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February 2016

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Reading the editor's response to Jane Pitts' letter about a boat not willing to give them a tow back to their marina brings up a sea story that happened to me many years ago. It started in 1972 when at the ripe old age of 22 I built Cloud, a 31-ft Kismet trimaran. Even though she didn't have an engine, I learned to sail along the British Columbia coast. In September 1974 I set sail for Hawaii, learning celestial navigation — the only kind back then — on the way. Oh, those free and easy hippie days of yore!

Immigration officials only gave me, a Canadian, six months to stay in the Islands. Nonetheless, I managed to eke out a two-year stay before I was kicked out. I spent most of that time playing with dolphins in Kealakekua Bay before it became a marine sanctuary, not realizing at the time how rare it was to be swimming alone with marine mammals.

Using contributions from a small crew to pay my way, I then sailed Cloud to the South Pacific via the Line and Cook Islands. I especially remember loving cruising Tonga at a time when there were only a handful of cruisers in Neiafu, Vava'u. Threading through the reefs of the Ha'apai Group with a man in the spreaders brings back fond memories as well.

In November 1976 I soloed to New Zealand from Suva, Fiji, and had a very slow trip because of light headwinds. After 15 days I'd finally made it to within 100 miles of Opua in New Zealand's Bay of Islands. Unfortunately, I was then hit by a major storm. Cross swells created a 60- to 70-ft rogue wave that capsized the Cloud. I had the same sensation as gliding up in an elevator at high speed — but then going over the falls to crash-land upside down.

The storm continued to blow for a couple more days while I rearranged the furniture in my capsized tri. I did not have a liferaft, so there was no option there. (Apparently, folks on other boats bailed to their liferafts and died, even though their boats were later recovered.) As a result, I became one of the first sailors to survive a capsize.

I spent 17 days in survival mode. I actually got quite a bit of sleep, as my forward berth, upside down, cleared the level of water inside the boat by a couple of inches. I was finally rescued by a San Diego-based purse seiner on its first season fishing for skipjack in Kiwi waters. Actually, I was first spotted by their helicopter.

The day before my rescue I was totally ignored by a small, rusty tramp steamer that, as it drew closer, looked as though it might ram me. I blew an air horn until it was empty, and even banged pots together, as the steamer passed just a couple of hundred yards away. I apparently was not 'in peril'?

Ten years later, back on my home island of Salt Spring, British Columbia, I was fitting out Companion One, a Piver 36. It was to be delivered for my father in Kingston, Ontario, via Panama, Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Erie Barge Canal. We were hauled out at a small marina when the owner of the marina introduced me to a sailor he thought might be simpatico, as we had both sailed the South Seas.

In talking with the fellow, we narrowed it down that we had been there at exactly the same time. You can just imagine my surprise as I came to realize from his story that he had also passed by my capsized tri! He said he'd seen my boat, decided it was abandoned, and carried on. He didn't even bother to check in case someone needed help! I apparently wasn't keeping a very good watch, even though I did see four other deep-sea ships' sterns as they disappointingly failed to see my flares.

Looking back on it now, it would appear to be a blessing that neither the steamer nor the sailor on Salt Spring rescued me, since things worked out so well otherwise. The San Diego vessel that picked me up gave me a job as crew, so I earned enough funds to fly home. And I don't know if that sailor who passed without stopping was before or after I had the great privilege of spending an entire day in the company of a majestic blue whale that dwarfed my boat. She expressed such empathy for my fate that we 'connected' at a deep level I hadn't experienced before and not since. I would gladly spend another 17 days on a capsized trimaran to have anything near that experience again. It was truly life-changing.

So the mystery of these sea stories is that sometimes you can't really know what's best.

Thanks for letting me bend your ear for a while. Thanks also for so many great years of providing such a fantastic platform for sailors to share their stories. I've been a fan of Latitude since that fall in 1986 when I sailed my dad's tri into Richardson Bay and discovered your treasure. While there I also got to save a boat that broke loose from its mooring at the Sausalito YC before it hit the beach over by Tiburon.

Gary Gagné
Ho'omaluhia, 32-ft Marples Coastal Racer
Salt Spring Island, BC

Gary — Thanks for the kind words, but it's great sailors such as you, and the great sea stories such as yours, that have made Latitude what it is.

I want to weigh in on the 'tow/won't tow' issue raised in the January issue by Jane Pitts. I have never refused to tow anyone while on various boats over the years, but I have no sympathy for the writer hoping to be towed.

I raced an Etchells on the Bay for about 10 years. As you know, this 30-ft boat doesn't even have a motor, so to participate in regattas she regularly needed to be sailed between Richmond, Berkeley, San Francisco and Marin. It required planning, awareness and thoughtfulness about currents and the wind. For when you don't have a motor, you need to have a game plan to get from Point A to Point B.

Being becalmed at Southampton Shoal, as the author of last month's letter had been, is just something that occasionally happens. But as Latitude pointed out, it's not an emergency that requires outside intervention. It would never even have occurred to me to request a tow in my Etchells — except for the one time I needed to get the hull back from St. Francis to Richmond YC after the rig broke in half during a race. The key is to have the right clothing, some food and water, and the attitude that 'we'll get there when we get there'. It's not someone else's responsibility to keep another boat's voyage on schedule if life is not in danger.

Marc Fountain
Point Richmond

Marc — Most of the people who sail on San Francisco Bay are just out to enjoy a pleasant time with their family and/or friends. Their boats have normally reliable propulsion systems, so they develop a belief that they can get back to the dock pretty much at an appointed time, meaning they can schedule other things for after sailing. So in the rare case when their engine doesn't start, it can really mess up the rest of their day — as well as the day of everyone else on the boat. For example, you think the 16-year-old daughter who is missing a date with her first boyfriend because the battery won't start on the family boat is ever going to go sailing with Mom and Dad again?

We think most mariners have found themselves in semi-helpless situations or know they probably will in the future, so most are more than happy to give a tow of a reasonable length. Sailors helping other sailors in need has long been the hallmark of the sport, and is particularly true in the world of cruising.

You also need to remember that an Etchells, similar to our Olson 30, is a lightweight high-performance boat. Their advantage over almost all other boats is most evident in very light wind. When we got our Olson 30 to the Caribbean, we gave the engine away. So your Etchells was not a typical boat.

And by the way, how many times have we seen groups of high-performance sportboats being towed en masse from the big yacht clubs to and from the Olympic Circle, which, it turns out, isn't far from Southampton Shoal?

We're all for self-sufficiency, but we think you're being a little hardcore about this. Maybe try an empathy supplement with meals.

Bonjour from La Rochelle, France!

The Frenchman who is the current owner of the yacht Serenade, a 62-ft double-ended N Class sloop, has commissioned me to write a book about the history of the boat, and I am looking for information. The yacht was designed by Nicholas S. Potter and built by the Wilmington Boat Works in Wilmington, CA, in 1938.

In particular, I'm looking for information about Serenade when she was owned by Jascha Heifetz, and then by Charles Isaacs, both of whom were married to Eva Gabor. If any Latitude readers have any information about Serenade, or know where I can find more information, I would appreciate being contacted at

Jacques Taglang
Yachting Historian

Readers — Serenade is a distinctive sloop that was built for Jascha Heifetz, sometimes heralded as the greatest violinist of all time. He kept the boat in Newport Beach, and she was the boat on which Humphrey Bogart learned to sail. Serenade would later be owned by, among others, Jacques Cousteau and Zsa Zsa Gabor. (Zsa Zsa was sis Eva's superior in matrimony, as Zsa Zsa accumulated nine husbands compared to only four for Eva.)

William Cannell Boatbuilding of Camden, Maine, did an extensive yearlong restoration of Serenade in 2000 that included "removing her deck and all of her interior, and replacing all her frames. The restoration included a new laid and sheered and caulked solid teak deck, new stem, new stern stem, complete refastening, new frames, new deck houses and new hatches, a considerable amount of new hull planking, new systems including a new engine and related systems, new mast step and bronze mast partners, and a considerable amount of repair and restoration to her lovely butternut paneled interior." Whew.

The William Cannell company provided an interesting insight into Serenade's designer. "Nick Potter became known as the 'Herreshoff of the West Coast'. He is not as well known as some designers of the golden era of classic boats, but his pedigree was inferior to none. Potter grew up as a boyhood friend of L. Francis Herreshoff and later worked in the design office of L. Francis' legendary father, Nat Herreshoff. Potter eventually worked alongside his childhood chum, L. Francis, in the Starling Burgess office in Boston during the period of some of Burgess' most important designs. Eventually Potter settled in Newport Beach and supervised the construction of many of his designs at the nearby Wilmington Boatworks. Potter always maintained his ties to the East Coast and remained active in New York YC affairs, including sitting on the America's Cup defender selection committee.

"Potter's lovely double-enders were works of art. But in those days the most activity in American yachting was centered in the East around the New York YC, the Eastern YC on Boston's North Shore, and Long Island Sound's Seawanhaka Corinthian YC. California was just too remote in that era to earn Potter and the excellent craftsmanship of Wilbo (Wilmington Boat Works) the recognition they merited. Sadly, Potter left instructions to the executor of his estate that all his drawings be destroyed after his death. Fortunately, Serenade was still so intact that we didn't need drawings, and were able to retain her original Herreshoff windlass and binnacle."

We had one pitch-black night with big wind and heavy squalls during the middle of the 1987 Transpac aboard Merlin. For a two-hour period the wind averaged nearly 30 knots — and peaked at 37 knots. Naturally we were carrying the biggest spinnaker. It was pretty scary, so we worked hard to keep the boat on her feet and the spinnaker from collapsing. We knew that if the chute collapsed, it would likely explode when it refilled. We teetered on the knife edge of disaster a couple of times, but we never rounded up or down, and the kite never collapsed.

Donn Campion, Merlin's owner at the time, was aboard for the race. After things had settled down the next day, he told me the story about his service as a dentist during the Vietnam War. During the day, the Army would helicopter his medical team into remote villages to treat the local population. The team was guarded by helicopters full of armed soldiers, but they always flew out at night because that's when the Viet Cong came. One day there was a screw-up, and the helicopters left without Donn, forcing him to spend the night alone in a remote Vietnamese village.

"It was the most terrifying experience of my life." he told me. "Until last night."

There was always a chat session on the VHF among the fleet prior to the morning's roll call. The morning after the big blow the members of the fleet bantered about the problems of the night before. First one boat, then another, and eventually what sounded like the rest of the 17-boat sled fleet admitted that they had experienced conditions similar to ours and had changed down to chicken chutes. All of these boats had their eye on the first-to-finish trophy, and none of them would have changed down to a smaller spinnaker unless they felt they absolutely had to. We figured they either broached and couldn't get back on their feet without taking their spinnakers down or their spinnakers exploded. Once the kite's down in those conditions, the logical move is to put up the chicken chute. You lose a lot of time during a broach and recovery, and then end up going slower with the smaller spinnaker. Our assumptions seemed to be confirmed during the morning roll call, when we were pleased to learn that we had gained 25 miles on the rest of the sled fleet since the previous day.

Despite being 87 miles behind the leaders during roll call on Day Three, Merlin went on to take line honors. Good times!

Bill Leary
Moku pe'a, Beneteau Oceanis 351
Kaneohe Bay, HI

I did the 1977 Transpac, the one in which the brand new Merlin smashed the Transpac record by nearly a day, finishing in 8 days, 11 hours. But I was aboard Milt Smith's 45-ft sloop Mako. It was a pretty rough 12-day trip for us, as we blew five spinnakers. But at least we weren't one of the five boats that were dismasted.

When we finished, Merlin's Bill Lee came out to cheer for us and all the other finishers. That was class.

Gregg Corbitt
Temecula, CA

Readers — Bill always did his part to make sure the Transpac was as colorful and as popular an event as could be. It was reported that 25,000 people showed up for Merlin's record-breaking finish, and Bill was all about in his wizard outfit. There were big parties for every finisher, with plenty of food and garbage cans full of mai tais. Oftentimes three or four different parties were raging in the wee hours of the morning, featuring the crews and friends of crews on boats that had just finished. Alas, Hawaii's fascination with the Transpac has dwindled to almost nil since then.

In 1980 Scott Lamson and I set out to charter Merlin so we could sail in the Doublehanded Farallones Race. While Bill Lee was quite receptive to the idea, his insurance company wasn't as enthusiastic. After a series of negotiations, the insurance company agreed to provide coverage with the following provisions: 1) We'd agree to pay a higher deductible and premium. 2) The insurance company wanted their appointed marine surveyor to write up a 'crew competency report'. 3) For us to provide the insurance company with a plan that demonstrated we'd not go out or kill ourselves!

Thankfully the insurance company's surveyor was Jim Jessie, someone who knew of our abilities and provided the necessary report. We then wrote up a detailed plan on how we'd try not to get killed. This included several weeks of sailing Merlin on a daily basis, practicing our boat-handling and man-overboard procedures. We purposely avoided discussing flying a spinnaker in our plan, as we made the decision there was no point in practicing, as whatever conditions we would have on race day would dictate whether we'd fly a chute or not. We figured if the wind was light during the race, we'd fly a chute. If it was windy, we wouldn't. Most important, we decided that if the breeze came up while we were carrying a spinnaker, we'd hold on as long as we could, praying the wind would lighten up. If it didn't, we'd take our chances — and likely have to buy Bill a new spinnaker.

On the day of the race Scott showed up wearing a helmet. It was pretty funny, although James Spithill would follow suit some 30 years later. We started the race with a full main and 110% jib and short-tacked up the Marin County shore on our way out to the Farallones. By the time we cleared the Headlands, we had worked up quite a sweat. But then we got lucky, as we were able to lay the islands in a breeze that never blew more than 15 knots.

Once around the islands, we set the spinnaker as though we had a full crew aboard. It was actually simple. We carried the spinnaker to the Golden Gate Bridge, jibed, and headed for the finish line. Simple again! We dropped the spinnaker without even getting the sail wet. All in all, a frigging miracle! We were first to finish, first in class, and first overall on corrected time. Not a bad day on the water. And we hadn't killed ourselves.

While it was quite a challenge and very rewarding to doublehand Merlin around the Farallones, the best part of the charter was actually having the opportunity to take our family and friends out sailing on what was then the fastest boat around. We'd go screaming across the Bay, spray flying, and people were hooting and hollering. Everyone had a blast — even my mom. The accompanying photo shows her driving the boat… or at least she thinks she is. The guy sitting to leeward on the starboard side actually had the wheel.

Ahhh, what great memories! Who knows, maybe it's time to charter Merlin again. I can't wait to see her sailing the Bay once more.

Paul Kaplan
KKMI, Point Richmond

It was fun to read Paul Slivka's recollection of his finishing second with his Piver 30 trimaran Harmony to Bill Lee's 67-ft Merlin in the first Singlehanded Farallones Race in 1977.

Several of us, all friends of Paul's, hiked to the point overlooking the Golden Gate to observe that first Singlehanded Farallones. The wind was howling through the eucalyptus trees on that day. I remember seeing Harmony's weather hull come clear out of the water, and watching Paul jockey the 30-footer as though she were a dinghy. From time to time daylight showed beneath all three hulls, as Harmony leaped from one crest to another.

I also remember Paul telling us that he saw Bill Lee standing in Merlin's companionway, sipping a mug of coffee as he passed him by.

Derek Van Loan
Mill Valley

When I saw the December issue Sightings photo of Bill Lilly and Judy Lang's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 47 Moontide flying over the wave while departing Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, it reminded me of another photo of a cat flying over a wave. If I'm not mistaken, it was a photo of Profligate, with the Wanderer at the helm, leaving some Southern California harbor.

What were you two skippers thinking?

Brian Short

Brian — We assume you're talking about the photos that Oceanside harbor patrolman Jonathan Hoover took of Profligate as we took her out of that harbor for Catalina a few years back. It's true, there is a similarity in the two cats heading out. But unlike Moontide, which reportedly took water over the cabintop, Profligate didn't even get her decks wet.

If we're not mistaken, what Bill Lilly was "thinking" is he could make it safely over the bar because the Hotel del Sol bar pilot told him he could. By the time Bill realized that the wave was going to break on them, it was too late to turn around.

In our case with
Profligate, we simply thought that we could make it out safely. We've surfed most of our life, so we have a pretty good understanding of waves and sets. We also hovered in the deep water of the harbor for about 15 minutes to get a sense of the situation and make a final decision as to whether we'd leave. Another factor is that Profligate can motor pretty quickly. That said, if anybody else had thought of doing it on their boat, we would have tried to dissuade them.

The cool thing about the incident is that when we got to the bar at Two Harbors later that day, some San Diego television station was showing video of us going out on their 6 O'Clock News.

However, there are even better videos of boats crossing bars. The first is the one of the 40-ft catamaran Sultanate surfing down a wave and into a harbor off the west coast of Australia. It can be found at An even better one is of a Cal 39 that was taking some folks out of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor on the way to spread the ashes of a loved one when a huge set came through. It can be found at Although the skipper had displayed poor judgment going out, he handled the situation superbly, keeping the boat pointed directly into the very large but already broken waves.

There are other videos that show what happens when a boat gets hit broadside by a breaking wave. It's ugly. Don't ever let that happen to you.

Tom Carr's otherwise excellent and accurate report titled 'A Baja Bash on Land' contains a statement with which I disagree. He gives the distance between Guerrero Negro and El Rosario as 165 miles. According to my AAA map, the distance given is actually 224 miles. The accuracy of this number has been verified by experience on two trips in recent years.

It is a number that concerns me because I have dragged my travel trailer along that stretch of highway using my Jeep Liberty, a car notable for having 'short legs'. Anyone who attempts this distance with such a car should be aware that there is a Pemex station 23 miles north of Guerrero Negro in the village of Jesus Maria.

The beauty of this little-realized tidbit is that the actual distance between Jesus Maria and El Rosario is only 201 miles, a distance my thirsty Jeep can usually cover with one tankful. In fact, I count on it, slowing for headwinds when necessary. So far it has not been necessary to buy the high-priced stuff of questionable quality from the vendors at the Bahia de Los Angeles Junction, nor the ones in Cataviña, all of whom sell from large drums set in the beds of pickup trucks.

Don Neilson
No Boat but a Longtime Reader
San Diego

Thank you for publishing Tom Carr's January issue letter on trailering a boat along the Baja Peninsula. I've been wondering about that drive since I have twice trailered my boat from the Bay Area to Puerto Vallarta on the mainland route. Carr's letter confirmed my understanding that the best way to trailer a boat to Cabo is to take the mainland route to Los Mochis, then take the car ferry to La Paz. The truck route border crossing at Nogales, Arizona, is easy with a trailer, and the mainland toll highway is excellent, with only one rough patch around Navolato.

The recent incident with the Australian surfers is troubling, of course, but seems as though it was very unusual. Any insights on this?

Neal Holmlund
Make Me Smile, Express 27

Neal — In February 1985, long before the then-12-year-old, 1,063-mile Carretera Transpeninsular Benito Juarez from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas was improved, we singlehandedly trailered the Cal 25 Absquatchalato from Berkeley to Loreto. We made it in 33 hours, having slept at San Diego and Guerrero Negro. Short on time, we plopped the boat into the water at Puerto Escondido, slept aboard her that night, and had some Mexican friends hand-step the mast the next morning. Then we hightailed it back north with the trailer.

Despite being stopped in Ensenada just before dawn for exceeding the speed limit, not wearing a seat belt, and driving on the wrong side of the road, we made it back to Tiburon in 29 hours. It would have taken longer had the officer in Ensenada — "You have broken all the rules, señor," he told us — not agreed to take the $20 we gave him and promised to pay our fines for us when the court opened the next day.

What we did might not have been very safe, what with all the big potholes on the shoulderless highway and our willingness to drive at night when the cattle liked to warm themselves on the pavement. But we were relatively young, and it was alternatingly beautiful and terrifying, so we had about as mystical an experience as we could this side of India. We only had one CD, so every time we hear a cut from Graceland we relive the experience.

Our point is that if we could trailer our boat on that road before it was greatly improved, and when Baja was much more primitive and 'foreign', it can't be that hard now. Furthermore, in the four years prior to our trailering trip, friends had twice towed our Olson 30s back from Cabo on that highway.

We've also driven a Honda Element, sans trailer and boat, the 983 miles of mainland highway from Nogales to Puerto Vallarta. The road was much better than the one down the Baja Peninsula had been decades before — except if we'd been towing a boat on the windy last stretch from Tepic to Vallarta. In fact, most of the mainland road was better than most of the main highways in California.

That said, if we wanted to trailer an Express 27 down to Cabo, we'd do it all on the Transpeninsular Highway, as we think it's a more magical experience than going by the mainland route, and there is less chance of issues with bandidos. We're not saying that the mainland road is that dangerous — except in the Sinaloa region at night. As you surely know, Culiacán, Sinaloa's biggest city, is the center of the huge Sinaloa drug-cartel region, and was home to El Chapo, who was recently recaptured at nearby Los Mochis.

We're not sure what you mean by the "rough patch" of Navolato, but you're wrong if you think "the incident" involving the two Australian surfers was "very unusual." To recount, Navolato is where on November 21 the bodies of 33-year-old Aussie surfers Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman were found in their burned-out van. They had come over from La Paz on the car ferry earlier that night, arrived at Topolobampo terminal at 10:30 p.m., and made it about 100 miles south on Highway 200, the main north/south road. Novolato is just off the toll road, and apparently the surfers were identified as targets when they stopped to buy a map.

At some point five Mexicans, described as low-level drug dealers who had been robbing southbound cars, illuminated the flashing lights on their own van and forced the surfers' van off the side of the road. According to confessions of the three bandidos who have been caught, Coleman resisted by striking one of the thieves, all of whom had been wearing policía and federales uniforms, at which point he was shot and killed. Since they'd shot him, they 'had' to kill Lucas, too. After the murders, the van was driven to an isolated road and set on fire. Terrible, terrible stuff.

Prior to driving the Element down to Puerto Vallarta, we had repeatedly been warned not to drive anywhere in the Culiacán region — also known at The Cemetery — after dark. Navolato is about six miles on the other side of the toll road from Culiacán. We made Culiacán about dark and hurried our asses to the best downtown hotel we could find. We got a luxurious room for just $100, perhaps because it was Christmas Eve and the hotel was empty. But to be honest, we didn't breathe deeply until we made it to Mazatlán the next day. The deal in the Culiacán region is that anybody who isn't known is assumed to be the enemy, be it from another cartel or drug agents. Life is very cheap, so in that area people shoot first and ask questions later.

By the way, Navolato is only about 10 miles from the new marina at Altata. Some cruisers have visited there and had a good time. The area is too sketchy for us to recommend.

If we wanted to get an Express 27 to Cabo, we'd drive it all the way down the Transpeninsular Highway. Actually, that's not true. Assuming it was winter or spring, we'd trailer the boat to Bahia de los Angeles, about halfway down Baja, and put her into the water there. Or maybe farther down to Puerto Escondido. In either case, we'd put the boat in the water and have an absolute blast sailing her a couple of hundred miles downwind to Cabo. Having twice cruised an Olson 30 in the Sea of Cortez, we can tell you that an Express 27 would be a fabulous minimalist cruising boat for the Sea of Cortez. And if you could leave the boat in Cabo or environs until summer, you could return to her in early summer and have a spinnaker run back up to your trailer in Puerto Escondido or Bahia de los Angeles.

Of course, the very best thing of all would be to enter your Express in the Ha-Ha.

Have you been following the story of Polonia Star III, the relatively new Russian-owned Oyster 90 that lost her keel off Spain last July? She quickly turned turtle. Fortunately, no lives were lost, as the crew were picked up by a fishing boat several hours later.

Based on news reports, it sounds as if Oyster Marine downsized the number of workers and in the process got rid of critical quality control, engineering, and lay-up workers, and ended up with chambones doing hack work in the building of the yacht. It was probably total managerial incompetence and lack of integrity.

Imagine, for example, as they did, adding a ton of ballast in the bow to compensate for the extra weight of a garage structure in the stern. From the photos, the hull skin on that boat also looks way too thin, so that any breakdown from repeated mast and rigging stress would cause fatigue and eventual hull failure.

How sad that the famous Oyster company turned out a total piece of garbage in that boat. I predict they will go bankrupt from this incident.

Carlos Valencia
Felicia, Bristol 29.9
Channel Islands Harbor

Carlos — We have been following the story. The keel falling off one's boat is probably close to a monohull sailor's ultimate nightmare. It's not common, but neither is it unknown. According to the ISAF, there have been 72 recorded cases of keels falling off boats since 1984, with 24 lives being lost. In some cases, the boats were extreme racing boats, but in other cases they were popular production boats of which hundreds had been made.

Among the more famous keel-loss incidents are the Juan K 100 Rambler in the Fastnet Race; Simon Le Bon's Holland 80 Drum, also in the Fastnet; Charley, the San Francisco-based Holland 67 sled on her way back from Hawaii; the N/M 67 Pandemonium on her way back from Hawaii; Martella of Finland in the Whitbread Race; and the San Francisco-based J/80 Heatwave coming back from the Farallones. Fortunately, and perhaps miraculously, no lives were lost in any of those incidents.

But there have been terrible tragedies as a result of keel losses. Six lives were lost when the Sun Fast 42 Moquini dropped her keel off South Africa. And more recently, four lives were lost after Cheeki Rafiki, a highly regarded Beneteau 40.7, lost her keel sailing across the Atlantic.

In the cases where the boats have been found or recovered, there have been a variety of causes for the failures. There have been design, construction, maintenance and repair issues. But a number were repaired and are still sailing, namely Rambler 100, which is now Perpetual Loyal.

Polonia Star III lost her keel last July 3 while sailing off Spain in 18 knots of wind while carrying a modest amount of sail. Italian skipper Alessio Cannoni, who had sailed the boat 10,000 ocean miles, said it was only seven minutes between the time the crew heard a strong vibration from the keel area until he had "water cooling my balls while I stood at the chart table."

Oddly enough, the heavy, overturned boat, minus her keel, was still floating a day later some 20 miles from where her keel ha fallen off. She later sank and was then recovered.

Oyster said that they had used industry standard Classification Society rules for the design of the vessel, and that the design calculations had been analyzed and confirmed by independent experts in composite construction. But obviously there was a failure of some sort. The incident continues to be under investigation. Personally, we'd be hesitant to identify a cause based on just photographs.

Does that mean sailors shouldn't buy an Oyster? We don't think so. Let's put the brand in perspective. Oyster was established in 1973 by Richard Matthews, and in 1978 began to have great success with the deck salon concept that became their trademark. Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, Oyster was extremely successful in marketing hundreds of well-regarded, large, luxurious cruising boats. Oyster was so successful that in 2008 Matthews, a hardcore racer and avid cruiser, was bought out for a rumored $75 million by Balmoral Capital. In 2012, the company was purchased by HTP Investments. Matthews now has a company called Gunfleet that sells a line of boats similar to Oysters.

Sometimes products change for the worse after the founder is gone, and particularly when taken over by a management company. We don't know if this was true after Matthews sold the company. It's also noteworthy that it is the first such keel failure in the 42-year history of the company.

Oyster is such a strong luxury brand that they, like Swan, put on various Oyster Regattas in Europe and the Caribbean. They also did an Oyster Around the World Rally a few years ago. We interviewed a British couple who went around in their Oyster, and they had nothing but rave reviews for their boat, the support by Oyster, and the quality of the Oyster employees in the support team. Despite reportedly losing half a million dollars on that first event, Oyster is planning a second around-the-world rally for 2017-2019, a 27-month event that will be 12 months longer than the original version.

We'll have an updated report when the Polonia Star III investigation is concluded. Until then, we'd remind monohull owners that keels and keel bolts, like the rest of the boat, need monitoring.

I'm looking for a contact with Sylvain Barielle, an old friend of mine. By chance do you or any of your readers have it?

Isabelle Autissier

Readers — We found Sylvain's Twitter address, but when we tried to pass it along to Isabelle her email address didn't work. Merde! A sailmaker, Sylvain can be reached through the UK Sails loft in Alameda, at (510) 523-3966 or

Frankly, we were chuffed that Isabelle would even ask us, as she's one of the original women sailing greats. Born and raised in Brittany, she got a degree in nautical engineering, which she basically used to help fishermen. But then she welded together her own 30-ft boat and sailed her singlehanded across the Atlantic. When she returned to France, she decided to try racing. Starting in 1987, she finished very near the top of Mini Transats and Figaros.

In 1991, she entered the BOC solo around-the-world race, the first woman to do so, with Ecureuil Poitou-Charentes 2. Despite being dismasted, she would finish seventh.

In the spring of 1994, Isabelle and a crew sailed Ecureuil Poitou-Charentes 2 from New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco in just 62 days, crushing the old record by two weeks.

Later that year she beat the other 18 boats in the Charleston-to-Cape Town leg of the Around Alone by 5.5 days! But she later lost her 83-ft mast. She fabricated a jury rig, but was hit by a monumental wave that rolled the boat 360°. She spent four days in a liferaft not far from Antarctica before being rescued.

Isabelle would be disqualified from the 1996 Vendée Globe around-the-world race for needing assistance to repair a broken rudder. But she would finish the course.

Her fourth solo trip around the world was her most famous — but once again known for misfortune. Her new ride, PRB, flipped in the far reaches of the Southern Ocean. Competitor Giovanni Soldini of Italy battled terrible conditions for 20 hours to reach PRB's coordinates, and miraculously found the overturned boat despite very limited visibility. Twice he passed PRB and yelled for Autissier, but there was no sign of her. Desperate, Soldini threw a hammer, striking the hull with a thud. A moment later Isabelle crawled out the escape hatch of the overturned boat. She had been sleeping.

That was the end of hardcore racing for Isabelle. "This has been my crazy job for 10 years. I had 10 wonderful years doing this, maybe the best years of my life—great adventures, great friends, great feelings. But now it's time to do something else."

Soft-spoken and never seeking the limelight, thoughtful Isabelle gave a TED Talk in which she shared some of what she has learned about life from living, and having wild experiences, on the ocean. She spoke of the importance of observing, understanding, and adapting to what nature gives, rather than trying to overpower the forces of the natural world. We recommend checking it out.

In 1956, Jake Crane, my father-in-law, sailed the 41-ft cutter Ly-Kou from Saigon to Annapolis with a couple of Frenchmen. One of them was schoolteacher Simone Moncharmont, who wrote two books in French about the adventure. Their favorite spots were the Nicobar Islands of Southeast Asia, where they were received by the queen, and later Gibraltar and the Grenadines, where they ended up in epic brawls in bars.

Ly-Kou may have been owned by a fellow named Tom Chapham in the 1980s. Besides that small hint, I have no idea what became of that gorgeous teak boat. The only thing I have from her is the sextant in a wooden box.

If anybody knows more about Ly-Kou or where she might be now, I'd love to hear from them. I can be reached at

Giacomo Bernardi
Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of California Santa Cruz

Giacomo — We're not sure if you realize it, but very few people cruised in the 1950s, so the voyage of the Ly-Kou was extremely unusual. For example, Eric and Susan Hiscock did the first of their three circumnavigations from 1952 to 1955. The world, and particularly the world of cruising, was not only so different back then, it hardly existed.

We did a little research and discovered that Ky-Lou stopped 91 times on the way from Saigon to Miami, and on July 11, 1958, pulled into Chicago YC. It was noted that her skipper, Patrick Ellam, then 38, had sailed a 20-ft boat across the Atlantic five years before.

What became of the Ly-Kou? We don't know for sure, but if she's like almost all other boats of her era, she probably fell into disuse and disrepair, and is no longer with us. Wood boats were never intended to last. It's a pity; we'd like to have seen her.

I'm wondering if another SoCal Ta-Ta is planned for 2016. It looks as though it's a really great rally, so if it's a go again this year, I hope to have my boat and crew ready.

Steve Reeder
Desperado, Cheoy Lee Offshore 47

Steve — Yeah, what the heck, let's do it again. The dates will be September 10-17. We'll have the same course — Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz Island for two nights; Channel Islands Harbor for one night; Paradise Cove for one night; and one night at Two Harbors, Catalina.

As previously, the fleet will be limited to 50 boats because of space limitations in Santa Barbara. Ta-Ta entries will be able to reserve space in the harbor — something that can't normally be done —for the Saturday and Sunday night prior to the Monday start, but only through the Ta-Ta. (We don't want to do it that way; we're required to do it by Santa Barbara.) We'll have details when we formally announce the event on May 1. If anyone is interested, be ready to sign up promptly as we expect the event to be sold out.

Attention Kurt and Katie Braun of the Alameda-based Deerfoot 74 Interlude: many of last year's participants hope you'll be back for your Friday night Buffalo Milk Party.

I know it was a long time ago — 14 years ago — but in 2001 Bernard J. Barden posted something in Latitude about a sailboat named Lanacoa. I'm wondering if it is the same boat I crewed for in the 1970s, and if you had any idea how to track down more information.

Cynthia Annett
Lawrence, KS

Cynthia — As recently as 2012 Barden was listed as being a volunteer at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. If he's not still a volunteer there, they would probably know the best way to contact him.

We're always surprised at the number of requests from people who are in the later stages of their lives looking to recall the sailing adventures of their youth. And why not?

I just read the Letters editor's comments about the 468-ft by 82-ft White Pearl sailboat that's just been built and is by far the largest privately-owned sailboat in the world. Holy floating hotel!

I spent over three years chasing submarines around Cape Hatteras aboard an American warship, the USS Beale. That destroyer was 376 feet long and had a beam of only 39 feet, yet to me she was a thing of beauty. She took everything that the Cape could throw at her, including a couple of 60° rolls.

White Pearl brings a new meaning to "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

P.S. Thank you for a great publication. It is a magazine from which beautiful dreams are made.

Ken Dietsch
Bend, OR

I don't know if this will help Ben Jones in his search for information on Lapworth 36s, but the actor Buddy Ebsen owned one with a turquoise hull named Turquoise. This was before Ebsen designed and built his cat Polynesian Concepts.

Bud Desenberg owned a blue-hulled one that my dad sailed on. She did an L.A. to Tahiti Race in the early 1960s. Kim Desenberg, a longtime figure in Northern California sailing, is Bud's son.

Both of the above-mentioned Lapworth 36s sailed out of the Balboa YC in Newport Beach. As I recall, they had enough Lapworth 36s for a fleet.

Gary Jackson

As a resident of Alameda since the '80s and former owner of a sailing school that spent the first two years of its life in Alameda Marina, I have reviewed your article and Mr. Poland's op-ed piece in the Contra Costa Times, as well as some of the replies to his article on that website.

Demonizing dry storage tenants as 'not from Alameda' is quite perverse. There are only, to my count, two places in the entire Central Bay Area where boats can be dry-stored and hoisted into the water affordably. All of those boats are small and would suffer damage to their function if forced to re-locate to a wet slip somewhere. And, good luck trying to get permits for another dry-storage yard elsewhere. Mr. Poland talks about being unable to make the current plan financially sustainable — what about the investments of the boaters whose boats' values will be decimated if they can't find a place to properly and safely hoist into and out of the water?

Claiming that the Alameda Marina doesn't provide waterfront access is false on its front. It's mostly an open area. And, by the way, the odds on there being true access to the water rather than just a view of the water from a narrow sidewalk in front of private homes are quite low.

We need developers to continue to keep Alameda up with the times. I don't resent his making as much money from his investments as possible. And, he bought this property with full intention to do what he's got planned. However, to describe it as 'the only way to preserve the operation of the marina' is a canard. He will build, sell the parcels and leave wealthier for it. He should call a spade a spade. I understand rhetoric to be just that — an attempt to phrase persuasively. However, as my philosophy professor put it, "There's a very thin line between rhetoric and deceit."

There is a ton of unused or underdeveloped waterfront in Alameda. Places that need 'improvement' much more than does Alameda Marina as it is described: "demolition and/or replacement and/or comprehensive rehabilitation of existing improvements on the property and for construction of a new, higher-value project."

I think there must be a middle ground between no upgrades and improvements and 400 housing units plus a couple of low-profile businesses. If Mr. Poland is serious about hearing from the sailing community, then, let's start talking about compromise. There are many Alamedans who would represent the interests of sailors and boaters well while being responsive to hard financial data that helps clarify for the public rather than 'sell' the public on his plans. That has yet to happen from my perspective.

Rich Jepsen

After a great time at the Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade, we ducked in to drop off some passengers. Before we were even near the pier, another boat came up behind us and we heard a loud bellow, "You're blocking our slip!" We then abandoned that 'touch and go' landing and moved on, only to have them repeat the warning. Finally, after running out of room to maneuver, we just ignored them, dropped our passengers, and left.

So did they pull into any of the slips that we were near? No. They took off for the far end of the marina. I'm not sure what was going on, but they came across as arrogant, bullying, pushy and downright rude. My personal suspicion is that someone was a little too full of themselves or had a few to drink.

Try to be polite and courteous out there, people. A minute's patience, a friendly word or a wave, and most things sort themselves out. Belated Merry Christmas, and Happy Channukah, New Year, Kwanzaa, and whatever else does it for you!

Bob and Gale Schulke
Planet Earth

Bob and Gale — We're sorry to say that the picture you paint isn't very clear to us, so we don't have any idea what happened. Generally speaking, patience and courtesy do go a long way, especially on unusual occasions such as Lighted Boat Parades. On the other hand, some people — and we're not suggesting that you're part of this group — think they are entitled to park in someone else's slip for 15 to 20 minutes during which time extended goodbyes are exchanged by all 30 people on the boat.

We're all for polite and courteous.

We previously talked about our experiences with canal boats. We'd bought one from LeBoat in Narbonne and traveled all over France with it. Unfortunately, our partner forced us to sell, so we are now looking for another boat.

We'd like to buy in one of the northern countries, such as Belgium or the Netherlands, and are interested in your thoughts on how to shop up there. Did you find your boat from a broker or just walking the docks? And any wise words for buying outside France? Lastly, where is your boat now? Have you spent any winters on your canal boat?

Joel and Mary Thornton
Seattle, WA

Joe and Mary — The only reason we write a little about canal boats in a sailing magazine like Latitude 38 is that given the exchange rate with a euro, they are a now a very viable economic option for 'six and sixers' doing something other than spending their summers driving an RV around the West. As you learned, Europe is fabulous, and enjoying it on your boat/home is convenient and economical.

We've actually bought two canal boats; a smaller one two years ago in Volendam, a Sausalito-like place just north of Amsterdam, and a 42-footer last summer in Terherne, Friesland, about 100 miles north of Amsterdam. Based on what we've seen and heard, we would always buy a boat in the Netherlands. The Dutch build great boats and they do a much better job of taking care of them than do the French. It's just a fact. The service people we encountered in the Netherlands were much more professional, too. We were told that we could sell our Dutch-built boats for a 20% premium in France. And many French people come to the Netherlands to buy boats.

We found our boats through a combination of looking through the Internet and the free magazines distributed at marinas, and by walking the docks. But unlike in California, where all marinas are on the coast and pretty big, they are all over the place in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Many marinas in the Netherlands don't allow boats for sale to be berthed in them, so these boats have to go to special marinas where all the boats are for sale. It makes it like a used car lot, which is very helpful for boat buyers comparing boats. There is a similar marina at St. Jean de Losne, the center of canal boating in France, but we were not at all impressed with the quality of the boats for sale there compared with those in the Netherlands. It also helps that just about every Dutch person speaks English as well as most Americans.

Marjani, the 31-footer we bought in Volendam but never used, is currently in a marina in Terherne and for sale directly from us for $20,000. She's a great little canal cruiser with an excellent single diesel. After we bought the larger boat, we found that many people prefer the smaller canal boats for their lower price, less maintenance and simplicity. Because there are so many inexpensive marinas — $10/night — with all the amenities, you don't need a larger boat with all the bells
and whistles. Boats like
Marjani are ideal for retirees on a budget.

Because Doña and the Wanderer are still working full-time, we bought the larger boat, a 42-ft Valkkruiser, for about $90,000. Like
Marjani, Majestic Dalat is steel. We quickly found that she's 12 feet longer than most slips and is truly larger than most couples need. But it was very important to us to get a boat that has two engines and a bow thruster, because if one engine craps out and takes a long time to repair, we'd lose our entire season. With just one engine and a thruster, we have all we need to cruise all we want.

Majestic Dalat is currently located at Port Ilon, about 40 miles as the crew flies from Paris and two days via the Seine. We can't wait to get back to her in early May, which is somewhat early in the season and sometimes a little cool. After six months in the tropics, it's a nice change for us, particularly knowing the heat will come in June and July. We hope to spend at least another three weeks in Paris, then continue on through the Loire Valley and Burgundy, and then perhaps rocket down the fast and untamed Rhine River back to the Netherlands. We really liked the Netherlands and hear that Belgium is terrific, too. We're saving the Canal du Midi and the South for a couple of summers from now.

We have not done any 'winter stay-overs' on the canal boats. Not to sound like complete asses, but we've worked our asses off — and continue to do so — to be able to enjoy four garden spots of the world three months a year. And while a number of people spend the winter on their boats in the Canal du Midi in the South of France, we think it's better to be on a boat in Mexico or the Caribbean at that time of year.

I know it's been 20 years, but I hope Richard, the publisher, will remember me. We met at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands when I was looking for a ride across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. It was a day after the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which Richard had missed because of a Latitude deadline, and almost all the boats were gone. So I was beginning to lose hope.

I was asking every boat that was leaving for a berth, but had no luck. Then I asked Richard. We talked for about five minutes, and he said I could come. A few minutes later he came back and said he wasn't so sure after all, but to check back in the morning when they were going to leave. I did and he told me to hop on.

As Richard knows, that was the start of an absolutely amazing Atlantic crossing with eight crew on his Ocean 71 Big O. I think he published a photo of me in the magazine. I saw him again at Race Week in Antigua the following year, and when he waved, I jumped off the boat I was on to swim over to Big O.

I got together with a sailor that I met shortly after that crossing, got married within the year (for a green card for him), and unexpectedly moved back to New York City. I spent 10 years there, got divorced, headed south, and for the last 10 years have been running a company for the guy whose boat I got off right before I got onto Big O. I quit recently and am going to spend next year in Central America, traveling — hopefully sailing — and leading a couple of yoga retreats/trainings. Richard will remember that I got everyone doing yoga on that crossing. No plan after that.

I've been out of sailing for quite a few years now, but am going to get back into it again to cruise. I just started looking for my first ride and saw that Latitude was still there, so I had to say hello. I hope our paths will cross again. Peace.

Laura Golden
Central America

Laura — We remember you very fondly as a great part of the terrific nine-person Big O transatlantic team. We'd been on deadline, so we'd arrived in the Canaries a day after the start of the ARC, exhausted by having to make awful connections in New York and Madrid. When we got to the boat, Captain Jim Drake had put together a crew of seven. There was his girlfriend Annette, who had been along for the whole California-to-Turkey and back across the Med warm-up; Big Bill from Australia; the gal from Australia whose name we can no longer remember; a gal named Sue; and the two young novice sailors from Amsterdam. The only ones we'd seen before were Jim and Annette.

We recall staggering around Las Palmas with jet lag for a few hours, then met you on the dock about nightfall. After we talked and you sounded normal, we said you could be on the crew. Why not? When we broke the news to the rest of the crew, they — at least the women — were horrified. "Where will she sleep?!" they demanded.

"Well, she can sleep in the aft cabin with me," we sputtered, unable to imagine how finding a spot for a ninth person could be a problem on a 71-ft boat. This didn't go over so well with Annette, who was best friends with our long-time on-off, on-off, on-off, ad nauseum girlfriend and future wife the Wanderette, who had left the boat just before we arrived.

"On the sole, on the sole, she can sleep on the sole in the aft cabin," we clarified, "not in the double bunk with us."

Given the crew's objections, we had to tell you we couldn't give you a final decision until just before we left the next morning. We didn't think it was fair that you should be discriminated against because you were young, female and cute, so when morning came we just told you to hop on, and you — with all your possessions with you — did just that. The rest, of course, is
Big O history.

There are three things we remember about you on that great trip. The first is when we were overtaking that German boat about halfway across, and you ran up to the bow wearing nothing but your panties to wave to them. We think that's the photo we ran of you. The second is the time we crossed paths with a ship whose captain was speaking in French. Much to the shock of everybody on the crew, you walked over to the radio, picked up the mic, and started jabbering away in French. If we remember correctly, you'd taught school in Belgium for awhile. We were impressed. Lastly, there was the afternoon about two days out of St. Lucia when the trades had gone light and the Caribbean sun was beating down. The whole crew was lying around the deck in silence, pretty much wilted. You had your headphones on, and all of a sudden you shattered the quiet by accompanying Pat Benatar on Heartbreaker at the top of your lungs. Once again we were all impressed.

There's that famous Mark Twain quote about how 20 years from now you won't regret the things that you did, but rather the things that you didn't do. Well, we didn't not do anything, and not only made that audacious trip from California to Turkey and back to the Caribbean with
Big O, we signed you on as crew at the spur of the moment. And Twain was right, because we really would have regretted it had we not done any of it. By the way dear readers, it was entirely platonic.

Waaaaaaa! We want a good Baja Ha-Ha sign-up position, too. I, Michael, have been reading Latitude since the 1980s, and it's finally our turn to participate.
In late 2013, Allison Lehman of Yachtfinders helped my wife Lisa and me buy Footloose, a Catana 471 in Tacoma, Washington. We did some cruising with her in the San Juans, although not enough, and then spent the winter of 2014 in Astoria. We've sold the house, gotten rid of all the stuff, and are now living aboard — legally — at Ballena Bay Marina in Alameda.

Lisa has to do just a little more work before she gets to pack it in. I'm retired, which means I get to work on the to-do list. It's 90 items long as of today. But we've got some big things done. Jason at Argo did our standing rigging, while Bill Colombo at Doyle Sails is building us a new set of Hydra-Net white sails.
We plan to start our cruise in June, with some time in the Delta. Then we'll head to Tomales Bay, where I sailed for decades. Then south to Catalina, where we've never been before. Then, the long-awaited Ha-Ha.

After a year in the Sea of Cortez, we hope we will have decided whether to turn right or left at the Canal. And just like Jonathan and Rebecca Mote of the Corona del Mar-based Jeanneau 42DS Serendipity — who were promised slot #3 by the Grand Poobah — we plan to keep on going until we don't want to go any farther.

So please, please, please, can't we have position #4?

Michael and Lisa Britt
Footloose, Catana 471
Ballena Bay

Michael and Lisa — Oh boy, we've really stepped in it, haven't we? Yes, we will promise you position #4. But that's the end of it — everybody else has to wait to sign up on the official entry day early in May.

The editor's response to why he didn't/doesn't start an East Coast version of Latitude 38 got me to thinking about East Coast sailing versus West Coast sailing.

I grew up on Chesapeake Bay and sailed there between the ages of 8 and 25. I also was a qualified Naval Officer of the Deck for Formation Steaming (OODF) for the years I was in the Navy, based in Little Creek, Virginia. So I have conned everything from an 8-ft dinghy to a 510-ft LSD on those waters.

And on the West Coast, I've had my Islander 28 WindWalker based out of Santa Cruz for more than 30 years, sailing Monterey Bay and coastal waters. In my opinion, the following are the differences between East Coast and West Coast sailing:

1) Things don't go 'bump in the night' as often on the West Coast. Back East they have these things called sand bars. They shift almost every winter, and many of them aren't marked. In addition, the sailing waters of the East Coast are generally much more shallow than on the West Coast. For example, once I'm clear of a harbor on Monterey Bay, I'm pretty much home free in terms of depth. But I do have to watch out for the kelp.

2) On the West Coast you can pretty much pick your sailing conditions, as the wind is almost always out of the northwest. Want a quiet sail? Go out at 9 a.m. and come back at noon. Want a spirited sail? Go out at 1 p.m. and come back at 5 p.m. The wind direction and speed on the East Coast, on the other hand, are highly variable and unpredictable.

3) I like ice in my cocktail glass as opposed to my boat's sinking in ice in her slip. On the East Coast, people have to use a bubbler to keep ice away from the hull.

4) I like my water in the water, not in the air. So when it comes to the East Coast's 90° of heat and 90% humidity in the summer, fergeddaboutit!

5) During the summer on Chesapeake Bay they have mosquitoes that are big enough to fly off with small dogs.

6) When it gets hot and humid on the East Coast and you want to swim, you have to remember that there are 'stinging nettles' that will keep you out of the water. All right, we have great white sharks on the West Coast, so it's a tie.

Throw in the longer sailing season, more wildlife — see the attached photos of whales taken from my boat when she was just 300 yards off the harbor mouth at Santa Cruz — and it's no contest.

Van Tunstall
WindWalker, Islander 28

Van ­— While all your points are valid, we think it's more of a comparison between Chesapeake Bay sailing and California sailing. For example, the Pacific Northwest doesn't have the reliable northwesterlies and the season is pretty short up there, too. And while the Northeast has a ridiculously short sailing season, it does have reliable afternoon winds, and it also has many great cruising destinations that California cruisers would die for. Then too, there is some fine sailing to be enjoyed in Florida during all but the hottest summer months.

The other big advantage that California cruisers have over East Coast cruisers is that it's only half the distance to the tropics, and much easier to get there. And the cost of cruising in Mexico is a fraction of what it is in the Eastern Caribbean.



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