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August 2012

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The Singlehanded Sailing Society rules! And the Singlehanded TransPac competitors are the best of the best. What a show of unselfishness, dedication to our sport, camaraderie and plain old humanity for the bunch of them to join together to save fellow racer Derk Wolmuth's Vindo 40 Bela Bartok, which he had to abandon because of a medical emergency.

They all are simply wonderful human beings, and I am damn proud to know many of them. Cheers to all on making something like this happen even after crossing 2,120+ ocean miles. Rarely have I seen such a fine display of sportsmanship and collective responsibility.

Kristen Soetebier
Commodore, Island YC

Kristen — We couldn't agree more that the generosity of everyone involved in the recovery of Bela Bartok — from the racers who sailed her to Waikiki YC to the ones who footed the bill for the expenses — is truly remarkable. Find out more about Wolmuth's rescue and Bela's recovery in Sightings.


The rig on Andy Bartholomew's 50-ft trimaran Traveller, which I designed many years ago, came down with him and me aboard last month. We were 500 miles north of Hawaii bound for San Francisco at the time, sailing in 15 to 20 knots of wind, with 9-ft seas. We were carrying a working jib and a double-reefed main. Our boat speed was over nine knots.

The cause of the dismasting was a chainplate toggle that didn't match the turnbuckle.

It took a day for us — Andy is 76 and I'm 86 — to get the deck squared away, spars secured, and sails stowed. The carbon fiber wing mast was damaged at the leading edge below the hounds. The damage occurred in a place where it couldn't have hit the deck, so perhaps it happened when it hit the water.

We got underway with a 185-sq ft staysail. We hoisted the foot on the radar mast, which was well aft, and secured the head as far forward as possible to windward. With 15 to 20 knots of wind, which we had all the way to Oahu, we were able to make 1.5 knots. It would have helped if we could have raised the boom for a 'mast', but it was too heavy. Unfortunately, the boat didn't have a light spinnaker pole.

When we used the engine — which was more than half the time — we ran it at just 2,000 rpm to conserve fuel. That brought our speed up to four knots. We had 50 gallons of fuel, and that got us within 130 miles of Oahu, at which point we called the Coast Guard and asked for suggestions. They had the 200-ft University of Hawaii SWATH catamaran research vessel Kilo Moana divert to provide the 35 gallons of fuel we needed to get the rest of the way to Honolulu. The fuel transfer was done efficiently, using their 16-ft hard-bottom inflatable and 5-gallon jerry cans tied to a trailing line.

Repairs to Traveller are underway at the University of Hawaii nautical training facility on Sand Island, Oahu.

Andy Bartholomew is a fine seaman and shipmate, which minimized his elderly guest's shortcomings. We were pleased to have been able to make it back to Honolulu with no more assistance needed. Thanks to those who helped at sea and with electronic communications!

Dick Newick
Sebastopol . . . I think.


The weather gods must have been watching the fun we all had during the recent Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous in French Polynesia, and decided that they would provide their own closing ceremony. After everyone had returned to their boats in the early evening and were reflecting on what a great three days we had enjoyed, a bit of a storm started to brew on the horizon. Within a couple of hours, it was 'all hands on deck', as the rain came pouring down and the wind whistled through the compact anchorage. Chaos soon followed, as the 70 boats, which were already too close to one another, began to dance around on their anchors. The wind increased to a steady 40 knots with gusts in the 50-knot range.

We were in our foul weather gear with the engine running in gear to ease the strain on the anchor when the inevitable happened — one boat began dragging her anchor. That set off a chain reaction, as her anchor tripped other anchors as she drifted through the fleet. Fortunately, our Red Sky didn't get tangled in the mess that followed, but four boats ended up with their anchor chains twisted around one another. Boats banged into each other, resulting in some damage to a few boats, but nothing too serious. We could see enough to know what was going on, and the VHF radio was alive with calls for assistance.

That's where the photo becomes relevant. Of all the stories that were told in the aftermath, one kept recurring. But each time I heard it, it had become more sensational. What really happened was that Pedro, a crewmember on Condesa Del Mar, went to the assistance of one boat that was dragging. He helped them retrieve their anchor and relocate in a more suitable spot. That's it.

However, the story went from Pedro taking a dinghy over to help them, to Pedro jumping overboard and swimming 500 meters to their boat to help them, to Pedro swinging from mast to mast to get to the boat in trouble — and so on.

Having heard all these stories, I decided that Pedro must really be some sort of super hero. I then became concerned because all superheroes must have a costume, right? It was then that I recruited the gang from Taka Oa and Condesa to make him a cape!

As luck would have it, the cruisers organized a get-together on the beach the following afternoon, so it was there that we presented the cape to the hero. Everyone got a good laugh, and it was nice to have a lighthearted moment after what had been a stressful evening for many.

John Hembrow
Red Sky, Moody 54
Mount Warren Park, Queensland, Australia


I can't believe the lawsuit that was filed by Aaron Peskin, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and other attorneys, who got the City of San Francisco to pay $150,000 for a study to see whether America's Cup boats will scare birds. And who also got the City of San Francisco to pay for the 'work' they did to file the suit.

How could these lawyers lower their ethics to bring such a suit to court, wasting both the time and funds of an already inadequate legal system for something that strikes me as being nothing more than legal extortion? That Peskin, whom I view as a parasite of the public purse, should be characterized as anything other than a blackmailer is journalistic sin.

John McNeill
San Francisco

John — When it comes to understanding how modern government functions, you sound as if you just fell off the turnip truck. The deal is that members of the government — no matter which party — seek to extract as much money as possible from taxpayers, under any guise that will play to the public, be it health care or preventing birds from being frightened by sailboats. The more money that comes in, the more money government officials and bureaucrats are able to siphon off and spread among their inner circles. It's even better than being in the mafia, because it's legal, and officials get to keep telling themselves and every fool who will listen that they're doing it for 'the kids' or the 'people' or the 'environment'. That they and their extended families get hefty Cadillac benefits in the process, while the rest of the population goes to the poor house, is just a serendipitous accident.

We don't know this for a fact, but what do you suppose the chances are that the supervisors who voted in favor of the bird study and the $75,000 settlement with the lawyers will be getting campaign contributions from — what a shock! — the lawyers who profited from the settlement? And that they aren't all good friends in the first place?

Why don't members of the other side of the political spectrum raise a stink to fight settlements for such preposterous lawsuits? Because when they come up with their own money-making scams, they want the support of their putative opponents. You know, the old 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch my back, and we'll all get rich at the public's expense'. How else do you think the funding got approved for Governor Brown's ridiculous High Speed Beanstalk to Nowhere, which is now opposed by an overwhelming percentage of Californians, and which some legislators voted for even though they don't believe it will ever be completed? It's a beautifully lucrative system, unless you're a taxpaying chump who isn't part of government, in the inner circles, or will be one who lightly and briefly gets trickled upon.


I saw the July 20 'Lectronic item about Justin Jenkins and his girlfriend getting ready to go cruising in a Columbia 34. Is a 40-year-old Columbia something that you'd consider a 'proper cruising boat'?

Mike Finkle
San Francisco

Mike — We're going to take the easy way out and define a 'proper cruising yacht' as one that has proven it can get the job done. To that end we're going to republish a '00 Changes from the then-Santa Clara-based Roy Wessbacher, who is a member of Latitude 38's Frugal Cruising Hall of Fame.

"Having now covered 31,700 ocean miles and visited 35 countries with my Columbia 34 MKII Breta, my boat and I are back in the United States. I finished the trip as I began it, singlehanded. But while enroute I had a total of 17 crewmembers, all of them vegetarians — and all of them female. Cynthia, a Dutch girl, even lasted through the whole ugly Red Sea leg from Sri Lanka up to Israel — and that 4,400 miles took 147 days. Susanne, a Swedish girl, did the Atlantic and the Caribbean with me, which was 3,400 miles and 109 days. Maus, my cat, accompanied me all the way around. I kept an exact record of all my expenses during my circumnavigation. In the 4 years, 9 months and 9 days it took me to sail from Puerto Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta, I spent an average of $14.66 a day. That's $445 a month, $5,350 a year, or a grand total of $25,300. I had budgeted $20 day, so I completed the trip way under budget. Those numbers include every single expenditure. I did two bottom jobs, one in New Zealand and one in Thailand. I had no major breakdowns, and didn't fly home."

As we recall, Wessbacher paid $10,000 for his Columbia 34. After his circumnavigation he purchased a LaFitte 44.

We're also reminded that Jaspar and Flocerfida Benincasa not only did the '03 Ha-Ha with their Las Vegas-based Columbia 34 MKII Flocerfida, but that the novice sailors had a fabulous time cruising their modest boat most of the way across the Pacific. They subsequently purchased a 44-footer and were getting ready to go cruising again. So who knows, maybe young folks save so much money by cruising inexpensive boats that they can buy bigger ones?

By the way, some older sailors — such as Roger Fitzwilson of the San Diego-based Columbia 50 Windstorm, previously owned by Columbia Yachts owner Dick Valdez — claim that Southern California boats built prior to '73 are stronger than those built in the years immediately following. The reason is the Oil Crisis of '73, which was created when the members of OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo on the West following the decision of the United States to re-arm Israel after the Yom Kippur War. The price of a barrel of oil quadrupled to nearly $12/barrel — it's about $90/barrel now — and marked the end of U.S. drivers' paying 25 cents for a gallon of gas. Since the main component of fiberglass boats is petroleum products, the cost of the raw materials for fiberglass boats shot up. So hulls of boats, which previously had been ridiculously thick to err on the side of caution, became thinner.


Now that US Sailing has done its investigation and made its recommendations relative to the Low Speed Chase tragedy in the Farallones Race, I'd like to make some observations about the published comments that were made immediately after the tragedy and attributed to the Bay Area racing community and yacht club officials.

By the way, I have followed the incident with more than casual interest, because much of that commentary is at odds with my experience and safety standards for offshore heavy weather and big wave racing. To me this suggests a significant attitude of denial and a huge lack of firsthand experience among yacht club leadership in what is required to mitigate, as much as possible, the risks of racing in big wave and big wind conditions. Bay Area yacht clubs are not alone in this regard, and in my opinion their experience applies to many yacht clubs. However, the San Francisco YC brought the spotlight upon itself by sponsoring and promoting an event wherein, given the prevailing attitude regarding safety issues and the inherent danger of the course, an "accident waiting to happen" was created.

More than 50 years of offshore racing experience and the accumulation of several thousand miles of gale-force racing — most of it between San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas — are my credentials. In some of those races, the course was notorious, and one expected hazardous conditions. In most of the other heavy weather/big seas incidents, while gale conditions were forecast, the races actually were sailed in light air. However, in some of those races the bad weather had already arrived, but we were sent out anyway. Some of those races should have been cancelled. For example, on the same weekend as the Full Crew Farallones Race, the Los Angeles YC sent us off around Santa Barbara Island in 22 knots of true wind, with a forecast for 35 to 40 knots — which hit well before the island was reached.

While the ultimate responsibility for the decision to go out and land in bad weather or to take on an acknowledged dangerous course belongs to the skipper, yacht club race officials need to rethink their level of responsibility relative to safety. There is no question that on some occasions races should be cancelled. Skipper's meetings should be mandatory so that critical details about the course, weather conditions, safety requirements and potential cancellation can be discussed with all participants. With race management now done almost exclusively online, these meetings have all but disappeared.

For offshore events such as the Farallones Race, boats should be inspected for PFDs, harnesses and tethers, jacklines, and fixed anchor points on cabin exits, mast and foredeck. These requirements are all in the ISAF Offshore Regulations (as well as US Sailing's), yet I didn't notice any reference to them by the yacht club officials and competitors who were quoted. The Sailing Instructions should not merely require their availability. Their use should be mandatory on courses such as the Farallones Race.

Several comments attributed to yacht club officials noted that while PFDs were mandatory, harnesses and tethers were considered optional because they are used only when conditions are exceptionally bad, and their use is further limited because they don't allow the crew the freedom of movement necessary to perform some of the sail management maneuvers. These statements can only be attributed to a serious lack of experience, and when coming from yacht club officials and so-called experienced racers, they identify a significant part of the problem.

Conditions for this Farallones Race were characterized as "ordinary for this annual test of Bay Area sailors' mettle," and it was a "typically windy, bumpy day at the Farallones with 10-ft seas and wind 23 knots gusting to 30," according to another quote from an experienced racer. In those ordinary conditions, 42 boats started the event, but almost 50% of them didn't finish, and five sailors lost their lives.

By any realistic assessment, the Farallones Race is always a dangerous event! Under "typical" Farallones conditions, crewmembers should be anchored by a one-meter tether when sitting on the rail in the cockpit. They can use a 3-meter tether clipped to a fixed anchor at the mast or foredeck, which affords them all the freedom of movement needed for tacking, jibing, sail changes and spinnaker sets and jibes. Clipped into the jackline, they can move safely anywhere topside.

It is my perception that over the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a steady decline in the number of offshore races that have the ingredients necessary to produce and reinforce the awe, fear and respect for sailing in big wind and big seas that is required to foster the seamanship and mindset needed to make offshore racing safer. As a result, race officials have become more complacent about heavy weather safety issues, and we have a lot more "experienced racers" who have no business taking on a race like the Full Crew Farallones. Hopefully, US Sailing recommendations will be implemented and have a positive impact on improving safety.

PK Edwards, M.D.
Wind Dancer, Catalina 42
Ventura YC

PK — With all due respect, what we've seen the biggest decline in during the last 20 to 30 years is people willing to take responsibility for their decisions. No matter how poor a decision someone makes in this society, they — or more likely their lawyer — are quick to try to pin the responsibility on someone or something else. It's always someone else's fault, isn't it? Personally, we're sick of everybody mouthing Bart Simpson's favorite line, and are somewhat heartened by the fact that, to our knowledge, none of the survivors of Low Speed Chase has directed blame at the yacht club or anyone else for what happened.

The fact of the matter is that all of US Sailing's recommendations — see the list below — could have been in place for this year's Full Crew Farallones Race, and they still wouldn't have prevented the Low Speed Chase crew from surfing backward down a wave and being knocked over, and most of the crew being thrown into the icy water. To our mind it's ridiculous to suggest that something like not having a mandatory in-person skippers' meeting had anything to do with the tragedy. Most of the Low Speed Chase crew knew the course well, and it seems clear that the cause of the incident was the incorrect judgment of how far they could venture into water that was too shallow for the conditions that day.

If the race management of the Full Crew Farallones has been so inadequate for all this time, perhaps you can explain how the race has been held — and sometimes in much worse weather than this year's event — without a single fatality for 100 years.

You claim that it's the skipper's "ultimate responsibility" to start or continue a race, but then you seem to contradict yourself by backpedaling as quickly as you can, bemoaning the fact that the Los Angeles YC "sent you out" in a race in 22 knots of true wind. Come on, you weren't outnumbered members of the British Cavalry being sent to death in the Charge of the Light Brigade, you were recreational sailors who had complete freedom to either accept the risks of the day or stay at the dock. Indeed, given your vast experience, you probably knew the course and what the weather conditions would be like better than the race committee did. And you certainly knew your boat and your crew better. But based on your comments, it sounds as if you would have been quick to blame the race committee if anything had gone wrong on your boat.

You noted that nearly half of the Full Crew Farallones fleet didn't finish the race, making it sound as if that was a bad thing. As far as we're concerned, the fact that nearly half the fleet decided they didn't want to take the risk of finishing the race is an example of widespread good judgment on the part of skippers who 'manned up' and took personal responsibility for their actions and decisions. We salute them for having the good sense not to have to wait for a race committee to make the evaluation for them.

Prior to the start of the second race of the '95 Heineken Regatta in St. Martin, we'd been hitting 16 knots on Profligate under main alone. Hearing that the wind in the Anguilla Channel was gusting to the low 40s, and knowing how short and steep the seas can be in the channel, we declined to start, thank you very much. A competitive Doña de Mallorca wasn't very happy about it, but as we were responsible for the lives of the people on Profligate, and felt the conditions were too risky, it was a no-brainer to us that we not start the race. Nobody was hurt during the race, although several boats lost their masts, but we still don't regret our decision not to start.

The truth of the matter is that racing in the ocean — particularly in the Gulf of the Farallones and in the Caribbean during "typical" conditions — is always going to be "an accident waiting to happen." This is true even with the very best sailors and boats in the world. For example, there was a mishap during a jibe on one of the J Class yachts in this year's St. Barth Bucket, and as a result the San Diego-based bowman was hit in the face by the end of the enormous spinnaker pole and suffered serious injuries. When we later talked to the longtime bowman on a competing J Class yacht, he was philosophical about it, saying the risk of getting hurt comes with being a bowman in the ocean. People have gotten hurt when racing in rough conditions in the past, and they are going to get hurt when racing in rough conditions in the future. That is the nature of offshore sailing.

If you want risk-free sailing, we can come up with a lot better recommendations than US Sailing: 1) No sailing in more than 12 knots of wind; 2) No boat speed in excess of five knots; 3) No racing after sunset; 4) No spinnakers or gennakers; 5) No sailing without a mothership; 6) No boats with bulwarks less than six feet high; 7) No sailing in water less than 80 degrees; 8) No sailing more than 100 yards from shore.

For the record, US Sailing's preliminary recommendations include: enhanced sailor training, including understanding of wave development in shoaling waters; once-a-season safety seminars; compliance with existing Minimum Equipment Requirements, including post-race inspections; improved race management, including better communication with sailors and Coast Guard; and consistency of protocol and requirements for all Bay Area offshore races.

We think attempts to relieve sailors of personal responsibility is perhaps the most irresponsible thing that could be done. Participants in offshore racing events need to be reminded that it's not a Disneyland-like controlled environment when racing in the ocean, and that neither the race committee nor the Coast Guard can get them out of any and all situations they put themselves into. If anything, we think two things need to be emphasized. First, that some offshore race courses are usually more difficult than others. So maybe it would be helpful if they were rated on a scale of 1 to 5, somewhat similar to ski runs — while noting that history is not a guarantee of future conditions. And second, that participants in offshore ocean races be reminded of the potential dangers, and the fact that they, not anybody else, are responsible for their safety and welfare.

While sailing organizations can do a few things to foster safety, PK, take it from Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins, who has raced and sailed a lot more of the world's ocean for a lot longer than you, that there is no way anyone can outlaw bad judgment, poor decision-making, and bad luck, which are the overwhelming causes of most sailing accidents.


It all boils down to the risk versus the reward.

I'm a trader by profession, so every day I look at my charts and use my knowledge and experience to decide whether to take a position. My first concern is the risk. What could my loss be? If the risk were so huge that it could wipe me out, there is no possible reward that would be worth it.

In 30 years of racing my various boats on the Bay, I've faced this same kind of risk/reward analysis many times. For example, what is the risk of rounding Harding Rock very close when flying downwind with spinnaker on a strong ebb if it will leave you on the east side of the buoy after taking it to starboard? One time, while on the jibe from port to starboard, my running back guy screwed up, and we caught the boom. As a result, we collided with Harding and holed my boat. In retrospect, the risk of the crew error was too large compared to what might have been the possible gain.
The terrible Low Speed Chase tragedy at the Farallones was the result of a risk/reward analysis. The crew mistakenly evaluated the risk to be too low and the reward too high. In his June issue letter, Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins was correct in his assessment of the tragedy. The problem was a result of a poor judgment of the risk and reward.

Rose Pearl
Formerly of a 44-ft racing yacht
Formerly San Francisco

Rose — Our lives are a never-ending series of risk/reward evaluations. Fortunately, when we screw up by making bad decisions — such as playing the lottery as opposed to other kinds of gambling where the odds are more in our favor — the downsides usually aren't fatal. But lord knows that such decisions — "Shall I drive home completely smashed?" — can be.

When sailing, and especially racing offshore, competitive sailors usually are willing to assume higher risks than normal. If people don't want to play that game, they should choose to engage in sailing activities that aren't as risky as ocean racing.

The odd thing about the Low Speed Chase tragedy is — at least as we understand it — that the crew wasn't taking an excessive risk in order to win a race. After all, they'd gotten a terrible start and knew they were far out of contention for any pickle dishes. It seems to us they got into too shallow water because they either didn't realize how shallow it was or didn't realize how dangerous the depth was for the size of the waves that day. The lesson would seem to be that inadvertent risk-taking can be every bit as dangerous as intentional risk-taking.


I feel as if I should send Latitude money for keeping me out of therapy! For the last few years I've been working in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan, and am now in Tajikistan. I read every word of everything Latitude sends out via email — no snail mail in these places — and it keeps me sane. So thank you.

I will be home in September — to buy a boat. My first shopping stop will, of course, be the Classy Classifieds. Cheers, and keep up the terrific service!

Herschel Weeks
Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Herschel — We don't know what you're doing in those parts of the world, but keep your butt safe. And if you decide to do this year's Ha-Ha, we know a guy who will happily pick up the entry fee for you.


The publisher of Latitude may recall the discussion we had about a month ago in La Cruz about the responsibility captains have to respond to boats in distress. When I saw the July 13 report on the June loss of the Beneteau 42 Rocinante at Isla Margarita, it reminded me that she was the boat that put out the distress call that was the subject of our conversation.

We were in the Sea of Cortez when Rocinante went aground at Isla Margarita on the other side of the Baja peninsula, and we heard a boat anchored at Belcher's in Mag Bay, not far away from Rocinante, report on the SSB net that they'd heard a distress call from Rocinante the day before. They stated that pangas had headed out the entrance to Mag Bay and they thought they were going to provide assistance.

None of us in the Sea of Cortez knew what had happened, but it seems clear that the boats at anchor didn't provide the skipper of Rocinante with any assistance. Of course, I don't know the details of the situation, or if the boats in Mag Bay could have assisted even if they'd wanted. As I recall, there were pretty strong northwesterlies blowing on the outside of Baja at the time, which may or may not have been a factor.

Mike Stout
Mermaid, Aleutian 51
Redondo Beach

Mike — We do remember having that conversation with you. We don't know the circumstances surrounding the Rocinante situation either, such as if there were any boats in the vicinity that could have helped or if the weather was such that attempting to provide help might have endangered additional lives.

What we do know is that there are three international conventions — International Maritime Organizations (IMO), Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), and the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCOLOS), that require captains of vessels to proceed with all speed to persons in distress. Criminal penalties are possible for those who don't adhere to these conventions. For example, Indonesia is currently going after Australia for Oz's failure to come to the rescue of at least two heavily overloaded refugee boats, both of which capsized, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.

There is, however, no obligation for skippers to help boats in distress if attempting to render such help would endanger the safety of those on the potential rescue boats. When it comes to only moderately experienced sailors, helping other boats in even remotely bad weather is fraught with potential danger. Towing another boat, for example, can be much more dangerous than the average recreational mariner might appreciate. That said, we've rarely had more fun in our lives than when coming to the rescue of boats in distress.

Those who didn't read the 'Lectronic article about the loss of Rocinante can read about it in this month's Changes.


I simply can't believe that some rational method couldn't have been devised to get Rocinante back into deeper water. Based on the difficulty of access, it might have cost several thousand dollars to execute a plan, but surely it wouldn't have been impossible to perform the task.

What is to become of the boat?

Christopher Jarrett

Christopher — Rocinante went up on the Pacific Coast of Isla Margarita, which is the remote barrier island on the west side of Mag Bay. It's our understanding that she needed to be dragged something like 600 feet in shallow water over sand to reach deep water. Bob Hoyt of Mag Bay Outfitters, the Mexican Navy, and Sheldon Caughey, all of whom have considerable experience rescuing boats, were on hand and eager to help, but the salvage proved to be impossible. No doubt the boat has been or will be stripped and the hulk will remain in place.


Thank you for posting the story on the loss of the Beneteau 42 Rocinante. I fought off a tear upon seeing the photo of her in such a state, as I have many fond memories of sailing on her. My first coastal passage was aboard Rocinante, with the original — and as far as I'm concerned, only true — owner of the boat, Alex Malaccorto. I also sailed under the Gate for the first time on Rocinante, when we brought her home from Mexico.

It's my understanding that Rocinante has changed hands two or three times since Alex's passing, and it really crushes me to see what appears to have been the lack of respect for a vessel that means so much to me. I'm not one to cast stones, but how could a vessel that was so lovingly and meticulously maintained fall victim to such a sad fate? Really, I find myself choked up, not just for the vessel, but for the man to whom she meant so much. I pray that Alex, wherever he is, cannot see his boat today.

I could say so much more about my feelings toward Rocinante and Don Alex, as I called him, but I can't help feeling anger, sadness and some measure of disgust. For those who knew Alex, my feelings would make sense, as there were three things Alex Malaccorto lived for: his wife, his family, and Rocinante. Alex was a reserved man, quiet and stern. But if there was a smile on his face, chances are that he was aboard Rocinante. If there is a heaven for boats, I trust Alex is there now, sailing her into an eternal sunset.

Mauricio Astacio
Planet Earth


A few months ago I invested in new shoes for sailing aboard our Hunter 41DS. But I've been frustrated by the grip — or lack of it — between the deck and the soles of my Harken and Sperry boat shoes.

When I discussed this with the vendors at the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Oakland in April, the only suggestion they could give was to clean the soles with rubbing alcohol. I tried this, but found it didn't do anything to improve the grip.

We are not racers, but if casual cruisers have an issue with slipping on deck, what do racers, who certainly put their shoes to greater demands, do?

As for Bay and coastal sailing, my Uggs are far superior to my Aigle seaboots for both grip and warmth.

Cathy Kirby
Manu Kai, Hunter 41DS
Kailua, HI


For the one or two of you who have been wondering why I, a veteran of the '71 America's Cup campaign aboard Constellation, have not been writing about the events leading up to next year’s America’s Cup, the principal answer is that I haven’t been at them to see what's been going on. I did spend a World Series day in San Diego last November, but I found it hard to get a sense of things. I've also watched the YouTube videos of the events in Venice and San Diego, but only with difficulty, as there were so many cuts and so little story that it reminded me of MTV.

But then I spent the first part of July in Newport, Rhode Island, partly for an America's Cup crewmate's funeral, partly because it's one of my favorite places on the planet, and partly because the America's Cup World Series was going on in the old hometown of the America's Cup.

I had a terrific time. The weather was great, I spent time with lots of old friends, I made some great new friends. And I got an up-close look and sense of what the America's Cup is becoming. In six words, my view of the America's Cup is 'That was then, this is now.'

'Then', for me, was match racing, three or more hours at a time, on big, heavy, beautiful boats with white sails and spotless hulls. It was swell parties in amazing mansions and dancing, often in black tie, with debutantes. It was getting up early the next morning to sand the bottom, stop the sails and grease the winches. It was not on television and we didn't get paid, yet it was the most fun I've ever had.

'Now' is what you see, and obviously, almost everything is different. Match racing is the biggest casualty, as the nature of the catamarans — which you may have noticed don't tack very well — has eliminated the complex tactical game. The fleet races are fun to watch, though, with lots of speed and color and potential for mishap. The crews’ abilities to handle these massively overpowered boats is very impressive, and the technology being brought to the television coverage is flat out amazing.

But it seems as though we have traded sport for spectacle. Fort Adams, and most of Newport, were 'happening', and sailing made it to broadcast television in a big way. There were lots of people on and around the boats, and lots of them were being paid a lot of money. But I sensed a sort of grim sense that this new America's Cup experiment must succeed. That must have taken some fun out of it.

Lest there be any confusion, I’m very glad to have been part of 'then', but I'm also glad to be around for the 'now'. And I do hope the experiment succeeds.

Dick Enersen
Bay Area
Crew, 12 Meter Constellation, 1971

Dick — We think you're accurate when you describe the current America's Cup as an "experiment." As with all half-completed experiments, it's hard to predict what the final results are going to be. For example, we remember that one of the early complaints about multihulls was that there weren't going to be as many passing opportunities as with monohulls. As we've all seen, there's been more passing with the multihulls than there is at a pick-up football game. Who would have thunk?

Then, too, all we've seen so far are the 45-ft cats. We think it's fair to say that when the 72s make their debut next to the 45s, it's going to be like putting a monster motorcycle next to a bicycle. We don't think anybody has much of a handle on what racing the 72s will be like, so we don't think anybody has any idea how the America's Cup experiment is going to turn out. But it should be interesting.

Overlooked at Newport were the five new MOD 70 one-design trimarans from Europe, which were on hand to try to steal some of the America's Cup thunder. If readers aren't familiar with the MOD 70s, you're not alone, because they've gotten very little publicity in the United States. But they are a new one-design class by VPLP meant to replace the spectacularly fast, wild and fragile ORMA 60 trimarans. They are expected to be an improvement over the smaller tris in the following ways: 5% less sail area for greater safety in the ocean; 10-ft longer center hull to reduce the chance of pitchpoling; raised beam clearance to reduce wave impact; shorter mast; curved foils for performance and safety; low temp-cured carbon and foam construction for lower construction cost; and identical 3DL North sail wardrobes. The one-design business and just about everything else is meant to keep the costs down to increase the number of participants.

The one-design aspect of the MOD 70s is interesting, because just a short time ago the Volvo Ocean Race officials announced that the next around-the-world Volvo Race will be sailed not only in slightly smaller boats but, for the first time ever, in one-design boats, meaning Farr 65s. Officials project that campaigns will be 30% less expensive than before, and hope it will double the size of the next fleet.

As for the MOD 70 concept, it got off to a smashing start. For one thing, the French have had a long history with these kinds of multihulls and knew how to make them super sexy. And despite having soft sails instead of ridiculously more expensive AC Cup wing sails, they took off like bats out of hell. In the first day of their first official race — the 2,950-mile KRYS Ocean Race from New York to Brest, France — several of them covered more than 700 miles, which is more than any monohull has ever done. And after crossing the Atlantic, the top three boats finished within just a few hours of each other.

Like you, Dick, we at Latitude are excited about the upcoming America's Cup. On the other hand, we feel it will be simple to improve on the next edition. Specifically, by introducing much less expensive, but darn near just as fast, one-design multihulls. Why not something similar to the MOD 70s, which are capable of 40 knots and 800-mile days? To us it sounds like a recipe for an America's Cup with 15 entries instead of just three or four — which necessarily means a much more popular, exciting and competitive America's Cup.


What are the issues when transferring a freshwater fiberglass boat to saltwater, and what are the solutions?

Allen Sneidmiller
Chico / Penang, Malaysia

Allen — Fiberglass boats go between freshwater and saltwater all the time without any problem. For example, boats kept up in the Delta sail down to San Francisco Bay for a week or a couple of years. The saltwater environment is, of course, more corrosive, so boats in saltwater need to be washed off with fresh water more frequently, and all metal parts checked for corrosion.


We respectfully request that we and Faith, our Scandia 34 cutter, be inducted into the Latitude 'Over 30 Club'.

Scandia was built in Taiwan, self-imported, and then launched in January of '82. Fewer than a dozen of this design were built. She's a member of the post-Westsail 32 class of cruising boats that came out in the late '70s and early '80s. She has a semi-infinite displacement-to-length ratio, a nearly full keel, a canoe stern and lots of teak, and is nearly indestructible. She is at her best when the lighter boats start heading for harbor.

We're the original owners, and have never found another boat we like better. She's dry and sea-kindly, takes more than we can, and is amazingly fast, for her displacement.

And Faith has held up over the last 30 years. She still has her original diesel, which runs great. She has her original fuel and water tanks, and they don't leak. Her teak decks don't leak either. She also has her original ground tackle, mast and boom.
What's the secret to the longevity of her systems? In the case of her engine, it requires keeping the fuel and oil scrupulously clean and the tanks full. Similarly, the fresh water tanks need to be kept full and clean. Our other tip is to clean the teak sparingly. Having her laid up while I worked abroad for a total of seven years didn't hurt either.

We don't mean to imply that Faith has been trouble-free. We've had to do two blister jobs, re-wire and upgrade the electrical system — for more power, of course — and do an extensive refit 10 years ago when she turned 20.

Faith has taken us as far north as Pt. Conception and on innumerable trips to Southern California's Channel Islands, as well as on the '03 Ha-Ha and up into the Sea of Cortez. She is likely to outlive us both.

Bill & Lynne Willcox
Faith, Scandia 34


The City and County of San Francisco are misleading potential slipholders when they quote their slip rates. Months after tenants have agreed to the rate and signed the lease, they receive another bill from the City and County of San Francisco for property tax on the slip being rented.

When you share your thoughts about their backhanded deception, you get all kinds of ridiculous explanations depending on whom you talk to. They even like to point out that the City of San Francisco and the County of San Francisco are separate entities — as if that matters.

Basically they are telling slipholders that they are government agencies and they can do whatever they want — so shut up and pay up. If a non-municipal marina rented you a slip at $10 a foot, and then at the end of the year levied an additional fee without previously telling you about it, you would likely be upset. In fact, I have rented a slip in another municipal marina in the past, and was not levied a property tax on top of my rent.

Bryan C.
San Francisco

Bryan — It is true that berthholders in San Francisco have to pay property tax not only on their boats, but on the berths they occupy. We're not sure how prevalent this tax on berths is, but we know that San Francisco is not alone in assessing it.


Latitude appears to have the wrong length of the Silverton powerboat that capsized and sank on Long Island Sound after the Fourth of July fireworks show, with the loss of three young lives. According to all reports here on Long Island, she was 34 feet, not 37 feet, in length.

The fireworks show is put on each year by the James Dolan family in front of their waterfront house, and is bigger than the fireworks shows at most towns on Long Island. The Dolans can afford it, because they are the ones who own Cablevision, Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, Beacon Theatre, and so forth.

During the day, boats from all over the area — including some very large ones — come into Cold Spring Harbor and anchor, raft up, and so forth, and the party begins. The fireworks show starts just after dark, and upon its conclusion, there is complete mayhem on the water.

Why everybody thinks they all have to leave at the same time is beyond me. The local launch service is bombarded with calls from people to be picked up by moored boats, and there are boats headed off to Oyster Bay, Cold Spring Harbor, and out into Long Island Sound. I own a Catalina 30, and we just sit safely on the mooring and wait for it to clear out.

With everyone leaving at the same time, and depending on the tide, wind, and water depth, there can be some very nasty wakes and waves coming from all directions. I've experienced it more than once on just a normal busy Sunday afternoon.

The operator of the Silverton claims that the boat was hit broadside by a large wake that he didn't see in the dark. It knocked the boat over on her side, at which time she started to sink. There was rain and lightning at the same time, adding to the chaos.

A lot of people in town and at the docks have speculated about the cause of the tragedy, and most agree that it was probably foolish to have 27 people aboard. But one theory I heard from a person whose nautical experience I respect is that there may have been water in the bilge of the boat that the operator wasn't aware of, so when the boat was knocked to the side, added ballast helped push her over.

The boat's owner had owned the boat for only one season. She was being operated by a friend who had at least 25 years' experience.

I enjoy reading Latitude here on the East Coast even though I haven't been in San Fran since '78. My friend who lives in Rohnert Park keeps trying to get me out there to visit with the promise of plenty of wine. Maybe soon.

Oyster Bay, New York

J.S. — It doesn't take an expert to know there are some obvious things that contribute to the instability of a motoryacht. Lots of free-moving water in the bilge, as your friend suggested, would certainly be one of them. But we suspect an even greater factor in the Long Island case was the amount and placement of human weight. If we assume that the 27 people on the boat, apparently 11 of them children, were to weigh an average of 150 lbs, that means there were over two tons of movable human weight on a 34-ft boat. If most of that weight was on a flybridge, which is well above the boat's normal center of gravity, and much of that weight happened to be on one side rather than the other, one can imagine that the boat had much less stability than she was designed for.

Wakes and waves are additional variables. For the last 25 years, Latitude has owned either Bertram 25s or a Bertram 28 as our photoboat. The closest we ever came to being killed on any of these high-quality boats was on an otherwise relatively calm day inside the Bay about a quarter mile east of the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a relatively small area of tidal waves caused by the ebb. The waves weren't very big, but they created a rhythmic effect that tossed the Bertram from one beam end to the other with surprising speed and force. It was like a wild ride in an amusement park, and it took all the strength we had to keep from literally being pitched off the flybridge. Fifteen minutes later, with the ebb having moved on, the little patch of nasty water was as calm as a pond.

The lesson we took from that spooky incident is that a nearly empty powerboat in calm waters doesn't display any of the warning signs of the potential danger if the same boat is extremely top heavy in sloppy or rough conditions. In other words, static is nothing like dynamic.

Maybe it was a 'perfect storm' of factors that caused the Silverton to go over, but we suspect the number one contributor was having 27 people on a 34-ft boat. Even intuitively, didn't this seem wrong to the owner, who'd only owned the boat for a year, and the operator, who had decades of boating experience? Obviously not, as some of the children lost were immediate family or very close friends.

The tragedy raises a very curious question, which is why, in our otherwise overly nanny state, the Coast Guard doesn't list a maximum capacity for larger private boats, as is donefor charter boats, boats less than 20 feet in length, fast food restaurants and what have you.

And yes, the Silverton was 34 feet, not 37 feet as we reported. The mistake was caused by an errant keystroke.

On a lighter subject, the Dolans are — or at least used to be — big time racers. When we did Antigua Sailing Weeks in the '90s, the Dolan clan used to charter the 110-ft trimaran Lammer Law as the base for the two and sometimes three boats they raced in those week-long events. One of the boats was the Class A maxi Sagamore, and the girls' entry was the dark blue S&S 73 Encore, which was described as a "Ferrari on deck and a Rolls-Royce down below." The latter has been completely restored and is looking good. If we're not mistaken, the Dolans also own Knickerbocker, a classic 118-ft Palmer Johnson motorsailer. Last winter we hung out a bit with the crews of these boats at — well, you know what island.


Talking about rarely used powerboats going out on the Fourth of July, I watched a powerboat — with guests, but not overloaded like the one in the tragic New York incident — leave her dock about seven slips down from mine. The skipper backed straight out of his slip to within about five feet of the slips behind him, and revved his one engine to stop himself, which created a big wave that washed over a small boat in one of the slips. He then went forward into his slip and backed up again, with the same results. He repeated this at least two more times before finally getting his boat turned enough to head down the fairway. When he got to the end and tried to turn, he couldn't make it. He ended up turning the wrong way, toward the boatyard. He finally backed into an empty slip and tied the boat off. He stomped down the dock leaving his guests behind.

As best I can figure, his boat had two engines, but only the port engine was working. Even though he had limited turning ability, he didn't want to give up on a Fourth of July trip with friends to see the fireworks.

Don't these powerboats have wheels or something to help them turn?

By the way, I loved the San Diego Fourth of July Big Bang video on 'Lectronic. It was hilarious that all the fireworks were shot off in 15 seconds. I can almost hear people saying, "and....? and....?"

Ginger Clark
Corsair, Flicka 20
King Harbor, Redondo Beach

Ginger — Assuming twin engines are far enough apart, and both are working, they give an operator tremendous control in tight quarters. But if one engine is down, such boats can be very difficult if not impossible to control.

Take the case of Profligate. When her twin engines are working, she easily rotates on a dime and can nearly jump up and down. But when one engine is out, the working engine is close to 15 feet off centerline, which makes the boat impossible to control in tight spaces. Indeed, it takes about 100 yards of open water before the rudders are able to take over directional stability from the off-center engine thrust. Smaller twin engine powerboats may not be quite as hard to handle with one engine down, but for a skipper accustomed to two engines, just one off-center engine can be a nightmare.

When it comes to steering, you generally steer twin engine boats with the engines, not the wheel. Put one engine in forward, the other engine in reverse, leave the helm amidships, and the boat should rotate in place.

Other factors that greatly restrict the maneuverability of boats, be they power or sail, are dirty bottoms and dirty props.

We sympathize with the guy who couldn't take his friends out on the Fourth. It probably meant a lot to him, and maybe both the engines had been running fine the day before. We'd be frustrated, too. At least he didn't slam into any other boats.

Fun fact: Somebody in the powerboat industry did a study of what aspect of owning a powerboat powerboaters liked the most. We're not making this up, but what powerboaters say they like most is being seen getting off their boats at a waterfront restaurant. Must be a Florida vanity thing.


It's been a long time since my wife Liesbet and I have been in contact with Latitude. As you and your readers might remember, we are the couple who gave up cruising — one day out of San Francisco — after it was obvious that our two dogs were having a hard time. We gave up adventure by boat for a camper truck that we drove as far south as Panama, but then decided we'd try cruising with our dogs on a 35-ft Tobago catamaran. It worked out great, and we spent several years in the Caribbean.

Both of our dogs have passed on now — I'm sure there will be another in our future soon — and we're in Panama's San Blas Islands. We're going to continue on — maybe — to the Pacific next year, and have a number of friends who went this year.

Some of our friends who went this year sent us what seems to be some great news. We're wondering if Latitude can confirm it. To quote:

"It was very easy to ship in goods duty-free (yacht in transit) via DHL. As a result, I have a new camera, autopilot and sail. Yippee! I also heard there is a new minister and that she's changed the visa policy. There are no longer any 90-day visas or even long-term visas. Anybody can stay as long as they like. I guess they appreciate the money cruisers are bringing in."

So what does Latitude think — is it true?

Mark & Liesbet Kilty
Irie, Tobago 35 cat
San Blas Islands

Mark and Liesbet — Of course we remember you. And we followed you a bit during the years you were in the Caribbean, specifically when you marketed your Wi-Fi signal amplifier and when Liesbet excoriated — and no doubt rightly so — the 'love to make life difficult' officials in Antigua.

With regard to your questions on French Polynesia, we've got some good news and some bad news. First the good news: Yes, you can usually ship stuff to French Polynesia duty-free as long as it's clearly marked to be for a 'Yacht in Transit'. Mind you, the cost of shipping is very high.

Now for the bad news: In fact, it's something that Cindy Dittrich of the yacht agency CMA-CGM in Tahiti asked Latitude to help clear up. A few weeks ago there was a change in French Polynesian immigration law, which now allows citizens of Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein to stay in French Polynesia for more than 90 days at a time. Contrary to what cruisers may have heard via the coconut telegraph, this change does not apply to Americans or Canadians. We still get only 90 days within a six-month period, unless a Long-Term Stay Visa has been obtained in advance. You can't get such visas in French Polynesia.


People always refer to the Baja Bash, which is the 750-mile normally upwind and often rough slam from Cabo to San Diego. But for Northern California sailors, getting to San Diego isn't home yet. Not by a long shot. Sure, it may usually be easy to get from San Diego to Pt. Conception, but the 175 miles from Conception to the Golden Gate can be every bit as bad as — or worse than — the Cabo-to-San Diego Bash. Of course, if you're lucky, it won't be a Bash at all. As you'll read, we were lucky.

During my first trip along the California coast a few years ago, we didn't get very far. I was crewing on the Coastal Cup, and we lost our mast in the middle of the night 30 miles off Monterey. So when we bought our Catalina 470, Agave Azul, and decided to sail to Mexico, we did a lot of research to determine the best time to transit the coast.

After consulting with Commander's Weather, we left with a good weather window in September for a non-stop shakedown from San Francisco to Ensenada. We had 15- to 25-knot winds from the northwest most of the time, with a reasonable swell and seas. We made excellent time — at least until the Navy 'requested' that we take a detour away from San Clemente Island. We made the 475 miles to Ensenada in 75 hours, and averaged 6.3 knots, sailing most of the time.

Fast forward eight months, at which point it was time for us to return to San Francisco Bay. Our research told us that April wasn’t the ideal time for a return trip north, but we had some retrofits to complete before we started serious cruising, and we hoped the weather wouldn’t be too bad. Commander’s weather preview said “it looks promising.”

We and our crew left Ensenada at midnight on April 17 with clear skies, no wind, and calm seas. Within a few miles we were in thick, wet fog that stayed with us to San Diego. Thanks to AIS and radar, we were able to avoid other vessels. The sun later came out and we were able to sail into San Diego Bay.

Before departing San Diego on the 20th, we got the report from Commander's: "A high amplitude upper level trough on the East Coast leads to a steep upper level ridge on the West Coast . . . resulting in low clouds and light SE to SW winds." Having sailed outside the Channel Islands on the way down, we decided to sail inside them on the way north. We never saw wind over eight knots, so we motored in the same cloudy, foggy, wet conditions we'd experienced on the trip from Ensenada. We had lots of ship traffic, so the entire crew became experts at avoiding weather buoys, fishing boats, towed barges, freighters, cruise liners and mystery ships that turned their lights off as we sailed nearby. To augment our visual watch, AIS and radar were our good friends for the entire trip. The clouds lifted and the sun came out when we got close to Santa Barbara.

After 150 miles in 24 hours, we tied up at the Santa Barbara YC guest dock, got some lunch, topped off our fuel tanks, took a short walk on the beach, and were on our way again by 5 p.m.

One of the highlights of going both south and north was Pt. Conception. On our way down, we had 15 to 20 knots of wind from the NW, and carried the chute the entire time while passing well offshore of the point. It was an uneventful rounding. On the Bash north, we passed just four miles offshore at 11 p.m. in heavy fog, no wind, and a gentle swell with no waves. It was water-skiing conditions. This stretch of the coast was quiet all night, with no VHF communications.

The sun poked out when we were a couple of hours south of Monterey, and with wind out of the SE — what an unusual thing that was! — we set the chute in 15 knots. When the wind built to over 23 knots and we were exceeding hull speed, we decided to take the chute down. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we had a cruising boat! Dinner in the cockpit was easier without the chute up anyway. We motored into Monterey Harbor at 9 p.m., 28 hours and 210 miles out of Santa Barbara, and celebrated with margaritas and every snack in the galley.

It was odd trying to sleep without the boat moving, but we got in eight hours. After breakfast at LouLou's Griddle on the wharf to recover from the Agave Azul margaritas, we rented bikes and spent the day being tourists. We stayed in Monterey for 24 hours so we would enter the San Francisco Ship Channel at slack water.

We departed Monterey at 10:30 p.m. in calm weather, but our trip across Monterey Bay provided the most challenging conditions of our entire California Bash. The wind picked up to the teens after midnight, but we couldn’t find a sail combination that would eliminate the side-to-side roll. It wasn't until we were north of Año Nuevo that the rolling finally stopped and we could get some sleep.

We had perfect conditions for our sail into the Golden Gate — bright sun and the chute up in light air. The wind picked up so we had a brisk and beautiful sail past the Cityfront, beneath the Bay Bridge, and all the way down to Westpoint Harbor, where friends from the Sequoia YC were on hand to greet us.

All in all, we had a great trip with a very unusual weather pattern. We know we’ll experience a real Bash someday, but this was a nice surprise for our first pseudo-Bash up the coast. We had a great crew of Bay sailors — many thanks to Dan Lockwood, Linda Ryan, Byron Jacobs, William Levin and, on the Ensenada leg, Tom McCormick.

We'll be sailing with Latitude on the 20th Ha-Ha in the fall of next year.

Robin & Kathryn Weber
Agave Azul, Catalina 470
Redwood City

Robin and Kathryn — Thanks for the report. Actually, we wouldn't say that your California Bash was that unusual. Ensenada to Pt. Conception is usually so mellow if you go inside the Channel Islands that you have to motor most of the time. The Bashing part is all from Conception to the Gate. While it's often rough — if not very — and sometimes for a week or more at a time, it's often mellow, too. For example, as we read your letter on July 17, there is almost no wind along the Central California coast, and the seas are flat.

No matter if you're Bashing up the coast of Baja or up the Central California coast, it's all about having time and being patient. If you have to go on a schedule, you and your boat can get creamed. If you have the luxury of time, you can usually make it north in reasonably mellow conditions. Of course, your chances of favorable weather are greater in some months than others. Except for the often bitter cold, there are usually no better months to come north along the Central California coast than November through February. Between storm fronts, of course.


I thought the July Max Ebb article gave a good introduction to various ways of setting up a watch bill, but was a little confused by the 'station bill' terminology that was seemingly used synonymously.

In my experience, a watch bill essentially lays out who will be on watch at what times, as well as what watch station they will man, which is probably the source of the confusion. A 'station bill' simply lays out who will man what station, typically without reference to time.

We all know what a watch bill is, but what would be a good example of a station bill? On a military vessel, stations are specified for various degrees of combat readiness, with General Quarters being the highest, where the stations being manned are Battle Stations. Thus the assignments for General Quarters are specified in a station bill, with no reference to time. The ship will be at General Quarters or Battle Stations whenever deemed necessary by the Commanding Officer.

A less military example of a station bill might be spelling out those assignments for entering and leaving port, often called Sea and Anchor Detail, where certain individuals are assigned to certain stations while the condition of entering or leaving port exists, once again as determined by the captain. Other examples of station bills include Fire, Man Overboard, Cleaning, and even Abandon Ship, where everyone onboard reports to a particular liferaft or lifeboat staging area.

Of course, these days when you have hundreds or thousands of men and women on a military vessel, it gets quite a bit more complicated. This is especially true when you consider that they are turning over constantly, and their individual level of training is presumably always improving, thereby enabling assignment to ever more advanced stations until their tour of duty onboard ends.

But on small sailboats, as you know, we don't really use the term station bill, although we often perform that way nonetheless. On a race boat, for example, stations for starting the race are often laid out — the owner on the helm, the best trimmers and grinders for the jib, someone to handle the mainsheet, etc, and then, at some point after the start, a watch bill might be put into effect. And on a cruising boat my wife always takes the helm while I go to my station on the foredeck to drop the anchor!
Regardless, Max Ebb wrote a great article, and I thank Latitude for such a great magazine for all these years.

Kevin Reilly
Skylark, Columbia 50

Kevin — Thanks for the kind words. Max passed your letter on to Lee Helm and reports, "She hates to be caught in a technical error, however pedantic, so she just mumbled something about our 'pesky living language' and ran off to her next class.

"The confusion," Max explains, "might also arise from the practice of combining watch and station bills. A quick search shows the 'Watch, Quarter and Station Bill' or WQS to be a common form, and examples I've found combine both the watch schedule and the crew assignments. Lee's station bills do assign crew to 'on', 'standby', or 'off' status, but I have to side with you on this one: These are not really stations in the traditional sense of the word.

"Kevin wins the point, but it's not enough for a dream date with Lee . . . ."


I saw the Latitude quiz in the July 18 'Lectronic, asking readers to guess where the Bagheera gang managed to buy diesel for just 4 cents/gallon for their 72-ft steel schooner. My guess is Jedda, Saudia Arabia. I was there several years ago, and we purchased diesel for $35/ton — which translates to about 10 cents a gallon.

Byron Jacobs
'Ale Kai, Beneteau 393
Sequoia YC

Readers — See the photo of the 'Bagheera gang' in this month's Sightings.


If the schooner was 90 years old, the original captain may have paid about 4 cents/gallon for diesel. But today? You might be able to find those prices in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, but that would be a stretch for a Montreal-based schooner — especially one with a load of young kids. Venezuela might be a good guess, but I'm voting for Ecuador. As for where the plastic drums came from, they were probably lying around on a beach in South America.

Mark Wieber
Goliard, Slocum 43

Mark — We don't think there's enough Biobor in the world to keep 90-year old diesel from going bad. Big boats, even ones loaded with kids, get around, so being Montreal-based doesn't factor into where the fuel was purchased. Indeed, Bagheera was built in France, and the kids recently attended school in St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean. In fact, the blue 55-gallon drums were going to be thrown away by the desalinization plant in St. Martin, so the staff was happy when Ivan
Bagheera, the schooner's owner, took the drums away for free. Ivan says after using them for fuel, he puts some soap and gravel in them, rolls them around, repeats the process several times, then uses them as water tanks.


I'm guessing that the schooner didn't get the diesel from the Islamic Republic of Iran — which according to the World Bank had a pump price of 2 cents/gallon between '07 and '11 — and that they were cruising around the eastern part of the Americas. Therefore, Bagheera must have gotten the fuel while visiting dear old 'Uncle Hugo' who, in his never-ending quest to win friends and flummox enemies, has priced diesel sold in Venezuela at rock bottom prices. But the Bagheera folks should have gone last year because, according to the World Bank, diesel in Venezuela used to sell for 1 cent/gallon! So comparatively speaking, they were robbed!

Jack Alden
Cabrillo Beach

Jack — You, like the great majority of readers who responded, are correct in guessing Bagheera bought the fuel in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez indeed uses oil as a weapon and to buy influence. Ivan tells us that, while they paid 4 cents/gallon, Venezuelans were able to buy it for 1 cent/gallon.


The June issue of Latitude was number 420. Celebrate!

David Demarest
Burbujas, Vanguard 15 #1004
San Anselmo

David — We celebrate surviving each and every issue. We're not sure what you think is so special about #420 — other than perhaps it's also name of a popular 4.2-meter one-design class.

Actually, it was the July issue, #421, that had special significance for us, because it was precisely 35 years before, at the end of a sailing trip back from the Delta aboard the Bounty II Flying Scud, that we decided to marshal the $2,000 we had to our name and start Latitude 38. The first issue didn't come out until March of '77, but as of last month we've been working on the magazine for over 35 years. It's shocking how quickly time has passed. We wonder if it will seem the same with the next 35 years.


I've just returned to Southern California and sailing after a forced seven-year recess. I first learned about Latitude 38 when I brought my J/105 to your wonderful San Francisco Bay for the North Americans, Big Boat Series, the NOOD, and the Masters a few years ago. I loved my boat and loved racing.

I just purchased a Cal 25 and sailed her last Wednesday at the Long Beach YC. What a blast!

I recenlty picked up a Latitude and read 'The Rules of Beer Can Racing'. I want more people to experience sailing, and found the 'Rules' to be helpful and right on the money. But I can't find issue in which they appeared. Can you help?

Art McMillan
Caliente, Cal 25
King Harbor

Art — The oft-imitated 'Beer Can Ten Commandments' were created by the late Rob Moore, the longtime Racing Editor at Latitude. An abbreviated version of the rules appears below but you can find the full version on our site under 'Wisdom'.

1) Thou shalt not take anything other than safety too seriously. 2) Thou shalt honor the racing rules if thou knowest them. 3) Thou shalt not run out of beer. 4) Thou shalt not covet thy competitor's boat, sails, equipment, crew or PHRF rating. 5) Thou shalt not amp out with screaming, swearing, or overly aggressive tactics. 6) Thou shalt not protest thy neighbor. 7) Thou shalt not mess up thy boat. 8) Thou shalt always go to the yacht club afterwards. 9) Thou shalt bring thy spouse, kids, friends and whoever else wants to go. And, 10) Thou shalt not worry; thou shalt be happy.


We cleared out of Huatulco, Mexico, for El Salvador in early April, and it was an easy and streamlined process. We had to go to a couple of offices, and after making an appointment a day in advance, had both Aduana and Immigration visit our boat. All they did was sit in the cockpit and stamp some papers I'd been given during the office visit.

The only snafu was our fault. We didn't have any paperwork proving that we paid for our original tourist card, so we had to go to a bank and pay about $50 for the two of us.

I can't remember the fee for checking out of the country, but if it had been very much, I would have remembered.

Kate Bird
Magda Jean, Valiant 40
San Diego


Concordia, my Cape North 43, cleared out of Ensenada in November of '11, bringing to a close her year in Mexican waters that had started with the '10 Ha-Ha.

The clearing process, according to the great guys at Baja Naval, would take only about 20 minutes. To facilitate the process, a Baja Naval employee asked for and helped duplicate all the necessary papers as requested by Aduana (Customs). He even stacked the papers in the appropriate order, stapled the lot, and told me which window to see first.

We arrived at the Customs office, which is in the same small building as Immigration and the Port Captain, at 9 a.m., and shuffled through a great many lines until we learned — about two hours in — that we had to check into Ensenada before we could clear out of Ensenada. When I tried to use the entry papers from Cabo San Lucas, the official waved them off. To enter Ensenada, we were given another form to fill out and return with four duplicates. Fortunately, the copy lady was in a tiny one-room office outside.

After several more lines, our paperwork started going from one stamper to the next. They took my credit card and charged $24. Then at 12:30 p.m., they said we needed to come back at 2:30 because the port captain was literally out to lunch.

After lunch aboard Concordia, I sent two crew to the port captain's office to collect our papers. When I paid the yard bill, the Baja Naval employee asked how it went. When I told him the sequence, he shook his head and stated: "I wish they would tell me when they change the process."

Clearing into the States at San Diego was just as joyous. We arrived at the Police Dock at midnight, and followed the instructions of calling Customs from the dock. The Customs officer took our boat information — number of crew, passport numbers, documentation number, etc. — over the phone, then said they would finish the clearing at our boat at 5 a.m. His parting words were that if the Port Police showed up and wondered why we were tied to the pumpout dock, to tell him that we were waiting for Customs.

At 4:30 a.m. the Port Police knocked on the hull and asked why we were blocking the pumpout dock. The fog was so thick that I couldn't see the far end of the dock, but I could see the charter fishing boat hovering off my stern.

Customs showed up about 20 minutes later. Standing on the dock, I reconfirmed the information provided over the phone and handed him our passports. He then asked me to roust the crew and have them assemble on deck. He checked each against their passports and informed us we were free to go after paying the fee. No below-deck inspection and no questions about fruits, vegetables, raw meat or stowaways. He needed to clear the pumpout dock.

Speaking of the $27.50 Customs fee, either I didn't know or had forgotten that you must have a check or exact change. They don't make change, so the U.S. twenties we had were worthless. I ended up having to complete clearing in at the port captain's office — in a high rise in downtown San Diego!

I'm still rather ticked at Customs. Not for making us wait 5+ hours to clear — nearly as long as Ensenada — but for forcing us to push away from a dock in fog so thick we couldn't see two channel buoys at the same time. We ended up hailing a guy in a powerboat to ask if we could follow him to the nearest mooring field.

Craig Moyle
Concordia, Cape North 43

Craig — To be honest, it seems to us that your clearing in and checking out processes at Ensenada, and your clearing back into the States at San Diego were pretty normal. After all, you're dealing with government officials, not using the drive-through at a fast-food place.

As you no doubt know from a year of cruising in Mexico, some port captains are pretty formal about the clearing in processes. In the case of the port captain in Ensenada, he wants boats to check into Ensenada before they clear out for the United States. It doesn't seem unreasonable to us, but they should let you know before you stand in line for a couple of hours.

For the record, these days the Ensenada port captain's office is only open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is closed on Saturday and Sunday. That's the way it is at all the other port captain's offices we've been to in Mexico.

By the way, there used to be an old Immigration guy in that building in Ensenada who pissed off a lot of American mariners by demanding bribes. We're told that other officials and marine businesses wanted him out because he was driving mariners away, but they couldn't get rid of him because he was a federal official. The good news is that he's been gone for awhile now, the victim of a fatal heart attack while having lunch in a Chinese restaurant. In any event, we've recently heard nothing but positive things about the clearing situation in Ensenada.

As for U.S. officials not doing a search of your boat or asking about fruits and vegetables in San Diego, that's normal, too. Sometimes they check your boat, sometimes they don't. As for what food products are allowed, no two officers seem to be able to agree with each other or the written regulations with regard to what's prohibited. It's not something that inspires confidence in government.



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