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March 2012

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Holy crap, what a set of big ones Alex Thomson has! I'm referring to the February 3 'Lectronic video of him standing on the canting keel — in a suit, no less — while his Finot-Conq designed IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss was hauling ass. It's a great future ad for a local hull cleaning company . . . scrub your keel on the way to the finish line.

Bill Kelly
Surface Time, Four Winns
Rio Vista

Bill — It's was quite a stunt, even for the swashbuckling 37-year-old Brit. But Thomson, the head of Alex Thomson Racing, is that kind of guy. If we're not mistaken, he still owns the record for the best 24-hour run, 468 miles, by a solo monohull sailor. That's an average of 19.5 knots.

Apparently he attempted the same stunt a while back, but skeptics accused him of Photoshopping it. So this time his team filmed it. It wasn't easy to pull off, as Hugo Boss driver Ross Daniel needed 17 to 19 knots of wind and less than three-foot seas to heel the boat between 45 and 70 degrees (!) to get the four-ton keel sufficiently out of the water for the required 45 seconds. Ironically, the boat needed to be going a relatively pedestrian nine knots.


I have a problem with bugs! I stored my Islander Freeport sailboat on the hard at Napa Valley Marina a year ago, then relaunched her last month. When I relaunched her, she was infested with little black bugs. The folks at the marina said they were "grass flies" and would disappear in two to six weeks. I sure hope they're right.
I worked very hard for eight days to rid my boat of these pests, and I thought I had it pretty well nailed. But I just discovered a new area of infestation — the drum of my roller furler!

I'm beginning to get a bit discouraged. All right, maybe even a lot discouraged. Anybody else have info on these little guys?

Len Teasley
Sea Quins, Islander Freeport 41
Brickyard Cove / Richmond YC

Len — Just make sure they are not Pinot Noir flies from the renowned Carneros wine region vineyards just a winch handle's toss from the boatyard. Unlike grass flies, the Pinot Noir flies leave lots of red spots that are hard to remove.


Now that the dust has settled after the first round of planning for long-term development of the San Francisco waterfront under the America’s Cup Host Agreement — see the January 25 'Lectronic story “Supes Certify AC34 EIR” — it is disturbing to see that while the current proposed deal provides many important direct benefits — benefits running into the tens of millions of dollars — to the Port and the City of San Francisco, the deal provides few, if any, direct benefits to support recreational boating on the Bay. The Port’s recent CEQA findings nicely sum up the benefits for recreational boating by noting the deal would “generate interest in the sport” of sailing.

While the arrival of the race is very exciting and the additional interest in the sport is a welcome benefit, the City and Port of San Francisco are not able to meet the current interest in recreational boating. There are no public boatyard facilities in the City this side of the Bay Bridge. And the estimated wait for a berth at the City’s two public marinas is close to a decade.

To make matters worse, the public facilities to support small recreational boating are rapidly disappearing. The ongoing renovation of San Francisco Marina calls for the near total elimination of facilities for small boats at that marina. All 39 of the 20-ft slips are being eliminated, as well as 200 of the 25-ft slips, and 26 of the 30-ft slips, while the number of 40- and 45-ft slips is being roughly doubled.

In this light, the proposed vision to award long-term development rights that would dedicate the development of permanent marinas under the America’s Cup Host Agreement to only super yachts at Piers 30/32 (slips running 50-200 feet) and large boats at Pier 54 (slips running 25-50 feet) is a vision that does not seem to meet the full spectrum of need.

An important hearing and possible vote was tentatively scheduled for February 15 by the Budget and Finance Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on a proposed Disposition and Development Agreement that will flesh out details of the deal. I urge boaters to speak up, particularly those who want to see the vision for development of permanent marinas under the America’s Cup enlarged to include small recreational boating. Consider writing or picking up the phone and calling the Budget Committee members: Supervisors Avalos, Chu and Kim.

Hunter Cutting
Dona Mae, Olson 25
San Francisco

Hunter — While the deadline has passed for the February 15 meeting, we thought it was nonetheless worthwhile to note your opinions on the various matters.

Our thoughts? 1) While getting the Board of Supes to certify the Environmental Impact Report was important, it was a necessary but not sufficient step for the America's Cup to happen. 2) Some land uses are more intelligent than others. The San Francisco Cityfront isn't a good place for a boatyard because the land is too expensive, which would therefore make haulouts too expensive. 3) Interest in small boat sailing, as opposed to sailing boats over 35 feet, has plummeted over the last 20 years. Reconfiguring San Francisco's marinas to accommodate more larger boats is a change that should have been made a long time ago. 4) The long waiting list for a slip in San Francisco is a function of the City's not wanting to price out middle income sailors. If the City were willing to let the marina charge what the market would bear — probably $25/ft/month — they could still fill the berths. The problem is that then only the most wealthy of the most wealthy could afford to keep a boat in San Francisco, and the City — congrats — wants to avoid that. 5) If San Francisco wants a great tourist attraction, they should build a big marina for megayachts where everyone could come and gawk and where all the owners could show off. This is what's done in St. Tropez, Antibes, Monaco and much of Europe, and it draws the curious and envious like flies to poop. Alas, approving such a thing would be political suicide in San Francisco, no matter how much money it could bring in or how many jobs it could generate. And to give you an idea of what kind of money we're talking about, we're told that it costs about $30,000 a month to stern-tie a 130-ft motoryacht in St. Martin. Real megayachts probably pay well in excess of $50,000 a month. Money streams out of these megayachts like radiation from a nuclear reactor after a meltdown.

Unless we're badly misinformed, there are ample berthing opportunities for sailboats under 30 feet with easy access to the Central Bay, just not in the City. Realistically, we think that's the best you can hope for in such an urban area.


Members of the Singlehanded Sailing Society's Three Bridge Fiasco fleet got a 40-minute berating from the race committee at the February 8 awards ceremony for having sailed into the restricted zone at Richmond Long Wharf during the Fiasco. We got chewed out for not doing the "Corinthian thing," which would have been to retire from the race after sailing into the restricted areas.

First of all, the Greeks are in a heap of shit right now, and I don't think we should be doing anything Corinthian or we will likely end up like them. Second, not all of us sailed into the restricted zones, so I wish they would have not included us in those they were scolding. In any event, it sure left everyone in a somber mood at what was supposed to be a celebratory occasion.

We also felt gypped that, after 334 skippers spent $60 to enter the Fiasco, we only got one trophy for one of the largest doublehanded races in the world. What's worse is that only the skipper was called up for the prizegiving. What is the crew on a doublehanded boat, chopped liver?

I know that times are tough and all that, but one $5 trophy for the winner of a 30-boat fleet? What that's about? My sailing partner Bart Hackworth and I were feeling bad until we got up the resolve to get even. So after about five minutes in the garage, our one trophy became two. One half of the original says 'First', the other half says 'Place'.

I spoke with the SSS officials and suggested that if they don't want to have such a big event, they should limit the entries to a number they can handle in their folksy way. Or they should spend some of that freeeeaaaaking entry fee money on their own RIB to enforce the no-fly zone around the wharf. It seems so simple, but they really can act like a bunch of folks who only sail by themselves. Oh wait . . . .

Simon Winer
Gruntled, Moore 24
Pt. Richmond

Simon — If it would make you feel any better, we'll award you a $5 trophy for what we've always thought was perhaps the best boat name ever. And you don't even have to pay an entry fee.


You have to be making up the letter from Robert Lockwood as a ploy to increase circulation, right? After all, it's 2012 for chrissakes! Yet he writes that the humble bikini is the cause of "legal murder by abortion, same sex marriage, Obama, perverts, overcrowded jails, an economic mess like never before and unemployment without solution."

Don't tell Lockwood, but my wife Debbie points out the babes I miss. Great sport. And the new look is see-through outfits with bikinis underneath and mega high rise heels! Gotta love it, but I guess I'll be going straight from St. Barth to hell.

Speaking of St. Barth, we just can't seem to get out of here. Having given up the idea of going to Los Roques because it would mean having to beat back to the Windwards at this time of year, we'll probably still be here for Carnival on February 22.

I'm having a particularly bad back episode at the moment, so we are really enjoying the calm of the inner harbor moorings, aka the 'Trailer Park'. Ira Epstein of Bolinas is here for yet another year with his Robert Clark 65-ft Lone Fox, which took top honors at Antigua Classic Regatta last year, and there has been a Murderer's Row of other beautiful wooden boats. W, the schooner Juno, and another killer mega schooner with a Belgian flag left yesterday. I think her name is It's Our Life or some other strange thing.

Greg Dorland
Escapade, Catana 52
Lake Tahoe

Greg — People think Latitude is full of made-up letters, but it's not. If you doubt us, tell us which letter you think is a phoney and we'll have a little bet on it. In the case of Lockwood, he's practically become our pen pal.

On December 12, he wrote to say beachfront food prices at Punta Mita were "San Francisco," and that we couldn't get a good meal there for seven bucks. We hadn't been writing about the beachfront restaurants, most of which are geared to the Four Seasons crowd, not cruisers. We were writing about the likes of the very popular Como No?, which is our Punta Mita 'regular', and where you sure as heck can get a great dinner in a beautifully designed, sparkling clean restaurant with great food and impeccable service for $7. In fact, we're not sure there's anything on the menu for more than that.

On January 6, he wrote the letter about the bikini. Seems like a bit of a fashion leap to us.

On January 13, Lockwood graciously wrote to say "although it is your call, I would think you would be reporting on her [singlehanded solo circumnavigator Laura Dekker's] activity, not editing it because of your personal spin."

On January 27, he wrote to say, "You don't know your readers very well. You and your close friends may like to see 'topless' but I think most (real) men like to see class, and class is not topless." Actually, we do know our readers really well, and most of them, being men, would like to see a lot more topless shots. As soon as they send in photos of their girlfriends and wives topless, we'll run them.

On January 30, he wrote to inform us that our "editorials are beginning to sound like Ann Landers." Maybe Lockwood doesn't know that there were more than three 'Ann Landers': Ruth Crowly, a Chicago nurse who did it for nine years, Connie Chancellor and several others who did it for a few months, and Esther Lederer who did it until she died in '02. And no, we don't think we sound as if we're speaking from the grave.

On February 6, we got the most puzzling Lockwood missive of all. "Your article in the February issue of Latitude was a really a good piece. Without it, we would know very little of what is going on. If there is any place that can screw this kind of thing up, it is San Francisco." We're not sure, but we think he was talking about the America's Cup. Anyway, we enjoy his letters and wish him well.

As we write our response to your letter, we're at the great new docks of the beautiful Bitter End YC in Gorda Sound, which is graciously playing host to us. St. Barth is but 90 upwind and up-current miles from us, and there's a great weather window to cross the Anegada Passage tomorrow morning, so we're as excited as a five-year-old on Christmas Eve.

The "killer mega schooner" whose name you're trying to remember is the gorgeous Hoek-designed This Is Us. Because she's 'only' 125-ft, she's a mini-maxi schooner compared to the likes of the 169-ft Meteor and others. The captain of This is Us is Robin Winn, a good friend of Doña de Mallorca from her days working on yachts in the Med and at the super-popular bar in Palma de Mallorca called — we're not making this up — Latitude 39. We're big enough Mark Knopfler fans to have asked Robin if the boat was named after the duet Knopfler did with Emmylou Harris. For once we were right. The song is a rockin' 4 minutes and 17 seconds about two people who have been in love with each other for all their adult lives. It sounds treacly, but it's not, so yeah, it's on our iPad.


It isn't just yacht delivery companies that pressure captains to keep to a schedule, it happens with shipping companies, too. My brother-in-law resigned from a shipping company after they told him to cross the North Atlantic in a coaster during the middle of winter. The ship got caught in ice and the crew was lucky to survive.

You may think that such dangerous voyages are limited by the IMO (International Maritime Organization), the United Nations agency charged with being responsible for safety at sea, the security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. Well, laws and regulations are made to be broken.

My brother-in-law was the chief engineer, so he was the one who had to work out how to stop the stern door — it was a Ro-Ro — from leaking after ice damaged it. They also lost all their fresh water when the ice floes on deck snapped off the swan necks of the water breathers for the tanks.

I believe the ship was sailing under a flag of convenience rather than the U.S. flag. The captain and my brother-in-law were the only English speakers, so my BIL said it was like sailing singlehanded — he's a very experienced catamaran sailor — because he had nobody to talk to as he and the captain stood watch at different times.

Richard Woods
Richard Woods Catamaran Designs

Richard — The part we don't get is where you think an individual's personal responsibility should come into play. After all, it's not as if your brother-in-law were in the military, where if he refused orders he'd be thrown into the brig or shot. Presumably your brother-in-law was knowledgeable enough about the vessel and the North Atlantic in winter to know such a voyage was unsafe. If so, why did he wait until he was nearly killed to resign?

The 'other side of the story' is that yacht delivery captains don't always exercise good judgment. For instance, there is the case of the Reliance Yacht Delivery skipper who was killed when the Lagoon 380 he was bringing across the Atlantic in the middle of winter flipped in 45-ft seas 200 miles from Bermuda. This happened two months before Reliance delivery skipper John Anstess and his two crew were killed when the Voyager 440 Cat Shot they were delivering flipped off the Oregon coast. That two of Reliance's boats were lost in such a short period of time has been cited by some as evidence that Reliance pressured skippers to take unnecessary risks.

However, an individual with intimate knowledge of the loss of the Lagoon 380 says the delivery skipper knew all along that Annapolis was the ultimate transAtlantic destination, and that many people were shocked when the delivery skipper insisted on taking a direct route across the Atlantic. When it came to winter Atlantic crossings, previous Reliance delivery skippers had taken a safer more southerly route to Miami, then used weather windows to harbor-hop up to Annapolis. Inexperience on the part of the other two crew has also been tossed out as a contributing cause of the tragedy. With the captain crashed out from fatigue, the inexperienced crew reportedly sailed the boat beam to 45-ft seas!

The same individual with intimate knowledge of that tragedy recalls that another Reliance delivery skipper made a huge blunder and lost yet another cat during what was supposed to be the delivery of a Privilege 51 catamaran from Tahiti to Barcelona. Despite the fact that the Galapagos wasn't on the way and the captain didn't have proper charts, he decided to visit the islands made famous by Charles Darwin. During an ill-advised nighttime approach, the skipper drove the catamaran onto a reef, ripping off both rudders. We're told the cat was totally stripped by dawn. "The entire galley had been cut out in one piece and removed, the hulls had been cut open so the engines could be removed out the sides, and there was not a piece of metal left, not a winch, windlass, stanchion or head sink," says our source.

The point we're trying to make is that delivery skippers aren't always or necessarily victims of the companies for which they work. Being a delivery skipper is a very demanding job, one that requires good judgment and the willingness to accept personal responsibility.


In my 40 years of 'messing about in boats', personally and professionally, the weather conditions extant on the intended route have always been in the forefront of my voyage plan. My consistent advice to cruisers is never let some artificial deadline outweigh the weather enroute when planning the next, or first, leg of a voyage.

The most famous case of someone from the head office negatively impacting a voyage plan is none other than J. Bruce Ismay's pressure, subtle or not, on Captain Smith to make a record passage on the RMS Titanic. Ismay was the president and managing director of the White Star Line, which operated the ship. Ismay survived the disaster by helping man one of the lifeboats filled with women and children.

I'm sure that yacht delivery companies consistently make promises to owners, which the delivery captain is stuck with making good on. The mantra at the company with whom I spent the bulk of my career moving ships between the States and Asia was, "If the cargo's not moving, the ship must be."

I strenuously questioned this mantra as part of my findings when asked to look into the root causes for why several of our ships had collided with fishing boats during foggy conditions. Our captains had felt the subtle, yet omnipresent, pressure of schedule sanctity forced them to go too fast in foggy conditions. Once I presented my preliminary findings to my boss, I received a call within hours from one senior VP to draft a letter for his signature stating that schedule sanctity was secondary to safety. This was done, and it was sent to all ships to be posted in the wheelhouse.

The point is that the captain has the ultimate responsibility for the safe passage, a responsibility that cannot be delegated or subsumed to some subtle pressure, real or imagined.

Gary M. Schmidt
Syzygy, Beneteau First 345
Bainbridge Island, WA

Readers — Schmidt's saying that he's 'messed around in boats' for 40 years is putting it mildly. After being the captain of a 900-ft container ship that rescued more than one sailor in distress off the California coast, Schmidt invited us along for an 18-hour run from Los Angeles to the Port of Oakland. It was one of the most memorable experiences of our life. Anyway, we agree with his last paragraph so much that we're repeating it:

"The point is that the captain has the ultimate responsibility for the safe passage, a responsibility that cannot be delegated or subsumed to some subtle pressure, real or imagined."

In other words, if you don't have the cojones to tell management when a voyage is not safe enough to undertake, you have no right being a captain. It's like being a pilot of a loaded 747. Sure, all the passengers, and surely the management, want you to get them to their vacation spot on schedule, but if the conditions for landing aren't safe, it's your responsibility as the pilot to not give in to pressure.


The idea that anyone other than the captain is responsible for the safety of his vessel and crew is ludicrous. But equally stupid is the British Registrar who found no fault with the skipper of the vessel who took off into very bad weather.

Joseph Helfand
Jolin, Nonsuch 30

Joseph — The British Registrar has a typical legal mind, apparently unable to comprehend the finality of nature. You can't contest a wave flipping a boat and killing the crew, nor can you appeal it to a higher court. That's why a captain, not someone thousands of miles away, has to be in charge.


Sorry to be a bother, but the first photo in February 10's 'Lectronic doesn't show Horst Wolff and Julia Shovein's Island Packet 35 Pacific Star at St. Katherine's Dock in London. For the architecture, it looks much more like the coast of Normandy in France.

Moe Kafka
Richmond / La Rochelle

Moe — Our editorial staff was tripped up by a caption from the photographer that could be taken several different ways. You're correct, the photo is actually of Honfleur, France.

By the way, we realize that Franz Kafka probably isn't a member of the family tree, but we remember laughing when reading his claim that "God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them." We always marveled at how many ways that could be taken and how Zen it seemed.


I think the photo in the February 10 'Lectronic that you described as Cinque Terre, Italy, was actually Portovenere, which is south of the five villages that make up the famous Cinque Terre region. The reason I remember is because of all the colorful buildings I saw there a few years ago.

Ken Reynoldson

Ken — "Colorful buildings" are not unique to Portovenere, as they can be found all up and down the Italian Riviera. Even ultra dolce vita Portofino has them, and much of the color is due to — gasp! — faux shutters and such. Charming as these little towns are, in the light of day, all the faux makes them look almost like Hollywood stage sets.

The photo was taken in Honfleur, France, at the confluence of the tidal Seine and the English Channel on the Normandy coast. Not to sound too snooty, but we know it's not a photo of Portovenere because we were at Portovenere for the launching of Tom Perkins' 289-ft Maltese Falcon. Wow, did he ever put on a light show the night the great yacht was suddenly illuminated for all to see!


Good article in the January 25 'Lectronic on the dangers of the Italian government imposing high taxes on yachts, foreign and domestic, starting in May. I hope a lot of folks read it.

Are you interested in running for governor? I think you regularly display a hell of a lot more sense than Mr, Brown, such as in his brilliant move of putting thousands of people out of work through abolishing the redevelopment agencies.

Keith Brown
Daisy, Fairchild 30
San Francisco

Keith — For those who didn't read the 'Lectronic, starting on May 1 the Italian government will levy a daily tax on all yachts, ranging from $312 a month for 40-footers to $1,200 a month for 70-footers. Although as Dave Wallace of Air Ops pointed out, there are discounts for sailboats and older boats. Nevertheless, our fear for beleaguered Italy is that the tax will drive foreign boatowners to nearby places such as France, Greece and Croatia. And that the tax will discourage Italians from buying boats, and undercut the Italian boatbuilding industry, which is significant. We foresee a big net loss.

Sorry, but we can't accept the office of governor. For us, it's benevolent dictator or nothing.

By the way, not all jobs lost to redevelopment agency programs were good ones. For example, many of the projects were self-indulgent and unneeded ones that merely took taxpayer money and put it into the hands of politicians and Krony Kapitalists, and saddled cities — meaning taxpayers — with debt they couldn't afford. And in the case of spectacularly misgoverned cities such as Oakland, redevelopment agency money was used to pay the salaries of regular city workers. In other words, it was sort of like borrowing money to buy income property but actually using it to hire your cousin's daughter to be your servant.


I really liked your January 25 'Lectronic comment that "Governor Brown's suggesting tax increases, as opposed to cutting graft and wretched spending excess, and nixing the plans to spend $100 billion on a choo-choo to nowhere" is ridiculous. I cannot tell you how much I agree, as $100 billion for high speed rail is beyond comprehension. It would never be able to sustain itself, and we, our kids, and our grandkids would be paying for the misguided idea for generations. The amount of graft and misspent funds in this state is unbelievable.

Doug Robbins
San Francisco

Doug — So we can count on your support in our efforts to become benevolent dictator?


Gary Kahler's letter about how much 'fun' it is to shop for an outboard in Mexico brought back a fond memory. After the '98 Ha-Ha, and after 18 months cruising up and down the wonderful Pacific Coast of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez, our little Johnson 4-hp finally gave up the ghost. We were in Zihuatanejo at the time and were in a hurry to get to Acapulco where we were assured we could buy a replacement.

Sure enough, the store out in front of the Acapulco YC had a Mercury 8-hp longshaft for sale. It was too big, at $1,899 too expensive, and we didn't want a long shaft. So after visiting a few more stores that couldn't help me, I finally found one where they said they could get me a 5-hp shortshaft in a few days. Not through Mexico City, but through Guadalajara. There would be no import duty, no mordida, and the price sounded good to me. Then El Señor said, "Money in advance."

After more shopping around, and after a few beers, I decided what the hell. With all the great experiences we'd had in Mexico up until then, I figured we should trust the guy. Besides, we still had a lot of cruising to do, and my wife didn't like to row.

I was able to coax enough money out of various ATMs and returned to the store to fork over the $1,200, second thoughts notwithstanding. I got a receipt and a smile, and was told to come back in three days. Upon return, El Señor hit me with an apology before I could even say hello. My outboard was not enroute, he told me, but was in Mexico City after all, and was awaiting clearance into the country. So El Señor suggested that I return in four or five more days and see what happened.

Acapulco was not one of our favorite landfalls, and we were in a hurry to get to Huatulco, but the beaches, the buses, and the cliff divers kept us occupied until I returned to the store. When I got there, I was told, "There is no outboard for you. We don't know what happened".

"Fine," I said, "here's my receipt. Just give me my money back and we'll be on our way."

"Sorry, señor," the clerk replied, "the boss is gone and we have no money here. But he'll be back this evening and you can talk to him then. I will advise him of the problem."

I returned that evening, fully expecting the worst. Instead, with almost no words spoken, a man handed me a paper bag. I looked inside at a big wad of bills. It sure looked like $1,200, and a quick count proved it to be accurate to the dollar.

We now have an $1,899 long shaft that we bought at the first store we visited.

Diana & Bill Barash
Diana B, Cal 39
San Rafael by way of Morro Bay


It's a perfect winter day here in Santa Barbara. We had southerly winds, then heavy drizzle for 12 hours last night. I woke up to gentle west winds and light coming through dry clouds, and am presently enjoying bright blue everywhere in 20+ knots of westerly with no more clouds. It's a crisp, dry, sparkly day — you know the type. But it's definitely not as warm here as places south of the 'Tropic of Taurus'.

I'm going to Santa Barbara today to buy an iPad for writing. What dictation/writing program do you use? The local iGeniuses haven't been very helpful.

Mike Pyzel
Caballo Blanco, Cal 28

Readers — Normally we wouldn't answer a non-sailing question like this, but Mike was one of those brave souls who did the original Singlehanded TransPac in '79 and, with the Cal 28 (modified) that he still owns, has made more than 650 trips between Santa Cruz Island and Santa Barbara. And for the last several decades he's been a respected marine surveyor.

People can call us a fanboy all they want, but we're nuts about our iPad. In fact, if they offered an iPad with a vagina, we might get married for the third time.

In order to effectively type on an iPad, we think an aftermarket keyboard is needed, some of which fit very nicely into a little protective case for the iPad itself. We don't do a ton of writing on our iPad, leaving that for our MacBook Pro.

Dragon is a great voice recognition app that will magically render what you and others say into text. But the last time we checked, it wasn't as if we could record an hour interview and have it all typed out for us. Such a pity! Nonetheless, it's great for saying short messages into your iPad, then instantly emailing them to yourself or others. As in "I need two winch handles, a tube of 5200, and 20 feet of 3/8-inch line when I hit the chandlery." You get to the chandlery, hit your email, and there's your list.

We love the iPad because, no matter if we're in the States, Mexico or the Caribbean (if we've got the right SIM card and service), before rolling out of our bunk in the morning on
Profligate or 'ti Profligate, we can read and respond to all of our emails, access Google, access all of the best graphical weather forecasts, read all of the major newspapers of the world, play back an interview we just did, and do so much more. To a person with desires and work needs such as ourself, this access to knowledge and factual information is almost as critical as the air we breathe. Indeed, the last thing we do at night and the first thing we do in the morning is get online with our iPad, and most nights we get up at 4 a.m. for an update. Various people are addicted to meth, coke, bourbon, loose women and what have you. We're addicted to information.

Now let's talk about iPad navigation. The Navionics navigation app for the iPad is how we navigate, no matter if we're in California, Mexico or the Caribbean. A lot of iPad owners don't seem to realize that iPads have a built-in GPS, but they do. That means you don't need to have internet access for the Navionics and other navigation programs to work.

For example, just the other day we navigated through the 'Don't go!' narrow and shallow pass that leads between the Sir Francis Drake Channel and Blunder Bay in North Sound in the British Virgins. We had no internet access, but the iPad and Navionics did us right. Sure it got down to where there were only six inches between the bottom of our keels and the coral bottom, but thanks to our iPad and depthsounder, we made it. (By the way, don't you try it, particularly not if you've chartered our cat!)

But here's a weird thing about Navionics. More than a year ago we paid $29.95 for the equivalent of a huge pile of charts and navigation capability for the Caribbean. So when a customer at BVI Yacht Charters asked us what we used for navigation, we proudly pulled out our iPad, turned on the Navionics apps, and got all the charts — but not the ping showing our boat position. What the heck?!

Our new friend was impressed enough with the charts alone that he paid $49.95 to download the Navionics Caribbean and South American app on the spot. He didn't want or need South America, but Navionics had inexplicably bundled it with the Caribbean. The charts and his boat position came up right away, and with a much more facile program than the original one we had.

We tried to update our Caribbean-only app, but it was no longer available. So what's this, Navionics is stiffing their old customers for service? It's all we can figure, and if that's true, it's B.S. Regardless, we coughed up the $49.95 for the Caribbean and South America app, even though we didn't need or want South America either. Sure enough, the new app worked as well as the old app didn't work. So while we love the Navionics app, we think they've got some serious 'splaining to do to their customers.


I read last month's article on boat handling, different 'comfort zones', and boats passing too close at sea. This reminded me of an incident in which I was somewhat involved a few years ago.

My brother and I had spent the weekend sailing, and on the last morning tied up at Sam's in Tiburon. From the top of the dock, we watched as a couple, with the man at the helm, attempted to dock their 30-footer. The wife jumped to the dock, but the man had the boat going too fast, so she, unable to get a line on a cleat, was almost pulled in to the water. The boat swung as the husband reversed the engine, and his screams carried quite a distance. The wife had to drop the line to keep from being pulled into the water, so the boat ended up sideways in the berth.

The husband backed the boat out of the berth, bumping and grinding all along. He circled around and came in for a second attempt, once again too fast, and on the upwind side of the berth, dragging the bow line. The husband threw the aft line at his wife, hitting her in the face. This time she managed to get the line on the cleat, but that caused the boat to swing again. The whole time the husband at the wheel yelled at her. "What are you doing?! Stop! Pull! The other side! What are you doing!?"

My brother decided it would be better to get his boat out of harm's way, so we walked down the dock to his boat. By this time, the husband, having done another circle, came heading back to the same spot, screaming at his wife the whole time, dragging both the bow and stern lines.

I decided it was time to get involved, so just before the boat smacked the dock, I grabbed her (the boat, not the wife) by the nose and held on. I yelled to put the engine in neutral and for the wife to fish the trailing line out of the water and tie off. I then grabbed the bow line and tied off. The husband, still standing at the wheel, was still screaming at his wife, looking like a fool. My brother and I sailed away to the noise of the husband belittling his wife.

Boat speed is key to bringing a boat into a dock, and too fast is no good. Picking the right side of a berth to tie onto also helps. If the husband can’t communicate properly, or if the other person is unskilled, screaming will just make things worse. It just goes to show that having a boat doesn’t mean you know how to use it or command it.

Paul Clausen
Pacific Northwest

Paul — We're surprised, as it's extremely rare for husbands and wives to have loud words while docking or performing other vessel maneuvers. What a lot of male skippers don't seem to understand is that getting yelled at makes women really horny. Just ask.


I just wanted to send Latitude a big thanks for publishing my article on Croatia in the February issue, and for all the times my photos have appeared in your pages. I love sailing the world and teaching sailing on the Bay — and appreciate all that Latitude does to contribute to the sport of sailing.

Rod Witel
USCG Master
US Sailing Instructor for Club Nautique

Rod — And we thank you. There are a lot worse gigs in life than bringing more happiness into the world by helping people appreciate the pleasures of sailing and through it the wonders of nature. For example, you could be a dentist, the profession most hated by its practitioners; a thankless meter maid; or a lawyer, 19% of whom suffer from depression. Which according to a survey by Johns Hopkins University, is much higher than in any other profession.


We are interested in doing the SoCal Ha-Ha with our Corsair F-31. What are the details?

Hans & Merrolee Millenaar
Triagan, Cosair F-31

Hans and Merrolee — See the editorial response to the following letter.


A SoCal Ha-Ha? What a great idea! Count us in. We're the Smith family of five, plus two grandkids.

Thom Smith
Skewed, S-2, C-35

Readers — We keep getting letters of support for the concept of a SoCal Ha-Ha, so we've done some more thinking about the idea. Given the various parameters, we figured it would be best to have a SoCal Ha-Ha that would entail almost all reaching or running, and could be completed in a week. We're thinking of an itinerary like this:

Sunday — Start in Santa Barbara with a welcome BBQ on the beach in the afternoon, having given folks as much of the weekend as possible to bring their boats up from the south or down from the north. One possible impediment is that Santa Barbara may be rebuilding Marina One, which would mean they wouldn't have any vacant slips. But there's always room to anchor out.

Monday — After a great 30-mile reach/run to Santa Cruz Island, we'd spend the night there.

Tuesday — The fleet would spend the day hiking and socializing on the island, and maybe doing a beach clean-up. If island regulations would allow it, maybe we could have a bonfire on the beach. If not, we'd probably have a sundowner gathering for half the fleet's skippers and mates aboard

Wednesday — After a 50-mile run, the fleet would anchor off Paradise Cove, just around the corner from Pt. Dume. The other half of the skippers and mates would be welcome aboard for sundowners on

Thursday — From Paradise, it would be a 25-mile reach/run to Redondo Beach's King Harbor. Either we could anchor behind the breakwater or maybe our good friends at the King Harbor YC would have room for a few boats to tie up to the dock.

Friday — From King Harbor, it's a 25-mile reach to Two Harbors, Catalina. This weekend start would mean that folks who couldn't take the whole week off could join us for the weekend. We'd have a big beach BBQ at Two Harbors on Friday night, and there's always live music with dancing on the patio.

Saturday — This would be another hiking/socializing/BBQ-ing/dancing day at Two Harbors.

Sunday — This would be a little tricky, as the fleet would no doubt be dispersing in different directions. Maybe folks could self-group on their way back to Marina del Rey, Long Beach, Newport or whatever.

The idea of a SoCal Ha-Ha would be to make it as much like cruising as possible, with mostly anchoring out, and alternating sailing with socializing and hiking. The event would probably be in mid-September and cost about $200 a boat to enter. Comments please.


We're headed to Mexico on April 1, flying to Morelia to see friends and get some dental work done. Then we'll be headed out to the coast. Is there some sort of electronic bulletin board or other format where we can communicate with people on boats?

I'm asking because we're also going to visit Zihua and would like to sail while we're there, and/or wouldn't mind helping someone take their boat across the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I sailed from Eureka to Fatu Hiva a couple of years ago, and did last year's Half Moon Bay Race. My wife is a novice sailor — but she's a professional chef. What do you think our chances are?

Thanks for any wisdom you can impart. Or failing that, your frank opinion will suffice.

Bill Huber
Northern California

Bill — Wasn't it Woody Allen who said that 80% of life is just showing up? That's how it is with sailing. If you're there on the dock with a sail bag, your chances of getting on a boat are much greater than if you're trading emails with boatowners from thousands of miles away. When you get to Zihua, we suggest that you hang out at the dinghy landing area on the beach and start networking with folks getting in or out of their dinghies. Someone will help you get on the local cruiser net, if not the SSB nets, where you can get your message out. If you look and talk like a sailor, and your wife knows how to flash the knives, we think your chances of getting on a boat are very good.

By the way, cruising friends who recently visited Morelia on the way back to their boat in Puerto Vallarta from Mexico City said it is spectacular, with Old World charm and beauty. The historic city center remains almost the same as when the city was founded in 1541, featuring wide streets and lots of plazas. The ancient aqueduct boasts 285 arches, not one of them owned by McDonalds.


I love Latitude as it helps keep my dreams of adventure alive. I'm always intrigued by the stories cruisers tell about the great medical care they've gotten in Mexico and Central America, as well as in other parts of the less developed world.

As a self-employed business owner, I'm constantly attacked with higher premiums by my insurance carrier, and I already pay high premiums for my high-deductible, minimal-coverage policy. Since we will be heading down south in the fall, I would gladly save up my greenbacks to have the work completed in less-expensive Mexico. I am sure there are good and bad doctors in Mexico — just as there are in the States. Do you know of a way I can find the good docs?

Matt Brown
Amador, Hunter 380
Sutter Creek

Matt — Many cruisers have raved about the health care they've received in Mexico. They speak of personal rather than assembly-line care, low prices, and little if any waiting. But you're right, just as in the States, it's critical that you get the right doctor.

Health care tourism in Mexico is booming. To give you an example from just one area, Paradise Resort and Marina in Nuevo Vallarta has just opened a state-of-the-art 'Tourism Hospital' not more than 100 yards from the boats in the marina. A slight delay of the opening of the facility prevented us from getting a tour until we return in May, but we're told it's excellent. Another superbly equipped new hospital geared toward tourists opened up in P.V. not far from Marina Vallarta.

If you were to visit any city in Mexico where cruisers hang out — La Paz, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta — just get on the local cruiser net and ask around. You'll get plenty of advice, and in some cases will find Americans who specialize in connecting patients with Mexican doctors and hospitals. Furthermore, some of the hospitals give regular presentations and tours.

The one place we'd be more careful is Cabo San Lucas, as there have been scandals about some of the health care practices there, although primarily related to those who needed emergency care.


After I had to pull my neighbor out of the water at Berkeley Marina, I decided to convert the transom ladder on my Newport 27 to a safety ladder. The advantage of converting the transom ladder, as opposed to installing one on my dock, is that it's always with me.

The ladder drops by pulling on a plastic rod, which is suspended close to the stern some four inches above the water. See the hook at the lowest end of the rod in the accompanying photo. The ladder release from the lifeline at the top of the rod is shown in the photo insert, requiring just a one-inch pull down to drop the ladder. The ladder gently falls into the water and allows the swimmer a foothold on the submerged rungs. Of course it still requires that the swimmer have sufficient strength to pull himself/herself up the ladder.

The climb-out-of-the-water alternatives on my docks are swimming to the shore and trying to climb out over slippery rocks. That would be a real challenge to an exhausted swimmer.

Michael Naylor
Harvey, Newport 27


I was listening to National Public Radio member station KPCC in Los Angeles recently when they reported that people who throw Frisbees or footballs on L.A. County beaches this summer will be subject to a $1,000 fine.

According to KPCC, the L.A. Board of Supervisors recently approved a revision of a 37-page ordinance (!) that outlines what is acceptable behavior on county beaches.

"It's not a sweeping ban," says NPR. "Specifically, the ordinance prohibits 'any person to cast, toss, throw, kick or roll' anything other than a beach ball or volleyball on any L.A. beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The basic idea is to protect the general public from flying objects during the peak summer months, when beaches are at their most crowded. So those aspiring to be the next Gabrielle Reese are good, but Eli Manning wannabes, not so much. And the Frisbee Olympics are definitely out."

The Los Angeles Times reports that the revised ordinance is less draconian than what was already on the books. The old rules issued an outright ban on "ball playing" and "nudity and disrobing."

"The new ordinance allows beach balls and volleyballs while ruling out the rest, except if there is a designated area, the beachgoer has obtained a permit, it's a water polo ball being used in the water, or if a person gets permission from the fire chief or an ocean lifeguard to play with any other object in the water," the Times reported.
The new rules, however, did increase some fines from $500 to $1,000.

Mike Crews
Valinor, Ericson 32-300
San Pedro

Mike — On the surface the new legislation sounds outrageous, but when you live in a crowded environment such as coastal California, and not everyone's cultural backgrounds respect the rights, space and welfare of others, you pretty much have to restrict some activities.

On crowded beach days we can understand the need to protect innocent people from getting hit on the head with a football, but who could possibly object to sex on the beach after dark? It's as American as eating apple pie, but thanks to sand in the orifices, not always as pleasurable. If we ever become benevolent dictator, we're going to insist on three things: 1) Low-cost teleportation, 2) Universal free high-speed internet access, and 3) The right to have sex on secluded beaches after dark.


I was contacted over the internet by a woman in Oregon who wanted to know — possibly because I own a sailboat named Ruby — if I had any info about an old family photo of a sailboat also named Ruby. I was able to learn that this other Ruby was owned by a Fred Patricia and sailed out of Alameda. In the photo she's 'looking good' off the Cityfront back in 1919, with what appears to be Alcatraz in the background.

Josh Pryor
RUBY Sailing

Readers — For those keeping score, Josh Pryor's 64-ft sloop Ruby, which he built on the waterfront of San Francisco in the late '70s, sailed in the tragic 1982 Doublehanded Farallones Race. Pryor and his crew would finish a startling first on corrected time in a race that ultimately claimed four lives.

As for Pryor's habit of wearing top hats while sailing, we think that's a retro look that definitely needs to come back.


It seems as if Don Anderson has totally dropped out of the weather forecasting scene on the Amigo and Southbound nets. Can you clarify what's happened to this weather forecasting institution?

Louis Kruk
Cirque, Beneteau 42s7
Central America

Louis — Tom and Lori Jeremiason of the Berkeley-based Catalina 470 Camelot in La Cruz report that Anderson is — as he warned several months ago — in the process of selling his house and moving aboard his boat. As such, he's dismantled his Ham/SSB radio setup, something he thought would take a month or two to get set up again. By the time this issue comes out, it's likely he'll be back on the air again. If not, Stan of Solmate Santiago ( is providing text weather via Saildocs (SailMail) for the various net controllers to read during their assigned shifts.

Has anybody ever given weather forecasts with more flair than Anderson? He's the opposite of the robo voices on NOAA forecasts.


I'm taking off cruising this year and — this is really great — not coming back. But in this world of tons of instant info, I'm wondering what is the best way for a cruiser such as myself to get good weather forecasts when heading south. At this point, 'south' could be from Mexico to Panama. Could you help me?

By the way, thank you, from me and I'm sure a lot of others, for helping to keep our cruising dreams alive and well. Latitude is the best!

Tom O'Neill
Calypso, Catalina 30
San Diego

Tom — Thanks for the kind words. Since our weather needs are relatively limited — primarily for the Ha-Ha and crossing the Anegada Passage — we rely mainly on Commander's Weather, Passage Weather, Buoy Weather, Wind Guru and other interpreters. Others who are lucky enough to make longer passages need other sources, so we've asked what they use. The following letters are some of what we received. Because of space limitations, we'll have more next month.


In the old days (40 years ago) we used to listen to the shortwave and copy down the reported lows and highs so we could guess where the storms were and also where the pressure would be. Then came weatherfax. Nowadays we have the internet.

The unquestionably best sources for weather forecasts are NOAA GRIB files. I use the Ugrib reader from to select and view the files. You can download it and view 5 or 7 day forecasts.

For longer range forecasts — up to 16 days out — go to, where you can get GFS files in a graphic format similar to Passage Weather.

These NOAA products and the Ugrib Reader are free to the public and are from the same source that the pay sites use.

But remember that they generally run about 15-20% under in winds over 20 knots. And they do not account for gusts. They're usually very accurate up to 36-48 hours out. More than that, it is just a modeled guess.

You should also study pilot charts for the areas you will be sailing. You can find links to download pilot charts at

If you're going to be on a long passage offshore and/or far away from the internet, look into Jim Corenman and Stan Honey's SailMail at You can get GRIB files via SSB or satphone, plus email, through their system.

Jack Watson
Santa Cruz


I use three sites to check the weather.

1) If I really want detail, I check the marine weather from the National Weather Service in Honolulu. They have all kinds of products, so I only use this to look at the big storms.

2) If there is a big storm brewing and I want to see where it is headed, and to validate the NWS forecast, I use Ugrib to check where the storm will go. It is a free downloadable program, and has an animation feature where one can play loops of the weather.

3) On a daily basis, I always take a look at the Central North Pacific High Seas Forecast. One can subscribe to this information and the NWS will very kindly send you an email every six hours. The really nice feature is the forecast map, which allows one to know what weather is going to slam into our great state over the next few days.

Brian Marion
Los Angeles


Aboard Angel Louise, we use any wind info and weather from wherever we can get it, including those mentioned in 'Lectronic Latitude.

We've mostly used and loved the sources we can get for the Mac we use for navigation. One source that some may not have seen or used for wind GRIBs, especially in port, is a great program called iGrib, which we like when we are within range of service with our iPad.

Otherwise we like the Saildocs GRIBs and such weather as is available via Iridium Satellite Phone on MacWX overlaying our MacENC charts. You can see example screen shots on the website at Pick 'Screenshots' and go to the bottom of the pictures. They use pictures from the Bay Area!

Ed & Sue Kelly
Angel Louise, Catalac 37
Currently in London / Des Moines


I'm liking an iPad app called Weather4 ( It's $5.99 for the basic version (the one I've been playing with) and I like the presentation and UI for more than just GRIBs. It's easy to use and update, fast to set custom areas, and fast to learn to use.

There are many sites for what are basically the same GRIBs, and the value added here is the synthesis and presentation of pressure, temperature, waves and wind, all of which I care about. Check it out!

Rob Murray
Avant, Beneteau First 435
Vancouver, B.C.


In the February issue, Gordo Klenk asked for a report from anyone with experience with the Airhead Composting Toilet. We had occasion to rely on an Airhead for a few days while visiting with friends who had installed one aboard their catamaran. They told us that installation was initially a bit of a challenge due to the unique architecture of their available space but that, once this was resolved, all went smoothly.

We can verify that the "no odor" claim in the advertisements is absolutely true. The small, energy-efficient fan kept the Airhead, and the head space in general, odor free. By the way, solids and liquids are separated. Liquids are disposed of — generally overboard — when the jug is nearly full. Solids are churned into the peat-filled base with the turn of a built-in crank handle.

On the rare occasions when we could smell anything, it was the smell of the jungle — that rich, earthy smell of densely growing vegetation. It wasn't at all unpleasant. We were very impressed with the Airhead.

Libbie Ellis & John Gambill
Formerly of Hotwire, Bruce Roberts 36
now Tarpon Springs, FL


I would appreciate it if you would draw upon your vast command of the English language to find descriptive words for Latitude that don't include sh*t, tu*d, p*ss, fu*k, a**, etc., etc., etc. Using these words makes you appear to be swearing like a drunken sailor, while limiting your perceived intelligence and journalistic credibility.

Carol Putman
Walnut Creek

Carol — We recently completed Walter Isaacson's excellent biography on Steve Jobs, and noted the dilemma Jobs faced when he banned porno apps from the App Store. A large number of people saw it as somebody finally becoming an arbiter of good taste. Another large group was outraged that Jobs had seemingly evolved to the point where he'd become the Big Brother he once so severely criticized. "My wife and I love to watch porno together, who are you to tell us we shouldn't," one former fan wrote. Jobs just couldn't win.

We feel the same way. Our dilemma is that we have some readers who have refined tastes, while others grouse if we don't "keep it real." We're not sure that we want to sanitize the speech of others, but we personally will try to do better. And we do thank you for your suggestion.


It was great to read the February 6 'Lectronic piece about Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson's winning the bluewater CCA and OCC awards.

Long after GPS became affordable, my wife and I continued to sail without one, relying on the sextant instead. Occasionally I'm called to task about how I can justify sailing without a GPS. The best answer I can give is that in '97, when the Hiscocks' Wanderer III sailed into the Cocos (Keeling) Island lagoon, we got to meet Thies and Kicki. I suppose we might have met them if we'd had a GPS, but it was not having the GPS — and figuring our two boats were probably among a very small number of cruising boats navigating by sextant — that made for a very memorable time with these good people.

Anyway, it was great to hear about these great folks and see that they've been recognized for their achievements. I wouldn't be surprised if they are still GPS-less, although we broke down and bought one in '11. I can do a pretty good job of explaining the virtues of navigating by sextant. If I have to.

Lee Pliscou
Uta Maru, 45-ft custom steel
Nanaimo, B.C.

Lee — We admire the 'purity' of those who enjoy navigating by traditional means. But if you want to explain something, explain how you navigate accurately with a sextant when it's cloudy or foggy.

Although it's not a very good analogy, we think requiring a GPS aboard an offshore boat makes as much sense as requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Both are safety issues. You can hide the GPS and navigate by sextant if you want, but if an emergency arises and help needs to find you, there is no excuse for not dragging out a GPS and letting people know exactly where you are.


Well Latitude, you’ve done it again! The publisher's 'Complete History of Latitude', written as an editorial response to a reader's inquiry, was simply wonderful. Although it was far, far, far from a “complete” history of Latitude, it still made me want to jump up and down, wave my arms, and shout "Long live Latitude 38, the best in the West."

I sail Cadenza, Catalina 27 #471, which means she was one of the early ones. She has the dinette configuration and an inboard.

For the past 70 years, my sailing season in South Lake Tahoe has begun in November and ended in June. (There's another story here!) Anyway, weather permitting, I'd love to have you and any member of your wonderful editorial staff join me for 'another day in God's country'.

Long live Latitude!

Jim Hildinger
Cadenza, Catalina 27
South Lake Tahoe

Jim — Thank you for the extreme compliments and the invitation. It's been ages since we last sailed on Lake Tahoe, and as soon as we find time, we'd love to do it again.
As for your November-to-June sailing season on Tahoe, it would be fun if our readers tried to guess why you sail in the winter and not the summer.


I read with interest your mention of Bob Callaway’s MacGregor 65 Braveheart in the February Letters. I also noted that there was a mention a few issues back of him and Braveheart being in the South Pacific.

In my opinion, the Mac 65 is the greatest boat ever built, not only for the price, but for sailing and cruising. The sail plan is simple and efficient, and the hull to keel joint is very strong. I will leave you to guess how I know this fact! Yes, I owned Braveheart for more than five years before I sold her to Bob. During that time, I sailed Braveheart all over the Northwest and west coast of Washington, Oregon and California.

And I'm not a rookie sailor, as I have delivered power and sailing vessels from Seward, Alaska, to Puerto Vallarta. In fact, I once delivered a Sundeer 64 from Seattle to San Francisco in 99 hours. Both the Sundeer and MacGregor are excellent sea boats, but the Mac costs one-third as much and isn't as difficult to sail.

Did I mention that sailors in British Columbia and Alaska's Inside Passage may want to know that the Mac motors at 10-plus knots on just 1.5 gallons an hour of fuel?

Captain Tom Sadler
Gig Harbor, WA

Readers — For the record, seven MacGregor 65s have done the Ha-Ha:
1995: Northern Dancer, John Scott & Christine Barnes, Novato
1997: Illusion, Bette Flaglor & Doug Hawkins, San Francisco
1998: Sunset, Tolman & Jill Geffs, Trabuco Canyon
1999: 3 Vivace, Ron Milton, Los Altos
2003: Northern Dancer, Russ White, Cayucos
2006: Viking II, Erik & Mia Smitt, Sacramento
2009: Braveheart, Bob Callaway, Pleasant Harbor, WA


In your February 3 'Lectronic, you mentioned that you were heading to the Caribbean, which sounds pretty appealing. Why not post your plans to get Profligate from Mexico to the Caribbean? Such a cruise might be of interest to other West Coast sailors thinking about following in your wake.

Oops, I just re-read the piece and realized that it's not clear whether you're taking Profligate or flying to the Caribbean.

Pete Malloy
Neko, Seawind cat
San Francisco

Pete — We did take Profligate from Mexico to the Eastern Caribbean in '04, and brought her back to San Francisco in '05. When we say 'we', it was mostly hard-driving captain Doña de Mallorca leading some crews she put together. It went like this:

The morning after
Profligate arrived in Cabo, a delivery crew hauled ass toward Acapulco. After the Ha-Ha ceremony, de Mallorca caught a plane to catch up with Profligate and crew during the fuel stop in Acapulco. They stopped briefly for fuel again in Nicaragua, to replace two saildrives in Panama, did a mandatory overnight in Cartagena, stopped in Aruba for fuel and an overnight, and continued on to Antigua. It's about 1,900 miles from Cabo to Panama and about 1,100 miles from Panama to Antigua. Including the overnights in Acapulco, Cartagena, and Aruba, and having to spend five days in Panama, de Mallorca drove the crew to cover the 3,000 miles in 33 days. That is hauling ass.

On the return trip, we sailed from Antigua to Panama in something like 10 days, including stopping for a couple of days at the San Blas Islands and transiting the Canal. After we got off, de Mallorca and her crew drove Profligate hard once again, arriving in San Francisco 19 days later. Three thousand miles in 19 days — including refueling stops and an overnight in Cabo — is an average speed of 6.5 knots. Trust us, that's pretty astonishing.

After that experience, we decided that it wasn't that practical or particularly relaxing to drive a boat really hard for one month to get to the Caribbean for just five months, then have to drive her really hard for another month to get her home. Unwilling to give up the fabulous cruising in Mexico, or the fabulous but entirely different kind of cruising in the Caribbean, we have made
Profligate a Mexico and California boat, and put the Leopard 45 'ti Profligate in a yacht management program in the British Virgins, a program which allows us extensive high-season use of the boat in the Caribbean. It's a pretty sweet deal, but would be even better if we didn't spend most of our hours in Mexico and the Caribbean banging on a fucking keyboard. Oops, sorry Carol, we meant "banging on a very nice keyboard."


I am one of the crew of Rot Kat, Arjan Bok's San Francisco-based Lidgard 43 cat that was victorious in the Banderas Bay Blast. As Arjan pioneered and mastered the technique of removing a sail drive from a catamaran — without taking her out of the water — you asked for some details.

During our sail down from Loreto to Banderas Bay last November, Arjan needed to remove the starboard saildrive to make a small repair in the transmission. Here are the simple steps he took:

1) He disconnected the engine from the saildrive, which was bolted in place on the bottom of the hull; 2) He used a winch and a line to lift the engine as high as possible inside the engine compartment; 3) He dove into the water and removed the prop so the saildrive could be lifted through the hole in the hull; 4) He unbolted the saildrive and lifted it out of the boat.

Yes, when Arjan lifted the saildrive through saildrive shaft-sized hole in the bottom of the starboard hull, water poured in. But it stopped a few inches below the engine. And because the engine compartment is sealed from the rest of the boat — as it is in most catamarans — water didn't get into the rest of the boat.

5) Once Arjan repaired the transmission, he lowered the saildrive back into the hole in the hull and rebolted it in place; 6) He then dove in the water and reattached the prop to the saildrive; 7) Now for the fun part. After making sure all the fish and other sea creatures had been removed from the engine compartment, I got to pump the water out. It took me 45 minutes of hand pumping. Who knows, maybe an electric pump could have done it faster; 8) Arjan then lowered the engine and reattached it to the saildrive; 9) He then fired up the engine and tested the saildrive.

Arjan has got it down so he can complete the job, start to finish, including the repair to the transmission, in less than three hours! Sometimes seals fail on the bottom of saildrive transmissions, and catamaran owners think they need to haul the boat out to replace the seals and make that repair. Not Arjan.

By the way, catamaran engine rooms differ greatly, so it's up to the owner of each cat to decide whether this method can be used on his/her cat.

I also wish to comment on some of the controversial comments regarding safety in Mexico, and wish to commend your defense of what I see as a truly remarkable culture and people. This last trip was my third to Baja, and my first to the mainland. We spent time in La Paz, Mazatlan, San Blas, La Cruz and Banderas Bay, as well as traveling inland for a couple of days, and saw nary a mean or dangerous person.

I'm sure that, just like the States, Mexico has its problems. But in all of the travels I've made to Mexico — all this past year and through the graciousness of the skipper of Rot Kat — I've only encountered giving and warm people. I even witnessed Doña de Mallorca walking alone, cell phone to ear as is normal, completely unconcerned about the possible dangers lurking about. (Okay, it was daytime in front of Ana Bananas.)

Someday I hope to make the great trek south with my Namaste, but in the meantime I plan on visiting the Sea and elsewhere in Mexico as often as possible.

Lastly, my gratitude to the Poobah and the Commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht and Surf Club for my "excruciating" initiation. May I join a fourth time?

Larry White
Namaste, O'Day 37
Bay View Boat Club
San Francisco

Larry — Arjan's technique could save owners of catamarans with saildrives — ourselves included — a lot of money. We salute him.

When it comes to the safety of tourists, we think the Caribbean is a much more dangerous place for cruisers than the Pacific Coast of Mexico. If you take the entire Caribbean basin, there have probably been more than 20 cruisers murdered on their boats in the last 10 years, and there have been many more armed robberies. Think of the late Mike Harker in St. Martin and of the attack on Allen and Kate Berry aboard their DownEast 38 Mendocino Queen. They were robbed while at anchor just off Baradel Island in the Tobago Cays Marine Reserve of St. Vincent and The Grenadines. Compare that with the Pacific Coast of Mexico, where no cruisers have been murdered and where, at least off the top of our heads, we can't remember a single instance of an onboard robbery.

Mexico is sort of like St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins Islands in that both places have high murder rates. Indeed, the St. Thomas murder rate is way higher than Mexico's. But it's drug and gang people killing each other, not tourists. So St. Thomas still gets about six cruise ships full of blissfully ignorant tourists a day. If the U.S. press reported the killings in St. Thomas the same way that they report on killings in Mexico, there wouldn't be any cruise ships stopping in St. Thomas.



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