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March 2016

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I bought my J/92 Ragtime! sight unseen in 2002. The 10-year old boat was in Massachusetts and I was in the Bay Area. I saw my purchase for the first time when the truck arrived at Nelson's yard in Alameda.

The prior owner was an experienced sailor, so he was precise in describing the boat's condition, and he sent me numerous detailed, close-up photographs. By the time I sent him the cashier's check — we didn't use an escrow — we had developed a level of mutual trust.

But at a price of just over $50,000, a cross-country purchase was still risky. So I did have the boat surveyed in Massachusetts before agreeing to the purchase. Of course, for all I knew the surveyor could have been the seller's brother-in-law. Like the Olson 30 the Wanderer bought sight unseen, a J/92 is a fairly simple boat, so I rationalized that if there were any problems, they could be fixed. I'd never sailed a J/92 before I purchased mine, so that was risky, too. But I'd sailed many boats over the years and done my research.

In my case, the transaction and the boat worked out great. Ragtime! is now 23 years old, and I've owned her for the last 13 years. During that time I've raced her to Hawaii three times, twice singlehanded and once doublehanded. I've also done most of the coastal races, the OYRA, lots of Bay races, and daysailing. I couldn't be happier with the boat, as she's like an extension of my arms.

Would I buy a boat sight unseen again? Probably not. But it's more likely that I would buy a sailboat sight unseen than any other major purchase. Very rarely has another sailor taken advantage of me.

Bob Johnston
Ragtime!, J/92
Richmond YC

Readers — Bob's letter — and those that follow — are in response to the following 'Lectronic that appeared on January 25:

"Generally speaking, buying or attempting to buy a boat sight unseen is not something to be recommended. Just ask Dan Hayes and Rose Alderson of Gabriola Island, British Columbia. In the January 20 'Lectronic we reported that the vets of the 2014 Ha-Ha, having sailed their Catalina 34 Aussie Rules across the Pacific, had sold the boat in Australia. They then agreed to buy a Catalina 400 'fixer-upper' in St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean. They had plans for many more years of cruising, including taking maybe five years to cross the Pacific again.

"After the couple made the long flight from Australia to St. Martin with a lot of cruising gear from their old boat, red flags started flying. For example, the woman in charge of the boat refused to even let them go aboard until their check had cleared. It got even weirder.

"The woman's story kept changing," reports Rose, "and she kept trying to get us to deposit the money in different, impossible ways to the account of someone not listed in the sales agreement. And she never even signed the sales agreement. We finally said enough was enough. Maybe we'll find another Catalina, maybe a boat in Croatia next year, or maybe we'll restore another house first."

We at
Latitude caution that there are still plenty of pirates in the Caribbean. If we were Dave and Rose, having flown all the way to the Caribbean, we'd look at other boats in St. Martin, a huge yachting center; in the British Virgin Islands, an even bigger yachting center where countless charter boats come out of service; and even down in Le Marin, Martinique, where they have lots of Euro-based boats on the block. And there's always Fort Lauderdale and the rest of Florida.
(This advice was given before we learned the couple were smarting from the 30% drop of the Canadian 'loonie' versus the currently almighty US dollar. They subsequently reported they will return home to Canada, and buy something like an Antrim 27 to race, at least until the exchange rate improves for them.)

We've bought boats sight unseen twice — and still own both the boats. The first was the Leopard 45 cat that became
'ti Profligate. But that wasn't truly sight unseen, as Leopard 45 expert Tim Schaff of the sistership Jet Stream and the folks at BVI Yacht Charters had already given her their seal of approval. The second was Olson 30 #66 that just happened to be in Richmond. She was such a bargain — about $4,000 — we didn't see how we could go wrong. And we didn't. Now named La Gamelle, she's now living on one of the best moorings in St. Barth, and we're drooling because we'll be sailing her again before you read this.

I just read the January 20 'Lectronic article titled New Boat, New Ocean, New Adventures, about Dave Hayes and Rose Alderson of the Gabriola Bay, BC-based Catalina 34 Aussie Rules. It reminded me of a quick conversation that I had with Dave and Rose as our Catalina 34s crossed paths on the Bay in October of 2014. I was impressed with their ambitious plans and humble attitude, so took a number of photos — including the one attached.

Oliver Boyer
Majic, Catalina 34 Mk II

The first 11:Metre on San Francisco Bay is the one that my wife Chris and I had bought without having ever seen her. I did call Ron Holland, the boat's designer, to ask how he thought the boat would do on the Bay. He said she would do just fine, so we bought her. What do you name a boat like that? Sight Unseen, of course!

We had a great time with the boat, sailing her PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Formula) before the one-design class was developed, and even won the PHRF Season Championship.

Paul Kaplan
KKMI, Pt. Richmond

I purchased my Beneteau First 38 sight unseen after hurricane Katrina. She was in New Orleans. I flew down, prepped her for shipping, and had her trucked to Chico. She was 'berthed' in my orchard for a year while I made all the necessary repairs. She now lives at Brickyard Cove.

At the time, it seemed like the only way I would be able to afford an ocean-going vessel was buying the victim of a hurricane. It turned out to be a tremendous learning experience, and I truly enjoyed the repair project. What I learned most of all is that I really lucked out.

Stephen Sweet
Celebration, Beneteau First 38
Brickyard Cove, Pt. Richmond

I bought a Ron Holland-designed 30-footer in Alameda from Boat Angel on eBay. I had thoughts of doing the Singlehanded TransPac, and with the boat's Holland racing pedigree and minimal creature comforts, she seemed like a good bet.

The information provided showed a race-equipped boat with a variety of newish sails and the Atomic Four engine that supposedly ran fine. Photos suggested that she looked good both inside and out. I made a stupidly low offer of $800, figuring that the scrap value of the keel, tapered mast, and sails were worth three times as much. And I was sure I'd be outbid.

Much to my surprise, I was the highest bidder. After paying Boat Angel's fees, taxes and registration, I was into the boat for less than $1,200. Did I mention that the boat was in Alameda and I lived in Kona, Hawaii? So I had some commuting to do.

When I flew back and saw the boat for the first time, I discovered that I'd gotten a little gem. The topsides had been repainted and were in great condition. The engine ran fine. There were lots of sails, including three spinnakers, and most were outstanding. The boat also had Dyneema halyards and sheets, oversize Barient winches, and a hydraulic backstay adjuster.

There were negatives, of course. The aluminum water and fuel tanks were shot, but they were easy to rip out. Most of the hardware on deck had been installed poorly, so there were soft spots. I got estimates for new tanks — $800 — and pulled the deck hardware to clean out the rotten core surrounding the fasteners. Pumping in thickened epoxy cured much of the springiness in the deck. When all was said and done, I had a competitive 30-ft racing boat for less than $2,000.
The big problem was that I hadn't told my wife about it. She blew up. She was not only pissed because we already had cruising boat, but also because I was disappearing for a week at a time to play with my new toy, leaving her home alone in Hawaii to slave away at her job.

Nonetheless, I seriously looked into fitting out the boat for the Singlehanded TransPac. But that would have been way more expensive than the boat. Then the airline I was working for went bankrupt, and my free air travel between Hawaii and the mainland went tits up. Based on those factors, and the fact I couldn't afford a divorce, I decided to sell the boat.

I put an advertisement on craigslist for a few hundred more than the dollars I'd invested in her, and sold the boat in a week. Peace and harmony were restored with the wife, and the new owner got a great deal on a competitive sailboat.

Peter Ogilvie
'Ae'a, Pearson 35
Kona, HI

Readers — When will women accept that one sailboat is often just not enough for a real man?

When I was a young man living in the greater Los Angeles morass in the mid-1970s, I purchased a 32-ft Kettenberg PC sloop. I didn't quite buy her sight unseen, but I did buy her — a wood boat — without a survey or a sea trial. I was interested in a small sailing vessel that I could race one design, and back then there were about 15 PCs in Los Angeles and a good 20 of them in San Diego.

The seller, Hilliard Brown, was an icon in the Southern California racing scene. He owned two PCs, and he was selling #15, which had been built after the war.
When I came down to the boat for the first time, Hilliard, who was 70 at the time, was up the mast, having pulled himself by hand. He came down and introduced himself: "I'm Hilliard and this is a halyard!"

I bought the boat and began a very humiliating period of racing the boat. She had no engine, two slab berths, but no head or galley.

But she was my first keelboat and a sweet vessel. I raced her both out of Marina del Rey and out of San Diego, always trying to beat Hilliard and other intrepid sailors in the fleet. In 1979 I finally gained some status, as I took second place in the Nationals in San Diego. It was a major milestone for me, having beaten so many of the Los Angeles and San Diego sailing Brahmins, and with a post-war PC. Wow!

I didn't sea trial or survey the boat before buying her because I knew that Hilliard was passing along a boat that would be good for me and could be a winner! God bless him. Folks like him are few and far between these days.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but those days are gone. Way gone. As are the days of getting 20+ PC's on the starting line for a national race or even a local race. It's a sorrow.

Rick Whiting
Hope Floats, (floating home)

In response to the editor's inquiry in 'Lectronic, we not only bought a brand new boat sight unseen, we bought if off the plans and some pictures of a partially assembled first hull. It was being built in a yard in far away Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and sold to us by a totally unknown company at the Long Beach Boat Show in 1979.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, in the 27 months between the purchase and the launch: 1) The company went bankrupt — and reformed. 2) The interest on the loan became usurious. 3) I got to learn all about letters of credit. 4) I traveled to Taiwan to negotiate several quality control issues with the builder. 5) I signed over the letter of credit to the builder, which was very scary as there was effectively no warranty. 6) I got to figure out how to import the boat into the United States. 7) I got to commission the boat myself.

Ignorance is truly bliss. Doing what I did has to be the definition of some mental illness that has not yet been noticed or codified by the health professionals.
It's now 34 years after we launched the boat and: 1) We still have — and love — the boat. 2) We have sailed the boat in the Baja Ha-Ha and in the Sea of Cortez. 3) We have spent more money maintaining the boat than she originally cost. It's all been worth it.

P.S. The boat is currently on the hard in Ventura while we are building boats in Xiamen, China, for an amusement park in Shanghai.

William Willcox
Faith, Scandia 34

William — It sounds to us as though you were a brave man back then — and are still a brave man today.

As you know, the boating industry was going through an interesting phase in the mid-1970s. Boats that were dirt cheap to make in Asia were flooding the US market that had been dominated by boats built by manufacturers in Southern California. Prices in the Far East were so low that some came over on cradles made of teak. Some of the Taiwan boats from the Far East were well built, while others were 'Taiwan Turkeys', inferior in almost every way.

Back then all you needed to do to get into the business of selling new boats — as opposed to used boats — was print up a couple of 8x10 sheets with ripped off line drawings of a boat, take a booth at a boat show, and accept deposits.

As for the interest rates in the 1970s, people accustomed to today's ultra low rates might be shocked to learn that people thought nothing of paying 11 to 15% on boat loans. Of course, back then money market accounts paid as much as 9%, about nine times as much as they do now. Inflation was naturally a huge problem. President Gerald Ford led the war against out-of-control inflation by wearing a button that read 'WIN', which stood for Whip Inflation Now. It was that kind of leadership that resulted in the newest United States aircraft carrier being named the Gerald Ford.

It doesn't matter whether assisting a fellow mariner in distress is the legal or moral obligation, as far as I'm concerned it's just the right thing to do. Plus, you'll never know who you'll meet in the process.

In 1970 I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. The post had a boat rental operation on a lake that served both the military and civilians. One day I rented a boat and came across a mariner whose boat was obviously not going anywhere under her own power. So I offered a tow, which was gratefully accepted. I towed the boat to the civilian launch ramp and helped the owner get his boat on the trailer. As I was getting ready to leave, he handed me his business card and said anytime I wanted a case of beer, I should stop by. He was the local Budweiser distributor in nearby Temple. Being a young, broke, thirsty soldier, this was like manna from heaven! Needless to say, whenever I was in Temple, I stopped by and picked up a case of beer.

Most of the time rewards for this type of activity are intrinsic, as we act out of an altruistic instinct. Or at least we should. And remembering what goes around comes around, you never know when you may be in need of assistance on the water. And every now and then there is someone who knows how to say thanks when none is required.

Harry Ysselstein
Half Moon Bay YC

Harry — We've always enjoyed helping/rescuing mariners and swimmers, and have also been offered gifts. When we rescued two women, who would have never been seen again, from a flipped dinghy off St. Barth, the one woman, an artist, pleaded with us to take something from her gallery. And when we rescued the three men from a flipped trimaran during a Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race, the owner offered us the use of his catamaran in the Med. Alas, we didn't have any room for the artwork or any time to use the cat in the Med. But like you, we had such a good time rendering assistance that we didn't care about any reward.

That said, the matter that has been in discussion is not whether a mariner needs to help someone in distress — there is both a legal and moral obligation to do that — but whether being becalmed in the middle of the Bay in the middle of the afternoon without a functioning engine constitutes being in 'distress'. We think there can be more than 50 shades of gray when it comes to distress.

BOOT 2016, the January boat show in Dusseldorf, Germany, was mind-boggling. It's held at Messe, which has 17 arena-size halls, making it one of the largest event/conference facilities in the world. The show is a boat porn extravaganza, far beyond anything we have in the States. There are spectacular yachts at BOOT that I've not only never seen before, but never even heard of, and now mortally lust for. There is more to see than any person could see in a week. I pulled two eight-hour days, and was exhausted at the end of each.
I'd guess that BOOT is the equivalent to 10 Annapolis Boat Shows, which I believe are the largest in the US. Want catamarans from eight feet and up? There's a hall for that. Monohull sailboats? Yep, two halls for them. Canal boats? There's a hall for them. Tenders and inflatables of all kinds? Half a hall. Superyachts? There's a humongous hall for them. I could go on an on. There were even two halls for just marinas and destinations.

Dozens of boats get their "Welt" — or world — Introduction at BOOT, which is the reason I made the pilgrimage. There's stuff here that won't make it to the US for ages, if at all.

And the quality and variety of the booths, staff, and boats is unlike anything I've seen in the States. Much of the equipment and many of our boats are manufactured in Europe, which means the principles of most of these companies, not just the reps or country manager are at BOOT. Looking at sexy Karver blocks? The founding team was there. How about a Princess, Azimut or Sunseeker motoryachts? Yep, the CEOs were on hand. Looking at sail technology? Naturally North, Quantum and Incidences were there, but also the executives from Dimension Polyant. It's likely they are the folks who make the material your sails are made out of. Similarly, the carbon fiber and resin vendors were on hand. It was like peeling back the covers of the sailing industry.

Aside from being 5,500 miles away from my home in Honolulu, the show couldn't have been more convenient. There are two excellent hotels in the Dusseldorf airport, and the 896 bus — which is free — went from the hotel door straight to to the show. I stayed at the Maritime five star hotel for a ridiculously low rate because apparently nobody but yachties wants to be in Dusseldorf in January. I also found that frequent flyer miles to Dusseldorf go a long way in January, so flying Business Class helped take the edge off the long trip.

My favorite item at the show costs just $20 for a pair, and in my humble opinion, everyone with an inflatable PFD should have them. I'm referring to Spinlock's brilliant water-activated LED that sticks onto the PFD bladder, turning it into a giant glowing target at night. It was the surprise grand prize winner of this years' METS (Marine Technology) Award. The Spinlock guys said they are priced so low because they wanted everyone to be able to afford them rather than have an expensive monopoly item based on their patent.

Showgoers have to eat, and the hit of the show was 'Currywurst', a giant bratwurst coated in curry sauce (often with sweet potato fries) that has taken Germany by storm. It was a 'meat in tubular form' moment that only Anthony Bourdain could love.

By the way, yes, I did buy a boat. That was my point in going to BOOT. P.S. One important note: The Europeans shows aren't "wait your turn and pile aboard" — you'll usually need to book a time to see the boat and the stands are usually rope-lined off. They'll ask for business cards. Anything with California on it will draw some attention and often priority. "You came here from California? Really?"

Tim Dick
name yet to be chosen, Lagoon 42

Readers – The answer to the obvious question of what boat Tim bought is the all new latest version of the Lagoon 42 catmaran, which was introduced at BOOT.
"This brand new version of the Lagoon 42 is two tons lighter than the previous ones," reports Tim, "plus I'm going with a custom racing mast and sails. The boat won't be finished until September, but we plan to go as green as possible in trying to win the November-December Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. And once we get her to California, we're going to enter her in the Transpac for the last leg to her new home in Hawaii."
The most recent incarnations of production catamarans have exploited almost every possible inch for maximum useable volume, giving them a bit of a boxy, wedding-cake look. In our opinion Lagoon has done a pretty good job of ameliorating this with the new 42. The interior is extremely spacious for 42 feet, and it's light and jazzy. But to us the most interesting feature is that Lagoon has moved the placement of the mast aft, which allows for good-sized headsail that is self-tacking. As the owner of a cat with self-talking headsail, this is a huge improvement.

The ARC should be a blast for Tim and his crew, as it should be 2,700 miles of mostly downwind sailing in warm conditions with 20 or so other catamarans to play with.

For those who don't have the time to fly to Germany to look at boats, we remind everyone that Strictly Sail Pacific will be held in Richmond, April 7-10. And you won't have to make an appointment to get on the boats.

Contrary to Andy Turpin's statement in the January issue World of Chartering, Desolation Sound is anything but "less traveled" in the months of July and August. Instead, visitors will find the anchorages packed tight, with as many as 100 boats, most of them from the US — jammed together. With so many boats its gets pretty busy, and with their generators and outboards, it gets pretty noisy.

Although crowded, the views in the anchorages in Desolation Sound are beautiful, and the ocean and lakes are (relatively) warm at a surprising 70-73°. Indeed, compared to Desolation Sound, the anchorages further south in our Gulf Islands seem less crowded in July and August. On the other hand, our visits to Desolation Sound — and the rest of the Salish Sea — outside of July and August have indeed been blessed with quiet, uncrowded conditions. The downside is that it's often cooler and wetter.

After two seasons in the Sea of Cortez, we put our Sceptre 41 Pelagia on a ship home from La Paz in June 2015. Although we loved La Paz and the Sea, we missed our home waters and, because we are skiers, the mountains.
But we completely agree with most of Andy's article. The Salish Sea is a wonderful cruising ground, with beautiful anchorages with (near) total protection, green-treed islands with snow-capped mountains in the background, and abundant wildlife, now including humpback and grey whales! Just don't expect it to be uncrowded in the summer.

David Stapells
Pelagia, Sceptre 41
Vancouver, BC

After six and a half years of building our Schionning-designed Wilderness 1100 catamaran Epic, we had her gingerly lowered into the Duwamish River south of Seattle on the morning of February 10. After so many years of work, there were some exciting moments.

Our cat's Selden mast is due around the end of this month, then we'll measure and order sails. I need to finish the electrical/wiring, add the solar system — not that solar system — and the SSB and autopilot.

We hope to meet the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca on Profligate in San Diego this fall.

We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary just a few days after the launch. Following our wedding, my wife Sheri and I spent a couple of wonderful weeks honeymooning at the Club Med in Playa Blanca. As I recall, it was approximately 90 scary minutes in a car south of the Puerto Vallarta Airport. We had a wonderful time. If we ever finish our catamaran, we'd like to return to Playa Blaca.

Brian and Sheri Timpe
Epic, Wilderness 1100

Brian and Sheri — In a world falsely enamoured with the shallow pleasures of instant gratification, we congratulate you on the many years you've worked on your cat and the many years you've spent together.

When you get south, you'll get to meet some kindred catamaran building souls, such as Arjan Bok, who spent six years building his Lidgard 43 Rot Kat in San Francisco, and Jim Milski, who spent three or four years building his Schionning 49 Sea Level in Vallejo.

With the exception of the Vallarta Coast and Careyes, the latter being where the Club Med was located, much of the Mexican mainland coast is petty much as it was 30 years ago. The Club Med at Playa Blanca must have shut down just a short time after you were there. After going through several different incarnations, it's now a luxury compound owned by some obviously very wealthy guy. A year ago the adjacent condos and Bel-Aire Hotel had been demolished and were being rebuilt in high style. But as the area was just about ground zero of ferocious hurricane Patricia in October, we're not sure what they look like today.

By the way, the winter weather in Mexico is much more salubrious than it is in Seattle, and there is no federal or international law against completing a boat south of the border. We know, because during
Profligate's first two seasons in Mexico, she effectively didn't have a steering system and there was only one working light inside the entire boat. We still had a great time. After 19 winters in Mexico, we finally consider her to be finished. So come on down!

As an avid reader of Latitude 38, I've come to appreciate the Letters editor's excellent wit, style, integrity and sense of humor. But, I'm having trouble with a statement you made in response to a letter concerning Max Ebb. Specifically, I just can't fathom anyone going 175 mph on a boat on the Bay. The Rocket Boat surely doesn't go half that fast. I once saw a strange looking vessel that seemed to have a jet engine and jet drive, but I doubt that thing could go 175 — even on foils.

By the time the pilots of the hydroplaning boats were approaching 200 mph, the mortality rate was going up faster than the record speeds. The last I heard, the official record was something like 345 mph, but that 85% of the attempts at those speeds were fatal.

Where on the Bay could Max go that fast without crossing paths with another boat? How long would it take for the boat to get up to speed, and to then decelerate? Was the sea state calm, with very light to non existent winds and excellent visibility?

I love Latitude and always pick up two copies so I don't have to share with my wife, but 175 mph?

Brooks Peterson
Neptune 16
Grass Valley

Brooks — We were as incredulous as you are, so we asked Max to confirm that we'd heard him right.

"The boat is Howard Arneson's 46-ft catamaran that is powered by a gas turbine and a single 16½-inch propeller that's only half submerged," he replied. "The boat may have gone faster in subsequent sea trials, but Lee and I only had one day on the boat. We were testing Howard's latest mods to the Arneson Surface Drive. Prior to 1952, 175 mph — 152 knots ­— would have been a world speed record.

"The boat was launched at Loch Lomand Marina in San Rafael, and the test area was in San Pablo Bay north of the Richmond Bridge. Brooks is correct in that 175 mph, that part of the bay gets real small quickly. I enjoyed the rides, but Lee said that she understood enough of the science to be totally terrified."

A video of Howard Arneson celebrating his 90th birthday by doing about 170 mph on San Pablo Bay can be found at

There are few if any women besides Jill Knight who have sailed a 100-year-old gaff-rigged cutter around the world. Mostly singlehanded, too. Jill's decades of sailing and living aboard have given her a keen sense of life on the waterfront in seamy Third World countries, where people and events are rarely what they seem.

In addition to being a fine sailor, Knight is an author. Navigating the Edge, her first sailing crime novel, was published by HarperCollins in 2002. It was set in Cape Town, St. Helena, and ended in the steamy jungles of French Guiana.

Port Dolorosa
, Knight's new novel, plays out between Brisbane, New Caledonia, and the southern Philippines, the latter being where the author lived for years in the 1980s. By the end of the first chapter there's already been a jailbreak and sailing escape from Brisbane by Josh Faro, who has snatched his two children along the way. He and the kids are headed back to the Philippines, where he had previously managed a lucrative drug smuggling operation. Rosa Brand, Faro's ex-wife's sister, is forced to give up her career to chase after Josh and the two kidnapped children,

By the 1980s, the southern Phillipines was a favorite with ex-pats on the run, unemployed combat vets, and sailors keen to profit from what looked like easy money in the drug trade. Sailboats could be renamed at will, and clearance papers fabricated easily with a counterfeit form and rubber stamp. When it was useful to both sides, bribery flourished, just as it always had.

Speaking as a vet of the Singlehanded TransPac and a circumnavigation, I think the eerie thing about Knight's novel is that given the minute and vivid details, it reads more like a memoir than a novel. I recommend it.

Peter M. Brown
Taj, custom catamaran
La Cruz

In the editor's February response to a letter from Jacques Taglang, the editor told readers that actor Humphrey Bogart learned to sail on the great yacht Serenade, which was then kept in Newport Beach.

Having grown up in Rochester, New York, hometown of Maud, Humphrey's mother, I must disagree. When Humprhey was a child, his family spent summers at Canandaigua Lake, one of the Finger Lakes south of Rochester. In his biographical book, Bogart, In Search of My Father, Stephen Humphrey Bogart references his father's childhood and says, "…they usually spent their summer vacations upstate at Camp Canandaigua, the place where Bogie learned to sail."

We who have sailed on Canandaigua Lake, and still have family there, would like to maintain this tenuous and vicarious link to fame. Please don't take it away!

David Allocco
Summer Nights, Capri 22
Phoenix, AZ

David — All right, you can keep the link. Let's just say that Serenade is the yacht on which Bogart learned to sail on the ocean.

John Rogers' piece and photos on swimming with dolphins in the wild at Tenacatita Bay cracked me up. I anchored in the same place after doing the inaugural Baja Ha-Ha in 1994. A dolphin would come by like clockwork every day and scratch his back and dorsal fin on my anchor chain. It would actually move the boat around a bit. I wonder if John was swimming with the same dolphin I did?

I had initially thought the dolphin was a pilot whale, as it seemed quite large for a dolphin. Speaking of which, on another trip down Baja some pilot whales cruised by when we had fishing gear out. Thinking that these were smart cetaceans and all, we figured they would not have a problem avoiding the hooks. Wrong! They snagged one and, of course, broke the line. Maybe they aren't so smart.

Dave Fiorito
Irie, Beneteau 393

Dave — Depending on the type of dolphin, they can live from 25 to 50 years. So while it's unlikely, we suppose you could have swum with the same one that John did.

We were cruising aboard Makai, our Leopard 47 catamaran, off Isle de Saintes near Guadeloupe on February 6, 2013, and it just happened to be our daughter Genny's 10th birthday.The kids — Roy, Genny, and Marie — were doing their usual stuff, which was playing with Savannah and Shane from Orion and going back and forth between the boats. Then the dolphins showed up and the party got started. The kids all raced around collecting their snorkel gear, and were even joined by the 12-year-old girl from the French boat next to us. For about an hour the kids chased a mother and baby dolphin around the anchorage.

The dolphins would go to the bottom and poke around in the weeds, then zoom up between the kids and give everyone a thrill. One of the kids was close enough to touch, but the dolphins usually stayed at least five feet away. They entertained us with rolls, jumps, and tail slaps.

"Some kids get clowns for their birthday," said Mary from Restless Heart. "Genny and her friends got to swim with the dolphins."

Eric Mears
Makai, Leopard 47
Newport Beach

I had the incredibly fortunate opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in the BVI in 2008. My husband John and I were anchored in Great Harbour, Peter Island, between charters. Sarah Monro, a fellow charter chef, was on a boat anchored next us, and noticed there were dolphins swimming by our boat. She and I immediately jumped in with our masks and snorkels, and right in front of us were a mom and playful calf.

The calf was rubbing his little back up and down our anchor chain. We tried to keep a respectful distance, but the current kept pushing us closer to the calf. His mom didn't seem to mind in the least. At one point the calf started playing with a small coconut floating by, and using his nose tossed it to Sarah. She tossed it back to him, and this went on for several minutes — until mom decided junior needed to eat something. Sarah and I chased after the pair as fast as we could, but they were quickly gone.

I will never forget total elation I felt as we watched them swim for deeper water, the sunlight creating beautiful patterns on their backs. In the wild is the only place to swim with dolphins.

Lynn Ringseis

In 2005 my then girlfriend and I were sailing out of Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. While moving along slowly with no particular place to go, I spotted a pod of dolphins playing about 100 feet off the port hull. I stopped the boat, grabbed my fins and mask, and told the girlfriend to watch the boat and me.

For over an hour I swam with what appeared to be a group of about 12 that was feeding off the bottom. As time went on, they accepted me. They got so comfortable with me being in the water that they started mating right in front of me for about twenty minutes! I felt like a dolphin voyeur, but did learn several new positions.

I was so enthralled watching the dolphins that I had drifted so far from the cat that my girlfriend had to launch the dinghy to rescue me from my adventure. I guess I don't have to tell you what happened to my girlfriend when I got back to the boat. I think my dolphin story trumps the back scratching story.

Glenn Kotara
Maxicat, Robertson/Caine 47
Bend, Oregon

I worked in Salalah, Oman, from 1974 to 1986. We used to go to the beach club in Muscat with our two young boys. Wild dolphins would come into the bay and let the kids hang onto their dorsal fins as they took them for a ride. It was incredible that the dolphins loved it as much as the kids.

John Edwards
Tsunamita, Hunter 356
Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

While cruising off Maui aboard Bob van Blaricom's Sea Bear in 1990, we swam with dolphins in a cove on the west coast that is a 'protected sea'. The dolphins circled the yacht, almost inviting us to play with them.

When we got into the water, they dashed up toward us, and then stayed about an arm's length away. After about 20 minutes they started to head out to sea. But when we spanked the surface of the water with our hands, they returned and played for another 20 minutes. It was so unexpected that afterwards we wondered if it had been a dream.

John Sanford
ex-Kairos, Aloha 34

Dolphins are such curious, intelligent creatures, they will often come to check out anything unusual. The key to keeping their interest is to wave your arms like an idiot or maybe spin around. Otherwise they'll find you to be a boring, wannabe sea creature — especially if you have this silly human need to swim toward them to pet them.

Carliane Johnson
Kynntana, Freedom 38

I've swam with dolphins — spinners — many times in Hawaii. Swimming with dolphins is big business in the 50th state these days. Dolphins are way too smart to bite a lure, Compare the size of a dolphin brain and a fish brain and you'll get the idea.

Here at Kona, dolphins will take a tuna being used as a live bait, and eat it right down to the head — where the hook is bridled — leaving the rest.

Jay Lambert
Kona, HI

On several occasions during our 20+ years of cruising, we have had the opportunity to swim with dolphins — and whale sharks — in the wild. The time that comes to mind was when we were on charter with a couple that were wanting to catch some fish. Sailing about four miles off the lee side of Grenada, I saw what I thought was a school of tuna 'finning' about a half mile further west. When we got on site, it was obvious that they weren't tuna but a huge pod of dolphin. Probably thousands. It was nearly dead calm and very clear. We quickly donned snorkel gear and what we saw in the water was amazing!

Normally when you see a pod of dolphin, you think pretty much two dimensionally. But when we entered the water, we saw a three dimensional pod that seemed to go as deep as it was wide. What we saw on the surface was just 'the tip of the iceberg'. I can only equate it to a large freeway interchange where there are multiple layers of cars are going in different directions.

The other amazing thing was the incredible sound of the dolphins communicating. It was like being in a huge crowd at a public event, with everyone talking at once. It was loud.

The dolphins didn't pay too much attention to us — unless we dove under and relaxed at depth for a few seconds. Then they would come over in groups of two or three and to say 'hello'. It was just another of those incredible experiences you have when you go cruising. Needless to say, our charter guests were thrilled.

Fred and Jane Read
Merry Dolphin, Kelly-Peterson 44
Washington, DC

I'd guess I'm not the first cab off the rank to advise you that Southport Seaway is a man-made entrance to the Gold Coast Seaway on Australia's east coast, not on the west coast as you reported in an editorial response last month.

The Seaway's bar is renowned as a dangerous bar in any kind of surf or heavy swell conditions. Boats needing to get into the seaway should head north and, if the bar at Jumpinpin is also too dangerous to cross, take refuge in Moreton Bay tucked in behind South Stradbroke Island.

Sultanate, the catamaran that famously surfed down the wave at the Seaway, was exceptionally lucky not to have broached. Had that happened, it would have been a disaster video. The owner was roundly criticised by the more cautious, whilst also being lauded by the foolhardy in the Australian sailing community. The best anyone can say about that episode is that he got away with it. Just.

Mark Walker
Kempsey, New South Wales

Mark — As they'd say at Noosa Head, we 'came a gutser' in placing Southport Seaway on the wrong coast. Having been there a few years ago, there was no excuse for such a mistake.

I saw the February 3 'Lectronic item about the Wanderer thinking he had an oil leak in his Yanmar diesel when it was actually rubber coming off a belt.

After 12 months of frustration with belts on my Yanmar engine, I learned that Yanmar belts have a steeper 'V' shape than most others. If you don't use the Yanmar belt, the belt will glaze, burn and then break. And it will happen over and over, often at the most inconvenient times. I learned that you have to buy factory belts to be safe and keep genuine Yanmar spares.

Tim Dick
Honolulu, HI

I have a question regarding the legality of reducing the amount of sales/use tax owed upon the purchase of a boat. Take a boat you're thinking of buying for $150,000. You buy it and you can pay California the sales/use tax on the whole amount. But, when you go to insure it, quite often the insurance company wants a breakdown of the purchase price, such as: a) hull and machinery; b) electronics; c) personal property. Some even have items called "furniture".

So if the value of the electronics is $12,000 and personal property is $3,000, then the hull and machinery is only $135,000. Can a buyer request separate sales agreements for (a, b, and c) and simply submit "a" as the purchase price of the boat, thereby saving the sales/use tax on $15,000 worth of stuff that may be old and of reduced value? As you know, the electronic device you buy today for $1,000 isn't worth more than a few hundred a few days later. Why pay sales/use tax on it when someone has already paid sales tax on it previously? Or am I missing something here?

Please withhold my name as I also live in fear of the California taxing agencies, and don't want them opening up a case on me.

Name Withheld by Request

NWBR — The 'why pay tax on something when it has already been paid once' argument is a non-starter. After all, that logic would not just apply to the boat's electronics and 'furniture', but the hull and machinery too. It's the same argument that is made for the abolition of capital gains and estate taxes, but that's not going to happen either.

We're not experts on taxes, so you should confer with a professional for an authoritative answer, but we think we know what it's going to be.

I'd like to thank Latitude for the great January tribute article on Jim Kilroy, the pioneering maxi sailor.

After returning to the States in the early 1950s from a trip to Korea — with all expenses having been paid by the Marine Corps — I was discharged and moved to Balboa Island. That's where I first met Jim, who had just purchased the beautiful 50-ft yawl Tasco and changed her name to Kialoa.

When Jim learned that I knew how to sail, he invited me to join him on several sails in Southern California, as well as the 1957 Transpac. Chuck Ullman won that year with the revolutionary Legend, but Kialoa had a great race and I think we took third in class.

Jim asked me to deliver the boat back to Newport Beach, which I did. We sailed all the way, which is why it took us 28 days. But it was a nice and easy trip. Jim asked me to work for him, but that's when Louis Benoist, the new owner of the the 99-ft Morning Star, which held the Transpac record for several years, came on the scene. Benoist wanted me to take the the big ketch back to Annapolis, where he had graduated, so away I went.

Jim Kilroy is the true gentleman of yachting. He took good care of the crew and was truly concerned about their safety and well-being. From all of us in the world of sailing, we thank you Jim.

Roby Bessent
Ex-Hoot Mon, Cal 37
Long Beach

Roby — Since a lot of sailors are familiar with Jim Kilroy and his Kialoas I through V, with III being the all-time favorite, we're going to take this opportunity to stroll down the Morning Star memory lane.

As we're sure you know, Rovy, the 98-footer was built as a schooner in Genoa, Italy in 1928. It was oil man Richard Rheem — as in the Rheem Perpetual Trophy in the St. Francis Big Boat Series — who brought her to the States in 1946 and had her re-rigged as a ketch. Morning Star would go on to win the Transpac five times between 1949 and 1957.

After Benoist owned her for a few years, she was sold to Fuller Callaway III, who sailed her to honors in the Tahiti Race. Then he made the fateful decision of wanting to enter her in the Transatlantic Race. In June of 1963, while sailing her across the Caribbean on the way to the Rhode Island start with a crew of just four, Morning Star struck a reef 150 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. Although two of the crew were thrown overboard, they managed to get back aboard. All five crew were eventually rescued, but Morning Star was a total loss.

After a brief rest, Callaway flew to New York to join Sumner 'Huey' Long's 57-ft Ondine for the Transatlantic Race, which Ondine won. Long owned various Ondines, of course, and competed against Jim Kilroy and his various Kialoas over the years. The maxi racing world has always been a small one.

NAMED FOR THE Thomas A. Short Co.
There was an error in the tribute article to Jim Kilroy, and I'd like to set the record straight regarding the first boat that he owned. The Tasco Kilroy owned was correctly named Tasco, not Tasco II. She was built by Lester Stone for Thomas A. Short. The name came from the Thomas A. Short Co., which Tom owned. She was launched in 1947.

Tasco II was also built in the 1960s by Stone. She was a sloop-rigged Rhodes design that was later sold to Aldo Alessio. He named her Mistress II.

Although I'm 87, I'm still racing. I have model EC 12s and a one-meter-long 'Soling'.

Bud Cassidy
Fort Myers, FL

I hope the following will help Ben Jones who wrote in last month asking for more information about the Lapworth 36s, one of which he recently purchased.

The Lapworth 36 was designed by C. William (Bill) Lapworth and built in Costa Mesa by Chapman & Kalayjian?. In fact, the building in which they were built in still exists. The Lapworth 36s were wood, and only three could be built at a time. The hull planking was 1/2-inch by approximately 1 1/2-inch, one side being concave with the other being convex. This made it easy to saturate with Resorcinol glue and place one plank on top of the other. Then long bronze anchor fast nails were driven through the plank into the one below. After the hull was complete, it was rolled over and the frames and bulkheads installed.

I can't remember how many were built, but they were well received. A few were ordered by members of the Acapulco YC, and I remember two were ordered with tinted ports and windows. One owner even wanted his delivered with dishes, silverware and playing cards!

When Carl Chapman finished one of the boats for Mexico, he moved to Mexico. Rollie Kalajian was a real engineer, and later founded Yacht Specialties, which designed and built the pedestals, sheaves and quadrants for steering systems.

Roby Bessent
Ex-Hoot Mon, Cal 37
Long Beach

Roby — Great info, thanks. It's really taxing our memory banks, but does anybody remember the crew of a Lapworth 36 driving the boat, spinnaker up, right through the surf and onto the beach just north of Bahia Santa Maria one night? It was about 50 years ago in one of the races to Mexico.

Thought I would add a little to the history of Lapworth 36s. I owned Fleur de Mer, hull #39, in the early 1970s. She was one of two built with teak decks. The other was Leda II, #71, which I believe the James family still brings out for the Master Mariners Regatta.

We raced Lapworth 36s as a one design in those days, and recall we had 12 or more on the Bay. We sailed out of St. Francis YC, and spent summers with the kids up at Tinsley Island. Those were great years.

Karl Eckhardt
Boston Whaler 21
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Karl — We're almost certain that Leda II is the Lapworth 36 that used to race with a crew of topless women in the early 1980s. Given all the years that have passed, we understand that none of them are copping to it. But you're right, those were great years. On the other hand, if you're still sailing, these are great years, too.

The fact that the Lagoon 41 catamaran went on a reef at the San Blas Islands in early January, as reported in 'Lectronic Latitude, really got my attention, as my wife Carole and I are going to spend three weeks in Panama. And one week of it will be on a cat in the San Blas Islands.

Based on our research, there are three main ways to charter in the San Blas: 1) Bareboat. 2) Boat with captain and cook — who might be one and the same. And 3) Share space with others on a crewed boat.

One of the 'shared space' deals is a one-way trip to or from Cartagena, Colombia. Depending on how much time you or your group wants to take, such a trip can be from three to six days or more. But just as in Mexico, things don't always go as planned.

The trip from Cartagena includes an overnight, after which you spend some time in the San Blas Islands. That part of the sail is probably similar to the second leg or third leg of the Baja Ha-Ha.

Before we signed up for our trip, we read the charter write-ups of these trips, the descriptions of the accommodations on the boats, and the comments from those who have done the trips. After checking them out, we decided we were probably a bit past our prime for that kind of sailing and fun. They tend to be more like sailing youth hostels than typical charters. It sounds like this may have been the type of charter trip that had the accident, but we don't know for sure.

We're taking a four-day sail on a shared and crewed cat that will only spend time in the islands — no overnights close to the reefs. We'll get to have some sailing/swimming-time on the beach, drink some rum, eat lots of seafood — and it will be a lot warmer than if we stayed home in Sacramento. In addition, Carole won't have to cook and I won't have to do dishes or boat chores, which is nice. When that part of the trip is over, we'll head up to the Bocas del Toro region for more days of kicking back. We'll be back in plenty of time for the boat show in Richmond in April.

Oh, one more thing. Carole says it's time for yet another sailboat. This one has to be trailerable so we can spend time on the Bay and in the Delta, go up to the Columbia River to see the grandkids, hit the San Juan Islands, and maybe even the Sea of Cortez. It will either be our 15th or 16th boat.

Pat and Carole McIntosh
Espiritu, Hunter 430

Pat and Carole — For as long as we can remember, private boats have been doing 180-mile unregulated charters from Cartagena, Colombia to the San Blas Islands. Many of the passengers are backpackers, as it's much less expensive than flying between Panama and Colombia, and there is no road between the two countries. To show you how different this is from chartering in the British Virgins, some of the boats will take not just bicycles, but motorcycles, too. The quality of the boats, the skill of the skippers, and the cost of the trips varies tremendously. The boats are not uniformly as good as you'd find from outfits such as The Moorings or Sunsail.

As you are probably aware, the northeast wind that blows along the Caribbean coast of Colombia is one of the strongest and most consistent in the world of cruising. Fortunately, it mostly blows itself out once you get as far west as Cartagena, and is often not too strong in the 180 miles between Cartagena and the San Blas Islands. Indeed, it can be quite light and there might even be a back eddy to the south of the rhumbline.

Approaching the San Blas Islands, which are low reef islands, from the east is no place for mistakes. There are only a few decent openings, and if you're not spot on with your navigation, your boat will soon be history. For once on the reef, there will be no getting off.

About 20 years ago we came down on these islands aboard our Ocean 71
Big O. It was pouring rain with lightning all about. As we recall, we didn't have GPS, so it was spooky stuff. Fortunately, the skies cleared just before dark, allowing our captain Antonio, who had been there many times before, to pick his way between islands. Not that there were any navigation markers to help.

About 10 years later we again came down on the San Blas, this time with our 63-ft cat
Profligate. Having a GPS or two made it so much easier, but there was still no room for sloppy navigation.

Once behind the reef, you are protected from the often huge swells of the Caribbean Sea. There is good sailing to be enjoyed in certain places, while other parts of the San Blas are littered with reefs.

The San Blas Islands are truly spectacular, with lots of sea life, and water as clear as in a bottle of fine vodka. More than a few cruisers spend a year or more at a time in the San Blas, and we can see why. Mind you, don't be expecting internet, television, stores, restaurants, bright lights or any conveniences. But if anyone is up for the simple and natural life, it's the place to be.

By the way, the Kuna women wore rings through their noses decades before it was cool, and many still smoke pipes like your granddaddy might have done.

We left San Diego in 1998 aboard our Gemini 35 cat Speck, transited the Canal in March of 2000, and have been continuing to explore the Caribbean ever since. In 'Lectronic you asked for stories about fires on boats. Here's ours:

A powerboat caught fire next to Speck while we were tied up at the Panama Canal YC. Thankfully, a couple of fellow boaters released her lines and moved her away from the flames just as the firefighters were arriving. We were so lucky.

We normally didn't stay at marinas, but had left Speck in the one when we flew home to San Diego for a visit with family. Since that close call, we do everything we can to stay out of marinas — and for more than just the fear of fires.

But we had a cruising friend of ours who wasn't so lucky with a boat fire in Costa Rica in 1999. He was ashore with his daughter and called his other daughter to come pick them up with the dinghy. The daughter had been deep-frying fish and forgot to turn off the propane stove. When they got back to the boat, she — the boat — was going up in flames.

After transiting the Canal, we continued to wander the 'wild west' of the Caribbean for a few years, then in 2003 spent two months along the north coast of Cuba. Oh my, we've had so many big adventures on our small but well-equipped sailboat! We've only spent a little, but have enjoyed life a lot while living on our cat in exotic locations. Because our needs and thus expenses are so small, we have also managed to save enough for a few land-based travels to Asia, too.

While in Singapore to visit my daughter, we were invited to participate in the Neptune Regatta from Singapore to Indonesia. When we crossed the equator, we were immediately initiated as polliwogs! In 2012 we had a different kind of sailing adventure — a six-month trip up the East Coast via the ICW. We spent three months anchored in the Washington Channel, living like locals.

Between and after those adventures, we've managed to hang out in the Exumas and other remote islands of the Bahamas almost every year. We had a near sinking off the northwest corner of the Abacos in 2009, but my husband Irwin, a calm, confident man, found the big problem and solved it. So we lived to tell about it.

We dive and snorkel, deep sea fish, wander the villages, and explore the clear waters of the out-islands of the Bahamas. We can tell you about almost every nook and cranny in that group. The Bahamas is still a beautiful, peaceful place to wander, with few hassles or fears.

We stayed at Georgetown in the Exumas from early July until mid-November of 2015. We really enjoyed having the place to ourselves after the hordes of winter cruisers had returned to the US and Canada. There was, of course, the matter of Hurricane Joaquin and its 100-mph winds, but we rode it out safely with five anchors set in a protected lagoon. The eye passed 40 miles to the east of us and devastated Long Island.

Irwin and I are now 70, but we're still going strong, and are the envy of our land-based families and friends. We plan to return to Cuba now that it is sorta legal, and then head back to Central America. We'll stay out here wandering on Speck until we can't lift the anchors or see the navigation markers.

Judy and Irwin White
Speck, Gemini 35 cat
ex-San Diego

In my capacity as a marine surveyor, I have attended many vessels over the years when a fire has caused partial or total loss, fortunately never with loss of life. If you should happen to be in this calamity here are a few pointers:

1) Switch off the main supply on the 12 or 24-volt system using the main battery switches.

2) If the vessel is plugged into shorepower, disconnect this from the dock.

3) Close the valves on the propane supply.

4) Do not open the hatches, as this will allow more oxygen in to feed the fire.

5) Try to fight the fire if you can, break the ports only if you can spray water in.

6) If the fire is out of control and the boat is tied to the dock, try to untie her so she can be towed or drift downwind to prevent the fire from spreading to other vessels, but make sure it won't drift into another dock.

But never put your life at risk fighting a fire. After all, a boat is only property that can be replaced.

More than 25 years ago in Sausalito I attended a Yorktown 38 on behalf of the insurance company. The owner of the boat was in his 90s and had just completed a circumnavigation. But he was aboard in Schoonmaker Yacht Harbor when a propane explosion blew the deck off the hull. As the mast was keel stepped, the deck got blasted up the mast, shearing off the boom at the gooseneck. When this occurred, the tension of the rig allowed the hull to collapse inboard. When the deck came back down due to gravity, it sat perfectly on top of the stanchions — some three feet above the original hull to deck joint! The vessel was in a double slip, and it was possible to walk around the vessel and see the contents of all the outboard lockers.

The had been down below when the explosion occurred. He told me he was "deaf" before this happened, and it had really knocked him for six. We had to resort to shouting and a pencil and paper for him to get his point across. He marveled at his luck and then said, "Jeez, I've been looking for that box of spare parts since I left American Samoa!" And there it was, visible from the dock amongst all his worldly goods.

That guy got off lucky, as the propane explosion didn't result in a fire. But propane is very dangerous and can be the major cause of problems if not correctly managed.

Michael P. Wilson
Marine Engineer/Recognized Marine Surveyor
Tortue, S&S 44
Mazatlan, Mexico

Michael — Our memory must be failing us because as we recall the famous incident, it took place at Basin 3 in Clipper Yacht Harbor on either a Spencer 42 or Cascade 42. And while the deck had indeed been blown off the hull, when we looked at it, it was only three inches, not three feet, off the hull. The true miracle was that despite the tremendous force of the explosion, the owner, who had been aboard, wasn't seriously injured.

The fire on my boat was the result of a unlit burner leaking in the alcohol stove. The fuel collected in the drip pan at bottom of the stove, ignited, and overheated the pressurized fuel tank. As I turned off the burner that was in use, the over-pressure valve on the filler cap released, and sent a jet of fuel vapor straight up! Ignited by the flames in the drip pan, it became a blow torch licking at the curtains. A quick-thinking friend grabbed a small CO2 extinguisher he had brought along unasked, and put out the fire. The only damage was the scorched curtains. I rebuilt the burners and didn't have another problem with the stove. I have also kept a least a mid-sized CO2 extinguisher aboard since, in addition other required extinguishers.

Jim Nash
Nalu, Cal 2-30
Kaneohe Yacht Club, HI

I was aboard a Carter 39, a hot race boat at the time, for the Manzanillo Race in about 1976 when the stove in the galley caught fire. Somebody had over-primed the stove, which resulted in flames burning a hole in the hose to the pressure tank. Then things started to really get out of hand.

You know how tired you can get during a long offshore race? I was asleep on the settee when it happened, and I was so exhausted that I didn't even get up. "They'll tell me if it's time to abandon ship," I thought to myself, and went back to sleep. Fortunately, a dry chemical extinguisher put the fire out. We were at about the latitude of Cabo at the time, but 200 miles offshore, and a big fire could have been a disaster.

The same owner had previous lost his Ericson 39 to a fiberglass fire caused by a poorly insulated water-lift exhaust tank. That boat burned to the waterline and the crew was rescued by a Fish & Game boat. They had just finished a Whitney Series San Nicholas Race in Southern California and would have been in big trouble if the fire had started by San Nick. That was in about 1975.

No fires on my boats.

Mike Kennedy Sr.
ex-Audacious, Choate 40
Los Angeles

Mike — We'd almost forgotten that alcohol stoves using pressurized tanks had been a standard option on Islander 36s and other boats in the 1970s. While alcohol doesn't explode and can be put out by water, priming the stoves caused many flare-ups and some people were badly burned. Modern alcohol stoves don't use pressurized tanks, eliminating many of the safety hazards, but alcohol doesn't burn very hot and isn't a very efficient fuel.

CNG was/is another option in some areas, particularly Southern California. We remember the great Lowell North telling us he had CNG on one of his boats because he'd seen too many propane explosions on boats. CNG can explode, but it's lighter than air, so it's not as risky as propane. The problems with CNG are that it was hard to come by except in Southern California and impossible to find in Mexico, it's not an efficient fuel, and the tank is under 10 times as much pressure as are propane tanks.

Propane is by far the most popular choice for cruising boat stoves. It's also by far the most explosive. Be certain that every part of your propane stove system is in perfect condition. A few years back we were at Two Harbors, Catalina, and a guy using a canister propane stove had a problem. His little powerboat, the closest to the dinghy dock, soon became an inferno. It was one of three fires — two on boats — at Two Harbors that day.

I thought I would share the story of my family's inspiration to do the Baja Ha-Ha again in 2015.

I was looking at the April 4, 2015, edition of 'Lectronic, and it had a photo from the 2008 Ha-Ha that featured our girls — Romi (then 8) and Miya (then 10) — having a great time on the beach with other Ha-Ha kids. I showed the photo to my husband Kirk Miller and daughter Miya, and within about five minutes we agreed that we had to do the Ha-Ha again in the fall.

As Romi and Miya are now a sophomore and senior, respectively, in high school, this decision acknowledged the work they would have to do to stay up with school. The big difference between 2008 and 2015 is that I would no longer be home-schooling them.

As for our Santa Cruz 50 Bay Wolf, preparing her was simplified by our previous Ha-Ha experience and nine-month cruise. She didn't need a lot of work.

So why is the Ha-Ha such a great family event? Let's see, there is sharing night watches during which time we got to see the moon rise, the planets, and the Milky Way more vividly than ever before. The trick-or-treating among the boats in the fleet in Turtle Bay was as fun as it had been seven years before. The kids' party on Profligate and on her floating islands was a blast. The great fishing, which saw us catch two mahi mahi, three tuna — including one about 60 pounds — and a marlin. Seeing a pilot whale and dolphin pods. The great volleyball games on the beach. Dancing with my teenage daughters at Squid Roe during the Ha-Ha party. (There is no other venue in which they would have danced with mom.) A chance for our girls to hang out with some of the younger Ha-Ha kids, which reminded them of their first Ha-Ha. Time spent off-line — especially important for the high school girls.

But above all, there is nothing like living in close quarters with your family to really reconnect! And the Ha-Ha was ideal for that.

By the way, Miya and Romi thought that a two-week hiatus from high school was not insurmountable. They front-loaded some schoolwork, did homework on the lay days, and read on days when the sailing was mellow. Their teachers were almost universally supportive. When a freshman in 2012, Miya had taken a month off from school to do the Ha-Ha with her dad, and had no problems keeping up with school.

One of the conditions of our doing the Ha-Ha was that Miya complete an early application for the US Coast Guard Academy before we left. What an incentive! We recently learned that Miya has now been admitted to the Coast Guard Academy.

Sachi Itagaki
Bay Wolf, Santa Cruz 50
San Francisco

Readers — After the last Ha-Ha, we sent a letter asking participants for reviews of the event. We were swamped with them, and have only had room to publish a few. But because we believe in the Ha-Ha so much, we plan to publish one a month until the start of the 23rd annual Ha-Ha, which will be on October 31.



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