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May 2016

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I just read the 'Lectronic piece on the fishermen who pulled a USGS buoy out of Monterey Bay and are claiming salvage rights. Marilyn Raia, the attorney Latitude quoted for the story, was either misquoted or has it all wrong.

The elements of marine salvage are not in dispute:

1) There must be a marine peril placing the property at risk of loss or destruction. I'd say that element is met in this case, as the buoy came unmoored and was adrift.

2) The salvage service must be voluntary, meaning the salvor can't be someone who was under a contractual duty to save the property anyway. It seems this is met also.

3) The salvage efforts must be successful, in whole or in part. Assuming the buoy was not completely destroyed during the process of being pulled out, it seems that this was met as well.

Assuming that the elements are met, the salvors get a maritime lien on — not the title to — the property. The award cannot be more than the value of the property saved. Courts base salvage awards on a variety of factors, including value of the property, time and labor expended to effect salvage, "promptitude, skill and energy" displayed in the salvage operation, and the degree of danger from which the property was saved.

It may be that the award amount is the sticking point here. Thirteen thousand dollars seems steep for pulling a small buoy out of the drink. But maybe they had to call off an otherwise profitable day of fishing?

Anyway, 'abandonment' really has little to do with salvage. Abandonment only comes into play when determining the property owner's right to prevent a salvage. A salvor has a superior right of possession over property that the owner has 'abandoned', though he still does not have title to the property. Anyway, the important thing to understand is that property does not have to be abandoned to be subject to salvage.

I thought I'd set the record straight on this, as the social policy behind the law of salvage is to promote and encourage efforts to save property and lives from being lost. I would hate to have your audience thinking there is no benefit — and a lot of potential detriment — in pulling a valuable piece of equipment out of the water if it is clearly in danger of being lost otherwise.

Kevin Baldwin
San Francisco

Kevin — A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and that's about all we at Latitude have when it comes to the sometimes very complicated subject of marine salvage.

As Baldwin points out, the elements of salvage may be clear, but salvage awards are rarely as high as the general public seems to think. We can't remember where we saw it, but we recall reading that compensation is generally between 10% and 25% of the value of the property salvaged. And it's not unheard of for insurance companies or boat owners to have the salvor keep the boat rather than pay his or her claim.

Having read Latitude's report of the USGS buoy that went astray in Monterey Bay in January, and the dispute over whether it was 'abandoned', reminded me of something similar a number of years ago.

A Columbia Challenger 24 from the Stockton Sailing Club anchored out in the Delta at Three River Reach with several other SSC boats for a cruise. The Challenger ran aground — it may have started to take on water — and called for a tow from Vessel Assist. The company did the tow and then claimed salvage rights.

The Challenger had certainly not been abandoned, as the crew was still aboard when the Vessel Assist boat came along. They were only requesting a tow.
I don't know how it all turned out, but I figure the Vessel Assist people would know their legal rights.

Peter Hine

Peter — In the previous letter, Kevin Baldwin asserts that a property doesn't have to be abandoned to be subject to salvage. As we said, we're not experts in maritime law, but it's our belief that he's correct.

It's also our understanding that, depending on a number of factors, when a boatowner calls a towing service for help, it might also end up being not just a tow but a salvage. It all depends on the circumstances. The line between a tow and a salvage is not always clear, which opens the door to maritime lawyers.

What if you've run aground in the Delta, can't get off, and hail another boat for help? If the owner of the other boat gets you off, and you, your crew or your boat were potentially in any kind of danger — use your imagination — the other boatowner — or the towing service — could file a salvage claim even though you were still aboard.

Readers may remember that two Octobers ago Energy, the French AC45, broke loose from her dock one night and was found aground on Treasure Island. Rather than call the Coast Guard or the French team, a 'good Samaritan' towed the boat back to safety in calm conditions. His lawyer than filed a salvage claim of $200,000, plus expenses, on his behalf, earning him the wrath of much of the sailing community. The matter went to arbitration, but we're not aware of the result.

If you find yourself in need of help, and somebody comes along to assist you, always ask them if they are doing it for free or for possible compensation. Most recreational mariners would probably be insulted that you even asked them, but when you live in a ridiculously litigious society such as ours, you have to be careful. Some experts suggest that you carry an open-form yacht-salvage contract aboard your boat. Such forms can be obtained by organizations such as BoatUS.

I'm glad the Park Service is improving the park and moorings at Ayala Cove on Angel Island. I've stayed there quite often, and am looking forward to trying the new moorings soon. That said, I think that $30/night is a little steep for an overnight without any power or water hook-ups.

Gregory Clausen
Free Spirit, Beneteau Oceanis 390

Gregory — We can see how $30/night would be troubling for a guy with a boat named Free Spirit.

For what it's worth, last year the Wanderer paid $47/night to side-tie his 42-ft boat
Majestic Dalat. Of course, it's not exactly apples and oranges, as Majestic Dalat was side-tied at the Arsenal Marina in the heart of Paris. And the price included water, electricity, showers, a cruiser's room with Internet access — and all of Paris at his feet. He feels it was worth $17 more a night than Ayala Cove.

Then again, $30/night for a mooring would be a bargain during the summer at many places on the East Coast.

I'm working on a campaign — calls and letters to my government representatives — to have Angel Island's Ayala Cove dredged, and wonder if Latitude 38 could help.

If you aren't aware, the average (mean low water) depth there is now about four feet. Numerous vessels have gone aground during low tide. Despite the pretty new mooring balls, at low tide it's nearly impossible to maneuver to tie fore and aft without getting one's keel stuck in the mud.

Personally, I think the shoaling of the cove's waters is the result of the way ferries pull into the cove. In my 50+ years of going to Ayala Cove, I see more of them all the time, and they generally approach from west to east in Raccoon Strait. As they enter, they spin around to face bow out, pushing silt toward the mooring fields in the center of the cove. I'm not a hydrologist, so this is my amateur theory rather than a professional opinion.

The Ayala Cove docks aren't in much better shape when it comes to depth.

I'm certain that the cove is much more shallow than it used to be. I spent my first night aboard there on my father's boat in 1963. A year hasn't gone by when I haven't spent a few nights in the cove.

I don't think the ferries can be held liable for the silting, if indeed they are exacerbating the issue, but it may be economically viable for them to assist with the cost for dredging.

Wouldn't it have been great if any of the State Parks folks had understood anything about boats, and so had dredged before the pretty new moorings were put in?

Getting the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge may require a push the likes of which only the power of Latitude 38 can muster.

Dane Faber
WAFI, Islander 28

Dane — We're flattered that you think that Latitude has the "power" to influence the Army Corps of Engineers, but we don't. The USACE is a federal agency under the Department of Defense, and if we wanted to influence the D of D, we'd need bigger bucks than we've ever seen to pay for an army of lobbyists — and probably whiskey and hookers, too. We'd also need more big bucks to try to get our state and regional representatives to even have dredging cross their minds.

We apologize for being so cynical, but our faith in the desire of elected officials to do what's right as opposed to what will bring them more money or shamelessly pander to their voters is almost nil. Nonetheless, if you or anybody else wants to start a campaign to get the cove dredged, we'll be happy to give it all the publicity we can.

I have a good friend who told me that the Wanderer is an expert on drones. I'm investigating which drones are best for boating, but without breaking the bank or losing $1,000 because it landed in the ocean. Could you please advise me?

Tony York
Outreach, Catalina 30
San Diego

Tony — It's more accurate to say that the Wanderer is an expert at crashing drones into the sea. See this month's Changes for details. The good news is that right now drones are like computers were in the 1980s, as they are becoming both much more sophisticated and much less expensive.

You'll get a kick out of this. When I was in the Navy in the late 1960s, many of the older World War II destroyers we operated with had DASH (Drone Anti Submarine Helicopters) drones. These were small unmanned helicopters that, for Navy use, could carry depth charges or torpedoes way out away from the ship and drop them on unsuspecting Soviet subs. Since there weren't many of those off Vietnam, some DASHs were used for reconnaissance.

As part of their updating program in the early 1950s, these older destroyers basically had the upper aft five-inch turret removed and a little 'hangar' built in its place. The drone was slid out of the hangar on rails, started, and launched by a guy on deck. Then someone in CIC would take over the 'mission.'

I can't begin to tell you how many of these frickin' things crashed. I think all the destroyers in our squadron lost theirs — during tests with dummy weapons, of course. The losses were mostly chalked up to 'electronic failures' — of which you can imagine there were many. But the scuttlebutt was that there were plenty of operator errors, too.

These drones were supposed to be able to land on the water, release weapons, and take off again. But many didn't make it back to the ship. And even when they did, that final landing wasn't always successful. Apparently they were a bee-atch to land in anything but absolutely calm conditions, and no one but the DASH crew was allowed aft until the thing was safely secured.

I seem to recall that they cost about $10,000 each, and there were lots of "oh shit there goes another one" comments when I was over there.

According to Wikipedia, 378 of them were built — and the early ones were powered by Porsche engines! I couldn't find how many were lost but am guessing it was most of them.

Ironically, DASH is now considered a program that was way ahead of its time, and they're talking about bringing it back in a more modern form for recon, some combat roles, and even rescue.

John Riise
Lake Isabella

John — It's amazing that in those pre-computer and pre-GPS days they could get even one DASH back to the ship.

Drone technology was in the Stone Age then compared to what it is today, when for just $499 you can now get an incredibly sophisticated and reliable drone. The other day we were at the dock and saw a guy with an out-of-the-box DJI drone from which he'd dangled a 'cube' of eight other cameras. He said it was to get a 360° view of things.

I just read the report that there will be dredging on the Napa River, allowing more sailboats to be able to make it up to Napa.

We took our boat up the Napa River two years ago, which is when they had just opened the new dock. Along with the dock they had erected a sign with a long list of things that weren't allowed. You couldn't stay overnight. You couldn't drink alcohol. And — I'm not making this up — you couldn't eat! Those limitations didn't make the dock very inviting, so we stopped going there.

We wonder if they still have the sign and the prohibitions — which seemed to have been compiled by the owners of bars, restaurants and hotels.

Former Sailor Now a Stinkpotter

In the piece about the upcoming dredging of the Napa River, Latitude reported that the Napa Valley Marina has a nice set of "pix" and directions for negotiating the river — except for the most crucial area, which they omit. I'm referring to between Marker 7 and Marker 13. There are no directions whatsoever, and navigating that stretch requires precision and attention.

Many of us have acquired a copy of a copy of a copy of a chart that was originally created by some entity called Jackson Charters. We acquired our faded copy from the Napa YC.

The Napa River isn't part of our usual boating route, so maybe there are folks who are more knowledgeable than I am.

Armand Seguin

Armand — We're not sure, but the guide mentioned in the next letter might be what you're looking for.

Can Latitude recommend a sailing guide to San Francisco Bay? A friend has enlisted me to help move her Catalina 27 from Oyster Point to Emeryville, and I'd like to get more information than found in Latitude's 'Perfect Daysail' feature. I'm an experienced enough sailor to have a healthy respect for San Francisco Bay.

Greg Beron
Happy Hour, Cal 29
Marina del Rey

Greg — It just so happens that the third edition of Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy's Cruising Guide to San Francisco Bay has just been released by Paradise Cay Publications. The new edition covers all the marinas and anchorages, and features all new charts and photographs — the latter being from land, sea and air. There are other guides, but it's always good to check out the most recent.

In a recent article about the new Tiburon fire boat, Latitude made the following inaccurate statement that "[The fireboat] will be the only boat on the Bay crewed by firefighters and paramedics to provide advanced life support medical care."

The Southern Marin Fire District, located in Sausalito, which operates Fire Boat Liberty, a 31-ft FireStorm built by Metalcraft Marine, is also staffed by a captain, firefighters and paramedics. This boat was designed to service the shallow waters of Richardson Bay, as well as the inter-waters of San Francisco Bay.

Fred Hilliard
Captain, Deputy Fire Marshal
Southern Marin Fire District

Captain — We appreciate the correction and apologize for the error.

Based on the photo of 'ti Profligate's old thru-hulls in the March 9 'Lectronic, they weren't the reason the bilge pump light came on that night. But they might be in the future.

I wonder if the Wanderer and other boatowners are aware of how risky some thru-hulls have become. Many boats are now built and maintained under EU and MCA regulations. The Leopard 45 and most other boats used in the big charter fleets were built to that standard, and almost all charter companies in the BVI maintain their boats with that standard in mind. The BVI Shipping Registry, which does all the certifying here, is subject to the MCA standard.

While most of that standard is very good, it envisions thru-hulls and seacocks being replaced every five years, instead of the much longer period generally accepted in the United States. Thus it approves thru-hulls manufactured with a five-year use limit in mind.

The result is that the most common fittings used are ones that contain brass rather than bronze. These include the ubiquitous ones that are silver in color. They are very heavily built, with the theory being that while the brass is being eaten up, there is enough to last five years in perfect conditions.

In fact, conditions being imperfect, they often last for a much shorter period of time. The cost savings is only around 10-15%, and many in the sailing industry think it's borderline criminal for the MCA to accept — and thus enable — the use of these fittings. They often break off in one's hand, which is why charter companies in this part of the world are forever checking and changing them. There are a number of articles on this subject.

The end result is that about the only two thru-hulls and seacocks that may be trusted for long-term work are genuine bronze ones by Groco and the Marelon ones by Forespar. Definitely not the silver ones, nor some of the other off-brand ones labeled as 'bronze'.

How do I know this? Although I had read a couple of worrisome articles in British sailing mags, I lived with my silver-colored brass thru-hulls, until the rather large one on the holding tank discharge broke. Luckily it was at the dock and I heard the sound of water flowing, even though it was night and I had people on board.

The weight of the hose pressed down on the thru-hull, so although it was cracked all the way around, the flow was steady but less than it otherwise would have been. But it was more than the bilge pumps could handle, and only a wooden plug into the thru-hull from the outside kept Jet Stream from sinking at the dock.

(The bilge alarm was disconnected, since the condensate from two of the air conditioners goes into that bilge, which is another story.)

So, I really, really hope that those new thru-hulls installed on 'ti Profligate and checked so recently are not the brass ones. But I would not be surprised if they are. And if they are, I wouldn't be surprised if you get the explanation, "But they are MCA approved!" If that's what you hear, plan on changing them at your next haulout. And, yes, the whole process is damned expensive.

I wound up going with Marelon (series 91 or 93, I don't remember which) thru-hulls on everything but the engineroom thru-hulls. These Marelon thru-hulls are very robust and strong, unlike some other Marelon fittings. I got Groco thru-hull fittings for the engine room, as I couldn't readily find Marelon in the sizes I use in the engine rooms. Interestingly enough, the US Coast Guard does approve of Marelon in engine compartments. It seems that while they would melt in a fire, the fiberglass would melt/burn long before the Marelon, so they are approved.

As for the Wanderer's wondering why there is a bleed valve on the freshwater system on his Leopard 45, I can report that it is standard on all the Leopard 45s — and also that it's totally unnecessary. The water pump bleeds through a faucet just fine.

However, using that unneeded valve to mount a freshwater deck wash is a piece of cake. I simply added hose to go up through the bulkhead under the galley and into the water-tank locker, and from there up through the port-side opening into the windlass area. I added one of those 50-ft deck hoses and voilà, I had a deck hose that reaches everywhere, including into the engine rooms. The valve, of course, was already there, so I usually leave it in the open position, relying on the nozzle on the hose to prevent water from flowing. But the valve is there if I need it.

Tim Schaff
Jet Stream, Leopard 45
Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Tim — That's very interesting stuff, particularly since we had a very thorough survey done on our boat in Tortola last fall. The recommendation was that a number of the thru-hulls be replaced, but there was no mention of their being the wrong kind in the first place. This is a little surprising, as based on our experience most surveyors in the British Virgins are more particular than many of them in the States.

It's also interesting in that our boat, for the first five years of her life, was a Moorings 4500 based out of Tortola. We can only imagine that all of her sisterships had the same thru-hulls.

We looked into this subject a bit, and as you know, the problem with brass thru-hulls is 'dezincafication'. But apparently the amount of zinc in 'brass' thru-hulls makes a lot of difference. When it comes to pleasure craft of 79 to 200 feet, the American Bureau of Shipping says the following: "Where brass is used, only alloys with a zinc content of 15 percent or less, or which contain dezincification inhibitors such as tin, antimony, or arsenic are to be used in saltwater systems."

We wonder if any of our readers with boats with 'brass' thru-hulls and/or adjacent fittings have had failures. If so, we'd like to hear about it.

The motley collection of ball valves and thru-hulls that came out of the Wanderer's Leopard 45 'ti Profligate is a good lesson in standard bean-counter boatbuilding practice. A proper seacock has three bolt flanges, allowing it to be bolted in place to a reinforced pad. The thru-hull is then screwed into it from the outside of the hull. Failure of the thru-hull does not sink the boat.

Ninety-degree thru-hulls mounted with only a flange nut are an invitation, because of the leverage, for somebody or something heavy to break them off and sink the boat. But we see it all the time, even on supposedly premium-quality boats. Especially 'modern' boats with shallow bilges.

With small 90° underwater fittings, the tight bend is the perfect home for barnacles. Since there is no seacock to the outside, how is one to clean them out?

Stainless-steel ball valves used as thru-hulls next to bronze fittings create electrolysis potential. On the other hand, they are cheap.

Clear plastic water hose has no place as underwater plumbing.

Proper boats have a 'sea chest', not a baker's dozen of small holes in the boat secured by cheap valves.

Richard Elder
Planet Earch

Richard — If all these things are so bad, and we'll agree that they are far from ideal, why aren't they prohibited by a combination of the certification agencies such as the ABS and MCA and marine surveyors? Is there some kind of intelligence and/or enforcement gap? After all, we think boat buyers, who aren't experts in best marine practice, deserve better.

Aloha. Thanks for the article about the potential zoning change for the Alameda Marina. It's very sad to hear. My most recent ocean crossing began there, heading for my home port of Kaneohe YC.

I'm sure the loss of the Alameda Marina would be as bad as or worse than our loss of Ala Wai Marine. As you may or may not know, all that's happened since the destruction of the Ala Wai Marine building and filling in of the Travelift basin is the bankruptcy of the developer, and millions in unpaid rent due the state.

Jim Nash
Nalu, Cal 2-30
Kaneohe, HI

I could swear that the Wanderer wrote a funny piece in last month's issue about the 'battle' between boatowners to have the sailboat fleet with the longest cumulative length. But when I tried to show the article to friends, I couldn't find it. What gives?

Simon Walker
Santa Rosa

Simon — You couldn't find it in the last issue because it appeared in the March 14 'Lectronic Latitude. There wasn't enough room in the print edition. But since a lot of people liked it, we'll squeeze it in here, albeit with a few corrections and updates.

"The battle for Owner of the Fleet of Epic Sailing Yachts with the Longest Cumulative Length (OOTFOESYWLCL) is, to the best of
Latitude's knowledge, between two men who soared from rags — or at least moderate circumstances — to vast riches thanks to enterprises founded in the Bay Area. One did it in various tech enterprises, the other in software. Neither is named Larry Ellison.

The first is Jim Clark, 71, the serial tech entrepreneur behind the likes of Silicon Graphics, Netscape, myCFO and Healtheon. Ages ago we were aboard his Baltic 55 in Puerto Vallarta, but he subsequently really moved up in the sailing world. His first spectacular yacht was the Frers 156 Hyperion built by Royal Huisman, and reported to be adorned with some of the most famous artwork in the world. He then took a big leap up with Athena, the 292-ft clipper-bowed luxury cruising yacht that is arguably the second-largest private sailing yacht in the world — if you ignore the hideous 468-footer that's being completed for Andrey Melnichenko. Then Clark had Huisman build his third large yacht, the 135-ft J Class Hanuman.

Clark is known for being a mercurial guy, so a few years ago, not long after announcing that he didn't really like sailing in the Caribbean or the Med, and putting his two current yachts up for sale, he did an about-face. He spent a reported $25 to $40 million on the wild 100-ft, all-carbon, all high-tech, VLVP-designed Comanche. Having gotten the complete tour of the boat a couple of weeks ago in Antigua, we can confirm that no dollar was left unspent, or crew deprivation ignored, in the pursuit of every last hundredth of a knot of speed.

Latitude puts Clark's OOTFOESYWLCL number at 292+135+100 = 527. As required by OOTFOESYWLCL standards, all three of his yachts are in spectacular condition.

The second contender for OOTFOESYWLCL honors is Tom Siebel, 63, who made most of his fortune from Siebel Systems, which he sold to Larry Ellison's Oracle, the company where he worked for six years. Like Clark, Siebel has lower-extremity problems. One of his feet was almost completely bitten off and a thigh gored by an elephant in Africa. You can Google it.

To the best of our knowledge, Tom's serious sailing fleet started with an ultra-high-tech 45-ft catamaran that he keeps in the Marina Riviera Nayarit in Mexico. He then went 'all in' on multihulls with the purchase of the MOD70 Orion, which he has sailed across the Bay at close to 45 knots. A very nice guy, Tom was gracious enough to take the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca for a 34-knot blast across Banderas Bay two winters ago. Siebel has raced Orion in several St. Francis Rolex Big Boat Series.

In recent years Siebel turned away from the 'dark side' a bit with the purchase of four monohulls. The way we understand it, he bought a new Swan 60 for daysails on the Bay, a J/125 for beer cans, and the new Swan 90 Odin for racing in Europe and the Caribbean, she being an interim boat until his new Swan 115 could be completed. We've been told that Siebel wasn't happy that the Swan 90 wasn't really a regatta-winning boat, so, although he signed her up for a second St. Barth Voiles in April, he sold her before the start of the regatta. And from reading the ads in the pages of Latitude, we know that his Swan 60 is for sale.

Before we get into the reasons that Siebel may have put two Swans up for sale, we put his OOTFOESYWLCL number at 45+70+90+60+115+38 = 418. This would make Siebel second to Clark, but it wasn't clear that it was going to stay that way, even if Siebel hadn't sold the Swan 60. You see, according to the Caribbean megayacht rumor mill, Siebel and Clark went into negotiations about Siebel buying Clark's J Class Hanuman. If the deal had gone through, it would have added about 135 to Siebel's OOTFOESYWLCL number, while subtracting 135 from Clark's number, putting Siebel in first.

Despite having had Hanuman — the Hindu god of wind — laid up for a long time and seemingly no longer interested in sailing her, Clark was reportedly insulted by Siebel's offer on Hanuman's reported $18 million asking price. A source close to the negotiations told us that Siebel was willing to offer a fair price, but Clark more or less blew the negotiations out of the water. If you're a billionaire, you can do things like that, even though there is a somewhat limited market for $18 million boats.

Siebel, who Forbes reports is worth a couple of billion and thus maybe 50% more than Clark, responded to the rebuff by taking his J Class yacht money elsewhere. He bought what was intended to be the new J Class yacht Firefly being built by Claasen in the Netherlands. Firefly, however, was never going to be accepted by the J Class Association because her owner wanted her to be without an interior, let alone a properly swank J Class interior. The owner offered to add weight in certain areas to make her perform as if she had a proper interior, but the class association would have none of it.

The original to-be owner of Firefly stopped making payments to Claasen, so Siebel stepped in and bought the hull — on the condition that the about-to-be bankrupted builder would be taken over by the esteemed Vitters organization in the Netherlands. Vitters is now to have what is now Siebel's J, to be named Svea, completed by December — or face brutal financial penalties. Once completed, Svea will undergo sea trials in the Netherlands in December or January. Sea trials in December in the Netherlands? Brrrrrr. That's the plan. To be followed by more sea trials in warmer Palma.

Siebel's buying Firefly rather than Hanuman apparently really stimulated Clark's competitive juices, for he immediately took the Hanuman J Class racing program out of mothballs and has put it back in high gear. He reportedly said that he wants to crush Siebel and his new boat in all J Class events. What fun!

To that end, Clark has ordered a new mast — over a million smackers — and all new sails — about $200,000 per main for Hanuman. Ken Read, Clark's skipper, reportedly told Clark that he was crazy for wanting to run two such huge sailing campaigns as Comanche and Hanuman at the same time. Actually, Read had also told Clark he was crazy to want to build Comanche. But as Clark's highly paid skipper for both boats — and salesperson for all of Clark's sails — Read probably didn't argue too much.

The way it stands now, three J Class yachts will be taking part in this week's St. Barth Bucket, but none of them is named Hanuman or Svea. Hanuman should be back in action for fall J Class racing in Newport, with at least five other J Class yachts expected to compete. It will more or less be a tune-up for the big J Class event in Bermuda at about the same time as the America's Cup next summer. Svea will surely be there. But even that will be a warm-up for the epic J Class World Championships to be held in Newport next fall.

What about Clark's 100-ft Comanche? Having missed the monohull course record in the Caribbean 600 a few weeks ago, she did the Voiles de St. Barth in April and will do the Newport to Bermuda Race this summer, before making a run on the transatlantic record in August.

Clark reportedly nixed his Aussie wife Kristy's desire to do a third Rolex Sydney Hobart Race this winter in favor of a Cape Town to Rio Race after the transatlantic record run. But get this: Current plans call for Comanche to do a California to Mexico race in the spring of 2017, followed by the L.A. to Honolulu Transpac record run in July. She's not eligible for the Barn Door Trophy.

Anyway, as it currently stands, Clark maintains OOTFOESYWLCL honors. But to paraphrase the great Greek philosopher Heraclitus, you can never step into the same ocean twice, meaning everything is in constant flux.

Before any readers start bitching about the wealthy and their yachts, we'd like to point out that Clark and Siebel, like Ellison, made their fortunes not through monopolies or 'public service', but by creating businesses that save other companies — and ultimately consumers — lots and lots of money. In addition, they have both been epic philanthropists. Nor can we disregard their financial impact on the sailing industry. The navies required to sail and maintain their yachts are substantial. And the innovative parts they need help the yachting industry prosper. For example, Comanche's gimbaled carbon-fiber toilet — the only one for a crew of 20 — cost $20,000.

Did we mention that the Bay Area's Stan Honey, easily one of the top two or three navigators in the world, has already signed on for all the navigation duties on both Comanche and Hanuman? You know what Stan's been doing when not racing on the world's fastest monohulls and multihulls? Cruising the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico with his wife Sally Lindsay Honey aboard their humble Cal 40 Illusion, which must be at least 50 years old now.

"We've absolutely been loving cruising Mexico," Stan told
Latitude in Antigua. In fact, in an update, after navigating Comanche in mid-April's Voiles de St. Barth, Stan was catching a flight to Mexico City, then La Paz, to join his wife Sally on Illusion for more cruising in Mexico.

I'm writing in response to Roy Wessbecher, who recently wrote to Latitude to claim that Cal 40s are "worth nothing" and are "only suitable for a garden rental."

To quote Stan Honey and Sally Lindsay Honey, both world-class sailors and owners of the Cal 40 Illusion, "Cal 40s have no bad manners." The two of them could own just about any other sailboat in the world, and Stan regularly navigates the greatest sailboats in the world, but they have a Cal 40 for the following reasons: remarkable stability, low-aspect-ratio rig, bottlenose bow that punches through steep seas, and otherwise known as the 'Lapworth Splash'.

Stan Honey, in a singlehanded race to the Farallon Islands some years ago, was first to finish as the IOR boats buried their bows in the very nasty conditions at that time.

And finally, it's hard to put a price on a Cal 40 as you almost never see one for sale.

Steve and Mary Gann
Boomer, Cal 40

Steve and Mary — We have nothing but the greatest respect for Wessbecher, who, starting with almost no sailing experience, did a tremendous frugal circumnavigation with women backpackers as crew. But what he's trying to do here is get publicity for his 45-year-old Columbia 34 that he rents out for $50 a night on Despite the fact that she's on a trailer in his driveway.

I'm not here to argue the merits of 1960s-era Cal 40s, or 1970s-era Columbia 34s, but I will stick to my guns that they are "old buckets" and "not worth anything." I should refine that to say they are "old plastic buckets" and "not worth much in $-terms."

My 45-year-old Columbia is in good shape. I bought her for $12,000 a long time ago. Today you can pick up one of these old beaters for about $5,000, and one in good shape for $10,000. But even mine, as beautiful as she is, is certainly worth less than the trailer she rests on. Yet she has paid for herself many times over and won't be up for sale.

My point is not to disparage old boats, nor to tell people what to do with theirs. My point is that people should keep them, keep them up, and even stick an expensive trailer under them when they're retired from sailing — and then maybe rent them out as lodging to recoup all the costs.

Boats can be fun in many ways, and doing this might even be a way to help open up all the clogged marinas for the fancy boats.

By the way, my Breta is the first and only West Coast boat listed on

Roy Wessbecher
Breta, Columbia 34
Brookings, OR

Roy — Does your insurance company know that you're renting out your boat atop a trailer, and that the guests have to climb a ladder to get up and down — and hit the head in the middle of the night?

And while officials in rural Oregon might not care that you're running a hotel with a relatively large boat on a trailer in your driveway, we don't think it would fly in most places.

I enjoyed the April 20 'Lectronic report on Les Voiles de St. Barth. For what it's worth, Triple Jack, the 47-ft Kelsall trimaran that was built in 1979, is something of a legend in the BVI. She is generally considered the fastest boat in these parts, and, with her excellent crew of mostly marine-industry professionals, holds all sorts of records against all sorts of boats. Triple Jack always does well in the BVI Spring Regatta against all comers, and while she may appear humble, her performance and competitive record are stellar.

I think you would enjoy owners Richard Wooldridge and Steve Davis if you had the chance to meet them.

Tim Schaff
British Virgin Islands

Tim — Unaware of how successful old Triple Jack had been, we were surprised to see how well she did boat-for-boat against the new Gunboat 60 Flow and the new Bieker 53 Fujin. Then we did a little research and found that Triple Jack has broken the Around Tortola Record a number of times. To be fair, she doesn't have quite the interior of the other boats.

We did meet Wooldridge and Davis and they are fine folks. We loved a previous quote of Davis' about Triple Jack: "She's like an old MG, so we do have to be a little careful."

That was a strange photo of the classic yacht Serenade on page 34 of the last issue. She looked like a schooner.

My parents' first boat was a small Dunnigan 36-ft ketch. They only owned her for about nine months, as she proved a little small for the five of us. Their second boat was an Island Clipper, bought from Axel Stordahl in about 1958.

Stordahl was an arranger who was active from the late 1930s through the 1950s. He is perhaps best known for his work with Frank Sinatra in the 1940s at Columbia Records. With his sophisticated orchestrations, Stordahl is credited with helping to bring pop arranging into the modern age.

Our 'next-door neighbor boat' at the old California Yacht Anchorage, now Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro, was Serenade, owned by Jascha Heifetz, the celebrated Lithuanian-born violinist.

It's interesting that two significant players in the music industry were sailors and had their boats side-by-side. I was only 12 at the time, too young to have known anything about either of them. But I suspect they knew each other.

Compared to our family's Island Clipper, Serenade was huge and extremely elegant. She had a beige-colored hull, a small cabin with flush teak decks, and was elegant.

I know it's only April, but I'm almost ready to do yet another Baja Ha-Ha.

Fin Bevin
Radiant, Cal 40

Fin — To err is human. Rather than the photo's being "strange," the caption was wrong. The photo is of the schooner Kelpie, not the sloop Serenade.

We're almost ready to do another Ha-Ha, too, although the mothership won't be coming north for another three months.

Sign-ups for the Ha-Ha begin May 2. Folks who want the best chance of getting a berth when they get to Cabo need to sign up quickly.

Yet another reminder: This year's Ha-Ha starts on October 31 from San Diego, a week later than normal.

It was so nice of the Letters editor to cause me to "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 50 years ago."

He was right, it was about 50 years ago, as it happened during the first-ever Los Angeles to Mazatlan Race in 1961. But the boat was not a Lapworth 36, but rather Gamin, a Swiftsure 40 sloop built by Vic Franck of Seattle and owned by Dick Lerner of Lido Isle.

Lerner was as gracious a gentleman as one could ever hope to meet. He was a product of 'old money', as his grandfather founded the Lerner Shops, and he was also in business for himself. In fact, he had an interest in Yachting magazine. His brother was Broadway musical lyricist Alan Jay Lerner of Lerner & Loewe fame.

Others on Lerner's watch were Ian Gardner–Smith, a young stockbroker from San Diego, whom I knew from sailing on the big schooner Constellation, and Dick Fenton, an active International 14 sailor and a longtime member of Balboa YC. He was one of the original lawyers representing management from the start of the New Deal and the National Labor Relations Board.

The other watch had Ignacio Lozano, Jr., a Phi Beta Kappa from Notre Dame and publisher of La Opinion, the big Spanish language newspaper In Los Angeles. Nacho and two partners raced a PC-class sloop aptly named Cerberus. I knew everybody on my watch except Jack, my watch captain, whose last name I can't recall. He introduced himself as a "poor man's version of Jim Kilroy" in the industrial real estate business.

Before we took off, I'd heard Lerner was going to navigate. He said he'd bought a sextant and had been taking lessons. He asked if I thought we should tow a taffrail log. I happened to have been in Bruce Blackman's jewelry shop a few weeks before, and Bruce showed me a 24-inch long, 4-inch diameter impeller off a World War II destroyer. Lerner wanted it checked out, but I told him that San Benito Island had a light and thus we wouldn't need a taffrail log.

Once we got offshore on the first day of the race, the alcohol stove overflowed, causing a minor conflagration. Fortunately breakfast didn't have to be cooked, because to save weight Lerner had stocked a case of corn flakes and lots of evaporated milk. The only fresh food on the boat was a bag of Spanish onions and two lugs of avocados. We also had a case of high-quality Danish canned sliced bacon and several bags of bagels, so we could make sandwiches with the avocados and onions. I can't remember any other food being onboard.

It seemed a little pretentious, but Gamin had a wheel and a binnacle in the middle of the cockpit. Jack's concept of driving with a spinnaker was to keep his eyes glued on the compass — which inevitably led to his wrapping the chute. I had a knack for rolling the boat and causing the chute to oscillate until free. But regardless of what Nacho or I said, Jack insisted on driving by the compass, not the spinnaker. Nacho and I would just look at each other and laugh.

It was overcast through the second night, but at least the wind held at a consistent 12 knots — at which point we discovered that we were sinking. Gamin didn't have any full-length planks, which meant there were a lot of butt joints. Inside every butt joint was a butt block. It turned out that water more than dribbled but didn't quite pour into the boat from a butt block by the starboard forward hanging locker. Lifting the starboard cockpit seat gave us access to a vertical-pull bilge-pump handle. By pumping 15 minutes each hour, we more or less kept up with the inflow of water.

It was still so overcast that Lerner couldn't even get a sun sight. But the next evening we saw the San Benito Light and had to make a sharp turn. We survived that, put the chute back up, and continued on our way.

It was still overcast on April 13 with the wind blowing at 15-18 knots when we spotted our first competitor, La Volpe, a 45-ft schooner that was about a mile behind us. They headed offshore in the afternoon. We later jibed too, but didn't head up as much.

At 10 p.m. that night, Nacho and Jack were in the forward bunks and I was in the starboard bunk in the salon when a wave broke behind the boat.

"Look out, we're going to hit a reef!" somebody yelled.

"Oh no," I thought to myself, "I'm going to have to get up." I was pretty tired.

"We're gonna hit the reef!" somebody repeated as another wave broke behind us.

Again, I thought I was probably going to have to get up.

Fenton, who had been on the wheel, gave it to Ian, saying, "You take the helm!"

Bump! Bang! Crash! Scrunch!

Now I knew I had to get up.

Suddenly Gamin was knocked 45° onto her port side, erratically bouncing and lurching a few inches at a time because the mast was still up and the spinnaker still pulling.

"How does this thing work?" I asked, as I joined the other watch in untying the liferaft from the cabin top.

Somebody showed up with a flashlight and illuminated the liferaft's metal disc with the instructions on it.

"Well, read the fucking directions!" somebody shouted.

"Maybe you pull this," said another.

FOOMPP! The raft inflated, almost knocking somebody overboard. We tied the raft to the lifelines and began loading it with line, the whisker pole, a small sail, some candy and some other stuff. I threw in my duffel bag, which had my passport and a bottle of scotch given to me by a young lady who was going to meet me in Mazatlan.

Fastened onto the aft side of the port bulkhead that separated the galley from the quarter berth was one of those darling /cute/clever, must-have tools for sale by the checkout counter at marine hardware stores. It was a shiny chrome pair of pliers with a crescent wrench end on one handle and sharp screwdriver on the end of the other handle. All in a handsome leather sheath. Nacho was standing in the hatchway looking forward when Gamin lurched, throwing him knee-first toward the bulkhead. The screwdriver end of the device was just waiting for Nacho's patella. Right to the bone!

It was the blackest of nights. The spreader lights were on so we could see nothing outside that cone of light. We all jumped onto the liferaft and cast off, but could only find one paddle. After the raft traversed a few waves, I put one foot on somebody's hip — and kicked him off!

To this day I don't know whom I shoved off or why, but I don't think it was Lerner because he owned the boat. As it was, nothing ever came of it because the guy landed in waist-deep water. We were on a beach, not a reef. In the darkness, the flowing sand dunes were indistinguishable from the undulating ocean.

We set up camp and passed around the bottle of scotch until it was empty. By the time I awakened the next morning, Nacho was already out of sight walking down the beach toward Cape San Lazaro. It turns out we were about eight miles north of San Lazaro and must have hit at dead high tide, because Gamin ended up high and dry with 400 feet of beach exposed.

It could have been worse. The Lazaro Light was not working, and there are several giant rocks like sentinels a few hundred yards in front of Cape San Lazaro, protruding 50 or so feet out of the water. Had we been another half mile to weather, we would have hit them instead of landing on the beach. Of course, if we'd been sailing a couple of degrees higher, we would have cleared the point.

We didn't have any way to cook the bacon, so we appreciated the convenience of avocado and onion sandwiches.

The next morning we were met by Nacho and a group of blue-eyed Mexicans with a bunch of dogs. They would eventually drive us down the beach to Man O' War Cove. When we came to a tidal river, we had to stop and spend the night. They also carried corrugated iron sheets to help us cross difficult areas.

The locals were canning turtle meat at Man O' War. Eventually the Mexican Coast Guard took us on a two-hour trip in a launch to their headquarters. We were later picked up by a US Coast Guard vessel and brought back to the States.

Prior to the start of the race, Dr. Wally Gerrie, the leading urologist in Newport Beach and a Thistle sailor, had given me a bunch of the latest drug samples. One of them was Chloromycetin. It was a good thing he did, because by the time we got to Man O' War Cove, Nacho's knee was badly infected. And the 125-ft US Coast Guard vessel not only didn't have a doctor, they didn't have any medicine. Nothing! Not even an aspirin.

The young lady I was to meet in Mazatlan? She got a ride back up the coast on the much more luxurious Kamali'i, and I never saw her again.

Lerner wasn't deterred from sailing. He wrote a 90,000-word report for Yachting, which they had to chop way down. And he later had Gerry Driscoll build a 39-ft sistership to Driscoll's own boat.

Stuart Newcomb
Balboa Island

Stuart — What a great and humorous story. It takes a real man to admit, even 50 years later, that he kicked another man off a liferaft.

Although I am no longer involved, for 15 years I enjoyed the ownership of the Cal 40 Madrugador (Early Riser) with four other partners. It was an unlikely mix of two cardiologists, two engineers (of which I was one), and a lawyer. The original syndicate campaigned the boat actively on Puget Sound.

The racing program culminated in the Vic-Maui Race of 1986, in which Madrugador placed third overall. Although only two members of the syndicate participated in the race, Dr. Jack Murray and yours truly, the other members generously assisted the effort with moral and financial support. Incidentally, the delivery crew who returned Madrugador to Seattle included the late Wendy Siegel. Wendy later bought the Cal 40 Willow Wind, and actively promoted the Cal 40 class for the Transpac race to Hawaii. We were saddened to hear of her passing.

Sure, there have been some problems over the years. Even the best of marriages have some of those. For example, one partner singlehanding the boat around to the new Elliott Bay Marina managed to motor into the West Point Buoy at six knots. Mercifully, the hole he punched in the bow was above the waterline. Then there was the usual rash of groundings and spinnaker sheets-around-the-prop incidents — including one that split the V-drive casing and trashed the transmission. But all were handled good-naturedly by the syndicate.

Inevitably, some partners used the boat more than others, and maintenance chores were self-allocated on a similar basis. The less active members retained full check-writing privileges, however. It really is a comfort knowing that the bills will be divided by five. It also helps to have good insurance.

The program worked like this: Throughout the year, each partner had exclusive use of the boat for seven days every five weeks, with the understanding that the boat would take part in all major races. The 'skipper' for the week could opt out of the race, but the boat still raced as long as at least one of the partners wanted to race.

During the summer cruising months, the boat was converted to cruising configuration, and each partner had exclusive use for a two-week period. By coordinating schedules, time spent getting to the prime cruising grounds — Desolation Sound, Barkley Sound, Queen Charlotte Islands, etc. — was minimized by partners swapping the boat for a car.

After 39 years, the syndicate is still going strong — although only one of the original five partners is still involved. Turnover has been minimal, with one ex-partner, the attorney, staying on as honorary 'business manager' of the syndicate. Why? Because he enjoyed the company when he was not out on Lake Washington campaigning his Thistle. Most replacement partners were found by word of mouth — which probably explains why the current two partners include an engineer and a cardiologist!

Inevitably, the time came when my interests diverged from those of the other partners. Quite simply, I wanted to go cruising and was willing to take early retirement to do so. Would the partners accept my offer to buy them out? No way! They loved the boat and the partnership too much. But they agreed to buy me out, per our partnership agreement, for the same prorated price I had offered them, and we parted amicably.

The partnership was set up as a corporation. That made it much easier to buy/sell an interest. All that had to be done was transfer stock. According to Wil Anderson, if he were doing it again, he would form the partnership as an LLC.

I purchased Hawkeye, a Finnish-built Sirena 38, on Christmas Eve of 1993 and headed south five weeks later. Would I do a partnership again? You bet. But I would be sure to get a compatible group together with a well-crafted partnership agreement! The Madrugador Syndicate had both, and, overall, was — and remains — a most successful partnership.

John S. Kelly
Hawkeye, Sirena 38
Republic of Philippines

Boat partnerships are a good and sensible way for the average person to enjoy boating, sailing and hanging out.

I have had a partner in five different boats, and all but one were good. The one that didn't work out was over a difference in opinion on how the boat, a Santa Cruz 50, was maintained and used. I had two partners, and in the end the partner who was the 'problem' for me bought us out. It was not a happy event for us as we really loved that boat.

At my age I would consider being a non-equity partner in a boat that is as 'cruisey' and comfortable on the Bay as the Santa Cruz 50 was.

In any partnership there must be as equitable a way of exiting the partnership as there was getting into it.

P.S. Cheers to you and your great enduring staff magazine.

Charles L. Cunningham
Los Gatos

Jeff Murphy and I were partners in an O'Day 37 from 1979 until we sold her in 1995. We are now partners in a five-acre parcel of land on Caye Caulker, Belize. Our partnership continues to work perfectly.

Cliff Wilson
Cat Charters Belize

My first trip down the coast of Baja was in 1973. Little did I realize it would be the first of countless delivery trips — mostly northbound — over the next 40+ years.

I had been sailing since I was a kid and wanted to work in the boating industry. I started out by selling Hobie Cats in Marina del Rey. Bill, our sales manager, was new to sailing and had purchased a Newport 27. After several trips to Catalina Island with his girlfriend Linda (and their pregnant Pekingese dog, Toolow), he decided it was time to sail the 900 miles to Cabo San Lucas. He asked me to join them. Having discovered that selling boats was not my cup of tea, I readily accepted.

On the trip down the coast, Toolow, who had always been taken ashore at Catalina, understandably would not poop or pee on the newspaper that her owners put down in the cockpit. Only after several days of ‘holding it' would she use it, and it seems only on my watch as she didn't want to shame herself in front of her 'parents'. I would immediately wad it up the newspaper, throw it overboard, and put down new paper — all while commending Toolow on her performance. Her new puppy Shandoo didn't have such concerns, and I had to take to wearing my boots at night, regardless of the warming temperature as we moved south.

We made it to Cabo, which was a one-street pueblo back then, and anchored in front of the Hacienda Hotel. The tourist population was very small at the time, and most were sport fishermen. Bill, being the gregarious salesman, met a young Mexican couple from Mexico City who were on their honeymoon and invited them to go sailing.

We went out for three hours, and unfortunately the groom got seasick. He went down to the head to contribute his lunch to the fish. He then came up and said that the toilet wasn't flushing very well. Without proper instruction, he had put paper towels in the toilet, which naturally clogged up the works.

When we got the hook back down, I, being the mechanical guy, got ready to take on the undesirable task of taking the toilet apart. I got a reprieve when Bill suggested that maybe the paper had worked its way to the thru-hull, so maybe I could jump in the water and use a long screwdriver to dislodge it. As the water was crystal clear and in the 80s, I readily agreed.

As I pushed the screwdriver in from the outside, I could feel what seemed like wadded paper. I poked and prodded as Bill tried to pump the toilet, but to no avail. So I had to take the toilet apart anyway to get the paper out.

After dinner in town, we came back to the boat and went to sleep. Bill and Linda were sharing the V-berth, and I was out in the cockpit.

In the middle of the night Linda got up to take a pee. When she stepped on the sole, she was stepping in water.

"We're sinking!" she shouted. Bill and I quickly woke up.

The water was only about an inch above the sole. The Newport had practically no bilge, so we got the water out quickly with the Whale Gusher. Then we went searching for the source.

We found it in the hose-to-toilet outlet thru-hull, as we could see water squirting out of the little holes — that I had obviously punched in the hose while trying to dislodge the paper towels!

The standards for hoses back then were quite low, at least on Newport 27s. You shouldn't be able to poke holes in them with a screwdriver.

Captain Mark Philbrick
Patience, Mod. Columbia 35
Ensenada, Baja California

New Lapworth 36 owner Ben Jones will want to check out, which is a fact-filled site built and maintained by Allen Edwards. It includes a list with boat ownership histories, plans, and articles on maintenance, buying used sails, racing resources, weather, tides and a lot more.

The L-36 Fleet tab will lead him to the 10-12 boats in Washington, Vancouver and Victoria. They should offer a fund of knowledge.

The L-36 skipper with the all-female crew — sometimes topless — in the swinging 70s was the late Bobby Holm. He sailed the Wild Wind out of the San Francisco YC. Bobby won the perpetual trophy in 1976, the last year that L-36s raced as a YRA one-design class. Years later we got Bobby to donate the silver platter to the Master Mariners, and have been racing for it as a class since then. It's helped maintain fleet interest.

The boats to beat are David James' Leda and Allen Edwards' Papoose. Both are second-generation L-36 veterans and really know their way around their boats and the Bay.

Many L-36s have sailed to Hawaii, and at least one sailed to Tahiti and back. We think it was Hibiscus, and Bob Darr of the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding was on the return crew. We sailed to Hawaii on Aukai with Ned Downey in 1976. We liked the boat so much that we bought her from Ned the next year and gave her back her original name, Olé. We are still the current custodians.

We wish Ben well with his new-to-him boat. Take good care of her and she'll take care of him.

John Hamilton and Carol Leonard
Olé, L-36
San Francisco

John and Carol — We've been around sailing a long time now and somehow managed to miss the apparent importance of the Lapworth 36s.

I read Latitude's November 2015 editorial about Java Head with interest, as I brought her back to our family and her roots in Maine to try to keep a wonderful sailboat from the scrap yard.

The January letter from previous owner Edward Schoon got me to thinking it would be helpful to hear from all of the former owners and crew. Those who sailed her over 65 years on the Bay must have interesting stories and information they would like to share.

I have the names of a few sailors who sailed on her — Bilek, Peterson, Claussen, Schoon, Lino, Gillette — but could use more. I would like to use their stories to build a history to be included in the log to be kept aboard Java Head after she's restored. And it may help with our efforts to raise the funds to get the job done over the next few years.

Jay Doumaux
Java Head, 1933 50-ft cutter
East Boothbay, ME

My wife and I own Black Dolphin, a Hugh Angelman-designed 50-ft LOA diesel auxiliary ketch built in Southern California in 1944. At various times in her history she has been sailed from Southern California to Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, New Zealand and Australia.

We use Black Dolphin as an outdoor classroom at our school here in Hong Kong. We had her delivered here from Long Beach on a container ship in 2014.

We've been are able to trace Black Dolphin's history from 1950 onward, and have been in touch with many people who sailed on her in the past. But we're very much interested in getting a complete history of her, meaning from 1944 to 1950, for both our students and any future owners.

Based on what little we know, we're operating on the assumption that Black Dolphin was mostly built at Wilmington Boat Works, but then the war broke out and WILBO started building boats for the Navy. We believe that Black Dolphin was moved to Inglewood, where she was completed for launching by a gentleman named R.C. Ricketts.

Looking for information, we have contacted everyone we can think of, including several yacht clubs, as well as individuals old enough to have known her when she was sailing around San Diego, Los Angeles and Catalina. We have even been in touch with the two sons of Marion and Bill Rumsey, the couple who bought the boat in 1950. Alas, they didn't have any additional information. I can be reached at

I've attached a couple of photos of Black Dolphin taken in the 1950s. She looked quite different with a black hull and red anti-fouling.

Craig Blurton, Ph.D.
Managing Director, The Harbour School
Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

Craig — We're happy to put the word out. By the way, one of Hugh Angelman's grandsons has done the Baja Ha-Ha several times, so maybe he can help.

After our letter in March's Latitude, the editor wanted to know more how we have afforded to cruise for so many years. I can best explain it by dividing our many years of cruising into three eras.

Era One was from 1998 to 2003. I first met Irwin while he was visiting family. I had a thriving wedding-photography business, but when Irwin said, "Work 80 hours a week or come sailing with me," it was a no-brainer. We haven't regretted a moment together.

We sailed from San Diego to La Paz, then slowly worked down the Pacific coast of North and Central America. We transited the Panama Canal in 2000, and from 2000 to 2003 we wandered around the Western Caribbean. Two months in the San Blas Islands, nine months in Cartagena, then nine months between San Andres, Providencia, Guanaja, Belize and Guatemala. We made our way from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, to St. Pete, Florida in early 2003.

During these five years we lived very well on the savings Irwin had previous to our relationship. We vaguely remember that we lived on less than $1,000 a month. Some months had big 'bites' out of our savings. The $600 in Canal fees — plus the $800 cash security fee they held for eight months. In addition, we needed two expensive boat parts, spent two months in marinas at $125/month, and bought two-round trip tickets to San Diego.

The major boat expenses were replacing the main outboard motor in Costa Rica, for $1,700, and the steering cable. We paid a total of $150 for shipping, expeditor fees, import taxes, and the cable itself. It had broken during a storm in transit to Guanaja, which was not fun. We now carry a spare cable to avoid those additional shipping costs!

We also tore our jib from foot to clew in a freak blow between Belize and the Yucatan. Cruising friends helped us repair it with their machine and expertise. That saved us lots of money. We now have our own Sailrite machine for all our sail and canvas repairs.

Era Two: We hadn't contributed anything to the kitty during the first five years, and that had to change. So we hung around Florida and the Bahamas for a little more than a year, and then spent two months wandering around Cuba before returning to San Diego. (Our two months on the north coast of Cuba were very inexpensive. We spent less than $500 a month for everything. Most of the time we anchored by small villages, and there were no other boats around.)

In 2003 we decided that we needed to return to San Diego for three to five years to earn money, and also care for elderly family members. I worked part-time assisting other commercial photographers, and hired out as second camera to many high-end weddings. (I'm glad that era is over!) Irwin worked with his sister and business partner as full-time carpenter on her 'fix and flip' properties.

In 2006, my home of 35 years near Shelter Island, which I owned with my ex-husband, became mine. Irwin and I decided it was too expensive for us to live in. Besides, we missed the simple life aboard Speck. So we decided to clean up the house and rent it out for as long as we could.

ERA Three: The combination of having earned some money, plus having income from renting the house, made cruising more affordable. And when we both turned 65 in 2010 and started getting Social Security, it meant we had a net of about $3,000 a month to spend. To give you an idea of how far that can go, from early July through late September in the Bahamas, we spent a total of $3,800. We were able to save a lot of money during those months.

We also made a trip up the ICW to Washington, D.C. That was cheap, too, because we anchored out for the entire six weeks of the trip and never ate out. We did, however, spend $1,000 on gas. While in the District of Columbia, we anchored out — except for paying $300/month to Gangplank Marina for the use of their dinghy dock and facilities. We also paid $500 to rent a car for two weeks.

Irwin and I are living a reasonably priced, yet joyful lifestyle on Speck. However, we can caution readers that most people will need more than just Social Security to be able to wander the Bahamas and live aboard in Florida. However, if you are willing to spend most of your life in Central America, Panama and South America — not the Eastern Caribbean — it can be doable, if you anchor out most of the time.

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

Readers — The cost of cruising varies tremendously based on the boat, the desires of the cruising couple, where they cruise, and their means. Of course, the means of cruising couples have varied tremendously also. For instance, the average social security benefit is $1,335 per person or about $32,000 a year for a couple. On the other hand, if both people waited to 66 and collect the maximum amount of social security, that's $63,000 a year. Add to that the rental income from a California coast property purchased decades ago, and you can stay in marinas and dine out quite a bit. That doesn't mean you're going to have a better time, or that restaurant food is healthier than food you prepare yourself.



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