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October 2010

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I'm at home in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgins, sitting on the boat my husband built, waiting for Hurricane Earl to move along. I read Latitude's response to Eric and Jeanna Brown's letter about their desire to complete a Freya 39 from a bare hull. "Don't do it!" was my husband's first utterance.

But he loves the boat he built for us. One time I asked him what boat he would want if he won the lottery. "This one," he said. In fact, I wrote to Latitude back in April '00 asking for information about Ham radios, and mentioned we were building a boat and would move onto her in the summer. We missed that goal by a couple of months, but have been living on her since launching in October '00.

I'm writing because we have a suggestion for home builders — don't work at another job during the first six months of building your own boat. The idea is that it helps to get off to a good start. We were in one of our transition modes, so it was easier for us to adhere to the suggestion than it might be for others.

When we finally got back the Virgins with our new boat, after a successful sail from Galveston Bay, we visited friends at Gold Coast Yachts in St. Croix, where my husband had worked on and off since their beginning. Roger Hatfield, one of the founders, said an individual builder really has to finish a boat in three to four years or some 'life event' will intervene and the boat won't get finished. Our boat is simple, but nonetheless took about two years to build. My husband worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for about three-quarters of that time.

Latitude's response really said it all. You have to have a passion like Rick Gio's in order to build your own boat. And you have to accept that building a boat yourself won't be any less expensive than buying a new one. In our case, building a boat was something my husband always wanted to do. He'd shaped surfboards and built little speedboats as a kid, and went to wooden boat building school. He has always been boat crazy, so he definitely had the passion necessary. And if you build your own boat, once you are finished, you are free to go wherever you wish.

Paula Ferguson
Jean, Adams 13 meter
St. Thomas, VI


I'll probably be pissing in the wind with my comment on the topic of 'removing a diesel in favor of an outboard', but here goes. The modern four-stroke, five-star outboards have the following advantages over diesels:

• They are quieter, as they have no hull vibration or diesel noise.

• They are more fuel efficient, as they use fewer gallons per hour at the lower throttle setting.

• They are easier to service, as you get no grease in the bilge.

• They maneuver better, as they are mounted on the transom.

• They are true marine engines.

If anyone doesn't believe me, we should have a contest. We each get five gallons of fuel, and we see who can get the farthest. The 4-hp engine on my 27-ft boat will do four knots at 1,000 rpm while burning .2 gallons per hour motoring on a calm ocean. That works out to about 20 mpg. Even at half that in a headwind, I'm doing better than a diesel. And if the wind is blowing, I'm sailing. 'Ditch the diesel!" is what I say.

As for finishing a boat from a bare hull, Latitude is absolutely right that there isn't much of a saving in money. But you do get the boat the way you want it. I’ve built at least three of these boats myself — and eliminated the diesel each time. You can see the last boat I built at

Yes, I became as focused as Rick Gio was. As soon as I got home after work at 5:30 p.m., I changed into my work clothes and didn't step off the boat before 10 p.m. And I didn't spend any time dreaming or drinking. On weekends I put in 20-hour days. I completed the boat in three months, taking seven weeks on the interior. It was, of course, a much smaller boat.

My best piece of advice is to have the boat trucked to your home and build her in the backyard — as I did. You'll save an astronomical amount of time and money. Plus it will save your marriage. By the way, my marriage is doing fine. In fact, my wife was the taskmaster, as this was her boat project. I let her talk me into it!

With regard to marine heads, I always swim upstream.

P.S. Latitude is the greatest magazine going!

Jean & Denise Mondeau
Carmela, '75 Cal 2-27

Jean — Thank you for the very kind words.

According to experts, diesel engines are about 45% energy efficient, while gas engines are only 30% energy efficient. Diesel fuel also has 10 to 20% more energy per unit volume than does gasoline.

Wikipedia reports that an efficient turbo diesel gets 40% more miles per gallon than does a gas engine, even though a diesel engine is heavier. They cite the example of current model Skoda Octavias — whatever they are — using Volkswagen engines. The gas version gets 38.2 mpg, while the slightly more powerful diesel version gets 53.3 mpg. Indeed, 10 years ago Volkswagen was selling production model Lupos and Audi A-2s that got 74 mpg. No gas engine car has come anywhere close to that.

We suppose you'd have a chance of winning your bet because not many, if any, sailboats are equipped with 4-hp diesels. Nonetheless, small diesels, such as12-hp models, merely sip fuel at low rpms, so we wouldn't recommend putting your pink slip up — or your taskmaster might have you working on yet another from-a-bare-hull job.

Your point that diesels are a little messier is well taken, and diesel doesn't smell so good either. But based on our experience with three outboard-powered sailboats — an Ericson 27, a Cal 25, and an Olson 30 — the outboards were awkward to use and didn't maneuver that well, particularly in reverse. Outboard-powered boats are also very poor performers in a sloppy sea, which you can often have when there is no wind. Lastly, experts will tell you that a well-cared-for diesel is much more reliable than a well-cared-for outboard, and diesels have much longer useful lifespans than do gas engines. Alas, diesels are considerably more expensive.

But it's a free world, so if you want to take an inboard diesel out of a sailboat and replace it with a gas outboard, that's your business. We'd just hesitate to recommend it to others.

By the way, anybody out there with a small boat and a small diesel willing to share information on their boat's fuel consumption in flat water?


When I retired in '97, I went to Florida and bought an old, but fine, Morgan Out Island 30 and moved aboard. She was the first boat I owned that was equipped with a working head. The boat's previous owner told me not to flush toilet paper down the head.

Shortly after buying the boat, and while she was still on the hard, I decided to check out all the plumbing and other systems that I figured would be hard to work on when she was back in the water. When I pulled the large gray ribbed hose that went from the toilet to the Electrosan. It was almost completely solid with calcium and other deposits. So I replaced all the flush-related plumbing and the toilet itself. Then I read everything I could about heads, what happens in them, and how to treat them.

For the next eight years, I flushed toilet paper and other flushable substances down the head. But at least once a week I treated the head with a 12-hour soaking of a half-cup of vinegar, and every three days I put in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, pumped a little, and left it in the system until the next morning.

I sold the boat eight years later, having never had a problem. I've talked to many cruisers about this subject, and most of them flush toilet paper down a well-cared-for head with no problem. Of course, if you use an old Montgomery Ward catalog for toilet paper, all bets are off.

Eldon McMullen
ex-Slo-n-ezy, Morgan Out Island 30
Planet Earth

Eldon — Some readers might think your vinegar and oil treatments are a strange attempt at potty humor, but we can assure them that they are not. The vinegar is to prevent the build-up of mineral deposits in the hoses. And if anyone thinks that doesn't happen, they should check with the next boatowner they see furiously beating a hose on the dock, as he's no doubt trying to free such deposits from the hose. The oil is to keep all the rubber parts lubricated. In fact, some crews on charter boats in the Caribbean pump all the leftover salad and salad dressing down the heads to keep the soft parts in good working order.

It doesn't surprise us that someone who cleaned their hoses, treated their head and hoses with oil and vinegar, and pumped plenty of times, hasn't had any toilet problems. Most problems are caused by unknowing and/or uncaring guests who don't follow the rules. We once had an obviously disconnected head sitting on its side on Profligate, the seat heavily duct-taped shut, and a sign on it admonishing people not to use it. Despite all the implied and obvious imprecations, some numbskull ignored the sign, took the tape off, set it upright and pooped in it. You should have seen the crestfallen look on his face when he was told that he was going to have to clean it out.


I'm up here in Ganges, British Columbia, on a powerboat charter with my parents and my daughter. We're celebrating the peeps' 66th anniversary — as in they've been married all that time! I saved the September Latitude to read on the trip, and I just got a bang out of the letter about marine heads and toilet paper.

I've been sailing since nobody knew what a holding tank was, and when the concept of them was finally explained, we all thought it was disgusting. Eew! Who would sail around with a tank full of poop? And we certainly wouldn't sail around with a bag full of nasty TP either! That's why God made fish! At Catalina, the opal eye — otherwise known as the 'poopy perch' — loved hanging around under the boats. Pumping the head was a sure way to create a mad feeding frenzy, much to the entertainment of my 10-year-old self! The poopy perch are hard to come by these days as everybody now has those danged tanks. The fishing was a lot better back then, too.

Marine heads actually love TP in reasonable doses, and it's good for them as it helps clean out the hoses. The only time heads don't digest TP is when the hoses are constricted by that nasty scaly stuff. This stuff builds up when people don't pump enough. I buy vast amounts of double-ply Costco TP for home and my Cal 40. None of that thin, scratchy stuff for me. As long as you don't put more than two 24-inch lengths of paper in per flush, you're good to go. That includes your organic donation as well. If you need an additional wad of paper, flush the first batch first, then carry on as above.

When I used to skipper a big schooner for week-long charters, we — as many as 12 of us — all shared one head. Following the system described above, we didn't clog the head in 11 years. Sure, I had to explain how to use the head, which was always good for a few crude remarks and giggles, but we never had a problem. I'm sure glad we didn't sail around with all that used TP in bags. Besides, putting organic paper and poo in plastic bags is kind of silly if you think about it, as it can't decompose in landfill.

When we had our check-out session for the powerboat we're on, we were told to not, under any circumstances, pump the holding tank overboard in U.S. waters. But we're in Canadian waters now, and they are fine with us dumping the tank — as long as we're in a deep-water area and not in a bay or a marina. Duh. The phrase the Canadians use is, "The solution to pollution is dilution." Be sure to pronounce it in Canadian, eh? I like how they think here.

Showering in the tropics? Sometimes a girl's gotta shower in private, but not always. It's kind of fun to wash outdoors. A few years ago, I got a delivery gig taking a good-sized cat from Florida to the Chesapeake. After a million breakdowns in 'the Ditch', we were finally able to go offshore and get into the Gulf Stream. One morning it was picture perfect out there, with no wind and flat, warm seas. As I had never swum in that particular piece of ocean, we stopped and went for a wash-and-swim. One of my friends who came along wasn't a great swimmer, but she was up for the swim -— as long as we didn't get too far away from the boat and had a line in the water. Once she was comfortable, we grabbed the soap and washed our hair and so forth. Smart ass that I am, I said, "Don't forget to wash your hoo." She replied by saying, "Give me your hand."(!) It turns out that she was drifting too far from the line in the water, was getting nervous, and wanted my hand to pull her closer to the line. We both almost drowned laughing, and still laugh about it years later.

I hope Anonymous gets over the 'camping' thing and realizes that there are as many ways to cruise as there are people doing it. Remember to 'think outside the box', sail with other people, and relax. It's really a lot of fun!

By the way, they don't just jump in the water and wash here in Canada — it's a bit nippy, eh!

Holly Scott
Mahalo, Cal 40
Alamitos Bay

Holly — Don't let the popular and talented singer Sheryl 'Single Square' Crow hear you talk about 24-inch lengths of toilet paper. As she wrote in a message about environmentalism: "I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used during any one sitting. I think we Americans are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit."

We don't know about the rest of you, but we think "industrious" is an unfortunate adjective to use when discussing using just one square of TP to clean up down there. A couple of uncouth sailors have suggested it might be why such a beautiful and talented woman as Crow is still single, but that's as disgusting as it is ridiculous.


I've probably captained or crewed on at least 60 boats on short and long passages, taught on dozens more, and have owned several myself. Not on a single one of those boats was toilet paper ever allowed anywhere but in a little basket next to the head. And certainly never directly into the head itself.

Cleaning out a stuck head has to be one of the most heinous jobs on a boat. Furthermore, if Mr. Anonymous ever comes to Hawaii, he'll find that even the most luxurious charter boats don't allow toilet paper in the onboard heads. The typical passenger briefing goes something like: "Remember, if it hasn't passed through your mouth, it doesn't belong in the onboard toilet. This is one of the strictest rules we have, right up there with don't fall overboard!"

If this is indeed a 'deal breaker' for Mr. Anonymous and his spouse/partner — I hate to say it, especially as an instructor — but perhaps cruising isn't for them. And ditto everything the Wanderer said about total awareness of all of your crews' bodily sounds, smells, and so forth, as sounds and smells travel remarkably well in such a small space.

And double ditto on the taking a shower belowdecks thing. There is almost nothing a captain hates worse than hearing the water pump running because someone's taking a shower and draining the precious freshwater supply. It's why God gave us Solar Showers.

Mark Joiner
Wailea, Maui

Readers — Due to the volume of mail on marine heads and showers, this topic will continue in the November issue.


I could use your readers' advice. I’m a partner in a 30-ft sailboat that is almost perfect for our purposes, which is daysailing on the Bay, often singlehanded or with non-sailors as passengers. She has the following good qualities:

• She's comfortable and spacious.

• She's a dry boat.

• She's low-maintenance, in part because she has no wood outside.

• She's a '00 boat, which means she's reasonably new.

• Her self-tacking jib makes her easy to singlehanded and easy to tack.

• And she's reasonably fast.

There’s just one hitch. In 17 knots of wind, she starts to get unruly without a reef in the main. In 20+ knots of wind — in other words, conditions we see every summer afternoon on the Bay — she's downright unmanageable. As a result, I have to reef and unreef several times during a daysail, and it's starting to feel like work.

So my question is whether there is a modern daysailer/weekend cruiser in the 30- to 35-ft range that will behave in winds in the mid-20s without 800 lbs of meat on the rail.

Greg Welch
Planet Earth

Greg — Even if you had your sails cut very flat for Bay conditions, and kept the traveller way down low to try to keep the boat on her feet, we can't think of a boat that's not going to be significantly overpowered in 25 knots of wind — even if she has 2,000 lbs of meat on the rail. For maximum performance, most boats need to be reefed at between 15 and 18 knots, and some as low as 12 knots. In 20 knots of wind, most smaller boats can benefit from two reefs.

You can get a good idea of what boat you might want based on the ratio of the sail area to the ballast. Since we're not up on that info for a lot of designs, we'll put the question to our readership. Is your 30- to 35-ft boat a stiffy? If so, what kind is she, and what tips do you have for sailing her flat?

Another way to avoid reefing is to plan carefully where you sail at what time of the day. For example, if you sail out of a marina in Alameda or the East Bay, you're less likely to reef if you sail to the Gate via Raccoon Strait and then back home via the Cityfront than if you do it in the opposite direction.


I'm a bit surprised and disappointed that you published, on page 111 of the September issue, the photo of the idiot who caught and boated a shark during the Pacific Puddle Jump. Being people who love and respect the ocean, you should know that shark populations worldwide are quickly dwindling due to such practices as catching them, cutting off their fins for soup, and throwing them back to drown or bleed to death. In the future, let's not show photos of idiots gloating about their big shark catch, shall we?

P. Meyerhof
Aphrodite, Islander 30 MKII

P. — The shark populations of the world are indeed being decimated. For example, in '08, the last period for which we could find records, 75,000 lbs of thresher shark were landed by commercial fishermen in the Santa Barbara area, another 75,000 lbs in the San Diego area, 25,000 lbs in the Los Angeles area, and another 25,000 lbs in the rest of California. Again, this is just thresher shark, which is why you can find it in the fish section of just about any grocery store. To put this in some perspective, all of these areas are now landing only about 25% of the amount of thresher shark they got in '01, and just 10% of what they got in '82, which was the peak. The problem is almost certainly worse in Mexico, where the artisanal gillnet fishery goes after not just thresher shark, but also blue, hammerhead, white and Pacific angel sharks.

We don't claim to be experts, but it's our understanding that the United States, Mexico and international authorities have generally done a poor to abysmal job of protecting all fisheries, not just the shark fishery. Nonetheless, we don't think that Puddle Jumpers and other cruisers, who catch fish to eat them, rather than for commercial purposes, are the problem. But we'll happily remind all sailors that fish, like all other natural resources, from fresh water to oil, are in limited supply and should be consumed intelligently.

By the way, there's a big difference between gloating and having a laugh, and the cruiser in the photo was having a laugh.


I get cranky when I see reports about sharks eating humans, such as in the September 17 'Lectronic. The fact is that humans eat sharks to the point where they will not recover. I'm sure that you remember the days when the carcasses of large hammerheads lined the beaches in Baja and Punta de Mita, with only their fins removed. Are you suggesting that we get rid of the rest of the sharks? Shame on you!

Tom Steketee

Tom — In that 'Lectronic, we reported that after landing a 12-ft tiger shark in the Bahamas, a fisherman noticed part of a human leg sticking out of its mouth. The shark was cut open and other human remains discovered. Using fingerprints, authorities were able to determine that it was the body of 43-year old Judson Newton, who had gone missing off so-called 'Jaws Beach' on New Providence Island, after he attempted to swim ashore from a disabled power boat.

Shame on us?! Please read the item again and try to find any recommendation, statement, suggestion, or even implication that sharks should be killed to save human lives. What a ridiculous idea. And what an even more preposterous idea to think we suggested anything of the sort.


In response to Christine Currie’s letter in the August issue, Latitude wrote, “No cruiser has ever told us that home schooling was easy.” Well, we've homeschooled our daughter, Sequoia, for the last five years, including two seasons of cruising in Mexico, and it was certainly easier than dealing with the public school system in San Francisco!

Unfortunately, parents may think that 'homeschooling' involves re-creating the school environment at home, or on the boat, with the drudgery of textbooks and worksheets that have little relevance to the real world. It surprises me that many cruisers, who tend to think 'outside of the box' when it comes to their lifestyle, don’t question whether our 'one size fits all' education system is right for every kid. We always felt sorry for cruising parents who spent hours a day butting heads with their kids over school work.

We adopted the 'unschooling' approach. Rather than following a traditional school curriculum, we looked for learning experiences in our day-to-day lives. Cruising in Mexico offered so many opportunities! When shopping, Sequoia calculated prices in pesos versus dollars. When we bought diesel, she converted liters to gallons. Baking was a great way to work with fractions, as we halved or doubled recipes.

In terms of science, we had identification books for fish, birds, and marine mammals, so Sequoia was our resident naturalist. After snorkeling, she’d identify all the fish she'd seen. When sailing, she’d scoop up jellyfish in a net. When dolphins rode our bow wave, she’d be on the bowsprit, cheering them on. And though she never wrote a report or took a test on cetaceans, I have no doubt that seeing these creatures in the wild has made a lasting impression on her and her life.

And though the cruising life can be full of activity, there is a lot of down time. Reading was a big part of everyday living for the whole crew. We also had lots of time for games. Multiplication War is a variation of the old card game that taught Sequoia her times tables. Bananagrams, a speedier version of Scrabble, is a family favorite. Scrambled States is a great way to learn U.S. geography. And trivia games like Brain Quest were a perfect diversion when we were underway.

Sequoia also spent time knitting and making jewelry. She bought a recorder at a swap meet in La Paz, found two books about how to play it by asking on the morning net, and taught herself to read music. This is not to mention all the knots she learned to tie, how to drive the dinghy, and all the cool sailing stuff she would have never learned in school! The only task we gave her was to keep a travel journal. Because there were so many exciting things to write about, she was generally happy to comply.

One of the great things about cruising is that everyone is trying something new. Whether it’s how to surf-land your dinghy or fix a finicky outboard, the learning process is a part of daily life. When your kids see you take on new challenges, struggle, fail, and (hopefully!) ultimately succeed, they’ll be better prepared to do the same.

In terms of Christine Currie’s particular situation, I can’t say whether homeschooling is the right choice for her family, but I agree with Latitude's opinion that “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”.

It seems to us that most kids are happy cruising until they are about 12, at which point living on a boat with your parents loses some of its appeal. Indeed, our daughter decided she wants to go back to school and will be entering eighth grade this fall. Compared to the dread with which I faced middle school, her enthusiasm is remarkable!

I’ve always tried to approach giving parenting advice the same way that one should go about giving anchoring advice. In other words, keep it to yourself! What works for some families may not work for others. But I can say that for our family, cruising and unschooling went together perfectly. We encourage other families to cast off the dock lines and figure out what works for them!

Susan Detwiler & Todd Huss
Sugata, Hans Christian 38
Emery Cove Marina

Susan and Todd — So much of the education system in the United States seems ineffective and/or dated. About five years ago, we watched a KTVU 2 news segment in horror as the head of math for the Oakland Schools repeatedly declined to attempt to solve a grammar school-level math problem, such as what's 3 times 30. She begged off, saying it had been a while since she'd gone over such material. Had she seen it, Mrs. White, who did such a great job teaching us geometry at Skyline High in Oakland in the mid '60s, would have been furious.

Our son and daughter were lucky enough to be able to attend excellent public schools until middle school in Southern Marin, where most of the administrators, teachers and parents really cared. What a rarity! Even so, it wasn't a good fit for our son — and a lot of other boys — who seemed to be too kinetic to thrive in such a restrictive environment. We're sure our son would have gotten a better education if we'd taken him around the world on our boat, where he could have learned by doing and observing.

Education methods haven't seemed to progress much in the last 100 years, but some brilliant folks finally seem to be doing something about it — and at a pittance. Better yet, they are doing it in ways that are ideal for kids who are going cruising.

Consider 33-year-old Sal Khan, who was born and raised in New Orleans by a Calcutta-born mother and a Bangladesh-born father. Using basic and inexpensive equipment — we're talking a $200 Camtasia recorder, free Smooth Draw 3 software, and an $80 Wacom Bamboo Tablet on a PC — Khan has personally made more than 1,600 educational videos on everything from basic arithmetic through the most sophisticated biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics, to a four-part series on the French Revolution. These courses — which are taught in 10-minute segments — are available to everyone in the world with internet access . . . for free! Khan says that since he already has a beautiful wife, a hilarious son, two Hondas and a decent house, his goal in life is to create the world's first free, world-class virtual school, where anyone can learn anything. He's gotten enthusiastic reviews from the likes of Bill Gates.

Could it be that the old education model of tens of thousands of well-intentioned, but perhaps not always the most talented or inspired, teachers facing an overwhelming number of distracted students in prison-like settings might be in for a change? What if all students could receive instruction from the most gifted 1% of the teachers in the country, and for a fraction of what education is costing today? And get education in areas they are really interested in?

If you're about to go cruising with a child, we recommend that you check out the Khan Academy, or something similar. If you check the list of free classes, we're pretty sure you'll see some you'd like to take yourself. And would that set a great example for your child?

By the way, we consider our iPad to be one of the finest educational tools ever. As long as you have internet access on your boat — which is getting more common and better all the time — you can find the answers to almost anything from science to history, and learn to appreciate things like music and art, while lying in your bunk. Over the years we wasted a lot of time reading junk novels while cruising, but now we've got a whole-grain diet of stuff to read at our beck and call. And very often for free.


I'm writing in response to Brian Trelivijg’s July letter and Lee Turner’s August letter about the way the Clipper Cup fleet was received in San Francisco. Speaking as a member of the Team California crew, the City of San Francisco, the Golden Gate YC, Customs and Immigration, and the State of California are not to blame for the poor fleet reception on April 4. Latitude is correct that these events are usually arranged and paid for by the race organization, not local governments.

The Team California entry was not "the State of California’s representative," it was a boat branded by Clipper Ventures, the for-profit organization that owns one of the (now) nine boats in the around-the-world biennial 'race' it hosts for paying amateur crew. The State of California can barely cut me a paycheck, let alone dump bags of money into an aging fiberglass yacht flying a British flag with mostly British crew. This state was never part of any Clipper event. And, in fact, only six of the 42 crew were from California.

Governor Schwarzenegger promised nothing to Clipper Ventures or to their branded entry Team California. His office simply wrote a nice form letter sending his “best wishes for success.” I have a similar letter that his office sent to me in '04 for representing the United States in a different international athletic competition.

Clipper Ventures used this letter, and Governor Schwarzenegger’s fame, to market their event, and to imply that he was somehow endorsing Team California and that he would attend events at the San Francisco stopover. The fact that Schwarzenegger even sent this letter, and sent a representative to one crew event in San Francisco, was actually due to the efforts of Bob DeWitt of the Santa Cruz YC, and of my father, former Assemblyman William T. Bagley. Schwarzenegger was in the middle of the health care and budget crisis, and had no duty whatsoever to be in San Francisco late on a Sunday evening.

It is true that there were over-the-top welcomes and bon voyage ceremonies at different ports during the race, but they were all at ports where there was a bona fide, cold, hard cash-paying sponsor — such as Hull, Qingdao, Singapore, Cape Breton Island, and Kinsale/Cork. The asking price for full sponsorship was in the realm of four million British pounds — about $6 million U.S. There were no "warm welcomes" in Rio, Port Kingston, or New York City, which, like San Francisco, didn't have a sponsor.

The stopovers at the sponsoring cities were also wisely held in conjunction with other non-sailing festivals, creating the appearance of a larger fan base. Making things more difficult for San Francisco, a stopover wasn't even confirmed until midway through the event. Clipper had never had a stopover in San Francisco before, and not many people — especially non-sailors — even knew the event existed. Furthermore, both the anticipated arrival of the fleet in San Francisco and the restart date changed almost daily because of multiple yacht breakages on the way to China and on the way to San Francisco. And the restart went from a weekend to a weekday. Consequently, it wasn’t so easy for local sailors — or anyone else — to know when this was supposed to happen.

The anticipated arrival of Team California was uncertain because they lost the ability to communicate because of a dismasting. After the dismasting, Team California didn't have paper charts either, as the skipper, defying logic, jettisoned them into the Pacific. So the boat's position wasn't readily available.

The U.S. Immigration Service did the 70+ crew a favor by arriving at the yacht club after hours and processing all the boats at once. They could have made the crews stay onboard until the next day and processed them during normal business hours. The officials were professional and very patient.

I'm not sure what other “officials” should have attended the arrival of these boats. Our elected officials have jobs to do and families to care for, and there is no requirement that they attend every social event throughout the City. Again, Team California and her gracious escorts didn't arrive during normal business hours. Representatives from Mayor Newsom and Governor Schwarzenegger’s offices did appear at a subsequent crew event, and gave kind and encouraging words to the participants.

In actuality, on the night of arrival, all the crew wanted to do was have a few cold drinks, a meal that didn’t come out of a tin, a shower, and some sleep. Other than one slab of warm beer at the dock from Clipper Ventures, all of the drinks and food at the Golden Gate YC were provided by joining crew, friends and family. Clipper did not sponsor this welcoming event.

Logistically, there are few marinas that could have handled all nine of the 68-ft racing yachts. The people at the San Francisco Marina Yacht Harbor did their level best to accommodate all of the boats and the more than 200 crew. One cannot expect them to displace permanent slip holders. The harbormaster was patient with the constant ingress and egress of the many crew throughout the two-week stopover. This is not the first port stop where the crew had to walk some distance to reach their boats. This is not the first port stop where the boats were not all right next to each other. Besides, after spending seven months together, sometimes distance is a good thing.

Clipper Ventures repeatedly hinted that crew might get to meet Governor Schwarzenegger, and that the Jamaica crew might get to 'race' with Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinting star, and similar things. The crews were unnecessarily promised many things like this that never materialized. Other than soggy underpants for 10 months, not much in the Clipper race is free.

Shana Bagley
'09/'10 Team California Crewmember

Shana — Thank you for a crewmember's perspective of the event.


I can't help commenting on the September 15 'Lectronic item about boats having to take evasive action in the Oakland Estuary in order to not be hit by ships. Correspondent Goose Gossman — love the name! — wrote, "You really have to wonder where all the stuff in those big metal boxes is going — and if the enormous trouble humans go through to get it is worth the effort."

As a Port Commissioner at one of several ports in the Bay Area, I can answer that question. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, about 95% of United States foreign trade that passes through our port system is transported by water. That means most of our consumer goods — clothes, furniture, food, electronics, and so forth — come by ship. More than half of it comes to West Coast ports and moves east by rail or truck. In California, it's mostly through containers to Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach.

This transportation is far more fuel efficient and cost-effective than other methods of transportation. That's why the Department of Transportation is initiating a "Marine Highways Initiative" intended to move goods from port to port within the U.S., in addition to our current import/export activity.

From the perspective of recreational mariners, most of the deepwater ports would not stay dredged if it weren't for shipping activity. Recreational boating revenue is usually not large enough to sustain the deeper drafts required for sailing vessels in many harbors, creeks, rivers and inland waterways. So, yes, it is worth the effort. And the next time your sailboat has to give way to a shipping vessel, give them a wave of thanks because they are both a major part of our Bay Area economy and critical to our boating community.

Lorianna Kastrop, First Mate
Goose, Catalina 30
South Beach
Commissioner, Port of Redwood City

Lorianna — Thank you for the letter. It seems counterintuitive — which is why some environmentalists and locavores have such a hard time getting their heads around it — but transporting goods, including food, by large ship is astonishingly fuel- and cost-efficient. We feel no guilt in buying cherries from Chile in the winter at big box stores because we know they got to us using less fuel per cherry than those arriving in corner markets from the Central Valley in the early summer. Nonetheless, we always stand a good watch so as not to be run down by a ship full of cherries, furniture, appliances, and all the rest.


Not funny. I was hoping I could grab a copy of the September Latitude right after it hit the streets, but my stupid homeowner's association picked today to have sealant applied to our driveways — five months after they'd been paved! I could have left my car on the street, except that street sweeper schedules have us doing the 'musical parking spot' game every three hours. So I'm stuck in for two days. Now I know there are worse things that can befall a human than being denied immediate gratification of their Latitude, but I consider it akin to having my hands tied behind my back. If I start to get the shakes, I'll walk over the Aeolian YC and pick up a copy.

Carolyn Samit

Carolyn — Thanks for the very kind words. You'll be happy to find out that Latitude is also available online — including back issues to May '07. While we know most readers prefer to hold the magazine in their hands, the photo reproductions online are spectacular!


A reader asked what cruisers do for health insurance. My out-of-country insurance coverage is probably applicable to only a few folks, but since you asked, I'm a retired soldier and insured under Tricare for Life. Since I'm also a qualified geezer citizen, I'm covered under Medicare as well.

Tricare for Life has issued me a statement declaring to any country that my insurance will cover me anywhere on the planet. Since more than a few military retirees become ex-pats and live abroad, out-of-country claims are routine for Tricare.

By the way, I had to show proof of my health insurance to the French consulate in San Francisco before they would give me a visa extension for French Polynesia beyond the normal six months. I, for one, want more than three months in those islands when I get there next year. By the way, the consulate was pretty adamant about not giving the extension without seeing proof of health insurance.

We'll see you on the Ha-Ha later this month. I did it in '00 with a different boat, a Maple Leaf 42, of the same name as the one I have now. I doubt that the Poobah will pronounce Balquhidder any better this time than last, but I'm good with that. I made a bunch of cruising friends on the '00 rally, including some that I buddyboated with down south, and some with whom I crossed the Atlantic to Europe in '01. I'm looking forward to this year's Ha-Ha!

Don Patterson
Balquhidder, Hunter Passage 450
Tacoma, WA

Don — We're glad that you have the health insurance, but hope you never have to use it. Our apologies for mispronouncing your boat's name during the last Ha-Ha, but Gaelic, let alone Scottish Gaelic, has always been difficult for us. We promise to try harder this year.


In the early '70s, Tom Wylie designed a half-tonner, built a mold, and popped out Animal Farm and Hawkeye. In succeeding years they would both win the World Half Ton Championship. Tom then tweaked the keel position and designed a fractional rig, and the popular Hawkfarm one-design class was born. I had been racing Fledgling, my 24-ft wood Golden Gate, and swapping season championships with George Schuldt on Smoothie Too. Schuldt and I both made the move to the Hawkfarm fleet at the same time. Mine was Eclipse, hull #9 of the original run of 10 boats. She was launched and commissioned in August of '76, and I've owned her ever since.

I was in the early stages of my career back then and not making a lot of money. In fact, the bank turned down my initial application for a boat loan. I went back to the loan officer, explained that sailing was what I did, and offered to double the downpayment. He then approved the loan. I had to sell Fledgling, my El Toro, and everything else that I had of value to make that downpayment.

I live in Alameda, and used to go down to Wylie Design Group each evening after work to watch the progress on Eclipse. It was interesting to watch the tension between Tom Wylie and Dave Roberts, the production manager. Tom would say, "Dave, we have to make them light." And Dave would respond, "Tom, we have to make them strong." The result was a remarkable 28-ft medium displacement stiff boat that sailed to her rating on San Francisco Bay and the Gulf of the Farallones in varying conditions during all times of year. And the design has stood the test of time.

The Hawkfarm class qualified for the ODCA (One Design Class Association) in our first year on the water, and the enthusiasm of those original owners was infectious. We sought out racing opportunities wherever we could find them, including One-Design, Midget Ocean Racing Association (MORA), and Handicap Divisions Association (HDA). We even tried to get accepted into the Small Boat Racing Association (SBRA), but were turned down. When there was no yacht club-sponsored race for us, we set up our own Wylie Weekends and used rabbit starts. We raced almost every weekend, and often two days per weekend. I was the youngest and least experienced skipper in the group, and my learning curve was steep. But I had a talented group to show me how it was done.

Several of the original Hawkfarms had multi-generational crews, with young folks who had grown up in junior sailing programs around the Bay. The formidable Patrys on Manface slugged it out with the Vincents on Mercedes, the Nashes on El Gavilan, the Schuldts on Cannonball, the Lowells on Flying Circus, and later the Desenbergs on Sparrowhawk. In addition to these family boats, there were also other highly-skilled skippers: Tony Thomas on the first Hawkfarm, Heatwave; Len Cheney on Hotcakes; Paul Altman on Predator; and Warren Sankey on Jenerator. The excitement and enthusiasm of the new fleet also drew attention from world-class sailors who often appeared on one or another of the boats. Folks like Kim Desenberg, Kame Richards, Bob Smith, Chris Corlett, and Dee Smith. Over time, Eclipse and I began to gradually move up into the middle of the fleet.

In those early years and into the early '80s, I built a crew from a group of underachieving rugby players who lived in Santa Cruz and loved sailing Eclipse on the Bay. We called them the Sweathogs, and they called me Mr. Kotter. They were big and strong, willing to learn, and were great fun to be around. Sweathog stories from those years abound, but two are truly memorable. On one race against Dee Smith, who has gone on to America's Cup and other world class sailing, the Sweathogs took umbrage at the way that they perceived he was treating their skipper. When we had cleared our finishing marks, they jumped Dee and threw him overboard. Dee took it in good humor, but I was appalled.

Before a postponement of another race off the Berkeley Circle, we drifted close to Predator. The Sweathogs reached out, grabbed Predator's lifelines, jumped aboard, and ducked down below to steal the lunches from their icebox before rushing back to Eclipse. Much to my distress, Predator’s sandwiches were better than mine — and I never heard the end of it.

With the Sweathogs on board, Eclipse finally won a MORA Season Championship. But the Sweathogs just couldn't seem to get to the boat on time on race days, so I fired them and began to build a crew of 'adults'. Paul Altman immediately jumped on the now available Sweathogs. The next time we raced was during a very blustery day on the Bay, the kind of conditions the Sweathogs took pride in excelling in. My adult crew and I beat them by several boatlengths. Life was good!

Eclipse went on to finish second in the '81 MORA long distance race to San Diego. After the race, the race crew flew home and the delivery crew — including my girlfriend Rose — flew in. A few days later we were bashing our way north into big, cold, square waves at Conception and later Arguello, when Rose decided the only way we were going to survive was to get some hot food into us. So she went below and prepared it. That’s when I decided to ask her to marry me. She agreed, and we began growing new crew from the beginning. One of my favorite sailing photos is of the Eclipse National Champion crew taken in '86 at the San Francisco YC, with our shore support team of Rose, 3-year-old David, and 3-month-old Ben.

One of my greatest days on Eclipse occurred in the late '90s. With Rose and both my then-teenage sons aboard, we won our race. I remember feeling like it just didn't get any better than that.

After 35 years of racing and cruising Eclipse, I can honestly say that the boat has never disappointed me. Although we are sailing less than before, we are still racing and enjoying every sail. But with the kids now gone and other activities beckoning, I have sadly decided to put Eclipse up for sale. But I would like to thank the entire sailing community for the past 40 years of excellent sailing, support and friendship. The wonderful thing about this sailing is that there is always more to learn, and the boat, the wind, the water, and the sailors keep reminding us and teaching us.

Fred Hoffman
Eclipse, Hawkfarm
Marina Village, Alameda


In the September issue of Latitude, Stuart Gregor wrote demanding to know what Republican has done worse things than Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who didn't pay taxes on the $7 million sailboat he had built in New Zealand.

I give him Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, former U.S. Representative of San Diego, who while in office acquired the 34-ton motoryacht Duke Stir. To quote from the newspapers of the day, “On November 28, 2005, Cunningham pled guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud in federal court in San Diego. Among the many bribes Cunningham admitted receiving were the house sale at an inflated price, the free use of the yacht, a used Rolls-Royce, antique furniture, Persian rugs, jewelry, and a $2,000 contribution for his daughter's college graduation party. With the plea bargain, Cunningham faced a maximum of 10 years. Had he fought the charges, he risked spending the rest of his life in prison."

In February of '06, Senator John Kerry introduced a bill, the Federal Pension Forfeiture Act, nicknamed the 'Duke Cunningham Act', to prevent lawmakers who have been convicted of official misconduct from collecting taxpayer-funded pensions.

Jim Cooper
San Francisco

Jim — Thank you for coming up with the specific example on the Republican side. But isn't there laugh-out-loud irony in John Kerry standing in judgment of another elected official, and then, despite being the richest man in the U.S. Senate, trying to stiff his own constituents out of half a million in taxes? As we said before, a pox on those on both sides of the aisle. The only mystery to us is how long it's going to be before the younger generations — who are the ones who are really going to get screwed — start sharpening the pikes and erecting guillotines.


I'm not applying for Latitude's 'Missing Digit Club'; I'm nominating. Although he doesn't — or rather, didn't — sail, I'd like to nominate Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. As some readers may know, he lost the middle finger of his right hand when he was four when his brother accidentally cut it off while chopping wood. Speaking as a sailor, I've found Garcia's music to be inspirational, entertaining and even informative. And he did some wonderful, nautically themed songs in the genre of old sea chanties on his collaborative CD with David Grisman called Shady Grove.

As an aside, I used Ripple as the first song in the soundtrack to the one-hour video I made of my '07 Ha-Ha adventure. (I'm still working on the video for my '09 Ha-Ha sail.) If all goes well, it won't be long before you'll be seeing my sailboat, Sugar Magnolia, sailing around the Bay — hopefully someday with a spinnaker carrying the Dead's SYF logo. I'd name my boat China Cat Sunflower, but I'm a monohull kind of guy.

Steve Hajnal
Sugar Magnolia, Kalik 33
Bay Area

Steve — Ol' Jerry used to sometimes block the driveway at the Latitude office in Mill Valley with his big BMW while he got treatment from the chiropractor next door. Once we saw him around the corner at the 7-Eleven, hunched over to be inconspicuous while furtively grabbing a couple of fistfuls of candy bars. It just happened to be when he was on the front cover of Rolling Stone for the last time, and a bunch of hippie kids ran up to him and asked in disbelief, "Jerry, Jerry, is that you?" It made them realize that people don't look anything like they do glossed up on the covers of slick magazines.

There's a sailing angle to all this. Shady Grove was also the name of a fine album by the Grateful Dead's San Francisco contemporaries, Quicksilver Messenger Service, one of our favorite groups of the era. Another Hit Of Fresh Air, anyone? Quicksilver was headed by the charismatic Dino Valente, who after living on a houseboat on Richardson Bay, got flush and bought the 65-ft schooner Brigadoon. The historic first design of L. Francis Herreshoff. Brigadoon was built on the East Coast in '24, sailed to the West Coast in the '40s by actor Sterling Hayden, and is now owned by former St. Francis YC Commodore Terry Klaus and his wife Patti. In fact, the Alameda-based Brigadoon was featured on page 89 of the July Latitude. Valente was the genuine mid-'60s San Francisco psychedelic rock 'n' roll article, as evidenced by fellow band member John Cipollina recalling how Quicksilver came together:

"It was Valente who organized the group. I can remember everything Dino said. We were all going to have wireless guitars. We were all going to have leather jackets made with hooks that we could hook these wireless instruments into. And we were gonna have these chick back-up singers dressed like American Indians with real short dresses on, and they were gonna have tambourines with silver coins as the clappers. And I'm sitting there going, 'This guy is gonna happen, and we're gonna set the world on its ear.'”

The rock 'n roll lifestyle and maintaining wooden boats aren't always compatible, so it didn't surprise us when Klaus told us that Bridadoon wasn't in the best of condition when he purchased her from Valente in '76. But that's rock 'n' roll and old wooden schooners for ya!


During the late '60s and early '70s, I was a member of Donald Wolbrink & Associates, a private consultant planning team that did a Master Plan for the expansion of the Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu. As I remember, we were able to potentially increase the number of boats in the harbor by about 50%. As far as I know, the state never did implement the plan.

At one time, the state was interested in bringing people from the airport to the Ala Wai via commercial hydrofoil, hovercraft or fast cat boats. That plan did not go through because there was not enough vehicular access for emergencies or for the vehicles that would pick up the passengers. There probably still isn't enough access or room.

Another challenge the Ala Wai had was the amount of trash that comes down the Ala Wai Canal and into the harbor. When I lived on Oahu, the state had a trash intercepting facility right where the Canal entered the harbor.

When I lived in Hawaii, I remember that you could get a slip in the harbor for about $2 or $2.50/ft. That was the best deal in town at a 'primo' location. As a consequence, there were many two- and three-story high plywood 'junkers' in the harbor that were causing problems. The state later passed a rule requiring every boat in the marina to prove she could, under her own power, go out to a buoy that was about a mile away from the harbor and come back again. Boats that didn't pass the test had to be removed. This is when the fun began, as many boats didn't have engines, and some that weren't really boats fell apart in the Travel-Lift slings before they could even be swung over land.

Unfortunately, the Ala Wai Harbor Master Plan was just one of many plans and studies that the people paid for but the state never implemented. We did a master plan for a new harbor in the area off Hawaii Kai, but that never happened either. We also did the state’s five-year Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), but I’m not sure if it was ever utilized.

Roger DeWeese
Del Mar

Roger — A 10-year-old could have shown Hawaii state officials how to double the number of slips at the Ala Wai, which — duh — would have more than doubled the marina's revenue. Mind you, this was at a time when there was a 10- to 20-year waiting list for slips in that harbor and, as you pointed out, the state was charging some of the lowest slip rates in the country.

While there has been some improvement in utilization of space at the Ala Wai in the last 30 years, there is still room for much more. After all, there are still dozens of 30-ft boats in spaces that could easily accommodate 60- to 100-ft boats. It's as if the State of Hawaii is a farmer who owns 100 acres of the most fertile acreage in the world, but because he is stupid and/or lazy, lets 50% lie fallow. It wouldn't be so bad, but the 'farmer' is working on behalf of taxpayers and boatowners.

The problem of trash floating down the Ala Wai Canal and into Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, or blowing into the harbor from adjacent streets, is a serious one. Because of wind and current, much of it collects in the southeast corner of the Ala Wai adjacent to Holomoana St. behind the Ilikai Hotel. Question: How hard would it be for a harbor employee to swing by that spot twice a day with a net on a pole and spend 20 minutes fishing the unsightly crap out of the water — as is done at other harbors around the world with even less of a problem? Answer: To our thinking, it wouldn't be hard at all.


My husband and I are longtime readers and admirers of Latitude. We sold our 44-ft Peterson in '08, and miss her every day. But we've decided to take a large group to Antigua Sailing Week for the first time next year, and would like your advice on the following:

1) What is the best type of boat to charter for us to view the races? And to participate in local, small-time races?

2) Do you have a recommendation for a charter company in Antigua? We are getting wild quotes of $5,000/week. Is that considered reasonable?

3) Anything else you would like to recommend to us as first-timers?

Please include my email in case any charter captains can get in touch with us.

Anne McEnany
Washington D.C.

Anne — If you're going to have a large group, which we'll assume is eight to 10 people, and you're going to want to watch the races, we recommend a catamaran. She'll have the room you need, plus a nicer motion in the considerable fleet slop off English Harbor's Pillars of Hercules, which is where you can best view the races. When it comes to local, casual races, it's going to be a problem because you probably won't be able to get insurance for that, and in any event those races tend to be cancelled during sailing week.

We did six Antigua Sailing Weeks with our Ocean 71 Big O — back when they were a full week instead of the upcoming April 24-29 version — and they were some of the highlights of our life. So if enough members of your group are enthusiastic sailors, we suggest that you charter a boat with the provision for racing in the event. No worries, as many sailors in the charter divisions aren't hot-shot racers, and you can skip a race or two if you want but still be part of all the festivities. But check with the Antigua Sailing Week website for details, as they are making changes to the event this year to make it more enjoyable for everyone, from the charterboat folks to the grand prix racers.

As wonderful as Antigua Sailing Week is, and as wild as the parties are — or at least used to be — we wonder if you wouldn't enjoy the Antigua Classic Regatta more. It's also based out of English and Falmouth Harbors, and will run from April 15-20. The event features traditional and 'spirit of tradition' boats from 26 to 155 feet. The boats are spectacularly beautiful — and even more breathtaking than modern racing machines when under sail. In addition to the racing, there is a Concours d'Elegance, a Music Night, a Classic Yacht Parade through the harbor, and, of course, Afternoon Gig Racing and a Cream Tea Party before the final night prize-giving. There are also many opportunities to crew. If you're more boat voyeurs than hard core racers, we'd recommend the Classic Regatta.

Another event you might want to consider is the St. Barth Bucket, March 24-27, which features 40 modern and classic megayachts of at least 100 feet in length. Captains of Industry, who aren't used to being told 'no', battle each other just to get a slot in the prestigious event so they can get a chance to battle each other on the water. Although it's fun rather than hard core racing, top crew are flown in from around the world, and the tiny harbor at Gustavia is cleared so the huge boats can be Med-tied on the quay for all to see. It's quite a sight and quite the scene. The viewing opportunities are excellent, and once the racing is over, it's only a few miles to the quiet beauty of the anchorages at Columbie, Baie St. Jean, Ile Foursche, Gouverneur's and Grand Saline. If you wanted see this event, you would charter out of St. Martin.

We have our '00 Leopard 45 catamaran 'ti Profligate in yacht management with BVI Yacht Charters, which is in the 'secondary' market, as opposed to The Moorings and Sunsail. Our cat, which sleeps eight, is a very busy little girl at $5,500 to $6,500 a week depending on the season, which will give some indication of the going rate in the secondary market. (By the way, some sailing magazines are asking $4,100 for just one of the four cabins on their bareboat flotilla boats. Ouch!) You can also get a monohull that sleeps 10 for about the same price as 'ti Profligate.

No matter what event or boat you might chose, we think you'll have a great time.


I'm a recreational sailor on the Chesapeake Bay who recently had the opportunity to meet Jessica Watson, the Aussie teen who earlier in the year became the youngest sailor to complete a singlehanded non-stop circumnavigation via the Southern Ocean. She's an incredible person.

I started following Jessica's blog right after she had the collision with the ship during her trial run from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney. I was so impressed with the way she handled the criticism of her voyage that I promised I would make a comment and follow her as she sailed around the world. While I was doing this, a virtual community — we called ourselves 'Jess-oholics' — formed and became quite close.

One of the Jess-oholics made arrangements with her manager so we could have a private dinner with her while she was in New York City in early September to promote True Spirit, her new book, on television and with other media. There were 14 people at the dinner, including people who had flown in from Washington, Oklahoma, Georgia and other states. Jess was very gracious, and I was immediately impressed with her humble nature and good humor. On several occasions people told her that she had inspired them. Jess would reply by saying, "I'm going to have to talk to my brother, Tom, so that he can get my head back to size". Or, "If you really got to know me, you wouldn't think I'm so special."

This from a young woman who had just been on Fox and Friends and the CBS Morning Show, has the best selling book in Australia, is the ambassador for Perth 2011 Sailing, is Queensland's Ambassador for Tourism, has an exclusive contract with News Corp., and has just sailed around the world — solo, nonstop, and unassisted — at 16 years of age! By the way, she confirmed that her circumnavigation was entirely her idea, that she'd planned it for years, and she'd been the driving force behind it. There is a two-hour documentary of her adventure, narrated by Sir Richard Branson, that will be released soon.

The launch of Jess's book and the telling of her amazing voyage in the United States has been overshadowed, in my opinion, by what I believe was Abby Sunderland's hasty, poorly planned attempt to beat Jess's record, an attempt that ended when Sunderland had to be rescued in one of the most remote parts of the Southern Ocean. As I see it, the two attempts were as different as chalk and cheese. Jess's trip was a textbook example of how to do it. She had 10,000 miles of sailing experience before she left; her boat was the right boat; and she had been meticulously prepared. Yet it's been Abby's failed attempt that got all the publicity.

Jess was at the Long Beach Boat Show in early September. I hope lots of Latitude readers were able to meet her, as she has a special charismatic quality.

Richard Weills
Shaba, Sabre 28
Bowie, Maryland

Richard — Not to detract from Watson's admittedly outstanding achievement, but as we've stated before, we, along with all other sailing authorities, are against the concept of age-based sailing records. We feel even more strongly about it now that it's been demonstrated that there can be a such a large payday at the end — even for those who fail. Indeed, one of the most macabre aspects of the whole business is that the parents of the first youth who dies, particularly if in an agonizing way, will probably profit the most. So good on Jess, but to hell with the concept of age-based sailing records.


I just want to thank you and everyone at Latitude for everything you do. I have a boat in Sausalito — fortunately my best friends are watching over her — but I am currently deployed to Afghanistan to help civilians on the battlefield. A really good friend of mine sends me Latitude every month, and it's awesome to put on some music, read Latitude, and pretend I'm back in the Bay! In fact, I just received the new Latitude today and I'm pumped to read it. I've also convinced one of my Army buddies, Michah Tudor, to move to Sausalito and buy a boat, so he's reading all the Classy Classifieds, and asking me a lot of questions about all the makes and models.

Anyway, add Afghanistan to the list of 'weird places where Latitude 38 is read'!

Sgt. Michael Alex 'McAlex' Pearce
Shrimp Louie, Cal 29
Sausalito / Afghanistan

Sgt. Pearce — You're very welcome. We look forward to the day you and your buddies safely return to the Bay and your boat — and not just vicariously through the magazine. By the way, readers may remember you from a profile we did on you in the February issue, shortly before you shipped off.

We don't know about anyone else, but we'd like to see Americans start driving 74-mpg diesel vehicles so this country can become as energy independent as possible and bring all our fine young men and women — and money — back from the sands of the Middle East.


My wife and I are very interested in participating as crew in the Pirates for Pupils event on Banderas Bay. We have attended the Banderas Bay Regatta twice, but won't be able to attend next spring because of a conflict.

Our plans are to purchase a 45-ft boat and move her to the Vallarta YC in two years, then live aboard for five months a year. We really like the Vallarta YC community and are looking forward to becoming part of the family.

Stephen W. Dale
Playpen 2, Hunter 320
Oakland YC

Stephen — The Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity is the last day of the Banderas Bay Blast, which this year will be held December 1-3, ending at Paradise Marina the day before the Vallarta YC's huge annual Cruisers' Chili Cook-Off for Charity.

The Banderas Bay Blast is a joint effort of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club and the Vallarta YC, and features 'absolutely nothing serious' cruiser-style racing. Race one is from either Paradise Marina to La Cruz or from Punta Mita to La Cruz, whichever the boatowner wants to do. Race two is from La Cruz to Punta Mita. Race three, which is also the Pirates for Pupils, is the 12-mile spinnaker run from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina. It's all lovely, moderate-breeze, flat-water sailing in the tropics.

But there's much more to the Blast, including the annual costume-party opening of the Punta Mita Y&SC, plus maybe a cruiser surf contest, the big water balloon drop from the Sky Bar at the Riviera Nayarit Marina, the Blast Night at Philo's, and we can't remember what else. Oh yeah, new this year is a hot tub stuffing at the big hot tub beneath the Vallarta YC.

The best way to get a ride in the Blast is to put your name out — as you have done — or to just show up ready to sail. With the help of sailmaker Mike Danielson of the Vallarta YC and his loft in La Cruz, you and your wife are certain to be able to get a spot on one of the 30 or so participating cruising boats.


How come no outrage from Latitude regarding the Coast Guard's having to rescue John Innes and his Catalina 27 Amica off Fort Bragg? Singlehanding a small boat in those conditions should be sufficient fodder for you folks to condemn his stupidity much as you did with Abby Sunderland. Just a thought.

Orlando Duran
San Francisco

Orlando — That's a fair question. Our thoughts are that there are some major differences: 1) Innes is a 29-year-old adult, not a 16-year-old. 2) Innes put his own money on the line, and was mature enough to use some of his limited resources intelligently — such as to buy a survival suit. 3) Innes spent three years personally upgrading nearly every bit of his boat rather than having hired hands try to do it in a couple of weeks. 4) Innes actively responded to the rough weather in the best way possible, by heaving to and setting a parachute anchor. 5) Innes was sailing on his own rather than being constantly advised on what to do by a shore team. 6) Innes sailed a common cruising route during what is considered to be the proper season. 7) The Coast Guard only had to go 55 miles offshore to find Innes, and thus didn't require a government to spend hundreds of thousands dollars to charter a commercial airliner to find him. We won't even touch the question of motivation.

We suppose that some folks might point to the tragic death of 13-year-old motorcycle racer Peter Lenz, who was recently killed at the Indianapolis Speedway after falling off his bike and being struck by a motorcycle being driven by a 12-year-old, and say there is no difference between that and what the singlehanded teen circumnavigation aspirants are trying to do. We're not familiar enough with motorcycle racing to comment on the wisdom of youth races — apparently many top racers started when they were five — but it should be noted that most motorcycle racing authorities don't let just anybody show up and race. They require an applicant to submit a resume demonstrating two years of riding experience, which must be verified. The applicant must also demonstrate competence to a senior rider. Furthermore, there are age limits on the size of bikes youths are permitted to race. In other words, while youth motorcycle racing is a potentially dangerous pursuit, it's done in a controlled environment where there are standards of participation for the safety of the rider and other competitors. There are similar experience standards for almost all singlehanded races, and it's our understanding that none of the teen circumnavigation aspirants would have even qualified for the Singlehanded TransPac.

By the way, we think your describing what Innes did as "stupidity" reflects much worse on you than it does him. We think Innes did everything right — including immediately thanking those who rescued him — and we look forward to his getting another boat and taking off again soon.


We had a major incident during last year's Ha-Ha that might be educational for folks headed south this year. Because of the relatively heavy weather forecast for the second and third days of the Ha-Ha, about half of the fleet followed the Grand Poobah's suggestion of taking shelter for the night at Bahia San Quintin.

The next morning we and everybody else continued on in 25-knot winds and 12- to 15-ft seas. But at 30°?06’N, 115°?59W, which is approximately 15 miles SSE of San Quintin and about 10 miles offshore, the wing on the keel of our Hunter 410 snagged at roughly the midpoint of a 400-yard long piece of hook-laden, yellow 3/4-inch polypro line used for commercial fishing. Soon we found ourselves with the two ends trailing 200 yards behind our boat, dragging two large floats.

Because of the rough conditions and our being trapped on the line, we couldn't bring Passage II up into the wind to drop sail or reduce the pressure of the line on our keel. Because of the pressure of the boat on the line, we couldn't grapple it high enough to cut it. We were afraid to start the engine because of the possibility that the prop might also get caught in the line. Going into the water to cut the line would have been far too risky given the very rough conditions.

We were overtaken by a couple of other boats before Profligate, bringing up the rear of the boats that had spent the night in San Quintin, arrived and offered assistance. The big cat stayed with as we made various unsuccessful attempts to get free of the line. Our sincere thanks to the experienced crew of Profligate, as given the rough conditions, it was an unbelievably good feeling to have them right there with us.

Ultimately, the Grand Poobah suggested that the best option was for us to head to the shelter at Punta Baja, an anchorage about 20 miles away, dragging the line behind us. Once in calmer waters, we could free our boat from the line. It was our only good option, so we took it, hoping for some luck along the way. The first luck we had was bad. Because of the drag from the line, it was extremely difficult to control our boat. So while going down the face of a wave, we accidentally jibed and broke some fittings at the gooseneck. Things had gone from bad to worse, so it was even more reassuring to have Profligate standing by.

But then we had some good luck. A huge following wave lifted our stern so high that the thick line fell off our keel! A cheer went up from Profligate when they heard the news. We advised them that we were dropping out of the Ha-Ha to go to Punta Baja to check the keel and deal with rigging issues, and that we no longer needed them to stand by.

We made it to Punta Baja, where several other boats had taken shelter, and where we spent a restless, windy night with additional rigging problems. Until the wind quieted down, I was not able to repair a partially furled jib that had us swinging around on the anchor. The next day we were able to use the main halyard to make a sling to hold up the boom, repair the jib, and replace some badly frayed lines. We headed back to San Quintin that day, then did an overnight to Marina Coral in Ensenada, where we'd spent six months with Passage II some 10 years before. We then had the boat hauled to inspect the rudder, the prop shaft, the keel, the keel bolts and so forth. There was no lasting damage.

It was a close call, but an amazing experience that we'll never forget.

Jim Cassidy & Lucy Lowe
Passage II, Hunter 410
Channel Islands

Readers — Jim and Lucy wrote the above as a general letter to friends a short time after the incident last November. They mentioned it to us when we saw them in Puerto Vallarta in March, and we asked them to let us share it with our readers so everyone will be aware of the danger of fishing lines off the coast of Baja. Such lines can be a real problem. Profligate snagged one of her lines on one in a previous Ha-Ha, and somebody had to go into the water to clear it. Fortunately, it was relatively calm, as it would have been difficult and dangerous in rough weather.

Fish and lobster traps are also major hazards on the way from San Diego to Cabo. The day after we stood by Passage II, we went to the rescue of another Ha-Ha boat that had gotten its rudder fouled in some kind of fish trap/net five miles south of Cedros. We launched our dinghy and sent three of our crew over to help. By this time the wind and seas had died down, but there was still a large swell running. Profligate crewman Don Hall spent about 20 minutes in the water cutting the boat free.

While the fish and lobster traps are in relatively shallow water, there are other big fishing lines far out to sea, and they are often very poorly marked. So keep your eyes open and be careful out there — particularly between Cedros Island and Turtle Bay, where there are lots of fishing lines and traps.


In my last correspondence, I was belly-aching about the difficulties of the 'Thorny Path', about the herding instinct of some cruisers, and about bashing 1,500 miles against the trades from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Eastern Caribbean. As some will remember, my original plan was to singlehand around the world starting from California. That plan was dashed when the Coast Guard transferred me to the East Coast for my last tour of duty. Fine, I thought, I'll just start my circumnavigation from Newport, Rhode Island — which is what I did in September of '07.

Much has happened since then. The bottom line is that I spent the winter of '08-'09 sailing down-island through the Leewards and Windwards, during which time I realized that I wasn't getting the pleasure that I'd expected from the cruise. It's not that I didn't have magical moments or that every waking moment was misery, but rather I had a consistent low-grade anxiety about my slow progress. So after leaving my Westsail 32 Christa in Grenada for the '09 hurricane season, I sailed her to Naples, Florida, where I spent last winter. By the time this letter reaches print, I will probably have trucked Christa back to my beloved Sausalito.

The funny thing is that I truly enjoy sailing and the ocean. But the totality of the circumstances — my being alone the vast majority of the time, the letdown of not very many legs being beam or broad reaches, and my naïve pre-conceived expectations compelled me to stop and reassess. I realized that there are many ways to experience the ocean, and that my intended trip doesn't have to be done in one shot, or finish in the same decade it was begun — or even with the same boat it was begun on. I also realized that starting my journey against the tradewinds was an enormous mistake.

It took a taste of the cruising life for me to flesh out my personal cruising philosophy. I now think that few people are geared for solo sailing, let alone taking years to sail around the world singlehanded. I have a deep respect for those who have done it, but it's not for me. I always knew I didn't want to go around alone, but I figured that I would endure it to achieve my goal of a circumnavigation. It took me almost two years of singlehanding to figure out that doing it alone was going to be a deal-breaker.

While I never suffered from a debilitating loneliness, I nonetheless felt lonely sometimes. But things can be confusing, because while I saw couples who were cruising in marital bliss, I saw others who cruised in marital disharmony. Some married people even envied me because of the apparent freedom I enjoyed being single. I finally decided that the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence.

I did learn that I had the boat, the skills, and the mental state to sail around the world alone. But I kept asking myself, 'To what end?' For families traveling with children, the obvious answer is the experience and education children derive from such an experience, as well as the strengthening of family ties. Indeed, it seemed to me that it was the families, more than anyone, who thrived on cruising. But for me solo, I had doubts. I'd set the goal for myself many years before, and I simply continued with year after year of preparation, with no clue that the reality might be different from the dream. My first year of cruising was pretty exciting, but then the luster of the cruising life started to wear off.

Finding one's balance is as important in cruising as it is in life. Some cruisers are able to just plop the anchor down, head ashore for 48 hours of touring, then on day three weigh anchor and head to the next destination. I can't roll like that because, among other things, it takes me two days to recover from a passage. This is why some people I met while cruising have made it 75% of the way around the world while I was still in the Caribbean analyzing the weather for the trip to the next island. Different strokes for different folks.

Maybe my sailing journey would have continued with the right helpful sailing partner. I marveled that couples and whole sailing families were able to get away so rapidly and easily. I guess it's common sense because they had anywhere from two to five times as many people to do the same amount of work. So the things I thought about while raising the anchor probably never occurred to those on boats with more crew. But solo was — and is — my current lot in life, and I wasn't about to let that stop me from cruising.

Over time, though, being single is one of the reasons why I metaphorically ran aground. But there were others. During my time in the Coast Guard, I spent nearly all my time at sea or engaged in nautical endeavors. I'd also had been living aboard Christa for nine years before I took off from Newport. As a result, the ocean had become less of a novelty, and I think I got burned out.

It seems to me that being burned out manifested itself in a sense of intellectual stagnation. I was inbound to a dinghy dock with my friend Tom from Sandpiper when I experienced what I think was one of the critical moments in my life. We soon passed a guy in the cockpit of a weather-beaten boat. He was a wrinkled, old singlehander, with cancerous skin and unwashed hair, peering at us through beady eyes, He was sketchy. Although he was only kidding, Tom said, "Dude, that's gonna be you." Not me, brother. That will not be me.

It wasn't long after that incident that I decided to tack. Because of my good fortune and 20 years of service in the Coast Guard, I had many options. In fact, even if I'd become cloaked in sailing bliss, I likely would have stopped sailing anyway, or at the least been churned into turmoil, and it would have had nothing to do with my diminished enthusiasm for cruising. No, the real reason, and a major driver of what I'm viewing as my sailing sabbatical, was the passage of a post-9/11 Congressional bill that allows me to have my tuition paid by the Veterans Administration — with help from the Dominican University of San Rafael endowment. When the opportunity to further my education presented itself so clearly, I decided to pounce.

I initially had some feelings of embarrassment about my change in course, especially since I had sung from the treetops about my plan of sailing around the world. I wondered what the followers of my blog would say. A few people have criticized my decision, but none of them were cruising friends who are aware of the sub-surface rigors of the cruising life. It was the armchair sailors who questioned my sanity.

I regret nothing of the last three years — with the exception of my starting my cruising on the Thorny Path. Even though I was out for less than three years, it proved to be a positive experience. I enjoyed many of the things that other cruisers rave about, such as the people you meet along the way, the cultures, the awesome power of the sea, and palms swaying in the breeze. I experienced all of that. I just think my journey around the world will be a little lazier than I intended. I was nailed to the dock for three months in Florida before returning to San Rafael, a working stiff again, but I find myself viewing my sailing footage again and again. Must not have been that bad. Give up? Never!

P.S. Thank you Latitude, as you're probably one of the few sailing magazines that would publish a story about a cruise that didn't end in total bliss.

Christian Allaire, (USCG, Ret.)
Christa, Westsail 32
San Rafael

Christian — Interesting letter. But why would you feel embarrassed or give a hoot what anybody else thought about your change in plans? It's your life, so live it whatever the hell way you want to. Besides, what cruiser doesn't change his/her plan with every change in the tide?

The thing we think throws a lot of first-time cruisers is that there is no right or proper way to do it. So much freedom can be disorienting. People wonder if they should be like Mike Harker and go around in 11 months, or like Paul and Susan Mitchell and take 25 years. The truth is that people cruise in different ways on different boats for different reasons — and with lots of different results. A few people hate it, most like it quite a bit — especially on a six-months-on, six-months-off basis — and some absolutely can't live any other way.

Breaks are good for cruisers. As we've noted before, after we had our Ocean 71 Big O in the Caribbean for about six years, we just got fed up with the whole program. So we sailed her down to Venezuela, threw off all the crew, and put her on the hard. We didn't know when we'd come back, and simply stopped thinking about her. It was a big load off our mind at the time. Nine months later, we couldn't wait for Hugo Chavez to resign from power — this was after his coup. When he did resign, we caught the first plane from the U.S. allowed back in Venezuela. That started another six years of perhaps the most fun we ever had with Big O. The moral is that 'vacations' from cruising can be very beneficial to your cruising pleasure. Indeed, it's one of the reasons why six months of cruising, followed by six months of doing something else, is so popular.

For some cruisers, keeping the boat up, making new friends, exploring ashore, diving, surfing and combinations of other activities provide all the stimulation they want. Others need more. In places like the Caribbean and the South Pacific, mental stimulation can be a little hard to come by. Fortunately, the internet is becoming more easily and economically available and, if used intelligently, can be the gateway to all the mental stimulation one might need.

We also agree with you that starting out on the Thorny Path might have been a mistake. That's a lot of nasty upwind, upcurrent work for any boat, let alone a Westsail 32, a design that doesn't excel on that point of sail. In some ways it probably would have been easier for you to sail from Newport to Thailand than from Newport to and around the Caribbean.

So enjoy school and life in Sausalito. And no worries — if by late October you find the weather has gotten too cold and the classes too boring, we'll have saved a slot for you and Christa in the Ha-Ha. Lord knows you wouldn't be lonely in a fleet of 600 other cruisers.



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