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July 2014

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I'm a very long-time reader of Latitude, and am happy to say that my husband and I are excited to be signed up for this fall's Ha-Ha. If just a couple of things come together, we'll be able to cruise the South Pacific for a couple of years.

My husband and I have been busy with preparations, both in terms of the boat and gear, and ourselves. Lots of soon-to-be cruisers write in with questions about their boats and gear, but my inquiry is about sex. I want to know if couples have more or less sex when cruising than they did back home. And please, no Bevis-and-Butthead-type sniggering.

My husband and I both believe that an active sex life is an important ingredient of optimal mental and physical health, just like regular exercise and eating healthy foods. As such, we both work to stay fit and attractive to each other, and make an effort to keep our sex life interesting. So far so good.

We've joined friends on cruising boats for brief periods in both Mexico and Fiji, during which time I broached, after a few drinks, the subject of sex to the gals. Some said the cruising life in the tropics is much more conducive to sex, as you often wear little if any clothing, and you have a lot more free time together.

One woman said her sex life had become a lot more satisfying because cruising had physically transformed her husband. She said something to the effect that when she married him, he had been ripped, but 25 years at a desk job had made him flabby and not as attractive as he'd once been. But after about six months of cruising, the flab had been replaced by muscle, partly contributing to "the best sex of our lives." The other part, she said, was because she, like most women, found sex more enjoyable during middle age than when she was younger.

On the other hand, one woman said that at times the cruising life is strenuous if not exhausting, and as a result she often found herself too tired to even think about having sex. Her response made me wonder how often, if at all, cruising couples have sex during the three to four weeks it takes to cross from Mexico to the Marquesas.

My sample was far too small to draw any conclusions, so I'd like to put my question to all couples out there cruising. Are you having more or less sex than before you took off cruising? And do you have any cruising-specific sex tips? It would be great if ages were included, as that should be factored in.

I remember that there was a letter similar to mine in Latitude a very long time ago, but I can't remember the results.

Name Withheld By Request
Pacific Northwest

NWBR — What an interesting question! We remember the letter you refer to, but can't remember the substance of the responses either.

This letter was first published in the
June 2 'Lectronic, and prompted the following responses.


A reader wanted to know if cruisers have more or less sex while cruising than they did back home. And if they had sex during long passages, such as from Mexico to the Marquesas.

We had sex almost every day during our crossing to the Marquesas, and some days the cockpit was like a Euro sex party. Captain's Hour usually started about 3:30 p.m., and continued until dusk. After a couple of drinks, things usually got really wild. Lots of sex was definitely the best way to cut down on the boredom of a long passage, and the time just flew by. We did skip a couple of days, but only because of exhaustion.

Interestingly, we had much more sex during the passage than we've had while anchored.

Name Withheld By Request
South Pacific

Readers — While the couple prefer to remain anonymous, we know them and that they crossed within the last two years. If you and your significant other are in your 60s and didn't have sex every day on the way from Mexico to the Marquesas, don't fret, as this couple is quite a bit younger than most cruising couples.


My husband and I spent three seasons cruising in the Caribbean on our beloved Scappatella. I don't know if we had more sex or less sex than before we took off cruising, but it sure was different. Here's an excerpt from our blog to give readers an idea:

"As we locked in a passionate embrace, I breathed in the intoxicating smell of sweat and diesel that has permeated his entire being. I tried to pull away, but our bodies clung together from the sweet, sticky, tropic heat. We rolled onto the bed and I wrapped my legs around his body — the coarse, white sand exfoliating our skin until it was as smooth as a baby’s. I moved to straddle him, my heart quickening as I exclaimed 'Oh, oh, owwwwww!' But not even the smack of my head against the corner of the berth would deter my passion.

"As my skin glistened and rivulets of sweat dripped down onto him, he moaned. I excitedly looked into his eyes, only to see him staring at the water dripping down the side of the berth onto our bed — the leak that would be our nemesis throughout our time in the Caribbean. Distracting him with the rough calluses of my weathered hands, he turned his attention back to me, wincing a little as I ran my hands over his bronzed body. We moved together with the rhythm of the sea, thrashing about here and there — until all of a sudden he leaped out of bed and across the length of the cabin, and in one fluid movement smacked the bulkhead with his hand.

"What the hell was that about?" I exclaimed, my passion finally abating with yet another unwelcome distraction. He turned to me with the contented look of a satiated man, and pointed down at the small, dead cockroach lying on the cabin sole.

"'Aaahhhh, that's my man!' I exclaimed and pulled him back onto the bed, the two of us wincing with each movement."

P.S. Feel free to publish our names.

Janet & Louis Debret
Scappatella, Lafitte 44

Readers — There's more than a little element of truth in the above report, which is what makes it so funny.

The couple's website notes that Scappatella has three meanings: 1) An Italian word for 'escapade', meaning an adventurous, unconventional act or undertaking; 2) A journey with a little bit of intrigue, such as the secret escapade of two lovers; 3) In the slang of Rome, a 'quickie in the bushes'.


In the June 2 'Lectronic, there was a letter from a reader asking whether the sex lives of couples was better while cruising than in the 'real world'. In our experience, the sex is much better while cruising. Much, much better. Our sexual life is much more free, creative and passionate.

We think the reason is that when it's just the two of you cruising, your lives depend on each other, so you have to have complete trust. We find that this makes us more deeply attracted to each other. And with that kind of trust and attraction comes very satisfying sex.

Yes, the heat and humidity might been an issue for some in the tropics, but we've gotten used to it. Indeed, we really enjoy it now.

It's true, you don't always feel like having sex. After a rough passage, for example, both of us are usually trashed. But after we've rested up . . . well, you just have to live the experience to understand it. But it's amazing.

Fortunately for us, we never get tired of being together. We can spend all day and all night together for many weeks, and it's never too much. We can't guarantee that everyone feels the same way we do about sex while cruising, but for us it's great.

Name Withheld By Request


If you're a gal who has a guy worth keeping, I recommend sex at least three times a week to keep him sated. There are a lot of untethered women around looking for a guy and, to many of them, a male — even if he's in a relationship — with a cruising boat reeks of adventure and romance. I especially recommend keeping an eye on backpackers and gap-year girls looking to live it up before they settle down. Oh yeah, and young girls in Third World countries like Panama and Colombia looking for a sugar daddy.

Morning is the best time of day for sex because it's cooler and it's when his testosterone level is the highest. Don't forget to have fun yourself, as sex should be more than a job.

Name Withheld By Request
Rio Dulce, Guatemala / Cartagena


My family and I are veterans of the 2007 and 2008 Ha-Ha's, and four years of full-time cruising in Mexico. I'm not going to talk about my sex life, but I will give captains a sex tip: If you think you will be getting any cockpit romance with the sun softly setting over the Pacific when your last shower was a quarter-gallon rinse three days before, keep dreaming. If you want to increase your chances for sex while out cruising in the tropics, forget about the garden sprayer showers and buy a watermaker. If I have to explain why, then you are not getting any sex now anyway.

As the owner of Cruise RO Water, I often joke that I don’t sell watermakers, but rather increased chances for romance while cruising. That, my friends, is one hell of a sales pitch that happens to be true!

Rich Boren
Third Day, Force 50
Port San Luis

Rich — There are exceptions to the rule. We have a friend who cruised his 26-ft boat, with five surfboards, to Mexico. When we encouraged him to join us in the Paradise Resort swimming pool one day, he declined, saying that he only bathed in salt water, and he would get spoiled by a dip in fresh water. Ladies still found him very attractive.

In addition, there are lots of sailors in the Caribbean who go for days without showers, despite the humidity and the fact the water is so inviting. It's something we don't entirely understand, but some of the most aromatic ones seem to attract the most lady friends.


I read the June 12 'Lectronic piece on the America's Cup not returning to San Francisco, the most beautiful sailing venue in the world, in 2017. This is something none of us expected on September 25 when Oracle Team USA completed their monumental come-from-behind victory over the Kiwis.

This means that San Francisco's Golden Gate YC will be the club of record for a city other than San Francisco! And considering the present circumstances, it makes you wonder if the America's Cup will ever return to our shores again. If the ignorant San Francisco politicians couldn't secure the Cup this time around with the greedy OTUSA group, under what conditions would they ever return to San Francisco?

If the Bay Area sailors and residents aren't insulted enough, OTUSA, the American Defender, is willing to consider Bermuda for a Finals, a venue outside the United States. OTUSA's disrespect for San Francisco is one thing, but by showing disrespect for our country, it's showing the organization's true colors — which are greedy green rather than red, white and blue.

As someone who was born and raised in San Francisco, and was a media photographer for the last Cup, I will be boycotting the next America's Cup. Sailors are an honorable group of people, and OTUSA doesn't deserve our respect.

Michael Creedon


Great summary of San Francisco's being out of the running for the next America's Cup. But it was kinder than I would have been toward San Francisco and Ellison for not reaching an agreement. When Ellison won the Cup, he won it for San Francisco, not San Diego, Chicago or Bermuda. Freaking spoiled brats.

Craig Shaw
Adios, Columbia 43
Portland, Oregon

Craig — Just one quibble, as it was Oracle Team USA, not Oracle Team San Francisco. But we share your sentiment.


I thoroughly enjoyed Latitude's comments on America's Cup Event Organizers withdrawing San Francisco as the site of the next America's Cup. Your report was succinct and hit the nail on the head. It was far better than the report in the Chronicle, which smelled badly of sour grapes.

Sam Vahey
Brookings, Oregon

Readers — We got a number of compliments on that 'Lectronic item, so we thought we'd run it again:

"We're not sure if it's polite to dump someone by email, but that's the method that Russell Coutts, Director of the America's Cup Event Authority, used to inform Mayor Ed Lee that San Francisco would not be the site of the next America's Cup.

"That's a shame because, as was proven in the Finals of the last America's Cup, San Francisco Bay is the ideal place for the competition. The sailing conditions were fantastic, the spectating and interaction between the participants and fans was superb, and San Francisco was never presented in a more favorable light. Sailing and San Francisco were both big winners.

"That the America's Cup organizers and San Francisco failed to reach an agreement for the next America's Cup is hardly surprising, as relations between the two, and between Oracle Team USA and large segments of the city's whiny residents, were never good. Ellison and Coutts seemed to think that San Francisco wasn't supportive enough, and detractors pointed to the fact that the last Cup supposedly cost San Francisco $11 million — a laughably small sum that isn't even equivalent to the pensions of three or four of the legions of underworked and overpaid city employees.

"Perhaps the biggest problem was that Ellison, worth untold billions, and the City, on fire with social media and tech money, as well as the darling of tourists the world over, don't really need each other. Both are sitting fat and pretty on their own.

"The loss of San Francisco as a potential America's Cup site leaves three less-than-inspiring sites in contention: San Diego, Bermuda and Chicago. San Diego is a wonderful place, but simply doesn't have the challenging winds for a proper America's Cup. It would be like holding the Masters Golf Tournament at a dried-out muni course. Or the Winter Olympics at Dodge Ridge. Bermuda? While the sailing can be nice, the tiny little place is the antithesis of cosmopolitan, and is so overcrowded that residents are only allowed one car per house. That leaves Chicago, which we think would be the best choice of the three. The freshwater sailing can actually be quite good, and while there aren't a lot of sailors in some parts of the Midwest, we think the America's Cup is the kind of world-class event that even non-sailors could enthusiastically get behind.

"So all we Northern Californians are left with are memories of the 34th America's Cup. But what great memories! While the build-up and Louis Vuitton Semifinals were a flop, and there was farce and tragedy, the AC 34 Finals were the most unique and earthshaking in sailing. And Oracle Team USA's victory after being down 1-8 was the greatest comeback in sports. If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of San Francisco's not being selected as the site of the next America's Cup, it's that no future America's Cup will be able to live up to the drama and excitement of the Cup competition that was held on San Francisco Bay."

By the way, one employee of the City of San Francisco groused about our remark that $11 million "is a laughably small sum that isn't even equivalent to the pensions of three or four of the legions of underworked and overpaid city employees."

Our basis for that claim is the fact that, of the 10th to 20th most populous cities in the United States, San Francisco has the greatest percentage of city employees per residents — by a staggering margin. The only other city that has even half as many employees per resident is Detroit, which most readers know is bankrupt. Consider San Jose, which with 946,000 residents has nearly 150,000 more people than San Francisco, yet it has one-fifth (!) the number of city employees — 6,000 versus 30,000. And forget the "But San Francisco is a city and county" argument. So is Indianapolis, which has more residents than San Francisco, seven times more area to cover, but less than one-quarter the number of city/county employees.

We're not blaming individual workers — such as the Muni mechanic who made $350,000 a year — we're blaming the city administrators. The bottom line is that saying San Francisco couldn't easily absorb an $11 million 'loss', if there really even was such a thing, is like saying Larry Ellison couldn't have driven a softer bargain to keep San Francisco as the site for the good of the Cup.


I read the latest Latitude this weekend and saw your piece on Airbnb being used for people wanting to sleep on boats. But only for sleeping?

It just so happens that a few days after I write this, Jaclyn Baumgarten, founder and CEO of a company called Cruzin, will be giving a presentation at the St. Francis YC. Cruzin doesn't just let people sleep on a boat, they let you rent your boat to others for sailing, motoring, waterskiing or cruising. It's fully insured.

It sounds like a perfect way to rent a boat for Sailstice no matter where you are in the world.

Jason Holloway
St. Francis YC

Jason — There have been a number of boat trade schemes tried over the years, and we've gotten calls seeking publicity from a flock of companies that have formed or are in the process of forming to do 'boat sharing'. It's a no-brainer concept that's been around for years, but the devil is in the details.

As much as we like most of the concept of the sharing economy, we don't believe it makes sense for boats, particularly sailboats, except perhaps for simple small ones. The problem is that boats are much more complicated than cars, bikes, condos and other things that are commonly shared. Even sisterships tend to be unique, and minor damage to them can run into the thousands of dollars.

As the owner of a 45-ft catamaran that is in a really good yacht management program — with a boat that was designed and built to be idiot-proof — we're fully aware of the kinds of damage that people who aren't familiar with a particular boat or sailing area can do to a boat or a boat's system. Damage that in some cases may not show up for weeks. This is even true when the boat has been chartered by groups of well-meaning, experienced sailors who weren't drinking heavily.

As we all know, boats have problems, particularly when they are in the hands of first-time users who aren't familiar with the idiosyncrasies. Suppose somebody rents your boat for a long weekend on the Bay, it's Saturday at 4 p.m., they're up at China Camp and can't get the windlass to work or the furler to roll the jib up. What then? If this happens with our boat in the British Virgins, the 'renters' can call somebody and get assistance.

And what if you're a renter? Who is to evaluate the standard of a boat you're going to rent on the other side of the world? We're not sure if it's still done, but many years ago there were charter companies in Greece that rented out private yachts as opposed to having their own fleet of boats. Some of the boats were in dreadful condition despite claims to the contrary.

Cruzin has insurance? We'd read that policy very carefully to see exactly what is covered and what isn't.

Frankly, there is no way we would 'Airbnb' any of our three sailboats, as we can't see how the risk/reward ratio could make sense. We might do it if there were a licensed captain aboard who knew the boat, but that sounds more like traditional chartering than boat sharing.

Our thoughts need to be taken in the context that we're skeptical by nature and not as smart as a lot of other people. Maybe someone brighter has a solution to all the 'details'. We're sure that some boatowners will be willing to give the concept a try with their boats. We wish them, and all the 'boat sharing' companies, the best of luck.

Actually, since there already are 'boat sharing' companies, is there anybody who would like to report on the experiences they've had?


I read the June 4 'Lectronic about the water shortage at Avalon. The drought is not the cause of the water shortage at Catalina, it's PCBs. Google it. It's scary shit. Southern California Edison brings us all our water. Think ice cubes, shower water, everything. When it comes to PCBs, if it's on you, it's in you.

I'm a vet of the 2011 Ha-Ha and a Two Harbors employee. Please do not use my name.

Name Withheld By Request
Two Harbors, Catalina

Readers — We did Google 'PCBs and Catalina Island', and came across a January 16, 2014 Sixty Day Notice of Violation, in which Vicki L. Rogers, a resident of the City of Avalon and an employee of Southern California Edison from May 1983 to January of 2012, accuses — at least as best as we can determine from the legalese — Southern California Edison and certain individuals with violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act Section 20, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. And yes, PCBs are a big part of the action.

We don't know enough about the facts or science to make any kind of evaluation of the case, so we suggest that those who have reason to be interested read it for themselves. It's also unclear to us if one or more problematic tanks are the cause of the water shortage, or if there would have been a shortage even if there weren't a problem with the tanks. But unless we were racing, we'd sail there with full tanks.


Claude Monet's painting Shipping by Moonlight reminds me of a storm we encountered in either 1982 or 1983 when we were delivering a 36-ft sloop from San Diego to San Francisco. We were approaching Long Beach when we were caught. Huge seas tossed the boat around, and the sound was incredible. With my watch over, I tried to rest in the V-berth, but kept getting thrown against the overhead. The roar of the storm became so loud that I got up and went to the cockpit to see if I was needed. The main was reefed down as far as possible, the halyards were banging on the mast, and it was black everywhere.

Suddenly we saw intermittent lights in the clouds above us. They became brighter as they began to break through the low, dense clouds. I was expecting a UFO to appear. The complete darkness, making the sea and sky indistinguishable, was contrasted by a bright light shining on our boat. The shaking and wind turbulence were so severe that we had no idea what we were experiencing.

Then a voice over the VHF identified the 'thing' as a military helicopter, which brought much relief. It finally dropped below the cloud cover so we could see it. The crew asked if everything was all right, and we said it was. Then they asked if we had come across a downed F-18 jet or its pilot. Our total vulnerability had turned to relief, but now we felt a sense of vulnerability again, knowing someone was in the water in such terrible conditions. The helicopter asked us to keep an eye out for a survivor, and since we didn't need assistance, left to continue its search.

We finally made it into Long Beach Harbor, and stayed in a marina for two days. I'll never forget that. The body of the pilot was recovered a few months later.

Gary James
Fall River Mills

Gary — If it happened in November 1982, we know the storm you're talking about. It blew like stink and there were 22-ft seas in the Catalina Channel. We were leaving San Diego for Mexico, and got our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary reefed down for the conditions. But once we got past Pt. Loma, we decided that taking off with a crew of just two experienced sailors and two untested sailors didn't make the most sense. Particularly since weather forecasts weren't very good back then.

It ended up that Willie Smothers and a couple of others took the boat to Cabo a little while later. After anchoring in Cabo, they noticed 28 boats on the beach. They couldn't imagine what had happened, and guessed that Mexicans had opened boatyards on the sand. The reality was that they had arrived the day after the Cabo Storm of December 1982, the one that famously cost French sailing legend Bernard Moistessier his beloved Joshua. This storm was not connected with the earlier one in California.

This was just three years after the Long Beach YC's frightful Long La Paz Race. As we recall, only six of the 33 starters finished, one of them being an Olson 30. The fleet got decimated sailing the last hundred miles north into the Sea of Cortez. Some sailors who had also done the Fastnet Race of 1979, just a few months before and which claimed the lives of 15 sailors, said conditions were worse in the Sea of Cortez.


There was a letter in the June issue from Ed Hart, who fixed a leak resulting from his prop shaft slipping out of his stuffing box in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of the night. I had a similar incident. In 1979, when my Catalina 27 was brand new, nothing happened when I put my boat's motor in reverse to slow it down when nearing Angel Island. When I looked into the engine compartment, I saw water spouting from my empty stuffing box like a running garden hose. I knew the drive shaft had slipped out.

This was way before Robert Redford or even MacGyver, so I grabbed three heavy-duty trash bags and slipped them inside each other. I then pulled the whole thing over the spouting stuffing box. The long length of the bags channeled the water flow away from me and the stuffing box. Grabbing my always present duct tape, I wrapped tight turns around the bag-covered stuffing box. Eventually the water stopped flowing and the trash bags ballooned out with water. It was spooky, but it didn't leak or break.

I sailed the boat back to Ballena Bay, and the dealer reset the shaft the next day. What happened? There hadn't been a dimple drilled into the shaft for the set screw.

Harley Gee
The Taproom, Catalina 42
Richmond YC

Readers — When a boat starts taking on water quickly, one of the first suspects is the shaft. For example, on November 12, 2010, the San Diego-based Freeport 36 Aquila, a vet of the Ha-Ha, sank 80 miles west of New Caledonia en route to Brisbane as a result of a prop shaft leak. Owner Mike Rafferty said problems with the shaft and the stuffing box caused the sinking.


The 25th anniversary of the Magellan NAV 1000 — as reported in the June 4 'Lectronic — doesn't make me feel any younger! It was the primary GPS for many years aboard my Ventura based J/35C Strider, and got me back and forth between Santa Cruz Island, Catalina and Ensenada many times. It’s still on board as a back-up. It's as accurate as my new chartplotter.

Years ago I was in Valparaiso, Chile, on a business trip. As part of our meetings, we toured a large ocean freighter in the port. I was quite surprised when the ship captain proudly showed off his NAV 1000. I had somehow imagined that a ship ten times larger than my 35-ft sailboat would have a more sophisticated GPS for navigating the world.

John Grether
Strider, J/35C


The original retail price for the NAV 1000 was $2999, and it was generally sold for 10% off, or $2699. Until very recently I had a NAV 1000 PLUS, which was slightly faster at computing a fix. The NAV 1000 computed a fix only every 12 seconds.

Chuck Hawley
Santa Cruz

Readers — Having been West Marine's tech guy from darn near the beginning of modern marine electronics until just recently, Chuck speaks with authority.


I used a NAV 1000 in the Doublehanded TransPac right after the device was first introduced. It changed everything. We did some celestial shots to see if the handheld GPS was working right, and it was obviously more accurate than celestial. I think I paid $1,300.

Eric Jungemann
Devil Dog, Catalina 22
Cameron Park


I paid $1,500 for my Magellan NAV 1000 in the summer of 1991, and three years later spent $350 to buy a newer, faster, smaller Magellan to use as a backup. The NAV 1000 took my wife Diane and me on a 25,000 mile trip from San Francisco to Honolulu by way of Baja, the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia. During ocean passages we would turn it on for a fix at the change of every watch, but still keep a DR in the log book in case it failed — which it never did. We also found the 'cross-track error' function to be very helpful.

The main problem with the NAV 1000 — and many later units — was that the coasts of many small Pacific islands were not at the latitude and longitude that the charts claimed. A few people lost their boats at night because of an over-reliance on the combination of GPS and inaccurate charts.

I've been reading Latitude since 1989, and still love it!

Henry Skinner, MD
Ariadne, Kantola 37
Yarmouth, Maine


I served aboard the USS Detroit from 1993-95, and it had one of the first military GPS units, which dated from the early 1980s. If anyone thought the NAV 1000 was big, the military GPS on the Detroit had a display the size of a toaster oven, with the brains of the unit in a case the size of a large suitcase. The cable from the display to the case was 25 feet long and an inch thick. The display had a one-inch screen, and you had to rotate a knob to switch between 12 different screens.

My NAV 1000 was about $1,000 when I purchased it back in 1991 at the Annapolis Boat Show. Just a few years later GPS devices were a tenth the size and price.

P.S. We're signed up for this year's Ha-Ha!

Mike Bradford
Pelagic, Hallberg-Rassy 42
Portland, Oregon


I can't seem to remember how much we paid for our NAV 1000 when we bought it new 18 years ago, but it remains the primary hard-wired GPS on our Tayana 37 Gumbo Ya-Ya. We've used it — in conjunction with paper charts — to navigate south from Seattle through Central America and the Panama Canal, and ending up in New Orleans. We then used it again from Seattle to Mexico and the South Pacific, ending up in Australia. On the second cruise, we interfaced it with a PowerBook running MaxSea software and, of course, paper charts.

The NAV 1000 has never let us down, so we never thought about replacing it. I was thinking of updating until I started doing all my local — Pacific Northwest — navigation using my iPhone running the Navionics app.

Kurt Bischoff
Gumbo Ya-Ya, Tayana 37
Bainbridge Island, Washington


A Magellan GPS came with the Shannon 37 Silk, which I believe Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger used for their 40,000-mile circumnavigation. The battery holder for the NAV 1000 was missing and the terminals were corroded, so it wasn't working. But when I plugged in a borrowed battery holder, the GPS still worked.

Marshall Tyler
Silk, Shannon 37
Oriental, North Carolina


We were on our 36-ft Blue Jay in French Polynesia when word came out about the NAV 1000. We and five other boatowners talked about trying to buy them in bulk to reduce the initial $5,000 price. But the price went down pretty quickly after that. The first Garmin 50 came out in late 1991, and we paid $1,000 for ours. We used it until we returned to Seattle in 1996.

We still have a sextant onboard, which we had used exclusively for navigation from 1983 to 1991. Our sextant isn't dead, but it's certainly on life support. We pull it out maybe once a year, but now we rely on our $29 USB hockey-puck GPS mated to our laptop.

Donna & Scott Hansen
Celestial, Tripp 47
Seattle, Washington


While the GPS put the final nail in the coffin of sextants, the SatNavs that came out in a 12-volt version in 1980 were actually the devices that made the sextant obsolete. They had been available on tuna clippers and other big ships for a while in 110-volt versions, but Meridian came out with the first 12-volt model in 1980. I paid $3,500 for one of the first ones in a time when a new car ran about $5,000. A year later, competing SatNavs became available and the price dropped 75% while the size dropped 90%. Meridian gave me a huge discount on replacing the one I had.

I put my sextant away with the arrival of SatNav and haven't used it since. I preferred SatNav to the GPS because it required some navigational tasks. GPS is so easy it's not interesting.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee 50
Long Beach

Ernie — It's true that SatNav came out several years before GPS, and did provide accurate fixes. The problem was that they came intermittently at periods of, as we remember, about three hours. If you were sailing back into the Gate at night in a thick fog, an hour wait for the next fix could seem like an eternity. GPS changed all that with fixes updated every few seconds.

The thing we remember the most about our SatNav was that it wasn't reliable. But it did indeed break the satellite-navigation barrier.


I picked up my copy of your outstanding magazine today. With all the great articles and interesting people to read about, I can take a vacation — vicariously, of course — with it. I live in Long Beach and have a Hobie 16. I used to have a bigger boat, the Cal 28 Duck Soup, but I had to donate her to the Long Beach Marine Institute when my son faced a critical health care issue.

Anyway, I was having a very stressful day today, so I picked up a copy of Latitude and went to my favorite Italian restaurant for a good meal and a good read. When I got to the part of the issue about finding $40 meals in the Caribbean, and read reason #5 about why the Wanderer likes St. Barth so much — "because the women walk like cats" — I practically spit out my chicken Parmigiana in laughter, having not laughed all day. That is so damn random and funny, I have to applaud you for that. Keep up the great work!

Karl Luecke
Hobie 16
Long Beach

Karl — If the line brought you a laugh, it makes our day. We wish we could take credit for the description, but it actually came from the then-35-year-old Ross Devlin during an interview we did with him two years ago in St. Barth aboard his Santa Barbara-based Irwin 37 Spindrift. The piece was about how tough it can be in St. Barth for an American sailor short on money. Here are some excerpts:

"St. Barth is a gorgeous place, has fabulous sailing, and the women are beautiful," Devlin told Latitude. "But if you arrive here with just five euros to your name, like I did, it can be a little rough. At the time, it was a special treat for me to be able to afford a single cold beer. And food." At one point Ross was so down and out that he crewed on a Carriacou sloop in the West Indies Regatta solely in the hope they might feed the crew lunch.

It wasn't that Ross, who has a wealth of skills, was lacking a work ethic. "It just isn't easy for Americans looking to make their way on the French island. For one thing, it's illegal to work unless an employer files papers on your behalf, and that's a complicated and time-consuming process. And naturally there is jealousy among the local population, who are also looking for work on the expensive island."

Yet Devlin said Californians seemed to have it a little better on St. Barth than other Americans. "I'm not sure why, but I suspect it's because the West Coast surfing culture is appreciated, and because of the mystique of Hollywood. Apparently there is a show on French television called Santa Barbara, and as a result the French are particularly taken with all people and things that have to do with that city. And French women absolutely love it when someone with a California accent tries to speak French."

Ross eventually got his foot in the door by doing jobs — often deliveries — that paid in meals and travel expenses. One of those deliveries was to the Northeast aboard the legendary Herreshoff 72 Ticonderoga. "When you wear a Ticonderoga T-shirt," said Ross, "you have instant credibility."

Some people claim that the only thing beautiful women care about is money. Ross didn't find that to be the case, for one afternoon a Malibu-based supermodel "who has been on the cover of every top magazine" swam out to Spindrift. A good-looking guy, Devlin was nonetheless intimidated. "She was rich and famous, and I was on my rough 39-year-old boat with five euros to my name." The supermodel didn't seem to mind, and took him out to dinner. And for the next three nights, she and her other model friends partied on Spindrift, bringing all the food and drink.

But relations with French women were a little different. "I'm from Santa Barbara, which has some good-looking women," Delvin said, "but nothing like St. Barth. Yet I have a love/hate relationship with the women here. They tend to be so picky that they drive you crazy. I had a French girlfriend, but after four months I just couldn't take it anymore. But the French women walk like cats."

So that's where the line came from and the context.

We saw Devlin in St. Barth one more time a year later, but not since. For all we know, he and his dad bought an Open 60, as had been their plan, and are cruising the South Pacific right now.


The arrest of U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi in Mexico for having guns is another reason to stay away from Mexico. True, the guy went into Mexico with three guns in his truck, but have you ever crossed the border into Mexico? Confusion is the name of the game, and this patriot got nailed by very uncaring governments — including our government.

I have just returned form the Gulf Coast of the United States, and have decided to start cruising in our country. I’ve been going to Mexico since I was a kid, but I can’t see going there again.

Curt Simpson
Palm Desert

Curt — Andrew Tahmooressi was found inside Mexico with an AR-15 rifle, a .45-caliber pistol, and a 12-gauge shotgun in the trunk of his car. He says he'd gotten "confused" and couldn't turn his truck back before crossing into Mexico. Maybe he's telling the truth, as it's claimed that he has PTSD and travels with all his belongings in his truck. On the other hand, "confusion" also sounds like a typical jive ass excuse of someone who had deliberately taken weapons into Mexico for sale, where such weapons are illegal, and gotten caught. All we know for sure is that there is no relevance between the arrest of Tahmooressi and the typical person taking their boat into Mexico.

Maybe you can't see going to Mexico again, but what do you think about the fact that so many Americans cruise to Mexico and stay for years and/or return time and time again? Is it possible that they, having actually spent time along the Pacific Coast of Mexico, have a better feel for the situation than you do? Or could you explain the 25,000 Americans who live in the Vallarta area alone, or the close to 1 million Americans who live in all of Mexico? And what's with Mexico, and usually Puerto Vallarta, always being near the top of 'best places in the world to retire' surveys?

As for the "another reason" crack, we'd be interested in knowing the prior reasons. Perhaps you're thinking narco-related drug violence. For someone who has been spending three to four months a year on the coast of Mexico, and reporting on all things relating to cruisers in Mexico for 30+ years, this hasn't been an issue. Cruisers have much greater personal safety concerns in the Caribbean, to say nothing of major cities in the United States. Or maybe you're thinking about last November's 'audits' by AGACE, which resulted in many legal foreign-owned boats being seized for up to four months. That certainly was a major blunder by the Mexican government, but we're confident that steps have been taken — such as the upcoming introduction of new Temporary Import Permits — that will prevent a recurrence.

But to each their own. If Corpus Christi, Galveston, Morgan City, Gulfport, Pensacola, Panama City and the rest do it for you, don't let anybody stop you.


I'm planning to cruise to Mexico this fall, and would like advice on how to best receive boat parts shipped from the United States. I have been told that it's difficult to receive shipments in Mexico. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Brian Christie
First Light, Island Packet 380
Long Beach

Brian — It all depends on where you are, what you need shipped, and how quickly you need it.

If you're somewhere in the Sea of Cortez, it's usually pretty easy to find someone in the cruising community who will be driving down from the States. As long as you don't need a new engine, 300 feet of chain, or a dozen golf cart batteries, something can usually be arranged and gotten across the border. It would be harder to find something if your boat were on the mainland south of Mazatlan, as not that many people drive there.

When we've needed bottom paint or other big and heavy stuff in Vallarta, we've used Juan Ramirez of Marine Express in San Diego. You get the stuff to him in San Diego; he gets it across the border and then puts it on a truck of a domestic shipping company. As we recall, it was reasonably priced and surprisingly quick. You can reach him at (619) 674-8834. But there can be problems with customs if they try to ship something across that's deemed commercial. When he tried to take some aluminum tubing across the border for us, customs demanded the tax identification number of the manufacturer as well as a NAFTA certificate.

If you need something small — say a fuel pump — shipped down, try to find a cruiser or a friend of a cruiser who will be flying down and would be willing to carry it in their baggage. Most of the time you can get something like a fuel pump through at airport customs, but whoever is carrying it may insist that it be declared and duty be paid. Customs officers at airports have computers and can check the price of everything on Google.

Having such items shipped by FedEx or DHL works great in the States, but perhaps not so well in Mexico. FedEx, for example, doesn't go to Mexico itself, but rather uses shipping partners. And over the years cruisers who have had stuff air freighted by DHL have reported a lot of problems with anything that goes through Customs in Guadalajara. Anybody with some recent experience doing this?


Hawaii's reefs seem to almost magnetically attract sailors making landfall from the mainland. In 2005, my friend Ted doublehanded his J/42 from San Francisco to Hawaii. He called me from off Makapu'u around sunset using his cell phone, so I said I'd meet him at the Waikiki YC guest dock a short time later. For reasons that remain unknown to me, five minutes later I bolted from my office in a panic because I had a sense that something was about to go wrong.

I drove at recklessly high speeds to get to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, threw the lines off my Eau De Vie, and motored out the Ala Wai Channel as fast as I could. Sure enough, Ted had gone way past the entrance to the Ala Wai and was headed for the breakers off Magic Island. I called his cell phone and tried to reach him on VHF, but had no luck. So I gave my boat more throttle than I ever had before. I managed to catch him and yell so he could hear me.

Ted swore his electronic chart said that he was mid-channel. In reality, he had mistaken a traffic light in front of the Ala Moana for the R2 buoy. He'd come within 50 yards of wrecking his boat on the reef. He later found he had mis-set the chart datum on his electronic chart system to or from WGS84 vs NOAA 2000 — or whatever it was supposed to be. I believe new digital chartplotters automagically set the proper datum of whatever chart database they are using, but when there is no room for error — as with coral reefs — one simply can't take that chance.

It is often hard to see channels amidst the light pollution of even a moderate-size town, let alone a city like Honolulu that has over 500 highrises. We sailors can get complacent and think our electronics are a substitute, not mere a complement, to reality, where we look for the chart-marked landmarks as visual confirmation of where we really are. If we can't get visuals, we should stand off until we positively ID them or wait for daylight.

Tim Dick
Sausalito / Honolulu

Tim — There sure have been a lot of wrecks of boats making landfall in Hawaii, especially Oahu, and particularly before the advent of GPS. We remember a couple from San Francisco who wrecked their wooden boat just past Koko Head, having mistakenly thought either Maunalua Bay or the Kui Channel was the entrance to the Ala Wai. It was the streetlights that threw them, although you'd have thought that the lack of hundreds of highrises would have tipped them off that it wasn't the Ala Wai. But after long passages, crews are eager to get to the dock.

But even expert sailors have had trouble. In 1989 Bob Lane's Peterson 42 Medicine Man hit the reef off Diamond Head 250 yards from the finish of the TransPac. Lane broke a rib, but none of the other six crew were injured. The boat's keel and rudder were torn off. We were sitting in the Hawaii YC at the time, wondering what was taking them so long to show up at the club. Suddenly the door swung open, and a dripping wet guy wearing sailing boots and looking shaken up stepped in. He looked like the victim of a shipwreck. Indeed, he was one of the Medicine Man crew.

Bob Lane's a great guy, so we're happy to report that he came back in 1997 with the new and then-56-ft Medicine Man to set an all-time TransPac elapsed-time record, beating the 67-ft Merlin's 1977 record by over four hours. Medicine Man's record only lasted a matter of hours, however, as the later-starting big boats eclipsed her mark the next day.


I just had to put my two cents in on the debate over which is better, Mexico or the Caribbean. I started sailing on my old Morgan in the Caribbean in 1976, and continued for five years. Then, in 1985, I bought a Jeanneau 40 in California. From 1999 to 2002, we cruised Mexico. In 2002 we bought a Jeanneau 45 and sailed the Caribbean until selling the boat in St Martin in 2011.

Which area is better? The Caribbean, for all the reasons the publisher of Latitude cited. But the publisher was right in that the people and the cruisers are more friendly in Mexico.

How did we take the hassle out of the Caribbean? We kept our boat in Puerto Rico because there were direct flights from Los Angeles to San Juan. When we got to San Juan, we'd load our boat up with everything we needed at the local Costco, Sam's and West Marine. Then we'd sail to St. Martin, where you can get anything marine or any marine services you need. We never had a problem with customs. The Caribbean is just the best place.

I also have some bad and good news to report. The bad news is that Mattie, our boat dog, passed at age 16. She had a great life sailing in both Mexico and the Caribbean. She will be greatly missed.

The good news is that we bought a newer, although slightly smaller, sailboat. She's a 2009 Jeanneau 39i, which makes it three Jeanneaus in a row for us. I just sailed her from the Bahamas to Brunswick, Georgia. Our plans are to sail the Bahamas next year, and the Intracoastal Waterway the year after. We hope to see Cuba open up so we can go there before I'm too old. My 77th birthday is coming up soon.

Like the last four boats, the new one will be named Utopia.

John & Cynthia Tindle
Utopia, Jeanneau 39i
Hermosa Beach

John and Cynthia — And you thought you'd swallowed the anchor! Just to be clear, our position is that both Mexico and the Caribbean are so great that we have to have boats in both places. Having our Leopard 45 'ti Profligate in a yacht management program in the Caribbean made it all possible.

Why not go to Cuba now? As long as there is a Democrat in the White House, there is nothing to stop you. If you'd feel more comfortable being sponsored, contact our old friend Commodore José Miguel Díaz Escrich of the Hemingway International YC at
. Apparently Señor Escrich is Commodore For Life, as he's held that title since we did a two-week cruise of Cuba nearly 20 years ago with Big O.


In numerous past issues of Latitude, I've seen the Wanderer mention using his iPad as a navigation device on Profligate. I'm wondering what GPS antenna/receiver you use. I've looked at several small GPS units on Amazon, but there is little to go on from reviews alone, and in my opinion there is nothing like firsthand experience.

Have you used any GPSs that work with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or do you have a direct connection with your iPad? It seems that more than one device at a time could work that way. I'll probably be using the Navionics app, but am open to other suggestions. I'm primarily interested in navigating the Delta between San Francisco and Stockton, and Southern California coastal sailing out of Long Beach to the Channel Islands.

I'm guessing that the Wanderer has probably tried several GPS units and found that some work better than others. I'm not looking for an endorsement, just some direction.
Thanks for the great magazine. I always pick up two, as the three-year-old insists on 'reading' with me, cover to cover.

Warren Cranch
Goddess, Hunter Legend 34.7
My Time, 40-ft Houseboat
Long Beach

Warren — All iPads, at least the newer ones, have GPS built in. So all you do is buy the Navionics app, fire up the iPad, and you're ready to go. Our iPad and/or iPhone, with Navionics apps, are the only devices we use to navigate these days on Profligate, 'ti Profligate and La Gamelle. Although we have several more traditional GPS units with maps aboard, we've found the iPad/Navionics combination to be reliable and extremely accurate — with a few exceptions.

Exception #1 is that each of the Navionics apps covers a huge amount of territory. In order not to overwhelm your device with data, it only shows overall charts until you enter a more specific area. When you do, it automatically downloads all the detailed data — assuming you have an Internet connection. If you don't, it can't download the detailed data. There is a simple workaround. If you know where you're going to go, even within huge parameters, you can activate detailed coverage of that area before you start your trip by just clicking on it when you still have Wi-Fi. You only have to do this once per area.

Exception #2 is that the Navionics charts are only as good as the chart data they are based on. In well-charted areas — all of the United States and most of the Caribbean — we're not aware of problems. If your boat is in a slip in a marina in Sausalito, the Navionics app will indicate her being right there. Mexico, however, is a different story because many of the charts are significantly inaccurate.

For example, the Navionics chart for the Punta Mita area is off by at least one mile. The nearby Tres Marietas Islands? Even though they are all larger than Alcatraz, they don't appear on the Navionics chart at all. So when cruising Mexico, we never rely solely on Navionics or paper charts. We use them to get a general idea of where we are, but then use eyesight, radar and our depthsounder for detail.

If any readers use Navionics charts, we'd like to hear of any cases where you found them to be inaccurate.


With all the vitriol over the Kaufmans' Puddle Jumping with kids, stress over AGACE impounding foreign boats in Mexico, and disbelief over what city administrations are willing to pay public employees, the editor started the May issue letters with stories about happy cruising in the Pacific Northwest and music to enjoy while sitting in your cockpit in the tropics. Well, nicely done!

The news these days can be pretty continually grim, and I applaud your printing letters that aren't just spectacular gripes, but remind us of the reasons we're sailors in the first place. Keep up the great writing!

Bass Sears
Hailey, Idaho

Bass — Thanks for the encouragement. It's true, if you closely follow the news these days, it's hard to keep from becoming dark. We need to get out sailing more to keep things in perspective.

Since you mentioned it, here's another Pacific Northwest letter we didn't have space for a few months ago.


Over the past 25 years, I have cruised the San Juan and Gulf Islands five times, having chartered a bareboat the first time. I strongly recommend a bareboat charter for first-timers, because it can be a long and difficult trip from California to the Pacific Northwest, so the bareboat ante is much less. If you like what you see, then take your own boat up.

I have a trailerable Lancer 25, so I have no firsthand knowledge of coastal issues, but I know the reputation of the waters north of San Francisco. I would never try it in my boat.

In addition to trailering my boat to the Pacific Northwest four times, I have also trailered her to the Florida Keys for an extended trip. I have many good memories of the Keys trip, but it has some shortcomings. For instance, there are just three openings in a 128-mile stretch of the Keys where you can get from the Florida Bay side to the Atlantic side. It's a run up or down one side or the other, so to speak. And while Key West is a unique tourist destination, the towns between Key Largo and Key West are laid out like strip malls, and I didn't find them to have any unique character. I'm not trying to slam the Keys, but I prefer the San Juan and Gulf Islands.

One advantage of the Pacific Northwest is that you can go in many different directions, criss-crossing in many places. And I've found the little towns to be more unique and inviting. They are welcoming with no anchoring restrictions. Sure, you have to pay for trash disposal, but whoever owns the receptacle has to pay to get it off of the island, so that's fair enough.

My cruises have usually been about three to four weeks in duration, and with a small boat, I can tuck into many tight places. I do not spend the bulk of my time in marinas. I've always splashed at Cap Sante Marina — everything you need is nearby — the day after Labor Day. Why then? Because half the boats disappear after Labor Day, making it easier to find open anchorages or marina slips. The downside of splashing so late is that, as the season winds down, the weather starts to change, business drops, and lower demand may reduce available services. But it can still be very, very nice.

I've found two books helpful for destination planning, including stories about destinations and people of that time. Both books are out of print, but can be purchased inexpensively through Amazon. The first is Gunkholing in the San Juans by Al Cummings and Jo Bailey Cummings. The second is Gunkholing in the Gulf Islands by the same authors. I also like Northwest Boat Travel by Vernon Publications. Another tool I've found helpful is Washburn's Tables, which are based on the Canadian Current Atlas. It has 60+ current charts that graphically show the rough speed and direction of currents at a particular stage of the tide. The atlas has a mathematical methodology to determine when to use each chart.

My favorite places? Todd Inlet, which is located on the southerly side of the Butchart Gardens. It is beautiful and serene, and provides great protection. A few more of my favorite places — I could go on and on — are Sucia Island Marine State Park, Pirate's Cove Marine Park, Montague Marine Park, and Chemainus. If for some reason you want to explore Victoria, but want something less congested than in front of the Empress Hotel, you might consider Oak Bay Marina on southeast Vancouver Island about five miles east of central Victoria. There is a convenient and clean city bus service that stops near the marina. There are other great destinations north of my usual cruising area, such as Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls to name just two.

Jim Myers
Annetta Louise, Lancer 25
Planet Earth


I really didn't think the 'message in a bottle' thing would work out. In August 2011, I crewed on the Hughes 45 catamaran Capricorn Cat on her passage from Hawaii to San Francisco with owner Wayne Hendryx and crew. Despite my skepticism, in the middle of the trip, I tossed three empty wine bottles overboard with messages and return addresses. Yesterday I got a letter from a woman named Augustina in Yap, Micronesia. She found one of the bottles washed up on shore at her place near Makiy, Gagil. In two years, nine months and 18 days it traveled over 5,000 nautical miles. Not bad for a moderately priced bottle of Merlot.

Ron Hatton
Fantasy, Chrysler 26


We are now full-time cruisers in Mexico, and the Grand Poobah probably remembers us as veterans of two Ha-Ha's. As first-year full-time cruisers in Mexico, we claim no special knowledge of the history of Puerto Escondido on the east coast of the Baja peninsula, but we know there have been some problems in the past. This is the experience we've had:

We first visited Puerto Escondido in November 2013, and although broken dreams and bad investments are found everywhere in Mexico, Puerto Escondido seems to stand out as an example of particularly bad planning and poor management. To spend hours in a state of depression, reread John Steinbeck’s description from 1941:

“About noon we arrived at Puerto Escondido, the Hidden Port, a place of magic. If one wished to design a secret personal bay, one would probably build something very like this little harbor." Well, you know the rest of the story.

In November, there was a dinghy dock in the Ellipse, a nice restaurant upstairs in the Fonatur building, and a tienda downstairs with all the staples needed to sustain life. There was even Wi-Fi. Up the road just a little ways at Tripui was a Modelorama, an RV park, and a hotel.

But there's a weird difference between the Waiting Room, which is just outside the Inner Harbor, and the Inner Harbor. There are something like 50 boats jammed in the Waiting Room, which is probably suitable for only about a dozen boats. As for the main harbor, there were hardly any boats, although it could easily handle hundreds.

When a companion boat of ours tried to enter the 50-ft deep Waiting Room, the radio came alive on channels 16 and 22. "Don't come in here, we're all on moorings, there is no room, go away!" It seemed to us that the Waiting Room is filled with squatters on private moorings. The appearance of this fleet reflected the lack of pump-out facilities and other sanitation facilities. It seemed to be a group that shits where they sleep.

We eventually anchored in a quiet corner of the Inner Harbor, thinking that given the state of everything, only a fool would trust the moorings. We explored Tabor Canyon, a wonder not to be missed, then we bought ice and tequila to see us off for Mazatlan and south to Barra Navidad. During this time we learned to love the generosity, kindness and gracious hospitality of the Mexican people.

In May 2014 we sailed back over to Baja and headed north to spend a summer in the Sea of Cortez. We arrived at Puerto Escondido on May 16. We found that the dinghy dock at the Ellipse was gone and so was the crowd. Empty moorings dotted the 'squatter's fleet' in the Waiting Room. The restaurant and tienda were stripped to bare walls. When we hiked the mile up to Tripui, our friends at the Modelorama and the RV park explained that they were leaving at the end of the month with no plans to return. We then got a ride to 20-mile-distant Loreto to provision, and found that construction to repair the road damage caused by storms resulted in hour-long delays.

Loaded down with groceries, we returned to the main dock, where there was lots of room, and where we had left our dinghy. Our dinghy was gone! My wife Lynne thought it must have sunk. I ran around all over the dock looking for our dinghy, but couldn't find it. As we were stumbling around our pile of provisions wondering what to do next, we saw it. It was being motored past the docks with Elvin, a well-known longtime resident of the area. He seemed only mildly surprised that someone was yelling at him to return their purloined Avon.

Elvin slowly returned to the dock with our dinghy, which was now filthy from the greasy parts he had been motoring around with. As I was deciding between mayhem and murder, a man named Peter and his companion — I know nothing about them, but suspect they are squatters — assured us that Elvin of Puerto Escondido Maritime Service was a great guy and this was an honest mistake. I became distracted when Peter’s less-than-charming companion began calling me an "asshole." Elvin said, "I'm sorry, it was a mistake," and split.

When I visited Elvin's shop the next day, he explained that he had permission to use Gato Loco's dinghy, and he had mistaken ours for Gato Loco's. Please see the enclosed photos for proof that such an explanation would insult even the dimmest intelligence. Gato Loco is printed boldly on three sides of their dinghy.

We left the next morning for Bahia Concepcion.

We're sorry, but we don't have any idea how to improve the tragedy that is Puerto Escondido. Fonatur and others have provided money and what appears to have been worse management. But in my opinion, much of the blame rests with the squatting yachties and the gringo entrepreneur(s) who have fouled their own nests so badly that they now have to go 20 miles to Loreto just to get a beer.

Rob & Lynne Britton
Aldebaran, Olympic 47
San Diego

Rob and Lynne — Puerto Escondido has been star-crossed since we first visited in 1978, when Fonatur officials showed us grand plans for the area. Those plans died after somebody ran off with all the money; new ones were created and died, and yet even newer ones were created and died. A whole lot of money has been thrown at Puerto Escondido by the government and others with very little to show for it.

Personally, we think the problem with Puerto Escondido, which is truly a spectacular harbor made all the more gorgeous by the backdrop of the 4,000-ft tall Sierra de la Giganta range, is the weather. It's too hot in the summer and it's too cold in the winter. Spring, if swimming isn't your thing, and fall can be fabulous, but that's not when most people vacation.

Puerto Escondido isn't alone in having weather issues. Over the last Christmas holiday we drove from Nogales to Puerto Vallarta and stopped for the night at San Carlos, which is at about the same latitude and has about the same weather as Puerto Escondido. Despite the fact that it was a busy holiday period, the area was like a ghost town. We visited two mega hotels, one in decline and one flashy, and there couldn't have been more than four rooms occupied between the two of them. We then went to nearby Marina Real, which has several hundred boats in a very nice harbor, and is surrounded by very nice homes on a hill that had obviously been sold to foreigners. There was nobody around and every other home seemed to be for sale.

In addition to being geographically challenged, Puerto Escondido is isolated. Alaska used to fly there every day, but is now down to a few times a week. Combine that with evidence of failed projects of the past, and a resident boat population where the primary goal seems to be surviving as inexpensively as possible, and it's not that attractive to most people.

Fonatur has also bungled badly in Puerto Escondido, among other places. We can't remember how many years ago it was, but in the 'old days' everybody used to be able to anchor in the Inner Harbor for free. Then Fonatur came up with their spectacularly miscalculated Nautical Stairway plan, which would have required one of every five boats over 30 feet in California to come to Mexico each year to make financial sense. All the boats anchored for free in the Inner Harbor were kicked out to make way for the 100+ moorings, only a few of which were ever safe or used. As a result, what had once been a vibrant cruiser destination dried up, leaving a core of territorial cruisers packing the Waiting Room.

Territorialism is commonplace at free anchorages the world over. Long-term if not permanent visitors and their friends eventually get the best spots and are loath to let others in, especially if boats are already tightly packed. This seems to be a somewhat normal human inclination. Unless these people are doing something illegal, we don't think "squatters" is the most accurate term.

As to whether Elvin took your dinghy intentionally or by mistake, we have no idea. For all we know, Elvin didn't know that Gato Loco's dinghy had any markings. In any event, the "asshole" comment on a local's part seems uncalled-for. But as another cruiser we think accurately pointed out, "It's a bit of a different crew at Puerto Escondido."

Jake and Sharon Howard of the Seattle-based Hunter Legend 45 Jake have been cruising the Sea of Cortez, and visiting Puerto Escondido for the last seven summers. The following letter gives their take on what's happening.


Pedro Lopez, who owned Puerto Bello restaurant and the tienda at the Fonatur Marina, decided to close both businesses because Fonatur demanded an exorbitant rate increase — and wanted 11 months' rent paid in advance. Apparently Fonatur was unable to grasp the concept that Pedro's store and restaurant were two of the big attractions of Puerto Escondido.

A new marina is planned to be built in the Ellipse adjacent to the Fonatur facility, and the owner of the new marina has promised to build a building that would house Pedro's restaurant and store along with laundry facilities and showers. Pedro has been told that everything should be ready to open in January, which I think is overly optimistic.

As for the moorings, there are about one dozen that are operational. And yes, Fonatur charges the same amount of money to anchor in the Inner Harbor as they do to use a mooring in the Inner Harbor. A cruising friend fluent in Spanish was told last week by Carlos, the new Fonatur manager since last August, that they have gotten permission and funding to begin renovating the moorings. Renovation on 25 of the buoys is to begin immediately, and in three months they will do 25 more, until all 100 have been renovated. Carlos also advised that they have contracted with a "professional" store that will open at the marina within 60-90 days.

Puerto Escondido Marine Services is the only boat servicing repair facility at Puerto Escondido, and there are a few boats in its yard. The dry storage area has five or six boats. Three years ago, the yard was packed, but once again Fonatur decided to raise its prices, which drove away most of the dry storage business.

In positive news, the fuel dock has had a steady supply of fuel since the new manager arrived last August. The Hidden Port YC put on another Loreto Fest in May at the API facility, and although the attendance was not as high as when it was held at Fonatur a few years back, it was still a fun event and a good time was had by all.

Carlos, the Fonatur manager, advised that he would love to have the Hidden Port YC come back to Fonatur — they moved over to the API facility two years ago after another failed contract negotiation with Fonatur — and would also love to have Loreto Fest back at Fonatur. He stated the problem lies with the HPYC's non-profit status.

There are probably two sides to this story, but as a cruiser who has spent seven summers in the Sea of Cortez, I would really like to see Puerto Escondido get its act together and become the destination cruising spot that it should be. We'll see what happens!

Jake & Sharon Howard
Jake, Hunter Legend 45


Rumor has it that: 1) The Wanderer is going to have a hard bimini built for the catamaran Profligate; and 2) he and his crew are going to attend the Fourth of July Party at Bahia Concepcion in the Sea of Cortez. If #2 is true, I'll see you there. If #1 is true, I've got lots of free advice, as I had one built for my Casamance 45/47 catamaran.

When building a hard bimini for a catamaran, I suggest making it double as an enormous rain-catcher, making it strong enough to walk on to deal with sail/boom problems, and making it support current and future solar panels and other stuff.

I put a two-inch edge on mine in order to catch rain. It drains into the two forward corners, where I can attach hoses directly to the water tank through a filter in a five-gallon bucket. It's not the prettiest arrangement, but if it rains half an inch, I can fill my 140-gallon water tank. At least I think I can, but I'm not a math major so I don't know for sure.

I recommend a strong hard bimini. My cat was dismasted outside Cartagena a few years ago, and the bimini kept the mast and boom from hurting any of the 10 people who were aboard. It also allowed me to keep the spars and sails aboard, as I quickly lashed them on. As a result, the whole ordeal turned out to be a lot better than I hoped for. By the way, my bimini is a bit lower up front both for water drainage and so it doesn't catch the wind.

I don't have any good input for fastening a hard bimini to the boat. My arrangement is a both massive and heavy stainless structure, and I'm sure the weight inhibits speed. But it sure makes life aboard more pleasant, as it effectively added a 10 x 16-ft room to my boat that's dry in all but following weather. My bimini is strong enough to walk on, and to deal with the main and StackPack. In fact, it almost makes it too easy, just as an old guy needs.

I now have four solar panels on my bimini, and constructed rails on it so I could add four more. Why not? Maybe I'll want to put an icemaker aboard, which would require another compressor and the electricity to drive it. It might be decadent, but as it is, I never have to worry about power shortages.

Viva! is going to spend the summer in the Sea, starting with July Fourth in Bahia Concepcion. But you can bet that I'll be far enough north to avoid any named storms. After losing my first Viva! — an Islander 37 I sailed in the 2000 Ha-Ha — to a Caribbean hurricane, I'm pretty sensitive to weather. I probably won't visit San Felipe or Puerto Peñasco, but I'll see everything else, and get to San Carlos in October.

Bob Willmann
Viva!, Casamance 45/47
Marina Real, San Carlos, Mexico

Bob — Great minds seem to be thinking alike when it comes to hard biminis. You listed most of the primary reasons that we wanted a hard bimini, although not in order of importance. The older we get, the more safety-conscious we're becoming. As such, reason #1 we wanted a hard bimini is for protection in case the boom or mast broke. It helped in the case of your dismasting, and Caren Edwards reports that a hard bimini may have saved lives on her F/P 53 Rhapsody when her cat was dismasted a couple of hundred miles off San Francisco on the way back from Hawaii.

Reason #2 is for ease of flaking the clew area of the main, which is so stiff that it absolutely needs human encouragement to 'fall' into the StackPack. This is much easier to do when the boom is at one's knees than when it's four feet over one's head. The hard top will also make it much easier to pull the StackPack zipper, which is often recalcitrant. We haven't have a chance to try it yet, but we're confident that the hard bimini will make it easier to put better and cleaner reefs in the main.

Reason #3 is to provide a massive area on which to mount solar panels — we want to be off the grid as much as possible — while at the same time, providing much-needed shade in the spacious cockpit after 17 years.

Reason #4 is to catch water.

We appreciate the tips, but our hard bimini has already been made from plastic honeycomb and epoxy, and will be attached to the boat with four six-inch diameter aluminum tubes up forward and two eight-inch diameter aluminum tubes aft. Everybody tells us that both are way overbuilt and thus too heavy, the bane of catamaran performance. If money were not a consideration, we'd have built the hard top and supports out of carbon fiber. Heck, we'd have built the entire cat out of carbon fiber. But we think we're going to be very happy with the result, and as long as we don't let a lot of other crap collect on the boat, the cat won't have given up much in speed.

Alas, problems with getting the aluminium tubing to Mexico mean that we'll postpone installing the top until we return — with the aluminum tubes aboard — to Mexico in early November.



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