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October 2017

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Do you still have your RDF — radio direction finder — in the garage?

I did the 2014 Baja Ha-Ha and am still 'commuter cruising' in Mexico.

Don Currie
Comet, Morgan 36
Marina del Rey

Readers — Don is commenting on a Reuters article about "cyber intrusion" and the ability of outside agents to potentially screw up a ship's GPS-based navigation system or the whole GPS system. Indeed, the US Navy is once again requiring Middies at Annapolis to learn celestial navigation for the same reason.

While we still don't have an RDF, we do remember using one for navigating up and down the coast of California. You tuned into a radio station tower, then turned the antenna until you got a null, in theory identifying the direction you were sailing. We didn't have much faith in the thing. Actually, we didn't have any faith in it at all.

We do remember the time a family of three from Sausalito was sailing back from Hawaii on the Endurance 37-ft steel boat the dad had built, and had to navigate the last 50 miles or so in a thick fog using RDF. Unsure of where they were, and with the swells getting steeper, they dropped the hook. When they woke up in the morning and the skies cleared, they were stunned to find they had anchored only 150 feet from the shore at Rockaway Beach, about 10 miles south of San Francisco. That they weren't killed was a miracle.

It's best to brush up on dead reckoning, as RDF would be about the easiest form of electronic navigation to disrupt. — rs

I must take issue over the recent letter by Virginia Gleser of the "Mexico and Alameda-based Freeport 41 Harmony" and the Wanderer's editorial response.

According to Gleser, "We had been getting SailMails from Philip DiNuovo and Leslie Linkkila of the Kingston, Washington-based Mason 33 Carina, who are making a 6,000-mile trek from Pohnpei, Micronesia, back to Sitka, Alaska. We last heard from them on June 11, which is 16 days ago, when they were in some rough weather 1,600 miles from Sitka. We are becoming concerned, and wonder if anyone has been receiving their updates and/or has heard from them more recently. We don't want to be alarmed, since the SailMail might be sketchy out there in the middle of the North Pacific, but thought someone on the nets might have had contact."

Philip and Leslie have absolutely no need to spend any money on the Garmin InReach that the Wanderer mentions in his editorial response. And Virginia and other friends had absolutely no need to worry about them — because Philip and Leslie were leaving a highly visible 'bread-crumb trail' on the Internet at As was rightly pointed out, they were checking in to the Pacific Seafarers' Net daily, so their current position was almost immediately being posted at

This website gives links so that even someone not familiar with the system can immediately find a boat's daily position and track over the last 30 days, 60 days, one year, or 'all positions'. The tracks are nicely presented on as a sequential moving red dot on a world map under the relevant call sign. Boat names and updated positions are shown with call signs for newcomers' convenience in the YOTREPS most recent roll-call link on the PacSeaNet website.

Anyone could have listened in to Carina's daily check-in on 14300 kHz soon after 0310 UTC via a standard SSB marine radio to confirm they were all right. And if a Ham operator, they could have then chatted with them — at no cost!
PacSeaNet is run entirely by volunteer Ham operators who generously dedicate a good amount of their time every day of the year to make contact with and keep watch on boats checking in. They respond quickly to any urgent 'boatwatch' inquiries.

PacSeaNet will always take calls from any boat in an emergency situation to try to get help to them. So the time and frequency are worth jotting down by all cruisers with an SSB radio — a piece of equipment that most well-equipped cruisers will have on board. By the way, the North American Maritime Mobile Service Net operates on the same frequency during the day, and will also take emergency calls from any boat in trouble.

I feel strongly that Virginia's letter and Latitude's response need to be followed up by a highly visible correction. And I'm amazed that Virginia was unaware of the fact that she could so easily have kept track of her friends and their daily positions with a simple Internet link on at least two websites!

"As it was," she wrote, "Philip and Leslie had been checking in with the Pacific Seafarers Net every evening, reporting that they were cold but doing fine."
So it wasn't that, "Word just wasn't getting to Virginia." It was simply that she wasn't looking for their highly visible position and track on the Internet. As a friend of theirs, I'm really surprised that Virginia didn't know the folks on Carina were checking in daily by radio.

"The Pacific Seafarer's Net is a terrific thing." Absolutely right! And with no shortcomings in getting "we're at such-and-such a position, and doing just fine" messages to large groups of friends — if those friends go to the appropriate website to check the info that's there!

I've made use of the PacSeaNet on all my offshore passages, and will continue to make daily contact with what is a very friendly net. My tracks, under my US call sign KC2IOV — are shown on long after I've finished my voyages. They make for great mementos, whereas often the satellite trackers only show a few days' worth of positions, which disappear completely once you've stopped.

All best wishes to Virginia and the Wanderer from a chaotic Nereida. She's a total mess due to so much work being carried out on board at present, as I get ready to make another attempt at a singlehanded trip around the world, hopefully starting around the end of September. I can just about make enough space to lie down at night!

Jeanne Socrates
Nereida, Najad 380
Royal Victoria YC, Victoria, BC

Jeanne — We suspect that Virginia was the 'victim' of there now being so many ways of communicating with and keeping track of boats offshore that the PacSeaNet website slipped her mind. We know stuff like that happens to us.

But if Virginia had become accustomed to hearing the Carina folks via SailMail and only via SailMail, it's understandable to us that she began to be concerned when she no longer heard from them by that method.

By the way, Virginia has long been active on the Ham nets for decades, and has been publicly mourning the lower number of offshore cruisers who have the necessary equipment on their boats or use the Ham nets.

The threat to the continuing popularity of Ham nets, of course, is devices such as the InReach and Iridium Go! While it's true that you have to buy such devices and have a usage plan for them, they are much less expensive to purchase, require no installation, and are simple enough for a 12-year-old to set up and use. Furthermore, they are extremely versatile in that you can two-way communicate with everybody, not just people on Ham nets, and privately. And yes, if you want, they will track all your movements for as long as you want, and automatically send out calls for help from anywhere in the world.

The downside to electronic messaging and rescue devices, of course — and it's an enormous one — is they don't communicate the human voice, which can become such an important part of communicating by Ham radio. It's the human voice that's particularly important if you spend long periods of time at sea, as you do.

If someone was outfitting a boat for long-distance cruising, we would absolutely recommend installing a SSB/Ham radio, and learn how to use it, and encourage participation in the nets. From running the Baja Ha-Ha, we know it makes for a much richer cruising experience to be able to follow and participate in the roll calls. But for those who don't have as much money, and who are already overwhelmed with learning new things, we think the InReach is a heck of an alternative, albeit a more robotic and less human one. — rs

We'll take this opportunity to make two small corrections to our Sightings piece about Jeanne in the September issue ("The Socratic Method"). We called Jessica Watson the "youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world." Socrates said that Watson "didn't sail a long enough distance to claim a record," and the Guardian said in 2010 that Watson's feat would not be considered an official world record because the World Speed Sailing Record Council discontinued its 'youngest' category, which was held by another Australian, Jesse Martin, after he completed the journey in 1999 at the age of 18.

Socrates also corrected us when we called her Najad 380 Nereida a 'sloop'. "Nereida has an inner forestay and a staysail, so she's rigged as a cutter — the only N380 of her kind!" — th

What a difference 40 years (half my lifetime) make! I've recently returned from spending several months sailing with my son Donald and his wife, Erika, on Wasco, their Outremer 50S catamaran, through many of the same waters that Anduril (our Cross 40 trimaran) plied in 1977 (sometimes to the day) on her first circumnavigation. The biggest difference, I think, is the sheer number of boats out there. The cover of There and Back Again, the story of that trip, shows Anduril at anchor in Neiafu, all by her lonesome. There were no more than half a dozen boats anchored in the harbor, which is now home to more than three dozen moorings. Even Palmerston has moorings! There were few if any charter boats then, and almost every sailboat was a monohull.

Another big difference is that cruisers now have mod cons. Almost every boat is equipped with refrigeration (often including a freezer), a shower, autopilot, solar panels and/or wind generator, and all kinds of electronics. Many have a washing machine and a watermaker. The five of us (my late husband, Don; our sons, Donald and Erik; our seven-toed tomcat, Bigfoot; and I) on Anduril had none of that. It is much easier to be godly these days because you can be cleanly. I did appreciate the mod cons.

Communication is also a lot easier. Although I saw the frustration when "there's no signal!" no one waits two months to hear from home. No matter the absence of signal in some places, it's a lot easier than it was making Ham radio connections. And you don't have to pass any tests or get any license.

Sadly, we saw a lot of dead coral in places where there had been vibrant underwater life. Numbers and variety of fish and other inhabitants of coral reefs also seem to have declined. Humpback whales, on the other hand, have returned in large numbers and become a big industry, especially in Niue and Tonga.

Joanne Sandstrom
Middle Earth

I imagine a lot of readers saw the New York Times article about Uber's offering dinghy and boat service in Croatia. I'm not sure about the details, but I do know that the service is only available in certain locations.

Having been to some of these places in Croatia, I can see it as a service that's really needed in certain busy locations, as lots of boats have to anchor out.
The one place I can see where a similar service would be appreciated in our part of the world is Two Harbors, Catalina. The way it is right now, it costs $3/person for a shoreboat ride, no matter if your boat is only 50 feet from the pier. So if you want to go to shore with your wife and two kids, that's $12 for a one-minute ride. And it's a total of $24 if you ever want to get back to your boat.
If your boat is in the anchorage at Fourth of July or Cherry Cove, it would cost you $48 for the round-trip service.

On most weekends I see a lot of teenagers at Two Harbors on boats that are equipped with dinghies. I think the 'shared economy' might work here, as the kids could offer half-price or less shoreboat rides, benefiting both them and their customers. It would be a modern version of mowing the lawn to earn pot money.
Now that I've done the heavy lifting with this concept, I'll let others take care of minor details such as scheduling, liability issues and all the rest.

By the way, I understand why the shoreboat fees are as high as they are. It might seem like they bring in a ton of money. On Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekends it might seem as if the shoreboats bring in a lot of money, but most days of the year and all winter they have very little business. And they have to be maintained year-round. And there are additional labor, insurance and maintenance expenses. So as expensive as the shoreboats are, I don't think anybody makes a lot of money running them.

The other places such a service might be a big hit would be Richardson Bay. On the other hand, making it easier and less expensive for people to get between anchored-out 'boats', such as they are, and shore might just be helping a bad situation get worse. I'll let others decide.

Phil Richardson
Windrose, Ericson 29


In a February issue letter, I asked the Wanderer a lot of questions about buying a canal boat and cruising one in Europe. My wife and I had done the Canal du Midi in France a couple of years ago, loved every lazy day of it, and were thinking of buying a canal boat.

As a result of our interest and the Wanderer's answers, we're now the proud owners of La Récréation, a steel Dutch-built Doerak 960 canal boat. We bought her for 21,000 euros in Heerenveen. That's in the Friesland area of the Netherlands, just a couple of miles from Ter Herne, where the Wanderer bought his Dutch-built steel boat.

[Editor's note: The euro has strengthened from about 1.10 to the dollar to about 1.17 to the dollar over the last year.]

In addition to the expense of the boat, we paid 700 euros for a thorough survey, which made asking the owner to make repairs a lot easier. We spent another 500 euros for a bottom cleaning, paint, overhauling the engine, spare filters and belts.

The previous owner of our boat obviously had a lot of money, because La Récréation has nine solar panels feeding six batteries. She also has a reverse camera(!), a chart plotter, a dishwasher(!), bow and stern thrusters, and a 106-hp engine. In addition, she has a water heater, shower, fridge/freezer — you name it, she's got it.

Our becoming licensed boat owners in Europe was easy, although in some ways different from how it went for the Wanderer. For example, it turned out my 50-ton pleasure boat license saved me from having to take the International Certificate of Competency (ICC) exam. As for the CEVNI, which is the exam for the inland waterways of Europe, it was easy.

The Wanderer wrote that he and Doña had to become 'residents' of Ireland to get their CENVI certifications. Our experience was different. The Royal Yacht Association (RYA) of the United Kingdom accepted that our being residents of the United States allowed me to take the CENVI course and exam online.

We registered our boat in Amsterdam. In addition to the bill of sale, which probably would do the trick most places in Europe, we paid about $80 for an 'International Certificate' of ownership. It looks a bit more impressive and official than the bill of sale, and our experience is more paperwork is better than less. (That said, I sailed a boat from Southeast Asia to Norway with only one proof of ownership – a letter from the consulate in Kuala Lumpur. I'm sure the large red stamps all over the document saved the situation more than once.)

The Wanderer recommended former Californian Tom Sommers' European Canal Guides, which we bought. In addition to Sommers' excellent guides, Tom has been an incredible source of information. He has answered every email about reasonable schedules, places to find diesel, possible winter storage — and even attached handmade maps.

After buying our boat, we motored from Heerenveen in the northern Netherlands to Agde, France, near the Med. We did it in 40 days, which meant we had to push it a bit. On the other hand, since the locks are usually closed at night, we stopped every afternoon and thus had plenty of time to enjoy the villages, having dinner ashore or on the boat. And we always got a good night's sleep.
La Récréation is on the hard in Agde until we pick her up early next year for a sabbatical. Canal du Midi to Bordeaux first, then back up the Rhône in August, and on toward Burgundy and Paris.

What is it with the 'Mediterranean Diet'? For six weeks we gorged on pâtés and cheeses and hams, and of course the incredible French bread and wine. Yet we never gained a pound.

P.S.: Thanks for a great Baja Ha-Ha 2016, which we had the pleasure of doing on Argan Johnson Jr.'s beautiful Mai Tai II. We had a fantastic skipper and a great trip. I would crew again every year if someone would take me.

Bjorn Endresen
La Récréation, Doerak 960
Agde, France

Bjorn — The Wanderer is tickled that you took our boat-buying advice — buy something simple and inexpensive in the Netherlands — and that it has worked out pretty much as we suggested it would.

Rules for the licenses have apparently changed since we got ours. It's now possible to stand for an ICC test in the United States. That wasn't true when we wanted to get our ICCs, which is why we had to become 'residents' of Ireland for one hilarious day. But we wouldn't have traded that wild adventure for anything. Perhaps we didn't have to get our CEVNIs in Ireland, but since we were already there, we crammed for a couple of hours and got it done.

We think it's smart that you had the boat registered in the Netherlands. If we could have gotten an 'International Certificate of Ownership' for just $80, we would have done it too. But we were told any proof of ownership beyond the bill of sale would cost "thousands."

That said, we don't subscribe to the "more paperwork the better" theory, at least in Europe. Several times the last two summers, while we were going through locks in France, officials asked us for our "boat number."

"We're Dutch," we'd reply, "so we just have a bill of sale."

They'd give a Gallic shrug of their shoulders and that was the end of it.

Mike and Robin Stout of the Redondo Beach-based Aleutian 51 Mermaid, currently dodging hurricanes on the hard at Jolly Harbour, Antigua, also bought a canal boat for under $30,000 in the Netherlands this summer based on the Wanderer's tales. "It's official," wrote Robin, "Mike and I are crazy because we bought a 30-ft canal boat in the Netherlands. We intend to spend winters on Mermaid in the Caribbean, and summers on our canal boat."

Also taking the Wanderer's advice was Joel Thornton of Seattle. "We shopped for our boat in April. Our broker picked us up at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, and later, after a week of rain, sleet, snow, and hail, we became the owners of a Lauwersmeer 12.50 AC."

A tip from the Wanderer: Wait until at least May, at which time there's no more sleet and icy conditions.

Then there is Bernd Graf, who did Baja Ha-Ha III with his wife aboard their 42-ft sailboat Abacus followed by 10 years of traveling between the Pacific Northwest and Alaska on a 42-ft Nordic Tug. They bought an extremely nice canal boat and spent the summer in Europe.

Once again, the Wanderer's advice is absolutely do not, unless you're very old and have become frail, sell your ocean-going sailboat. You'll want that for thrills and the sense of accomplishment you get from completing passages. Just buy an inexpensive Dutch canal boat — you don't need to spend more than $25,000 — for the other four months in an 'eight and four' program, or even the other six in a 'six and six' program. Buying a canal boat and keeping her in Europe should be even less expensive than coming home to the States and riding around the West in an RV. And way more culturally enriching. But it's very slow, and there is no nautical excitement whatsoever. — rs

I really enjoyed the latest issue of Latitude 38, especially the article on the backstaff. I want to start teaching my grandchildren about navigation, and think that Lee Helm's backstaff — as illustrated on pages 102-103 — would be a perfect tool for them to start on.

Is Lee's backstaff available for sale, and if so, where might I go to purchase one? If not available for sale, are Lee's backstaff plans available to build one?

Jon Derr
Delray Beach, FL

Jon ­— Latitude 38 passed your request along to Max Ebb, who passed it to Lee Helm, who passed the following along to us:

"I don't think any backstaffs have been bought or sold since about the year 1750, but they are easy to build if you use rotating parts instead of sliding parts.

"I suggest using 3/16-in art board, cut to the pattern shown. You can print out the non-linear angle scale on paper and tape or glue it onto the art-board parts. Use glossy photo paper if you have any, as it's a little more durable than plain paper and has better dimensional stability.

"An L1 dimension of 14-in and an L2 dimension of 21-in is a good size, but you can make it bigger for more accuracy. Go up to 1/2-in art board if you make it really big. The angle scale will work as long as L2/L1 = 1.500.

"The target panel is a 4-in x 4-in square, and the baffles are each 2-in x 4-in. The pivot axle is a 1/4-in bolt with a wing nut, and plastic washers. Be careful to make the holes exactly on center. Drill a small pilot hole first.

"I used five-minute epoxy to glue on the baffles and the target panel. Use a right-angle triangle or a carefully cut piece of 90° angle art board to make sure they are square to the frame when the epoxy sets. Note how the baffles are offset so the sunlight has a narrow slit to shine through over a wide range of lighting angles.

"Have fun with this, and, like, send a photo."

By the way, Max's 97-year-old Aunt Trudy lives in Delray Beach, too. The next time Max visits her, you can buy Max a beer and show off your backstaff and your grandchildren's best lines of position. — rs

Given the recent warnings on travel in Mexico, especially Baja California Sur, have any sailors down there told you it's more risky than before?

Jed Keller
Grants Pass, OR

Jed — The short answer is 'no'.

Now, the longer answer. On August 22, the US State Department issued Travel Warnings for various parts of Mexico, updating the previous one from December 8, 2016.

A day later, the Mexican State Department issued travel warnings for all major US cities, and particularly Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Stockton, Cleveland and Chicago. At least we think they should have, because we feel a lot safer in most of the tagged places in Mexico than we would in those US cities.

Appearing on the travel warning list is Baja California Sur, including Los Cabos and La Paz, because of "increased criminal activity." We think it's primarily because of one highly publicized gang-on-gang incident on a beach at San Jose del Cabo, about 20 miles from Cabo San Lucas. Along with the US State Department, we agree that visitors should "exercise caution." We exercise caution wherever we go in the world. But we have not heard from any mariners in La Paz or Cabo expressing more concern than before about their personal safety.

Where the State Department really got misleading is when they named the state of Jalisco, which they identify by saying it includes Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and Lake Chapala in the travel advisory. The advisory says that "US citizens should defer non-essential travel to areas that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas." It would take at least six hours to drive from Puerto Vallarta to get to the border of either Michoacán or Zacatecas. So it's akin to issuing a travel advisory for Squaw Valley because it's less than a six-hour drive from Oakland.

Yes, there have been cases where tourist vehicles were stopped on lonely roads, and the passengers became victims of robberies or violence. It's well known that you should avoid lonely roads at night, as well as certain areas known for problems. But the cartel people aren't looking for tourists, they're just suspicious of anyone they don't know.

We live in Mexico three months a year, mostly along what's known as the Vallarta Coast. We never really think about our safety. But we stay in busy areas, don't flash money, and don't drive lonely roads at night. We use the same kind of common sense that we use everywhere else.

Everybody has to make their own decision about whether it's safe to go to any given place. But to add another perspective, it was only on September 17 that the US State Department finally lifted their Travel Warning for all of Europe. We'd been there all summer and hadn't gotten shot once.

If the situation changes in Mexico, we'll let you know as soon as possible. — rs

Your 'Lectronic article on US Navy warships' identification and avoidance raised questions I have often thought about, usually while on night watches. It makes sense that they don't use AIS, but how would we see them? I assume they mostly use stealth technology, so radar won't be very useful. Are they lit up? I'd be curious about others' encounters with warships at sea.

Cliff Smith
Carola, Young Sun 35
Point San Pablo

Cliff — While we don't have as thorough an answer as we'd hoped, the quick answer — at least from several cruisers who wrote in — is no, the Navy does not use AIS, and we'll speculate that this is likely for any number of operational reasons. But after the recent accidents involving the Seventh Fleet, we're curious to see what the Navy suggests moving forward for collision avoidance. — th

I'm sure you and many of your readers have learned of the two collisions the US Navy has had in the past couple of months. You have a lot of influence with the sailing community on the West Coast, so I was wondering if this letter and your comments could help us as sailors avoid collisions at sea. I realize there is no way you can force sailors to study the rules of navigation and collision avoidance, but perhaps your spotlight on the subject may make some pick up a copy of Chapman Piloting & Seamanship and study it.

As for the collisions of the Navy Warships, the John McCain was hit on the port side, which tells me it was the stand-on vessel at the time of impact. That doesn't excuse not trying to avoid at the last minute, but it is a mitigating circumstance. The USS Fitzgerald was hit on the starboard side, which means he would have been the give-way vessel and for that reason has to be at fault.

Why is this important to us as recreational sailors? Because the rules are the same for all vessels at sea and it is up to every person at sea to know these rules and follow them. My experience (10 years and 36,000 miles), mostly in Mexican waters, has shown that there are just way too many sailors who don't know the rules or don't follow them.

For instance, what is the dangerous quarter for any boat? Which direction do you turn to avoid a head-on collision? Does a red light at night on the other boat mean danger? Can you tell the size of a vessel by its lights at night? How far must I turn to signal to the other vessel my intentions? If you can't answer these questions I think you should get out the books and learn them.

Mike Nagy
Sunshine Lady, Camper Nicholson 33
Sonora, Mexico

Mike — While we believe that everyone should 'just sail' and do everything they can to get themselves out on the water as much as possible, we fully and unabashedly advocate good seamanship for all sailors at all times in all conditions — enthusiasm for sailing does not, and emphatically can not, come at the price of safety.

In trying to champion well-trained mariners, in this very issue we discuss the many benefits of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which we believe every offshore sailor should include in their repertoire of navigation and safety equipment. But we've seen first-hand how technology can erode seamanship and caution. Staring at screens dulls our senses and detaches us from paying attention to details available to our eyes and ears. With the advent of technology, these are unique problems that modern sailors must be vigilant to avoid.

We advocate everyone's learning as much as they can about the rules of the road, especially as gizmos like radar, GPS and AIS put the emphasis on navigating with technology, rather than navigating with your brain and intuition. We always feel there's more for us to learn, and that no amount of experience will make us immune to the endless list of things that can go wrong at sea.
For example, if your AIS is working, you might know more about this vessel at night. But if your power is not working and you know your night lights, you'd know this is a power-driven vessel towing astern, less than 50 meters, and length of the tow exceeds 200 meters, port side. — th/ja


Am I mistaken or is not the "classic" Mercury featured in the September 1 'Lectronic Latitude one of the much later fiberglass versions? I have a soft spot for the design. I learned to sail on the Bay in a Mercury that was built in 1946, the year before I was born.

Jimmie Zinn
Dry Martini, Morgan 38
Richmond YC

With the Mercury designed in the Bay Area in 1938 we considered even fiberglass boats to fall into the "classic" category, much as YRA's Classic Boat Racing Association (CBRA) now includes Cal 20s, Santana 22s, Alerion 28s and more. We also consider 6-, 8- and 12-meter sailboats classics, but others may quibble and believe that the only classics are those built of original materials. 'Classic', it seems, is in the eye of the beholder, and appears to be a matter of degree. J Class sloops, Folkboats and Knarrs may look like the originals, but by a strict definition may not be considered classic because they don't have wooden hulls, cotton sails or hemp lines. — ja


This might have been a one-off occurrence, but our dinghy — a Zodiac Cadet Fast Roller 285 with Nissan 9.8-hp two-stroke engine ­— was stolen at some point between Friday evening, August 25, and Tuesday morning, August 29, while tied up at the Pillar Point Yacht Harbor dinghy dock — our boat was at anchor and we were away. She was cable-locked to the dock, but the cable was cut.

There were plenty of other dinghies tied up at the dock. I actually took a picture before leaving her on the off chance someone messed with the boat. Our dinghy was certainly not the nicest, and I had our weathered outboard cover on. But clearly it sparked someone's eye.

I filed a police report, and the harbor patrol did some looking around, but I imagine we won't see it again. It is a bummer to be out a dinghy since we love anchoring out for the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club party, which we haven't done for a while.

Paul Vanderspek
Planet Earth


The joys of life aboard are more fun to share than problems, but often the solutions to problems bring the pleasure.

We purchased a Fountaine Pajot Eleuthera 60 cat in Spain. The negotiation included replacing the tired rigging, and it was suggested we have it done in Canet en Roussillon, France. Canet has become a catamaran center — indeed, the area is called "Pole Nautique."

Our rigger was Philippe Berardo of Atelier Greement. He was fantastic and became a friend because of this work. In one week, his crew pulled our mast, changed the rig, pointed out other issues that needed work, took care of that and replaced the whole thing.

Richard of E-Pure sailmakers took care of a small multitude of issues, and we had mechanical assistance from François and Alex when we began to discover things that the survey had not revealed. The prices were reasonable and we found most of our parts through Big Ship or Accastillage Diffusion, some at great prices too.

The attitude made our stay worth writing about. These folks became friends and
went the extra mile to make our time here as pleasant as we could ask for anywhere.

Our plans give us time to train with the boat for our mission documenting plastic in the sea and on shorelines in preparation for a talk at the Our Oceans conference in Malta in October about converting plastic waste into diesel fuel on board our Sailing Research Vessel Pono.

If the wind is kind we will return to Canet to demonstrate Portable Plastic to Fuel (PPTF) conversion before heading across the Atlantic in November, trawling for trash and converting it.

We are open for sponsorship for the short or long term. Visit us at Clean Oceans International. We will send more impressions of the Med as they develop. Aloha.

Homer and Claudia Holm
SRV Pono
Santa Cruz


Just letting you know that the crew of the Oakland-flagged Dogfish, Marga Pretorius and Greg O'Toole, are here in Marina Palmira in La Paz.

Winds are starting to show up, but it's still sunny and beautiful. The docks that have been very quiet over the last month came to life yesterday with a flurry of activity — taking down canvas, stowing dinghies, etc. The marina staff have put away all the deck chairs, etc., and many of the slips that have been empty since we got here are now filled with new boats sheltering from the coming storm.

The only unnerving sign was this morning as I walked to the boat, someone was playing the CCR song "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"

The forecasts seem to indicate that we are definitely going to get a lot of rain, and we may or may not get hit by strong winds. Fingers crossed!

Greg O'Toole and Marga Pretorius
Dogfish, Peterson 44


Based on our experience, drones are great for cruising. But which one?
I was very happy with a sophisticated but reasonably priced — about $1,000 — Mavic Pro by industry leader DJI. Then, while getting the most epic shots ever of Carthago while leaving a pass in Fiji, a factory glitch caused it to go into auto-landing mode. So instead of getting epic shots, I watched my drone crash into the water, then sink 100 feet to the bottom!

Fortunately, DJI recognized that the crash had been caused by a glitch and offered a free replacement under warranty. Although it took them three seemingly very long weeks to get the drone to me, at least they accepted their responsibility.

I love my Mavic drone and have become quite familiar with it. Launching it from the boat, from the dinghy, and from tiny spaces has been no problem. It's stable, consistent, and reliable. The 4K camera quality is phenomenal, and there's a wealth of accessories such as UV filters available for it.

A strong feature Mavic has over most other drones is its excellent portability. Because it folds up, I can fit it in a small dry bag and easily take it anywhere I want. My only complaint is that the Mavic is not waterproof. And crashing a drone is a risk you have to accept if you're going to fly one.

This is where the SwellPro Splash 3 drone comes in. Not only are the motors waterproof, but so is the 4K camera and the gimbal. This is a dream come true for any mariner who wants to fly drones around the water.

The Splash 3 comes in a nifty soft foam travel case. While portable is not the first word I would use to describe it, it's more portable than I thought it would be. But for it to have to fit into a case, I would need to attach and detach the propellers every time I used it. It takes no more than two minutes to put the propellers on, but I was spoiled by the Mavic, where you just unfold the arms, put your phone into the controller, and go.

A big difference between the Mavic and the Splash is the way that you use features such as 'follow me', which allow the drone to fly itself even as it takes photos of your boat. In 'follow me' mode, the Splash 3 will follow a little Bluetooth device which you theoretically would have in your pocket. However, if you buy a waterproof drone, you're probably going to be doing water activities. I guess you could put the Bluetooth in a dry bag or a Ziploc, but I'd like it to be waterproof. The Mavic, on the other hand, can do 'follow me' through software, so it doesn't require additional hardware.

Another major difference is the Splash 3 comes with a nice big controller that features a decent-sized screen so you don't need to use your smartphone at all. I especially like this because the Mavic requires that you use your phone/tablet, and my iPhone, because of the Lifeproof base, doesn't fit in very well.

You can also add accessories such as the $159 'Payload Releaser' to the Splash. I don't know what I'd use it for, but people have used it for fishing. And I can't get over how cool it would be to deliver beer to a neighbor's boat or to Gina when she's on a beach.

As a sailor, I also like that the SwellPro Splash V3 drone can fly in windy conditions. You can take bigger risks because in a worst-case scenario, where you crash it over the water, you won't lose your entire investment. This should result in some cool active sailing shots.

There's one downside of the Splash. I've crashed my Mavic a total of five times: four times into trees, and once into the water. But I've never had to replace the propellers or anything else. But if you crash a Splash into anything, the carbon-fiber propellers will immediately get smashed to pieces. I know this for a fact, because I broke the original set and the replacement set the first day that I got the Splash.

Some drone pilots — such as the Wanderer — are big believers in hand-launching and hand-catching their drones. The Splash comes with removable legs that permit this. The Mavic, on the other hand, has propellers so close to the body of the drone that it's pretty hard to catch it without risking losing a finger or two. I certainly wouldn't do hand retrievals with the Mavic — and I'm a risk-taker.

This means that if you want to launch or catch a Mavic from a dinghy, you need to do it from the bench or from the floor. Any wrong movement and it'll slice up your dinghy. Good luck getting home! On the other hand, you could fly the Splash 3 alongside the boat and hand-catch it from a safe distance.

By far the biggest difference between the two drones is that the Splash is waterproof and the Mavic isn't. So if you crash the former in the water, it's not ruined, while the latter would be.

I crashed my Splash twice on the first day. The first crash was my fault. I didn't install one of the propellers correctly, so it flew off, and that threw the whole drone off balance. I accept full responsibility for my error, but I would prefer it if the propellers locked into place so I didn't have to put them on and take them off every time I flew it.

The second crash of the day is a mystery. I had followed the manual instructions to a T to calibrate the drone, but it kept swerving around and wouldn't hold steady, even when there was no wind. I might have been doing something wrong, but I think I followed what the manual said. In any event, when the Splash came in for a landing, it seemed as though it had drunk more rum than Captain Ron, and drifted into the standing rigging.

Two crashes in the first day destroyed my two sets of propellers, so the Splash 3 is currently out of action. But it wasn't catastrophic, as all I need are new propellers. Had it been a Mavic, I would have needed a new drone.

In hindsight, I could have just landed the drone in the water and retrieved it with the dinghy. That's the point of a waterproof drone, isn't it? However, the GPS mode should have been able to keep it steady. At least that's what the promotional videos advertise.

Even though I calibrated it correctly, during the flight the gimbal went off balance and slowly tilted to the side until it was completely flopped over and it wasn't able to maintain a stable position. I messaged support and they immediately hopped on a Whatsapp call with me and offered to send me new propellers. In addition, they offered to send a new sticker that covers the GPS, because apparently it has barometric pressure sensors that help the controller keep it steady. What a world of a difference compared to DJI support! Hopefully it was a fluke and once I get the new parts the Splash will work well.

In summary, while the Mavic is not waterproof, it is very portable and much easier to fly 'out of the box'. Getting insurance is a possibility, but I'm not sure how that would work when you're in the middle of nowhere. Another option is to buy/make foam floaters, but that's pretty risky unless the water is perfectly flat.
Since our primary drone use will be around water, we think the waterproof Splash 3 has built-in insurance. I did not expect it to be so unstable in flight that I could not land it safely on the boat's foredeck, but hopefully it's a quality-control issue that will be fixed. Given the support I have received from the SwellPro team, I have decided to give it another chance instead of requesting a refund.

Jose Castello and Gina Harris
Carthago, Beneteau 423
San Francisco

Readers — As most Latitude readers know, the Wanderer is a big fan of drones for boats. In our opinion, a drone's being waterproof is a non-issue. Because if you crash the thing in the water a mile or two away when it's blowing 18 knots and there is a decent chop, it's unlikely you're ever going to find it.

We have a Phantom 3 Pro by DJI, which is a somewhat dated model that does almost everything anybody could want from a drone. Our only objection is that it's bulky. We tried the hard case and the soft case, but it was still cumbersome. That's why we left it on the canal boat in France.

The small and ready-to-go DJI Mavic seemed like an answer to all our dreams. Alas, the legs on the Mavic are too close to the rotors to safely catch by hand. That was a deal-breaker, as we always fly the drone from a moving boat on an often-sloppy ocean. Because Profligate is a very large cat, she's more stable than most boats. Nonetheless, the idea of landing a Mavic, let alone any other drone, on deck in any kind of weather seems preposterous.

As far as we are concerned, the best solution for most cruisers was/is a Phantom 3, of which there are four models starting from as low as $450. To understand the differences among them, we recommend going to: But we suggest you buy either the Advanced or Pro. They are hard to find new anymore, but DJI-reconditioned models are available for a very reasonable price.

Our solution was to buy a dated but unused Phantom 3 Pro, just like we have in France, from a Southern California sailor who also has a big catamaran in the Caribbean. It turned out to be a fiasco, because these older drones need constant updating of firmware, and if it hadn't been regularly updated, the firmware could have fallen so far behind it couldn't catch up without a three-week trip to DJI. It took three agonizing days talking with DJI tech people to discover this. But it shouldn't be a problem if you buy a reconditioned one.

We said the hell with our fingers and bought a very portable Mavic. We've only flown it a few times, but it seems fantastic. And for those times when it's bumpy on the boat and fingers will be at risk, we're buying a falconer's glove and a giant fishing net to catch the drone in. Seriously.

It's been several months since Jose wrote the above letter. He's found that he uses the Mavic so much more than the Splash that he's going to get rid of the latter.

Lastly, one reader wrote in and asked if drones would be any good for scoping out passes or anchorages before entering or anchoring. Castello says no, because it would be too much to operate a boat in a complicated situation and fly the drone at the same time. We agree. But if you can stop, you could send the drone a couple of miles ahead and get a lay of the land from above. So we think it has the potential to check out anchorages and passes, given the right circumstances. — rs


Berkeley was the first place I saw a windsurfer, in the mid-'70s. I was a Coast Guard helicopter pilot. We launched out on a call from "Grandma Smith" in the Berkeley Hills who reported a capsized sailboat off the Berkeley long wharf. En route from SFO, we received a call that the sailboat was back up . . . and then it was back down . . . and then back up. We flew over to investigate and found a man in a wetsuit on a surfboard with a mast and sail, who waved us off. It was the first windsurfer we had seen, and probably the first SAR case for a windsurfer — but certainly not the last.

Gordon Hanson
Far Country, Valiant 40


This past weekend I was getting ready to duck the heat and do the Tomales Bay Regatta with the Santa Rosa Sailing Club. After rigging the Venture I shortened the jib sheet to accommodate a whisker pole then went down to the ramp to launch for our biweekly club races. After circling the ramp to set up I pulled forward a foot or so to straighten out the boat for backing when all of a sudden there were lines and sail all over where they shouldn't have been. A gust of wind had caught the jib and flown it forward, dragging the jib sheet out of the boat and onto the ground. That last straightening effort had rolled the trailer wheel over the sheet and created a winch pulling on the jib clew. The tension had gone straight to the masthead since I have Doyle graphite sails. The mast snapped right above the spreaders.

Apparently the same thing happened to another of our members last year, only he had a Lido 14 which almost tipped off its trailer. Too light a boat to break anything.

So much for sailing in cool Tomales Bay this weekend. I think I'll turn the Venture into a sauna.

P.S.: One of the other club members had to rub salt in it by congratulating me on winning the Toilet Seat, our club's boner award.

Dave Cowell
Magic Twanger, Venture 21
Grass Valley

Readers — The weekend to which Dave is referring was the last one in August. The Tomales Bay Regatta that Dave missed was held on Labor Day Weekend, a record-breaking scorcher in Northern California.

Dave explains the Venture's name: "I have (had) to pluck the backstay to get the North 3DL main not to hang up on the top batten. It goes 'twang,' a takeoff from a 1950s TV show with Andy Devine, the Buster Brown Show. Froggy would pluck his 'magic twanger' and appear or disappear in a puff of smoke. Cool in those days." — cw

Thank you for a great magazine; I have been a grateful reader for years.
I'm looking to make the Baja Ha-Ha and Pacific Puddle Jump in a couple of years and wondering if you have a reading list you recommend for enjoyment/preparation anticipating departure and planning. Thanks.

Houston Taylor
Pherousa, Alberg 35
Friday Harbor, WA

It's been a long-standing policy here at Latitude not to recommend specific books — or boats, winches, sails, etc. The obvious reason is that authors and publishers buy ads for books, and to favor one over the others would be — or at least appear to be — unfair. Another reason is that we haven't read every sailing-related book that comes out. There are doubtless many excellent ones we've never seen.

Finally, books appeal to different people in different ways. It's kind of like people — some you like and relate to instantly; others, no matter how hard you try, you just don't 'get' them. So we might review a book we think is wonderful — and you might think it's a yawner. Or vice versa.

Long story short, head down to your local West Marine or nautical bookstore, peruse what's there and give those nice folks (and authors) your business. (OK, fine — do it on Amazon if you have to.) Because while we won't recommend specific books, we will tell you that, for books on Mexico, the South Seas or ocean crossings, we've never seen a bad one.

We're planning more book reviews for the Sightings section in upcoming issues of Latitude 38, hopefully in time for the holiday shopping season — jr

I've been instructing for a little over 10 years and I've always taught an unusual rule of sailing. It's a rule my dad taught me as soon as I was competent enough to understand it. But he always made sure it never went to my head, because that would break the rule itself. He and I, and everyone I've taught, consider it the most important rule of sailing. This makes it the first rule of sailing, so forget everything you've heard in the past — unless, of course — you already agree with me.

My first students, when I was 20 years old, were impressionable teenagers from many cultures. I was teaching sailing in the BVI aboard 50-ft sloops. My crew were all novice and the boats were big. I would spend the first 12 hours with my 12 teenage students talking about safety aboard a boat. Safety this, safety that, "The decks can be slippery. No running, please," or "Don't fall through a hatch by never opening it more than 45°," and "Always hold onto something. One hand for yourself; one for the ship," just to name a few. We'd finally get off the dock late in the morning on the second day of the program. At this time, I'd teach them the importance of line handling and communication aboard the boat, highlighting how this was a safety protocol, and safety first.

Safety, safety, safety! Then we'd bring up the fenders.

About this time my students were tuned in, realizing the adventure they were getting into. I'd gather their attention and break them away from their Caribbean island gaze. I'd ask with a smile, "Does anyone know the first rule of sailing?" Someone would, inevitably, shout, "Safety!" I'd give them praise and say, "Nope, that's the second rule!" This would create some confusion. Another eager teen would chime in "Always have fun!" To this I would answer, "Almost. We'll consider that part of the first rule." Then I would get answers like; "Keep the boat from sinking," or "Don't fall off the boat," and they'd bring in specific examples like hatch angles and my favorite, still, "One hand for yourself, and don't run on deck!" I'd remind them that all these fell under the second rule.

Give up?

The first rule of sailing is to always look cool. Why would safety come second? Simple, if you're not looking cool, you're not being safe! If you are looking cool, you're already doing all the things mentioned above. But don't let it go to your head. If we're ever on a boat together and I look to another boat and say, "They aren't looking cool," there is a lesson to be learned. But you won't hear me shout it across the water, because that wouldn't be cool.

P.S.: I only have two rules of sailing.

Mitchell Andrus
Windrose, Fuji 32 ketch

On Sunday, September 3, Sea Scout Ships Viking and Corsair were moored in Ayala Cove at Angel Island. We woke up to find that our tender, an orange pram about 10 feet long, was missing in action. A scan of Raccoon Strait located the wayward boat approaching Bluff Point on a flood. We got Viking underway to recover the boat, but as we approached it an unidentified motorboat appeared from behind the point and took it in tow, disappearing behind Bluff Point. We were unable to pursue. If you have information regarding the current location of our pram, please contact me at or (415) 585-8825.
Much appreciated.

Dennis Lindemann
San Francisco Sea Scouts

"Thank God we're back to monohulls!"
Harvey Black

"Monohulls! Sailors actually sailing! Emirates Team New Zealand is on the right path — but a foiling monohull?"
Steve Taylor

"Great. Fully crewed 70- to 90-ft high-tech monohulls with 50% national crew. Foiling would be OK for speed and TV interests. But it should be strict one design."
Charles Cunningham

"I am in favor of all of it: monohulls, in-country construction and only crews of the country's nationality (which should give the New Zealanders a huge advantage). Really, why couldn't we find eight Americans to sail with Oracle Team USA?"
David Hume

"The race should be in sailboats with sailors on board, not bicyclists. And they should race in all sea and weather conditions. No cancellations for weather or sea conditions!"
Robert Hoekman

Everyone — We have to admit that we were more than a little excited at the early news that the Kiwis have decided to go back to monohulls for the 36th America's Cup. We didn't have anything against multihulls, it's just that, despite their ultra-speedy foiling magic, once the 'wow factor' was over, they were kinda boring to watch, like NASCAR. There was no real 'crew work' beyond pumping hydraulic oil . . . and dudes sprinting across the trampoline on tacks and jibes (it would have been a bit more exciting if they'd fallen off the boats more often).

We miss the skilled choreography of sailors hoisting spinnakers, and all the potential drama that goes with sets and douses. And we miss seeing big boats bashing into big seas. The cats were always sailed on relatively flat water. Even the choppy, challenging conditions of San Francisco Bay were somewhat smoothed out by foiling above the water.

Foiling monohulls were originally rumored, but as of this writing, there's been no confirmation. Assuming next Cup boats do foil . . . sure, why not? Despite all our nostalgia and back-in-my-day blubbering, we don't think all innovation and progression should be abandoned. If boats can fly, then let them fly.

But we don't think that racing should revolve around just foiling. One of the coveted statistics in the 2017 Cup was 'fly time', or how long boats could stay up on their foils (as well as the heart rates of the cyclists and grinders). Who cares! We would be happy to see boats only foiling on certain legs. We think sailboat racing is about shifting gears, changing sails and getting into different modes.

So we'll be careful — the "news" is still early. Plus, we're waiting for a few dozen lawsuits to see what's what. But for now we say: Bravo, Team New Zealand. — th



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