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April 2016

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I was on my way to Clipper Cove in the lee of Treasure Island this past Sunday to enjoy a warm day on the hook with my family. Since I hadn't been there in a number of years, and because the tide was lower than normal, I pulled out my smartphone with the Navionics charts. I then noticed that what I assumed was an anchorage was labeled "Prohibited Area," with the addition of a number of "Cable Area" notices as well. What gives? Is Clipper Cove a beloved anchorage or a prohibited area!?

Jesse Hollander
Splash, Jeanneau Sunfast 32

Jesse — Friends have anchored at Clipper Cove recently and report things are as they have always been. Which means if you anchor away from the "Cable Area," it remains a "beloved anchorage."

I've been checking around for alternatives to mast-up boat storage in the event that Alameda Marina, where I currently keep my F-31, is no longer an option because of development.

I called Schoonmaker Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, and was told they currently have no dry storage openings. I was also told that the marina owners are considering discontinuing crane launching because of liability issues. The person at Schoonmaker suggested that I contact the people at Brickyard Cove in Richmond, as he thought they might have room in their dry storage and a crane.

When I called Brickyard Cove, I was informed that while they do have dry storage and a crane, they are not interested in having multihulls in their facility.

I got on the Bay Area Multihull Association (BAMA) bulletin board and asked for help. I got the following information from a fellow trimaran sailor:

"Unfortunately, Alameda Marina is the only facility with a crane tall enough to launch an F-31C such as yours. Schoonmaker, Brickyard Cove, Encinal YC and the Richmond YC's cranes are all too short. And, as you've discovered, Brickyard Cove will not accept multihulls, and Richmond YC has a waiting list more than a year long. This is why it's imperative that the Alameda Marina dry storage tenants do everything they can to educate the Alameda City Council as to the importance of access to the water provided by the three-ton crane facility at the Alameda Marina."

This issue has forced my decision to sell my boat. It's currently listed with Gary Helms.

Ken Kukrall
Chubasco, Corsair F-31
Alameda Marina

Readers concerned about the proposed development at the Alameda Marina site need to know that the Achilles heel of all developments in California is the document known as the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). If there are any adverse affects of a development noted in the EIR, and there is no feasible way to mitigate those adverse effects, the project dies.

Alameda has an automobile access and egress problem, and many proposed developments have been prevented because of it. There is a large development currently being planned on the north end of the island, and if one combines the increase in traffic from that with the probable increased traffic from the Alameda Marina development, I would venture to guess the resultant traffic congestion couldn't be adequately mitigated.

The takeaway for Latitude readers concerned about the Alameda Marina development is to stay connected and focused on the EIR, and make sure to focus comments on issues like traffic that will be hard to mitigate. People need to flood the environmental consultant with hundreds of organized and thoughtful comments regarding the impact of increased traffic.

Increased traffic is not a phony problem in Alameda. The morning congestion in the Posey Tube is horrific. And try riding your bike through the tunnel, as the walkway is only about 24 inches wide. Then there are the fumes and the noise, which are almost bad enough to kill you on the spot. So the only real way off the island is either by car or boat — or by bike over the southern bridges, which are about as dangerous as the Posey Tube.

About 15 years ago a developer proposed gondola transportation across the Estuary to mitigate increased traffic that would have been generated by his proposed development. The gondola idea didn't strike people as adequate mitigation.

If there is a genuine traffic problem that would be created by the proposed development of the Alameda Marina, the system should work and concerned citizens should prevail.

Name Withheld by Request
Northern California

NWBR — Your letter made a lot of sense until the last paragraph. Excuse our cynicism, but how often has the 'system' been 'worked' by any number of special-interest groups to the detriment of the majority of citizens with legitimate concerns? We think the most glaring current example would be Governor Brown's High-Speed (LOL) Rail project, which has already violated just about every provision guaranteed voters when they approved it years ago.

Even if the Alameda Marina project is denied, maybe what Alameda needs is a 'transporter bridge'. After all, the first one, the 500-ft Vizcaya Bridge that accommodates passengers and vehicle traffic between the Portuguese towns of Portugalete and Getxo, without disrupting the maritime traffic to the busy Port of Bilbao, has been going strong for 122 years. As ancient as it is, it has a gondola that can transport six cars and 24 passengers from one shore to the other in just 90 seconds. Imagine how much more efficient such a bridge could be using technological improvements of the last hundred years. As it is, the ancient Vizcaya Bridge carries four million passengers and more than half a million vehicles a year.

In the March 14 edition of 'Lectronic, you mentioned the 'competition' between Jim Clark and Tom Siebel for the title of Owner of the Longest Cumulative Total Feet of Epic Sailing Yachts (OLCTFESY). But you missed one of Tom's boats.

In addition to his 45-ft day cat, his MOD70 Orion, his Swan 60, his Swan 115 to be launched later this year, and his 143-ft J Class yacht to be launched later this year, Siebel also has a J/125 that was totally tricked out by Zan Drejes and the boys. The boat even has a carbon grinder in the cockpit for super-fast kite takedowns through the forward hatch. The J/125 is Tom's 'Friday Night Boat', and he sails with the likes of Craig Healy and other all-stars.
Mike Dias

Mike — Sorry about the omission. We don't know about the rest of you, but we admire a guy with a powerful love for sailboats.

The saga of Rainmaker, hull #1 of the Gunboat 55s, has me curious. Readers will remember that she was abandoned in stormy conditions off the East Coast on January 31, 2015, spotted several times since, and finally towed in to Bermuda after being spotted recently by some of the Oracle America's Cup team who were out fishing. I'm curious about whether the catamaran can be salvaged. Not just for insurance purposes, but for the possibility of re-using her hull.

From the photos I've seen of Rainmaker, she could be stripped and reconstituted. I'm curious what an 'expert' would have to say about the viability of her hull at this point, given that she is clearly intact and 'floating'. Does the composite nature of her hull build lend itself to such a refit? If not, why not?

I'm a lifelong reader of Latitude and currently own the Catalina 42 Moonshadow. I sailed to the Marquesas on my uncle's boat at age 14, and have sailed all over the West Coast, to Hawaii and New Zealand.

Stephen Balcomb
Moonshadow, Catalina 42
San Diego

Stephen — Peter Johnstone, who was the visionary behind Gunboats for 15 years, responded to our inquiry as follows: "I would love to see Rainmaker stripped and redone."

However, Peter confirmed our guess that the hull of a Gunboat 55 represents only about one-third of the cost of an all-up boat. The big question mark in our mind is if somebody with enough money for the other two-thirds of a Gunboat 55 — maybe $1.5 million — would be satisfied with a hull that had been awash for so long.

This year marks a major milestone for our Ericson 35 Mk1 Escape, as she was launched in 1966 and thus turns 50 this year. She still regularly sails the Bay, and remains in such good shape that she gets numerous compliments both at the dock and when underway.

Fifty years ago sailboats were a bit more basic than they are today, but that's one reason we love Escape. She has all of the necessities for a great sail, but none of the complex systems that are prone to failure.

This letter, however, is about more than just a well-maintained classic sailboat. Escape was bought by a group of sailors as a partnership in 1966, and is still a partnership to this day! I've been told that the original partners had previously been partners on a Baltic 29, which would push the age of the partnership back even further. The number of partners has varied over the years, but the current number is five. At 50+ years, our partnership must be one of the longest-running ones on the Bay.

I bought in as a partner in the late 1980s when I was just learning to sail. Unfortunately, I never got to spend much time with any of the original partners, but several of our senior partners did, and have passed down a great oral history of our boat.

In the last 25 years I've sailed Escape with my partners and friends, and have even done a lot of singlehanded sailing. We've been to Tomales Bay, Drake's Bay, the Farallones, Half Moon Bay, San Pablo Bay, Suisun Bay, the Delta, and all over the North and South Bays. The stories are too numerous to tell here, but the good memories are endless. I'm not sure how a partnership that contained so many people over the years has managed to stay together for so long, but I'd like to believe it's because Escape is such a great boat.

Last week my boat partners — past and present — and I had a Friday afternoon sail followed by a dinner at the Richmond YC to honor the old girl. As one of the partners said, "Escape is a lot like us. Hot stuff in 1966, and an aging classic in 2016."

Bob Adams
Escape, Ericson 35 Mk1
Richmond YC

Readers — We mentioned the 50-year partnership in 'Lectronic on March 4 and asked readers about partnership experiences. The following are some of the responses.

I have been in a boat partnership with the same person since 2001 that has worked very well for both of us, as it has helped keep our beloved Challenger 35 Voluspa in very good condition. My partner and I look forward to many more years of sailing and working together. We share all maintenance and related financial responsibilities, and we are both very passionate about sailing.

Gary Hall
Voluspa, Challenger 35

I have owned an Alerion Express 28 with a partner since we bought her new in 1998. She has always been used as a daysailer on the Columbia River. The only significant issue we have ever had is his current interest in selling his share.

In spite of the fact that I am a lawyer, we have never had a written agreement. Years ago we agreed that one of us has even days with the boat, the other has the odd days. But there has never been a problem with accommodating the other partner on days that weren't scheduled to be his. We split the moorage, insurance and boatyard charges 50-50. We do not keep very careful track of minor expenses.

Patrick Simpson
Decision, Alerion Express 28
Portland, OR

I once met a very successful businessman who was involved in several high-dollar business partnerships. "How," I asked him, "do you pick a person to be in a partnership with?" His answer was interesting, and would likely work in a boat partnership.

"First," he said, "I want my partner to be older than I am. Next, I want my partner to have more money than I do. Third, I want my partner to know more about the venture than I do."

I got involved in a boat partnership once, but never again. Boats are very special, and in many ways are private things. They don't lend themselves to sharing. At least that's the way I see it.

Fred Waters
Adirondack Guide Boat

Fred — For someone who sees boat partnerships in an entirely different light, read the following letter.

From 1990 to 1997, my wife Charlotte and I were boat partners with Bill and Annie, another couple. Our partnership lasted until Bill passed away.

We started out pretty formally, allocating weekends and carefully tracking expenses. Our first boat was the Jeanneau 32 Attalia, an agile and forgiving boat that was great to start out on. We sailed Long Island Sound out of Stamford. I can remember our excitement the first time we exited the Sound at Watch Hill and headed toward Block Island. Wow, we were in the Atlantic Ocean!

As time went on, we got an Ericson 38, a larger and more demanding boat. Neither my wife Charlotte nor Annie was comfortable handling the boat alone, and Bill, who was a bit older than me, needed more than Annie as crew. As a result we started sailing together more often, and eventually the Ericson became a two-couple boat in operation as well as ownership.

We later moved our base from Stamford to Pilot's Point, and ultimately to Oyster Bay to get better access to the eastern end of the Sound. The sailing seems to be better there, and destinations such as Newport were more accessible. It also gave us a better start for our annual trip to Maine.

We had many wonderful adventures, including doing the Caribbean 1500 in weather that would have terrified Neptune himself, gunkholing along the New England coast one summer, crewing on the Ocean Star from Bermuda to Tortola, and taking our new boat from Alameda to Ensenada after we moved to California.

In the process of doing all this, the four of us became lifelong friends. Bill and I were closer than brothers, and he truly fell in love with my wife Charlotte. Annie was taken away by dementia, and we all cared for her to the end.

Bill is gone now and I still grieve, for we were the best of friends. His family still holds Charlotte and me as part of their family, and we still make an annual sailing trip with one of Bill's sons and his son. Our partnership was one of the best parts of my life. The highs were far better than the lows, and I am a better sailor and human being for it.

Bob Schilling
Tuckernuck, Cherubini 44
Long Beach

Readers — We'll have more letters on boat partnerships in next month's issue.

When I look at the bows on Seattle's Greg Slyngstad's Caribbean-based Bieker 53 catamaran Fujin, and to the lesser degree the America's Cup cats, they appear to me to be designed to plow under in flat water and decent waves. To my mind that's all wrong. Please set me straight on this.

David Neufeld
Kelowna, BC

Dave — We'll let Bieker, who worked on the design team for the victorious Oracle cat in the America's Cup and designed Fujin, set you straight.

"The thinking behind the bows on Fujin was actually to decrease the amount that the bows 'plow' into the water. Most multihulls are much more stable side to side than fore and aft, so that they end up sailing with bow-down trim when they are pressed hard. The Fujin bows have a fair amount of extra volume above the waterline, and they have chines oriented to give a lot of lift even when stuck into the back of a wave. Reports from the boat are that she goes through the waves nicely.

"The America's Cup hulls are a whole different deal. They are as much about takeoff and crashing as they are about floating."

Last year the Wanderer spent about an hour trying to keep up with the MOD70 Phaedo3 as she was screaming around the Caribbean in the high 20s and low 30s, and it was very interesting to watch her bows. If the wind wasn't too strong, her leeward hull would act like a wave-piercer. Given just a little bit more wind, the only part of the boat that would be in the water was the aft 30 or so feet of the leeward hull. It was really cool to see how the shape of the leeward hull transformed from a wave-piercer to a 'lifter' as the wind increased or decreased. We were mesmerized by it.


The following is how I bought a Cal 40 sight unseen at a bargain price. I was surfing the Web late one night about five years ago when I came across an auction site for property that had been seized by the Feds. They had all kinds of stuff for sale — jewelry, electronics, cars, airplanes — and boats. I perused the site for a bit and then started looking at the boats. The majority were powerboats in Florida, and there were only a couple of sailboats.

The sailboat located on the West Coast — Dana Point, to be specific — that caught my eye was described as a "Jensen Marine 40." It didn't take me long to figure out that the design was better known as a Cal 40, one of the most legendary of fiberglass production boats. The boat was pretty well equipped, too — GPS, radar, liferaft, new electrical panel, Signet sailing instruments, tiller pilot, Avon dinghy, 6hp outboard, water heater, pressurized water and so forth.

Having been boatless for more than 20 years, I thought she looked like she might be a pretty good deal for me. After all, the starting bid was just $100, with no reserve and no minimum. As the design is so highly respected — Stan Honey and his wife Sally Lindsay cruise one — I thought it was worth a bid or two.

The auction was online. You registered and you bid. Bid increments were $100 or more, and anytime someone bid, the auction was extended for three minutes to give others a chance to counterbid. At no time did the other bidders see your maximum bid.

On the day of the auction I was waiting with bated breath. Then off it went. I figured out pretty quickly that there were just three of us bidding on the boat. Bidder #3 dropped out at $5,000, so there were just two of us going back and forth. I would increase my bid $500, and the other bidder would bid up in $100 increments until he was the top bidder. I started bumping my bids by $1,000, and he kept nibbling away at my bids.

When he bid $12,000, I thought 'screw it', and went with my near-maximum bid of $14,000. I walked away from the computer, not wanting to get emotional about possibly losing out. But when I came back 10 minutes later, I found out that I'd been the top bidder!

So Cal 40 #18, built in 1963, and in pretty good condition, was mine. I did some research and found out some of her former names, one of them being Concubine. It turns out that Concubine was one of six boats that had been dismasted in the 1977 Transpac. In the past year I've met two former crewmembers, including one who had done the 1977 Transpac on her.

I took the boat on the SoCal Ta-Ta last year and had a blast. I was planning on doing the Singlehanded TransPac this year, but in February my daughter called and said she wanted to doublehand the Pacific Cup with me in the boat. I'm facing a pretty big dilemma as to which event I should do. Not really, as my daughter and I will doublehand in the Pacific Cup — if there is an entry slot for us.

Vance Sprock
Seazed Asset, Cal 40 #18
Moss Landing

Readers — The Lapworth-designed Cal 40 dominated the Transpac in the 1960s, and Montgomery Street, then nearly a quarter century old, finished first overall in a fleet of 65 boats in 1985.

I remember Serenade, the 62-ft Nick Potter-designed N Class boat, very well. She was in Newport Beach off and on for quite awhile. And about 10 years ago I saw her in Maine getting a total rebuild.

I remember one Sunday afternoon long ago when Serenade left the Isthmus at Catalina bound for L.A. Harbor. We had been anchored nearby on my dad's 62-ft (LOD) schooner Kelpie, and noted that those aboard Serenade seemed to be the owner, his gorgeous daughter, and the Mexican skipper. We, the Minney brothers, were very much interested in the daughter. So we set sail from the Isthmus at the same time as Serenade.

We then sailed side by side in a stiff westerly breeze. Serenade's owner ignored us, but we seemed to get a lot of attention from the daughter. The owner had his paid hand constantly adjusting the sails in an attempt to pull away from us, but they couldn't, so Serenade and Kelpie were neck and neck all the way to the L.A. Light.

Once we got to the L.A. Light, we Minney brothers waved goodbye to the pretty young lady. She came to the stern of Serenade and threw kisses to us while hanging on the backstay, After that we tacked and sailed back to Catalina.

Ernie Minney
Minney's Yacht Surplus
Costa Mesa

Readers — Kelpie, designed by Francis Sweisguth, who also designed the Star, was built at the Gamage Shipyard in Bristol, Maine in 1929. She was owned for something like 30 years by the Minney family of Newport Beach, and earned the reputation for being "the fastest schooner in the West." Dennis Conner even chartered her once for a shot at the schooner record in the Ensenada Race.

Kelpie disappeared from the West Coast in 2012, as the year before she'd been spotted by Charlie Wroe, captain of the great 138-ft (LOA) Herreshoff schooner Mariette of 1915, which was based out of the south of England. Some readers may remember Mariette as being owned and heavily campaigned in the Atlantic and the Med by Tom Perkins of Belvedere before he commissioned the 289-ft Maltese Falcon.

Wroe's owner wanted Kelpie not to replace Mariette, but to be a 79-ft (OA) 'racing tender' to the bigger schooner. So Kelpie of Falmouth, as she was renamed, was brought 9,000 miles on her bottom to the Gweek Quay Boatyard on the Helford River in the UK. There she received an extensive 18-month refit that Yachting World deemed one of the finest they'd ever seen. Kelpie has been racing in the Med circuit, and Classic Yacht TV did a three-part series covering the 'discovery' and restoration of Kelpie.

Fans of Mariette need not worry that she's been neglected, for her schooner-loving owner was having her refit every other year at Pendennis Shipyard.

In about June last year, the editor asked if anyone from the Baja Ha-Ha Class of 2000 was still out cruising. We saw several replies in print, but not ours, so we figured the editor might have misplaced it. We're resending our report from Guanaja, Honduras, where the crew of Avanga — our new boat — is getting ready to head north for Cuba to see both President Obama and the Rolling Stones.

To remind the Wanderer/Grand Poobah, we did the 2000 Ha-Ha with the Vancouver-based Cartwright 44 Kinship and the 2007 Ha-Ha aboard the Waterline 50 Tin Soldier.

Reading the June 2015 responses from others who did the 2000 Ha-Ha brought back many fond memories of what a great experience and fun time we had. The 2000 Ha-Ha was our shakedown cruise to see if the cruising lifestyle would work for our family. Our son, Jaryd, then 4 years old, was the youngest Ha-Ha'er that year.

Obviously cruising worked for us, as following that one-year cruise down to Mexico and our return via Hawaii, we began planning to do the 2007 Ha-Ha with Tin Soldier. After our second Ha-Ha, we continued on for another four years and 20,000 miles, across the Pacific and up to Thailand. Our plan had been to continue on up to the Med, but the pirate activity in the Arabian Sea during 2011 caused us to delay our departure and subsequently sell Tin Soldier in Malaysia.

Nonetheless, cruising seems to be hard-wired in us, as we now spend six months a year cruising the Caribbean aboard our Lagoon 420 Avenga, an ex-charter boat we bought in Belize.

Our Ha-Ha experiences were great for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which was the good energy the Grand Poobah devoted to make it a fun and safe time for the cruising kids. He probably won't recall it, but during the 2000 beach party at Turtle Bay our little Jaryd went missing. Upon being told, the Wanderer immediately hit the 'party pause' button and organized search parties. Jaryd was soon located. It turned out that he had followed some older kids up one of the many ravines and couldn't keep up. But the short time we lost track of him remains one of the scariest periods of our lives. We remain indebted to the Wanderer for jumping into action to ensure his safe return.

The kid activities during the 2007 Ha-Ha were also memorable, including the infamous water balloon contest. Following a fierce and wet one-on-one exchange between the Grand Poobah and Jaryd, who was then 11 years old, the Wanderer left Jaryd with the dire mock warning that he should forever watch his back, for at some point down the road the Wanderer would, without warning, exact revenge. I can report that while roaming the Pacific for years afterwards, Jaryd continued to occasionally cast glances over his shoulder — just in case the Wanderer was there with a water balloon.

Our plans are to follow the seasons and slowly work our way east across the Caribbean and beyond. We hope to share an anchorage with the Wanderer again at some point.

Glen, Marilyn and Jaryd Middleton
Avanga, Lagoon 420
Currently in Honduras

Glen, Marilyn and Jaryd — Thanks for re-sending the letter we obviously misplaced. We vividly and fondly remember both those incidents with Jaryd. We're sure to cross paths again, this time in the Caribbean. And when we do, Jaryd is in for it, as water balloon technology is much better than it used to be.

I had a great winter of sailing, doing another Baja Ha-Ha, and then sailing to La Paz, Mazatlan, La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta before bashing home.

Entering the Ha-Ha got me more in discounts than the cost of the entry fee. Last year I was the sixth skipper to sign up. When entries open in May, I plan to be the first!

Paul Hofer
Scarlet Fever, Jeanneau 509
Wilmington, DE

Paul — We're regret to report that due to some minor character defects in the Grand Poobah, he's already promised the first four slots. Realizing the error of his well-intentioned ways, he's not promising any more. Just be ready to sign up for the next Ha-Ha in early May and you'll be high on the list.

As for Ha-Ha discounts, in the past some cruisers have signed up for the Ha-Ha, even though they wouldn't be ready in time for the event, just to take advantage of the offers.

This is a good time to remind everyone that we've pushed the Ha-Ha start back one week from its traditional starting day, meaning the start of the 23rd annual Ha-Ha will be on October 31, Halloween.

Two weeks before the Ha-Ha last year I got itchy feet and decided to see if I could get on a boat. I got some good leads from the Latitude 38 Crew List and eventually ended up on the Islander Freeport 41 Jammin'.

What a blast it was! We had two sax players aboard who jammed with the Mexican band at Bahia Santa Maria. And we had daily performances in the main cabin. My contribution was teaching the owner and crew how to fish. To their surprise, our first catch was at the Coronado Islands shortly after the start, with lots more to follow.

The most humorous incident happened when we lost our stash of beer overboard at the Bahia Santa Maria anchorage. We'd all been looking forward to a cold beer when we arrived. Unfortunately, the batteries, generator and engine had not been able to keep the full-size fridge cold during the passage south. So when we got to Bahia Santa Maria, one of our crew decided to lower the beer overboard to let it cool down for a while. A few minutes later he showed us the bitter end of the line he'd used to secure a mesh bag with the beer.

The beer was gone. We first thought he was pulling our leg, but soon realized that it was serious. Needless to say, we tried everything we could think of to retrieve the beer from the sandy bottom. But to no avail. As a last resort, we got on the VHF and offered half our beer to the person who could retrieve it from the bottom, figuring that there would be some cruiser happy to put their scuba gear to good use.

Within a few minutes, Ray from the Pacific Seacraft 37 Knob Kerrie showed up. He put on a snorkel and fins, and dove down. To our surprise he came up with the full bag intact. He left an hour later, after drinking his share of the catch, a friend for life. As far as I'm concerned, helping others and making friends for life is what the Ha-Ha is all about.

My tips for folks looking to crew on the Baja Ha-Ha this year:

1) Start your search early. Once you find a boat, try to go out for a sail a couple of times so you get to know the boat and the rest of the crew.

2) Contact skippers as soon as you see an opportunity. Crew positions go fast.

3) Prepare a sailing résumé that you can hand out at the Ha-Ha Crew List Party and elsewhere.

4) Don't think that every skipper is looking for experienced crew. Some skippers prefer a mix of experience and novice crew to prevent the 'too many cooks' (skippers) aboard syndrome.

If all goes well, I will be on a catamaran heading for Hawaii next month, again courtesy of the Latitude 38 Crew List.

Rudi Boekamp
Pangaea, Pacific Seacraft 37
Honolulu, HI

Readers — Sign-ups for the 2016 Ha-Ha will begin in early May. The event itself will start from San Diego on October 31, one week later than it has in the past.

We think this year might be the one in which we do the Baja Ha-Ha. We are considering purchasing an Irwin 43 or the 52, and are wondering if either one is a good selection for the Ha-Ha.

Josh Rosenthal
Los Angeles

Josh — Irwins have enjoyed a generally good reputation over the years. So as long as the particular Irwin you like was in good condition, we think she'd be fine for the Ha-Ha. Irwins tend to be a little more oriented toward comfort than performance than some boats, but that's not a bad thing.

Latitude asked which of the Lapworth 36s ran aground just north of Bahia Santa Maria during a race to Mexico many years ago. Here's the story:

It happened in April 1961, 55 years ago, during the first-ever Los Angeles to Mazatlan Race. There were nine entries, including Dick Lerner's S&S 38 Gamin from Newport Beach. It was actually Gamin, not a Lapworth 36, that went on the beach. Naturally none of the boats had electronic navigation back then, and Gamin's last visual fix before disaster was near Cedros Island.

On the fourth night of the race, Gamin was running under spinnaker on port jibe, steering 135 degrees, thinking they were well offshore. But in the darkness they ran aground nine miles north of Cabo San Lazaro. As many now know, there is a strong onshore current set in this vicinity, and the coast is low, sandy, and difficult to distinguish from the water.

Crewmember Dick Fenton described what happened when Gamin hit the beach:

"Then all hell broke loose. We heard a roaring behind us at what seemed terrific speed and high over our hull. A crewmember shouted, "My God, we're on a reef!" Then we hit! Two quick jolts and Gamin was free. "Thank God," we thought, "we've bounced over the reef and back into deep water." But then she hit again with a tremendous crash. One huge wave picked her up, held her high in the air for a moment, then threw her violently into the hard bottom. Another breaker did the same. Then another. The noise was terrific.

"Gamin began to come apart. The mast came down with a crunch, and huge pieces swung through the darkness on wire shrouds. The main billowed into the water, then was flung back into the boat with a mad fury. Breakers came incessantly, high overhead, and filled our throats with water, twisting us from side to side in the narrow cockpit and wrenching our arms."

At dawn the shipwrecked crew struggled ashore and identified the rugged mountain rising from the beach to the south as Cabo San Lazaro. While trying to salvage useful things from the wreck, and setting up a camp behind a nearby dune, crewmember Nacho Lazano, the only Spanish speaker in the crew, walked down the beach and over the dunes to Bahia Santa Maria. He found some local fishermen there who assisted him in getting to the naval base at Puerto Alcatraz 16 miles south at the southern end of Magadalena Bay. The Mexican Navy was able to contact the US Coast Guard, and five days later the cutter Alert rescued the shipwrecked crew of Gamin.

As for the Lapworth 36 you mention in that race, she would have been Holiday, skippered by my father, Bob Allan. Holiday was well offshore and unaware of Gamin's misadventure. Eventualy Holiday and the new K-40 Windspun finished overlapped at Mazatlan, with Windspun winning on handicap. It was an epic early ocean race, when Mazatlan was still a small town and visiting yachts were practically unknown.

Skip Allan
Wildflower, FrogCat 22

Skip — You won't believe it, but despite the incident's happening 55 years ago, we also received a letter from Stuart Newcomb, one of Gamin's crew. We're saving his somewhat more detailed and humorous account of the incident for the next issue.

We don't know about you, but we love those tales from the old days of sailing, long before the advent of electronic navigation and modern long-distance communication. We dead-reckoned on our first race to Mexico in 1981, and as we're sure you know, it's an entirely different experience without GPS, EPIRBs and satphones.

It was a beautiful mid-February day on the Bay, but with fog down the Slot and 15-knot winds. Since we had a newbie to sailing, we avoided the Slot and headed downwind and down-current through Raccoon Strait to have lunch in the lee of Angel Island. Since the wind died abeam Ayala Cove, we had lunch while drifting through the Strait on a flood.

When lunch was over and there was still no wind, and we were drifting toward the shipping channel, we fired up the engine and started to motor west. Shortly thereafter, the engine started to make a strange noise and there was thumping on the hull. We had apparently picked up something on the prop.

"What now?" asked our newbie crew.

I explained that we were on a sailboat and thus would sail home.

"But there's no wind," responded the rest of the crew.

As a couple powerboats zipped by, my next thought was of the recent letters in Latitude 38 about whether we should hail a tow when out of wind. Since we had hours until dark, I decided that we'd wait. Despite waiting, very little wind came up, certainly not enough to battle the flood that was pushing us into the shipping lane.

At that point my son had the bright idea of putting his GoPro camera on a selfie stick to get a video of the prop to see what the problem was. As you can see from the photo, we'd picked up the line from a crab pot. It was a neat trick, and I might have to get one of those cameras to survey the bottom of the boat.

Seeing what the problem was wasn't the same as solving it. As we were now on the edge of the shipping channel, it was time to take a dip in the cold waters of the Bay and get the line out of the prop. Unfortunately, I hadn't packed my wetsuit or mask in my sailing bag, as I keep meaning to do. So in I went into the water with knife in hand, but no mask or wetsuit. My son and I took turns at cutting the line loose, and we were eventually successful.

Although I'd never ask my crew to do anything I'm not willing to do, I later asked why I'd gone over the side, as my son is a veteran submariner and Navy diver. I guess I didn't want him to have all the fun.

We motored out of the shipping channel and back into Raccoon Strait. Shortly thereafter the wind came back and we tacked our way up to the bridge and then ran back home, with a little something to talk about at work the next week other than yep, just another beautiful sail on the bay.

Dana Dupar
Kinsprit II, Lancer 30

Dana — That reminds us of a time about 30 years ago when we were alone on .38 Special, Latitude's Bertram 25 photoboat. Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, in the process of saving someone's drifting fender in the lee of Angel Island, we got the fender's line caught in a prop. Before long, two ships were headed directly at us from the North Bay. We didn't really want to go for a swim in the Bay, let alone a swim without someone else on the boat, but we didn't have much of a choice. We're not sure how we managed to climb back aboard, but apparently we did.

I have read Latitude for many years and love it, so it always saddens me to hear that you and others were disappointed with how you were treated when you sailed to or visited the Hawaiian Islands. When sailors report they were not welcomed and not wanted, I am disappointed, too — even if they have good reason. And I can tell you negative stories beyond any that you have reported or even heard.

I know those who sailed here in the past may have trouble believing me — especially with what I am about to tell you — but I was just a sailor when I arrived in the Islands. I'm now the security agent for La Mariana Sailing Club in Keehi Lagoon on the Island of Oahu. Our marina is a safe place because Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry has nothing on me.

As commodore of our club, I personally welcome sailors with true hearts. If you are a scammer or a cheap, selfish, drunken asshole, go away. I have locals behind me, so you don't have a chance. That said, our marina can accept smaller cruising boats — up to about 40 feet. In the summer months we might even be able to entertain larger boats on end-ties for short periods. However, we only have 110-volt, 15-amp service. But if you're a real cruiser, you're off the grid anyway, and you can make more power if you need it.

Our slip/fingers are only 20 feet long, so prepare some spring lines. If you need boat repairs, we have a boatyard next door. I am personal friends with the general manager of our local West Marine. I am also personal friends of all best tradesmen and yacht repair people on the Island of Oahu. Sorry, it's not cheap here, but you get only the best, most fairly-priced quality work. If anybody wants to work around here and does sucky work or is bad in any way, they get my 'Dirty Harry' treatment.

Our marina has the most charming, authentic tiki bar/restaurant in the world, and the staff is my 'Hanai' family. They are the nicest people you will ever meet. Maybe they'll even teach you some Hawaiian language, customs, or, if the mood strikes them, some hula.

We are going to be the coolest, funnest, sailing destination in the world. Please come join us. Mahalo.

Russ J. Singer
Commodore, La Mariana Sailing Club
Keehi Lagoon, HI

Russ — A lot of West Coast sailors have sailed to Hawaii, met a lot of great people, and had a great time. So it surely hasn't all been bad. And the lack of space has always been a factor in what problems there have been.

To the best of our knowledge, the biggest problems have always been due to the extremely bureaucratic and often actively unhelpful nature of the staff of the state's marinas, and the Ala Wai in particular. The Ala Wai often seemed to be run like the California DMV, except in slo-mo, and with the primary goal's not being service to customers, but seeing how Kafkaesque the experience could be.

At one point about a dozen years ago, we did a lot of research into the situation at the Ala Wai. If we had to nominate a government agency for world-class incompetence at that time, it would have been the folks and agency running that marina. Among the many crazy things they did was violate the most basic laws of supply and demand, and in so doing prevented the repair of desperately needed condemned slips, the revenue of which would have more than paid for the repairs. Whoever was in charge couldn't have made a profit selling snow cones in hell.

But the kicker is that the reputation of the Ala Wai was always in stark contrast to the reputation of both the Hawaii and Waikiki YCs, whose staff and members can't seem to do enough to accommodate visitors, even when it's difficult. It has been the yacht clubs who always seemed to exemplify the spirit of aloha.

To be honest, we don't know what the situation is like now at the Ala Wai or what it's been like for the last several years — except from Hellmuth Starnitzky's report in the March
Changes. And at least one part of his report suggests the Ala Wai is still at least a little bit whacked out. For Starnitzky reported that in order to get electricity, transient tenants need to establish an account with the city's power company, which entails having to establish an account with a physical mailing address, as pre-payment by credit card is not possible. And then they have to pay a hook-up fee of between $20 and $35, and have to wait as long as two days to be hooked up. We can't think of another marina in the world that has such a customer-unfriendly process for getting electricity.

Anyway, thanks for the welcome to Keehi Lagoon.

Stan Honey, who happens to be the same age as me, and whose very accomplished Cal 40 Illusion is probably about as old as my Columbia 34 Breta, ought to consider retiring her on a (big) trailer when he's done cruising. That's what I do with my Breta and rent her out on Airbnb.

I just read Stan's bio, and it turns out that he and I were at Yale at the same time. He was sailing; I was swimming. Having been 'expelled' from swimming during my senior year — it's a long story — I took my one and only sailing course. I didn't sail again for about 10 years, but then I bought my old Columbia 34 in Richmond and started my ultra-budget circumnavigation.

You should tell Stan he should never sell Illusion. Those old buckets aren't worth anything anyway, and it's a blast having them at home and renting them out.

Roy Wessbecher
Breta, Columbia 34
Santa Clara

Roy — We'd be loath to give any recommendations to a guy like Stan who, after giving us the first-down line in televised football games, came up with the sensational graphics for the America's Cup in San Francisco, making what was happening intelligible to sailors and non-sailors for the first time ever. And we won't even begin to mention the long list of Stan's sailing accomplishments, be they local, to Hawaii, across oceans, or around the world.

To describe a Cal 40 as "an old bucket" that's "not worth anything" belies a lack of appreciation of fiberglass boat design. Lord knows there were hundreds of different fiberglass designs built in Southern California, but we'd dare say none enjoys the iconic status of the Cal 40. The design was a game-changer in many respects, which is why they remain desirable classics a half-century later.

I just loved the publisher's response to why he doesn't publish a 'Wrong Coast' version of Latitude 38. He perfectly summarized why I've sailed the coast of California for the last four decades. I respect that everyone can make their own choices, and I've made mine.

Jorge Morales
Bolero, J/46
Dana Point

My wife Di and I felt the Wanderer's pain and frustration when 'ti Profligate's bilge pump alarm went off just at he was going to sleep. At midnight just a few weeks ago, the bilge alarm and pump started cycling on our Catalina 47 Di's Dream. Suddenly the chase to find the source of the problem was on. Water was pouring into the bilge on the port side. We immediately began opening up all the floorboards to find the source of the leak. There was no leak on the port side in the pressure-water plumbing. So for a good night's sleep, we turned off the pressure water and the problem temporarily abated.

When we resumed our search in the morning, Di suggested that maybe the water was coming from the starboard side and migrating across the through the weep hole. I was not yet convinced, but after inspecting every pressure T or angle connector on the port side, I couldn't find any problem.

As a last resort, I reached behind an access door on the starboard side and found a pressure-relief fitting. Yep, it was on the hot-water side, and the hose-clamp fitting was loose, with water pouring out at an alarming rate. Di had nailed the source, so I was quickly able to reconnect the fitting and all was good. What incredible relief!

Di and I now have seven grandsons under the age of five, so we don't have as much time to cruise Mexico as we used to. So after doing six Ha-Ha's — all of which we thoroughly enjoyed — we are now anxiously awaiting this year's Ta-Ta to join the Wanderer, Doña de Mallorca and Profligate crew for more sailing fun and adventure.

Rog and Di Frizzelle
Di's Dream, Catalina 47
San Francisco

Oh man, the Wanderer's story of the bilge alarm going off in 'ti Profligate made me remember a real brain teaser. After I bought my 1977 Cal 39 a decade ago, I would notice extra water in the bilge on some occasions. It wasn't often, but when it showed up, it was always after a day of using the boat, not just when we came down to the slip. I checked all the thru-hulls and they weren't leaking. I checked all the water tanks, and they didn't seem to be leaking. I made sure the water-pressure pump was off and nothing was leaking in the engine room.

The odd thing is that the water only showed up on random occasions. Sometimes we'd go out for several days of cruising in the Bay or Delta, or up and down the coast, and the bilge pump would never come on. Then we'd go out for a daysail and come back with a full bilge!

The appearance of water in the bilge didn't correlate with rainfall. It didn't correlate with heavy weather. The packing gland was not dripping. It wasn't pleasant tasting the water in the bilge, but it didn't seem salty.

Years went by while I tried to figure out what caused the bilge to fill up at random times. It was so random and happened so seldom, that I wasn't really worried — especially since it seemed like fresh water.

I finally noticed that when the bilge was full, sometimes we'd have water in the catch-basin under the engine, too. But the engine was not leaking. Not the raw water intake, not the strainer, and not the exchanger. But why would it leak five or 10 gallons one day and not the next? I was truly baffled.

Another year or so later I noticed something curious. It had been another day when the bilge had filled, but although it was a cold day, the water in the bilge was warm. What the hell!? It pointed back to the engine, but why didn't it leak every time we used the engine? I would watch the engine while someone else was driving, and there were no leaks. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Where else would hot water on a boat come from, and only when the engine was running? Hot water, hot water . . . eureka, the water heater! D'oh, it had to be.

We have a coolant-circulator line running from the engine to the hot-water heater aft, which holds five gallons, and has both a shorepower heating element and a heat exchanger running off the engine coolant line. So it sure seemed as if the hot water had to be coming from the heater. And since it is aft of the engine, it was feasible for water to flow into the engine basin if it was coming fast enough to overflow the tube that would normally carry a minor drip under the basin and into the bilge. But why only on some days and not others? And why would it leak even if the pressure pump was off? And how would it apparently gush enough to overflow into the engine basin, but apparently then just stop?

And then finally — after maybe six years — the light in my head came on all the way. The water heater has a safety pressure-release valve. According to the literature for the heater, the valve is set to open if the internal water temperature exceeds 155°. The engine specs revealed that it runs at about 180° when fully warmed up. Ding!

So on a day with good wind, we just used the engine to get out into the Bay. We'd then sail, and only turn the engine back on to get into the dock. The engine never warmed up all the way, so there was no pressure release. And of course nothing happened while the boat was sitting in the slip. But if the engine ran for more than around an hour, it got all the way up to full temperature, slowly raised the water temperature in the water heater to more than 155°, and presto — hot water poured into the bilge.

I have since put in a valve to regulate how much of the coolant circulates back into the heater, and there has been no more bilge Jacuzzi. Like I said, I'm not brilliant, but that one was a real puzzler.

Bob Walden
Sea Star, Cal 39

The Wanderer's Red Light at Night piece in 'Lectronic certainly triggered some interesting memories. In the 15 years my late wife Sam and I lived aboard and sailed our Gulfstar 50 ketch Blue Banana about the world, I came to believe that bilge-pump switches might be our worst enemies. I think we tried all the different types, and at some point they all failed.

Our boat came with just one small pump at the bottom of a very deep bilge. Deeming that risky, we added the biggest pump we could fit down there, which we dubbed the 'Save Our Ass' pump. We also added a manual bellows-style pump. Through the years I periodically tested the pumps, and made all-too-frequent replacement of switches, which often failed to activate the otherwise perfectly functioning pumps.

Late one afternoon in Greece, we decided to leave Mykonos, where we had been pinned down for days the previous year by relentless meltemi winds. As we sailed west toward the island of Syros, the sky darkened and the air got cooler. I dropped below for a jacket, and while in our aft stateroom noticed water on the sole at the base of the mizzen mast. On an impulse I opened the door to the adjacent head and water up to the raised threshold sloshing back and forth. After the standard finger dipping and licking test, I found it to be fresh, not salt water. That was better news than it might have been, of course.

I leapt to the breaker panel to switch off the water pump before opening the door to check the engine compartment. There was water merrily splashing halfway up the engine block. Both the Save Our Ass pump and the dinky one the manufacturer thought sufficient were asleep because of the faulty switches.

After anchoring in the protected bay at Siros, where we'd anticipated a quiet evening with a drink and nice dinner, we had to deal with a bilge full of water that had been transferred from our 270-gallon tank. I was fortunate to diagnose the problem fairly quickly. One of the hoses on the washing machine had split. I closed the valve to that hose so that we could turn the fresh-water pump back on to feed the galley and head sinks.

As neither 12-volt pump was running, I tried the manual pump. After three strokes it jammed. I removed the back and found a soggy Kotex pad inside. No smirking now, as most sailors know those pads are wonderful to use for oil spills in the bilge. We had a 'just in case' drip pan under our new Yanmar, and I had left two Kotex pads in that pan to be handy if the engine ever dropped any oil. Incidentally, it never did. It was far better in that respect and many others than our old Perkins had been.

I eventually used our West Marine manual dinghy pump to pump water from the bilge into a bucket. It wasn't easy. I had to lie on my stomach and pump, and then I'd hand the full bucket to Sam, who would empty it into the galley sink. We repeated the process countless times until the level got below the faulty pump switches.

After replacing those float switches for the umpteenth time, I also wired both pumps directly to the panel so that I could bypass the float switches if I wanted. Closing the barn after the horses are gone may not be all bad. It was an afternoon I'll long remember.

After Sam's death I sold Blue Banana, then in Spain, to a Norwegian couple. She is still Blue Banana, but now registered in Norway with her homeport Oslo. The new owners tell me they love her, as Sam and I did, and that she's the fastest boat 'out there'. I'm happy about the first part and dubious about the second. Sam had been a fine racing skipper in Monterey for years, and I'd done some racing, but many days we felt our happy home was just about the slowest boat out there. And thank you, Captain Ron, for memorializing those words "out there," that place where all things happen, both good and bad.

Bill Fleetwood
ex-Blue Banana, Gulfstar 50

My wife Suzy and I were three days out from the Canary Islands on our way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean aboard our Wauquiez 45 Suzy Q when the cockpit bilge light came on. Then it went off, so I figured no problem, there was just a little water slopping around in the bilge. But then it came on and off again, so I decided to investigate. I found that water was rushing into the bilge, which activated the float switch and pump. But as soon as it was dry, more water came in. In the middle of the Atlantic, this was not a pleasant scenario.

I went through the normal routine of checking the thru-hulls, checking the engine compartment, checking the fresh-water tanks — all of which were fine. I reached into the bilge and wet my finger for a taste of the water. It was salty, which was not good.

A visual check thankfully revealed no holes or cracks. I was puzzled when Suzy came up with a great idea — let's tack to see what happens. What happened is that the leaking stopped. At least now we knew the leak was on the starboard side, but we were heading in the wrong direction.

After several anxious minutes scratching my head, I remembered an article I had read in Latitude about a boat that had sunk in her slip. I vividly remember the picture of the boat underwater, with just the mast sticking up. As I sat staring at the water streaming into the bilge, the light bulb in my head went on, and I rushed to the aft starboard head.

I had to disassemble the storage locker, but eventually found the saltwater intake hose. It hung loosely, no longer attached to the bulkhead, and below the waterline. The thru hull was buried behind the locker shelf and not accessible. When we were on port tack, with no air bubble in the line and the hose below the waterline, water just streamed into the bilge. Just like what happened to that boat in the slip, only her battery eventually died, the bilge pump stopped, and she sank.

After a quick fix of securing the hose to the bulkhead, we tacked back and voila, no more problem. I later rearranged the locker to allow better access to the hidden thru-hull.

Thank you, Latitude, for posting that article, allowing the Suzy Q crossing to have a happy ending.

Joe and Suzy Altmann
Suzy Q, Wauquiez 45
Santa Cruz

Readers — We received so many 'the bilge pump light came on' letters that we could have filled the entire Letters section with them. Hopefully we'll have room for a few more next month. Until then, 1) Have a diagram showing the location of all your thru-hulls. 2) Make sure you can access all your thru-hulls and that they are functional. 3) Except when the bilge is really filthy, don't be squeamish about the taste test for fresh/salt. And on an annual basis, check all hose clamps, as they get loose on some hoses because of heat and use, and to make sure they are not the cheap automotive ones that easily rust and fail.

My left hand was my bilge warning light. This was back in the 1970s when I had the old wooden Folkboat that I bought for $500 after she washed ashore in Richardson Bay.

One night I was anchored off Paradise Park, and there was lots of wind and strong tides. About 3 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of running water — and the startling realization that my hand, which was hanging off the side of my bunk, was submerged.

The lapstrake Folkboat always made a fair amount of noise when anchored, so my inner bilge alarm was adjusted to hearing a certain amount of water noise as being normal. Upon investigation, I found that there was an impressive fountain of water coming out of a hole where the impeller for the old VDO knotmeter had been mounted — which was right under my bunk. The impeller was gone.
So I took off my underwear, stuffed it into the hole, pumped the bilge with a good old Whale Gusher, and went back to sleep. Apparently the anchor rode caught under the impeller during the change in the tide and ripped it out by the roots.
That wasn't the only time my personal bilge alarm went off. I was doublehanding my Yankee 30 Emerald in 1980, delivering her to the Bay from Ventura where I had just bought her. I was off watch in the wee hours, with my old friend Jim Coyne, who later owned the Cal 40 Duende, supposedly in the cockpit sniffing the air for the slightest threat. But it was again my left hand suddenly submerged in seawater that brought me awake with velocity.

The bilge of my new-to-me boat was entirely full, and the water level was rising fast. I rushed to the companionway to find my good friend Jim, snoring in total contentment, with the old Tiller Master faithfully holding course. The leak turned out to be the stuffing box. Once we'd pumped out the water out and tightened the stuffing box, we were off again laughing. It's good to have the right equipment.

Peter Jones
Emerald, Yankee 30
San Francisco

We are a cruising family who are spending our second season in Mexico, and are again thoroughly enjoying the Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz. One of the reasons our stay has been so fantastic is Katrina, the public relations manager for the marina. We want to let all cruisers, but particularly those with children, know what a great job she does.

While the Marina Riviera Nayarit can't boast of sparkling swimming pools with long curving slides as some marinas can, they do have Katrina, whom no other marina has. Each season Katrina greets every new and returning cruiser with her infectious smile, ready to make everyone's stay memorable.

Katrina makes a tremendous effort to make sure all the kids on the 'kid boats' have plenty of things to do, but also helps them interact not only with each other, but also with kids from the community. To that end she organizes an overnight beach camp. It's a big hit with the kids, but maybe an even bigger hit with the parents of 'kid boats', who get a much-needed free night to themselves.

And if they are old enough, some kids from boats in the marina have, thanks to Katrina's help, gotten the opportunity to be servers at local restaurants and keep their tips. She also arranged for the kids to meet the kids from a local orphanage, and tour the Sea Shepherd ship. Katrina's going out of her way to ensure that all cruising families have a memorable stay is one reason that it's always hard for us to leave.

Aimee Nance
Terrapin, Dufour 12000
San Diego

The idea of our going cruising started while sailing San Francisco Bay and wishing that it was warmer. And that the water was clearer. And that we didn't have to go to work the next day. And from reading the blogs of people who were cruising.

But it's official, we're finally cruisers. After two years of planning and never feeling that we were 100% ready, we knew we might never leave the dock if we didn't have an external impetus. The 2015 Baja Ha-Ha proved to be that impetus, as a set date and paying a registration fee meant commitment, and the relationships we made at various social events meant accountability.

What we didn't know was that the Ha-Ha would be so much more than just a reason to leave San Francisco. For sailors still in our 20s, the event served as a launch pad to what has already become the greatest adventure of our lives. Jose and I have plans to take our Beneteau around the world — or as far as we can get with our cruising kitty.

Until November, our cruising dreams were based on the images of palm-lined beaches in the South Pacific and reefs in Australia. We thought of Mexico as a place where we would kill time until the weather was right for crossing the Pacific in the spring. After all, we had both traveled in Mexico on land, and thus thought we knew all there was to know about the country. Boy, were we wrong!

As I'm writing this, Jose is tinkering with the windlass. It turns out that part of cruising really is working on your boat in new and exotic places. On the other hand, I'm typing away with a gorgeous La Paz sunset in the background. The Sea of Cortez has been more special that we could've ever imagined. To think we might have never had the courage to make it here.

Fellow Ha-Ha'ers have made up the foundation of a greater sailing community that we're proud to be a part of. From San Francisco to San Diego, Cabo to San Juanico, and beyond, we've been fortunate enough to have a safety net of new friends to help us get acquainted with our new lifestyle. It's only been four months since we left San Francisco, and our learning curve has been steep.

The silver lining is that there has been an abundance of learning. Let's see, between running aground in Los Coronados, taking on 100 gallons of water near San Basilio, and learning to change oil filters in Puerto Escondido, learning from our newbie mistakes has us feeling rather seasoned.

But the rewards have more than made up for the work. We've seen the dance of manta rays during mating season, swum with 30-ft whale sharks, and walked through a cactus forest that leads to a secluded white sandy beach. However, the most valuable takeaway from our time sailing the Sea is knowing that we can do it. You never feel fully ready to take on a new challenge in life, but what fun is life without a little challenge anyway?

Gina Harris and Jose Castello
Carthago, Beneteau 423
San Francisco

It was a pleasure to read the story about Ramon Carlín and Sayula II in the March issue.

I met Ramon at the Marina Palmira in La Paz when he had Sayula II in a nearby slip. We became acquainted a little. After Ramon left for the mainland, I received an invitation to join him aboard Sayula II on a passage from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego. Of course I accepted the invitation and flew to Puerto Vallarta to join Ramon and others of the crew: one of Ramon's employees, the owner of a hotel on the mainland shore, and one of Ramon's sailing friends. I was the only non-Mexican. No matter, as I do speak Spanish. No matter, as most of the others spoke English.

As soon as we were underway, I was asked to take the first watch while the rest had dinner. What confidence Ramon had in me! Quite an experience to have the wheel of Sayula II, alone on deck.

I soon learned some of the story of Ramon's Whitbread adventure. He decided to enter the race, and wanted a Swan 60, newly in production at the time. He went to the Swan factory, where the president told him that Swan 60s #1 and #2 were sold, while #3 was to go to a German who was to make a deposit on the coming Friday. He was also told that #4 would not be ready in time for the Whitbread. Ramon asked to be called if there were any changes. He got the call on the following Saturday. Seems the German had not paid, and when called, said he "would pay when he was ready to do so." The president of Swan mentioned that a Mexican would be happy to have the boat, to which the German said, "A Mexican? If you want to lie to me, tell me something I can believe." The president declared to Ramon that that German would never own a new Swan, and said if you want #3, send a check. Ramon sent the check.

Ramon's next problem was raising a crew in England. No one wanted to crew on a Mexican boat. He finally persuaded his wife, Paquita, to fill out the crew. He also got a merchant marine radio operator as crew, a man who proved to be critical to the victory.

Back to Paquita, who left the crew when the fleet stopped in Cape Town. They arrived in Cape Town in third place, and had no trouble at all getting someone to replace Paquita.

This was long before Sat Nav and similar navigation aids. The merchant marine radio man spend hours morning and night, copying Morse code weather chart data and plotting the data so that Ramon, alone among those in the fleet, had daily weather charts to use to plan his courses and thus pick the fastest routes.

Back to my adventure with Ramon. When we anchored off one of the islands along our route to San Diego, Ramon asked me if I knew the rules about bringing liquor into the USA. I told him that I believed the limit was one fifth per person. With that in hand, Ramon called to one of the crab fishermen working nearby. I listened to their Spanish conversation, which went like this:

Ramon: "I have a problem and hope for your help."

Fisherman: "I will be glad to try to help you."

Ramon: "We are going to the USA and have too much liquor aboard. If you would accept the excess as a gift we would be grateful."

Fisherman: "We would be pleased to help with that problem."

Ramon then passed about a case of various fine liquors to the fisherman.

Fisherman: "As it happens, we too have a problem, as we have caught far too many crabs, and if you would accept some of them it would be a great help to us."

Ramon: "We would be glad to help you with that problem."

Fisherman: "Please, then, accept this five-gallon bucket of crabs."

Ramon: "Thank you and goodbye."

Fisherman: "Thank you, too, and goodbye."

There was never any hint of making a trade.

Then there was the night watch Ramon and I stood together. During the watch, Ramon turned to me and said, "I must go down to the sea again, to the sea and lonely sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...." He knew that poem, all of it, by heart.

I shall never forget that passage from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego.

I've managed a call or two to Ramon since we parted.

William F. Steagall, Sr.
El Segundo

William — Thanks for sharing those wonderful anecdotes. Having spent some quality time with Ramon ourselves, we're dying to see the new documentary The Weekend Sailor, as we've heard that filmmaker Bernardo Arsuaga did a wonderful job telling the tale of Sayula's long-shot victory. So far it has not been mass-distributed, but it will be screened at 6 p.m. on April 25 at the Newport Beach Film Festival (Triangle Cinema).



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