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April 2013

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I was disappointed by Latitude's sarcastic response to reader Joanne Jackson, who was concerned that the model portraying a 10-year-old driving Profligate on the cover of the February issue was not wearing a PFD, particularly since I believe that I learned the importance of a child's wearing a PFD — even on the dock — from Latitude. I have a 5-year-old granddaughter, and she knows to wait on shore until I bring her the PFD from the boat.

I am relatively new to sailing, coming to it after over 30 years of hang gliding. In the early years of hang gliding, helmet wearing was somewhat controversial. Some refused to wear helmets, claiming that it was a matter of individual choice and personal responsibility. The issue was resolved when the leading hang gliding magazine refused to publish pictures of pilots not wearing helmets.

Personal responsibility is important, but it should not be an excuse for corporate irresponsibility.

Dan Brown
Elizabeth Daniel, Ranger 23
Pt. Richmond

Dan — There was more going on in that letter response than you might have realized. First, our whimsical — hopefully not sarcastic — response was a result of our admittedly being more than a little annoyed that the well-intentioned but misinformed Ms. Jackson was unable to see the forest for the trees. The forest being that it was a beautiful cover photo of a 10-year-old girl — not a model portraying a 10-year-old girl — enjoying driving a big cat. The trees being the fact that she wasn't wearing a PFD. Second, had we given Ms. Jackson a straight response, it would have totally undermined what she's trying to accomplish, which is to get more people to wear PFDs. But since you want to make a federal case out of it, we fear just the opposite is going to happen. We'll give you the entire next letter to figure out why, but first here's a hint — there was nothing illegal or irresponsible depicted in that cover photo.


It was with amusement and disappointment that I read Joanne Jackson's letter about the February Latitude cover girl's not wearing a PFD. Joanne says that children under the age of 16 must wear one. Since Joanne lives in California, I assume that she is referring to California law. If so, she is wrong.

California law states the children "under 13" are required to wear a PFD — but only when on boats under 26 feet in length. There is also an exception for when they are in an enclosed space on a boat. Last time I looked, Profligate was not only 63 feet long, she was well over 26 feet wide. In other words, while there had to be a PFD for everyone aboard, nobody — not even little ones — had to be wearing one. The law is a minimum requirement, so it is up to the skipper and parents to decide if and when a PFD should be worn when not required by law.

Despite Jackson's being factually wrong, my position with my grandchildren and other young ones who come aboard my 47-ft Lagoon catamaran is that they don't leave the cockpit, which is quite big, or cabin, without a PFD on. And they always wear one — as required by law — when in the dinghy. This gets adapted to the circumstances, as a nine-year-old who is a good swimmer is not going to have to wear a PFD in a smooth anchorage, while I would require a non-swimming 20-year-old to wear one. The requirements on Moontide change based on the person and the conditions.

Bill Lilly
Moontide, Lagoon 470
Barra de Navidad, Mexico

Readers — We called the California Department of Boating and Waterways to confirm that Bill Lilly is correct about California PFD law. Nobody, not even toddlers, is required to wear a PFD on boats longer than 26 feet or while in an enclosed space on a boat. We really didn't want to spread these facts because we think most mariners believe that PFD laws are more stringent. And we think it's a good thing they do. Our fear is some boatowners will now go, "If the government doesn't think it's necessary for kids to wear PFDs on my Honeywind 27 when sailing in 30 knots of wind in The Slot, then I guess it's not important."

Latitude's position on PFDs is that most kids ought to wear them all the time on all but the biggest boats, and even adults and good swimmers should wear them when it's at all windy or if the water is sloppy. True, you might be a great swimmer — but not if you get whacked overboard and unconscious by the boom. Similarly, you might be a great swimmer in a swimsuit, but it's extremely difficult to keep your head above water when wearing warm clothes, foul weather gear and boots, and when the water is 58 degrees.

If anyone would like to see why we think an exception can be made while sailing Profligate on mild days in the flat, tropical waters of Banderas Bay with lots of experienced sailors aboard, we invite you to join us on one of our 'everyone come sailing' days.


At a recent Safety at Sea seminar, held at Cal Maritime in Vallejo, one of the presenters was USCG Commander Don Montoro, Search & Rescue coordinator for Sector San Francisco. During his talk about SAR operations, he flashed a picture of the cover of the February Latitude 38 showing the happy young girl at the helm of Profligate.

"What's wrong with this picture?" Montoro asked.

About half of the 150 or so in attendance responded "No lifevest!"

The Commander's talk took place, by the way, just about two hours before the Coast Guard knew about the distress call from a sailboat off the coast of Monterey. Had the call come earlier, the Commander certainly wouldn't have been there.

Capt. John Harold
South Beach Harbor

Capt. John — Latitude urges sailors to follow all Coast Guard safety recommendations.

By the way, that 'distress call' is being investigated as a hoax played by one sick puppy.


We recently bought a boat on eBay, and between the time we bought her and the time we picked her up, the outboard had been stolen. It was taken from the docks of a local yacht club.

The local outboard shop told us they've received calls from 50 or more people whose outboard motors have been pilfered in the last two months. Where are they going? The thieves could be selling them on Craigslist without their serial numbers, but there aren't very many listed. It's also interesting that motors in the 8- to 9-hp range are being targeted, obviously because they're more portable than larger engines, yet are strong enough to push most boats.

I think outboards should come with chips embedded into the drive system so you can track them, similar to having your pet chipped. Serial numbers on metal tags that can be pried off don't help much in tracking down stolen property. Until that happens, West Marine has a clamp-on lock to prevent theft. Does anyone know how well these work?"

Name Withheld by Request

N.W.B.R. — As you'll soon read, the West Marine lock gets mixed reviews.


Forget the Oakland Estuary, where are the editorials about the theft of marine gear in Sausalito?

I lost a dinghy outboard from the "secure" dry storage area at a Sausalito marina last month. The clamp handles were padlocked, so the thief sawed through the handle. The CCTV caught the thief in the act, which included him cutting through the chain link fence to get into the secure area. The previous month a pair of oars were stolen from my dinghy at the same location.

In both cases the Sausalito Police were contacted, and, with great reluctance, reviewed the evidence including CCTV capture of the crimes. We had the license plate number of the outboard motor thief's car and a mug shot of the oar thief — they were different people. The car was registered in the East Bay, so the Sausalito Police said to forget about it as it was out of their jurisdiction. The oar guy was apprehended, but let go after surrendering the oars. He said the oars were his, but turned them over after I was able to identify them.

The oar thief was an anchor-out, a group with too many petty criminals who are allowed to have unregistered boats and dump sewage in the Bay. It's my understanding that no agency wants to claim jurisdiction because it's more convenient to permit the continuance of (so far) petty crime than to take action.

All this is known along the waterfront, especially among the marine businesses. I have encouraged some of them to band together and demand action, but I don't live in Sausalito and have no influence with the indifferent city officials. I understand there is one East Bay ring — or more — that steal marine gear and sell it by the pallet, and no one does anything. Small crime leads to bigger crime.

Please withhold my name because I don't want my tires slashed or other retribution.

Name Withheld by Request
Nonresident of Sausalito

Readers — As reported previously in Latitude, there was a gang in Southern California that stole small outboards by the dozens. There have also been a large number of thefts recently along the Oakland Estuary and some in Sausalito. Given that going after such thieves is such a low priority, is it any wonder thieves have little fear? The following are some reader suggestions on how to thwart such thefts.


I have an outboard lock from Master Lock, which can be found online for $20. It works great. It's not stainless, but powder-coated. I've had it on the boat for 10 years, and it only has a couple of rusty spots.

The lock did a yeoman's service when my boat was boarded at 2 a.m. two years ago at Altata on the Mexican mainland coast between Mazatlan and Topolobampo. The lock totally frustrated the wanna-be thieves long enough for me to wake up and for them to decide it was time to go. I don't think they could have gotten the lock off without a hacksaw or torch.

Jim Hassberger
Kanga, Valiant 40
Lying La Paz, BCS, Mexico


Check out Garhauer Marine's all-stainless locks for half of what West Marine charges. I also like the fact that they are a local manufacturer.

Marc Bodian
Averi, Bristol 35
Boulder, CO

Readers — Several other readers recommended the Garhauer lock.


I wouldn't recommend the outboard lock by West Marine that was suggested in 'Lectronic. Several of my neighbors at the Alameda Pick & Pull had these, and it only made the thieves cut off the outboard bracket or the transom with a battery powered Sawzall. They not only suffered the loss of an outboard, but were faced with an expensive repair. I suggest just taking the motor home and getting the marina to put in surveillance cameras and lock the gates.

Geoff Ashton

Geoff — Locked gates don't secure a marina, as it can easily be accessed by small boat.


I use a clamp-on variety of lock on my Santana 22, although older than the West Marine model pictured in 'Lectronic. And my engine is still with my boat. Unfortunately, my dad's Honda 8-hp kicker was literally torn off the transom of his C-Dory 22 about four months ago, leaving fiberglass damage. It wasn't even locked on, and the thieves left the larger 90-hp in place.

Brock, our harbormaster, caught one of the thieves red-handed in the act, and chased him all the way from Alameda, across the Park Street Bridge, and into Oakland. That guy was subsequently arrested.

Kristy Lugert
Kitten, Santana 22

Kristy — Subsequently arrested — and let us guess — released.


The NutLock and the SmartLock are the best outboard locking systems we have ever seen. They are made of solid, thick-walled stainless, and include a key card code should you lose your keys. Easy installation, and no tools required. We've been happy with ours since 2004.

Chuck Houlihan
Jacaranda, Allied 39
El Salvador


Those 'box' type locks do not work. The thieves go through them like shit through a goose. What does work is buying a can of olive drab paint or anything that is butt ugly. Then paint the whole damn motor. Multiple colors, including pink, are even better. Make it easy to identify.

Secondly, don't leave the motor exposed. Take it off the boat every time. That's what we do on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, the outboard motor theft capital of the world. But don't lock the outboard in the boat's cabin. Ever. The damage thieves will do to the main hatch is far more expensive than the loss of your outboard and VHF.

Willie Crear
Howard Lake, MN


I like the idea of making your outboard less attractive than the one on the boat next door. Such as putting a tattered old cowling on it so it looks nearly worthless.

By the way, there was a spate of outboard thefts in the United Kingdom recently. The police eventually arrested a gang of Lithuanians who were taking them to Eastern Europe.

Richard Woods
Woods Designs


I used a West Marine outboard lock on my 5-hp Nissan. Thieves chiseled it off and stole the outboard.

Paul Esterle
Newark, DE


I read Latitude's "First Ever Boat Review" in the March 1 'Lectronic. The review was based on a guy who bought a Catana 471 new, then sailed her across the Atlantic 20 times over the next 10 years. I think he's a sailor who has had sufficient on-the-water experience with his boat to make a knowledgeable evaluation.

I tend to agree with Latitude about the lack of worthwhile insights into the seaworthiness and longevity potential of any boat reviewed by a scribe for a for-profit sailing magazine. The thing that irks me the most about them is that these magazines — and test sails — are generally based either in Florida or the Chesapeake Bay. There is about a 50/50 chance that somewhere in the first paragraph of any such review the author will apologize for the lack of wind during the test sail. Did it ever occur to the editors of these sailing magazines that the real and reliable sailing wind is on San Francisco Bay? And that maybe some reviews should be done in our waters?

Come to think of it, we don't need these other magazines in our waters because we already have the best sailing magazine on the planet based in our own backyard!

Bill Crowley
Clarsa, Venture of Newport 23

Bill — Thanks for the kind words. For the record, while Latitude is distributed free, we try to prevent it from being not-for-profit. As for "not needing" other magazines, we disagree. No matter what anybody or any organization is trying to do, competition is great and monopolies are a disaster.

But yes, it would be great to see more boat reviews based on summer afternoon sails on San Francisco Bay.


On February 3, the National Weather Service San Francisco posted the following warning: "Long-period swell approaching the coast will result in the risk of sneaker wave activity."

There is much more contained in this advisory concerning sneaker waves and their danger. I am enclosing four attachments concerning National Weather advisories for 2013 dealing with sneaker wave warnings, and all of them are the result of long-period swells approaching our coast from distant storm activity.

If you Google long-period swells and sneaker waves, you will find much more information confirming what I have been trying to tell you for years, which is that long-period swells are more dangerous than short period swells. This information comes directly from the National Weather Service and other very respected sources.

In just the last few months many lives have been lost right off our coast. And since you and I have been wrangling over the issue, many more boaters have needlessly lost their lives. Your position is not supported by the facts or by the National Weather Service.

Latitude 38 could do a great service by taking this issue seriously and writing an in-depth article on this subject by someone eminently qualified to do so. I believe many lives would be saved as a result. I hope you can consider putting ego aside, and finally accept that you are dead wrong in what you have been putting out concerning this subject. And do what I think you have done so many times in the past — write the excellent article that this serious subject deserves. You could save many lives by doing so.

Tony Badger
Kingfish, Fisher 37

Tony — The problem we see with the National Weather Service's making warnings about 'sneaker waves' is that, according to our research, there are no such things. The NWS is just giving a scary name to bigger-than-average waves in the hope it will stop ignorant people from getting killed. For example, here's the first entry in Wikipedia on so-called 'sneaker waves'.

"A sneaker wave is a disproportionately large coastal wave that can sometimes appear in a wave train without warning. The terminology itself is popular rather than scientific: there is no scientific coverage (or evidence) of the phenomenon as a distinct sort of wave with respect to height or predictability — like there is on other extreme wave events such as rogue waves. Because they are much larger than preceding waves, sneaker waves can catch unwary swimmers, washing them out to sea. It is not uncommon for people walking or standing on beaches and ocean jetties to also be washed into the sea. Sneaker waves are mainly referred to in warnings and reports of incidents for the coasts of Northern California, Oregon and Washington in the United States."

We repeat, "There is no evidence of the phenomenon (sneaker waves) as a distinct sort of wave." The National Weather Service website has a box to make comments or ask them questions. So we wrote and asked for an explanation of why they were giving a human attribute to certain waves, and wondered if we could expect to soon be warned of things such as 'seductive' waves, 'frustrated' waves, 'angry waves' and the like. Even though we wrote the NWS before sequestration came into being or took effect, we never got a response.

It's noteworthy that the term 'sneaker wave' is apparently only used in Northern California, Oregon and Washington. That would seem to suggest that either A) 'sneaker waves' only exist on the West Coast of the United States — why would that be?, or B) the NWS is giving certain big waves the name of a scary human trait in the hope that humans will be intimidated and less likely to expose themselves to grave danger.

It's noteworthy that in places such as Bali, where as many as five people were recently killed by big surf in a single day, they don't use the name 'sneaker waves'. They just say "big surf." And in order not to scare tourists, they try to keep word from getting out.

It seems to us that perhaps you're confusing the effects of long-period swells in water deep enough for safe navigation and the effects of long-period swells when they hit shallow water and the shore. Long-period swells travel greater distances, travel faster, and have more energy than do shorter-period swells. If you're sailing in sufficiently deep enough water, this isn't a problem. But if you're walking on a beach, you may be taken by surprise at how big the waves are and how far the white water comes ashore. "It snuck up on me," say people. This is misleading. There was nothing sneaky about the wave itself, it was just a big wave. The problem was with the ignorance of the person on the beach, who didn't appreciate the power of big waves.

Note in the aforementioned Wikipedia reference that they talk about dangers to swimmers, people walking on beaches, and people standing on jetties — but not boats. We presume that's because if boats are in adequately deep water, there is nothing inherently dangerous about long-period waves. In fact, because they are less steep than short-period waves of the same size, long-period waves are less dangerous than short-period waves.

Remember the Boxing Day Tsunami that claimed up to 300,000 lives in the Indian Ocean? A tsunami is the ultimate long-period wave, which travels at 500 miles an hour on the open ocean, and can sometimes drive water miles ashore. As was well documented, vessels in deep water at sea don't feel tsunamis at all. Indeed, tsunamis don't even cause an effect in relatively shallow water. Dozens of boats anchored in only about 30 feet of water off Phuket, Thailand were unaffected by the Boxing Day Tsunami, while just a hundred or so yards ashore, the water drove as far as a mile inland, killing tens of thousands of people and causing near total devastation. If this doesn't illustrate the difference between the effect — or non-effect — long-period waves have in even relatively deep water as opposed to the effect they have when breaking and after breaking, we don't know what would.

In the last few weeks, we've had quite a bit of experience with long-period waves, which we're going to define as having a period of 15 seconds or more. The first was when we were towing the Olson 30 La Gamelle some 30 miles from St. Kitts to St. Barth. Thanks to the big storms in the Northeast this winter, the swells hitting the Caribbean have been epic. The long-period swells that day were about 10 to 12 feet. They were beautiful, like undulating bunny slopes. Despite the fact that the water in the crossing was relatively shallow — if a mega-yacht turned turtle, her mast would get stuck in the bottom — you could have safely sailed an eight-ft El Toro from St. Kitts to St. Barth in those long-period swells. When we'd gone over to St. Kitts a few days before, the swell wasn't very big, but it was short-period, and you couldn't have made it the mile or so from Gustavia to Pan de Sucre in that same El Toro. Since these two real-life experiences fly directly into the face of your contention that longer-period waves are more dangerous than short-period waves, could you kindly offer an explanation?

A few days later, we made two singlehanded circumnavigations of St. Barth on La Gamelle, both on days that many said had the "biggest swell to hit in 10 years." As these swells had developed far off in the North Atlantic, they were long-period. Once again, they were awe-inspiring giants, and when they hit the rocky shore,the spray exploded 50 to 80 feet in the air. Although the waves were very large, once again they weren't steep because of the long period, and thus posed absolutely no threat as long as we didn't venture into water shallow enough for them to break. Heck, despite their size we only managed to get a couple of short surfs in. How do you explain this?

A couple of days later, we and de Mallorca did a 10-mile St. Barth YC race that took us into the open Atlantic again. Thanks to the fact that the swell was more local and thus the period much shorter, we managed to have more good surfs down swells that were a fraction of the size of the ones on our circumnavigations. How do you explain it?

With all due respect, we can't write an article on why long-period waves are more dangerous than short-period waves because the idea flies in the face of all our experience. Do you have any experience sailing in areas famous for short-period swells? Such as trying to sail north in the Sea of Cortez during a Norther? Or make the beam reach from Cabo to Mazatlan in a Norther? Sailors avoid the former at all costs to avoid beating themselves and their boats up. In the latter, we've had numerous reports of sailors getting thrown around and getting bruised and broken ribs. It's nasty beam reaching in short, steep seas.

Have you ever sailed into the steep, short-period seas of a meltemi in Greece? Nasty. Same thing in the Gulf of Lyon. More locally, ever sailed out the Gate in short-period swells or a nasty ebb? Then you know how boats gets launched off waves to slam down in the trough of the next wave. In the first issue of Latitude 38 we wrote about sailors getting injured as a result of being thrown about while flying over waves just outside the Gate.

As for your accusation that mariners on several small boats have been lost because of long-period waves — as opposed to big surf and being in too-shallow water — we'd like to see some documentation. Without other effects, long-period waves are inherently smoother, less steep, and safer than short-period waves.

Frankly, we've had our fill of this subject, so we're going to conclude it as follows: There are two schools of thought with regard to sailing in swells. Tony Badger is of the belief that it is safer and more comfortable to sail when eight-ft swells are coming every eight seconds, while we at Latitude believe that it's safer and more comfortable to sail in eight-ft waves that come every 16 seconds. We'll leave it to readers to decide who they think is right.


The initial report of our being the victims of armed robbers while at anchor at Caleta de Campos, Michoacan, Mexico, on February 19 appeared in the next day's 'Lectronic. Here's is our more detailed report.

The evening started with a delightful potluck on my partner Bill Lilly's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide. The small gathering included Bob Willmann of the Casamance 47 cat Viva! and Bob and Deanne Cartwright of the San Francisco-based Hunter Legend 430 Dos Leos. Eagle and Jupiter’s Smile came in long after we'd started our soirée, so they just anchored down for the night. But there was a total of five boats in the anchorage, with Viva! and Jupiter's Smile fairly close to Moontide.

After a fine evening of socializing, we went to bed with smiles on our faces. At about 1:50 a.m., we were awakened by loud banging on the sliding glass door that separates our salon from the cockpit, and banging on the hull. Thinking there was an emergency, Bill — buck naked — jumped out of bed and up the steps into the salon. As he opened the door, a young Mexican fellow he didn't recognize slipped on a mask and put a gun to Bill's face.

The gunman said something to the effect of “This is a robbery, give us all your money.” He motioned for Bill to step back, after which the gunman and two other masked men came into the salon. Bill yelled to me that they had a gun and for me to stay in bed.

While the armed man followed Bill down to our cabin in search of pesos, the other two started to ransack the boat. I saw the masked gunman, as he stood in the doorway to our cabin while Bill got money out of the small bedside desk. They then went back up to the salon, and once again Bill instructed me to stay in the bunk. All I could do was listen, hope they weren't violent, and determine what action I should take if I was called into play.

The armed man spoke broken English, and he was clearly not happy with the sum of money — only about $1,000 USD — that he'd gotten from Bill. He claimed that there should be more money on such a large boat. Bill, who thinks quickly on his feet, explained that he was just the captain, not the owner, and was delivering the boat from Zihua to Mazatlan. The robber again insisted that we must have more money. Bill said that if we needed money, we got it from an ATM at the next stop.

Bill was then told to sit down, and the gunman kept watch over Bill while the other two went through the starboard hull and salon. It was odd that they never came into the port hull, which is where I was. Bill says they probably didn't want to mess with me, but I guess we'll never know.

The men were in their early 20s, and stood between 5'6" and 5'8". Only the armed man spoke some English, and he gave orders to the other two in Spanish. At one point Bill heard someone call another 'Carlito'. All three were very fit, so they must do some other work for a living.

Bill later told me that at the time he was looking at what he might do if the situation deteriorated. He figured he might be able to get a jump on the gunman and take him out. But that would leave the other two, and he had no idea what weapons they might have. If they tried to tie him up, Bill was going to resist and call for whatever help I could provide. At that point we were going to resist as best we could, fearing that once we got tied up, we could be thrown overboard.

Thoughtlessly, the robbers hadn’t brought a sack for what they were stealing, so they emptied one of mine — full of dirty clothes — that they'd found in the starboard cabin. They used the sack to make off with two cameras, two handheld VHF radios, two sets of binoculars, a GPS, a notebook computer, my cell phone, flashlights, gin, tequila, two Baja Ha-Ha beer koozies, sunglasses, and a black folder containing some business records.

While the robbery was taking place, Bill got up and said he had to pee — which was the truth. The gunman told him to sit down. Bill insisted that he seriously had to pee. This irritated the man, who told Bill to sit back down.

After about 10 minutes, the two men who had been taking orders from the gunman left and got in a panga on the starboard side of our boat. The gunman then put Bill’s brimmed hat on and exited the salon. Bill got up to follow him, and was told to stay in the salon — which he did.

As soon as Bill heard the panga outboard start up, he yelled for me to come in the salon. Bill was so pumped with adrenaline! He immediately reached for the VHF radio and began to call the other boats on Channel 22. Our fear was that the thieves might be headed to the other boats, and we wanted to warn them. When nobody responded, Bill started firing flares. They did little but light up the sky toward shore. He then grabbed the air horn and gave five blasts.

The air horn blasts brought Viva! and Jupiter's Smile up on 22. We explained what had happened and warned that the thieves might be headed their way. They said they hadn't seen anyone, but would be on alert. We then tried to hail the port captain at Lazaro Cardenas on Channel 16, but got no response.

Luckily, Bill had taken his cell phone, our Banda Ancha (Telcel’s internet access link), and another computer to bed. In the past, I had complained about his nightly practice of sleeping with electronics, as it isn't very romantic and interfered with certain moves. Trust me, I won’t be complaining about it again.

We tried calling 066 — supposedly the same as 911 — but could not understand the recording. We called a US Consulate, and their answering service gave us the number of the embassy in Mexico City. The embassy operator told us that 089 was the same as 911, and to call it to get the local police. We tried that, but again could not understand Spanish well enough to understand the recording.

Feeling helpless and without any other method of alerting others or capturing the men, we retired to our cabin. Sleep was impossible, so we talked about what had just happened and tried to calm ourselves down. We also sent emails to cruiser friends that we knew were north and south of us, so they could warn others via the various nets.

After a few hours, we got up and typed up a short report of what had happened, and included a list of stolen items. Bill used Google Translate to translate the report from English to Spanish. We then printed out four copies, along with an English copy, with the printer we have onboard (in our port-side office/cabin).

The other boats checked with us before raising anchor and leaving the next morning. We thought twice about reporting the incident versus just getting out of there. We concluded that we had a responsibility to go ashore and report the incident to the police.

The story of our trying to report the crime is long and doesn't have a happy ending. People were kind and tried to be helpful, but few spoke English and there is little communication and transportation infrastructure on this part of the Mexican coast. After a very long day, we were glad to see that our kayaks were still on the beach and Moontide was still at anchor. We hadn't eaten all day and we were dog tired. Nonetheless, we were anxious to leave before dark, and made it out by 6 p.m.

We fully realize the incident could have been much worse. And we were additionally lucky to have Bill’s cell phone, computer and Banda Ancha. I'd put my computer in a closet when cleaning for the potluck so that, along with our printer/scanner, wasn't taken either.

While traveling north, Bill and I talked about what had happened, what we'd done right and wrong, and what we would do in the future. We agreed that this disturbing incident was not going to ruin what had been a fabulous cruising season up until then. We both still love Mexico and most of its population, and we fully intend to keep enjoying our cruising here — but with precautions in place.

Although we had to agree that this cove at Caleta looked nice, we noticed that this was not a place that catered to foreign tourists, and we did not see a single gringo onshore or in town. No one we came in contact with spoke any English, and aside from the main paved street in that part of town, most of the other roads were dirt. It seemed there might be more economic incentive here to rob, especially since there is no police presence.

Bill and I have managed to avoid any violent threat/armed assault until we were in our 60s. Although I feel we are lucky these young men were inexperienced, as professionals might have been worse. Bill, on the other hand, says it was their inexperience — acting nervous, jumpy, possibly high on something, waving the gun around — that really had him concerned for our safety.

As a result of all of this, we have modified our preparedness plans, and will continue to do so as more ideas are formulated. We have also gathered suggestions from and for other cruisers, which I’ll describe in a later email.

Judy Lang
Moontide, Lagoon 470
Newport Beach


It was unfortunate that our friends Billy Lilly and Judy Lang were the victims of an armed robbery while anchored at Caleta de Campos, Mexico. But in something of a defense of Mexico, during that same time in Orange County, where Bill, Judy, my girlfriend Debbie, and I all live — there was a violent rampage by 20-year-old Ali Syed that resulted in the deaths of four people. First he killed a 20-year-old woman in his parents' house. In the following two hours, he killed two strangers during carjackings, then he killed himself.

Speaking for myself, nowhere is completely safe, but I've always felt safer cruising in Mexico than living in the United States. Despite what happened to Bill and Judy, we still feel safe on our boat in Mexico.

Glenn Twitchell
Beach Access, Lagoon 380
Newport Beach


I spent three days anchored at Caleta de Campos, arriving a few days after the armed robbery on Moontide. My condolences to them for having to endure such a frightening experience.

However, my experience there was nothing but enjoyable and pleasant. I'm a singlehander, and mine was the only boat there the entire time. The many locals I spoke with were all appalled by the incident and are convinced the perpetrators are from somewhere else. They told me that nothing like this had happened in at least 10 years.

My opinion is that this was a rare incident for the area, and that a cruiser boycott of the Caleta de Campos would do little to solve the crime or bring the perpetrators to justice. The people of Caleta may not notice the difference, as it's not as if cruisers flocked there in the past or contribute substantially to the local economy. But I think it would be a disservice to brand their town as a dangerous place that cruisers should avoid. Besides, cruisers will return with time anyway.

Ron Kucera
Mar de Luz, Spencer 42 Hull 10
Currently anchored Zihuatanejo

Ron — Armed robbery of occupied boats might be rare in Caleta de Campos, but it has occurred, which is unusual for almost all of the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

We can't remember the exact year, but about 10 years ago Blair Grinols' 45-ft cat Capricorn Cat was boarded by a man in a uniform with a gun who claimed to be the police. He wanted money. Blair didn't think the gun was loaded and wanted to jump the thief, but another member of his crew wasn't game, and the rest of the crew slept through the entire incident on the forward tramp. The man got away with about $100.

In 1997, Bob and Jennie Crum, and their kids, of the New Zealand-based CF37 Gumboots, were robbed at Caleta de Campos, but no weapon was brandished.

Three incidents in something like 10 years are certainly not a lot. On the other hand, not many boats stop at Caleta de Campos. And most of even the most popular anchorages on the Pacific Coast of Mexico have never had an armed robbery.

That's the best context we can provide. We'll let everyone make their own decision as to whether to stop there or not.


I'm the lead editor at and I want to thank Latitude for mentioning the site in your post about the armed robbery on a boat at Caleta de Campos, Mexico. For the last few years I've been aggregating news and events around the world that impact travelers and or expats. I teach open source intelligence skills to a small group of university students, and our aim is to cover such events the world 24 hours a day.

Nicholas Crowder

Readers — The name of the site is perhaps excessively gruesome and understates the breadth of the information provided. And while the information is far from definitive, we suggest checking it out. If it seems as though a lot of tourists are victims, please remember that there are hundreds of millions of tourists each year.


The publisher's Olson 30 in St. Barth sounds like the perfect Caribbean cruiser. It reminds me that back in the '70s somebody sailed a Santa Cruz 27 — with roller furling and a dodger — from Southern California to Australia, and then back to Hawaii. Based on my experience, the Santa Cruz ultralights were both great sailing boats and very seaworthy.

When I sailed the Olson 30 back from Hawaii in '81, it was incredibly easy. A reefable #4 and a tuck in the main made things manageable. I had six days of beating into the southeast trades, then 11 more days back to California. The dodger hatch was critical, as it kept the interior dry.

Don Keenan
Boulder, Colorado

Don — We're happy to leave the longer Olson 30 passages — particularly six days of beating — to younger sailors. But stripped down and with reduced sail, La Gamelle is the perfect Zen daysailer for the Caribbean. Despite the design's being more than 30 years old, she gets compliments from many top Caribbean sailors.


The Latitude photos of Ha-Ha couples re-enacting the kiss from the movie From Here To Eternity inspired us to share our best attempt. The photo was taken at Sandy Cay near the eastern tip of Jost van Dyke in the British Virgins — one of my favorite places on the planet. I set the camera on a rock with a 10-second delay, and jumped in the water with my then fiancée — now wife — Susan McCauley.

Incidentally, this was late August of 2011. A few days later was the last day of our charter. We woke up in Nanny Cay and decided that we'd sail over to Peter Island for lunch, then return the boat to The Moorings early in the afternoon. That plan was quickly scrapped when we saw darkening skies, and increasing wind, and heard radio warnings about Tropical Storm Irene. We put the hammer down and headed straight for The Moorings base at Road Town. We got the boat all tied up about a half hour before the sky exploded! Tropical Storm Irene became Hurricane Irene right over us. We were stuck there for four days because the runway was flooded at the San Juan Airport.

The good folks at The Moorings let us ride out the storm on our charter boat in the harbor at no charge, so we didn't have to pay for a hotel. We had a great time hanging out on the boat, reading books, and listening to the wind howl.

Marc Fountain
Point Richmond


I read the February-issue Changes about how Keith Albrecht of the Alamitos Bay-based Columbia 36 Ojo Rojo was bitten by a snake while at anchor at Tenacatita Bay. Apparently the snake had climbed up the vessel's anchor chain.

Growing up in Sydney, Australia, I remember that the ships tied up to docks had sheet metal cones hung over the hawsers. They were a foot or so in diameter and kind of looked like the things they put on sick dogs' heads. The idea was that they would prevent rats from boarding ships via the docklines. I think they would work for snakes, too. But they probably have rats down in Baja, too.

John Sutton
Crew, Barca a Vela, Catalina 380

John — Unless we're mistaken, rats and snakes boarding cruising boats in Mexico have been a relatively minor problem. But if someone wanted to be extra cautious or was going to tie up where rats are a known problem, there's a product made especially for boats called Offboard Vermin Shields. The manufacturer says they keep rats, mice and other vermin off boats. They don't mention snakes, so we're not sure how effective they would be for serpents.


How sad to see the 67-ft schooner Raindancer on the reef outside Clark's Court Bay in southern Grenada, as reported in the March 8 'Lectronic. But what was the captain thinking bringing a deep-keel yacht through that narrow passage at night? We sailed Suzy Q, our Wauquiez 45, to Clark's Court Bay once, and we were nervous coming through the pass in the reef. And it was daytime. Sure there are buoys, but they can drift.

Joe & Susan Altmann
Suzy Q, Waquiez MS45
Santa Cruz

Joseph — We suppose the captain thought that since he'd successfully made it through the narrow pass dozens of times, he could do it again.


After reading Latitude's report on the sinking of the Leopard 43 catamaran Palenque last November in the Caribbean Sea, I read a posting on by Peter Wiersema. For the last nine years he's been the leading salesman of Leopard catamarans.

According to Wiersema, the catamaran was not a 43, but rather a Leopard 4600, hull #5, which had been built in 2006. Less than a year before, the cat had hit a reef in the Eastern Caribbean, but was able to "limp" all the way back to Ft. Lauderdale Marine Center for repairs.

Wiersema reported that he was surprised that the captain didn't feel the impact of hitting something. "If you ever hit the dock while docking at low speed, you feel the whole boat shake," he wrote, "so I would expect an impact like this would throw one out of his bunk. Or at least the helmsman would notice."

In his report, Wiersema mentioned that another Leopard 46 catamaran went over a reef in Cuba and lost most of both keels and rudders, and had a few holes in the bottom, but still managed to make it back to Lauderdale for repairs.

Larry Smith
Harmonia, Leopard 43

Larry — The keels on Leopard catamarans are sacrificial because it's not uncommon for charterers to try to drive the boats over shallow coral reefs. We've witnessed this with our own eyes.

Our having bashed our Leopard 45 across the Anegada Passage more than a few times, it comes as no surprise to us that the crew of Palenque were not able to distinguish between a normal bridgedeck bang and the noise made by something that put a hole in the hull. A big underbridge slam causes the whole boat to shudder. It's one reason that there has been a trend to much greater bridgedeck clearance in newer cats.

A big difference between our catamarans Profligate and 'ti Profligate is that the former has five separate bilge compartments, including a very large and buoyant engine room compartment, while 'ti has a common bilge for most of the boat. We once accidently filled the largest bilge of Profligate with water and didn't even notice it because the other four compartments kept her floating so well. We prefer the separate compartments in Profligate, although it pretty much meant that we had to go with saildrives, which otherwise would not have been our preference.

We think Capt. Dale Cheek's response to the crisis was so exemplary that we're reprinting a slightly edited version of it:

"We departed Barefoot Cay, Roatan, Honduras, bound for Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos on November 27. The crew was Leonard T, Richard W, and Anneli the seadog. Just before midnight on November 28, I was awakened by Richard, who reported that the bilge pump indicator light was remaining 'on' longer than normal. When I got out of my bunk, I immediately saw the cabin sole was awash in both the forward and aft cabins. I awoke the other crewmember and set him to work on the manual bilge pump. I instructed Rick to move the throttle to neutral and then come below to assist. I closed all the below-the-waterline seacocks in the starboard hull. Briefly we used the two shower sump electric pumps to extract the water, but this proved fruitless. The water level was continuing to rise. I then entered the sea with snorkel gear and an underwater flashlight to assess the problem. On the outer side of the starboard hull just forward of the leading edge of the keel, I noticed approximately one square meter of exposed foam coring, as well as scraped bottom paint, indicating there had been a heavy impact. The exposed foam started just below the waterline and extended down to the monolithic laminations at the centerline of the hull.

"Just before 1 a.m., I activated all our emergency apparatuses, which included a 406 MHz EPIRB, a SPOT transender, and a DSC VHF emergency alert. I attempted to call the boatowner using the satphone, but was unable to reach him. I called my roommate in Florida to make initial shore contact. At approximately 1 a.m., I received a satphone call from the Spot Coordination Center verifying our emergency.

"We decided to attempt to maneuver the genoa sail over the hull damage. While again snorkeling overboard to effect this, at about 2 a.m. I heard a low-flying aircraft overhead. When the sail maneuver proved unworkable, I exited the water. By this time starboard engine room had been flooded and water was washing into the cockpit.

"Len reported that the Coast Guard had called to verify our names and the situation. I gave the 'prepare to abandon ship' order. At approximately 2:30 a.m., we, including the dog, abandoned ship for the liferaft. Safely in the raft, we cut the painter connecting us to Palenque. By this time she was down heavily by the stern, with water flooding the interior. Within five minutes, the deck light was extinguished and we could no longer see her.

"Thanks to a waterproof VHF handheld radio, we were able to communicate with the U.S. Navy P3 Orion aircraft overhead, and the container vessel Cap Domingo that had been directed to us by the Navy. By 4 a.m. we were safely aboard the Cap Domingo."


With John Selbach and Capt. Greg Paxton having piped in about how the late Chris Corlett acquired the nickname 'Poodle', I might as well make it a trilogy.

Back in the '70s and '80s, when Alameda's Mariner Square was the center of Northern California sailing, Gil and Kitty Guillaume were the brokers for the Newport and Santana lines of boats. Chris was their hot salesman. John would put the boats together. Greg would tune them to perfection. It was a well-oiled machine, as evidenced by all the Tunas and Newports seen on San Francisco Bay.

I worked at NorCal Yachts at the time, and our office was on the other side of the paper-thin walls of the Mariner Square offices. We sold the Pacific Seacraft and Ericson lines. The competition between our two companies was fierce.

Anyway, one afternoon we heard the most unnatural commotion coming from the other side of those paper-thin walls. Yelling, crying and laughing were typical yacht brokerage office noises, but these noises were so different that curiosity drove us next door to investigate.

The sounds were of Gil and Kitty absolutely besides themselves and crazy with tears of joy and laughter. Over and over Gil kept saying, "Who is going to buy a boat from a damn poodle?"

Standing there in the office, wearing his best Chesire Cat smile, was Christopher — with a head full of coil springs. Chris had gone out and, in something of the style of the day — although mostly with African Americans — had gotten a Jeri Curl perm. Man, did it ever look wrong on him! Chris took serious heat.

His curls didn't stick around long, but the 'Poodle' nickname will never die.

Rodney Morgan
The City


With regard to Adam Scheuer's letter about trying to cure his wife's seasickenss, I believe the best cure is staying on a boat at anchor in a relatively calm area for an extended period before venturing offshore. I have never been able to go from solid land to a boat without the feeling of queasiness — unless I had time to acclimate to the motion.

But it doesn't work for everyone. I served on a buoy tender where the Chief Warrant Officer had 17 years of sea duty. He threw up the entire time we were at sea. I don't know how he could take it.

I work on a dredge and skipper a dredge tender. After the constant motion, all sensation of movement seems to disappear and I become 'immune' to seasickness.

I think it's asking a lot of the average person to go from land to anything with constant motion without their feeling queasy. In my experience, allowing yourself to build up to that in small increments seems to be the best 'medicine'.

I still stand by the remedy that the best cure for seasickness it to sit under an oak tree for an hour.

Sandy Tucker
Santa Cruz


I just happened to read Tom van Dyke's letter from February 2012 about the MacGregor 65 Andiamo at Moss Landing. This is the same boat that used to do day charters out of Pier 39 between 1993 and 1995. At the time, Jeff Davis, a good friend, worked in the harbormaster's office during the week and crewed on Andiamo during the weekends. My ex-wife and I spent many weekends as guest crew for the experience. I can attest that it's a big change going from sailing a Clipper Marine 26 to a Mac 65.

I was glad to see van Dyke's letter, as I always wondered what happened to Andiamo.

Jerry Barker
Ex-Alisoun, Cal 29
Suisun City


Thanks for the thoughtful reply to my advice-seeking letter about anchoring that appeared in the February issue. My anchor is actually one size above that recommended for my boat size, but I'll probably go up one more.

Regarding scope and chain, Don Casey had this to say in the March 2013 SAIL: "Under normal conditions — in winds under 40 knots — 4:1 should be sufficient. If you drag with this much scope, refer to rule #1— you need a bigger anchor."

Casey went on to say that no anchoring test he's seen in the last three decades has proved that increasing scope beyond 4:1 actually increases holding power. "To the contrary," he wrote, "increasing scope sometimes may even reduce holding power."

Lastly, he said that chain might have catenary effects that rope doesn't, but more chain on the bottom doesn't increase holding power.

Mr. Casey's conclusions are: 1) Big anchor (I can agree with that; 2) Four-to-one scope; 3) Forget all chain.

Now I'm really confused.

Brian Bouch
Albatross, Norseman 447
Lying Mazatlan

Brian — It's easy to be confused. If you get on the net, anchoring opinions are like elbows, everybody has a couple.

We're no experts, but it seems to us that 'holding power' is just one factor in the anchoring equation. Getting your anchor to set, getting it to set in different bottoms, having it reset by itself, its resistance to breaking free, and its resistance to being cut by rock and coral are a few others. Furthermore, some anchor manufacturers say their anchors need 7:1 to reach full efficiency.

Science aside, if the wind is blowing 35 knots, and Casey is taking his own advice, we don't want to be to leeward of his boat. Indeed, see this month's Changes about a Cal 29 that drifted ashore after her nylon anchor rode wore through.


Proper anchoring is a passion of mine. Having circumnavigated on a Mason 53, it's my belief that few sailors seem to understand or appreciate the need for properly sized anchors, the correct length of rode (chain, of course), proper scope for the conditions, and proper setting techniques.

I agree with Latitude's editorial response to 'The Not Always Happy Hooker' letter in the February issue. But based on my discussions with hundreds of cruisers, and on anchoring myself thousands of times in all sorts of bottoms in all sorts of weather conditions in a total of 56 countries, I'd like to add to it.

In the thousands of times that I anchored, I dragged only three times. Once at Bequia in the Eastern Caribbean — as did the publisher of Latitude. Once in Bodrum, Turkey — as did the publisher of Latitude. And once in Cefalu, Sicily, because I did not let out enough scope. There was a good reason I didn't let out more scope — I was distracted by the two naked women on the boat next to me.

Sailors need to remember that the sole purpose of anchoring is to ensure that you wake up in the same anchorage you went to sleep in. Therefore, there is no such thing as an anchor that is too big. You need a minimum of two pounds of plow anchor per foot of boat length. Nor is there any such thing as too much rode — always chain. Three hundred feet of chain is the minimum.

Sailors also need to remember that to be of any value, anchor chain has to be put out. There are no prizes for surviving the night on the least scope in the anchorage.

I have been known to let out 250 feet of chain attached to my 105-lb CQR in 15 feet of water, just to be certain I stayed where I wanted to be. I had this much out in Bequia and still dragged. But unlike the boats around mine that dragged at nearly hull speed, my boat dragged at the rate of 100 feet per hour.

Of course, the actual physical conditions of the anchorage and the number and type of other boats in the anchorage have to be taken into account. However, the fact that those around you have let out only a 5:1 scope is no reason for you to be equally foolish. Set what you think is correct, and then dinghy around to your neighbors telling them what you have done and why. Chances are your acumen will make you the anchorage’s resident anchoring guru, and lead to all sorts of cocktail invitations.

On the other hand, you might also be vilified or assaulted. Either way, you will sleep well.

In problem conditions, I always have an anchor watch, and use my radar as the position-recording device. I prefer this, as it shows me precisely where I am, where everyone else is, and the way out should I need it. If I know that conditions will get bad, I always speak to the boats anchored upwind of me and politely ask them what they are doing, anchor-wise, so that I can learn from their experience, but primarily so I can decide whether they are likely to be a problem. A couple of times their responses caused me to up anchor and move, but better safe than sorry.

Laurie Pane
Dolphin Spirit, Mason 53
Brisbane, Australia / Marina del Rey

Laurie — We agree that big and long are best.

Indeed, we suspect that a contributing factor to the Uncontrollable Urge tragedy in the Islands Race might — we repeat might — have been that she probably was carrying the absolute minimum of what was required in terms of anchor size and length of rode. When racing a boat where weight is critical and the use of the anchor is unlikely, that's understandable. But when trying to grab the bottom in moderately strong winds and eight-ft seas, it's also understandable that the minimum size anchor and rode might not be up to the job.

In our experience, it's the other boats in the anchorage that are usually the problem. Either there are too many of them or their captains don't care that they are inadequately anchored.

When we anchor Profligate in Mexico, where there is often all the room in the world in the anchorages and the depths aren't too great, we let it all hang out. That means the biggest Fortress anchor made at the end of 150 feet of chain, even when in just 15 feet of water. After all, as you say, the chain doesn't do any good sitting in the chain locker.

The reason we can't do this in crowded places — such as the Caribbean — is that the water is deeper, you've got moored boats mixed with anchored boats, 100-ft boats mixed in with 30-ft boats, cats mixed with monohulls, and sailors who either don't speak the same language as you or are in town getting smashed. In those cases, you have to make a decision. Either try to find a better place to anchor — which may not be possible — or do the best you can and not sleep as soundly as you might have wanted.


Thanks for the kind words about me, but comparing what Peter says about catenary curve to my remarks about catenary weights is comparing apples to oranges.

The use of catenary weights to increase scope is such a basic physics concept that when you mentioned that Peter Smith did not see the benefit of it, I looked at his website. I could not find any mention of additional catenary weights by him. It seems clear to me he was only referring to the catenary curve that forms in an anchor chain.

He believes the benefits from just the curve may be offset by using rope instead of chain, and applying the saved weight by carrying a bigger anchor with rope. And we can all agree that an anchor chain can jerk and snap — if the boat is able to stretch it tight. Using lighter rope and a heavier anchor is a different choice, and I have no dispute with that. He seems to be promoting larger anchors with rope, but I prefer chain simply because rope, regardless of size, chafes on sharp rock or coral.

It is an absolute fact that adding additional weight to the middle of a chain or cable makes it more difficult — or even impossible — to straighten it out. If you put enough weight on it, it will break before it straightens out. Since the scope is calculated from the catenary weight to the anchor, the scope is increased by the weight's being lower than the bow roller.

The additional force required to straighten out a weighted chain is roughly the reverse of the reduced force required to use a lever arm to lift a weight. It is easy to pick up a 22-lb weight by lifting it straight up, but trying to lift it when it is at the far end of a 20-ft lever is much more difficult. I attach my weight close enough to the boat that it does not reach the sea bottom, but it would be of even more help to let it out closer to the middle of the chain.

I carry five different anchors, but generally use the 75-lb CQR with 3/8" chain on my 50-ft boat. I have been anchored in conditions that bent the shank on that very strong, forged, anchor, and I feel the catenary weights add a huge safety factor. I carry additional weights, but have never felt the need for more than the one 22-lb weight. I do not use it in normal weather except in situations where there is very limited room to swing.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Long Beach


I recently unearthed some footage I had from when we were anchored in Lahaina, Maui, during Hurricane Iniki in 1992. I posted it on YouTube.

Many boats were destroyed, and I believe you will find it very interesting and educational.

Julius Hanak
Emerald Steel, Spray 38
San Diego

Julius — Very interesting footage. That's one condition in which we think it might be better to have some nylon rode instead of all chain rode.


I'm responding to the letter by David Miller and the results he had with ePaint bottom paint.

I applied ePaint's SN1 bottom paint in June, 2012, and the paint has exceeded my expectations. After eight months, with no cleaning, I have no growth on the bottom. The paint adhered to the bottom much better than any previous paints I have used, and there is much less growth.

My old bottom paint was thoroughly sanded, then wiped down with alcohol before the paint was applied. There was no loose or flaking paint, and I applied two+ coats of the ePaint in dry weather conditions at about 60 degrees.

Mr. Miller did not state whether he used the water-based paint (EP 2000) or solvent-based bottom paint (SN1), and did not go into any detail about the prep and previous paint. Personally, I prefer solvent-based paints.

Of course, the true test of the effectiveness of a bottom paint is the condition at the next haulout, which for me will be 2014 or 2015, but so far I am extremely satisfied with this paint.

John Sprouse,
Beach Party, Farr 46
Indianola, WA

Readers — The subject of ePaint came up when we got photos of La Gamelle on the hard in St. Kitts, showing areas of the ePaint chipping off the bottom. When we finally got to the boat, we discovered that the chipping was limited to certain areas. Nonetheless, having had to buy replacement bottom paint prior to getting to St. Kitts — where no bottom paint or any other supplies are available — we decided to go with Petit's Vivid. Why? Because it was the only white bottom paint we could find in St. Martin.

By the way, the nice folks at ePaint, having learned of our problem, were very responsive and generously offered to supply us with what we needed to give their product another try.


When we lost Craig Williams on the night of March 8, we lost a great man, father, sailor and friend.

I sailed with Craig for a few seasons aboard his Olson 40 Uproarious. He had all the qualities of a great skipper — he was fair, mild-mannered, generous with the helm, and most importantly he kept a cool head even during the most intense situations. He lived to race that Olson 40.

I did the Islands Race a couple of years ago with Craig on Uproarious, and I count it as one of the highlights of my sailing life. We sailed balls out, all night, through what I recall as an exceptionally dark night. After we left the lee of the south end of San Clemente Island, it was blowing 20 to 25 knots. We had the big kite up and were hitting close to 16 knots in surfs. The Olson 40 loves to surf! We were also on the edge of control. But that feeling of being on the edge is part of the game. That's why we buy the ticket and take the ride. If you've raced sailboats offshore, you know the feeling. Craig absolutely lived for this. Even though we'd been 25 minutes late to the start, we got second in class for our efforts. It was an amazing experience that night, one I'll never forget.

This year Craig sailed the Islands Race on the brand-new Columbia 32 Uncontrollable Urge. The boat's rudder failed near the north end of San Clemente Island. The vessel was eventually set inside the surf, the boat broke apart, and Craig lost his life in the large surf.

He leaves behind a wife, young daughter, and baby on the way. His wife and friends have set up a website for those wishing to make a financial contribution to help this family along in the short term: Craig will be forever missed.

Michael Migdol

Michael — One of the things that makes it hard to accept this sailing tragedy is that Craig and the others were such good seamen that they felt they didn't need the outside assistance offered by the Coast Guard and other participants — until it was too late. In hindsight, they should have been more selfish.


Add me to the list of sailors who have had the insulation on an Icom radio crap out on me after six months. It was back in 2010. I called headquarters and got a 'yawn' response. I told them I'd buy a new one and offered to send the original back for their geniuses to analyze. I got another 'yawn' response.

Pat Tilson
Shaboom, Westsail 32
Annapolis, MD


It was a glorious day on the Bay today, and we were blessed by the unexpected sight of an AC45 out practicing — rounding the marks, tacking, jibing, massive winch grinding. Whooooah, what a thrill!

P.S. I used to own a sistership to the Leopard 45 owned by the owner of Latitude 38. I sold her in October and got my current boat, a Telstar 28. What fun!

Laurie Chaikin
Tri Baby Tri, Telstar 28
San Francisco Bay


I know that I'm a little late with this, but did anyone witness a collision between two sailboats in The Slot on February 17 at about 3:30 p.m.? We're looking for someone who can tell us more about the incident.

My wife and I had sailed Fandango, our Hunter 36, from Sausalito to the Cityfront on a day when not many boats were out. We were returning on port tack when a boat came out from behind our jib and struck our boat. My wife, who had been at the helm, said she had maybe two or three seconds to let out a yell and turn the wheel to get our boat out of the path of the other boat.

The other boat hit our starboard stern quarter right on the corner of our transom. His anchor caught our starboard aft pulpit, ripping it, our stern seat, and outboard motor aft. Our stanchions bent over on the entire side of the boat, and the bow pulpit broke as the lifelines eventually snapped. Our starboard wishbone backstay was sheared off at the base.

Once my wife and I checked to see that we were both all right, we turned the boat into the wind to drop the sails, jury rig the backstay, and lift the outboard.

After the other boat struck us, he sailed off a distance, circled once or twice, then sailed away to the Cityfront. We did notice the name on his boat, and once our boat was in order, I tried to raise him on the VHF. He did not respond. Once we began to motor back, he sailed relatively close to us and yelled, "What happened?"

"You hit us," I replied.

"No, you hit me," he responded.

I told him our slip and asked his, which he gave to me.

He then tacked away from us.

"Besides," he said before taking off for the City, "I was on starboard."

"But that doesn't mean you can hit us," I said.

I know, we'd been on port tack, and hadn't recently checked under the jib, which obscured our view of that side. Rule 12 says he has right-of-way, but Rule 8 says you shall not hit another boat if you can avoid it. It was a clear day, there were no other boats near us, and yet someone who had a clear view of our boat ran right into it. He made no visible attempt to avoid us, and continued on his way without so much as even coming back to see if we were injured or needed assistance.

We suspect he must have been below in the head or getting food or drink with the tiller locked off. We can't imagine his ramming us with the tiller in his hand.

So we're asking, did anyone see this accident? We think not, since nobody else came to our assistance, but we'd really like to know if the guy was even in the cockpit.

Bruce Hamady
Fandango, Hunter 35.5

Bruce — We're glad to hear that nobody was hurt, and we admire your obvious honesty, but with all due respect we think your position is all but indefensible.

First, you were on port, and thus it was your responsibility to keep clear of all boats on starboard. You didn't. The other guy was on starboard, so his responsibility was to sail a constant course so boats on port, like yours, would have no trouble avoiding him.

Second, it's the responsibility of all skippers to keep a proper lookout "by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision." You didn't have a proper lookout.

It seems to us that you violated the two most elemental rules of safe navigation, and thus don't have a leg to stand on. Even if the other guy didn't have a proper lookout — and at this point there is no evidence of that — at least he was on starboard.

You keep mentioning that the other boat 'hit' your boat. But just because it was the bow of his boat that made contact with your transom doesn't mean that you weren't responsible for the contact. After all, it's entirely possible that, realizing you were about to t-bone him, he made a desperation attempt, as required by Rule 8, to duck you, but didn't quite make it. Also, from your description it sounds as if the other boat appeared to leeward of you, heading in the opposite direction. If that's true, and your wife swung the wheel hard to windward, that action may have brought your "starboard stern quarter" right into the bow of the oncoming boat.

The insurance companies will work it out, but our feeling is that your company is going to pay for the majority of the damage to both boats. But did we mention that we admire your honesty?

When sailing — especially where there are often lots of boats, such as San Francisco Bay, Newport Harbor, and San Diego Bay — you have to assume everybody is out to hit you, either on purpose or because they're not paying attention or are having some kind of gear failure. No matter what tack you're on, you have to be monitoring the ever-changing situation constantly.


I raced on the Bay back in the late '70s and early '80s. Reading the news accounts of the terrible accident at the Farallones last year, I remembered starting a Doublehanded Farallones Race one year in a full gale and turning back because the conditions were too dangerous for my crew and me on my Catalina 27. We were the first boat to quit. Many more followed us. The rest of the fleet continued out into the open sea.

As I recall, three boats were lost that day and 11 sailors perished. Can you tell me if my memory is accurate, and if so, what year it occurred? When I did not see any references to that race in the news accounts from last year, I started to question my memory.

To prevent another tragedy like the one last year, how hard would it be to place a temporary buoy a mile off the Farallones and make it the rounding mark for future races?

Michael McDermott
Palmas del Mar Marina
Humacao, PR

Michael — We think you're referring to the 1982 Doublehanded Farallones Race. Nearly 130 boats started, but only 39 finished, with four sailors and eight boats lost. It was a terrible tragedy.

With regard to a limiting buoy off the Farallon Islands, the US Sailing expert investigative panel considered it and rejected it as not being feasible. Even if it were feasible, if you stop to think about it, one limiting buoy would not do it; you'd need a number of them.


Latitude was suggested as a good source to reach out to in regards to a swim I'm going to do across the Sea of Cortez. My friend Paul Kent, who is on my crew this year, pretty much demanded I contact you, saying that if anyone knew anything about the Sea of Cortez, it was Latitude.

I made an attempt last year, and swam against a current for 24 hours, covering only 31 miles. At one point I swam for one hour and made only 100 yards. After consulting the Navy via a friend from NOAA, I discovered I'd gone the wrong way.

This year, with a new crew, boats and knowledge, I hope to break a world record with the longest unassisted ocean water swim. I plan to start on June 30, and swim from San Carlos to the Baja peninsula. I figure Baja is a big enough target, but Punta Chivato would be the shortest distance. Last year I started from Punta Chivato.

Last year I started three weeks earlier, but this time I want to bring my twin 7-year-old boys. Shamelessly, I’ll use them as a target to swim toward. I’ve also assigned my wife as crew chief, and knowing the boys are where we’re going, she’ll make sure we get there.

You have probably heard of a coastal-locked wave (CLW) or coastal-trapped wave (CTW). It’s a periodic wave that comes up the eastern coast of the Sea of Cortez and heads west just around San Carlos. Based on satellite images from the Navy, on June 11 of last year, I found myself swimming smack dab right into one of those suckers. I think they are hard to predict, but I might find indicators that would show one forming in the south so I could time my launch appropriately. Unfortunately, with a crew of 12, chartered boats, and limited funds, I could only find a window of three days for launch. But, it’s okay, and I'm much better than last year in terms of understanding currents.

As with sailing, there are numerous elements related to this expedition that could go wrong. Navigation, nutrition, support boats, crew, weather and planning all play an important role. In reaching out to you, I hope at the very least to alert you to the swim so that you might mention it. If you were interested, I would love to bend your ear to see if you have any ideas or might point me in the right direction.

Paul Lundgren

Paul — Thank you for the kind words. We have a good overall knowledge of the Sea of Cortez, but not the kind of detail or depth — other than that the water should be warm in June and the wind generally light and out of the south — that would help you. As all experienced sailors know, sailing to a schedule is frequently a recipe for disappointment. A three-day window for swimming the Sea of Cortez isn't a long one. We wish you luck.


As a very satisfied reader of your amazing publication, I was wondering if you could recommend a source for navigation courses. I live in San Luis Obispo, but am willing to travel. Also, do you know of any online courses?

Mike Manchak
San Luis Obispo

Mike — The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a number of navigation courses for all levels, and they make it easy to find one near you at


We, Nouveda GmbH, have developed an app for iPads and iPhones that might be of interest to your readers, as it offers a function that almost all yachting instruments don't. The app shows the current speed of a sailboat compared with the max speed reached under the same windspeed and wind direction. So it delivers a 'target speed' from real data instead of from the velocity prediction program. The iPad/iPhone stores up to about 3000 values. The increment of the windspeed is one knot, the wind angle is five degrees.

The technical requirements are a WLAN router on board, which gets boat speed, windspeed, wind angle in NMEA format. Readers can check it out in the App Store by searching for 'Racebox Best Speed'.

Axel Ulrich



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