Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Letters' Index Letters
April 2014

Missing the pictures? See our April 2014 eBook!
Bookmark and Share


I want to thank Latitude for the wonderful 'Lectronic Latitude articles featuring the Delta and Owl Harbor Marina. We at Owl Harbor are so honored to be a host of the Delta Doo Dah for the fifth year in a row. We're excited to see our old Bay Area sailing friends — and make new ones — this summer.

As former Delta Doo Dah co-organizer and 'Doo-dette' LaDonna Bubak noted in the March 10 item, in addition to a summer-long discount for Delta Doo Dah'ers, we'll be holding a special party — BBQ, a band, dancing and prizes all under the cover of a tent — to coincide with the Cajun & Blues Festival on June 14. This will be limited to our tenants and Doo Dah'ers. Reservations will be required for that weekend, so registered Doo Dah'ers should call me at (916) 777-6055, or soon to secure a slip. We have limited availability.

Since our family bought Owl Harbor several years ago, we've worked hard to upgrade the facilities and property to make it a unique Delta destination. And we're continuing to improve things. As I write this, a new building that will house the harbormaster's office, multi-purpose banquet room, showers and laundry room is under construction. Quite honestly, I can't wait!

The Delta is such an incredible place to visit, especially in the summer when the kids — young and old — can have fun in the water. That's why it always surprises me when we meet lifelong Bay sailors who have never sailed to the Delta. So thank you, Latitude, for being such advocates of the region. Hopefully, this year's Delta Doo Dah will be the largest in the history of the event, and full of first-timers!

Devery Stockon
Harbormaster, Owl Harbor Marina
Twitchell Island, The Delta

Readers — Thirty-one boats signed up in the first week for this summer's Delta Doo Dah. See for the most recent entry list and to sign up.


Any new info on the missing San Juan 24 in the North Pacific? Sailing a San Juan 24 from San Francisco to Honolulu in the middle of winter? What was he thinking? The companionway on the San Juan 24 goes, I believe, all the way to the cockpit floor. One big wave filling up that cockpit and staving in the companionway would send the boat to the bottom before he could inflate the liferaft. That is one of many reasons not to go to sea on this type of boat. What part of San Juan spells 'open ocean'?

Bruce Soule
Sly Mongoose, Wylie Hawkfarm 28
Honolulu, Hawaii

Bruce — As reported in the March 3 'Lectronic, the boat you're referring to is Pier Pressure, owned and sailed by 61-year-old Russian immigrant Rimas Meleshyus. On February 28, a friend of Meleshyus alerted the Coast Guard that Rimas, who was 944 miles northeast of Honolulu in very rough weather on his way to San Francisco, had sent him a satellite message saying, "lost my liferaft, in danger now." A few hours later, as the Coast Guard was ramping up a major rescue effort, and had already diverted a couple of merchant ships, a second message was received by the friend saying that Rimas was all right. So the Coast Guard stood down.

Presumably Rimas made it to the mainland although, as of March 18, there was no new posting on his Facebook page.

We try to be open-minded, but we worry that Rimas has delusions of grandeur and question his respect for the ocean. After all, following the loss of his first San Juan 24 in Alaska, Rimas bought a second one for about $500, and then proposed sailing her around the world via Cape Horn. That didn't turn out so well, as indicated by the following posts:

"First bad happen for me in storm at 38 latitude, probably 400 miles out from California. In gale winds of 40 knots, there was a big bang. I run out to see no more old Honda outboard.

"Later rigging started to loose in very strong wind. No so far from Cabo San Lucas. Wind breaks three of the four shroud wire that holds my mast up. I can't go back upwind to Washington or California for repairs, so I must sail to Hawaii. I had no charts for Hawaii, only South America. But my GPS shows roads in Hawaii, but not harbors.

"Between Mexico and Hawaii I see no ships, no planes, no whales. I am always scared my mast come down and nobody to help. So far from land and people. Water is so low it's scary. But then it rained and I filled barrels. But sometimes it was peaceful. I saw all things of weather and felt all emotions in 84 days at sea."

Eighty-four days at sea? We'll leave it up to the Coast Guard, but we think Rimas is right on the edge of what the Coasties might define as a Manifestly Unsafe Voyage.

March 20th Update — Meleshyus reported he was still 600 miles from California — averaging just 20 miles a day? — and was slated to be hit by another gale four days later.


I'm trying to reach David Graham, whom I have known since he was a child. His dad managed me and my band back in the day. I want to ask him to please book myself and the band at Bottlerock Napa. I now live in Sonoma, and have been out playing all over the United States and Europe for the last 16 years.

David LaFlamme

David — As we tried to explain to the folks who recently founded Latitude 38 Entertainment, LLC in Sonoma to take over the Bottlerock Napa music festival, similar business names can create problems. Such as your potential clients having trouble finding you.

Anyway David, we were around for the Summer of Love and the late '60s, and we can remember a couple of exact times and places when we heard White Bird. Thanks for providing a tiny bit of the soundtrack of our happy youth. We hope you get the gig.

For younger folks, LaFlamme is a virtuoso classical and rock violinist who played with Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin and Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, and who formed It's a Beautiful Day in 1967.


It's hard to believe that it's been a dozen years since that first Zihua Sailfest in ‘02, but it's wonderful to know it has lasted, and to hear of the growth in both revenue and participation. I think the first event raised about $5,000, and we thought we'd hit a jackpot! We’ve watched the numbers go up over the years, but we have no idea what the total might be. It must be quite a significant amount. Does anybody know?

Jimmie Zinn
Dry Martini, Morgan 383
Richmond YC

Jimmie — We don't think any of us who were at the first one could have had any idea how successful Sailfest would become. According to Pamela Bendall of the Kristen 46 Precious Metal, some 7 million pesos — or about $529,000 — has been raised in 13 years. Much of that has come from matching funds from the Bellack Foundation of San Diego.


Several years ago, my wife and I decided to start chartering our lovely Seawind 1160 catamaran. After all, we enjoy meeting new people and 'showing off' our beautiful San Francisco Bay. Being retired, we also thought that this would be a fun way to offset some of our boating expenses — and perhaps even make a little profit.

We submitted our boat's information for Latitude's Crewed Charter Listing in the April issue. At that time, we wanted to carry eight passengers. I have a Master's license, authorizing me to carry more than the six passengers allowed under the basic 'Six Pak' license. However, Andy Turpin, Latitude's charter editor, kindly advised me that our vessel couldn't carry more than six passengers unless she was an 'Inspected Vessel' as defined by the Coast Guard.

Before we could even start down what would be a one-year — and very expensive — bureaucratic road, we would need to obtain a MARAD Waiver, which allows foreign-built boats to carry up to 12 paying passengers. Caprice was built in Australia. In addition, the Jones Act requires that a foreign-built boat must have been in the U.S. for a minimum of three years before a MARAD Waiver can be issued.

Little did we know what would be involved in the process of becoming an Inspected Vessel. Anyone considering having their boat inspected might be interested in our experience. The Coast Guard eventually made five inspections of our boat, one of them while the boat was on the hard. They were meticulous in their work. Some of the items involved in this process were:

• We needed a current 'Stability Letter'. They would not accept one from Australia, where the Seawinds are built. This meant we had to hire a naval architect.

• We had to hire a professional rigger to inspect the rigging.

• We had to buy 14 Coast Guard Type A PFDs. The Coasties would not accept Australian Type A PFDs.

• We had to install signs to indicate where the adult and children's lifejackets would be stored, with instructions on how to put them on.

• We had to install automatic fire extinguishers in both engine compartments, with manual cockpit releases and automatic engine shutdowns. This was even though the engines are diesel, not gas.

• We had to install U.S. Coast Guard-approved manual fire extinguishers. Our Australian ones were not U.S. Coast Guard-approved.

• We had to install a liferaft — or IBA — for 50% of the passengers and crew. This was even though we are only authorized to charter within the confines of San Francisco Bay.

• We had to buy a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifering with an automatic light. The two larger Australian liferings we already had were not acceptable.

• We had to install stainless steel plates behind and beside the stove.

• We had to get ready for annual inspections.

• We must have the inflatable inspected every two years.

• We have to get a drydock inspection every two years.

• Both of us need to get annual drug tests.

The above is only a partial list!

Although many of the requirements make our boat safer, the added U.S. Coast Guard requirements are amazing for just going from six to eight passengers. We don’t believe that anyone should consider making a living by going into the sailboat charter business for more than six people — unless, of course, they have a large-capacity vessel such as Hornblower. It's certainly not a user-friendly process for a truly small business owner.

However, we have completed the process, and Caprice is now certified as an Inspected Vessel. We are safer, drug-free, and open for business for sailboat charters and catamaran lessons (ASA-qualified instructor) on San Francisco Bay.

Captain Dan & Carol Seifers
Caprice, Seawind 1160
Point Richmond

Capt. Dan and Carol — If we're not mistaken, most countries in the world — and maybe even the U.S. Virgin Islands — allow eight passengers, not just six, on their version of uninspected vessels. But as we recall, many years ago in the United States, an organization representing something like the 'Small Ship and Ferry Association' lobbied the Coast Guard hard to limit the number of passengers to six on Uninspected Vessels. They didn't want any small business folks horning in on their customer base, and they got their way.

We don't blame the Coast Guard for doing their best to protect paying passengers, who have a right to believe they are boarding safe boats. But we're not convinced the current regulations and categories do a very good job. We've seen some ancient Inspected Vessels, almost always monohulls, that were so overloaded with passengers that they looked like refugee boats. On the other hand, there are a lot of very safe, flat-sailing, unsinkable catamarans that are limited to just six passengers because, as you have found, the bureaucratic duct tape is so thick. Furthermore, we think the Coast Guard's understanding of sailboats seems stuck in the 1970s, and there is little impetus to change the status quo. But we're not going to lose any sleep over it.

Of course, the biggest change the Coast Guard needs to make is with the somewhat indiscriminate way in which they hand out Six-Pak licenses. Just because somebody can pass the written test for a Six-Pak license doesn't begin to address the question of whether they can operate a vessel safely with passengers and in emergency situations.


In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Stanford University Sailing Association financed the university’s sailing team and sailing program by soliciting the donation of yachts. The majority of these boats were put on the market immediately; however, a select few were kept for up to five years and used in our recreational sailing program. I was one of the lucky few volunteers who had the pleasure of operating this program, and I was particularly fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to be chosen to skipper the queen of our fleet, the 72-ft Herreshoff ketch Victoria.

Sistership to the fabled Ticonderoga of 1929, Victoria was built in 1974 in New Zealand. She forever ruined me for any other sailing vessel, as she was gorgeous, wickedly fast, and immensely strong. We shared her with over 2,000 guests during the five years that Stanford owned her. Victoria was the cover shot on two issues of Latitude 38, and was featured in several miscellaneous interior shots.

We sold her to a San Diego sailor in 1993. Re-named Victoria of Duxbury, She was on the cover of Sailing magazine twice in 2001, and I tracked her down in Newport, Rhode Island, where she was again on the market. That is the last that I know.

Does anyone have any current info on her condition and whereabouts?

P.S. I've been reading Latitude since the beginning. You have done and are doing an incredible job.

William Hill
Moss Beach

William — Thanks for the kind words. Some issues are better than others, but we and the entire Latitude crew always bust our butts to do the best we can.

We've done some checking around, including with Tom Reardon, who just retired after 29 years of running the original Ticonderoga, but haven't come up with anything on Victoria of Duxbury.


Just a little update on Bob Buchanan, the former owner of Total Boat Works in Mazatlan, who disappeared on his Acapulco 40 Bolias Dream in mid-January. We talked to Bob on March 10, and can report that he's alive and well. He'd been in Hilo, Hawaii, for a few weeks following an uneventful singlehanded passage from Mexico to Hawaii. He told us he'll be staying in the Islands for a little while before sailing back to his native Canada.

We didn't ask about what happened in Mazatlan between him and Rafa, his former employee and minority owner at Total Boat Works. We don't like putting a guy on the spot, especially when it's not really our business. But at one point we talked about how good Bolias Dream looked, and Buchanan said that he'd had to do some varnish repair after the passage.

"In Mexico, I just would have had someone else do it," he said.

"Well, you did own a boat maintenance business, so why do it yourself?" I replied.

"Well, that's all over now," he said.

On another note, we've seen a lot of comments in Latitude about people thinking of sailing to Hawaii instead of going to Mexico because of the AGACE thing. Frankly, we can't imagine AGACE being worse to deal with than DOBOR/DLNR (Department of Boating Ocean Recreation/Department of Land and Natural Resources) here in Hawaii. We spent five years in Mexico — 2004-2008 and 2011-2013 — and never had a tenth of the headaches and legal hoop-jumping that we've had here in Hawaii, where we are spending our third winter.

People may feel it's safer in Hawaii than in Mexico, but here are a couple tidbits for comparison. We had our dinghy stolen at Stone Island, Mazatlan. A friend had his dinghy stolen from the beach at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. I never heard of any cruiser being shot at in Mexico, but I've heard of cruising boats being shot at on the north side of Molokai. Prior to going to Mexico, we were never told "I hope you have guns aboard," but a guy at the Kaneohe YC on Oahu told us just that when we told him our next stop was Lono Harbor on Molokai.

Don't get us wrong, there are plenty of good things about cruising to and in Hawaii, but if we were making a choice between Mexico and Hawaii, and were leaving from the West Coast, our hands-down choice would be Mexico — even if AGACE was inspecting every boat's documentation.

John & Linda Gratton
Nakia, Hans Christian 33
Hilo Bay, Hawaii

John and Linda — With respect to the Mexico versus Hawaii comparison, let us nuance it a little. Until the AGACE raid/audits in late November, government in Mexico has pretty much always been less of a pain in the butt than government in Hawaii. If you were an owner of one of the several hundred perfectly legal boats that AGACE impounded for two to four months, you'd think Mexico was worse than Hawaii. However, if you didn't find yourself unfairly snared by AGACE, Mexico continued to be as glorious as it was before.

As Hawaii is surrounded by water, you'd think the state would be friendly to mariners. It's actually indifferent at best. And the government-owned and -operated facilities, and in some cases employees, have historically left much to be desired. Mexico is also much less expensive than Hawaii, and has countless more and varied places to cruise.


Our experience is many years old, but here is how we 'did' the Pacific with respect to watermakers and SSB radios. My husband, three teenagers and I sailed CB Carver, our 40-ft, gaff-rigged, wooden schooner, from Maine to Hawaii via the Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Marquesas. We did not have a watermaker — I don't think many cruisers did back then — and we could not afford a SSB radio. The only radio we had was an old VHF that wasn't any good away from the coast. We used a sextant and tables, with paper charts.

We had a great three-year adventure, and were very lucky with both the boat and the weather. We had a 37-day voyage from Panama to Fatu Hiva that was just delightful and uneventful — except for the pod of sleeping whales we encountered. As we passed through them, they woke up and sounded. Spectacular!

We had a 19-day voyage from Nuku Hiva to Hawaii in August, if you can believe that. We were able to pick up some weather reports very late at night, so we knew there was a hurricane about 1,000 miles to our east and moving our way. We sailed with all its slop — 40-knot winds, driving rain and high seas — the whole way. Sailing was a challenge, but the kids were great. We didn't have any self-steering, so everyone stood watches. A week after we reached Hilo, the hurricane passed by just to the south of the island. Whew!

To make a long story shorter, I encourage Latitude readers to slip the docklines and go — assuming it's something they want to do but have hesitated doing. It was a great educational adventure for the children — and for us. And if someone can do their own maintenance and repairs, it can be done without spending a lot of money.

Josie Glenn Hyde
Planet Earth

Readers — We received a tremendous amount of response to a reader's question about whether a watermaker and/or a SSB were needed to cross oceans. Opinions were all over the place, and alternatives were suggested. We found the letters so interesting, and not just for the watermaker/SSB question, that we'll be running a number this month, next month — and maybe even the month after that.


You do not need a watermaker to cross the Pacific. Our family of five recently crossed the Pacific, having left from San Francisco, and are now in Micronesia. Our biggest worries were someone falling or getting injured — or running out of water. We carry over 200 gallons of water — almost a ton! — in four tanks. After our longest passage — three weeks — we hadn't even used half our water. We rely on water conservation, catching rain water and, if necessary, taking on water from shore.

Years ago, we cruised extensively on a Westsail 32, a much smaller boat, and didn't have a watermaker for that trip either. During that cruise it was mostly just my wife and I — until my wife had a baby.

By the way, having a baby resulted in our catching monster fish. We usually caught them at twilight when the winds were light, when we'd see big marlin or tuna swimming alongside our boat. What attracted them? No doubt it had something to do with the fact my wife washed our baby's cloth diapers in saltwater. And one of our washing techniques was to trail the dirty diaper over the side. Naturally, we only did this where discharge of human waste was legal and moral! But I am now a convert to the use-a-diaper-as-a-lure school.

In my opinion, a SSB radio is not absolutely necessary. But one does need a shortwave receiver for voice weather forecasts. That said, there is plenty to like about SSB, but I would have no qualms about cruising with a shortwave and an EPIRB.

Simple is good. It brings unanticipated blessings to you. Sometimes in the form of big tuna.

Lee Pliscou
Windsong, 45 custom steel cutter


There is nothing safer than cruising with a SSB, and it gives a great level of confidence. The Pactor modem is somewhat of a luxury, but a great way to stay in contact with the homeland. It does provide access to GRIB files, but we've found these to be somewhat unreliable. However, access to a good source of weather information is a must. We used MaxSea, and were very impressed by its accuracy. We downloaded their GRIB files via satphone.

We would not do a long crossing without a watermaker. Yes, you may make it without one — if you want to live primitively. We did have the opportunity to explore both options when our generator went on the fritz for a period of about a week, leaving us unable to use our 110-volt watermaker. (Our new boat will have a 12-volt watermaker.) No fresh water showers and washing dishes with saltwater and a fresh water rinse definitely minimized our water use. By the way, we are big proponents of fresh water flush toilets to eliminate the algae smell, so we followed the "yellow is mellow" rule.

What is wrong with some comforts at sea? Remember that one should not own a boat on a budget.

Lion's Paw, Outbound 46
Boulder, CO

Andrew — Why shouldn't one own a boat on a budget? Almost all the boatowners we know are on a budget in the sense that everyone says they could "always use another thousand." And in some cases, "a hundred thousand."


Based on my experience of sailing from Hawaii to Australia and back between 1998 and 2000 on my Ericson 32 Xanth, you don't need a watermaker. I did have a SSB, but I really didn't use it all that much.

I had two other crew on the leg from Hawaii to Fiji, and when we arrived in Suva after 22 days, we still had water left in the boat's 32-gallon water tank. But we did leave with bottled water and lots of canned drinks as well. We conserved water by taking saltwater showers and doing all the dishes in saltwater. In both cases we used only a small amount of fresh water to rinse, and we only rinsed our hair in fresh. If you dry off right away, you are none the worse for showering in saltwater. Letting the salt dry on your skin is what causes the discomfort.

Watermakers and SSB radios are two nice additions that will add to comfort and pleasure, but they are hardly necessary. A lot of other things some cruisers say are 'must haves' — such as refrigeration — aren't necessary either. Sure they are nice, but if the choice is between going without them or not going, I say go without them.

Mind you, I write this as I am working on putting all of these — and a lot more — on my current boat. But then I've already been out cruising twice, and don't expect to be able to leave my business for a few more years.

Andy Kurtz
Angelique, Columbia 57
San Francisco Bay


We can't speak of the need for a watermaker and a SSB when crossing the Pacific, as we sailed in the opposite directions — to the Caribbean and Europe. But we'd like to add our two cents' worth.

We upgraded our catamaran with a Spectra watermaker before retiring aboard and heading to the Caribbean. Many islands had water shortages, but we didn't have to fret. In addition, we never had to abandon the safety of a secluded anchorage to seek water, nor did we ever have to haul it from shore.

We bought a SSB radio and a Pactor modem, but never used either that much. In the Caribbean we did use the SSB to contact Chris Parker for weather, but we didn't use the Pactor. Before crossing the Atlantic to Europe, we opted to add a 9555 Iridium satphone — plus Dr. Luis Soltero's fantastic GMN compression software. We went this route because it was too much of a hassle trying to get the Pactor to work with our MacBook Pro laptop.

The Iridium 9555 is something we use only for data to/from our Mac, and it's perfect for emails and GRIB files. It is pricier to use than a SSB and Pactor, but does not have downtimes due to propagation. Nor does it take more than a minute to send multiple emails whenever we want to send a bunch. While we prefer the satphone, we would not cross an ocean without either a satphone or SSB.

Sidenote 1 — We cross oceans and seas with a Carib dinghy as our liferaft. Some time back Steve Dashew made the comment that he would recommend that a new cruiser buy a satphone before buying a liferaft.

Sidenote 2 — Sue and I flew back to frozen Iowa from St. Katherine's Dock in London, and are now at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota getting our routine physicals. When we're done, we'll carry a year's worth of drugs back to Angel Louise at St. Katherine's Docks.

Sidenote 3 — St. Katherine's, which is next door to Tower Bridge and where we have spent two winters aboard, has gone to a policy of expensive annual leases. They will no longer offer six-month lease rates. I was just notified that the slip fees for our 37-ft by 17-ft catamaran will be $2,400 a month starting in April. Clearly it's time for us to move on! We plan on cruising down the coast of western Europe, eating our way along the shores of France, Spain and Portugal like a couple of hungry locusts. We will cross the Atlantic in the trades from the Cape Verdes to the Caribbean in December.

Ed & Sue Kelly
Angel Louise, Catalac 38
Des Moines, Iowa


I think the last time I saw the Wanderer was at Sea of Cortez Sailing Week in April 1985. I was sailing the 29-ft Pearson Triton Wickanninnish at the time. I think the last time I communicated with Latitude was December of 1992, when I reported on Tropical Cyclone Val from Pago Pago, American Samoa.

I left Canada for Baja in 1990, and enjoyed an excellent summer in the Sea of Cortez. I sailed out of Z-town through the South Pacific for 14 years. I left Australia in 2004 for Vanuatu, Kiribati, the Marshalls, Saipan and Palau, and have cruised Micronesia for the past 10 years. I'm currently on Guam.

I have a minimalist's approach to sailing and cruising. My current boat is a custom Doug Peterson 33 that was built using the West system.

Mexico was the only place I ever thought about using a watermaker, but I never did buy one. I managed to find water sources wherever I went, and have never had a problem. But you do have to watch your consumption. In the tropics, I think a water-catcher tarp was and still is the way to go. It just takes a bit of work to get it secured, but it has no moving parts that require maintenance.

I've used a number of portable all-band receivers over the past 24 years to listen to the cruiser nets and for weather updates. I now use an 11-year-old Motorola Iridium satphone. I prefer it to the hassles of dealing with radio wave propagation and maintaining a Ham or SSB radio.

I joined the Internet world a while back and have a sailing/diving blog at

Brian Smith
Sooke, Peterson 33
Vancouver, B.C., Canada


I say 'yes' to a watermaker — if you can afford one and are willing to maintain it. The latter means fresh-water flushes when you don't use it every day, and pickling for long-term storage. I highly recommend Spectra watermakers.

I also say that a good quality SSB receiver is another absolute must. A Sangean ATS-505 and Grundig G5 are the best, and can be bought for about $150. As for an Icom SSB/Pactor combo, I say no. I haven't used my Icom for outgoing emails or voice in 12 years of cruising. And dry-cell, battery-operated receivers are usually less noisy and clearer than an Icom.

The satphone is probably the new EPIRB replacement. Definitely yes, especially for crossing oceans.

High-gain WiFi antenna? Absolutely. For about $20 you can get a Hawking Tech or TP-Link, 300 Mbps, N-type. Both are capable of pulling in (pirated) WiFi from about a mile away.

Yes to an iPad — or any Android tablet — with iNavX chart plotter app. Navionics is the gold standard app — except in the Bahamas where Explorer Charts rule, with the Garmin 'Blue Chart Mobile' app.

Frank Magnotta
Hannah-I, Hunter Passage 450
Great Exuma, the Bahamas


What a great idea for John and Ronnie Everton to repurpose old Croc brand shoes as fenders for Gaucho's dinghy, as reported in the February 21 'Lectronic.

I'm not sure if Latitude is aware of it, but three different families were raised aboard the 50-ft Gaucho, and she's already completed two circumnavigations. Furthermore, she's had two books written about her. Seagoing Gaucho is the book I have. The second one wasn't translated into English.

Did I mention that Gaucho is a big sistership to Vito Dumas's 31-ft LEHG/LEHG 2? I crewed on Gaucho in the mid-1970s when Tony Badger owned her.

Wes Hoffschildt
Pearl, Cape George 34

Wes — We're glad you mentioned that Gaucho is the big sistership to Dumas' 31-ft LEHG/LEHG 2, because we frequently get confused and think Dumas sailed on Gaucho.

This is as good an opportunity as any to remember what an outstanding and unusual singlehander the Argentine was. It was in 1942, at the height of World War II, that Dumas decided to do a singlehanded trip around the world via the Southern Ocean — and with only the most basic of gear. For example, he didn't carry a radio for fear he'd be treated like a spy, as both the Germans and Japanese had deployed spies in small sailboats. His outfitting was so basic that he brought along old newspapers to wear under his clothes in order to keep warm. Dumas made only three stops going around, and nearly had to amputate an arm.

What was the weird LEGH/LEHG 2 name all about? Dumas said they represented "four names which marked my life." As we recall, all four were women — his mother, his wife, and two mistresses.


We've been cruising about six months a year for 18 years. We were three years in Mexico and a month in Central America, and then transited the Panama Canal in 1999-2000. Entering the Caribbean in 2000, we cruised Panama's San Blas Islands. Next we sailed up the west side of the Caribbean to Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and then the Yucatan. After the Bahamas and a visit to Florida, we went back south to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, then cruised the eastern Caribbean islands to Trinidad, then headed back west.

Sometimes we cruised in company with as many as three or four other boats. This happened on and off during all of our years of sailing. But we noticed a phenomenon when cruising in company with other boats that we'd not read about — there can be an exclusivity that develops in the group. This can sometimes include a tendency for group members to associate only with other group members, especially for cocktail hour parties, dinner parties, and when going ashore.

We encountered one extreme case of such bonding in the Dominican Republic. We befriended an Englishman who was a 'bonded member' of a group that had sailed together extensively in the Caribbean. One afternoon this man was on our boat helping with some repair, and generally just enjoying a visit. As the dinner hour approached, a woman, whom we took to be the leader — or 'enforcer' — of the bonding group, began to call for him repeatedly on the VHF. Apparently it was time for the group's cocktail hour or dinner, and he was expected back for that event.

For whatever reason, the man just wasn't ready to leave, so he got down low in our boat so he couldn't be seen from across the anchorage by the enforcer. She continued to call for him on the VHF, but he chose not to answer. Her tone grew increasingly strident, and with each call the man's angst increased. We had asked him to dine on our boat, but he decided that wouldn't be a good idea. We noticed this man's group always went places together, and seldom included outsiders. In these forays we saw the group was always shepherded by the lead woman.

We saw other less extreme examples of this enforced bonding on our travels in the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Bahama Islands and elsewhere. This led to our consciously avoiding becoming members of any group. Our preference is to associate freely with cruisers as we choose. We noted others refusing to join a group for the same reason.

This phenomenon is irksome, but nevertheless very interesting. It undoubtedly springs from some human evolutionary characteristic and, as with most evolutionary characteristics, had a survival benefit in ancient times. We wish we were more skilled in psychology or sociology or anthropology to fully understand the dynamics of this group bonding need. One can imagine its utility in our caveman past; however in the modern cruising scene the bonding can cause awkward and uncomfortable social interactions.

But nobody should let this deter them from the cruising life. You can remain independent and have a great time.

William & Soon Gloege
Gaia, Morgan 38
San Francisco

William and Soon — We don't think it has anything to do with evolution for survival. Some people are just most comfortable when they are part of a pack, and every pack needs its alpha — a position any number of people are usually over-eager to apply for. It reminds us of junior high school. But as you say, it's a big cruising world, and there are plenty of wonderful people to get to know who aren't part of a clique.


The Coast Guard, an organization that I greatly admire, is said to be the most poorly funded branch of the U.S. military. But I think that I have a partial solution. The Coasties were in the news recently for intercepting $1.2 million worth of marijuana off the California coast. It's my understanding they seize such drugs with regularity. I presume that the standard procedure is to destroy this type of contraband once its role as evidence is complete. Now that the recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado, it seems only logical that the Coast Guard should dispose of seized marijuana in the markets in those states — Colorado recently reported a supply shortage — and use the proceeds to augment their less-than-adequate funding.

Bill Crowley

Bill — We greatly admire the Search & Rescue division of the Coast Guard, but we find it hard to believe that the Coast Guard — or any branch of the U.S. military — is underfunded. We think the problem is waste, inefficiency, and the fact that the Coast Guard is sent on countless fool's errands by Homeland Security, a spectacularly profligate and inefficient department if there ever was one.

As of 2013, the U.S. spent about $554.2 billion annually to fund its military forces, and another $88.5 billion to fund Overseas Contingency Operations. You don't think that's enough? To put it in context, the U.S. is responsible for 39% of the entire world's military expenditures, and spends seven times as much on the military as does China. Of all the money Congress has discretion to spend, they give 58% of it to the military.

But we like your idea. In fact, we think it could be improved if individual members of the Coast Guard drug strike teams were to get bonuses based on the value of all the pot and drugs their group seized and sold. Nothing wrong with a little monetary incentive, is there? What's more, such a philosophy could be extended to the Border Patrol and local police departments. In fact, why not include traffic cops, meter maids and others with law enforcement responsibilities? What could possibly go wrong with such incentive-based law enforcement?

By the way, we knew that the Coast Guard was part of Homeland Security, but we were initially unsure whether it was part of the military. Looking into it, we found that the Coasties are indeed one of the seven uniformed branches of the United States Armed Forces. Seven? Can you name the other two besides the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard? They would be the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and the Commissioned Officer Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Who would have known?

The Coast Guard is different from the other six branches of the military in that it gets its marching orders from Homeland Security instead of the Department of Defense. However, the President of the United States can, at his will, declare that the Coast Guard is suddenly part of the Navy. That happened in 1917 and 1941, at the start of the two World Wars. The Coast Guard is also unique among the Armed Forces in that in addition to defense, it's also involved in law enforcement, and is a federal regulatory agency. In other words, a triple-threat agency.


I have come up with my next great adventure! It is with what I believe to be a sound mind and great prudence that I have decided to do a nonstop solo circumnavigation, west to east, taking all great capes to port. My plan is to start from Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador, on November 1, 2015 and return five months later. Such an adventure would require some upgrades to the boat and to get the boat positioned for the start.

It's true that I'm nearly 68 and therefore getting a little older, but I feel f-ing great! So why not? I've also finished my first book, titled The Horn, Ahead or Behind, Always On My Mind. It should be published within the next month.

My wife, Debbie, has given me 15 great years of enthusiastic cruising, but her nesting instincts are kicking in. She wants and needs to be a bigger part of the grandkids' lives. I need to understand and will. So the new plan is for Debbie to spend six months a year with family and grandkids, and six months on the boat with me. I plan to continue doing what I truly love, which is sailing.

The really tough part for us is that, while we can comfortably afford to live our lives out together on the boat, it looks as if we need to get Debbie a condo ashore and pay for all the expenses that come with it. I plan to develop a blog site where all my friends can ride along with me on the solo circumnavigation, which should be exciting, as they can live the adventure as it happens. I will also do something that I would have never considered before — make it a monetary site so anyone who wants to contribute financially to the adventure and my lifestyle will have the opportunity to do so. It won't be mandatory, but any contributions to helping keep my dream alive would be greatly appreciated.

Debbie and I will fly home in early May to be with family and friends. After that, Debbie will stay in the U.S., while I'll return to the boat and spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez, hoping not to get too roasted.

By the way, Debbie and I spent over a month in the Barra de Navidad area of Mexico's Gold Coast, and had a mixed experience. For the most part we enjoyed it very much — including getting to watch our home-state Seahawks win the Super Bowl. It was exciting sharing the victory with many local friends we had made, especially at Abuela's restaurant, where Deb had gotten involved with a kindergarten fundraiser to help build a new wall at the school. The old wall had fallen down, so the kids couldn't go out and play.

We also established a one-hour workout program on the roads that run through the 27-hole world-class golf course. We jogged and walked the five-mile course daily, and both made good headway in kicking our asses back into shape. And while here at Santiago Bay, just north of Manzanillo, we've been hanging on the hook, enjoying the beautiful beaches, and sitting under the umbrellas at the palapas. It's at La Junta, near here, where we met a great couple from Colorado who own and operate a restaurant called the Hogsbreath Saloon.

The owners said that their margaritas were to die for, so we went to one of their beach bars, and Deb ordered two. It seems that at least one of the drinks was drugged, as after only one drink she started slurring her speech and acting drunk. It got so bad that we had to carry her back to the dinghy so we could bash through the surf and get her back to the boat. She doesn't even remember it! She later came to, and became horribly sick as well.

The next day we returned to talk to the owners to let them know what had happened. The owner said he was truly sorry, but he'd been gone that day and had no idea why anyone would have done it or why. I suggested that someone was possibly trying out a date rape drug to see how effective it was. In any event, our advice is to keep a close watch on who is serving you drinks.

Jeff & Debbie Hartjoy
Sailors Run, Baba 40
Longbranch, Washington

Jeff and Debbie — In 1981 we did a race from Long Beach to La Paz, and at the conclusion ordered a pitcher of margaritas for our crew at our room in the best hotel is La Paz. We were going to drink the margaritas and then go downstairs and socialize with the rest of the participants. But about halfway through our drinks, each of us healthy 30- to 40-year-olds literally was lying on the floor, unable to get up. It was as if we'd been hit over the head with sledgehammers. We later found out they'd made the drinks with Pancho Villa pure grain alcohol, which is extremely potent and technically toxic. Maybe they made Debbie's margaritas with something like that.

As for a solo circumnavigation, after all these years of ocean sailing you should be able to better evaluate the wisdom of such an endeavour than we can. Good luck! But after singlehanding around the Horn, didn't you tell us that you would never do anything like that again?


We are going on an extensive cruise. If I am outside the U.S., where it may take mail months to reach me or get back to the United States, how do I renew my annual Coast Guard registration? What do others do in this situation?

I enjoy Latitude, and find it contains the best practical information for cruisers. Thank you!

Victor Zarzhitsky
Odessa Mama, Whitby 42
Portland, Oregon

Victor — Thanks for the kind words. Many cruisers solve this — and similar problems — by using a mail forwarding service. One of the more popular is St. Brendan's Isle in Florida, which can act as your agent when it comes to renewing your Coast Guard document each year. However, it still means that you might not get the original of your document, which many countries are going to require, to your boat promptly. So we asked Scott of St. Brendan's how this is handled. He told us there are basically three options:

1) See if the country you'll be in will accept a copy of the document, which can be emailed to you. 2) In countries where the original is required, try to have a friend coming to the boat deliver it. 3) If both those ideas are non-starters, the third option is to have it flown to you via FedEx, DHL or UPS. Scott also told us that you can apply to the Coast Guard for early renewal if that might help your situation.

By the way, if you're a California resident who doesn't feel as though you should be on the hook for a lot of state and county taxes while on an extended cruise, you may also want to establish residency in another state, such as Florida. Mail forwarders such as St. Brendan's can help you accomplish this by assisting with Florida voter registration, Florida driver's license, a Florida street address, and such.


I can't believe that the Max Ebb column in Latitude advocated the use of a "stiff bristle floor brush" for hull cleaning. No knowledgeable hull cleaner or paint manufacturer in the world would recommend using a floor brush — or any brush, for that matter — to clean anti-fouling paint. Not only is it guaranteed to remove paint, but in doing so, it's further polluting our already-impaired waterways. Unbelievable. The heart of any in-water hull cleaning best management practice is to always clean with the softest cleaning media possible.

I wonder how long I'd be in business if I used the worst management practice that Max blithely tossed out there to boatowners.

Matt Peterson
FastBottoms Hull Diving
Member California Professional Divers Association


"Stiff" is a relative term. The brush that Lee uses is about right for removing a week or two of slime, but doesn't seem to be taking off any paint. It's not the softest brush on the hardware store shelf, but not the stiffest one either. After three years of regular use, the bottom paint appears to be fully intact.

Part of the disconnect here might be the fact that Lee's brush, relying mostly on a small buoyant fender for bearing pressure, never applies more than a light touch to the bottom. No diver's elbow grease is involved.

Hull cleaning best management practices can be found online at and

Note that for hard vinyl and hard epoxy racing bottoms, a soft white pad or carpet is preferable, but other kinds of cleaning devices are not prohibited. Note also that rotary brush machines are still within the best-practice guidelines, using "soft" nylon brushes — probably about the same actual bristle stiffness as on Lee's hardware store brush.

The main thing is not to produce a plume of brushed-off paint, not even a small plume. For the new low-toxicity paints, harsher abrasives that might remove some paint under higher bearing pressures are presumably a lot less damaging to water quality — but damage to the smooth racing finish is reason enough not to use anything more abrasive than needed to wipe off the growth.

The other important thing is to clean your boat bottom frequently, whether by brush or by diver, so that the bottom stays smooth and the minimum amount of paint is scrubbed off.

Max Ebb
San Francisco Bay

Readers — There was further back-and-forth between Matt and Max over the issue of whether it was ever a best practice to use any kind of brush. Matt said it wasn't; Max disagreed, as long as using the brush didn't leave a trace of plume.


Once again I have read Latitude cover to cover. Max Ebb rocked it again. But I really want to talk about the man overboard article.

Way back in the 1970s, before all the cool MOB stuff was around, my mom, dad, two brothers and sister learned to sail by bouncing off piers and jetties and stuff. As Dad got more confident, we started heading off to Catalina, Oceanside, San Diego and other SoCal destinations.

How did we learn about rescuing somebody who fell overboard? Dad would wait until we got into the middle of a fog bank, in the middle of a shipping lane, and he'd simply throw one of us kids in the water. "Man overboard!" he'd yell. All of us still on the boat would have to tack, jibe, or whatever to get back to our swimming sibling. Back then it was fun stuff.

But looking back, it was also the smartest thing my dad could do. First off, it became kind of a game, so we were all relaxed about having to pick somebody up from the water or having to wait to be picked up. Dad made us comfortable knowing that no matter what, the boat would come back to get us. To this day I thank him for making me comfortable on a boat so I never panic.

Nowadays, when I do deliveries, I always strap in. When I sail my own boat, I make sure I always know where everybody is, and strap them in at night. All I'm trying to say is, plan — meaning have a man overboard plan — and don't panic. After all, it might be your four-year-old sister bobbing behind the boat.

Mark Smith
Ineffable, Calkins 50
San Diego

Mark — It's good that your dad wanted to help all the members of your family feel comfortable and confident about going overboard or having to rescue somebody who had gone overboard, but wouldn't it have been wiser to practice in more controlled environments than foggy shipping lanes?


When I read the February letter from Wendy Hinman about her husband Garth, it brought back a flood of memories that I would like to share. Her report of their current boat-building project reminded me of Garth and his parents. We first met them in 1979 — ! — shortly after they had completed their adventurous five-year circumnavigation — complete with shipwreck. Circumnavigations aren't nearly as newsworthy these days, but in the mid-1970s, long before electronic navigation, reliable radios, EPIRBs, watermakers and such, they were pretty big deals. Few people, and even fewer families, attempted such crazy feats.

Anyway, we met them just after we'd bought Geronimo, a 48-ft racing sloop, in Newport Beach. Since we were novices at ocean sailing, we needed a tactician/knowledgeable sailor to help bring her north to San Francisco. I was referred to Garth's father, Chuck, but he had to work and couldn't make it. So he recommended Garth, his 17-year-old son. We signed Garth on, and he did a fantastic job of getting us up the coast to Monterey, teaching me and other crew the science and art of coastal navigation along the way. Garth's dedication and abilities were invaluable during that delivery. Although it was 35 years ago, I still call on knowledge and skills I learned from him during that trip.

We were not finished with the Wilcox family, however, because a year later, Chuck signed on to be our navigator for the very first Pacific Cup in June 1980 — although back then it was called the Northern California TransPac. The course was from San Francisco to Nawiliwili, Kauai, and Chuck did a fantastic job. He navigated with sextant alone, as this was even before SatNav, the precursor to GPS, existed. We are very proud to say that our family-run boat, with three other non-racing sailors as crew, came in fourth out of a field of eight in the Big Boat Division.

So when I hear mention of Garth and Chuck Wilcox, it brings back memories for which I am eternally grateful.

Now to finish the story of Geronimo. My wife and I had her extensively refitted in order to transform her from a 'racing machine' to a very comfortable — though still rather fast — cruiser. In 1985 we sailed her to Spain, where she is today. Although we are no longer the owners, we still see her often, and know she is under the care of very kind, dedicated sailors.

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

Len — Great memories; thank you. We were there for the finish of that first Pacific Cup to Kauai, and while we remember your boat Geronimo, we couldn't recall what kind of boat she is. But we did a little search of our records, and came up with this excerpt from the letter you wrote to Latitude in 2002:

"My wife and I sailed Geronimo, our Olympic 48, to Spain in 1985, and have kept her in Spain or France ever since. We leave her on the hard other than the two or three months we sail her in the Med. We have cruised to almost all of the popular places in the Western Med, including the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, the Riviera, Costa Brava, Costa del Sol, etc. Maybe our experience with the regulations and the authorities will be of help.

"In short, we have had no bad experiences — or even direct contact — with the authorities in the 17 years we've left Geronimo in the Med. We've relied on the guidance of the managers of the boatyards, who have told us that if we don't touch our boat for six months of each year, we're in compliance with the law.

"As for importing boat parts, we bought a new Volvo engine in France, and had a new mast fabricated and shipped from Los Angeles to Barcelona — and didn't have to pay VAT or duty on either. The key to not being subject to VAT or duty is that our boat is classified as a 'vessel in transit', because we comply with the six-month rule. By the way, when our original mast was severely damaged by electrolysis, we found that we could get a new one fabricated by LeFiell in Los Angeles, and have it shipped to Europe, for one-third the cost of a mast built in Europe! Conversely, our new 9-oz. Dacron jib was made in Spain for less than half the cost of one made in the U.S. Once again, there was no duty or VAT."

European Union rules are no longer so generous to foreign-owned boats kept within the waters of member countries. But the Med is still an enchanting destination.


We are thoroughly embarrassed over the actions of one of our fellow cruisers. The other day someone deliberately pulled the towel dispenser off the bathroom wall in the men’s washroom at the Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz, and in doing so broke a large and expensive mirror. We, as guests of Mexico, should remember that we are exactly that, guests, and behave accordingly.

It's true that things — such as towel dispensers — don't work exactly as they do 'back home', but frankly, that's one of the reasons we came to Mexico. If cruisers expect things to be the same as home, they should stay home where they won't be disappointed.

In our three seasons here in Mexico, we've received only the greatest courtesy from the Mexican people, and have not been offended once. We go out of our way to reciprocate. It's a pity that there is always one bad apple to spoil the barrel.

P.S. We are vets of the 2011 Ha-Ha, an event we joined for the company, not the security. And our participation in the Ha-Ha has continued to pay dividends ever since. Wherever we go, we meet more folks from the Ha-Ha, as it's an experience we had in common. It's made our Mexico experience just that much better. Right now we are anchored in Tenacatita Bay, and there are two boats here that we met on the Ha-Ha that we've kept in touch with, and we meet up every season down here. Thanks again for the Ha-Ha, and long may it live!

Leif & Jackie Watson
Dodger Too, Tartan 37
Edmonston, Alberta, Canada

Leif and Jackie — Thank you for your unsolicited endorsement of the Ha-Ha. Making great friends is the main reason most cruisers cite for having enjoyed the Ha-Ha.

We couldn't agree with you more about how friendly and helpful the people of Mexico are. Every time we come back to the States, we're taken aback by how aggressive, if not hostile, so many Americans are.

Nonetheless, when a fool damages something in a marina restroom, it doesn't strike us as being an affront to the country the marina is in, but rather an affront to civilized behavior in general. We hope you let that person know, even if anonymously, that his actions were noted.


My wife and I are sitting here on our boat in the Sea of Cortez and had a great sunset to cap off a wonderful dinner. One of the rituals we often follow when we have shorepower is to turn on our water heater to do the dishes. We use our Monitor countdown timer, a bit of swag from Scanmar in the 2008 Baja Ha-Ha, to track how long we have the water heater on.

The Monitor countdown timer is the one piece of swag — in addition to the great Ha-Ha T-shirt — that we have found to be invaluable. We set it to remind us to take care of a variety of chores. Every time we hear its annoying buzz, we are reminded of the great time we had on our first sailing trip south in the company of the Ha-Ha. We want to thank Latitude again for introducing us to the great opportunities of traveling Mexico by sail. Each time we respond to the timer, it brings a smile to our faces.

Pete & Kathie Mirrasoul
Citla, Cal 39 Mk III
San Diego

Pete and Kathie — Thank you so much, as your unsolicited letter just made our day.
It's funny how many Ha-Ha vets have told us they use the Monitor timers. Doña de Mallorca is just one of many who are big fans of the timers.

By the way, as someone who has led a pretty undisciplined life, we're finding that we enjoy rituals. For example, every morning when we're on the hook in St. Barth, we start the day with two rousing versions of Gloria. The first one is Gloria in Excelsis Deo by Vivaldi. We stand on Admiral's Walk of 'ti Profligate in a Speedo, the wind caressing our body, and direct the imaginary orchestra. We follow this one up with a more profane Gloria, the Van Morrison G-L-O-R-I-A version. When we hear those tunes for the rest of our lives, we'll be taken back to these lovely mornings on the hook.

Our knowledge of classical music is, however, on the slim side. Does anybody have any recommendations for sundowner music?


All that the photo of the rat damage to goodies inside The Wanderer's Olson 30 La Gamelle in St. Martin ('Lectronic, March 5) tells me is that rodents can eat through plastic containers to get at whatever is inside, whereas they can’t, at least yet, chew through glass. If you had filled plastic water bottles with Stoli or Mt. Gay rum, you might have found evidence of alcohol toxicity in rats, or perhaps the confetti would have been even more artistically distributed.

Jan Grygier
Neener³ (that’s Neener Neener Neener to you), Catalina 42
Point Richmond


You asked about times when Latitude readers had to wear face masks because it was blowing and raining too hard to keep their eyes open. In our case, it happened in December 1995 when we were sailing the Sir Francis Drake Channel in the British Virgins aboard a Beneteau 44 charterboat. The 'Christmas Winds,' aka December/January trades, were blowing hard with the usual squalls. We exited the lee of Norman Island and headed for Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.

But this one squall rolling down the channel was clearly a full-on white squall, with the classic spindrift 'balloon' leading the front, indicating heavy precipitation, big downdrafts, and very strong winds. With no way to escape it, we rolled up the jib, double-reefed and eased out the main, and tacked to put the entire channel in front of us. We locked in the compass course because visibility was going to be zero, and sent non-essential crew below.

The squall hit with winds in excess of 50 knots. The sideways rain blew my contact lenses out! And it took two crew to get a foulie top on. The squall departed as quickly as it had arrived, but it dismasted three boats in the channel. We radioed VISAR (Virgin Islands Search & Rescue) with the boats' coordinates and checked on the one boat we could fetch.

While at the Bath & Turtle that evening, we bumped into actor Morgan Freeman, who had also been sailing up the channel that afternoon. So we called for an extra round of rum. On a recent trip to New York in December, we bumped into Morgan again at legendary Sardi's. We laughed about how different Januaries can be. He remains a gracious and humble man and sailor.

But sometimes it is a white squall.

Tim Dick
Sausalito / Honolulu

Readers — White squalls are defined as sudden and violent windstorms at sea that are not accompanied by telltale black clouds generally associated with squalls. The name comes from the white-capped waves and white broken water.

Some sailors believe that white squalls don't exist as separate entities but rather are the same as microbursts. But not our friend Bruce, who used to run the 65-ft charter cat Swaliga between St. Martin and St. Barth with up to 65 passengers. With a nearly full boat one afternoon, Swaliga was hit by a 50-knot white squall. It was all Bruce could do to get the crew to douse the headsail before they were hit. Unable to get the main down, he ran with it at a steady 19 knots in the wrong direction for a very tense half-hour until the squall passed.


While doing our first Baja Bash in 2011, we had wind on the nose and big seas, so we wore dive masks the whole time. We got to within 200 miles of the border when the engine died. Again. A case of filters and 100 miles later it died once more. For good. (The diagnosis was bad fuel in the jerry cans we had filled in Turtle Bay. Pearson's Fuel Dock in San Diego would later say it was the dirtiest fuel they'd seen in 30 years.) Whatever, as we spent the next 12 hours pounding into it, getting within 100 miles of San Diego.

We spent the next nine hours making just three miles. Hooray, only 97 more miles to go! We finally gave up and called Vessel Assist — fortunately we'd bought the Gold Card version. Nine hours later their boat started towing us at 12 knots! I needed to put my mask back on until I could reach them on the VHF to tell them to slow our sailing Winnebago down to an acceptable speed. They were used to towing high speed motoryachts, not sailboats. My face was burned red for a week from the wind and spray.

I've done my last Baja Bash. When Andalucia returns to Mexico next year, it will be my beneficiaries, not I, who will be doing the Bash back to California.

Steve Hollen
Andalucía, Irwin 37
Long Beach


The other day I wrote to you describing how frustrated I have been with the Mexican government with respect to the impounding and releasing of foreign-owned boats. But I want Latitude and its readers to know that in some cases it is the boatowners who were at fault. There were about 15 boats at our Marina San Carlos that did not have Temporary Import Permits, or had expired permits. We took it upon ourselves to get permits for these boats, but the owners ended up having to pay a reasonable $130 fine before their boats were released.

I'm sending you a copy of a letter our marina sent to one of our clients, as it shows how difficult some boatowners can be to deal with. His boat had not only been impounded, it has been confiscated — although I'm sure we can get it back. My letter:

"I was told by the staff at our marina that you refused to sign any documents. I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation. You bought a boat in Mexico that had been imported with a Temporary Import Permit, a permit which clearly states on the back that the boat can't be bought or sold in Mexico. On top of that, your TIP had expired. We at the marina applied for your new TIP after the audit, and it was very hard for me to convince the Mexican IRS to accept your new TIP with just a small fine, but I did.

"Ninety-two boats, including yours, were impounded on the day of the AGACE inspection in late November. Through our lawyer, the marina was able to get 83 of the boats released. Since you didn't cooperate, yours was not one of those released. I think you know that somebody from SAT put a document on your boat the other day, a document that says your boat has been confiscated and is now the property of the Mexican government.

"I am trying to save your boat. At this moment you have three choices: 1) Forget about your boat and let the Mexican government auction her off. 2) Find your own lawyer and have him/her go to Mexico City and try to save the boat for you. 3) Pay $1,000 to the marina to cover the fine you would have had to pay for having an expired TIP, and for all the work our lawyer has done on your behalf. If our lawyer is unable to save your boat, we will return the $1,000.

"You told me that you didn’t know you needed a TIP for your boat, but you had the expired TIP in your folder, so you knew. If you hadn't bought the boat in Mexico, you would have had to buy a TIP at the border. Paying $50 for a TIP that allows your boat to be in Mexico for 10 years without paying import duty is very reasonable, so there is no excuse not to have one. Like I told you yesterday, I am not the Mexican government, I am just trying to help you solve the problem you have with the Mexican government. But if you refuse to sign the papers that were prepared for you at the marina to help you, and you don’t want to pay for anything, then I can’t help you.

"I already paid the lawyer for the 83 boats that were released, but they had their papers in order, so it wasn't their fault they were impounded. In your case, you were at fault, so it is harder to get the government to release your boat."

The few boats in our marina that still have problems are ones that not only didn't have TIPs, they were also purchased in Mexico. And instead of cooperating with us, the owners of those boats have lied and tried to get away with whatever they want.

Yes, AGACE was too strict, and they shouldn't have done things the way they did. But as I told Latitude at the beginning of the ordeal, some boatowners don't take Mexican law seriously. It's too bad this had to happen for them to find out.

Hopefully soon this will be a bad memory.

Tere Grossman
Marina San Carlos

Readers — Tere Grossman and Latitude see this situation in basically the same way: 1) By and large, the Mexican government has made it very easy and economical for the owners of foreign boats to cruise Mexico. Any boatowner who isn't willing to comply with Mexican law is a fool. 2) Sometimes Mexican law isn't clear, and sometimes it's interpreted and applied differently in different areas. But such problems were always pretty easy to work out — until AGACE struck in late November. 3) While the Mexican government has a perfect right to know what foreign boats are in Mexico, AGACE couldn't have planned and executed their partial audit in a more screwed-up way. AGACE's impounding of innocent boats for two or three months is responsible for most of the black eye that Mexico has gotten. 4) As much as AGACE may have screwed up, there are still foreign boatowners who, for reasons that escape both Tere and Latitude, won't lift a finger to help others try to save their boats.


We just made it into La Cruz, and some folks on another boat told us the latest rumor is that Mexico is only going to allow boats to stay in Mexico for six months without paying a tax. Boats that stay longer will have to pay a 10% tax. I suppose rumors will fly for quite awhile, but if true, this sounds as bad as the embargo/impoundings and, if true, will kill cruising in Mexico.

We still have friends with boats who are not coming back to Mexico, and if this rumor has any substance and gets around, we know of other boatowners who will not come down either, as they are 'sitting on the fence', waiting to see how things play out.

Carol Dean
Stray Cat, Seawind 33
San Francisco

Carol — Since the Mexican government is not particularly forthcoming, it's easy for such rumors to get started and take flight. Tere Grossman, president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association for almost its entire existence, assures us that this rumor is nonsense. And she talks to the highest level officials in Hacienda.


Latitude 38’s coverage of the Mexican boat impoundments has been extensive, and obviously personal to publisher Richard Spindler as Profligate was an impounded boat. However, having talked to some who have gone down to Mexico since this event, I find myself wondering if somehow this has been blown way out of proportion, as it appears there are still cruisers going to and coming from Mexican ports without a hint of what appears to have been a one-time event with Mexico ending up with egg on its face.

During several sailing events here in San Diego since the first of the year, I have inquired of several sailors about their intention to sail the Newport to Ensenada Race that starts on April 25. What I have found is that there is a very real fear of heading into Mexican waters at this time, and skippers whose boats have made Newport to Ensenada an annual event are now begging off, primarily due to the events as they have been reported in the pages of your fine publication. The specific fears are having one's boat impounded or being boarded at sea during a race.

What I, and I imagine most skippers, really want to know is whether it is safe to take our boats on this race. Though the publisher of Latitude sails in the Caribbean this time of year, would he be willing to enter his catamaran Profligate in this race? It would be a strong statement that indicates to all sailors that he believes that it is okay to sail into Mexican waters again.

It would also be great to have something from Hacienda, the Mexican IRS, stating that they will not have an inspection for boats entered in the race, and for the Mexican Navy to state that they will not board any vessels during the race. Though the last two items might be politically unpalatable to the Mexican authorities, the entry of Profligate would indicate your belief that there is no anticipation of the issues of last year continuing.

Please advise, as your readership values your opinion and your actions go a long way to support that opinion.

P.S. I looked at the NOSA website this morning, March 18, and note there are only 147 entries signed up this year versus a total of 203 who participated last year. That's a decrease of 28%. In the cruising classes there are currently 48 entries vs. 69 total last year, a decrease of 30%. Granted, there are still five weeks until the race, and I do not have any stats on where NOSA entries were at the same time last year, but given the discount that NOSA was providing for early entries, I suspect there will definitely be a significant decline year to year. Given that the economic climate is slightly better in California this year than last, I find the numbers troubling — and almost certainly caused by the TIP issue in Mexico. Please consider promoting this in your April issue, and consider entering Profligate in the Newport to Ensenada Race. Don't wait for the San Diego to Ensenada 'Little Ensenada Race' in October to raise the 'All Clear'.

David C. Cleveland
San Diego

David — The very short answer is yes, we would take our boat to Mexico now, based on the fact that we're told it's safe by the president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association and all of the marina managers. A much longer and more nuanced answer, which hopefully will give boatowners the information they need to make the decision for themselves, appears in the March 26 'Lectronic Latitude.


It's been 40 years since Ramón Carlín of Mexico, and we, his crew, won the very first Whitbread Around the World Race — now the Volvo Ocean Race — with the Swan 65 Sayula II. A very enthusiastic Bernardo Arsuaga, who lives in Monterrey, México, is making a short film about the story of Ramón and Sayula II. He is hoping that anyone associated with the project will get in touch with him. Bernard can be contacted at .

Ramón no longer comes to Sayula in Puerto Vallarta, but I still use her. In fact, I will have been on her to greet the finishers of the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race at the end of March.

Enrique Carlin Larios

Readers — There were two Northern Californians connected with Carlin's victory in that historic first Whitbread. The first was Ray Conrady of San Francisco, who was the navigator for Carlin in a race that took place long before the advent of GPS or other sophisticated electronic navigation. The second was Irving Loube, who was a longtime member of the St. Francis YC and who owned a series of racing boats named Bravura. Loube advised Carlin on making preparations for the unprecedented endeavour.



'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2014 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.