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July 2012

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We hear about whales colliding with sailboats, racing and cruising, all the time. Has anyone thought of making a system that would alert whales to a boat's presence so they can avoid the boats? Whales use calls to communicate between themselves, so maybe there is a call or sound that could be played through an underwater speaker that they would interpret as an obnoxious nautical car horn? Maybe even at a frequency humans can’t hear, but whales can. Sort of like dog whistles.

Steve Haas
Tesa, Catalina 42
San Jose

Steve — There is a definite need for such a product, as just last month Max Young of the Sacramento-based Perry 47 Reflections, having completed a 12-year circumnavigation, had a collision with a whale off the coast of Baja. In this month's Sightings you can read the details of how Reflections went down and the singlehander was rescued. But just so everybody understands, collisions between boats and whales along the coast of Mexico, as well as many other places in the world, are by no means an unusual occurrence.

As we recall, there was quite a bit of experimenting 10 to 20 years ago with the concept of blasting music or horns through boat hulls to warn whales of their approach. To our knowledge none of them proved successful. It's a pity, because we'd have bought one right away. However, that hasn't stopped people from playing music as loud as they can when they see whales around in the hope it will drive them away. Usually people play the music that they personally find to be the most obnoxious, apparently believing that cetaceans have the same musical tastes as they do.


We weren't totally surprised by the Coast Guard's temporary suspension of ocean races outside the Gate, but we are very concerned that this could wind up hurting sailors more than it helps anybody. We have been sailing for 45 years, and we've enjoyed a number of laps around the Pacific on our Farr 44, Santa Cruz 52, and M&M 52 catamaran. While we learned to sail by trial and error, we learned virtually all we know about safety and boat preparedness by participating in ocean racing. Furthermore, the vast majority of that knowledge came from the San Francisco Bay ocean racing community. We’ve watched safety standards evolve through the years, and expect that to continue. In our view, organized ocean racing is hands-down the number one force in furthering boating safety.

Pete & Sue Wolcott
Kiapa Iti, Corsair Sprint 750
Hanalei, Kauai

Pete and Susan — Although we realize that many sailors have no interest in racing, we're convinced it's almost certainly the best training for cruising.


Commodore Tompkins was spot-on in his June issue comments on the cause of the Low Speed Chase tragedy. Back in the '60s, when our family raced our Cal 25 around the Farallones, we actually looked at the chart and knew not to go into shallow water.

If you look at the aerial view of Low Speed Chase on the rocks, you see they had no business going where they went. They were sailing up the east side of the island, not just trying to round the windward end of the island. As far as I'm concerned, it was a tragic example of bad judgment and a lack of experience. Like Commodore, I think it's important that you tell it like it is, and not sugar coat it.

Christopher Corlett
Split Water, Beneteau First 10R
Richmond YC

Readers — For the record, Chris Corlett has been one of the best helmsmen on the Bay and in the ocean. We agree that it's important to 'tell it like it is', and to us that means that the crew of Low Speed Chase sailed her into waters that were too shallow for the size of the seas that day, and therefore put themselves in the situation where what could happen did happen.

But as we said last month, they certainly aren't the only ones who have done it, either by intent or by not paying close enough attention to the depthsounder and charts. For instance, we recently spoke with Jonathan Livingston of the Wylie 38 Punk Dolphin, who has raced around the Farallones countless times, to say nothing of racing to Hawaii and cruising across the Pacific. He told us that during one Farallones Race, when the seas weren't as big as on the day of this year's Crewed Farallones Race, he followed a course that wasn't so different from that of Low Speed Chase. The water depth went from 80 feet to 60 feet to 24 feet, at which point he still wasn't worried. But he was shocked to see the depthsounder suddenly read 12 feet, so he quickly headed up and into deeper water. The interesting thing is that he said even when he was in just 12 feet of water, there were other boats even closer to shore than his.

It's a little off-topic, but we nonetheless thought it was interesting that Corlett's family raced a humble Cal 25 around the Farallones. We suspect that many of today's younger sailors wouldn't have any interest in racing such a small and slow boat in the Gulf of the Farallones, and that a lot of people wouldn't think they were safe in the ocean. But such boats were common for members of the Midget Ocean Racing Association (MORA) in the '60s and '70s. As Corlett remembers, not only would they race boats such as Ranger 23s and 26s and Cal 20s, 24s, 2-24s, 25s, 28s and 30s in the often-nasty Gulf of the Farallones, they would race them in the annual MORA Long Distance Race, which often took them as far down the coast as San Diego and even Ensenada. We can remember one year when the MORA fleet was hit by 18 or so hours of 45-knot winds.


I was very disappointed with Latitude's editorial response to June's letter from Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins regarding the lessons to be learned from the Low Speed Chase tragedy. Just so you know, I'm not a friend of Commodore's, nor do I know him personally. I have, however, raced against him many times. And I know one local sailor who owes his life to Commodore for an act of seamanship which would be difficult to believe had I not heard it from the mouth of the man Commodore rescued. Commodore's sailing resume is easy to find, and should be taken into account when evaluating his comments.

By 'taken into account', I mean that it should be obvious that when Commodore Tompkins comments on a seamanship issue, the better part of wisdom would be to shut up and listen. I agree with Latitude's general "there but for the grace of God go I" outlook on the Low Speed Chase incident, and I would be surprised if all of us have not luckily escaped the consequences of a bad decision on the water from time to time. Hopefully, we will all continue to be lucky and safe. We tend to make our own luck though, and I think we will all have better results if we pay attention when wisdom presents. It is not a matter of hindsight, but a matter of foresight.

Brian Ebert, Crew
Absolute Saidee, Wylie 33

Brian — With all due respect, our editorial comment in no way contradicted Commodore's point, and we like to think it added something to the discussion — specifically that a lot of us have not always followed Commodore's advice. (Including, we suspect, even Commodore.) Apparently Commodore agreed with us, for in an addendum to another letter he recently sent us, he wrote: "My congratulations on Latitude's handling of the Low Speed Chase aftermath."

For the record, we've been a friend of Commodore's for more than three decades. We've sailed with him now and then, lent him our first Olson 30 so he could take his then-girlfriend on a February doublehanded cruise from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, and even though he wouldn't want anyone to know it, actually had him do a Ha-Ha with us. After later doing a Baja Bash with Profligate, he gave us, in addition to his bill, one of our most prized possessions — a two-page, single-spaced typed letter listing the many reasons that Profligate is a terrible boat and that the only sensible thing for us to do is to sell her immediately. If our old friend Commodore were only a little more opinionated, he'd be damn near perfect.


It was while here in Auckland that I read the 'Lectronic about the Coast Guard's temporarily suspending ocean racing off San Francisco. Having spent 20 seconds on Google, I discovered that "369,629 people died on America's roads between 2001 and 2009." Given the Coast Guard's response to the tragic deaths on April 14, shouldn't all automobile driving be suspended until a full investigation of the cause of deaths has been completed? For a country that describes itself as "home of the brave and the land of the free," the reaction by your Coast Guard is a little, shall we say, over the top.

Dean Wallis
Weta, KP 44
Auckland, New Zealand

Dean — That the U.S. has done so little to reduce the staggering number of deaths from automobile accidents is inexplicable to us, particularly since the number could be reduced dramatically by, oh, enforcing speed limits, give or take 10 miles an hour, requiring people to signal when changing lanes, and not giving people licenses after their fifth DUI. The difference is that deaths from yacht racing are the result of an activity pursued for pleasure, while the automobile deaths are acceptable collateral damage in the pursuit of the American Dream.

"Land of the free and home of the brave?" Nearly 200 years after Francis Scott Key wrote that line in a poem, the United States is a very different place. The fatuous legal industry has made sure that nobody is responsible for the consequences of their actions any longer, and indeed, the more stupid and more irresponsible the behavior, the more it seems to be rewarded. We're not saying that there are a lot better places in the world than the United States, but given all the monumental advantages we Americans of current generations have had, it's pathetic that this is the best we've been able to do as a society.


The Low Speed Chase incident was a tragedy from two perspectives. It was unfortunate that large waves hit the boat and caused several crewmembers to be knocked overboard, and more waves hit the boat and capsized her.

What is potentially a tragedy of major proportion is that the race committee and San Francisco YC did not stop the race when a mayday call was issued. After all, there were almost 60 boats out there. Race officials should have asked the boats in the area around Low Speed Chase to drop their sails immediately, turn on their motors, and using caution, try to pick up victims in the water. Instead they focused on keeping the race going. The race officials and yacht club acted in a highly negligent manner.

Having been in marine search and rescue, it's my feeling that the other boats in the race had a better chance of saving lives than the later-arriving Coast Guard SAR team.

Leslie Kerner
Planet Earth

Leslie — If a letter could be described as "highly negligent," in our opinion it would be yours. Let's start with some basic facts. First, there were nowhere near 60 boats in the race, let alone in the area of the Farallones at the time of the tragedy, as many had dropped out. Second, what do you think the race committee inside the Bay should have used to communicate with the race fleet, smoke signals? Having been in marine SAR, you surely know that the Farallones are beyond VHF range.

And what do you think the race committee, inside the Bay, knew about what was going on out at the Farallones immediately after Low Speed Chase went on the rocks? They knew nothing. The first to see Low Speed Chase on the rocks, Jim Quanci and the crew of his Cal 40 Green Buffalo, immediately determined it would have been suicidal to try to approach the scene of the accident. Keep in mind that they — along with everybody else — had no idea if the crew of Low Speed Chase even needed help or if they'd made it safely ashore or gotten off on other boats.

The first people to have any real idea of what was going on at the Farallones were the Coast Guard, as they got first-hand accounts from the surviving crew of Low Speed Chase. Coast Guard Search & Rescue are trained professionals with the best assets for such situations, and they were the only ones who knew what other assets would be available for the search. Furthermore, they were the only ones who could communicate effectively with other rescue resources. Given these facts, it would have been idiotic for the race committee to call the rescue shots. If having the other boats join in the search had been a good idea, the Coast Guard would have called for it.

What small lake did you do marine SAR on? We ask, because you obviously don't appreciate how inferior a sailboat in 30 knots of wind and big seas is as a search vehicle when compared to a helicopter and other aviation resources. As far as we're concerned, your suggested course of action would have been a recipe for even more lives being lost.

As for your accusation that the race committee "focused" on continuing the race, we'd like to know precisely what you mean by that, and by the implication that continuing the race was more important to members of the race committee than were the lives of fellow sailors, many of whom they knew personally. We think you owe the race committee an apology for such a reckless charge.

As readers might imagine, we received a number of what we considered to be strange letters following the Low Speed Chase tragedy. One woman insisted that we report on the number of sea lions and birds that died as a result of the Coast Guard's rescue efforts. We assume that, in her value system, it would have been preferable to let the entire crew die just so no birds or sea lions would have been hurt, even though we know of no evidence that any sea lions or birds were so much as inconvenienced. Another reader was furious with the Coast Guard, saying that they knew about the race and should have had rescue resources at the ready all along the course. He suggested that there was "plenty of money in the sailing community" to fund such efforts. As if from now on all boats racing in the ocean should be shadowed by a fully crewed and fully equipped Coast Guard motor lifeboat.


How come the current America's Cup boats are referred to as 72-ft cats? Are the organizers trying to be retro? Most of the United States has converted to the metric system in lieu of a system that was based on the length of a king's arm. In prior America's Cups we had the 12 Meters, so why not 22-meter cats?

By the way, the United States is the only industrialized nation that uses the international foot.

Jack Gill
Azure-Te`, Ron Holland 43
Currently in Mazatlan, Mexico

Jack — The 12 Meter class would not be a good example for your point, because as you probably know they are 65 to 75 feet long, not 12 meters — or about 36 feet — long. Boats in the class have to comply with a formula that takes into account their waterline, girth, and sail area, with the result not exceeding 12 meters.

It was in the 12th century that King Henry I of England fixed the distance of a yard as being that from his nose to the thumb of his outstretched arm. A foot, on the other hand, used to be 11-1/42 inches long, then the length of the average man's foot. Given that the America's Cup is going to be sailed in cats, we think it would be most appropriate if their length were described in licks — which was the old Greek measurement for the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index fingers. As in '180-Lick America's Cup Cats'.

By the way, if the United States has "mostly moved to the metric system," we somehow missed the press release.


I thought I'd let you know that a 66-year-old guy and his 36-year-old boat are still enjoying their 'marriage'. Yes, WindWalker, my faithful Islander 28, and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. I purchased the beautiful little Bob Perry-designed boat in Oxnard in '82 when she was six years old, and brought her north to Santa Cruz two years later when my name came up for a slip.

WindWalker has never let me down in the hundreds of times we have been out and, given her age, is still pretty spry. In the last four Big Brothers/Big Sisters Day on the Bay races on Monterey Bay that we participated in, WindWalker has taken first in class two times, second once, and a seventh. (The latter was because I thought the starting gun was the five-minute gun.)

Latitude 38, KPIG radio, and watching the Giants on television — all three bring new meaning to the expression 'the best things in life are free'.

Van Tunstall
WindWalker, Islander 28
Santa Cruz, California

Van — Congratulations!


I went to Sebastopol last weekend and met with Dick Newick, the Hall of Fame multihull designer. We talked about various things, mostly multihull-related. As we drove to breakfast in Occidental, he mentioned that he has an offshore passage coming up. He's going to Hawaii to meet the owner of Traveller, one of his 50-ft trimaran designs, and help him sail her back to San Francisco where she is to be sold. One interesting thing is that the owner, who will be bringing the boat up from Fiji, has mostly singlehanded the big tri and never had more than one other crew. The other is that the owner is 76 years old, so when you combine that with Newick's 86 years, the average age of the crew will be 81.

I think Newick — who despite his advanced age is still sharp, funny and interesting — would make a great subject for a Latitude article.

Nate Cutler

Nate — We do, too. Thanks for the suggestion.


I laughed out loud when I read about Dennis Connor cruising the docks of Antigua looking for a crew position on a boat for the Classic Regatta, and being snickered at by the young guns. Apart from wondering what the world has come to when a sailing icon isn't recognized immediately— let's face it, he was never a small man! — it made me feel damned old. In '70, I was one of the many lucky young sailors at San Diego YC whom Dennis took out for an afternoon of tuning on his Star. Let's see, that was 42 years ago! And yes, Ad Lib and I are now members of the "Over 40" club.

Chris Waddell
Ad Lib, International 110


I've been dreaming about doing the Ha-Ha since first reading Latitude 10 years ago. This year we're in! Our crew is made up of avid surfers, so we're wondering how we can maximize our surfing opportunities on our way to Cabo.

Dennis Nespor
Serenity Now, Catalina 36 Mk II
Dana Point

Dennis — You can begin the day before the start of the Ha-Ha by catching the waves at the break out by the Pt. Loma Lighthouse that are accessible only by boat.

While there are breaks on the way to Turtle Bay — specifically at Isla Navidad and just north of Turtle Bay — probably the best thing to do is continue on to Turtle Bay and hook up with the local surfers for recommendations and transportation. That's what the young Ha-Ha surfers did last year, and they had a blast.

The coast curves east on the second leg of the Ha-Ha, so it's a bit out of the way to hit great spots in the so-called Middle Reach. But there's often great surf at the point at Bahia Santa Maria, the second stop of the Ha-Ha, and depending on the state of the tide, at the bar into the mangroves.

All the surf spots at Cabo are well-known. But if you continue on toward the East Cape there are some terrific 'secret spots' that are accessible only by boat. We'd be killed if we told you where they are, but you'll be able to find them.

By the way, we're planning to have a Ha-Ha surf contest this year, hopefully to be held at the shorebreak at Bahia Santa Maria so everybody can watch from the bluff during the Beach Party. We're gonna need a few young gals to judge the guys, and a few guys to judge the gals. Since it's the Ha-Ha, no surfing experience or knowledge will be necessary to be a judge.


Several years ago I crewed for a friend moving his Hans Christian 38 to Puerto Vallarta. As we were making our way into Santa Barbara, I suddenly became aware that we were in a big pool of hydrocarbon. It smelled like kerosene and there was lots of it. It seemed to be two or three inches thick, and extended for as far as I could see.

I attempted to report it to the Coast Guard, but we had only a handheld at the time, and couldn't reach them. I later tried to make calls to the local newspaper, and someone assured me that it was a natural phenomenon, one that attracted lots of photographers because of how colorful it can be.

Have you any experience or knowledge of that occurrence?

Secondly, while out for a Sunday sail a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a significant amount of flotsam, large pieces of timber, etc. Is this stuff from Japan?

Bill Stapp
Sonrisa, Cal 2-34

Bill — The naturally-occurring oil seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel — the State Lands Commission says there are 1,200 of them — are world-famous because the one near Coal Oil Point is the biggest in the world. Coal Oil Point is just to the west of Isla Vista, the massive student community for UC Santa Barbara in Goleta. Back in the day — meaning the late 1800s and early 1900s — there were thousands upon thousands of oil wells on the beaches from Gaviota as far east as Carpenteria, a distance of about 40 miles. It's estimated that about 55,000 barrels of oil seep into the Santa Barbara Channel waters each year. Experts say that's enough to fuel all the cars on the road in Santa Barbara County for 7.5 years.

While the thickest concentration generally seems to be in the vicinity of two miles off Coal Oil Point, given the right wind and current the stuff can spread over wide areas of the Santa Barbara Channel. Indeed, half of the oil tar on Los Angeles County beaches comes from the Santa Barbara Channel — although the amount of oil tar on the beaches of L.A. is miniscule compared to that on the beaches of Santa Barbara County. The latter beaches, particularly during the summer, feature sticky tar patties every couple of feet.

It's nasty stuff, no matter if you're a surfer who gets a patty stuck in your pubic hair just before a hot date, or if you're an innocent cruiser who finds gobs stuck all around your boat's waterline. Concentrations of it stink like crazy, so if you're passing close to shore during the night, we suggest you head directly offshore to try to get away from it.

The tar in the Santa Barbara Channel reminds us of a funny World War II incident that has nothing to do with sailing, but is at least tangentially nautical. In the late '30s, Captain Kozo Nishino visited the Ellwood oil field to take a load of oil onto his Japanese oil tanker. While walking with his crew to an official welcoming ceremony ashore, Nishino stumbled into a patch of prickly pear cactus at what is now the fairway of the 9th hole of the Sandpiper Golf Course. Apparently some oil workers thought the sight of the proud captain pulling cactus spines from his buttocks was hilarious. Their laughter is believed to have been the motivation behind the first shelling of the U.S. mainland since the War of 1812.

When World War II broke out a few years later, the proud Nishino returned to the site of his humiliation, but with submarine I-17, not an impotent oil tanker. On the night of February 23, 1942, just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nishino surfaced his sub and fired between 16 and 25 rounds from the 5.5-inch deck gun at a pair of oil storage tanks near the infamous cactus patch. The sub's crew were terrible shots, with some shells landing in the water and others miles inland. There was a total of $500 worth of damage to a catwalk on one well. As much a braggart as he was prideful, Nishino sent a message back to Tokyo saying that he had "left Santa Barbara in flames." Those of you who think we made up this improbable story, check out the historical marker at the Sandpiper Golf Course.

As for the flotsam and large pieces of timber you saw on a recent sail on the Bay, we think there's a greater chance that it came down the rivers from the Sierra than from Japan. Nevertheless, it's been confirmed that solids from Japan — including a massive dock — have now started arriving on the West Coast. Edmund Scientifics carries Geiger counters ranging in price from $299 to the $899 professional model. You might want to buy a couple.


The Dutch side of St. Martin's Simpson Bay Lagoon charges bridge fees and by-the-week anchoring fees — as you know so well. As a result, everybody just goes in through the Dutch side bridge and anchors on the French side of the lagoon. By doing this they don't pay a bridge fee, and just pay a one-time clearing-in fee at Marina Royal. The French will sometimes try to charge boats for anchoring off Marigot, but they never charge for boats anchored inside the lagoon — and some of them never leave. St. Martin is very dependent on the yacht trade, and I would hate to have anyone to skip the island because of some official's wrong-headed decisions. The fees on the Dutch side are too high.

On the other hand, most of these Eastern Caribbean islands need the business, and reasonable charges for navigating their waters — including anchoring — are fine with me. The islands have nothing legal to sell but sun, sand, water and rum. We shouldn't begrudge their asking a reasonable fee for our enjoyment of them.

I'm often appalled by cruisers who will casually spend a week's local wages on a hamburger in St. Barth, and then moan and groan about a cruising fee in dirt-poor Dominica. We really need to leave something ashore other than our garbage. By the way, when a West Indian applies for a visa to visit the U.S., he must travel to Barbados and pay a non-refundable $300 fee to apply for the visa. If the visa is denied, he gets nothing for the money.

Lance Batten
Queen Emma, Oyster 45
San Francisco Bay / Eastern Caribbean

Lance — It's true that we could have gone through the bridge to the French side of Simpson Bay Lagoon and anchored there for free. The problem is that we're still working, so time is an extremely valuable commodity for us. Had we anchored inside the lagoon, we would have been held hostage by the fact there are no bridge openings after 7 p.m., and therefore we would not have been able to get back to work in St. Barth until the following afternoon. Having anchored outside the lagoon and paid the week-long fee for just one night, we were able to leave that night and show up for work the first thing the next morning.

We agree that it's important for cruisers to leave more than just garbage on the islands — and god knows we do. Over the years we've spent a fairly tall mountain of money on airfares, taxis, tips, ferries, hotel rooms, meals, boat parts, boatyards, gas and diesel, mechanics, outboards, inflatables, entry fees, medical care, sails, biminis, paint jobs, haulouts and much more. We've also lured lots of free-spending guests to the region who have left additional piles of money behind. As such, we get a little grumpy when we have to pay a week's rent for a night's stay, particularly since the Immigration and Customs folks on the Dutch side have routinely made life as miserable as possible for us when we've checked in or out, all our smiles and ass-kissing notwithstanding. We are, however, pleased to be able to report that the officials on the Dutch side of St. Martin were very pleasant this year, a remarkable reversal from the past.


Converting a daily or weekly anchoring fee into a 'per month' fee by multiplying by 30 seems, in my humble opinion, to be a stretch. After all, it seems that much of the administrative costs — paid staff taking your fee and signing you up — are about the same whether you stay a night or three months. It's just like your cable company's not letting you sign up for 24 hours of cable, let alone charging you 1/30th of the monthly fee. It's probably why your 'contract rate' for anchoring off Gustavia is so much lower than the other guy's monthly rate.

P.S. Thanks for Latitude 38's being such a vibrant resource! Don't even think of retirement, because you'd be bored.

Carl King
Kinship, Cascade 34
Palo Alto

Carl — We think mooring charges are more analogous to hotel charges than phone rates. If you're only staying one night in a hotel, why should you be made to pay for a week? Suppose you visited a different island-country every night for a week, as you can in the Caribbean. You'd have to pay the equivalent of 49 nights of fees in just one week. Given the high fees for just a day's stay, and the fact that cruisers are often treated like crap by officials, it doesn't surprise us that so many cruisers simply don't check in at all. Not that we'd ever do anything illegal like that.

Thanks for the kind words about Latitude. We think of ourselves as being retired, we just keeping working 50 hours a week out of force of habit.


If you think that the anchoring fees in St. Martin are bad, you should check out the anchoring fees and restrictions in Florida. There has been a stink about them for a good while, and with good reason. I have a 26-ft sailboat that would be comfortable enough to wander the IntraCoastal Waterway for awhile, but the anchoring and marina fees along the East Coast have convinced me that I can't afford to do it on my limited retiree budget.

Steve Fisher
Banana Split, Dawson 26
San Jose


One evening we coasted into an almost deserted cove a few miles from Split, Croatia, and dropped the anchor in clear water on a patch of sand 20 feet down. Around sundown there was a knock on the hull of our cat. It was a friendly guy in a boat with some kind of Croatian ID, and he was asking us for money to anchor. At first we were kind of flabbergasted, since the cove was so secluded and there were hardly any buildings in view. But after a bit of back and forth in broken English and sign language, we agreed to pay a small sum. You know, help the local economy and so forth.

Then it suddenly dawned on him that our boat was a catamaran. No joking, he tried to get us to pay the fee twice. Despite his good try, we held the line at the first price. We heard other similar stories from cruisers along the coast of Croatia. Regardless, it is a beautiful coastline and the fees were sporadic and pretty cheap.

Joe Boyle
Zia, Switch 51
Puerto Aventuras

Joe — There's at least one guy in Panama's San Blas Islands who has been charging a daily "tax" to anchor off his island. If you threaten not to pay it, he has a fit. But it's not too much, so most cruisers cave.


While Nantucket is beautiful, you have to pay $74.38 a day to moor a 44-ft boat there. Oh, I think you get a free pump-out with that.

Ron Bruno
Arion, Gozzard 44
New York

Ron — By way of comparison, it costs $42 a night for a 44-footer at Two Harbors, Catalina. And you have to leave the next morning by 8 a.m. or pay for another night.

We know these prices seem very high, but sailors need to appreciate that most moorings are seasonal. No matter if it's Nantucket, Roche Harbor, Catalina, or St. Barth, most moorings are empty eight months a year.


Here in Texas, we have to pay a $90 fee every other year to use Galveston Bay and all the other bodies of water in Texas. That’s even if our boats are documented. And most marinas charge $2/ft for transients.

Fred H. Lowe
Too Much Fun, Endeavour 42
Kemah, TX


Having read the June 4 'Lectronic titled 'Racing/Cruising Cat Coming to Bay', I didn't know that Tom Siebel, formerly of Siebel Systems, was into sailing. Guess it's the 'competing toy system' with Larry Ellison.

Harold Kallaway
San Anselmo

Harold — We don't doubt that there's something of a rivalry between Siebel and Ellison. After all, Siebel was one of Oracle's most valuable executives starting in '84 when Oracle had only 40 employees. In '90, Siebel came up with a software program he thought might be good for Oracle, but Larry passed. So Siebel took a leave of absence and started Siebel Systems in '93 with Patricia House. It was a smash success. The company was headquartered in the tall building in front of the Emeryville Marina. In '05, Ellison's Oracle bought Siebel Systems for $5.8 billion. So yeah, we guess there would be a natural rivalry between Siebel and Ellison.

We don't know Siebel, but before you get too snarky in your comments about him or his wealth, it's worth noting that the self-made one-time Idaho ranch hand has been consistently ranked as one of the world's top five philanthropists. This despite the fact that his estimated net worth ranks at or near that of the middle of Northern California's 50 or so billionaires.

By the way, we recently heard that Siebel is having a monohull built, too.


I did the Ha-Ha in '07, and now am now thinking of returning north to San Francisco from La Paz. Can you refer me to anyone who has done the Bash and would like to talk about the best weather windows and so forth?

Richard Mogford
Water Spirit, Pearson 36
San Francisco

Richard — Doña de Mallorca, who has been the captain on Profligate for about 10 Bashes, and who just left P.V. for San Diego on this year's Bash, says there is never a time when you can be sure to get a good weather window for the whole Bash. It's her understanding that the odds are better for more and longer weather windows in the summer and fall, which also happen to be hurricane season. She feels the worst odds for finding good and long weather windows are probably January through April. But that doesn't mean you can't luck into a great 10-day window in March, or that July will have any good weather windows at all.

De Mallorca gets most of her weather info from Commander's Weather and Passage Weather. The forecasts are generally pretty reliable for two and maybe three days out. Beyond that, it's hard to put too much faith in the forecasts.


When I was in Mexico this winter I got an awful lot of knowing looks from fellow cruisers whenever I mentioned I was planning to Bash back to the Bay Area in April. They were all polite and no one directly told me that I was nuts, but it did give me pause. However, due to a prolonged favorable weather window, I suspect my crew and I may have experienced one of the fastest and least painful April Baja bashes on record.

After talking to Commander's Weather and getting a week's forecast of settled weather, we left Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta on the morning of April 15. We stopped just long enough in La Cruz, Cabo San Lucas, Turtle Bay and San Diego to refuel, reprovision, and deal with official formalities. We arrived in Alameda 11 days later at midnight on April 25.

We saw no more than 20 knots of wind, experienced less than a half-day of motoring into winds greater than 10 knots, and had enough favorable 10-15 knot winds to sail for about 10% of the trip. We transited all the major capes — Falso, Cedros, Conception, and Sur — in the afternoon without problem, and we passed two of them — Cedros and Conception — while under sail.

The day after we arrived, we went for a sail on the Bay so my crew could see the Bay and feel how the boat did in heavy breezes. It was a great trip for my crew and me, and we feel blessed to have received such favorable treatment from the weather gods.

Charley Eddy
Snug Harbor, Catalina 470


On page 71 of the May issue, you said that the Singlehanded TransPac record — 11d 10h 52m — was set by Stan Honey in '94 with his Cal 40 Illusion. But I believe Ray Thayer beat that in '96 with a time of 10 days, 22 hours, 53 minutes with the Open 60 Wild Thing.

Joseph Oster
Hanalei, Kauai

Joseph — Our LaDonna Bubak made a mistake on that one. As punishment, she has to go to Kauai for a week starting on July 7 and serve as the Assistant (to the) Race Chair of the Singlehanded TransPac.

If anyone is going to break Thayer's record this year, Bubak thinks it will be young Alex Mehran aboard the Open 50 Truth (ex-Pegasus). A product of the St. Francis YC Youth Program and a veteran offshore sailor, Mehran also plans to enter Truth in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and later do the doublehanded Melbourne to Osaka Race. "He's a really nice guy, too," says Bubak.


We were sailing in from the Farallones last Thursday afternoon with the wind blowing 18 knots and six-foot seas on our quarter. It was sunny, too. All of a sudden I saw this wave, which I estimated to be five feet high, coming at us from dead ahead. I yelled for the person sunning herself on the forward deck to hang on, but the wave broke and soaked her.

It wasn't scary, but it was weird. You'd think a single wave like that would have been caused by a boat wake, but we could see for miles and there were no other vessels in sight. Has anyone else experienced anything like it?

Michael Hruby
Three Legged Dog, Westsail 32
San Francisco

Michael — Sometimes when we've sailed south and there was a big south swell coming north, our boat would lurch a bit when the boat and the southbound wind chop ran into a northbound swell. But these were always part of wave trains and never came close to breaking. So what you're describing is a new one on us. It's curious, too, that it would be coming from the direction of land.


We have some info that might be useful for participants with dogs in the first Ta-Ta. During our first cruise up the coast to the Channel Islands, we stopped at King Harbor in Redondo Beach to explore, as Debra's parents had lived there 60 years ago. The yacht club welcomed us to dock at their facility, but they wanted nothing to do with our Shih Tzu. And a walk near the boardwalk and toward the shopping area was replete with signs saying 'No Dogs Allowed'. We never made it to the restricted shopping area. We left the next day to the more dog-friendly Burton Chase Park in nearby Marina del Rey.

Debra & Brad Trottier
Star Light, Willard 8-Ton
San Diego

Debra and Brad — We've got some good news and some bad news for dog owners planning to do the Ta-Ta. The good news is that the 22-mile long hike/bike Strand starts at Hermosa Beach, which is right next to the entrance to the King Harbor YC, and dogs are allowed on the Strand. The bad news is that Santa Cruz Island, the stop for nights two and three of the Ta-Ta, does not allow any pets to be brought ashore. Neither do any of the other Channel Islands.


Nick Salvador had it all wrong in the April Latitude when he said that the tenants of the San Francisco Marina are a bunch of whiners — and me being the chief whiner — because we are objecting to the City of San Francisco's taking away our right to transfer our berths to the purchasers of our boats. Even Latitude got it wrong when you said this transfer right was "unstated." In fact, this right is written, has been in writing for at least the past 40 years, and is part of a contract each tenant signs with the City when he/she comes into the harbor.

I have attached a copy of that contract, called a rental agreement, and the incorporated rules as they appear on the Rec and Park Department website. They are basically the same rules I got when I came into the harbor in '86, and those rules are dated April '72, so we know they have been in existence for at least 40 years.

Here are the relevant sections, by the numbers, of the rules that are part of every tenant's contract with the City, along with my concerns:

Section 3A: Every boat owner who is assigned a berth for more than 30 days has a permanent rental. The City now wants to tear up that agreement and give the tenants a one-year license instead.

Section 3D: Every boat owner may assign his/her berth to a bona fide purchaser of the boat in that berth, subject to a reasonable transfer fee. The City now wants to eliminate all such transfers for new tenants. Existing tenants will be given a one-time transfer right, but such transfers are limited to people on the waiting list, and made subject to large increases in the transfer fee. For example, the transfer fee on a 40-ft berth is now $3,000. Under the new rules, that fee will increase to $8,000, more than double the old fee. For older wooden boats like Knarrs and Folkboats, which do not sell for much money, the new fee schedule essentially kills the possibility of a transfer.

Section 3F: Every boatowner is given the right to sublet the berth for up to six months a year. The City now wants to eliminate all boatowner sublets and allow the harbormaster to sublet the berth. The City is willing to give the owner a 75% rent credit while gone, but only if the vacancy is for 60 days or more.

This deal was made between the City and every tenant, some 650 of us, who came into the harbor. The tenants have kept their end of the bargain by paying the rent and obeying the rules. We don't think it's whining to expect the City to keep its end of the bargain, too. Remember when a deal was a deal? Remember when one's word was one's bond? The City should keep the promises it made to the tenants just as the tenants have kept their promises to the City.

People should understand that no taxpayer money goes to support this marina. The City holds this property as a trust from the state for the express purpose of a recreational non-profit small craft harbor. Because of that trust, the City must keep a separate set of books recording all revenue and expenses for the harbor. All harbor expenses are paid out of revenue generated by the tenants. The current renovation going on at the harbor is financed completely out of tenant rents and a state Boating and Waterways loan. Not a dime of City money is being used to upgrade the harbor.

Although the City pays no money into the harbor, it levies two taxes against the tenants, and those tax revenues go into the city's General Fund. The first tax is a property tax that all boatowners pay to the county where the boat is moored. But San Francisco Marina tenants pay a second tax called a "possessory interest tax" because the tenant is in possession of a berth, which is government-owned property. Boatowners in privately owned marinas do not pay this tax. So the City is getting a double tax benefit from the marina tenants without putting any of that tax money back into the harbor. We think that is a pretty good deal for the City.

So, Mr. Salvador just has his facts wrong, not the least of which is his suggestion that most of the tenants are lawyers and members of the St. Francis YC. The vast majority of tenants are neither lawyers nor members of the St. Francis YC. They are just regular boaters like everyone else.

Bruce Munro
Princess, Sabre 402
San Francisco

Bruce — We appreciate your side of the story, and agree that things certainly seem to be changing at the San Francisco Marina. For example, for many years the berth rates at the San Francisco Marina were well below market despite an extremely long waiting list. And we know of instances where boatowners were able to sell their boats for far more than they were worth because the berth went with the boat. As you note, the new rules will eliminate much if not all of the potential profit of a slip going with the boat, and in the cases of the wooden one-designs, make it almost prohibitively expensive for the slip to go with the boat. The latter would be a shame, as it would break up the wooden boat racing tradition on the Cityfront. Lastly, we've seen the proposed berth rates for when the marina rebuild is completed in a year or so, and they call for slip fees to be about $14/ft. That would make it much closer to market than it's ever been.

Does this mean that boatowners who paid way more than the real value of a boat in order to get a San Francisco Marina slip are going to lose much if not all of that extra money? It would seem so. On an individual basis, we sympathize with them. But as overall policy, we don't believe that individuals should be able to profit significantly from the increase in the value of public property.

"Remember when a deal was a deal?" you ask. With no disrespect, we find it almost hilarious when a member of the California Bar asks a question like that. It seems to us that half the work attorneys do is try to find ways to weasel their clients out of deals. Here's an example: Before we were married for the second time, our bride-to-be's lawyer, whom we had to pay, wrote a pre-nup. When the marriage ended, this same lawyer informed us that the pre-nup she had created wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

Frankly, we think we're entering an era when many deals and contracts are going to be voided. Think of what happened to the bondholders when Obama gave GM to the unions. Think of sovereign debts in the European Union. And unless somebody can get 'blood out of turnips', there is no way that a lot of agreements between governments and government employees aren't going to have to be modified or negated. It's so discouraging that we think we'll go sailing instead of thinking about it any more.


We recently retired, sold the house and cars, and bought Moonshadow, the beautiful Deerfoot 2-62 that George Backhus used for a 16-year circumnavigation. He's been a frequent contributor to Latitude.

We drove to Florida, moved aboard, and have been adjusting to living aboard quite well. Among other things, we've learned to download the most recent edition of Latitude rather than drive to Downwind Marine for a copy. We have been cruising South Florida and refitting for about two months now.

It was at the River Bend Marine Center in Ft. Lauderdale, where we're having work done on Moonshadow, that a South African chap appeared on the dock to admire our new boat. Our discussion turned to another Dashew design, the Sundeer 56 named Dutch Touch. We had looked at Dutch Touch in Ft. Lauderdale before falling in love with Moonshadow, so we were shocked to be told that Dutch Touch had been abandoned near Haiti by the owner and two young crew while they were on a delivery from Florida to California. All the South African could tell us was that the crew were safe, having been picked up by a ship. This would have happened about May 23.

I haven't been able to find anything online to confirm this story, but a friend who knows the boat and owner says most of what I was told meshes with what he's heard — except he hadn't heard about the abandonment. I am writing to ask if anyone else knows what happened with Dutch Touch — mostly because I stood aboard her just three months ago.

As for us San Diego sailors, we're looking forward to cruising Moonshadow up to New England for the summer, then heading down to the Caribbean for the winter. After that, we'll keep you posted.

By the way, untangling the twines that bound us to life ashore was really a challenge! But we did it, and in the process discovered how liberating it can be to donate, sell or otherwise rid ourselves of the ballast we'd accumulated over the years. The one remaining part of that process is selling our other boat, a beautiful Columbia/Kettenburg 52 named Legacy in San Diego, a boat that has been featured in your 'Lectronic Latitude editions.

We've read your magazine from cover to cover for years, and look forward to sharing our experiences aboard Moonshadow, in the years to come.

John & Deb Rogers
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 2-62
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

John and Deb — We're sorry to say that we haven't been able to find out anything about Dutch Touch. But if she was owned by a Californian, we've got to believe one of our readers must know more.

Congratulations on your new boat! By the way, if you make it down to St. Barth between February 15 and May 10 of next year — and you don't want to miss the Bucket or the Voiles — we hope you'll look us up so we can give you an inside look on the island. Besides, it would be fun for Doña de Mallorca to see Moonshadow again, as she crewed for George Backhus from Key West to Colombia at the very beginning of his circumnavigation.

We'd also like to put in a good word for your Columbia 52. Columbia Yachts must have built about 20 Bill Tripp, Sr., designs, and to our thinking the 52, the last before Tripp died in a car crash in the early '70s, was the best looking of them all. And we're not just blowing smoke.


You recently wrote an article about a new brigantine that is to be built locally and be the flagship of the San Francisco Area. In that piece you wrote that there are currently no brigantines in the Bay Area. This is incorrect, as the brigantine Sultana has been berthed in Brisbane Harbor for over 20 years. She was designed after an American revenue cutter that worked the East Coast, collecting taxes from ship captains during the 1700s. Sultana has a ferrocement hull, so all the attention is given to her topsides and interior. She is under a constant state of repair and maintenance.

Lawrence Spillman
ex-Sultana crewman
Good News, Columbia 30
San Francisco Bay

Lawrence — Thanks for the heads-up on Sultana.

For those a little fuzzy on the different types of sailing vessels, brigantines were originally small ships carrying both oars and sails, and were named after Mediterranean pirates, or brigands. The Royal Navy used the term to refer to small two-masted vessels designed to be rowed as well as sailed, vessels that were rigged with square rigs on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigging on the mainmast.

In modern parlance, a brigantine is a principally fore-and-aft rig with a square-rigged foremast, as opposed to a brig, which is square-rigged on both masts. Two well-known brigantines are the Los Angeles-based Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson. The two 113-footers are the flagships of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, and are used to take at-risk youth to sea with the goal of teaching teamwork and building character.


I have a couple of questions, and hopefully you can tell me that my worst fears aren't true.

First, I heard that despite the overwhelming support of the boating community, Gov. Jerry Brown is going to succeed in making the once independent Cal Boating, which is still solvent, part of the Parks Department, which can't even keep our parks open. Nothing like fixing what ain't broke.

Second, I heard that as of the beginning of this year, the Mexican government changed the visa rules for fishing vessels. If what I read is correct, this was part of an attempt to deal with the drug traffickers, but has trickled down to sport fishermen, resulting in a 50% drop in fishermen getting visas and fishing in Mexico. Apparently this visa requirement is enforceable within 24 miles of the coast, so I guess even sailboats can fall into this quagmire. This took effect on January 1 of this year. This following the increase in narco issues in tourist locales could result in a significant drop in the number of cruisers sailing to Mexico.

Can you provide any clarification on this?

Steve Denney
Break Time, Yorktown 39

Steve — We have no respect for either political party in California, as for years Golden State politicians of all stripes have been playing irresponsible fiscal games in order to pay off those who showered them with campaign contributions and/or votes. They either were too stupid or too uncaring to realize they were sending California down the fiscal toilet. With the state $16 billion in debt and needing to have a balanced budget each year, and with the Dow needing to be at 29,000 for Calpers to live up to the pensions they promised to government workers, Gov. Brown has to scramble to find money everywhere he can. No wonder he's proposing to shorten the school year to just three days a week in months starting with a Q, X or Z, and putting the Prison Guards Union in charge of all Cal Boating's revenue to pay for spiked pensions. It's only a matter of time before Cal Boating gets looted.

The 'maritime visa' Mexico has imposed on U.S. fishermen isn't aimed at drug smugglers, because drug smugglers don't apply for visas. Mexico's concern is that U.S. fishermen pile onto San Diego-based fishing boats, hit Mexican waters, then bring all their fish back to the States, having paid nothing for them. Last year we talked with a guy who was offloading 125 good-sized fish, mostly dorado, he'd caught while on a three-day trip out of San Diego. We can understand why Mexico would like a little in return, but the current fee seems very high.

For the record, tourism in Mexico was up last year, and has been up again for the first six months of this year.


Kirk Pattterson wants to be the first gaijin to circumnavigate Japan, but I think he's more than a century too late. Whalers went around Japan long ago, as did many Russian vessels, including those with cartographers, which scared the bejeesus out of the Japanese. The first steamers plying Japanese waters were also mostly captained by gaijin, some up until the early 20th century.

The dangers are still there, of course, but there is now a growing number of "sea stations" — marinas — along the entire coast of the four main islands. In fact, a 20-ft tug made the journey by going station to station a few years ago. Much of this was covered in Kazi, the great Japanese sailing magazine.

I'm sure the circumnavigation will still be fun and exciting, and probably raise a few eyebrows; it just wouldn't be a record. Of course, people used to do these things as part of work and not for the record books, so who knows — Kirk may indeed be the first gaijin to take a pleasure cruise around the nation.

Andy Jones
Kanpai, Gemini 105Mc

Andy — First pleasure cruise, whatever. A lot of so-called sailing 'records' are more bogus than what Patterson is proposing, so we're not going to rain on his parade. We wish him the best and hope he'll keep us posted on his progress.

We're glad you mentioned the Japanese sailing magazine Kazi. We don't read Japanese, but based on the spectacular drawings and graphics, we can only assume the editorial content is equally good. How a country with so few sailors can support such a large and excellent publication is beyond us.


Speaking of batteries for boats, fleet sales of batteries have the same problems as most battery outlets. Specifically, lack of quality control. Interstate, a brand one of your readers heralded as being the best, is but one brand on the market. The reality is that most manufacturers make decent batteries.

I'm the owner of a marine store that sells a great deal of marine/RV deep cycle batteries. Since most of the mariners who buy from us are after hard-to-find batteries, we check the date codes and test the performance of every battery when it arrives from the factory. We also finish charging them and confirm the proper voltages. Only then will we sell them. After all, 4D and 8D batteries are very heavy and could be a real effort if someone had to return one because it wasn't up to snuff.

By the way, technology and newer battery designs mean most batteries are sealed and vent caps have been eliminated. Vent caps allow for contamination of the electrolyte and flooded batteries. With absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries, the battery is sealed and will therefore even work underwater. That's a good thing if you're trying to get off a mayday or keep the pumps running.

Dave Biron
Big Break Marina, Oakley


I own an Island Packet 350 that I sail out of Galveston, Texas. Two of my adult children have lived in San Francisco for more than a decade now, and I'm thinking of moving my boat to San Francisco so my wife and I can share more time with them. But before making that leap, I really need to talk with a local sailor or two who can give me straight talk on slip availability, weather, sailing conditions, and so forth. Can you share a name or two with me? Thanks.

Rick Evans
Whitney, IP 350
Galveston, TX

Rick — If you don't mind us giving you our version of the answers, here they are:

1) While a slip would be hard to come by in San Francisco proper, you can find slips in the East Bay and Marin that provide reasonably quick access to the Central Bay and/or other great sailing areas.

2) A quip acrophyphally attributed to Mark Twain says, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." By the time the afternoon winds start blowing on Central San Francisco Bay — or more accurately the cool ocean air gets sucked in through the Gate by the heat of the Central Valley — it's going to be cold. However, if you were to sail just a couple of hundred yards to the lee of Angel Island or other areas close to the Central Bay, it suddenly could become much warmer, if not hot. Very often you can pick the kind of weather you want on the Bay, from mellow to nasty. You also want to remember there are many places to sail in the San Francisco Bay Area. So if you want warmer, you head for the Estuary, the North Bay, the Texas-like warm Delta or Napa and Petaluma Rivers.

3) Similarly, the sailing conditions vary tremendously depending on where you are and the time of day. It can be blowing 30 between Alcatraz and Angel Island with wicked chop, and just a few hundred yards farther on it might be blowing seven knots with flat water. More than any other place we've been, you can pick your sailing conditions on San Francisco Bay, from extremely challenging to mellow.

An Island Packet 35 is a perfect size and type of boat for enjoying San Francisco Bay and the Delta. We think you'd have a wonderful time sailing out here with your family. Whether someone from Texas could abide San Francisco culture and politics is a whole different matter.


In the last letter of the June issue there was a casual mention of the writer's doctor suggesting less time in the sun. Being dark haired (when younger) and having brown eyes, I had never given skin cancer any concern. But a pretty small spot on my arm had me thinking of mortality for the first time. Had it spread to my lymph nodes, 'chemo' would have been in my repair list.

I cannot urge Latitude readers strongly enough to have a skin exam immediately — and regardless of age. Recently a 38-year-old died of melanoma.

Most likely, the doc will find some basal spots on most of us and burn them off. If there is a deadly melanoma that is found in time, it can be cut away. But if it travels, one is in real trouble.

I am now going in every three months and making sure that my cute female doc does a complete exam.

One generally doesn't think about sunlight as being something that can kill you, but it can. My sun habits have completely changed. Get an exam now!

Capt. Stuart Kiehl
Watercress, 26-ft Tollycraft

Stuart — Great advice.

For cruisers coming to Mexico this winter, a Banderas Bay-based cruiser gives the highest recommendation for dermatologist Dr. Vargas, whose office is close to Cornerstone Hospital, about a mile north of Costco in Puerto Vallarta. "Her number is (322) 225-3440, and she is not only very good, she's so hot that I can't even remember her first name." As with all doctors in Mexico, her fees are significantly lower than those in the States.


Years ago I bought a Fuji FinePix s5000 because of Latitude's recommendation — and have loved it! But it seems to have a major problem now, especially after a dusty trip down the Grand Canyon three years ago. So I'm wondering what digital camera you are using now, and how you like it.

Evelyn Jenkins Drew
Aquarelle, Kirie Feeling 446
Santa Cruz / St. Lucia

Evelyn — We're glad our Fuji recommendation worked for you. The good news is that it's almost impossible to find a digital camera now that isn't astonishingly good. The improvements over your '03 model include: better quality photos, higher resolution, better metering, longer zooms, wider wide-angles, less shutter lag, better flash systems, video capability — the list goes on and on. Did we mention the cameras are also smaller, lighter and less expensive?

The 'point & shoot' camera we're using right now is a Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS that cost all of about $149 from Best Buy. We don't know whether to laugh or cry, but it takes better photos than the Nikon D-1s we paid $5,000 for when high resolution — for then — digital cameras first came out. This little guy shoots photos at up to 12 megapixels, which means it's capable of stunning 16" x 20" prints, and has a zoom equal to 24mm to 120mm. And it has about a dozen settings for things like portraits, sports, nighttime, landscape and so forth. It's smaller than a pack of cigarettes, which makes it good for slipping into a shirt or pants pocket, meaning you never have to be without your camera. However, some have found it a little too small.

If you want to spend a little more, you might look into something like Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS19, which can be found at Costco for about $249. It's slightly larger, shoots at up to 14 megapixels, and has a ridiculously long 20-times zoom, plus all kinds of additional features. Here's just one example. If you were taking a photo of 14 people with your old Fuji, the camera would come up with one exposure for the whole thing. In modern cameras such as this Lumix, through some kind of black magic, the camera instantly picks out the 14 faces and comes up with custom exposures for each one of them. And it somehow works them all into the same photo.

Because you sail and do things like go down the Grand Canyon, you might be interested in waterproof-ish and/or shockproof-ish point & shoot cameras. These tend to cost a little bit more, and some don't have quite as much zoom or as many megapixels as non-waterproofish models. But for $190 you can get the Fuji XP30 that has 14 megapixels and a five-times zoom. It's all you need. If you need fewer features, Olympus, which has been making waterproof 'point & shoots' longer than anyone, sells little beauties for as little as $129. If you like fancy features in your 'tough' camera, such as geo-tagging, check out the Nikon Coolpix AW100.

Lumix, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Samsung — you can't go wrong. Whatever price point you choose, just make sure you get the latest model. If you go online and read all the reviews in an attempt to find the 'best' of these, you'll go nuts because there are literally dozens of them, most of them being slight variations of the others. Our suggestion is just go to Costco, find one that's in your price range, and head for the checkout line. You'll love whatever you buy.

What about SLR-type digital cameras with interchangeable lens? If you want to take great photos of boats racing — or other sports events — they are the only way to go. The Nikon D7000 has gotten spectacular reviews, and coupled with a single 18-200 zoom, has all the bases covered in one package. It's about a $2,000 package. Such cameras — Canon makes a terrific competitor — are much more expensive, more bulky and heavier. Having lugged film versions of such cameras around for 35 years, our right arm is now five inches longer than the left. So before investing in one of these, we'd make sure that a $250 point & shoot couldn't handle 99% of your photo needs.

Bonus tip: Lots of men incorrectly assume that long is always so much better, no matter if we're talking about the height of their mast, the purple-headed warrior in their pants, or the focal length of the lens on their camera. When it comes to cameras, a wide-angle lens is usually much more useful than a big telephoto. When you buy a 'point & shoot', getting a wider wide-angle is more important than getting a 20-times zoom.


I'm a German living in Costa Rica, and would like to get all licenses needed to legally operate an SSB radio on my boat. What is the cost and what paperwork is necessary to obtain the ship's license and a personal radio telephone operator's permit?

Rainer Anders
Lady Dynamite, Bavaria 49
Costa Rica YC

Rainer — Not not all national rules are alike. Since you're a German citizen, you need to check with German radio authorities.

U.S. Federal Communication Commission regulations require that any U.S. ship/boat carrying a marine SSB radio within U.S. waters have a ship's station license. This is where you get your official call letters, as in, "This is Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey, 9876." A ship's station license costs $160, and to make it convenient for everyone to remember, only needs to be renewed every 10 years. If you sell the boat, the license doesn't go with the boat.

The person operating the radio also needs a restricted radio operators permit, which costs $60 and is good for the lifetime of the holder. Does the radio operator have to demonstrate radio knowledge or competence? Are you kidding? This is America, where the Coast Guard will give you a license to carry paying passengers even if you've never backed a boat out of a slip. You can start using your radio as soon as you apply for the license. Of course, if you think an SSB radio is as intuitive as your car stereo or a VHF, you're in for a surprise.


In the middle of the night a few years ago while approaching the entrance to the Golden Gate, we encountered heavy fog while motoring in calm conditions. Staying south of the shipping channel, we carefully made our way toward the Golden Gate. My friend Dan stayed glued to the radar, calling out buoys, land and traffic as I cross-checked our position on the GPS chartplotter. Having been around the area previously, I knew that the cartography was good, so our main concern was to ensure our position was accurate and to identify traffic.

We passed several fishing boats and a few cargo ships, all with discernible lights. As we neared the Bridge, we started to see the bright glow of city lights through the fog off the port bow. Our positions had been cross-checked well up to this point, but this completely confused us, as there shouldn't have been a city there! Radar just showed the massive structure of the Bridge, and our GPS showed us headed toward the south side of the span.

After many confusing minutes while we slowed to resolve the conflicts, we finally figured out that the 'city lights' were moving, and a large and exceedingly well-illuminated ship was headed out the Gate. The ship's navigation lights were invisible to us, perhaps partly due to the fog, but mostly due to the overwhelming illumination of the rest of the ship.

I've had the same experience in other areas, where well-lit ships look like towns when viewed against the land. And trying to discern positioning and movement when you are in restricted waters can be a dangerously time-consuming process. When it's foggy, it's even more difficult.

AIS is a great aid nowadays, but it must be used and working. Having passed a 1,000-ft cargo ship with no AIS transmitting just a couple of months ago, I was reminded that a visual lookout remains necessary, even in this era of AIS.

Cruise ships and party boats aren't the only offenders when it comes to navigation lights. Only about half of the sailing boats in the Bay display correct lights. For instance, it's common to see sailboats under power but not showing a steaming light. Often they will only have a tricolor. Or as I saw last night, there was a boat with her tricolor and deck nav lights on — a no-no in itself — but still no steaming light. That makes right-of-way determinations slower and more difficult. It's our responsibility to ensure good visibility and easily interpreted lighting as well.

Peter Henry
Balance, Valiant 42
San Francisco


Cruise ships are a problem, but U.S. Navy ships are sometimes even worse. They run dark and won’t answer VHF calls. Although I don’t have an AIS and so I haven’t experienced it personally, I have been told that Navy ships don't turn on their AIS. On the East Coast, particularly around the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, where the Navy has quite a few exercises, it is a problem.

Peter Mason Passano
Sea Bear, Whittholz 37
Woolwich, Maine

Readers — Peter is no novice. Having started cruising from Northern California, he was awarded the prestigious Cruising Club of America's Bluewater Medal in '07 for his many, many long offshore passages.



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