Back to "Letters" Index


Do you remember the Shingletown-based Tayana 52 Clambake that was run down and sunk by a ship in the middle of the night off Mexico about 10 years ago? After cruising in the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico, owners Marshall and Dee Saunders, and their crew Joe, set sail for the South Pacific. They only got about 75 miles off Puerto Vallarta before they were run down by a ship. Their boat and all their worldly possessions went down in less than 90 seconds.

Well, Dee Saunders has written a riveting book - Unsinkable - about her and Marshall's life together, about being sunk by the ship, and all the subsequent ramifications. The book takes you through the couple's lives, as they relentlessly plow through unexpected tragedies and continually climb back up with courage and determination. You'll learn that all dreams are achievable, and can even be enhanced by life's unexpected tragedies in ways that might not be imagined.

Dee doesn't know that I am writing to you, as both she and Marshall aren't the types to toot their own horn. They are now our next-door neighbors here on Whidbey Island, and are still very active boaters. Unsinkable is published by Fine Edge

Steve Bondelid
ex-owner, Grey Max, Lord Nelson 35
Greenbank, Washington

Steve - Of course, we remember the sinking of Clambake, as Dee and Marshall wrote an article about the incident in the May '93 issue of Latitude. Because of our current deadline, we've only had a few minutes to page through the copy that Dee sent us, but it looks pretty darned interesting. Among the topics that particularly caught our attention were issues related to their EPIRB, tracking down the ship that hit them, and the insurance settlement. Our only (very slight) criticism of the book is the title - and only because if you go to Amazon, most of the 'Unsinkable' titles are about the Titanic. But we say Unsinkable by Dee Saunders is well worth checking out.

By the way, Steve, just a few weeks ago we were visiting with Bill and Mary Jane Makepeace in Mexico aboard Grey Max, the Lord Nelson 35 that you used to own. They've been having a great time cruising her for the last five years or so. We were especially impressed with the solar panel array and hot water heater they say you set up on top of the bimini. According to Bill and Mary Jane, it seems they are completely energy self-sufficient - including refrigeration and watermaker - while on the hook, without ever having to resort to the diesel. So you did good!


In the February issue there was a comment about anchor-outs improperly emptying their commodes or holding tanks. We mariners in Southern California are bombarded with radio ads from the state's Department of Boating and Waterways saying that a few bad boaters spoil the waters for everyone else. Well, San Diego and LA's South Bay have had many 12,000-gallon raw sewage spills that resulted in inland and surfside beaches being closed for weeks. Boaters - even the bad ones who pump overboard - are absolutely insignificant in comparison.

Michael Burkhart
Mission Bay

Michael - We used to be exasperated by the same apparent contradiction. San Francisco would overflow several hundred thousand gallons of raw sewage in the Bay, or a couple of hundred gallons would be accidentally spilled into the narrow San Rafael Canal, and the official word was always the same: "Don't worry, it won't have any effect." But if anybody from a volunteer environmental group claimed to have spotted a single turd floating in a marina, it was puffed up into headline news in the local papers.

We look at things a little differently now. First, most boating in California is done in small boats on lakes and rivers, which, because they are smaller bodies of water, are more susceptible to adverse health effects. We're sure the radio ads are directed to that boating segment at least as much as to ocean sailors. But similarly, if you had a lot of people crapping into the still waters of a marina - and the waters of San Diego marinas are about as still as they get - the human waste of recreational boaters could become a genuine health issue. In addition to the health hazard, human feces floating in a marina is a bad visual.

The bottom line is that we think the laws covering the proper disposal of human waste are reasonable, and that we mariners ought to view compliance with them as being a matter of personal pride. Let's not let the failures of other people or government agencies prevent each of us from doing the right thing.


My letter is in answer to the October issue inquiry by Frank Holland about the history of the Formosa 51 and similar designs. Some of your answer wasn't quite accurate. Since I was involved with imported yachts from the early '60s, I can tell you how it all started.

My family and I were living on our old gaff yawl after returning from a trip to the South Pacific in 1963. I'd just had back surgery and was looking for a job that didn't require too much physical labor. When I was accepted as a salesman for a brokerage at Mystic Cove Marina in Marina del Rey, a whole new field opened up for me.

While working at the office one day, a new 30-ft ketch with loads of nice-looking woodwork arrived at our dock. The owners said that the builder, American Bill Hardin, who had good contacts in the Far East, could have any boat a person wanted built and at reasonable cost. Soooo, I made a deal with the owners. If they let me show the boat for one weekend a month, I'd pay their slip fees for the whole month.

The only problem with this arrangement was that they'd get up early on the appointed weekend and leave their boat - bunks unmade, galley full of dirty dishes, and the boat needing a good scrub down. So I had to do all that stuff to make the boat showable.

Nonetheless, the result of all this was the 31-ft Angelman ketch Sea Spirit. The broker I worked for had to order three boats to get an exclusive for his area, and he did. The boats were built in Yokohama, Japan. They were well built and just about trouble-free for the four to five years we handled them. In my estimation, they were better boats than the various American-made sailboat lines we later handled.

Later, Bill Hardin came up with a new design he wanted to build for us, a 40-ft ketch he called the Sea Wolf. The boat was basically a Bill Garden-designed Mariner 40 - only with more beam, a drop down overhead above the salon, and a few other changes. The broker I worked for sent me up to Washington to meet with Bill Garden, as he wanted to make sure the designer didn't feel there was a conflict with using what looked a lot like his basic hull design. Garden laughed at the idea of there being a conflict. He not only said there wasn't a problem, but that his Mariner 40 design really did need some extra beam.

The broker I worked for ordered three Sea Wolfs, which were built of wood. All three promptly sold.
It was about that time I told Hardin that I thought a small, aft-cabin boat would sell well. So he built us two 37-ft triple-laminated, fiberglass-covered aft-cabin sloops. I thought they were great, as they sailed well, had a great aft cabin with a double bed and head/shower, and a roomy salon. They didn't sell as well as they sailed, however, so we didn't order any more.

About this time, Mr. Harris, one of our Sea Wolf owners, came to see me. We'd done a lot of customizing on his boat and he loved it, but he still wanted something different. But he didn't know what. He asked what I thought would be good. I told him a salon on deck with an aft cabin. He liked the idea.

A little later I had to fly to Seattle to get a Sea Spirit off a ship for a customer, who happened to be the Second Mate on a Texaco tanker - as well as an ASA marine surveyor. He went over the Sea Spirit with a fine-tooth comb. Satisfied, he completed the purchase.

While in Seattle, I visited Bill Garden again, and explained about my ideas for a new boat for Mr. Harris. He didn't have anything like it, but said I could look through the drawers of all his designs. While doing this, I ran across a plan I'd never seen before. It looked like a Mariner 45 - not a 40. Garden said that several of them had been built by private builders. "I don't know what I did," Garden said, "but the owners say they are fast."

I asked if I could take a top and side plan, and he agreed. I am not an architect, but had taken a lot of drafting classes in high school. So I traced the hull lines - only I made her 48 feet long. I also added a nice, small aft cabin, salon on deck, and kept the Sea Wolf-type lower salon and forward stateroom. When I showed my revised drawings to Mr. Harris, he loved it. "How much?" is all he wanted to know.

I sent my crude drawings to Bill Hardin in Yokohama with a request for a price. When I got a tentative price, Mr. Harris agreed to it as long as we took his current boat in trade. Wow, I couldn't believe it! Neither could Hardin, who flew to Seattle to visit with Bill Garden to see what changes should be made in addition to the ones I made. Hardin told me that Garden added two feet to the length and 200 sq. ft. of sail area. This became the first Garden 50/51 - which was later copied in many different ways.

About this time, the broker and I came to a parting of the ways. It took me awhile to square away several sales, but I was paid all the money I was owed. I really enjoyed those years that I was involved with the Japanese-built boats. Ironically, I never saw the boat I helped design, as my wife and I took off to Europe where we purchased an old Hilyard 40 cutter with an aft cabin, and continued our cruising ways. However, Frank Kasala sent me photos that he said were of the laminated mold for the Garden 50, Formosa, et al. He ultimately fiberglassed it, finished her off, and sailed her around the Orient. He said she sailed well.

Years later, from '76-'77, I became involved with the Taiwanese fiberglass versions of this design. I found them to be very crude and in no way comparable to the Japanese versions.

In any event, I'm quite sure that Mr. Holland's Formosa 51 is a take-off of the boat I helped design. If he wants more info on her, he should have her surveyed by a marine surveyor who is familiar with Oriental imports. He should pay particular attention to the stainless steel tanks and rigging.

P.S. We also had some 33-ft trawlers built in Taiwan to compete with the Grand Banks 32s. Ours were admittedly more crude. Two of them were loaded onto a ship that then ran into a typhoon. Many of the waves broke over the deck of the ship, smashed the windows of the trawlers, and filled them with water. However, since there were no cracks in the hulls, we took it to mean the boats were basically strong and well built.

Bill Taylor
Brookings, Oregon

Bill - Thanks for the great historical information. And thanks for the copy of the full-page ad for the Sea Wolf - the text of which we're going to share with our readers:

"The Sea Wolf is made of wood. After trying boats of other materials, seasoned boatmen are returning to wood. Nothing yet has matched genuine wood for economy, for seaworthiness and for appeal. A boat hull, punished by constant 'working', must be able to flex millions of times without weakening. The only material that has proven itself capable of limitless bending without fatiguing, cracking or breaking is wood. (And when repairs are needed, they're cheaper and easier in wood.) Wood means greater comfort, too. It keeps out the summer heat and the winter cold; it provides a smoother ride. Wood is for you who enjoy the subtle signs of quality - well-joined cabinetwork, door and drawers that are smooth-fitting and snug, a quiet 'sound', the clean lines of planking, the honest look of a craft made not by machines but by men working with their hands. Wood is a beautiful material, a dependable material, a seagoing material. The Sea Wolf is wood."


In response to Ivan Nepomnaschy's quest for a diesel maintenance class, prior to buying our boat and taking off for good, we took an excellent class through the School of Sailing and Seamanship at Orange Coast College in Newport Beach. It certainly alleviated our fears of the stinking green monster lurking beneath the hood.

The essence of diesel maintenance? Keep the fuel and oil spotlessly clean, the cooling system cool, and the thing will run forever! Oh, and have several extra itty-bitty nuts and bolts handy 'cuz the bilge likes to eat them.

By the way, where did Andy get that shot of the young lady convincing her diesel to start? That's got to be the cleanest engine and the biggest engine space in the history of boating!

We love reading Latitude, even though the ones we get down here are usually pretty old and dog-eared. We're also vets of the millennium Baja Ha-Ha aboard Humu-Humu.

Rick & Ami Bergstrom
Tara Vana, Nautitech 435
Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Rick and Ami - The folks at the School of Sailing & Seamanship at Orange Coast College will offer a Diesel in a Day course for $39 on September 8. For those looking for a more comprehensive program, they offer a 9-week course from September 20 to November 15 for just $115. Terry Brown is the instructor for both.

The young lady in the Latitude diesel photo is Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler. The photo was taken at List Marine in Sausalito, where every fall Tom List teaches a one-day seminar on diesels.
We love the simplicity and reliability of diesels. For what it's worth, our biggest engine problems have had to do with the engine's auxiliary systems. Over a 10-year period of heavy use, we've destroyed two saildrives, had repeated problems with a high-output alternator bracket, and fried one smart battery charger. When given proper care and treatment, the engines have been terrific.


I work as a Harbor Patrol officer here on the Central Coast of California, and deal with outboard motors as part of my job - two of our three patrol boats are outboard-powered. I also have owned my own outboards for many years.

In a recent 'Lectronic, you asked how long an outboard should last. The answer is approximately 5,000 to 7,000 hours. And longer - maybe for the rest of your life - if you're good on your maintenance. Outboards are designed to be used by folks who don't really perform the 'needed' maintenance, so if you actually do the recommended maintenance, outboards should last damn near forever.

The Harbor Patrol here has two Yamaha 150s on our 26-ft RIB. They're about eight years old, get run almost every day, and have been almost maintenance free. They are just unbelievable motors.
Four-stroke motors are heavier and more expensive, but they run cleaner and will probably last even longer than two-strokes.

I've enclosed a photo of my personal boat with an '87 Yamaha. The engine gets used hard and often, but runs perfectly and has tons of life left in it. Considering the environment in which they must work, outboards are truly unbelievable pieces of machinery.

The best thing you can do for outboards is rinse often and well with fresh water, keep them lubricated, and flush them regularly with Salt Away or a similar product to prevent corrosion up in the powerhead.

P.S. I've seen every issue of Latitude since you started, and say congratulations on the great magazine. The switch to editorial color is fantastic.

Jeff Chamberlain
Central Coast

Readers - We published a request for opinions on the life expectancy of larger-size outboards because we're thinking of running our photoboat on outboards as opposed to the current trouble-plagued inboards. A few people responded by saying their outboards stunk, but we received many more replies such as the one above. For what it's worth, our smaller outboards - an 8 hp Suzuki from the early '80s, and mostly 15 hp two-stroke Yamahas ever since, have been the model of reliability despite minimal maintenance.


I'm writing in response to Stan Gauthier's January letter extolling the virtues of the Mag Bay 'inside passage'. I'd like to point out that it's actually two bays - Magdalena Bay to the north, and Almejas to the south. They are joined by the Gaviota Channel. The primary entrance into Bahia Almejas is via the Canal de Rehusa. The main danger of Rehusa lies with crossing Rehusa's outer sandbar.
Now I don't want to get into a pissing contest with Mr. Gauthier, who has 35 years of professional experience and holds a, presumably Canadian, 350-ton license, which makes him a better mariner than I. But although the passage he mentions does exist, it's far from safe. Being the professional mariner he is, he, of all people, should be careful about spouting off about it. In my opinion, any prudent and responsible mariner - especially one with a large boat that's capable of sailing the Baja coast - would be wise to stay away from the Canal de Rehusa.

As for my qualifications, I'm but a humble recreational boater who launches his trailer boat in Mag Bay to research, locate and dive shipwrecks in Baja - and there are many in this 100-mile rough fetch from Isla Creciente, rounding Cabo San Lazaro, and on up to Boca de Santo Domingo. In the course of searching for shipwrecks, which requires being geographically precise, I've made 40 round trips of the Canal de Rehusa's treacherous bar. And many more times I've gone out to the bar and decided to turn back rather than attempt to cross it.

The waves that break on the bar are not the long rolling type. The swells come in from deep water, suddenly stand up when they hit the shallow bar, break, and then reform into waves again several times over as the swell rolls across the shallow sand. It's a real straight-up place, for there are no tricky currents or rips - just unbelievably massive volumes of water, high flow rates and speed. What you see is what you get. Inside the bar, the canal is a piece of cake.

My boat is a 19-ft Boston Whaler with a 150 hp Johnson. When I bought her, the salesman said that it was impossible to stick the bow. I've done it twice now, both times exiting Canal de Rehusa over the bar. I've also crossed it in a 24-ft Parker, a 22-ft Whaler, as well as several times on pangas with local fishermen. When they go over the bar, they always make the sign of the cross.
For years, the wrong approach to the bar's channel through the roaring surf was marked by the mast of the wrecked fishing vessel Shasta, which unsuccessfully tried entering the bay at the seemingly logical place - across the center of the bar. Several vessels have also been lost on Punta Tosca, including the tuna clippers Lois S and Enterprise. While beachcombing for traces of these wrecks - there were none - during a minus tide in '99, I came across the remains of a badly decomposed human corpse recently washed ashore against the base of the cliffs. Speaking with the local free and hooka divers who go down for shelllfish there, I learned that at least three divers have been washed out to sea and lost.

My point is that the Canal de Rehusa is not a place to be taken lightly. On a moderate tide change, the water flows through Canal de Rehusa's bar channel at about five knots. Still water lasts 15 to 20 minutes. The outgoing tide is particularly wicked, as much of Almeja's waters flush through the bottleneck canal, then over its sand bar that extends from Pt. Santa Marina on Isla Creciente to Isla Magarita's Pt. Tosca. The water flowing out hits the incoming swells, making the waves even higher and steeper. Even on a relatively calm day it's not uncommon for there to be 8-ft waves. Yes, I have seen it flat calm, but more often I've seen the passage through Rehusa's bar closed out.

Mr. Gauthier claims that fishing vessels regularly use the channel. Well, local pangas are fishing vessels, and but for one occasion, they are the only fishing vessels that I've seen cross the bar. Gauthier's inference is misleading, for I highly doubt he has ever seen vessels other then his own, and pangas, cross the bar. And why should they? There is a perfectly safe anchorage inside the traditional entrance to Mag Bay. And once committed to the Canal de Rehusa, one must skirt the off-lying rocks of Punta Tosca, then enter the channel heading not for the open waters of the bay, but tight in under Punta Tosca. I've found that you need to head for the cliffs at 11-15 knots to stay on the leading edge of a swell and not lose steerage. Once past the surf, before stranding, you have to come around to the NNE, paralleling the shore, with the surf off to the starboard. When there is a swell, it ranks about a 9.95 on the pucker scale. If you want sea room and head for the center of Rehusa, you will take the swell and waves full on your starboard beam.

Rehusa opens up nicely into Bahia Almejas, and once you've reached that, the worst is behind you. The only danger then is running aground - which is easy to do because of the meandering channels of Almejas. I know, as I was stranded high and dry there, a mile from shore, for eight hours in '92. But I did manage to pick up a lot of clams! Unless a hurricane has recently passed through, the channels do not change, but the sand does come in and out from year to year. The backside of Isla Margarita is full of blind channels. Past the stranded wreck of the Asian longliner Seabird #83 is the narrow Canal de Gaviota entering Mag Bay, and then more shallows. Mag Bay offers endless anchorages with the preferred ones being just inside Punta Redondo or Pt. Belcher on Isla Magdalena.

Once across the bay and through the channel to San Carlos, it is possible to continue zig-zagging up the inside of Isla Magdalena, through the twisting channels. I've never done it on a boat with radar, but it's got to be easier than picking your way. The problem here is the lack of landmarks. The coastal terrain is flat and featureless. Once you get through 10 miles or so of shallow mangrove swamp area, the main channel pretty much opens up for a straight shot to Pt. Soledad - but not before passing a river mouth. Here, there is a trailer launch site where I usually camp while listening to the surf pound 24/7. Then, to regain the open ocean, Boca de Soledad must be crossed. Again, it's shallow but with slightly smaller surf and rip tides, but without Rehusa's volume of water.

It's possible to venture on north to run the channel behind the next sand barrier island, but the waters here are shallow. Anyone planning to make any of these runs should only do so at high tide - and keep an eye on the engine temperature, as sand and sea grass tend to block the water intakes.

If the seas are so rough outside Mag Bay that Gauthier feels the need to pop into Canal de Rehusa for relief, the surf across the bar will be many times more dangerous than the offshore conditions. If one does pop into Bahia Almejas intending to leave again across the bar when the seas subside, they should be prepared to get caught spending days on the hook in the wind. Fortunately, though, it is a sand bottom - unless you get blown into the shallows, which tend to be a sandy mud.

The bottom line is that the wise mariner - or at least one who values his life and boat - will either tough it out around Cape Lazaro or sit out the weather on the hook inside Mag Bay, or on the hook at Bahia Santa Maria.

There is a reason that navigating the Canal de Rehusa, Bahia Almejas and the Mag Bay complex is not discussed in any of the cruising guides. It's too damn dangerous.

Peter Jensen
Palos Verdes

Readers - As an avocation, Jensen investigates wrecks on both sides of the Baja Peninsula. If you've got any questions about any such wreck, email him. We had a enjoyable telephone conversation with Jensen recalling the wreck of the 160-ft motoryacht Cantamar south of Puerto Escondido during a New Year's cruise back in '85. We told him that we'd scrambled all over the boat a month after she'd been wrecked, and had recovered the diary of one of the passengers from the beach. We're going to send him photos for a book he's thinking about writing on the subject. He reported that Lloyds lost $7 million on Cantamar, a World War II minesweeper that had been converted to a mini-cruise ship.


First of all, thank you for all your good works. Secondly, do you or any of your wise readers know how I can get my cell phone to ring with a bosun's call?

L. Mark Lussky
Marina del Rey

L. Mark - Thanks for the kind words. We've never figured out how our cell phone works, so maybe one of our readers can help you with programming a bosun's call for yours.


I just read the January 20 'Lectronic report on the rescue of the crew of the catamaran Eclipse in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I say, well done USS Ford!!!

I've spent a lot of time at sea aboard small sailboats, sometimes in extreme conditions between San Francisco and Hawaii. So I know what it's like to be in harm's way. As such, I cannot fully express my sincere respect, thanks and admiration for the crew of the USS Ford - especially the SAR crew and swimmer who carried out the rescue. So with heartfelt thanks, my hat is off to you all, for a job well done.

I hope you will forward this email to that SAR crew so that when they are next in San Francisco they will allow me to buy the first round.

Richard Leevey
Artisan Marine

Richard - Like you, we have nothing but tremendous respect and admiration for the rescue team from the USS Ford. The fact that the pilot, LCDR Connie Avery, could maneuver a helicopter in 50-knot winds and 30-ft seas at night is amazing, But for the rescue swimmer, AW2 Chris Gotelli, to then jump into mayhem to help rescue Richard and Jetti was incredibly courageous. By the way, we've got a further report on Eclipse elsewhere in this issue.


I've been reading reports in 'Lectronic about two issues that are of great concern to cruisers. The first issue is whether Temporary Import Permits are no longer being issued. The latter came up because cruisers have been having trouble getting the permits since the start of the season, and because one agent in Puerto Vallarta said the government wasn't going to be offering them anymore. That would be spooky, because without the Temporary Import Permits, boatowners would either have to take their boats out of Mexico after six months or pay 100% duty.

The second issue is the report that the Mexican government is considering requiring all recreational boats over 34 feet be equipped with transponders so their movements can be monitored 24/7. It's estimated that it would cost boat owners $80/month.

The Temporary Import Permits - usually good for 10 years and also required for RVs brought into Mexico - have always been issued through Banjercito, which is the Mexican Armed Forces Bank. This is done because the Mexican government doesn't want their border agents to handle money, and because banks traditionally have been better equipped to accept payment by credit card.
On the mainland, vehicles and RVs with trailered boats used to have to stop at KM 21 south of Nogales on Highway 15. There, individuals would get their tourist visas from Immigration, and then go to the Banjercito kiosk with all their vehicle and boat papers to get the Temporary Import Permit. Unlike boats and RVs, the permit for cars was usually only good for one year.

Since cruisers can't sail their boats down the highway, they have to get their Temporary Import Permit through an agent in places like Ensenada, Cabo, La Paz, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta. Even though the permits are obtained through an agent, they are processed by Banjercito.

As some readers might know, Temporary Import Permits are no longer needed anywhere in Baja, nor on the mainland north of San Carlos/Guaymas. Because the state of Sonora was declared a 'free zone', Americans can now drive their cars straight from the border to San Carlos, for instance, without stopping except to get tourist cards. Designating Sonora as a 'free zone' was purportedly done because there are big plans to make Guaymas a major port for cruise ships, as well as a commercial port for shipping new cars.

Baja has been a 'free zone' for many years. Owners of vehicles and trailered boats who want to cross from Baja to the mainland by ferry - Santa Rosalia to Guaymas, La Paz to Topolobambo, or La Paz to Mazatlan - have to get Temporary Import Permits before making the crossing. That's why, for example, a temporary Banjercito office opens in Santa Rosalia the day before the ferry leaves for Guaymas. The same thing is true at the Pichilinque ferry terminal just outside La Paz. But as long as you stay in Baja, you don't need a Temporary Import Permit for a vessel or a vehicle, you just need a tourist visa for Baja Sur. When driving down, there is a stop at Guerrero Negro - sort of the 'border' between Baja Norte and Baja Sur - where tourist visas are issued. You can't pay for a visa at the checkpoint, but you do have to pay the $20 fee to some bank before you leave Mexico.

With regard to the idea of transponders being required on cruising boats, longtime marina owner Ed Grossman says the idea originated with SCT, the Communications and Transportation Ministry of Mexico, and was intended to regulate fishing vessels. There are a lot of foreign vessels fishing in Mexican waters too, so perhaps the transponders were meant to keep track of them as well. However, such a requirement would not go over well with other boat owners, which means it was a problem for Mexico's Department of Tourism. So it seems the idea has been quashed. And if it ever gets implemented, it would likely only apply to commercial vessels.

The problem for Mexico is that in just the state of Sonora, for example, there are thousands of pangas that have never been registered with the state, let alone the federal government. There is now a big push to get them registered, and to let the states, as opposed to the federal government, regulate the issuing of fishing licenses. In the future, Grossman is hoping that boats won't have to have fishing licenses, either, just the fishermen themselves.

For the moment, I don't think anyone needs to panic about the Temporary Import Permits for pleasure boats. In fact, you can now apply for such permits online. You give them all your information, and they'll give you a confirmation. But you still don't pay until you get to a Banjercito, and you don't get the permit until you've paid. However, you can save a lot of time by getting the information put into their computer system in advance.

You can also get an Import Permit through the Mexican consulate in San Francisco. However, when you factor in the time it takes to get there, the expensive parking, and the fact that they charge 50% more for permits, it might not be worth it.

When applying for a Temporary Import Permit, always have multiple copies of all the boat paperwork, including the title, and bring your passport. And remember, the rules can change from day to day and place to place.

John 'Woody' Skoriak
Sausalito / San Carlos

John - The good news is that the report from an agent in Puerto Vallarta that Temporary Import Permits will no longer be issued is complete baloney. We always suspected that might be the case, as it would be financial suicide for marine tourism in Mexico.

The Armed Forces Bank, Banjercito, which always issued Temporary Import Permits for cars, was supposed to take over the issuing and administration of Temporary Import Permits for boats from Customs/Aduana in March of 1995. Alas, they weren't ready in time - and in a few places still aren't. Complicating matters, at the beginning of the year, a $50 fee was instituted for the permits. (When cruisers paid money for Temporary Import Permits in the past, they were paying a fee for the agent, not for the permit.) As a result, at the November start of this cruising season, cruisers were able to get Temporary Import Permits at some places, such as Ensenada, but not right away at Cabo, La Paz or Mazatlan. We think the problems have been cleared up at all those places, but perhaps not at Puerto Vallarta. Nevertheless, it's just a matter of time there, too.

While it's possible to apply for a Temporary Import Permit at or, we don't see the point. For one thing, the Web sites are inexplicably in Spanish only, so most gringos won't be able to follow along. Secondly, as you correctly pointed out, you're only able to input your basic information on the site. You still can't pay for the permit until you visit a Banjercito, and you don't get the permit until you pay.

By the way, Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz tells us that, while cars don't need a Temporary Import Permit in Baja, boats do. Why the difference? Cars are on land, and Baja is a 'free zone', but boats are on water, and all water in Mexico - even around Baja - is federal, and therefore not part of the free zone.

We're also told that San Carlos/Guaymas is becoming a free zone because the businesses there, having lost so much money to the booming Puerto Penasco development at the north of the Sea of Cortez because it was declared a 'free zone', were successful in lobbying efforts to get a similar designation.

According to everyone we spoke with who attended the meeting with the SCT Ministry in Mexico City, the head of that agency said that the idea for the AIS transponders came from the U.S. government. It all started when President Bush, President Fox, and Prime Minister Martin of Canada met and created the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. Members of the Mexican Marina Owners Association who attended the meeting in Mexico City say they were promised that Mexico would not require the transponders on boats unless the United States did first, and will not charge more than the U.S. does when, and if, they are required. So the drive to require the Automatic Identifying Systems (AIS) on recreational boats clearly didn't start in Mexico. For more on this subject, see this month's Sightings.

The way we see it, the news out of Mexico is excellent. The new domestic clearing procedures, while not perfect, are a huge improvement on the old procedures. The Temporary Import Permit scare and difficulties are rapidly fading away and there now seems to be nothing to worry about. As for the Mexican government requiring transponders on boats because the U.S. is going to require them - we don't think the U.S. is going to propose such legislation, and even if they do, we doubt that it would pass.


Great issue!! As an old surfer/sailor, I found the issue to be full of fun stuff. The various letters and pictures - more on that later - were awesome. I now have to set aside time immediately after picking up the latest issue to go through it cover to cover. The articles about Jim Welch and Craig McCabe both sound like luck - bad and good - rather than 'the hand of God'.

As for the photos, that stern shot of Mari-Cha IV truly gave meaning to the term megayacht. And for big praise, a little T&A doesn't hurt. Look what it did for Sports Illustrated!

Keith Dekker
Central Coast

Keith - So, you're not just a surfer/sailor, you're a surfer/sailor/non-believer. We're glad you liked the photos, but if you're reading Latitude for T&A, you're going to be disappointed, because that's not what we're about.


Whatever this Zihua SailFest is, it sure looks like fun from the photo you posted in 'Lecronic Latitude. In these times of bad politics, we need something to cheer us - and you are succeeding!

Horst Lechler
Seahorst, Catalina 350
Marina del Rey

Horst - SailFest was dreamed up at the end of the 2000 Ha-Ha as an excuse for cruisers to sail down to Zihua to have some fun together. Since just having fun seemed a little shalllow, a fund-raising aspect was added. During the first several years, the money went to the Netza School, which was nothing more than the shade of a tree under which an indigenous woman taught 15 non-Spanish-speaking indigenous kids Spanish so they could attend Mexican schools. But with the fund-raising having now become the major part of the event - nearly $150,000 has been raised in five years - there is a 9-person board that oversees the distribution of the money, most of which now goes to six schools in the area. In Mexico it costs just $250/year to send a child to school for a year and provide him/her with a uniform, books, backpack, and shoes - about 1/50th of what it costs for students in Marin - so the money goes a long way.

We asked the ladies aboard Elysium why they flashed their boobs, and they had a good reply, "To attract the attention of men like Horst Lechler, so they'll contribute to the cause. Horst can do so by going to We'll bet he can't visit that site and not cough up at least $50."


When I was a kid, I remember watching with a sense of awe as my grandmother tore apart her apartment looking for her reading glasses - which were planted on top of her head. I felt the same awe reading your response to the December letter about where teachers might go for a lengthy bareboat charter in June, July or August.

Ahhh yeah, granny, your glasses might be in one of those 30 drawers you just emptied, but they might be on your head. And ahhh yeah, Latitude, there might be great summer cruising in Mexico or the South Pacific or wherever - but how about Southern California, which is so close.

My June, July, August advice: Jump on a Jet Blue from Oakland to Long Beach, pick up a boat at Shoreline Marina - Pacific Sailing, Marina Sailing and others are based there. Then sail an hour DDW to a guest end-tie at Alamitos Bay Marina, where Trader Joe's, Wild Oats Market (like Whole Foods), West Marine and many great restaurants and watering holes are within walking distance. Then off to Catalina.

Bored with Catalina after a few days at Avalon? Then try Isthmus Cove or hang on the hook on the back side. What next? Jump across to Ventura, up to Santa Barbara, over to Santa Cruz Island, and back down to Catalina. From there, how about Newport, Dana Point and San Diego? You get the idea.

I know that the cruising grounds of Southern California are so close that they are easy to overlook. Sort of like those granny's glasses atop her head.

Thornton Reese
Probable Cause
San Pedro

Thornton - You make an excellent point. It's inexplicable that we overlooked Southern California as a charter destination, because in the fall of each year we have a great time cruising Profligate between Santa Barbara and Newport. There's so much to do and see - and surprisingly, almost all of it is away from the hordes of people and traffic. To get an idea of what sailing is like in Southern California, check out Joe Elliott's series of feature articles on it in the pages of Latitude, beginning this month.

However, we're not Jet Blue fans, and here's why: After a great three-day weekend cruise from Newport to Catalina and back to Long Beach's Shoreline Marina, we booked a flight on Jet Blue from Long Beach's cool-looking historic terminal to Oakland. But Jet Blue officials refused to let us check in because we'd arrived 40 minutes before scheduled departure, not the 45 minutes before that they required. It made no difference to the rule-obsessed Jet Blue officials that there wasn't a single person in the security check line, not a single person at their check-in counter, and plenty of empty seats. Little Southwest Airlines is always much more accommodating - which might have a little bit to do with the fact that they are the most profitable airline in the world and have a market capitalization greater than all other U.S. airlines combined. Customer service is important.


I've dreamed about cruising since I first set foot on a friend's boat at age 19. But children, divorce and single parenthood prevented it. Then I remarried, got into boats again, and finally got the right boat to go cruising. Unfortunately, though, I was with the wrong guy and got another divorce at age 51.

Moping around on the boat this summer, I became friends with two avid sailors who owned boats in the San Pedro area. We did a lot of daysails together, and even overnighters to Catalina. Ken - not his real name - sailed down to Cabo as part of the Ha-Ha in November. When Tom - not his real name, either - said he wanted to take his boat to Puerto Vallarta and wanted myself and Ken to go along as crew to satisfy the insurance requirements, I jumped at the chance to realize my lifelong dream.

In the spirit of things, I bought Capt. Tom a bait table for his boat and shirts with the boat name on them for all of us as Christmas presents. And I brought along eight charts of Mexican waters from my boat. Tom bought me foulies for the winter night's sailing. It seemed as though it was going to be a great trip.

The sailing was wonderful, as we had many warm and sunny days, and the crystal-clear nights featured lots of stars to steer by. I cooked, cleaned, took the wheel, sang, and thrilled to the ocean. I had the 0000 to 0300 watch, and since I was new, my fellow crewmember Ken stayed up to keep me company until we felt I could stand watches alone. I reciprocated on his 0300 to 0600 watch, while Capt. Tom slept for six hours.

While I never got more than 2.5 hours sleep at a time, Capt. Tom slept six hours at a stretch each night, and took lengthy naps in the afternoon. Another thing that bothered me a little was that he sometimes used pretty foul language.

It took us four days to get to Turtle Bay, where we put in for some welcome sleep. We then continued on for four more days, arriving in Cabo San Lucas on Christmas Eve. We walked around town, I drank some wine, and Ken and I walked arm in arm to steady ourselves after eight days at sea. At some point Tom left us.

The next morning we left for a two-day sail to Puerto Vallarta. There had been no indications of romance between anybody, and my intention was to keep it that way to forestall any jealousy. I cooked, cleaned, and stood watch, and was a willing spirit. But then El Capitan asked if I was "sweet" on Ken. It was such an odd question, as there had been nothing whatsoever between Ken and myself. So I gave a diplomatic answer - that I was happy to have both the captain and Ken as friends, and felt privileged to be on the boat with both of them.

But at 0500 the next morning, while I was on deck during Ken's watch, Capt. Tom came up yelling, "This is bullshit!" But we weren't doing anything - absolutely nothing! I became frightened of Tom's crazy behavior and went below to lie down. Two hours later, when just Tom and I were on deck, he told me that I was off the boat as soon as we cleared in at Puerto Vallarta. It was so weird that I chose not to argue.

In a subsequent conversation with Ken, I learned that the captain had told him there was no problem between the two of them. Apparently, Capt Tom was jealous and angry that I didn't come on to him - even though he talked and smelled like a goat.

During the last day of the crossing to Puerto Vallarta I was so terrified that I always made sure there was something between the captain and myself - be it the wheel, the dodger, anything. I didn't want him to hit me or throw me overboard.

Thankfully, we pulled into Banderas Bay the next morning, and I packed my belongings - careful not to take the foulies the captain had given me. When we got to the dock, Ken and Tom got into a conversation with the dock neighbors. I fetched my belongings, stepped onto the dock with 90 pounds on my back, but because my hands were full didn't take my sleeping bag or charts. I publicly thanked Capt. Tom for the very interesting trip and reached out to shake his hand. He didn't take it. I walked away and got a hotel room, as my flight back to the States wasn't for another 10 days. When I returned to Tom's boat a week later, he said I could have my sleeping bag, but he wasn't giving back my charts. I don't argue, scream, or get into the gutter, so I walked away.

Now I'm wondering whether I should ever crew or go on a sailing trip again. After all, I had checked these guys out, I did everything I should - and I was still thrown off the boat far from home and ripped off. Is this common? Do female sailors frequently have these experiences? Are women often treated badly unless 'accommodations' are made? What am I talking about! Was the guy being crazy exceptional, or was I crazy not to expect it? Am I naive?

I think women are at a substantial risk, and need to be aware that situations like this are possible. Don't get me wrong, I loved the sailing, but I must admit that now I'm kind of spooked about captains. What happened wasn't part of my dream.

Barbara Brown
Los Angeles

Barbara - Having heard your side of the story - and with all due respect, there's always another side to the story - we'd still have to say that you're at least a little bit guilty of being naive on several counts.

First off, before the trip even starts, the captain, a single man, spent a couple of hundred dollars buying you, a single woman, foul weather gear. Even people as insensitive as us know that this was the time that you were supposed to look him straight in the eye and say, "We need to be perfectly clear about the situation between you and me - are there any strings attached to my foul weather gear?" Didn't any alarms go off in your head? Let us give you a little insight into the male mind. Guy + girl + sailing adventure = why not a little romance? That's Nature. If men weren't wired that way, the species wouldn't perpetuate. So you always need to make the non-relationship perfectly clear in advance - and for the duration of the trip.

But we think you're most naive for assuming that any crew situation will work out successfully. Crew problems - and it doesn't matter what sexes are involved - are as common as bird shit on Isla Isabella. In fact, you can consider it something of a success that the three of you made it all the way to Puerto Vallarta. On our first sail to Mexico with our Freya 39, two of our male crew had a serious brawl on just the third night out. They are both great guys, they just weren't compatible in a small space. You find situations like this all the time, which is why the frequency of crew getting kicked off - or fleeing boats - in Cabo is hardly worth mentioning. It's not that there was anything wrong with the individuals, they just weren't compatible with each other. Heck, we know of several women who have sailed every leg of the Ha-Ha on a different boat.

Crew problems are most frequent when captains and crews are relatively new to ocean passages. With experience, crews learn to take up less physical and psychic space, and tend to cut others slack when they seem to be having a bad day. But even then it doesn't always work out. And thank goodness yours was just a short trip. Four folks recently made a 40-day delivery from Cape Town to the Caribbean, and both the captain and first mate thought the two other crew were completely worthless. But they all stuck it out.

On the other hand, we won't completely discount the possibility that your captain was a complete asshole - those types certainly exist, too - and that you are right to be upset. If you decide to make another ocean passage, we hope you have better luck.


While stuck in traffic in Washington, D.C. - imagine the Bay Bridge but without the scenery - the thought occurred to me that the anniversary of Latitude 33 must be approaching. I used to work at West Marine in Long Beach, and as I recall, you did three or four issues - one included a pretty funny map that included a tortured latitude 38 line that ran through Catalina, Palos Verdes, and Long Beach to explain where the name came from. It was a great attempt to expand your market. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, this was about the same time that Santana started as the 'SoCal rag'. The market couldn't support both. If I were to speculate, pulling the plug wasn't the most fun at the time. Judging by the editorial, ad content and color of the current Latitude, I'd guess it worked out for the best. Cheers!

Stefan Svilich
Washington, D.C.

Stefan - You've got a terrific memory, but you're a little off on a few of the details. It must have been '84 or '85 when David Poe and Kitty James approached us with an offer to become partners in a Southern California sailing magazine modeled on Latitude 38. The deal - they'd get to use all our editorial material, and we'd get 25% of the profits, if any - had little appeal to us. It was a friendly meeting, but at the end we promised that we would protect what we felt were our interests in Southern California.

It's a considerable source of pride to us that two weeks after they came out with their initial issue of Santana, we were able to respond with our first issue of Latitude 34 - not 33. After 14 months we stopped publication - but it wasn't because the market wouldn't support both magazines, and ceasing publication of 34 was anything but an unhappy decision on our part. Let us explain.

At the time, our routine was to work about 12 hours a day three weeks of the month on Latitude 38, then collapse for a week. In order to publish the kind of Latitude 34 we could take pride in, we felt we needed to have a photoboat on the scene at as many sailing events as possible in Southern California. So we bought a small Whaler-like powerboat and started spending what had been our recovery week from 38 towing that damned boat up and down the 405 in weekend traffic in order to hit as many sailing venues as possible. To tell you the truth, it wasn't all that much fun - particularly because when we got to the venues there was rarely enough wind to shoot anything resembling an exciting sailing photograph.

But it was unvarnished hedonism, not a bad business environment or crummy photo conditions in Southern California that caused us to pull the plug on 34. You see, we just happened to fly down to St. Barth - which we'd never heard of at the time - to look at an Ocean 71 ketch that a bank had repossessed and was offering at the price of a Valiant 40. After three days of having our eyes opened to a life of bacchanalian sailing adventures in the Caribbean, we sat ourselves down on the beach at sunset with a big bottle of Mt. Gay rum and a small bottle of tonic, and faced a life-altering decision. Given that Latitude 38 left us with only one spare week a month, we could either use that week to continue pulling the photoboat up and down the 405 in order to publish 34, or we could shut down 34, buy what was to become Big O, and pursue a reckless life of sailing debauchery on a big yacht in the Caribbean. It might have been the tropical conditions, all the naked women, the rum or even a latent curiosity in debauchery, but we went with the latter option. Based on that decision, we ended up making hundreds of great friends in the tropics, took thousands of great photos, and made a million priceless memories. Right from the outset it was clear that it was one of the two or three best decisions we'd made in our life.


In the years that I've been organizing and leading bareboat charter groups, I've been fortunate enough to see the green flash in lots of nice places. Sometimes people can disagree as to whether there was a flash or not. Some people even doubt there is such a thing. The Field Guide to the Night Sky from the National Audubon Society has two nice color plates of the flash, and is a convincing authority on the subject. 

One of the best flashes I've seen was from San Francisco Bay - just like Paul Kamen's photo that appeared in the January issue. Rich Ferrari and I used to take passengers on the Brigantine Rendezvous for evening sails, and we both saw a beautiful flash right through the Golden Gate. I had never seen one there, and would have felt like a fool telling everyone to look for it if there was nothing to see. So Rich and I kept it to ourselves - and were the only ones to catch it.

In the past, I used the Field Guide to help me learn stars and constellations, but matching the night sky to the star maps was always a problem. Now I use something better - a computer program called Starry Night Pro (from for the laptop. It shows everything the way it really looks in the sky, and is like having a personal planetarium. Free updates on the Web make it possible to view and identify artificial satellites as well as the stars, planets with their moons, nebulas, and other space features. Moving the cursor to an object reveals data - such as location, size, distance from earth, apparent magnitude, etc. It makes learning the night sky a lot easier and more fun.

My next organized flotilla will be to the Grenadines for the 2006 Summer Sailstice celebration. Sky conditions permitting, I'm sure we'll have opportunities to see the green flash in places like Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau and the Tobago Cays. As usual, there's likely to be debate over whether the green flash has happened or even if there is such a thing. Of course, a few rum drinks or G&T's won't hurt - as long as we're already safely anchored.

Bob Diamond
Spinnaker Sailing
Redwood City

Bob - Starry Night Pro sounds terrific - thanks for alerting us to it.


I'm writing in response to F. Berg's January letter about extended green flashes and your editorial response. I also believe that Berg saw the green flash at sunrise.

However, although I stood the 0400-to-0800 watch many times over the years, I must admit that I never saw a green flash in the morning. Perhaps I was either working out morning stars in the chartroom or just not paying attention - although waiting for an amplitude of the sun would have given me numerous opportunities.

By the way, the 0400-to-0800 morning watch was my favorite, as few others - especially the 'old man' - were awake during the early part of the watch and the ship was quiet. I got to pick out and work which stars to shoot, and the time spent waiting for first light and hoping for a clear sky was a great time for reflection. That watch also featured glorious sunrises, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and, of course, the smells of frying bacon and freshly baked bread wafting around the bridge.

No less an authority than Bowditch, American Practical Navigator answers questions on the green flash. I'll site my 1962 printing, page 811-12, article 3821: "If the red, yellow, and orange images are below the horizon, and the blue and violet light is scattered and absorbed, the upper rim of the green image is the only part seen, and the sun appears green. This is the Green Flash." The article goes on to say that occasionally a blue image is seen, and on rare occasions a violet image. Also, "these colors may be seen at sunrise, but in reverse order." Bowditch also states that under favorable conditions, a flash has also been observed at the setting of Venus and Jupiter!

P.S. I have a strong urge to buy a sailboat and sail over the horizon - although the time I capsized a rented sailboat in Raccoon Strait in '67 is a vivid memory. Especially the four saucer-sized eyes being washed up from the cabin as the boat went down by the head. So much for knowing it all - let out the main sheet, stupid!

Bob Hannah
Proud Seafarer


While on watch with Ethan Silva aboard the 84' steel schooner Dariabar - which Silva had built in Oakland - we saw a sunrise green flash on our way to Bora Bora from Moorea. It was a first for both of us, and it must be true because I just confirmed it by checking my log of the trip. It was a couple of days before Bush the Second captured the White House. It was hard to believe the unfolding news from home as we watched television at Bloody Mary's.

John Attaway

John - We all know what happened to George Bush, but what ever happened to Dariabar?


I can back up Fred Berg's claim that green flashes can also occur at sunrise, as I have witnessed them twice - one of them being a 'double'.

I spent eight years fishing for tuna and salmon from the Columbia River to Mexico. The albacore tuna season is late summer and fall when the weather offshore is often clear and calm - perfect for green flashes. A fisherman's workday starts well before sunrise, so unless we somehow wake up on the fish, I always had time to watch the sunrise. One clear, fairly calm morning, I was leaning against the combing holding a cup of hot coffee when the rising of the sun produced the brilliant jewel of a green flash. Just as suddenly, the boat dipped into a three-foot trough - and I'll be damned if I didn't see a second green flash.

The time I saw the green flash is one of the most memorable mornings of my life and at sea - and I have logged 30 years out there - including a few with Bruce Perlowin. If you've been around long enough, you know who he is.

Brett Dingerson
Marine Electric
San Diego

Brett - We've been around long enough to know who Bruce Perlowin is. In fact, if it weren't for him, we'd probably never have found ourselves in jail.

For those not familiar with the name, Perlowin was one of the earliest big-time smugglers and distributors of pot in California. Indicative of how much things have changed from the '70s, he got his start by buying pot in Florida, stuffing it into the largest suitcases he could find, and then checking it as baggage when he flew Continental Airlines to the West Coast. He and his friends did it over and over again, and never got caught because there was no such thing as airline security back then.

Perlowin later got involved with Colombians, and would ultimately bring about $300 million worth of pot to the West Coast - most of it being landed at a warehouse near the Richmond YC. Rather than doing the smuggling himself, Perlowin recruited down-on-their-luck fishermen from places like Moss Landing to go to Colombia and bring the stuff back on their boats.

His first big smuggle - a fishing boat full of dope from the Pacific Coast of Colombia to Richmond - went badly. There was no problem with the DC-3 dumping the bales on the remote beach in Colombia, and no problem with the locals who were paid peanuts to collect the bales and load them onto the Northern California-based fishing boat. In fact, there was no problem at all until the boat got to about Montara, just 20 miles from Richmond, at which point a Coast Guard C-130 did a fly-by. Figuring the Coasties had spotted the bales because some of the tarps had blown off during a Tehuantepecker, the skipper and crew set the autopilot for a slightly offshore course, then hopped into the dinghy and made their way to shore at Pillar Point.

Perlowin, who was monitoring the operation from a radio-filled RV on the hills above Montara, started shitting bricks because back in those days the Colombians fronted the dope. If you didn't pay them when the time came, you had a lot of explaining to do. After determining - via radio scanners - that the pilots of the Coast Guard plane didn't suspect anything, Perlowin chartered a plane or two to search for the now-unmanned fishing boat heading out to sea with a small fortune in dope. The fishing boat was never seen or heard from again. Somehow Perlowin managed to convince the Colombians that he hadn't played them for suckers, and went on to do hundreds of millions of dollars in business with them.

Because Perlowin's story had to do with passages on the Pacific Ocean, local fishermen, and smuggling millions of dollars of dope into (usually) a Richmond warehouse, we decided to interview him after he'd been caught, prosecuted, and, for some reason, temporarily brought to a cell in the San Francisco Hall of Justice.

After making arrangements for an interview, we showed up at the Hall of Justice, and were directed to an elevator. When we got to the jail level, all we could do was walk out into a small, windowless room with steel walls and a steel door. We waited and waited and waited. Finally, a tiny slit was opened in the door and an unseen person asked what we wanted. When we replied that we'd come for a scheduled interview with Perlowin, the slit was slammed shut without a word being spoken.

After we stood in the little room for about 15 minutes, the elevator door suddenly opened and a large and very animated African-American man stepped into the small room with us. When the elevator door shut, it occurred to us that we were all but in a cell with him. Given the rather crazed look in his eyes, it didn't make us feel all that comfortable. After about five minutes, the slit in the door opened again, and a voice asked the African-American what he wanted. He said he'd just gotten out of the jail - oh great! - and thought that he might have forgotten his belt. The slit again slammed shut without a word.

As soon as it did, the African-American guy started laughing hysterically. "I didn't lose any belt," he confided in us, "I just came back to fuck with the guards' heads." And he started laughing wildly once again. More concerned with our well-being than ever, we were glad when a steel door opened and we were admitted to one of those rooms where the prisoner sits behind bulletproof glass and talks to you over a phone.

It turned out to be a fascinating interview, and we featured it in two issues of Latitude. Perlowin, who had become a Buddhist or something to survive in jail, expressed what seemed to be genuine remorse for having lured a lot of law-abiding fishermen into a life of crime. He said he realized that he'd not only ruined the fishermen's lives, but also the lives of their wives and children.

The only time we thought Perlowin might not have been telling the truth was when he said that he hadn't managed to stash any of the tens of millions he'd made before he got caught. How could such a smart guy be so dumb? Expecting to be released from prison about eight years later, Perlowin expressed confidence that, given his managerial experience, he could be an effective asset for a legitimate corporation.So yeah, we know Bruce Perlowin. It would be interesting to know what happened to him after he was released from prison.


It never occurred to me that one could see a green flash more than once by changing one's elevation. It makes perfect sense - until you think about it. What are the physics - and trigonometry - of lowering your head at a rate greater than the sun's traverse across the sky? Call me skeptical, but don't call me a disbeliever.

Over the course of the past 30 years or so, as a sailor and a merchant officer, I have observed green flashes on more occasions than I could possibly keep track of. But the total number remains relatively small as compared to the total number of days I have seen the sun slip below the horizon without a flash. So for me, a green flash remains a relatively rare astronomical event.
However, the most brilliant green flash I have ever observed was at sunrise. It happened while I was aboard a crude oil tanker about 100 miles due west of the Golden Gate Bridge on our way from Valdez, Alaska, to Los Angeles. Until that time, I also would have been skeptical of anyone telling me that they had observed a green flash at sunrise. But this flash was so brilliant that it forever changed the scale upon which I subconsciously measure green flashes. It happened in '87, and to this day I consider that sunrise green flash to be the most brilliant and colorful that I'll ever see in my life. Since then I have observed one other green flash at sunrise, but it was no different from any of the hundreds of green flashes I'd witnessed at sunset.

My guess is that I will be one of many who report having seen a green flash at sunrise.

Kelley Stark
Redondo Beach

Kelley - You're correct, we've gotten so many letters about green flashes at sunrise that we're no longer skeptical.


As a sailor and amateur astronomer, I can assure you that the green flash occurring at sunrise is a well-documented scientific fact. The atmosphere doesn't stop refracting light just because it's sunrise, wherever you happen to be.

Part of the difficulty in observing a green flash at sunrise is that you have to know exactly where to look. It's not as easy as sunset, where you can follow the sun going down. Many a sunrise green flash is missed because people aren't looking in the right place.

There's also a physiological factor at sunset that doesn't come into play at sunrise. At sunset the observer has been looking at the red sun, which depletes the retina's red-sensitive photopigments and distorts color perception. This distortion can make even a yellow flash appear as green.

There are also numerous well-documented cases of multiple, extended green flash observations - most notably by Admiral Byrd's Antarctic expedition of 1928-30. At extreme high latitudes, sunrises and sunsets slowly graze the horizon at shallow angles. Byrd's team observed repeated flashes over the course of 35 minutes as the sun's limb winked in and out of view. Here is an excerpt from the account which appeared in the Monthly Weather Review 59, written by William C. Haines, who was Byrd's meteorologist:

"On the evening of October 16, 1929, between 8:45 p.m. and 9:20 p.m., several members of the expedition observed a very striking example of the green flash. At the time, the sun was skirting the southern horizon, its disk disappearing at intervals only to reappear again a few moments later. This fluctuation was caused by the unevenness of the barrier surface which formed the line of the horizon. The irregularities in the snow surface permitted the upper limb of the sun to appear in one or more starlike points of light from adjacent notches. These points or flares of light would sometimes have a greenish color on their appearance or disappearance. The length of time during which the green flare was visible varied from a fraction of a second to several seconds, and at times it was possible to keep it in view or to make it reappear again by raising or lowering the head. Occasionally, green, orange and red flares could be seen simultaneously at different points, giving one the impression of traffic lights. When the sun sank too low to be seen from the ground, it was still visible from elevated points such as the anemometer post or radio towers. The above effect was seen at intervals during a period lasting over half an hour."

For a great explanation of all things related to green flashes, visit Andrew Young's Web page:

C.R. Saikley

C.R. - Since you're an amateur astronomer, perhaps you can answer a question for us. What do you call it when there's just a sliver of a moon, and it's so low on the horizon that all you can see are the tips at each end?


I'm thrilled that there are still great places to anchor locally without regulation, as freedom is one of the ideals that attracts me to sailing. To have a safe harbor without having to tie up, plug in, and pay fees, all within easy access to one of the more important ports and exciting destinations in the world - like Clipper Cove - is not something to be dispensed with. Not for locals, and not for the cruising world at large.

I'm sure that you have cruised down the coast to Catalina, and doubtless many other coasts, and seen all the beautiful anchorages that remain private and unmoorable to just anyone passing by. Let's not let that happen here in the Bay.

Tom Neely

Tom - How free would you feel if you wanted to anchor in Clipper Cove and there wasn't any room because the cove had been filled with unattended derelict boats?

As for "all the beautiful anchorages on the coast that remain private," we challenge you to name one. Certain small areas of the coast have been zoned by the government for specific purposes such as ship navigation, mooring, diving and/or swimming, marine preserves and for scientific research, but anchorages can't be privately owned. The same is true in Mexico and every other country that we've visited.


Thanks for the opportunity to discuss anchor-outs! The California State Park Service should develop many anchorage areas for cruisers and recreational boaters. They should be operated like our existing marinas, with simple rules and low fees. This would eliminate the developing problems we have at places such as Clipper Cove.

For example, the installation of a typical mooring field would allow more boats to tie up without bumping into each other or fouling each other's anchor rodes. Any boater could check in and pay a small mooring fee, which would generate revenues to maintain the mooring field. Every evening the anchorage attendant would dinghy around and collect fees from boaters, and evict anyone not in compliance with the rules. It would be just like at the many campgrounds throughout the state.
A lot of the South Bay is shallow, out of the shipping lanes, and could be designated as an open anchorage. Water taxis could provide regular landing service.

Mariners who would agreed to follow the rules and pay the fees could liveaboard on a long-term basis.

Jim Van Sant

Jim - With all due respect, we don't think enough boats would use a mooring field in the South Bay - or even Clipper Cove - to make the installation of mooring fields financially viable. After all, such buoys would only be used on weekend nights a few months a year. You have to realize that owners of mooring buoys in places like Newport Beach have to pay something like $1,000 a year just for the annual maintenance, so the annual revenue in the South Bay and Clipper Cove wouldn't come close to covering that - let alone pay for a mooring attendant or the huge expense of installing such a mooring field. And in any event, if all the derelict boats were removed from Clipper Cove, wouldn't there normally be enough room for everyone to anchor in reasonable safety?

The only place where we think a mooring field might be financially viable is in Richardson Bay - and we've long believed that one should be put in. In fact, we don't believe any boats should be allowed to winter over in Richardson Bay unless they are secured to an inspected mooring buoy. After all, how many tens of thousands of dollars should taxpayers have to cough up each year to clean up the mess created by irresponsible boatowners who allow their boats to drag ashore? We're not against liveaboards in Richardson Bay, but we are against irresponsible boatowners.


I'm writing about the boats anchored in the Sausalito free anchorages. Free anchorages should stay just that - free and unregulated. There are already too many rules and regulations in the world as it is. Leave these people alone. For some, just living afloat is an adventure.

Bill Nay
Jackson, Wyoming

Bill - Free and unregulated anchorages are great in theory - and reality, too, when people are responsible. Alas, there's a long history of anchorages in urban areas taken over by people who haven't always been very responsible. But we wouldn't worry about Richardson Bay - those folks have been sacred cows for decades, and we doubt that's ever going to change.


I was surprised by the paucity of comment in the February issue regarding your January item on the decline of Clipper Cove. Over the past quarter century, I have spent many peaceful afternoons in the Cove, out of the wind and waves, anchored for a few hours to enjoy some sun and lunch with friends. The cove used to be empty but for a few fellow visiting sailors. Now it is littered with old boats with no one aboard, looking more and more like Richardson Bay. Aside from the issue of permanently crowding a small cove with unused craft, when one of the old boats sinks, it will pollute the Bay with diesel or gasoline.

Last week I took my boat out on a weekday cruise in front of Treasure Island - and was stopped by four polite Coasties with nothing better to do than a safety check on my two-year-old boat. We had registration, flares, PFDs, fire extinguishers, holding tanks, oil dumping plaques, and so forth - and therefore passed muster.

Who is inspecting these floating wrecks left in Clipper Cove? I propose that there is no permanent boat anchorage in Clipper Cove. How about a 30-day anchoring limit with a Coast Guard inspection? That way, visiting yachts could use the Cove, but we would be spared pollution and overcrowding of a beautiful resource. The Coast Guard could tag the current boats, and if no one responds, the boats could be towed to Alameda Naval Shipyard or Richardson Bay.

There seems to be no shortage of people available to do inspections of new and properly-equipped boats on the Bay, but there seems to be a big vacuum when it come to protecting a public resource such as Clipper Cove.

Bruce Adornato
m/v Roxanne
San Francisco Bay

Bruce - It's more than a little strange that better boats seem to be subject to federal and state laws, while ones that obviously have violations are treated like sacred cows. For instance, people like you get stopped and would have a problem if you couldn't produce either state registration or federal documentation for your boat. Yet there are all kinds of boats anchored around the Bay with no registration or documentation - no government agency does anything about it. Is that what's meant by equal protection under the law?

A few years ago we had a minor problem with the registration on our photoboat, and we caught hell from the Marin County Sheriff. We pointed across the fairway to 40 boats, most of them unregistered and unsafe, and repeatedly asked the deputy why he wasn't tagging any of them. We assumed he was a mute, because he never answered us.

For years many boats anchored out in Richardson Bay had been in violation of all kinds of laws. Then the BCDC (Bay Conservation and Development Commission) was finally going to do something about it. But at the last minute, Phil Burton, then President Pro Tem of the State Senate and the second most powerful man in the state after the governor, reportedly told the BCDC brass to back off and threatened to slash their budget. The BCDC backed off. Thank goodness we live under the rule of law.

Because Clipper Cove is such an important resource for local boating, we think there should be a time limit on how long a boat can be allowed to stay there. And we don't think boats should be allowed to be unattended overnight. In other words, it shouldn't be used as a storage yard for boats belonging to private individuals. Why shouldn't unregistered boats be impounded, and then auctioned off or destroyed if not claimed and properly registered. We all know what happens if our cars aren't registered.

We don't think things need to be quite as restrictive on Richardson Bay because there has been a long, long tradition of people living on boats there, and because there's a lot more room than in Clipper Cove. Nonetheless, we think people who keep boats anchored in Richardson Bay should have to abide by the same state and federal laws as everybody else. We know that's not going to happen, but it would make us feel less cynical about local government.


We just spent the weekend at Clipper Cove, and have a couple of hazards to report.

The first is what we believe is a sunken boat, marked by a fender, on the south side of the anchorage next to the lifeboat. At first we thought the fender marked a mooring, but then we watched as a boat came in and, while milling around looking for a spot to anchor, came to an abrupt stop near the fender. Fortunately, they were moving very slowly and probably didn't do any damage to their boat. There used to be a blue Cal 20 with the mast strapped to the deck in that area, and we suspect it's the boat that is now on the bottom.

The second hazard is a visual one, but not all that obvious at first. There is a Cal 25 anchored right in the middle of the anchorage with about 300 feet of rode. We watched as she moved in a rather large circle with the wind and current, and actually made contact with two other boats.

Another item of note is the ketch on the rocks over by the sailing school. She doesn't seem to be a derelict because she has a brand new bottom job. The cockpit is gutted, but it looks as though someone was trying to breathe new life into her. All the visible wiring appeared to be new. But it's sad to see her on the rocks.

Otherwise, what a stellar weekend! We couldn't have asked for better weather in February.

Emmy & Eric Newbould
Nataraja, Flying Dutchman 37
Zephyr Cove, NV / Richmond


I have no words to tell you how thankful and appreciative I am for the January issue article you wrote about Mazatlan. It took my breath away. It was so great to see our beloved, but underrated, city get that kind of positive coverage. I couldn't get the smile off my face after I read it, and neither could all the people who, in various ways, are involved with various projects at Marina Mazatlan. It will do us so much good, especially since this marina had a bit of a troubled past.

Antonio Cevallos
Marina Mazatlán

Antonio - Thanks for the kind words.

While anchored out in Banderas Bay, we visited with Bill and Mary Jane Makepeace of the Boulder-based Lord Nelson 35 Grey Max. They told us they spent the last four winters in Mazatlan. When we asked what the attraction was, they said it was the cruising communities at Marina Mazatlan, Isla Marina and El Cid Marina. "We couldn't believe that we could be having so much fun at our age that we stayed and stayed." And they aren't even that old.


Your January article on Mazatlan and the Jungle Coast of Mexico had some comments about San Blas, Mexico, that call for some clarifications.

First, you mentioned Norm Goldie, and said that he "had once been very helpful to cruisers . . ." Let us assure you that Norm is still very helpful to cruisers. We just spent two weeks in San Blas - two nights in Mantanchen Bay and the rest of the time in the estuary. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there - with many thanks to Norm and his lovely wife Jan. Norm hails on channels 16 and 22 most days, asking arriving cruisers if he can help them. So I'm surprised that you folks on Profligate didn't hear him.

Goldie tells cruisers that they can either go to the port captain's office to check in, or that he can help them do it. If you stop by his house and sit in his beautiful garden, he'll not only help you with the paperwork, but he'll give you a map of the town - marked with places of interest such as the bank, market, and so forth. He'll also offer you coffee and pastries. And he absolutely will not accept any payment. We tried to pay for his dinner on our last night in town, but he and Jan would not accept it.

Second, you said that most cruising boats pass right by the San Blas Estuary for Mantanchen Bay - accent on the last syllable, and yes, this is the correct spelling. That's quite true, but what a shame. There were nine boats in the estuary when we left - eight sailboats, and one motoryacht - with four in the bay waiting to get in. We all thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The bay is pretty, but sometimes rolly, and you can't easily walk to town. You either have to hitchhike - which is what we did - or catch a bus or taxi. Also, the no-see'ums pretty much force you to stay on your boat in the evening. The estuary is a well-protected anchorage, and with a little Off repellant and screens that have been sprayed with a garden-type spray, the bugs are very manageable. We were able to tie our dinghies behind a research vessel at the Navy pier, with two sailors on guard morning, noon and night. Norm told us about this, and suggested that we cruisers bring sodas and pastries to the guards as thanks. Many of us did.

Norm works closely with the port captain, and guides most boats into the estuary. By the way, San Blas is not a place you want to try to enter at night. We and Norm arranged a time to meet at the entrance to the estuary, and following his directions, anchored in about 15-20 feet of water at the edge of the channel on the west side of the estuary. By the way, when shrimpers complain to the port captain about boats being anchored in the channel, the port captain complains to Norm. So it's a good idea to let Norm show you where to anchor.

The walk to town from the dinghy dock is a short four blocks. We found a market with beautiful veggies, and fresh fish and shrimp for sale each morning; an Internet café with Skype and headsets available on a couple of computers; good restaurants, we particularly liked Chef Tony's; a bank; a good laundromat; and very friendly people. You can also get wonderful, fresh flour tortillas. We went to the tortilla shop on a Saturday night, but it was closed. But Jan, who was with us, just knocked on the door of the owner's home next to the shop, and we were able to buy a half-kilo off her kitchen table.

Third, you didn't say anything about the wonderful jungle tour. Most of us took it, and what a ride it was! There are two places to start the tour: a mile due east of town, and another near Mantanchen Bay. The cost for four people was 400 pesos - about $10 apiece. The ride that starts near town is about an hour longer, so you get to see more for the same price. You have to start this trip very early, preferably at 0700, to see the most birds and to beat the tourists who are shipped in from Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. By the way, some of the cruisers could not walk the mile to the launch, so Norm was up early and called taxis to met us on the Navy dock. During the ride we saw crocodiles from four to 14 feet long, iguanas of various colors and sizes, and birds and more birds. It's all those insects that attract more than 300 species of birds. In fact, there was a birder event, Aves Migratorios, the week we left. The jungle tour ends at Tovara Springs, where we swam and then had a good lunch. People who start early and have guides who move too quickly get to the springs before the restaurant is open, so it's good to bring a snack just in case. At the end of the tour, it was an easy walk up to the church and fort ruins. It made for a great day.

We intend to visit San Blas again when we head north in a few months. It's a great place for cruisers. By the way, a new marina is planned for the San Blas estuary, and some initial work is going on now.

Anita Giani & Ron Feldman
Liberty Call II, Hunter 37.5, Ha-Ha Class of '05
San Francisco


Rog Jones' January letter highlighted the pleasures of traveling from cold areas - such as Reno - to fine sailing and the relative warmth of San Francisco Bay in the winter. But I think we've outdone him. We and our halibut-belly complexions took a little flight from Fairbanks to the British Virgins last month for an 11-day charter with Horizon Yacht Charters. Between flying on airline miles and the post-holiday/pre-peak season charter rate, we had a relatively cheap vacation that was delightful - and featured great sailing. The crux was in the coming home. Between Tortola and Fairbanks, we experienced a drop of 130 degrees in air temperature! But we still bask in the glow of our memories.

Our subscription check is enclosed. The Latitudes provide a bright spot of sanity when the sun only peeks above the horizon here, and when the thermometer seems to be stuck at the bottom of the scale.

Larry Freeman
Landlocked in the Sub Arctic
Fairbanks, Alaska

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

Subscriptions / Classifieds / 'Lectronic Latitude / Home

© 2006 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.