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November 2010

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In the October 4 'Lectronic Latitude, you asked world cruisers to tell you about the strangest foods we'd eaten during our travels. I spent some time in West Africa, and even sailed up the Rio Geba near Bissau, Guinea. There aren't many 'restaurants' as we know them in Bissau. Instead, it's more likely there will be a few plastic chairs and tables in someone's front yard — although sometimes there were real dishes and tablecloths, too. The menu is whatever they happen to have that day.

One meal I enjoyed was "a dozen birds and beer," which cost $1. The birds were tiny, finch-sized things that had been deep-fried whole with the local spices. It was surprisingly tasty. In the beginning, it was time consuming to eat them, as I nibbled on the tiny wings, legs and breasts. After a while, I did like the others, and just started crunching through the whole bird, bones and all.

I am pretty sure all the innards were in there, as the birds were really too small to remove anything. They just chop off the head and drop it in the oil. As they were deep fried, they were just kinda crispy.

David Kory
Barking Spider, MacGregor 65

Readers — In addition to Kory's report, we like his history of boat ownership: a Tartan Ten; a Catalina 38, with which he took first in class in the '03 TransPac; a MacGregor 65 he sailed in the '05 TransPac, then used to cruise Alaska and win his class in the '07 Puerto Vallarta Race; a Catalina 36 he used to win in the Banderas Bay Regatta in '09; and a Hobie 33. Kory also leads about four charter groups a year for Tradewinds Sailing Center and will be leading 65 people to Thailand in a couple of weeks. While in Thailand, Kory and his group should be sure to try fried cockroaches — and other bugs and vermin — on a skewer. They're low in calories, nicely seasoned, and go well with an ice cold beer.


We cruised Southeast Asia in '06 and '07, and along the way made a side trip to Vietnam. It's such a beautiful and fascinating country that we used up every last minute of our one-month visas.

The Vietnamese have some very interesting wines. The base wine is made from rice, and they infuse this with all sorts of roots, herbs, and animals, which are left in the bottle. Among others, we saw bird wine, cat wine, and snake wine. Often the snake wine had a scorpion as an added ingredient. We did taste the snake wine when it was offered to us as part of a meal. I don't think you'll ever find it in Robert Parker's guide.

George Backhus & Merima Dzaferi
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62
Cartagena, Spain / Sausalito / New Zealand

Readers — It's not as if you have to search for these wines in speciality shops. Doña de Mallorca, the Devilette, and the Wanderer were lucky enough to spend Christmas-New Year holiday last year in Hanoi, Hue and Saigon, and can report that those types of wines are available everywhere. Not that we ordered any them to go with our fantastic street pho.

By the way, for those cruising Southeast Asia, Vietnam is an absolute must-see side trip, as it's every bit as fascinating as George and Merima say. Furthermore, it's dirt cheap, and the Vietnamese — inexplicably — really like Americans, despite the fact that we killed millions of them. Although Vietnam has a long coastline, and Corsair folding trimarans and 50-ft cruising catamarans are built in Saigon, the corruption, bribes, and ultra-severe limitations on navigation imposed by communist officials make cruising there all but impossible.


As children, we all learned to look both ways before crossing the street. On most points of sail on San Francisco Bay, which we share with lots of larger vessels, this is easy to do. But I'm writing as a reminder that when we are sailing in the main shipping channels, which we do when the tides are helpful, it's also important to keep looking behind us. My letter also has a question.

As we left San Pablo Bay on Labor Day, and approached the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, we were close-hauled in a strong ebb with heavy chop. With the wind increasing, we planned to reef my Cal 20 as soon as we cleared the bridge. With my best crew at the mast and ready to reef, I heard a single toot, and seconds later a wall of red passed within 40 feet of our bow. Luckily, the wash of the tanker kept us away from the ship, and gave the crew a couple of seconds to cleat the main halyard and rush back to the cockpit to tack.

Admittedly, I'm required to stay clear of ships in the shipping channel, but aren't fast-moving ships and tankers supposed to give smaller and slower boats a preemptive toot so they can take proper evasive action?

Howard Strassner
Redbaron, Cal 20
San Francisco Bay

Howard — Given that you live in California — where, let's face it, people are given every reason to believe they have absolutely no responsibility for anything in their lives, be it their food, shelter, transportation, health care, offspring, addictions, risky sexual habits, obeying laws, slipping on wet floors, or having their feelings hurt, it's perfectly understandable that you might wonder if it wasn't the ship captain's responsibility to let you know that you'd illegally been in the ship's path. But the answer is no, they are not supposed to give you a preemptive blast on their horn. If they were, the Bay would sound like a high-volume version of the streets of Hanoi, where the operators of the 5,000,000 motorbikes give a little toot every three seconds to let everyone else know where they are. One could only imagine the noise pollution.

Every vessel — including a Cal 20 — is required to have someone on watch, and being on watch means that the person is constantly looking all around — including aft — for any developing situations. There is no way a ship on the Bay should ever be able to sneak up on anyone. By the way, a single "toot," means that a ship is turning to starboard, and thus the one you heard almost certainly was not meant for you. Instead of giving single toots to let you know they are coming up behind you, ships are only required to give prolonged blasts. This means 'danger', as in 'you're in great danger of being run down by me in the next few seconds.'

We're actually glad you asked this question, because too many mariners — and we're not referring to you — have the modern disease of thinking the world revolves around them, and therefore, rather than being responsible for looking out for themselves, think it's the rest of the world's responsibility to look out for them. It doesn't work that way. In fact, one of the things we love most about being on the water is that it's one of the few places left where people are still responsible for their actions, and most of the time have to accept the consequences, be they good or bad.

This might be a good time to review some of the more common horn signals. Remember, a short blast is one second long, while a prolonged blast is four to six seconds long.

• One short blast: I'm changing course to starboard.

• Two short blasts: I'm changing course to port.

• Three short blasts: I'm operating astern.

• Three prolonged blasts: Man overboard.

• Five prolonged blasts: Danger. On the Bay, it usually means 'I'm about to run you over.'

• Two prolonged blasts followed by one short blast: I intend to overtake you on your starboard side.

• Two prolonged blasts followed by two short blasts: I intend to overtake you on your port side.

About 40 years ago we hung out with a lovely young lady whose divorced mother lived in the Marina District of San Francisco. The mother periodically dated the captain of a ship that made very long runs to the Orient, and was thus gone for long periods of time. The mother once shared a rather intimate thing the two of them had going. The captain had created a unique horn signal sequence just for her — we can't remember what it was — that he'd sound just as his ship passed beneath the Golden Gate. "It meant that he was home, and he was horny as hell," she laughed. Our face grew red as a tomato as she confided that she found it "very erotic" that her captain had the power to sound a signal that would be heard by tens of thousands, but understood by just the two of them.


The bastard who stole Piko's dinghy — as reported in the September 29 'Lectronic — was likely the same bastard who stole my kayak, which I kept next to my boat in Clipper Basin #3 in Sausalito, in July.

I also filed a police report. The next day I saw my kayak advertised on Craigslist, but the ad was pulled before the police could trace it.

The Sausalito Police told me there has been a rash of such thefts this summer.

Gary Ryan
'iliohale, Hanse 34

Readers — Seattle-based cruisers Lauren Buchholz and Lauren Smith had sailed their Wauquiez 35 Piko — the #2 entry in this year's Baja Ha-Ha — under the Gate on September 13, and spent a week in Alameda's Marina Village before anchoring off Sausalito's Paradise Bay Restaurant in Richardson Bay.

"I'd let my guard down," Lauren B. told us. "I tied up our dinghy that night with a proper cleat hitch, and the next morning, the dinghy was gone." When 'The Laurens' realized their dink was AWOL, they upped anchor and did a circuit around the area but saw no sign of it. They filled out a police report — "They told us not to expect to see it again," said Lauren B. — and hot-footed it over to Sal's Inflatables in Alameda for a replacement.

According to Sausalito Police Sergeant Thomas Georges, while there were a number of dinghy thefts reported this summer, the total wasn't unusually high. Regardless, normal precautions should be taken when securing your dinghy to the boat or dock — anywhere, not just Richardson Bay. Thieves are notoriously lazy, and they typically don't want to work for their free ride. Make stealing your dinghy difficult and they're more likely to move on to easier pickings.

In case you were wondering, 'The Laurens' say that their experience has left a permanent mark on their perception of the Bay Area — a good one. "With the exception of the guy who stole our dinghy, everyone here has been so friendly and supportive. It's been amazing."


We have a Santana 22 with a 2-hp outboard to get out to the starting line of races, and a 6-hp to get up the coast for races. We have no use for a diesel.

That said, we could hug the 11-hp diesel on Barry Keeler's Catalina 30 Pair O' Dice. When we were returning from the Catalina 30 Nationals in San Diego, we had 25 to 30+ knots of wind and breaking seas for 22 hours as we battled our way from San Simeon to Monterey. But the Catalina's little diesel didn't miss a beat for 22 hours in those very rough conditions. Not only that, but the boat's prop never came out of the water, and we're here to tell the tale.

For the entire leg from Morro Bay to Santa Cruz, we only used 15 gallons of fuel, so you can figure the mileage

Stefan Berlinski & Mary Larkin
Hamachi, Santana 22
Santa Cruz

Stefan and Mary — You make us aware that we never mentioned that as boats get smaller — say under 27 feet — and lighter, it makes increasingly less sense for them to be equipped with a diesel. The downsides are greatly added expense, extra weight, the complications of installation, and so much noise and heat in such a small area. Like you, we'd never put a diesel in a boat like a Santana 22.

When considering fuel economy, gallons per hour is usually more illuminating than gallons per mile, especially as you were bashing right into very strong winds and big seas on that Catalina 30. Had it been flat water, we bet you would have used something like half as much fuel.


I work with electrical systems on boats, and I was recently contacted by a local sailing school/charter outfit because one of their crew had received a severe shock from touching the backstay on one of their boats.

As I would later hear the story, the victim felt immense pain, but wasn't sure what was happening to him. After what seemed like a long time, one of the charter guests, seated just a foot or so away, remarked “Hey, I think that guy is getting electrocuted!” When the victim heard this, he, with tremendous effort, was able to let go of the backstay. When he did, he fell into the cockpit, but was no longer being shocked. The shorepower was immediately turned off before anyone else could get hurt. After being checked out by a doctor, the victim was cleared to go home. Lucky for him that he hadn't made contact with anything metal with his other arm, as it would have created a path across his chest cavity, and he could have been severely injured or electrocuted.

By the time I was able to respond to the company's message, I was informed that they had found the problem — the inverter — and solved it by disconnecting it. I offered to come by the boat anyway, for free, to make sure everything was all right. It wasn't. It didn't take me long to find the real problem, which can be seen in the accompanying photo. The primary cause was the most worn-out 30-amp shorepower cord that I have ever seen. The molded rubber and the metallic receptacles at the female end of the cord were so worn that the plug could have fit into the male hull receptacle prongs in any of the three positions! When I inspected it, the plug was plugged in — but off by 120 degrees! As a result, the cord’s AC hot wire was connected to the boat’s safety ground wire — which energized all of the rigging and lifelines with 120-volt power.

There are several safety issues raised by this incident, but it is one of the best examples I have seen yet for periodically inspecting shorepower cords for wear, for having an isolation transformer, or at least for upgrading to the new SmartPlug connector from SmartPlug Systems. The SmartPlug device has a much better design that prevents misaligning the connector. With a transformer installed, the rigging would not have become energized.

I also spoke with the victim, who luckily survived, and learned some other interesting things. First, the cord for the charter boat had been in that condition for some time, yet all the onboard equipment had been working. I'm guessing the reverse polarity light on the boat had been illuminated, but wasn't in a location where it was easy to see. Second, the victim had been shocked despite the fact that he was wearing fairly thick-soled rubber shoes, and was standing on a dry fiberglass seat with teak overlay. Third, the 110-volt receptacle for the shorepower cord is on the transom of the boat, and it was customary to hold onto the backstay when disconnecting the power cord. Note to everyone: Please turn the power off at the dock before disconnecting the shorepower cord from the boat!

My goal is to raise everyone's awareness of the dangers of worn and/or corroded shorepower cords. By the way, the 30-amp twist-lock cord so popular today was designed in the '30s. I believe that it has a serious design flaw, which is that the smallest pin is the neutral (return) pin, which always overheats first. Had the connector been designed so the hot pin was the smallest, if it failed it would simply cause low voltage to the equipment, but would not compromise the safe return path of the electricity. But with today's popular twist-lock connectors, when the neutral pin gets compromised, it raises the resistance of the critical return path to the power source on land. When this happens, return current will take all other available paths back to shore — often through the water or the safety ground wire — creating a serious safety hazard.

Everyone with a boat should make sure they carefully check all parts of their 110-volt shorepower system on a regular basis. This means inspecting the dock receptacle, both ends of the cord, and the hull inlet fitting several times a year for any signs of burning, corrosion or wear. If there is any sign of wear, the damaged part should be replaced immediately.

In the case of any severe shock incident, one should make sure they get an ABYC certified tech on the boat to make sure the fault that caused the problem has actually been repaired. In the case I'm writing about, crew replaced the badly damaged shorepower cord with one that was almost as bad. Had I not insisted on checking this boat, someone else surely would have gotten shocked, perhaps more seriously.

Malcolm Morgan
Morgan Marine Engineering

Malcolm — Nicely explained. The SmartPlug system, which can be retrofitted on shorepower cords and boats, sure makes a lot of sense to us. We've always found the twist plugs to be unnecessarily difficult to use.

You're preaching to the choir when it comes to warning about worn or corroded plugs on extension cords. We had 'excessive electrical activity' in one of the interior electrical outlets on Profligate the other day because of badly corroded prongs and broken internal wiring on the old extension cord we were using. It only destroyed one electrical outlet, but could have been much worse if it hadn't been caught right away.


The Tethys Project, in which New York artist Bob Schuler has dropped 430-lb "sculpted granite cubes" overboard every 100 miles across the Atlantic, and wants Pacific Puddle Jump boats on the way from the Galapagos to Tahiti to do the same, strikes me as another form of industrial pollution. When I visit some local natural wonder and gaze into pristine blue waters, I don't want it marred by some cube of sculpted granite paid for by my tax (grant) dollars.

I urge all Puddle Jumpers to take their cubes and build a wall around this flake. He should use his grant funds to retrieve the existing pollution in the world's oceans.

Bill Kelly
Surface Time, Four Winns
Rio Vista

Bill — We're no big fan of the Tethys Project, but we think you're going overboard as fast as one of Schuler's sculpted granite cubes when you claim that what he's been doing and hopes to continue doing is a form of "industrial pollution." What's industrial about it? And since pollution is defined as "the process of contaminating the soil, water, or atmosphere with harmful substances," that doesn't fit either. After all, granite is a rock, not a harmful substance. If you've ever been to The Baths in the British Virgins, you know that the naturally-occurring, house-sized granite boulders aren't contaminating anything.

As for having your gaze marred by Schuler's cubes, how far down in the ocean do you think you can see when you're 100 miles offshore?


In the August 23 Oregonian, there was an article picked up from the New York Times News Service concerning the overuse of electronic devices — such as cell phones and GPS messaging devices — to call for help in National Parks. The examples included, "People with cell phones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate." In the Grand Canyon, someone pressed the emergency button on their satellite location device, and when rangers arrived, the hikers complained that their water supply "tasted salty." They couldn't make this stuff up.

There is no question that electronic devices have saved many lives. Isis, our boat, has an HF radio, an AIS receiver, an EPIRB and three VHF radios — and I plan to get a satphone before we continue across the Indian Ocean. But the point of the Times article was summed up by the spokesperson from Grand Teton when she said, "Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued." This statement could apply to our dear Abby Sunderland, and perhaps others who go to sea.

The silly examples used in the Times article are not exactly like being dismasted between Beveridge Reef and Niue, as Latitude reported happening to the Praags aboard their Westsail 32 Tar Baby in June. And while I'm not for a minute suggesting that sailing to Oz is a stupid thing to do, when Mr. Pragg set off their EPIRB, he should have known that commercial carriers and fishing vessels rarely tow yachts to destinations of their choice. More importantly, before setting off the EPIRB and abandoning their vessel, I think they could and should have waited a few days for the weather to settle to see if they could fashion some sort of jury rig. After all, both Niue and Tonga were only a short distance away from their position. And if the jury rig didn't work, they could have called for help then.

I don't doubt that there can be heavy weather in the South Pacific Convergence Zone during cruising season. We got hammered one night with 55-knot winds going south from Niuatoputapu to Vava'u, Tonga. And this was when there was supposedly a weather window.

I wonder — and this is only speculation — if, following the failure of Tar Baby's windvane and the loss of her mast, Mrs. Praag, not being an experienced sailor, insisted that Mr. Praag call for help, and the only device he had for doing that was the EPIRB. And once the ship arrived, they couldn't resist getting on a larger vessel. If my suspicion is true, I'm not going to second-guess decision making that might be based on marital harmony. But I will take issue with simply abandoning the boat as opposed to scuttling her. They left an unlit menace for those yachts following in their wake. I'd sure hate to run into it.

While I was at a dock in Melbourne, an Aussie came aboard Isis, and we talked about boats. He told me the unusual story of how his Contessa 32 got to Australia. A woman had sailed her there singlehanded from South Africa. But on the way from Cape Town, she was rolled and dismasted in the same area as Abby Sunderland when the same thing happened to her. Since the woman didn't have an EPIRB, she had no choice but to come up with a jury rig. It took her an additional 40 days to reach Fremantle, but it certainly proves what can be done.

John Colby
Iris, Hylas 42
Portland, OR

John -— There is no doubt that if adventurers are equipped with devices designed to call for help, they will use them. Most of the time they will be used for legitimate reasons, but sometimes they'll be used for idiotic purposes. It's no different than 911 calls. Most are legit, but some people call for things like assistance in getting their cat to eat a new brand of kibble. Who knows, maybe the solution in both cases is to bill people for at least some of the cost of the irresponsible calls.

We don't think it's fair to speculate on why cruisers do the things they do in semi-emergency situations because, as we've learned in the past, there are often unknown circumstances that play a part in the decision-making. Second-guessing cruiser decisions without knowing all the facts has made us look silly in the past, so we try to avoid it.

We will, however, use the Praag's case to highlight the biggest shortcoming of EPIRBs — they don't allow users to describe the nature of their emergency. So if you set off an EPIRB, people rushing to your rescue have no idea if your boat has sunk and you're in a liferaft, if you've been dismasted, if you've had a heart attack, or if you simply ran out of Jack Daniel's and think it's life-threatening if you don't get more quickly. If someone who had been in the Praags' situation had a working SSB or a satphone, they could have made other cruisers aware of their specific problem, which didn't seem to be immediately life-threatening. In such a case, we would be surprised if some fellow cruisers wouldn't have offered, once the weather settled a bit, to tow Tar Baby to shore, where arrangements could be made for her to get where she needed to go for a new mast. If we're not mistaken, the Praags lost their entire investment because of, at least in part, the limitations of EPIRBs.


Great September issue Sightings on Richmond's Tim Murison and his Island Clipper Bolero coming down to Southern California and doing so well in classic yacht races. I’m pretty sure that his boat is Island Clipper #10, built by Fellows & Stewart, and purchased by my father Chuck in '52. She was named Chiron then, and Dad sailed her without any knowledge of boating except what he had learned on a Liberty Ship in World War II. There weren’t any sailing schools in those days.

I was three months old when I sailed on her for my first and last time. Apparently my father dropped the main without securing the topping lift, and the heavy boom came crashing down within inches of me as I was being held in my mother's arms. This confirmed my mother's apprehensions about sailing and the safety of her offspring under my father’s command.

My father sold the Island Clipper a few years later and bought a Six Meter, a much less satisfactory offshore racer/cruiser. I finally went sailing again when I was old enough to stay out of the way. There were many other close calls on the Six Meter, but fortunately none with my mother onboard.

P.S. I gave the publisher's 'motorcycle garage' away today to Steve Rander of Schooner Creek Boat Works in Portland, who is apparently going to do something with the current owner of the 94-ft Pyewacket from which the 'garage' came.

Brad Avery
Newport Beach

Readers — Brad survived his father's many sailing antics to become the director of Orange Coast College's School of Sailing and Seamanship, one of the largest and perhaps most successful self-sustaining public sailing programs in the country. He's been at the school for 30 years. Located in Newport Beach, the school has dozens of boats from 14 to 80 feet, and enrolls about 3,000 students a year. Avery has done about 13 TransPacs and other races, and has also skippered the school's S&S 65 Alaskan Eagle on many offshore voyages.

The 'motorcycle garage' Avery refers to was the first 30 feet of Roy Disney's MaxZ86 Pyewacket, which was famously cut off and replaced with an eight-ft longer bow section just prior to the '07 TransPac. We'd seen the overturned bow section, minus the deck, when we visited the school's boneyard on our KLR 650 dual sport bike two summers ago. "Dibs!" we cried, immediately sensing the bow's potential to become the world's most high-tech motorcycle garage. While Avery initially gave unofficial approval to the idea, we were too busy to ever get around to flipping it and actually using it as a garage. We snoozed, so we loozed.


The mistaken beliefs that some people who have never done a Ha-Ha have about that event — that it's a "drunken orgy", that the fleet leaves a "trail of devastation" along the Baja Peninsula, and that none of the participants know how to sail — reminds us of the reaction we got when we started RV-ing full time. And again 11 years ago, when we started sailing around the world. People who had done neither tried to scare us out of doing them by saying what some people are saying about the Ha-Ha. We've come to realize that the people who say things like this would actually love to do the thing they criticize, but are too afraid. So instead, they use any method they can to stop others from doing them, so they won't look so bad by comparison.

We've just sailed from Canada to San Francisco, and will be leaving here in the middle of October. Who knows, we may see the Ha-Ha fleet, as we might be in the same area about the same time.

Will & Marilyn Imanse
Shaman I, Sceptre 36
Ladner, B.C.

Will and Marilyn — We think there are a number of reasons that some people who have never done a Ha-Ha are so vocal in denigrating it. While fear might be one of them, it could also be social anxiety, feelings of superiority, or even a sense that members of the Ha-Ha fleet aren't 'real cruisers' like they are. Whatever. The thing these people should realize is that grossly mischaracterizing the Ha-Ha hasn't hurt the event at all — this year's record 196 paid entries is proof of that — but makes them look foolish in the eyes of the thousands of people who have actually done a Ha-Ha and know better.

Just to be clear, we don't have a problem with sailors who don't do the Ha-Ha for whatever reason. Some people don't do it because they've already done one and want to do the coast more slowly and thoroughly this time, others are loners by nature, a bunch probably feel the Grand Poobah is insufferable, and others don't want to do it because . . . well, they're not quite sure why. We say good on each and every one of you, and we hope you have a fabulous trip south. That, of course, goes for you, too, Will and Marilyn. May our paths cross somewhere along the way.


I can't buy putting used toilet paper into a plastic-lined basket next to the head. That's because my wife would have never let me buy a boat if she couldn't put toilet paper in the head. So I told her to flush away on our two charters in the British Virgins. Then we bought a boat we've kept in the British Virgins for the last eight years, and it was flush away again. In nine years, we've only had one clog, which I took care of myself.

I think our success is a result of the following:

1) Electric heads work the best.

2) Carry a spare motor for the head.

3) Although our boat came with a popular but less-reliable brand of electric head, I changed it out for a better brand that is more quiet and dependable. As a result, I haven't used a spare in years.

4) Flush as you go.

5) No more than four sheets of TP at a time, no more than two wads in the toilet at a time.

6) We have two heads, so if one didn't work, we'd still have the other.

On the subject of showering belowdecks, of course! Anything my wife wants. That's why I bought a boat with a separate shower stall, and replaced the hot water heater to make sure it all works well. My wife is happy to clean the shower when we return to the marina, and we've never had a mildew problem. Her happiness at having a hot shower at the end of the day? Priceless.

I don't ever want my wife to think of our sailing time as 'camping'. So as we think about a newer, larger boat, she's right there with her wish list. My problem is keeping the choices within our budget — a problem I'm happy to have.

Bruce Hamady
Passenger, Hunter 42 / Fandago, Hunter 35.5
BVIs / Sausalito

Bruce — Different strokes — pardon the marine head pun — for different folks. If you and your wife are happy, we're happy.


Maybe I've just been lucky, but in my 30+ years of owning my Cal 40 Radiant, we've never had a toilet blockage. We do have an advantage: the Wilcox-Crittenden Skipper model toilet. It's more expensive than most marine heads, but with a four-inch pump chamber, we've often joked that you could pump a chicken through it — with the feathers still attached.

Dating myself, but I did the '72 Acapulco Race aboard Burke Sawyer's Cal 32 Atorrante, which also had a Skipper marine head. But this had a 'Y' valve installed so it could also draw intake water from the bilge. In fact, it was the primary bilge pump on the boat, and it worked great. We were running in 20+ knots of wind most of the way to Cabo, and given that Atorrante was an old, wooden boat, we had to pump seriously every hour.

Fin Beven
Radiant, Cal 40
San Pedro

Readers — Those of you who enjoy sailboat history might be thinking to yourselves, 'Cal never built a 32.' It's true that Jensen Marine, manufacturers of the Cal line of fiberglass production sailboats, never built a Cal 32. The Cal 32 referred to here was actually a Nick Potter-designed 46-footer, of which seven were built, all in wood. Bevin tells us that the first five were "somewhat less elegantly built" by Fellows & Stewart in San Pedro, while the last two were built at South Coast Shipyard in Costa Mesa.

"Burke Sawyer, who owned the Watts sail loft, meticulously maintained Atorrante. In fact, she had more of a 'new Dacron sail' smell than an 'old wooden boat' smell. Atorrante wasn't entered in the '75 TransPac, but sailed along with the fleet. One night halfway to Hawaii, she hit a whale and quickly sank. Her crew was rescued by Nick Frazee and his crew on Swiftsure."


I would like to share a simple, clean and fresh way to handle used toilet paper on your boat. After all, disposing of used toilet paper into a plastic or paper bag to be offloaded at the end of your trip is nasty — especially if it's not your own.

The fix is simple — install a bidet onto your marine toilet. No matter what type of marine head you have, you can do it for $50 and a length of hose.

I did it years ago on my Union 36, and it works great. Just locate the pressurized water line coming into the head, install an inline 'T' fitting, and run the hose to the bidet. The bidet’s pressure can be varied with the unit's control knob. Soft for gentle spirits, hard for deep cleaning action.

When finished doing your business, you only need a small piece of tissue to dry yourself. The damp but otherwise clean toilet paper can now be tossed into the waste can. The amount of fresh water used is minimal, and, in my opinion, worth every drop.

I suggest visiting for details. The one on my boat installed so easily and works so well that I had one installed on our master toilet at home.

Andy Smith
Tilligo, Union 36
Coyote Point Marina


It wasn't the September letter from Anonymous about toilets and showers on cruising boats that got under my skin as much as Latitude's 'it's like camping, take it or leave it' response.

I encourage the long-term sailing lifestyle because I think it's green and an amazing way to live, and fosters a deep appreciation of other people and the world around us. To me, use of toilet paper and showering are softball issues. But I would have pointed out that there are numerous marine heads that macerate toilet paper. Raritan's Crown I and Crown II Electric heads come to mind. The trick with them is to flush frequently. Other than toilet paper, which macerates and decomposes quickly and easily, nothing should be put in the head that hasn't been eaten.

With regard to showers, women prefer to take them below, while men and kids are fine in the cockpit. There is no problem with having both. Just keep a sponge handy down below to wipe down the walls and floors afterwards. That solves the mildew problem.

The real question is not whether to shower topsides or below, or to flush toilet paper or not. The real question is how much battery/charging power is needed to support one's lifestyle choices. If 'camping' is okay, the requirements are minimal. If pressure water, hot water, electric heads, a watermaker and refrigeration are preferred, those systems require more thought. Either way is fine.

If someone is a long-term cruiser, their boat is their home. Although you're traveling abroad, you're not staying in hotels or in the homes of others. You are in your own home, which can conveniently carry you across the Seven Seas to wonderful places, some of which are at the edges of the earth, others of which, like the Med, are smack in the center of civilization. You are only limited by your budget and imagination. Sailing, above all, is about making choices. I was surprised that your response was so one-sided.

Charles Paul
Bird of Paradise, Schooner
Long Beach

Charles — Perhaps we're wrong, but we didn't think our response was that one-sided. Anonymous asked what the toilet procedures were on Profligate, so we explained Doña de Mallorca's rules, and said that we "didn't have a problem with them." Then, after noting that there were other options, such as electric toilets, we wrote: "The approach to heads is usually a philosophical one. There are cruisers willing to spend big money, use lots of electricity, and expose themselves to lots of repair work to try to sanitize the onboard toilet experience. Then there are those like us, who believe in simple boats, and who would rather sail than do maintenance. To each their own." Isn't that pretty close to what you're saying?

We admit, however, that we've been surprised at how many sailors have written to say they have, and like, their electric heads, and that in most cases the heads have been trouble-free. We'd heard quite a few complaints about these heads in previous years — there is another in this month's Changes from Lazy Daze — but maybe only those who had problems thought they were worth mentioning. Anyway, we're happy for them.

As for the notion that those of us who prefer more simple boats and don't have problem with putting TP in lined wastebaskets and showering outdoors are "camping," or in some other sense living a second-class lifestyle, we think that's silly. Over the years we've had occasion to shower in some spectacular places, including some showers that had a dozen nozzles for maximum sensual pleasure. But not a single one of them could begin to compare to the sheer pleasure of a bath in the warm, blue waters of the Caribbean followed by a freshwater washdown on the transom of 'ti Profligate. Besides sex and surfing down a wave at 17 knots, we're not sure what could be more pleasurable than that kind of outdoor shower experience.

We are, however, going to stand by our comment that the very squeamish just might not like cruising. There's just no way around it; from time to time there are going to be some funny body smells and noises. Of course, almost any kind of traveling is not for the squeamish. You'll read in next month's Changes that Andrew Vik of Geja notes with dismay how many restaurant toilets in countries such as Greece and Italy not only don't provide toilet paper, but don't even have seats on the bowls.


First, Jim and I want to thank you and the Profligate crew for all your efforts to make the '09 Baja Ha-Ha memorable. We had a great time! Our original plan was to winter in Mexico, but prior to leaving for Southern California we received word that after 5+ years on the waiting list, our name had come up for a slip at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. Since the policy at the Ala Wai is that you must occupy the slip within 120 days of accepting it, we changed our plans and turned west three days after completing the Ha-Ha. Our passage to Hawaii is a story in itself, but I wanted to use this opportunity to update you on the changes going on here at the Ala Wai.

First, the docks. Some time in '08, F Dock was replaced with new floating docks. In '09 — and just in time for the TransPac — A, B and C docks were replaced with floating docks. Most of these slips are now occupied by what must be considered 'appropriate vessels' — sail and power boats that actually leave the harbor and are used for their intended purposes.

It's true that there are still problems with docks — especially as you move seaward from the 600 Row of slips. I don't know what the plans are for these deteriorating slips, but for now we love our spot. In fact, we can park a car right in front of our berth!

Second, the derelict boats. There still are a few, but far fewer than in years past. Starting in fall '09, renewing a mooring permit requires three things annually: A Coast Guard inspection; proof of a $300K liability policy naming the Ala Wai as co-insured; and a buoy test that proves a boat can move under her own power to the entrance buoy and back. Needless to say the 'garages' of years past are gone.

Third, the slip fees. While the Ala Wai rates are still below the market rate for the mainland, after a great deal of turmoil, they are going up and should reach parity with other public marinas within a few years.

Fourth, the staff and facilities. We've never been treated with anything but respect and consideration at the Harbormaster's Office. They have a difficult job, and I think they do it well. We occasionally have friends sailing in from the mainland who get all in an uproar over this or that rule, but we mention that a positive attitude and the loss of the 'chip on your shoulder' go a long way in most places, in Hawaii as well as Mexico.

As for the buildings, no design awards for sure, but they are clean and maintained. In addition, over the last several years a major clean-up of the Ala Wai Canal has been accomplished, and as a result the marina is no longer filled with debris. I still wouldn't swim here, but the difference over several years ago is remarkable.

Fifth, future development. There's a lot happening around here, although we are not keeping up with the possibilities or the politics. When we are here, we go sailing — we just completed the Lahaina Return over Labor Day weekend — or work on the boat, just enjoying being in our own slip at the Ala Wai where we can walk to just about everything and bike to the rest. The small boatyard under the bridge is closed, and there has been talk of commercial use such as a wedding chapel. I know there are efforts to bring commercial boating activity into the harbor. I know the Waikiki and Hawaii YCs are working hard to make sure that no matter what development takes place, they will still have priority use of the turning basin for small craft and their youth sailing programs. The Magic Island Fuel Dock is indeed a little bit Robert Louis Stevenson with the birds, cats, local grinds, and general laid back, aloha vibe. We'd hate to see that upgraded.

So maybe it's time for a visit. There's still a long way to go, but the Ala Wai is not the place you remember.

Diana Freeland
Prufrock, SC52
Ala Wai Marina, Honolulu

Diana — Thank you very much for the kind words. We're delighted you're enjoying your boat's new digs at the Ala Wai, and while we know there have been a few improvements, the pace of change has been glacial. And there is no certainty that it will continue. After all, taking 35 years to replace just some of the dilapidated docks at what should be one of the world's great marinas is preposterous. Remember, we're talking about a marina that has been running a hefty surplus all along, despite ridiculously low slip fees. Yet it once had to condemn a large number of income-generating slips because it allowed them to literally fall apart. Why shouldn't taxpayers and boatowners demand basic competence in marina management?

Based on reports from others who have just been to the Ala Wai, we're not sure that much has changed. As Pete and Susan Wolcott of Kiapa reported in last month's Letters, when they arrived at the Ala Wai, nobody at the Harbormaster's Office answered their five phone calls between 12:30 and 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon — in an office that wasn't going to open again until the following Tuesday. But as soon as they tied up at the Loading Dock — where they report the water is still littered with engine intake-clogging plastic bags — both the Harbormaster and his assistant where there in a flash to tell them they had to leave. If that ain't classic Ala Wai marina management, we don't know what is.

Here's another: A few years ago we stopped at the Harbormaster's Office, identified ourselves, and asked for a copy of the harbor's slip rates. The woman at the counter said she couldn't give that information to us, and that it would have to come from the Harbormaster. That seemed a little strange. About five minutes later, the Harbormaster came out and — we're not making this up — told us we'd have to get that public information from the official spokesperson for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, a state employee who wasn't going to return from vacation for a week or two.

The question is whether a private marina operator could have done a much better job of running the Ala Wai for taxpayers and boatowners than the State of Hawaii. When the Wolcotts went over to the newly privatized marina at Kewalo Basin, they had a good opportunity to make a comparison. Their conclusion? "The new team from Almar has turned the place around by simply taking care of basics. Charles, the harbormaster, and staff members John and Hillary, answer the phone, collect rents, offer reasonable security, keep the place tidy and free of trash, and work to get boats into empty slips. What a concept!"

What a concept, indeed.

Mind you, Pete and Susan are not whingers and don't have a chip on their shoulders. They've cruised the Pacific in their Farr 44, and in their Santa Cruz 52 Kiapa, and this summer they cruised Mexico and Hawaii with their M&M 52 cat Kiapa. They know the drill of dealing with officials and harbormasters from Acapulco to Auckland, from Hong Kong to Hanalei Bay. And they both even did summer stints at Two Harbors, Pete as a harbor patrolman in Cat Harbor and Sue in the office at Two Harbors. So they're familiar with marina management from both sides of the counter.

But, as we say, we're thrilled that you like your boat's new home, and we're glad that there has been at least some progress at the ever-ailing Ala Wai.

Next month we'll have a letter providing a unique historical perspective on the Ala Wai by a fellow who was commodore of the Honolulu YC 55 years ago and commodore of the Hawaii YC 40 years ago.


I'm a writer looking to do a black comedy noir about an 'as long as it's fun' personal ad. The rough plot would be a man seeks a sailing partner, finds her, and falls in love. But it turns into an insurance scam orchestrated by the woman's real-life husband. She becomes torn, however, as she falls for the cruising life and the man she sailed with, and decides she doesn't necessarily want to kill him.

Do you know of any stories like this? I remember a letter in Latitude where a new couple's relationship fell apart in Mexico when the man started drinking again, and he pushed the woman in the water, telling her to "cool off."

Would Letters be a good place to start fishing for real-life coloring for such an endeavor? I have a pretty good idea of my story, but would love to have authentic coloring.

P.S. I've enjoyed Latitude for many, many years.

Josh Gardner
Camden, ME

Josh — Sounds as if you're working on a nautical version of Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder's brilliant film noir from '44 that starred the sultry Barbara Stanwyck, who was willing to have her husband murdered for money; the lustful Fred McMurray, who was seduced into doing the dirty deed on a train; and the shrewd Edward G. Robinson, the insurance investigator who broke the case. And you somehow want to try to meld it with aspects of Stanley Kubrick's equally brilliant '64 black comedy Dr. Strangelove, in which Peter Sellers starred in three roles, and in which the prospect of the destruction of all humanity was made hilarious by the fact that the very safeguards designed to prevent nuclear holocaust become the cause of it. A black comedy noir? Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you.

We like your plot in the sense that the main crime is an insurance scam rather than another horrific murder of a child, which seems so common these days. Why can't authors come up with more intelligent villainy? While we know that boats have been scuttled for insurance money in Mexico, and there have been rocky relationships on cruising boats, we're not aware of any insurance scams that led to love triangles and resulted in conflicted feelings about murder. Of course, there is a lot we don't know about what happens in the cruising world. On the other hand, if you hang around cruisers in Mexico long enough, there will be no shortage of unusual characters and wacky incidents to inspire colorful background for your work.

Another movie to add to your research is Wild Things, John McNaughton's terrific '98 movie starring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards — and Bill Murray in one of the all-time great cameos. It's about a high school counselor/sailing instructor who gets accused of rape by a manipulative, rich, sex-bomb student and her trailer-trash goth girlfriend, and comes complete with great suspense, plot twists, and a stimulating lesbo scene featuring Campbell and Richards, and includes a murder by 'booming' on an Irwin 65 ketch with a woman at the helm. Well done, everyone!


Publishing that wacky diatribe by Norm Goldie in the October 8 edition of 'Lectronic Latitude is the most damaging thing you could have done to him. What a complete nut-bag! I loved the part where he calls you names, then says he wants to "re-establish his friendship" with Latitude.

Dan Weyant
The Shark, Sonoma 30
Waikiki YC, Honolulu, HI

Dan — We've had a bunch of anti-Norm letters that we haven't run because it would have seemed like flogging a dead horse. But then Norm decided to start the season by insisting we publish his long and rambling letter — and exactly as he wrote it. We warned him not to do it to himself. "In all honesty, your letter presents you in a very unfavorable, not favorable, light. You sound angry, full of yourself, and looking for a fight." But Norm, being Norm, insisted, saying that he has "big shoulders."

So having given Norm his shot for the year, we're now printing a selection of readers' responses — every single one of which received by deadline was negative.


When Latitude asked Norm Goldie for some kind of documentation to verify his suspicious claim that he's an official representative of the Mexican government, the American's reply was right out of the great Humphrey Bogart Mexican movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre. "Badges? What badges? We don't have to show you no stinkin' badges!" I almost wet my pants.

Cathy Anson


In his letter in 'Lectronic, Norm Goldie claims that he is very proud to have "personally saved the lives of numerous hundreds of fishermen and boaters." If he could provide Latitude with the names of just the first 100, I would be inclined to put more credence in his other claims.

Jason Watson
t, Cal 25


For all these years, our West Marine ads have helped pay for Latitude paper and ink, and our stores have played a role in Latitude's distribution strategy. But now, after reading Norm Goldie's whistle-blowing missive, I learn that the publisher of Latitude has apparently aged to resemble Rosie O'Donnell — and spews misinformation at a rate that can only be matched by our favorite politicians. I guess we were misinformed.

Geoff Eisenberg
CEO, West Marine

Geoff — Rosie O'Donnell. Ouch!


When I approached San Blas from Isla Isabella, conditions for entering the estuary at San Blas weren't safe, so I continued a couple of miles down the coast and dropped the hook at Matanchen Bay. Since I enjoy meeting interesting and sometimes controversial people, I figured that I would give Norm Goldie the benefit of the doubt.

When I got on the net the next morning, I listened to the way Norm spoke to cruisers. 'Overbearing' was the first adjective that came to my mind. As I continued to listen over the next few days, and during my next visit, my opinion of Norm continued to plummet. The most striking thing was that Norm is apparently unable to accept the fact that some cruisers just don't want his help.

Because Norm was almost ubiquitous on the radio in San Blas and Matanchen Bay, I formed the impression that it would be very difficult to visit San Blas without coming into contact with him. Believing that no good could come from my meeting Norm Goldie, I've twice now avoided San Blas. There are too many other beautiful places in Mexico to waste time at one spoiled by someone like him.

Glenn Twitchell
Beach Access, Lagoon 380
Newport Beach


Wow! Based on his letter in 'Lectronic, Norm Goldie is nuts. Most likely dangerous. I will avoid San Blas. Thanks for the heads up.

Liam Wald
Itzayana, Beneteau 331
Santa Cruz

Liam — No, no, please no! A number of readers have written in to say they are going to avoid San Blas because of Norm Goldie. Please don't do this. Despite the no-see-ums in the morning and late afternoon, San Blas is a wonderful historic place, the locals are great, and there's terrific surf just outside town. As for Norm, he's all bluster. If you don't want his help, tell him that nicely but firmly. If he continues to annoy you, report him to the Port Captain and Department of Tourism. You won't be the first.


I have been cruising Mexico for the last three years, and also cruised Mexico in '98. I have dealt with Norm each of those years. I met Rich Boren of Third Day in San Blas two years ago. When I told him I prefer to not deal with Norm, Boren defended him. Boren told me that too many people malign Norm, and that Norm was trying to do good for the San Blas area.

I bumped into Boren last year, and he was devastated by the way Norm treated him. Rich said it all started when he was guiding a good cruising friend into the estuary at San Blas. Goldie went ballistic, apparently thinking that Boren was trying to cut him out of the loop.

When I entered the San Blas estuary three years ago, Norm wanted a donation so he could upgrade his handheld VHF. After reading Norm's post on 'Lectronic, I truly believe Norm needs the kind of help only a doctor could provide.

Phil Perkins
Mannasea, Piver 36AA
San Diego / Guaymas, Mexico


Despite the negative comments about me by Norm Goldie, the crew of Third Day wish Capt. Norm and his wife Jan all the best — something we have communicated to them both in person and in writing. If our enthusiastic approach to passing on information to both our friends and fellow cruisers has caused Norm heartburn and potentially taken away tips he hoped to earn for his advice, we're sorry about it.

That said, San Blas was our hands-down favorite destination in Mexico during our last two seasons of cruising, and it would be a shame for cruisers skip San Blas. Despite the bugs that have rightly given the town the nickname of 'Bug Blas', and Capt. Norm’s unfortunate and misplaced anger toward us, we are looking forward to returning to the flat calm estuary anchorage that provides an easy walk to some of Mexico's best and lowest priced taco stands.

For those cruisers who are interested, you can download the San Blas Cruisers Guide, which was put together by a group of cruisers to help others best appreciate the great town of San Blas, directly from Latitude's site at The guide does contain a Google satellite photo of the estuary entrance with over-laid GPS waypoints, but since the guide was put together as a non-commercial, promotional project, and proper credit was given to the good folks at Google Earth, there’s no need to worry about being caught with a pirated map if you're boarded by the Mexican Navy.

Rich Boren & Family
Third Day, Hudson 51
Morro Bay / Mexico

Richard — As we're sure you and the others who put the guide together will agree — and perhaps as noted in the guide itself — Google satellite images are good for giving overall views of an estuary entrance or anchorage, but because they are not real-time, they can be misleading in the case of the location and depth of things such as shoals and bars. That being the case, the satellite images are just one of many tools in the navigator's arsenal, and their limitations have to be understood and heeded. As in the case of all bars, when in doubt, don't cross. And even when conditions look pretty good, it pays to observe for 15 minutes before making your move. But we know that you know all this.

You seem to have missed Goldie's point about satellite images. He doesn't care about copyrights, he wants people to think they can't be used so people would be more inclined to use his services.

By the way, Toast Conger of the Seattle-based Don Quixote — currently in New Zealand but getting ready to do the Puddle Jump next spring — is jealous of both of us. It's not penis envy or anything like that. She says she's thinking of changing her first name to Richard, as only people with the first name Richard — you and the publisher of this magazine — were singled out for a full paragraph of Norm's wrath. Toast feels diminished by not getting her own paragraph.


I got a chuckle out of Norm's rants, but since I was personally attacked, I'd like to issue a brief rebuttal. Goldie claims Jane and I were only in San Blas for a few days, but we stayed in Matanchen Bay and the San Blas Estuary from January 9 until February 4. I never stated that Goldie "stole donated funds," but we have been quick to point out over the radio that the money he gets from his guiding boats into the estuary are used for his living expenses.

I'm mostly saddened to read Norm's vicious attack on Rich Boren of Third Day. Anyone who knows Rich will quickly realize how untrue such accusations are. On many occasions, Rich has gone out of his way to help fellow cruisers — and out of the goodness of his heart, not for money. For example, one day Rich was using his scuba gear to clean the bottom of his boat. When he finished, he generously offered to help us clean the bottom of our 52-footer, knowing we had no scuba gear at the time. Rich later refused any compensation, even though he had to spend money to refill his scuba tanks.

Rich and a bunch of other cruisers spent a lot of time putting together a free cruising guide/town map for cruisers that would follow in their path. People found it to be a much better guide than Norm's guide, one he was charging for.

Goldie continues to make allegations that Americans are working illegally and stealing jobs from locals. I know some of the people he's accused of doing this. They were simply good-hearted cruisers helping other cruisers. For instance, one of those gentlemen gave us a demodulator and software package, and refused anything in return. This cruiser didn't limit his help to cruisers, as he spent part of his time helping one of the locals repair his boat.

Jean and I sent the following letter — in Spanish — to the port captain, tourism officials, and the Governor of Nayarit:

"We have been in San Blas for nearly three weeks. Our time here has been a delight. We have met so many warm and accommodating San Blasenos while visiting the town. We visited the fascinating historically significant Contaduria, and learned a lot about local and Mexican history. The jungle tour gave us the opportunity to see wildlife and birds we have never seen before. The Municipal Mercado and several other stores have provided all the groceries we needed. We feel very fortunate to be here during the migratory bird festival, and have enjoyed some of the cultural activities surrounding the event. We are encouraging our friends and family to visit San Blas by sharing our experiences on the internet. San Blas has been our favorite cruising destination in Mexico.

"Sadly, the only negative experience we have had involves another American, Capt. Norman Goldie. While Capt. Goldie purports to help visiting cruisers and fishermen, we believe he is mainly interested in making money for himself and restricting the free flow of information between visiting cruisers. Before we entered the estuary, we received excellent advice over the radio from a knowledgeable fellow cruiser. Capt. Goldie verbally abused the cruiser on the radio for sharing his knowledge rather than referring us to him so he could collect $20 for arranging a panga to guide us in. It should be noted that there is a long-time tradition in the cruising community of sailors helping fellow sailors without expectation of compensation.

"We listened to Capt. Goldie threaten and harass cruisers on the radio on a near-daily basis during our stay. We know of other cruisers who have chosen not to visit San Blas due to the actions of Capt. Goldie, which is truly a shame.

"Capt. Goldie has made repeated claims on the radio that he has been asked by 'two governmental agencies' to provide services to 'visiting cruisers and fishermen.' If this is true, perhaps these arrangements should be reconsidered."

Dave Benjamin
Exit Strategy, Amel Maramu
San Francisco

Readers — Now that everyone from Norm, to Latitude, to the readers, have had their say, we're done with this topic. At least for this year, but hopefully for good.


I'd like to share my experience regarding health care while cruising. Upon arriving at Nuku Hiva as part of the '07 Puddle Jump, we had several staph-related infections on our skin, and we think we may have picked them up in Mexico. Staph and other infections are not uncommon in tropical environments and, in most cases, can be treated effectively.

Prior to leaving the States, we'd purchased a quality medical kit. We paid $1,300 for the medicines alone. We used some of the antibiotics from our kit while en route. However, we still had staph sores on our legs when we arrived Nuku Hiva, so we immediately went to the hospital. As we've told many others at cruiser get-togethers ever since, it turned out to be a life-changing experience.

Despite the fact that we are Americans and not members of the European Union, we were seen immediately without any questions, and we were treated with kindness and concern. I had to have surgery to remove one of the infections, as it had gotten deep and painful. Without wasting a moment of time, I was whisked off to surgery! I was amazed at the state-of-the-art facilities, and the competent and kind surgeon and anesthesiologist. The surgical room had a view of the most beautiful tropical garden.

After surgery, I was placed in a recovery room and served the most delicious and healthful meal — a flavorful curry, fluffy couscous, fresh tropical fruit, and melon. When I was finished with this delicious meal, I was asked if I wanted more! Once released from the hospital, I returned every day for a week, when they would change my bandages. They also supplied me with several boxes of antibiotics and dressings.

When I finally asked for the bill — I have health insurance back in the U.S. — I was obviously nervous at having gotten all this first-class treatment. Would it eat up most of my cruising kitty? Well, get this: The bill for my surgery, medications, and a week's worth of aftercare came to a whopping $180 U.S.! Just $180. In the States it would have cost at least $2,000 and probably $5,000 — and that wouldn't have included the medications.

But that's not the end of the story. While I was back in the States for a few months, I got a skin infection similar to the one I had battled in the South Pacific. I walked into the emergency room of a well-known hospital in the United States, and was left sitting for five hours. I was finally shown to a room, where I waited for another three hours without a doctor's ever coming to see me. I finally walked out of the hospital after nine hours — and was later charged $800 for "treatment." Fortunately, I eventually found a doctor in another hospital — a friend of a friend — who would see me. I was treated and have been fine ever since.

I'm back in the tropics on my sailboat again, and am happy to be able to report that I haven't had any health issues since. I still carry my own medical kit onboard for emergencies at sea; however, I'm now aware that the treatment many of us 'out cruising' would get if we needed it would be far beyond our expectations. My belief has been reinforced time and time again in discussions with other cruisers.

So yes, there are excellent facilities and treatment available in many of the most unexpected corners of our globe. I know from personal experience.

Susan Travers
Mist, Cape George 40
San Francisco / Currently in Hawaii

Readers — While there certainly are exceptions, many long-term cruisers have told us that the last place they would want to need medical care is the United States. One issue is cost. A woman doing this year's Ha-Ha told us that her late mother, who was in her 90s at the time, had to be hospitalized for 10 days to get her electrolyte levels back to normal. The tab for 10 days — and there was no surgery or complicated treatment involved — came to $250,000. And no, that's not a typo. The other big issue with medical care in the United States is access. Who doesn't have shocking tales of hours spent untreated in U.S. emergency rooms, or needing weeks, if not months, to get an appointment with an appropriate doctor? It's pathetic and disgraceful.


On the first day of a month-long stay in France, my wife Leslie, who was wearing lightweight sandals, broke a bone in her foot by accidently kicking the rear wheel of a cart she was pushing. So we have some insight on healthcare costs in France.

The office visit with a village physician — no appointment necessary — cost $30. Leslie was referred to an x-ray clinic — again, no appointment necessary — where the x-rays were taken, a physician interpreted the result, and he consulted with her to discuss options. That cost $42. As she was diagnosed with a hairline break, she returned to the first physician for a telephone conference with an orthopedic specialist — at no charge. She purchased a special shoe and wraps at a local pharmacy for $73.

So the total cost was about $145. Everyone in the system apologized that we had to pay "so much money." The time Leslie walked into the first doctor's waiting room until the whole affair was over was 2.5 hours.

This was not the first time that we've used the French healthcare system, and I could go on. But, you get the picture.

Ron Sherwin
Manouche, Tartan 4100

Ron — Like almost everybody else in this country, we certainly do get the picture. And it's not a pretty one.


I read Latitude's piece and letters from readers about much lower health and dental care costs south of the border. While I agree that health care costs north of the border have gotten completely out of control, I would suggest some caveats. I speak as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has made five trips to Guatemala to provide my services.

My observations are that many of the practitioners in the region are well-trained and competent. But if I were in the area and needed care, I would definitely look for someone who had trained in the States. I also think that primary health care would more likely result in similar results south of the border as in the States. Surgical procedures might be a little more risky. I routinely see Americans in my stateside practice who received care south of the border and who have experienced complications or gotten substandard treatment. So all is not perfect — nor is it all perfect in the States!

I guess what I'm saying is that folks should be careful, try to research the doctor or dentist, and be careful if something seems to be 'too good to be true'.

Kipp Hammon, DMD
Snowflake, Island Packet 440
Eugene, OR / St. Thomas, USVI

Kipp — We think all of your suggestions make good sense.

The other thing to remember is that in Mexico — and we suspect many other Third World countries — there are often different levels of health care. For example, when Eric Sorensen of the Half Moon Bay-based Ericson 29 Nanu was rushed ashore at 3 a.m. in need of emergency medical care near Manzanillo, he and his lady Rachael were told there were two hospitals. One hospital was very inexpensive, but didn't give very good care. The other cost more money, but offered much better doctors and facilities. They opted for the latter, which still cost a fraction of what it would have cost Eric for treatment in the States. As is the case everywhere else in the world, the bigger the city and the more money you've got, the better the care that's available.


I'm hoping to take a year off some time in the next few years to go cruising, and maybe even do the Puddle Jump. I'm wondering if there are cruiser forums/e-groups/discussion lists that you might recommend. I'm thinking of places where they discuss boats, equipment, books, resources, destinations and other issues of concern to cruising sailors. I have many friends who sail, but hardly any who have done long distance cruising, and I would very much like to learn, share, and ask among like-minded folks.

An immediate specific question I have is to invite thoughts on a Challenger 40 being a suitable boat to both live aboard during the outfitting/preparation phase, and also to be a safe enough boat for bluewater sailing, some of which will likely be singlehanded.

When I was younger and crazier, I sailed an Irwin 28 from Burlington, Vermont to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands and back, so I have a few miles under my belt. But I spent most of that time in varying degrees of fear, as the boat — according to 8 out of the 10 sailors who knew more than me — was a bad choice to take offshore, especially as a singlehander with no offshore experience. But I lived to tell the tale.

Now I'm older, richer — at least a little bit — and feeling ready to have another go at the deep ocean and far away places, and to follow the calling of the sea. But I'd love to find some cruising community. Alas, my work does not, at least this year, allow me to crew for the Ha-Ha.

Jan Passion
East Bay

Jan — It's unfortunate that you can't do a Ha-Ha, because with the stops at Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria, and Cabo San Lucas, you'd not only get to see about 175 different cruising boats in cruising mode in one place at one time, but you'd also get countless opportunities to talk with the owners, most of whom would be glad to give you a quick tour and evaluation of their boat. We can't think of another 'used boat show' quite like it.

We don't like to be critical, but some of the 'cruising forums' have posters who don't have any idea what they are talking about. This is particularly true when somebody asks if 'Boat X' would be a good bluewater cruiser. One poster on such a forum wrote in and said, "Well, I checked on another forum, and some people there said X would be 'pretty good'." It's nice that the person wants to be helpful, but "pretty good" is no help at all.

Then you get the self-appointed 'experts', for whom the rule seems to be 'the less you know, the more you pontificate'. Recently we looked up some posts about whether a Beneteau 473 would be a good boat for a circumnavigation. There were all kinds of opinions by people who, of course, had never seen, let alone sailed on, a 473 before. It's sort of like a guy who had never seen Lady Gaga telling everybody else what it would be like to have sex with her — assuming, of course, she was still having sex. And there was one guy who said he would highly recommend adding running backstays to the 473 rig. We're talking about a Grupo Finot design that sports only a moderately tall double spreader rig — with swept-back spreaders! It would be like Homer Simpson saying that Leonardo da Vinci should have put a third nipple on his statue of David.

Nonetheless, we've got four sites to recommend to you, three of them being Yahoo Groups. The first is the Southbound Group, where most of the postings are by people who are in the process of sailing south or have sailed south. That being the case, they actually have factual information or have formed opinions based on firsthand experience. Imagine that! The same is true for the Pacific Puddle Jump Group. You might also check out Cruisers Network Online Group. Finally, there is, which was started by our old friend Jimmy Cornell, who also started the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the grandaddy of all cruising rallies.

The 'what boat' question is a tricky one, because it's too much like asking what kind of woman a man should marry. So much depends on your subjective tastes, and what you hope to do. Take the Challenger 40. This is one of the heavier and stronger Southern California boats of the '70s, and at least one has done a circumnavigation. While this boat can go anywhere you want, there are two issues. First, the interior is pretty big, but the cockpit is pretty small. That is generally not what people like in the tropics. Second, she's a heavy design with a relatively short rig, which explains her PHRF rating of 192 — quite slow for a boat of her length. A lot of sailors might prefer a Cal 40, which has a small interior, a large cockpit, and rates a minute per mile faster — which is a lot faster. But once again, it's all personal preference. We know one guy from San Francisco who has sailed his Challenger 40 from San Francisco to the Eastern Caribbean twice, and absolutely loved living on the hook there.

It would also help a great deal if you knew whether you wanted to go farther south than Panama or do the Puddle Jump to the South Pacific. If you're just going to do coastal stuff, can only take off a year, and don't want to spend a lot of money on a boat, you could have a grand time on one of the ubiquitous Catalina 30s. In fact, if you didn't load her down with tons of gear, she'd probably sail as fast as or faster than most 35- to 40-ft cruising boats — including the Challenger 40. But if you want to take all that gear, and do a Puddle Jump, you'd be better off with the Challenger — or another, perhaps faster, late '70s racer/cruiser.

We also want to remind you that the sailor is always more important than the boat. If you look at our list of West Coast circumnavigators, you'll see that folks went around in just about every kind of boat that could float, many of them no bigger than your old Irwin.


I can't tell you how relieved I was to see a gay couple in the September issue of Latitude. But can you answer a couple of questions for me? First, how acceptable are gay couples in Mexico? Second, how about on the Puddle Jump?

I'd also like to thank you for the information on what to do with toilet paper in the head. Do you have any more delicate but necessary subjects to touch on?

Lastly, is there any good source for studying the 'cons' of buying a cat? I obviously don't have any internet access where I am, so do you have any suggestions where I should go and what I should read?

P.S. Thanks for all your effort, I love the magazine.

Sean Bradley
ex-Bel Ami, 30-ft custom sloop
Currently in Chuckawalla Valley State Prison

Sean — Thanks for the kind words and all the puns. Our favorite is the one about a guy in prison asking if there are any 'cons' in buying a cat. Only if they are buying the cat with stolen money, we suppose. As for where to go to read more about cats, we guess you're looking for a wisecrack along the lines of, 'Go straight, and once out of prison head to a marine bookstore.'

But seriously, there have been a number of gay couples in Latitude over the years, but either nobody noticed or nobody cared. As for Mexico, the LGBT community has gained a lot of rights in the last 10 years. In fact, they have more rights than does the LGBT community here in the States. For example, in '03 it became a federal crime in Mexico to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation, and earlier this year it became legal for same-sex couples to marry and to adopt children. Pretty interesting for such a macho and Catholic country, no?

Of course, just because LGBT rights are recognized by law doesn't mean that they are necessarily recognized by all of Mexican society. But to be honest, we have no insight into the dynamic between straights and gays, other than to know every decent-sized Mexican city seems to have a gay community. And who can forget the two big transvestites who used to run the beauty salon in dusty Turtle Bay about 10 years ago? Nobody seemed to care about them either. But again, we really don't know anything about that aspect of life in Mexico.

As for the Puddle Jump, we suppose that a few participants may harbor an inherent dislike for anyone who isn't straight, but since everybody is 'in the same boat' at sea, people are usually judged by their character rather than by their sexual orientation.

Of course, once you get to French Polynesia, everything changes, as the rae rae — meaning cross-dressers, drag queens, female impersonators, and transsexuals — are widely accepted and hold many respected jobs, particularly in the service industry. The biggest problem for a lot of single straight guy cruisers arriving in Tahiti is that so many of the best looking women are actually guys.


The Fleet Week '10 Air Show over San Francisco Bay was great! The boaters who came out to watch it were not!

I've been sailing on San Francisco Bay for over 15 years, and before that grew up boating on Lake Michigan. I look forward to Fleet Week each year, so this year my wife and I left Marina Bay Yacht Harbor to get a good viewing spot by Alcatraz. While on the way over, I monitored VHF 16, as any good mariner should. The radio traffic gave a hint of what kind of day it was going to be.

Right off the bat, I heard a person hailing the Coast Guard over and over again asking about the security zone that was set up for the parade of ships and the air show. In about 30 minutes, over 15 others called the Coast Guard asking for the same information — even though the Coast Guard repeated the answer five or six times. With each request, the Coasties told the person calling to switch to VHF 22 for the information rather than taking up time on VHF 16, the hailing channel. I know some of the people had just turned on their radios and had not have gotten the announcement, but if they would have waited a few minutes, they would have heard the Coasties give the information. While this was going on, I heard two maydays, one from a sailboat that had lost a crewmember overboard, and another where a boat had lost her motors and was drifting toward the rocks by Angel Island. There was also a pan pan call.

Then I heard something on 16 that blew me away. Somebody got on and called another boater an "asshole" and demanded to know if he was going to pay for the damage that had just been done to his boat. The conversation between the two upset boaters went on for a few minutes, and finally there was a request for a Sheriff's boat to respond to the area. I'm sure the FCC did not appreciate most of the words that were used.

While heading to Alcatraz, I noticed a large cargo ship coming under the Gate. I thought it was a bad day to be coming into the Bay with all the small boats on the water. Then I heard it, the horn from the cargo ship going on and off quickly. I looked over and could not believe my eyes — several small sailboats and powerboats had cut in front of the ship! As any good boater knows, such a ship is not going to stop or turn in time to avoid hitting anything that cuts across its bow. Surprisingly, the ship made it from the Gate to between Angel Island and Alcatraz without hitting any boats. But it did have to use its horn several more times before making it past the east side of Treasure Island.

We finally arrived at the east side of Alcatraz, and I dropped anchor in 45 feet of water about 250 yards from the security zone. I wanted to make sure I was far enough away since this is where most of the boaters appeared to have anchored on top of one another. With that many boats so close together, I knew there were going to be problems. The year before, I'd seen boats hit each other as a result of being too close or dragging their anchors. And even from where we were anchored, I saw some boats playing tag.

There were several other boats around us, the nearest about 40 yards away. As the time for the air show neared, more boats showed up. A few dropped their anchors as I had done, but most just kept sailing or powering around the boats that had anchored. Once the air show started, it went nuts out there. I had several boats cut across my anchor line, and two missed our boat by only a few feet. A 15-ft powerboat passed our sailboat by only four feet while operating at full throttle. The wake from the boat splashed into our cockpit! The powerboat continued to weave between the other nearby boats at that same speed with the same result from its wake.

About halfway through the show, I noticed a sailboat under power going between anchored boats with a 10-year-old boy standing by himself on the bow. The child was wearing a PFD, but there were no lifelines and no adult near in case he started to fall. It was stupid of the adults to let the child up there, and if he had fallen over, there was no way the sailboat could have stopped or, because of the other boats in the area, turned around.

Our plan for the end of the air show was to wait until most of the other boats had left as we expected boats to take off in all directions at all speeds, and God help you if you didn't get out of their way. One person got on 16 and asked if the air show was over. Someone answered by saying it was going to last for another two hours. A third person said the same thing. Somebody finally told them the show had ended.

With the show over, we were passed by large boats that came to within three feet of us. I could have reached out and touched them! And our 26-ft boat was knocked from side to side by the wakes.

The one thing I noticed with all the bad mariners we had contact with was that no matter how loud you yelled at them to slow down or watch out, it didn't make any difference. Maybe it had to do with the brown glass bottles they were holding. Or maybe they just couldn't care less about others. For some, common sense means nothing when it comes to safe boating. Maybe it's time that the state comes out with a boating license for anyone to own or drive a boat.

Dean Becker
Will Travel III, MacGregor 26X
Marina Bay Yacht Harbor

Dean — On the one hand, we sympathize with you. Whenever there is some big public event on the Bay, it truly becomes Amateur Hour. On the other hand, we can't help wondering what you were expecting.

Licensing? We're not sure that's any kind of solution. After all, everybody who drives on California freeways is supposed to have a license, and a few even do. But has that resulted in people using common sense when driving or looking out for the safety of others? Of course not.

Let's face it, whenever there is a group, the Law of the Jungle prevails.


It looks as though Clay and Teresa Prescott, the former owners of ABC Yachts, were released from jail recently. This means they served about 3.5 months — less than half their 8-month sentence — as a result of embezzling more than $300,000 from clients' trust accounts. Maybe they will do the right thing and work to pay restitution to the victims — such as my family. Selling our boat through the now-defunct ABC Yachts cost my wife, two children, and me nearly $150,000 of hard-earned money. Rather than ABC's forwarding the proceeds of the sale of our boat to our bank account, all but about $5,000 was used to pay ABC bills, as well as for other purposes.

Jeff Drake
Southern California


I’ve been reading Latitude since the '80s and enjoy the bit of sanity it provides. I’ve read about your exploits of a blown disc in Mexico, your ex who married a green card, the Big O sailing adventures in the Caribbean and Med, the beginning of a small cruiser rally/race to Mexico that became the Ha-Ha, an upstart sailing rag with no comparison for content that copied your logo font, your great editorial responses to letters, and your unwavering advice to 'just get out there'.

Like thousands of readers, I look forward to Latitude each month. It keeps me in touch with how the cruising world is changing and what works out there, and helps me keep the faith that my turn will come with the '13 Ha-Ha.

Lani Schroeder
Balance, Endeavour 43

Lani — Thank you for the very kind words. One correction. Ex-Two, the Wanderette, didn't marry the publisher for a green card. It was love on both sides, but it just didn't work out.

Readers — Because the Letters editor is also the Grand Poobah of the Ha-Ha, and the Ha-Ha started on October 25, he had an early deadline. Due to this, a number of letters that would have run in the November edition will be running in the December edition. Thank you for understanding.



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