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September 2014

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The rudder on Dean Treadway's Farr 36 Sweet Okole snapped off at the most inopportune time during July's Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii. We were less than 200 miles from the finish, and we were leading our class at the time.

Although I was as disappointed as everyone, I still had an amazingly great time, as there is something very special to me about being on the open ocean. I suspect that sailing is in my DNA, and I feel very lucky that Dean — with whom I have been sailing for the past 30 years — saw past the complications my Parkinson's would create to invite me back for my fifth Pacific Cup. I believe I was able to function at a high level during the race.

When it comes to pure sailing, Sweet Okole is a magical boat. True, she's a bit uncomfortable, as she doesn't have:1) a head; 2) a nav station; 3) a galley; 4) refrigeration; or 5) headroom. What she does have are those God-awful pipe berths, which are so hard to sleep in. But the first time I lined her up on a 20-ft tradewind wave, and she took off as if shot out of a cannon, I immediately understood why the many creature comforts weren't wanted.

Losing our rudder was unexpected, but being a part of what followed was a highlight of my sailing career. As required by the race rules, we did have an emergency rudder. Dean had very cleverly designed one that could quickly be made from Okole's floorboards. However, installing an emergency rudder at the Richmond YC, where it was calm and where it was possible to putter around to find needed parts to pass inspection, and installing such a rudder while being tossed around in big wind and waves are two different things.

Failure to hang the emergency rudder and have it work properly was not an option for those of us on Sweet Okole. If we had to issue a distress call and be rescued, it would have meant that Okole would probably have to be scuttled. Fully aware of this, we on the Okole crew dedicated ourselves to getting everyone — and Okole — safely to Kaneohe.

What followed was an extraordinary team effort, led by Jeff Brantley, Eriksen Digman, and Greg Hoff, who spent the next 30+ hours re-engineering the emergency rudder design to withstand the incredible loads associated with steering a 10,000-lb boat in rough seas. The rudder consisted of a 12-by-60-inch plank of wood connected to the transom by two pintles and gudgeons.

Those three stepped up big-time, as they managed to hang the rudder three times without injury to themselves or damage to the boat. They were able to steer the boat, which required herculean strength, a delicate touch, and intense focus, even while moving at just five knots to reduce stress on the rudder.

I took my turn steering the first night with the emergency rudder and was clearly no better than fourth best at it. The only cool thing about that first night was the intensity of the Milky Way, which illuminated the path to follow. On the second night, with only 30 miles to go, the emergency rudder broke off while I was driving. I'm lucky they didn't hang me as the replacement rudder!

The second day was highlighted by the assistance of Paul Elliott and crew on his Pacific Seacraft 44 Valis. They took many hours off their racing time to provide us with what ultimately proved to be enough fuel and back-up emergency rudder parts to make it to Kaneohe. As a result of superior seamanship on both boats, the transfers took place without a hitch.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed directly or indirectly to Okole's making it to Kaneohe safely — including our concerned wives waiting at the docks. I'd also like to give a shout-out to the crew of Free Bowl of Soup, who won our division. They were great competitors on the water and gracious winners on land.

It was a great Pacific Cup.

Bill Keller


Earlier this year, the Kaufman family on the Hans Christian 33 Rebel Heart were rescued by the Coast Guard far out in the Pacific. After help arrived, it was decided that the mom and two young daughters should be taken off the boat. Since Eric, the dad, didn't want to try to singlehand the boat, which had some issues, she was abandoned. I get all that.

What I don't get is why the Coast Guard then forced them to scuttle the boat. What would the problem have been with allowing the boat to continue to float on her own, until either somebody salvaged her on the open ocean or she drifted close enough to land for an easy salvage?

I've been reading Latitude for ages, and I get the impression that the Coast Guard's standard policy is not to allow boats to be abandoned on the open ocean. Even if they have strobe lights to mark them or position identifying devices aboard to make recovery easy. I understand why they wouldn't allow an EPIRB to be left on, but what about a Spot Messenger, which transmits a boat's position and track anywhere in the world?

I sort of understand that abandoned boats are hazards to navigation, but not really. For one thing, it's a huge ocean out in the middle of the Pacific, so the chances of their being hit are nil. Secondly, if the abandoned boats are left with strobe lights on, and solar panels to charge the batteries to power the strobes, they would be as visible as a lot of other vessels. They could also have an AIS onboard, as well as radar reflectors. In such a case, the only way another vessel could hit them would be if that vessel were being operated negligently.

From an environmental point of view, I'd like to know if the Coast Guard removes all the fuel and other potential pollutants before they scuttle boats. My guess is that they don't.

It just seems all wrong to me to sink perfectly good vessels in the middle of the ocean. Technology has advanced so far that I believe the Coast Guard could do better.

In a more humorous vein, it also makes me wonder what the Coast Guard would do if Profligate had to be abandoned in the middle of the Pacific. As I understand it, during a recent refit, the Wanderer had the bilges in both hulls divided up into something like 20 separate watertight compartments. Given all that flotation, I don't see how the Coast Guard could sink Profligate if they tried. I suppose they could set her on fire, which would cause a lot of pollution, but would only burn her too close to the waterline. She'd then be even more of a hazard to navigation.

Curious Jonathan Anderson
Boatlover Currently Without a Boat

Curious — We agree that the Coast Guard's scuttling policy should be reviewed. As for Spot Messenger tracking devices, they work in much of the world, but not in large areas of the South Pacific and South Atlantic.


It's not unusual for a person to have owned two sailboats in their sailing career. What makes my case a little different is that I owned just two boats over a 51-year career of sailing. What made it good for me is that each boat was perfect for my needs at the time.

Before I tell you about my two boats, I would like to share with you the most important thing I learned about sailing in my more than half a century on the water, which is seeking harmony. There are at least seven things that affect your 'ride' when sailing: the length of your boat and the length of the waves; the speed of your boat and the speed of the wind; and the direction of your boat, the direction of the wind, and the direction of the waves. Sometimes just a minor change in the two that you can control, speed and direction, will make a huge difference in coming into harmony — and thus comfort — with all the different forces that you can't control.

So instead of letting your autopilot and desired speed dictate the quality of the ride, I suggest that you fiddle with both to see if you can't find that sweet spot where all at once everything seems to be more harmonious and smoother. If you have to sail a few degrees off the rhumbline to get somewhere, for example, and it results in a much more comfortable ride, it's worth it. I'm not sure about it, but this may be similar to what the publisher of Latitude calls 'Zen sailing'.

Now about my boats. I knew nothing about sailing and did not know a single person who sailed in the early 1960s. With no one to advise me, I bought an Angleman Sea Witch ketch. She was 35 feet on deck, but had 12-feet of bowsprit and jib boom. She was gaff-rigged with deadeyes and lanyard rigging. Tarred Manila hemp was still available for the lanyards and running backstays. She had a cast-iron manual anchor windlass, four-part and three-part tackles on the halyards, and not a single winch. She was the perfect boat on which to learn both sailing and seamanship. My children were young teenagers at the time, and we cruised from Santa Cruz Island to Ensenada. We had good sailing adventures while the kids grew up.

One time we rode out a tropical storm in Ensenada. It demolished the dock we were tied to. As the outside boats would break their finger docks loose, my sons and I would pull out their anchor ropes or chains, then tie them to the pilings to keep them from pushing our boat onto the rocks. That was a few days before the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska. By the time the tsunami from that hit, we had moved up to Oceanside, which at the time had only sea walls. We spent the early morning hours watching the water rush into and out of the harbor. My Sea Witch hit bottom several times. In retrospect, the experiences in Ensenada and Oceanside were great fun and real opportunities to learn.

The Sea Witch went to weather about as well as some charter catamarans — which is to say not very well at all. But on other points of sail, especially reaching, she felt exactly as a classic sailboat should. My boat had been built in Wilmington of Douglas fir planking with mahogany brightwork. As a result, she was lighter, and thus sailed faster, than sisterships built of teak that were imported from the Far East a few years later. She was also a very charming boat, with varnished masts and gold leaf on her trail boards.

But her manual anchor windlass lost its charm shortly after my boys discovered that girls smelled better than the tarred hemp and varnish that we used on the boat. So they disappeared and I started looking for my second boat. I wanted the largest boat I could handle by myself, but with room for guests and extra crew when desired. This was before many of the improvements sailors now take for granted, such as slab-reefing, roller furling, rigid vangs, and so forth. The consensus then was that a 500-sq-ft main was all that a man in good physical condition could easily handle.

I did like the concept of a fiberglass hull, but having owned a boat with such beautiful mahogany woodwork, I could not move to an all-plastic boat. So the Cheoy Lee Offshore 50, with the teak overlay above the deck level, and a manageable main, seemed to be just right for me. The only drawback was that she cost exactly twice as much as a new, five-bedroom house in a nice subdivision, and that seemed like an awful lot of money. Then Orient Star came on the market, with wood shavings still in the bilge and just 17 hours on the engine. Apparently the person who ordered her had thought she would be a motorsailer. She did have a complete control center down below, but you couldn't really use it with such small windows.

I bought Orient Star, trading my Sea Witch as part of the deal. Then I began making Orient Star just how I wanted her. Nine hundred hours of shipwright labor — at $10/hour — resulted in a good chart table where the inside steering station had been, reduced the interior sizes of the fridge and freezer, replaced the bar and bar stools with drawers, and other things like that. The rigging required only the addition of a stainless bowsprit so I could have double headsails. Several years later, after roller furling was perfected, I had it put on all four sails. She was then the perfect boat for me. At no time since I first saw her did I see another boat I would have traded her for.

Orient Star took me to Mexico nine times, Hawaii twice, and New Zealand once. That was everywhere that I wanted to go except Chile. I ran out of time for that trip.

I was very selective in whom I would sell Orient Star to, but finally found a very suitable buyer who is moving her to Seattle. After doing some chartering in the San Juans to pay the boat off, he hopes to get her back on the big ocean — where she belongs and does so well.

Adapting the boat I had to the boat I wanted worked very well for me. No matter how any of you choose your boat, I hope she serves you all as well as my two boats served me. And I hope you get 51 years of sailing in.

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


I saw the August Sightings item about the Iranian immigrant who had gone " . . . from nada to Prada. . ." and found it interesting for several reasons. Among other things, the rifle that was being held by one of the scantily clad women is actually an AR-15 (not an AK, as in AK-47). I am reasonably confident that the gun is illegal to possess in California, particularly if it was registered before the year 2000. Anyway, funny photos.

Actually, I was in San Diego that day and saw the guy's cars at Driscoll's Boat Yard, and Profligate tied up at the yard's work dock.

Dane Faber
WAFI, Vagabond 38

Dane — Perhaps your attention was distracted by the photos of the partially clothed 'bodywomen', but you've mixed up two parts of the report. We have no idea what the guy who owns the boat and cars, and who went from " . . . nada to Prada . . ." does, other than he says it's all legal. Nor do we know anything about the weapons the women were holding, or the laws that apply to them.

The immigrant from Iran we mentioned, who started by making clothes in his front room, and is now the source for all Levis and most of the clothes in Costco, is an entirely different person. We met him in a swimming pool at Punta Mita, and only included him as another example of a guy who started with nothing and built a successful business, telling us it was only possible in the United States.

By the way, our male readers would like to thank you for giving us an excuse to run another photo of one of the bodywomen.


Isn't a person being considered innocent until proven guilty one of the bedrocks of our legal system? Well, that's not how it works with the Orange County Tax Assessor's Office.

I recently got a letter from them telling me that I had to fill out a Vessel Property Statement, and that I owed them tax on my Columbia 43 Adios!. I called them and explained that my boat had only been in Orange County for a couple of days, waiting on weather to go north to her homeport of Portland. So I asked them to please take my boat out of their tax records.

"No," they told me. Not until I provided them with a copy of the contract I had with my marina in Portland.

"Screw off!" I angrily told to the Tax Assessor's office, and hung up. But the next day I called them back. As nice as the woman was that I talked to, she insisted that it was up to me to prove that my boat had not been in Orange County, not for them to prove that she had been. So I sent a copy of my moorage statement from Portland, and later a photo of Adios!.

When I had more time to look into the matter, I noticed that my Adios! was in Portland the day Orange County claimed to have taken a photo of her. Because my boat couldn't have been in Orange County when they claimed, I asked them to send me a copy of the photo they supposedly had of my boat. I had to laugh when I got the photo, because it was the photo of a powerboat named Adios!. You'd think they'd be able to tell the difference between a powerboat and a sailboat. And we think government in Mexico has problems.

Craig Shaw
Adios!, Columbia 43
Portland, Oregon

Craig — A similar thing happened to us with Ventura County many years ago. We'd kept our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary in the Ventura Marina for a year or so, paid personal property tax on her there, then brought her back up to Marin County, where she got back on their tax roll. Nonetheless, Ventura County kept sending us notices that we owed taxes in Ventura. We explained by phone several times that the boat was no longer in Ventura County, but in Marin. The next thing we knew, a tax lien from Ventura County showed up on our credit report when we applied for a home loan. It was a pain to get cleared up.

When we asked a Ventura tax official how they could bill somebody for a boat that wasn't even in their county, the guy laughed and said, "We don't bother to check if a boat is here, we just bill every boat that was here the year before."

If a private company operated with the impunity of the government, we suspect they'd have to pay big bucks to settle a ruinous class-action lawsuit.


I just want to thank Latitude and former Latitude editor LaDonna Bubak for suggesting a sailing trip to Half Moon Bay. We acted on her advice last weekend and really enjoyed it. We are fairly experienced sailors inside the Bay, but had never ventured outside. Now that we have, it's very helpful to have concrete advice, such as what buoys to sail to and reefs to avoid. LaDonna's article gave us courage to go for it.

We're signed up for the Ta-Ta and will see you there!

David & Kathi Westcott
Special Lady, Ericson 34
Brickyard Cove

David and Kathi — Because of the reefs and the second set of breakwaters, Half Moon Bay can be one of the trickier places on the California coast to sail into for the first time, particularly if the wind is blowing hard. We'd rate it up there with Ventura, and entering Santa Barbara and Oxnard Harbors at night when the background lights make it hard to pick out aids to navigation.


I read an article in a recent Latitude about Iridium satellite phones, but got the feeling it was written by a salesperson for Iridium. So I'm interested in hearing from some cruisers as to which satphones work well, which don't work so well, and some of their experiences using satellite phones. If you could put my letter out there for a response, I would appreciate it.

By the way, I participated in the 2008 Baja Ha-Ha and did the Bash back in 2009. I used a rental Iridium phone and was disappointed in the service.

Additionally, can you please advise me as to the best 'hurricane holes', be they shelters or marinas, in Mexico if a tropical storm or hurricane approaches? We plan to start our cruise south next year — to unknown destinations — and need to log this information for our trip.

Victor & Jo Ann Zarzhitsky,
Odessa Mama, Whitby 42
Portland, Oregon

Victor and Jo Ann — Everything published in Latitude about the Iridium satphone was written by the Wanderer/Grand Poobah — who, by the way, paid retail for his Iridium phone and minutes. Our opinions were based on our using Iridium satphones in every Ha-Ha since about 2000, using them in the Caribbean most years since, and doing interviews with people in the middle of the ocean — such as Gino Morrelli during last year's TransPac — who were using Iridium satphones.

Our only complaint has been that the transmissions didn't seem as clear on the original Iridium phones — the 9505s — which are still available. When we bought the newer model, the 9555, introduced in 2008, we noticed a considerable improvement. We suspect you used the early version of the phone.

It's true, the Iridium does drop calls from time to time. That said, it's been our experience that it drops them less frequently than AT&T cell service does here in the States.

The two main competitors to Iridium are Globalstar and Inmarsat. Unlike the other two, Iridium really does cover the globe from pole-to-pole. That's not true with Globalstar, which uses 'bent pipe' technology that severely limits its range out into the ocean. If you look at their coverage area map, it shows that the signal will be weak between Santa Cruz and San Diego, and that they have no service in the waters off Mexico. The weak signal goes partway to Hawaii, but there is nothing the rest of the way. Forget the South Pacific. For this reason Globalstar is not a good choice for West Coast sailors. It's a pity, because when it works, the sound quality is excellent.

The only real competitor to Iridium is Inmarsat, but there are differences between the two. Inmarsat has just three satellites, which are geostationary 22,000 miles above the equator. Iridium, on the other hand, has 66 satellites that orbit around the poles 450 miles up. The result is that Iridium gives you true pole-to-pole coverage, while Inmarsat signals can be blocked by mountains, buildings, trees and such at higher latitudes. If you can't get an Inmarsat signal, waiting won't help because the satellites 'don't come to you'. Iridium calls are sometimes dropped because the satellites sometimes lose their signal just before they pass it off to the next satellite. But in case a call gets dropped, don't worry, a new satellite will be above momentarily to provide service again. In terms of receiving data, you either get it or you don't with Inmarsat. With Iridium, you can get it in more places in the world than with Inmarsat, but occasionally will have data interruptions. Nothing is perfect in this world, is it?

As we've written before, if it came to having to choose between an Iridium or Inmarsat satphone and an EPIRB, we'd go with one of the satphones every time because they allow for two-way communication.

As for 'hurricane holes', we'll try to run a little feature on that in an upcoming Changes.


I used an Iridium 9575 in the just-completed Pacific Cup race to Hawaii, primarily to obtain GRIB files, but also for regular email and voice calls. The phone and its accessories worked perfectly, with no dropped calls. I had the same good experience in the 2008 Singlehanded TransPac, using a rented 9505A from Global Marine Networks.

However, since 2008 the minutes have become more expensive. You have to buy blocks of prepaid minutes now, instead of giving the provider your credit card number and only paying for the minutes you use. But I think it's still worth the cost. We also used the phone's SMS text feature, which was free.

For this year's Pacific Cup, I bought Iridium's AxcessPoint Wi-Fi hub. Thanks to it, we were able to send emails using an iPad, iPhone or Android phone, instead of having to use a laptop as before. The only shortcoming was the limited battery life in the AxcessPoint. We typically got less than a half hour of use after three hours of charging. Iridium just replaced their AxcessPoint with their new Go! Phone, which has the Wi-Fi hub built in. It's also a lot cheaper than buying the phone and Wi-Fi hub separately.

I want to give big kudos to John McDonald, who had entered his new Andrews 28 in the Pacific Cup, but had to drop out at the last minute. He loaned me his Iridium 9575 when I discovered the 9555 I'd bought on eBay had a faulty data connector. (The seller accepted it back).

Next time I'll look at the new Go! Phone. But having worked with both the 9555 and 9575 (Iridium 'Extreme'), I'd take the 9555 between the two. Despite the faulty data connector, the 9555 was better made and more robust, especially the attachments.

The downside of satphones, of course, is that you can't talk to a group, as you can with SSB. So for the Pacific Cup roll calls and 'Children's Hours', I still used my venerable Icom 802 SSB. While SSB is the communication standard for cruising, apparently very few racers in the Pacific Cup had them. Most call-outs during roll call ended with a "nothing heard" from the net control. I think this was disappointing to Valis and Cayenne, who did their usual great jobs as communication boats for the race. I wouldn't be surprised if SSB were brought back as a requirement for the next Pacific Cup.

Bob Johnston
Ragtime!, J/92

Readers — For more on the Iridium's Go! Phone and other new satellite-to-boat communication products, see this month's Sightings.


In a recent item about satphones, Latitude mentioned that you didn't know much about Inmarsat. They use geostationary satellites that appear to hover in one spot over the equator. As a result, the higher you go in latitude, the worse the signal gets. Inmarsat officially claims that their coverage stops at 74 degrees. That may be true, but if you're in Alaska or northern British Columbia, with mountains all around, you'll see a signal loss at significantly lower latitudes. So if anyone has got high-latitude cruising in mind, they might want to go with something else.

Mark Novak
Betty Jane, Hans Christian 43
Santa Cruz


I have an older Iridium, a 9505 or 9505A, if memory serves. The phone isn't the problem, it's Iridium. Having used my phone for 10 years, the time it now takes to connect, and the overhead, has become nothing short of intolerable.

In the 10 years, I've noticed a steady degradation in how long it takes to connect, upload, and download. The 'overhead' essentially more than doubles the time of the connections as compared to 2010. I thought it might have been because I was in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, the back side of the world, as it were. It was not. I'm in the Miami area now, and have found that it's just as bad here as it was throughout the South Atlantic and Caribbean. In fact, it's worse.

In addition, Iridium rates have gone up 70% since 2008. So much for inflation.
I think the problem with Iridium is that the company doesn't want to spend the money on upgrading or maintaining the system as it once was.

P.S. We hope to sail from South Florida to Panama and the Canal next season. When Beach House and I reach Costa Rica, we will have completed our circumnavigation.

Scott Stolnitz
Beach House, Switch 51 cat
Marina del Rey

Scott — For the record, 72 second-generation Iridium satellites are expected to be launched between 2015 and 2017. Iridium says they will enable the company to provide better and broader service. We think 'intolerable' is a little bit too strong a word for Iridium. 'Not cheap, but worth it', is how we would describe it.

But just for kicks, let's review the history of Iridium. Service was inaugurated on November 1, 1998, when none other then Vice President Al Gore made the first call. Iridium is element #77 on the periodic table, and the communications company got its name from the belief they would need 77 satellites to cover the world. They later discovered they only needed 66 for pole-to-pole coverage, so the company should have been named Dysprosium. In any event, the company, which bungled on numerous sales and operation fronts, went bankrupt just nine months after the 'inventor of the Internet' made that first call. Its failure also spelled the demise of several similar satellite communication companies.

Much to the surprise of many, Iridium was brought out of bankruptcy in 2000 by a group led by Dan Colussy, former president of Canadian Pacific Airlines and Pan American Airlines. They got a pretty good deal, paying a mere $25 million for assets and technology that had cost $6 billion. Even better, they almost immediately got a $25-million-a-year contract from the Pentagon. Such a coincidence! The military continues to be the biggest user of Iridium, at about 23% of all service.

One of the things the new Iridium owners did was announce they would launch more spare satellites. Why would they need spares? A few broke down, a few ran out of fuel, and then there was the first-ever satellite mid-atmosphere collision. It happened on February 10, 2009, when Iridium 33 collided with Kosmos 2251, a defunct Russian satellite, at a combined speed of 22,000 mph. That's about 32 times the speed of a bullet in flight. Old 33 was last seen in smithereens over U.S. cities.


Our prepaid Iridium satphone account was due for renewal early last month. During the process of renewing, we learned that Iridium now offers two types of SIMs.

First, there is the old type of SIM card, which expires the day after your original contract runs out, and you lose all your minutes. However, this SIM has #2888 functionality, which means it gives you the familiar recording before each call that tells you how many minutes and seconds of time you have left. But once you run out of minutes, the phone is worthless.

The new type of SIM card doesn't have #2888 functionality, so you have to contact customer service to find out how much time you have left. However — and this is important — the SIM doesn't expire after the due date, and Iridium just starts to bill you at $1.99/minute when your time runs out. So even if you run out of time, you can make an emergency call. They also give you additional 30 days to use any unused minutes.

All this was patiently explained to me by Barry Hipple from the Satellite Phone Store in San Diego.

Marek Nowicki
Raireva, Cape Vickers 34
Green Cove Springs

Marek — There are two kinds of SIM cards, one for Prepaid Plans and one for what Hipple calls 'Virtual Prepaid'. The former plan has always been around, while the latter has been around for about 18 months and is rapidly becoming the more popular.

The big difference between the two is that when the Prepaid Plan minutes or contract run out, the phone won't work and is only good as a paperweight. And if you have minutes left when the contract runs out, those minutes are lost forever. In the 'Virtual Prepaid', you pay for a certain amount of minutes every month. If you don't use them, they roll over, with a maximum of a year. If you go over your minutes, you are charged at a certain higher rate, but your phone still works — assuming your credit card is still good. In an emergency, this can be the difference between life and death. Hipple also tells us that with the Virtual Prepaid plan, they can tell within 50 miles where the last call was made from, something they can't do with the Prepaid plan. This would have been helpful in the case of the disappearance of Niña, as searchers had little idea where to look.

"Do the math, and you'll find that in most cases it's less expensive to do the Virtual Prepaid," Hipple says. Not cheap, but less expensive. By the way, different vendors have different plans, so shop around to find the one that fits you best.


Like Latitude, I'm interested in how the Kaufman family's lawsuit goes against Iridium or their Iridium time provider. They claim that the loss of the use of their Iridium satphone was one of the reasons that prompted them to ask to be rescued and for them to have to scuttle their boat.

I had a somewhat similar problem with the iNav program on my iPad. When we sailed out of Costa Rica, my iNav program expired. I didn't know it had expired; I just knew there was no longer any detail on my iNav chart.

Do people know that these area charts, which you buy for about $60, expire after 12 months? It must be in the real fine print, because I keep all my expiration dates on my iPad. As it was, we were lucky because our iPad is a back-up charting program, but I was furious about their slipping me a renewal product. Since the iNav is a navigation product, I think the vendor should have some responsibility to adequately inform users of their intention to cut you off if you don't renew.

We did pay a total of $75 to renew the iNav chart map when we stopped in Corinto, but that will be the last time. From now on, we're checking the fine print on the other mapping programs before deciding on a chart program for our next journey.

Lauri Hamilton
Ashika, Fuji 45
San Pedro

Lauri — When it comes to products or applications where the sudden loss of their function could result in damage to property, injury, or loss of life, we agree that the manufacturer/vendor should: 1) Make that very clear to all customers; and 2) alert the consumer of pending loss of service at least a month in advance. In the case of Iridium, Iridium time providers, and navigation apps, we believe it would be relatively easy to do this.


We, the crew of the Hughes 58 catamaran Li'l Explorers — Intrepid, 9; Integrity, 7; Innocence, 5; Vitality, 3; Valiant, 1; and parents Shannon and Courage — want to thank Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin and Latitude 38 for a memorable Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous July 4-6. We all had an excellent time in what we're sure will be one of the highlights of our visit to French Polynesia.

The Friday night cocktail party was very informative. For example, we had no idea that there was a winery in the Tuamotus. And after meeting Adam Wade, manager of Vuda Point Marina in Fiji, it's now become part of our plans. It was an entertaining evening, too. We loved the audience participation in the dancing — after the demonstration, of course.

Saturday's 15-mile race/cruise in company from Papeete to Cook's Bay, Moorea was great, too. It's fun to travel in a group, as you rarely get to see friends under sail, let alone observe the strategy they employ. The cocktail party, dinner, and dancing topped off the perfect day. We really liked the informal setting, as it allowed our whole family to attend.

But Sunday was probably our favorite day, what with the outrigger races, tug-of-war, coconut husking, dance lessons, formal dance presentation, and awards ceremony. Somehow our kids found time to bounce into and out of the pool, too. There was a nice balance of activities so things kept moving, but we never felt pressed.

We know the Rendezvous requires a fair amount of preparation, planning, scheduling, and commitment on the part of local services and vendors, and we want everyone to know we appreciate their efforts to give us a warm welcome to French Polynesia!

Shannon Grant & Courage Winter
Li'l Explorers, Hughes 58 Cat
Channel Islands / Bakersfield

Shannon and Courage — Thanks for your recognition because a lot of people really do go to a lot of trouble to welcome cruisers to French Polynesia.

For readers who missed the
Pacific Puddle Jump preview, Courage began cruising with his parents after they built a Piver 48 trimaran and sailed to the Caribbean. They never made it to the South Pacific. Shannon, a doctor, got the idea of long-distance cruising during her honeymoon with Courage in a bungalow at Bora Bora.

The basic structure of their Hughes-designed cat was completed in 1993, but sat unfinished in Newport Beach for 20 years. The couple bought the semi-completed cat in 2012, it first tasted water in January of 2013, and they started their cruise two months later. The interior remains a work in progress.

The Wanderer can relate. His 63-ft cat took off for Mexico three days after she was launched. The hydraulic steering didn't really work, there was only one light bulb in the interior of the boat, unsecured step ladders gave access to the hulls, the sails had never been raised, there were no permanent water or fuel tanks, and a few other minor shortcomings. All these years — and many fun trips later — we're still finishing her off. For example, we might even get hot water before the start of the Ha-Ha.


Awhile back I started the thread in Latitude's letters about anchors dragging — as my Rocna did frequently. It got me a lot of good advice. By the way, I spent two years with my Norseman 447 on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and am now lying at Nuku Hiva. I made it from Puerto Ayora, Galapagos to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas, a distance of 3,050 miles, in 17 days and 16 hours, an average of 7.2 knots. Not too bad.

Because of my problems, I abandoned my Rocna 25 as my primary anchor in favor of a 66-lb Lewmar claw, and increased my rode to 120 feet of 3/8-inch chain, plus another 100 feet of one-inch nylon braid. I also replaced my 33-year-old Nielsen windlass with a Lewmar V3 with a gypsy drum. I haven't dragged once, in either Mexico or the Marquesas, since making the change.

What sucks, however, is the predictable difficulty of getting the anchor to free fall, as the anchor chain often gets hung up in the forepeak chain locker. It's a problem known as castling. We've tried knocking down the 'castle' after getting all the chain in, but usually have to resort to one of us staying below and pulling up and untangling chain from the castle by hand while the anchor is paying out. Gloves and good posture are requirements. So when I enter an anchorage now, I get the amount of chain I think I'll need up on deck before dropping the anchor.

When I searched Google, I saw a lot of suggestions, but very little advice on how to avoid my castling problem. One interesting suggestion was to put a traffic cone in the locker so the chain would fall around it. Any good tried and true solutions from readers?

Brian Bouch
Albatross, Norseman 447
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Brian — It almost sounds as though you don't flake the chain when it's coming into the chain locker. We can sometimes do that with the 200 feet of chain our Leopard 45 'ti Profligate has, but could never do it with the 230 feet of chain we had on our Ocean 71 Big O, or the 230 feet of chain we have on our Surfin' 63 cat Profligate. If you don't flake the chain, it sure as heck will castle, and equally sure it won't pay out without getting snagged.

Depending on the boat, flaking the chain can be a bit of a dirty job. Indeed, one of our wives — actually ex-wives — got so sick of being the 'Flaking Queen' that she flat-out refused her duties one time off Bequia. We won't lie; that insubordination was an accelerant to the marriage's going out the hawse hole.

A Rocna 25 weighs 55 lbs and is said to be good for boats 33 to 54 feet. In our opinion, cruisers should go at least one if not two sizes above the recommended. Steve Dashew had the best advice. "Your anchor should be so big that it makes people laugh," he said.

To our thinking, 120 feet of chain isn't anywhere near enough, either. It might work if it's attached to a bunch of your one-inch three-strand, but if you're in the South Pacific, how are you going to sleep at night knowing that the line could wrap on a bommie and be severed before you wake?

We're surprised to hear your problems with the Rocna. We've never used one, but many cruisers who switched from more traditional styles swear by them.


We wanted to let everyone know about an issue regarding flares that we ran into while preparing for the 2014 Pacific Puddle Jump. We had brought coastal flares with us on the 2012 Ha-Ha, but needed SOLAS flares for our upcoming Pacific passage. After many inquiries with locals and queries on the VHF net in Mexico, we were told that there was no way to purchase such flares in Mexico. But it's a bigger issue than that, as you can't even bring flares into Mexico by air, auto, bus or by walking them across the border. Flares can only be brought into Mexico by boat. Had we known this, we would have brought the SOLAS flares with us when came down to Mexico from the Northwest.

This is an extremely important safety issue for any future Ha-Ha and Puddle Jump participants.

Pam & Eric Sellix
Pied-a-Mer III, Seawind 1000
Clatskanie, Oregon

Pam and Eric — Thanks for the heads-up, and for signing up for the Ha-Ha a second year in a row.

Speaking of flares, it got us wondering if they aren't outdated in this day and age of the pinpoint accuracy of GPS. Maybe we're wrong, but we're trying to think of the last time flares were an important part of any rescue. If it came down to having an EPIRB with GPS versus a set of flares — which cost almost the same — we're going with the former. The other thing about flares is they actually can't be seen from very far, even in clear weather, and don't last very long. We keep ours next to our sextant, if you know what we mean.


I just read your account of Profligate's latest Bash, and the lack of remote control of your engine throttles and transmissions. We had a similar thing happen years ago aboard Dave Crowe's 70-ft cat Humu-Humu. We had crossed from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo without incident, then headed north around Cabo Falso. We were hit with 40 knots on the old schnozzola, but pressed on under double-reefed main and a partial jib. We had to keep the cat on the razor's edge. If we bore off at all, she took off like a Hobie Cat.

About an hour into this, we took a big wave over the bow and broke the strut connecting the forward and mid-beams. It was a bit of a fire drill — trampolines a-hangin', windlass akimbo — but we got organized and headed back to Cabo. On the way, we discovered that the controls for the starboard engine were not working. Hmmm.

Despite having only one engine, we unfortunately were assigned to an end-tie waaaay inside the marina. So a volunteer — me —got down in the starboard engine well and manually operated the throttle as well as putting the engine in forward or reverse. We made it to the dock and saved the day.

I still love the mag and am prepping my next cruise boat for further Mexico — and beyond — adventures, as well, of course, as another Ha-Ha.

Dave Fiorito
Irie, Beneteau 393

Readers — Dave did the first Ha-Ha in 1994 with his Pearson 34 Northstar, then the 2006 and 2008 Ha-Ha's with his C&C 36 Shenanigans.


I read about Profligate's electrical problems on the Baja Bash, which resulted in the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca's not being able to use the Micro Commander systems to control the throttles and shifting. The problem turned out to be a bad alternator.

When alternators fail, you're stuck. We do electrical upgrades all day long. Profligate needs a Perko switch installed that would allow you to switch from your engine battery, which controls the Micro Commanders, to the house bank. It would have given you full power to your Commanders.

We also have a unit that would allow only one engine to charge the engine bank of batteries. Usually the first engine to start will take over that chore. If something happens to that alternator, it will drop it offline and bring on the second one. Much of the problems with your alternator can be attributed to heat. This unit allows cooldown for your alternators. By using a couple of Perko switches and the 'target charge controller', you will never have to be without steady electrical power for your boat.

By the way, when alternators fail, it's usually because they blow the diodes inside. That puts a draw on your electrical system. To have a bulletproof system, you will need two high-output, heavy-duty alternators, two multi-step regulators, target control, and a couple of Perko switches. We would also incorporate your solar into the system.

I've been doing marine electrical, solar and more since 1977, so let me know if I can help.

Dave Biron
Owner, Big Break Marina

Dave — Thanks for the suggestions and offers of help. Using a Perko switch to connect the house battery to the engine battery is a good idea. But since this was the only time we would have needed to use something like that in 17 years, we're going with a more simple fix — carrying 20-ft, heavy-duty jumper cables.

The target charge controller is also a good idea, but not for Profligate, as our engines are about 26 feet from each other. And once again, we now have an easy way to connect our six six-volt batteries to each engine battery.

We're also much smarter now in that we would have double- and triple-checked the mechanic's diagnosis of the alternator being fine. We had the replacement alternator in hand, we just didn't realize we needed it. Repeated testing would have told us the real story.

Since we have now put the replacement alternator in, and the old one proved to be shot, we had to get a new one. Yanmar wanted about $750 for one with their brand name on it. We got the identical thing from an alternator speciality shop for less than $175. So we suggest shopping around.

You started in 1977? That's the same year we started Latitude. It was a hell of a long time ago, wasn't it?


I'm normally not one to write to publications, but I've heard a lot of rumors, from as far away as Half Moon Bay and Morro Bay, that Gravelles' Boat Yard in Moss Landing is not open. This is not true, as the yard and chandlery are both open for business.

I worked for Gravelles' for many years until I retired in 2004. Even though I don’t work there anymore, I still go to their store and yard frequently for parts and just to visit. Gravelles' is a family-owned business that has been in operation for many, many years, and I believe their yard and well-stocked chandlery are one of the best on the West Coast. They are hauling out boats for bottom paint and repair work, which can be done either by the yard or by the boat owner.

In order to comply with some water quality and environmental regulations, some changes recently had to be made at the yard. That might have interfered with a few haulouts. But the work has been completed and they are back to business as usual. Ron and Chad Gravelles, and their entire staff, are very friendly and helpful people.

Ken Gardner
KGLady, 42-ft sailing vessel
Moss Landing


I followed this year's Pacific Cup on the Yellowbrick Tracker and it brought back a lot of memories. I was the co-chair of the 1986 Pacific Cup, which had been created six years before by the Ballena Bay YC of Alameda. Our small club didn't have a lot of money or volunteers, but we were scrappy and made the event happen. I did all the events — seminars, fundraisers, dinners — and flew over to Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai for the awards celebration and crazy parties. We may have had 30 entries, but I honestly can't remember.

It wasn't long after that our small club decided the Pacific Cup was too great a responsibility, and I worked with George Barrett and others to transfer management of the event. It was then decided to move the finish line to Oahu from Kauai.

It's now 28 years later, and what a difference! In the old days, competitors had no GPS, no sophisticated VMG programs, no satphones, and so forth. But it was a fun race then and it was a fun race this year!

Marina Eisenzimmer
Mykonos, Swan 44
San Anselmo

Marina — We remember those early Pacific Cups well because, like the Singlehanded TransPac, they finished on Kauai, and usually at about the same time. As a result, there was a period of about five days when we'd be rushing back and forth, at all hours of the day and night, between the finish line at Nawiliwili and the finish line at Hanalei Bay. Because the jubilant finishers of those events would never let you interview them without guzzling a few drinks with them, we weren't the most sober driver on the island. It's a wonder we survived.


You didn't get this from me, but it's a picture of a secret underwater robot that was launched at the old Protector location in Oakland. They yelled at the photographer who took the picture. I don't know what's so secret about it.

Name Withheld
By Request


Through a marine attorney in San Diego, we have heard that there is a pending change in the Mexican Temporary Import Permit (TIP) regulations that will allow a person to have two boats in Mexico with TIPs at the same time. Currently you can only have one. Maybe the attorney is just looking for work, or wants to set up billing for a long escrow.

Is Latitude familiar with this potential change? I'd hate to be the first guy in line expecting this to go smoothly, and then hear it is only something being 'talked about' or just wished for by gringos.

Pat & Carole McIntosh
Encore, Cheoy Lee 36
Barra de Navidad, Mexico

Pat & Carole — Mexico is in the final stages of making many improvements and changes to the rules and paperwork that appliy to visitors with foreign-owned boats. We have heard they were going to allow more than one foreign boat per owner, but don't know the current status. We do know, however, that a foreigner can't have two automobilies registered in his/her name at the same time.


We cruised down the West Coast from Vancouver, B.C. to Puerto Vallarta between August 2013 and May 2014 on our Beneteau First 435 Avant. The boat is berthed at Mazatlan until our return this fall.

We used iPads as our primary means of navigation, backed up by a pair of Garmin handheld GPS Map76s (one of which ran on AA batteries, and one on 12-volt for greater redundancy). We backed up the backups with a PC with a USB GPS with CM-93v2 charts on OpenCPN, with spares (older model iPad, iPhone, and PC) in the lockers. We also had paper charts, a sextant, and a nautical almanac stowed as ultimate backups. Thus we would be running seven GPS chartplotting set-ups at all times. How is that for redundancy?

While the Wi-Fi iPads don't have GPS built in, all of our 3G iPads did. If someone wants to navigate with an iPad, they should get a 3G or newer. It's true that you can add GPS to a non-GPS-enabled iPad with a snap-in or Bluetooth add-on from Bad Elf or similar, but built-in is so much easier.

Because we both have iPads and iPhones, and all are registered with the same iTunes account, we can load — and have loaded — the Navionics charts on all of the devices at no extra cost. This gives us four redundant chartplotters at a time with identical look and feel for just the $50 purchase price of the Navionics app.

Based on our limited experience, we found the Navionics charts for Mexico to be very good — with the following exceptions:

1) Depths seem to be random-number-generated. Since the surveys used in the underlying charts are about 100 years old, I guess this is to be expected.

2) There are a few 'ghost' features — most notably for us a few islands off Mazatlan that appeared on the iPad chart but not in reality. Fortunately, the opposite is not true, as we haven't found any islands that weren't on the charts.

3) Navionics users must download the charts for the area to be cruised before you get there. The default operation for the app is to download a base map with limited detail, and download detail charts via Wi-Fi/3G/LTE on demand as required. Since most mariners won't have reliable connectivity at sea, it's critical to have the detailed chart downloaded in advance. Such downloading is boring and time-consuming, but you have to do it.

4) While the GPS in the iPad works, it's not as precise or as easy to check as a 'real' GPS. For instance, it will not tell you the degree of error, number of satellites used, and so forth. As a result, your positional accuracy cannot be determined on the iPad. Anal navigators, such as myself, don't like that, but I have learned to get over it. In reality, even if the satellite constellations are horrible, your actual position will still be within 100 or 150 feet, which should be enough for most sailors. We look at the signal strengths and constellations on our traditional GPS from time to time to reassure ourselves.

5) The iPad is also A-GPS ('A' for assisted), which means it starts up with positions derived from cell towers, and uses these until it gets a satellite fix. In our experience, this means the position is just plain wrong for the first 30-120 seconds after we initialize the application, or any other GPS-enabled app. If you watch the screen you can often see the initial position 'jump' to the GPS enabled position after a few seconds to a minute.

6) We found that using the iPad controls for screen brightness is not adequate in direct sun and not quite dim enough at night.

7) There is no single-touch MOB function in the app.

8) Because the iPad has a capacitive rather than pressure sensitive touch screen, if wet with spray, dew, or rain (especially salt spray), it behaves in a manner I can best describe as 'rolling its eyes back in its head and swooning'. Having a cloth at hand to wipe the screen dry is all that's needed to overcome the problem and get it to behave responsibly again.

9) The iPad/Navionics 'track' function is odd, and has some memory limit that I don't yet understand. After a time — 12 to 36 hours — it seemed to randomly end the track and not start a new one. It's annoying, but that's the way it works.

Unlike the Wanderer, we found the Navionics charts on the iPad to be accurate, even at Punta Mita, where the paper and CM93 charts were off by over a mile. While in Punta Mita I walked to the end of the panga breakwater with my iPhone, and it correctly located me as accurately as I could verify by eye. Our charts for the area show more detail than was pictured in the July Latitude, and included the rocks and outlying islands. So perhaps the Wanderer only had the base map for that area. Even Isla Isabela, which is notorious for often being mischarted, was accurate on the Navionics app.

In Mazatlan, where most charts don't show the estuary and marinas at the north end of the city, Navionics accurately shows them all, albeit not perfectly up-to-date. See the accompanying graphic of the entry to Mazatlan and entry to Marina Mazatlan. Note the 'ghost' island we passed over/through entering the channel. The second graphic shows the track of our entry to Ensenada, which I think shows that the app gets the job done pretty well.

I suspect that Navionics has aligned the underlying charts with GPS imagery to match landforms to the chart outlines, and they have clearly added detail in areas such as San Jose del Cabo, the Mazatlan yacht harbors, Nuevo Vallarta, and elsewhere. Soundings remain the weak point, but you can't fix them with Google Earth.

We did try Garmin's Blue Chart app on the advice of a cruiser in La Paz, but found those charts weren't as good.

It seems all chart sets for Mexico are based on the old DMA charts last available to the public in the 1990s, and on surveys circa World War I done by the US Navy. These charts are out-of-date, inaccurate, and off-datum by up to miles. If you use them with the navigation techniques of the day — compass bearings and hand-plotting — they work fine. If you use them with a GPS and rely on the result, grief might well ensue. The only GPS-accurate charts we have found are the Navionics, and even these have some 'personality issues'.

We also download the appropriate Coast Pilot or Sailing Directions in PDF in iBooks, and have that at hand as well, with the appropriate page 'open' in the app.

As Latitude does, we use charts and chartplotters as an aid supplemented by our eyes, sounder, radar, and a healthy fear of the hard edges of the sea, no matter where we are sailing.

To enable cockpit use of the iPads and iPhones, we use LifeProof waterproof cases, and a Ram suction cup mount on the back of the iPad. We are able to see it from the helm or from the cockpit seats by adjusting the mount. Avant has no cockpit canvas, so protection is required. We alternate between the two iPads as their charges wane, so one is below at the chart table charging while the other is in the cockpit in use. We find that we swap every 4-6 hours. We did get an overheating glitch when one iPad said it was too hot and shut down. Oddly, this was in Canada before we left, when the iPad was in direct sun for a few hours, and we didn't see this in Mexico. As the iPad is a multi-use device, it's handy to have a camera, video camera, and so forth, also instantly at hand.

Rob Murray
Avant, Beneteau First 435
Vancouver, B.C.

Rob — If you'll read a few letters down, you'll learn that GPS-accurate charts are available for Mexico. By the way, you were right, our Navionics charts only had the base data. We know the coast so well that we didn't realize we didn't have the complete detail. Now we know better.


I read Latitude's iPad navigation article in the July issue and, having recently had issues with that system, thought I would weigh in.

I went digital in 2013 with Navionics on my iPhone 5 for the San Juan Islands. We liked it so much that we decided to also get an iPad version. My wife's iPad2 was a Wi-Fi-only version. After a bit of research, we realized that the Wi-Fi-only version of iPad2 does not have a GPS chip built in. We decided to add a Bad Elf external GPS to it. It's been good, although not quite as fast as the iPhone when it comes to satellite refreshes.

On our way to Nanaimo this year, ultimately heading for Desolation Sound, we realized a bit late that when you download a Navionics app, it doesn't automatically include all the charts — as it did on my iPhone version last year. So for the last couple of hours in Trincomali Channel headed for Dodd Narrows, we were back to paper! You also want to make sure that you have a way to charge your device underway, as the GPS uses a lot of battery power.

After finding a USB mini-adapter for the Bad Elf, and charging the iPad at the Nanaimo YC, we downloaded the complete set of Navionics charts for the area and off we went.

I was again surprised when, north of Ballenas Islands, the iPad stopped showing our position. Bashing north in Georgia Strait with heavy chop and 15-20 knots on the nose is not the best place to sort out digital issues. So we were back to having to use the iPhone, which I had also loaded with the same Navionics package.

Snug in beautiful Tribune Bay on Hornby Island — 70-degree seawater, shhh, don't tell anyone — I started using my iPhone to check the blogs for an answer to why my iPad wasn't updating positions. Finally the cause of the problem hit me — memory! Navionics uses a lot of memory, and I had forgotten to delete the once-opened pages on the iPad for weeks. Here's how to do that:

1) From the home screen, double-click the home button to unveil the 'open' pages still in memory.

2) Swipe to delete all the old stuff. You are just deleting the items in memory, not the icon or app.

3) Shut down the iPad completely, with the button on the side top; wait five seconds; then restart. This resets the available memory.

4) Close and reopen the Navionics app, which allows it to read the available memory.

Once we did that, it was like magic, as our iPad2 Navionics app was working again. We like the program a lot, but feel there should be more warnings along the way to remind users of critical items before departing their Wi-Fi connection!

Ira & Alisa Spector
Enchantment, Roughwater 33
Gig Harbor, Washington

Ira and Alisa — Thanks for the tips. We had lots of things still 'open' in memory that we weren't aware of.

"Should be more warnings . . ." We think that applies to a lot more devices than iPads. Take Phantom drones, for instance.


In the July Latitude you mention using Navionics with an iPad for navigation, and some of Navionics' shortcomings. You might also consider the Garmin Blue Charts app for the iPad. The charts aren't very expensive, and they would provide a good comparison.

I haven't cruised Mexico with Blue Charts yet — I'll be doing that this coming season — but I ran the Navionics charts on my Raymarine e7d and the Garmin Blue Charts on my iPad side-by-side this past season in the Bahamas. Hands down, the Garmin Blue Charts were better than the Navionics charts. At least in the Bahamas.

Looking at the Garmin charts for Mexico, I see that Garmin at least shows the Tres Marietas Islands. One other benefit to the Garmin Blue Charts is the integration of Active Captain, so you get to see comments on many of the anchorages. The Active Captain database is stored locally on the iPad, so it's available even if there is no internet. If you have Internet, Garmin Blue Charts also shows GRIB files.

Eric Mears
Makai, Leopard 4700
Angelus Oaks

Eric — If you're a dummy like us, and only have the Navionics base data, the Tres Marietas won't show up. They do on the complete program.

We'll look into the Garmin Blue Charts, but as was noted in a previous letter, at least one user of Blue Charts and Navionics thinks the latter is better, at least in Mexico.

One thing we don't like about Navionics and Blue Charts is that they cram such diverse areas onto the same app. After all, how badly do West Coast sailors need East Coast charts, and vice versa? Filling the memory of one's devices with data you don't need doesn't make much sense to us.


During the seven years I spent cruising in Mexico, all the chart programs were off because they used charts made around 1900, give or take a few years. The latitude was generally correct, but not the longitude. The longitude was generally off by about a mile, and in some places up to two miles. The longitude error uniformly showed the land farther west than it actually is.

The only place were I found both the latitude and longitude off was at Isla Isabela, the nature reserve about 40 miles west of San Blas. The island is about a mile south and a half mile east of where it is shown on the charts.

The least amount of error appears to be along the outside of Baja. The greatest amount of error is along the mainland coast of Mexico, and the farther south you go, the worse it gets.

The Mexican government realized this problem and several years ago did a new survey of all Mexican waters, and issued new charts for all of Mexico. Copies of the new charts can be ordered from Mike and Shelly at La Paz Yachts, and perhaps Seabreeze Books at Pt. Loma.

Chuck Losness
Hale Moana, Gulfstar 41
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Chuck — You sound as though you've been as out-of-date as we have. The fact is that GPS-accurate charts have been available for the Sea of Cortez since at least 2007, and mainland Mexico since at least 2010. Check out the following letter.


Has Latitude checked out our electronic charts for the anchorages of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Coast of Mexico? We have about 130 GPS-accurate electronic charts for the harbors and anchorages. These are original harbor charts, and rely on the same data we collected while working on and updating our Sea of Cortez and Pacific Mexico guidebooks. I've attached a couple of screen shots for some of the popular anchorages from iNavX on the iPad. The waypoints refer to the ones in our guides.

Our charts aren't meant to replace the smaller-scale charts such as Navionics, CMAP, and so forth, but rather to supplement them with larger-scale charts for the harbor with the accuracy and detail that has been lacking in the past. Everyone who has been using the charts for the past couple of years tells us they've been very pleased, and to date we haven't had any errors reported.

We are sponsors of the Ha-Ha again this year, and Heather and I will have a booth at the Kick-Off Party the day before the start in San Diego. We'll have guides and electronic charts for sale, with a demo of the electronic charts. The electronic charts are less than $30 for both the Sea and the mainland.

Shawn Breeding
Blue Latitude Press

Readers — We've seen the Blue Latitude Press electronic charts, and they're pretty impressive. By the way, Latitude 38 and Blue Latitude Press have no connection with each other.


Remember the Freya 39 Gypsy Warrior, which was completed from a hull by Sebastopol's Rick Gio, and taken to the South Pacific numerous times? Well, she burned and 'went to Rome' five years ago. I came across her in what were going to be her final hours before some lead-hungry keel-cutters were going to tear her apart to get at the 10,000 lbs in her belly.

Gypsy Warrior was listed for sale, but with execution day on the horizon, there had already been aggressive scavenging. Twenty minutes aboard was all I needed to convince myself that she was too far gone, a project way out of my league. So as you probably guessed, a few weeks later I forked over 12 large, plus five month's berth rent, and began attacking the overhead fiberglass with an angle grinder as if there were treasure inside. I'll spare you the gory details of the next 15 months, but suffice it to say that Willmington is the kind of place where you gain weight by simply breathing.

In any event, on May 6, what became Ember splashed anew in Alamitos Bay, and within hours was bashing through four-foot chop and 25-knot headwinds under power to anchor in the lee of Long Beach's Island White. We spent two days tuning the rig there before heading to San Diego via Catalina.

I've pieced together some scraps of her history from Latitude's archives, and from the blog that Joe Houska kept during her years as Detour. But it seems I'll have to find Rick Gio to know the full truth. If he's still out there, I hope he'll contact me at .

Cole Taylor
Ember, Freya 39
Athens, Georgia

Cole — Congratulations of biting off more than you thought you could chew, but still being able to digest it.


After a year-long journey and adventure of cruising in the Caribbean on my Beneteau 36 'scouser, it’s finally time for us to return home via the Panama Canal. My question is what would be the best time of year to make my passage from Panama to Central America and Mexico, and then the rest of the way to California.

I've already made it back to Panama, just in time to avoid hurricane season in the Caribbean. I was hoping to get my boat through the Canal within the next 10 days to try to make my way up to California before the Baja Bash starts up at the end of October.

By the way, I loved sailing in the Caribbean, especially in the BVIs, and particularly Virgin Gorda. It was unlike any kind of sailing I've ever experienced in my life. God, I didn't realize water could be that clear! My year in the Caribbean was a totally amazing experience — although I should have taken the Wanderer's advice, as I took a pretty bad beating trying to cross from the coast of Colombia to Aruba. As great as the Caribbean is, I'm dying to get back home to the Bay. I miss the sailing there and all the Bay has to offer.

Steven Thomas
'scouser, Beneteau 36

Steven — The biggest weather obstacles in getting from Panama to San Francisco, in our opinion, are lightning and tropical storms/hurricanes. The summer and fall are the worst times of year from Central America up through mainland Mexico for lightning and torrential rain — to say nothing of humidity. It's the same for tropical storms and hurricanes. So while it's certainly possible to make it from Panama to San Francisco at that time of year, it usually means a much less pleasant trip, and an increased risk of potential weather problems. We don't recommend it.

The Dalai Lama, our good South African friend who has run sail and powerboats for many years, was asked by the owner of the 90-ft boat he runs to take her from San Diego to the Bahamas starting in late July. That meant he'd have had to confront tropical storm dangers in both the Pacific and Caribbean. "I'd quit before I'd do that," said the majestic Dalai. Mind you, he's not adverse to taking risks. For example, he not only towed a 20-ft inflatable across the Atlantic behind the big Jongert he was running, he did it five times.

The Baja Bash doesn't 'start' at the end of October, as it's pretty much a year round phenomenon. We think the times of year with the best weather windows for coming up the coast of Baja are November through January, then May through July. But it can be good at any time of year, and it can be nasty any time of year. But if you can be patient, you can almost always have a good Bash.


Can you give me any guidance on how to get a HIN (Hull Identification Number) on an older boat? You'll remember that a number of foreign-owned boats were impounded in Mexico last year for not having such a number.

Our boat is a 1973 Cal 46. I suspect she may have been laid up in 1972, before boats were given HIN numbers, and launched early in 1973. There is no evidence of the number and none of the archive paperwork shows any HIN. Jensen Marine, the builder, is long gone.

Do you have any suggestions as to how to secure such a number? I'm hauling in two weeks and would like to properly etch it into the transom for next year's Ha-Ha.

Bill Wilson
Jubilee, Cal 46

Bill — We're pretty confident that all Mexican officials now realize that U.S. boats as old as yours were never given HIN numbers. Many foreign boats still don't get them.

Some boatowners have requested, and gotten, a new document from the Coast Guard that has "No HIN number" written on it. Others have adopted their document number as their HIN number, and used a Dremel tool to engrave that number into their transom. Mexican authorities accepted that as a HIN number last year.

If you do one or both of the above, and have all your other paperwork in order, we're confident you won't have a problem. Thanks to new TIP (Temporary Import Permit) forms and new procedures, we don't expect a repeat of last year's fiasco.

By the way, there are some boatowners — ourselves included — who still have the now very old 20-year Temporary Import Permits. These are still good, but since a new and much more official looking one only costs about $50, and can be gotten online, we're getting a new one. We recommend that others with very old TIPs do the same.


One of the ongoing, repetitive, problems for cruisers in Mexico has been getting replacement or repaired parts into Mexico after the boat is already there. Sometimes you can bring them in as part of your luggage, while at other times customs at the airport wants to collect duty

There was a procedure where you could register your broken equipment with customs when you left the country, and were then able to bring the replacement into Mexico duty free. I have tried this, and it involved spending a couple of hours trying to explain the law to Mexico officials, both before leaving and when returning. A couple of times I didn't have a problem. Another time I was told, "Too bad, we still want duty on the repaired part you brought down with you."

An item in the August Sightings mentioned a new form: "Register of the Temporary Importation of Merchandise destined to maintenance and repair of the temporarily imported vessel." Do you know if this form will eliminate the problem? From the title, it sounds as if it could be just what cruisers need. A long time ago you could bring items with you, or even have them shipped, marked with the name of the boat and 'Yacht in Transit', and it eliminated any problems. Hopefully this new form will take us back to those days.

Bill Lilly
Moontide, Lagoon 470
La Paz, Mexico

Bill — Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz reports "the Mexican government has created a new form for the temporary importation of items for repair or maintenance of temporarily imported foreign vessels. It limits items that can be imported to those that can be identified individually by way of serial number, model number, etc. Consumables like paint, nuts and bolts, and so forth can no longer be brought without paying duty." We'll have the link to the new form in the next issue. We hope the word of the form gets passed on down to the Customs officials.

There's an even bigger change that about 95% of people with boats in Mexico need to know about and act on. From now on, all "Mobile Accessories" — be they a dinghy, Jet Ski, motorcycle, or helicopter — must be listed on a boat's Temporary Import Permit. If not, that accessory or those accessories are in the country illegally and subject to duty if not fines. You have a dinghy? You need to get your TIP updated by going to the Banjercito.

When you get your TIP updated, you will also have a chance to correct any errors, such as in the HIN number (or lack thereof), engine serial numbers, misspellings, and what have you. Bring all your supporting paperwork. It will cost you $51, and the expiration date will be the same as the old one. But let's not have any whining, because it's not that much money, and it's not harassment, but rather the Mexican government getting its act together. Actually, we'll allow whining if there isn't a Banjercito — military bank — in a town or city near your boat.

If you are coming to Mexico for the first time, when you get your TIP, which we presume you'll be doing online, make sure all the information is correct, and that you've included your dinghy and outboard. And helicopter, if you have one.

There are also changes in U.S. law that will affect cruisers heading south to Mexico. A new change in United States banking rules means checks drawn on U.S. banks can no longer be cashed by banks or financial institutions outside the United States. So don't expect to go into a Mexican bank with a U.S. check and hope to cash it. They won't do it.



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