Back to "Letters" Index


Latitude's audience overwhelmingly consists of small boat owners, but you seem to have no trouble siding against them - as evidenced by your Small Boats And Big Ships article in the August issue.

My experience is that many of the large ship captains are just bullies entering the Bay at ridiculous speeds up to 25 knots, and are too arrogant to change their course a few degrees. They'd rather terrify a small boater with loud horns and head right at him. These guys have powerful multiple p rops and bow-thrusters, and at low speed can quickly adjust their course. But they also have Rule 9, which states that small vessels can't impede their progress, so they feel like showing pleasure boaters who the boss is around here!

Earlier this year I was sailing parallel to the Golden Gate Bridge, a few hundred yards to the west, when a large freighter came barreling inbound at a speed of at least 20 knots - at which time an aircraft carrier was heading out the Gate at a similar speed. The ship started blasting his horn and expected me to tack away into the path of the aircraft carrier. Screw him, I continued on! The creep kept coming at me at full speed until the last moment when he veered off a few degrees and easily avoided me. Then some derelict came out on the bridge to shout at me and give me 'the finger'. I gave him 'the arm'.

Do you remember the ship that plowed right through the two IACC boats in the Moet Cup last year? I suppose you fully supported that assault under your Rule 9 beliefs. Might makes right, yes?

I don't need a lecture from Latitude in favor of these bullies. Instead, I'd like you to start a campaign to limit the speed of all large commercial and military vessels to five knots over the ground, starting from at least two miles outside the Gate - particularly on the weekends. The Bay belongs to the small boater as much as to anyone else. Remember your audience.

Hank Bakker
Ada Rina

Hank - Before you become too adamant about your beliefs and conclusions, there are a few things that you might want to consider:

· Restricting large commercial and military ships to a speed of five knots over the ground would mean there would be virtually no water going past their rudders when they were going with a strong ebb or flood. This would mean they would lose control. Not wanting to be responsible for the ensuing maritime carnage, we're going to pass on your gracious offer to allow us to spearhead your 'five-knots maximum over the ground for ships' campaign.

Bill Greig, a San Francisco bar pilot for 15 years, tells us that there are so many variables that it's very difficult to make a general statement as to how much speed through the water - speed over the ground is not relevant! - a ship needs for control. He explains that there are four harbor speeds for ships: astern, dead slow, slow, and full. (The 'full' is a harbor speed, not what a ship does on the open ocean.) These days most ships have slow speed diesels where the crankshaft is directly connected to the prop, which means for every turn of the engine, the prop also turns once. The minimum rpm for most slow speed diesels is about 25. With most ships that translates to a minimum speed of six knots. In the case of many container ships, dead slow, the minimum setting, results in a speed of eight or nine knots. It's true that most ships can be steered as slowly as three or four knots, but only with their engines off, and not for long.

Commander Cook of the Vessel Traffic Service on Yerba Buena Island tells us that there is a 15-knot speed limit for ships on San Francisco Bay. Ships can and often do travel at slower than that limit. The 15-knot limit came about in the early '90s after all interested parties asked for their input on such a limit. Commander Cook tells us that VTS would know right away if a ship was doing 25 knots, and they would contact the pilot to find out what was going on. Nobody we've talked to can recall a ship ever doing 25 knots coming under the Gate or on the Bay. Pilots can call VTS and request a deviation of the speed limit if there is a good reason - such as to prevent passing another ship at a choke point. Depending on the conditions, VTS may or may not grant the deviation.

· You're mistaken when you claim that most ships have multiple props. Greig tells us that 99% of the ships over 500 feet in length have a single screw. The very few exceptions are passengers ships, Navy ships and Conoco-Phillips Millennium Class polar tankers which have 100% redundancy - two separate engines, two props, and two rudders.

· You say most ships have bow thrusters. While this is true of the majority of container ships, bulk carriers and tankers do not have them. This is one of the reasons there are so many tugs around.

· You claim that it's easy for a ship to adjust course at low speed. Greig tells us that a typical ship - which is 840 feet long, 105 feet wide, and 42,000 gross tons, would probably take 1.5 miles in full astern to come to an emergency stop from 15 knots. But he notes that nobody ever does that unless they have no other choice. "If you had plenty of room and had to stop the ship as quickly as possible, you'd put the rudder hard over, and the ship would probably advance half a mile forward and transfer 3/10s of a mile in the direction you'd turned the rudder. At the end, you'd still be doing four knots, but then you could put the engine in astern and stop in about another 400 feet."

That's not exactly stopping on a dime. On the other hand, Hank, we presume that your sailboat could make a 180° turn and come to a complete stop in less than 75 feet.

By the way, it's also not easy for ships to accelerate to avoid boats. For one thing, most have computer controls that limit the increase in engine speed to only about two rpms a minute. This is to prevent heat damage to the 90,000-hp engines, which are the size of apartment buildings and are extremely expensive.

We're puzzled by your incident with the two ships earlier this year. For surely you saw them approaching from miles away. And hopefully you know Rule 9 (d), which states, "A vessel shall not cross a narrow passage or fairway if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within such channel or fairway. The latter vessel may use the sound signal prescribed in Rule 34 (d) if in doubt as to the intention of the crossing vessel."

Since the Gate is a narrow fairway, you were in complete violation of the rules of the road, and the bar pilot who sounded the horn was doing exactly what he was required to do. Yet you flipped him off and now call him a "bully." The truth is that the bar pilot wasn't a bully, you - and we don't like to have to say this - were a dummy for being where the rules said you weren't allowed to be.

We do remember and love our audience. That's why, when one of them does something as foolish as you did, we don't hesitate to let them know. After all, the last thing we'd want is for you and your family members to get killed or be the cause of a maritime disaster. In order to better understand the rules of the road and what's happening on San Francisco Bay, you might want to pick up a copy of the Share The Bay video from the Coast Guard.


Fairly frequently I have read items in Latitude about unused boats that sit and deteriorate in marinas, occupying valuable slip space that others need for their boats. I suggest that instead of just complaining about it and making suggestions that put the problem on the backs of marina staffs, you might take another approach.

For you see, I'm unfortunately one of those owners of an old boat that just sits and rots in her slip. I purchased a beat-up boat thinking that I could fix her up and have a nice boat. But the project proved to be beyond my repair skills, so now she just sits. Why? Because I can't get rid of her! She's too dilapidated to give to a charity, and nobody is foolish or idealistic enough to take her off my hands.

My suggestion is that you encourage people with unused boats to give them to charity so they get to people who will use them, or just give them directly to people who might use them. To help with this process, you could donate 'boat give away' space in the Classy Classifieds or on your Web site.

More importantly to me, you could explain how people can dispose of an old boat. I'd very much like to get rid of mine, but can't figure out how. I've searched the Web but come up with nothing. I suppose that I could just not pay my slip fee and let the marina deal with it, but that's just wrong and unfair, and once again would dump the problem on the marina staff.

I very much want to vacate my slip so someone else can move their boat in, but I have to get rid of my boat first.

Earl Roske

Earl - A tip of the hat to you for not just sticking the marina with your boat disposal problem. We'd have no problem recommending that people donate their unused boats to charity - there's even a tax deduction in it - but we're hesitant to start a 'Boat For Free' section in the Classies. The problems are that if someone else took your boat over, they'd either need your current slip, which would defeat the whole purpose, or they would illegally anchor her out in someplace like Richardson Bay - which would create an entirely new problem.

If your boat really is in bad shape, she's actually quite easy to dispose of. Have her hauled and then have the boatyard staff go at her with a chainsaw. No matter if she's wood or glass, a chainsaw will make short work of her. You can probably sell the lead while the other parts would go into the dumpster. It shouldn't cost more than a couple of months worth of slip fees, and you'll be opening up a much-needed slip for someone else.

By the way, Richardson Bay Harbor Administrator Bill Price is an expert at cutting up and disposing of old boats. Call him for advice at (415) 971-3919.


In the August issue, a reader complained about unused boats in marinas making it hard for other people to find berths for their boats. But you need to remember that people who don't ever use their boats make the perfect tenants for marina management and owners. After all, tenants who never come around don't use electricity, water, restrooms, and dockboxes. In addition, they don't spill varnish or fish guts, and they don't make a mess of the parking lot.

Even though we have good sailing and fabulous sportfishing here in San Diego, I now see another reason why marinas don't mind seeing unused boats linger in their slips - full marinas keep slip fees high! I was recently offered a $5,000 finder's fee for a 38-foot slip, as the sale of a boat was contingent upon the buyer getting a slip in San Diego.

San Diego has no empty slips near the ocean, so we avid sailors are forced to say "Yes, sir," behave ourselves, and take what we can get.

Name Withheld
San Diego

N.W. - The shame of it, somebody offering you a $5,000 finder's fee for a 38-ft slip! In San Diego something like that ought to be worth at least $10,000.

All kidding aside, we think it's incumbent upon city, country, and state officials to be more proactive in making sure that more people - including sailors - have greater access to the bays and ocean. With a little creative thought, it wouldn't require new projects as much as more efficient use of the existing ones.


I've got a 42-ft S&S sloop, and I'm looking for a berth in the Oceanside or Dana Point areas. Can you help?

Tom Zinn
Tom Zinn Adventure Sports and Yacht Racing Worldwide

Tom - Late in October of each year we do the best we can to alleviate the berthing crunch in California by taking on the role of the Grand Poobah and taking 110 mostly California boats to Mexico in the Baja Ha-Ha. Beyond that, there's nothing we can do.


I received the following email about a supposed mooring fee scam at Two Harbors in Catalina from about four people, so I guess the story is making the rounds. Frankly, I find parts of it very hard to believe. I speak as the author of the only current cruising guide to Catalina, the developer of and instructor at the Aventura Sailing Association, the instructor of Catalina cruising seminars at Orange Coast College for eight years, and a general Catalina-o-phile who makes about 10 trips a year to the various Channel Islands. Having been edited for brevity and clarity, here's what the email said:

"If you're planning on taking your boat to Catalina, you need to be aware of a double charging scam for moorings. When you pull into an anchorage and are met by the Harbor Patrol, you pay cash for your mooring, get a receipt, then proceed to your mooring. The next day another Harbor Patrol boat comes by to collect for the mooring a second time. When you tell them that you've already paid, they say they have no record of it. In one way or another, they suggest that you had better produce a receipt or else. It happened to one of our staff commodores at the Seal Beach YC last year, and it's happened to me twice. I've also heard it's happened to other club members, too - including one couple who received a letter days later demanding payment.

"Today the scam was pulled again on another of our staff commodores. He and his wife took their boat over to Catalina on Tuesday and paid in advance for two nights on a mooring. But on Wednesday morning a Harbor Patrol officer came by and told them there was no record of their payment, and demanded they pay again. But this staff commodore had his receipt. When he handed the receipt to the Harbor Patrol guy, he started to motor away with it! After some yelling, the fellow brought the receipt back.

I've noticed that the Harbor Patrol has started asking visitors to sign their receipt. I think it would also be a good idea to have the Harbor Patrol person sign the receipt. In addition, since I have a new camera phone that takes really nice pictures, I'm going to try to remember to snap a picture of the Harbor Patrol person who takes my money. So if this little scam happens to me for a third time, I intend to march up to the Harbor Office with my receipt - with the Harbor Patrol person's name on it - my cell phone photo of him, and demand some answers. So if you're going to Catalina, be prepared - and keep the receipt!"

My reaction to the report of this alleged scam is that there is nothing new about mistakes being made regarding who has and has not paid for their mooring at Catalina. One time I was challenged about payment for a Catalina mooring a month after I'd returned to the mainland - and that was 20 years ago! I had my receipt - it makes such a nice souvenir of a trip - and mailed a photocopy to them. They apologized to me.

From day one of my Catalina cruising seminars, I advise my students to hang on to their mooring receipt. If there is any question that they have paid, they'll have proof. In the most recent case of the alleged scam, the person picked up the mooring in the afternoon and paid his fee, but couldn't find the receipt 16 hours later when asked to prove that he had paid. What could he have done with it? Spare me the fable of how hard it would be to keep a receipt in one's wallet or chart table for a day or two. As someone else pointed out, it's also possible to pay ashore by credit card if one were really worried.

The mooring assignment and payment system at Avalon, and elsewhere on the island, is under the control of one of the Santa Catalina Island Company's subsidiaries, and is a pencil and paper system subject to human error. That it works as well as it does, I think, is due to the generally conscientious efforts of those guys and women on the patrol boats. I've seen them work very, very hard under tough conditions to help mariners. The notion that this is a "scam" - a planned effort to extort more money from boaters - strikes me as being simply ludicrous. I'm amazed that such a story is attributed to a staff commodore of the Seal Beach YC.

As with many urban myths, I assume that this story has no basis in truth, and is an effort on the part of someone to smear the fine organization over on the island. I'm surprised that nobody at the Seal Beach YC would have contacted Harbormaster Doug Oudin at Two Harbors before going public with such an allegation. I've met Doug a number of times, and I don't believe there is anyone anywhere more concerned with the safety and comfort of visiting mariners. Oudin is very approachable and helpful, and I'm sure Latitude will contact him for comment.

Bill McNeely
Dana Point

Bill - Our initial reaction to the allegation of a scam was identical to yours - ridiculous! After all, who hangs out together and talks boating more in small groups than do mariners who visit Two Harbors? If a bunch of people got double-charged to the average tune of about $45 a night, word would spread like wildfire and people would be hammering on Harbormaster Doug Oudin's door.

During a phone conversation with Oudin, we learned that he'd gotten a number of phone calls about the allegation, but had ultimately satisfied the accuser that nothing nefarious had taken place. He explained that when the Harbor Patrol person on the boat takes money for a mooring, an original and two copies are made in his/her receipt book. One goes to the boatowner as a receipt, one goes to the bookkeeping department, and one stays in the book as a permanent record. So even if you lose your receipt, there are always two copies that are kept ashore.

As anyone who has ever been to Catalina knows, during certain times the Harbor Patrol guys become swamped with assigning berths, helping people onto moorings, rescuing people, and helping in a million other ways. It's perfectly understandable that there can be temporary confusion about who paid two days before and who didn't. But there is no reason to worry because there are two copies ashore even if you've lost yours.

Since we're on the subject of Two Harbors, we'd like to give a short review of the place. We've been there with Profligate about 15 times in the last four years, and we can't think of anyplace that is better or more intelligently utilized. It's amazing how so many people, from the age of one to 100, can have so much good clean fun in such a small area. It seems like nothing has changed in 50 years at Two Harbors, and we hope it doesn't change for another 50. We particularly enjoy the free and easy vibe of Two Harbors, the perfect weekend destination. And as has also been the case at Avalon and all the other coves at Catalina, we can't imagine how we could have been treated better by any of the staff. Nice job everyone. Really nice job!


I'm looking for any information I can get on who built the Aries 32 sailboats. I have a good friend who owns a beautiful one, but we have no information - other than that they were designed by Thomas Gilmer and made in Sausalito. Your wonderfully bright and informed staff will no doubt know everything there is to know about this beautiful boat.

Fred McCreery
Morro Bay

Fred - As wonderfully bright and informed as our staff might be, one of the few things we can tell you about the Aries 32s is that they were built in Taiwan, not Sausalito. After the Aero-Marine 26s, some Tritons, and Bounty IIs, production boatbuilding disappeared from the 'Little Willow'.

Herb Madden, our old boat-selling colleague from the '70s and owner of Sausalito Yacht Harbor, was the dealer for the Aries line. Elsewhere, they were marketed as Roughwater 32s.

A guy who really knows a lot about the design is Bob van Blaricomb of the Tiburon-based Aries 32 Misty. As recounted in various issues of Latitude, he's sailed his Aries all over the place - including last summer's circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.


We've been cruising for nine years aboard our 45-ft cutter Mahdi, having left Whidbey Island, Washington, in the mid-'90s. After sailing down the West Coast to Mexico, we continued on to Hawaii, and then took an unusual route. Rather than heading to the South Pacific, we visited the islands of Micronesia, and all of Asia, from Nakhoka, Russia, in the north, to Fremantle, Western Australia, in the south - and virtually everywhere in between. We are leaving Phuket, Thailand, in January 2005 for the Mediterranean. Having been living the cruising life for some time, we thought your readers might be interested in our thoughts about cruiser communications.

We've seen lots of articles recently about cruiser communications, but many of them were written by people who have never cruised long term. These authors don't seem to know - or have forgotten - that even cruisers are rarely out of sight of land more than 15% of the time. And these authors don't seem to be writing to an audience who cruise on typical cruiser budgets. For example, there was a recent article in Ocean Navigator that suggested buying two satellite systems to ensure full communication coverage. By the time we got our eyes uncrossed after reading that, our first thought was 'get real'! They might as well have recommended we light 20-cent cigars with $20 bills.

The reality is that the majority of cruisers, ourselves included, get along just fine with an SSB radio - which provides scheduled voice weather broadcasts, Ham nets, and weatherfax. Quite a few cruisers also have Pactor III SailMail and/or Winlink, and seem to really like it. When it comes to satellite phones, the major drawbacks are expense, slow data rates and companies deciding to go bankrupt just about the time that sailors take the big plunge and buy their expensive hardware. For both SailMail and satellite phones, the data rates are very slow, an average of about 4.8 kbps for both. Globalstar is about double that, but it's still slow.

All this leads up to our suggesting another option - wireless data. Virtually all of the countries we've visited have extensive cellular networks that provide free internet access. You just need two things to get going: 1) An email address - and by far the best company we've found for providing this is Fastmail, which has great service and no junk mail. And 2) An air card - to use the generic name - which is a module with an antenna that plugs into the PCMCIA slot on your laptop and connects to the GSM/cellular network for transmission of high speed data. It uses the standard GPRS (general packet radio service) technology to transmit and receive data at a rate of 115 kbps. The newer air cards just coming out also handle the new edge technology, which enables 3G. This will give it the ability to handle more subscribers at three times the data rate of GPRS. This technology is not fully operational with all of the cellular companies at this time.

Mariners would want an air card with a detachable antenna so they could mount it permanently. The two companies that appear to be manufacturing the best units are Sierra Wireless and Sony Ericsson. Sierra Wireless makes two units: the Air Card 775 TriBand for about $450 for use anywhere in the world, and the MP GPRS 775 TriBand for about $1,000, which is a permanently mountable air card type module with a cable to the laptop. This latter unit includes GPS and several input/outputs that are really unnecessary for yacht use, but do drive up the cost. This permanently mounted module is really the best way to go, as it means you don't have to handle sensitive equipment all the time.

Because of the relatively high cost - for us and many other cruisers - of the above units, we still haven't bought one. The best thing that could happen would be if a few thousand of us homeless boat people would email and tell her that we would buy one if they would manufacture a permanently mounted module with the same functions as the air card for a reasonable price. Maybe West Marine could order a thousand or more for sale as a yacht package with the exterior antenna included.

Sony Ericsson manufactures the GC83 TriBand air card at about the same price as the Sierra Air Card 775. Take a look at their Web sites: and Complete technical information on wireless data systems is available at The outside antennas are available from Antenna Plus ( They are saucer-shaped, six inches by one inch, and sell for $125. The standard coax length is 15 feet, but you can order longer. Be sure you tell them exactly what air card you have so you get the right frequency range and coax connectors.

We purchased a Sierra Wireless Air Card and an outside antenna with 25 feet of coax. I tested it thoroughly in a marginal signal strength area - no signal on a cell phone and only one bar on the air card with the small antenna that comes attached with the unit. It nonetheless worked perfectly. The software that comes with the air card loads quickly, and the instructions are pretty much idiot-proof.

The air cards are configured for removable SIM cards, so when you arrive in a new country, get on the internet and/or ask the locals to find out which cellular company has the best coverage. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card with as much airtime as you want/need without a contract for a lot less money when outside of the U.S., and they can easily be topped up. Air cards are available in the U.S. from cellular companies, but require a year contract. Some companies offer unlimited data-only contracts at a reduced rate.

Like most cruising yachties, we do our correspondence, banking, investments and so forth online, and we're here to tell you that over the last few years we've spent an inordinate amount of time searching out Internet shops. Security and encryption are also a problem in some Third World countries. When you pull into an anchorage with other cruising boats, one of the first topics of discussion is always "Where is a decent place to do email?" An air card and cell phone seem to be an answer.

Rod & Becky Nowlin
Mahdi, 45-ft Cutter
Langkawi, Malaysia

Rod and Becky - Thank you for the firsthand report.

It just so happens that prior to our recent cruise to and around Southern California, Doña de Mallorca signed up for the AT&T air card program. AT&T's 'Edge Card' cost $250 - but they were offering a $250 rebate at the time, which brought the price down to a reasonable $0. The unlimited Internet access is $79.99/month, which is nearly double what Comcast charges for high speed access at home. The air card doesn't give high speed access, but we found it to be sufficiently fast.

Every place de Mallorca used the phone, from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, it worked - which is more than can be said for the Globalstar phone. And all the places - Santa Barbara, Anacapa Island, Pt. Dume, the middle of Santa Monica Bay, Redondo, Avalon, Two Harbors, Newport Beach - we tried to use the system, we had good success. This meant that as long as we didn't have to send back high resolution photos or complicated layouts - which would have taken forever - we had convenient email and Internet access. When we figured in the time we've wasted in the past trying to find a Kinko's, plus the $12/hour computer charges, the $79.99 didn't seem like a bad deal. (Computer time was only $1.50 for 90 minutes in Panama, by the way.) It will be interesting to see what kind of coverage we can get at various anchorages in Mexico this winter.

Since we're on the topic of cruiser communications, we should report that last winter many charter skippers in the Caribbean told us they were very happy with their Iridium satphones because, when absolutely necessary, they had voice capability, but the rest of the time they could use the phone for economical flash emailing. As such, it seems to us that a combo of an air card and an Iridium phone - which, unlike Globalstar, doesn't ever charge a roaming fee - might be a great way to go. That way, a cruiser near most any town would probably have Internet access but, even when in the boonies, could stay in voice and data contact via the Iridium if necessary.

Considering all this, the discussion in our office became hypothetical: If you could only have an EPIRB or an Iridium satphone in an emergency, which would you want? The Wanderer voted for the latter. If we had it to do over again, we'd purchase an Iridium satphone before we'd buy an EPIRB. But, we'd make damn sure the satphone batteries were always topped off.


Anyone considering travel in Mexico by boat or any other means should read two publications by our State Department. One is a Travelers Guide to Mexico ( [Webmistress's Note: This page seems to have been moved to]. The other is Travelers Warning on Drugs Abroad ( warning.html)[this page seems to have moved to]. Sobering stuff. The bottom line is that the civil liberties and civil rights we enjoy in the United States do not follow us across the border. Dawn Wilson's case is a prime example. In Baja, the real threat to tourists, including cruisers, is not the Mexican people, but the police. The Mexican justice system is very corrupt. Gringos are seen as easy targets for shakedowns, which have been escalating in number and scale. This problem has moved from the border towns to the outlying areas, and now even includes the federal highway troopers.  

There are some common sense measures everyone should take to minimize exposure to these shakedowns or worse. Don't break the law. Don't drink and drive. Don't pay fines to cops on the street. Don't ever sign any papers if you don't know what they say. Don't expect Uncle Sam to come running to your rescue if you get into trouble. Remember that you are on your own, even if you did check in as part of a flotilla of over 100 boats.

On the subject of mass check-ins, I think it is quite possible that the Baja Ha-Ha is the single biggest inspiration for the Escalera Nautica nonsense. It could also be the driving force behind the port fees and check in/out procedures we now endure. It is important for each visitor or group of visitors to carefully consider the impact we have on the host country's ecology, economy and culture.

Barney Register
Wahkuna, Hans Christian 38
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Barney - It's been our experience that the United States State Department is usually the least up-to-date and most ill-informed source of information about most places. We suggest that visitors to Mexico read Carl Franz's classic People's Guide to Mexico or any of the numerous Lonely Planet Guides that cover Mexico to get a more accurate feel for what the situation is like.

We also think you neglected to mention the best way to avoid shakedowns, which is to never be alone - as was the case with Dawn Wilson when she was arrested. After all, predators always go for the easiest prey, and that's the one separated from the group.

As for your suspicion that the Ha-Ha is the "single biggest inspiration" for the Escalera Nautica, port fees, troublesome clearing procedures, global warming, and the Islamic fundamentalist attack on the World Trade Center, it merely indicates to us that you're but a 'newbie' when it comes to cruising Mexico. The 'Escalera Nautica' concept comes from the early '80s - more than a decade before the start of the Ha-Ha - at which time the proposed stops were even printed on a number of chart books and marina brochures.

As we recall, the port fees - which still aren't assessed at two of the three Ha-Ha stops - also predate the Ha-Ha. We believe they and other similar fees first reared their heads in La Paz in response to what some officials and community leaders saw as an overly large number of gringo squatters on boats spoiling the view from the malecón. Sort of the same reaction that Americans would have if 1,000 Mexican boats took to anchoring for free in the view corridors of San Diego Bay for years at a time.

But we agree that it's important for each visitor or group of visitors to carefully consider the impact they have on the host country's ecology, economy and culture. We know the Ha-Ha sure does, which is why it has so many friends at all three stops. Since you're interested in this topic and are in La Paz, perhaps you can head up a study group on the impact of alcoholic gringos homesteading on boats along the waterfront, or the effect of unattended cruising boats being driven ashore by hurricanes and tropical storms in places such as La Paz and Puerto Escondido.


In a recent edition you reported that Dawn Wilson was imprisoned in Mexico because she possessed a three-month supply of a prescription medication. Is this true? My husband and I are planning to sail to Mexico a few years from now when we retire. He takes an anti-seizure medication, and we would ordinarily take several months' supply with us. How do people get around this problem?

Thanks for the excellent magazine. We devour each issue, cover to cover.

Margaret Muggs Zabel
Symphony, Fuji 32

Margaret - Thanks for the kind words. As best we're able to determine, the Dawn Wilson case was all about corrupt police in Ensenada preying on a woman travelling alone. It seems the prescription drugs were a bogus pretext.

Rest assured that there are many American cruisers who rely on the Mexican health care system, and that includes being able to buy and possess prescription drugs. We're certain you won't have a problem. But if anybody in Mexico would like to offer more details, we'd like to hear about it.


I just returned from delivering a Norseman 447 from Pearl Harbor to Port Orchard, Washington. This has been the strangest summer weather pattern I've seen in the North Pacific. We were 19 days to Neah Bay, and rode out five low pressure systems to get there. We were dead downwind for five of the last six days before landfall. Sort of a reverse TransPac. I took my youngest son along as third crew for this passage. It was his first bluewater delivery, and he turned 18 on the day we arrived in Port Townsend. A great time was had by all that night!

I was amused by your August 9th question in 'Lectronic which asked whether readers thought the Department of Fish & Wildlife's $500 charge to put an antipollution boom around boats refueling at Midway Islands was fair and reasonable or a ploy by DFW to keep sailboats away. As one who loves government blundering as much as Latitude, here's a little background that makes your question even more worthy:

In August of 2001, while delivering a Hans Christian 43 to Honolulu from Saipan, I had the great pleasure of spending about a week at Midway Islands. It is an absolutely magic place, and is one of the top five of the many places that I've been. I visited when Midway Phoenix Corporation was still managing the facility. If the Phoenix Corporation doesn't immediately ring a bell, think Vietnam, think Laos, think Air America. It's the same group in civilian form.

At that time MPC had partnered with the Oceanic Society and was providing limited eco-tourism opportunities. There was a scuba tour and a sportfishing operation on the island. These had taken up the limited dock space in the harbor which, by the way, is a real gem. MPC had provided three moorings for visiting yachts, and there was good holding for boats on the hook as well. Because we had no decent dinghy for transportation to shore, the folks there gave us the use of their small Whaler as we needed - no strings attached. Some of the MPC crew had been working there for over 20 years, and told us all kinds of great stories about the island. In addition, the machine shop and the transportation shop helped us with some small repairs, and the logistics folks helped me arrange for some replacement parts to catch the weekly plane from Honolulu. If you add in the awesome bird life, the pristine but empty beach, and the friendliness of the workers, it was a sailor's dream port.

The only problems were the resident folks from Fish & Wildlife. I found them to be self-righteous and negative in their dealings with both the MPC and visiting sailors. The DFW people tended to hang out with folks doing research on spinner dolphins and sea birds - but at least at the lower levels of the totem pole, everyone was still friendly. As you can see if you read the articles that I reference below, that would change.

After the MPC quit and disbanded its operation in March of 2002, as a result of losing lots of money, the DFW didn't initially allow any eco-tourism, just research-type visits. Visits by cruising boats were restricted and the people made to feel unwelcome. So this latest ploy with the $500 charge for an antipollution boom comes as no surprise to me.

The irony is that in February of 2003, while under the management - or lack thereof - of the DFW, there was a huge fuel spill. It was reported that about 100,000 gallons of JP5 jet fuel drained onto the land after an underground pipe leaked. My understanding is the reason that the spill grew so large is that nobody was monitoring the levels of fuel in the huge tanks on a daily basis - which is normal operating procedure. So one huge tank just drained out.

The bottom line seems to be that we are spending over $7 million a year to supply the DFW with their own private paradise, and that's the thanks we get. It seems to me that if DFW-supervised workers aren't competent enough to fuel a small sailboat without polluting the harbor, the DFW isn't competent enough to manage a self-contained infrastructure 1,000 miles from outside assistance. So the truth is finally out!

If anyone is interested, here are some articles to get them started:

Gary Hoover
Waikoloa, Hawaii

Gary - Very interesting. For readers who don't have immediate access to the Internet, here's a quote from one of the stories in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

"Midway Phoenix has lost at least $15 million on the island, Tracey said. Strict Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions on where visitors can go and what they are allowed to do have made it difficult to operate as advertised, he said. "With this level of extremism with Fish and Wildlife, it's difficult to make a profit out there under that regime," Tracey said. "We're exhausted fighting the war." The situation is especially hard to take, he said, because under the government contract, Midway Phoenix pays the salaries of Fish and Wildlife officers who maintain the refuge, and also flies them and their families back and forth to Honolulu.

"Maxfield makes no apologies, but she said the agency has tried to work with Midway Phoenix during the 5.5 years it has been partnered with the company on the islands. "It's a national wildlife refuge, and we are required by law to put wildlife first," Maxfield said. "That has some pretty strict requirements with it that didn't always make Midway Phoenix happy."

This last comment reminds us that when it comes to becoming intoxicated with one's own beliefs, few people can compete with environmental fundamentalists. It also reminds us of the Bay Conservation & Development Commission's former anti-common-sense outlook.

In closing this reply, many readers may not recall, but years ago Gary Hoover, the author of the above letter, did a crazy race from some place like Ecuador to Rio via Cape Horn. The boat he was on lost an upper spreader near the Cape, and Hoover went up the mast in the middle of the night to jury-rig a replacement spreader, allowing the boat to keep the mast up and complete the race. And he lived to tell about it.


On a personal level, our stop at Midway Islands could not have been better. The people were friendly and helpful, be they part of Chugach McKinley, the contractor company, the Department of Fish & Wildlife staff, or the workers who are responsible for the maintenance of the island. We had a good experience.

Midway Islands is a paradise, with unbelievable sea and bird life. It is definitely worth protecting. It is also very expensive to visit. I must say, however, there were no surprises in the costs, as they were all spelled out for me beforehand: $300 to enter the port; $500 to boom the boat while fueling; and $1/foot/day for anchoring in the basin. Some of this expense is necessary to provide the extra protection that Midway needs, but other charges like the mooring fee aren't in line with what you'd find at our other marine national parks, where the Park Service is trying to make things affordable so the country's natural treasures can be enjoyed by all.

On the bureaucratic side, we did have problems prior to arrival. Before departing Fiji on June 11, I got approval from a man named Johnson, the Assistant Wildlife Manager at Midway, for us to stop at Midway. I then corresponded with the Refuge Manager, Tim Bodeen, both by phone and by email, while underway and when nearing Midway. All was fine until one day Bodeen sent me the following email:

"l have been informed by the U.S. Homeland Security Department that the Homeland Security Policy requires your vessel to go through a U.S. Customs and Immigration check at an official U.S. Port of Entry before transiting to Midway. We will need verification that you did in fact enter the U.S. in San Francisco. This verification will be cross-checked by the Homeland Security Department to ensure adherence to policy. You will not be approved to enter Midway until we receive the approval from the Homeland Security Department to allow you to enter Midway. How many days of transit time do you expect between San Francisco and Midway?"

"What the f---k?" I thought to myself. But then I sent Bodeen a very civilized reply:

"We're 800 miles south of Midway (having never said anything about San Francisco), and I would like to summarize our situation so you can plead our case with Homeland Security. When I was instructed by the owners of True North to take her back to the Caribbean from Fiji, I had several options. The best was to head north, reprovision and refuel at Midway, ride the westerly winds to San Francisco, then head down to Panama. This was a good option for the boat I skipper, a Privilege 65 catamaran, as cats do best when they don't have to beat into the wind and seas. But for this plan to work, I had to be sure that I could stop in Midway and obtain fuel. True North is a modern luxury sailing vessel, which, unlike older sailing boats, relies heavily on electricity, and therefore fuel to create that electricity. For without fuel/electricity, I don't have the hydraulics to work the sails, the refrigeration to keep the food from spoiling, the energy to cook the food on the electric stove, and the juice to run all the navigation and communication equipment. In short, since we'd be dead in the water if we couldn't get fuel, before starting the route I needed to be sure we could refuel at Midway.
"Understanding that Midway was under the management of the Department of Fish & Wildlife, I contacted the office in mid-May and got a positive verbal response about stopping on the phone from Mr. Johnson. This was followed by a positive email from him, which also included the conditions and costs of our stop. When we discussed these matters, I always made it clear that we would be coming from a foreign port and would be stopping at Midway before entering any other part of the United States. I also made it clear that the boat was of British registry, that I was an American citizen, and that my crew was foreign but had valid visas for the U.S.

"After getting a positive response from your office, Mr. Bodeen, and knowing that other vessels had also stopped at Midway a short time before, I firmed up the plans, informed the owners, flew extra crew in for the trip, and took off. Once we reached the halfway point from Fiji to Midway, there weren't any alternative stops, as Midway is in the middle of nowhere. From our current position, we would have to sail 1,400 miles directly upwind to reach Hawaii, which we can't do because we'd run out of fuel first. You could compare our situation to that of an airplane that has passed the point of no return. There are no other ports available.

"It was at this point that I received the email from you saying that all the rules had changed. I understand your position and your need to follow the law, but can you and the people in power see our predicament? What are we supposed to do, go as far as our fuel takes us, then a couple of days past Midway declare an emergency? Remember, ours is a British vessel skippered by a U.S. citizen, a Swiss, and two others from NATO countries that have supported the U.S. war on terrorism. Since another vessel was just able to make the Fiji to Midway trip ahead of us, can't an exception be made or our visit be grandfathered in? If necessary, we could be kept in quarantine onboard the cat for the duration of our stay.

"I must add that I am very uneasy about this. I have been sailing boats in and out of the United States for over 10 years, hold a U.S. Coast Guard master's license, and follow and respect the law. But what am I supposed to do now that the rules changed in the middle of our voyage? Had I known all the trouble this would be, I would have chosen a different route."

Well, after making some fine 200-mile sailing days and some phone calls, I got a reply from Mr. Bodeen, the Refuge Manager:

"You have been cleared to enter Midway, so take a deep breath. We will see you in a few days."

The whole episode didn't seem so peculiar until I read Latitude's article about the boat that had stopped at Midway just before us on her way from Fiji - and had gotten the same runaround. It makes me wonder who is really deciding who can and cannot stop at Midway. It also makes me wonder what the official rules are. Is it just one person who draws them all up and makes all the decisions? If so, it would seem rather dictatorial for a country with such a rich democratic history as the U.S. I guess my real question is whether the Department of Fish & Wildlife has the right to prevent a vessel from seeking a safe port when that vessel is in need.

Anyway, we eventually spent a week at Midway and had a nice time. I sure could have done without the hassle of the pre-arrival issues, but that's how sailing goes sometimes.

Zsolt Esztergomy
True North, Privilege catamaran
Enroute To The Caribbean

Readers - We've communicated back and forth by email with Tim Bodeen about some of these issues, but have not heard back from him since asking how the DF&W could justify the need to put a boom around a small boat being refueled.

Such extreme environmental policies aren't anything new on Midway. Some of you may remember that dedicated environmentalist Michael Reppy flipped his 36-ft trimaran Na'ai when she was on a 'save the whales' publicity mission across the Pacific to Japan. The tri's main hull finally ended up on Midway, and Reppy went to see it. But he either wasn't allowed or didn't actually want to go on it because there was a monk seal aboard, and these mammals are protected in the vicinity. In one of those terrible ironies, Reppy attempted a second 'save the whales' trip to Japan, but this time with Thursday's Child. During that trip he smashed into a whale. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.


In the August 9th 'Lectronic Latitude, you asked what readers thought of the Department of Fish & Wildlife accessing a mandatory $500 charge to boom small boats that take on fuel at Midway Islands. I think the $500 fee is best described as legal extortion. The government/environmentalists make rules allowing them to charge a fee so they can further their cause. It's normal for government and environmentalists - and all humans because it's human nature. The problem is there is no accountability. If they had competition, the fee would be reasonable and customers would be valued. They do not have to worry about competition, compassion, customer satisfaction or reason. They have rules, greed and arrogance. They may get our money, but they will never be respected until they learn how to serve others.

Sidona, Hans Christian 40


In the August Latitude you had some nice words for Will Travis, the Executive Director of the Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC), for modifying a rule about wastewater discharge from boats in marinas. Before you get too lavish in your praise of the BCDC or individuals there, does your boat have a graywater holding tank? If not, and if you ever use your boat sink or boat shower while in the marina, under BCDC these actions count as the "intentional discharge of wastewater" and are forbidden. Of course, if my boat only has a manual bilge pump, all discharge is "intentional" and not allowed.

But I ask you, does this approach really keep our harbors any cleaner? Or is it a case of ignorance and fervor trumping common sense?

Boats that pump oily waste into the Bay need to be stopped, and the rules need to make that clear. If negligence or intent is involved, the guilty party should be punished. But there's a big difference between oily waste and spitting into the ocean after brushing one's teeth.

Bill Kinney

Bill - You seem to be a little confused about what happened last month. We alerted Executive Director Will Travis to the fact that there was a problem between the BCDC rules and real life - specifically that if some boats, primarily wood boats, couldn't have their automatic bilge pumps on, they would sink. Rather than blow us off or ignore the problem, Travis did what we thought was the intelligent thing - he suspended that part of the rules pending further investigation into how to resolve the problem. What more could you ask of somebody? Now it's incumbent upon the representatives of the Northern California marine industry to work with the BCDC to find common ground to prevent both the unnecessary sinking of boats at their docks and the unnecessary polluting of the Bay.

You also may have noticed that a short time later Travis - perhaps spurred by the bilge pump issue - announced that the BCDC is going to conduct a review of their rules regarding marinas. We get the distinct impression he is searching for other places where "fervor might have replaced common sense." He specifically asked for input from all interested parties - which means you. Travis is a guy who has proven to us that he's open-minded rather than a zealot, so we urge you to take him up on his invitation.

It's true, the way things stand now, if some non-boatowner takes a shower on the dock, it's legal, but if you take the same shower on your boat in the marina and you don't have a graywater tank, you're in violation of the BCDC rules. The BCDC hasn't demonstrated any interest in enforcing this rule, nor do they have the staffing to do so. But if it concerns you that this rule is on the books, go ahead and make your concern known - and let us know what response you get.


With regard to Howard Stevens' letter regarding taxes in the state of Washington, be aware that we have both an 8+% sales tax on boats and planes, as well as personal property tax on boats and planes of about 1/2% of their value annually.

But here's the kicker. If you purchased a boat or plane previously - and it doesn't matter how many years ago - in another state without sales tax, or in a state with sales tax less than Washington's, or used the 90-day Yacht Club in Ensenada to avoid California sales or use tax, upon moving that boat to Washington, or even cruising Washington's waters for more than 120 days, you have to pay the difference between the sales tax paid in another domain and the tax currently charged in Washington.

Mel Shapiro


I have always read the letters and features on state taxes with great interest, for one of these days I'm going to make a break from this looney bin rat race. Alas, things keep coming up, like a sailing injury and the sticky fingers of this new empire clutching at me as I try to retire. But one of these years, while I'm still sane, I hope to be part of the Ha-Ha.

Anyway, I ran a Web search on state taxes. I simply typed in "states with no income taxes," "states with no sales tax," and "states with no property taxes." Here's what I came up with - although I want to caution that I can't verify the accuracy.

· States with no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Tennessee and New Hampshire often appear on such lists because they evidently only tax interest and dividend income - which could definitely be a consideration for a retiree or rat race escapee.

· States with no sales tax:: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon and New Hampshire.

· States with no property taxes: There are none. I find it curious that all states have personal property tax, but that's what it said.

If anyone has better information, let me know. But now, how about a list of countries with no extradition treaties with the United States. Just kidding!

P.S. I like Latitude so much that I even have a first class subscription. This keeps me from having to search around for the next issue!

M.A. Anonymous
A Temperate Climate

Anonymous - If you're sure that you want to quit the American rat-race when you retire, and you care passionately about paying as little U.S. tax as possible, forget about the states without various taxes, as you'll almost certainly want to set up a foreign corporation to buy and own your boat. If you Google "foreign yacht registry," you'll find there are countless companies eager to help you establish a corporation to own your boat in places such as the Cayman Islands, British Virgins, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Anguilla, Niue, the Cook Islands, Malta, Gibraltar, the Turks & Caicos and many others. You don't actually have to go to any of these places, nor do you have to set up a board of directors or open bank accounts. They'll take care of all the paperwork and details, usually for about $4,000. Most of these countries cannot, by their own laws, reveal the identity of the owner(s) of the corporation. Many of the countries also have banking laws that prohibit them from sharing any corporate financial information with the IRS or any other branch of the United States government.

When a foreign corporation buys a boat outside of the United States, it will not, if the transaction is done properly, be subject to sales, use, or VAT tax. Foreign-owned vessels can get a cruising permit for the U.S. for about $40 a year, which will allow the boat to travel freely. From time to time, however, the captain will have to check in with U.S. officials, usually by phone. Not that any of the officials could give a hoot, foreign boatowners tell us. Since it's a foreign-owned boat, county assessors shouldn't be able to assess personal property tax. If they hand the boat a bill, you could rip it up with a chuckle - as soon as you left U.S. waters - and there would be very little they could do. Of course, you probably wouldn't want to return to the same state with the boat under the same name and corporate ownership.

Unless we're mistaken, M.A., you're probably the kind of guy who would also like to legally avoid paying federal and state income tax, too. The deal is that no matter where in the world you make money, you have to pay U.S. income tax on it - except when exempted. If you stay outside of the U.S. for over 330 days a year, however, you are able to exempt up to $80,000 U.S. a year. That's a lot of tax-free money. Google "IRS, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion" and start reading all the conditions and details. We can tell you, however, that many U.S. citizens who work on charter boats in places like the Caribbean take advantage of this section of the tax code.

Less scrupulous people, who either don't qualify for the exclusion because they weren't out of the country for 330 days a year, or who have over $80,000 a year in income, might try to set things up so their income is somehow converted to 'management fees' or some such thing paid to the corporation that owns their boat. In turn, that corporation pays all the person's expenses so he doesn't really need any income. And it's not like these flagging countries spend a lot of time going over the propriety of ultra-small corporation expenditures. They just want your money and spending power in their country.


For the second time in a year, you've mentioned that the San Francisco Captain of the Port has designated most of San Francisco Bay and the Delta as a 'narrow channel'. I don't know where you got this information, but it strikes me as untrue. The Coast Guard has only designated two areas of San Francisco Bay narrow channels with regard to Rule 9, and those are the north and south shipping lanes in the Bay, and those that follow up the Delta. For purposes of the rules, these channels are called the Restricted Navigation Areas or RNAs.

In the August Sightings, instances of sailors intruding on safe passages clearly show the dangers and illegalities of small craft violating Rule 9 - and in all cases mentioned, these occurrences took place in the RNAs - meaning the north/south shipping lanes and those following into the Delta. You'll never see a tanker, container ship, or tug with a long tow outside those RNAs - and with good reason: any vessel over 20 meters in length, restricted in ability to maneuver, won't be there.

I agree, it's incumbent upon all recreational sailors to thoroughly understand where these RNAs are located, and to take early and safe action to avoid crossing paths with commercial traffic restricted to these lanes. But to suggest all parts of the Bay outside these channels are narrow channels is not only inaccurate, it may foster a misunderstanding about other commercial traffic - such as ferry boats.

Ferries are motor-driven vessels not constrained by draft or size, and therefore must follow the rules with regard to vessels under sail. If you have a sailboat and are under sail, you're the 'stand on vessel' when in sight of a ferry. The ferry will give way accordingly. This is not to say that ferry captains don't make mistakes - it's happened to me - so be prepared to follow the first rule: any vessel able to take action to avoid a collision that fails to do so is no less at fault. In other words, keep your eyes open, leave plenty of room, but don't make unnecessary and illegal maneuvers that could endanger your boat or your lives.

One last thought: recreational boaters don't have to sit down and memorize day shapes, lights and whistle signals. But if you look through your binoculars at the mast of a tug and see two vertical black balls with a diamond in the middle, or at night two red lights with a white one between them, rest assured there is likely a barge being towed behind her.

If you have any doubts about inbound/outbound shipping traffic, just call Vessel Traffic Service on Channel 14, and ask for 'update Golden Gate'.

Capt Dan G.
Kunu, Ericson 35

Capt. Dan - The Restricted Navigation Areas (RNAs) have nothing to do with interactions between small boats and big ships, but rather between big ships and other big ships. The general idea is that the Coast Guard only wants one big ship, not two or three, in the most dangerous areas of the Bay at one time. So they designated these area as RNAs and have restrictions specific to the danger of each area.

Nonetheless, perhaps we could have expressed ourselves more clearly in the past. The point we were trying to make is that no matter where you go east of the San Francisco Approach Buoy (the Lightbucket), ships either can't go there because the water isn't deep enough, or Rule 9 applies because the Captain of the Port considers it a narrow channel or fairway.

If you don't like this rule-of-thumb approach, Google "Vessel Traffic Service, San Francisco," then see the Online User's Manual, then the Captain of the Port Advisories, and finally see Enforcement of Navigation Rules of San Francisco Bay. There you will find a "non-inclusive" list of areas which are considered narrow channels or fairways. These include the Golden Gate Traffic Lanes, which include the Westbound and Eastbound Lanes west of the Golden Gate; the Golden Gate Precautionary Area; the Central Bay Traffic Lanes, which include the Deep Water Traffic Lane, the Eastbound Lane (south of Alcatraz Island), and the Westbound Lane (south of Harding Rock); the Central Bay Precautionary Area; the North Ship Channel; between North Channel Lighted Buoy "A" and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge; the South-ampton Shoal Channel, including the Richmond Long Wharf maneuvering area; the Richmond Harbor Entrance Channel and the Point Potrero Reach, ending at Point Potrero Turn and including the Turning Basin at Point Richmond; the Point Potrero Turn; the Richmond Harbor Channel in its entirety; the Santa Fe Channel in its entirety - and on and on and on. We're not even going to bother with the list of areas up the Delta.

We came up with the 'just always avoid ships' rule-of-thumb in order to keep everyone from having to memorize all the areas listed above, and know when their boat was in one of them.


Thanks to the 2003 Baja Ha-Ha, we had a wonderful cruising adventure in Mexico this last year. We highly recommend the event, as it allowed us to make so many great cruising friends. Right now we - Tim, the Deck Ape, and Julie, the Admiral - are resting up after four days of putting Luna Sea on the hard at Marina Real in San Carlos, Mexico. We are now sitting in Julie's mom's big, beautiful, modern home in Sun City West, Arizona. After nine months of cruising aboard our Irwin 37, living on land in a big house sure seems strange.

Our last sail of the season was pretty exciting. We left Bahia Santa Domingo, which is near the tip of Bahia Conception on the western side of the Sea of Cortez, at 1:30 p.m. to make the 80-mile sail across the Sea to San Carlos. We hoped to sail the entire way and expected to arrive shortly after daylight the following day. For the first four hours, we beam-reached at a good speed in 12 to 15 knots of easterly winds. Realizing that at this clip we'd arrive before daylight, I furled the jib to slow down. After a couple more hours it got light, so we started the diesel to keep an average speed of four knots. Then a breeze came up again, so we sailed under just the full main again.

As you can tell, sailing conditions change by the hour in the Sea of Cortez. And you also never know when it might get a little nasty. As darkness fell, the wind came up a little more, and we could see lighting off in the distance. They say you're supposed to reef as soon as the thought crosses your mind, but suddenly it was already too late as the wind gusted to 35 knots and the seas started to build. Reefing turned out to be a more difficult job than I ever thought it would be, but we finally managed to get a couple of reefs in, although they weren't the best.

With the seas up, the jerry cans on the deck started to jump up and down. We needed to be beam to the seas to make our course, but since they were breaking, we headed a bit to the southeast to take them off our starboard bow. It was nasty, but at least we were making four knots with the engine at 2,100 rpm. After a couple of hours of hand-steering, the Admiral decided we should head northeast to try to get closer to our course. This put the confused waves on our stern, trying to climb into our cockpit. Thanks to a full moon, we had no trouble seeing them. Luna Sea has never been pooped, but it almost happened that night.

After 10 hours of surfing down waves and dodging the really big ones, we arrived at the Catch 22 anchorage, the wind having averaged close to 30 knots throughout the night. We were whipped for sure, and sooo glad to be safe. It was a wild end to a nine-month adventure. After that crossing, Julie felt like she was done with cruising. But after a good night's sleep, we were already thinking about how much fun it was going to be returning to the boat in late October for another season. We'll see everybody on the Sea!

Tim & Julie Harmon
Luna Sea, Irwin 37


I saw your August 11 edition of 'Lectronic, the one featuring the photo of a young lady wearing nothing but a Coast Guard jacket and what might be called a transparent Panamanian thong. You must know the feminists are going to BBQ you all over again. But good on you for creating a lively debate about free expression and the mid-Victorian American value system.

By the way, if Ms. C. is actually in the Coast Guard, you probably want to get her aboard Profligate for the Ha-Ha PDQ. If that piece had appeared when I was in the Coast Guard, the admirals would have gone ape-shit. My guess is their nefarious 'Coast Guard Intelligence' is already on the case trying to figure out the identity of Ms. C.  

Brian Marion
Tosca, Beneteau 331

Brian - What's all this nonsense about our creating a debate about free expression and the mid-Victorian American value system? It was just a humorous photo that we hoped would remind folks who have cruised in the tropics how good it feels to sometimes go naked, naked, naked.

As for feminists and admirals in the Coast Guard, we think they've got better things to do than hector us, what with the Pentagon policy to give all women in the military, as well as members of their families, free boob jobs. (No, as absurd as it seems, we're not making this up.) The Pentagon says they are doing it to give military doctors opportunities to hone their skills. We think it's a ploy to have the biggest-breasted women soldiers in the world . . . in order to lure horny young guys to join the military.


I have been cruising Mexico off and on since 1989, and have always enjoyed my time spent there. But while boogie-boarding at Cerritos in January of this year, I was slammed onto the bottom with such force that I broke my collarbone. My girlfriend drove me to Fidepaz Hospital in La Paz, where Dr. Gonzalez Osuna explained that the break was very bad. He pointed to several spots on the x-ray, alleging there were multiple breaks and loose splinters of bone. He further indicated surgery and a metal plate were necessary, in part because the loose fragments of bone were very close to my artery and therefore dangerous. I was stunned. But he's the doctor and he should know, right? In pain and thinking it was the only way out, I agreed to have the surgery.

Four weeks after the $4,000 U.S. surgery, the pain worsened and the incision became red and swollen. I returned to Dr. Osuna, who took another x-ray that clearly showed the plate was lifting off the bone. "You probably slept on it wrong," said the doctor, "I'll put another one in for $3,000."

Sensing something was very wrong, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon at the Naval Hospital in La Paz. He shook his head and sighed as he looked at the x-rays taken at the Fidepaz Hospital. He indicated surgery had not been necessary, saying, "There were no loose fragments, and it was a simple collarbone fracture."

Usually this type of injury requires some immobility and about six to eight weeks to heal. The pain I had been suffering was from the screws backing out. The plate was actually holding the bone apart, preventing it from healing properly. The doctor wanted to get the plate out as quickly as possible, before it broke through the skin. I had the surgery at the Naval Hospital. The care was excellent and the procedure to remove the plate was only $1,200 U.S. I highly recommend this medical facility.    

When I asked the surgeon at the Naval Hospital if he would put something in writing to help prove my complaint to Fidepaz Hospital regarding Dr. Osuna, he refused, saying it was a small town. I also saw another orthopedic doctor in La Paz who confirmed that my surgery had been unnecessary, but he too refused to put anything in writing.

So I visited two more doctors in Cabo, who both agreed that the surgery was bad and had been unnecessary. They, however, were willing to help me. They told me about Conamed, the Medical Governing agency of Mexico. This agency will investigate complaints and even demand restitution. However, the paper trail is of unbelievable proportions and complicated. The Catch 22 is that you must be in Mexico to proceed with this process. As my medical expenses wiped out my cruising kitty, I've had to return to the States to work. It's now eight months later and I still am experiencing pain in my collar bone.

I look forward to returning to Mexico and enjoying the Sea of Cortez. I will be proceeding with Conamed when I get back. What did I learn from all this? Second opinion! Second opinion! Second opinion!

Michael Blubaugh
San Diego

Michael - We'll be the first to second your recommendation to always get a second opinion. In about 1987 we severely herniated a disc while aboard our Olson 30 Little O at Isla Partida in the Sea of Cortez. After a week of great pain and all kinds of well-intentioned New Age treatment such as 'coral therapy' out at the island, we were taken to a retired orthopedic doctor in La Paz. He did a 20-second test that consisted of seeing how high we could lift each leg, which was supposed to indicate whether surgery would be required. We failed the test. Not knowing quite what to do, we thrashed around in severe pain in a Los Arcos Hotel room for a night before friends dragged us off to the Naval Hospital you refer to. They were very pleasant and helpful. We were given a very effective painkiller, taken to the airport, and in a subconscious state made to buy six tickets so they could remove enough seats from the Aero-Mexico plane to make room for the stretcher we were on.

An ambulance met us on the tarmac at LAX and took us to L.A. Orthopedic Hospital. What a mistake that was. After examining us, the numbskull masquerading as a doctor told us that we were "faking it" and that there wasn't anything wrong with our back. After several agonizing weeks - he was a U.S. doctor so he had to know what he was talking about, right? - we got a second opinion. The second opinion agreed that the retired doctor in Mexico knew more than the guy in L.A. We can still remember the pleasure we felt at being pain-free when we came to after the surgery! The moral of that story is the same as yours - always get a second opinion right away.

And don't get us started about our misdiagnosed broken ankle! Despite these medical misadventures, we don't dislike nor distrust doctors. We think most of them are good at what they do, but that diagnosing medical problems can be difficult. By the way, second opinions are often just as valuable when it comes to repairing boats as they are when it comes to repairing bodies.


In your August issue, you replied to an inquiry about the suitability of a Montgomery 17 for ocean sailing. I owned a Montgomery 17 for many years - my grandson has it now - and I agree with your reply that it would be all right in the ocean off Southern California and Catalina. A Montgomery 17 would be dangerous in rough waters such as off the coast of Northern and Central California during typical summer conditions.

But there are important considerations other than size that determine ocean-going capability. The one that springs to mind is the volume of the cockpit and the efficiency of the scuppers. In the open ocean you are very likely to get pooped, the cockpit will fill and become heavy, and you'll sink instead of sail. So you want to minimize the volume of water that can enter the boat, and what water that does come aboard needs to be removed as soon as possible.

I know of a fellow who sailed a Montgomery 17 from California to Hawaii, but first he decked over the cockpit so water couldn't get in. I reduced the volume of my cockpit somewhat, and added a sill to raise the level of water able to get into the cockpit before it spilled down the hatch into the interior of the boat. (As I think about this, it is possible that the designer purposely provided low sills so that a sudden ingestion of water would go into the hull where it would be more evenly balanced than if it were restricted to the cockpit.)

Anyway, I loved my Montgomery 17 for sailing in the Bay, the Delta and lakes, but it didn't seem suitable for rough water passage-making.

Richard H. Fish


After making the 800-mile trip to Sausalito from Whidbey Island, Washington, in our 1986 Gemini 3000 cat, we pulled into Schoonmaker Marina. It's funny how things work out, because we were directed to take the end-tie that had just been vacated by Profligate.

The forecast for our entire trip down the coast had been for 15 to 25 knots out of the northwest. It turned out that we had to motor half the way because of no wind, then at Cape Blanco we had 40+ knots, with overcast and fog most of the rest of the way.

While sitting in Profligate's slip, I had just finished the Latitude article about boats sinking at their docks, and who to call when something like that happens. Just then I heard a generator start. Wondering who would start a genset at 9:30 p.m., I looked out the salon to see the skipper of the nearby motoryacht Happy Doc, with his dewatering pump and hose, climbing aboard the trawler next to his boat. My buddy and I then walked over to the trawler, which was now bow down and listing badly to port. Between the three of us, and with a lot of help from the pump, we managed to get 1,500 gallons out of the sinking boat and saved her. It seems that the trawler's hot water tank had rusted through, and since the fresh water hose had been left on, it started to fill the boat.

The owner of the trawler was fortunate that the skipper of Happy Doc, a large powerboat, had realized something was wrong and had a pump onboard capable of pumping out that much water.

We will be spending August on the Bay, then slowly heading south to be in San Diego for the start of the Ha-Ha.

Rob & Linda Jones
Cat'n About, Gemini 3000
Whidbey Island, Washington

Rob & Linda - It seems to us that's pretty good evidence of the benefits of having a few liveaboards around. It certainly would have been an expensive mess had the trawler gone under.

For the record, although Profligate had been in that Schoonmaker guest end-tie for about six weeks prior to your arrival, it's by no means 'her slip'. She actually doesn't have a permanent slip. Profligate is an extremely valuable editorial tool, so she spends most of the year in the tropics, only returning to Sausalito for a few months in the early summer.


We've found that the proper position for men wanting to take a pee in the head of our Valiant 42 is the 'praying' or kneeling position. In order to help, we've installed a couple of teak grab-handles to make it easier to move in and out of position. So far, the accuracy and personal security have been excellent!

Merrill & Lee Newman
Jenny Wren, Valiant 42
Santa Cruz / El Salvador


A little more than 20 years ago, I was a young man and sailed around the Caribbean with Mr. Thomas 'T-Bone' Whatley, a seasoned old warrior who taught me a lot about being a mariner. He had some great sayings, two of which I'd like to share with your readers, as they've proven to be so true over the years. First, "In a rough and rolling sea, all good sailors sit to pee." Second, "Nothing is as permanent as a good temporary solution."

Augusto Villalon
Austin, Texas

Augusto - It has nothing to do with peeing, but our favorite nautical saying has always been, "Men and ships rot in port."


I live in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and I'm trying to obtain my six-pack license from the Coast Guard. Even though I grew up on the water in Marblehead, I don't have enough recent time on the water. As I'm sure you know, the Coast Guard requires 90 days within the past three years to get the license. I've been checking out some of the yacht charter companies and excursion boats, and even some delivery companies as ways of building up my time. Do you have any ideas or work that I could use to add to my time?

Roger Harris
Newburyport, Massachusetts

Roger - A sure way to get all the sea time you want is to volunteer to help deliver boats from Mexico back up to San Diego. You could be doing it nonstop if your body could take it. Another idea is to become a crew on the West Marine Caribbean 1500 and then help deliver boats in the Caribbean for the winter. Once you start, you'll quickly be networked in, and can get all the sea time you can stand. Good luck.


I'm berthed at a marina on the Alameda side of the Oakland Estuary. For the past few months, we've been seeing a lot of larger boats, including commercial vessels, passing through the 'no wake' zone at incredibly high speeds. Even when we're on our boat on the water, these same boats pass without slowing, causing violent wakes. The worst wake was created by a Foss Tractor Tug. When I called the skipper on it, he flipped us off and kept going.

However, I'd like to pass on kudos to the skippers of the Crowley Maritime tugs, as I believe they have the most courteous, professional, and friendly captains of any company along the Estuary. They travel down the Estuary at a speed that leaves no wake. When they pass other boats, they wave at the kids and are just plain friendly people. I would especially like to thank the captains of the Sea Robin and the Tioga. My 6-year-old granddaughter is always waving at them when they pass, and they always wave back. Now she wants a tugboat!

I'd just like to say that everyone in our marina thanks the Crowley captains for their professionalism.

Brett Hales


Might you have any idea what happened to the Sea Wind? I'm referring to the one mentioned in The Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi? If you remember, she was the boat on which Mac and Muff Graham had cruised to Palmyra, where they were murdered by Buck Walker, who was accompanied by his girlfriend Stephanie Stearns. The Grahams' Sea Wind was described as a work of art. I can't believe that nobody has bought her, but I can't find any history about her.

Skip Edge

Skip - The Grahams were murdered way back in 1974. Their boat, a 38-ft wooden ketch built in 1947 - was brought back to Hawaii by Walker and Stearns (aka Jennifer Jenkins), who had done a poor job of disguising her.

(Both Walker and Stearns were later convicted of stealing the boat. Walker escaped from McNeil Island penitentary 42 months later. Not long after that, a South African couple found Muff Graham's remains on Palmyra. Forensic experts determined that her bones had been broken and burned, then stuffed into a container. Walker was later caught in a drug sting, and he and Stearns were charged with murder. Walker is serving a life term in Lompoc. Stearns got a separate trial, and Bugliosi managed to get her acquitted. She subsequently took a job with a California telecommunications company.)

We don't know what happened to Sea Wind, but assume that she was sold by the Grahams' estate. She may have deteriorated badly during all the proceedings, and may have subsequently rotted away before her time. She was apparently a very nice little boat, although we'd never trust the opinion of a landlubber like Bugliosi as to what constitutes a nautical work of art.


In 1949, John H. Gardner, my father, was the owner and skipper of Traveler, a New York 40 that had been christened Pompano in 1916. He raced her in the TransPac under the burgee of the San Francisco YC. According to the TransPac history, the boat's crew was slated to include Jim Enzensperger (navigator), Roy Ashley, Bob Dinehardt, Syd Ford, Joe Koenig, Barney Smith, Peter Mohler, and Edward Poole. Because the crew lists were printed long before the race, it's possible there were changes or additions to the crew.

The TransPac history book also mentions my dad's boat in the retelling of that race: "Traveler was one of a few pre-race favorites, and finished first across the line just ahead of Kitten. Traveler's hollow main boom broke a few days before the finish, but her crew did a fine piece of repair work by inserting a spinnaker pole into the two broken ends."

In 1963, the boat was in Honolulu and owned by Frederick L. Stowell. In 1969, according to Lloyd's Yacht Registry, she had a new owner, but no name was given. Thanks to Cathie Nash, I have been able to trace the boat's history this far. I would like to locate any of the crew who might still be living and possibly still sailing in the Bay Area. I am also trying to find the yacht. It is my hope that I might be able to hear the whole story from someone who sailed with my father during what must have been his favorite adventure. You see, I never got to sail with my father or hear the story of his TransPac firsthand.

I am the skipper of Sukey III, and have been sailing out of Berkeley for about nine years. I'm now down in Ventura. If anyone has any information, they can reach me at (805) 647-6221 or by email.

T. Gardner

T. - It's a pity you didn't write us before, as navigator Jim Enzensperger, who has since passed away, lived across the street from us in Southern Marin for 15 years.

As you probably know, not many boats built in 1916 are still around. However, there is some hope for your search, as the New York 40 one-design class - they were 59 feet overall - has enjoyed something of a revival. Several of the New York 40s have enjoyed meticulous restorations. In fact, one had been so beautifully restored prior to the '03 Antigua Classic Regatta that one of her three owners - a man apparently lacking in passion for actual sailing - refused to allow her to compete. Disgusting! If you want to follow this trail further, you might try the New York YC.


It was several years ago that we acquired our dog Gus. Soon thereafter we brought him aboard Lara, our Garden Porpoise 42, to test his sea legs. After a pleasant sail, it was obvious to us that we had an excellent sea dog.

Just a few hours later, it dawned on us that he probably needed to go ashore. So visualize me, a middle-aged fairly athletic man trying to pull our 100-pound dog from the deck of our ketch and into the dinghy - which was pulling away from the boat. You got it - an accident waiting to happen! Somehow we managed that day, notwithstanding a multitude of bruises and a sore back.

It wasn't long, however, before the proverbial light came on in our heads. We needed to make something to help with the job, something that was simple, foolproof, and, well, dog-proof. What we ended up with is a cargo boom, equipped with a block and tackle, that would snap onto a padeye on our mizzen mast. It turned out to be very 'shippy' looking, if I do say so myself. Next, we used our old Phaff sewing machine to create a sort of bosun's chair for our dog - and bang - the 'Dog-a-Pult' was born!

Our dog Gus loves it. We love it. And the other folks in the anchorages have loved watching us use it. We hope to save as many backs as possible, and make life a little easier for dogs on boats - although I suppose it would work fine for other livestock, too!

Lance & Sara Buckley
Lara, Garden Porpoise ketch


As a testament to how well-read 'Lectronic Latitude is here at West Marine, your August 18th 'Calling Chuck Hawley, The West Marine Tech Guy' item had barely gone up on the Internet before about a dozen West Marine associates advised me that you had some questions about one of our fuel funnels. We'd have a lot better productivity around here if 'Lectronic wasn't so popular.

The fuel filters you refer to were apparently designed for bush pilots in Alaska who wanted to pre-filter automotive gas for their planes. John Neal, famed cruiser/author/expedition organizer and skipper of Mahina Tiare, brought them to my attention as being less expensive, but equally effective, as the Baja Filter.

This funnel uses a fine Teflon-coated screen that will pass hydrocarbons but not water. (I would normally make a comment about how all of us may have a problem passing water as we age, but perhaps I should not.) The water that is not allowed to go into your fuel tank has to go somewhere, and that's the reason for the sump at the bottom of the filter. I'm not sure what they do with the few ounces of fuel and sediment in Alaska, but if the filter comes up clean, I pour it into the tank. If not, I fill a small container and wait for a beach fire or other opportunity to burn the residue.

Thanks for asking the question - and thanks for using our fuel filter. But please stop being such a diversion for West Marine associates!

Chuck Hawley
West Marine Products

Chuck - We're with you on the concept of pouring clean fuel trapped in the funnel sump directly into the fuel tank - but there's just one problem. The top of the funnel is so wide - which is great for pouring fuel into it from a jerry jug - that when you try to pour the sump drops back out, it runs all over the place. It's at least a 'two rag mess'. Having experimented extensively, we've found that the only way to pour diesel out of the funnel sump and not spill any of it is to pour it into something with a really large opening - like a 55-gallon drum or a swimming pool. But then what do you do with it? Since West Marine's motto is not "We Make Bush Piloting More Fun," we hope that you and John Neal will get together and rectify this very trying design flaw - perhaps with a pouring notch on the rim.

On the positive side, the Teflon filter works like a champ. It turned out we had several ounces of milky-looking liquid in our jerry jug fuel and it all got filtered out.


Since you brought it up, yes, I agree that the jerry jugs and fuel funnels sold by West Marine are, in most cases, unacceptable. It's bad enough when transferring diesel, as Northern Dancer reported from Turtle Bay, but it gets real scary when the California-approved jerry jugs dump gasoline all over the cockpit and down the scuppers because the shut-off valves are poorly designed - as reported by Impetuous of Alameda.

The old-style plastic jerry jugs with the traditional spouts and an air vent are still available if you shop around. I highly recommend them.

The best advice I can give is to always test out new fuel-transferring gear and techniques at your home berth, and never trust untested items when away from home. You will learn about what kinds of rags to have, what kinds of cleanup solvents to have, e.g. lots of Simple Green, and so forth. For example, you don't want to wait until you get to Turtle Bay to discover that the famous Baja Filter's neck is slightly too large for most fuel ports. A well-designed manual transfer pump is an item I'd love to see West Marine carry.

It would be great for West Marine to upgrade their product offerings to something safe, simple, useful and correct. Chuck Hawley has always done a superb job with safety issues, and we hope he can do this one as well.

Mike Chambreau
Impetuous, Cal 34
Los Altos

Mike - We're not big fans of the new jerry jugs either, and we agree, it would be great if West Marine carried a well-designed manual fuel transfer pump. When taking Profligate from California to the Caribbean and back, we carried four 55-gallon drums of extra fuel in the cockpit, and from time to time needed to transfer that fuel into the tanks. Electric fuel transfer pumps were overkill for the job and required juice. One of our crew brought along a hand-squeeze siphon starter that he bought for about $1.95. Simple and efficient, it was the perfect solution before he took it home.

We're stunned to the response to this fuel filter item. We'll have a lot more letters on it in the next issue.


I read your August Sightings piece on the changing of guard at Hogin Sails with interest - only to find a minor omission. Hogin Sails was founded in 1979 by Bob and Emily Hogin - but also with me as a one-third partner. I never made much of an issue of being a partner, so for a long time many people thought I was just another employee.

In the early years, I designed and made all the spinnakers, helped design the small boat sails, did repairs, and did the cover work. In the '80s, when we switched to computer design for the sails, I'd become so busy with the canvas work that Bob took on all of the sail design, including that of the spinnakers. I became known for the design and fabrication of partial and full boat covers.

During the late '80s and early '90s, I was also chairperson of the Oakland to Catalina Race, when it blossomed from 40 to over 100 boats. Most recently, I've kept my finger in race activities by chairing Encinal YC's Gracie and George Regatta.

In July of 2003, I sold my share of Hogin Sails to Bob and Emily Hogin so I could pursue what had been an evening and weekend activity, watercolor painting. I'm still in Alameda, with my husband, and am actively painting my favorite subjects - boats, water, animals, people and marine life. In addition to selling my paintings, I accept commissions. People can find me at Waypoint in Alameda a few days a month earning a few extra bucks while I'm still a starving artist. I've set up a studio in the corner of the Cruising Cats USA office in Grand Marina, Alameda, and expect to be spending more and more time there painting.

Margaret Woodford Fago


On behalf of BAADS (Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors), I'd like to thank Scott Keck for his note about our needing a rudder for our Ranger 29 Voyager.

Due to circumstances not related to the rudder, we have been forced to sell Voyager to a member. The rudder had been replaced at a fine local yard with the cost split between BAADS and the purchaser. The need for the sale was related to our having to give up our slip at Berkeley Marina because we have not been able to document sufficient usage to satisfy the requirement of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission.

We are sad to sell Voyager; she is a grand boat. But we know she is in good hands and will still be close to the club as her new skipper is a very active member.

For those not familiar with us, BAADS is an all-volunteer nonprofit 501-(C)(3) club, and we're continuing to fulfill our mission to make sailing on the Bay accessible for folks with disabilities, their families, friends and interested others. We now operate solely out of South Beach Harbor in San Francisco, where our fleet consists of our trusty Freedom Independence 20 Raven, the Ranger 23 Heidi, and our newly refitted Catalina 30 Tashi.

New members at any level of experience are always welcome, All help and donations are, of course, greatly appreciated and vital to our survival. More at our Web site: Thanks for a great and 'accessible' mag - and for Latitude's generosity to BAADS over the years.

Tom Fowle
Staff Commodore BAADS
Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors
San Francisco


The McGeorge's wrote in about making new chainplates for their boat out of Manganese Bronze. This would be all right as long as they used #70 Manganese Bronze. This has a minimum tensile strength of 65,000 pounds per square inch as cast. That is a low end, as it can go as high as 70,000 pounds as cast.

There are two other grades, 90 and 110. These should not be used for chainplates for they are much harder and subject to work hardening in many situations.

Many people seem to think that Stainless Steel is a magic cure all for metal problems. It's not so. I've seen some chainplates made of low 300 series stainless such as 302-304. This is the lowest grade, and you can see why, because it rusts when used for deck fittings. It's also low strength. Type 316 or 316L is the best of the 300 series.

The best bronze alloy for chainplates would be Nibral, which is Nickel Aluminum Bronze. It contains no zinc, and therefore, unlike Manganese Bronze is not so subject to electrolysis. Nibral is the metal of choice for high performance boat propellers. They will take a great load, are flexible, and don't work harden.

The top of the line for stainless steel would be Nitronic 50 or Aqualoyt 22. At 135,000-145,000 pounds per square inch, it's high strength. It will not crevice erode as will the 300 series Stainless. The main source for this material is Western Branch Metals in Portmouth, Virginia.

I have been in the marine trade since 1946 at Pitchometer Propeller in Alameda. We had our own foundry and worked in all the above mentioned materials. I have also sailed the Bay since 1938. I am now retired and only consult as asked.

Robert Kilian
Pitchometer Propeller Co, Kilian Propeller & Bay Propeller

Robert - Thank you for sharing your expertise.

Rants, raves, comments, drink recipes, may be sent to our Editor.

Subscriptions / Classifieds / 'Lectronic Latitude / Home

© 2004 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.