers of falling off marina docks or one's boat, and the need for planning how you would get out of the water if you did fall in. The danger of such deaths is much greater in the winter when the water is colder and there aren't as many people on their boats to hear shouts for help.


Regarding the problem of getting out of the water if you fall in at a marina, there is a solution. It's called the Idiot's Loop, and while it's older than the hills, it works.

I've read many articles in Latitude about people going overboard, both at sea and at the dock, but I've never heard the Idiot's Loop mentioned. But I used it all the time when I was living aboard my Traveller 32 on the hook. The loop works for all overboard situations, on boats big or small, moving or still, crewed or singlehanded, sailing, or motoring, on the hook, or tied up in a slip. I don't know why everybody doesn't use it, although some have said that it's "ugly."

An Idiot's Loop is a long line over the side that runs from the bow to stern, looped down and tied to an amidships cleat or chainplate on one or both sides of the boat. It droops down to just barely above the surface of water twice along the length of the boat. You will see the same system used, but with many more loops, on lifeboats and other rescue boats.

With the drooping line system of an Idiot's Loop, you can grab the line and hang on, or you can get a leg over the loop and haul yourself up to a sitting position on the line, rest, then pull yourself the rest of the way out of the water. It even works if you are weak, injured, or dressed in heavy clothing, or are tangled up in the rigging. And it works even if you're by yourself. That's because the line runs the whole length of your boat, and your body weight is almost nothing when your body is horizontal in the water.

I also used the Idiot's Loop for something easy to grab when returning to my boat in the dinghy when the sea was up.

I once fell overboard through the ice at a dock in winter. Even though I was a young and strong swimmer, it was an immediately serious matter. The guy on my boat didn't know where I'd disappeared to, and I quickly became weak. Had I had an Idiot's Loop rigged, it's wouldn't have been a problem.

I think the Idiot's Loop should be in every book about seamanship.

Bill Brunot
Planet Earth

Bill — It sounds great in theory, but are you sure it works so well in reality? Even in the still waters of a marina, it seems as if it would require a lot of upper body strength to pull oneself up such a rope, even to the sitting position. And we can only wonder at the beating users might take if they were sitting on such a loop while their boat was in a seaway. If someone — preferably in the tropics — would like to give the Idiot's Loop a try, we'd be interested in the results. We're willing to bet that the most young, strong and nimble sailors would be able to do it, but that the typical boatowner wouldn't.

It seems to us that the two best solutions are sugar scoops on boats and — not to be smartasses — not falling over in the first place. Indeed, after taking a man overboard seminar recently, a man was overheard to say, "The only thing I really learned was to not go over in the first place."


Having read about all the great changes — namely, getting rid of the derelict and permanently anchored boats — at Clipper Cove, I can't wait to go and visit with my boat.

Is there anyone who can tell me why the same changes can't be implemented in Richardson Bay? That place is a joke. In fact, I wonder if all the boats that used to be in Clipper Cove haven't come over to Richardson Bay.

Gary Ryan
i'liohale, Hanse 341


I want to give a big 'thank you' to Latitude and everyone who helped get the derelict boats out of Clipper Cove. I know it wasn't easy. My family and I can now go and spend the day there safely anchored in the protected cove.

But my question is whether Richardson Bay will be the next place to be cleaned up of derelict boats. Many times I've seen the following scenario: A small Coast Guard vessel stops a well-equipped sail or fishing boat that has just left a harbor in Sausalito, while a small boat with no visible CF numbers zips by going to the area where many derelict boats anchor out. I can almost guarantee that the Highway Patrol would not stop a vehicle for a tire tread check while another car, particularly one without a license plate, sped by at 90 mph.

I finally became part of one of these scenarios when the sun came out for a day last month. I was transiting the Richardson Bay channel at about five knots when I saw a Coast Guard vessel from Station Golden Gate on the northbound side of the channel about 100 yards off my bow. At that moment, a 15-ft speedboat came out from the vicinity of Paradise Bay restaurant, and crossed the channel diagonally at a full plane in excess of 20 knots. In fact, on the way out to his anchored-out boat, he went right in front of the Coast Guard vessel.

You can guess what happened next. The Coast Guard came alongside my boat and asked if they could do a safety inspection! I asked the Coasties if they hadn't seen the boat that had sped across the channel — with a five-knot speed limit — at a speed in excess of 20 knots. They told me that they had seen it, and they had noticed it didn't have any CF numbers. I told them I would remain in position while they enforced the law. They said it wouldn't be necessary, and didn't do anything. As far as I'm concerned, this reeks of selective enforcement of the law. When the Coast Guard was done with me — and didn't find any violations — they headed back to Station Golden Gate.

Does the anchor-out community have some type of 'diplomatic immunity'? Are they all part of the Lake County Sheriff's Department or something like it? I've asked anchor-outs if they have ever been boarded by anybody wanting to check on their marine sanitation devices. I was told "the Coast Guard is afraid of us." What do they have on the Coast Guard?

The moral of the story is, I guess, if you're about to be boarded, tell the Coast Guard you're an anchor-out in Richardson Bay.

It's my understanding that San Diego has dealt with their derelict vessel issue. Why can't the governments that have authority over Richardson Bay do the same? If someone moored a 150-ft derelict fishing boat — such as the one that has been anchored off the Sausalito YC for four years — in Morro Bay, it would quickly be removed. I guess we'll have to wait until a winter storm smashes it against a house on the Belvedere shore, at which time the residents of Belvedere will no doubt have to clean up the mess.

One time I was on the Issaquah Dock on the north end of Sausalito, where the houseboats are berthed, and I saw firemen checking the fire fighting equipment. When I asked how often they performed the same check on the dilapidated docks just to the south, they said those docks weren't safe enough for their personnel to walk on!

I don't get it.

Name Withheld Due to Lack of Diplomatic Immunity

N.W.D.L.D.I. — It's not just the Coast Guard who seems to be afraid of the anchor-outs, because the rough, tough officers in the Marin County Sheriff's Marine Patrol don't seem to want to tangle with them either.

There indeed seem to be two legal standards in Richardson Bay: one for the boats in mostly good to excellent condition on the southwest side of Richardson Bay, who must obey all laws, and another standard for the mostly dilapidated boats on the northeast side of Richardson Bay, to whom laws don't seem to apply. It's the kind of thing that increases your veneration of government, isn't it?

It's our understanding that the anchor-outs were accorded 'sacred cow' status about five years ago by one of the most powerful Democrats in the state, who told the heads of various government agencies and jurisdictions that if the anchor-outs were hassled in any way, the budgets for their agencies and jurisdictions would be slashed. That wouldn't apply to the Coast Guard, of course, it being part of the federal government's Homeland Security Department. In the past, however, the Coast Guard has told us they don't have jurisdiction over boats at anchor, only those that are underway, and therefore they can't do anything with the derelict and illegal boats anchored on Richardson Bay. Frankly, we don't buy this explanation. Besides, that doesn't explain why the Coasties didn't cite the guy in the registration-less dinghy speeding across the Richardson Bay Channel.

We've also been told that some anchor-outs have taken to putting out buoys around Richardson Bay, buoys that are held in place by weights far too light to secure a boat. The apparent reason for the useless buoys is to prevent other boats from anchoring in those areas. That's a nice Somalia-like anarchist touch for Marin County.

For the record, on the grounds of safety, efficiency and protecting the environment, we've long advocated that there should be regulated mooring fields in Richardson Bay, just as there are in places such as Newport Beach, San Diego and all up and down the East Coast. The buoys should be professionally installed and maintained, and all boats on them should be required to meet minimum navigation, safety and environmental standards, and pay a reasonable fee to cover the cost of installing and maintaining the buoys. If the various Marin governments with authority over Richardson Bay want Richardson Bay to continue to serve as low-income housing, we suppose that's their business, but every boat should have to meet the same minimum standards.

Make no mistake, we have nothing against anchor-outs. Indeed, we spend half of the year as anchor-outs in one of three countries. Our problem is with an anchorage that's been unsafe and in a state of chaos for decades, and with the unequal application of the law.


We had a monkey aboard the schooner Reef Chief for a sail out of Key West. When I went into the water with a hookah to clean the bottom, the monkey found the EPIRB and set it off. When I got back on deck, the Coast Guard phoned and said they'd received an emergency distress signal from my vessel. I explained to them that a monkey had set off the EPIRB. They asked for the name. I said the monkey's name was Kayla. Then they asked for a last name. I told them that monkeys don't have last names.

Allen Cody Taube
Reef Chief, 65-ft schooner
Key West, FL

Allen — Thanks for the letter and the laugh. It's exactly what we would expect from Key West — and we mean that in a good way.


We hadn't been aboard Odyssey, the Peterson 44 owned by Marv and Ardy Dunn, friends of ours from Portland, long when they suggested that we spend the next morning swimming with whale sharks just outside of La Paz. "I'd love to see them," I said, sidestepping the invitation to swim with them. I was visiting from San Francisco with Madison, my daughter, a teacher from Compton, who was on Spring Break. We envisioned a week of sun, sailing, swimming, snorkeling and perhaps a hike or two, but neither of us had signed up for swimming with whale sharks. To be honest, there was a part of me that hoped we wouldn't find any.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, with mouths up to five feet wide, and 300 to 350 rows of tiny teeth. They are sharks, but are named whale sharks because they are as large as a whale. The largest verified whale shark to date was 41.5 feet long and 21.5 tons. That's almost as long as the Peterson 44 we were on, and six tons heavier. Did I mention I wasn't thrilled at the thought of swimming with them?

But being a tenacious guy from the Midwest, Marv drove us out of the La Paz Channel, at which point Ardy directed us five miles west along El Mogote toward a few boats she had sighted with binoculars. When we finally saw the whale sharks, the word 'massive' took on a new meaning. They slowly swam around Odyssey and even under her bow. Marv assured me that whale sharks aren't aggressive, and that the only people who have gotten hurt had been accidentally whacked by the whale shark's tail, which can strike a powerful blow. I wanted to ask Marv how he knew the tail strikes were "accidental," but didn't ask.

The Kenyans believe the whale sharks got their spots from God's throwing shillings onto their backs. The Vietnamese believe the whale shark is a deity. These whale sharks didn't look like gods to me. Well, perhaps a mean Old Testament-style god.

While standing on the bow watching with excitement, Madison turned to me and said softly, "I'll swim with them." With that, I knew I was lost. Motherly instinct is a strange animal, almost as hard to understand as this six million-year-old fish. I don't know what I thought I could do to protect her, but we donned masks and flippers, and both went in. Within a minute, Madison was just a few feet from the whale shark's mouth — and clearly enthralled with the beast. We were in the shark's world, so I had no idea how to behave. What was the protocol? How close could we get to them without being too aggressive? Were three of us in the water too many? Would the shark feel surrounded?

The shark closest to us was standing up vertically in the water, opening and closing its huge mouth as it gulped plankton. It stood up for the longest time, which made it seem even more imposing. When it decided to come down, where would it turn? Questions of survival ran though my mind. Yet it was magical and mystical. A special communion with nature. A rare gift. An opportunity of a lifetime. And we had taken it! There are many things I thank my daughter for, and having the courage to swim with the whale sharks is one of them.

How long will others have this opportunity? The whale shark's conservation status is vulnerable. They are harpooned for food, and their fins are popular in a number of Asian countries. There is some fear that traveling whale shark factories might come into existence on the open ocean, making regulation hard if not impossible. On the other hand, an increasing number of eco-tourism enterprises are discovering that whale sharks are more valuable alive than they are dead. I can only hope that humans, the whale shark's main predator, learn enough about them to respect their feeding, breeding habits, and habitats, and thus ensure that they are around for another six million years.

Rozanne Enerson Junker, Crew
Odyssey, Peterson 44
La Paz, Mexico


I recently contacted a number of my fellow boat bottom cleaners to let them know about a letter from the San Diego Port Tenants Association to the San Diego Port District, two of the major players in determining waterfront policy in San Diego Bay. In the letter, Sharon Cloward, president of the Port Tenants, expressed that association’s support for what she calls a 'Baywide Underwater Hull Cleaner Permit' process. This permit apparently would entail a “requirement of competence” from hull cleaners, as well as an enforcement component. It’s pretty scary stuff.

If my fellow divers think that in-water hull cleaning activities in California are flying under the radar and will remain unregulated, they need to think again. What goes into practice in one major California bay can easily become standard procedure everywhere else in the state. The best way for us to protect the hull cleaning industry, and our livelihoods, is to join together under the California Professional Divers Association, become informed about the issues, and become active in the process. I know it sounds lame, but united we stand, divided we fall. If you are a Northern California hull cleaner — or other stakeholder — and haven’t registered for the CPDA Best Management Practices Certification Course yet, please consider doing so. It’s important and it’s the right thing to do.

Matt Peterson
FastBottoms Hull Diving

Matt — The devil is always in the details, of course, but we think what the organizations in San Diego are calling for is actually good for divers, boatowners and the environment. There have been tremendous improvements in bottom paints and bottom paint technology in the last few years. For example, when we had Profligate's bottom painted last June, Stan Sussman, the rep for Interlux, the company that makes the Micron Extra we had put on our bottom, repeatedly emphasized how important it was that our bottom be cleaned only by knowledgeable divers who use just a diaper or non-abrasive piece of carpet rather than heavy 3M scratch pads. "If the diver scrubs your bottom with a scratch pad, he'll prematurely remove too much paint, unnecessarily polluting the bottom and greatly shortening the life of your bottom job. If your diver uses just a diaper — which is all he should normally need — you shouldn't have to paint your bottom again for three years or more." So yeah, we think it's in the best interest of boatowners — and the environment — that divers be educated and certified in best practices.

For the same reasons mentioned above, we enthusiastically support your efforts to encourage divers to join the California Professional Divers Association to, as you say, become knowledgeable about the issues and become active in the process of identifying best practices. Doing so is in the best interests of themselves, their customers and the environment.

Being an educated and certified diver is going to become more important with the passing of time. While the state's Water Resources Control Board resolution seeking state regulation of the water quality of every facility that accommodates 10 or more boats has been temporarily been put on hold, something of that nature is eventually going to become law. When it does, each facility will have to file a Marine Pollution Prevention Plan with the agency, outlining the best management practices they will employ to keep copper levels from going up. Then the facility will have to track and report how much copper is in their water. If they can't show that the levels are decreasing over time, they are going to have to modify their best practices to get better results. An important part of reducing those copper levels in marinas will be for knowledgeable divers to clean boat bottoms in the most environmentally sound way — which does not include generating underwater clouds of overzealously scrubbed-off bottom paint. Because of this, there will almost certainly come a time when marinas and similar facilities will permit only certified divers to work in their facilities.


Right there on page 40 of the fascinating book Flotsametrics and the Floating World by Curtis Ebbesmeyer, released in '09, is the word 'Coasties'. No doubt you and the author are acquainted, because I immediately assumed that he picked up the term 'Coasties' from Latitude. Is that correct?

Jim Cox
Beaverton, OR

Jim — To our knowledge, nobody else was using the term 'Coasties' when we began using it about 25 years ago. But geez, it's easy to imagine that countless other people could have independently come up with the same nickname. And it's not as if it's of any consequence. What bothers us is when people don't give us credit for discovering the last two elements on the periodic table and when that Al Gore guy claims that he, rather than we, invented the internet.


I’d like to make a few comments about Richard and Sharon Drechsler’s Changes, in which they compared cruising in Mexico with cruising in Alaska.

The couple seems to think that Alaska is a hard place to cruise. We've been teaching seamanship and navigation up here for many years aboard Arctic Traveller, and virtually all our students have gone on to enjoy uneventful cruises. While I agree that Alaska requires some heads-up navigation, I’ve been in a lot of other places where I could say the same thing. Uncharted rocks are mentioned as being one problem, but in my 15 years of cruising and teaching in Alaska, I've never hit a rock. The channels are generally very deep until you get close to shore, and even then just watching the depthsounder closely should keep you out of trouble. They also mentioned logs, crab pots, big seas and possible mechanical failures — but you can find the same things off almost any coast. Thinking that a breakdown in Mexico might be more desirable than in Alaska is shortsighted thinking in my book. A well-maintained boat should be just as reliable in Mexico as Alaska.

The Zamovia Straits are mentioned as being particularly challenging, but with the proper charts, and by paying close attention to the proper inserts, they're relatively straightforward. Certainly, there are some challenges with the currents, but proper voyage planning all but removes these issues. I did, however, recently discover a problem with some of the current tables in the '09 issue of Rosepoint Coastal Explorer. A call to the company alerted them to the issue, and a patch is due. Using multiple sources of current information is always prudent.

The Drechslers also mentioned a problem with the currents in Tlevak narrows near Craig. They don’t mention why their current predictions were in error, but I know it can happen. What surprised me is that even though they noticed that the red buoy was being held underwater by the current, they continued on. Such narrows are best avoided until slack current. I do agree, however, that a loss of steering at that point could have been disastrous. I’ve piloted a 90-ft steel yacht through those narrows, and there is little room for error.

Finally, I found it hilarious that they felt everyone they met in Alaska seemed to be in the witness protection program. We Alaskans may be a little rough around the edges — just look at the cast of characters on The Deadliest Catch — but all in all, most of us are pretty normal. And we go out of our way to lend a hand when it's needed. I’ve come into port and had complete strangers lend me a car to go shopping, and have done the same for others.

If you're looking for moderate seas, shallow anchorages, and benign weather, then perhaps Alaska won’t be to your liking. On the other hand, if you have a sense of adventure a good grasp of seamanship and navigation, enjoy empty wilderness anchorages, and want to see some of the most spectacular scenery and animals on the planet, a trip to Alaska is not to be missed.

Jeff Coult
Arctic Traveller, Defever 49
Juneau, Alaska

Jeff — Not to be too critical, but you spend most of your letter saying that it's easy to cruise in Alaska, but then you conclude by agreeing with the Drechslers that it's more difficult to cruise the 49th state than places such as Mexico, where the weather is more benign, the seas more moderate, and the anchorages less challenging. To that we might add that Mexico doesn't have any narrows with strong currents, floating or submerged logs, or very many crab pots in the Sea or along the mainland. Further, we think it's foolish to think that even the best maintained vessel is immune to breakdowns, and that if a boat had a breakdown, it would be less dangerous and less of a hassle to have it happen in Mexico. As it turns out, we all seem agree that the Drechslers were correct in their opinion that it's harder to cruise Alaska than it is Mexico, no?


In Richard Drechsler's report in the March Changes about negotiating the current in the Tievak Narrows in Alaska, he mentioned being worried about losing steerage if his over-the-ground speed fell to about two knots. It seems to me that speed over ground is irrelevant to steerage in a situation where a boat is traveling up-current. The important factor is speed-through-water — or more specifically, the speed of water flowing by the rudder. What's your take on the matter?

Bill Crowley
Clarsa, Ventura 23

Bill — Our take is that Drechsler is far too knowledgeable a sailor to think that water speed past the rudder isn't the key factor. We suspect that he simply didn't say what he meant. And we should have corrected it.


I've owned my 1976 Pearson 26 since I bought her new right off her cradle. My current wife and I were even married aboard her in '05. We now find that we need to replace the salon curtains, and I can't find the original style curtain tape that was used on Pearsons. I'm hoping that one of Latitude's great readers will be able to help me out.

P.S. Thanks for the best sailing magazine ever.

Bill Brummel
Midnattsolen, Pearson 26
Discovery Bay

Bill — Curtains for boats are always subcontracted out. Since a lot of curtain tapes have come and gone since your boat was built nearly 35 years ago, we recommend you do a search of curtain tapes at a local boat canvas place or on the internet. And congratulations on becoming a member of the 'Over 30 Club' for having owned your boat more than 30 years.


Your hyping of the Sea of Cortez in 'Lectronic surprises me, given that anyone who has ever sailed there will tell you how rotten a place it is. Perhaps a carefree afternoon race or as part of the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week can be enjoyable, but for cruisers like me, forget it. Fluky winds, barren anchorages, dying sealife, garbage galore, and lots of commercial shipping that would run you down with no qualms are big problems. My advice is to stay away. Stay in Puerto Vallarta and let those of us trapped here just suffer it out.

Joel Meister
Sea of Cortez

Joel — Waaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute, you're pulling our leg, aren't you?

Actually, we hype everywhere we go, because no matter where we go, we always find so much to like. To each their own, of course, but we personally find it hard to understand why people would stay in the same place the whole year. Isn't it like eating the same thing for every meal? Our preference is to sail in a number of different regions each year. That's why we've been long-time supporters of the development of affordable international teleportation, not just for us, but for our boats, too. After all, who cares about going to Mars if you could instantly move yourself and your boat from the Sea of Cortez to Croatia in a couple of seconds?


In the last issue you referred to Frank Robben of Berkeley when writing about people who have moved down in size from big boats to small boats. Frank did a hell of a lot of miles on his S&S 73 Kialoa II — I probably did 25,000 miles with him myself — but he only did one Pacific Cup, the one in '88. He also circumnavigated just once, but returned to the South Pacific before selling the boat in Hawaii.

Name Withheld By Request
Planet Earth

N.W.B.R. — Thanks for the facts. Scanning over Robben's blog, we were reminded that he also did a 24-day Hiroshima Cup from Honolulu to Japan, and after spending a year in Japan and Korea, did a 31-day passage back to California. Both you and Frank will probably be surprised to learn that the 73-ft yawl Kialoa II, built by Yacht Dynamics in Southern California way back in '64, is now for sale in Italy for just under $1,000,000 U.S. A lot of money has been poured into her, of course, but still, $1 mil for a 46-year-old 73-footer in this market?

As to our point of big boats having great potential for becoming big holes in the water, Robben wrote in his blog, "Economically, Kialoa II turned out to be a disaster." Of course, there is more to owning a boat than economics. He also had some of the greatest times of his life with her.


Our experience with Norm Goldie of San Blas over the last 15 days has been absolutely the opposite of what was mentioned in the February issue of Latitude. Every morning at 8 a.m., Goldie was up and running the net in a professional way. We never heard any profanities. Norman Goldie is the kind of person who wants to help the cruisers and fishermen. He knows the San Blas area, and loves to share his information for the benefit of cruisers.

My wife Rita and I spent several evenings with Janet and Norman Goldie during our stay in Matanchen Bay and at the marina in San Blas. We found that the two have big hearts, and several times witnessed things they are doing for the local community. For instance, Norm gave us clothing to pass out at Singayte, a small village 11 kilometers from San Blas. He also gave a local resident clothing for his children. And two days ago, while we were sitting in the plaza, Norm asked Janet to tell an Indian woman to come to their house the following morning and he would give her clothes and shoes for her five children.

I say its slanderous for people to say that the Goldies have taken donations for their own benefit. It is beyond me that people would dare to make such suggestions without any proof.

Despite the infamous no-see-ums, I wouldn't think twice about returning to San Blas. And during our 10 years of cruising, it's the first time that we got such a nice and warm reception from a couple who have their hearts in the right place and who care for the community in which they have lived for 44 years.

And no, they never asked us for donations or made any hints in that respect.

Rita & Antoon Goedecke
Royal Albatross, Freedom
Dana Point

Rita and Antoon — We're glad that you had a wonderful experience with the Goldies, and were able to witness some of their charitable activities. We've never doubted that the Goldies love to help people out.

On the other hand, there is no denying that other cruisers have had what they consider to have been very negative experiences, with Norm in particular. Two months ago we noted that we didn't have room to run all the letters from cruisers who were critical of him. When it came time to run these letters last month, we decided not to, in part because we had lots of other good letters, but also because Norm has to be close to 80 years of age and has had a history of heart problems. Since just about everybody is aware of his controversial reputation, we didn't see the necessity of dwelling on it. But based on those letters, we can assure you that if you think Norm has been slandered by cruisers, there is much evidence that he has done just the same to others — including some he's never even met. And just because you didn't hear Norm going into a profanity-laced rant on the VHF during the time you were there, this doesn't mean it didn't happen earlier in the season — which is what a number of other cruisers have reported.

So as we've said before, this is mostly a giant tempest in a teapot. If anybody wants Norm's help, great, he'll be more than happy to give it. If, on the other hand, you don't want his help, just tell him loud and clear. And have no fear of any threatened or implied consequences, for Norm's reputation is well-known to local officials. In any event, nobody should skip San Blas. In fact, we put together a little piece for this month's Changes explaining some of the reasons.

Update — In one of the more curious emails we've ever received, on April 19 Norm Goldie sent us an urgent request from Manchester, England, for a "soft loan" of $1,500 to help pay for a cousin's medical bills. Even more curious is that according to his missive, "the hospital management is demanding a deposit of $2,500 before they can invite a surgeon from Spain to carry out the surgery." Concerned that Norm's email account had been hacked by a scammer, we responded to the email. The 'English-as-a-third-language' response we received made us even more suspicious. But, having not been on the best terms with Norm for years, we knew the letter was a fake when we saw the signature: "Love, Norm." Convinced that Norm would never sign anything to us with "love," we posted a note in April 23's 'Lectronic Latitude to get the word out. We hope no one fell victim to the scam.


You asked me if I was under the impression that Latitude had hired somebody to do a video of the Ha-Ha, and if I was bothered by such rumors because you knew that I was working on a video of the two Ha-Ha's that I'd done. I can assure you that it's not true.

The funny thing is, I was talking to a guy who did the ’09 Ha-Ha, and he told me that Latitude 38 had hired — and paid — a guy to film the ’08 Ha-Ha, but the guy stiffed Latitude and took off to Central America with the money. I kid you not! I was laughing so hard that the guy asked me what was so funny. When I told him that I'd filmed the '08 Ha-Ha, and was still slowly working on the editing, but wasn't in Central America yet with Latitude's pile of cash, he laughed, too.

Rich Boren
Third Day, Pearson 365
Port San Luis

Rich — It's strange how such rumors get started. We've long thought about doing a Ha-Ha video, but to really do it right, figured we'd need cameras on a number of boats and on land, and one on a helicopter at the start, and would then have to spend a lot of time and money editing the footage. We said to heck with it, because we'd rather just enjoy the Ha-Ha rather than start another project. Besides, we think putting up a bunch of clips on YouTube and the not-yet-ready-for-prime-time Ha-Ha Facebook page would do the best job of getting the Ha-Ha story out to the most people.

For the record, some people have or are putting together Ha-Ha videos. None are official ones, and we haven't paid anyone to do one. But we wish them all the best of luck with their endeavors.

But did you hear the rumor that Lady Gaga now owns Latitude?


We spent five months cruising in French Polynesia last year, and some friends recently asked what advice we had for them vis-à-vis navigating in the Tuamotus. One thing came to mind immediately: buoying our chain. This technique was new to us at the time and was one that very few other boats were using, yet it made all the difference to our peace of mind.

Our 300 feet of anchor chain and heavy Bruce anchor performed flawlessly from Oregon to Mexico, and again in the Marquesas. But once we got to the Tuamotus, we frequently had problems. We'd anchor as usual, which meant finding a patch of sand large enough to provide some swinging room, at which time we'd drop the anchor and let out plenty of rode. This technique worked fine when the wind kept coming out of the same direction, but at night the wind would often die out and then come back up from a different direction. This caused our boat to drag her chain along the bottom until it caught around a coral head. Not only did it damage the beautiful coral, but it left us with difficult anchor retrievals. Once or twice we had a really hard time bringing the anchor chain up, and had the weather turned bad, we would have been in serious trouble. And we've always felt like idiots when we finally did jerk the chain loose and found bits of living coral tangled in it.

I knew we had to come up with a new strategy. Fortunately, I remembered reading something about buoying chain, and decided to give it a try. Here's the drill: At a new anchorage where there was a risk of getting hung up on coral, I'd look for the largest patch of sand, and I'd drop the anchor as usual. But after laying out about half my normal length of chain, I'd attach a float — I used old net floats, but fenders would work, too — with a short length of rope and an appropriate hitch. Then I let out more chain until the float began to sink. I then added another float, and repeated until I had enough scope for the depth. It usually took only two or three floats to do the job.

During my first couple of sets, I had to adjust the distance between buoys in the water to get it right. But after a few sets, I was able to get it right the first time. If the wind died, the weight of the chain would pull the boat toward the anchor, and 'accordion-ed' the chain clear above any coral. When the wind shifted, our boat would swing in a small arc, but then pulled out the buoyed section with no dog-legs around the coral. Using this technique, I let out more scope than usual, keeping in mind that it affected the catenary of my rode, and therefore the holding power of the anchor. We never had a problem with dragging, and avoided spoiling this incredible part of the world.

For the record, my wife Jessica and I are originally from New Orleans, but we left from San Francisco in '08. I crossed the Pacific solo as part of the Pacific Puddle Jump Class of '09. Many thanks to Latitude and Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin of Latitude for getting everyone the bond exemption! Jessica and our daughter, Tallulah, met me in Nuku Hiva and spent five months in French Polynesia, including about 45 days at Apataki in the Tuamotus — where buoying our chain came in very handy. Our Sea Wolf is a Bristol Channel-style cutter built of wood. She's currently for sale — plug, plug — at

Adam, Jessica & Tallulah Stone
SeaWolf, Bristol Channel Cutter
New Orleans

Adam — Well done! Thank you for sharing the technique with our readers.


I'm writing in hope that you'll allow me to ask your readers to write a short letter to the Army Corps of Engineers supporting the installation of moorings for visiting boaters here in Washington, D.C. I know Latitude is primarily published for the West Coast, but I used to read Latitude when I lived in San Diego, and I know that you have many readers on both coasts.

The Capital YC in Washington, D.C. is requesting approval for the installation of nine mooring balls so that we can ensure that visiting boats have a place to tie up when they visit our nation's capital. It's very important for cruisers to support the request, because D.C. doesn't have a very large boating community. It's not even a state, and only has a total of a few hundred slips. There is only one place for sailboats to anchor due to low bridge clearance, and having some moorings approved will protect our right to anchor there.

So it would help if anyone could write a letter or email in support of application number NAB-2009-01754-M07 (Capital Yacht Club / Mooring Field), and send it to Maria N. Teresi, Regulatory Branch, USACE, Baltimore District, Washington, DC 20024, or via email. Thank you.

Tom Des Jardins
Capital YC

Tom — Anything we can do to help D.C.


This recent video — see — would seem to refute the claim by the Coast Guard that they save only lives, not property. There must be a different mindset in the Command Center in Washington State from that in California.

John Anderton
Vancouver, WA

John — The 'we save lives, not property' policy of the Coast Guard seems to involve some flexibility, as others have reported that their boats have been towed to safety by the Coast Guard.

The text that accompanies the video reads, "A sailboat became disabled in windy, choppy Puget Sound waters between Alki and Lincoln Park in West Seattle. The boat had to be towed." You might notice it had to be towed off a lee shore. We assume the Coast Guard's reasoning is that if they didn't tow the boat from the lee shore, the distressed boat's crew would have been injured or killed.


Recent articles in Latitude have been enthusiastic about the situation in Thailand, especially the fact that fat, ugly, old, white men can get attractive young Thai women to have sex with them — as long as the man has money, of course. Regarding other countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela, you are harshly critical, supposedly because of a lack of freedom there. Is it possible that the 'freedom' you really seek is the freedom of those with money to spend it any way they like — including buying the bodies of desperate, poor, young women?

I will be interested to see what you have to say about the situation in Thailand now. Please note that Thailand is a monarchy, and that on April 12, the Wall Street Journal cited Paul Chambers, an expert on Thailand, as saying "the military is free to operate outside the control of civilian leaders . . ." and "the military has more power now than at any time in recent memory." Where's the 'freedom' there?

As for the issue of prostitution itself, I have two questions: 1) Would you suggest to your daughter or younger sister that she sell her body in order to finance a college education? And 2) As for the young woman — whose name I forget — who was recently asking in your pages for donations to help finance her trip around the world, why didn't you suggest this alternative to her? Or does her white skin make her ineligible for such a means of fund raising?

John Reimann
Y-Knot, Catalina 36

John — As we've written countless times, we believe in the freedom of speech, assembly, the press, travel, petition — and the freedom to behave halfway responsibly. There are varying degrees of these freedoms to be found in different countries around the world. While the people of Thailand may not be as free as Americans are, we can assure you that, our having recently been to the so-called 'Land of Smiles', the people there are much more free than are the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore, to say nothing of the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela. If Cubans or Venezuelans protested in their country as vigorously as the Thais have been doing recently in Bangkok, they'd all be dead. Indeed, Raul and Hugo won't mince words telling you that they would be happy to eliminate the enemies of their foundering 'revolutions'. By the way, we've spent time in Thailand, Venezuela and Cuba, and can't help wondering if you've been to any of them.

(This just in from Havana — Cubans are now allowed to rent barber shops and beauty salons with less than three chairs from the government, and charge whatever the market will bear for stylings. Wow. Cell phone and internet access, however, remain among the lowest in the world, with extreme censorship.)

Even a casual reading of our reports from Thailand would indicate that we're "enthusiastic" about some things in that country — the warm weather, the unusual scenery, the rural north, the Muslim south, the rubber tree plantations, the inexpensive sashimi, and the haunting ambience of the Bridge over the River Kwai. But there were other things that we didn't care for at all, such as the famous but totally bogus 'floating market', the mindless consumerism in Bangkok, the unvarying nature of Thai food, overdeveloped Phuket, the taxi mafia, and the surprisingly weasely nature of so many of the Thais. Who would think Buddhists would give off that kind of vibe?

As for your questions on prostitution, our answers are no and no. And how many times are we going to have to tell you before it sinks in that we believe in a swift death sentence for adults who sexually prey on minors. And none of that 'three strikes' rubbish. As for the general concept of prostitution, our libertarian nature says whatever genuinely free — and we want you to repeat that qualifier out loud — consenting adults of any color want to do between themselves is their own damn business. That's true no matter if it's between whites in Amsterdam, mixed race couples in Beverly Hills, Malays in Singapore's Little India or Arabs with the French in Paris. When such people aren't free because of economic or other circumstances, we don't support such relations any more than we do arranged marriages.

The key to people's being genuinely free, of course, is having enough money to take care of the basics of life. Hundreds of millions of people have emerged from poverty in the last decade. If you know the way for millions more to do it even faster than they have been, don't hesitate to share it.


Did you see the report in the L.A. Times that a 3,671-ft zipline eco-tour opened on Catalina Island on April 14? According to the report, you'll be able to zip over rocky, cactus-filled canyons at speeds of up to 45 mph while dangling from a cable as high as 300 feet off the ground. It will cost $89 per person, but there are five segments, so it will take between 90 minutes and two hours, breaks included, to drop from an elevation of 500 feet at Hog's Back Gate above Avalon until you get down to Descanso Bay. There will be educational eco-stations along the way.

Mike Crews
Valinor, Ericson 32-300
San Pedro

Michael — We did see the news. The zipline attraction is controversial because some folks believe that Catalina should remain as natural as possible, while other folks believe the island is caught in a time warp and has little appeal to younger folks and families. They note that the four-hour bus tour of the island recently closed due to a lack of interest, making the one-hour follow-the-leader golf cart tours of Avalon and walking through the Marlin Club on a Saturday night the two most exciting activities on land. So basically it's a battle between people who don't want the island's charm destroyed and those who think the island is too boring to be charming. Feelings are strong on both sides.

We don't consider ourselves to be big stakeholders, nor do we have a strong opinion either way. But we wouldn't mind if a small part of Catalina became more upscale and more like Capri. To put this into perspective, we're also among the few people who think oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel — particularly when they are flame-throwing — make the scenery more interesting.

In other Catalina news, Doug Ouden, who has been the harbormaster and vice president of operations at Two Harbors for an eternity, is retiring in May. We'll miss him, although he tells us that he and his wife Maureen will be around for periods of the summer. A replacement has not been announced.


Thanks for running the video in the March 26 'Lectronic of our broach while crossing the bar into San Blas, Mexico. Since you asked for opinions on what our options might have been, we probably should start with a more detailed account of the facts.

About 10 miles out, we started calling Marina San Blas for a bar report. Unable to raise them, we were contacted by two other boats, Gosling and Tanque de Tiburon. They had both been awaiting slack low tide at the bar, which the marina had apparently told them was at 1045 hours. From numerous potentially treacherous bar crossings en route to Alaska and back from California, we knew that the absolute best time to cross a bar is at the back of the flood. But since they also reported the tidal change was only 18 inches, we didn't consider that significant enough to warrant delaying our crossing — and rendezvousing with friends who had driven three hours to meet us. (That pesky old 'keeping a schedule' thing!)

Since the other two boats had an ETA at the entrance consistent with ours, we agreed we would follow them in. They had also arranged for a guide boat from the marina to come out to lead our small flotilla across the bar. In addition, we had the most recent set of waypoints from a vessel that had done a survey in February. So we didn't expect to see anything less than three feet under our keel.

As we approached, we noticed that some of the sets across the bar were large and looked prohibitive. But we also noticed there were long lulls between sets when the water on the bar was almost completely flat. This observation was consistent with the information Norm Goldie had relayed over the VHF. Arriving at the first of the five surveyed waypoints before the other two boats, we had about 10 minutes to closely monitor the wave action, so I felt confident that we could make it across during a lull. After we rendezvoused, we all waited for the marina's panga to arrive to lead the way.

When the panga arrived, the driver, like us, studied the waves for a few minutes. When the timing looked opportune, we set off in a line. Because our Catalina 470 Last Resort draws eight feet, we agreed that we'd hang back and let the others go first. After all, in the event we ran aground, it meant they wouldn't pile into us or have to find a way around our boat in the extremely narrow channel. Tanque de Tiburon took the lead because they had been in and out several times before, and therefore had some local knowledge.

As we started in, a very large set formed. I elected to hit hard reverse and back out beyond the break and await another opportunity.

In answer to Latitude's first question, the waves were far too close together for us to safely attempt a U-turn, not to mention that we didn't believe the channel marked by the waypoints was wide enough at that point to allow us to make a U-turn. But like you, I had initially considered the U-turn option. We have a Gori folding prop, and I elected not to put it in the 'overdrive' mode because I didn't want to shock-load the engine or the drive train, should I have to make a U-turn and crash over a series of steep 6-ft waves at full throttle. The decision not to engage 'overdrive' in advance would prove to be a mistake.

After watching the first two boats get knocked around like rowboats in a maelstrom, we waited at a safe distance until it looked as if a lull was starting. I had counted nine waves in the set, so I felt confident it would be calm enough to safely cross the bar. As we made our approach and entered the channel, we were doing 6.5 knots through the water but our GPS indicated that we were only doing 4.5 knots over the ground. This was highly inconsistent with the tide forecast, because by 1100 hours we should have had slack tide or the beginning of the flood. Clearly, either the tide tables were wrong or the marina had given us bad information.

But by this time we were totally committed, and the seas astern still looked calm. I was, however, seriously wishing I'd engaged the 'overdrive' mode on the prop, because I could have achieved a thru-the-water hull speed of about 8.6 knots. However, just as we reached the bar, an even bigger set came up and a breaking 6-ft wave caught our stern. It rolled Last Resort about 60° to starboard. The boat actually handled it quite well, and I was able to straighten her out almost instantly and recover. After that, we continued on without incident.

As you might imagine, we spent a lot of time second-guessing our decision. We learned some valuable lessons we'd like to share: We had been too haphazard in our preparations, leaving one hatch only partially dogged, canisters of flour and other items perched precariously on a shelf, and an expensive Canon camera sitting unsecured on the cockpit table. Had we buttoned up the boat a little better in advance, the near-knockdown would have been a non-incident.

But would I do it differently in the future? Actually, probably not. We were relying on a boat with prior local knowledge and, most importantly, on the marina to know the tides and bar conditions. If it was too dangerous to cross the bar, we assumed the bar pilot wouldn't try to take us in. So, like you, with very little experience taking a big boat through surf myself, I'll be most interested to hear what your readers have to say. I know this issue will come up again when we get to El Salvador.

By the way, we're bringing our boat up to California for the summer and will be doing the Ha-Ha again in the fall. What's more, we're putting together a plan for transiting the Panama Canal and sailing across the Atlantic to the Med.

Richard Drechsler
Last Resort, Catalina 470
Long Beach

Richard — Thanks for sharing all that additional information. As we said in 'Lectronic, we weren't second-guessing you, we just wondered if you'd had any other options. Since neither Sharon, you, nor the boat was hurt in any significant way, and since you recovered almost instantly, we'll chalk it up as a great educational experience with a bunch of good lessons for all. The only thing we'll add is that, as an old surfer dude, we'd recommend exercising greater than normal caution when dealing with a building swell, particularly one that would be hitting a bar flush.

We're not sure how many readers may recall, but as a result of an illness that resulted in the severe narrowing of his throat, Richard Drechsler hasn't been able to eat solid food for years, and therefore has to exist entirely on Nestlé Carnation's Very High Calorie Instant Breakfast drinks. We salute his and Sharon's cruising to date, and their plans for the future.


Following the item in 'Lectronic about Richard and Sharon Drechsler's Catalina 470 broaching on a breaking wave at the bar going into the estuary at San Blas, you asked for reports of other crossings in breaking waves.

Aboard Élan, our M&M 46 catamaran, my wife Deborah and I have had only one troublesome bar crossing, and that was on the way into the estuary to Bahia del Sol in El Salvador. We crossed the bar on the same high tide as two monohulls, both of which took waves much like the ones seen in the video in 'Lectronic from the day Last Resort and the other two monohulls went into San Blas. About three waves passed under each vessel, causing each of them to roll nearly to beam's end, and one of them to broach. Thankfully, none came out of it the worse for wear.

Élan, however, caught the first wave that tried to pass under us, and rode the single wave all the way across the bar at speeds of between 14 and 17 knots. This was completely unexpected by us — and by the crew of the guiding panga, who had to take evasive action to prevent getting run over. Though it sounds as though it might have been a 'white knuckle' sort of experience, Élan was actually very easy to control the entire time. She accelerated well ahead of the breaking portion of the wave, and traveled straight down the slope of the wave, just as a surfer would, with the breaking portion of the wave staying well behind us. At the beginning, we were under engine power alone. But once Élan started down the wave, I didn't feel the need for additional speed, so I slipped the engines into neutral.

I'd be interested to hear if other multihulls have behaved similarly in these conditions, as I'd like to know that I could 'expect' the same surfing behavior on future bar crossings.

By the way, we just got back from a month of cruising around Isla Carmen and Bahía Concepción in Baja. It was a very windy March, during which time the water actually got cooler rather than warmer! We did look at houses at San Carlos near Guaymas, but we concluded that the prices were too high. Besides, why would we want to have a house there when we can live aboard Élan moored in beautiful San Carlos Bay? But basically, we still don't know what we want to do when we grow up, so for now we'll continue to wander around, living on Élan, and visit the States from time to time for granddaughter fixes.

In the short term, Deborah and I will be flying to Spain to see the Grand Prix of Spain Formula 1 race. Seeing a Formula 1 race in Europe has always been on my bucket list. When we return, we'll spend some time in the Bay Area with our granddaughter, do a little camping and motorcycle touring, then drive back down to Élan, moored in San Carlos, to spend the riskiest part of hurricane season in the less dangerous northern part of the Sea of Cortez. Next winter, we might very well sail to Mag Bay for the gray whale season. We'll see.

We just finished up a 10-year refit on Élan in Guaymas, where we freshened up the rig and painted the topsides. She's looking good and sails as well as ever.

Guy & Deborah Bunting
Élan, M&M 46
Sea of Cortez

Guy and Deborah — Your account of crossing the bar is very interesting. It makes us wonder if your cat's higher speed, her two hulls, or some other factor could account for her behaving differently than the monohulls. Maybe Max Ebb would like to bring it up with Lee Helm.

With regard to living aboard versus living on land, we spend about half of the year doing each, and greatly prefer the former. As for Doña de Mallorca, she hates living on terra firma. When we used to live on land for two weeks in a little place over the water in St. Barth waiting for 'ti Profligate to get off charter, it was great. But it was also banal, and there were all kinds of hassles, most of them relating to needing a car. Life was so much more enjoyable when we got to move onto our cat, because depending on our whim and the weather, we could live off Fort Oscar, off Corossol, at Columbie or Forsche, or best of all, at Baie St. Jean in the shadow of the Eden Rock Hotel. Talk about an embarrassment of riches in places to live! And if we wanted to swim at Shell Beach or go bodysurfing at Grande Saline, we didn't have to pack water, food, towels and boogie boards, because we went there with our house and all our possessions. And you'll love this — our 'wheels' ashore is a beat-up old Spanish 125cc Senda we bought from the septic tank man for $800. It's so fun to ride through the tropical French countryside in the morning. If any readers are jealous, we won't lie, they should be, because it's la vie en rose. But we write this not to make our readers envious, but to tell them that it's a kind of life that virtually all of them can attain.

Life aboard is, in our opinion, also very sweet in Mexico, but a little less so in Southern California, where it's nonetheless still way better than living on land. You know as well as anyone, when you live aboard, particularly in the tropics, everything on the real nature channel is so much more beautiful and satisfying than anything you see on cable's Nature Channel.


After Carnival in Mazatlan this year, we stopped by the office of the Singlar Marina Boatyard, where I noticed a map on the wall with the symbol for a marina at a place called Teacapan. A woman in the office made a few calls for us to get more information. She learned that the marina hadn't been completed, but three slips were available. She also reported that catamarans such as ours had made it in over the bar to Teacapan before. Since it is halfway between Mazatlan and San Blas, we decided it would be a great place to break up the trip.

We arrived at the bar off Teacapan at 5 p.m. with a low tide of zero. The entrance featured about 100 yards of whitewater on top of 3- to 4-ft waves. We were looking for some kind of channel when a panga came alongside, and the driver offered to guide us in. In broken Spanish, I told him our Gemini 34 needed about three feet of water and could only make about five knots. "No problema," he said, and off we went.

As we got closer to the breakers, I saw a patch of water about 30 feet wide that wasn't breaking. The waves were almost dead astern. Had they not been, I would not have tried to enter. Just as I was getting confident, Terri Farnstrom, my girlfriend, cried out, "Here comes a big wave!" It was only about three feet, and only had a little whitewater. The stern of my cat was lifted high and we took off surfing down the wave. I heard a lot of alarms go off and glanced at the instruments. Instead of any number, the depthsounder read 'SHALLOW'. I'd never seen it do that before. My cat veered left as it accelerated, but I was able to straighten her out as I had the engine at full throttle the whole time. There were no more big waves after the one we surfed down, but it was a little scary seeing whitewater racing past us on both sides. Terri said she saw as little as four feet on the depthsounder at one point. The panga then led us into deeper water, and the driver told us to anchor in front of the port captain's office. Even though the current ran as much as three knots, the holding was great.

Once we'd gotten started, there was no way I would have been able to turn around to face the waves, as they were coming in too close together. I would not have considered entering a bar with quartering or beam waves, as you would have to be very sure you could get to safe water in the time between waves. That would be hard to do. If the waves were on the aft quarter and I really needed to make it in, I would try to turn to take the wave as dead astern as possible. But even then you have to have room to surf a little.

It rained the entire time that we were at Teacapan, so we didn't get to see much. We departed a few days later in the morning on a 2-ft high tide, and a guy from the port captain's office guided us out. We were very nervous as we approached 100 yards of whitewater once again. But at high tide the 'channel' was 100 feet wide. We were kind of embarrassed to have asked for help because it was so easy to go out. But the help was good, because the pilot kept us to the outside of the flat water, whereas I might have tried to go down the middle. He knew how to find the deep water by looking at the wave pattern.

By the way, the estuary at Teacapan extends halfway to San Blas, and along the way is the old Aztec island-city of Mexcaltitan.

Don Parker
Double Play, Gemini 34
Currently in La Cruz


Lighten up guys! I saw the April 12 'Lectronic clip of Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson — no relation — making his comment about the possibility of Guam's tipping over as a result of stationing 8,000 Marines there. Although Johnson's face was dead-pan, there was a twinkle in his eye. It was a great joke, and his point was well made.

Dave Johnson
Black Opal, Morgan 45
Channel Islands

Dave — If that was a well-made point, we're Lady Gaga, because all Johnson succeeded in doing was offering proof he has no business being in office. If he was worried that the addition of 8,000 Marines would overwhelm the local population and destroy the environment, why wouldn't he just say so and leave the looney talk out? The next thing you know, some other dim bulb in government would want to issue tsunami warnings based on the danger of Guam and other islands' tipping over. We believe that government is opaque enough without members of Congress trying to be ultra-oblique — on the wild assumption that that's what Johnson was actually trying to do.


Congressman Johnson's comments about the possibility of Guam's tipping over were so clearly figurative, and not literal, that one must question why you chose to hold up these comments for ridicule. Congressman Johnson is an honorable and highly-educated man who has served with distinction in many capacities in both private and public life. He is obviously sufficiently well-educated to know that islands sink no more often than continents. It is a fair comment for him to use the metaphor of sinking in questioning a decision to add one-seventh of the island's existing adult population in the form of a contingent of U.S. military personnel. Proportionally speaking, this would be like stationing another 200,000 troops and their family members in Hawaii, or 500,000 in Puerto Rico. I have no personal opinion on whether that decision results from good policy or not — it is certainly not one of the great burning issues of the day — but I know it is fair and right for Rep. Johnson to ask the question, given the enormous proposed percentage increase in Guam's population.

So why do you insult a black, Democratic Congressman in this way? Sadly, I must conclude that there is a racial and political subtext to this piece, similar to the racial subtext that underscores so much of the political gibberish flowing from the right these days. Fanning the flames of bigotry by wrongly showcasing an African-American Congressman as a "moron" does a disservice to your readers.

Stephen Blitch
Prime Number, Tartan 4100

Stephen — It's our responsibility to showcase whenever our elected representatives or appointed officials behave like "morons," and we've done so since the first issue without regard to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and all that. You should, too, as sacred cows benefit no one — least of all the cow itself. We'll leave it up to each individual to view the video for themselves (see it in April 12's 'Lectronic Latitude) and decide whether Congressman Johnson was speaking literally or not. In our opinion he was, as his delusional musing was consistent with his previous difficulty in articulating even the most basic concepts. But as you'll read in the following letter, perhaps there was a medical explanation for the Congressman's odd performance.

By the way, children are supposed to be taught how to draw correct conclusions from a set of statements or facts as early as the fourth grade. We wonder if you perhaps missed that year of schooling, because "sadly," you can't "conclude" anything about race or politics from our statements. Indeed, you haven't detected any racism, but rather projected your own into it.


Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of stuff in government to be worried about, but you may want to show some mercy on Congressman Johnson. It's my understanding that he is quite ill — with chronic hepatitis, I think — and almost near death. They say that he has periods of delusion and almost passes out frequently, so his statement about Guam's being in danger of tipping over is likely to have been a result of his illness. Just thought you'd like to know.

Dan Price
Whisper in the Wind, Bowman 57
Honolulu / Salt Lake City

Dan — Indeed, we'd like to know, and thanks for the heads up. If that's the case, we have all the compassion in the world for Johnson. On the other hand, we'd have none for the Congressional leadership for not removing a Congressman who is no longer capable of representing his constituents. Of course, if all the delusional people were removed from Congress, they wouldn't be able to form a quorum, creating a whole new set of problems.

YOU'RE #1! YOU'RE #1! YOU'RE #1!

We completed our application and paid to participate in the '09 Ha-Ha, only to realize that our boat, Thee Amazing Grace, was far from being ready for the event. Although the Ha-Ha has a 'no refund' policy, the Grand Poobah graciously granted us 'pre-paid' status for this fall's Ha-Ha. Since we signed up last year, do we get to be at the top of the list?

David Bloom
Thee Amazing Grace, Vector 39
Long Beach

David — The Poobah says you're number one. By the way, the Ha-Ha will come out of hibernation to accept applications on May 3 at For more info, see Sightings.


It was great seeing the Grand Poobah at the party for the Banderas Bay Regatta and at the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Oakland. We just want him to know that we weren't kidding when we told him that we'll be doing our sixth Ha-Ha this fall. Furthermore, we know of at least five Catalina 470s from Northern California that will be doing this year's Ha-Ha also. So we say, 'Do it again in 2010!'

We did last year's Ha-Ha, and just want to say 'thank you' to everyone involved in helping us cut the docklines. Sometimes we all need a little nudge, like a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time. The unknown is frightening, and you wonder if you can do it. Then comes the nudge and you're off soaring, doing things beyond your imagination. It was truly a wonderful feeling for us to do the Ha-Ha, and has been an amazing journey for us since the very first day. The sight of more than 160 sailboats leaving San Diego Harbor was something to behold, and will be engraved in our memories forever.

Our original plan was to do the Ha-Ha, then take off on the Puddle Jump. Sometimes God has other plans though. I couldn't commit to a four-week passage at this time because my 86-year-old mother was battling brain cancer — and what a fight she continues to put up! So Rick and I opted to cruise the Sea of Cortez, which was close to home. Rick's dream had been to sail the South Pacific on his own boat, so it was a letdown for him. But he knew how important it was for me.

But we've been so happy with the way things have worked out. The Sea is an amazing place, and anyone who passes it by is really missing out. And as everyone discovers, the people of Mexico are wonderful, warm and kind. Plus we've made so many good friends.

We've just left Puerto Escondido, Baja, and are making our way south to La Paz, stopping at the incredible bays along the way. We'll probably Bash back north in May. And who knows, maybe we'll see you at the starting line of this fall's Baja Ha-Ha 17.

Connie & Rick Hedrick
Rhino, Westsail 32
Dana Point

Connie and Rick — Thanks for the kind words. We're glad things worked out for you. The Sea is truly an amazing place, and the people of Mexico are wonderful.

If you decide to do the Ha-Ha again, you won't be the only repeaters. Among just the 23 or so boats in the recent Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, at least seven of them told us there is a very good chance they'll be doing the Ha-Ha again this fall. That would include Braveheart, Bob Callaway's Pleasant Harbor, WA-based MacGregor 65; Talion, Patsy Verhoeven's La Paz-based Gulfstar 50; Moontide, Bill Lily's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470; Adios, Craig Shaw's Portland-based Columbia 43; RotKat, Arjan Bok's San Francisco-based Lidgard 43 cat; and, of course, Profligate. San Diegans Barritt Neal and Renee Blaul, two of the crew on Profligate for SOCSW, will also be doing the Ha-Ha aboard their Peterson 44 Serendipity. It will be Barritt and his boat's third Ha-Ha.


My wife and I own a 38-ft cruising sailboat. For the last couple of years, we've planned to sail her to Mexico this fall, cruise the mainland coast during the winter, and over a few seasons of intermittent fall/winter/spring cruising, move her through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean, where we'd likely cruise around. But because of a job change, we've relocated to the Great Lakes, and are reconsidering our plan. In fact, we're thinking of shipping our boat to Chicago, sailing the Great Lakes for a couple of seasons, then heading out the St. Lawrence and down to the Caribbean. We're on the fence about the options and are open to advice.

One of the bigger trade-offs we're exploring is how challenging the sailing would be heading eastward through the canal and Caribbean, compared to sailing down the St. Lawrence, the Atlantic Coast/ICW, and what would most likely be a sweep south then west in the Caribbean.

Anyone at Latitude willing to give their advice?

Doug Kuch
Tranquility, Island Packet 380
Mountain View

Doug — Let us preface our response by saying that we'd toss the St. Lawrence Seaway out of the equation and replace it with the 175-year-old Erie Canal, which would save something like 1,500 miles on an Atlantic route to the Caribbean. There are 34 locks in the Erie Canal between Lake Erie and the Hudson River, but the locks are long, wide and deep enough. We're also told that it's a spectacularly beautiful trip in the summer and fall. The only downside is that you'd have to drop the mast and carry it on deck for the duration of the Erie Canal, as the vertical clearance gets down to 15 feet between Lake Erie and Three Rivers.

As we see it, you're basically asking us which is less challenging, getting to the Eastern Caribbean from Panama, or getting there from somewhere — Rhode Island, Virginia or Florida — on the East Coast. In our opinion it's a real toss-up, as all four routes can be challenging.

Panama Canal to St. Martin — This one is about 1,300 miles rhumbline, but there's no way you're going to go rhumbline against the relentless trades and adverse current. One viable option is working your way up the Western Caribbean, at which point you'll still have to go nearly 1,500 miles upwind to reach St. Martin. Although you'll still be battling the trades, you can take shelter at Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. If you're in no hurry, it's a pretty good choice. A second potentially viable option is to sail to Cartagena, then pray for an unusually long break in the trades to sneak around the hump of South America, at which point you can hug the coast in lighter winds the rest of the way to Trinidad. But once at Trinidad, it's still a long tight reach or more upwind to St. Martin. The key is catching a long enough weather window out of Cartagena. A lot of cruisers have had their bottoms handed to them trying to make it east from Cartagena and had to backtrack.

Newport to St. Martin — The trick here is to leave Newport after the last hurricane of the season and before the first ice on the decks. The good thing is that you'll only freeze your ass off for about 48 hours, after which you'll be in the warm Gulf Stream and not too far from Bermuda. From Bermuda, you've only got 800 miles to go to St. Martin, and the farther south you get, the better your chance of decent weather. This one is also all about waiting for the right weather window out of Newport and Bermuda.

Virginia to St. Martin — This is basically the Caribbean 1500 route, and if you've followed the history of the event, you know you'll have to be prepared for some bouts of very strong winds and big seas. This is no Ha-Ha. It's not unusual for the fleet to delay the start a day or two for a better weather window, and sometimes participants take shelter at Bermuda. But if the weather is good, it should be possible for you to complete the course in 10 or 12 days.

Fort Lauderdale to St. Martin — There are two options on this one, too. You can either sail straight east until you get to 'Highway 65', then head due south to St. Martin. Capt. Jim Drake did this once with our Ocean 71 Big O, and said it was one of the best sails he's ever had. But it's often not such a sweet sail. The other option is to take Bruce van Sant's Thorny Path — 1,500 miles upwind against the trades with lots of stops at the various islands. This can be like a never ending root canal, and lots of folks who have done it swear they'll never do it again. But others have had success.

We don't mean to make all of these options sound unappealing, but they all involve some challenges. Good luck!



'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2014 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.