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August 2014

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My four year-old son and I spend a lot of time on our powerboat, including several nights a month anchored out. He’s very comfortable on the water, but is just learning to swim. We’ve recently started renting Hobie Cats on Lake Merritt — which, by the way, is the best $20 you can spend in Oakland!

Today, while singlehanding, I flipped the Hobie. Although I was able to right it quickly, it got me wondering if it would be a good idea to have my son aboard. I’m not worried about his panicking in a capsize, as he'd probably find it fun. But I found a couple of articles about young kids getting trapped during capsizes with very bad consequences. I realize that there is probably not one right answer, but I'd welcome readers' opinions.

P.S. I love Latitude; thanks for all the hard work.

Noah Berger
Fluffer IV, Maxxum 25

Noah — We're not qualified to speak on the subject, but we can tell you that if we had a four-year-old who was just learning to swim, we would not take him out on a Hobie Cat in conditions where there was a chance it might flip. Perhaps we can get some advice from people who sail with very young kids and/or Hobie Cats on what sailing would be appropriate at what age or level of aquatic skills.

It's slightly off the subject, but we think waterproofing your toddlers by teaching them to become expert around the water is one of the most important — and most fun — things you can do in life. The younger you get them going, the more confident they'll be around the water for the rest of their lives. Rather than formal swimming lessons, we recommend just getting into the water with your toddler at every possible opportunity, as it creates such a great bond with your child. Then proceed with aquatic 'baby steps'. Before you know it, they'll be swimming, jumping into the water and swimming underwater, and you'll have to drag them and their friends back onto dry land. Once they've reached that stage — and for some kids it's no older than four — you can take them sailing with a lot more confidence.

Renting a Hobie Cat on Lake Merritt for $20 is not one of the best things you can do in Oakland. It's one of the best things you can do in the Bay Area.


It is always a pleasure to read Latitude 38, and 'Lectronic online. In the July 11 'Lectronic coverage of the Pacific Cup, the reporter went through the various divisions. In most cases the sponsor's name was mentioned for each division, such as the Alaska Airlines Division A, or the Weems & Plath PHRF Division B. But when it came to Division C, the reporter failed to include the name of the sponsor, which is Matson.

I recognize that it's not Latitude's obligation to recognize sponsors, but I would point out that, of all the sponsors who are helping to support our sport, only Matson has actually sailed to Hawaii. And I don't mean 'sail' as in getting underway with a 30,000-deadweight-ton container sship to Hawaii three times a week — which we do. I mean 'sail', as under canvas powered by wind. Matson's first voyage to Hawaii was in 1882 with the schooner Emma Claudina. The trip from San Francisco to Hilo was completed in 13 days under the command of young Capt. William Matson. Matson operated sailing ships exclusively from 1882 to 1901, and didn't retire the last of its 24 sailing ships until 1926.

So long before the Pacific Cup — and even before the Transpac and Jack London's Snark — Matson ships were sailing down to Hawaii. Surely we deserve recognition as a sponsor.

Jonathan Ogle
Director, Strategic Development (and sailor)
Matson Navigation Company

Jonathan — We have to say that we're glad we made the omission because otherwise we wouldn't have learned about Matson's sailing history. Brilliant! We wonder how long it took Capt. Matson to sail the schooner Emma Claudina back to San Francisco.

Yours truly was responsible for the report and the omission, and I sincerely apologize. With so many divisions and starting days in the Pacific Cup, and things such as different doublehanded divisions starting on different days, it's easy to omit the occasional detail. Particularly under a cruel deadline. We'll strive to do better in the future.


The accompanying photo is of what I'd call the 'good old days'. It was taken in the middle of the Atlantic in 1972 aboard Dave Allen's Mull 42 Improbable. I was helping Bengt J. keep her fast and on track!

Ron Holland
Ron Holland Yacht Design
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Readers — Every picture tells a story, and the story of this photo is how different ocean racing was more than 40 years ago. Note that Ron, on the left, appears to be wearing a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and perhaps a pair of jeans. When is the last time you've seen anybody wear such low-tech sailing togs when racing across an ocean? Neither of the two is wearing a PFD. And what about that monster tiller?!

Born in New Zealand, Holland came to San Francisco and became friends with Improbable's owner, Dave Allen of the San Francisco YC. Holland would design Allen's next boat, the legendary 40-ft Imp, which set the yachting world on fire with sensational performances in the Southern Ocean Racing Conference in Florida and the Admiral's Cup in England. At the time, those two events were the 'World Series' of yacht racing.

Holland later moved to Cork, Ireland where he continued to design racing boats, including Class A maxis such as Kialoa IV and others. Subsequently — and to this day — he's been perhaps the most successful designer of mega sailing yachts. Among his credits are the original design and now-redesign of the 245-ft Mirabella V, the 210-ft Perini Navi Felicità West, the 190-ft Ethereal for Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems, the 180-ft Perini Seahawk that was perhaps the star of this year's St. Barth Bucket, and the 150-ft Christopher.


The Oakland YC did something a bit different over the Fourth of July weekend. Ten boats anchored at Tiburon's Paradise Cove and everyone participated in a boat-to-boat progressive dinner. The boats were divided into three fleets: Hors d'Oeuvres, Entrees, and Desserts. Dinghies acted as taxi service between boats at hourly intervals. The operational principle was that the food and drink stayed on the boats; we just moved the people around. It worked out very well, and there was a lot of creativity shown in the preparation of the food. Next time we'll allow more time between courses. Ninety minutes would have been about right.

Here's a list of who and what boats participated: Al and Michelle Leonard's Tartan 36 Blue Passion; Ron and Carmen Konkle's Catalina 36 Prime Time; Rich and Donna Beckett's Californian 48 Tardis, the only powerboat; Linda Fenn and David Offerman's O'Day 37 Odyssea; Dave Bloch and Speranza Avram's Hunter 41 Buoyant; Denny and Dan Stoup's Tayana 48DS Vets' Pet; Pat and Melodie Williams's Outbound 44 Starshine; Keith and Marlene Dines's Dufour 43 Wind Symphony; Ray Horowitz and Diane Ericson's Cabo Rico 38 Emerald Star; and Jim and Claire Conger's J/32 Tango.

The Fourth of July Cruise was the 12th of the year for the Oakland YC, with 11 more slated before the year's end. Located in Alameda, the Oakland YC is an active club!

If you're a sailor who hasn't anchored at Paradise Cove before, you should give it a try. It's just north of Raccoon Strait in the lee of Tiburon. The anchorage is large and well protected from the usual westerly winds in the summer. There are occasional wakes — primarily from the Vallejo ferry — but the ferries don't run at night. It's a beautiful spot.

Jim Conger
Oakland YC


We saw the 'Lectronic report on the excellent Fourth of July everyone had with their boats at San Diego's La Playa Cove. We were a few miles away at Glorietta Bay for the Fourth, and it was fabulous there, too. The crowd was a little raucous, but nonetheless controlled and responsible.

We're sure we're not the only ones who noticed, but in the 'Lectronic preview on the Pacific Cup, you reported that 15 of the 56 entries were Doublehanded. You wrote that this was 8.4% of the fleet. Seeing that the Wanderer had just finished a 3¾-day Baja Bash and was probably tired, his math can be forgiven. It's actually 26%.

Michael & Judy Lannen
Lunautica, Moody 46
Biddeford Pool, ME

Michael and Judy — As 'captain' of the Latitude and 'Lectronic ship, the Wanderer is responsible for what appears in Latitude, even mistakes he didn't personally make. A few mistakes like that are inevitable, but nonetheless the source of considerable frustration.


In the July issue there was a letter extolling the pleasures of cruising the Pacific Northwest. There had been similar letters in an issue of Latitude several months before.

In the July issue Cruise Notes, there was also a report from Craig Shaw of the Portland-based Columbia 43 Adios, noting that he'd been unable to go north from San Francisco for weeks because of strong northwesterly winds.

How good can the Pacific Northwest cruising be for Northern California sailors if they can't get there? I'd hate to spend a lot of time getting my boat ready for a summer in the Salish Sea only to find that I couldn't get there until most of the already-short summer was over. Is it common to be unable to go north for long periods of time because of adverse weather?

George Clay
Blue Skies, Beneteau 50
San Jose

George — We're by no means experts on bashing north of San Francisco or how often one can expect windows, so we'll refer you to Craig Shaw's letter on the subject, which follows.

To provide some Bashing context, it's about 730 miles from Cabo to San Diego, all of which is subject to Bashing. It's 275 miles from Pt. Conception, where the Central California Bashing begins, to San Francisco. It's another 600 miles from San Francisco Bay to the mouth of the Columbia River, all of which can involve Bashing, and another 130 miles to the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the beginning of the Salish Sea, and all those miles may also require Bashing.

By the way, it's been noted that the shortest and/or least difficult distance between two sailing destinations is often not a straight line. For example, some cruisers will argue that the easiest way to get to Brazil from the Caribbean is — because of off-the-wind sailing and avoiding strong adverse currents — by way of Europe. Similarly, some Northern California sailors will argue that the easiest way to get to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest is via Hawaii, or even Mexico and Hawaii, or the offshore Clipper route.


Thanks to Passage Weather, and motorsailing my Columbia 43 Adios when the conditions were good, my Baja Bash from Cabo San Lucas to Portland this year wasn't really a Bash. It took me 60 days from Cabo to the Columbia River, which is a long time, but that's because I had to wait six weeks in Sausalito for the perfect weather window to the Columbia River. Once I got the window, it only took me another 3½ days.

Last year with my dad's Hunter 54 Camelot, it took 57 days from Cabo to the Columbia River. But we had to wait 3½ weeks to get around Pt. Conception, then 12 more days in Sausalito, before we had an easy three-day run up to the Columbia.

Three years ago with Adios, it took me 33 days from Cabo to the Columbia River, and four years ago it took me 39 days.

For the record, Adios burned 280 gallons of diesel this year between La Paz and the Columbia River, motorsailing with the main and 80% self-tacking jib.

For the record, part two, this year was the closest I've ever come to hitting/t-boning a whale! It was a female humpback over 50 feet long with two 20-ft babies. She surfaced just 30 feet in front of Adios while I was just forward of the cabin. I sprinted to the cockpit to turn off the autopilot and make a hard turn to port. I almost pushed the calves into their mother! One calf's head came four feet out of the water just three feet from our cockpit. I actually spun the rudder in the opposite direction to keep from hitting her.

We had seen a spout and a couple of small tails way up ahead of us and had turned 30 degrees to starboard to avoid the whales, but I guess we really should have fired up the engine. It was way too close for comfort.

I hope to see everyone again for this fall's Baja Ha-Ha!

Craig Shaw
Adios, Columbia 43


Doug, my crew, and I are both in our late 70s and have been sailing my Newport 30 for over 15 years. One day last fall we tried to replace the 120 jib on the roller furler with a 135. It was a calm morning in the slip when we unrolled the furler. I had the end of the halyard neatly coiled, knotted and hooked onto a cleat on the mast. As we unhooked the halyard from its cleat and dropped the jib, the neatly coiled and knotted other end of the halyard shot up, almost to the top of the mast. That was mistake #1.

Mistake #2 was when I unhooked the jib halyard from the head of the sail and didn't secure it. While we neatly flaked the 120 and put it in its bag, we tried to figure out how to get the knotted end of the halyard down from the top of the mast.

First, we tried to use the bosun's chair fastened onto the main halyard. I got into the chair and Doug tried cranking me up the mast. I got as far as a couple of feet above the boom when we made Mistake #3 — we got an override on the winch. For nearly 10 minutes I was stuck, swinging back and forth, as Doug unsuccessfully tried to clear the override. Eventually I was able to slip out of the bosun's chair and, hanging onto the mast, slide down to the boom.

Doug and I hoped that nobody was watching this nautical version of a Laurel and Hardy episode.

Next we tried to reach up the mast with the boat pole we use to snag mooring balls. It was too short.

We then tied a winch handle to the main halyard, with the handle part protruding out to the side, and pulled the handle up and down several times. Eventually we were able to hook the knotted part of the jib halyard. We succeeded in pulling it far enough down so that we could grab it with the boat pole.

We made Mistake #4 when we lowered this end of the jib halyard, not realizing that the unsecured other end of the halyard was now headed up. We didn’t notice this until we had captured and untied the knotted end. As we congratulated ourselves on our success and got ready to hook the head to the jib halyard, we noticed that the shackle end of the jib halyard was at the top of the mast.

After much head-scratching, we found a dock neighbor who evidently felt sorry for us. He stopped laughing long enough to go up our mast in the bosun's chair and retrieve the end of the halyard. The moral to the story? Old sailors should know better, but our thought processes seem to have deteriorated over the years.

Norm Guest
Meme, Newport 30
Grand Marina, Alameda

Norm — Don't think it's only old sailors who make such mistakes. In the 1980s, during the heyday of Sea of Cortez Sailing Weeks, we remember that a guy with a prosthetic leg got it caught in the spinnaker halyard as the spinnaker was being dropped. His leg came right off and shot to the top of the mast. He wasn't old, but as we recall, he was inebriated.


I've followed the letters to Latitude on the overall costs of cruising, and have been impressed by the many reports of how inexpensive it has been for so many. My experiences, however, have been very different from most of the reports that I've seen.

In 2013 we, residents of San Francisco, decided that it was time to realize our cruising dream, so we bought a 1999 Cabo Rico 40 in the British Virgin Islands. A beautiful vessel, she surveyed extremely well by a reputable marine surveyor, with the final report indicating an "above average condition vessel." There was a short list of things that needed attention, most of which we did ourselves.

Yet within three months of taking physical delivery of the boat, we incurred $42,000 in additional expenses. These were for a failed refrigeration system, a new battery bank, an engine heat exchanger, a watermaker, and a number of other costly items — including the repairs after a hard grounding at Miami Cut. The latter happened under the command of a delivery captain whom I had hired to provide confidence for the passage from the Turks & Caicos to Florida. Feeling that my sailing experience was not sufficient, I had turned to a professional.

The Coast Guard did a comprehensive inspection of our boat after pulling her off, as is required by procedure. It was of little financial consolation, but after they were through they said, "It's been a very long time since we have inspected a vessel so well-prepared for the ocean." I mention this to illustrate that we believe in being fully prepared and not taking unnecessary risks. Yet the reality of our dream was more akin to a nightmare.

Three months of hemorrhaging cash like water had such a negative effect that we sold the vessel and returned to the West Coast. We're once again looking at buying, but here's my question: Were we unlucky, stupid, naïve, or perhaps a combination of all the above? Or was our experience truly what cruising and boat ownership is all about?

Terry Rugg
Currently Boatless
San Francisco

Terry — If everyone with a moderate-size cruising boat had the same unfortunate financial experience as you did, hardly anybody would be out cruising. They couldn't afford to.

Cruising budgets vary tremendously. As you can read in an upcoming issue, Mike Riley and his family report they've been cruising around the world for 40 years on $500 a month, first on a 24-footer, and more recently on a 47-footer. That's obviously at the very low end. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a few cruisers we know who can't seem to get by on less than $10,000 a month.

What accounts for the difference in expenses? 1) The size, age and luxury of the boats; 2) Whether the owner is knowledgeable and willing to do all of the boat work or pays others $100/hour to do it for him; 3) Whether the boat is anchored out or kept in an expensive marina; 4) Whether the skipper and mate drink and dine aboard most nights or go to expensive tourist bars and restaurants; 5) Where one cruises, as there is a world of difference in the cost of cruising Australia and the Med, for example, versus Mexico, Panama and other Third World countries.

Based on many discussions we've had with cruisers in recent years, we'd guess the average couple with a nice 40- to 45-ft cruising boat spends between $18,000 and $45,000 a year, although you could have sisterships in the same area where one spent twice as much as the other. As for your unfortunate experience, we'd file it under 'Nautical Nightmares'.

It's impossible for us to say if you were unlucky or what, but we have some observations. First, there are limits to what even the best surveyors check for. Generally speaking, they don't probe very deeply into the various systems. And as you've learned, systems can be very expensive.

Rebuilding or replacing a diesel is a very expensive proposition, so we would never buy a boat without a specific engine survey. This should detect problems with heat exchangers, which are notorious for going bad, and most other engine problems. Such an engine survey should include checking the alternator and the charging systems for both the engine and house battery banks. As for battery banks, they shouldn't go bad all at once. If you know their age and load-test them, you should be able to get a good idea of how much life they have left.

You have to be as careful selecting a diesel mechanic as you do a surveyor. A lot of cruisers who have a bag of tools and a need for beer money try to pass themselves off as 'diesel mechanics'. While it's true that some are as good as, if not better, than, new employees dispatched by authorized dealers, others know just enough to misdiagnose things and saddle you with unneeded new work and parts. We wish there were an easy way to tell the good ones from the bad ones.

More is often less when it comes to diesel mechanics. Hughes, our engine guy in the Caribbean, charges $150/hour "because I'm good and I'm fast." We've never regretted a dollar we've spent with him because he really is good and fast, and in the long run, it's been much less expensive to pay him $150/hour to get something done quickly and correctly than to pay a slow-moving, poor mechanic $100 an/hour to get everything wrong. Good mechanics are usually hard to come by because they're in such demand.

On the other hand, we know of people who have gotten good diesel rebuilds in places like St. Martin and El Salvador for less than our friend Hughes would charge for a day's work. Once again, we wish there were an easy way to tell the good mechanics from the ones who aren't so good.

Refrigeration and watermakers are two other expensive boat systems that need to be checked carefully for age and condition before making an offer on a boat. If you have a problem with either, one difficulty is that the first response of some dealers to any problem is to recommend replacing the entire system. This is particularly true in the Caribbean, where there are lots of big yachts owned by people for whom money is no object, and to whom time is more important than money. The number of boat systems needing just minor repairs that get replaced in the Caribbean is shocking. If you're cruising, we suggest you try to find experienced service people who are into repairing as much as they are into replacing.

As all veteran cruisers will tell you, the only way to be able to cruise affordably is to become a passable diesel mechanic, electrician, watermaker and refrigeration guy, rigger, and boatyard worker. That and stay on top of maintenance. That's why farmers, who have to be self-reliant jacks-of-all-trades tend to make such good cruisers. And why those retired from white-collar professions tend to have a more expensive time.

How to avoid another nightmare? We suggest you take seminars on subjects such as boat diesels, boat electronics, and refrigeration and watermaker systems. They tend to be available in the fall just before the start of the new cruising season. Better yet, after taking each seminar, pay an expert in each field to spend an hour or two with you going over each system on your boat, as things tend to be different on every boat.

Second, develop friendships, in person or online, with sailors who have the same boat, engine, and systems that you do. If you have a problem with something, rest assured that someone else has had it before you. Go to school on their experience.

Your professional captain ran aground in Miami (Government) Cut? That's almost as bad as not being able to sail beneath the Golden Gate Bridge without hitting the north shore or the South Tower. If anybody wants yet a further example that a Coast Guard license is no guarantee of competence, there you have it.


Jim Myers’ July letter, 'Cruising the San Juan and Gulf Islands', reflects the joy and fun that I’ve had chartering in the Pacific Northwest. He’s right about the indispensability of the Canadian Current Atlas and the annual Washburn’s Tables. While both of the Gunkholing books he recommends make for lively reading, they’re dated. Bay Area sailors planning their own trips into the San Juan Islands can get better advice from three more recent books:

Migael Scherer’s A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Second Edition, 2004) delivers reliable advice about anchorages, rating them for both 'Beauty/Interest' and 'Protection'. In our charter trip this May and June, we found that the 'Protection' ratings for anchorages were certainly prudent, and maybe even a tad conservative for summer weather. But I trust her local knowledge.

The new San Juan Islands, A Boater’s Guidebook (2013) by Shawn Breeding & Heather Bansmer is a valuable tool because of its chartlets and fine photos. Going into Watmough Bay (Lopez Island) for the first time was easier because of the advance knowledge provided by the book. You may know these authors because they’ve also written guides to the Sea of Cortez and Mexico’s Pacific Coast. During the summer, they are the caretakers on Vendovi Island and really know the San Juans.

Finally, no mariner should be without the current edition of Waggoner Cruising Guide, which has annually updated information on telephone numbers and marina conditions, and sketches of anchorages. The 2014 version is the 21st edition. Mark Bunzel, Waggoner’s new editor/publisher, generously answered my questions by email when I was planning our trip, and helped me decide where to moor in Ganges Harbour (Saltspring Island).

In May-June, four old friends and I, all from the Class of 1971 at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, chartered a four-cabin Jeanneau 45 for 10 days out of Bellingham. Yes, we all turned 65 this year, and yes, it was a 'guy trip'. We chartered from Roger Van Dyken’s San Juan Sailing, and I've found it gets better every time we charter from the company. This was my third charter with SJS since 1997, and my sixth charter trip in the Pacific Northwest.

SJS delivered a clean, well- equipped boat, treated us with professional kindness, and made sure we were safe. SJS is the first chartering company I know that insists on having someone other than the skipper-of-record, which was me, be designated as the 'Navigation/Safety Officer'. Navigation and safety are always the skipper’s final responsibility, but having another crewmember paying close attention to our courses and positions gave me more time to run the boat and enhanced the overall experience. Do you know if other charter companies follow that practice? It’s an innovation that I applaud!

Peter Detwiler

Peter — We suspected Myers' book list might have been a little dated.


We're itching to sign up for, and go south with, the Baja Ha-Ha this fall, but have a concern. Ours was one of the boats that was impounded by AGACE at the Marina Coral in Ensenada last year and early this year because they claimed their agents couldn't find the hull number on our new Beneteau. Yeah, right! They dicked us around so long that we finally just left.

Once we were safely back in the States, we got a letter from Tere Grossman of San Carlos telling us that we were now federal criminals in Mexico!

What does Latitude think? Would we be nuts to risk going to Mexico again? Our goal is to sail all the way down to Panama, then to the Med. The Ha-Ha looks like a great way to get started and make lots of friends, but we're thinking of trucking our boat to Florida as a really boring alternative to possibly losing our boat if we go to Mexico. Considering we're federal criminals according to Tere Grossman, who as far as we know is not an agent of the federal government, what would you suggest? Where do Ha-Ha boats clear into Mexico?

Name Withheld by Request
Planet Earth

NWBR — You have our sympathy because you don't deserve to be in this predicament. Mexico's AGACE division of SAT, their IRS, screwed up badly last November when they impounded hundreds of foreign boats, not because of anything the boatowners had done wrong, but because AGACE agents were ignorant and their procedures were terribly flawed. While we wouldn't have recommended your fleeing Mexico knowing that you might want to return someday, we nonetheless understand why you did.

Tere Grossman is not an agent of the Mexican government, but rather a marina owner who has been the president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association for almost its entire existence. Take our word for it, she has done more for foreign boatowners in Mexico, even ones that have never stayed in a marina, than anyone could imagine. And despite various maladies, she has never worked so long and hard as on behalf of foreign boatowners since this fiasco started in late November. Tere has flown to Mexico City countless times, spent many hours speaking with officials at the highest levels of government trying to get them to understand the mistakes they were making and how to correct them, and despite considerable risk of having the Mexican IRS make her marina business a nightmare, had the guts to criticize them in the most-read newspapers in Mexico.

Our advice is to contact Tere, explain your situation to her, and do whatever she says. It doesn't make any difference that you don't stay in her marina, or that you did what you did, she'll see what she can do to help. If she can't help, she'll tell you the truth. We wish you the best of luck, and hope to see you in the Ha-Ha.

Everyone considering sailing south this fall needs to read this month's Sightings summary of the new rules for foreign boats coming to Mexico. The new Temporary Import Permits will inherently eliminate almost all of the problems that occurred last year. And as you'll see, almost all of the paperwork can be completed online prior to sailing across the border. Things are looking great for cruising in Mexico again.


Would if be possible for Latitude 38 to publish an article about how an El Niño, which is predicted for this year, will affect the cruisers heading south this fall? I'm signed up for the Ha-Ha and plan to continue on to South America. I'm very curious to know what we should expect for weather this fall and winter.

Mike Bradford
Pelagic, Hallberg-Rassy 42
Portland, OR

Mike — As El Niño weather specifically affects sailors heading south, you can expect warmer weather in southern Alaska and western Canada, drier weather in the Pacific Northwest, cooler and wetter weather in southern California, and more runoff in northern Mexico.

That said, it's our opinion that the weather guys really don't have much of a handle on things when it comes to forecasting things like El Niños and hurricanes and their effects, and that it sometimes leads them to jump to unjustified conclusions and/or try to make the data fit their theories. Case in point: The National Hurricane Center's dismal — laughable, really — history of forecasting the severity of hurricane seasons. And that's even after mid-season 'updates'.

A second case in point is that there is only a mild correlation between what have been called strong El Niño years and what is supposed to be El Niño-type weather. In fact, there have been strong El Niño years with normal weather and weak El Niño years where there turned out to be strong El Niño-type weather.

Third case in point: Meteorologists who only weeks ago were calling for a strong El Niño year because water temps in a region of the South Pacific were four degrees warmer than normal are backpedaling as fast as they can because now the water temperature in that region is only one degree higher than normal. If that water temperature continues to drop, we suppose they'll be calling for a La Niña winter.

We've sailed to Mexico during the same late-October-to-early- November time frame well over 20 times in the last 30 years, and, during that time, there have been five years of moderate El Niños, three years of strong El Niños, two years of moderate La Niñas, and three years of strong La Niñas. As far as we could tell, it didn't matter whether it was an El Niño, a La Niña or neither; the weather conditions were always the same. The exception was the winter of 1982 -1983, a strong El Niño year in which storms wracked Southern California's coast and tore up piers, and which also was the year of the 'Cabo Storm' of December 1982. The storm in Cabo actually wasn't that long; it just caught everyone on a rare lee shore by surprise, and threw nearly 30 boats onto the beach.

We're not being critical of meteorologists in the sense that we believe they are incompetent; we just think they and their models are trying to make sense of way too many variables. What bothers us is that they sometimes think more highly of their forecasts than it seems they should. We're not the only ones who think this way, as Canadian weather forecasters have long criticized U.S. forecasters for what they believe has been somewhat irresponsible hurricane forecasting.

In our opinion, the greatest weather threats to small-boat sailors in Mexico are the rare and short-lived but often very nasty weather cells that seemingly appear out of nowhere. Zihua, for example, got hit about 10 years ago by a 75-knot cell that drove several boats ashore. And just a few years ago Banderas Bay got hit by winds to 80 knots for half an hour or so. As we recall, both times were in February.


I was telling a story about my woeful love life while tacking up Raccoon Strait on July 5. On port tack, and about to flop over just off Tiburon's Keil Cove, we came to a sudden stop. We were aground, and the wind was pushing us farther toward shore. We quickly furled the jib and dropped the main, and I put the motor — an electric drive — into reverse. We didn't budge, so I dropped the anchor.

I was more embarrassed than worried, because the flood was just starting and thus we'd soon be lifted off. But there was a singlehander on a Santana 22 to leeward of us, so I shouted that we were aground. He furled his jib, started his outboard, jibed, and came by our lee. I handed him my bow anchor and he dropped it in deeper water about 120 feet away. I soon pulled in on the rode and slowly kedged us off. The only damage was to my pride.

I wanted to thank the Santana 22 sailor for his assistance, and figured a letter to Latitude was probably the most effective method to reach him.

July 5 was the second time I'd gone aground with a lady crewing for me. The previous time was when we were returning to Richmond Harbor and I strayed about 10 feet outside the #10 channel buoy. That time I was able to get the woman to hang out on the boom a little, heeling the boat enough so we could sail out of the mud.

After more than 50 years of sailing, you might think that I would know better than running aground. I guess I could blame it on the fact that the boats I was on didn't have depth sounders. But the real cause was my not paying enough attention to our position while telling a story.

Sailing is like the legal profession. No matter how many years I practice, I still don't always get it right. But I love it!

David Hammer
Tradewinds Sailing Club

David — A lawyer who thinks people, including himself, should take responsibility for their own mistakes? We've never heard of such a thing.

We've run aground at Keil Cove so many times that the Bay Conservation & Development Commission made us apply for a dredging permit.


I'm trying to find any and all information you or your readers might have about the 161-ft schooner Goodwill, which capsized off the coast of Baja in 1969. My husband Tom, having worked and crewed aboard Goodwill during the summer of 1968, had been slated to crew on her fateful Baja Bash. Thanks to fate, he didn't go.

Glenda Bilich

Glenda — There is really not much known about the exact circumstances of the loss of Goodwill, as all seven crewmembers, plus owner Ralph Larrabee, were lost in probably the worst single yachting disaster ever on the West Coast.

As the great schooner was lost on Sacramento Reef, 180 miles south of the border, it can only be presumed that somebody made a navigational error and the boat was driven up onto the reef. Boats doing the Baja Bash commonly cross from Cedros Island to the Baja Peninsula, nearing land around Sacramento Reef. The area is often subject to fog and always subject to strong current. Many boats seek the relief of a countercurrent 'on the beach', which in the days before GPS made them vulnerable due to not really knowing where they were.

A wife of one of the crew reported Goodwill overdue, so the Coast Guard sent out a plane. The Coasties found the hull of the great schooner on the notorious reef with her masts still above water. There was no sign of the owner or any of the crew. It was a good thing that Goodwill was on a delivery instead of racing, because when she was first-to-finish in the 1953 and 1959 Transpacs, she had a crew of 47 — including 30 sailors, a cook, and wouldn't this be great, seven stewards!

Goodwill was built in 1922 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel, then the second largest steel company in the United States. She was commissioned by the Spaulding Sporting Goods family. Goodwill was requisitioned by the Navy for World War II. Following the war, Larrabee bought her at auction for a mere $35,000. He then poured a fortune — a fortune at the time being half a million dollars — into restoring her.

It was Olympic sailing-medal winner Donald Douglas, son of the founder of Douglas Aircraft, and later the aircraft company's president, who encouraged Larrabee to enter Goodwill in the Transpac. Douglas, who served as sailing master on Goodwill in the 1959 Transpac, came up with two key elements in transforming the luxury yacht into something of a racer. The first was to have Douglas Aircraft build two 72-ft-long (!) spinnaker poles. But how could mere humans get the poles off the mast under load in an emergency? Douglas, a mechanical engineering graduate of Stanford and an aeronautical engineering graduate of Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute, came up with a brilliant solution. He created spinnaker pole ends that could be disengaged from the mast with the help of explosive bolts, such as those used on ejection seats on Douglas Aircraft fighter jets.

As many of the little nippers who crewed on Goodwill are still in their 60s or 70s, maybe they'll have more information to share.


I'm writing in reference to the July letter and editorial response about shipping stuff from the States to Mexico. If you're going to purchase parts from a U.S. distributor and send them directly to Mexico, use a distributor that includes the cost of the parts in the bill of lading taped onto the side of the box. Defender Industries is one company that does this, while Fisheries Supply does not. The reason is that the duty on what's being shipped will be far less if Mexican customs has a bill stating the actual cost of the items on which to base their calculations. If they don't have it, their guesstimate will be outrageously high.

Mark Novak
Betty Jane, Hans Christian 43
Santa Cruz

Readers — Most Mexican customs offices now have computers and the Internet. If there is no bill of lading with the price of the stuff being shipped, or if they don't believe the value you put on the items, they'll look it up on Google. They don't like to be lied to.

You can also run into a problem if they think the stuff being shipped is for "commercial purposes." That's what happened to us when our importer tried to take some eight-inch-diameter aluminum tubes across the border for us. "This is commercial," the customs official told our guy, "so you can't bring it across the border without the tax identification number of the manufacturer and a NAFTA certificate."

It would have been easy to get the tax identification number, but the manufacturer didn't know anything about NAFTA certificates. Our solution is that we'll take the columns to Mexico aboard Profligate during this fall's Ha-Ha.


So Latitude wants to hear about readers' best and worst Baja Bashes? My worst Baja Bash was in the early 1990s when my girlfriend and I sailed Tangent, our 50-ft heavy-displacement monohull, from Cabo to San Francisco. It was my first trip up the coast and to this day remains the single worst experience of my life.

We had horrible weather the entire trip, most of it on the nose. The worst was one night when we were hit by 15-ft waves off Mag Bay. The boat would slowly climb up the face of an oncoming wave, slide down the back of the wave, then bury her bow in the next wave. Green water would cover the entire deck, and the boat would come to a shuddering halt. Each time we hit a wave, our diesel engine would get us moving forward again, and we'd start up the next wave, only to repeat the whole miserable process again. This went on for 12 hours.

When daybreak came, we took sightings and realized that we hadn't made any progress at all, so we returned to Mag Bay. We waited for five more cold and miserable days before venturing out again. The rest of the trip wasn't much better, as we were cold, exhausted, and sleep-deprived, which contributed to our not getting along. I think the only reason we didn't fight more was that the thought of singlehanding the boat home was even worse.

My best Baja Bash was in 2008 with our R&C Leopard 45-ft catamaran Triton. We'd been delayed in Cabo waiting for new shaft seals, and I was a bit nervous because I'd just booted my two crewmembers off the boat. If they weren't partying, they seemed to be hung over and useless. I was scrambling to find a couple of new vict . . . I mean crew, and at the last minute was fortunate enough to be able to convince two good friends to join me.

Our trip up coincided with a massive low that swept across the Pacific and slammed into San Francisco. It provided us with tailwinds and very forgiving seas. We motorsailed at 10 knots much of the way, and reached San Diego in good time, none the worse for wear, despite the chilly, overcast skies.

Either way, I hope never to have to do the trip on my own boat again. As they say, "Gentlemen don't sail to weather; they pay others to do it for them."

Robb Kane
Triton, Leopard 45

Readers — The difference between the late 1990s and 2008, and even more so now, is the quality of weather forecasts and the ability to get them. The forecasts may not be perfect, but you can get a pretty good idea if it's likely to blow over 20 knots and for how long. In the 'old days', you took off and had no idea what you were likely to run into.


I'm not sure if Latitude recalls Tom Christensen, owner of the Morgan Out Island 41 Julia Morgan. He was determined to do the 2008 Ha-Ha, despite the fact that he was dying of prostate cancer. Only a broken ankle kept him from participating.

I skippered Julia Morgan in the 2009 Ha-Ha, and we were one of the few boats that didn't put into San Quintin when a little heavy weather was forecast. It takes a bit of wind to get an Out Island 41 moving.

After spending six weeks in the Sea of Cortez, we started to Bash back north in late December. To my amazement, the wind swung around to the southwest shortly after we rounded Cabo Falso, giving us a spinnaker run all the way to Turtle Bay. The weather was bad just past Turtle Bay, so we turned back and waited out a storm for two days.

We resumed our Bash in light northwest winds and modest swells all the way to Ensenada — where, upon checking in, we found the port was closed due to the damage caused by a storm that had come through the day before. Several docks had been damaged and several boats driven ashore.

I checked Passage Weather at the local Internet cafe and saw that there were three storms lined up to hit Ensenada, the first to hit in 16 hours. Not wanting to be stranded, we snuck out of the closed port at 0400 and motored through fog and no wind. It wasn't until an hour out of San Diego that the leading edge of the first storm raised some chop, which followed us to the Customs Dock. Once cleared, we anchored out at the San Diego YC.

Our Bash took us 18 days, including the two days we holed up in Turtle Bay, but we managed to avoid all bad weather. Tom died aboard his beloved Julia Morgan on March 5, 2011, three years after doctors had given him just one year to live.

Stuart Polzin
Miss Adventure 2013 Ha-Ha
Julia Morgan 2009 Ha-Ha
Cat's Meow 2008 Ha-Ha
Argonaut 2007 Ha-Ha
Black Watch 2006 Ha-Ha

Stuart — We're confused. If you were holed up in Turtle Bay for two days and spent a day in Ensenada, it seems that we can deduce you had 15 days of decent weather to cover 750 miles. That doesn't sound right.

By the way, the 2009 Ha-Ha roll call records show that only about half the Ha-Ha boats decided to spend a night at San Quintin. While that might have been the windiest leg in the 20-year history of the Ha-Ha, most boats reported maximum winds of less than 30 knots, which isn't that much at all when you're sailing downwind.


Our only Bash was in February 2007 with our Roberts 44 Valkyrie, and we had the benefit of being able to wait for a good weather window before leaving Cabo. Even so, we were surprised to see 25 knots on the nose heading toward Cabo Falso — although there was no swell and only very small wind waves. As often happens, a few hours later, the wind was much lighter and by evening it was calm. We kept 'one foot on the beach' all the way to Punta Tosca in order to take advantage of the northerly countercurrent. By the second night the sea was like a mirror.

We had a very smooth motorsail until the wind started to pick up a bit a few hours south of Turtle Bay, which is about halfway between Cabo and San Diego. It was a bit bumpy farther north past Cedros Island until a few hours south of Sacramento Reef. Falling off 20 degrees to starboard for a better angle to the waves more than doubled our speed over the ground and gave us a more comfortable ride. As we neared land, we were able to pick up a nice lift and never did have to tack to clear Sacramento Reef.

The rest of our voyage to San Diego was smooth and uneventful. Well, uneventful if you don't count the humpback whale breaching within a few feet of our boat. I was below when I heard the person on watch scream. I looked up and could only see water flying everywhere on our port bow. I popped up into the cockpit to see the whale's flukes about 30 feet behind our boat as the monster sounded. The flukes were wider than our boat's nearly 13-ft beam. My first thought was, "I'm so glad I built a steel boat!" This was immediately followed by, "If she had landed on us, it would have really messed up the railings!" And lastly, "The whale could have been really hurt." Fortunately, none of those things transpired.

We were boarded by the Mexican navy south of the Coronado Islands. They were pleasant and courteous, and even allowed us to continue motoring north during the hour-long boarding.

When we left Cabo, it had been with the attitude that if it took us a month to get to San Diego, so be it. If it ever got rough, we'd just tuck into wherever until the weather got better. We were not going to beat up ourselves or our boat. By waiting a bit we had a very easy time of it, arriving at the Customs Docks 125 hours, or 5 ¼ days, after leaving Cabo.

David Eberhard
Valkyrie, Roberts 44
San Diego, formerly of Stockton

Dave — Good attitude. Smart one, too.


I completed the Bash aboard my Island Packet 475 A Good Day in late June and can report that it was really only 'Bashy' for about 12 hours. We departed San Jose del Cabo on the afternoon of June 21, inquired about weather conditions from the folks at the Cabo San Lucas fuel dock and, based on that, decided to go for it. We had good conditions until past Bahia Santa Maria, then about 12 hours of discomfort before stopping at Turtle Bay. We checked the forecast while on the hook. It looked really good, so we took off again at 3 a.m.

We arrived at Marina Coral in Ensenada 46 hours later on June 27, meaning it took us six days from Cabo to Ensenada, the latter being 55 miles south of San Diego. The Bash wasn't so bad after all!

Charlie McCullough
A Good Day, Island Packet 475
San Francisco

Charlie — We don't want to chide you, but just because your Bash wasn't so bad doesn't mean the Bash's reputation isn't deserved. Once it starts blowing much over 17 knots, people quickly understand why it has the reputation it does. And it blows over 17 knots a lot of the time, with resulting short, steep seas.


Our 2010 Bash, which was the nearly 1,000 miles from La Cruz to Puerto Salina just above Ensenada, was hardly a Bash at all. The 36 hours prior to arriving at Turtle Bay could be described as a 'Bash', but the rest was on practically flat seas with dry decks.

Dave Benjamin
Exit Strategy, Amel Maramu

Dave — As we asked following our rather pleasant trip up from Cabo, is it really a Bash if you don't have a day or two of wind over 17 knots? We don't think so.


A few of my friends and I are die-hard sailors. If we make sailing plans, we go no matter the weather. 'The rougher the better!' is our creed.

A few years ago there was one of those blustery mornings. I awoke prior to sun-up in order to catch the favorable tides and currents, put on my foul weather gear, kissed my wife goodbye, and quietly left to meet my friends at the boat. When I got to the dock, the weather was kicking up big-time. Normally we go regardless of the weather, but this morning there were flashes of lightning in the far distance adding to the wind and the rain. After some discussion, we all agreed to take the unusual step of aborting the trip.

When I got home the sun was just on the horizon. My wife was still in bed, so I quietly took off my wet foulies, put them in the bathtub, climbed into bed, and spooned up to her. Without opening her eyes, she snuggled back into me with an approving moan.
“Man, it's really storming out there!” I whispered.

"I know," replied my wife. "Can you believe my stupid husband is out there sailing in it?

My worst day of sailing and the boat never left the dock.

John Mullany
Megalina, Beneteau 31
Pt. Richmond

Readers — You have to love the Irish, because if the joke is funny, they don't mind if it's on themselves.


We want to congratulate the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca on hitting such a great Baja Bash window in early July, allowing them to make it from Cabo to San Diego in 3 ¾ days. Let us know your secret for finding such windows.

While I have never been able to get Carole to crawl into the engine compartment, as the Wanderer got de Mallorca to do when coming into the Customs Dock in San Diego to manually work the throttle and gear shift, I once successfully sailed to the Customs Dock with a bad engine. I did have five guys aboard to help snub and stop our boat, something I'm not sure could have been done with Profligate.

Pat MacIntosh
Encore, Cheoy Lee 35

Pat — We don't have any 'secrets' for finding good Bash windows, except perhaps the fact that we don't come north until at least late June. We think there are more windows later in the year, at which time the air and water temps tend to be significantly warmer along Baja than they are in March or April. When the weather is good, we go hard for as long as it's good. If it's bad, we stop. What's 'bad'? As Wayne Hendryx of the Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat said in last month's Cruise Notes, if the wind blows much over 17 knots for very long, it becomes Slam City. While it's possible to continue, you can only proceed at a few knots, and the unnecessary abuse to the crew and boat rarely makes it worthwhile.

De Mallorca loves the engine room. She does all the oil changes for the engine and transmissions, although she made us replace an impeller.


Depending on whether there is wind, I'm either a sailing beekeeper or a beekeeping sailor. In either case, I have a tip for cruisers who might be bothered by bees, as was the case with the Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow and others in the Sea of Cortez.

I suggest trying Fischer’s Bee-Quick (, a product that beekeepers — and bee rescuers — use to drive the critters out of places they aren’t wanted. The label describes it as “a natural, non-toxic blend of oils and herbal extracts.” Bee-Quick smells faintly like almonds, but most importantly it drives bees away quickly without killing them.

Bee-Quick comes in an 8-oz plastic spray bottle, which would last a cruiser forever. A slight whiff is all it takes to roust bees, as their antennae are much more sensitive than even dogs' noses. So I suggest splitting the bottle into several smaller spray bottles — old hairspray bottles that emit a fine mist work great — and sharing it with buddy-boaters.

Dick Barnes
Newsboy, Catalina 28
Alamitos Bay, Long Beach

Dick — Thanks for the tip. The 8-oz bottle sells for $14.50 and gets good reviews. For those who are seriously allergic to bees, head-to-toe protective suits sell for about $70. We've had bee problems both just outside La Paz and at Tenacatita Bay. Anybody had similar problems on their boat in California?

The thing we'd really like to see is the folks at Fischer, who make Bee-Quick, getting to work on a similar spray version for whales. Whale-Be-Gone would be a big seller.


Not to quibble, but there were several errors in the July 14 'Lectronic updating the current paid entries for this fall's Ha-Ha. First of all, I counted eight, not just seven, Catalina 42s signed up for the Ha-Ha.

Secondly, there are more boats doing their third Ha-Ha than the Grand Poobah remembers, as he neglected to mention my Catalina 42 Serenity. I did the 2005 and 2007 Ha-Ha's. Following the 'economic downturn', aka financial debacle of 2008, I'm finally healed sufficiently, in the sense of Sterling Hayden of the great schooner Wanderer, to get back out there with open-ended plans. I'll have a hardy crew of four with me for the trip to Cabo this year. After that, I'm on my own — unless a fair first mate appears between now and then.

I'd like to remind everyone that the Oceanside YC will be holding its annual Baja Bound Cruisers' Rendezvous Weekend October 17-19. The club will have a Mexican buffet, Pacificos, margaritas, and fun! Various folks will be sharing their past Ha-Ha photos and stories as well. If there is sufficient interest, we'll even have a small class on offshore cruising safety and/or other educational opportunities.

We've done away with the 'Preferred Docking' at the club, so it's first-come first-serve guest docking. We usually have a nice raft-up of cruisers on our 70-ft end-tie, and if we have member slips open, I'll put visiting cruisers in them, too. These berths are free on a reciprocal yacht club basis. The Oceanside Harbor Office also has transient slips available for reservation at only $.80/ft/night. That's the 'winter rate' that will have gone into effect just two weeks before.

I've enclosed a few photos that can be used to accompany my letter — although I doubt you'll publish the one of Profligate, the Ha-Ha mothership, waiting to escape the Oceanside Harbor during a rare close-out day. We haven't seen anything like that since. In fact, a massive dredging of the entrance was finished last month, so it's safe to come to Oceanside.

David Albert
Serenity, Catalina 42

Readers — The comments on the then-current 87 paid entries were based on the Poobah's scanning the list for a few minutes and on his sometimes-defective memory. It wasn't meant to be definitive. By the way, if the Oceanside YC wants to add a video feature to its Rendezvous, you might contact Kurt Roll for a copy of his drone-aided video of last year's Ha-Ha.

We have no problem with publishing the photo of our­ waiting to leave the closed-out Oceanside Harbor. Indeed, we had no problem with video of our leaving the harbor making the nightly news in San Diego, something we were surprised to see when we arrived at Catalina.


My father’s 80th birthday is coming this year, and it's always been a dream of his to be part of a sailing crew. He would like to sail on a 50+ ft boat on a nonstop voyage of 7-14 days. Originally, he specifically wanted to sail from California to Hawaii, but that's just an example and he would love to sail anywhere.

My family would be willing to pay well for shared basic expenses. We are on the East Coast, but we are willing to fly out anywhere.

My father is mentally alert and very responsible. He understands the basics of sailing, and he did some as a child. He is in good shape for his age, and capable of doing the normal crew responsibilities. There are some limitations, however, as he probably wouldn't want to climb a mast. But he would enjoy night shifts.

An army veteran, he's owned and operated a ranch and a travel agency, and has a pilot's license. He has a good character and a good sense of humor, and is very easy to get along with.

If someone had room on their boat, I would accompany him. I'm 39. I know very little about sailing, but am a quick learner and would come prepared.

If anyone has any suggestions or offers, I would like to hear about them.

TJ Thye

TJ — A West Coast-to-Hawaii sail would fit the bill, but the first couple of days are often very hard on even experienced crew, let alone an 80-year-old who hasn't been to sea before.

A passage from the West Coast to French Polynesia takes three to four weeks, and would be longer than you want.

The Baja Ha-Ha is a possibility, and over the years we've had a number of participants in their 80s. In fact, last year there was an 85-year-old female crewmember on one of the boats who, we're told, did most of the provisioning and cooked most of the meals! While the Ha-Ha is downwind and almost always sailed in moderate conditions, it's not nonstop, as it's broken up into passages of about three days, about two days, and about 36 hours.

We would not recommend passages from the East Coast to anywhere, as they are either A) too long, as would be the case to Europe, or B) too rough and fraught with the potential of late-season hurricanes or early-season Northers, as would be the case sailing to the Caribbean.

Probably the best bet would be trying to find someone sailing downwind from the Eastern Caribbean to Florida, although almost nobody does it nonstop because there are so many great places to stop.

Before going too far down this path, we suggest you take your father on a daysail in moderately strong conditions — say 25-knot winds and 10-ft seas — to give him an idea of what he's likely to encounter. He really needs to know what he might be getting into.


In February of this year our Moorings 4300 Gato de Cortez finally arrived at her new home on San Francisco Bay. It had been 2,792 days since she entered service in The Moorings fleet in La Paz, and 237 days after she'd come out of service with The Moorings. A very long time.

As there are many boats coming out of service with The Moorings and Sunsail, we thought it would be useful to share our experience. First, a little history. Gato entered Moorings service on July 1, 2006. She was kept in charter service for seven years, an unusually long time for a Moorings boat, and a pleasant extension to the contract we had with them. In brief, we greatly enjoyed our relationship with The Moorings, and in terms of benefits described in the contract, they honored them to the letter.

But here comes the first caveat. We assumed our boat was being maintained according to the strenuous maintenance program outlined in the Phase Out Manual. It was not. In fact, there was no master file, let alone formalized records, kept on her. If we did another Moorings/Sunsail (they are both owned by TUI) yacht management term, we would ask to see periodic maintenance records to make sure our investment was being properly cared for. This is guaranteed in the contract and should not be an issue.

In terms of the phase out, the most important document is the Phase Out Manual. We should have gotten a copy of it at the start of the contract, but we didn't know such a manual existed. This manual is the bible of the phase out and is extremely comprehensive. Ultimately, it's your guarantee of a successful experience. During our difficult phase out, we only used this as a reference, and found that when we quoted page and paragraph of the manual, The Moorings Tampa made good on almost everything in it. La Paz, the base our boat had been in, which is now closed, never used it. Frankly, there is no evidence they used any of the required Moorings procedures or paperwork.

One of the aspects of owning a Moorings/Sunsail boat is that you might never sail on her or even see her. We sailed and saw our boat maybe eight times during the time she was under contract, and were aware of some of the mishaps that befell her. When we went out on her in the beginning, we would submit a detailed 'squawk list' at the end of our trip, thinking the base cared. These lists were never acted on so, among other things, the starboard engine vibration, the big red arrow at 2000 rpm, and various other reported damages went unrepaired. It was the tender line getting wrapped around a prop shaft, a Moorings captain told us, that caused the engine mounts to break.

Flash forward to the end of the contract on June 30 of last year. At this point we hired Cecil Lange, a longtime boatbuilder and surveyor, to inspect the boat during the haulout. Hiring him was by far the best move we made. During the haulout, he discovered serious hull damage, which is likely common to other Leopard catamarans. Suffice it to say that when we informed Moorings Tampa of this, they immediately agreed to all the repairs.

As soon as the boat was back in the water, The Moorings made their first attempt to have us sign off on the phase out. But by then we had created a list of over 50 other items that needed addressing. It's worth noting that during the entire process, Moorings La Paz never uncovered a single problem on their own. When we pointed them out, they repeatedly tried to get us to sign off before the work was done. Don’t ever do that!

What should have happened is that at the end of the contract, using the Phase Out Manual and the maintenance records — non-existent in our case — the base would have done all the work on the amazingly detailed phase-out check-list. If this is done with integrity and diligence, there will be nothing wrong with your vessel and you should be able to sign on the dotted line to accept the boat. In our case, Cecil and I uncovered dozens of squawks, and then had to hire a rigging inspector, who uncovered rigging failures. During this process, we hired a mechanic to take the transmissions out. Everything was checked and rechecked because we knew The Moorings had done none of it.

That’s the bad news, and it would be highly base-dependent. Now the good news. The Moorings Tampa agreed to repair almost every item we uncovered. Occasionally we had to cut and paste the relevant article from the Phase Out Manual, and very occasionally they refused to make repairs on the grounds it had been 'normal wear and tear'. Frankly, the items they refused to repair were minor and a matter of opinion. Although I may have disagreed with them, I did not find them unreasonable.

Examples of the 'repairs': Replacing a brand new 180-Ah lead acid battery with a gel battery to match the other two gel batteries; a new gear box because of damage to the gear wheels (too small for me to notice but according to the expert very serious); a new VHF because the replacement for the original (which had vanished) was a less expensive and inferior brand; a new prop shaft, and so forth.

Would we buy another Moorings/Sunsail boat for their yacht management program? Absolutely, as the company means to abide by their contract to the letter. We had a fantastic time, were always paid on time, and received every benefit promised. Would I be way more vigilant during the life of the contract and very wary at the phase out? Absolutely.

That said, all our problems were due to what I consider bad and less-than-honorable management in La Paz. Is that The Moorings' fault? Yes. Did they fix the problem? Yes. They closed the base, which is really a shame, and when faced with the consequences of the base's actions, to a great degree stepped up to the plate and made it right.

I would recommend getting the following changes to the standard contract:

1) Access to the Yacht Master File during the life of the contract.

2) A compensation formula for the owner should the Phase Out take more than the predicted maximum of 90 days.

3) Some way of knowing if your vessel is taken out on unauthorized charters. Three independent witnesses told us this was done with our boat after the end of the contract.

After the Phase Out was complete, we had an excellent delivery skipper, Ainsley Harrison of Marsh Harbor, bring our boat to San Francisco. As with Cecil, we would recommend him to anyone.

Michael Brown
Gato de Cortez, Moorings 4300 Cat

Michael — It's no secret in the yacht management industry that some companies do a better job of maintenance and phase outs than others, and that some bases within the same company do much better jobs of maintenance and phase outs.


The June 25 'Lectronic piece titled 'An Alternative to a Cat Haulout', was very interesting. It featured a photo of the aft end of a fairly large catamaran in Martinique being raised out of the water as a result of inflating a huge airbag beneath the aft beam. I was intrigued, and my immediate thought was that I needed to get one of those airbags for my own cat.

However, I'm a structural engineer by profession and, although my design experience is more terrestrial than nautical, I don't think that a catamaran's bridgedeck is designed to support roughly half the loaded weight of the boat as shown in the photo. Typically, one wants to support a cat by the hulls where structural bulkheads are located. I worry that supporting the boat by the underside of the bridgedeck at the open cockpit would result in some overstressing or cracking. That said, the static loading condition of the gentle stern air lift is probably much lower than the dynamic impact forces — e.g. waves — for which the bridgedeck should be designed. So I may be thinking too conservatively, but before I go lifting my cat that way, I'd contact the builder to see if it's advisable to do so.

Steve Cox
Intermezzo, Leopard 39

Steve — About a year ago we had a discussion with Gino Morrelli of Morrelli & Melvin about the recommended way to prop up a catamaran with daggerboards — as opposed to keelets — on the hard. Gino said the preferred way is to have the cat supported entirely by blocks beneath the main and aft beams. This is how we've had it done at the Napa Valley Marina and at the now-departed Channel Islands Boatyard. In fact, Profligate's entire 45,000 lbs was held up at the latter by two 18-inch-by-18-inch blocks under the forward beam and two 18-inch-by-18-inch blocks beneath the aft beam. It seemed a little sketchy to us, but she sat like that for a month with no damage, and Profligate is by no means the Westsail 32 of catamarans.

The problem with having composite catamarans resting on their hulls while out of the water is that sometimes the skins are so thin they get small cracks in the hull around the supports. Gino explained that the pressure of a supporting block on a hull is much greater than the pressure of the ocean supporting the hull, as the support of the latter is over a much greater area.

We would have no problem having our catamaran lifted by an air bag beneath our aft beam. In fact, we'd like to know where to get one.


With regard to sex while cruising, each of my wives and I always enjoyed all the sex we wanted, regardless of where we were — including up a sandy canyon on Cedros Island while waiting for a break in weather when doing a Baja Bash.

My wife Pauline and I were on our honeymoon when we sailed across to New Zealand. While tied up to a rough concrete dock in Tonga waiting for customs, I was forward fending off and she was in the cockpit talking to friends on the dock. She called out a question, but I ducked my head and did not reply. After the friends left, she came forward and asked me why I had refused to confirm that she was a good crew.

"Good crew?" I asked. "Honey, I thought you were asking me to confirm that you were a good screw!"

On another subject, after making a couple of shorthanded crossings using a sextant to navigate, then having SatNav — the precursor to GPS — then having GPS, has given me a broad perspective on navigation methods that not all sailors have. While SatNav fixes weren't instantaneous, they didn't require all the time needed to get three sights with the sextant and work them out. Time that could have been better utilized for other things — including sex.

In my experience, SatNav usually gave a decent fix every three to six hours. Recording the fixes and cross-checking them with dead reckoning provided adequate accuracy. It also required entries in the log book, which encouraged people to write additional comments. As a result, when the trip was over we had wonderful written memories of our trip.

I used GPS, which gives near-instant accurate fixes, on my last two cruises. Since GPS is so good and accurate, nobody bothered with dead reckoning entries in the logs. So at the end of the trip we had no written record. That was a shame.

At age 88, after a very pleasant 42 years of owning my Cheoy Lee Offshore 50 Orient Star, I started looking for a suitable buyer. Some people wanted her but could not afford her. Some could afford her, but would not have made suitable owners. I finally found the perfect person to love and take care of my beloved boat — Tuckerman Esty, a shipwright from Seattle. We signed the papers yesterday and she will be moved to Seattle in September. Finding a satisfactory new owner was as difficult as finding a suitable son-in-law, but I'm very satisfied with the match.

Ernie Copp
ex-Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Long Beach


I crewed on the first Pacific Cup back in 1984 aboard the Frers 37 Surefire. The recent 'Lectronic updates on this year's race have brought back some great memories. The first three days were wet and lumpy for us, too. After that, it was pretty much all downhill to Nawiliwili. I wish I were out there again.

Larry Davis
ex-Surefire, Frers 37

Larry — Good memories, but not exactly accurate ones. The first Pacific Cup, put on by the Ballena Bay YC of Alameda, attracted a remarkable 42 starters, 11 of which dropped out. After the rousing first Pacific Cup, the event dwindled to just 22 starters in 1982 and a record low of 15 boats in 1984, your year. Nonetheless, you and the rest of the crew on Thomas Adams' St. Francis YC-based Surefire took top honors in IOR. This, of course, was back in the days when the event ended at Nawiliwili, Kauai, instead of Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, as it does now. Anybody remember Club Jetty, the Chinese restaurant by day and the punk nightclub by night?



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