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August 2015

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Since many marinas are being inundated with SUPs by operators who have no clue about anything on the water, it would be nice to review the right-of-way rules. Who has right of way, a boat under sail or a person on a SUP? If a SUP is legally classified as a 'row boat', wouldn't it normally have the right of way?

Phil Jay
Yankee Traveller, Cal 39
Redondo Beach

Phil — Excellent question. Timely, too.

The first thing to understand is that the Coast Guard classifies SUPs as 'vessels', which means they must comply with all the federal navigation rules — except when being operated in swimming, surfing or bathing areas.

As 'vessels', SUPers are required to have a USCG-approved PFD for each person, a sound device that can be heard for a half mile, a visual distress signal and a navigation light. A flashlight will do for the latter, but it must be "at hand," not in some compartment. How often are these regulations complied with? We'll let you guess.

The second thing to understand is that, except for one situation, the navigation rules do not grant privileges, but rather impose responsibilities. So no matter what vessel you're on, you have to obey the federal navigation rules.

But here is where things get a little fuzzy. None of the navigation rules exonerates any vessel from the consequences of "neglect." Neglect can include not taking the appropriate actions to determine and avoid a collision, even if your vessel would otherwise have the right of way.

This is why many businesses that rent SUPs, kayaks and rowboats simply tell their clients that "large motor and sail vessels have the right of way over SUPs, kayaks and rowboats," even if this isn't always true. The thinking behind it was explained on one SUP site: "Since kayaks [and SUPs] are very maneuverable, it is legally up to us to not cause less-agile craft to come to grief."

To summarize, no matter what kind of vessel you're on, know the navigation rules, be very aware and careful, change course to avoid collisions very early, and when changing course, do so emphatically so your actions are clear to the operators of other vessels.

Since everybody is going to want to know the one situation in which the navigation rules do grant privileges, it's to certain motor vessels headed downstream in certain inland waterways of the United States.


I'm going to sail across the Pacific in 2016 as part of the World ARC. The schedule calls for us to be in Panama's San Blas Islands on February 1, the Galapagos on February 24, the Marquesas on April 1, Tonga on June 1, and Australia on August 15.

I'd like to know how and if the big El Niño of 2015-2016 is going to impact my trip. It seems as if the winter of 2015-2016 will be an El Niño year for sure, but how long will it last?

Jason Shell
Two Fish, Antares 44i
New York, NY

Jason — On June 11, the Guardian newspaper of England ran the following lead paragraph on a long story about El Niños: "The global El Niño weather phenomenon, the impacts of which cause global famines, floods — and even wars — now has a 90% chance of striking this year."

The article ran on June 11, 2014, which as you know was last year. As you might also know, last year's 'sure thing' El Niño, the "great wet hope" for drought-stricken California, was a complete bust.

In June this year, the U.S. National Weather Service Climate Forecast Center released the following forecast: "There is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through the Northern Hemisphere in the fall of 2015, and around an 85% chance it will last through the winter of 2015-2016."

Sound familiar?

We don't mean to mock El Niño forecasters because we think they have an impossible job. There are just too many variables in attempting to accurately forecast El Niños, let alone how long they might last. In fact, the National Weather Center lists four separate "sources of uncertainty for seasonal outlooks." And at least one of them can wipe out what looked like a sure El Niño in a matter of weeks.

A second problem is that even when there is an El Niño — an average of every five to seven years — it doesn't mean there will be climate events that are frequently associated with other El Niños. And sometimes weaker El Niños have stronger El Niño-associated effects than do strong El Niños. You just never know.

The following two examples demonstrate the lack of necessary correlation between strong El Niño conditions and effects sometimes associated with El Niños. The winter of 1982-1983 had, until that point in time, the strongest El Niño incidence ever recorded up until that time. Coincidence or not, it was also the season of the greatest number of tropical cyclones in French Polynesia — five hurricanes and two tropical storms. It started with Tropical Storm Lisa near the Marquesas in December, a storm that made it to Bora Bora with gale-force winds. Hurricane Nano ran down the eastern Tuamotus with winds to 85 knots. Hurricane Orama hit the Tuamotus with 95 knot winds in late February. Tropical Storm Prema hit the leeward Societies with 55 knots in early March. Hurricane Reva battered most of French Polynesia with 100-knot winds in mid-March. Hurricane Veena formed near the Tuamotus in early April and passed over Tahiti with close to 90 knots, sinking something like 50 boats. And lastly, Hurricane William hit the eastern Tuamotus with 75 knots in late April. It was an astonishing season, as French Polynesia had only very rarely been hit by tropical storms in the preceding 75 years, and has only occasionally been hit since.

But compare 1982-1983 with 1997-1998, which had even stronger El Niño conditions. The only tropical system to hit Polynesia was Alan, and he could barely muster 40 knots. (It is true, however, that he caused extensive landslides that killed 12.) So as we said, just because there is a strong El Niño doesn't necessarily mean there are going to be unusual weather threats to mariners.
Just to make sure everyone understands, El Niños begin as a giant pool of warm water swelling in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that moves toward South America. Why the swelling? Most scientists believe it's because the warm tradewinds that normally blow warm surface water to the west — which is why the sea level around Indonesia is normally 50 centimeters higher than it is right off the coast of South America — didn't blow as hard as usual. When these tradewinds die down, the normal oceanic currents are thrown off, so the warm water in the west flows back toward South America.

El Niños generally, but not always, result in fewer than normal hurricanes in the Atlantic/Caribbean, but a greater than normal number of hurricanes in the Central and Eastern Pacific. And also a lot more rain in California, particularly Southern California. But please note the "generally" qualification, as there are no guarantees when it comes to El Niños.

If we were you, we'd prepare for all possible weather events, keep our eye on the El Niño situation, but not worry too much about it. One of the reasons we wouldn't worry too much is that the World ARC itinerary does a pretty good job of keeping you out of hurricane zones during hurricane season.


My wife Elizabeth and I are heading back to the South Pacific to continue cruising aboard our Freeport 41 Journey. But this time it is with our lovely two-month-old baby.

We loved the article that Latitude did on my wife's being the December Playboy Playmate, and being in the running for Playmate of the Year. My San Francisco charter business and sailing school got a nice boost from the attention.

Elizabeth was not selected as Playmate of the Year — Playboy very possibly learned that she was pregnant. But her not being selected is no big deal, as all our attention is devoted to preparing for a challenging cruising season with our newborn.

Our 'six-on, six-off' cruising lifestyle had 10 months 'off' for us this year, but hey, we got a baby out of it, and had a lot of fun back in the States, too.

Journey has essentially been lying to a mooring for almost a year, so we're not sure what condition she will be in when we get there. The marina owner has been looking after her, so I know she's floating. My main concerns are the systems, but as long as the engine, watermaker, batteries, radar and thru hulls stayed in good shape, we'll be styling. We're a little concerned about the interior, too, as it could be covered in mold. That said, the nearly 40-year-old Journey was reliable when we left her, so we're thinking the odds are pretty good — despite 10 months, including a rainy season, in the tropics — she'll be pretty much ready to go.

After being away from the boat and sailing for almost a year, it almost feels as though we'll be cutting the docklines for the first time. But it’s definitely not the first time, as we've already doublehanded to Hawaii, and then to French Polynesia. And now we're in the best cruising grounds in the Pacific.

Our goal? To sail around the world while building a family.

Capt. Eric & Elizabeth Ostrander
Journey, Freeport 41
San Francisco/South Pacific

Eric and Elizabeth — You have a couple of excellent goals. We wish you the best of luck.

Readers — Having run some Playboy-type photos of the proudly sexy Elizabeth in previous issues, we wrote the couple asking for some photos showing the 'mom' side of her. Alas, we didn't hear back from them by press time — it's not easy sending high-res photos from Bora Bora — so you'll have to suffer through another sexy photo of Elizabeth.


The July cover, with the two boys hanging off the transom of the schooner Juno, is Latitude's best ever. I love the kids' pose. And then mom — or the 'M type' — checking them out while all the guys on the boat are looking the other way. Cool shot.

Greg Paxton
Relentless, Sydney 32
Richmond YC

Greg — Glad you liked it. The 'models' are Owen, 11, and Ethan, 7, di Basio. They are known as the Bunzini Brothers, and we're one of their 'uncles' a couple of months each year, at least until our adult children figure out how to make babies. The boys are both wonderful little rascals, but as different as can be.

Their dad Scotty has run the 65-ft (LOD) Gannon & Benjamin-built schooner Juno since she was new 11 years ago. Despite being pregnant, mom Lila was the boat's chef the first winter season. The schooner's owners like the boat to be at Martha's Vineyard, where Lila has a landscaping business, in the summer, and St. Barth in the winter. Juno also does a little stint in Antigua for varnishing and to win her class in the Antigua Classic Regatta. But the annual back and forth between the Northeast and the Caribbean means Scotty has done 22 1,500-mile rhumb line trips between the Northeast and the Caribbean. These passages are much more challenging than the Baja Bash between San Diego and Cabo.

Lila and the boys spend about 2.5 months each winter in St. Barth, trying to be together as a family as much as possible, while making sure the kids don't miss out on regular life back in the States. The boys get in lots of watersport activities while at the island, plus art lessons from David Wegman. Last winter Wegman guided them in building ships in a bottle.

Scotty built the family a great little house on the Vineyard. It's now got a huge garden where the family grows much of their own food and raises chickens and probably some other animals, too. Most evenings dad and the boys go sailing on Sanderling, the family's Marshall 18 cat boat, which Scotty describes as "the greatest yacht ever built!"

We're proud to have the Bunzini Brothers on the cover of


I'd like to make a correction to Ronnie Simpson's Transpac preview article, in which he stated that Sweet Okole, the Farr 36 that was built in Hawaii, was the overall winner of the 1985 Transpac. That's not true, as Sweet Okole placed second to the Cal 40 Montgomery Street in Class D. Montgomery Street not only won class honors, she won overall corrected time honors.

Having crewed aboard Irv Loube's Bravura in 1983, when she took overall corrected time honors, I tend to remember things like that.

Nick Gibbens
Shenanigans, Express 27
San Francisco Bay

Nick — You're right about Montgomery Street's being the overall winner of the 1985 Transpac. Had the Wanderer been available to check the copy before it went to press, he would have known it was wrong because we happened to sit next to 'Slow Joe' Guthrie, who drove Montgomery Street for most of the last two days of the 1985 Transpac, at a big Transpac dinner at the Hawaii YC. Having just arrived, and having not had any decent sleep in several days, Joe kept face-planting into his dinner plate. Several times the overzealous security people tried to kick him out, wrongly assuming that he was drunk. We'd been with Joe all along, and knew he was exhausted and hadn't been drinking at all. It was our pleasure to make sure that the hero of that Transpac didn't get kicked out.

That said, we sympathize with Simpson, as there are so many races these days, with so many boats, and so many of the boats change hands, that it's hard to keep track.


The July 10 'Lectronic piece about one computer model forecasting that a still-unformed hurricane off southern Mexico would hit Southern California caught my eye. Being a numbers kind of guy, I noticed the 1858 and 1939 dates of previous Southern California hurricanes are 81 years apart. It also happens that 1939 and 2015 are 76 years apart. The difference between 81 and 76 years is only 5 years, or 3.2% of the total 157 years since 1858 until now. In other words if the dates had been 1859 and 1937, we could be looking at a 78-year weather cycle. Aren't numbers so much fun!

Paul Dennis
Feeling Good, Fantasia 35
Redwood City

Readers — Since even the possibility of a hurricane hitting Southern California is so rare, and since many more sailors read Latitude than 'Lectronic, we're republishing the 'Lectronic piece here:

"We’re not sure where Mark Michelson got the accompanying weather map, which he says 'depicts a Category 4/5 hurricane that had turned the corner down around Cabo. Looks like a Category 1 or 2 as it goes by Ensenada, and then a Cat 1 or tropical storm when it arrives in Southern California, if it arrives at all. Again, the storm hasn’t even formed yet, but it made my morning to see some actual fireworks forecast to come my way.'

"For what it’s worth, Passage Weather is forecasting a broad hurricane having formed well off the coast of Mexico by Friday, July 17, but never coming very close to Cabo, let alone Ensenada or Southern California.

"The National Hurricane Center reports that 'concentrated showers and thunderstorms associated with a low-pressure area centered about 1,300 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California Sur have become better organized during the last 24 hours. Further development is expected and a tropical depression will likely form over the weekend while the low moves generally northwestward.' They say there is a 70% chance of formation in 48 hours and a 90% chance of formation in the next five days.

"Making short-range forecasts of tropical storm and hurricane paths and forces is difficult. Making long-range forecasts before the storms have even formed is . . . well, impossible.

"The 1939 California Tropical Storm, aka the 1939 Long Beach tropical storm, aka El Cordonazo, and aka The Lash of St. Francis, is the only tropical storm to have made landfall in California in the 20th century. (A hurricane hit San Diego in 1858.)

"The 1939 California Tropical Storm was a deadly one, claiming 48 lives at sea alone. Six people caught on beaches were drowned. Twenty-four died aboard a vessel named Spray as she attempted to dock at Point Mugu. The two survivors, a man and a woman, swam ashore and then walked five miles to Oxnard. Fifteen people from Ventura drowned aboard the fishing boat Lur. And many vessels were blown ashore.

"Flooding killed another 45 people in Southern California, as downtown L.A. got more than five inches of rain in 24 hours, and Mt. Wilson got more than 11 inches. Beachfront houses all along the coast were washed away.

"So while it’s unlikely California is going to get hit by a tropical storm or hurricane this month, it’s still possible.

"Beau Vrolyk, who has restored the schooner Mayan, which formerly belonged to rocker David Crosby, says his dad told him about the last time a tropical storm hit the Los Angeles area. 'He was at the Los Angeles YC for the big blow in 1939. He says it knocked the yacht club off its foundation and sank half the fleet in the fish harbor. There were 10-ft breakers inside Los Angeles Harbor. There are still a few folks around the Los Angeles YC who remember it."

So ends that '
Lectronic item.

By the way, the storm-to-be that one model suggested would hit Southern California, became Hurricane Dolores, moved northwest, as do most hurricanes off Mexico, and wasn't a threat to either the mainland or Baja.

By the way, even if the wind from Mexican hurricanes doesn't hit the Mexican shore, the surf sure can. Check out the video of surfing inside Banderas Bay on huge waves generated by hurricane Blanc — it's at


The graphic Mark Michelson put up showing what was allegedly to be the path of 98e, later 2e, and which became Hurricane Dolores, was from And it was a false prediction. All the other models showed that this storm-to-be would be dissipating at sea, south of Mag Bay. is not an accurate predication site. The 'Lectronic article was excellent on historical fact, but Latitude was irresponsible for foretelling a hurricane hitting Los Angeles. It ain't going to happen, sorry.

I follow, where I find out much about these lovely monsters, and where and how to predict them, their intensity, and their path. Please do more research before writing of hurricanes headed to Los Angeles.

Karen 'Zeehag' Duran
Solitary Bird, Formosa 41
San Diego

Zeehag — Three times in that 'Lectronic we made it clear that we weren't saying that Southern California was going to be hit by a tropical storm or hurricane. We merely reported the interesting fact that one hurricane model's very long-range forecast was for a hurricane to hit Southern California. And, based on two previous tropical storms hitting Southern California, noted that it wasn't an impossibility.

There are a number of computer models for hurricanes, and all are based on different assumptions. Due to the difficulty in forecasting the path of hurricanes, most are wrong most of the time. Nevertheless, even the National Weather Service takes at least five models into consideration when making their official forecasts, and often makes note of it when there are significant disagreements.

Personally, we like to have as much information as possible. For example, Passage Weather tends to forecast the possibility and possible paths of tropical storms days earlier than the National Hurricane Center. We find this to be valuable, because knowing whether conditions are ripe for the formation of a tropical storm allows us to make more intelligent trip planning.


While reading the July 5 Scuttlebutt, I came across the item about Robert Suhay of the East Coast setting a 'world record' for sailing the longest distance, unassisted, in a Laser. The 52-year-old apparently spent nearly four days sailing from the Sail Carteret Sailing Club in Morehead City, North Carolina to Annapolis, Maryland, stopping only for a sleep break aboard one night. He covered a distance of something like 346 miles.

While I'm impressed with Suhay's stamina, am I being too cranky to think it's a stupid and meaningless 'record'? After all, it's not the kind of sailing Lasers were made for, he wasn't sailing against any competition, and to my knowledge nobody had even attempted it before.

Can I set a 'world record' for being the first person to sail, unassisted, from Moss Landing to Martinez, taking Treasure Island to port, while not wearing any underwear? It doesn't seem that different to me.

I don't want to rain on Suhay's parade, but come on, dude. Your record sounds like something Rimas Meleshyus would dream up.

Ralph Carson
Dark Night, Cal 25
The Delta

Ralph — We've got two issues with Suhay's 'record'. First, what he did in no way compares with what Mexican Carlos Aragon did with his Finn, which is also a one-person dinghy. In the late 1970s, Aragon sailed his 236-lb boat from Mexico to the Marquesas in 109 days. The Great Circle distance for his trip was 2,820 miles, but given the currents and winds, Aragon believes he sailed about 4,000 miles. True, Suhay's Laser is 11 inches shorter than was Aragon's Finn, but Aragon spent about 30 times as much time on the water and sailed 10 times farther. He didn't have a GPS or any other modern electronic equipment either. We'll let each one of you decide who you think deserves the 'world record' for the longest distance sailed in a one-man dinghy.

Furthermore, we're pretty sure that Serge Testa, formerly of Berkeley, also put Suhay's achievement to shame. It will be remembered that Testa cruised his 12-ft Acrohc Australis around the world. Surely there were plenty of 300+ mile passages in the course of that adventure.

So even if Suhay's trip receives the Guinness World Record designation, which he has applied for, how meaningful is it in light of what others have done?

Our second issue with Suhay's record — and with the Guinness folks apparently being willing to give their stamp of approval — is that he had no competition. We think the least Suhay could have done was announce what he was planning to do a year in advance, and challenge others to try to do better. We have the same problem with all other 'world records' for which there were no other competitors.

An example of a recent new 'world record' that we're happy to recognize is the one set by Al Hughes, Graeme Esarey and Matt Steverson, crew of the F-25c trimaran Elsie Piddock, who crushed the competition in the inaugural R2AK race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan. It was a reasonable course, the event was well-advertised, and it easily attracted more than a quorum of competitors.

We would be remiss if we didn't mention that in 2010 Tania Elías Calles Wolf of Mexico singlehanded her Laser from Cabo San Lucas to Banderas Bay, a distance of 282 open-ocean miles.


My boat is back in California, and I will not be returning to Mexico with her before my current Temporary Import Permit (TIP) expires next January. The last issue of Latitude says boatowners need to cancel their TIP before it expires. I haven't been able to find out how to do this. Any suggestions short of taking my boat back to Ensenada? Can it be done at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego or can I drive to the border and do it there?

Chuck Losness
Hale Moana, Gulfstar 37
Dana Point

Chuck — We're glad you brought this up because this is something that is very important for people who have gotten a TIP for their boat in Mexico, or who buy a boat that has gotten a TIP in Mexico. The TIP goes with the owner of the boat and the boat. It is not transferable. So if you show up in Cabo, for example, with a TIP that belongs to the previous owner, or is expired, you're going to have big problems because a boat can't have two TIPs at once or be issued a new one until the old one has been canceled.

According to Tere Grossman, president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, there are two ways to cancel a TIP. The first is to cancel it at any Banjercito office. There is one in Tijuana and another at Ensenada. If it's not too much trouble, we'd probably go to the one in Ensenada, as we suspect they deal with this paperwork more often.

Or, you can send your TIP by registered mail — make sure it's registered — to Administración de Operación Aduanera “3”, Administración Central de Operación Aduanera, Av. Hidalgo No. 77, Módulo IV, 1º piso, Col. Guerrero. C.P. 06300, México, D.F. They will cancel it for you. Keep the receipt of the registered mail to prove that you've done this. Frankly, we don't trust the Mexican mail that much, registered or not, so our preferred option would be to cancel it at a Banjercito.

Grossman is continuing to work with Mexican officials, hoping they will let TIPs expire just as passports expire. But she hasn't been successful yet.

But just to review, if you are coming back from Mexico and your boat has a TIP, and you'll be going back to Mexico before it expires, there is no need to cancel it. But if you're going to return to Mexico after the current TIP has expired, or if you're thinking about buying a boat that's been to Mexico and gotten a TIP, make sure that the TIP has been canceled. This will save you from a bureaucratic nightmare.


I read in Latitude that if someone buys a boat in Mexico that had previously gotten a TIP, it is absolutely necessary the old TIP be canceled before the boat returns to Mexico.

I bought a trimaran in Eureka, but am now in San Diego, soon to be headed to Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada. My boat was in Mexico years ago, and the last TIP paperwork I can find was from 1997, and was obtained by the second owner before me. The paperwork on the boat indicates that she was last in Mexico in 2004, so it's been over 10 years and the TIP must be expired.

So how do I find out if the TIP was canceled? And can I cancel the TIP or does the previous owner — actually two owners ago — have to do it? And what if he died?

To complicate things more, I've renamed the boat and changed the hailing port, but the documentation number is the same. Any ideas?

Christopher Glass
Planet Earth

Christopher — It's a little more complicated than you think, as back in 1997, they were issuing 20-year Temporary Import Permits. We know because we got one. If that's the case, your boat's TIP might still be in effect. That said, TIP records in Mexico were a mess back then, and we wouldn't be the least bit surprised if there were no record of it. How to find out? Since you're already in San Diego, we'd make a land trip to the Banjercito office in Ensenada and try to get a new TIP. If they'll give you one, you'll know they don't have any record of the previous one.

What to do if the 1997 TIP is still valid and the owner who got it has passed away? Oh boy, you could be facing a major problem. If that's the case, we'd ask for one of the folks from Cruiseport Marina to accompany you to Banjercito to try to help out, as they are usually very good about this.

If all else fails, you could cancel the Coast Guard documentation in favor of state registration, then redocument her, giving the boat a new documentation number. Since the boat name, hailing port and documentation number will all be new to Mexican authorities — there were no hull identification numbers before 1982 — there would be no reason for them not to issue you a TIP. Hopefully, it won't have to come to that.


The Wanderer's question about whether the Yanmar diesels on his Leopard 45 catamaran 'ti Profligate should be run at lower rpm now that they have 10,000 hours on them is not, in my humble opinion, easy to answer.

Generally speaking, I would run a diesel — no matter how old it was — at whatever rpm that it could handle — within the manufacturer's specs, of course. If the engine maintained a proper water temperature and oil pressure, it should be happy.

A lot of people overlook the fact that running a diesel below its recommended operating temperature is not good for it. My 1973 Morgan Out Island 41 still has the Perkins 4-107 diesel that came new with the boat. The engine has been overhauled twice in 42 years, but still runs perfectly at the manufacturer's spec of 3000 rpm.

The question of backing off rpms for an aging engine actually makes sense for an engine of any age. I would not run any engine at wide-open throttle 100% of the time. I would use full throttle only when needed and for a short period of time. The owner of the fuel dock will hate you for less than full throttle, but your wallet will love you.

When I motorsail, I have my engine loping along at about 1800 rpm. I keep an eye on the water temperature to ensure it stays somewhere around 180 degrees. It has a tendency to cool down to 150-160 degrees when run for long periods at 1800 rpm. A nudge of the throttle up to 2000 rpm will usually get it back in the recommended temperature range.

John Howard
Horizon, Morgan Out Island 41
Okinawa, Japan

John — We don't know about the charterers, but we've almost never run 'ti Profligate's Yanmars at full throttle. Full throttle would mean 2700 rpm. We've frequently run the diesels at 2500 rpm on deliveries. But with the engines now having 10,000 hours, Tony at BVI Yacht Charters recommends running them at no more than 2000 rpm — even though they run great and don't burn oil. That's what we're not sure about, as other experts say to continue running them at 2500 rpm.


I treat my marine diesels on sailing vessels the same way we maintained the marine diesel engines on our commercial fishing vessels in Alaska. Some of those engines are over 30 years old and still operate on a daily basis thanks to the following simple guidelines:

1) Fluids. We all know it's a pain, but the occasion when one does not check the engine fluids — fuel, oil, coolant, circulation of raw water — there will be a failure.

2) Regular service. Daily, weekly, monthly service is necessary no matter if the equipment has been operated or not. Corrosion due to dissimilar metals and the general nature of ambient sea air, as well as direct contact with saltwater, will eat away joints, hoses, belts, fittings and metals. It doesn't matter whether the engine has been run extensively or not.

3) Operational monitoring. Just because a diesel is running doesn't mean it doesn't have issues. Monitor heat gauges, oil pressure and rpms hourly when on watch — or every 15 minutes if the gauges are easily visible. Doing this can prevent a baked engine.

4) Finally, engine rebuilds. As a rule of thumb, I rebuild the upper end of my diesels — valves, injectors, turbo if equipped, etc. — at no more than 2,000 hours, and do a total upper- and lower-end rebuild — pistons, rings, cam, bearings — at no more than 4,000 hours. This insures that all systems are fixed before there is a major malfunction. Occasionally I have done upper-end engine rebuilds earlier if there were seal/gasket issues.

That said, once the break-in period is over on a new diesel, or after they've been rebuilt and broken in, no way should they be babied by being run at lower rpm. Every engine has a 'sweet spot', which is the optimal running rpm, and a maximum that should never be exceeded. These may fluctuate when rebuilds are done, but as long as seals/gaskets and hose fittings are not leaking, the engine should be run where she is comfortable.

It will be interesting to see what the old salts say about this topic.

Rory Kramer
Alika, Challenger 32

Rory — Following your guidelines, we would have had to rebuild the upper ends of 'ti Profligate's two Yanmars a total of 10 times, and her lower ends four times. Based on the experience of others — see the letter below — we're not sure this would make economic sense.

Rory reports that the last time he had the top end of his Challenger's Volvo Penta rebuilt at Svendsens, it cost a minimum of $400.

"On several occasions the mechanic cracked her open and found he didn't have to do anything more than clean/replace injectors," writes Rory. "The lower end is where you can run into money, at least $1000. But then again, with over 10 Hawaii round trips on the Challenger, the biggest underway repair I had to do was replace an alternator. I think preventative maintenance is money well spent."

For what it's worth, those upper- and lower-end costs seem pretty low to us.


I'm no expert on diesels, but the Perkins 4-107 in my Cal 40 Green Buffalo is 48 years old. It's never been rebuilt, it doesn't burn any oil, and it just keeps on chugging. This has included running for several days at a time during deliveries back to California after races to Hawaii.

I have no idea how many hours are on the engine, as the hour meter wasn't working when I bought the boat 11 years ago. I do know I have managed to put 2,000 hours on her during my ownership.

The one issue I have with the Perkins is that my wife would really like it to "die," as it's a noisy old-school diesel. She really wants it replaced with a Yanmar because they "sound like sewing machines" by comparison. I'm perfectly happy with the Perkins and would rather invest in new sails to make Green Buffalo sail faster.

I'd like to know how many other boats out there have diesels that are 50 years old and still chugging.

Jim Quanci
Green Buffalo, Cal 40

Jim — Forty-eight years, impressive.

By the way, we can remember doing beer can races off Sausalito against Green Buffalo way back in 1980. We can't remember the owner's name, but he'd let a lovely young woman named Peggy race the boat even if he wasn't there. Peggy did great, too. Fond memories of the old days off Sausalito.


At the moment we're stern-tied to a tree at Peter Island's Little Harbour, chillin' and working on boat projects and such. Our crew for the next leg of our sail training, which will be from here to the Azores, arrives in the next few days. By the end of this sail training season we'll be in Ellos, Sweden.

Thanks to El Niño — bummer for those in the Pacific — we've had very mellow weather in the Caribbean. Our passage from Panama's San Blas Islands to the Dominican Republic went incredibly well.

This is the third time since 2000 that we've made the long passage across the Caribbean Sea, and we've learned more about the tactics each time. Here are some tips:

1) Don't try to sail directly from Panama to anywhere other than Cartagena. The first time we tried sailing directly from Panama to Ponce, Puerto Rico, and got hammered. Ouch!

2) Expect light and favorable winds and current from the San Blas past Cartagena, Punta Marta, and nearly to Cabo de la Vela on the Peninsula de la Guajira just before the Venezuelan border. This time we stayed 20-50 miles off, motorsailing when needed. From there, we were able to easily lay Boca Chica, Dominican Republic on one tack, even easing sheets at times.

Marina Zar-Par in the Dominican Republic is co-owned by a gringo, and is totally OK and appears safe. The manager is Rigorberto Pichardo, and we found him to be most helpful. We spent a day exploring Santo Domingo, and rediscovered the spot where Amanda tied up on Maiden in 1989 on the women's qualifying race for the Whitbread Around the World Race. The old city, fort and cathedral are absolutely beautiful and fascinating.

3) It's an easy overnighter, motorsailing inshore, crossing the Mona Passage at night to Ponce, Puerto Rico, when the trades are the lightest. Then it's a daysail, or more probably a motorsail, to Salinas. After that, we got a 3 a.m. start to avoid headwinds to Vieques, made a shot down to St. Croix, and finished it with a screaming reach to the British Virgins.

We hope this helps displace the thinking that it is very difficult to sail east from Panama to get across the Caribbean Sea. If folks were trying to get to the ABC islands, best would be to hold up in Punta Marta or even closer, anchor off Cabo de la Vela, and watch the GRIB files, waiting until the trades go southeast and die down.

By the way, during our morning run the other day at Roadtown in the British Virgins, we came across the Leopard 45 catamaran 'ti Profligate that belongs to the publisher of Latitude. She looks good for her age and use. Did you decide to keep her?

John Neal & Amanda Swan-Neal
Mahina Tiare III, Hallberg-Rassy 46
Friday Harbor, Washington

John and Amanda — As we've mentioned numerous times in Latitude, we are in complete awe of what the two of you have done, providing true open ocean sail training lessons on real sailing routes, often very rough sailing routes, as opposed to just mellow waters. And you've been doing it on long transoceanic schedules, for God' sake. For example, this year you left Victoria, B.C. on March 19 and will end up in Ellos, Sweden on September 19. That's 9,000 miles in six months, or 1,500 miles a month, or an average 50 miles a day, no matter if you're underway or not, between March and September. And we're talking rhumbline miles. During this time you'll have run six sail training sessions, done all the maintenance and repairs, kept the boat clean, etc. Not only that, you two have been doing it for dozens of years. If we didn't know you better, we'd think you were mental.

While we have ultimate respect for you, we can't disagree more completely with two of your statements. First, that it's "not very difficult to sail east across the Caribbean Sea," and second, that sailors can "expect light and favorable winds and current from the San Blas past Cartagena, Punta Marta, and nearly to Cabo de la Vela. . . just before the Venezuelan border."

While it's true that it's often not too difficult to get from Panama's San Blas Islands to Cartagena, lordy, lordy, lordy, from Cartagena to Cabo Vela is regularly one of the nastiest stretches of water in the world.

If we're not mistaken, you guys usually cross the Caribbean Sea in June, which along with July, November and early December, are to our thinking, the least nasty times to do it. But in the winter, it usually howls anywhere to the east of Cartagena. As we reported, our Ocean 71
Big O was twice turned back by 45-knot winds and 15-ft seas, Steve and Linda Dashew had to heave to with their 81-footer, and countless sailors have gotten creamed before turning back.

While it blows hard more regularly in the winter, it can also blow hard in the summer. For giggles, we checked the PassageWeather forecast for Cartagena to Cabo Vela on the day we're writing this editorial response, which is July 10. As you can see from the accompanying chart, the forecast calls for 25 to 30 knots, with a reasonably large area expected to get 35 knots. Right on the nose for boats headed east. Furthermore, the forecast for the following six days called for only a few hours in which it would blow less than 20 to 25 knots between Cartagena and Cabo Vela. You can imagine what the seas would be like after days of such strong winds.

The other thing to note from the weather map is that Cartagena to Cabo Vela is the windiest area in the entire Caribbean Basin. That's almost always the case. But don't take our word for it; here's what Jimmy Cornell says about it in his World Cruising Routes:

"Direct passage from Panama to any of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean is practically impossible on account of the prevailing wind direction, and while on the whole it may be possible to make your east in short hops along the coast of Colombia and Venezuela, it would require a great effort to achieve it, with safety considerations also needing to be taken into account. The only realistic solution is to attempt to sail to the Mona Passage, or, failing that, to the Windward Passage, and then make your easting along the aptly called Thorny Path."

Cornell, like you two, has much more sailing experience than we do, but we take exception when he writes that it would take "great effort" to move east along the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela. What it would really take is either a 'great weather window' or a 'great plan'. Fortunately, there is a great plan for working east along the coast of Colombia.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of the San Francisco-based Moorings 500 Pizazz spent a lot of time between Cartagena and Cabo Vela. In 1999, they wrote a rough guide on how to get east across Colombia with, as we remember, only one overnight segment. It also addressed security issues, because back then, the coast of Colombia was a violent place. It's our understanding that this is no longer the case, except around Buena Vista, where locals have been doing the most horrific things to one another.

The Kenoffels' guide was published in
Latitude in 2003. Among the Kenoffels' advice in the guide: "1) Be realistic by not setting a schedule that you can't keep. 2) Wait for the right weather windows. This coast — mostly between Aruba and Baranquilla — is considered to be the roughest in the Caribbean and one of the top five roughest passages in the world that cruisers regularly make. 3) If the weather is good, there's no law that says you have to stop at all the anchorages we listed." The Kenoffels noted that, because of the strong winds, it can even be difficult for average sailors to sail west, with the wind and seas behind them.

According to the Kenoffels, "The best months to make the passage are when the seasons are changing — April and May, or October and November. It's particularly hard to find a good window from mid-December through the middle of March, when the reinforced trades blow across the Caribbean Sea."

As for the publisher's '
ti Profligate, she will be soon out of the yacht management program in the British Virgins and at a dock behind a home at Jolly Harbor, Antigua. She might be available for long-term charters to very experienced and responsible sailors who have a long history of owning boats, but mostly we'll use her as Latitude's winter base in the Caribbean from February through April. It never crossed our mind to sell her.


I carried some Latitudes south when I went to help Tom Kohrs bring his Island Packet 37 Dragon’s Toy back to the Bay Area last month. We read through the fine magazines pretty quickly while offshore. Of particular note was Max Ebb’s piece on drones. Drones and the images their cameras can capture are nothing short of breathtaking. I'm saving my pop bottles in hope of getting one for my next journey.

“What’s the efficiency of your propeller?” Lee Helm was asked in the article.

“Hovering, it’s always zero," she said. "Just like static thrust from your boat propeller. When the boat is not moving, there is no work being done." And she continued on with her engineering jargon.

But wait, isn’t the drone counteracting gravity when it hovers? That sounds like work to me. Has Lee slipped again? Maybe she didn’t actually say that, as there was no closing quote on the paragraph. Ah, no matter.

It's all good because Latitude is the best sailing read I have turned the pages of.

Richard Shoemaker
Bay Area

Richard — Thank you for the kind words. Lee Helm has not "slipped." She responded to your concerns as follows:

"Well, sure, the hovering drone is counteracting gravity, but even though it's using up power just to hover, it's not doing any useful external work. Work is thrust times speed, and when speed (in the direction of the thrust) is zero, then there's no work being done. Think of it this way: You could prop a 2 x 4 under the hovering drone and 'counteract gravity' without using up the batteries. The chair you're sitting on when you read this is 'counteracting gravity' too, but neither it nor you are doing any useful work.

"It's the same as a tugboat producing static thrust. You could get the same thrust with a tight mooring line running forward from the bow to the pier. But if there's no motion, there's no actual work being done."

As for drones, they really do allow you to get fantastic shots that you couldn't get otherwise. Having owned five of them now, we'd recommend the ubiquitous DJI Vision 2+ for most people. It will do everything 90% of regular users would need, including capturing video good enough for network news. They run about $1,400 new. But as so many have been sold, and there are some newer and more sophisticated drones, you can pick up a used one at a considerable discount.

Two tips to new drone pilots. First, have a checklist you go down before flying, and go down the list slowly and methodically, particularly paying attention to the part about not taking off until the drone has acquired enough satellites. Second, fly the drone frequently — every day for a half hour is good — until you can fly it by instinct rather than calculation.


Recently, the Boy Scouts of America informed me that shoes are not allowed on their sailboats at Florida Sea Base. Since I am planning to be there with my son's Boy Scout Troop, I had concerns regarding foot injuries during our 10-day trip, especially since several of the boys have never sailed.

I own a 2004 Jeanneau SO 40, and love being barefoot while at anchor down here at the Channel Islands in Ventura County. But I always wear shoes while underway. Is it just me who is clumsy, or am I overreacting about the shoe rule?

According to the Scouts, they don't want shoes because most Scouts can't afford the correct shoes, and they haven't had too many injuries. Since we're paying over $1,500 per person for the trip, I think another $20 is worth the expense to ensure the trip isn't canceled early due to an injury.

Should novice sailors go out to sea and learn to sail while barefoot? What are Latitude's thoughts?

John Sandstrom
Radiance, Jeanneau SO 43
San Francisco

John — This is a very interesting question. For us it's not too big an issue on Profligate, because she's a cat that sails flat and has so much open space there aren't many toe stubbers.

It's an entirely different question on the Olson 30
La Gamelle that we singlehand in the Caribbean. That's a very tippy boat with lots of things on which to turn ankles or stub toes. In the beginning we wore shoes all the time. Later we began to go barefoot, as our bare feet were better able to 'read' the deck. Alas, it also meant we stubbed our toes more often.

To be honest, we don't think there is a hard and fast rule. Some boatowners make everybody take their shoes off, even when sailing. Other boatowners insist that everybody wear shoes. All we can say is that we think the Boy Scouts' response to your letter, which follows, and which you so kindly provided, is exemplary.


It's clear that you have grave concerns about being aboard without shoes. This is an extremely rare point of contention among the sailing participants at the Florida Sea Base. But since you have expressed your concern, we will make note and advise your captain prior to your arrival of your crews' need to wear shoes at all times when onboard. This is, of course, with the understanding that all members of your crew will wear appropriate footwear.

As the owner of an exceptional sailing vessel such as yours, I'm sure you understand the damage that can be done to a deck when shoes worn off the boat are worn on the boat. The Florida Sea Base charters 38 sailboats for the Coral Reef Sailing program. Every year, each vessel carries approximately 112 Scouts and leaders for the better part of a week. Less than 1% of these people will have any sailing experience.

For 35 years the Florida Sea Base tried to have the sailors bring appropriate deck shoes. We received significant push-back year after year from the majority of our participants, who do not expect to ever sail again, and who do not want to incur the cost of a pair of deck shoes for just one week. Very few participants complied with our request.

Over the past several years, individual captains have asked the participants to go barefoot while on the vessel. This has evolved to the point where very few participants have worn shoes on our boats for the past several years. Out of tens of thousands of participants, we have documented significantly few foot injuries. The participants sustain significantly more foot injuries playing volleyball than on the sailboats. Our sailing participants are also in and out of the water frequently, causing an issue with storing the shoes when not being worn.

We look forward to your arrival and will advise the captain of your request.

Capt. Luke Knuttel
Sailing Program Director, Boy Scouts of America
Florida National High Adventure Sea Base
Islamorada, Florida


Latitude asked if any readers wanted to buy Chug. You'll remember that she's our Westsail 32 that had her rudder and transom damaged, and as a result we plan to sail her backward — normal transom first — around the world. The answer is, sorry, Chug is not for sale and never will be. When we get too old to cruise her, we intend to donate her to the Smithsonian Institution.

Now that Barb has broadcast our plans to sail Chug backward around the world, I wanted to fill Latitude readers in on some of the details. We intend to anchor stern first, as all the hatches open that way and will make it cooler down below. This also means we'll be able to keep the hatches open when we go to sea.
We also have two halogen spotlights mounted atop the hard dodger so we can see our way at night. These are 'fright lights' taken from a scrapped law enforcement vehicle that I modified to flash red and green so we will be visible over long distance. The windscreen and wipers were taken from our truck, and will allow us to stay dry during tropical downpours. We've also fitted the truck's horn to alert folks of our arrival in the anchorages.

I'm not new to making unusual modifications. I once modified a Chevy Camaro with a Ford Mustang engine and transmission. In the late 1970s I drove that vehicle all the way from Sacramento to Ogallala, Nebraska. In reverse. That made the national press.

You see, life’s all about proving something can be done if you put your mind to it. The late Steve Faucet (sic) managed to break the longest flight record — only to be beaten by a foreigner in a solar plane just this past weekend. Which brings me to my point about our power systems on Chug. They will be 100% solar, with extendable 'wings' that will give us lift, reduce drag, and by my calculations, with help from the bulb bow, have our Westsail 32 planing at around 16-20 knots.

'Backward' Bob & Barb Jones
Chug, Westsail 32

Bob and Barb — We have a pretty strong pain in our left leg. It almost feels as though someone were pulling it.


In the 'Just Three Minutes to Wash' letter in the July Latitude, someone made a mistake and changed our boat Armonie from a Kelley-Patterson to a Kelley-Peterson design.

Armonie is a 58-ft ferrocement cutter-rigged ketch with a seven-ft bowsprit. She was designed in 1972 by Don Patterson of Encinitas. I know of five other of his designs that were being built in the San Diego area in the 1970s. At that time, Don’s full-time job was at Driscoll’s Custom Yachts on Shelter Island, helping to restore one of Jerry Driscoll’s pet projects, the famous wooden racing boat Intrepid.

I hope you'll print this letter to give credit to Don, who not only designed sleek ferrocement hulls, but who also went out of his way to help amateur boatbuilders. And to let him know, if he's still alive, that another of his designs is about to hit the water.

The 'Kelley' part of the Kelley-Patterson equation is me. I've been building from Patterson's design for 43 years.

Stephen Kelley
Armonie, Kelley-Patterson 58
San Diego

Stephen — We're sorry about the mistake, and are delighted to give credit to Don Patterson and to you. Have a happy splash!


I read with great interest the Changes note on the Wanderer and de Mallorca's summer cruising in the canals of Europe. I assume that the European Union, being as regulated as it is, must require boating licenses to operate a motorized canal boat. Is that true? What is required for a non-Euro citizen to operate a boat in Europe? Are you using Doña de Mallorca's Coast Guard 100-ton license for that purpose?

I ask because I have no certifications or licenses, although I have been sailing on San Francisco Bay for 35 years, and before that on the lakes of Colorado. There was no problem with my chartering a boat in the British Virgins even though I didn't have a license, but I assume that it would be a problem for the self-taught mariner to charter or otherwise operate a boat in Europe.

Bill Rathbun
Vector, C&C 38-2

Bill — You might as well have said, 'Tell me some stories about government foolishness, incompetence and/or corruption around the world.' While you made an intelligent assumption in your last sentence, it's an incorrect assumption because so much of what government does is just plain stupid. Let us explain.

European countries do not have the same boating rules and licensing requirements as the United States. To give you one example, when you buy a boat in France or Belgium or England, you get a title and register it as you would in the United States. In the more free-wheeling Netherlands, your bill of sale is your proof of ownership — although if you want to spend a couple thousand dollars more, you can get a title from the Dutch, too.

To prove a similar lack of uniformity in the EU, if you're going to operate a canal boat in the Netherlands, you don't need any kind of operator's license. However, if you want to operate one in Belgium or France, you need both an International Certificate of Competence (ICC) and a CENVI, the latter being an endorsement for using a boat on canals and rivers.

There is an exception to this rule. If you've never been on a boat in your life, don't know port from starboard, the bow from the stern (or your ass from your elbow), you don't need a license to operate a charter boat on the canals and rivers in France. Why would lifelong mariners need a license to operate a boat on French canals and rivers when a complete novice wouldn't? It's all about the money, isn't it? If everybody who wanted to charter a canal boat needed to get an ICC and a CENVI endorsement first, the lucrative French canal charter business would have dried up long ago.

Are we saying that the French government policy is putting commerce ahead of common sense and safety? That would be rude, so we'll let you draw your own conclusions. Before anybody makes any wisecracks about the intelligence of the French government compared with ours in California, be aware that exactly the same thing is about to happen in the Golden State as a result of SB941's being passed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature. The new law, which will be gradually implemented over a number of years depending on the applicant's age, will require that boat operators get 'a card', sort of a cheesy version of a license, showing they know what they're doing on a boat.

Who will be about the only ones exempt from needing to have such a 'card'? "A person operating a rental vessel."

Among the most popular vessels rented are personal watercraft (PWC). PWCs account for only 13% of the vessels in California, yet they are involved in a wildly disproportionate 65% of California boating accidents, and a disproportionate number of fatalities. As far as we can tell, the only explanation for Gov. Brown and the California Legislature making SB941 law with this exemption is that they: 1) Are incredibly stupid; 2) Have no concern for the health and welfare of mariners; or 3) Had members of the PWC industry stuffing money, literally or metaphorically, into their pockets. Maybe California has become like Greece, the birthplace and graveyard of democracy, where applicants for driver's licenses are expected to put between $100 and $300 in a little envelope and give it to the person in charge of issuing licenses.

We're told that the governor and legislature are now working on legislation that would make it illegal for Hertz, Avis and all the other rental car companies to require that people who rent cars have driver's licenses. Or for there to be a minimum age for a person to be able to rent a car. We think this is a joke, but given SB941, we can't be sure.

Anyway, the time it takes to get an ICC can vary greatly depending on the country. We have friends in the French West Indies who had to go to classes every night for a week or two, and prove they could swim, before they were allowed to take the test. When giving the ICC test, the instructor conveniently left the room, giving everybody a chance to ask others if they weren't certain of the answers to a question. Sort of like at the DMV offices in California.

A month before we were to fly to our boat in the Netherlands, we weren't sure if we were going to be able to operate it legally outside the country. This was because the United States didn't sign up for the agreement of about 42 countries on ICC and CENVI testing and licensing, and because we were told you had to be a resident of the country you were taking those tests in. In other words, there was no legal way for a U.S. citizen to get the license needed to operate a boat in French rivers and canals. It wasn't going to be a problem in the free-wheeling Netherlands, as the Dutch don't care if you have a license.

But we just happened to be talking to a yacht broker in Ireland about boats, and at the end of about an hour-long conversation — he was Irish, after all — we mentioned the problem with our trying to get a license to use the boat in France and Belgium. "You're in luck," the broker said. "I'm one of those certified to give those tests." Knowing that it had taken our friends a week or more of classes to pass the test, we asked how long it would take. "If you know what you're doing," he replied, "it shouldn't take more than the morning for the both of you to pass the on-the-water ICC test. I'll just check your boathandling and man overboard recovery skills. And in the afternoon you can take the written CENVI test."
When we mentioned that we didn't think we could take the test in Ireland, he said that sure we could. He said that we could, in fact, take it at any Royal Yacht Squadron facility in England.

"But it's our understanding that a person has to be a citizen of the country where they're taking the test, which is why the English say we can't take the test in their country."

"The English are like that, aren't they?" he laughed with a bit of scorn. "If you come and take the test here in Ireland, you'll be spending a night or two here, at which time you'll be residing in Ireland, won't you? We Irish know how to bend the rules without breaking them," he said with more laughing.

So we changed our plane reservations from Amsterdam to Dublin, and one windy, rainy morning on the River Shannon, demonstrated that we indeed knew how to handle a boat. So we both got our ICCs.

Now we needed the CENVI endorsement, which you get by passing a moderately difficult written test. The problem was that no matter how much we'd searched the Internet, we were unable to find a guidebook to the CENVI rules — at least without being asked to pay a small fortune. And there are some counterintuitive things you need to know. So our instructor/tester gave us a guide book and said he'd be back that evening to give the test. The Wanderer and de Mallorca spent the afternoon in a hotel room cramming as for a final during our university days. We took the test that evening and passed. About 10 days later, the Irish Yachting Association sent us our ICCs and CENVIs. The ICCs have our photos on them and resemble a California driver's license.

In two months on the rivers and canals of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, and having gone through probably 150 locks, many of them manned, nobody has asked to see our ICCs or CENVIs.

We've since been told by H.G. 'Rags' Laragione of the Maritime Institute in San Diego that you can be checked out by their organization, or one in Annapolis, to get your ICC, and they can also give the CENVI test. This contradicts what we've read and been told, but things change and they probably know more than we do. Give them a call.

Want more on European licensing weirdness? If you have a VHF on your boat on the canals and rivers of Europe, and you certainly should, as all manned locks monitor a specified VHF channel, you need to take a three-day course. Three days to learn how to use a VHF!? Our guy in Ireland didn't give the course, not that we had an extra three days to take it anyway. But there's an out. If your boat doesn't have a VHF — they are not required except on the Seine around Paris and certain other spots — you don't have to take the course or test.

Anybody out there still have any faith in the intelligence and efficacy of government? Any government?

Having spent two months on Majestic Dalat in the rivers and canals of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, we can attest to the fact that it's a great alternative six months for those who are doing 'six and six' with their sailboats in the tropics. You can get all you need in a modest Dutch steel canal boat for $20,000, about the price of an RV in the States. And Europe, thanks to the exchange rate, has been shockingly inexpensive. That includes berthing, often less than $12 a night with water, electricity, and heads and shower, and sometimes free. Off-season storage can be inexpensive, too, often just $100 a month. Inland boats are usually hauled every three or four years. And get this, we have yet to encounter one rude French waiter, let alone French person.

While the countryside and cities like Amsterdam, Maastricht and Paris have been fabulous, there are downsides of canal and river cruising. 1) Unlike sailing, there is no Zen to powerboating, nor is there much sense of adventure or accomplishment. It's all about the destinations, which are great. 2) It's surprisingly tedious, as the canals and rivers are often no more than 50 feet wide, and you constantly have to make minor corrections to your course. 3) You have to go through zillions of locks, particularly in France, where one day we had to go through 25 in five hours. Because of the tedium of driving, going through the locks and raising and lowering fenders countless times, you get as wiped out at the end of the day as if you were sailing on the ocean. 4) Due to low speed limits — often less than five mph — all the locks you have to go through, broken locks, giving priority to commercial traffic, the fact the locks close four hours before sundown, and because of often twisty waterways, you don't cover much ground in a day. Thirty nautical miles would be a big day, and as the crow flies to your next destination, maybe only 15 miles. Amsterdam to Paris by train is a couple of hours. We did the same trip with Majestic Dalat in five weeks. And we were pushing it. 5) Fuel is very expensive. The solution to most of these downsides is to greatly limit your range, and to mostly use the boat as a houseboat in a couple of great cities not too far apart. The two weeks we spent at the Arsenal Marina near the heart of Paris, for example, were fabulous.

We don't think a canal boat is an alternative to cruising on a sailboat, but for three to five months a year, it's a great change of pace packed with history and culture you can't find in the tropics.



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