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August 2010

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My request is an odd one, but as salty as I am when it comes to all matters sailing. I can't seem to tackle my problem alone, so I'm in dire need of creative solutions from Latitude staff and/or readers.

As a sailing couple who have done quite a bit of long-term cruising — a year in Central America 16 years ago as a beta test to marriage — with minions who were born in Barcelona while we cruised the Med eight years ago, we are currently on our fifth boat together, a Catana 431 cat. Our cruising plans should consist of buying a few bags of groceries and sunscreen, and hosting a bon voyage party. Instead, our sweet boat is up for sale.

The wrinkle in our plan is that our sons RC and Collin, ages 8 and 10, each have issues of an educational nature that we don't have the expertise to address. It's hard to fathom that these problems couldn't be fixed with duct tape — well, the ADHD one could — but not so much the dyslexia.

My husband, Rob, has the following reasons for putting our boat up for sale: 1) She's a bit too much boat if we won't be embarking on a long-term voyage anytime soon; 2) she's expensive to maintain for just weekend sailing; 3) we have no exit strategy on the horizon, as we have no way of knowing if the educational system can offer our dyslexic son the help he needs.

My reasons for wanting to keep our cat are: 1) The kids will be ready to cruise in the next few years, at which time we'd have to start searching for and outfitting another boat; 2) she's a great boat for weekend sailing and 'stay-cations' to San Francisco while we live in Santa Cruz; 3) the cat costs could be defrayed if we put her in charter or took on partners — although the charter/partner idea has been rejected.

So I need help in coming up with more solid reasons to keep our boat. Some will suggest the obvious — that I keep the boat and sell my husband. But that's not a possibility. My captain is a linear thinking, Latitude-reading kind of guy. So I can't imagine that you, or your readers, won't be able to come up with good suggestions for me. All are welcome. Please email them directly to my husband. He's going to love that, I'm sure.

I'd also very much like to hear from any cruising families who have tackled home schooling with a dyslexic child.

As any self-centered parent would, I have recruited the minions to my side of non-sale, as dad's side nets out to non-sail. This is tantamount to treason, but a girl's gotta to do what a girl's gotta do.

Christine Currie
Tramuntana, Catana 431
Alameda/Santa Cruz

Christine — You're a pretty funny lady, and you're right, your request is pretty unusual. We'll give you the most solid reason of all for keeping your boat — you really like her and she gives you and most of your family a lot of pleasure. We don't think you need any reasons beyond that.

With a few exceptions, such as Larry Ellison, we all have limited resources, so we have to prioritize how we allot them. Our priorities in life are as follows: 1) The well-being of our kids; 2) traveling around on sailboats; and 3) . . . well, there is no number three because everything else seems to be, as surfers say, just details. We've been able to travel around on boats because things like new cars, jewelry, fancy furniture, stylish clothes, fine dining, expensive wines, frequent haircuts, spa visits, car washes, movies, concerts, resort vacations, Christmas or other presents, visiting casinos, and buying pot or coke seem like foolish wastes of money. Get us out in nature on our boat, and we're pretty happy. Get us on our boat in the tropics and we're ecstatic. Oh wait, there really is a #3. We really like high-speed internet access, too.

No cruiser has ever told us that home schooling was easy. In fact, a lot of them have told us it's very hard. But in looking at the big picture we think most active young boys would get a better and more useful education cruising on a boat than they would caged up in almost any classroom in America, at least until high school age. And while we're not experts, we think this might be particularly true for boys with ADHD and maybe even dyslexia issues. But we'll let more knowledgeable people weigh in on these subjects.

By the way, in most couples it's the man who is usually more enthusiastic about sailing than the wife, but it's hardly universal. Among the exceptions have been sailmaker Jocelyn Nash at Quantum Sails; Wendy Hinman of Seattle, who wasn't very pleased when husband Garth Wilcox was ready to give up cruising their Wylie 30 Velella after just seven years in the Pacific; Caren Edwards, formerly of Portola Valley, who was outvoted by her husband, son Dana, and daughter Rachel, when it came to continuing to cruise their Marquesas 53 Rhapsodie in the Pacific after just five years; and others we just can't remember off the top of our heads. If you're a woman who belongs in this group, we'd love to hear from you.


The Fourth of July this year was a great day for sailing. The weather was beautiful and, after a wonderful afternoon sail on our Treasure Island-based J/24 Holy Cow, we were heading back to our slip to enjoy a pre-fireworks dinner in the berth. I heard the skipper, Barry Vlught, yelling something as I was on the foredeck dropping the jib. With the wind picking up and blowing the gaskets out of my hands, I assumed that the skipper was yelling at me to hurry up. But when I turned back, I saw that a 35-ft cutter under power with no sails up had her bowsprit over our port lifelines amidships!

Our skipper repeatedly called out to the woman at the helm — the only person on deck — to turn to starboard and give way. She merely stared straight ahead, her hands firmly holding the wheel on a steady course, grumbling, "I know, I know, @*& you." Nonetheless, she made no attempt to turn the wheel or reach for the gear shift. It didn't seem to me as if she was trying to avoid a collision.

With the wind blowing us down on the cutter, the skipper couldn't point any higher and we didn't have time to start our outboard. We thought Holy Cow and we were going to become hamburger! As we donned our PFDs, the bowsprit of the cutter kept moving aft alongside our boat. At one point the skipper was contemplating exactly when he should jump to safety.

Miraculously, the wind and current combined to prevent Holy Cow from being hit — although only by inches. We couldn't believe that we hadn't been hit.

The cutter eventually turned and paralleled us. "Why didn't you give way?" our skipper asked. "We were under sail. You almost hit us!"

"Don't talk to her, talk to me," an elderly man replied. "And if you want to talk to me, come aboard my boat. I was down below and didn't see what happened."

"Where are your CF numbers?" our skipper asked.

Needless to say, they didn’t respond — or even offer an apology. They motored off, presumably to watch the fireworks. Once our sails were down, we motored into the marina and I called the Coast Guard's non-emergency number and reported the incident. When they asked for the boat's CF numbers, I couldn't provide them because they weren't displayed. I could only give them the boat's name and a description.

The Coast Guard said they were glad I had called to report the incident, and told me that although they were busy, they had a boat headed to the Treasure Island area and would look for the cutter. I was glad for the Coast Guard's patient and appreciative response as it provided me with a sense of relief after a harrowing experience.

We were then finally able to kick back on our boat and enjoy our picnic dinner while we waited for the fireworks display. We never learned what, if anything, happened between the Coast Guard and the boat that almost hit us. But I trust they did their job and handled the situation as they saw fit.

Extra precautions, including looking out for other mariners who may not be looking out for themselves, must always be taken since the unexpected and unpredictable become the norm during busy times on the Bay.

Christine Nordstrom
Holy Cow, J/24
Treasure Island

Christine — We don't want to make light of your harrowing experience, particularly if you're not a racer for whom close calls and minor collisions aren't that uncommon, but we think your last sentence metaphorically hits the nail on the head. We sail with the same assumption as when we ride our motorcycles: Everyone else is either an idiot or is intentionally trying to run us down. By always planning a way out of every situation with every other boat — which is very easy to do most of the time — we're able to feel as if we have the maximum control over our lives. We recommend that everyone sail with the same attitude, particularly on Opening Day, when there are fireworks shows, during Fleet Week, and on similar occasions. Those are the days when not only are there more boats out, but a higher than normal percentage of them are being operated at a lower level of skill and attention.


Last fall, my husband and I sailed Peregrine, our Fuji 45, away from her slip in Alameda County to San Diego, then to beautiful Mexico. She now lives in Guaymas, Mexico.

Our good news is that we just received confirmation from the Alameda County Assessor's Office that, since Peregrine is no longer in Alameda County, her personal property account has been closed! And our friends Doug and Linda Simms of the formerly Alameda County-based Tayana V42 Aquadesiac got the same good news about their boat.

I received Form 576D at my sister's home — she gets my mail — early this year. During a trip back to California in February, I completed the form and personally delivered it to the counter at the Assessor's Office. I explained our situation and completed the form, which has a box for "Removal Information." The clerk suggested that I indicate the address as being "c/o" my sister — that way they would know that we really didn't live there! This particular civil servant was smart and helpful.

Muggs Zabel
Peregrine, Fuji 45
Guaymas, Mexico

Readers — One would think that all California county tax assessors would interpret tax law the same way, but they don't. There are some counties that don't care if you take your boat out of the country and go cruising for 10 years; they claim that you still owe personal property tax on your boat for each and every year. That hardly seems fair since the theory behind tax on personal property is that you're compensating the government for services rendered or at least available.

Tax assessors in other counties say that if you can prove your boat was out of the county for more than six months, or in some cases the entire year, you don't owe the tax. If you're about to go cruising in an expensive boat, you owe it to yourself to find out what the policy is in the county where you keep your boat. It may make financial sense to have your boat establish residence in a more tax-friendly county before you take off on your cruise.


For a couple of years I have wanted to crew in the Ha-Ha — and I finally have enough control of my schedule to do so. I signed up for the Crew List, and recently received two requests for further info. In both cases I was asked to send a photo. The first guy was very specific, and said he needed a good face shot to see what I looked like. Hmmmm. The second guy was a bit more subtle. But in both cases it seems I have failed the beauty contest, for I sent them both two photos, and I have not heard back from either one.

I'm not writing to complain — and both parties, who happen to be single males, shall remain nameless. I don't even want you to do anything about it. But I was wondering if this was indicative of the Ha-Ha, or did I just stumble onto playboys looking for sleeping partners with blond hair and big boobs?

What I really want to know is what do I have to do to get on a decent boat? My skills are modest, and I'm neither fat nor ugly — or at least I don't think so. Anyway, I'm a nurse and will be working in Modesto for the next three months, and hope to get to the Bay Area and do as much sailing as possible. If you have any suggestions, advice, or even a person I can contact who needs a willing crewmember for either the summer or the Ha-Ha, drop me a line via email.

Thanks. And again, I'm not looking to do anything about a couple of sorry-assed sailors who are babe-hunting, as it's their loss.

Maureen O'Malley

Maureen — We empathize with you, but isn't the lesson of history and all cultures that males go for females they perceive to be beautiful and females go for males they consider to be rich and/or powerful? It's not fair to women and it's certainly not fair to men either — but it seems to be reality.

On the other hand, there are several reasons to believe that you may be jumping to negative conclusions. For one thing, whenever Doña de Mallorca looks for delivery crew, one of the first things she asks is for applicants to send a couple of photos of themselves. She's not looking to see if the respondents are blondes with big boobs, but rather to get a rough sense if they seem like someone she might want to be spending time with in close quarters and perhaps have to work with through a crisis situation or two. And if you were in her TopSiders, you'd be surprised at what some of the photos say about the people who send them. When applying for a crew position, you only get to make one first good visual impression, so it's worth putting effort into having a good photo or two to represent yourself in the best light.

Having heard a million stories of how Ha-Ha crews get put together, we can assure you that it's not an orderly or entirely rational process. In many cases skippers put out requests for crew, get busy with other stuff in their lives, and don't get back to the potential crew until two weeks before the start of the event. The majority of crews are in a state of flux until almost the start. So don't be surprised if one of the two guys — or both — call in October and hope you still want to go with them. It's just the way it works on a lot of boats.

We won't lie to you and tell you that your modest sailing skills might not be an issue. When doing a Ha-Ha, you're going to be spending two weeks in very close quarters with several other people, and skippers sure don't want to be faced with one of their crew saying stuff like, "Oh gee, I didn't know I was going to have to stand watch in the middle of the night!" More than a few inexperienced sailors assume that crewing on the Ha-Ha is like taking a vacation on a cruise ship, and that the skipper and first mate will wait on them hand and foot. It's much more adventurous than that. More than a few skippers have groused that crew without offshore experience have been much more of a liability than an asset to their Ha-Ha experience, so you have to understand their position.

On the other hand, your being a nurse would be a big plus if we were looking for crew. To us it suggests that you're bright, that you're used to working with people, that you're not lazy, and that you may have had some experience in emergency situations. So that's something you might want to emphasize.

We never get involved with getting people on boats because it causes more trouble than trying to be a matchmaker. So all we can do is encourage you to keep working the Crew List, come to the Mexico-Only Crew List Party on September 8 at Encinal YC, sail as much as you can, and get to know people who will be doing the Ha-Ha. The cruising community is actually relatively small, so it's not that hard to be successful if you keep at it. Good luck!               


While recently flipping through the June issue of Latitude, I came across a photo of a familiar face, that of Felix Knauth. My eyes clung to the picture in disbelief, fearing what my heart already knew by the nature of the photo. Sure enough, the accompanying headline read 'Four Sailors lost in May'.

Felix Knauth, one of the four, literally stumbled his way into my life, as well as the lives of Paul, Daniel and Sarah, three of my good friends. With our boat docked at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, the four of us were getting ready to sail across to Monterey and explore some of the Big Sur coast. Before we left, Sarah, who works in a cafe, told us she'd struck up a conversation with an old man who had tripped over her computer cord. This was Felix.

Sarah described him as someone who had been deeply involved in establishing the Peace Corps, had raised his children in Somalia, and had basically sailed singlehanded — the other person was too drunk the entire time to raise a finger to help — across the Atlantic. Paul, Daniel and I weren't quite sure what to make of this description, and were curious to meet this mystery man.

Felix showed up looking old and frail, and walking with a cane. Yet there was a certain strength in his body. He introduced himself and immediately began a conversation while examining my 34-ft sloop. He complimented my boat and joked about watching out for the nicer items I had mounted on it. Within a minute, the floodgates to his life story had been opened up. He spoke about the challenges of growing up with polio, and about sailing across oceans with no radio and minimal navigation equipment. His description of sailing to Ireland sounded something like this: “Well, I had to go east, and if I began to see a bunch of white I knew I’d have to turn right, and if I came across a bunch of brown, I’d go left, and if I saw green I knew I was right on target.”

When the four of us, all avid rock climbers, broached the subject of climbing, Felix inundated us with stories that were hard for any rock climber to believe. He told us about being on the climbing expedition that made the first ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite — arguably the most famous climb in the world. His stories touched every fiber of each of our adventurous beings: first ascents of difficult mountaineering routes in the California High Sierra Nevada, horse camps and summit trips at Mount Shasta — there were too many to list.

And then there was the most current story, the reason 80-year old Felix was at S Dock in Santa Cruz with us. Having lost his wife less than two years before, he'd spent 18 months at his son's home in Texas, mostly watching television and living a rather sedate life — as might be expected of a lonely elderly man. He told us that he woke up one day, realized that this was not the way he wanted to live his final years, and proceeded to research boats he could afford. He ultimately came across a Santana 22 in Santa Cruz. This is where our paths crossed.

It was Felix's plan to sail south singlehanded past Pt. Conception to Southern California in the windy month of May. He would later leave Monterey, his first anchorage, the same morning we did. He left so early that we didn't see him go. But before he said his goodbyes to us, he'd gone back to his boat and grabbed a manuscript that appeared to have been typed up on an old-fashioned typewriter. It was the story of his life, right up to the purchase of his Santana 22. I wonder today if we were the last people with whom he shared his stories.

Felix’s easy manner and the nature of his stories really gripped the four of us. The single meeting and conversation we had with Felix deeply affected all of us, for as young folks — all in our 20s — we're looking to live our lives to the fullest. Felix was a true inspiration. Even in death he's become something of a mentor. We've often thought about him when we were sailing or climbing, and we'd ask ourselves, “Would Felix reef right now?” or “Do you think Felix would have climbed this route back in the day?” We each will continue to have Felix as our mentor. His presence in our lives has been a privilege and a gift.

Jakob Laggner
Patience, Coronado 34
Santa Cruz


Your advice, offered in the June 28 'Lectronic report on Greg Dorland's broken leg, "to remember to never straddle a loaded block or use a traveller track or loaded block for a handhold," came 10 years too late for me. It wasn't that big a deal, but I stupidly held the mainsheet during a gybe in 20 knots of wind as we were headed for the rocks. I lost part of a finger.

After realizing that my finger was hanging off the upper mainsheet block, the next thing I realized was that I was bleeding all over the cockpit. As I tried to wipe up the blood, my wife told me it might be a good idea for me to lie down before I fainted. She was right.

Although I didn't faint, it was an ordeal to get to an anchorage and get help. Prior to going out, I'd thought, "It's just a daysail, who needs Band-Aids?" Was I ever wrong!

Steve Bondelid
Whidbey Island

Steve — There are lots of famous sailors in the Missing Digit Club. Two who come to mind are Aussie Ben Wright, who used to run the 60-ft ORMA trimaran Lakota and the 110-ft catamaran Playstation for Steve Fossett, and Southern Californian Ben Mitchell, who not only navigated many of the best West Coast racing boats in the '70s through the '90s, but who also lost a finger to a traveller block. But you don't have to be named Ben to be a member of the Missing Digit Club. Dino Dipasquale of Colorado Springs lost a finger in a pizza parlor accident, but he's a member of the club because he's done a lot of Ha-Ha's and charters in the Caribbean. On the other hand — pardon the pun — Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff for President Obama, doesn't belong to the club because, although he lost his 'Bird' finger in a meat-cutting machine while working at a fast food emporium but doesn't sail.

Anybody else want to join the club and explain the circumstances of their loss? Send your application to Richard.


I think Brian Trelivijg was right on the mark in his criticism of San Francisco’s pathetic welcome of the Clipper Round the World Race fleet. My wife and I hosted two of the sailors from California during their stopover here. I can assure you that they were considerably less than impressed by the welcome they received from the City of San Francisco and the State of California. Everywhere else the Race has stopped before and since, there have been parades and receptions. In Kinsale, Ireland, where the fleet most recently left, 45,000 people turned out to welcome them. That probably represented most of the residents of Kinsale. In San Francisco the turnout was zilch.

I wouldn't have expected much from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, none of whom know which way is up, much less which is the sharp end. But I would have hoped for more from Mayor Gavin Newsom. I was mistaken, as he didn't even show up for the official welcoming and just sent a flunky instead.

The real culprit, however, was our beloved Governor. He promised sponsorship, which is the reason one of the boats was named California. But then he reneged on his promise. This may not have been widely known by the people in our area, but the sailors in the Clipper Race knew it. Subsequently, he was too embarrassed to show his face or organize any welcome.

Lee Turner

Lee — San Francisco has never been a good town when it comes to welcoming bold and brave sailors. We're not sure if it's because we'd rather be sailing ourselves or because there are so many other competing activities in our area, but we've just never responded to those things with any kind of enthusiasm. The only really good crowd we can remember is when Tom Perkins sailed beneath the Gate with his 289-ft Maltese Falcon and, to a slightly lesser extent, for the face-off between BMW Oracle and Alinghi, along with the other IACC boats, in '03. Beyond that, zilch.

And frankly, we're not sure what kind of obligation the Governor, Mayor and Board of Supervisors should feel toward supporting what is, after all, a for-profit endeavor. If their constituents don't seem to care, why should they? And it's not as if they shouldn't be addressing much more serious issues, such as the inevitable bankruptcy of the State of California and the City of San Francisco.

Despite the indifference of Northern Californians, the Clipper Race seems to be going gangbusters, thank you, as the fleet is getting ready to go around again in '11-'12. We haven't checked to see if they plan on stopping in San Francisco again but, if they don't, we'd understand why, wouldn't we?


Here is my rebuttal to the silly argument about how much freedom there is in Thailand. I love Thailand. I love the food, the anchorages, the weather, the economy — but mostly I love the people and the freedom they enjoy. We aren’t as free in the good old U.S. of A. I know a lot of Americans don't want to hear that, but it's true. Let me give you an example.

After six months of the dry northeast monsoon in Thailand, and right at the beginning of the six months of the wet southwest monsoon, all of Thailand celebrates with the Water Festival. No, there are no marching bands or speeches by politicians. Instead, everyone fills balloons and any containers they might have with water, and the waterfights begin. Everyone is game — including policemen directing traffic! Try throwing a water balloon at a cop in America and see what happens!

It's nice to be back in Latitude-land, as the magazine is hard to come by in the Western Caribbean. I love the glossy ads. Soon you might have a glossy cover.

Mike Riley
Beau Soleil, Dickenson 41
Coronado / Presently in the Sea of Cortez

Readers — Most readers probably don't remember that Riley took off around the world on his soon to be engine-less Columbia 24 Tola in '85, starting what would become a five-year small-boat circumnavigation. Along the way, he met and married Karen, a Kiwi woman. Their son Falcon was conceived in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and was born in Malta. After completing a five-year circumnavigation, the family spent two years in Coronado getting their new boat, the Dickenson 41 Beau Soleil, ready for the 11-year circumnavigation they completed in '03. Most recently, they've been cruising the Western Caribbean.

The proper name for the festival Riley refers to is the Songkran Festival, which comes from the Indian Holi Festival, and means 'astrological passage'. It was traditionally held April 13-15, which is not only the hottest time of year in Southeast Asia, but also the beginning of the new year in much of that part of the world. The Thai version of the festival started in Chiang Mai in the north, where it now continues for six days and draws countless fun-loving visitors.

Like a lot of big holidays in the west — such as Christmas, Easter and Burning Man — Songkran started as a religious observance but has grown increasingly secular. The original idea was that at the beginning of the new year, everyone would go to the wats, or Buddhist monasteries, to pay respect to their elders, and while they were at it, pour water mixed with fragrances over the Buddhas in order to clean them. But one can see how easily the splashing of the water on dusty Buddhas on the hottest days of the year by the fun-loving Thais could get out of hand. So now the most well-known aspect of Songkran is the water fights, in which Thais roam the streets with containers of water, sometimes mixed with mentholated talc, or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose to drench each other and passersby. In Chiang Mai, all the Buddhas are paraded through the streets with everybody throwing water at them to 'bathe' them.

Latitude glossy? You must have seen the boat show issue, in which there was a glossy insert. Latitude is never going glossy.


As a broker of catamarans for 15 years, I can't understand why the "professional" captain of the 32-ft PDQ cat Catalyst didn't check the weather before heading out of Crescent City on that boat's ill-fated voyage, the one that resulted in her cat being flipped and her three crew nearly dying of hypothermia despite the best efforts of the Coast Guard. Nor do I understand why they didn't stream some kind of drag gear, as even an anchor line run in a loop from one transom to the other would have greatly improved the cat's stability and control. I did that on a Catana 38 cat once in 50 knots of wind in the Med, during which time we flew a scrap of the roller furling headsail. The cat broadreached nicely at 9 knots under the autopilot. Nor do I understand why none of Catalyst's crew put on PFDs.

It's usually sea state that causes the biggest danger for catamarans. The problem is that some cats have a tendency to run too fast, which causes them to pitchpole. Cruising catamarans are wonderful boats and, in my view, are more seaworthy than monohulls. But the smaller cruising cats, and even the mid-sized ones designed for the charter market, were not designed to sail at much over 14 knots. The problem is that they don't have enough reserve buoyancy in the bows, which allows them to pitchpole. So in conditions where a 32-ft cat might be in serious danger of flipping, the crew on a 45-ft Outremer — which is both significantly larger and built for higher speeds — might be sleeping in comfort while the autopilot drives. As I tell all my clients who are looking for a cat to sail across oceans, you'll be way safer with a 15-year-old 50-ft cat than a brand new 38-footer.

I remember being in a hurricane on a Privilege 51. While the captain and I ran off comfortably for two days, his wife was too frightened to assist. So we just had her watch videos and feed us hot food. Hey, she's a Le Cordon Bleu chef, so it was a good idea in more ways than one. In really big seas, I think the most important thing is to not look back, as the helmsman might get so frightened/distracted when looking up at overtaking waves that he could lose confidence and concentration in maintaining a safe course.

I was also aboard a Catana 47 when the carbon fiber mast failed in 60 knots of wind some 100 miles off Morocco. We then ran all night at 10 knots in 36-ft seas, despite not having a mast. We were quite safe even though we were heavily loaded down with fuel and provisions for an Atlantic crossing. The scariest part was that the only way to remain at the helm — on Catana 47s, so far out in the open next to the lifelines that you're at risk of sunstroke in light conditions and slipping overboard in heavy conditions — was to lash ourselves in.

Incidentally, the mast shattered while we were running downwind because we had a triple reef in the main while still carrying half the genoa. The aft loading of the headboard of the main lower down on the mast and the forward loading of the genoa much higher on the front of the stick caused it to invert and break. Oops!

Mike Stevens
Noyce Yachts
Annapolis, MD

Mike — We have an exclusive feature in this issue on the flipping of Catalyst. It's an incredible story with accurate details — such as the fact that warps were streamed. Also remember that if you're on a cat that has flipped, wearing a PFD can just as likely kill you as save you.

That said, everything else you've written is consistent with our experience on cats. The only other thing we'd add is that, if the boat is in danger of pitchpoling, the crew should also move as much weight as far aft as possible, just as on monohulls. Indeed, some of the big ocean racing multihulls have provisions for flooding the aft compartment of each hull to both slow the boat down and keep the bows up.

Size really does matter when it comes to cat safety offshore. Longer cats can sail faster with less danger and, everything else being equal, bigger cruising cats are far less prone to flipping. These are the reasons that we opted to make Profligate a very simple but very big cat. This is not to say that people haven't done amazing things with small cats. Take the Gounard family who live in Sausalito's Galilee Harbor, where Doreen is the harbormaster, for six months a year and most recently have been cruising for the other six months. They self-built their 33-ft catamaran Imani, with which they have since circumnavigated. It's not something that we would do on a cat that size, but then we're not half the sailors that they obviously are.


I read about the attack on Mike Harker aboard his Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3 while at anchor in Simpson Lagoon, St. Martin. We've just returned from a charter in St. Martin aboard a Moorings 4300 cat, and I found it interesting that, during the charter briefing, The Moorings woman kept repeating how important it was to lock the dinghy and outboard, no matter if we went ashore or if we stayed on the boat. She also added that we should lock the boat when away and at night. We have chartered numerous times in the British Virgin Islands and never locked our dinghy — or our boat, for that matter.

But while in St. Martin, we did notice numerous 'groups' of young adults and teenagers eyeballing people as they strolled by in Phillipsburg. Having been in law enforcement for the last 32 years, I didn't find it hard to figure out what they were thinking. As a result, we remained vigilant when out shopping, and made a habit of making eye contact with and even saying hello to these people as they walked by.

If anyone is going to St. Martin, they need to pay attention to what is going on around them and, if ashore, not drink so much alcohol that they lose their ability to sense danger. Our charter in St. Martin was a unique experience for us, because when on family vacations in the Caribbean, I'm not usually on 'Yellow Alert'. Maybe this is why I didn't enjoy St. Martin as much as I did the British Virgins.

Keith Jensen
Optimus Prime, Beneteau 49
Emerycove Marina

Keith — Having spent a lot of short periods of time in St. Martin over the years, and most recently in May, and having never had a problem, we feel that you can enjoy an excellent charter out of that island. But as you say, you need to know what's going on and use common sense.

Given a seven-day charter out of St. Martin, we'd spend three of them, at the very most, at St. Martin itself. Using normal precautions, we think you can have fun and be safe at: 1) Pelican Bay, where you can have fun ashore at the friendly St. Martin YC, enjoy delicious Indian food at Lal's, check out the megayachts at the Palapa and other marinas, visit the great Budget Marine chandlery, and tour the massive lagoon in your dinghy; 2) Grand Case, where there is lots of fine dining to be had at any one of a number of cool little restaurants, or all the delicious ribs you can eat on the beach for less than $10; and 3) Isle Pinel in Orient Bay. Oyster Pond is also safe, and Marigot isn't bad if you don't get so drunk that you wander the dark streets late at night. If you're looking for trouble, you can find it by trying to buy drugs, visiting the strip clubs and whorehouses, or flaunting your jewelry on Front St. in Phillipsburg, which is where the hordes from as many as four cruise ships a day come to buy stuff that sparkles. St. Martin's charms are all on the water or within a few feet of the beach, and they are usually safe.

So what do you do with the other four nights? It's only 15 miles to St. Barth — probably the only island in the Caribbean where there is no violent crime, which is why it's so popular with more affluent people — so you head over there. Spend one night at Ile Fourchue, one night at Corossol, one night at Baie St. Jean, and one night at Colombier. Yeah, dining out is very expensive on St. Barth — but if you're not careful, it's très cher on St. Martin, too. So if you're on a budget, plan to do most of your eating on the boat. If you don't mind paying pretty steep cruising fees, you might change your plans to do one or two nights at St. Martin, one or two nights at five-mile distant Anguilla, and three to four nights at St. Barth.

We would not avoid chartering out of St. Martin because of the Harker incident. Just avoid anchoring inside Simpson Lagoon, where you'd be more vulnerable to desperate people.


With regard to the Mike Harker thing, which was just awful, is there any kind of investigation pending? Is there any word as to who was responsible or why this happened? Was any of his gear recovered? Are these kinds of things common in St. Martin and the Caribbean?

Marianne Armand
Club Nautique

Marianne — Harker was beaten and robbed because St. Martin, like most of the islands in the Caribbean, has a lot of poverty, big problems with drugs and AIDS, cultures that don't particularly revere education or hard work, and an arguably corrupt government. The unfortunate result is that there is a percentage of the population that is desperate. St. Martin is a lot like Oakland, a city that inherently has so much going for it, but is nonetheless being brought to its knees by an out-of-control criminal element and culture, and once again, an arguably incompetent and corrupt city government.

To the credit of the press in St. Martin, the Harker incident received quite a bit of press. That doesn't always happen in tourist areas. While there may be a file on the incident, it's probably not going to be investigated any more than such a crime would be investigated in San Francisco. Which is to say not at all. There just aren't the resources — or the concern. Mike has made no mention of any of his gear being recovered.

While there is a lot of crime in the islands of the Caribbean, we want to remind everyone that most of it takes place ashore and in dodgy areas or circumstances. And in most cases tourists are not the victims of violent crime because of the negative effects such things have on tourist economies.


The first photo you ran of a bloodied Mark Harker in the July 6 'Lectronic Latitude was bad enough. The second photo was over the top gross.

Dudley Gaman
Kia Orana, Catalina 36
Gold Country YC / South Beach Harbor

Dudley — We know the photo was gross, but sometimes we think people need to be shocked in order to be reminded that violent crimes are more than just statistics. As you'll read in the following letter, we're not alone.

However, you're not the only one who didn't like the gruesome photos. We, the publisher, had laid out that 'Lectronic piece with the second, "over the top" photo as the first photo. We were 'overruled' by the rest of the staff.


What happened to Mike Harker was so sad. But the photos were an important part of the story, so I'm glad that you posted them. I sent Harker a note. Please keep us informed, as I'd like to know if I can help in any way.

Bill Kelly
Surface Time, FourWinns
Rio Vista

Bill — Harker reports that he received over 200 messages of support and offers of help from 'Lectronic readers. We think that was the best 'help' he could have received, and he wants to thank everyone for taking the time to express their concern. As of mid-July, Mike was recovering nicely and heading down island to Bequia and Grenada to get out of the hurricane zone. For the full story on what happened, turn to this month's Sightings.


I guess my wife and dog and I should consider ourselves lucky, as we've spent March or April of the last four years anchored on the French side of St. Martin's Simpson Bay Lagoon off the Witch's Tit — right where Mike Harker was attacked. We've never had a problem, let alone been beaten as our fellow Manhattan Beacher Mike Harker was. I guess we'll just have to be more careful in the future. I also suspect that Mattie, our great watch dog, has kept people away.

If things are as bad as they seem in St. Martin, we may have to add it to our list — along with Antigua and St. Vincent — of places to avoid in the Caribbean. It's sad to hear about the violence in many of the Caribbean islands. Maybe it's time to rethink our keeping a boat there and returning to the States. We sure wish Cuba were open to us.

John & Cynthia Tindle
Utopia, Jeanneau 45
Hermosa Beach

John and Cynthia — While we're horrified and disgusted by the Harker incident, too, it wouldn't keep us from taking our boat to St. Martin, Antigua and St. Vincent. That's because the overwhelming number of robberies and other violent incidents take place ashore, usually in situations that can be avoided. Furthermore, being anchored so close to shore at a place like Witch's Tit — where Harker was attacked — is not for us. We have no proof, but it's our belief that you'd be safer if you were anchored a good distance from the beach where access would be more of a problem for miscreants.

As for Cuba, there is no reason not to visit now. Cuba wants your Yankee dollars, and it would be political suicide with his base if the Obama Administration were to try to prosecute such cases. We personally know of five U.S. boats that have visited Cuba this year, and more are on the way.


I've been waiting for a bit of editorial wisdom from Latitude — beyond anchoring out farther than a quick swim, to prevent something like what happened to Mike Harker.

After completing a Pacific circuit on his 60-ft monohull, the first thing my friend did was install what I called 'BBQ grills' on his deck hatches and companionways. Made of welded ¼" stainless rod, they could be removed completely or swung inboard while still mounted on one side. He had combination locks to hold them in place. The rods were about two inches apart, and had a brace down the center at a right angle to the main rods. Such devices could be custom made as a drop-in for the companionway, with take-apart hinges for the hatches.

Initially, I laughed and made jokes about these 'grills', but the owner explained that someone had broken into his boat while he was away. The thieves had gotten in via the unlocked deck hatch. As for intruders, I can see their being able to enter a boat undetected if the companionway were wide open, but not if they had to cut through a locked 'grill'.

As we say in L.A., 'Lock it or lose it'. What do you think about this?

Bill Humphreys
Marina del Rey

Bill — What happened to 'Honk if you're reloading' being the motto of L.A.? The grills are certainly a possible solution. Other boats have motion sensors across the companionway that automatically set off lights and horns. We're not sure if any one solution fits all, but don't knock our 'anchor way out solution' either. After all, it's our impression that thieves are basically lazy, and therefore go for the easiest targets, meaning unlocked dinghies and boats closest to shore.


Do most American sailors know that you don't have to clear your vessel out of the country when leaving the U.S.? And most don't when sailing to Mexico, because Mexico doesn't require that you arrive with a clearance. But if you leave the U.S. and attempt to clear into a foreign port other than Mexico, you must be able to prove what your last port of call was. Thus, you must clear out of the U.S. if sailing to a foreign port other than Mexico.

Two weeks ago, I went to the U.S. Customs office in Baltimore to get a clearance out of the country so I could sail to Bermuda. The woman in charge informed me that I did not "need" to clear out in order to leave the U.S. I explained that I knew I didn't need to clear out of the U.S., but I wanted to clear because the officials in Bermuda would want to see it.

Well, she told me that she " . . . would not just arbitrarily issue me a clearance." I told her the law required her to do so. She countered by saying that she'd been working U.S. Customs for 32 years, and that she knew what the law was.

I then asked to speak to a supervisor. She told me to have a seat, and left the office. She returned with a copy of the U.S. Codes and spent the next 20 minutes poring over the Codes trying to find a way to deny me a clearance. She finally relented and filled out a form CBP 1300.

But you can't believe how angry she was with me for asking her for the clearance. Is this what we can expect from someone who has worked for Customs for 32 years? I just don't understand it. Why aren't these people trained to deal with the public in a civil manner instead of becoming confrontational? This woman simply didn't want to fill out the form.

I'm going to send a copy of this letter to the Customs Office in Baltimore, as maybe it will save another sailor a problem in the future.

Ed Hart
Hooligan, Cascade 29
San Diego / Lying Bermuda

Ed — As yet, Mexico has not required a clearance from the U.S. for boats arriving from the States. But there has been talk that they are considering it.

You didn't hear it from us, but one way to avoid having to put up with the incompetence and guff of the few uncaring U.S. Customs officers is to simply create, fill out, and approve your own CBP 1300. In these days of computers and the internet there is so much you can do on your own.

If you think you had a bad time with U.S. Customs, you have no idea what problems the owners of foreign cruising boats in the U.S. have had. According to U.S. law, foreign boats are required to check in with Customs each time they move from one port to another — although what 'port' means is not well defined. But more than a few foreign cruisers have told us that on the occasions they did stop by Customs to check in, they were often abusively told they didn't know the law by Customs officers who themselves didn't know the law. In most cases the foreign cruisers simply stopped complying with the law, and with no repercussions.

According to their very own website, "Customs and Border Protection pledges to treat the public with dignity and respect and to perform our duties in a professional manner. If you have had an experience with CBP in which you do not believe that pledge was honored, we invite you to submit a complaint to us for review. We will carefully research your complaint, and while, due to privacy laws, we cannot always tell you the outcome of our findings, we will respond to let you know that your complaint has been given serious consideration."

" . . . while due to privacy laws we cannot always tell you the outcome of our findings . . ." Geez, is it any wonder so many Americans have become so cynical about government and government employees?


I was thumbing through some recent issues of Latitude and came across your lament in the February '10 issue about no one having responded to your request for "creative fixes" when it came to compression starting diesels with dead batteries.

We were faced with a similar situation on Wind Dancer while leading our class halfway through the '03 TransPac, but managed to get the diesel restarted, although not by a compression start. What happened is that we missed our scheduled start of the engine to charge the batteries, and soon discovered our battery charge was below 12 volts. We were devastated when, despite our prayers, we got only a partial revolution producing sputters when we pressed the starter button. Our collective hearts sank when subsequent depressions of the button produced nothing at all.

While we certainly could have sailed to Honolulu with a dead battery, it wouldn't have been the same, as we would have missed all the daily roll calls, and therefore would have been disqualified.

Our 'thank God' solution was to turn off all circuits and wait a half hour for the battery to hopefully recover enough charge to produce another partial rotation. This was to be augmented by our strongest crewmember simultaneously pulling on a nylon sail tie taped to and wrapped around the hub on the water pump pulley.

When the time came, we gave it a try — and it worked on the first attempt! This allowed us to cancel the keelhauling of the individual responsible for the snafu.

P.K. Edwards, MD
Wind Dancer, Catalina 42

P.K. — Brilliant. Our only concern with such attempts is that the person pulling on the sail tie might not let go quickly enough once the engine started, resulting in his arms being ripped out of their sockets.

Although there are contrary points of view, we think the best way to prevent a dead engine battery is not to have it/them connected to the house batteries. We also suggest carrying at least one solar panel so you have the ability to bring the engine starting battery back up to snuff for starting the engine.

By the way, check out this month's Cruise Notes for an instance of a catamaran whose diesel inadvertently started by compression as the result of a folding prop flipping open at high speed.


A couple of friends and I are considering acquiring a boat in the low 30-ft range to do the Ha-Ha and possibly cruise beyond. One of us — not me — really doesn't like diesel power, and would much prefer the advantages — as he perceives them — of an outboard motor. If we find a boat that has adequate bluewater capabilities, and a diesel engine, he thinks we should remove the diesel and replace it with an outboard on an adjustable mount on the transom. I’d like to know the pros and cons from anyone who has had experience with using an outboard for extended cruising.

Mark Dawson
Bainbridge Island, WA

Mark — About the only people who cruise with an outboard on the transom are those with very small boats, or those who are on smallish boats and even smaller budgets who can't afford to repair or replace their dead diesel.

It would be interesting to know what your possible partner perceives to be the advantages of an outboard for cruising. Low initial cost and lighter weight are the only two things that come to mind. But you might ask him why, if diesel engines aren't better than the other options, virtually all cruising boats over 30 feet come with them. Back in the '70s, some 30- to 40-ft boats did come with gas rather than diesel inboards, but only because they were less expensive. Nobody even offers gas inboards anymore, except on smaller powerboats where swift acceleration, even with the expense of extreme fuel consumption, is more important than torque.

A few of the advantages of diesel over outboards for cruising boats are as follows: 1) Safety. Unlike gas, diesel can't explode, Indeed, touch a match to a puddle of diesel and it won't even burn. 2) Diesels use fossil fuels more efficiently than any other type of engine — and particularly more efficiently than fuel-inefficient gas outboards. 3) Diesels are inherently more rugged so, if they are properly cared for, they will last forever. And at the end of forever, they can still be rebuilt a couple of times. 4) Diesel engines are designed to efficiently charge batteries and provide electrical power to the rest of the boat. Most outboards don't do either, and none do it well. While solar panels and wind generators are great tools, it would be a real drawback not to be able to charge the batteries with the engine. 5) Unlike an inboard diesel, a transom-mounted outboard is vulnerable to waves, would make the boat pitch, and in a seaway would experience severe cavitation problems.

We're confident that most experienced sailors would agree that removing a functioning diesel to replace it with an outboard would be one of the worst ideas ever. If any folks with transom-mounted outboards on cruising boats would like to argue to the contrary, we'd love to hear from you.

If your friend somehow manages to convince you that gas is the way to go, the good news is that you can pick up some great boats from the '70s with inboard gas engines at bargain prices. For example, we came across an Ericson 35 MKII, which is a very decent boat for Mexico and Central America, with a gas engine in Oxnard with an asking price of just $16,500. We also saw an Ericson 32, another fine Mexico boat, also with a gas inboard, for an asking price of just $8,000. The good news is that, even if your friend comes around to diesel, as he should, we've never seen a time when you get more cruising boat for your buck than right now, particularly at the low end of the market. And we've been in the sailing business for more than 35 years.


We motored out the Gate early on the morning of May 28, and set sail for Pillar Point at Half Moon Bay. Thanks to a nice wind, our 28,000-lb Slocum 43 was able to kick along at as much as 7 to 8 knots.

About mid-afternoon the boats in the Spinnaker Cup Race to Monterey started to fly by us as if we were standing still. Even though we motored the first two hours, it still took us seven hours to get from Emeryville to Pillar Point. The next day we motored out of the harbor at 6 a.m., found some decent wind offshore, and got ourselves to the dock in Monterey by 6:30 p.m. When we arrived, the harbormaster told us that the R/P 77 Akela had finished the 88-mile course in just 6.5 hours! The official record shows 7 hours 11 minutes, so we're a little confused.

By the way, Bill Turpin is listed as the owner/skipper. Is he related to Latitude's Andy Turpin, who is the Assistant Poobah of the Ha-Ha and Mr. Pacific Puddle Jump?

Mark Wieber
Goliard, Slocum 43

Mike — It's remarkable how two boats — your Slocum 43 and Turpin's R/P 77 — can perform so differently.

Akela's elapsed time was, in fact, 7h, 11m. Thanks to about 76 feet of sailing waterline, she reaches at about 13 knots in 11 knots of wind with a full main and fractional reacher. Andy Turpin and Bill Turpin aren't actually related — as far as either knows — but both are really neat people!


In the June Letters, you made the comment that you used to keep your Freya 39 in Ventura. I traded for a maroon Freya 39 in Ventura in the late '80s and wonder if she might have been your old boat. Any idea what happened to your Freya?

Gary Anthony
License to Chill, Express Cruiser
Lake Oswego, OR

Gary — We kept our Freya 39, Contrary to Ordinary, in Ventura for a year or so, then brought her back to San Francisco Bay before selling her. Ours had a yellow hull with a full length lightning bolt. We sold her to a gentleman on the Peninsula in the late '80s, so we doubt she's the one you bought. We're not sure where our old boat is now.


My girlfriend and I recently purchased a '78 fiberglass Freya 39. Actually, it's nothing more than a bare hull, so I definitely have my work cut out for me. We love the boat's wonderful lines and interior room. But it seems there aren't a lot of them around.

The good folks at a cruising and sailing forum suggested that I contact you, as the publisher of Latitude used to own one. I sure would appreciate any photos and any dos and don'ts that would aid me in the building process.

Eric & Jeanna Brown
About Time, Freya 39
Brunswick, ME

Eric and Jeanna — You're not going to like what we have to say, but we'd be negligent if we didn't at least raise the subject. Don't get us wrong, the Freya 39 is a terrific design. In the mid-'60s, a Freya was the overall winner in the prestigious Sydney to Hobart Race an unprecedented three years in a row. Of course, that was a long time ago when a rather heavy, 3/4 keel boat with an attached rudder and canoe stern could do such a thing. Today the Freyas make great cruising boats, and two Northern California-based Freyas — Roy and Tee Jenning's Foxglove and Beau and Annie Hudson's Lionwing — did circumnavigations. As you might have read, Jerry Borucki has been singlehanding his Freya, Arctic Alpha Wülf, to the Arctic Circle for the last several years. And we loved our Contrary to Ordinary, because at the time we were looking for a brick shithouse of a boat that nonetheless sailed reasonably well. She was even the cover girl for the West Marine catalog in the early '80s.

The troubling question we feel we must raise is whether you're absolutely sure that you want to finish a boat from a bare hull. One of the things you need to keep in mind is that while it physically looks like a lot, a hull is one of the quickest and least expensive parts of a boat to complete. It's once the hull is done that the really hard, dirty, not-very-healthful, and seemingly never-ending work begins.

If your plan is to build a boat from a bare hull in order to save money, you're going to find those savings illusory. In fact, we can all but guarantee that you could buy a used Freya 39 with loads of cruising gear for less than the materials alone to complete the hull you have. And that's not even taking into account the thousands of hours of labor you're going to have to put in. Labor such as pouring 10,000 lbs of molten lead into the keel, which you're certainly not going to be able to do alone. Sure, if you finish a Freya from a bare hull you'll get a new boat with exactly the layout and features that you want. But please don't underestimate the cost in terms of money and the amount of labor required. We wish we didn't have to bring this up either, but boatbuilding projects have a history of killing relationships. We don't want to bum you out or necessarily stop you from your project, but we highly recommend you speak with other amateur boatbuilders before going 'all in'.

One of the best people you could talk to would be Rick Gio of Sebastapol, who finished off his Freya 39 Gypsy Warrior from a bare hull. Gio would also be about the most confidence-inspiring person you could speak with, as it only took him 16 months to complete his boat from a hull. But before his short build time gets you too enthusiastic, understand that Gio had monumental focus, dedication and desire to finish the project. For example, he put in 2,322 hours — an average of 36.2 hours a week building his boat. And this was after he put in a 40-hour week at his real job, which was as a mason.

Gio tells us that building his boat was a work of passion, and each time he later went down below, he'd fondly remember picking out matching grain for the wood, each stroke of varnish, and so forth. "I loved every minute of it," he says. On the other hand, he admits that it did cost him his first marriage and, even at low '79 prices, it cost $80,000 in materials. Gio figures that the materials would cost well over $100,000 today. He also benefitted greatly from being able to build his Freya at the Gannon Boatyard in Petaluma, where he only needed to walk a few feet to see how the other Freyas had been built.

To put this all in perspective, about a year ago Gio sold his fully fitted-out Freya, which for 29 years he had relentlessly raced and cruised to Hawaii, Mexico and the South Pacific, for $85,000. And she even had a brand new diesel. His wasn't the least expensive Freya on the market, but she was the best equipped. He now regrets selling her and buying a newer boat. But he can't buy his Freya back because she burned in Ventura shortly after the new owner took possession.

If you email Gio, he'll be happy to share his experience and insights. If anyone else with firsthand boatbuilding experience would like to offer their thoughts, we're sure Eric, Jeanna and others would enjoy reading them.


In your Hurry to Cuba While It's Still Illegal piece in the July 9 'Lectronic Latitude, you wrote the following: "Ever since '59, when Castro took power in Cuba and nationalized the holdings of U.S. investors, then later tried to import nukes from Russia, it's essentially been illegal to travel to Cuba because of the Treasury Department's prohibition against 'trading with the enemy'."

That could have been phrased with a less imperialistic viewpoint, such as: "Ever since '59, when Castro led a successful revolution for Cuban independence, the U.S. government, as punishment for rejecting American colonialism, has imposed an embargo that has essentially made it illegal to travel to Cuba." It was not so much Castro's wanting nukes as Russia's responding to Kennedy's placement of nuclear missiles in their backyard, an intolerable situation that Kennedy could have easily defused, but chose not to. That left Khrushchev no alternative but to try to place missiles in America's backyard.

John Vincent
Planet Earth

John — We don't know that Khrushchev had "no alternative," but since Russia had previously been invaded by Napoleon and Hitler, with the loss of many millions of lives, the Cold War Russians had reason to be paranoid about U.S. missiles in their backyard.

But in order to make the statement less imperialistic while not shortchanging the achievements of Castro, we will re-word the statement as follows: "Ever since '59, when Castro led a successful revolution, after which he would deprive Cubans of their basic human rights and steadfastly stick to economic policies that would doom them to decades of abject poverty, the U.S. government foolishly imposed an embargo as punishment for rejecting American colonialism that has essentially made it illegal to travel to Cuba."

But to heck with politics, the important thing is that if you want to rebel against the U.S. government by taking your boat to Cuba, or by doing a charter there, you'd better hurry because the opportunity may not last long. As we wrote in 'Lectronic, legislation is moving forward in Congress that, if passed, would eliminate the prohibition on Americans traveling to — actually, spending money in — Cuba. But if you do travel to Cuba, be prepared to have to comply with countless idiotic petty rules and policies, and don't assume that you'll necessarily be able to interact with regular Cubans. Despite all the romantic notions about Cuba, it's still a totalitarian state run by a couple of ancient farts who are iron-fisted control freaks.


Your 'Lectronic piece about the legality of Americans traveling to Cuba has me puzzled. You state that President Bush vowed to prosecute everyone who traveled to Cuba. That was undoubtedly due to the fact that it is illegal. A law, in fact, that was enforced by previous administrations of both parties. And then you state that "progressive" President Obama will probably not prosecute these individuals. By this definition, do you mean that progressives are willing to ignore the law? I suggest you keep your editorializing about political matters out of your stories.

Richard Brown
Callinectes, Farrier F-39
Annapolis, MD

Richard — With all due respect, you've got the facts all wrong and don't understand the subtleties of the matter. There actually isn't any ban on Americans travelling to Cuba, but rather a Department of Treasury prohibition against "trading with the enemy." If you go to Cuba, it's assumed that you'll spend money, which is where you'd be breaking the law. Our friend Commodore Jose Escrich of the Hemingway International YC has always been willing to write letters on behalf of American cruisers saying they're being "sponsored" by the Cuba government, and thus didn't spend any money, and thus didn't break the U.S. law. But the Bush Administration didn't buy this.

You claim that the prohibition against Americans visiting Cuba — a.k.a. spending money there — has been enforced by all administrations. Nonsense. When we sailed from the Dominican Republic for Cuba in the mid-'90s aboard Latitude's Ocean 71 ketch Big O, we were stopped in the Windward Passage and carefully searched by the United States Coast Guard. The woman who headed the six-person boarding party, backed by a 278-ft cutter, asked where we were going. When we told her Cuba, she said she had to advise us not to travel there. We asked for a clarification. Was she, on behalf of the U.S. government, advising us not to visit Cuba, or ordering us not to visit Cuba? When she admitted that it was the former, we responded by saying, "Fine, then we're going to Cuba anyway."

As an example of how screwy the whole policy was/is, before departing with her boarding crew, the woman told us to make sure we took plenty of money. She explained that her uncle, an American citizen, had been cruising Cuba on his sailboat for six months and had found it to be quite expensive. Lastly, she told us to remember to call the U.S. Coast Guard if we had boat troubles in Cuban waters. We were surprised to hear that the Cubans allowed U.S. Coast Guard vessels in their territorial waters, but she explained that the U.S. Coast Guard, with the full approval of the Cuban government, rescued American boats in Cuban waters on a regular basis.

The facts are that Americans were not prosecuted for spending money in Cuba during the Clinton administration, but they were during the Bush administration. The Obama administration hasn't explicitly said what its policy is, but it's pretty clear they won't be prosecuting. When a group of 300 Americans recently returned from a visit to Cuba, and demanded that the Department of Justice charge them with 'trading with the enemy', a spokesman for the Obama administration said they had more important things to do. This is why several Ha-Ha boats have visited Cuba this year, and when a Newport Beach couple called us last night to ask us if they thought it was safe to take their Florida-based boat to the island, we responded by saying, "Absolutely."

Were you being facetious when you asked if we were accusing progressives of not enforcing certain laws? Because yes, that's precisely what we were doing. After all, that's exactly what being a 'sanctuary city' is, to cite just one example. But before you get too worked up about this maybe being a right versus left comment, conservatives do exactly the same thing when they are in office.


I've read your comments about using the iPhone for navigation, but how about the iPad? It's by far the most cost effective way to get a 9.7-inch display, so I'm wondering how it would work as a chartplotter. Have you given it a try, and how does it work? What's the resolution like? Which app did you use? How's the screen visibility in daylight? Do you think it would be reliable? Would you put it in a Zip-Loc and let the waves splash it? Bottom line, would you pick a $500 chartplotter or a $500 iPad?

Sheldon Erickson
Polaris, Tayana 37

Sheldon — If we only had $500, we'd probably get the iPad because it does a much better job doing what a chartplotter does than the other way around. Keep in mind, however, that if you want 3G speed on your iPad, you have to pay $39 a month, and if you cruise to another country, you're going to have to get another SIM card and perhaps sign up with another data program. In addition, we think a dedicated chartplotter is a very good and convenient thing to have on a boat.

But since Camilo Martinez has much more experience sailing with an iPad, we'll let him answer your questions.


Based on my experience, both the iPad and iPhone are great aids when sailing. I used both extensively during the most recent Coastal Cup Race aboard Macondo, especially after an accidental jibe knocked my helm station chartplotter repeater out of action.

I keep both my iPhone and iPad in Aquapac waterproof cases, and I usually leave my iPad down below, plugged into the 12-volt outlet while I use the iPhone above. The lanyard on the Aquapac cases allows me to secure the iPhone, and I store it in my pocket. When I am off watch, I top off the iPhone's charge.

The apps I use most often on the iPad are ("*" means optimized for iPad):

For Navigation:

• Navionics Marine U.S. West HD* — Great charts and tracking functions.

• Charts and Tide* — Interesting views, but less detail in the charts.

• -MotionX GPS HD* — Great for tracking, and you can pre-download the NOAA charts.

• FlyToMap — Good all-inclusive chart package for $20.
For Readings at Buoys and Tides

• Bombora — Great for polling buoys and forecasts.

• Buoy Data* — Less comprehensive than Bombora, but a great iPad interface.

• TideGraph HD* — Great interface for tide data.

• Tides — Tides and currents.
For Weather:

• MarineCast* — info. Often more reliable than the website.

• WindAlert, Windfinder Pro, Surf Report — Varying utility to find current wind readings.

• WeatherBug*, TWC Max* — Full weather sites, mostly for land-based use

• RadarScope, CA Radars, Radar — Radar info.

• WunderMap — Weather info on a map.

In addition, I browse many websites using the iCab browser because I can have more tabs open than in Safari.

Thanks to the iPhone and iPad, I've found that I often don't have to lug my laptop around anymore.

Camilo Martinez
Macondo, Beneteau First 47.7
San Francisco


I got an iPad 3G for my birthday, and we have since used it on the boat numerous times. The Navionics app is pretty good for low cost charts, finding marks, and determining one's lat/long location. We used the app last weekend to help us stay in the channel while going to the Marin YC. Shipfinder is another good app, as it shows the position of all commercial vessels on the Bay and out in the ocean, complete with their speed and bearing. You can double click on any ship and get a picture of it along with other info about it as well. For races, I have loaded courses and race instructions onto Goodreader, which is a great app for storing PDFs and other documents.

Once we get to our destination, it's nice to use the iPad to get email and stay current with events via the web. My oldest has downloaded a couple of books, and she reads them during downtime on the boat. I have used the Pages word processing app to write a number of papers for a professional development course I am taking through Rutgers University. My kids enjoy the games and video, of course, but for obvious reasons we try to keep this to a minimum.

But this raises the all-important question of how much technology and cyber connection is too much. After all, we go to the boat to get away. We prefer to have technology available and exercise restraint, and try to be disciplined in maintaining a proper balance. But it's not easy. Nonetheless, for now I prefer to have the choice.

Steve Zevanove
Diana, Islander 36


It would make a difference if you could read the iPad screen while on a boat. If that were the case, combined with the Navionics navigation, it would make for a great onboard navigation system — especially if you could get a real GPS chip. But since you can't read the iPad screen in direct sunlight — I've tried it in Seattle, and can only imagine what it would be like in Mexico or elsewhere in the tropics — we've found the iPad to be more of a toy for home. In addition, there are very few apps on the iPad that work without being connected to the internet, which one wouldn't necessarily have while on a boat.

Lauren Buchholz
Piko, Wauquiez Pretorien 35
Seattle, WA

Lauren — You're right about the iPad's screen being not so easy to read while out in the sun and in other glare situations. But we find ours easy to read at the nav station, and anti-glare screens are available.

While you do need to be connected to the internet to use all of the apps, many of the most popular marine apps — such as Navionics — work without an internet connection. We value your opinion, but we wouldn't go sailing without our iPad.


I just got my iPad a couple of days ago and am looking for sailing-related applications, so thanks for the article. But the thing that sold me on the iPad — and I think others might like it — is that it allows me to stay in touch with my home office.

I have a PC at my home office, and occasionally I like to take off to have some fun. For example, I helped bring up my brother’s boat from Cabo to San Francisco a few weeks ago, and then my wife Julie and I went down to Santa Barbara for a week of R&R and to spend time with my daughter. It would have been nice to have the full functionality of my desktop, but I only had my iPhone. My old eyes are finding it increasingly difficult to do any serious reading, especially using Safari on the iPhone. Plus I’d like to connect and use files that are on my PC.

Enter LogMeIn for the iPad. It’s a $30 application, but it enables you to remotely take over a PC or Mac. I've found it to be quite fast, and it gives me access to everything on my PC but sound. I have some useful plug-ins on Firefox that I can now access from my iPad -— take that, Steve Jobs! — plus all my log-in IDs that I have in Roboform, plus all the files, etc. LogMeIn is an excellent app, and it's what convinced me to get an iPad now.

Mark Leonard
Corte Madera


I have a new client who is a senior engineer at Apple, and just this morning we were talking about the phenomenal battery life of the iPad. He explained the reason for this is that about 80% of the iPad is taken up with the battery, whereas the battery only takes up about 29% of the iPhone. He says he wishes that Apple had decided to make the battery a little smaller in the iPad, so that it might last 8 hours instead of 10, but with a significant savings in weight.

Apple having set a high bar for all their products, he fears it's going to be more difficult to maintain such levels of improvement. I love my iPad also, but I wish they could resolve the dispute with Adobe about the Flash Player. My client thinks it will be resolved in Apple’s favor soon, but he has his own obvious biases.

Doug Thorne
Tamara Lee Ann, Celestial 50

Doug — We'd go for 20% less battery power if it meant the iPad weighed 20% less, because weight is one of the device's legitimate negatives. And as great as we think the iPad is, we're still mad at ourselves for dropping and breaking the screen on our Kindle. When it comes to reading lots of books, the Kindle is not only much lighter, its screen is easier on the eyes than the iPad's for those of us who are voracious readers.



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