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August 2017

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On June 23 the Coast Guard suspended its active search for 71-year-old singlehander Richard Carr on the 36-ft sailing vessel Celebration in the area about 1,800 miles southeast of Hilo, Hawaii. Carr was on a voyage from Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas.

Carr was my neighbor at the Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz until just a short time before his departure. Richard was very friendly, and invited my young son Isaiah and me aboard his boat several times. He spent some time reminiscing about departed family members, and proudly showed us photos of a family member who was a singer.

A couple of weeks before the departure he was very much into installing a mast-top camera linked to the largest flat-screen monitor that I have ever seen on the sailboat. My 9-year-old was very impressed. I asked Richard about the camera, and he explained that it would help him to see coral heads in the atolls of the South Pacific.

He did have a local rigger helping him with some stuff.

Marek Jan Nowicki
Raireva, Cape Vickers 34
San Pedro/Mexico

Readers — To review, on May 28, Carr's spouse notified the Coast Guard that her husband, using a GPS message device, had reported that he was in distress. She suspected that he was suffering from severe sleep deprivation. Weather on scene the day of Carr's last communication was reportedly 11.5-mph winds, seas to 6 feet, with good visibility.

Under the direction of the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu, on-scene assets searched a total area of more than 59,598 square miles, an area the size of Oklahoma, over a 24-day period. Involved in the search were HC-130 Hercules airplane crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point working out of Tahiti; French Falcon Guardian airplane crews out of Tahiti; the 258-ft US-flagged seiner American Enterprise; the 688-ft Panamanian-flagged cargo ship Hokuetsu Ibis; and the 259-ft Mexican-flagged seiner El Duque. A total of 17 air searches were conducted in the region without a sign of the vessel.

What is somewhat puzzling is that Carr had a two-way satellite-based messaging device that he used to communicate with his wife. Almost all such devices have a tracking feature, which would have shown the boat's exact position with frequent updates. It would seem that either that feature wasn't turned on or that the batteries on the device ran out, or else the boat surely would have been found. — rs


I was sorry to read the June 26 'Lectronic about Glenn Tieman's 38-ft catamaran Manu Rere getting T-boned, apparently by a fishing boat, in Malaysia. Like the Wanderer, I'm a big fan of cruisers who do a lot with a little, and I don't know of anybody who has done as much cruising as Glenn with as little. I hope that when he gets back to Malaysia he discovers the damage to his simple cat isn't as bad as it first seemed.

I wonder if he'd be interested in a GoFund Me page if he needs money to help fix his boat.

Jeff Foster
Boatless for Now
Foster City

Readers — For those who missed the June 26 'Lectronic Latitude item, we'll republish it here:

"'Oh God, my life is destroyed!'

"That was the reaction of Glenn Tieman, perhaps the world's thriftiest long-term cruiser, upon hearing the news that his beloved cruising catamaran Manu Rere had been T-boned and severely damaged. The boat had been at anchor off Terengganu, a sultanate and constitutive state of federal Malaysia.

"There are thrifty cruisers and then there is Tieman, who is originally from Modesto. His first cruise, from California to Thailand, was on a 26-ft cat he'd built for $3,000. She didn't have a cabin per se, and naturally didn't have an engine or any such luxuries. Mind you, this was a 10-year cruise, the first seven years of which he lived on an average of $1 day, everything included. He splurged during the last three years of the cruise, blowing $3 a day.

"Glenn is an unusual guy. He likes to sail to primitive communities and become part of those communities for months at a time. Local chiefs have encouraged him to take the hand of one of the local girls. After 10 years, family and friends convinced Glenn that he was missing out on life. So he came back to Los Angeles and taught school for a year or two. He soon reached the conclusion that he was missing out on life by not being out cruising. So he built another cat.

"Manu Rere is a 38-ft replica of a Polynesian cat from more than 100 years ago, made with materials — other than epoxy — available back then. The beams, for example, are attached to the hulls with lashings, as are the rudders. When Glenn wanted to sail, he would raise the masts by hand. As we recall, Manu Rere cost him something like $14,000 to build. As you can see from the accompanying photo, she has no house. All the accommodations are in the hulls.

We last saw Tieman in October 2008. We were on a Baja Ha-Ha rest stop at Turtle Bay, and he'd just begun his cruise with his new boat.

"To be honest, we have no idea what Glenn's been up to since then. He's not the kind of guy to write a lot. But we suspect he's been out cruising most or all of the time. Based on today's email from him, we know that he was back in the States taking care of his ill father when his catamaran was damaged. Glenn won't be able to get back to his cat until July 5 at the earliest, and it's not clear if the cat can realistically be saved.

"We wish Glenn all the best, for he's one interesting and unique individual. Based on his incredible cruising accomplishments, he's a member of the Wanderer's Sailing Hall of Fame."

We sent a message to Tieman's old email address and were somewhat surprised to get a response. That appears in the next letter. — rs


Thanks to the Wanderer for his kind thoughts. Yes, I stopped moving for three years at Pohnpei to, with permission, cut mahogany trees out of the forest to replace Manu Rere's crossbeams. It took a while to cure the green wood. The last few years I've been cruising to and fro with the alternating monsoons in Southeast Asia. But now it looks as if I'll be stopped for a while to make repairs.

Glenn Tieman
Mane Rere, authentic 38-ft Polynesian catamaran
Terengganu, Malaysia


Last summer I was having drinks at the bar at Two Harbors, Catalina, and this somewhat inebriated old guy with a bushy beard and a sun-faded hat started telling me, in a most authoritative tone of voice, that a woman had once been abandoned on Catalina Island and wasn't found for 18 years. I called B.S. on him, but he insisted that it was a true story. Can you clear this up?

Herbert Wilson
Static, Islander 36
Seattle, WA

Herbert — The guy was mostly right, although the woman in question had been left at San Nicolas Island, which is about 45 miles to the west of Catalina, not Catalina. It was a long time ago, so she didn't have a Garmin InReach to call for help.

For reasons not clear to us, in November 1835 the schooner Peor es Nada, under the command of Charles Hubbard, was sent to remove all the remaining Indians from San Nicolas Island. At 60 miles from the mainland, San Nicolas is the most offshore of the eight Channel Islands. The Indians — they were Nicoleño not the Chumash — were assembled on the beach and then brought aboard the schooner. Somehow one woman was left behind. Apparently Hubbard's men didn't wait too long to look for her, as a strong blow was coming up and they didn't want to be shipwrecked.

The woman — who would come to be known as Juana Maria, and who would be the last surviving member of the Nicoleño tribe — would live alone on San Nicolas from 1835 until she was discovered in 1853. Why she wasn't immediately reported missing is not clear. Perhaps because there was a language problem.

Fifteen long years after Juana was left behind, Father José González Rubio of Mission Santa Barbara paid a man $200, big bucks in those days, to try to find her. We don't know why the Father did this, but she wasn't found. Nonetheless, Santa Barbara fur trapper George Nidever was intrigued about the search for the missing woman and launched several expeditions of his own to find Juana. On his third attempt one of his men discovered human footprints on the beach, and pieces of seal blubber which had been left out to dry. Juana was soon discovered living in a crude hut made of whale bones. She was dressed in a skirt made of cormorant feathers.

Juana Maria was taken to Mission Santa Barbara but was unable to communicate with anyone. The local Chumash Indians could not understand her, nor could a group of Indians who had lived on Catalina. Nonetheless, Juana was said to be ecstatic to be among people again, and enjoyed singing and dancing for the crowds that came to see her. She loved horses, European clothes, and — tragically — European food.

Having existed almost entirely on shellfish and seal fat, she loved green corn, vegetables and fresh fruit. Alas, apparently the sudden change to a nutrient-rich diet made her sick and killed her. She died a mere seven weeks after she'd been brought back to civilization.

Juana became known as the Lone Woman of San Nicolas, and her story was the basis of Scott O'Dell's book Island of the Blue Dolphins and the movie of the same name.

There's all kinds of interesting history to the Channel Islands. If you are headed south this fall, make sure at least Santa Cruz Island — the only one of the eight to ever have had its own winery and to have been used extensively to raise sheep and beef — is on your itinerary. — rs


I disagree with the Wanderer's claim that devices such as the Garmin InReach and the Iridium Go! are better EPIRBs than EPIRBs or that they eliminate the need for an EPIRB.

The InReach and Go! are great communication devices, and are great backup SOS devices, but everyone who goes offshore should have a real 406 GPIRB.

According to an article I read, the main difference between an EPIRB and satellite messenging devices is that an EPIRB uses the government SARSAT system to monitor distress calls while the others use a private commercial system. With an EPIRB, the monitoring is paid for by taxes, while with the satellite messengers, the monitoring is paid for as part of a monthly service fee.

According to the article, the "real significance is in the response when one of the beacons is activated." The SARSAT-based systems begin spinning up the rescue process as they seek to verify that it is indeed an emergency. The SARSAT folks contact emergency responders in the distress signal's location directly, and they begin the SAR process without delay. If verified as not being an emergency, they will stand down; otherwise they are already on the way. As such, the commercial system works like your home security system in that authorities aren't notified and activating SAR until the emergency is confirmed.

Greg Nelsen
Outsider, Azzura 310

Greg — The company that responds to emergency signals from the likes of InReach, Go! and Spot is GEOS. Their headquarters north of Dallas is staffed 24/7/365 by Watch Standers, SAR Mission Coordinators, Safety and Security professionals, and Duty Officers. Although GEOS has only been around for 12 years, they have supported rescues in 140 countries and, according to them, "saved many thousands of lives." If you go to their website, you can find a list of every response they've been involved in. There were, for example, 53 in April, 55 in May, and 75 in June. And you can read a summary of each situation they responded to. This is no cheeseball system.

If there is a time differential between responses to SARSAT and GEOS, we weren't able to find out what it was. But given that calls to GEOS result in an average of more than one rescue attempt a day, we find it hard to believe that any delay would be significant.

The thing the Wanderer doesn't like about EPIRBs is that they are a one-trick pony. They don't leave a 'bread crumb trail' like the other devices, and when set off they can't tell SAR if a boat is sinking, lost a rudder, or ran out of fuel, or if the skipper had a heart attack.

Because EPIRBs are 'dumb', there is no way for mariners in distress to know if their SOS has been heard and/or if help is on the way. The latter can be critical. During the 2009 Baja Ha-Ha, Capt. Eugenie Russell's boat sank after being hit by a whale, and the crew had to take to the liferaft. While they had an EPIRB and set it off, they had no confirmation that the signal had been heard or that help was on the way. According to Russell, this uncertainty had a very deleterious effect on some of the crew. Fortunately, it turned out to be a textbook rescue, but if they'd had an InReach or a Go! they would have known their signal had been heard and the ETA of help. It's in that sense that we think something like an InReach or Go! does a better job of being an EPIRB than an actual EPIRB.

Three other points. The Spot Messenger is a very different device from the InReach and the Go! The former uses 'bent-pipe' Globalstar technology, which means it doesn't work very far out to sea. For example, it's useless for going to Hawaii, and in the South Pacific. And based on our experience, Globalstar has always exaggerated wildly about their coverage. The InReach and Go! use Iridium satellites, which cover the entire globe.

Secondly, for what it's worth, GEOS offers medevac insurance. It's $175 a year for international and $129 for the United States and Canada. We don't know anything about the 'terms and conditions', but it might be something to look into.

Finally, you can get both an InReach and an ACR EPIRB for a total of about $500, which is what just an EPIRB cost not too long ago. We'd go for the redundancy. But if we had to choose between them, we'd always go with the InReach or Go! over an EPIRB because of their two-way communication capability. — rs


I don't own a sailboat right now, but I crew on other people's boats. In fact, I got to go sailing out of Moss Landing Harbor on June 24, Summer Sailstice Day. I was aboard a boat I'd never been on with her new owners.

It was an overcast day with a cool, light breeze as we departed the harbor, and there were lots of other people enjoying being out on the water. There were other sailboats out, fishermen trawling for sardines, packed sightseeing boats, and even kayakers as far as two miles out. Many of the kayaks were equipped with masts and small sails.

And Monterey Bay was alive with sea life. We spotted no fewer than five pods of whales, with some of the whales breaching the surface and slapping their tails on the water. They were surrounded by seabirds, waiting to pounce on whatever small fish surfaced with the whales. In addition, there were lots of seals and sea lions.

Every day out on the water is a great one, and Summer Sailstice Day was no exception.

Rex Keyes
Elkhorn YC, Moss Landing


I took a long flight from Spokane to Bermuda for the Finals of the America's Cup. I wanted to see it live and compare the venue to that of San Francisco.

Bermuda did a wonderful job hosting the Cup, and the people there were so friendly. I loved taking the bus everywhere. It was so refreshing to actually talk to local people and hardly see anyone with their face in a smartphone — like I experienced in San Francisco and other parts of the United States. Yes, the locals and I talked to each other. The people there even give up their bus seats for elders, as I myself did, even though I am older. It's just the right thing to do. Thank you, Bermuda.

Bermuda is expensive, but no more so than San Francisco. And you get better weather and beaches and water to die for.

We were charged to be on the line to watch the course. And to get into the Village. And if we wanted to sit in the grandstand. And on and on.

The finish line was right in front of the Village, and even if you were standing instead of in the grandstands, you had a great view, and you could also watch on the big-screen televisions.

I watched the racing from a boat one day, and it was three times better 'watching' at the Village. Yet the experience from a boat was cool, and kind of crazy as there had to be more than 100 boats where we were. Then the officials moved the boundary line back, so all the boats had to pull up their hooks and re-jockey for the best spots.

I was also able to watch the Youth Red Bull races on AC45s. Those cats have winches rather than hydraulics, and a crew of real sailors actually sailing. Numerous boats started at the same time, battling for position at the starting line. This was more exciting then the Cup starts. Maybe fleet racing is something the Cup should go back to. The AC45s were fast, and everyone was a true sailor and not just a grinder/pedaler.

All in all, it was a very good experience. I want to thank Bermuda for all they did, something Larry Ellison neglected to do at the awards ceremony.

Ike Bailey
Curicion, Seidelman 299
Vice Commodore, Panhandle YC
Coeur d'Alene, ID


I watched the final race of the America's Cup, and on the whole I was very disappointed. Not because Oracle Team USA lost and the Cup is going back to New Zealand, but because of what the Cup has come to be.

I grew up racing dinghies and small centerboard boats, and sailed thousands of races between 1945 and 1970 before I ever sailed a catamaran. It took some adjustment, as the Hobie 16 became a slug when coming about, which meant my ingrained tactical knowledge was inapplicable to cats. Speed was everything, and the fewer tacks to the weather mark the better. In turn, that meant leaving competitors uncovered, inevitably overstanding weather marks as coming up shy was far more punishing, and missing out on favorable wind shifts on the other side of the course. In my opinion this made match racing cats a terrible idea.

Then along came wings and foils, opening up a whole new game. Speed became absolutely everything and what remained of traditional tactics went the way of gaff rigs. Even so, Jimmy Spithill managed to make unforced errors, like being hesitant at the starting line, getting caught in classic port-starboard crossing situations, and not making a timely jibe on the second leg of the last race.

These cats are crewed by a team of six. Four crew members are engaged only in supplying arm or leg power to run the hydraulics that raise and lower the daggerboards and control the wing. No sheets, halyards, downhauls, cunninghams, spinnakers, spinnaker poles or running backstays to be trimmed or managed. No cleverly choreographed crew on the foredeck wrestling an enormous spinnaker during a jibe, no grinders moving quickly across the boat to trim the genoa after a tack. Thus the human element has been reduced to the skipper and the invisible shore crew of designers, builders, trainers and so on. The four crewmembers powering the hydraulics could be replaced by a large battery.

Worse, back in the day before the America's Cup rules began to be altered, Defenders and Challengers had to be built and manned by natives of the respective countries. There were no mercenaries. Hulls, spars, sails, even sheets and winches, not to mention designs, had to be of national origin as well. It's a joke today that the Oracle crew was wearing American flags on their uniforms. The only thing clearly American about Oracle Team USA was the billionaire owner, Larry Ellison.

These current AC boats don't even have names or sail numbers, just ads on their wings, jibs, hulls and crossmembers. I miss the great names from the days of the pre-WWII J Boats and the postwar 12-Meter yachts, such as America, Columbia, Mischief, Vigilant, Resolute, Enterprise, Endeavour, Ranger, Intrepid and Courageous. Now we just get ads for Oracle, Emirates Airlines and Louis Vuitton.
My favorite part of this year's event was looking at the spectacular superyachts lining the course's perimeter.

For me, the Cup has totally lost its direction. I'd love to see it return to monohulls with manually powered winches and the like, along with national origins for design, boat, crew, sails and gear. But I seriously doubt this will happen, so I will not lament if the America's Cup falls into oblivion and the Cup itself gathers dust at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

I will always have the memories of being a teenager in the summer of 1958, working the foredeck on Easterner, a 12 Meter built in my hometown of Marblehead, Mass., to contest the right to defend when the Cup was again challenged after a long hiatus following World War II. We failed in our effort, but Columbia easily defeated the Brits at Newport. And Easterner was by far the prettiest boat. The brightwork hull was not disfigured with ads, and the only lettering on the boat was its proud name and homeport on the transom.

Bill Gleason

Bill — We thought the cats were technological marvels — unfortunately at the near-total expense of the humanity of the event. As far as we're concerned, the more sailors doing real sailing — as opposed to pumping to power the hydraulics — the better. — rs


I'm writing in response to the 'Lectronic query about outfitting a cruising boat, especially how important it is to have an SSB, a freezer and a watermaker.

My wife and I have cruised Mexico for the last two years on our Beneteau 47.7 Flyer and plan on spending this winter in Mexico also. We have a freezer, a Spectra Cape Horn model watermaker and an SSB. These items are all 'must-haves' on our boat, because if we didn't have them, my wife wouldn't be cruising. But with them, she thoroughly enjoys the cruising lifestyle.

I am lucky, however, that I have all the technical skills necessary to maintain these devices.

When we are out of cell range, we use the SSB every day for weather information and email communications. Our setup works really well and has been dependable for getting weather — although it's so slow that it reminds me of the early PC days with dial-up modems.

We are planning to do the Pacific Puddle Jump in 2019, and for that we are planning to install the Iridium Go! Our thinking is that it will be a backup for the SSB and have the ability to download attachments, voice calls and my wife's favorite pastime when on watch during crossings — texting her friends.

As you can tell from my comments, the WAF — or Wife Acceptance Factor — is a very high priority for me.

I enjoy Latitude and 'Lectronic Latitude, which I get via SailMail with my SSB.

Steve Leonard
Flyer, Benetreau 47.7
La Cruz, Mexico

Steve — We can also tell from your comments that you're a wise man. — rs


Mark us down as satisfied satphone users! Never had SSB; never missed it. We did the Baja Ha-Ha in 2012, the Puddle Jump in 2014, spent two seasons in New Zealand and the South Pacific, sailed from New Zealand to Seattle in 2016, and are sailing British Columbia in 2017.

Colin and Wendy Gegg
Bangorang, Fountaine-Pajot 42

Colin and Wendy — Yours is an impressive sailing résumé that clearly demonstrates that you don't need an SSB to enjoy cruising the Pacific. But to play the devil's advocate, if you didn't have an SSB, isn't it possible that you don't know what you were missing? Consider the following letter. — rs


I cruised my Passport 40 Freyja in Mexico from 2007 until I did the Bash up to Seattle in 2015. Freyja has a Ham/SSB but no satellite connection. I also did a Puddle Jump aboard a friend's Catalina 42 MkII Shanti, which had a satphone but no radio. So I have experience cruising with and without an SSB.

My sense is that having both a radio and some kind of satellite communication device is best. The SSB helps you make lots of friends and really keeps you in the local cruiser loop — especially in the Sea of Cortez. The satphone was great on the Puddle Jump for being able to download weather files and calling Catalina Yachts to order new parts when things broke.

But I have to say, it was sort of lonely without a Ham/SSB radio, as we couldn't take part in the group chats and didn't make friends the way we would have if we had been on the daily radio net. Without Ham/SSB capability, we weren't able to yack with other crews during night watches. We had the phone numbers of one or two other boats making the crossing, but we didn't connect with them often. The Ham/SSB radio is great for making friends and staying in touch with other cruisers.

Both systems have their place, but I wouldn't be without the Ham/SSB.

Ian Macrae
Freyja, Passport 40
Bainbridge Island, WA


I would encourage everyone who is going cruising to outfit their boat with an SSB radio. The number one reason is safety, but there are other reasons.

Although it's been a few years since our last Mexico fixes — 2012 and 2013 — and the two Ha-Ha's we did — 2008 and 2010 — we lived by the SSB radio when we did them. Weather reports were one reason. Back then the SSB gave us accurate weather from Don in Ventura, and it was a hoot to listen to the Amigo Net each morning. In 2012, we had Ted Geary for the morning weather, which was also quite accurate.

Cruising isn't just about boating and exploring, it's about friendships, new and renewed. We kept track of friends over the morning SSB nets and made arrangements to meet up with them in the future, something we could do only because we knew where they were and where they were going.

And being able to listen to those who were in some difficulty gave us extra concern for them and a greater willingness to help.

I also did the 2009 FUBAR and ran the ocean part of CUBAR 2015, where we used satphones to communicate with the fleet. I was not impressed. I couldn't talk to boats that were 15 miles away and had to stand clear of everything to get a satellite connection.

Last year I had my farthest SSB contact ever. I was in Avalon, and, after being picked up by New Zealand's Pacific Maritime Net, was able to talk with my brother in French Polynesia.

Bill Houlihan
Sun Baby, Lagoon 410
San Diego

Bill — We think one of the reasons for the decline in SSB use is a combination of much-improved cell/data access, at least in Mexico except for large parts of the Sea of Cortez, and satellite devices' being able to do many things that an SSB can, and often better. For example, although you may not want to, you can read the New York Times in the middle of the ocean with a Go!.

The big exception is the SSB-only free long-range voice communication between boats, and especially free long-range voice communication among a group of boats, such as with the cruising nets. The importance of lots of people being able to listen in to a single conversation is made clear to us each year when we do the morning nets on the Baja Ha-Ha. For if we ever put on our SSB headphones to hear better, it means none of the rest of the mothership crew can hear. They won't stand for it, because the group conversations are such fun they are often one of the highlights of the day. — rs


I was able to read a paper copy of the June Latitude thanks to Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin's delivering them in the gift bags given to the participants in the Papeete-Moorea Rally. I found a very brief comment in the Changes section about a change in the communication requirements for all entries for this fall's Baja Ha-Ha. The Wanderer wrote, "…two of the best devices… are the Garmin InReach and Iridium Go!"

We've been cruising the West Coast of the Americas for more than three years and just completed the Puddle Jump. One of the best, if not the best, communication tools we have is our SSB radio. And yes, we do have a satphone too.

Thanks to the SSB radio, we've participated in radio nets throughout our travels, and the SSB gives us real-time access to other sailors and observers that is not available via the other two devices. At a minimum, we can join established nets that are essentially conference calls, check in for tracking purposes, seek or provide real-time help, and understand who is where — including those who aren't on the net but who have been seen by those on the net.

During passages, established nets such as the Pacific Seafarers Net and the Maritime Mobile Service Net enter and track your location, and will move mountains if assistance is required, all in real time.

Several folks in our cruising circle have extensively discussed this shift in system capability away from SSB but believe that SSB provides significant benefits over the satellite-based systems. We suggest that others do not dismiss the SSB for the cheaper alternatives. We know cruisers who, having done the Puddle Jump, regret that they didn't have an SSB.

There is not enough room here for a full-fledged comparison between the systems, and surely vigorous proponents can be found for each system. But I'd like to see the Wanderer temper his qualification of "best devices" and simply suggest that there are satellite- and radio-based systems out there that can satisfy the requirement for "long-range two-way comms at all times." Folks should really do their homework if they have to make a single choice. There is significant cruising beyond the Ha-Ha, so don't shortchange yourself.

The best part of having an SSB? After 4,000+ miles and a lot of days, it's a real treat to match the radio voice to a real boat and face.

Kenny Linn
Alcyone, Beneteau 523
Marina del Rey

Kenny — There is a bit of a misunderstanding here. When we wrote "…two of the best devices…" we were referring only to the satellite-based devices, not SSB. Our intent was to discourage long-distance mariners from buying a Spot Messenger, which has severe limitations because it's based on the Globalstar 'bent-pipe' technology that greatly limits coverage.

The Wanderer's personal view is that while SSB is very nice but not critical for cruisers who are only doing the Ha-Ha, La Paz and mainland Mexico, it makes cruising so much more enjoyable for those in the rest of the Sea of Cortez (where there is very limited cell service), Puddle Jumping and in the South Pacific. — rs


There are a lot of stories about sharks and sailors recently. I'll tell you mine.

Although I don't advertise it, I used to be a commercial abalone diver. I was diving off my boat at the Farallones one day when what I estimate to be a 23-foot-long great white pinned me in a crack in the rocks for what I believe was about half an hour.

He would swim by me, and his eye was as big as the back of my hand. My right hand was around my ab iron, although I'm not sure what good it would have done.

When I finally decided to make a run for it, I shot out of the water like a seal and landed on the deck, glad to be alive.

A diver friend of mine was bitten by a great white at the Farallones. He had to be flown to Letterman Army Hospital by helicopter. He eventually recovered, but he was never the same.

Richard Pomeroy
Flying Carpet, Polaris 43
Astoria, OR

Richard — Sharks aside, as a commercial diver you're lucky to be alive. Commercial fishermen don't get anywhere near the respect they deserve. According to a National Public Radio report from a couple of years ago, the average death rate of all American workers was 3.5 per 100,000. Fishermen had the most dangerous jobs, with 121 deaths per 100,000, followed by loggers and pilots. Compare that with firefighters, who are often assumed to have a very dangerous job, but who die at a rate of just 2.5 per 100,000, slightly above the rate of cashiers.

We absolutely don't mean to disrespect firefighters, as over the years we've had a number of firefighters as crew on Profligate and believe that they are among the most dedicated and competent public servants. But the next time anyone sits down to a sushi or other fish dinner, they might take a moment to reflect that fishermen die on the job at a rate nearly 50 times that of firefighters. And 12 times as much as police. — rs


In the July 7 'Lectronic, the Wanderer asked for suggestions on how to stimulate the US economy by improving the 'cruising infrastructure' in California.

The following are my suggestions:

1) Dredge Treasure Island's Clipper Cove and put in a mooring field complete with a 24/7 reception boat, staffed with recent unemployed college graduates or Silicon Valley interns, to whisk us to a new restaurant/bar shoreside.

2) Put a mooring field in Richardson Bay with reception boat and fees to allow boats civilized access to Sausalito.

3) Renovate Pier 38 in South Beach with restaurants, shops and 24/7 marine mechanics.

4) Dredge Horseshoe Cove and install guest docks for a restaurant/hotel.

5) The Ferry Building needs guest docks. Pier 1 1/2 is cute but too small.

6) Aquatic Park needs to have the piers rebuilt. In deference to the swimmers from the South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club, there should be no mooring field.

7) Mission Rock needs to be dredged and a mooring field put in place. And give San Francisco Boatworks a 50-year lease so we have somewhere to haul out our boats on this side of the Bay.

8) Alameda Naval Shipyard needs a public marina and docks for private use.

9) Build a new marina at Point San Pablo as a way station for Delta Dawdlers. In fact, include a new restaurant, hotel and boat repair facility.

10) The best and easiest for last. Dredge Ayala Cove at Angel Island and put in more mooring buoys. Allow boats to overnight at the docks, and maybe build a wall with a security guard to protect the park rangers from nighttime incursions onto the island.

While all this seems like just wishful thinking, consider the millions and millions of dollars' worth of boats on the Bay, all dressed up with not that many places to go. We have one of the most beautiful natural seascapes, but few places to comfortably spend the night or afternoon. It is time to start thinking positively.

Bruce Adornato
m/v Mary Shaw
San Francisco

Bruce — We like your ideas. Build them and maybe mariners will come. But what's with the 24/7 stuff? We think reasonable hours are just fine. — rs


How should the 'cruising infrastrature' be improved in California? I've got some ideas.

Overall, we should be thinking of working with Mexico to establish a string of small-boat marinas and other refuges stretching from San Francisco to the Sea of Cortez. This would encourage small-boat traffic all along the Coast, with the accompanying increase in economic activity from boatyards to bistros. Among the possibilities:

1) Improve harbor conditions at every reasonable cove from Half Moon Bay to Point Arguello. Plaskett Beach might be a place for a breakwater and anchorage. Point Sal would be another possibility. Europeans have built small-craft refuges in much more hostile places.

2) Build a harbor of refuge at or near Point Conception. Rounding the point has always been a major barrier to northbound small-boat traffic, and a refuge would allow mariners to wait for favorable conditions in safety.

3) Improve selected anchorages in the Channel Islands. Find a half-dozen anchorages that could be made safer and more pleasant with the addition of well-designed breakwaters and floating dinghy docks, allowing boats to anchor overnight. Let the National Park Service charge for them, just as they do elsewhere for campsites. Maybe even offer guided hikes on some of the islands for a fee.

4) Develop a viable anchorage or marina between Channel Islands Harbor and Marina del Rey. There isn't a natural harbor, so we'll have to build one. But hey, that's what marine architects and engineers are for. This would encourage small-boat traffic from Los Angeles as far west as Point Conception.

5) Improve the moorings and anchorage at Little Harbor on the south side of Catalina. There are already picnic facilities ashore. This would make a lovely destination if it were a bit safer to anchor.

6) Improve access at Cat Harbor by instituting year-round shoreboat service that includes the anchorage.

7) Get the Navy to clear at least part of San Clemente Island for public use. After much public pressure, they did this with the entire island of Vieques off the east coast of Puerto Rico.

8) Enlarge the marina at Mission Bay.

9) Enlarge the marina at Oceanside.

10) Negotiate with the oil production cartel in Long Beach Harbor to build at least an anchorage tied to Island White or another suitable location, to give cruisers in transit a readily available stopover on their way north or south. Long Beach could use its currently under-utilized ferries to provide transport to the mainland.

11) As long as we're dreaming, how about an international agreement with Mexico to improve navigational aids and anchorages at the Coronado Islands? It would be wonderfully convenient to be able to overnight there instead of trying to slog down the channel into San Diego. In my dreams, we'd finance a small Customs and Immigration facility there, so northbound cruisers could check in on their way back from Mexico. In the long term, there might be reason to provide modest levels of fuel, water and provisions.

I know some of this looks like a foolish dream. But wouldn't it be fun to find out just how much really is possible?

Bob Schilling
Tuckernuck, Cherubini 44
Long Beach

Bob — Some of your ideas are not new — but haven't worked out well because there was no demand for them. Specifically, about 30 years ago there was a major proposal of a 'Nautical Stairway' of marinas and breakwaters — as well as some hotels, golf courses and even airports — along the Pacific Coast of Baja down to Cabo and up into the Sea of Cortez. The idea was to encourage California boats to head to Mexico by having a refuge, usually with at least food and fuel, every 70 miles or so. It was based on the complete delusion that such facilities would tempt something like one in every nine boats over 30 feet in California to go to Mexico each winter. Needless to say, it was a spectacular failure that hardly got off the ground — but did piss away tens of millions of pesos.

Fonatur, the Mexican tourism development organization, later came up with a similar but more modest concept, which led to the creation of 15 or so Fonatur marinas and boatyards. Most of them were expensive flops because they weren't wanted or needed, and in the case of the one at Puerto Escondido, all but destroyed a fabulous anchorage. The only breakwater built was the one at Santa Rosalillita near Vizcaino Bay on the Pacific Coast. As we recall, it was never used and silted in within a year. Lots more pesos pissed away with little to show for it.

Honestly, we don't think there is that much need for major improvements between Half Moon Bay and Arguello, as the Central Coast weather and attractions are such that few mariners would want to hang around there for very long, even if the facilities were a lot better. The exception might be Morro Bay, which is popular and is sometimes short of convenient guest facilities. Point Sal doesn't make much sense to us as a refuge, as it's just a few miles south of Avila Beach, which is well protected and even has a boatyard.

Point Conception already has a terrific natural anchorage that has provided excellent protection for mariners waiting for good weather to head north. As it's one of the last nearly pristine areas of the California coast, we wouldn't want to see any 'improvements'.

One area where we think there could be some improvement is Santa Cruz Island. We think there are a few places, not a whole lot, where mooring buoys might be welcomed by all but purists. You can already anchor for free and go ashore at the east end of Santa Cruz Island for self-guided tours. There is already a pier there, but the nanny folks at the Park Service say it's too dangerous to use. The SoCal Ta-Ta folks used it with no problem last year until the rangers chased them away. But yeah, we could go with a few more landings at Santa Cruz Island. The greatest improvement, however, would be a few cell towers. If we could get Internet, we'd spend a month there every fall.

In what might be the ultimate environmental heresy, we also wouldn't be opposed to some very limited and tasteful development on Santa Cruz Island. We're talking stylish Capri as opposed to dated Catalina-circa-1940s style. Open two or three small parts of the island to very limited residential and commercial development, using the real estate profits to put a slight nick in California's horrendous pension deficit.

There already is a stop between the Channel Islands and Marina del Rey — Paradise Cove. We use it every year in the SoCal Ta-Ta. It's beautiful, and you can even go ashore and buy very expensive drinks in the restaurant. On occasion, it can be rolly for monohulls without flop-stoppers.

It seems so wrong to us that there aren't more up-to-a-week-long free anchoring opportunities in Long Beach Harbor. We suspect one reason is that authorities fear they'd have a horrible time trying to enforce the rules on people living aboard derelicts.

We don't know much about San Clemente Island, but why not?

We're not big on the Coronado Islands because they aren't very attractive and, stinking of bird poop, aren't very hospitable. We think it would be better to create a lovely tropical-themed 'Isle de Cortez' from scratch about five miles off San Diego — similar to the popular Frioul Islands just a couple of miles off Marseille, which sparked this whole infrastructure question. Isle de Cortez could even have a 750-berth marina similar to the one at Friouls, a couple of man-made surf breaks, caves and other attractions. It can all be paid for by the profits from the Isle de Cortez Casino owned and operated by the Cruiser Tribe of California.

What are the chances of any of even the best of these ideas happening? Slim. Very slim. — rs


The older I get, the more tired I get waiting for the 'Big One' that seismologists are always talking about. If the Wanderer wants some additions to the 'cruising infrastructure' in California, I'm sure that a few well-placed subterranean explosions along the San Andreas would help. After all, I'm sure there would be plenty of calving of the coast, creating some beautiful new islands.

That would be a wonderful opportunity for cruisers to occupy the new islands and declare them an independent nation. The sovereignty of the new nation could be enforced with a few nuclear warheads, which could probably be picked up for pennies on the dollar at a government auction.

Or if we get too tired of waiting for the Big One, we could draw some big 'X's at the desired locations and tell North Korea, "Aim here."

Hans Petermann
Planet Earth

Hans — The odds are that statesman Kim Jong-un would be quicker to change the cruising infrastructure than Mother Nature. After all, tomorrow is a long time when it comes to big-time geological events.

What cruise-worthy islands California has, with the exception of San Miguel Island, are volcanic in origin rather than the result of coastal calving. And, according to experts, there is no deformation or any other indication that any of the islands in the Channel Island group will ever resurrect their volcanic origins, which had their roots approximately 15 million years ago when the area was a hotbed of volcanic activity. — rs


I wanted to give a shout-out to the Bay Area pilot boat crews, especially Unit 15 on Overseas Boston, for their outstanding communication with racers. I was crewing for Golden Moon on the YRA #2 race — our start was at the outer end of the Olympic Circle near mark F; the upwind mark was a port rounding of Harding Rock. We were racing in a flood and our fleet headed to Angel Island then tacked around Point Blunt looking for relief. Before we tacked onto the starboard layline for Harding, we saw the bow of Overseas Boston peek out from behind Point Blunt like a late starter charging through the pack. For a racer, it's a scary moment of uncertainty. Are they heading to the South Bay to park, or about to turn right and head out the Gate? With Harding being a center-channel separation mark, you can't even dodge to the safe side and guarantee an unobstructed rounding.

The bar pilot chatted with our race committee, then made contact with the fleet on our race channel. He calmly instructed the first four boats to continue toward Harding Rock and the remainder of the fleet to hold up short to give him a gap. It was incredible, professional communication that was very clear. He identified a boat with a black mainsail for a minor adjustment and then had the room he wanted for passing through the fleet. After his bow was clear of Harding, he made a call-out to all boats on his starboard side to charge on and do well in our race.

As a racer on San Francisco Bay, I know we add a huge amount of stress to the pilots of those large vessels that work where we are playing. It's great to be able to work with them for the safety of everyone. This situation was an example of how we can work together.

Brent Draney
Crew on Golden Moon, Express 37
San Francisco Bay


I've been sailing on and off for most of my life, and owned a 30-footer on San Francisco Bay for most of my 30s. I'm now 64 and have been sailing and racing with friends for the past 20 years.

At this point in life, I have the time and the funds to test my desire for an extended offshore cruising experience. It seems as if the Baja Ha-Ha would be the perfect solution. I'm not looking to own another boat right now, but I could help pay for fees, boat prep, provisions, return delivery and any other expenses. I also have a couple of friends interested in doing the same.

Can anyone direct me to boatowners, sailing schools, sailing associations or other groups I could get in touch with? I bet I'm not the only baby boomer with time and money who wants to see if cruising is part of the next chapter in life.

Roger Krakow

Roger — Each year a number of Ha-Ha skippers look for crew, and if that crew is willing to chip in for expenses and such, it generally means they go to the top of the lists of prospects. The Latitude Crew List is a great place to get your name out. However, given you are willing to chip in, we think it might be worth your while to invest in a Classy Classified, as it will let the most Ha-Ha skippers know about your interest and offer. We hope to see you at the Costume Kick-Off Party in San Diego! — rs


Having done the Baja Ha-Ha, and then really enjoyed La Paz, for the last several months we've been in the Puerto Vallarta area, sailing a bunch and loving it. We have fallen in love with the city and Mexico.

The other day we ran into Chuck 'Skinny' Skewes of Ullman Sails, who also did last year's Ha-Ha. We threw around some ideas for a Ha-Ha-style event following the Ha-Ha. We were thinking of something like Cabo to Frailes to Bahia de los Muertos, then a choice of La Paz or Puerto Vallarta.

Chuck has expressed an interest in being a sponsor, and we would take on the role of committee boat. Naturally Latitude 38 would be key in providing promotion and support. We're wondering what your thoughts and feelings would be about such an event.

We also would love to do the Ha-Ha again, as Chuck will be doing. We are looking to have paying guests on as crew to offset the costs of repositioning back to San Diego.

As the fleet for the Ha-Ha is growing every year, we would also be open to offering our yacht to act as a second committee boat and help manage the fleet at sea.

Kenny and Donna Knoll
Jersey Girl, Irwin 65
Mahwah, NJ/Banderas Bay

Kenny and Donna — Years ago we briefly toyed with the idea of a post-Ha-Ha event to continue on up to La Paz and beyond, or over to the mainland. We quickly decided against it. Why? The Ha-Ha is a 'natural' event in that just about everyone has the same goal — safely get to the tropics at the start of winter. Just like everyone in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) has the goal of getting across the Atlantic to the Caribbean for the start of that season.

After each of the natural events, the shared goal of the group falls apart. Everybody has different interests, plans, goals and speeds at which they want to move. And after the Ha-Ha, you have to throw the disruptions of Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays into the mix. We just don't see the cohesion to keep much of a group together, particularly if you get hit by a mild Norther and half the fleet had made it to Muertos while the other half is taking it easy and waiting out another three or four days in Frailes.

Most of all, after two weeks of being part of a big group, most people feel like it's time go it alone or with just a buddy boat or two. And we think they are right.

If you and Chuck want to put on a post-Ha-Ha event, be our guest, and we'll mention it during the Ha-Ha. That said, Dietmar Petutschnig and his wife Suzanne Dubose of the once-Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 Carinthia are starting an event called the Panama Posse. The couple were novice sailors when they did the Ha-Ha in 2008 but have done extensive sailing across the breadth of the Pacific since then.

Dietmar is a great guy, but we're not sure about this Posse concept of "six months, seven countries, 30 boats, and hundreds of anchorages between Mexico and Panama." Running the Ha-Ha has often been described as "herding cats," but at least they're all going in the same direction at about the same pace, in a relatively short time frame. But who knows, maybe Dietmar is on to something with his event that starts a couple of weeks after the end of the Ha-Ha. You can find details at

One also has to remember there is the annual El Salvador Rally, which has no specific starting time or place, but is sort of from Banderas Bay to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. The festivities at Bahia del Sol run from March 13 to April 7. It's 1,168 miles from Puerto Vallarta to El Salvador, with plenty of places to stop — including Chamela, Barra de Navidad, Las Hadas, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Huatulco and Chiapas — along the way. According to organizers Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Honolulu-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu, the longest passage for even smaller boats should be two overnights. See for details.

Back on the subject of the Ha-Ha, you guys were a tremendous (just tremendous!) help to the Poobah last year. But because of liability issues, we think it's best that you and your boat remain private Good Samaritans rather than being an official part of the Ha-Ha. — rs


A Latitude article about the new California Boater Identification law mentioned that most other states have some type of mandatory boater ID/education program in place. So, where are the stats showing reduced accident rates? Or is there no data (as I suspect) to document a correlation between mandatory ID and fewer accidents? Color me jaded.

I am not in favor of more regulations, but rather than a rinky-dink online test, why not have novice boaters obtain ASA or Power Squadron certifications? At least that will give them an opportunity to learn something and get hands-on experience. And let anyone who can document years of ownership/hours on the water test out.

My 16-year-old will have to take the test, but he's been on the ocean in sail, fishing and rowboats and motorized dinghies since he was 5. Compare that experience to a novice who passes the test and gets a lifetime boater ID card (sigh). I see this as a new government intrusion that will do nothing to improve the condition it is supposed to alleviate.

Daniel Hallal
Buckwheat, Santana 23D
Marina del Rey

Daniel — Many of our readers have expressed concern that the new Boater ID law will be more of an inconvenience and intrusion than a demonstrable safety improvement, especially for what many of our readers see as the real problem: rental personal watercraft. We only hope that some kind of balance can be struck. — th


Concerning the California Boater ID law, how does anyone come up with the notion that requiring PWC renters to exhibit some basic training would "doom the industry?" I guess such a person believes the ridiculous nanny-state notion that requiring people who rent cars to have a driver's license has doomed the car rental industry. I have seen more foolish behavior from people on PWCs than on any other vessel. While a boater's test will not eliminate foolish actions and accidents, people who rent PWCs will have at least been exposed to some basic boating safety and vessel navigation rules.

Jon Hafstrom
Navarro Legacy canoe
Sierra lakes


As a longtime boating safety instructor with the US Power Squadrons, I share the frustration that many Latitude 38 readers expressed about operators of rental boats (not only PWCs, but also giant houseboats) being exempt from needing a California Boater Card. The thought of someone being out on a boat with absolutely no idea of right-of-way rules, the meaning of buoys (including those white ones that say "no boats"), responsibility for one's wake, etc, is frightening.

But I don't agree with those who suggest that because of the exemption, we should completely throw out the new law. Some owners of PWCs operate them as stupidly as those who rent. And lots of owners of other craft — I've seen 'em.

The law requires the Division of Boating and Waterways to provide accident statistics every year. My hope is that these statistics will show the necessity of education for boat renters as well as boat owners.

Luther Abel
Planet Earth



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