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May 2011

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I would like the publisher of Latitude 38, who had been so skeptical about the chances of the America's Cup actually coming to San Francisco Bay, to repeat after me: Mascalzone Latino, Italy; Artemis Racing, Sweden; Aleph-Équipe de France; Energy Team, France; Team Australia; Emirates Team New Zealand; China Team; Venezia Challenge, Italy; White Tiger Challenge, Korea; and three teams 'To Be Announced'. Those are the names of the challengers to the America's Cup that he thought was never going to happen on the Bay.

Tim Stephens
San Rafael

Tim — Mascalzone Latino, Italy; Artemis Racing, Sweden; Aleph-Équipe de France; Energy Team, France; Team Australia; Emirates Team New Zealand; China Team; Venezia Challenge, Italy; White Tiger Challenge, Korea; and three teams 'To Be Announced'. You're absolutely correct, Tim, from the bottom of our heart we believed that, between the politics of the city of San Francisco and the state of California, there was only about a 30% chance that the event wouldn't get derailed. We were wrong, and there are few times in our lives that we have been so delighted to have been so wrong.

While we're naturally pulling for the Defender, one of our challenger favorites will be Korea. First, the Korean entry marks a real transition from the old all-Western America's Cup to one that, with China participating again, has attracted the serious attention of the Far East. Second, thanks to our son, Nick, an oil painter in downtown Los Angeles, and Crystal, his Chinese girlfriend, we've become addicted to Korean BBQ. If you're ever in Koreatown, check out the little place at the corner of Vermont Blvd. and James M. Wood St. It's a bit of a hovel and your clothes will come out infused with smoke, but the food is so good and the experience so much fun that it's become our family's go-to spot over the last several years. Kimchi forever!

Just so everybody is up to speed, this is the basic America's Cup schedule for 2011:

Aug. 6-14 — World Series racing in the 45-ft cats in breezy Cascais, Portugal.

Sept. 10-18 — World Series racing in the 45-ft cats in Plymouth, England.

October or November — World Series racing in 45-ft cats in San Diego. Yes, everyone should at least be practicing when the Ha-Ha fleet is in town.

As for 2012:

Jan. 1 — First-day teams will be allowed to sail the 72-ft cats.

There will be up to seven regattas around the world, with the venues and dates yet to be determined. We hope and certainly expect that one of the venues will be San Francisco Bay. The 45-ft cats will be used until March 31, the 72-ft cats after that.

Nov. 1 — Teams will be allowed to launch a second 72-ft cat.

As for 2013:

There are three preliminary regattas planned, with venues and dates to be determined.

July to Sept. — Louis Vuitton Cup on San Francisco Bay to determine the Challenger.

Sept. 7-? — The America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.

Given the nature of the America's Cup cats, and the number of challengers, we think it's going to be as exciting as can be.


Congratulations to the America's Cup committee for including spectators in the '13 event. This is the first time in the history of the America's Cup that spectators will be reasonably able to watch the race from on shore. In years past, the event was held offshore and out of view.

San Francisco Bay is the ideal venue, since the entire Bay is a giant amphitheater and there are so many good viewing areas. This race will be the ultimate display of sailing technology yet achieved in any sailing event.

I would, however, like to ask the committee to make one small change to improve viewing from the Cityfront. Currently, they are planning to allow a spectator fleet of boats to line the shore, between land-side viewers and the race course. We should ask that they move the fleet out to the course interior for unobstructed viewing from shore. It would only take a few large yachts to ruin the view for many spectators. The Cityfront will be crowded with onlookers, and they should have a clear view of the action.

John Marples
Searunner Multihulls

John — We hadn't thought of that, but it's an important consideration the committee should take into account.


Solo circumnavigator Mike Harker of the Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 dead? Bullshit! Hang gliding couldn't kill him, vicious thugs on St. Martin couldn't kill him, even Davy Jones couldn't take his soul. I don't believe he's gone. I can't believe it.

Mike is and always will be an inspiration to true adventure seekers. If he really is dead, may he rest in peace.

Jerry Metheany
Rosita, Hunter 46

Jerry — Tragically, Mike Harker did pass away of a massive stroke on his boat in St. Martin in early April. It's as much a shock to us as it is to you because, just days before, we'd been trading emails about meeting up at either St. Martin or St. Barth.


I was terribly saddened to read the report of the death of solo circumnavigator Mike Harker. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but had followed his exploits for several years, mostly through Latitude. He was a truly interesting person, who by all accounts was one of the genuine good guys. To me, now transiting my mid-50s, and still hoping to cross an ocean or two some day, he was an inspiration.

Please let us know if there will be any sort of public memorial event, or if the family has a suggestion of a cause or charity to which a donation may be made in his honor.

Lee Johnson
Sea-Curity, S2 8.6
San Diego / Scottsdale, AZ

Lee — Curiously, some members of his family wrote us to ask about Mike's sailing exploits as they said "he wasn't one to brag" at family gatherings. We'll let you know if we hear about any causes or charities in his name.

The Mike Harker we know and miss eschewed the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride in favor of Plato's virtues of temperance, wisdom, justice and courage. God knows the world could use a hell of a lot more people like him. Mike loved being out in nature, be it on his boats or on his motorcycles, and he really enjoyed quietly observing others. He really was a good guy.


I'm very sorry to hear the news about Mike Harker. He had a truly adventurous spirit — a vanishing commodity these days. I wonder what has happened to the so-called police investigation into the terrible beating he sustained at the hands of those pukes on his boat at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon.

Thom Wessels
Crossroads, Horstmann 39 tri
Long Beach

Thom — There is apparently security video of the three thugs as they landed Mike's dinghy at a dock in St. Martin. But to our knowledge, nobody has been arrested, nor do we expect anybody to be.


The Latitude 38 Crew List is really amazing! I'm a guy from Switzerland, and I made a recent road trip from San Francisco to New Orleans in a VW Vanagon. At the very start of the adventure, my friends and I arranged a daysail on San Francisco Bay via your website. It was awesome! Paul, the skipper, was really helpful and allowed us to set the sails, steer and do other things.

Next summer I'm going to New York, and am wondering if something like Latitude exists in either New York or Boston.

Marcel Flütsch
Zurich, Switzerland

Marcel — Alas, we know of nothing like Latitude in either New York or Boston. The closest thing would be SpinSheet, which covers the Chesapeake Bay.


They say that the safest place to be in a tsunami is at sea in deep water. That's exactly where I was when it hit Santa Cruz.

The authorities told people to stay in the harbor.

Need I say more?

Captain Chelsea Wagner
Owner, Vessel Assist Monterey Bay


I attended a Distress Signal Training & Demonstration at the Treasure Island YC in early April, an event conducted by Russell Breed, the club's safety officer. I found it quite an eye-opener, and highly encourage everyone to attend similar demonstrations.

For reference, I've been a sailor for over 30 years, have made several coastal passages, and have crewed and captained deliveries across the Pacific. In all my years on the water, I've never had a reason to fire a flare in an emergency situation, nor have I ever witnessed them being used for emergency signaling.

The class started with some time to look at and discuss a variety of signaling equipment, all of which was laid out for everyone to see and handle. Then there was a short presentation on what constitutes an emergency, urgent versus distress, and the forms of communication to request assistance. The key objectives of alert and locate were reviewed. Both audible and visual signals were discussed.

At that point, our group of about 25 moved outside for the hands-on portion. After the Coast Guard was notified, the individual participants fired off a variety of expired handheld flares, handheld smokes, and some 12-gauge and 25mm meteor flares. No parachute flares were fired.

The old SOLAS handheld flares — I had some from '97 — still worked fine. Some of the older USCG handheld flares from the '80s did not. The difference in brightness and duration between a USCG-approved handheld flare and a SOLAS handheld flare is very remarkable. The latter were superior.

Some 12- gauge meteors from '01 fired out of the gun, but did not produce a flare light. The gentleman who brought those fired three with the same result for each. Imagine that happening if you only had the minimum on board!

The 25mm meteor flares are significantly brighter and go much higher than their 12-gauge cousins.

In the 20 minutes or so that we were outside, we fired roughly 12-15 handheld flares, two smokes, and about six meteor flares. It was remarkable how fast they were used up.

I took away a couple of very valuable lessons: On the Bay or anywhere else, spend the extra dollars for the SOLAS-approved visual distress signals. It's money well spent. I would suggest that USCG-approved visual distress signals are adequate for the local lake. The minimum requirement of distress signals to have onboard is just that — a minimum. Recall the three 12-gauge meteors that failed to light.

Hands-on handling of these visual distress signals in a calm, non-emergency setting was invaluable. There were several different firing mechanisms and issues with smoke and melted slag, all of which could be reviewed and discussed without the stress of an emergency.

I commend TIYC for hosting this event and I will be back to the next one with more expired items to test fire.

Kelly Blythe
Bonnie Kaye, Ranger 26
Menlo Park

Kelly — We agree, there is no substitute for hands-on experience with flares and other signalling devices. In years past, the Coast Guard would come to the Latitude Crew List Parties and let us set off so many flares that local fire departments kept responding. Perhaps we can revive that supervised hands-on practice at next year's party.

We also fire off our old flares to signal the beginning of sailing events in Mexico, and based on that, have realized that it often takes people a few minutes — even in a non-emergency situation — to figure out how to use them safely and properly. As you suggest, practice is an excellent idea.


If you research your files from about eight years ago, you'll find a piece that you published about a MacGregor 26 that turtled with six people aboard in the Bay near Yerba Buena. There were no fatalities due to the proximity of another sailboat, the crew of which managed to pluck the MacGregor crew out of the water in just minutes.

Then on March 27, two people died after a MacGregor 26 capsized on San Diego Bay.

Are these water-ballasted centerboard rigged boats really seaworthy?

Steve Knight
Wandering Star, Islander 37
San Francisco

Steve — There are degrees of seaworthiness and stability, and some boats — those with a high ballast-to-displacement ratio and small sail area — are clearly less likely to flip than others. Are MacGregor 26s less seaworthy and stable than J/24s and Santana 20s, which have also sunk on San Francisco Bay? We don't know the numbers and aren't naval architects, so we can't say for sure.

On the other hand, the way a boat is operated — including the load she carries — can override all design considerations. In the San Diego tragedy, there were 10 people aboard the MacGregor 26. In our opinion that's a ridiculous number on a MacGregor 26 — and on any other 26-ft sailboat we can think of. In view of this, we think that operator error or negligence could have been a contributing factor, if not the entire cause of the terrible accident.

If you look at inflatable dinghies, they all list the maximum number of people and weight that can be carried. Maybe there needs to be something similar for small sailboats.


I was disappointed to see that Abby and Zac Sunderland were speakers at the Strictly Sail Pacific boat show in Oakland. After all the talk about how young and inexperienced Abby had no business being in the Southern Ocean in winter, why did the show promoters feel she should be included in their program?

I wanted to voice my opinion that I think that it was a poor choice. There are so many other sailors I'd rather hear from. I think of Abby as the 'Octomom of sailing'. Thanks for letting me vent.

Pat Williams

Pat — For the record, the then-17-year-old Zac completed, with much shoreside support, a conventional singlehanded circumnavigation with plenty of stops aboard the Islander 36 Intrepid. Although he was aided throughout by the ultimate in helicopter parents, it struck us as a moderately cool and not all that dangerous of a thing to do,

A short time after Zac returned, Abby, his then-15-year-old sister, announced that she was going to do a nonstop solo circumnavigation via the Southern Ocean aboard the Open 40 Wild Eyes. In other words, a monumentally more difficult challenge. Boat problems meant that Abby had to stop in Cape Town, and by the time she was ready to leave, winter had come to the Southern Ocean. If Abby were to become the youngest person to sail singlehanded around the world by beating the age record of Aussie Jessica Watson, who had already completed a solo circumnavigation via the Southern Ocean, Abby couldn't wait until the next Southern Ocean summer. That Abby would set out across the Southern Ocean during the winter struck many of the most experienced sailors in the world as absurdly foolish. Abby's boat was dismasted not long after leaving Cape Town, and she was rescued at tremendous expense.

While it's our opinion that Abby's attempt was an irresponsible stunt that was leveraged on the reputation and achievements of many genuinely great sailors, we nonetheless feel that the Strictly Sail tent was literally and figuratively big enough to allow both Zac and Abby to make their presentations. But it was a busy week for Abby, who had been hitting all the major media outlets in New York and other big cities in support of Unsinkable, her just-released book.

What we really would have liked to see at Strictly Sail was a race to the mouth of the Estuary and back between Abby and 10 top female junior sailors from the Bay Area. For all of Abby's supposed and real sailing experience, we can't shake the notion that she's really not much of a sailor. Indeed, it's always struck us as telling that Zac and Abby have seemed to avoid putting their sailing chops on the line head-to-head with any of their peers.


In the April Letters, 'Anonymous' states, "Since the schools in Hawaii aren't the best, my wife has decided that, for the sake of the kids' schooling, she wants to move back to California."

What a bunch of crap.

Schools here are hamstrung by lack of money, and there are cultural issues that don't stress education. In spite of this, many kids go on to good colleges and make something of themselves.

Two of my kids were educated in public schools here. The first was born with a multitude of problems that left him developmentally disabled. He got a much better education here for his last three years of high school than he received in a mid-Peninsula school district that rates in the top 99% of high schools nationwide.

My second kid will graduate this year. She has been accepted into one of the 25 openings in the University of Nebraska's Pre-Veterinarian Medicine program.

'Hawaii schools aren't the best' indeed.

Mike Sowers
Lahaina, HI

Mike — We're glad that the public education your children received in Hawaii served them well. But for what it's worth, the study we checked ranked Hawaii's schools as 47th out of 50 states, beating only Mississippi, Alabama, and New Mexico. Before you get too upset, though, California was ranked 46th out of 50.

As always, the quality of schools varies tremendously by area, with students in schools just a few miles apart achieving dramatically different results. For instance, elementary schools in Sausalito have some of the worst achievement scores in the state, whereas Tiburon and Belvedere, less than a mile away, have some of the highest. And money isn't the issue as, the last time we checked, the money spent per student in Sausalito was among the highest in the state.

Call us grouches if you want, but we think what passes for public education in the United States these days is primarily babysitting and some vague kind of indoctrination that stresses rights and entitlements and completely ignores personal responsibilities. As anyone who has home-schooled while cruising can tell you, it doesn't take that many hours a day to teach a child to read, write, and do basic math — something a staggering number of public school students can't do even as they are handed their high school diplomas.


Terry Lampthan wrote a letter asking about the advisability of bringing a cat on a cruising boat. We brought Nube (Cloud), a white Persian, to Mexico with us twice for a total of about three years. We also took her directly from San Diego to the South Pacific, and eventually spent 18 months in New Zealand.

The Kiwis put Nube in quarantine for several weeks, and French Polynesian officials had a vet come to our boat for a free health check-up. Officials at all our other stops didn't care about him.

We taught Nube not to get off the boat, and to stay inside the cabin when we were sailing. We put carpet on the bottom of the mast for a scratching post.

Nube was a great cat and great company.

By the way, our Valiant 40 came out of San Francisco, which is where we lived for 30 years.

Sylvia & John Parr
Sonrisa, Valiant 40
San Diego / Corpus Christi

Readers — Editor LaDonna Bubak here, jumping in to say that my husband and I have cruised with our cat, Fred, for years, and I have some pretty strong opinions on whether cats make good boat pets. I think the personality of the cat in question is very important. Fred is very laid back and adjusts easily to new situations. I don't believe very skittish cats would enjoy the cruising life, which could make life aboard difficult for everyone.

Though Fred loves going to new places, he often gets seasick — even in Richardson Bay! For some cats, vomiting can be a sign of stress and a good vet can give you some medication to help with nerves. Fred doesn't appear to have that problem — it just takes him a little while to get his sea legs. I've yet to hear of a good solution for motion sickness in cats, but would love to find one.

Fred moved aboard as an adult and it took some training to get him to stay aboard. Before coming to work at Latitude, we cruised from San Francisco to Alaska and back — which meant moving nearly every day — so keeping Fred on the boat was very important. First, we simply didn't have the time to go searching for him, but secondly, and for us more importantly, we didn't want him roaming around on other people's boats. He's not a sprayer, nor does he tear stuff up, but other folks don't know that. (On one early foray aboard a small fishing boat, the owner told us in no uncertain terms that, if he found Fred aboard again, the cat would be going for a swim.) For Fred, 'Off the Boat' equals getting in trouble, while 'On the Boat' involves petting and treats. I can't say he's perfect — every now and again stalking a seagull or heron proves too tempting — but he normally goes for months without jumping ship.

We've found a hooded litter box and clumping litter to work well for Fred. Even in a rough seaway, he's always managed to make his way into the box to do his business, and the hood helps corral the pervasive litter. That said, the first time he ever got seasick, I found him in the v-berth puking, peeing and pooping simultaneously! We decided to give him a one-time pass, and he's never done it again.

One thing to think about is how to get the cat back aboard when — not if — it falls overboard. Fred hates kitty PFDs, so we rarely let him out when we're underway, and if we do so on a placid day, he remains in the cockpit. We have a harness for him but I know sailors whose cat slipped out of the harness as it was being rescued — it just seems safer to keep him below. He has fallen off the boat twice in the slip. Both times he rescued himself before we even knew what had happened, but only because we had something hanging low in the water that made it easy for him to pull himself out.

As for entry in foreign ports, we can only speak to Canada, which was a snap. We had all his vaccination papers in order, so processing — over the phone, no less — was a breeze.

We've lived aboard with Fred for eight years and really can't imagine life without him. It's taken a lot of patience, attention and perseverance, but the reward has been worth it. He's provided endless hours of companionship, entertainment and, at the risk of sounding a little mushy, love.


My brother and I motored his powerboat up to the fuel dock at Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, where we came upon a 35-ft Cleveland-based sailboat that was also taking on fuel. Amidships on her port side, affixed at an angle of about 20 degrees, was a plank about six inches wide and 24 inches long with a 'V' cut in the outboard end. So out of the cabin strolled this cat, which walked out to the end of the plank, turned around, and took a dump through the cut in the outboard end.

We found this to be as remarkable as it was unusual. However, we used to have a Siamese cat that, by himself, learned to use our home toilet to do his business.

Fred Paldan
St. Peters, PA


We have a cat, Sailor Spike, and a German shepherd who come on our boat with us. Cats are way easier to handle on boats than dogs.

Bud & Suzanne Street
Delaroux, Catalina 36 Buckhorn, ON


Dorothy and I cruised aboard our Cal 35 with Josie, our 10-year-old cat. She'd been born to feral parents, and had spent much of her life outside. When we decided to go cruising, two friends agreed to welcome her into their homes. However, as the time to leave grew near, Josie seemed to sense something was up. When the packing boxes arrived, when the suitcases were taken out, or even when the car was being packed, she just would not leave our side. We were astounded.

We finally told Josie that we'd love to have her come with us, but that we were going to live on a boat. She agreed. Despite our concerns that she would jump ship at the first opportunity, she's never complained. She adjusted to the cruising life amazingly well, and only got sick on the first day at sea. Her only objection was when the wind and seas were opposed. We didn't like it either, so we turned around and went back to the anchorage.

Josie has never left the boat, even after spending months in a marina. When we sailed to Mexico, we elected not to 'declare' her, although we made sure she got her rabies shot. We were relieved that we had no problems driving her back across the border and into the United States.

Cats are so much easier to have aboard than dogs, as cats are more sure-footed, are instinctively potty-trained — and don't bark!

Phileta Riley & Dorothy Tharsing
Eagle, Cal 35 Mk III
Bandon, OR


Cats have always gotten along well on sea-going ships of all kinds. In the 'old days' cats were essential in keeping down the rat populations, which raised hell with the ship's food supply. But once cats become used to a vessel's motion at sea, they suffer horribly when they return to land.

One sunny day many years ago, I was walking along a long-since-forgotten dock, where a dinghy from an anchored cruising boat was disembarking a small party — including the family cat. The poor kitty was splayed out flat, tail extended straight back, with the claws from all four feet dug into the wood, desperately clinging for support. The cat, eyes wide, was crying piteously. I couldn't bear to watch, so I quickly moved on.

Lew Warden
Santa Maria


The first year we were aboard, we brought along our cat, Floyd, who was about 15 at the time. While he tolerated it, he never really liked it. He passed away while we were in the Bahamas.

We're now doing 'six months on, six months off', and brought two new kitties along. They have adjusted very well and are a delight to have aboard. Having two is nice since they can keep each other company when we're off the boat. Ours are sibs and get along very well. To us, it appears that cruising with cats is much more convenient than with dogs, as dogs need to be taken ashore on a regular basis.

Eric Smith
C:\[esc], Freedom 45 CC
St. Louis, MO


Cruising with a cat is absolutely 'do-able' — and easier than cruising with a dog. My husband and I have lived aboard for 38 years, and we have always had a cat on board with us. Jasmine, our current cat, is an 11-year-old ragdoll. She was raised onboard from the time she was a kitten.

We think it's important to get a young cat so that you can train it to be on a boat. We found that a water hose lying across the boarding ladder worked well for teaching her to stay on the boat — which means she doesn't get onto other boats where she doesn't belong.

Jasmine spends most of the summer hanging out with us at the Isthmus at Catalina. She has also made two seven-month trips to Mexico, and spent an additional three years cruising through Mexico, Central America, and Panama all the way to the San Blas Islands.

Jasmine is a great traveler, as she never gets seasick and only becomes vocal when the weather gets really rough. The only downside to having her aboard is that she prefers to sleep in the captain's helm seat when it gets rough. Jasmine stays on the bridge with us when we're underway, and she loves watching the full moon when underway.

The vet in Panama gave her a rabies shot, but neglected to give us a receipt. Without a receipt, the Agriculture official in Huatulco wanted to make us take her to the vet for a check-up. We finally convinced him that it wasn't necessary because she never gets off the boat.

Cheryl & Ron Roberts
Lazy Days, DeFever 49
Long Beach


To answer Mr. Lampthan's inquiry, yes, cats do adapt quite nicely to cruising. We brought two black landlubber cats aboard Skydiver in '05, and they sailed with us from San Diego to San Carlos, Mexico. They haven't fallen overboard once — although at various times they're tempted by the sight of ducks and pelicans in the water around our boat.

Our cats are great sailors who seem to love the motion of the boat at sea. Sable, the female, even likes riding outside when we're underway.

We use clumping litter and have had no issues with the potty box. Or, come to think of it, fleas or any other problems either. When we're in marinas, we use screens to keep the cats inside.

Cats are great company on cruising sailboats. We recommend getting at least two!

Rich & Barb Langan
Skydiver, Roberts 44
Kemah, TX

Readers — Based on the above letters and countless others, it would seem that cats would make an excellent choice for a boat pet.


Please, please remind your readers about the labor laws in Mexico.

Five years ago, I purchased a 47-ft catamaran in La Paz, with the hope of retiring on her in Mexico. My wife has had cancer, and I'm doing double-duty taking care of her and her 87-year-old mother. To keep the story short, I hired a Moorings employee in La Paz to simply watch, wash, and occasionally run my cat's engines.

Dock neighbors informed me that my part-time guy hasn’t shown up in months, despite the fact that I wired him 3,000 pesos — about $300 U.S. — on the 7th of every month. I finally took an emergency leave from work and flew down to the boat. I found her to be a wreck, with one engine not running.

So I fired the guy — although I offered to pay him up to the day that I arrived. But he has gone to the labor authority and surprised me with a demanda or lawsuit. The labor board sent goons who waited outside the marina gate to take me into town and explain my case. I refused to go, and did the Lynyrd Skynyrd 'three steps toward the door' exit.

The economy being what it is, please warn the future Ha-Ha folks of what might be in store for them if they hire anyone in Mexico to work on their boat. I got my flight out on Wednesday, and am waiting to see what happens next. I have offered to pay the worker, but at this time have received no response.

I won't go into the number of times that I've been ripped off in Mexico because I wasn't on my boat.

Latitude readers might want to check out Hiring Employees Under Mexican Labor Laws by Lic. J. Beauline, L.L.B.

Raymond Martin
Planet Earth

Raymond — It's indeed important that boatowners don't hire Mexican laborers as employees rather than as contract workers. Hiring an employee in Mexico — and many other countries, particularly in Europe — can pretty much mean you're stuck with the care and feeding of them for life, no matter how terrible and irresponsible a worker they might become.

Had we been in your situation, our first stop would have been at the Department of Tourism in La Paz. Tourists — cruisers included — are very important to Mexico, so the government tries to make sure they don't get ripped off.

As for your line, "I won't go into the number of times that I've been ripped off in Mexico because I wasn't there on my boat," you can substitute the name of every other country in the world. Based on personal experience, and that of hundreds of other boatowners, giving money to someone to watch your boat and occasionally run the engine(s) in your absence is one of the most common ways to piss money away. We strongly recommend that you don't do it unless the person comes with impeccable references from other boatowners, and even then, it's important to have someone else check to make sure the contracted work is actually being done.


Feeling that Russian and other billionaires and megamotoryacht charterers have made St. Barth less of a great place to celebrate New Years than it used to be, the Wanderer asked for recommendations of other places. We've always found Anegada to be a nice place for New Years, with a good band and about 300 to 400 people. That's a nice crowd, but it's not so crowded that you can't walk around. And it's always a good time there.

'Whitey' & Max White
True North, Privilege 65, Caribbean
Gypsy Blue, Beneteau 46, Northern California

Readers — Max and Whitey, who are so busy running the big charter cat True North that they don't have time to cruise their own boat, know what they are talking about.


We can't believe how quickly time passes. We saw your March 25 'Lectronic on the St. Barth Bucket, which reminded us that a year has gone by since we had our cat, Angel Louise, anchored off Gustavia for last year's Bucket. We enjoyed reading your report, and agree that it just doesn't get any better than St. Barth.

You mentioned that Jimmy Buffett topped off the event by playing five or so songs to an enthusiastic crowd at the little Baz Bar, and that he told the audience that it was the first time he'd played in public since he fell off the stage in Australia. Buffett must have been using his poetic license, because he said the same thing when he made an impromptu appearance at a private wedding for Pine Key's Dr. Troxel, who is not only one of the best dentists in Florida, but one who practices barefoot.

Anyway, we're jealous, as last year we kept hoping that Jimmy would sing some after the last Bucket race. But it didn't happen. You were lucky — so good on you!

As we write this, it's less than six weeks before we set sail across the Atlantic to eventually winter over in London.

Ed & Sue Kelly
Angel Louise, Catalac 37
Marathon, FL

Ed and Sue — Not that anybody gives a hoot, but when Buffett played for the barefoot dentist, he probably considered it a private rather than public performance.

Thanks to Doña de Mallorca's being able to sniff out an impromptu Buffett sit-in appearance better than anyone, we've seen him play 10 or 12 times at tiny venues in St. Barth. It's always a blast, because when Buffett plays on the island, it's strictly for shits and grins in front of mostly old friends, and the entire sweaty mass sings and dances with him under the tropical stars. Our favorite was one New Year about five years ago at Baz Bar when Buffett joined the pick-up band to cobble together some happily sloppy renditions of Dylan classics. A night to remember.

For those of you who go to St. Barth hoping to catch Buffett play a few songs, while he's sometimes played at La Plage, Le Select, La Gamelle, and on the quay, you're most likely to find him playing at his friend Jean-Marc's Baz Bar right at the south end of the harbor. It's almost always a spur of the moment thing, with nobody — least of all Jimmy — knowing if he's going to play right up to the last minute.


On page 60 of February's Letters section, you stated that you prefer sailboats because they ". . . tend to be more fuel efficient than motoryachts. Second, it seems to us that sailors tend to be younger, more lively, and more physical than those who cruise on powerboats."

It seems that "more lively and more physical" would naturally be attributes of "younger." So it follows that you are saying you prefer younger boaters. As aging is inevitable, how will you reconcile your own image when you are no longer one of the "younger" set?

Tom Collins
Misty Sea, Bertram 46
Cruising Mexico since '00

Tom — It seems to us that "more lively and more physical" are attributes of thinking young, not necessarily being young. Let us give you some examples. In the May issue, we did a Changes on Bill and Grace Bodle, who recently cruised their 103-ft on schooner Eros from San Francisco Bay to the Eastern Caribbean with the assistance of just one young deckhand, and are currently doing a three week charter on her. Bill is 77 and Grace is 70. As Grace told us, "Seventy isn't old anymore." Not if you keep active by sailing and the like. Then there was the active 89-year-old crewmember aboard Carlo Falcone's class winning Fife 80 Mariella in last month's Voiles de St. Barth. The commonality of the three is that they've continued to think young and sail.

As for ourselves, chronologically we are no longer "one of the younger set." In fact, when the census form asked for our age, we checked the 'Ancient' box. Nonetheless, we just bought our third Olson 30 for shorthanded Zen sailing, so we're still going for it.

But everybody's situation and condition is different. So if you love being on your powerboat, good on you.


The right to sell public property — i.e. slip rights at San Francisco Marina — needs to be eliminated now. In my mind, the right to transfer a lease makes just as much sense as the right to include your neighbor's dinghy or perhaps a city (handicap) 'free' parking permit on the bill of sale.

I have been on the wait list for San Francisco Marina for a long time because of this strange rule, and the 'rent control' that keeps the slip fees for San Francisco Marina so low. They both need to go now. In general, city subsidies do not make any sense, but they are particularly ridiculous when applied to private yachts.

Fredrik Hakanson
Sea Fox, Beneteau 38
Currently paying 'market' for a
second-hand slip at Pier 39


Having been a slip holder in Santa Cruz — after being on the waiting list for 17 years — and before that at San Francisco Marina's West Harbor, I have strong opinions on this subject. As you know, the San Francisco Marina is on State of California land and operated under a charter agreement with the City and County of San Francisco. In other words, the marina is public property. I believe that the marina has been poorly managed by the Recreation & Park Department, much as the Ala Wai in Honolulu has been mismanaged by the Department of Land & Natural Resources. But that's another story.

In my opinion, the Santa Cruz Port District, which manages the yacht harbor, stands out as a shinning example of how a public facility can be managed. Santa Cruz and, for the most part, South Beach Yacht Harbor have, through years of experience, worked out a fair and equitable system. To cut to the chase, San Francisco Marina should not allow transfer of slips to the new owner of a vessel. A waiting list managed by strong management is the only fair way to go.

In the early years of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, rampant speculation on slips was common, with slip owners getting $25,000 to $50,000 added value to their boat when it was sold or transferred. As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the socialistic tendencies of the people of Santa Cruz — and rightfully so.

Thank you for looking into this issue.

Chuck Cunningham
South Beach YC


I believe that everyone who wants a slip at the San Francisco Marina should be put on a waiting list, and that slips shouldn't be allowed to go with boats when they are sold. It should be first come, first served — just like many of the other marinas in the area. It's not fair for the current slip holder to profit in any way at a public dock just by virtue of the fact that they have been there a long time and that is the way it was done in the past. The docks are not the only thing in need of repair at the San Francisco Marina; the marina rules should be updated as well.

John A. Nebilak
Indigo, Cape Dory 36
Richmond YC


The 'right to lease' issue has all sorts of hard corners. I don’t know the current status, but for years Santa Barbara provided a perfect illustration of the problem. Not only did it allow boatowners to transfer the right to lease their slip with the sale of a boat, reportedly adding as much as $10,000 to $15,000 to the value of the deal, but the 'right to lease' itself, boat sale or not, was actually being brokered by local yacht dealers. Need a slip? Got an extra few thou? No problem! It’s either that or go get on the city’s waiting list. Fool!

The obvious argument in favor of allowing lease transfers is the problem inherent in selling a boat in a market where slips are very hard to come by. I was selling boats in Alameda in the mid '70s when this was the case on San Francisco Bay. It was nearly impossible to sell a boat unless you could guarantee the buyer a permanent slip. But things are different now, as there are slips sitting empty in a number of marinas on the Bay. Maybe not in the most choice locations, but still perfectly acceptable ones.

I realize there must be people with boats in the San Francisco Marina who paid a premium when they bought their boat to get their slip, and should the practice of lease transfer be curtailed, will lose their added value. Sorry about that, but as far as I’m concerned, you pays your money and you takes your chances. Equal access to publicly-funded facilities should be the rule.

Jimmie Zinn
Dry Martini, Morgan 38
Point Richmond

Jimmie — You make an excellent point that the circumstances were very different when most of the 'slip goes with the boat' policies got started on San Francisco Bay. In the '70s and '80s, it was indeed extremely hard to find a slip anywhere on the Bay, and people couldn't sell their boats unless they could assure the buyer the slip could go with the boat. While we're generally against the concept of private individuals being able to profit from the right to public property, we think the policy was understandable back then, even though it clearly distorted the 'market'. The problem is that, now that there are plenty of slips on the Bay, how do you undo the market distortion? 'Tough luck!' to those who paid a premium for their boat to get a slip is your solution. We think it would be nice if it weren't quite so harsh. Other places are trying alternative solutions.

Speaking of Santa Barbara, we think your idea of how much the right to a slip is worth is badly dated. Tens of thousands of dollars is the norm for the right to a slip, and hundreds of thousands of dollars is not unheard of for larger slips and/or end-ties.

While few people seem to agree with us, we think a corollary of 'equal access' should be a more stringent 'use it or lose it' policy when it comes to being able to keep a boat in a public marina where the demand for slips is high. If a public marina has a long waiting list, it's our view that the owners of the boats should be required to use their boats a minimum number of times per year — even if 'use' means the owners just sit on their boat in the dock — in order to keep the slip. We know some public marinas have this kind of policy already, but in many cases we don't think the minimums are high enough and/or the rules aren't really enforced.

In Santa Barbara, for example, where the demand for slips is extreme, there are countless boats that obviously haven't been used or visited in ages. We think people who don't use their boats are denying ocean access to others, and don't believe that should be the case. Further, we believe a stronger 'use it or lose it' rule would increase the turnover of slips, reducing the market value of the right to a slip — another good result.


I saw the photo of the sign advertising the right to a slip in Santa Barbara Harbor for $52,500, marked down from $58,500. Excuse me, but isn't Santa Barbara Harbor, a municipal facility, supposed to be public property for the use of all citizens?

How did we let the lucky few who have a license for these slips essentially take de facto possession of them? They sell a public boat slip in a public harbor for $400,000! The rich just keep getting richer!

The Santa Barbara City Council won't do a thing about creating a waiting list fair to those of us who don't have half a mil to buy access to a public slip in a public harbor. Who do you think has the influence and money to make sure the status quo remains in place? This is criminal — and if it's not, it should be! The city has received reports and studies numerous times over the years that state how unfair the policy is, yet they do nothing about it. At the very least, the city should be making the money from the sale!

I wonder if the Harbor ever took money from the state or feds to fix or upgrade the marina? If they did, there has to be some basis for an equal access lawsuit.

Mark Hastings, R.N.
Disgusted Working Class Boater
Santa Barbara

Mark — We couldn't empathize with you more, but it's one of those situations that started innocently enough and has burgeoned into an outrageous situation whereby private individuals can make and have made big profits by owning a permit to public property. However, as you'll read in the next letter, the city now does get a cut of the slip transfer action.

By the way, we don't think this is a case of 'the rich getting richer', as it's profited all — unrich folks with 20-ft slips as well.

While we don't think there is a way to overturn the current policy — see the following letter — we do think there is a way to alleviate the imbalance by increasing the supply of available slips. This could be done by increasing the cost — literally and figuratively — of a slip. Santa Barbara slip fees are comparatively low in the first place, encouraging people who never use their boats to nonetheless hang on to their slips — 'squat?' — as they seem to ever increase in value. Secondly, rules could be adopted requiring boats to be used a minimum number of times per year, again encouraging folks who don't use their berths to give up their slips. Pushing out those who really don't use their boats would increase the number of slips, reducing the price of a slip permit, and increasing ocean access for people such as yourself.


I can’t speak to the situation with the San Francisco Marina, but as far as the Santa Barbara Harbor is concerned, there is no chance of changing the status quo, which is the slip going with the boat, as it is now sanctioned by the city.

It's a long story, but in the 'old days', slips were 'sold' through the fiction of a partnership. If you wanted to buy my slip, for example, we would enter into a phony 'partnership agreement' stating that we are the co-owners of your boat. We'd then apply to the harbormaster to have 'our' boat replace my boat, and to have your name added to the slip permit. A couple months later, we would go back to the Harbormaster and tell him the partnership was being dissolved, that you would be keeping the boat, and that my name should come off the slip permit. There may have been a nominal administrative fee, but if so it was very small. The harbormaster knew what was really going on and just looked the other way. At some point they required that my name actually be put on the title to 'our' boat, but as long as it was a DMV-registered boat, it was easy, cheap and reversible.

As a consequence of all this, it was very unusual for slips to become available in Santa Barbara to those on the waiting list. And as a consequence of limited supply and great demand, the value of slips in Santa Barbara steadily increased over the years — to the point where, in many cases, the right to the slip is worth more than the boat in the slip.

About nine years ago, an urchin diver I knew died out at the islands. His name was the only one on the slip permit. It had always been the unspoken policy of the city, which owns the marina, that heirs would be able to take over the slip permit. That meant they could transfer it to the buyer when they sold the boat. I had handled a couple cases in which this was done. The city sent a letter telling the diver's heir that he could transfer the slip to a buyer. But after collecting slip fees from him for months, they sent him another letter telling him that they were taking back the right to the slip, and he would have to remove the boat that had belonged to his father.

I represented the son, and tried to get the city to back off, but they wouldn’t. We filed a lawsuit, and obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from taking back the slip. Before the matter got to trial, we settled with the city for a cash payment that was equal to the value of the slip. (My client didn’t want the slip and had always intended to sell it). The city had come to realize that this was not the right case in which to implement a policy change, due to the extremely negative publicity that was generated and the probability that they would lose.

Santa Barbara did eventually codify a new policy whereby spouses of slip permittees are 'automatically' included on the slip permit — even if their names had not been put on it when it was initially acquired. But if the slip permittee was not married and died, the estate simply lost the slip. This amounted to changing the rules in the middle of the game, and was met with much protest by slip permittees — myself included. Had I known, when I 'bought' my slip through a phony partnership deal, that this policy was going to change, I would have put my son's names on the slip along with mine and my wife Marta's. My having not done so, if I die, Marta still controls the slip and can sell it with the boat. But if Marta and I both die in the same plane crash, the city will take back the slip — and the $15,000 I paid for it goes up in smoke, not to mention the $40,000 or $50,000 that the right to the slip is worth today.

At the same time, the city decided to stop 'looking the other way' at the sale of slips, and to get in on the action by allowing sales to be made openly — but getting its own piece of the action through a 'slip transfer fee' imposed every time a name is added to the slip permit. The slip transfer fee is not based on what is actually paid for the slip, but is rather based on the size of the slip, with the rate per foot increasing as the size of the slip increases. Many people, myself included, thought that this was a clever way for the city to generate revenue by forcing single people to pay the fee to add another name to the permit to protect their investment in the slip in the event of their death. And to force married people who were concerned about the 'what if we both die in the same plane crash?' scenario to do the same. At the city council meeting when all this was adopted, there were many who argued for 'grandfather rights', by which existing permittees would be allowed to add a name to their permit without paying the slip transfer fee. They argued that this should be the case since the 'rules' had changed after they had 'bought' their slip.

But they didn't get what they wanted. I still haven’t added my boys' names to the slip permit, and it will now cost me $5,000 or more to do so. The last time I checked, you could add two names at a time. As it is now, if Marta and I go down in that plane crash, Ryan and Derek will be given 30 days to get our boat out of the slip. I know it’s good insurance to put their names on the permit, and will probably do it one of these days when I have an extra $5,000 lying around. I think the slip transfer fee is also imposed on any lucky soul who does get a slip from the waiting list.

The city of Santa Barbara now allows slips to be held by a family or group in perpetuity — as long as there is one surviving slip permittee who can pay the fee to add another. Only in the unlikely event that all the permittees die before another name is added will the city take the slip back. The city’s answer to those on the waiting list? Wait until somebody without a wife or heirs dies.

At this point in time, the existing slip permittees have collectively invested millions of dollars in 'buying' their slips, and if the city were to change the policy to prevent it in the future, there would certainly be litigation and political fallout. Although I'm not sure how many people would be sympathetic to 'rich yacht owners'. Actually, most of the slips in Santa Barbara are 35 feet or less, and most of the boats are hardly 'yachts'. In addition, slip transfer fees are now a significant source of revenue for the Waterfront Department, and the city is not going to give that up.

Right now there are two 50-ft slips across from mine that are for sale for $250,000 each. I also heard that someone paid half a million for one of the rare end-ties. The local brokers could give you info on going rates, but the last time I asked them what my slip was worth, I was told it was still worth $50,000 to the right buyer.

I’ve heard rumors that in Santa Cruz the authorities don’t care whose name is on the permit or whether the permittee is long dead, as long as they get the check every month from someone.

It's unrelated but nonetheless interesting that there are now liveaboard permits available in Santa Barbara. For many years there was a long waiting list for those, too. I would have thought that in a recession there would be more people living on boats and the permits would have been in greater demand. I’ve thought of getting one in case Marta ever throws me out of the house for spending too much time on my boat! Or in case we ever move and want to keep our 32-ft waterfront condo in Santa Barbara to come back to.

David C. Turpin, Esq.
Oso Loco, Kettenburg 32
Santa Barbara


I agree with Dick 'Flash' Gordon's opinion that most flashlights are crap, and last only weeks — if not just hours.

The best flashlights I have ever used are the Pelican brand. I still use the first one I ever bought in '95, along with about three others of different sizes. They are made of plastic, so you can't use them as a hammer as you can metal Maglites, but they have never failed me.

The Pelicans are waterproof, too. I dropped my first Pelican flashlight — when it was on — into the six-foot bilge of my Islander Freeport 36 Windsong. The only way to get a dropped item out of my bilge is with one of those metal 'cherry picker' things they advertise for old people. I didn't have one, and it took me a few days to find one in the stores. By the time I got back to Windsong, the light had gone out. But after pulling the light from three inches of water and replacing the batteries, it came right up. Try that with any other brand of flashlight!

The Pelican brand flashlights are expensive, but they last a long time. You do need to replace the bulbs from time to time — they're expensive, too — so it's best to keep a few on hand.

I like the new LED flashlights, as they are really bright. While they should last a long time, in my experience, they haven't.

No matter which flashlight you buy, the most important thing is to remember not to leave the batteries in for a long period of time. The problem is that batteries leak. If they do, say goodbye to your flashlight. In my experience, the Energizer batteries leak the most, and have killed more of my electronics than any other brand. Duracells don't seem to leak as much.

Frank Nitte
Windsong, Islander Freeport 36 #121
Balboa YC, Panama


Because of the combination of salt air and moisture, the low voltages used in flashlights cannot overcome even small amounts of corrosion and electrical resistance. If you clean all parts of a flashlight's electrical circuit, and protect it from salt air and moisture, you will have a brighter future.

T. Felkay
Co-author of Davis Quick Reference cards


I was wondering if it would be practicable to scale up the technology in a self-winding wrist watch, and put it in a boat for auxiliary power. Instead of hours, minutes, and seconds, it could be clutch, shaft and prop.

I copied this from Wikipedia:

"A self-winding watch movement is similar to a manual movement with the addition of a mechanism powered by an eccentric weight which winds the mainspring. The watch contains a semicircular 'rotor', an eccentric weight that turns on a pivot, within the watch case. The normal movements of the user's arm and wrist cause the rotor to pivot back-and-forth on its staff, which is attached to a ratcheted winding mechanism. The motion of the wearer's arm is thereby translated into the circular motion of the rotor that, through a series of reverser and reducing gears, eventually winds the mainspring. Modern self-winding mechanisms have two ratchets, and wind the mainspring during both clockwise and counterclockwise rotor motions. The fully-wound mainspring in a typical watch can store enough energy reserve for roughly two days, allowing automatics to keep running through the night while off the wrist."

Clay Mills

Clay — We like the way you think outside the box. We're no experts, but it seems to us there might be problems with the size and weight of the mechanism, the amount of energy that could be stored in the mainspring, and above all, how the mainspring would be wound on calm days. But hey, why not try to build a small working model?


Ever notice the ditch that mysteriously appears along the beach at Crissy Field just east of the abandoned Coast Guard Station?

I'm told that it's an old sewer outflow that breaks open when there is a lot of run-off and that, once the rains are over, it's refilled by the Park Service. I wonder why they don't just extend the pipe into the Bay, which would save money in the long term and remove an attractive nuisance. We’ve enjoyed leaping across it from time-to-time when the gap isn’t too daunting.

Bruce J. Stone
Arbitrage, J/105
San Francisco

Bruce — We don't have any expertise on the subject. Nor, as a sailing magazine, do we have that much interest — unless, of course, there is so much run-off that the Blackaller Buoy ends up on dry land.


I'm another longtime Latitude reader who has never written in before. But I love Latitude and very much support the concepts you espouse.

I did however, just read the letter from the whiner in Redwood City about how the cost of marinas in Mexico would make it too expensive to be a 'commuter cruiser'. WTF? At Marina Palmira, one of the nicer and more expensive marinas in La Paz, and a place where I kept a boat for seven years doing just what the writer commented on, the berth fees are almost exactly what Schoonmaker Point Marina charges in the gringolandia that is Sausalito.

It may be true that a cruiser can save a few bucks by avoiding marinas and tourist hangouts, but is that really the goal? Do these 'Kool-Aid and beans' folks — a term a fellow cruiser came up with for the cheapskates — think they are entitled to '94 prices?

Latitude occasionally runs features profiling cruisers and their ultra-low budgets. It seems as if it's a competition for some to see just how cheap they could go.

I recall seeing cruisers come into the pool area at Marina Palmira, toting their own beer and munchies. And I have read many other stories in Latitude by cruisers who bragged about where the best "freebies" — such as pool use, tables in bars, and so forth can be found in places such as La Paz.

Okay, maybe cruising in Mexico isn't as inexpensive as it used to be, but speaking for myself, can't we do just a little to once again avoid appearing like the 'ugly Americans'? And to stop whining about things — low-cost marinas, restaurants and so forth — that some people think should virtually be given to them? Shit, the savings in diesel fuel alone will offset the cost of a berth!

By the way, the name of my boat is an acronym for 'wind aided fucking idiots' — another name from the same guy who used it to describe the cheapskate cruisers we met in La Paz.

Dane Faber
WAFI, Vagabond 38

Dane — We think you need to be careful not to confuse thrift — which we believe is a virtue — with being a cheapskate, which, to us, has the connotation of taking advantage of others.

When you criticize cruisers who avoid marinas and tourist restaurants, we sense you think those people only do it to save money. Is avoiding marinas and tourist restaurants "really the goal?" you ask. We can't speak for everyone, but it sure is for us. It might be a little different because we have a spacious cat, but why would we stay in a marina when we could anchor out?

For example, we've used our charter cat, 'ti Profligate, in the Caribbean for a total of about 10 months in the last five years, and we've never once stayed in a marina. It's never even crossed our mind. Why would we? When anchored out, we get to jump overboard into clean water, shower naked on the back deck, not have to hear other people's music/talking/engines, and get pick a new 'homesite' anytime we want. We looooove anchoring out!

As for tourist restaurants, why would we eat at one when we could almost certainly get better food at lower prices by eating where the locals do?

We understand that some sailors prefer to stay in marinas to enjoy the various conveniences and the marina community. Different folks, different needs and desires. Good on them. But staying in marinas is not us, and it's not a lot of other cruisers either. And in many cases the preference has nothing to do with saving money. But even if it were entirely about saving money, so what?

We frequently make use of hotel/resort pools and other facilities. We feel no guilt about it because we always buy a few drinks and/or some food. On the other hand, we'd never dream of sneaking food or drinks into a business establishment that sold them.

Unless somebody is going to get another cruiser to look after their boat at anchor while they are gone, 'commuter cruising' requires putting your boat in a marina, and marinas in Mexico are not cheap. But other than that, and tourist restaurants and bars, the cost of cruising and living very nicely in Mexico can be astonishingly low.


That's Tutto Bene, our Vallejo-based Beneteau 38s5, on the cover of the April issue of Latitude 38. We won our division in the '06 Pacific Cup.

Tutto Bene is an Italian phrase commonly used to respond to a greeting such as "How's it going?" It means, roughly speaking, "It's all good." That makes ours a French boat in California with an Italian name owned by a Swiss and a Norwegian. But hey, it's a neat little nautical pun on the manufacturer's name, and expresses well the sailing sentiment of the boat and crew.

By my standards, Tutto Bene was indeed 'looking good' the day Steve Holloway captured her for the cover of Latitude. And thank you to the Richmond YC for a great Big Daddy Regatta.

Jack Vetter
Tutto Bene, Beneteau 38s5
Vallejo YC


I've sailed the East Santa Barbara Channel and surrounding areas for many years, and my impression is that we've had a marked change in the summer climate. In the 'old days' — meaning the '90s — we had clearing by noon, with great sailing breezes in the afternoon that died down by sunset. Now it seems as though we have 'June Gloom' from mid-May through July, shorter weather windows for small boat distance travel, more small craft advisories, and more frequent near-gale to gale-force winds from Santa Cruz Island to San Francisco during the summer. We did passages from San Francisco to the Channel Islands every summer for years, and always found frequent and regular good windows to go both north and south.

I've perused some NOAA research reports put out by various climatologists, and it seems clear that the local climate is affected by ENSO (El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation), global warming, and other factors. So it's a complicated subject. Nevertheless, I'm tempted to extract buoy data going back maybe 10 years and write a report presenting the numbers — no interpretations — for the East Santa Barbara Channel and the coast up to the Bay.

Are you or your readers aware of any official, valid, authoritative forecasts for the upcoming '11 summer marine climate in SoCal?

Carlos Valencia
Felicia, Bristol 29.9
Channel Islands Harbor

Carlos — "Authoritative weather forecasts?" Don't make us laugh. As you may recall, thanks to La Niña, this was supposed to be a very dry winter in Southern California. So what happened? It rained like crazy.

El Niño is an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, and one part of what's called the Southern Oscillation. The Southern Oscillation is the see-saw pattern of reversing surface air pressure between the eastern and western tropical Pacific. When the surface pressure is high in the eastern tropical Pacific, it is low in the western tropical Pacific, and vice-versa. Because the ocean warming and pressure reversals are, for the most part, simultaneous, scientists call this phenomenon the El Niño/Southern Oscillation — or ENSO for short.

Scientists don't really understand how an El Niño forms, but some think El Niño may have contributed to the '93 Mississippi and '95 California floods, and drought conditions in South America, Africa and Australia. It is also believed that El Niño contributed to the lack of serious storms, such as hurricanes in the North Atlantic, which spared states such as Florida from serious storm-related damage. Of course, it's hard to tell, because the weather in the Pacific hardly occurs in a vacuum, and is affected by about a billion other weather variables, some as far away as the sun.

Unfortunately, the experts agree, not all El Niños are the same, nor does the atmosphere always react in the same way from one El Niño to another. In plain English, that means despite our best scientific efforts, we don't know diddly about the weather more than about 24 hours out, and we don't always even get that right.

The only authoritative thing that can be said for the marine weather climate in Southern California for the summer of '11 is that if the water doesn't get warmer than it did last year, there are going to be more polar bears than girls in bikinis on the beaches.



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