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January 2011

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A few months ago, mention was made in Latitude of the loss in the early '80s of the Bequia-built traditional schooner Water Pearl on the Caribbean side of Panama, near the entrance to the Canal. The incident probably would have been forgotten long ago were it not for the fact that the schooner had been built for and was owned by Bob Dylan — although he wasn't aboard when she was lost.

I was working as a Canal pilot and living in Panama at the time Water Pearl was wrecked off Fort Sherman. For those not familiar with the area, Fort Sherman is the old U.S. Army Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC). In fact, it was the Special Forces guys stationed there who rescued the crew of Water Pearl — although the rescue primarily consisted of their helping the crew walk ashore. Fort Sherman is no more, having been replaced by the Shelter Bay Marina.

Speaking from memory, if you look at the chart of the entrance to Cristobal, the westernmost end of the breakwater is on Toro Point, which has a white light. The seaward side of Toro Point has a very shallow reef. Only the crew of Water Pearl knows what really happened, but those of us around the boathouse figured that Water Pearl had old charts, which caused them to confuse the light on Toro Point with the white light on the east point of the entrance through the breakwater. That also assumes that Water Pearl's radar either wasn't on or wasn't working. There were strong northerly winds the night Water Pearl was lost, so once the crew realized the situation they were in, it was too late to save the boat. Once again, this explanation is not from the crew, but rather speculation by some of us on shore.

Attempts were made to pull Water Pearl off the reef, but the tugs couldn't get very close to her because of the reef. In addition, the tow lines kept getting snagged on the coral.

After the wreck was abandoned, she was stripped of almost everything. A local even cut a hole in the hull and salvaged the engine — piece by piece! He transported the pieces in a rowboat. I ended up with the anchor windlass and the grating from the shower. I made the latter into an end table.

I couldn't see any trace of Water Pearl the last time I was down at the wreck site. As best I can figure, the schooner was lost in '83 or '84.

Bob Gray
Whidbey Island, WA

Readers — The loss of any sailboat is sad, but the loss of a traditionally built wood schooner seems particularly sorrowful. The only thing we can't understand is why ol' Bob — and we'll admit to being a big fan, particularly of the early stuff — didn't use the loss as the basis for a mournful kind of song.


The America's Cup Race Management team has worked hard, says Iain Murray, CEO and regatta director for the 34th America's Cup, to reduce the cost of participation. For example, they've reduced the entry fees and bond requirements, reduced the penalties for not competing in AC World Series pre-events, and done other stuff. As a result, it shouldn't cost more than $50 million for a group to build their AC72 cat and compete.

It might be because I just smoked a big doob, but as I think about it, $50 million is still a whole lot of money. There is no way that my friends and I could put together an effort. On the other hand, I can get pretty high on the idea of smoking a doob while watching — for free — the 34th America's Cup play out on the windswept waters of San Francisco Bay. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sam Anderson, Jr.

Sam — As we write this, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has signed onto the deal, but Larry Ellison has yet to agree on behalf of BMW Oracle — and almost seems to be shopping the deal to Newport, Valencia, and Italy. Why? This is total speculation on our part, but we think he's weighing the fact that if the event were to be held elsewhere, there would be far fewer critics than if it's held in San Francisco.


I keep my boat at Emeryville Marina in Alameda County. Because of the bad economy and the lower prices boats are being sold for, I tried to get her reappraised at her actual value instead of the price I paid for her. The clerk in the Assessor's Office told me that the valuation I pay taxes on includes the estimated value of the sales tax that the new owner will have to pay.

When I told her that there is a possibility that the new buyer may be from outside the county, I was told that it didn't matter. When I responded that it doesn't seem right that I should have to pay taxes on possible future taxes, she said they were just following the verdict in Xerox vs. Orange County.

My question is whether this is legal. And if there is anyone else out there who thinks that it's wrong.

P.S. I read Latitude every morning.

David Zucker
Starbright, Morgan 43
Emeryville Marina

David — We thought Xerox vs. Orange County had something to do with the fact a county on one side of the United States copied the name of a county on the other side of the United States. So that's outside our area of expertise.

Whether the concept of taxing possible future taxes is right or wrong doesn't have anything to do with it. California has a $28 billion dollar deficit this year — that's 28 thousand million for all you fishermen — so all levels of government in the state are going to try to grab for every bit of money in every way they can. Thank god the federal government can print money willy-nilly 24/7, which allowed the President, Republicans, and Democrats to add another pork-laden trillion dollars to the nation's deficit. Not to worry, however, because as soon as the economy gets back on track, the politicians are finally going to address the deficit. No, really, they mean it. It's not like all the other times. Right. There is a fiscal day of reckoning that's coming, and when it does, that boat of yours might suddenly become your most valuable asset.


I read your December 6 'Lectronic piece about Canadian cruiser Milan Egrmajer dying as a result of being shot four times by robbers attempting to board his Ericson 35 MkII Adena at a remote cove on the northwest coast of Honduras. Please alert your readership that the first rule when being boarded by pirates is to not resist. Rule two is to try to memorize everything possible to help authorities with their apprehension.

I've read every article I could find to understand Milan Egrmajer's death, and found two in which police mentioned that he resisted, so I suspect this is true. If someone was ever to compile statistics on this subject, I'm quite certain that when the cruiser does not resist, they have a much better chance of surviving the ordeal without injury or loss of life. Please get this simple message out!

I've written before on this subject. You may remember that in August of '08, Daniel Dryden of the Anchorage-based Southern Cross 39 Sunday's Child was killed during a robbery while his and his wife Nancy's boat was anchored in the Rio Dulce. He resisted, too.

We sailors are a relatively hardy and independent lot who need to swallow our pride when accosted by pirates, and acquiesce to live another day.

Michael Gahagan
Flamingo IV, Catalina 30
San Francisco Bay

Michael — While we're inclined to agree with your first rule, we think the circumstances vary tremendously, and therefore we aren't about to second guess the response of anyone in such a dangerous situation.

As for your second rule, circumstances can again vary tremendously. The sad truth is that police in remote regions of Third World countries — particularly very violent ones, such as Central America — have about as much motivation to solve murders of foreigners as do homicide detectives in San Francisco to solve thug-on-thug murders. That is to say, about zero. Justice is often left to others in such places. In the case of Dryden, it was reported that various interests in the Rio Dulce, perhaps a combination of local authorities and business interests, had the area "cleansed" of the perpetrators — two of them were murdered a short time later, and the other two soon found themselves in prison. No matter if you're talking about murders in gang areas of the United States, or robbery-murders in Third World countries, it's rarely a secret who the perpetrators are.

You also have to take the police versions of what happened with a small grain of salt. There is often confusion, a language barrier, and reason for locals to obscure the truth.

In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, 24-year-old Myda Egrmajer, who was aboard Adena with her father at the time of the shooting, told an entirely different story from the police versions that you read. She reported that four men, "who didn't look like nice people," came out to their boat and asked to borrow a screwdriver to fix their engine. Later they said they needed a jackknife.

"One of the men juggled the knife, and when my dad leaned over, I guess one of the other guys felt threatened," said Myda. "He pulled out a handgun and shot my dad in the chest four times. I couldn't believe it. I can still hear the gun in my ear. When I saw my dad fall, I went out to be, like 'Dad, are you ok?' It didn't cross my mind that someone had just shot him. The robbers were still in the boat when my father was down. He'd put the flare gun he'd brought out with the jackknife behind me, so I picked it up and yelled at the robbers, and waved the gun at them. I think they thought it was real — thank God — because they took off fairly quickly."

For what it's worth, we believe Myda's version of the terrible incident.

One can never predict the behavior of thieves and other miscreants, so it's hard to know how to respond. Some of them will only go after the weak and those separated from the flock, so resistance drives them away. Others are more bold, more desperate, or high on drugs, in which case resistance may provoke an extremely violent response. We find it difficult to make generalizations, other than if it looks as if you can reason with them, give them all the shit they want. If they look crazy, you may have no choice but to fight for your life.


We anchored our Catalina 27 Mai Tai off Santa Barbara on the night of November 20 in rough but tolerable weather. We alerted the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol as soon as we arrived. They informed us that they don't allow boats to anchor within one mile of Stearns Wharf in the winter — for the safety of the wharf. So we moved a mile from the wharf to comply with their request, and re-anchored.

The following morning we headed into the harbor to use a phone. I then went up to the Harbormaster's Office to ask if we could take refuge in the harbor if the weather got too bad. After all, NOAA was calling for gale force winds, cloud-to-ocean lightning, and an outside chance of waterspouts.

The female clerk in the Harbormaster's Office was pushing for us to be able to stay a little longer, but her supervisor said — and I'm quoting — "We need the money for the slip." But we didn't have any money for the slip. As we were leaving, the girl at the counter told us to call from the anchorage if we needed anything.

We had Mai Tai held to the bottom with a 40-lb anchor, 50 feet of 3/8" chain, and 300 feet of 5/8" line. While anchored, I came up with an alternative plan, if needed. It was to sail downwind to Channel Islands Harbor and take protection there. Ventura would have been closer, of course, but the harbor entrance becomes too dangerous in rough weather.

In the beginning, being on the hook didn't seem to be too bad. But after an hour, I realized it was going to get too rough for us. So we secured everything and set sail for Channel Islands Harbor.

We sailed for five hours in increasing winds and building seas, and arrived off the detached Channel Islands breakwater at about 8 p.m. It being November, it had already been dark for some time. Since the seas had been so rough, we'd been a little too busy to really look closely at the charts. So we entered by the northwest end of the detached breakwater. The water depth got down to three feet under our keel before I finally saw the piss-poorly marked shoal buoy.

I would have started the engine to motor out of the trouble we'd gotten into, but the battery was too low from our having run the lights so long without charging the battery. We attempted to sail — upwind — back around the breakwater to get to the deeper water at the southeast end of the breakwater. But we were overcome by 7- to 10-ft surf, and couldn't make any progress. We dropped our monster anchor to try to keep us off the shore. But then the tiller slammed over against a winch, splintering the tiller. The next wave parted our monster anchor line, and sent our boat — with us on her — up the beach on her side.

We jumped from Mai Tai when it seemed to be the safest, and the boat, pushed by the surf, seemed to almost chase us up the shore. As we made it up the beach, we were surrounded by the Harbor Patrol. They took us in and offered us warm showers and dry clothes. After taking our report, they sent us on our way.

I'm still really emotional as I write this, and just want to get back on the ocean. I was in San Diego for the start of the Ha-Ha, and had really enjoyed cruising the California coast before this happened. But now I keep hearing the sound of the waves slamming against Mai Tai and my terrified mate screaming in the dark. It really pisses me off that the Watch Commander or whatever he was in Santa Barbara made it seem as if they don't give a damn about sailors — unless they have the ability for pay for a berth.

I know I'll never have Mai Tai again, but I hope the gentleman I gave her remains to can get her off the beach. She was a wonderful boat, and had taken us many places in the Delta and along the coast of California. And she'd always taken care of us no matter the conditions.

I don't know what the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol considers to be rough weather, but I know if they hadn't turned us away the way that they did, we'd still be sailing and loving the sea. It's time for us to find another boat and get back out there where we belong — on the open ocean. Right now I'm looking for a replacement Catalina 27, dinette model, preferably one with an Atomic 4 engine.

John Gardner
ex-Mai Tai, Catalina 27

John — We empathize with your situation, but it's not as easy as we'd like it to be. After all, are you telling us that you didn't even have $20 to pay for a night's slip in Santa Barbara? If not, where were you going to get the money to pay for a slip in Channel Islands Harbor? It's possible to cruise very inexpensively, but you've got to have some money. And you must have known that there are very few natural shelters on the coast of California during the winter, Cat Harbor on Catalina being one of the few.

We also empathize with the difficulty you had trying to enter Channel Islands Harbor in rough conditions at night. First of all, we visited that harbor several times this summer, and the western entrance is much more restricted than it would seem. Secondly, in the early '80s we were singlehanding our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary in boisterous weather and trying to enter that harbor at 4 a.m. Confused by all the background lights, and having not adequately familiarized ourselves with the layout of the entrance, on three occasions we came within just a few feet of piling our boat onto the eastern side of the southeastern breakwater. It was the closest we've ever come to losing a boat.

By the same token, you had to know that sailing downwind toward a lee shore in a strong breeze and big seas means any mistake will likely cost you your boat. And it's even riskier if you don't have a functioning engine. Sadly, there was no substitute for your taking the time to familiarize yourself with the entrance, or calling the nearby Harbor Patrol or Coast Guard for advice or assistance in entering.

We also empathize with the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol — and the citizens of Santa Barbara. For just as surely as Christmas falls on December 25th, a bunch of lightly cared-for boats will end up on Santa Barbara beaches this winter, just as they do every winter. The owners will then disappear or never be found, and the citizens will have to pay dearly to have the boats removed and destroyed. That's just not right.

If the weather had been as bad as you said it was in Santa Barbara, we think you should have taken the advice of the woman at the Harbormaster's Office and called them, and then made a fuss, saying you felt your lives were in jeopardy. The honcho in the office may not have been happy about it, but we're pretty sure he would have allowed you to come in. After all, any harbor officer who turns a boat away in legitimately bad weather, particularly if the skipper declares an emergency, can find themselves facing liability issues.

Nonetheless, when all things are taken into consideration, it's our opinion that while the folks in Santa Barbara perhaps should have been more accommodating, they were not responsible for the loss of your boat. That said, we hope you quickly find a replacement boat, and that everyone learns a few lessons from your misfortune.


Since there has been a lot of talk about the use of TP on boats and toilet discharge, I have to say that I would have no problem discharging my toilet waste into the Bay. After all, my toilet waste consists of urine, paper, and waste processed through my body — period. Contrast that with the fact that each time when there is a heavy rain, the local sewage treatment plants discharge millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Bay, sewage that also contains all manner of unprocessed and toxic items. My half-gallon now and then is less than nothing.

The folks in Canada — where they say 'dilution is the solution — have it right. We've become a country that is so over-governed that nothing makes sense anymore.

Robert Lockwood
Celebration, Gulfstar 50

Robert — It's indeed hard to reconcile the fact that when a government agency dumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into some place like the San Rafael Canal, it's not a problem, but your half-gallon of waste is a major pollution incident. Nonetheless, we support the prohibition on pooping in San Francisco Bay and other areas where it's illegal. Partly because it's just good form, but also because you don't want to be in a marina where 'logs' and TP float on the surface on a regular basis.


I know about the lack of availability of diesel engines that some readers have been writing about. Last January we blew up the Volvo diesel on our Jeanneau 45 Utopia in the Caribbean. The local dealer/distributor for Yanmar could find only one 55-hp Yanmar on the whole East Coast and Caribbean! I was lucky to get the engine, as it was spoken for by someone else. But I guess cash really does talk.

The engine was delivered a week later, but had been damaged in shipping. It finally got installed with replacement parts, but if something could go wrong, it did. The job was finished a month later.

We sailed until May, but had all kinds of problems with the engine. When we arrived back in Puerto Rico, the tech mechanic from Yanmar addressed all our problems. The short of it was that the engine had to be somewhat reinstalled. I would go into the list, but it's too long.

But to Yanmar's credit, they made everything right.

We will be back in Puerto Rico to pick up Utopia for our ninth and final season in the Caribbean. When we're done, we'll put her up for sale. I may write a book titled How I Constantly Got Screwed by Repair People in the Caribbean.

One further note. When I needed a new engine, I first went to the Volvo dealer, as we had a Volvo engine. He said the only 55-hp engine in the same East Coast/Caribbean area was in Canada, and that I would have to pay a premium for it. At the time, neither Volvo nor Yanmar could tell me when other 55-hp engines would be available.

John & Cynthia Tindle, and Mattie the boat dog
Utopia, Jeanneau 45
Hermosa Beach

John and Cynthia — It's hard to believe that such common diesels are in such short supply, but it's obviously true.

We understand what you mean about getting screwed by repair folks in the Caribbean, as we had a lot of similar experiences when we were roving the Caribbean with the Ocean 71 Big O. For instance, we once had a new 12-kw Lima generator installed. When it didn't pack the punch we expected, we found out that it was really only a 4 kw. When we confronted the dealer who installed it, he insisted that it really was a 12 kw. When we called Lima, they said no way. The dealer then claimed he had a special way of kicking a 4 kw up to a 12 kw by doing some 'proprietary wiring'. Lima laughed when we told them that. After many months, we finally got the proper installation, but had to pay to get the phony one removed.

We think there is a good explanation for why it's so hard to find good repair folks in the Caribbean. Most of the really good mechanics are busy working on megayachts because their owners think nothing of paying $135/hour or more to get stuff fixed immediately. Most of the good remaining mechanics work for the charter companies or have long relationships with the charter companies where the work is steady and the pay is good. In other words, if you're just cruising around on a typical yacht, the cream of the repair crop is taken.

The best diesel mechanic we know is a Frenchman named Hughes — pronounced sort of like a guttural 'Ugh' — who lives on his powerboat in Gustavia, St. Barth. Hughes laughingly says, "I'm very expensive — like $150/hour — but I'm very good and I'm very fast." He is all of those things. He also says, "I prefer the challenge of a really difficult job to something that's easy to do," which says a lot about him. The one thing we've learned after owning boats for all these years is that an excellent diesel mechanic — and they aren't easy to find — is worth about four times as much as a average or lackadaisical one.


Having worked at Svendsen's in Alameda for a long time, in July I took a job in Cardinal, Virginia, as the service manager of well-respected boatyard Zimmerman Marine. The motivation was to experience and explore the Chesapeake with my wife Heather and my daughter. It’s very rural in the southern Chesapeake, and I literally drive through the woods to get to work. It’s not uncommon to see deer — and deer hunters — along the road, as well as bald eagles in the trees.

My family and I love it here. The summers are warm, the winters are cold, there are crazy lightning storms, and there is no marine layer. Brrrrr! Did I mention it's a bit chilly here in the winter. A lot chillier than Alameda? A few days ago the temperature got down to the low 20s, once the wind chill was factored in, and we got a dusting of snow. I have a tough time getting used to snow on boats.

The good part of the Chesapeake area is that there are literally thousands of anchorages to explore. Heather and I plan to get a cruising boat soon to go gunkholing, although probably one smaller than the Morgan 38, Blarney 3, we had on the Bay.

Adam Sadeg
Zimmerman Marine, Inc.
Cardinal, Virginia


In the December issue there was a Changes about how the rudder on the Aries 32 I'd just sold to South African Peter Forrest broke along the Central California coast, and how we managed to make it to the shelter of Port San Luis.

After bringing the fiberglass rudder to a boatbuilder in San Rafael, neither he nor we could figure out a way to connect the two pieces of the broken rudder. While it didn't work out perfectly, the wood rudder that was built as a replacement is plenty strong, and will no doubt be fine for Peter's planned two-year trip back to South Africa via the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Because the new rudder was very heavy and difficult to get into position, it was quite a job getting it hung in the gudgeons. Nonetheless, this demonstrated the advantage of an outboard rudder, as we were able to do the whole thing without having to haul Misty out of the water.

Bob & Jane Van Blaricom
ex-Misty, Aries 32


I enjoyed the letter from Bob 'The Cat Whisperer' Smith, who called out the skippers of flipped cats for not taking responsibility for what happened to their boats. I particularly loved the part where he wrote, "Nowhere did I read of anybody admitting they screwed up.” This part is often missing, and is critical for both the unlucky sailors and the rest of us in our learning process. The opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes — and triumphs — is one of the more important services Latitude provides its readers.

I do not want to kick anybody when they are down, and we all make our mistakes, yet in the story of the grounding of the DownEast 38 Tachyon just to the north of Bahia Santa Maria, the skipper is quoted as saying, "Although I was on the ‘correct’ course, the current and wind pushed me too far east." What? Maybe he meant he was on the ‘correct’ course when he went to sleep? Maybe he meant he was on the correct 'heading'?

I was the Chief of Safety for the National Auto Sports Association for over four years. During practice and in the schools, we'd often ‘black flag’ a driver who had gone off track or spun his car. The driver receiving said ‘black flag’ had to come into the pit lane and talk to the officials at ‘re-entry’ about why he'd spun the car or dropped tires off the racing surface. If the driver's story was that he'd entered the corner too fast, turned in too early, pinched the exit, or something along those lines, my officials would tell him to be more careful, and let him back out on the track. If the driver answered that the track was too slick, the brakes were too cold, or the tires were not fully warmed up, my officials would have a friendly discussion with him, and burn up a bunch of very expensive track time until the driver realized he needed to take responsibility for the car he was driving and the conditions on the track during the session.

I submit that Tachyon did not go up on the beach because of easting due to wind or current.

And I know that I will be safer on a catamaran at sea having read the basic ‘rules’ outlined by Bob Smith of Pantera.

Mark Wieber

Mark — It's critical that sailors take responsibility for their mistakes. In the case of singlehander Mark Cholewinski on Tachyon, we suspect he was in a state of shock when he spoke, and thus didn't express himself as clearly as he could have. We're pretty sure he wasn't saying the current was responsible for his boat's going up on the beach.

By the way, Bob Smith will be the first to admit that he's not perfect. His most famous — and serious — mistake was when he got an ankle trapped in his anchor rode while trying to set this anchor in the current-cursed waters of Bahia de La Paz. As we recall, the forces on the lines were so strong that they snapped his ankle.


Thanks so much for printing the story of our night in Selimiye, Turkey, in the World of Chartering section of the December issue. It was thrilling to see it on the page. Unfortunately, you made it seem as if we really did see John Mayer, as the following sentence was omitted: "If he hadn’t been Dutch, he could have fooled us.” The singer, in fact, was a Dutch fellow who looked and sounded just like John Mayer.

I guess it makes for better reading, but if John Mayer reads Latitude, he might wonder just when it was he played an impromptu concert on the Turquoise Coast. And sadly, we’re reluctant to prompt our friends to share in our 'fame' with this mistake in the story.

John & Terry Dixon
North Vancouver, B.C.

John and Terry — For readers who don't know, John Mayer is a popular — but sometimes controversial — American singer-songwriter. To some he's better known as a womanizer of celebrities, most of whose names start with the letter J. As superb as some of Mayer's lyrics are, he's probably best known for his colorful description of his relationship with Jessica Simpson: "That girl is a drug, and drugs aren’t good for you if you do lots of them. Sexually it was crazy. It was like napalm, sexual napalm." Like a lady, Simpson told Oprah that she cried after reading the remarks, but what young woman wouldn't love the world to think she's incendiary in the sack?

Enough People magazine rubbish. As for the World of Chartering piece, we're sorry for the mistake. Sometimes we get 'snowblinded' by all the material we go through, and we probably got sidetracked by the previous statement: "Passersby on the walkway stopped and listened, and we were all thrilled when John Mayer sat down and played a couple of songs." Sorry we missed the "if he hadn't been Dutch" modifier that followed. Turkey is such a great place to charter and cruise that we certainly had no reason to mess with the truth to create a better story.


Is "being drunk" an excuse or an explanation?

I wonder how many Latitude readers caught the news item about Rick Ehlert, a 44-year-old RV dealer from Thousand Oaks, who allegedly deployed the stern anchor on the Holland America's 719-ft Ryndham while the ship was on a cruise from Mexico to Florida.

According to the FBI, Ehlert's actions could have damaged or even sunk the ship. I'll buy the damaged part, but I think it's a stretch to believe it could have sunk the mighty ship. In any event, Ehlert was caught red-handed by video equipment, and arrested after he admitted that he'd entered a restricted area in order to release the stern anchor.

Ehlert was wearing work gloves, which aren't normal cruise ship attire, so it seems as though the bizarre act might have been premeditated. What makes it more puzzling is that there are photos from earlier in the day showing Ehlert wearing gloves while he was walking around with his girlfriend. It makes me wonder if she was in on it too or if they had some kind of gloves and anchor-deploying kink.

There are a couple of reasons Latitude readers may not want to pull an 'Ehlert' themselves. The main one is that they could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of several charges. And if they come before a 'hanging judge', they might even have to clean the ship's bottom using just a mask and snorkel. That would teach them! But Ehlert obviously came before a wussy judge, because he was released on $15,000 bond. It reminds me of the French court that convicted mechanic John Taylor of being responsible for the July 2000 crash of the Concorde while it was taking off from Charlie de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Taylor was fined just $2,600 — about $20 per dead person — and given a suspended sentence of just 15 months.

Ehlert reportedly told the FBI investigators that he only released the Ryndham's stern anchor because he was drunk at the time, and because the cruise ship's stern anchor system was similar to the one his 50-ft boat. A boat he may not be owning too much longer.

Malcom Mulbridge
Bessy Ann, Cal 2-24
The Delta

Malcom — It sort of reminds us of the time we were sailing from St. Barth to St. Martin about 15 years ago, and passed the Polynesia, one of the big Windjammer sailing cruise ships heading upwind into a stiff breeze and big seas. The anchor had clearly not been secured, so each time the 250 footer slammed her bow into another wave, about 10 more feet of the chain came out. There were about five West Indian guys sitting around the big windlass, but they were limin', so there was no way they were going to do anything about it. The water wasn't that deep in the area, so we always wondered if the hook ever grabbed, and if it did, what happened.

For what it's worth, throwing an anchor off the bow of a moving sailboat rarely has any serious consequences. In fact, it's the way many French bareboat skippers prefer to anchor.


I had to chuckle at Tom Perkins bragging about the “greenness” of Maltese Falcon — the 289-ft floating ostentation he had built — because it used "only" 11,000 liters of fuel crossing the Atlantic. And those thousands of liters were only for the generators!

Perkins no doubt has more money that I can even conceive of, but he comes off as a DORG (Delusional Old Rich Guy), and risks breaking his arm patting himself on the back for his environmental goodness at sea. He must be smarter than that.

Tom Kucera
Ryokosha, Mariner 32

Tom — There are very different ways to look at things, aren't there? If one looks at his trip in absolute terms, burning 11,000 liters — about 2,906 gallons — of fuel for the generators on an Atlantic crossing is a heck of a lot of fuel. But if you look at it in relative terms, such as what a mega motoryacht would have burned, or what Falcon would have burned had they not sailed all the way, he burned almost nothing.

In some circles, it's fashionable to hate the rich. In the case of some people — some folks on Wall Street come to mind — we can understand. But there are a lot of very wealthy people, from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates to Larry Ellison to Tom Perkins, who for all intents and purposes started out with nothing, and became fabulously wealthy by providing much-wanted products and services, and/or saving end-users lots of money. In the case of Perkins, he grew up in modest circumstances, invented the first low-cost laser, became the chairman of two Fortune 500 companies at the same time, and eventually helped invent the kind of venture capitalism that brought many of Silicon Valley's most successful companies to life. As far as we're concerned, men and women like that can make all the money they want — provided they spend it. And Perkins does spend it.

You also might want to consider Perkins' history as a sailor. Unlike so many ultra-wealthy people in the '00s, who bought megayachts because they could and because it was sort of the thing to do, Perkins has been a lifelong sailor. He started with a 17-ft Teak Lady on San Francisco Bay — that's a wet ride — and over time moved up and up and up to Maltese Falcon.

While Forbes claims Perkins is a billionaire, he's one of the 89 U.S. billionaires who didn't make their top 400. So when he spent $100 million — give or take $30 million — to have Falcon built, he was committing a large portion of his fortune to sailing — in particular, a boat with an unproven DynaRig that, if it didn't work, would render the vessel all but worthless. So when Perkins paid whatever he did for Falcon, he was investing a huge chunk of his money, unlike Larry Ellison, for whom $100 million is walking-around money.

We're not defending anyone, just trying to provide more facts to permit a better understandin of the context.

Does Perkins have a large ego? Of course he does. And like it or not, it tends to be people with large egos who create great things. It's simply a fact of life. And in Falcon, Perkins brought more excitement to sailing than did any of the 50 or so run-of-the-mill 150-ft mini-mega motoryachts.


I saw the piece on the Maltese Falcon, and share Latitude's admiration for the yacht and all that she represents. As a fervent environmentalist, I was doubly pleased to hear of its "green" credentials.

But I have an additional suggestion. In '08, we were anchored near the Falcon in the lovely anchorage near the south pass of Fakarava in the Tuamotus. Like most superyachts, she lit up the night sky, and with her underwater lighting, lit up a fair bit of the lagoon as well. But I bet they could cut the daily generator fuel use down a lot with somewhat more modest lighting. Indeed, doing this might make her an example to the whole community, saving even more fuel. But I wouldn't suggest they turn off the masthead red lights — it would be a shame to see a plane clip those spars!

Ken Britten
Aquila, 45-ft Huntingford ketch

Ken — We understand what you're saying, but let's face it, Falcon was not just built to attract attention, but also to entertain. After all, if we're not mistaken, the biggest sailing crowd ever assembled around San Francisco Bay was for Falcon's arrival beneath the Gate. People would have been tremendously disappointed, wouldn't they, if she'd slipped in the Gate in the wee hours of the night?

We think owners of megayachts have an obligation to provide a show for everyone, and Perkins has always been very good about that. What's more, it's always been free. Sort of a nautical version of Carly Simon or Paul Simon giving a free concert in Central Park. Let's face it, except for A, the big megayachts are all boring as hell. The big sailing yachts, including Jim Clark's Athena and Hanuman, provide lots of free entertainment for all. You may not want to make the distinction, but we think it's valid.


I've been a happy reader of Latitude for over a year. It started when I sat on a plane next to a guy who owns a houseboat in Sausalito. I'd been bending his ear about wanting to move to the West Coast and live on a sailboat, and he told me that I should immediately start reading Latitude. I'm glad I took his advice, because I can't wait for the first of the month to download the latest issue and start reading.

I have no real sailing experience, other than many years ago off the coast of Florida on some Hobie Cats, one of which I flipped, and a daysail a couple of years ago to the Farallones with my teenage son. But armed with no experience, a few books, hundreds of hours of internet reading, and a couple of friends who have sailed a lot but who think I'm nuts, I've made up my mind to buy a performance daggerboard catamaran in the 42- to 47-ft range, and become a West Coast liveaboard. It's easy to do when you're single. Hopefully, I'll be able to migrate up and down the coast, and do the Ha-Ha.

My job doesn't care where I live, as long as I have fast internet and can occasionally get to an airport. So while I will still have to keep working for The Man, I fully intend to make this move when I hit 59.5 and the 401(k) calls. By the way, I blame this obsession on reading the Napa chapter in Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy's Cruising Guide to San Francisco Bay. I love Northern California, and until I read that chapter, I never realized that living in the Bay also included downtown Napa.

Latitude's Letters section is so full of valuable information that I was hoping that you might help me with some of my unknowns:

1) I want to officially move to a state with no income tax, so it will probably be Washington. But before making a final decision, I'll also have to take into consideration things such as sales tax and personal property tax on the boat. Suggestions?

2) Will it be possible for me to spend most of my time in the Bay Area, or will I have to anticipate having to follow the weather to avoid freezing conditions? I had this general idea of going north during the summer to the San Juans, then returning to the Bay for the winters. But I want to make this decision based on having good sailing weather, and not whether I'm starting to get numb.

3) The only real thing I know about the sailing seasons on the West Coast is that I assume late October must be a great time to sail south from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. However, I always seem to miss reading about when is the best time to come back north. So do people just normally stay in Mexico from mid-November on?

4) Given that my son and I will get as much instruction and as many certifications as necessary to be safe, what do you think my chances are of pulling this off successfully? In other words, would you sell me a life insurance policy?

5) How much wine is it feasible to store on a 42-ft cat before it starts to affect performance?

Andrew McIntyre
Stuck In Atlanta for Two More Years

Andrew — Thank you for the very kind words.

We're not experts, but we presume the best thing to do would be to establish a residence in one of the seven states that don't have income tax, and then create a Delaware-based LLC for your boat. If you didn't do anything foolish, you'd be liable only for personal property tax on the boat in California, and only if you stayed in one of the 'wrong' counties for too much of the year.

If all you need is access to high-speed internet and an international airport, consider yourself very lucky, because the entire West Coast, from British Columbia down to Acapulco, is your oyster. Given that you have that kind of flexibility, we'd highly recommend that you spend your summers in the States and much of the winter in Mexico. Why? As we write this, it's December 15, we're on our boat in Banderas Bay, it's 82°, the water is in the mid-70s, the wind is blowing at 12 knots, the sea is flat, you can very comfortably surf without a wetsuit, you can get a delicious dinner for $5, and the people are sweet and friendly. Besides, it's safer down here than it is in the States. If we were back in San Francisco, it wouldn't be literally freezing, but it would be figuratively. We'd be looking at a high of 54 under gray skies, a low of 42, 10 straight days of rain, and icy water. We lived our whole life in the Berkeley-San Francisco-Marin triangle during the magical years, and it was great. And compared to a lot of places it's still great. But if you're a sailor and don't have to spend the winter in San Francisco, we think you'd find the quality of life along the coast of Mexico to be much better.

Thanks to the availability of high-speed internet on your boat while on the hook in most places in California and Mexico, it's become easy to work from your boat. Lots of professionals do it. And even some amateurs, such as ourselves. Our recommended 12-month cycle would be something like this: You start with the Ha-Ha in late October, and stay in Mexico until May. You then head north, rushing right past Southern California, which has terrible issues with June and early July Gloom. San Francisco, ironically, has much better — even warmer — weather than coastal Southern California during the Gloom. You can get your Napa and San Francisco Bay fix for the next three months. Or, if you're feeling ambitious, you could head up to Puget Sound. The deal is that you want to get back down to Southern California and the Channel Islands for that area's prime time, which is September and October. Of course, there's nothing that says you can't stop in the Bay and visit Napa for a couple of weeks on your way back south. At the end of October, you load up on suntan lotion and fine wine, and head back down to Mexico.

The best time to do a Baja Bash is late summer and fall. Unfortunately, few sailors need or want to come north then. The most important thing is that you have plenty of time so you can pick your weather. If you can work via the internet on your boat, you just hang out at Cabo, wait for a good window, and five or six not-very-unpleasant days later, you're in San Diego. If you're on a forced schedule, you may have to leave Cabo at just the wrong time, which means six days later you may not have gotten any farther north than Bahia Santa Maria.

Sailing isn't that difficult, nor do you have to be particularly smart. You just need to know the basics, not do anything really stupid, be patient, and respect the sea. If you didn't start sailing until June, but got lessons or sailed with a mentor every other weekend, you'd be ready for the Ha-Ha by the end of October. And yes, we'd sell you a life insurance policy.

It takes a ton to lower one of Profligate's hulls an inch, so we figure you could take on half that — 1,000 lbs — in wine on a 47-ft cat and not adversely affect performance. If our math is good, that's about 125 gallons of wine. When you need to refill, just stop at one of the Costco stores in Mexico.

For the last several years, we've been doing pretty much what you're hoping to do. It's a pretty sweet way to live. We love the variety and the fact that it's allowed us to make good friends all up and down the coasts of California and Mexico.


I noticed that a few of your items regarding the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) failed to even mention Steve and Linda Dashew and their boat Windhorse when talking about California and U.S. participants. Granted, Windhorse is a powerboat, but they are registered participants, and they certainly have an interesting history in the world of sailing.

Steve Ripple
San Francisco

Steve — Every year when the ARC reaches its maximum number of entries, we go down the list searching for American and particularly Californian entrants. To the best of our knowledge, the Dashews and their powerboat weren't listed. We can only assume they got special dispensation to enter late or something. Nonetheless, we're a sailing magazine, so we don't cover powerboating — just as we don't cover kayaking, open ocean rowing, dragonboat racing, predicted log contests, and similar non-sailing activities. They all have their own publications.


I don't know if you can copyright a font, but I thought you guys should be aware of that a company called L'attitude Gallery in Boston is using the same font as you.

By the way, I love the cover of the December issue. Beautiful. I wish there were more covers like it.

Garry Schaeffer
San Diego

Garry — Thanks for the concern, but as the Boston company spells its name a little differently, and are in an entirely different business, it doesn't bother us at all. We wish them all the success in the world.

There is now a real estate and investment group based at 1 California St. in San Francisco that calls itself the Latitude 38 Group. While they are in a different business and use a different logo, they do use a photo of a sailboat — for reasons that make no sense to us — on their home page. We don't know if they are trying to trade off the name we made famous, but we've got better things to do then worry about it. Besides, when one searches for 'Latitude 38' on Google, they are way down the list, past the long-established Latitude 38 Bistro and Spirits in Oxford, Maryland, Latitude 38 Vacation Rentals in Telluride, Colorado, the Latitude 38 Design + Build folks in Charlottesville, Virginia — and even Profligate, Latitude's 63-ft catamaran.

What did bother us was a guy who called himself Latitude 38 Productions a few years ago and promoted, among other things, sailing charters on the Bay. We felt that he was trading on our name and reputation, and therefore have felt no pity that the outfit is either no longer in business or at least no longer dabbles on the water.

Back in '04, a singer/songwriter named Terry Savastano released an album called Latitude 38, with a logo resembling ours on the CD. The title track was called Latitude 38, was about sailing on the Bay, and featured the line "we go where the wind blows." Sort of sounded familiar to us, perhaps because it's been on our cover for the last 400 months. It also had a funny line that went, "trim the sails, too much fluffing." Fluffing? Isn't that what's done on porno film sets to keep the male actors in a state so they can perform at a moment's notice? But once again, the album is no skin off us, so we wish Savastano, "an Irish-Italian with an English accent" the best of luck. Besides, he's going to need it, as his last known residence was Sarasota, Florida.


I wish to disabuse people of the idea of sailing to distant lands as always being an idyllic endeavour. Sure, there is the rare perfect passage. But more often than not, fatigue — which is elevated irritability occasioned by incessant uncomfortable motion and confinement on a small, vulnerable platform — takes its toll.

While we sailors hope for speedy and uneventful passages, we learn to accept what we get. In the best of circumstances, we'll have 18 to 20 knots aft of the beam and moderate seas, and arrive when expected. Rarely do we arrive early. In fact, sometimes passages will take twice as long as we expect. Maybe even longer. And maybe we won't make it at all, as the toll of singlehanders has been mounting recently.

I'm not a singlehander because I prefer sailing alone. No, it's primarily because most people looking to crew believe that boats larger than mine are safer, more comfortable, and are more likely to have enough people aboard so they can have a party. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they aren't. It depends on a lot of things.

One thing that's certain is that I notice when a fellow singlehander goes missing. The first for me was Steve Brown, whom I met in Durban, South Africa in '03. His unmanned boat was found off the coast of California following his second circumnavigation. In '09, two others were lost whose names I don't know. One of them fell off his boat near Nuku Hiva. The other, a British national suffering from multiple sclerosis, fell off his boat sometime after leaving Rarotonga. We only know this because he had a crewmember who, although he had no idea how to sail, managed to put out a call for help.

Then there was Keiichi Chinami, whom I met in Hiva Oa. He spoke no English, and I knew only a limited amount of Japanese. But there was no barrier to our communication because we were both sailors. We had so much in common that we almost didn't have to speak. When he discovered that my alternator was bad, he loaned me his spare. I returned it to him in Tahiti.

Too many. Too close. Bigger boats.

Bob Lorenzi
Armido, Nor'Sea 27
Bundaberg, Australia

Bob — We're afraid your line of reasoning trailed off toward the end, but we think we catch your general drift. When you speak about passages always taking longer than expected, don't you think a lot of it has to do with new sailors having overly optimistic expectations? We always laugh when Profligate has a burst of speed and somebody says, "Hey, the GPS says we'll reach Turtle Bay in just five hours." Yeah, right. Then there's a lull and the GPS says we'll get to Turtle Bay in 36 hours. It seems to us that after a few months of cruising, a sailor should get pretty good at understanding all the variables and thus be able to come up with a reasonable expectation of how long a passage might take — give or take about 200%.

As for your reference to Keiichi Chinami, we should tell our readers that he's a 62-year-old Japanese sailor who went missing from his 35-ft sloop Kifa near Cape Horn in early March. He's not the only one. Kiwi singlehander Paul Janse van Rensburg went missing off his 36-ft sloop Tafadswa on March 12 during a passage with his dog from Tauranga, New Zealand, to Gisborne. Because van Rensburg's boat and safety gear were eventually found in excellent condition, it's assumed that he fell overboard. The dog lived.

As everybody should know, there are some inherent dangers in sailing. Perhaps not everyone understands that the dangers are greatly increased for those who choose — or have no choice but — to singlehand. Based on our experience, singlehanded sailing is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. But it is dangerous. So if you indulge, please be very, very careful out there.


Belated thanks for a marvelous job organizing the Ha-Ha. We had a blast! My wife and I were crew on Jim and Connie Merritt's Dufour 385 Sound Effect from Tacoma. This was my best chance to help my wife experience some offshore sailing. My concern was that she might discover only fear and none of the joy. She was fearless and wants to go again, so now we can continue planning our escape in a couple more years.

Dan Bessmer
Planet Earth

Dan — De nada. The Poobah's purpose in life — and it's a very satisfying one — is to help people have fun and adventure, preferably on their boats.


We were part of the recent Ha-Ha fleet and, not being too excited by the prospect of paying top dollar for a berth in the marina at Cabo where the air is hot and stagnant in the mornings, we once again anchored within swimming distance of The Office and the Baja Cantina, two beachfront establishments. It was still a bit windy, with an unusual east wind blowing us toward the lee shore. So I put out 230 feet of chain, and made sure the anchor was dug in well before I shut down the engines.

The wind lightened by the next day, and 230 feet of chain seemed excessive for our being in 16 feet of water. But I decided to leave it all out because my windlass was broken and because we were going to go in to the dock on Monday to get the saildrive worked on.

Come Monday morning, all seemed normal when we started to raise the anchor. It did, however, seem a little odd that I didn't have to motor very far forward to raise the anchor. But we all suddenly got wide-eyed when the end of the chain came up through the roller — and there was no anchor attached! To say this was a bit disconcerting is an understatement. I had reversed the chain before the start of the Ha-Ha, and I knew I had seized the shackle with new wire. I didn't want to believe that my seamanship skills were failing that fast.

We marked our position on the GPS, and proceeded to move into the dock for repairs. We later came back out and anchored in nearly the same spot using a backup anchor. The next day Tracy, who was crewing on Joe Pfiefel's Beneteau Oceanis 42 Set Me Free, and whom we met during the '09 Ha-Ha, came over and did some diving reconnaissance. She found the shackle and pin about two inches from each other on the bottom, just before she ran out of air. Before Tracy went in, I talked with somebody on a Mexican-owned Sunseeker powerboat that was anchored nearby. I wanted to let them know that we would have someone in the water, and to be on the lookout when they raised their anchor.

After Tracy ran out of air, we borrowed and refilled three scuba tanks, as we planned to do a thorough search of the area the next morning. About five minutes before we were going to start the search, the owner of the Sunseeker pulled up in his dinghy and asked if the anchor on the bow of his boat was mine! My Spanish is limited, so I'm not sure I got the details right, but he said something along the lines that his captain saw another boat, perhaps a panga, pick up an anchor a couple of days earlier. The captain mentioned it to his owner. I guess the owner was a bit ticked off that someone would do that to a boatowner, and put the word out that the anchor should be returned. I have no idea who the owner is, but I guess certain people in Cabo do, because his suggestion was heeded.

We'd heard from some locals that divers sometimes come off the beach to search for lost tourist items such as wallets, sunglasses and so forth. But we couldn't believe that anyone would take an anchor attached to chain that was holding a boat in place, which is why I'd begun to doubt my skills. I'm not sure which brought me more relief when we got the anchor back, the fact that my seamanship skills are not deteriorating as quickly as I feared, or that I wouldn't have to replace the anchor in Mexico, at double the cost of it in the States.

I have no idea how long my boat was riding on just the rode with no anchor, but it could have turned ugly quickly if the east wind had come up again, or if I'd had less chain out. The more I think back on it, the luckier I feel, as it could have easily ended with my cat on the beach.

For those who may want to use this as an example of crime in Mexico, in my experience the actions of the owner of the Sunseeker are much more representative of the Mexican people than that of whoever stole the anchor. I will look forward to meeting more of them as I cruise this season.

Bill Lilly
Moontide, Lagoon 470
Newport Beach

Bill — You may be buying the explanation that you were given, but it sure sounds fishy to us. After all, if the captain on the powerboat saw somebody pick up and take off with your anchor, why didn't he tell you right away? Or at least go around and warn the two or three boats that the anchor could have come from? And what was the anchor doing up on his bow? Fishy, fishy, fishy, that's what it sounds like to us.


I have a bar bet that I'd like to have you settle. A friend of mine insists that participants in the TransPacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu are required to prove they've taken a certain number of sextant shots and plotted them. I say this is ridiculous, as GPS has been around for decades now. I bet you couldn't find sextant in the whole fleet.

Rick Schrier
San Diego

Rick — We would have made that bet along with you. And we both would have been wrong. For all these years members of the TransPac Board have felt that nobody should race to Hawaii without being able to navigate by sextant. So when a boat finished, the inspectors checked to make sure each boat had done the required number of shots and plotted their positions.

One of the most vocal advocates of the requirement has been Stan Honey, the navigator par excellence. However, perhaps because he couldn't make last year's board meeting, the requirement has been dropped for this year's TransPac.


I have lived in San Blas, Mexico, for 13 years. My wife and I have a small hotel here and are members of the Association of Hotels and Motels of San Blas. We are trying to attract tourists, not drive them away. So I was shocked when I read the following statements, published in Latitude, by San Blas resident Norm Goldie:

"No boaters will give instructions to visiting vessels who desire to enter or find moorings in the San Blas Estuary." And, "No diagrams or pirated satellite images are to be used [for navigation], as they are useless and in many ways confusing."

I have worked on the water in a commercial capacity for 32 years, and helping other persons on the water is a common practice. So when I read Norm's statement, I was concerned. What kind of government, I thought to myself, would prohibit mariners from helping each other?

So I went to the Port Captain's Office in San Blas and asked if Norm's statements are true. Apparently the captain of the port didn’t talk with the same "high-ranking SCT official" that Norm said he did, because the San Blas port captain told me that Norm Goldie's statements are absolutely not true.

The port captain said cruisers should feel free to help each other in San Blas, just as they would in any other part of the world. If anyone needs any assistance or help in any manner, there is a Tourist Office in town, and any of the local hotels can provide information and assistance.

Tom Nelson
Bungalows Conny
San Blas, Nayarit Mexico

Tom — Thanks for going to the trouble of checking that out with the Port Captain for us. There was never a doubt in our mind that Norm's claims were rubbish. Indeed, most veteran cruisers in Mexico have come to view Norm's more majestic pronouncements with a certain degree of skepticism. For example, in one of his most recent missives to us, he said he was putting together a dossier on us and turning it over to the "appropriate agencies" of the Mexican government. Right.

As we've said before, Norm Goldie can be a very helpful guy, and some cruisers are very fond of him. That's great. On the other hand, he has a history of sticking his nose in where it's not always been wanted, and at times has tried to make life miserable for those who have rejected his offers of help. And he's sometimes been very mean to cruisers on the radio, which he monitors religiously. Lastly, despite whatever he might tell you, he has no official standing with the Mexican government.


Latitude's recent post about climate brought up a topic worth considering. From a sailor's perspective, what area of the world has the best climate? As for myself, if Todos Santos — just north of Cabo on the Pacific Coast — had a harbor, I'd say that would be it. In the North Pacific, that would leave the extremes of Southern California and La Paz — at least of places that were boating centers and had supplies. In the southern hemisphere, it would be Ecuador.

My having done a bit a traveling, the only rival that comes to mind is Noumea, New Caledonia. I'm dismissing Hawaii because of the lack of anchorages and the wind and seas being too rough in the channels.

What do other sailors think?

Planet Earth

Anonymous — Yours is a fun question that we've given a lot of thought to. We're going to assume that you're like most cruisers and are looking to sail in reasonably warm air and water temperatures. If that's the case, you're going to want to sail the tropical areas of the world — but only in the hemisphere's winter, because it's too hot and humid in the summer, and most such areas are subject to hurricanes in summer.

When it comes to the ideal sailing climate in the winter in the northern hemisphere, we don't believe anywhere can compare with the Eastern Caribbean. Yes, it's a little breezy in December and January, but there's always a sailing breeze and the water and air temps are perfect. Mainland Mexico is great, too, although the wind isn't as consistent and the water isn't as clear. But the people of Mexico are nicer than those in the Caribbean, the prices are much lower, and there's a much more active cruiser social life — all things to be considered.

But forget mainland Mexico for cruising in the summer, as it's too hot and too humid, and it rains too much. The Caribbean isn't quite as bad in the summer, but the humidity can get oppressive. And remember, both mainland Mexico and the Caribbean are subject to hurricanes.

While La Paz and Todos Santos are at about the same latitude, just north of the Tropic of Cancer and therefore near the tropics, we're going to pass on them as having a perfect sailing climates — even in the northern hemisphere winter. The problem is that they are often too chilly in the winter, and even on warm winter days the water gets too cold for swimming in December. The mid-June through September heat in both places can be oppressive, particularly during the most humid months of August and September. On the other hand, La Paz and the rest of the Sea of Cortez can be near ideal from the middle of May through the end of June, and from October to mid-December. In addition, La Paz has a lot of non-sailing attractions that have made it popular with cruisers and retired cruisers for years.

For ideal sailing climates during the northern hemisphere summer, you'd look to the tropical areas of the southern hemisphere. Places like French Polynesia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, the Queensland coast of Australia, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Indonesia and Malaysia.

There are, of course, great sailing climates outside the tropics, but they are pretty much limited to the summer. As good as summer sailing is on San Francisco Bay, in Southern California, the Northeast U.S., the Baltic countries, the Med, and Alaska, nobody is going to compare winter sailing in such places with winter sailing on Banderas Bay or in the Eastern Caribbean. Depending on how far these places are from the equator, their winter sailing ranges from poor to out-of-the-question in the winter. The same is true with the subtropical areas of the southern hemisphere in their winter.

We've got two solutions to the problem of there being no one place with a perfect year-round sailing climate. The first is to have one boat in a tropical area of the northern hemisphere for northern hemisphere winter use, and another in a tropical area of the southern hemisphere for southern hemisphere winter use. For example, a boat in Mexico from November to May, and a boat in Indonesia from May to November. All it takes is money. The second solution is to be a '20-20' sailor, meaning you never go outside of the tropics, but you also switch hemispheres with each equinox. Indeed, this is something that many cruisers do, be they circumnavigators or not. However, it does get a little hard west of the Indian Ocean, because you either end up in the Med, which is sub-tropical, or the South Atlantic, where there aren't very many cruising hot spots.

We think we have a decent macro view of the world's ideal sailing climates, but if we're missing some micro climate issue that makes a place ideal for sailing year 'round, we'd be delighted to hear about it.


While I call myself an avid sailor, I must admit that I'm no expert. After all, I've never been on a bluewater trip or singlehanded a boat over 20 feet — although I can't stop thinking about it. I'm just a college kid who caught the sailing bug from my sister-in-law and who loves to spend summer days racing Hobies on Huntington Lake above my hometown of Fresno.

But I'm a bit of a dreamer, and want to sail more and more. As my dreams have in large part been inspired by the summer and fall contributions of Andrew Vik, scourge of the Med, about his adventures on his Islander 36, Geja, in the Adriatic, I was wondering if you could help me contact him. Having followed his adventures in Latitude since I was 17, I'd love to get his advice on planning my future trips.

By the way, that was a great Ha-Ha article. I've never wanted to go more.
Clifton Wahlberg

Clifton — We don't give out contact information of our contributors, but we'll let Andrew know how to contact you.

Given the poor economy and difficult job market, we can't think of a better time for an adventure-loving young man to get out there and see the world by boat, make great friends, and get a real world education. Good luck!


It was sure great to be a part of — as crew — Baja Ha-Ha 17! By the time you read this, we'll be on our boat Begone in San Carlos, Mexico. I can't wait to see what Tom, who ran List Marine in Sausalito for all those years, looks like when he hasn't had to work in the shop for a couple of months. Instead, I imagine he'll be answering diesel engine problem requests on the VHF radio!

It sure is great to have Hans, Jessica, Dominic and Bill to keep List Marine humming while we're cruising!

Suzanne Statler — with Tom List
San Carlos, Mexico

Suzanne — It was great to have you along on the Ha-Ha. And Tom showed the true cruising spirit, as the longtime Yanmar dealer happily helped out a number of Ha-Ha participants — for free — who had issues with their diesels. We're most interested to hear how Tom adjusts to the shock of suddenly not living a hectic life.


I learned something new — I probably should have already known it — during the trip my son and I made between Brookings, Oregon, and the Channel Islands. When pondering our passage across the San Francisco entrance, I decided I wanted to move in close to shore and cross the ship channel at the precautionary area rather than crossing all the in/out and north/south shipping lanes out closer to the Farallones. But I didn't feel confident about my decision, particularly because the charts, and guides like Charlie's Charts, warned us to avoid the precautionary area. And I didn't know how the Coasties would react to my sailing through that spot, what with pilot boats using it.

So I called the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), a little worried about how they'd react to such a dumb question. But they were very helpful. The officer I spoke to said we had as much right to use that area as anyone else, only that they preferred not to see us get run over! He asked when I wanted to cross and how long it would take, and very patiently gave me a rundown on the ship traffic expected around that time. I was favorably impressed and grateful to get that help.

We passed the entrance safely — using our radar and AIS — and waved to the pilot boat. Life was good. I'd never hesitate to call VTS again.

John Boye
Tom Thumb, Havsfidra 25
Brookings, Oregon

John — The precautionary area outside the Gate is a little confusing to us. On our chart it's about two miles due south of Duxbury Reef, which means it's out of the path of all major shipping. The chart says it's where the pilot boat hangs out, but VTS tells us that the pilot boat spends most of its time right around the Lightbucket. The bottom line is that it seems to us that you'd need to exercise less caution in the precautionary area than outside of it. In any event, stand a normal watch, and it's no problem.

Fun fact: VTS handled 77,278 vessel 'movements' in '08, the last year we could find records for. Some 53,780 of them were ferry movements, while only 16 of them were submarine movements. This was a 20% drop in movements over the previous year, and significantly lower than any of the previous nine years.


During the morning of November 20, we and one other sailing yacht entered the North Minerva Reef and anchored. Three other boats were already on the hook, although two left a short time later. Around 1 pm, the three remaining boats were hailed by the patrol boat — which we all assumed was from Tonga. Each yacht was asked about its last port and next port, and if they had permission to anchor at Minerva Reef. All three yachts reported that Vava'u, Tonga, had been their last port.

To our surprise, the crew of the patrol boat told us that we needed to get permission from Suva, Fiji, to anchor at Minerva. Since we didn't have it, we had to leave immediately. It was then obvious that this was a Fijian patrol boat.

We and the folks on the other boats argued that we believed Minerva Reef was part of Tonga. That got us the following response: "No, it's not. You have to get permission from officials in Suva, Fiji, to anchor here." We were given 30 minutes to prepare for departure and leave.

We left the Minerva Reef angry and frustrated, and continued on our long journey toward Opua, New Zealand. So who owns Minerva Reef?

Peter Sidler
Green Coral
Basel, Switzerland

Peter — There are a number of claims on Minerva. For details, see our response to the following letter.


The "fuss" about small, isolated islands like Minerva Reef is that qualifying formations can serve as the basis for an Exclusive Economic Zone drawn 200 nautical miles in circumference around the formation. The owning nation gains exclusive rights to most of the natural resources within that zone. Because of our lengthy coastline and numerous Pacific territories, possessions, and so forth, the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone is the largest in the world. Check out the map at

Craig Juckniess
Perihelion, Mason 43
Anacortes, WA

Craig — Very interesting. Thanks for the link to the map.


I contacted the Tongan government over the situation at Minerva Reef. They said that they "know about the problem, and it's being addressed in the United Nations." I also learned that elections were just held in Tonga, and the Democracy Party won 12 seats, which means they'll try to form a new government. It should be interesting in Tonga for awhile.

Baker Hardin
Lite N Up, Islander 44
San Diego

Baker — The United Nations is addressing the situation? Oh good, that means a just and equitable solution — probably giving Minerva Reef to Venezuela — is expected any day now.

If you think things are going to be interesting in Tonga, compare them with what's been happening on Easter Island, which is 2,000 miles west of Chile, the country that claims it, and is one of the most isolated places on earth. In early December, Chile sent a plane full of riot police to Easter Island to evict the indigenous Rapa Nui who have been squatting in government buildings they claimed were on their sacred land. Dozens of the Rapa Nui were wounded by buckshot and police batons.

While the riot police were sent to remove squatters, the real issue is tourism. More than 50,000 people a year are flying to the remote island to see the famous moai and tick off another box on their bucket list. But the Rapa Nui say that the Chilean government, which annexed the island in 1888, is trying to turn the UNESCO World Heritage Site into something like a theme park for the benefit of outside companies, whose profits leave the island. "We're not asking the Chilean government for anything but title to our land, which is our rightful claim," said a Rapa Nui representative. We sympathize with the Rapa Nuis' desires, but there's a greater chance that a moai will stroll across the Pacific to Minerva before we see that.




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