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July 2011

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As my two-year plan to join the Baja Ha-Ha in '13 continues apace, I have concerns about one part of it. My plan has my boat in San Francisco for the month of August. But with the 34th America's Cup now being a big player on the Bay, am I at all being realistic about finding moorage for that month?

As nice as it would be to observe the energy on the waterfront, I know the best coverage of on-the-water action will be via television. Any thoughts/suggestions?

Lani Schroeder
Balance, Endeavour 43

Lani — We don't think anybody really knows how many boats will be attracted to San Francisco Bay by the America's Cup. It makes sense to us that a lot of mariners like you, who will be migrating south to the tropics, will see the Cup as a great excuse to stop in San Francisco Bay for the month of August. But will a lot of folks from Southern California with 40- to 50-ft boats make the long slog up the coast to be around the event? We suppose some will, but we don't foresee a mass migration.

We anticipate there will be a real sailing buzz around the Bay during the month of August '13, and that it's going to be great fun. But rather than trying to watch the event from our photoboat, we expect to be a part of the America's Cup via a combination of watching from one of the many shoreside venues or at the Cup Village in San Francisco. The one thing that you can count on is that the event will be presented in the most technologically advanced manner, and there will be an electric atmosphere around the Village. We can't wait to be part of it all.

So if we were in your Top-Siders, we would expect that we'd be able to find a slip in August '13, but in an outer area such as Vallejo or down the Peninsula rather than in the Central Bay. But no worries, as you can liveaboard your boat in those places, and then have an easy commute via public transportation to America's Cup Village or great viewing venues. So yes.


What do the rules say about an America's Cup boat pitchpoling — as one of the 45-footers did on June 13 — in the Cup Finals?

Bill Nyden
Mountain View

Bill — Rule 19A(c)iii reads: "If you flip your cat in the Finals, you'd better hope the other cat flips, too, because if she doesn't, and she completes the course, you lose. It's just like a Beer Can race — you can't win if you can't finish."

It's nice that the new America's Cup rules have been written in language we can all understand rather than in constipated legalese, isn't it?


About Russell Coutts' AC45 capsize, which saw him free fall right through the wing sail: I raced Class A cats in the United Kingdom for some time, and they go faster upwind with the lee bow just an inch above the water. It's great — until the tip of the bow gets buried. Then you either sheet off very fast, or you pitchpole, just as the video of Coutts' cat shows.

On another subject, I once effected the rescue of someone trying to commit suicide by drowning himself. In my case, it was someone who jumped off a bridge in Redding into the Sacramento River. I'm a river guide up there, so I made up a loop and dragged the person to the bank, where medical attention was given. You know what a suicidal person says when you offer him help? "Please don't hurt me."

P.S. Can't wait to do the Ha-Ha this fall!

Barry Foster
Tinuviel, True North 34

Readers — We'll have much more reader response later in Letters about the Alameda Fire Department's lack of response to a suicidal man off Crown Beach.


Thank you for printing my letter in the June issue regarding berth transfer policies here at San Francisco Marina. Unfortunately, I made a couple of errors.

First, the berth transfer fees at the San Francisco Marina are not based on a percentage of the boat's sale price, but rather on the length of the boat, and can go as high as $100/ft on larger boats.

Secondly, I could have made my point about berth transfer policy at Fisherman's Wharf without going into quite as much detail as I did. A certain amount of the story I wrote is scuttlebutt. But the indisputable fact is that the boat in question would have been worth far more if its Jefferson Street berth could have been transferred to her new owners.

Hedley Prince
San Francisco Marina


Members of a Northern California Veterans for Peace chapter are rebuilding the Golden Rule ketch with intentions of touring the country with her under sail.

She was the first 'peace boat' — in '58 a group of four Quaker activists sailed her to the Marshall Islands in an attempt to stop the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Members of our group found this ketch, and are currently restoring her in Leroy Zerlang's shipyard in Fairhaven, Humboldt Bay, which is near Eureka.

We're often asked why we're restoring the old ketch and what we're going to do with her. We see her as a genuine relic of the Cold War, one that deserves to be seen and again work in the cause of peace.

She will require at least another year of work, depending on funding. Our goal is to show up in San Francisco Bay during America's Cup festivities in the summer of '13. All the world's media will be there looking for the background stories behind the billionaire yacht races, and we're confident that the Golden Rule and Veterans for Peace will be one of those stories.

We are working to restore Golden Rule to first-class condition, because after San Francisco, we're planning to take her on a tour of the United States, visiting as many peace and justice groups as possible via navigable waterways. Our tentative plan is to sail down the West Coast and through the Canal, then up several of the major rivers of the United States, including the Mississippi, to various Veterans for Peace chapters, and to the headquarters in St. Louis.

We will continue to tour many of the rivers and cities damaged by Katrina, around the state of Florida, and up the East Coast of the United States, visiting all of the major cities that are located on the ocean, rivers or bays. Hopefully, we could continue up the Hudson River Valley to Buffalo, and go through those canals to the Great Lakes waterway system to many big Midwestern cities. After that, she would be trucked back to the West Coast, eventually returning to Humboldt County.

We are interested in support, working volunteers and networking. We hope Latitude readers will check out our website at

Fredy Champagne
Coordinator, Veterans for Peace
Golden Rule Project

Fredy — The best of luck with your project. If you get the boat completed, we imagine you'll get more than enough local support to see you around the United States.


I'm not so sure a 10-knot speed limit for big ships in California's marine sanctuaries is a well-thought out idea. When at speed, the turning of a big ship's screw makes a lot of noise. Slow them down and they become much quieter. I suspect a whale would be more likely to get out of the way of a faster, noisier, machine.

Al Reed
Ensueno, Gulf 32 PH
Long Beach

Al — We wish that some kind of solution could be found to prevent contact between ships and whales -— and even more so between whales and small boats. We're not sure if a 10-knot speed limit would be a solution, because whales are apparently hit by ships going that slowly, too. And based on our experience of coming north from L.A. to San Francisco on a 960-ft American President Lines container ship, the momentum of the ship was so great that they all but turned off the engine down the coast at Davenport, so they weren't coming through the Farallones Sanctuary that quickly anyway.

It seems to us that the ideal solution would be for ships and small boats to be able to emit some kind of warning sounds to whales. We know this has been tried a number of times in the past, but don't believe it's been successful. Maybe more research is needed.

If you see an injured or entangled whale while out sailing, you can report it at (877) SOS-WHALE.


Let's see, you take the James River near Norfolk, Virginia, where the water was 55 degrees, 10 people without lifejackets on a 22-ft sailboat, at night, and a capsize. Criminy, it's a miracle that anyone survived!

Charles Lane
Shamwari, Tayana 37
San Francisco

Charles — The May 13th incident makes us sick, and sadly proves that even very bright people can do some lethally foolish things. All 10 — six men and four women — aboard the small sailboat were in their 20s, and were either graduate students at local universities doing research at NASA's Langley Research Center or employed by the National Institute of Aerospace. In other words, these were your cream-of-the-crop young folks.

Two of the group, 23-year-old Tyler Lorenzi, originally from Mill Valley and a Northwestern graduate who was an associate research engineer for the National Institute of Aerospace, and Alex Brown, perished from exposure after the capsizing. Five others managed to swim ashore after four hours in the frigid water, and three others were rescued after authorities were alerted to what had happened.

So it was a case of a bunch of smart young folks socializing, as young folks should, but who collectively didn't realize what a dangerous situation they were putting themselves into. Ten people on a 22-ft sailboat? No, no, god no!

See this month's Sightings for the Coast Guard's most recent report on boating accidents and deaths. While the deaths are at a historic low, they are still way too high. Interestingly enough, only a tiny number of boating deaths occur on sailboats.


Latitude's request for feedback on the cost of cruising was a timely topic, as we were just talking about it here in Puerto Escondido, Baja. I've been in Mexico since January of '06, and my total monthly income is under $2,000. It's taxable, so Uncle Sam takes his cut.

I've tried different ways to budget, but two months ago settled on my current system. The minimum wage in Mexico is a little over 2,000 pesos/month, or about $175 U.S. So a Mexican couple working full-time makes about $350 a month. I reasoned that if a Mexican family can live on $350 U.S. per month, my basic living expenses shouldn't be any more than that.

So once a month, I've been taking 4,000 pesos out of the ATM. If it runs out, well, it runs out. To my surprise, $350 has been sufficient for my needs. I've even been able to do normal boat maintenance, such as oil changes and minor repairs, within this budget.

What are my secrets to cruising inexpensively? I rarely eat out. And I always anchor out because marinas are beyond my budget. I also do all of my own maintenance and repairs. If you have to pay people to fix your boat, your cruising budget is going to zoom — especially if you hire gringos with work permits. It would take some of them less than four hours to go through my monthly budget! The days of inexpensive skilled labor and boat workers seem to be long gone.

The key to my budget has been that no matter what, I don't take more than 4,000 pesos a month from the ATM. It's been my experience that if people have money in their wallet/purse, they will spend it. Myself included.

I was discussing cruising budgets with a friend who has been living on 6,000 pesos/month — about $500 U.S. — for the last several years. He eats out more often than I do, and he likes his rum. A Canadian friend has a total income of $1,000 U.S. per month to cover all his expenses, and he manages. All three of us are singlehanders. It seems as though singlehanders spend far less than do couples. The cruising couples I talk to seem to have minimum expenses of $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

The bottom line is that you can spend a ton of money cruising in Mexico, but if you're careful, you can also live both comfortably and inexpensively.

To give your readers some background, I was a member of Dana Point YC for 30 years, and did most of my sailing out of there. I found my Gulfstar 37 in Mission Bay in '04, and spent two years there sorting out the boat and making a few modifications, repairs and upgrades. But not too many, because I like things to be simple and easy to use.

By the way, I'm a Sea of Cortez guy. I've been down to mainland Mexico twice, and I don't care for it. Sure, Isla Isabela was great, and I thought Chacala was the best anchorage. But generally speaking, I found that most of the anchorages were too rolly for my liking, and the water visibility wasn't very good. I thought everything south of Chacala was just going downhill, and was making my slog back to the Sea even longer.

I love the Sea of Cortez, and pretty much cruise out of Puerto Escondido, where I have a mooring in the Ellipse. I go down to La Paz for January to March, and spend the summer months in the Bahia de Los Angeles or hauling out in Guaymas. Well, I gotta go — the Sunday potluck starts in an hour and I've got to prepare something to share with the others.

Chuck Losness
Hale Moana, Gulfstar 37
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Readers — With the U.S. recovery weak, employment opportunities bleak, yet the cost of used boats quite low, an increasing number of readers are thinking this might be the perfect time to go cruising. Naturally, they are curious what it really costs. It differs greatly, of course, depending on how one wants to cruise, but in this Letters section, an article elsewhere in this issue, and the August issue, cruisers share what they've been cruising on. Enjoy.


In a recent letter, I mentioned that I've sailed around the world, much of the way with my wife, on "a ridiculously low budget." The publisher wrote back to ask me to be more specific. May I begin with a couple of paragraphs from Sterling Hayden, noted seaman, actor and author, that provided my early inspiration?

"'I've always wanted to sail the South Seas, but cannot afford to,' [people say.] What these people cannot afford is to not go! They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of 'security'. And in the worship of security, we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine — and before we know it, our lives are gone.

"What does a person really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in — and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all, in our material sense. But we are brainwashed by our economic system, and we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocracy of the charade. The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

"Where, then, lies the answer? In Choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy in purse, or bankruptcy in life?"

So wrote Hayden. It seems that over the past 17 years of full-time living aboard a boat, I've spent about as much time wandering around under sail as I have in port, working at some form of marine-related enterprise or another. I started in '94, when I purchased Carol Post's Islander 37 motorsailor Beche de Mer, which was chained to the dock at the Ala Wai. I re-christened her Polly Brooks, and abandoned my sub-sea career by sailing west a year later. When I departed Hawaii, I had $1,000 left in my wallet, but a job waiting in Saipan. After a 31-day passage across 3,500 miles of ocean, I arrived at a new boat job with a new attitude — and a 'cruising bug' up my ass that kept my gaze fixed on the horizon.

I drove a dinner cruise boat in Saipan for a few months, and then headed south to Guam. Before I managed to clear Customs, I was offered another job on a tour boat! Poking around the Pacific on my boat and getting paid to drive other peoples' boats was heaps of fun! The best part was learning how little it cost to live at anchor, especially when I got fed at work.

Next thing I knew, I was heading south through Papua New Guinea to Australia. I landed in Cairns, and scored a casual job going out to the Great Barrier Reef every day on big, fast ferries, where I attempted to sell helicopter joy flights to the hundreds of tourists. On a good day, I'd fly home with more money than the captain! And with a big bag of prawns for dinner. On a bad day, I'd go scuba diving on one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In my spare time, I'd earn cash by doing canvas repairs and making sailing harnesses with my sewing machine.

When my Aussie visa expired, I returned to PNG. For six months I had a mate position on a small expedition cruise vessel that took high-end tourists up the rivers and to the outer islands of New Guinea. In addition to pay, I got food and a free berth for Polly Brooks.

I returned to Guam for a hard-hat diving job, followed by a stint driving the pilot boat in the commercial port. This was when I married a loving lass from Australia. Cath and I slaved and saved in Guam for years, so when we shoved off for the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in '00, Polly Brooks had a new engine, radar, fridge, and electric windlass.

Two years later, we arrived in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins, where we worked for the next six years. This is where Cath presented me with a fine son, 'Arrr Boy' Stuart. Needing more room, we sold our Islander Pilothouse — exclusively through a Latitude Classy Classified — for a larger and newer S&S-designed Hylas 49. She did, however, need quite a bit of work.

We departed the U.S. Virgins three years ago, and celebrated Stuart's fifth birthday in Trinidad, his sixth in Moorea, and his seventh in Fiji. During this voyage, we dropped the hook in Pago Pago just in time to take a crash course in 'tsunami tsurfing'! Riding out the cyclone season there for eight months, I went to work with the local department of Fish & Wildlife, and Cath worked with the local radio station. Stuart even helped by getting a job as co-host on a kid's Saturday morning cartoon show.

We continued west from American Samoa a year ago, and recently arrived in Australia — three years after quitting our jobs in St. Thomas. Cath has now gone back to work with the same radio network she worked with before joining me, and I'm slowly getting back into the earning groove while simply messing about in boats. 'Arrr Boy' is in school and the Cub Scouts, and standing tall in his new uniforms.

Before I got married, meaning the first five years of this adventure, I simply lived on what I earned while wandering about. Our records show that, after getting married, Cath and I spent a total of $18,000 — or $750 per month. Included in this figure were a routine haul-out in Langkawi, a few journeys inland, provisions, fuel, minor upgrades, and so forth. We caught fish, ate well, and always had cold beer in the fridge and a bottle of wine to share.

Everyone knows that the Med is more expensive than Southeast Asia, but it cost far less to cruise than we'd been led to believe.

The cost of maintaining a larger boat is a bit more than that for a smaller one, and the additional cost of feeding, clothing, entertaining, and schooling 'Arrr Boy' has probably doubled our costs. But it seems that whenever we need to stop and rest awhile, some kind of employment naturally presents itself to us.

Being a Navy veteran with minor service-connected disabilities, I'm entitled to health care at any VA hospital or clinic in America. But I'm always careful, so I have rarely used this benefit. As for the cost of health and dental care for my family, when we're cruising abroad, it's a fraction of what it would be in the States. It's true that we haven't gotten paid as much when working in most places we cruise as we would have back in the States, but we don't need as much money in those places either.

Different countries have different rules about foreigners working in their country. But we've found that if I'm willing to share what I know, and don't take work away from anyone else, people will gladly employ me wherever I go.

There you have it, the way I support my family while maintaining this free lifestyle and keeping a smile on my dial. God only knows where the wind will blow us from here, but my former employer in Guam has offered me the helm of a harbor tug should we decide to head north from here, and the kind family I worked for in St. Thomas seems to want us to return to the Caribbean. So the future looks bright.

By the way, I still have the $1,000 I set sail from Hawaii with 16 years ago!

Kirk McGeorge
Gallivanter, Hylas 47


For almost three years, our Colorado-based family — Jim and Meri, son Tim, daughter Carolyne, rescue hound Bailey Dog and orphaned Mazatlan feline Bad Kitty — have sailed the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico. We've enjoyed fabulous experiences and created wonderful memories together.

How much does it really cost to cruise? It's hard to say, because everyone is different, every cruising ground is different, and every boat project is different. We know families who cruise for less than we do, and some families who spend much more, but we believe our costs are moderate for a family of four.

If you go to our website at and click on the 'Expenses' link, you'll find our '09 numbers and see that we spent a total of $17,611 — which included a haul-out, a bottom job, a new Engel 12-volt freezer, and three road trips back to the States. Keep in mind that we began calculating our expenses after fully outfitting and provisioning our then-boat, a Cal 35, for our first year of cruising.

In '10, having realized that we'd outgrown our Cal 35, we sold her and purchased a center-cockpit Tartan 41 in Mazatlan. To say she was a 'fixer-upper' is putting it mildly. We purchased her for a good price, but had to spend five months in a marina repairing her. Therefore our numbers for '10 are a bit whacked. But they do show you what buying a fixer-upper and outfitting her for cruising can cost. Keep in mind that we're cheapo penny-pinchers, 'do-it-yourself-if-you-can' cruisers. We'd rather do our own work instead of paying others, as it allows us to cruise longer.

Anyway our '10 expenses ran $41,942. This number does not include the sale of Windfall or the purchase of Hotspur. The cost of an engine rebuild alone was $10,341, plus another $8,131 for boat equipment. Had we not incurred the equipment and rebuild costs, our '10 aboard cruising expenses would have been about $23,000.

The Faulkner Family
Hotspur, Tartan 41


After reading the June 1 Zen Sailing in the Estuary article in 'Lectronic, with the bit about Doña de Mallorca's automatic lifevest going off under her jacket, I just had to write.

I left Vallejo in '09 for retirement life aboard here in Puerto Escondido, but prior to heading south, my wife Linda and I used to really enjoy getting into the dink for Vallejo's 4th of July festivities and fireworks. If you went on the river, you could practically get right under the fireworks, as they were launched over the Napa River from the city park on the waterfront. It was absolutely great!

One year we and our friend Mike were in the dink for the fireworks when all of a sudden there was a 'psssssss' sound. Oh my heavens, all three of us started looking for the hole we presumed we had somehow just put in our inflatable. When we couldn't find the problem right away, we grabbed our lifevests, assuming that we'd soon be swimming.

But we soon discovered that the 'psssssss' we'd heard was not from some damage to the inflatable, but rather one of our auto-inflate lifevests. Evidently the humidity was a bit much for the poor unit. We reloaded our glasses with vino, and had a wonderful evening watching the rest of the festivities.

By the way, Latitude is just 'the bomb', and we in Puerto Escondido simply can't wait each month until someone drives down from the States with a pile of fresh issues. Personally speaking, I've always thought that your magazine's articles have been balanced and well-written. I tip my hat to you and your crew.

Dale Weatherly
Moxie, Ingrid 38
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Dale — Thanks for the kind words. We're glad you're enjoying retired life in Puerto Escondido, where most of the time life has been more tranquil than here in the States. To make it even better, if you have good internet service, you can download the entire magazine — ads and all — in its full glory directly from our website for free. No need to wait for some generous soul who hasn't gone over their airline baggage limit!

As bad as automatic lifevests going off by mistake might be, there is something worse. We can't remember the circumstances, but a number of years ago one mariner reported that he was in the boat's head with the liferaft — no, we don't know why — and it started to inflate. The person was trapped — and nearly crushed — before the raft could be stabbed into submission.


I'm glad to see that members of the La Gamelle Syndicate are enjoying their new-to-them, 31-year-old Olson 30. Having read in the June 1 'Lectronic about how the stainless steel bolt that keeps the rudder from falling out of the boat failed, I recommend that, when you go over the rest of the metal on the boat with a magnifying glass as you say you're going to do, you focus on areas where the sun don't shine.

Allow me to explain. Stainless steel has a little known Achilles heel that goes by the name of crevice corrosion cracking. Stainless steel depends on a free flow of air to its surface to continuously replenish its oxide surface coating, which is the primary barrier that makes it 'stainless'. Stagnant water, however, contains little or no oxygen, and therefore can preclude the flow of all-important air. This accelerates the depletion of surface oxide coating. If the oxide coating is depleted long enough, corrosion will occur in the crevices between the grain structure of the material.

Any place stagnant water can accumulate for long periods of time while in contact with the stainless is a potential trouble spot. Likely places for this problem are chainplates (where bedding can trap stagnant water), prop shafts inside the stern tube of little-used boats, and fasteners located in wet areas.

The accompanying photos are of an 18-8 stainless washer I use to disabuse my colleagues of their irrational faith in the immortality of stainless steel. The first photo is of the top side. The second is of the flip side. And yes, Virginia, they are flip sides of the same washer! The ugly side trapped water between it and a fiberglass surface. Some of the worst pitting looks as if 'stainless steel termites' had been at work.

Lack of oxygen can also affect the threads on fasteners.

The good news is that it usually takes a long time for stainless to get this bad. The bad news is that complacency can fool you into thinking everything is good.

While Latitude's photo of the broken bolt does not confirm that the failure was due to crevice corrosion, I’ll bet you'll find at least some of it with your magnifying glass, if you look in the perpetually wet areas of the boat.

While you're at it, if you pull a bolt to check it, at least replace the lock nut with a new one. They are cheap insurance, and the nylon locking part is susceptible to UV degradation.

For the record, I am not a metallurgist.

Have fun with your new toy.

Bill Willcox
Faith, Scandia 34
Currently on SAR assignment in Hong Kong

Bill — Thanks for the great info.

For the record, La Gamelle is not a 'toy', but rather every bit as much of a meditation tool as a sand mandala, a tao totem, nude yoga and all the rest.


My letter is in response to your editorial response to the letter about Abby Sunderland in the May issue.

I raced on the Bay for about eight of the more than 50 years I've been sailing, and believe that the experience taught me things about sailing I might never have learned if I had just cruised. For example, how really close you can sail to other boats, buoys, and seawalls without hitting them, how to tweak your rigging for maximum speed, and the sheer joy of eating a handful of brownie crumbs from your foulie pocket while sitting up on the rail. All of that is good experience and made me a much better sailor.

I think Abby Sunderland's adventure was ill-advised to say the least, but whether or not she or her brother Zac, who successfully circumnavigated, could win a race in the Estuary against peers — as Latitude suggested would be interesting — doesn't necessarily correlate to their long distance, bluewater capability. Most racers I know hire someone to fix things that break, and only have to worry about weather and sea conditions for the next six to eight hours. Bluewater cruisers face a different set of challenges.

No offense to the many fine skippers I raced with, but if they invited me to sail around the world with them, I'd have a long list of qualifying questions to ask before signing on.

Marcy Zimmerman
Sandman Too, Catalina 30
Pt. Richmond

Marcy — While a racing background doesn't necessarily correlate with being a successful cruiser, most racers who want to cruise — and lots of them aren't interested — do very well at it. If we had to choose whether to go with someone who had a racing background or no racing background, all other things being equal, we'd go with the former.

We don't want to get into the whole Sunderland thing again, but neither Zac nor Abby was the least bit self-sufficient. They benefitted tremendously from extensive support teams prior to the start of and during stops in their circumnavigation attempts. And unlike Robin Lee Graham, for instance, who was out of communication with shore while going around, the Sunderlands were in frequent phone contact with shore for emotional support, weather forecasting and mechanical assistance.


You need to read Laura Dekker's epistle of June 11, which is all about her checking-in woes. I would accuse her of plagiarism for writing "we go where the wind blows" — except that she's way too young, naïve and innocent to know that she is somewhat repeating your mantra. By the way, she writes as if she is much older, and reports her sailing adventures as though she were an adult rather than a teenager.

Byron Corley
Sabrina, Rawson 30

Byron — As is well known, we're not in favor of age-based sailing records, and therefore believe that 15-year-old Ms. Dekker's attempt to become the youngest person to solo circumnavigate is a stunt that, even if successful, won't prove much. Except, of course, that the lure of fame and fortune is as strong for kids as it is for adults.

As for her writing "we go where the wind blows" in her Day 295 report from Tahiti, we're not bothered in the least. After all, it's a common enough thought, and she clearly had no intention of trying to copy us or trade on our reputation.

As for her reports, someone on her team is almost certainly editing them for public consumption. This doesn't get our knickers in a twist either.


San Francisco approving a plan for 19,000 new residents on Treasure Island — but with no public facilities — is just another San Francisco boondoggle that is all politics and no common sense. It's just like the multibillion dollar bridge project. The island should be developed for public use and facilities, as was the original intent.

Robert Lockwood
Celebration, Gulfstar 50

Robert — As we've written before, we don't have strong feelings either way on the Treasure Island project. We think its success or failure is going to be completely dependent on the details. Unfortunately, local government has a dismal record overseeing major projects on behalf of taxpayers.


Latitude's report on the Alameda Fire Department's refusal to help a suicidal man standing in the water off Crown Beach was largely correct, but it should be noted that Interim Chief Michael D'Orazi had only been on the job one week. There was another interim chief between him and David Kapler, the latter being the chief who was dismissed after he was observed filling the tank of his BMW convertible from the fire department's tanks.

One of the bigger pieces of B.S in this story is the fire department's line that 'we're not trained for water rescue'. The fire department was trained and continuously re-certified for water rescue up to '09. They stopped re-certifying that year because of a budget shortage. The bottom line is that many of the men on-scene had received extensive training, but just didn't have the current piece of paper. It's like saying that if your driver's license expires, you don't know how to drive a car.

The big question is how so many qualified public safety officers can stand and watch someone die without one of them deciding that it's worth getting in a little trouble to do the right thing. Unfortunately, there's really no answer for that one.

John Hansen

John — Matthias Gagni reported in the Contra Costa Times that the fire department had been allocated the money to continue rescue training, but for some reason the department hadn't spent the money on the training and certification.


A man died in Alameda because public union rules were stronger than the testosterone of our public servants. Disgusting and immoral.

Mark Leonard
Corte Madera

Mark — According to officials in Alameda, firefighters wading into the water to try to help the man would have been in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Ironically, "water rescues" is specifically listed as one of a firefighter's job responsibilities. Not that this was even a real 'water rescue' situation.


It sure does look bad for the first responders, but as a former lifeguard, I want to say that it wasn’t a normal water rescue, but rather a successful suicide attempt. Most firefighters are not trained for water rescue, but rather to fight fires and untangle wrecked cars. Many fire departments have specially trained water rescue teams, but these are not suicide prevention teams. Suicide and attempted suicide are crimes, but if someone is in the water, what are first responders to do?

One of the first things I was taught in lifeguard training was not to risk your own life for a rescue, especially in extremely hazardous conditions.

David Mulmat
Flying Shadow, Beneteau First 47.7
San Diego

David — Thank god you're no longer a lifeguard. Alameda firefighters were certified in water rescues as recently as '09. Are they such morons that they've already forgotten their training? And since the money for recertification had been allocated a long time ago, the Alameda Fire Department needs to explain why they weren't recertified.

"What are they to do?" Just because the firefighters weren't trained in attempted suicide response doesn't mean they have to behave like helpless idiots. Three of the firefighters could have slowly walked out to within 15 feet of the despondent man and assured him that he had friends and relatives who loved him, and that he still had a lot to live for. A couple of weeks later a suicidal man was talked down from the Bay Bridge in this manner.

"Extremely hazardous conditions?" What!? Here's an excerpt from Daniel Lisker's contribution to the Contra Costa Times Readers' Forum titled: Man Died from Alameda Firefighter Negligence and Incompetence:

"It is unfortunate and disgusting that a depressed man lost his life in the water off Crown Beach on Memorial Day because of the lack of appropriate response by the Alameda Fire Department. Situations fall into four classifications according to risk to personnel and probable outcome of the situation: Low risk, low reward; low risk, high reward; high risk, low reward; and high risk, high reward. From the video of this sad scenario that I saw, this man was about 100-150 yards offshore in about 4-5 feet of water. This was not a water rescue; this was a case of wading out to the man, communicating with him, and walking him back to the beach.

"For any incident commander, this situation fell into the category of low risk, high reward. End of story. This man died because of the negligence and incompetence of the Alameda Fire Department."


What was the Coast Guard's role in the incident? I understand that they had a boat on scene, but that the water wasn't deep enough for them to get to the victim. If that was the case, why didn't they request a helicopter?

About 20 years ago I found myself in a similar situation when, sitting in the office of the marina I managed, I noticed a woman floating in the water. I told my secretary to call 9-1-1 as I rushed to the dock and, without any hesitation, jumped into the water and saved the woman. I learned later that she was despondent over the loss of her husband and was attempting suicide.

Jim Haussener

Jim — The Coast Guard did get a boat to the scene, but the subject was standing in shallow water. A Coast Guard helicopter was called, but having been on another mission, it arrived too late.

But no boat or helicopter was needed, just an Alameda public safety employee with a big enough sense of humanity and big enough balls to wade into the chest deep water. Wade into the chest deep water like the young woman who ultimately had to recover the body for the firefighters. Wade into chest deep water as a dozen people did a few weeks later to protest the pathetic response on the part of the Alameda Fire Department.


You're an asshole.

Dale Speroni Riva
Siren 17
Fairhaven, WA

Dale — And you're eloquent in expressing a point of view.


The people of Alameda are paying a lot of money for heroes. They got cowards.

Cary Otis
Swallow, Nor'Sea 27


According to the Alameda News, the incompetent sociopaths in the Alameda Police and Fire Departments twice declined to request Alameda County Fire Department rescue boats that stood ready in San Leandro. Even after being advised the boats were available! The Alameda News also reported that the Alameda Fire Department has two boats of their own that are mothballed, while firefighters pull down obscene salaries and pensions.

Timothy B. McCormick
Walnut Creek

Timothy — Are you suggesting that if firefighters contributed a little bit more of their generous salaries to their own pensions, Alameda could have an entire fleet of first-class rescue boats? If so, you're probably right. In the year '08, the last year for which we could find records, 27 members of the Alameda Fire Department received over $200,000 in compensation, and 15 of them weren't even brass.


Horrible, just horrible. Fire them. Jail them. Everyone I've talked to here in Alameda is ashamed of the Fire and Police Departments, their personnel, and their combined lack of response. Any one of them would have been a hero to 'break the rule'. Pussies!

Daniel G. Hayes


The 'non responders' should be arrested and tried. You may recall the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race of '98, where sailors lost their lives in the ferocious weather conditions. One civilian skipper ignored calls for help because he felt the weather conditions were too severe. If you want to discuss the matter with him, he's easy to find, because he's still in jail for not trying to help others. Jail is where these brave Alameda first responders belong.

Perry Mullinix
January's Child II, Hunter 35
San Francisco


I'm disgusted to my core, as that was the worst example of the human condition on our soil that I've ever read. As a society, we've lost all reason. I totally agree that the chief should be charged with manslaughter and the rest of the public safety people on the scene be fired. We have to turn the tide on our collective gross lack of common sense and decency.

Adrian Morgan
Motu, Cross 40

Adrian — We think everyone is so angry because the public safety folks in Alameda behaved in such an aberrant way. On June 15, a despondent man jumped off the Samoa Bridge between Eureka and Woodley Island. The Eureka Fire Department was on the scene within five minutes, and noticed the man having trouble staying afloat 50 yards from shore. Instead of watching the man drown Alameda Fire Department-style, firefighter Jason Campillo, wearing a dry suit, jumped into the water and brought the man back to shore. The man was rushed to the hospital and survived.


As an avid sailor for 63 years and a resident of Alameda for 40 years, I think the non-action by these 'heroes' on Memorial Day was unconscionable. We know that laws and policies are broken repeatedly in the name of saving a buck, but in this case nobody would break a policy to save a life. It was left to a young female civilian to do what the rest of them should have done.

The list of compensation for the entire Alameda Fire Department is public record. If you look it up, you'll see the average fireman with a high school education and five or so years in the department receives a total compensation of about $225,000 a year -— not counting retirement, starting at age 50, at nearly full salary.

By the way, about two weeks ago I was driving by the Grand Street fire station in Alameda, and observed a firefighter washing his late model Porsche — which was parked in front of the fire trucks. Were we citizens of Alameda paying him $200 an hour to wash his car?

John Selbach

John — We presume your point is that the guy washing the Porsche while on duty could have more wisely used taxpayer's money by brushing up on his wading skills. If so, we agree with you.

As for Alameda firefighter compensation, a low-end firefighter makes about $130,000 to $140,000 a year in total compensation. If a regular firefighter wants to work the overtime game, he/she can knock down $239,000 — as was proven in '06 by Louis Donati, Jr. Of course, if you want to factor in the approximately $135,000-a-year pension they are likely to collect if they retire at age 50, in that sense even basic firefighters can be viewed as making a quarter of a mil a year.

We received many more angry and disgusted letters on this subject, but have nowhere near enough room to run them all.


I read the paragraph in the June Changes about one cat owner's saildrive showing no signs of rust after the lower seals had been leaking, and letting water into the transmission oil, for six years. He had, however, been changing the oil every three months or so.

After 12 years and about 2,500 hours on the saildrive on our boat, I had to replace the lower seals due to water leaking into the transmission. While I have the transmission oil changed during each annual haulout, I didn't know the seals had been leaking until the haulout, so I had no idea how long it had been going on. But there was no sign of rust.

By the way, having had both stand-alone transmissions, and currently a saildrive, I think they are of equal quality. My saildrive is a Volvo Penta.

Myron Eisenzimmer
Mykonos, Swan 44
San Anselmo

Myron — That's great news because we always assumed that if even a little bit of water had gotten into our saildrive transmission oil we'd have to pretty quickly get our big cat to one of the few places she could be hauled out in order to change the seals. Or as Scott Stolnitz did, find a place with a big enough tidal range to ground the cat and replace the seal.

Based on our experience, we prefer regular transmissions to saildrives. In the 13.5 years we've had Profligate, we've gone through two sets of Yanmar saildrives in her 7,500 engine hours, and on the most recent set, have twice had to replace the cone clutch, which seems to be a relatively common problem on boats with saildrives. On the other hand, we've got 7,500 hours on our charter cat 'ti Profligate's regular transmissions, and to our knowledge they haven't needed any repair. And lord only knows what abuse inexperienced charter skippers have inflicted on them.


We enjoyed the May article about the three foreign exchange students from Germany who were brought together with Bay Area sailing families through the kindness of Latitude's publishing information about the Inter-Ed program administered by Cheryl Williams of Clovis.

There was actually a fourth sailing student, Isabella Ries, in the program. Known by all as Bella, and from Flintbek near Kiel where she sails with her dad on the Baltic Sea during their short summers, she was placed with our family.

While we only got Bella out on the water once during her stay — that being on May 21, when we sailed out of Benicia on our Venture 23 Clarsa — we kept her busy with camping trips, a spring break visit to Disneyland, a flight over the Bay, and a weekend at Tahoe, where we nearly got snowed in during the middle of May.

Bella consistently exhibited a maturity level beyond her 16 years, was very reliable in keeping to her arrangements, was helpful around the home, and did exceptionally well at Napa High School. As was the case with her mates in the Inter-Ed program, she was an easy keeper.

Our experience with Bella added a lot of joy to our "empty-nester" home, and we highly recommend the program to other Bay Area sailing families. We and Bella are extremely grateful to Latitude for bringing us together!

Before we took Bella to the airport for her flight back to Germany yesterday, we took one last photo as a thank you to Latitude for bringing us together. We also gave her a copy of the latest Latitude to read on the airplane.

Bill & Kathy Crowley
Clarsa, Newport 23


Being on 'the other side of the story', I must respond to Don Klein's letter in the June Latitude about his 35-lb CQR anchor.

I was on the boat anchored near his Passion in Los Frailes, and I dove the anchorage a couple of days after he left. After I found the anchor lying in the sand, I put out numerous announcements on the Ham and local nets, offering to return it to the owner. But after four months of no response, I decided to trade it.

When I made an announcement on Swaps and Trades on the local La Paz net, I heard from Don, who told me it was his anchor. He came over and offered me $25-$30, which I thought was a pretty low reward, and told him so. He got pretty upset, and took off in a huff. I then traded the anchor, and donated what I received to PATA, an animal humane service that spays and neuters cats and dogs in Santiago, Mexico.

I know that I wasn't being very 'cruiser friendly' in my actions. I guess the main reason was that Don just kinda set me the wrong way. Plus, I had carried the anchor for months, and had put the word out about it many times. I know Don is a hamster who listens to the morning nets, so he must have heard about it. In fact, his wife told me that he had seen the anchor drop off his bow when he was anchoring, and he really didn't care about it. So it kinda irks me for him to now publicly whine about it.

We, too, have saved someone from drowning, also off Los Frailes, and as a vet tech, I have assisted numerous cruisers with their pets, and I have never expected anything in return. This was just a case of a personality problem.

That's my side of the story.

Janice Hawkins
Ceilidh, Pearson 40
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Janice — You tell your side of the story very well, and with an honesty — "I wasn't being very 'cruiser friendly'" — that eliminates any aspirations you might have for political office.

If we were the judge, the fact that he didn't let you know it was his anchor for four months — he didn't make this very clear in his letter to us — would count heavily against him.


My wife and I did the '09 Ha-Ha on Willful Simplicity, our outboard-powered Catalina 27 — possibly the lightest boat to ever do the Ha-Ha. We had an absolute blast, and weathered the strong winds and big seas on the first leg just as well as the larger boats.

We have stayed in Mexico ever since, and have had nothing but positive experiences — until we arrived at Puerto Escondido, where we incurred the wrath of a single cruiser. Our problem was that we didn't follow the 'rules' this relatively newcomer gringo had set down for all the good folks at Puerto Escondido to live by. We soon discovered that all the other folks in Puerto Escondido were truly a great bunch of folks who would do anything they could to help others in need. And for free, too!

More recently, we've been in La Paz, which is the friendliest and most helpful community we've ever encountered. We've developed many close friendships.

On January 25 last year, I injured my back to the point that I was actually paralyzed. When we called Dr. Tuchmann, a local doctor, he not only came to our boat to check me out, but he absolutely went into overdrive to see that I would recover. The doctor determined that I needed to see an orthopedic surgeon, so he brought Dr. Mondragon, one of the top surgeons in Mexico, out to our boat to examine me!

To make a long story short, I had an MRI to confirm what they suspected was wrong. So they set up a surgery team of three doctors and assorted nurses to see me through six hours of complete back reconstruction surgery. I have since fully recovered, and my back is in better condition than before the surgery. What an absolutely fantastic and unbelievably positive experience — at probably one-tenth of would it would have cost in the States!

Based on my experience, the medical care in Mexico is fantastic, and puts U.S. medical care to shame. As a case in point, all the doctors I've seen in Mexico — including specialists in Guadalajara — have had us put their numbers in our cell phone so we can reach them personally, any time of day or night. And they have answered their phones each and every time we've had reason to call them. The doctors have also called other doctors to make appointments for me. I could go on and on about the quality of care.

Another high note of cruising in Mexico has been our adopted family. Actually, it's a family in the fishing village of San Evaristo 55 miles north of La Paz — and they adopted us. We generally spend December, January and February in San Evaristo, and make a monthly trip to La Paz for supplies. Our adoptive family there made us the godparents of their newest child. We have been truly honored!

We want to thank everyone at Latitude 38, and especially the publisher, for having fueled the dream for many of us with the writing in Latitude, and encouraging us that we 'can do it', no matter if our boat is large or small. We know you'll say "gashaw", but it's true.

We are loving cruising in Mexico, and plan to continue.

Steve & Charlotte Baker
Willful Simplicity, Catalina 27

Steve and Charlotte — Gashaw. But thank you very much for the kind words.


I have read different reports in Latitude comparing medical care in foreign countries to that in the United States.

I have been in the international medical business — clinical laboratory diagnostics, orthopedics, cell transplantation — for a quarter of a century and believe that I know the medical systems in foreign countries quite well. Due to my extensive and long-time travels, I also have received medical treatment abroad. Living in the United States, I am also a consumer of United States medical care — and I am making a distinction between 'medical care' as practiced by physicians and administered in hospitals versus 'health care', which encompasses all the other aspects of health, e.g. long-term care, elder care, and so forth.

To understand the medical care cruisers receive abroad and the associated costs, you have to understand the health care system. In most countries of the world — with the exception of the United States and Switzerland — there is universal health care based on insurance to which all but the most affluent must subscribe. The physicians get reimbursed by the national health care insurance. The patient never sees a bill. In some countries, the physicians get a quarterly sum for each patient who is listed with his practice. For this sum the physician has to treat the patient.

Very few patients are in the position to be privately insured because of the local laws governing health insurance. Privately insured patients or non-insured patients are directly billed by the physician at a rate which is often three times or more the rate he receives for the same treatment from the national health insurance. Those privately insured patients or patients without insurance are the money makers for the physician. That's often the icing on the financial cake — and such payments are often in cash. So, there is a two-class system of medicine: one for those with money, and one for those belonging to the national health insurance.

Cruisers fall into the category of patients with money. It is understandable that they are well-received and experience immediate treatment. In some countries there are even separate waiting rooms for these patients.

Now, lets address the treatment. What can you expect to be well-treated for when abroad? Usually the conditions which the physicians encounter daily in that area, such as staph infections in the tropical areas of the world, diarrhea, trauma, etc. But if you have diffuse abdominal pain, a broken hip or ankle, need knee replacement or involved dental treatment like a root canal or implants, I would advise you to seek medical treatment in one of the industrialized nations, such as Australia, New Zealand, Central Europe or preferably the United States. Yes, the United States, because we have the best medical care in the world — if you can afford it. Worldwide, the United States is the standard to which reference is being made, either by medical education or postdoctoral training in a speciality.

The U.S. system is expensive because of the wages, the high degree of specialization (which guarantees superior outcome), inefficiencies, and defensive medicine. With regard to the last point, in the U.S. we do two to three times the number of laboratory tests per patient compared to Germany, the country that does it at the next highest rate. Most of the tests are unnecessary, but are required as defensive tools should a complication arise. If they're not done, the lawyers will point to substandard treatment and ask for a large compensation.

Just one more point of reference: In the United States, we spend about 16-17% of Gross Domestic Product on health care versus 6-7% in Germany. France, the United Kingdom and Japan are all lower.

My message to cruisers who need medical care abroad: enjoy the low cost, choose well what you want to have done, and keep in mind you have always a fall back position to the best place for medical care — home in the United States.

Richard Leute, Ph.D.
Acey Deucy, J/44

Richard — We'll agree that if money is no object and you're far enough up in the elite to be treated by the best doctors in New York City and several other centers, you're probably going to be availing yourself of the best medical treatment in the world. Unfortunately, most cruisers can't afford the best doctors, even in the unlikely event they have the connections to gain access to them.

Based on our experience, we've found any correlation between expensive health care — such as in the United States — and successful outcomes to be suspect at best. We once suffered a nasty ankle injury. Despite the considerable pain, we called the hospital to ask when they'd be the least busy, believing that we'd get the best treatment then. We showed up at 7 a.m. the next morning, as advised. We were diagnosed as having a sprained ankle, and had the x-rays reviewed by a specialist. When things didn't get better after 10 days, we visited another doctor. Looking at the very same x-ray from a distance of about 10 feet, he said, "Well, you obviously have a broken ankle."

On another occasion, we were diagnosed as having a herniated disc by the Navy hospital in La Paz, at which point they medicated us and put us on a stretcher for a flight to LAX. We were taken to the L.A. Orthopaedic Hospital, where the doctor's diagnosis, as explained to our then-wife, was: "He's faking it." It was weeks of extreme pain before we were able to see another doctor who, although not a big believer in surgery, highly recommended that we go under the knife that evening. Thank god we did.

We're not going to slag all U.S. doctors, as we think there are many excellent ones, and that many of them got into the field more to serve than to profit. But unlike people in the medical field such as yourself, we and most other readers get treated by average U.S. doctors. In our opinion, and that of a lot of nurses we know, there are many doctors in Mexico and other countries that are just as good as, if not better than, those in the U.S. and Canada. And more importantly, these Third World doctors seem to be more personally involved with their patients. We hear this again and again.

While it's true that we've gotten a couple of cruiser reports of substandard medical treatment, the overwhelming number of reports rave about the high quality of the care, the low cost, and the much more personal attention.

For what it's worth, we're convinced that single-payer health care is the best possible system. But only in theory, as the United States government has become so inefficient, incompetent and corrupt — as the heavily subsidized U.S. Post Office's inability to compete with FedEx so well demonstrates — that we fear the cure would be worse than the disease.


Now that we've started our second cruise, this time on a Spindrift 43 monohull rather than the Wildcat 35 catamaran we did our circumnavigation on, much of my writing over the next few weeks is going to revolve around comparing our monohull with our catamaran.

Nobody ever goes from owning a catamaran to a monohull. It's unheard of. And, it turns out, for good reason. The fact of the matter is that cats are better. They are also three times as expensive. Not twice as expensive, but three times. So after 33,000 miles going around the world on our cat, and 100 miles on a monohull, my advice is this: If you can afford the cat without delaying your trip or cutting into the time you will be able to spend out cruising, then by all means, buy that dream cat of yours. But if you can buy the monohull and get out cruising now as opposed to having to spend a couple more years working to buy the cat, then just get the mono and get out there. It's as simple as that.

Our Spindrift 43 monohull isn't nearly as comfortable on the water as was our cat. At least in today's conditions. We had a big swell on our beam most of the day, which caused us to roll around quite a bit. The cat would have floated up and over these swells without our even noticing. Once the wind was dead behind us, our monohull actually rode nearly as nicely as our cat would have. But every few minutes, a wave would catch her just a little off, and throw us a little to the side, causing a nice big roll from one side to the other, then and back again. The boat does roll nice and slowly though, leaving us enough time to support ourselves before she completes the process.

Overall, I didn't hate the motion nearly as much as I'd expected to. In fact, I didn't really mind it at all. Ali, who is pregnant, did really well, too. Although she once laughed at the motion and said, "This is stupid." I think that sums up the motion of a monohull in one simple sentence.

As for our 18-month-old Ouest, she didn't care. We had to keep one hand on her at all times, because she isn't really understanding what is happening yet. But I did see her brain working a couple of times when she decided to crawl for something rather than stand up and walk. She'll get it.

What else did we learn our first day out? We figured out that we need plates and bowls with rubber bottoms on them to keep from sliding all over. We learned that in rolly seas, Ali will not be cooking anything on the stove. I figured out that peeing off a monohull is not nearly as easy as peeing off a cat.

We found that Ali did a good job of organizing the boat, as we didn't have anything fly out of cabinets, and when we did open cabinets to get something, nothing fell on us.

I also learned why monohull sailors are so worried about safety. It's because these rolly beasts are not nearly as safe and secure as a cat. You really do need to have one hand holding onto the boat at all times because at any second she can roll and send you running full speed across to the other side. With the cat, we could wander around on deck as if we were on land — even in rough seas.

I also discovered that we need a dodger, if for no other reason than as a place to attach handholds. I have also discovered that having a dodger — even one with windows — is going to completely obliterate any view we have from the cockpit.

But most of all, we figured out that cat or mono, it doesn't really make much difference — as long as we are out here. Cruising along the wild California coast, watching the swells smash against the rocks on shore, watching the dolphins play around us, and watching my daughter stare through the netting at the water rushing past her makes it all worthwhile no matter what kind of boat we're on.

Pat & Ali Schulte
Bumfuzzle, Spindrift 43
Minneapolis, MN


As Latitude knows, it's a very good idea to go through the Panama Canal as a line-handler before transiting with your own boat. The practice run gives you a feel for the trip and, as you again know, going through as skipper is way too stressful to be enjoyable.

We hung around the yacht club for several days before getting a ride, and were lucky in that we knew a number of people who were making transits. I'm not sure how much luck backpackers would have landing line-handler positions. One of the boats we knew was owned by a singlehander who is a frequent contributor to another U.S. sailing magazine, and who asked us to come with him.

This singlehander was not really prepared to have four people — all boats making a transit must have a helmsman and four line-handlers — spend the night on his boat in Gatun Lake. For example, he ran out of water — something you really need in Panama — on the second day. We also learned that dogs don't like strangers on their boat, especially at night. And, that nobody likes cockroaches scuttling over their bodies in the dark. In other words, don't be overly keen to get on just any boat. Carefully evaluate the skipper and boat before agreeing to go along.

We learned the following as well: It's very scary going into a lock behind a ship, and being caught in the turbulence when it leaves the lock. Spray yourself with mosquito repellent before going into the lock, as it's hot and there's no wind down there. Cover solar panels and other delicate items with cockpit cushions and other protection. The monkey fists thrown down are heavy and will break a panel. Don't assume that your pilot/advisor is competent. If you tie alongside another yacht, you are relying on the skipper and crew of that boat to keep your boat off the harsh lock walls. Lastly, we were very surprised at how scenic the Canal is, as other than going up or down in the locks, you motor nearly 30 miles across a jungle forest that is half-flooded by a man-made lake.

After a lot of thought, we decided to pay an agent to do our paperwork, even though it cost a lot more. One reason is that the lines and fenders were included in the price, and we wouldn't have to take the lines back to Colon. In addition, it allowed us to clear out of Panama from Colon without having to do more paperwork in Panama City. And I believe that having an agent meant we got a quicker transit.

By the way, Jetti Matzke and I are back in Oakland for a few days, having spent our third winter sailing in the Bahamas. But we're about to drive up to British Columbia for six months of sailing there. No matter where we go, we read Latitude and 'Lectronic online.

Richard Woods
Woods Designs

Richard — At the risk of sounding like a pompous ass, we took our Ocean 71 Big O through the Canal without doing a practice run as a line-handler, and didn't find it any more stressful than a lot of things we've done in sailing. The only part we didn't enjoy was when Don Antonio des Mortes, our captain, refused to heed the Canal Authority's insistence that we spend the night at Gatun Lake.

"No," he told the Authority over the VHF, "we're going to do the transit in one day, and I'm turning off the VHF so the matter can't be discussed any further." We fully expected to be arrested and have our boat impounded when we got to the Miraflores Lock. Not only did we not get arrested, but a Canal pilot happily sent us a photo he'd taken of Don Antonio doing another unthinkable thing — passing the ship the pilot was commanding in the narrow Gaillard Cut. How Don Antonio was always able to get away with stuff like that is beyond us.

We also did a transit with Profligate, and it's our feeling that the most important thing in a transit is that the line-handlers — both on the boat and on shore — pay attention.

We've used agents to do the paperwork for a Canal transit, and we've done it ourself with the help of taxi drivers. For those who have more time than money and enjoy adventure, we recommend the latter.


It would come as no surprise to Latitude readers that the business of selling boats this past couple of years has been grim. So it seems worth mentioning that, in the past six weeks, I've seen evidence of a real turnaround. I work at West Coast Multihulls in San Diego, and in the last six weeks we've sold the following multihulls: a 2000 Privilege 37, a 2008 Seawind 1000XL, a 2011 Lagoon 400, a 1991 Corsair F-27 and a 2007 Corsair Sprint 750. Too bad the Privilege 49 I had listed burned in Turtle Bay last fall, or I could have sold that, too. I found it interesting that buyers of both the Privilege and the Seawind intend to cruise Alaska.

We're also making changes for what would have been our Sixth Annual Seawind Rally to Catalina on August 18-21. Previously it was only open to Seawind cats, but this year we're opening the rally up to all multihulls, and are therefore looking for a new name for the event. We'll keep you posted.

Monte Cottrell
San Diego


Unless I forgot someone, there were 17 of us who descended on Antigua for Antigua Sailing Week to celebrate life, boats, and my birthday. We headquartered at the Catamaran Hotel and, fittingly enough, rented an Island Spirit 40 catamaran — Free Spirit 2 — and moored her in the immediately adjacent marina. There were four solo men in our group, so the cat became their quarters. It was there, I heard, the rumored trouble with rum began.

We went sailing every day to catch the start of the daily races, then it was off to swim, sail some more, and drink rum. The racing was excellent. We primarily rooted for Jaguar, a Frers 43 that was berthed just down the dock from us. It was fairly windy for the Wednesday race, and we saw two or three spinnakers get shredded. It was a pretty exciting sight.

Each evening we'd go down to Nelson’s Dockyard or a party up at Shirley Heights. Nelson's Dockyard, an impressive and intact Georgian-era English boatyard, easily brought back memories of pirate times — except for the long quay of high-tech Swans docked side-by-side. The locals couldn’t have been nicer, and they had tents set up where they sold wonderful fish, BBQ and cold beers. The best meal of the trip, and there were many excellent meals, was the 'tasting menu' we pulled together from as many of the vendors as we could manage.

The raucous parties weren’t as wild as their reputation, but perhaps we missed some of them because we were celebrating a birthday of a really big number, and, of course, there was the trouble with rum. There is a rumor that drinking it can make you sleepy.

Anyway, hats off to the Antigua Race Committee, the Catamaran Hotel, and Horizon Yachts for an excellent pirate adventure.

David Younkman
Falls Church, VA

David — This year's was the 44th Annual Antigua Sailing Week, an event that back in the day — meaning the late '80s and early '90s — established the gold standard for wild regattas in the tropics, with nearly 250 entries. We did six of them with Big O, and will never forget the challenging racing or the outrageous parties.

Then, for whatever reason, Sailing Week seemed to slip a bit, at least compared with the growing Heineken Regatta in St. Martin and the Antigua Classic Regatta. It took a real punch a few years ago with the big slump in the world economy. There have been some changes to the event since, notably that all the races are now held on the south coast of the island instead of being around-the-island races, and the overnights in Dickenson Bay and Jolly Harbor. And as opposed to the wet t-shirt contests and wild freestyle partying each night around all the race venues, this year Maxi Priest put on a show up at beautiful Shirley Heights for an appreciative crowd of 2,000. Best of all, we're told that the once-tense vibe around English Harbor has mellowed out a lot.

Anyone wishing to get an idea of the spectacular tropical sailing conditions to be found off of Antigua should go to the Sailing Week website and check out the videos. Good stuff.


Naysayers Beware!

How dare Latitude demean the mighty Catalina Island, whose muses always lure us to her shores?

Having spent much time sailing our Cal 20, then Cal 25, then Newport 28, to every possible harbor and anchorage on both sides of Catalina for over 10 years, I can attest to its many gorgeous coves and diving spots.

I guess the real secret is to escape during the week, as Southern California's masses seek refuge at the island on weekends. Of course, much depends on who your crewmates are, what you bring to eat, and what activities you plan.

We've taken newborns — two weeks old — to the island, bringing the playpen in the dinghy. Our sons grew up sailing to the island, and still enjoy it.

The Channel Islands provide even more exploring and fun! There is a pure treasure trove at our beck and call. So heed to it, matey, and explore life all the more!

Christine Thomas
Southern California

Christine — We bet you can't wait for Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is September 19.

You almost make it sound as if we wrote something negative about Catalina and the Channel Islands. Why you would think that is a mystery to us. Up until last year, Profligate spent much of each summer on the hook at Harbor Reef just off the Isthmus. While the water at Catalina is a little cold after the tropics, the hiking on the island is fabulous, as is exploring all the little coves in the dinghy. Weekdays were quiet enough to get lots of work done, either using a modem on the boat or the wi-fi in the restaurant garden patio area, which was very quiet in the afternoon. And it seemed as if you were a million miles from urban California. Thursday through Sunday afternoons were pleasantly crowded, with live music, dancing, sports on all the bar televisions, and all the BBQs blazing. Two Harbors is just fine with us, offering a whole lot of nature, with the basic conveniences — internet, showers, laundry, store, restaurant, bar, and BBQ pits. Avalon, about seven miles down the coast, is normally too touristy for our taste, but it's fun now and again, and it has a well-stocked grocery for a better selection than Two Harbors.

As for the other Channel Islands, the water may unfortunately be on the cold side, but there is so much to explore. Uninhabited Santa Cruz, for example, has 77 miles of pristine coastline waiting for surfers, divers, hikers, and nature lovers. There is no landing fee on any of these islands, except at the Nature Conservancy's 75% portion of Santa Cruz Island, which costs $30 a boat per day or $70 a year.



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