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January 2016

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The Letters editor's narratives are so good! Last month's one about the 135-ft Fife schooner Altair, Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi, Bill Lilly, and all the other people delighted me and warmed my heart. I'm so glad you do Latitude.

Update: I finished reading the issue just before bed and laughed out loud as I read Skip Allan's recollection of Merlin's bosun stylishly showing the Transpac Safety Inspector how nicely Merlin powers at high speed. What a great letter! And the Baja Ha-Ha accounts were inspiring, too.

P.S. How do I get a copy of the sunset cover photo from December of 2013?

Peter Metcalf

Peter — We're glad you liked the Fife/Bon Jovi/Lilly story, although it was naturally more interesting because it included the likes of legitimate talents such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi, and one of the greatest yachts ever built. Personally, we would have liked another hour to make our piece a little smoother and tighter, but with such a small staff we're always operating in a triage mode, so it just wasn't possible.

By the way, there is a coda to the story you might find interesting. While at the awards ceremony for the Banderas Bay Blast in mid-December, we were approached by a fellow who introduced himself as Mark Coleman. He described himself as a very good friend of Jon Bon Jovi, having worked as a lighting specialist for the rock 'n' roll star since he was playing in small clubs.

"I laughed like crazy when I read the thing you wrote about Jon Bon Jovi and Bill Lilly's ex-girlfriend in St. Barth," Coleman told us. "When we do the first read in March for Bon Jovi's upcoming tour, I'm going to show it to him, and I know he's going to love it. I've been working for Jon for something like 30 years, and while there have been some really wild times with him, Richie Sambora and the rest of the band, I can confirm that Jon really is a very nice person."

There's more. Coleman, who has a long history of racing on sleds such as Dick Compton's Alchemy, told us that he will be doing this fall's Ha-Ha with his Cal 48 Waimui, as will a Ventura-based sistership. Inspired by the serendipity of it all, we used our authority as the Grand Poobah to designate Coleman as entry #1 in this fall's event. This thrilled Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven to no end, as just moments before she'd told us that she wants to be entry #2 in every upcoming Ha-Ha for the rest of her life. Done.

As we'll be reminding readers frequently, the starting date of this year's Ha-Ha has been moved back to October 31. The two big reasons are that the water is likely to continue to be warm off Mexico, making it conducive to late-season tropical disturbances, and because without a scheduling conflict with a fishing tournament, there are likely to be more available slips in Cabo San Lucas.

If you are looking for photo reprints, contact Annie at

I'm a former San Francisco Bay sailor who now lives up in Vancouver, BC. I recently upgraded from a Ranger 23 to a new-to-me 1960 Lapworth 36. I think of myself as being a steward of my new boat Paniolo, so I want to learn as much about Lapworth 36s as I can. I know Latitude did a 2004 'Boat of the Month' feature on Lapworth 36s, but I was wondering if you might have any more information.

Ben Jones
Paniolo, Lapworth 36
Vancouver, BC

Ben — Congrats on the new boat. Sorry, but we don't have much to add about Lapworth 36s, although we do remember that we used to race against a Lapworth 36 in HDA races on the Bay in about 1981 with our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary. We can't remember the boat's name, but she sailed out of the San Francisco YC and we're pretty sure some members will remember her.

What distinguished that Lapworth from all other competitors is that her male skipper had an all-female crew, and whenever possible, the women sailed topless. 'Whenever possible' usually meant they wore a foul weather jacket going to windward and went topless off the wind. As we recall, there was a lot of putting on and taking off tops. If anyone sailed with a female crew like this today, no doubt there would be a national howls of sexism, protests and lawsuits. Back then it was merely a titillating distraction. We miss those more innocent, freewheeling times.

Anybody else remember the Lapworth 36 or the gals?

We always follow the unspoken rule of helping sailors in distress, and used to assume everyone else did, too. While off Mexico, we rescued fishermen who were stranded without food or water, sometimes not knowing where they were. You don't talk about stuff like that, you just do it.

For some Northern California sailors, however, social engagements come first. We recently found ourselves adrift, thanks to a broken starter, by Southampton Shoal in no wind. We waved down an approaching sailboat. When they, and their dog, were close, we asked for a tow. Hesitating, they begrudgingly took a line and started towing us.

Less than 10 minutes later the man cast off the line! He said that he felt "really bad" about it, but "had to be in San Francisco by 7 p.m."

We continued to drift until another vessel motored by. Without hesitation, the skipper of Gavilan tied a line and towed us in. That the skipper had many guests on board made no difference; he was happy to help. As we floated into our slip, they cheered! Our faith in humanity was restored. What a true sailor. As for the others, King Neptune will see to them.

Jane Pitts
Shore Loser, Valiant 40

Jane — The situations you describe aren't that similar and illustrate what differentiates a legal obligation from a moral (perhaps) obligation to render assistance.

In the case where you rescued the Mexican fishermen, their lives were clearly in peril, so under international law you had a legal obligation to help them. Furthermore, 46 United States Code §2304(a) mandates that mariners must save "any individual found at sea in danger of being lost." Violations are criminal, with a penalty of up to $1,000 and being thrown in the slammer for two years. Assistance does not have to be given to save property.

In the case of your being adrift without the use of your engine inside the Bay, your lives were not in peril, so nobody had a legal obligation to help you. Without knowing the details, it would seem to us that the other boat had something of a moral obligation however — although we could conceive of possibly mitigating circumstances. For example, what time of day was it and how likely was it that you could have eventually sailed most or all of the way home? How far were you from your marina? Was their daughter getting married at 7 p.m. or something equally important happening? How big was their boat in relation to your boat, and at what speed were they able to tow you? Was it obvious that many other boats would be coming by?

Personally, we get a kick out of helping other mariners, even if they are not in peril. But we can conceive of situations where as much as we wanted to be of assistance, we might ask for the rescuee to hail the next boat, assuming there were others coming along. Without more specifics, we have no idea if this was one of those situations.

That said, we'd be interested if you readers have had any interesting tow/won't tow experiences.

Thank you for the update on the Charles Mower-designed 44-ft LOA Java Head, which has been taken back east for restoration. I was fortunate enough to own her in the mid- to late 1970s. Here's how it happened.

Late in the spring of 1976, I drove from Marin to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in search of a large wooden sailboat, hopefully a schooner. I gunkholed slowly down the Eastern Seaboard all the way to the District of Columbia. While I came across many beautiful boats, I didn't find any that I could afford.

On my way back to Marin, I stopped by the Berkeley Yacht Harbor. While walking the docks, I spotted Java Head. A broker indicated that the owner "might be willing to sell her." At the time she was owned by Vic Segal, the owner of an East Bay foundry. He'd done a lot of restoration work on Java Head — she was built in 1933 — but there was much more to do.

After much deliberation and a stunning sea trial, the deal was closed. Fortunately, I was able to secure an end-tie at the San Francisco YC. I sailed out of there for a short while, then moved Java Head to Lowry's Yacht Harbor in San Rafael. Oftentimes I would spend many hours following the ebb out to deep water, then sail throughout the Bay. I mostly sailed solo and mostly at night.

Sailing out the Gate on Java Head was always thrilling, but in a gentle and peaceful manner. I remember sailing in the Gate one time when my buddy and I decided to try the spinnaker. What a ride that was! As we neared the Gate, the wind picked up and we surfed beneath the bridge. It was terrifying.

Alas, a year later I had to sell Java Head. It was a case of my having fallen in love with a yacht I couldn't afford to maintain. So I moved her to Sausalito Yacht Harbor, where Java Head was purchased by George Leno, a Mill Valley contractor.

Edward Schoon

Readers — We've always thought that Java Head was one of the more exotic names for a sailboat. Java Head is the English name for Tanjung Layar, or what the Dutch called Eerste Punt, the prominent cape at the extreme western end of Java at the Indian Ocean entrance to Sunda Strait. Java Head is a bluff at the sea's edge with higher land inland. It's visible from a significant distance at sea, with deep water close to the shore. The name means 'sail cape' because a large rock close to shore resembles a sail.

On the other hand, the Mower design might have been named after the film Java Head, a 1934 British historical drama. In that movie, the son of a wealthy Bristol shipping magnate marries a Chinese noblewoman, the latter played by the sultry and imperious Anna May Wong. But she soon finds out that he's actually in love with another woman, setting up a predictable trans-cultural drama.

At the risk of being a pest with my frequent correspondence, I find myself compelled to give my contribution to the Merlin feed. I worked at Bill Lee Yachts from 1975 through 1978. I was part of the team building Merlin. I was the 'metal guy', which meant I did the engine installation, the keel, and fabrication of much of the steering system.

I also had the pleasure and privilege of doing deliveries of Merlin — two Baja Bashes back from Mexico and two, 1979 and 1985, trips back from Hawaii. These were supposedly difficult upwind passages, but they were anything but difficult. The ones up Baja were fast — two days from Cabo to Turtle Bay, and two days from Turtle Bay to San Diego — and easy. This was with light WNW winds and, as I recall, no motoring at all. From Hanalei Bay to Santa Cruz in 1979, my crew included some employees of Bill Lee Yachts — Cynthia Hubbard, Joe Buscemi, Les (I've forgotten his last name), and two others.

Merlin was notorious for 'collisions' with waves when going upwind. She was very nimble, however, and after a few of these hull-smashing events, the helmsman usually figured out the pattern and would be able to anticipate the most hollow waves that caused the most unnerving collisions, and quickly maneuver around them. Most of the crew berthed amidships and weren't as affected as those who were in the aft 'cabinita'. The bow collisions had the effect of throwing the bow considerably to leeward. The resulting counter effect was to throw the stern to windward to the same degree. A particularly large collision would throw a sleeping person right out of his/her bunk if the lee cloths were not in use.

Merlin was a delivery captain's dream. She was so much fun to drive that I can't recall one time when a crew coming on watch was slow to take over. In fact, the opposite was often the case, with the 'on' crew begging the relieving crew to let them steer a while longer — even upwind and in the dark and cold of night!

My usual strategy for returning to the West Coast was to stay as close to rhumbline as possible, and that usually took us through the maximum width of the Pacific High. This was usually not a problem with a boat that sailed as well as Merlin. Our daily routine was setting the 'glass ball watch' — we got something like 16 of them in 1979 — and stopping for a swim in the High at high noon. I'm reminded by my crew that we made that passage back to California in just 14 days. Incredible!

I'm looking forward to getting another ride on Merlin in the near future.

Tom Carr
Bluebird, Mirror Offshore 19

Tom — A pest? We love your contributions.

By the way, readers, we've gotten more Merlin stories that we haven't had space to publish yet. But as most are timeless, we'll find space for them in future issues.

I'm surprised that sailboat manufacturers didn't long ago start offering more boats with hard dodgers and/or hard biminis. It also amazes me that they don't engineer better methods for carrying — and launching and retrieving — dinghies. Duh. I guess tradition dies hard.

I wonder if the Wanderer, who finally got a hard top and a good method for launching and retrieving a dinghy from Profligate, will one day muse about why he waited so long to get a furling mainsail. Although I suppose the main on Profligate might be too big for in-mast furling.

Unlike the Wanderer, I don't do spinnakers. A furling type off-the-wind sail such as a screacher is the way to go.

I owned and lived aboard a Cal Cruising 36 in Long Beach for four years, and I use the Latitude 38 Crew List. I did the 2013 Baja Ha-Ha and Bash on the Hunter 410 Tercer Deseo. I was a paying crew/passenger on the Call of the Sea schooner from Los Angeles to Cabo, and from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta in the winter of 2014-2015. I was also crew for six weeks from Grenada to Puerto Rico on the Hunter Passage 42 Life in the spring of 2015.

Matt Johnson
Las Vegas, NV

Matt — While we perhaps waited too long to get a hard top and a proper dinghy-launching system for Profligate, we think about the worst fate to befall a person would be to have everything they wanted as soon as they wanted it. For without desires and aspirations, what are you? We know, we know, a Buddhist, but seriously.

We have mixed feelings about getting furling for
Profligate's main. The sail is too big to furl in the mast, but many bigger boats — including all the mega sailing yachts — have mains that furl into the boom. And the sail shape is terrific. For Profligate, we'd need something like a Leisure-Furl boom system, such as the one Scott Stolnitz has been using on his Switch 51 Beach House. He seems to have liked it for going around the world. But they aren't cheap, so we'll be going without until such time as we win the lottery.

We've actually had a Harken furling system for
Profligate's screachers for about 10 years, but have never installed it. We have never installed the system out of deference for our Ha-Ha crew, for we can only imagine how disappointed they'd be if they didn't have to pack screachers several times a day.

My wife and I used the Transpeninsular Highway to make round-trips to Cabo San Lucas on three occasions in the 1990s, driving our converted 1963 Ford bread truck. The last time we did it was 1999, and the highway was deplorable and dangerous. The pavement was narrow and there were blind curves, especially on the mountain passes. The pavement was terrible. The drivers of the big rigs were often reckless. And the carcasses of vehicles along the side of the road were reminders of the catastrophic crashes that had taken place.

We just drove our boat trailer down to Cabo San Lucas to tow my Mirror Offhore 19 sloop Bluebird back to Watsonville, and I'm happy to report that there has been significant improvement in the roads in the last 16 years. The roads in almost all the passes through the mountains and hilly regions have been improved, with wide lanes, and shoulders in many places. The improvements seem recent and ongoing.

The following is my zone-by-zone review going north as I found it towing Bluebird back to California. Leaving San Jose del Cabo where we had left the boat, we were on a first-class four-lane freeway that skirted Cabo San Lucas on the way to Todos Santos. It was a beautiful, scenic, safe road that can easily and safely be driven at night.

An aside about driving at night. Accepted wisdom advises against driving after dark due to the likelihood of animals on the road. In the 1990s, all the trucks had massive 'cowcatchers' affixed to their fronts. And we frequently saw the results of collisions on the side of the road. But this year there was plenty of truck traffic at night, and we didn't see any trucks with 'cowcatchers'. The truck traffic wasn't like you'd see on the I-5 in California, but every 15 to 20 minutes a truck would highball by.

Faced with the prospect of driving 12 hours and then 'chillin' for 12 hours. I decided to give night driving a try, and hoped the big boys would be clearing a path for me. I drove at 35 to 40 mph and had very good high beams. My trailer had surge brakes that enabled me to stop relatively quickly. If I didn't eat, I found that I could easily stay awake.

The road from Todos Santos to La Paz is also very good. The pavement is great, and many stretches have shoulders. The center line is well marked and there is fog line striping.

From La Paz to Loredo, Mulege and Santa Rosalia, the road was likewise very good — although sometimes it had a lot of twists. The road through Santa Rosalia was some of the worst I encountered, as was the road in other urban areas. Poor signage and terrible pavement were the hallmarks of all the cities, the exception being Cabo.

From Santa Rosalia the road goes west across the peninsula, and over a once-notorious pass that is very steep. The difference now is the road is wide, well paved, and well marked.

Continuing on to San Ignacio, the road is all right but a little on the narrow side. West of San Ignacio and on to Guerrero Negro the road is quite good and straight — although sometimes narrow. North from Guerrero Negro, the road is a mix of good but narrow, and new, wide and well marked. This is the place you should make sure you fill your tank(s), as the next Pemex station is some 165 miles north at El Rosario.

At Catavina, about halfway to El Rosario, there are spectacular rock formations — and entrepreneurs selling gas at high prices.

The pavement gets progressively worse as you approach the turnoff to Bahia de los Angeles, and becomes narrow, badly potholed, and without shoulders for the next 80 miles. It was along here that one of my fenders fell off and destroyed the tire. This happened, of course, where there was no shoulder. I may have contributed to the demise of the tire by continuing to drive on it for another quarter mile to a turnout. A Mexican driver would not have had any compunctions about stopping right there on the road, blind curve ahead or not, to address the problem.

A word about the Pemex stations, such as the one at El Rosario. Most can accept US credit cards with chips via a satellite. Many also have parking for truckers and others wanting to get some rest. I don't think it's advisable to just pull off the road to rest in the middle of nowhere. There are outlaws in Mexico.

From El Rosario to Tijuana, the roads between the cities are fairly good. The roads within the cities of San Quintin, Ensenada and Tijuana are terrible. The many topes (speed bumps) are marked poorly if at all, making for many situations where I had to slam on the brakes so as not to be flung skyward and wreck the undercarriage. The topes are actually easier to see at night, as the headlights create shadows. But topes can be absolutely maddening. Only the locals can possibly know the location and reason for the placement. Some passes have topes in seemingly random places.

While in San Ignacio, I picked up a Mexican couple who were relocating to Mexicali. They had all their possessions and their dog with them. The guy explained — with difficulty due to my poor Spanish and his complete lack of English — that the seemingly randomly placed topes actually mark places where animals tend to be on the road.

The road north from Ensenada is new and a pleasure to drive. It goes over a lot of hills and through mountainous passes, but it's new, wide and well marked.

I crossed the border at Tijuana, though after the difficulties experienced going both south and north, I would recommend the crossing at Tecate. (I got my TIP in Tecate last winter because you can't get one in Tijuana.) The officials on the Mexican side are very helpful, and the US officials going back into the US are courteous and polite — unlike at the San Diego crossing. By the way, beware of the signage in La Paz, Ensenada and Tijuana. It's terrible and misleading.

I did this trip from San Diego to Cabo to San Diego in six days. I left on Saturday and drove to the Bahia de los Angeles turnoff where I stopped to rest for four hours at 1 a.m. I was on the road again driving at 5 a.m. and got to La Paz by 11 p.m. I started at 5 a.m. the next day and made it to San Jose del Cabo at 9 a.m. on Monday. Monday was a national holiday, so I couldn't haul the boat because the launch ramp was controlled by the shuttered boatyard. I hauled the boat on Tuesday, then hit the road at about 10 a.m. I drove to San Ignacio, arriving at about 1 a.m. Underway again at 5 a.m., I got to San Quintin at 9 p.m. Thursday I drove to Paso Robles, where I had to stop for rest. I got home to Watsonville Friday about 9 a.m.

Bluebird's trip home from Cabo was harder than her trip down to Cabo.

Tom Carr
Bluebird, Mirror Offshore 19

I’m still finding it hard to believe I traveled from Seattle to La Paz at six knots. But it was the trip of a lifetime! To no doubt be followed by other trips of a lifetime! The Ha-Ha team did a fantastic job creating a brilliant event. If anyone is considering doing a Ha-Ha, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Chris Barry
Spill the Wine, Jeanneau 42DS
Zap, ND

I can't let the Max Ebb and sneakaboard bashing continue without comment. There are a lot of us out here living aboard our boats because we love our boats and the boating lifestyle. We also need an affordable place to live so that we can work in the Bay Area. The same reasons the Wanderer was a sneakaboard back in the 1970s.

I would prefer to be a legal liveaboard, but because of some arbitrary 'guideline' from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) that allows only 10% of slips to be liveaboard slips, I haven't been able to do it legally.

We sneakaboards are not liars, cheats or thieves. We don't do drugs, leave messes in the showers, annoy our neighbors by smoking pot, dump our waste overboard, or have loud parties aboard our boats during the week. We live a quiet existence, leaving very early in the morning before most people are awake, returning late in evening after most have eaten their dinner, and showering before we go to bed so as not to disturb those who need a shower in the morning.

I would gladly pay a liveaboard fee if some marina would take it. I have been on the waiting list at three different marinas since March of 2015. All this nonsense about sneakaboards being subsidized by legal liveaboards is a bunch of baloney. I pay electricity per a meter just like everybody else.

I live aboard my boat during the week and go to my home — which is a couple of hours away — on the weekends. So technically I'm not a full-time liveaboard, but somehow it still makes me some sort of weird criminal who pollutes the Bay and makes it unfair for legal liveaboards?

I know for a fact that some of the legal liveaboards in my marina deal drugs from their boats and dump their waste into the water. So who is creating the problem? It has everything to do with the character of the people involved, not their liveaboard status. The harbormaster complaints are of their own making. The bottom line is that some people will always create problems wherever they go.

Max's piece was very entertaining and certainly deserved a place in Latitude. It's time snooty boatowners stop whining about unimportant stuff and do something positive about the housing situation in the Bay Area.

P.S. I love Latitude and your editorial wisdom, but I was really surprised — and a little disappointed — at the retraction for Max's piece.

The Quiet Sneakaboard
San Francisco Bay

T.Q.S. — If all sneakaboards were as you describe yourself, we think there would be a lot more harbormasters willing to look the other way. Unfortunately, they aren't.

As much as we are sympathetic to your situation, we stand by our retraction for the reasons we stated — which collectively can be described as recommending that people sneaking aboard is bad for everyone involved — particularly those hoping to get away with sneaking aboard.

We think you're mistaken when you suggest that "snooty boatowners" should do something about the housing situation in the Bay Area. What makes you think that boatowners, snooty or otherwise, have the responsibility, let alone the power, to effect any meaningful solutions to the housing crisis? Even if it were to be additional housing on the water, it would take years of their fighting and several small fortunes to even try to change the minds of the members of the BCDC and the State Lands Commission. You are blaming the wrong people.

As for harbormasters having "complaints of their own making," we think you're off the mark on that one, too. If just 10 or 20% of the harbormasters complained that 10% of their tenants — the sneakaboards or wannabe sneakaboards — take close to 90% of their time and energy, we could write it off as whining. But it's an almost unanimous sentiment of harbormasters — and not just in California.

We think the common misconception is that harbormasters spend most of their time with their feet up on the desk not doing much of anything. There might have been a slight bit of truth to that 40 years ago when we snuck aboard, but now marinas and harbormasters are very much at the mercy of the BCDC, the State Lands Commission, water agencies like EBMUD, hundreds of tenants, the marina owners, and other forces. And if you don't think those government agencies can't make the harbormasters' lives miserable and kill a marina's plans for even critically-needed routine maintenance, you don't understand how subordinate a position they are in.

That said, one Oakland Estuary marina owner didn't have any problem with Max's article.

"I wholeheartedly support freedom of the press and lack of influence on content by advertisers, government and influential people," he wrote. "Bravo for not burying this subject in the sand, and for having the courage to publish an article with which many will take issue. The courage to present a variety of views, popular or not, is, in my opinion, the most important virtue in a free society."

"Max's article stated a basic reality," he went on, "that there are a lot of sneakaboards in marinas and that there is a tremendous housing shortage in the Bay Area. Long-term, I would love to see BCDC be more flexible in its liveaboard policy, to help ease the housing crisis and particularly the affordable housing crisis. In many other parts of the world living on the water is an integral and honored part of the culture — not to mention a key component of the housing stock. BCDC views living aboard as harmful to the Bay and the environment, but I don't think that has to be the case."

Our response to this is that our retraction to Max's article had nothing to do with caving to advertisers or "influential people."
Latitude has been the publisher's art project for coming up on 40 years now. While we respect the opinions of our advertisers and find that we're usually of a similar if not the same mind, we've never let them interfere with our 'art'. And at this latter stage in our life, there is even less chance of that happening.

Should the BCDC allow more than 10% of slips to be used for liveaboards? In general, we tend to think so. Allowing up to 20% sounds as though it might be reasonable — as long as the boats were regularly being used for recreational purposes rather than just housing. And as long as nobody was under the illusion it would make the slightest dent in the housing crisis.

Of course, just because a marina could have 20% liveaboards doesn't mean they would necessarily want that many. We're certain that a number of marina owners and harbormasters would not, because their marinas wouldn't have adequate parking, showers, laundry facilities and such. Others would object because they believe the density of liveaboards would be detrimental to their current tenants and the ambience of their marina.

We think the best you and we can hope for is that your name reaches the top of the liveaboard list at one of the marinas you've applied to. We wish you the best of luck.

Ted Keech, who in a December-issue letter complained about a yacht club flying the United States flag from a yacht club gaff, isn't the first person to make such a complaint. But based on this response from the Discovery Center of the Great Lakes, it appears he may be wrong. The following letter explains why the Discovery Center flies the US flag the same way the yacht club in his photo did:

"On August 12, 2013, Mr. Alwyn Johnson of Interlochen publicly criticized the Discovery Center of the Great Lakes in the Record-Eagle for flying the American flag on a diagonal pole, known as a 'gaff', mounted to our nautical flag pole. While we admire Mr. Johnson's patriotism and are grateful for his service, his citation of the US Flag Code only tells a part of the story.

"Chapter 8 of the US Naval Telecommunications Procedures for Flags, Pennants & Customs — NTP 13 (B) deals with the display of the US Flag (National Ensign) on shore. Section 801(b)(4) of the NTP describes how the American Flag should be displayed ashore on a pole with a yardarm (crosstree) and gaff, as is the configuration at the Discovery Center. The section contains this rule: "Polemast with Crosstree and Gaff – commonly called a ‘yacht club mast.' Displayed [US flag] from the gaff." This directs the correct placement of the US flag on our pole.

"Why is this? While the US Flag Code provides general guidelines for the display of the US flag, nautical flag display is based on long-standing traditions that date back over 300 years. Our nautical-style pole simulates a mast on a boat with a yardarm and gaff. It is meant to represent the sailing vessels of our Great Lakes maritime history. On this flag pole, naval tradition requires that the American flag not be flown on top of the 'mast', but must be flown from the position of honor — the gaff, which would be at the stern of a boat. This configuration is endorsed by the US Power Squadron and is used by yacht clubs and nautical facilities across the country.

"The Discovery Center of the Great Lakes takes the display of our US flag very seriously. We properly dispose of every well-worn US flag by using the flag disposal services offered at the Traverse City American Legion post. The display of our National Ensign on the gaff puts it in the place of honor and celebrates both our nation's rich history and our special Naval and Maritime history. This configuration is intended to honor all military and civilian mariners, including US Navy veterans, such as Mr. Johnson."

Mr. Keech did not do his homework, as the US flag in the photo on page 46 of the December issue that he complains was being flown improperly was in fact being flown as it should have been. He should refer to Chapman's Piloting and Seamanship, 67th edition, pages 864 and 871, and 872, 873, 864 and 874. Bowditch also covers flag etiquette.

Roby Bessent
Ex-Hoot Mon, Cal 37
Long Beach

Roby — Who knew it was such a complicated subject?

I could hear Profligate and most of the other Baja Ha-Ha boats with SSB radios as they traveled down the coast of Baja in the last Ha-Ha. Being a land-station ham, I can receive but not transmit on the marine bands. Ham bands, of course, are no problem.

Unfortunately, I only had the entry list for the Ha-Ha, so it was hard to follow the roll calls, as they were done by division. Perhaps prior to the start of the next Ha-Ha you could post the divisions on the Ha-Ha website. Excel would be a great format.

If future Ha-Ha participants with SSBs wanted evening weather updates, the hams on our Sonrisa Net could be there for them. We could even do an evening spot on what to look for in the magnificent night sky on their way south — ISS fly-bys, meteor showers, planets and stars, and connect-the-dots constellations up there on the sky dome. We may even be able to arrange for one of the astronauts to have a live chat with Ha-Ha members during a fly-by.

As I say on the Sonrisa Net after my Eye On The Sky QSTs, "Look up and don't be afraid of the dark."

Bob and Patricia Norquist, KE7DLH
The Mile High Island in the Sky
Hereford, Arizona

Bob — Those are all excellent suggestions, and we particularly like the idea of your input on the celestial bodies for the Ha-Ha fleet. In fact, perhaps you could put together a one-page 'Idiot's Guide to the Heavens', as we're sure they'd love it and it would enrich their experience. And a chat with an astronaut in space — we think the fleet would be over the moon about it.

By the way, when you refer to "ISS fly-bys," readers will be cheered to know you're not referring to a bunch of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant guys flying overhead about to throw bombs at cruising sailboats, but rather the International Space Station. It's really a sight to see zipping across the night sky.

I'm an eager reader of Latitude 38 and appreciate your efforts to provide the sailing community with such helpful material. But I harbor one question: is Max Ebb a real person? Or is the name just made up? I am very enthusiastic about his articles.

Maurizio Ibba
Sunshine, Islander Bahama Wayfarer 24

Maurizio — Noms de plume are common among writers. Józef Korzeniowski wrote as Joseph Conrad; François-Marie Arouet wrote as Voltaire; Anne Rice switched sexes to write as Howard Allen Frances O'Brien; Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum wrote as Ayn Rand; Ben Franklin wrote as Caelia Shortface among other ridiculous pen names; Eric Arthur Blair wrote as George Orwell; Samuel Clemens wrote as Mark Twain; Allen Stewart Konigsberg writes as Woody Allen.

We're sorry, but we're unable to disclose the real identity of Max Ebb. We can, however, tell you that he's done countless local and coastal races, and many races to Hawaii including a Singlehanded TransPac. His top speed on the waters of the Bay is 175 mph. The one-hundred-and-seventy-five miles per hour is no typo. He was, however, on a powerboat at the time.

I have just a few notes to add to Max Ebb's excellent column on color and night vision. First, the dim white light theory is supported by the fact that you can actually read a book by moonlight only if you allow your eyes to adjust long enough. Second, dim blue-white light would actually be better than white light, particularly for near-field (close) tasks like reading a chart, because the rod sensitivity peak is in the blue part of the spectrum. And, operating at the rod sensitivity peak results in pupil contraction, which reduces aberrant light rays (rays coming into the pupil from wide angles), and thereby increases visual acuity (ability to see better and resolve smaller objects).

So red is definitely the wrong way to go, but adaptation time is a more important factor than color for night vision.

Marc Fountain
Rise, Moore 24
Richmond YC

I'm the same guy who wrote in last month about getting into sailing when Bill Lee told me to "Jump!" onto Merlin from the dock when he was going out for a Wet Wednesday Race in Santa Cruz. As I mentioned, that got me hooked on sailing. Here's the postscript.

In 1989 my wife Shelly and I bought a 39-ft boat to sail around the world. Unfortunately, I broke my back before we took off. When I was finally able to walk around, I still wasn't able to pull the sails out of the locker, so we had to sell the boat.

We moved to Oregon, as that was the best option. It still took 12 years before I was able to ride my bike down the driveway. But I recovered, and as soon as I was able to pull a sheet or halyard, I started sailing on the lakes of Oregon and off the coast on a variety of boats. As a result, my daughters grew up sailing. I even had them surfing before they could walk.

With the girls grown and gone, we have slimmed down to a Catalina Capri 18 that we berth at Elk Lake at the foot of Mt. Bachelor at Bend, Oregon where we live. Our boat's name is Shelly Shelby Shannon after my wife and two daughters.

I am retiring next year and we are looking for a bigger boat to finally take that cruise!

Frank Dietsch
Shelly Shelby Shannon, Capri 18
Bend, OR

This was my third Baja Ha Ha — once on a friend’s boat, Grebe, and twice with Alobar. The Ha-Ha is always an enjoyable, comfortable way to start a voyage and to network with other cruisers. This year my son Jonathan — along with friend Mark Downing — joined Alobar and got his first taste of bluewater cruising and Ha-Ha fun.

The Mexican government should grant knighthood to Richard the Grand Poobah for helping so many sailors to get their start in cruising Mexico. That, of course, often leads to more cruising and crossing oceans. My last Ha-Ha led me to Polynesia, Hawaii, and British Columbia. This one has Alobar pointed to Panama and points beyond.

Incidentally, crew Mark Downing and I met during the 2009 Ha-Ha.

Joel Ungar
Alobar, Island Packet 37
Santa Barbara

Joel — Thanks for the kind words. We hope to get reports from your upcoming trip to Panama and beyond.

I signed up for the 2008 Baja Ha-Ha on a whim, and began prepping my boat for the trip from San Francisco to Cabo, and then to La Paz, where she would spend the winter. The adventure was so far above and beyond what I'd expected that I promised myself I'd do it again.

It took me seven years, but I kept that promise. The 2008 Ha-Ha was amazing, but the 2015 Ha-Ha took it to an entirely different level. My crew was made up of incredible and fearless sailors, two great boat chefs, and enough comic relief that I think I injured myself laughing so hard. Now, as in 2008, I find myself suffering from Ha-Ha Separation Anxiety. I can't emphasize enough that anyone who calls themselves a sailor needs to experience the Ha-Ha. It truly is the perfect mix of offshore sailing and R&R during the stopovers.

As I like to say, any time two humans are going the same direction, it's a race. But the level of sailing intensity is totally dependent upon a skipper and crew's propensity to fly a spinnaker at 2 a.m. We opted for the spinnaker, and at times I felt we were competing in the Transpac. Others choose to go mellow, and everyone supports that.

I only wish there were a fourth leg of the Ha-Ha up to La Paz. Hint, hint.
The only suggestion I have for the Ha-Ha organizers is to emphasize how important it is for safety and peace of mind to have a Class A AIS. As the owner/captain, I believe it's the single best investment that I've made. While not all of the Mexican vessels have AIS, it was incredibly useful to be able to call members of the Ha-Ha fleet by name for safety or wind info.

I'll be back for another Ha-Ha. I just hope it doesn't take another seven years.

Tom Price
Vitesse, Beneteau Oceanis 473
San Francisco

While walking through the airport in Chicago last month, I caught a bit of a CNN report about what's supposed to be the world's largest privately-owned sailboat getting ready to be launched. I think they said it was something like 600 feet long. Is that even possible? And what can you tell me about this vessel?

John Reynolds

John — There isn't any reason that somebody couldn't build a 600-ft private sailboat, but the one you're surely referring to is only 468 feet. She is, however, 82 feet wide. Designated as A during the build and to be called White Pearl, she was designed by Frenchman Philippe Starck and is being built by German Naval Yards for Russian fertilizer oligarch Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko. She's to be launched this summer.

When White Pearl goes into commission, she will indeed be the world's largest privately-owned sailing yacht. For comparison, the boat that currently holds that title is the 289-ft Maltese Falcon, built for Tom Perkins of Belvedere, which has a beam of 'only' 40 feet. (Barry Diller's 304-ft Eos is longer than Falcon, but doesn't have nearly as much waterline or length on deck as Falcon, so we consider her to be smaller.)

When launched, White Pearl will not only have the distinction of being the largest privately owned sailing yacht, we believe that she will also have the distinction of being the ugliest privately owned yacht in the world. What makes this so puzzling is that back in 2008 Melnichenko launched his unique 391-ft Starck designed motoryacht A in 2008; she, in our opinion, rendered all previous motoryachts clumsy and stodgy. She remains the pinnacle of motoryacht design innovation. So how could Starck and Melnichenko follow up seven years later with such a stinker? By the way, A is currently available for the very few who could afford her.

Fun facts about the Russian oligarch and his boats:

— Melnichenko is said to be worth $9 billion. White Pearl is said to have cost him $450 million.

— Annual running expenses of White Pearl are expected to be about $45 million.

— The new boat has a hybrid diesel-electric package with controllable-pitch propellers that will allow her to cruise at 18 knots and have a maximum speed of 24 knots.

— White Pearl is designed to accommodate 20 guests, who will be catered to by 54 crew.

— White Pearl has a glass-enclosed observation room in the keel 30 feet below the surface.

— She has a steel hull with teak decks.

— Her 300-ft carbon fiber mainmast is so big around it has a small room three quarters of the way to the top.

— It's not known if White Pearl will have her own missile defense system as on Roman Abramovich's 531-ft Eclipse, but why not?

— Unlike the motoryacht A, White Pearl will not be coming to San Francisco Bay. Her three 300-ft masts tower 325 feet above the surface of the water, meaning they are 105 feet higher off the water than the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge.

— Like Mark Zuckerberg, Melnichenko plans on giving 99% of his fortune away — but to yacht builders, yacht maintenance companies and crews.

In the recent year it's amazing how many more mutihulls are to be seen on the Bay, including world-class racers. Last weekend, for example, I was feeling good about cruising along at seven knots aboard my Beneteau 390 — when I was overtaken by an out-of-town Gunboat 62 catamaran. I couldn't read the name because she passed me so quickly.

Greg Clausen
Free Spirit, Beneteau Oceanis 390

Greg — You almost certainly saw Chim Chim, Gunboat 62 hull #2. She was completely redone while hauled at Driscoll's Boat Yard starting in the fall of 2014 in preparation for doing the 2015 Transpac.

Before anyone gets too jealous of bigger multihulls because of the advantages they offer, rest assured there are some drawbacks, too. While not so true of Gunboats, most are indifferent if not poor sailing to weather, particularly in light air when their greater wetted surface tends to glue them in place.

Plus, there really is a limit to how fast you want to go on a sailboat. A few years back Westerly Yachts of Southern California built a really nice M&M 65 cat for a European owner. His first trip was to Cabo, and he found the 20-knot speeds so disconcerting that he immediately put the multimillion-dollar boat up for sale. Indeed, one of the crew who delivered Chim Chim from Hawaii to Seattle told us that the cat's rapid acceleration from 10 to 20 knots, and going to one hull out of the water from none, was spooky.

As we've written many times before, except in absolutely ideal conditions, with
Profligate we don't really care to go more than 15 knots at night and 20 knots during the day. And while the skipper of one boat sailing next to us told us we once got one hull out of the water, that's something we try to avoid at all costs.

I see you took my various emails and made a letter out them. In general I'm OK with that, but there were some errors:

1) My Columbia 34 MkII is named Breta. My Latfitte 44 was named Avocet.

2) Both boats were docked side-by-side in the marina at Brookings. The dock broke on Avocet — my lines held — and she was totaled. The dock — and my lines — held on Breta, and she was undamaged.

3) When I did a six-year circumnavigation with Breta, I spent an average of $14.66 a day. That included the expenses for my boat and myself.

4) The video you linked to looks dramatic because some boats' lines broke and they started crashing around. My lines held. It also looks dramatic because the docks got stuck on the pilings and didn't ride up, and the surge washed over them. They became like dams instead of floats, and some of those dams broke.

I was in a much worse situation during the 100-year flood in Whangarei, New Zealand. Those docks were in a raging river. My lines held there, too, but the docks floated up — and in some cases over — the pilings. They did not get stuck or break off at the pilings. Both my boats in Brookings should have survived the tsunami. I know in my gut they would have survived but for the faulty docks. Indeed, one of them did.

It's almost ancient history now, but it's a hell of a story and you don't even know a tenth of it. For example, only three boats flushed out to sea, and all three made it safely out the channel to the sea. After drifting around in calm open waters, one stranded on a sandy beach, one was towed in by fishermen (not the useless Coast Guard), and mine went onto a rocky beach and was destroyed.

By the way, I also claimed against the Coast Guard for the beach cleanup costs, and even got my congressman involved. The Coast Guard did a three-year internal navel gaze — or naval gaze? — and naturally used various federal regulations to determine they were not liable. Not for failing to secure a hazard to navigation (which my unmanned boat with dock still attached certainly was); not for putting that 'hazmat' on the beach; and definitely not for 'my' beach cleanup.

I owned that tsunami and those bad docks and all the amazing knock-on effects, not the Coast Guard, not the port, not the port's insurer, not FEMA, not, not, not . . . a long list of those not acting responsibly. It does teach you the workings and non-workings of the system, but I don't recommend anyone's having to learn it the way that I did.

Roy Wessbecher
Breta, Columbia 34
On the hard, OR

Roy — We're sorry about the errors in cobbling the emails together into a letter. It can be very difficult sometimes and we do the best we can to express the author's thoughts clearly and concisely.

I would like to spend a summer cruising and anchoring out in Southern California, but from the looks of things it will be difficult to find places to anchor. I did anchor at Cat Harbor, Catalina, several years ago, but even then someone came out to ask me how long I was staying. Morro Bay has an anchorage, but only allows five days. Santa Barbara has a big anchorage, but it's a roadstead and is said to be very rolly.

I thought anchoring was controlled by the federal government. If so, how can states overrule them? I also thought that anchoring was permitted anywhere in navigable waters of the United States as long as you didn't block navigation.

Do you have any specific knowledge of who is right? I am a US citizen and have a documented vessel — if that makes any difference.

Michael Nagy
Sunshine Lady, Camper Nicholson 33
Portland, OR

Michael — Before we get into this complicated topic, let us assure you that you can indeed enjoy a great summer of cruising in Southern California mostly on the hook, but it takes planning and there are limitations. The fact that you are a US citizen and/or have a documented boat is irrelevant.

The Submerged Lands Act of 1953 gave coastal states jurisdiction over water to three nautical miles out to sea, which is commonly called 'state waters'. For historical and political reasons, it's nine miles for the Gulf Coast of Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

That said, the federal government retains the power to regulate commerce, navigation, and other activities in state waters. And generally speaking, states must exercise their authority for the benefit of the public consistent with the public trust doctrine. That's about as gray as gray can be, but 'public interests' have traditionally included navigation, fishing, scenic beauty, and commerce.

In the case of California, the Legislature has enacted more than 300 statutes granting sovereign public trust lands to more than 80 local municipalities to manage for the people of California. The uses permitted in each granting statute vary. For example, some statutory trust grants authorize the construction of ports, harbors, airports, wharves, docks, piers, slips, quays and other structures necessary to facilitate commerce and navigation, while others allow only recreational and visitor-oriented uses.

In addition, some municipalities have police powers that are based on their responsibility to protect public "health, safety and welfare." Based on this doctrine, they are generally allowed to place reasonable "time, place, manner" restrictions on public rights, including access to beaches and waterways. What is "reasonable" is subject to considerable disagreement, of course.

The giving of 300 grants to 80 municipalities has resulted in an incredible patchwork of rules for if, where and when anchoring is permitted. Some of these rules are never enforced out of lack of interest or need, and others because the government agency doesn't have the people or equipment to enforce the laws.

So much for theory. If you're hoping to be able to anchor in ideal conditions in an urban environment for free for a long period of time, about the only option you have is the A-1 anchorage in San Diego, which allows three months for boats registered out of the county. But there are plenty of places to anchor on your way to and in Southern California, so here's a very rough review of them starting from Monterey and heading south — with our suggestion of how long you might want to spend there.

Monterey: Harbormaster Steve Scheiblaur reports, "Our city limits coincide with our tidelands grant, and we enacted boundaries for a mooring area called East Moorings as a seasonal opportunity. We own the mooring gear for this area. Just outside that area is an open anchorage. It's free and we provide a space for temporary dink ties for boats at anchor. By city ordinance we have a use limit of 30 days in any six-month period — and we enforce it. Folks can anchor outside the city limits, but nobody does this as it's just too risky." Good for two or three days.

Carmel: We're not sure if there is a time limit to anchoring in Carmel Bay, but because of the lack of facilities, it's self-limiting. We suspect it's the same with San Simeon. Good for up to a couple of days at each.

Morro Bay: There is an anchorage with a five-day limit, although we're not sure how strictly it's enforced. In any event, that should be adequate.

Port San Luis: There isn't a lot here, but it provides good shelter in a northwesterly and you can come ashore. One day.

Cojo: This is a great anchorage with views of what California looked like before we humans showed up. The surf can be great and uncrowded. Stay as long as you'd like, as nobody is going to kick you out. Depending on how into nature and the surf you are, you might want to spend anywhere between two days and two weeks.

If it's calm enough, or if you have a catamaran, you can anchor in lots of spots between Cojo and Santa Barbara. Again, nobody is going to kick you out before you want to leave of your own volition. But watch out for naturally-seeping tar making a hard-to-remove mess out of your hull. And if a residual swell from a northwesterly conflicts with a southwesterly, monohulls can roll like crazy.

Santa Barbara: You can anchor for free east of Stearns Wharf all summer, and this year we even anchored all the way down by the Coral Casino. It can be very rolly for monohulls, and you can't stay for the winter. If it's too rolly, this is an excellent place to use some of your budget to spend three to seven days in the yacht harbor. There is only one yacht club slip, and the max stay is one day. Santa Barbara is good for a week — and even more.

Paradise Cove: Just past Point Dume, this is a great place for cats and monohulls with flop-stoppers to hang. There is surf, too. You can go ashore, but you won't find much in the way of supplies. One or two days.

Past Paradise Cove to Point Vicente: You can anchor almost anywhere along the shore as long as you are at least 200 yards offshore — which eliminates behind the Santa Monica Breakwater — and 1,000 yards from the entrance to Marina del Rey. But it's rough and rolly in the afternoon, so the only people who do this are people trying to survive on boats to the southeast of the Marina del Rey entrance. It's a tough life out there. Zero days.

Redondo Beach: You can anchor behind the breakwater, and the last time we did it we had to get a permit, but it was free and there was a limit of four days. There is easy access to shore and great bike riding all the way to Santa Monica. Two days.

Long Beach Harbor: You can anchor behind White Island — and maybe some of the others — from Friday afternoon until sunup on Monday. One weekend.

Newport Beach: The locations and rules for anchoring and mooring change all the time, so we'd check before showing up, but Newport has always been welcoming. Assume that you can anchor 72 hours for free or get a mooring for a very reasonable amount. Three to five days, depending on how much you like the beach scene.

Dana Point: You can anchor free for 72 hours inside the breakwater at the west end, and we've anchored for free outside the marina on the east end. One day is probably enough.

Mission Bay: You can anchor at Mariners Basin free for 72 hours. If you have a good dinghy, you can explore the far reaches of Mission Bay, which can be fun one time. One day.

San Diego Bay: There are three free anchorages: The A-5 at Glorietta Bay off Coronado Island, where you can stay for 72 hours; La Playa Cove, A-1, which is a 72-hour weekend-only anchorage between the San Diego and Southwestern YCs; and the A-9 anchorage off the Coast Guard base, where boats registered outside San Diego County can anchor for as long as three months. Permits are needed for all three, although you can get them online for the A-5 and the A-1. You must apply in person for the A-9, which holds only 20 boats.

Catalina: State Land leases give large areas of control to the city of Avalon and the Catalina Island Company. Boats are forbidden to anchor within 100 yards of the moorings. However, there are areas within their jurisdictions where you can anchor. There is a two-week time limit, although we're not sure how strictly it's enforced.

In addition, there are places outside of Avalon and Catalina Island Company's granted areas of jurisdiction where you can anchor for an unlimited amount of time. Near the 'big city' of Avalon they tend to be roll-your-brains-out in the afternoon spots that we wouldn't recommend. We used to anchor
Profligate atop Harbor Reef, which is just off the south side of the Isthmus, for months at a time in the summer. This was and remains perfectly legal, as it's outside the Catalina Island Company's area of jurisdiction. However, if you're on a monohull or a smaller cat, it can get uncomfortable when the wind from the 'fan' blows out in the afternoon and sets your boat broadside to the northwesterly swell. It usually dies down about sunset.

Another area outside a limiting jurisdiction is just outside a line between Pin Rock and Cat Head at Cat Harbor on the backside of the Isthmus. It's usually pretty well protected, and Doug Oudin, who used to run Two Harbors, tells us there is a catamaran that's been anchored there legally for the last five years. If you're into hiking, mountain biking and so forth, you could enjoy a few weeks. There are supplies and Internet.

Then you have the other Channel Islands. To the best of our knowledge there are no restrictions on how long you can anchor off these islands. Even if there were, the State Lands Commission has no agency — meaning boats or personnel — to enforce time limits. Anchoring off these islands is more or less self-regulating, as every two weeks or so you'd probably want to return to land for supplies and Internet access. Returning to land is no big deal, as it's 25 reaching miles both ways between the islands and Santa Barbara, and less than 20 miles between the east end of Santa Cruz Island and Channel Islands Harbor. The way we recommend using Santa Cruz Island is stopping for a week on the way south, then stopping for a week on the way back north.

Important weather advisory! The cruising conditions are much better in Southern California in August, September and October. June and July tend to be cool and gloomy, and the later you come back north, the greater your chance of pleasant weather. So please, don't screw up by scheduling your trip for the wrong months.

We hope we've demonstrated that with a little planning, you can indeed spend most of the time on the hook for free during a cruise to Southern California. Mix this in with reciprocal yacht club berthing and/or paid slips at Ventura Harbor, Channel Islands Harbor, Marina del Rey, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point and San Diego, and you can have an incredible summer of sailing fun at minimum berthing costs.

I just moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts, from San Carlos. I miss my Left Coast sailing — especially in the winter.

I've enjoyed Latitude 38 for over 30 years, did the Ha-Ha in 2013, and am a past commodore of the Sequoia YC. I'm wondering what your thoughts might be on publishing an East Coast version of Latitude. Maybe Latitude 42 out of Plymouth or Latitude 39 out of Annapolis?

I'm retired now, but wondered if you've given it any thought, as there doesn't seem to be anything like Latitude on the East Coast.

Byron Jacobs
Plymouth, MA

Byron — Thanks for the kind words, but we haven't given any thought to an East Coast version of Latitude for a number of reasons: 1) Latitude 38 takes up all of our time — and then some. 2) While both the Northeast and Annapolis have great sailing traditions, the sailing seasons are what, three to four months a year? 3) We don't know which is worse, the East Coast humidity during the summer or the East Coast chill during the winter. We've even heard that it snows back there sometimes, for god's sake. 4) It would take a decade to really understand the sailing scene on the East Coast. And 5) We were born in Berkeley, raised in the Oakland hills, and have lived in Marin for nearly 50 years, so we don't think we'd be compatible with East Coast culture.



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