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December 2012

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Help! I read about the charter vessel Neptune's recently hitting a shoal in the Bay. It was described as being on "the west side of Alcatraz." I sail the Bay, but I'm not aware of such a rock. Can you help?

David Westcott
Special Lady, Ericson 34
Brickyard Cove

David — The shoal/rock is about 100 yards off the WNW tip of Alcatraz, and there is a buoy about 250 yards off the island to warn mariners. See your chart. Every couple of years a boat such as Neptune goes up on it — some even get stuck — to remind folks that it's there. Luckily nobody was injured or killed.

Can anybody think of other popular bits of Bay bottom that take Northern California sailors by surprise?


We read about Victor Beelik's advice to turn off one's depthsounder around whales — the ping seems to attract them — one day too late. We were sailing just outside the Gate on Saturday, November 3 when a California grey whale approached us with great curiosity — despite our best efforts to jibe away. The inquisitive creature just kept turning with us until it was about parallel with our transom about 25 feet to starboard.

Since we sail a Hunter 41DS, and this gentle creature obviously was bigger than our boat, we were more interested in evasive maneuvers than in taking photographs. The video I shot was much more impressive, as it helps you appreciate the true size of our visitor.

Whale encounters are no longer rare for coastal cruisers, and we've had many up and down the coast for years. But this one was a bit different, as the whale was clearly interested in us. Now we'll know to turn off the depthsounder immediately when in the vicinity of whales, so as not to confuse them unnecessarily or encourage our fond friends to visit.

Ken Mumford & Cathy Kirby
Manu Kai, Hunter 41DS
Kailua, HI / Alameda

Ken and Cathy — Based on our experience, the number and variety of whales off the coast of California and Mexico seems to have increased dramatically in the last 10 years. During this year's Ha-Ha we had another whale first: three orcas (mom, dad, and baby), which are toothed apex predators, coming very close to Profligate. Mom and the baby were about 30 feet away, while dad came within three feet of the port transom — where crewmember Mark was dumping fish guts overboard — before swimming under the cat. Mark freaked because the 'killer' whales' diet consists almost exclusively of mammals. Mark estimated the male's length to be 20 feet; de Mallorca guessed 10 feet; and Susie guessed 30 feet. Scientists report that males are generally 20 to 26 feet long.

For what it's worth, we had our depthsounder on.


I know my letter is rather late and the controversy is a bit cold. I didn't write it until I read about the sinking of the Bounty [ed note: see Sightings for that story], which has inspired commentary similar to what I'm reacting to.

As I would have expected, Latitude hit just the right note in the September issue recap of US Sailing's Final Report on the loss of five lives and Low Speed Chase at the Farallon Islands. Two points:

1) How many of the skippers in that race knew the 1.3-times-the-wave-height figure for breaking waves? How many knew exactly how big the waves were that they were sailing in, and that two or three out of 257 would be expected to be of a much greater height? How many were checking their GPS when they rounded the island in order to steer a course that was far enough off to be safe according to these calculations? Maybe I'm naïve, but I can't believe it was very many.

2) I wonder how many sailors would claim that they've never had a moment when they said, "Whoa, that was close. We got away with one." If they made such a claim, whether they were racers or not, I wouldn't believe them.

I'm shocked at the amount of self-righteousness I hear from some sailors, even prominent ones, commenting on the loss of Low Speed Chase. We are now hearing similar opinions with regard to the sinking of the Bounty. As I write this, very little in the way of facts about the Bounty incident has been revealed, yet no less a personage than Don Street has already called the captain, who lost his life, "foolish" on Scuttlebutt. This stuff is so easy to say, but we should remember that some truly great sailors have died at sea, and ask if it is logical to claim we are superior to them because we managed to stay lucky. No matter how experienced a sailor you are, it takes a lot of hubris to believe you are smarter than the ocean.

Since Latitude requested the sailing experience of those commenting, I certainly wouldn't call myself a racer, but I have done a bit of racing around here. For example, the '99 Doublehanded Farallones on my Ericson 39, where there was a fatality and we got dismasted. I also have been around the Southeast Farallon in heavy weather when I was not racing, and will confirm that the waves on the windward side of the island can steepen up in a very intimidating way without warning. My other sailing experience includes a circumnavigation with my Ericson. I also hold a 50-ton Master's License.

Tony Johnson
Whisper, Catalina 22
San Francisco


While the 180-ft replica of HMS Bounty was lost to Hurricane Sandy, it looks as if the crew used HF/SSB radio to get their distress message out. While this will be amazing to some, it is proof — again — that since HF/SSB email can routinely travel 2,000 to 5,000 miles, and has a massively redundant shore station infrastructure, when the shit hits the fan, HF/SSB email is an obvious mode to use.

I have information from Winlink that the Bounty was able to connect to three shore stations to pass data, with at least two of the stations outside the "affected" area of Sandy. This is where HF/SSB excels, and is the reason government agencies, hospitals, universities and Fortune 500 companies have installed HF with modems as an alternate path to pass email. Connecting to a shore station that is high and dry 1,000 miles from the disaster is the advantage. Satellite links are cool, but there are a limited number of connections a sat can support and, in a disaster, they get used up very quickly.

If any yacht clubs or other organizations would like more background on HF/SSB, sending data over SSB, and so on, please don't hesitate to contact me. I have done public speaking on the topic, and in the late '90s was one of the first to embrace this data technology. In the interest of full disclosure, we are the North American distributor for Pactor modems, which is what the Bounty used to send their messages. Gary and I are passionate about sending data over HF, and by highlighting the Bounty incident we can raise awareness — when boiled down, HF/SSB is a basic piece of safety equipment.

Eric Steinberg

Readers — With or without a Pactor modem that allows for sending emails and getting GRIB files, HF/SSB is a great tool for cruisers. After all, starting your own cruising net requires nothing more than picking a time and frequency, and getting your friends to participate.

HF/SSB is great in emergencies, too, but it does have limitations. In the case of Bounty, they eventually lost electrical power or their antenna, severing their contact with shore. At that stage, either an EPIRB or Spot Messenger would have been of more use.


Right on! That's my response to Latitude's 'modest proposal' that the AC72s be dropped right now in favor of something like the MOD 70 trimarans and fleet racing rather than match racing.

Not only are the AC72s with fixed wings vulnerable to the wind and chop on San Francisco Bay, the addition of foil technology inserts a wild card that if someone hits it right — look at the difference between the boards on New Zealand's cat and Oracle's cat — they could run away with the race.

I have always thought a one-design was better than a formula boat because it puts the competition in the hands of the sailors, not the designers. And I agree with Latitude that even existing big, fast one-design trimarans could make a thrilling America's Cup.

The worst thing that could happen would be for every AC72 boat to break in the Trials or Cup races, and the victory to be determined by default of the last boat standing.

The America's Cup in San Francisco could be the greatest since it was held in Fremantle in 1987. Someone should make sure that it happens.

Robert Hawkins
Empty Bucket, Mainship 34
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Robert — Our only disagreement with you is our belief that MOD 70 — or similar — one-design fleet racing in the America's Cup would be much more exciting than in Fremantle. After all, San Francisco Bay offers a more spectacular viewing 'stadium', and the trimarans are three to four times as fast as the lead mines of Fremantle.


Latitude's idea of one-designs for the America's Cup violates the Deed of Gift of the America's Cup. That Larry Ellison co-opted the America's Cup name to create the America's Cup World Series has provided the opportunity to experience fleet races that are at once exciting and compelling. The World Series, however, is a separate show from the America's Cup.

What the America's Cup gives us is the focused advancement of boat design, material usage, marlinspike seamanship, sail design and construction, and athletic development, not to mention the development of professional sailing.

Yes, the America's Cup is a messy, dirty affair, but it does its part to make the sport just that, a sport.

Dave Wilhite

David — Deed of Gift? We say Schmeed of Gift. We're interested in the most exciting, greatest participation, 'big bang for the buck' racing possible, and think most of the stakeholders would agree with us.

We don't know if Larry Ellison or Russell Coutts was the one to come up with the current World Series and America's Cup concept, but we think they did a pretty darn good job, particularly when it has come to racing the 45s in windy and spectator-friendly venues — meaning San Francisco as opposed to San Diego. Alas, we think they overreached with the 72s, which we think at least Coutts has sort of admitted. It's no secret that none of the other syndicates are thrilled with the 72s, and they've hardly had a chance to flip their 72s yet.

You know the old racing expression when you find yourself on the wrong side of the course: 'When you got to eat shit, take big bites.' While we doubt that it's gonna happen, we think it's time for the America's Cup folks to take a big bite, unpleasant as it may be to swallow.


As usual, Latitude is right on with your opinion. Although it's fun to watch those screamin' 72s — same thrill as watching a tightwire walk over the Grand Canyon, and perhaps a little morbid, too — I think safety should be a part of the spectator/gladiator equation.

Furthermore, fleet racing, as opposed to match racing, with those big trimarans, would be a far better show for all, sailors and non-sailors alike, just as Latitude pointed out. And with less risk to the participants. Maybe they'll even get a few more syndicates involved, due to what could be a much lower cost of campaigning one-design boats.

Tommy, Medy & Ray-dude Fowler
Living aboard
Liahona, CT-35
San Pedro

Tommy, Medy and Ray-dude — Darn tootin' there would be more syndicates involved in a less expensive America's Cup. Consider the French. They won't have an AC72 in the America's Cup, but they already have four French MOD 70 teams for a competition that doesn't have a fraction of the cachet of the America's Cup. We think the America's Cup organizers need to figure out why that is.


Aside from the possibility that there won't be any boats intact to compete for an America's Cup, it's a shame that so many countries won't be participating. No United Kingdom? No China? No Korea? Doesn't that constitute about one-third of the world's population? I think it's a loss to the Bay Area to have so few countries participating.

I say we continue the Cup challenge with the 45s in fleet racing, and maybe use the 72s in an exhibition race. Sort of how they do it in the Olympics.

Chris McKay
Marina Manager
Oakland Marinas


It would be exciting to have the America's Cup sailed in MOD 70s. Not only could they be sailed from site to site on their own bottoms — what a fun and great challenge that would be — they wouldn't have to be thrown away after each America's Cup.

P.S.: My Crowther catamaran is one of the more famous cats from the Great Lakes, having won many trophies over the last decade. I bought her with plans for an all-female crew to race her in the '13 season, but I'm having problems putting together a team. If anyone is interested, they can contact me at (yes, it's just one L).

Stephen Marcoe
Nice Pair, Crowther Super Shockwave
Reno, NV


Most of us would love to see the America's Cup sailed in the big trimarans, but I don't think it will happen. The biggest advantage Ellison has in this Cup is the ability to outspend his rivals, both on the water and in the courts. Call me cynical, but I don't think he will cede that in order to have great racing in "sensible" boats.

I was back in the Bay to watch the AC45s race and found it fascinating. It wasn't like sailboat racing as I think of it, but more like a whole new sport. But I thought it was great in terms of getting non-sailors excited and involved.

P.S. Life up here in the Gulf Islands is fantastic. Maybe a little cool for the Wanderer's tastes, but a great place to raise a child and cruise in sweaters.

Dave Reed
Pender Island, B.C.

Dave — Given the fact that the 72 design involves so much unknown territory, we think this Cup will be harder to buy than previous ones.


I could not disagree with Latitude's proposal more. While I do agree that one-design racing is by far the most interesting sailing format, the fundamental premise of the America's Cup has always been to leverage technology and innovative boat building practices to help you win. This technology then makes its way into mass-produced yachts, and improves the sport as a whole — much like Formula One racing does for cars. This is the genius of the AC format, and what separates it from all other forms of sailboat racing.

As for fleet racing, I prefer dragging this out with the Louis Vuitton Cup, and then the America's Cup to keep the excitement going on our Bay for as long as possible. I reject your proposal, sir!

Seth Hynes
Honeymoon, Lagoon 380 cat
Mill Valley

Seth — Watch whom you're calling 'sir'! But thanks, we appreciate your opinion.


There's a place for one-design racing, but the America's Cup should be like Formula One: build the fastest vehicle you can dream up within the rules, and see who comes up with the fastest. It doesn't always make for great racing, but in the short-course format, with lots of opportunities to make mistakes, it should still be good to watch. Likewise, there's a place for fleet racing, but the America's Cup should stick with match racing. It's tradition, and the format should keep it watchable.

Max Crittenden
Solar Wind, Martin 32
San Francisco

Max — With all due respect, why would you settle for something that "doesn't always make for great racing?" We say to heck with tradition. We want an America's Cup that is the best combination of speed, excitement, maximum participation — and even safety.


Before changing horses for the America's Cup, there needs to be an evaluation of what the damage was to the Oracle cat. If it's decided that the horses need to be changed, I say change them to the existing 45-footers. There are lots of them, the cost has already been met, and so many more teams could compete.

SD Katzman
Planet Earth

SD — Good points. The damage was found to be way beyond 'extensive', at least to the wing. A number of readers agree with your suggestion to go with the 45-footers. In our opinion, they don't have adequate grandeur or speed for an America's Cup. Sort of like playing softball in the World Series or flag football in the Super Bowl.


I raced and did speed trials in catamarans in the pre-Hobie days and through the mid-'80s. It was a fairly small group of renegade sailors, and through trial and error we learned just what twin hulls were capable of. Cats — unlike dogs — are sometimes uncontrollable. When I saw the first clip of Russell Coutts capsizing an AC45, I saw only two possible causes: First, I wondered if these 'professional' guys really had enough cat experience. Second, the winged cat just can't de-power fast enough to avoid crashing.

After watching Coutts T-bone the committee boat in the San Francisco World Series, I knew he wasn't a true multihull sailor. But in the case of the capsize of the Oracle 72, I think it was the boat's fault. A capsize is scary and expensive in a 72. Ridiculous is another word that comes to my mind.

As for using the AC45s, l'Hydroptère just kicked dirt in the 45s' faces — and with a soft sail and a much smaller budget. I think that the French sailors have proven that tris are better suited than cats for hairier conditions.

Incidentally, Dennis Conner's soft sail cat was not much slower than their winged rig. I was on a photoboat in San Diego, and it was amazing to see it ripping by at 18 knots in a 6- to 8-knot breeze on almost glassy water.

Apart from the risks inherent with the 72s, I think it's odd that the crews' nationalities have no correlation to the 'countries' they sail for — and emphasize the commercialization of sailing rather than the soul.

Goose Gossman

Goose — It's just speculation on our part, but we figure the trade-off between a wing AC72 and a MOD 70 is about 5% in performance — and about 200% in the number of entries.


If the wing masts on the 72s are that vulnerable to catastrophic damage, the racing will be diminished. In other words, are the 72s too fragile to carry on if they tip over? At least the 45s proved — in most cases — to be tough enough to carry on after a crash.

Match racing is boring unless you're the participant. Fleet racing is the future of yacht racing as a spectator sport, and the more boats the merrier.

There is always the chance of equipment failure, of course; however a race that ends with just a few boats spread out on the course due to the competition's being out of action with wing damage will be just as boring as watching 12 Meters out for a daysail.

Lani Schroeder
Balance, Endeavour 43


I just read an article called 'The Monetization of America's Cup Viewing Opportunities', and my worst fears have come true. The Coast Guard has forgotten the lessons we learned — and taught — the America's Cup Organizational Committee the last time the Cup graced our shores. But all is not lost.

I was the Operations Officer for the '94-'95 Coast Guard America's Cup Patrol. I was the person who wrote the Operations Manual for the Patrol and ran the meeting between the ACOC, the syndicates and the Coast Guard. During these meetings we told the ACOC what was required, but more importantly what they could and could not do.

One important area of contention was the Exclusive or Sponsor Zone. Like what is happening in San Francisco now, in '94-'95 the ACOC proposed that paid sponsors be allowed in an inner viewing zone. Normal spectators would be allowed to watch the races, but this inner zone, closer to the course, was to be exclusively for paid sponsors. In other words, sponsors would get field seats and we normal folks would be in the nosebleed section.

This didn't happen in San Diego because allowing an organization to create a zone for the exclusive use of paying customers/sponsors is the equivalent of 'selling' public waters, and was something the Coast Guard Patrol Commander would not and legally could not do. So we gave the ACOC two choices:

1) The racing area would be closed to all vessels not needed to run the races or insure safety. Meaning only Race Committee and safety boats would be allowed within the safety zone — along with the boat used to televise the event. No sponsors or spectators would be allowed on the race course. Outside the edges of the safety zone, all vessels had equal rights.

2) The second option was there would be no safety zone, so the race course would be open and just like a normal race, where recreational vessels could go anywhere they pleased.

Obviously, the ACOC chose the first option. In a compromise, we did allow the ACOC to have one non-operations yacht on the race course. This yacht was used by the ACOC members and they would be allowed to have some sponsors aboard. This was the only vessel not used to run the race or for safety that was allowed on the race course.

Although I was the Operations Office, I was not the one making the final decisions. The Commander of the Patrol was a very senior and well-respected captain — actually, he was the real life captain who had been in The Perfect Storm. He made all the final calls, and this was one he would not compromise on.

I recently moved back to the East Coast, so this really doesn't affect me anymore. But if I still lived in Pt. Richmond, I wouldn't put up with this. Normal spectators have all the same rights to the water as paying sponsors. There are no grey areas here.

Cam Lewis
Timmy, Elliott 6.5
ex-Pt. Richmond
Wickford, RI

Cam — The thing we remember about the America's Cups in San Diego was that the official press boats weren't allowed within about 50 miles of the racing boats, which is why we and many other reporters 'watched' the event from press headquarters. And back then, video coverage of the racing was positively prehistoric compared to what Stan Honey gives us these days.

Philosophically, we're with you in that nobody has more rights to the ocean than others — except for commercial fishermen, who can get rich by virtue of having a permit. In practical terms, however, we think it would actually add to the America's Cup to have some megayachts sprinkled around. San Francisco progressives always need somebody to hate, and folks with megayachts would fit that need perfectly. Of course, we're also the folks who thought a San Francisco megayacht marina, long ago nixed for political reasons, would quickly become one of the biggest tourist attractions in San Francisco. So while we're philosophically against it, the pragmatist in us wouldn't mind if perhaps 25% of the offshore course viewing area were set aside for megayachts.


This is an email I sent to any and all I could think of who are involved in the AC:

First off, to every one of you involved, thank you so much for all your work to make this America's Cup a completely new and exciting event, and most of all for holding it in San Francisco, my backyard. I couldn't be more amped to have you all in town.

Other than the fantastic television graphics, I believe the most important thing you've done is to bring the race to the fans, close enough to shore for everyone to have a great view. I've been sailing off and on for 15 years, and of course I'm interested in the America's Cup, but the viewing spectacle you have created with the ACWS by bringing the races to the shoreline has opened up this sport to so many new people. I had to twist the arms of every non-sailing friend of mine to get them to attend the August ACWS, but afterward they were all ecstatic at how close the boats were and how we could hear them yelling commands at each other, and all were eager to attend the October races.

I'm sad to report that I received equally negative feedback from all the new fans I created after the October event. They were all disappointed, as was I, in the change of course, which moved the course away from the shore, and which meant the competitors were more than a couple of hundred yards away. In and of itself, this wasn't that big of a deal, but what I found atrocious was that you (or some other regulating body) allowed boats to come into the area between the shoreline and the course and motor, anchor or otherwise block the view of those attempting to watch from the shoreline.

Please, please change this policy for next year! My understanding was that this October there was a 'No boats with more than five feet of freeboard' rule. But I have two comments regarding that:

1) No one enforced the rule, and my friends and I were completely blocked out from Spithill's pitchpole on Saturday by two large power boats, and

2) Even if the five-ft rule were to be enforced, imagine 100-200 five-ft-freeboard boats lining the viewing area. Sitting on shore I'm at best five feet above the water so all I'd be staring at during the races would be the sails of the AC72s (thank goodness for their immense size) — I wouldn't see the crew or the marks.

This would be a tragedy for something you all have worked so hard for. Please consider this for future races.

Chris Glubka
SeaGlub, Hylas 46
San Francisco

Chris — Latitude agrees that the racing should be held as close to shore as possible. The way the course was set up for the August World Series was perfect. It allowed regular people such as ourselves the equivalent of sitting on the floor during a Warriors basketball game or behind home plate at a World Series-winning San Francisco Giants game. We also agree that spectator and other boats should be prohibited from blocking the views of spectators on shore. The good news is that GGYC Commodore Norbert Bajurin says that future ACWS races, as well as the Louis Vuitton and AC itself, will offer the same viewing as in August. The October viewing issues, he says, were due to the Coasties' strict rules for Fleet Week.


I just read the letter from Adam Scheuer requesting suggestions for seasickness remedies for his wife. I feel for her since I have a comparable issue, such that I use a prescription medicine and don't leave the dock without it.

Long ago I had a 'situation' — it's a very long story — and was so horribly seasick for three days that I couldn't even keep water down. The usual over-the-counter drugs — as well as going outside, looking at the horizon, and other 'remedies' — did nothing. After I returned to shore, I felt I had to find something that worked or — perish the thought! — give up sailing.

Issues of NASA Tech Briefs were available where I worked, and there was an article in one about a medicine NASA gave the astronauts for motion sickness. I took the article to my doctor and had him write a prescription. I have been using it ever since, and that means for more than 35 years.

The prescription was promethazine in a liquid form — do not get it in pills. It used to come with ephedrine, such as was mentioned as 'the Coast Guard Cocktail'. But they do not put the ephedrine in it anymore. I guess they feel someone will extract the ephedrine from the promethazine to make meth. Oh well.

The beauty of promethazine in liquid form is that it works — for me, anyway — in about 10 minutes, and does not have to be taken ahead of time. In addition, I and others have been on passages where we felt fine, then started feeling seasick. Then "things happened" and the seasickness started. Promethazine could be taken at that time and, within minutes, the sickness had subsided (for me).

I have shared my promethazine with a number of sailors who have claimed they never get seasick, but who then had things happen. They have been amazed at the results.

Although I am also not a medical doctor, and do not suggest altering recommended dosages, I have found that I can sometimes take half a dose just before sailing out the Gate, and that's all it takes. But if there is an ebb with wind, I take the whole dose, which for me is one teaspoon. My prescription says that I can take it every four hours, but I rarely have to take it again after the first dose. That is unless conditions change. I have never had to take it for a whole day or over several days.

The side effect for me is a bit of drowsiness for the first hour or so if I am not busy — which is rarely the case, especially when singlehanding out to the Farallones!

I know that some remedies work for some people but not for others. All I can say is that promethazine has worked for me for decades, as well as for many sailing friends.

I sincerely hope that Adam's wife — doesn't she have a name? — finds something that works for her. I know I'm one of those people who can't be 'cured' of seasickness, so I just keep my little bottle handy.

Patricia Zajac
Rusalka, Offshore 40
Richmond YC

Patricia — Thanks for your report.

But please folks, don't share prescription medicines except in extreme emergencies. Drugs such as promethazine are powerful, and not appropriate for pregnant women and people with other medical situations.

Oh, and for the record, we contacted Adam to find out his wife's name but he never responded.


Latitude asked readers to help a seasickness-susceptible woman with cruising aspirations to learn more about the malady. Look under your nose at Dr. Kent Benedict's article titled 'The Taming of the Spew', which can be found at

Ed Fagan
Shebeen, J/30
Ipswich, MA

Ed — Thanks for the reminder. We think 'The Taming of the Spew' is about as definitive a sailor's guide to seasickness remedies as there is, but as it was written in '97, we wanted to see if anybody had anything new.

When it comes to prescription medicines — which Benedict recommends as a last resort — he wrote: "There are basically three categories of drugs which have anti-seasickness effects. The first and most familiar group are the antihistamines: dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), meclizine (Bonine, Antivert), cyclizine (Marezine), and promethazine (Phenergan). Actually, promethazine is in another group of drugs called phenothiazines, but it has powerful antihistamine properties.

Interestingly enough, promethazine, the medicine that works so well for Patricia Zajac, is Benedict's ultimate last resort. "What to do when all has failed and there you are — puking, feeling miserable, unable to eat or drink, and worried that you might soon become dehydrated? About the only thing left at that point is promethazine via injection or rectal suppository — 50 mg should usually do it, maybe repeating every few hours as needed."


My wife Carol and I are working feverishly on Unleashed, our Hardin 44, to get her ready for next year's 20th Baja Ha-Ha Rally. One thing I wondered about — and it was mentioned in the 'Paul Put Seasilk Aground at Mag Bay' article — is how cruisers go ashore in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria before they have checked into Mexico. Last year a couple of immigration officials made the trip to Bahia Santa Maria to help Ha-Ha boats check in, but normally Ha-Ha boats don't check in until they get to Cabo San Lucas.

Paul Bailey
Unleashed, Hardin 44

Paul — Up until October of this year, Mexico didn't seem to mind that cruisers stopped along the 750-mile Baja peninsula before they checked into the country. But the immigration laws have changed, and Immigration announced that as soon as this year's Ha-Ha was completed, it would no longer be allowed.

From now on, cruisers who want to stop along Baja before Cabo will have to clear into Mexico at Ensenada in order to be legal. We understand the reasoning behind this, but know that it has the potential to create significant logistical problems with next year's Ha-Ha. Which is why we're already working with Mexican officials to solve such problems.


I just read about Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara and French Polynesia-based Cal 40 Swell breaking her neck while body surfing at San Diego's Torrey Pines beach.

I've surfed that area and know it can be a wicked little break. The waves have more power than you might expect. In fact, we call the spot Contacts, not just because my friend lost his contact lenses in the surf, but because you often make contact with the bottom. I've done a Liz Clark-style head plant there a couple of times, and can tell you, when you feel that tingle in your fingers and toes, you know you had a close call.

I hope Liz recovers quickly.

Paul Clausen
San Diego


In the October 22 'Lectronic you wrote that Dennis Conner owns 30 sailboats. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who would love to see an inventory. I Googled it like crazy, but came up dry.

David Demarest
Burbujas, Vanguard 15 #2004
San Anselmo

David — It was Dennis himself, our new best friend, who told us that he owns 30 sailboats. Since Dennis says all kinds of shocking things for effect, most of them as hilarious as they are dry, we didn't necessarily believe him. But when Patrick Langley, who seems to spend as much time working on Dennis' boats as we work on Latitude — meaning just about every waking minute — confirmed it, we bought in.

Patrick prefaced listing Dennis' boats by admitting that he hadn't seen a number of them in years. But he started off with the Farr 60 Stars & Stripes; the Nelson/Marek 43 Menace XXIV; various IACC America's Cup boats that charter out of San Diego; a half-interest in the 139-ft America's Cup replica America; two Etchells in San Diego; two Etchells in Australia; Fame, the 41-ft 1910 schooner without an engine; Splendor, the Sparkman & Stephens 48 he just bought from the Driscoll family; and DC's Pholly, the J/105 he just bought and used to take third in the J/105 North Americans.

Seeing that Patrick was wearying from going down the list, we asked him how many people Dennis has working on his boats. "When I started about 10 years ago, he had close to 100 guys on the payroll," Patrick responded. "Now it's pretty much just me and an occasional helper." Apparently the more time you spend around Dennis, the dryer your humor becomes.

One day we were riding our bike through Driscoll's Boat Yard in San Diego — which is not only where we keep Profligate at the beginning and end of each summer, but is also the most fun place we've ever lived — and we saw Dennis having a beer and watching the tireless Patrick working on the bottom of Dennis' new-to-him Splendor. Being a nosy journalist, we rode on over.

"You're a smart guy," Dennis says to us without any kind of introduction or preface.
"What kind of bottom paint should I put on my new boat?"

We demur, saying that he clearly knows much more about bottom paint than do we.

"No, no," Dennis insists, "you're a smart guy, tell me what kind of paint I should put on my new boat."

We shrug.

"You're so lucky," Dennis then says apropos of absolutely nothing. "You're a young guy with lots of hair and no wrinkles. I'm in my 70s, my face is wrinkled, and I don't have any hair."

Dennis, who has a full head of hair and is just a few years older than we, says all this without cracking a smile. We're laughing our ass off inside. When it comes to one-liners, Dennis could have given Rodney Dangerfield a run for his money.

"Well then, tell me what I should do with this boat," Dennis says, careening off onto a new gybe, while gesturing at Splendor in a way that suggests he has absolutely no idea why he bought her.

"Just the same as you did with Cotton Blossom and Brushfire," we suggest. "Buy a new set of sails, win a few races, then sell her for a huge profit to somebody in Europe or a recently retired government department head in San Diego." On a bit of a roll, we keep going. "Better yet, take her back to Newport, Rhode Island, where they love the S&S pedigree, win a bunch of races, and sell her to some rich guy who wants to park a boat Dennis Conner once owned at the dock behind his Rhode Island mansion."

"If I was going to do that, I'd take my schooner Fame back East," Dennis counters.

"Is she the one that doesn't have an engine, which why the competitors in Ancient Mariners Regattas complain about her rating?" we ask. Two can play this passive-aggressive game.

Dennis doesn't blink, but mumbles something less than complimentary about journalists in general.

"Wait a minute," we say, a light having gone off in our head. "Take Splendor back to Newport, win a few races, then take her down to Dennis Conner's North Cove Marina in Manhattan, the only marina in Manhattan, and sell her to some Wall Street guy looking for a nautical status symbol."

"I'm never going to race Splendor," Dennis proclaims.

We find this hard to believe, because Patrick has gotten Splendor's bottom as smooth as a newborn baby's butt, and he says he's hardly begun the process.

"Look at the boot stripe," Dennis says to us. "About a quarter of it is underwater toward the back of the boat. What should I do about that?" He asks the question as if he's a first-time sailboat buyer from the hinterlands of Nebraska.

"We think it's fine," we tell Dennis. "There's probably just a bunch of heavy stuff that's collected in the back of the boat over the years that needs to be taken out to restore her to her proper trim."

"That's not it," says Dennis says derisively.

Just then Chuck Driscoll rides his bike toward the front gate to go home for the day.

"Chuck! Chuck! Come on over!" hollers Dennis.

We can tell there are other things that Chuck would prefer to do, but a client is a client, and Dennis is Dennis.

"Look at that boot stripe," Dennis complains, as if it were something Chuck had purposely done the day before to annoy Dennis. "It's partly underwater in back."

"Well," Chuck explains calmly, "there's just a bunch of heavy stuff that's collected in the back of the boat over the years, so she's a little out of trim. Take the stuff out and the boot stripe will be fine."

It's all we can do to keep from bursting out in laughter. A video team has been coming to Driscoll's periodically to shoot a boatyard-based reality television show, but they are missing the good stuff by not being here.

Dennis Conner is Dennis Conner, so he doesn't care what Chuck or we think. Indeed, he decides to have Patrick go to all kinds of trouble and expense to slightly redo the boot stripe.

A couple of days later, we swing by Splendor to watch Patrick tape off the new bootstripe and fair the bottom even more.

"We bet Dennis was bullshitting us when he said he's not going to race Splendor," we say to Patrick.

"No," says Patrick, in a friendly but certain tone.

"How can you be sure?"

"I keep the calendar for all of Dennis' boats," he says with a smile.

We've always been curious about Dennis Conner's North Cove Marina in Manhattan, wondering if Dennis owns a little percentage of it or gets a royalty for the use of his famous name, so we ask around. "Dennis owns it," someone in the know told us with finality. "Dennis is not just a very good sailor, he's a very smart businessman."

Based on the number of sailboats Dennis owns, we should have known.

There's a funny coda to all this. As we were talking to Patrick about the dozens of boats he takes care of for Dennis, Patrick confessed that he himself was down to only five or six boats. Stunned that someone who spends just about all his time working on Dennis' boats could possibly own more than one boat of his own, we asked what they were. "Well, there's the 80-ft schooner Old Glory, Oslo, a Norwegian rescue boat I live on, a 60-ft fishing boat in the Northwest, and a couple of others." We suppose Patrick can be forgiven for not being able to remember them all.


I laughed when I read the Wanderer's November 7 'Lectronic item about overprovisioning for Profligate's last several cruises to Mexico. We're still working on eating some of the nonperishables we took on the '10 Ha-Ha, stuff we brought all the way back home on our Bash back to Northern California. No wonder everyone looked at us funny in San Diego as we loaded cart after cart of food onto our boat, losing inch after inch of waterline in the process.

Scott Emmons
JaneO, Privilege 39
Somewhere in the Delta

Scott — Overprovisioning is a waste in so many ways, including the fact that it detracts from a boat's handling and performance.


I was reading your fine publication this month when I came across an article that tried to make a distinction between 'piracy' and 'robbery'. I'm a student of maritime law, and would like to reference an insightful article in the Maine Law School's Ocean and Coastal Law Journal:

"In recent years, nations have exercised the right of approach and visit most often in cases concerning maritime piracy. Piracy is 'any illegal act of violence, detention, or depredation committed beyond the territorial sea for private ends by crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft against another ship, persons, or crew."' [This is the definition in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, Dec. 10, 1982] "Private" acts refer to acts not committed by public officials for a public or state purpose.

Typically, piracy involves some pecuniary interest or private political motive, such as maritime terrorism. For a violent act to meet the legal definition of piracy, it must be committed outside a state's territorial waters. Acts occurring inside territorial seas are classified as "armed robbery at sea," and are the responsibility of the coastal state to suppress. Thus what's "armed robbery at sea" in territorial waters can, a few meters farther out, become "piracy."

The article was written by CMD James Kraska, US Navy.

Jorge Valcarcel
Wire, Custom Steel/Aluminum Sailboat
Saugerties, NY

Jorge — We hadn't really thought of that distinction, but it strikes us as being valid.


I know we've had very long discourses on the subject of dangerous waves, and never seem to get anywhere in our difference of opinion about what makes dangerous wave conditions off San Francisco. But if you look back at our previous correspondence, you'll see that many more mariners have died since then. And they died because of the sneaker waves that we all talk about.

I have kept track of all the lives that have been lost because of these waves in just the San Francisco area, and the number is staggering. Avoiding sneaker waves is a simple matter of checking the wave periods on a computer before going out. If the period is in the 12 seconds or more range, mariners should be very careful about going into shoal waters such as the Potato Patch, the South Bar or the Farallon Bank.

I think that Latitude could write a very interesting article about wave periods and freak waves that would save lives. In my earlier emails I gave you the names of some of the world's best researchers on this subject. I think you owe it to your readers to do an in-depth piece on this very important subject. Or you can just leave it as it is, and let the death count increase.

Tony Badger
Kingfish, Fisher 37

Tony — We just got off the telephone with Mike Leneman, who has been a professor of oceanography at a number of colleges and universities in Southern California. He is also an enthusiastic multihull sailor and the owner of Multi Marine in Marina del Rey. We explained to him that you contend that the longer the wave period, the more dangerous waves are to boats, while we contend just the opposite.

We hate to tell you, but the professor says that we're right and you don't know what you're talking about with regard to either the dangers of long-period waves or rogue, aka 'sneaker', waves.

Professor Leneman explains that when it comes to waves, the three important measurements are: 1) The wave length, meaning the distance between two crests; 2) the wave period, which is the amount of time between two crests; and 3) the height of the wave, meaning the distance between the crest and the trough.

"The thing that makes waves dangerous to boats on the ocean is how steep they are," says Leneman, "meaning the ratio of how high the wave is to the distance between the crests. The maximum steepness of a wave is 1 to 7, because water won't stand up any higher. When waves exceed that 1 to 7 ratio, they break.

In view of this, Tony, does it not appeal to your common sense that 8-ft waves 8 seconds apart would be much steeper — and therefore much quicker to break, and therefore much more dangerous — than 8-ft waves every 18 seconds, which wouldn't be steep at all?

Professor Leneman also gave us the scientific explanation for rogue or sneaker waves. He explained that, as all surfers and sailors know, there are sets and lulls, both on the open ocean and when they break closer inshore. Leneman says the common misunderstanding is that these sets and lulls are caused by changes in the wind speed of the distant storms that create the waves. In reality, the sets and lulls are the result of two different wave trains intersecting each other. You get set waves when the energy of the waves in two trains combines, and you get lulls when the waves from two trains detract from each other.

Professor Leneman tells us that rogue or freak waves are not, as commonly thought, single waves travelling along in the ocean. "Rogue waves are created at the instant when a wave from one wave train overtakes a wave from another wave train, combining the force of the two. Because the overtaking wave is traveling much faster than the wave train being overtaken, a rogue wave quickly disappears. When there is a rogue wave, it didn't exist 150 feet before or 150 after. Rogue waves are not common. You have to be in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time to be hit by one."

So Tony, if you want to continue to contend that all other things being equal, the longer the wave period, the more dangerous the sailing conditions, we can only throw up our hands.

If anybody else has any oceanographic questions, particularly as they pertain to sailing, please send them to us, as Professor Leneman will be more than happy to answer them.


I just read your October 15 article on 'Time and Weather [in Mexico]'. My first sailing trip to Mexico was the Puerto Vallarta Race of February '77 aboard the Columbia 43 La Mer. Before taking off, I informed my college that I would be unavailable for a semester, then headed to sea. (Since then I've done two additional Ha-Ha's.)

We got rocked by heavy weather for a few days of that '77 race, then virtually drifted from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta. But it was the weather back home that was more interesting.

We had nothing but time on the return trip, so we left Puerto Vallarta and made our way to Cabo via Mazatlan. We waited and watched for a weather window in Cabo as other skippers left port in a hurry to do the Bash. A day or two later, they had all come back with torn sails and tired crew. Once boats stopped coming back, and we got radio reports that the conditions had smoothed out, we made our own run up the coast.

It was a great two weeks that we spent waiting in Cabo.

George Mann
Robin, C&C 35 Mk 3
San Francisco

George — Compared to today, weather forecasts were extremely primitive in '77, and they were hard to come by. Back then, you might have gotten a funky two-day weather forecast. If it looked good, you took off, and as likely as not got creamed a day or two later. It was hard on crew and boats.

These days folks who are about to Bash can luxuriate in Cabo, and can get good short- and long-range forecasts, enabling crews to plan when and where they want to be going up the coast. While weather forecasts are not perfect, if people have enough time, Bashes now often can be done in relatively mild conditions. This is one instance where technology has made life better and safer for sailors and boats.


Does Latitude have any information as to who the oldest person is/was to have sailed singlehanded from the West Coast to the Hawaiian Islands?

D.C. Cooke
Seattle, WA

D.C. — Sorry, we don't. Why, what do you have in mind?


Does anyone know if a Ranger 23 would be self-righting after a 180-degree knockdown? I think the issue of an 'ultimate righting equation' might be of interest to Lee Helm and Latitude readers.

Allan Wells

Allan — We're confident that Oakland's Gary Mull would not have designed the popular Ranger 23 to be anything other than self-righting, even from 180 degrees. But Lee Helm would have to give you the scientific evidence.

Why do you ask? Do you have something interesting in mind?


Although we left California in '90, Latitude is still our favorite magazine for all the obvious reasons. Since we now visit the Golden State only twice a year, we keep informed by occasionally browsing 'Lectronic.

When scrolling through a recent edition, I saw only half of a photo before I recognized the person in it as Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz. I was struck nearly catatonic, and there's a story in it.

When we first headed north into the Sea of Cortez, we'd stayed at the Shroyer family's Marina de La Paz. Our next trip to La Paz was to be special, as my parents were flying down from Michigan. We would be staying at the marina, and also take them out to Partida for a few days of adventure. We arrived at the marina in plenty of time to settle into our berth and go to the airport to meet my parents.

While waiting for the plane, I was paged and instructed to go to the Mexicana Airlines desk. The manager took me into his office, cleared everyone else out, and handed me the phone. It was my father. My mother was in the hospital and had two weeks to live.

I am not certain how I got there, but the next thing I knew my wife and I were alone with Mary in her marina office, and she was walking us through all that had to be done for us to be on a plane to Michigan the next day. Back then, the paperwork to legally leave a boat in Mexico was voluminous and obscure, but Mary walked us through it. She also arranged for someone to care for our boat cat while we were gone.

There are good people in this world and Mary is at the head of the class. When I was down, she picked me up.

I have debated sending this to you, as I'm afraid it would only encourage others to descend on Mary with their problems, large and small. However, if you are in contact with Mary, you might tell her that in '89, Joyce and Tom aboard Rosie were blessed by her kindness and are forever grateful.

Joyce & Tom Boynton
Traverse City, Michigan (summer)
Somewhere in the Bahamas (winter)
ex-Rosie, Nordic 40
ex-Santana Catana 411
Valentino, PDQ34 Powercat

Joyce and Tom — While the family-run Marina de La Paz is a for-profit enterprise, Mary, Mac and Neil have certainly gone beyond the call of duty to help countless cruisers over the years. They remind us of the famous Chinese proverb: "If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go sailing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."

That said, the staffs of many other marinas in Mexico have also gone to great lengths to help customers over the years.

For those who weren't cruising Mexico in the '80s and even the '90s, it was technically illegal for boatowners to leave Mexico without their boats, putting people in a real bind in emergencies or if they wanted to go home for the holidays. The Mexican government instituted 20-year — now 10-year — Temporary Import Permits to solve this problem.

By the way, complete issues of Latitude 38 are available for download. And the photos look 10 times better than in print!


Having read about Editor LaDonna Bubak's experience anchoring in Clipper Cove during Fleet Week, I'd like to share an experience that my wife and I had in the late '80s.

We had anchored our '87 Morgan 41 Okokok about 50 yards off the beach in the middle of the cove, and took our inflatable ashore to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the beach. Shortly after we went ashore, we noticed a 45-ft powerboat trying to raise their anchor, but not having very much luck. We jumped into our inflatable and went out to see if we could help.

It turned out that the powerboat had hooked an anchor chain that had been left on the bottom for whatever reason. The links on this chain were heavy, very rusty — and at least 14 inches long! Their CQR had hooked dead center of one of the links, and the chain had to be fairly long because the crew could not get the mess up high enough to tilt the anchor to drop the chain.

I asked if I could help by resting the chain on the bow of our inflatable while they put the windlass in reverse. They agreed to try, and it worked. When the weight of the chain slid off the bow of our dinghy, we bounced up and down quite severely. The crew invited us for a drink at Richmond YC, but we respectfully declined and went back to the beach for more sun and a sundowner.

The moral of the story is that you never know what you will hook your anchor on when anchoring, even in a favorite location.

We sold our Morgan 41 in '09 and have dropped anchor in the Hill Country of Texas because of our physical inability to continue to operate the beloved boat that we owned for 23 years. After surviving numerous hurricanes, my wife also decided that a house inland was safer.

Greg & Arlene Davidson
Kyle, TX

Greg and Arlene — It comes as no surprise that someone might haul up big links from the bottom of Clipper Cove. After all, it's bounded on the north end by 400-acre Treasure Island, a man-made Works Progress Administration project that was completed in '39. One can just imagine the construction debris, which in those days was often just left on the bottom. In the '30s, Clipper Cove became the airport for Pan American Airlines Pacific Rim Service using the magnificent China Clipper Seaplanes. It was also the site of the '39-'40 World's Fair, and it's from Building One that Admiral Chester Nimitz directed the War in the Pacific.

The bottom line is lord only knows what stuff is still down there waiting to trap your anchor. You might even find something more modern. In a previous trip to Clipper Cove, Bubak caught her 35-lb Bruce on a 45-lb stainless steel CQR and 100-feet of 3/8" chain that had obviously been cut free. Thankfully, the Treasure Island Development Authority has had all of the sunken boats removed, making it much less likely for anchors to get caught than it used to be.


I had a conversation with a certain boat designer about George Kiskaddon's 60-ft modern schooner New World, which was built in the early '70s. Talk drifted to Great Hope, the 24-ft prototype he built first. We were wondering if anyone knows the whereabouts of that boat.

John Amen

John — Sorry, we don't know the whereabouts of Great Hope. Maybe a reader can help.

We do know where New World is — sprinkled in pieces on a reef somewhere in the South Pacific. As a racing boat, the narrow modern schooner New World never quite lived up to expectations. And after a number of years, Doug Wilde, an old friend, became the skipper, and ran her between islands in the South Pacific, carrying people — and sometimes even cattle on the hoof! When Doug decided to move on to Hong Kong, his replacement skipper didn't waste much time putting New World on a reef.

For those who don't know, Sausalito shipping magnate George Kiskaddon, who was before our time, was a very influential sailor on San Francisco Bay and beyond. In the '60s he had Sparkman & Stephens design Spirit, a 33-footer that was to be a family-friendly version of the Bird one-design class. Spirit proved to be a fine racer, and Kiskaddon eventually had a group of local sailors sail her across the Atlantic to England and around Europe. He was probably the first San Francisco sailor to do that. Spirit returned to San Francisco, where she saw great success in the hands of Sausalito sailmaker Pete Sutter and subsequent owners.


When you have some spare time, can you please try to find the date when a San Francisco newspaper printed the following: A Captain of a U.S. Navy sub was washed overboard while on the deck of the sub while the sub was surfaced and heading west under the Golden Gate."

I remember reading the headline when I used to live in Tiburon, from '73 to '76, and worked for Bechtel in San Francisco. I used to take the Red & White ferry from Tiburon to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. In '73, it cost 50 cents each way.

I never read any follow-up stories on the sub skipper going overboard. When I told the story to some ex-Navy and ex-Coast Guard friends down here, they said, "You must be losing it, Fred, we never heard that story."

I'm sure some Latitude readers will remember.

By the way, I sailed the East Coast and West Coast, and San Francisco Bay, aboard the Kenner 31 Privateer. I purchased her as a kit boat in '67, and launched her into the 'great south bay' — Long Island, New York — six months later.

P.S. Thanks for the excellent Latitude 38, which I pick up and read at the Oceanside YC.

Fred Engerer
Member of Paradise Cay YC, '73-'79

Fred — What is 'spare time'? That said, we can report that you're thinking of Commander A.L. Wilderman of the USS Plunger (SSN-595). He was "lost overside" in stormy conditions just off San Francisco on November 30, 1973. The 278-ft-long Plunger, which was decommissioned in '90, carried a complement of 130 officers and men.

Are you asking because the commanding officer of another submarine was lost just last month? We're referring to Chen Chi-tsung of the Taiwanese submarine Hai Lung, who was lost overboard in very rough weather in the waters off Taiwan.


It was fun to see my 'You Can't Sneak Poetry Past Us' letter published in the November Latitude, even if it was sans my poem. And thanks for the invitation to sail aboard Profligate on Banderas Bay this winter. I'm always up for a fun sail with interesting people, and promise to come bearing beer, not poetry.

Linda Dayoan

Linda — We appreciate the beer offer, but it's more important to us that everyone who sails with us on Profligate contributes $20 — directly, not through us — to his/her favorite charity.

On the editorial cultural front, we may have neglected to mention that, while we do not publish poetry, we do accept clever and humorous limericks. You know, stuff like "There was a sailing poet named Dayoan, who preferred to write with a crayon . . ." You can take it from there.


I appreciate Latitude's First-Timer's Guide to Cruising Mexico. However, while skimming it I didn't see the issue of pets addressed.

Based on my experience, cruisers who own pets need to fully research the requirements — both for the U.S. and Mexico — before taking their pet south. This especially applies to cruisers with exotic pets, such as my African grey parrot. My bird is stuck in Mexico until I can finesse the permits needed to get him to the San Diego quarantine facility for 30 days, where he must prove to be free of infections.

Getting the permits for exotic pets is a road loaded with bureaucratic hurdles and lots of delays. Having the initial permit to exit the United States would make re-entry a little easier. The biggest problem is that four agencies — two U.S. and two Mexican — are involved in the process, none of them formally connected. Plus there are potential language barriers.

This issue needs to be more fully disclosed within the cruising community to prevent a boatload of heartache.

David Tamblyn
Quest, Morgan 33
San Diego / San Carlos

David — We don't cruise with a dog or cat, but it seems as if every other boat in Mexico has one, so apparently that's not a problem. Dogs in the South Pacific are another issue entirely.

When it comes to exotic pets, there are so many variables that it's up to each pet owner to do the research. But you're right, it can be difficult if not impossible.

We once had a parrot named Lola on our Ocean 71 Big O in the Caribbean, and even featured her on a Latitude cover. Having that bird was a lot of trouble, but not because of permits and quarantines. The problem was that some previous owner had taught Lola all kinds of racial insults. And trust us, when officials walk by your Med-tied boat at some island in the West Indies, the last thing you want is a loquacious, racist parrot.


We read with interest your article discussing David Vann's writings about the death of John Long of Alameda a few years back and the possibility of pirates transporting drugs up the Pacific Coast to California in pangas powered by 115-hp outboards.

Several years ago, we were passengers returning to Los Angeles from Mazatlan on a cruise ship that was rerouted offshore to avoid a hurricane near Cabo San Lucas. Our new course took us about 150 miles farther out to sea than the usual shipping track. Having left the storm to starboard, we were enjoying a pleasant day at sea when an announcement from the bridge advised all passengers that we were altering course to assist a vessel apparently in distress.

The boat came into view as she bobbed in the 6- to 8-ft seas in light winds. As the ship slowly coasted up to her, we could see that she was about 40 feet long, had no cabin or deck of any kind, and was powered by two very large outboards. Her totally exposed cargo consisted of many rectangular plastic bags filled with brown material that were neatly stacked inside the hull.

One of the outboards was tilted out of the water, had its cover removed, and was being worked on by two intense young men who did not notice our arrival. Suddenly one looked up at the behemoth ship looming alongside and was clearly taken aback, as most of the 1,500+ passengers were hanging over the port side frantically snapping pictures. The other waved up at us, as he responded to the ship's crew, who had opened a large hatch near the waterline and were standing on the associated pilot-access deck.

After a brief discussion with our crew, the young men fired up the covered outboard motor, and the vessel lumbered off to the south in a cloud of blue smoke. Shortly thereafter, another announcement from the bridge advised the passengers that the men had requested some gasoline from the ship, but that none had been available. However, the officer noted that we were able to at least help by advising the Mexican Coast Guard of the boat's current position, course and speed.

To this day, we have no idea of the vessel's purpose at sea or its final destination.

Rick & Heather Reimer
Flying Scot, Ericson 30+

Rick and Heather — Perhaps they were bringing hay to offshore sea horses.

But let's do some math. It's about 1,800 miles from Puerto Madero to the U.S. border. According to what we've gleaned from the Internet, 115-hp outboards get between two and five miles per gallon. Assuming that a very heavily laden 40-ft panga would get only two miles per gallon at the very best, that means it would take at least 900 gallons per engine, or 1,800 total, to make it to the border without refueling. Gas weighs about eight lbs a gallon, which would mean about seven tons of fuel. If the weather were anything but smooth, the fuel consumption could easily double. This leads us to believe that either these pangas don't go all the way to the border, or there are some unlicensed offshore Pemex stations.


I'm a beginner sailor — and a student at the Seattle Sailing Club at Shilshole Bay Marina — so please forgive my ignorance of what might be obvious.

Latitude's October Changes reported on the death of Dr. Ned Cabot, who died as a result of being washed overboard from his J/46 Cielita by a rogue wave off St. George's Bay, Newfoundland. He and friends were returning to Boston after a journey to Iceland and Greenland.

Since Dr. Cabot was a very experienced offshore sailor and described as being "careful and responsible," I'm interested in learning more to better understand how it happened, how it could have been prevented, and how he could have been rescued after going overboard.

Cabot's boat was reportedly hit by a rogue wave on the quarter and knocked down, tossing Cabot and the helmsman into the water. The latter managed to get back aboard, but the crew was unable to get a line to Cabot and he was swept away.

The force of the rogue wave is said to have broken a chain in the steering mechanism, leaving the remaining crew unable to steer the boat. Did the boat not have an emergency tiller? In addition, I've been taught that boats with fin keels — such as a J/46 — can be steered by using the foresail to push the bow and the main to push the transom. Maybe the boat couldn't have been steered very quickly, but couldn't the crew have turned the boat using the sails to steer?

How far was the boat off the coast of Newfoundland? Too far for communication by VHF or other radio to land, and too far for the timely arrival of a search and rescue asset?

How long was Dr. Cabot in the water? Here in the Pacific Northwest, where the water is frequently 53 degrees, it's said the average survival time in the water, with clothing, is 60 to 90 minutes. It seems that would have given a U.S. or Canadian helicopter a fair chance of getting to someone who is within 75 miles of the coast.

Maybe I'm missing the obvious from lack of real sailing experience, but if I am ever thrust into that situation I'd like to know what doesn't work. As a quote from your 'Wisdom' section says, "Learn from the mistakes of others."

Before my first sail off Seattle, I equipped myself with a manual/automatic inflatable PFD, a water-activated strobe, and a floating, handheld VHF radio with GPS. Since I don't own a boat, I can't get an MMSI, but I can at least read my position off to SAR. I intend to get a PLB for the PFD before I take the boats out as skipper.

Sam Furgason

Sam — You ask some very good specific questions, unfortunately many more than we have space to answer. In addition, we don't know the answer to a lot of specifics in the Cielita case, so we'll mostly stick to general remarks.

The most important thing to understand is that if you fall or are thrown overboard from a performance 46-footer — or just about any other boat — by a rogue wave when the wind is blowing 30 to 40 knots on a quarter, your odds of surviving — no matter what gear you bought and what training the crew has had — are probably no better than 50/50. If the boat you were on then lost steering for any more than a minute, you can probably reduce those odds by another 90%. If you go overboard in very cold water, you can probably reduce the chances by yet another 80%. If the crew on the boat is only moderately experienced, you can reduce the chances by another 90%. In other words, once Dr. Cabot went overboard in those conditions, his chances of survival were all but nil.

If you do have to go overboard, make sure it's at night, you're wearing a personal strobe, the water is warm, and that the boat has steering and experienced crew. In such a case, your chances might be more like 75%

The bottom line is that you absolutely, positively can't allow yourself or anyone else on your boat to go overboard.

We don't think most sailors — even experienced ones — fully appreciate how fast a boat on a broad reach in gale force winds will leave an overboard victim behind. At eight knots, the separation is 810 feet per minute — well over the length of two football fields. The terrible truth is that nobody on the boat is going to be able to see the overboard victim for much more than a few seconds. The crew should throw all the man overboard stuff after the victim, of course, but it's quickly going to blow downwind of him, too.

The standard procedure for racing boats in a man overboard situation is an immediate round-up. The critical things are to absolutely minimize the separation between the boat and the person in the water, and to have one person do nothing but try to keep an eye on the person in the water.

It's possible to steer a boat without a rudder — in benign conditions. But it's not possible to sail a J/46 upwind in big seas and 35-knot winds. The other thing to consider is that the J/46's rudder was probably flopping all over the place, keeping the boat absolutely out of control until the emergency rudder was put on.

In even the best of situations, it's probably going to take at least a couple of minutes to get the emergency tiller in place. And even when in place, many emergency tillers are nowhere near as efficient as regular tillers.

Cold water survival times vary wildly, depending on wind and sea conditions, the age of the person in the water, and so forth. Dr. Cabot was 69 years old, so neither his age nor the weather conditions were in his favor.

We don't know where Cielita was in relation to SAR assets, but please don't labor under the false impression that there are rescue helicopters stationed every 100 miles along the remote coasts, and that rescue teams are standing by 24/7 ready to jump into them at a moment's notice. When you go offshore, you should make the assumption that you are alone. It may not be true, but you should operate as though it were.

From time to time, man overboard seminars are held in popular sailing areas. Those who participate are usually surprised by how difficult it is to find and rescue an overboard crewmember in even benign conditions. And getting a line to such victims is just half of the battle, as getting that victim back on the boat is often as difficult, if not more difficult.

We've said it once, and we'll say it again — you can't let yourself or any member of your crew go overboard. In most cases it's a death sentence.


Related to the 'Your Right of Way Was Wrong' letter in the October issue, there is a point of the right-of-way rules of which I believe very few racing sailors are aware.

Some years ago, an unnamed yacht club in the South Bay ran a race for which the Sailing Instructions failed to invoke the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS). During the race, an overtaking boat was passing to leeward of another, slower boat. After establishing an overlap, giving them rights under the Racing Rules of Sailing, the leeward boat headed up to what they felt was their proper course. The weather boat did not alter course and failed to keep clear. During the ensuing crunch a crewmember was seriously injured.

When the resulting lawsuit went to court, it was determined that since the Racing Rules of Sailing had not been in effect because they hadn't been invoked in the Sailing Instructions, the race was de facto being run under the COLREGs.

In the COLREGS, unlike the Racing Rules of Sailing, an overtaking boat has no 'leeward boat' rights after establishing an overlap. There is no counterpart to RRS 11 in the COLREGS. The overtaking boat always remains the burdened boat until she is clear ahead. So in this case, without the RRS being in effect, the leeward boat ended up being responsible for the injury.

Bartz Schneider
Expeditious, Express 37
San Francisco

Readers — A very experienced racer who has won the Express 37 division of the St. Francis YC's Rolex Big Boat Series with his Expeditious several times, Bartz knows what he's talking about.



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