Missing the pictures? See our June 2010 eBook!
DISAPPOINTED WITH THE PRESCOTTS' SENTENCE
By now you've probably heard that Clay and Teresa Prescott, who owned and operated ABC Yachts in Sausalito and San Rafael, were both sentenced to serve eight months in county jail and to pay restitution as a result of Clay's pleading guilty to two counts of embezzlement and Teresa's copping to grand theft. In reality, they will likely be out of jail in as little as four months.
As a major victim of their admitted crimes, I'm extremely disappointed at what I consider to be a light sentence. Frankly, most people I know would be willing to spend four months in jail in return for $300,000. I've heard rumblings around the marine industry of other brokers embezzling funds from their trust accounts. Now that they realize they may only be looking at four months in jail, I expect to see a lot more of it.
I have to give a lot of credit to the Sausalito Police Department and to the Marin County District Attorney who prosecuted the case. After all their diligent work, I think it's a shame that the judge didn't give the perpetrators longer sentences.
As for my family and me, the matter is now over. Someday we hope to be able to purchase another boat. But when we do, we'll certainly be more cautious about who has control of our funds.
Readers — For those who don't know, ABC Yachts brokered the sale of the Drake family's Sceptre 41 to a Canadian buyer last March. The Canadian buyer paid roughly $160,000 to the ABC Yachts trust account. Rather than ABC deducting their commission and forwarding the remainder — roughly $144,000 — to the Drakes, ABC kept all but about $5,000 of the money. As a result of the tremendous financial hit, Jeff, his wife, and his two young daughters had to sell their home. Would you be pissed off if someone who defrauded you out of that much money was sentenced to only a few months in jail?
As a member of the marine industry for over three decades, we're as disappointed as the Drakes are with what we believe is a mere slap on the wrist for the Prescotts. If the sentence sends any message at all, it would seem to be that ripping off individuals to the tune of more than $100,000 each has only minor consequences. We suppose everybody has their own views on crime and punishment, but four to eight months in the slammer certainly doesn't correspond with ours.
As for the part of the sentence that says the Prescotts must pay restitution through the court, it's Drake's understanding that he and his family are unlikely to see anything. "If the Prescotts were to work for cash or out of state, we wouldn't see any of the money." As for what happened to the approximately $300,000 that ABC defrauded from its customers, Drake says nobody seems to know. We suppose that means it's possible that the money could be sitting in a safe deposit box in the Cayman Islands.
All things considered, the affair reminds us of the quotes that express the sentiment that it's not only easier, but also much more lucrative, to steal with a pen than it is with a gun.
How can you protect yourself from a broker or a lawyer going out of trust when selling something you own? Require that a special trust be established at a bank or other institution for just that transaction. It's not that expensive, and you can think of it as 'transaction insurance'.
BUT THEN, I DETEST THIEVES AND LIARS
Well, gee whiz now, I guess eight months in the county hoosegow is pretty fair punishment — as least according to the attorney for Clay and Teresa Prescott of ABC Yachts for having stolen something like $300,000 from their clients. What bothers me is that they not only took money from these people, they betrayed their trust. I feel that a seven-year sentence in the state pen, plus restitution, would have been more fitting. Of course, I personally detest thieves and liars.
John — What strikes us as particularly odious about the Prescotts' crime is that their victims weren't some giant lender — as has often been the case with yacht brokers who have gone out of trust — but individuals for whom $150,000 was a significant part of their assets. It might be just us, but we think it's incumbent upon both perpetrators to work day and night to make full restitution to their victims as quickly as possible.
SIGN ME UP
I've owned Nokomis, my DownEast 38, since '75. How do I sign up for the 'Over 30 Club' for people who have owned the same boat for more than three decades.
Nokomis, DownEast 38
Quincy — You just did. But normally, we'd like to get just a little bit on the history of your ownership of your boat. Take the following letter as a good example.
THE STORY OF CARAVELLA
I would like to join your 'Over 30 Club'. When I was a 21-year-old pup living in Hawaii, I bought a Southerly 23, which is a New Zealand-made sloop built by Compass Yachts. Although she was a small sailboat, I was impressed with her lines and construction, and knew enough about boats to know she was a gem. From '75 to '92, I sailed that boat inter-island more than 20 times. I would also spend up to a month at a time cruising between the islands. It was sort of like camping in a pup tent. I sailed in up to 30 knots of breeze — not atypical for the trades in Hawaii — and never had a problem. But I was wet a lot of the time.
I bought a trailer for my little 23 in '92, and shipped the boat and trailer to the Pacific Northwest where I had relocated for work on a barge. I then drove it down I-5 from Seattle to Portland, where I proceeded to strip everything off the boat. When I was done, there wasn't a screw that hadn't been removed. I repaired the blisters on the bottom, put on a barrier coat, made a new rudder, and added a bridge deck and traveler to the cockpit. Since I had gone that far, I decided to have a new stemhead fitting with an anchor roller made — and even dropped the 1,450-lb keel and replaced the keel bolts! All of that was followed by a new Awlgrip paint job, new teak toerails and handrails, and a new main and working jib from Doyle in New Zealand, who had made the original sails in 1971.
When all the work was done, I had a brand new 23-year-old boat. I towed her back to Puget Sound, and have cruised her from Olympia to the San Juans. And while it's not like sailing in the trades of Hawaii, I've enjoyed every minute of it.
Even though I've since moved up to a Tartan 30, and now a Pretorien 35, I still own the Southerly, and have to admit that on the rare days it's blowing 20 knots on the Sound, I think about my little sloop, and how much more fun it would be to be sailing on her rather than my larger boat. What can I say? At 55, I'm older, wiser, and like more comfort, but the rush will always come from my little Caravella. At this point she's a 39-year-old lady who's like your first girlfriend — you never forget her.
P.S. Thank you for the years of reading — Latitude is by far the best sailing magazine out there.
Caravella, Southerly 23
Gary — If Latitude is any good, it's because of contributions from readers such as yourself. We really enjoyed your 'love story'.
ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE 'OVER 30 CLUB'
Ramon Carlin of Mexico City should be included in Latitude's 'Over 30 Club', which is for sailors who have owned the same boat for over 30 years. Carlin still has Sayula II, Swan 65 hull #3, which he purchased in '73. In fact, he still enjoys cruising her off the coast of Mexico and beyond. Years ago he stated that he would never trade his beloved Sayula II for another boat.
Carlin's original Sayula was a Cal 40. After doing the TransPac, he stepped up to the Swan 65 for what he planned to be a family cruise around the world. As it turned out, he got wind that the first ('73-'74) Whitbread (now Volvo) Round the World Race was about to begin, so he went for that instead. He wound up winning the race.
Carlin's next win was line honors in class when he represented Mexico in the Tall Ships Bermuda to Newport race for the '76 Bicentennial celebration.
Ray — Carlin's entry and win in the first Whitbread is a great story — although you neglected to mention that you were the navigator. We still see Sayula II in Mexico from time to time, and she warms our heart.
I WISH I'D DONE IT SOONER
In the May letter titled "Another Member of the 'Over 30 Club'", Bill Brummel of Discovery Bay reported he was looking for curtain tape for his good old boat.
From '03-'07, I completely rebuilt my '79 Catalina 27. Yes, it took a few years, but I was sailing her every weekend. I had a dilemma similar to Bill's trying to find curtain tape, but after some research found the tape I needed — along with many other types and styles — at my local RV store.
By the way, I grew up on Lange Street in St. Clair Shores, MI (The Nautical Mile), with our fleet of power and sail boats on the canal that was our backyard. Every summer we cruised for months at a time, and have great memories of places like the Georgian Bay, Kindardine and Tobermory. The water was so clean and clear — and still is — that seeing the bottom in depths of over 100 feet was common!
I have lived in Palm Desert for most of my adult life, but it was not until a friend of mine mentioned that he had purchased a sailboat from a friend of his in Marina del Rey, that I got the idea that I could own a boat on the West Coast. I found out it was very affordable, so I bought Makai in '03. I started reading Latitude right away, and as a result, most of my friends think that I'm a fountain of sailing knowledge. I tell them to pick up their own copy. My only regret is that I didn't find out about sailing on the West Coast and Latitude many years before.
PS: I ran into you guys on Profligate at Emerald Bay, Catalina, last summer. I waved but didn't feel comfortable dropping by as it was late and you were just setting the hook as the sun was setting.
Makai, Catalina 27
Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro
Bill — Thanks for the kind words. We actually do a lot of writing and other work on Profligate, so if we look busy, or if we're in the middle of some other obvious project, we prefer not to be disturbed. But if it looks as if we're just kicking back, by all means stop by to say 'hello'.
GETTING WRAPPED UP IN CIRCUMNAVIGATING
Latitude did a nice job of profiling the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in your May issue.
I did the '07/'08 edition of the Clipper Race, and can attest to the fact there is some serious racing. We — meaning New York Clipper — won the '07/'08 race, having circumnavigated in 10 months. In the process, I crossed the Atlantic three times, as well as the Indian Ocean, the North Pacific, the Java Sea, the South China Sea, the East China Sea and more. But I have to admit, it was all wrapped up in the bigger adventure of sailing around the world, meeting some amazing people, and becoming a part of the Clipper family and Sir Robin's vision for the rest of us.
I also did the Ha-Ha in '06. While I'm not likely to race around the world again, you are likely to see me in future Ha-Ha's. I loved winning an around-the-world race, but if there is a secret behind the Clipper Race, it's the fact that, for many of the crewmembers, the quality of the experience didn't correlate with how they finished in the standings. First or last, it is an unforgettable experience on the water. Of course, Ha-Ha participants understand that before they even hit the start line!
Thanks for the great coverage Latitude provides for all aspects of sailing. And please add my name to your list of West Coast Circumnavigators.
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Gary — Thanks for the kind words and your firsthand perspective on the Clipper Race. Your name has been added to our West Coast Circumnavigator's List.
CUTE BABIES AND PFDS
The fourth photo in the May 3 'Lectronic had the following caption: "There's no such thing as 'too young' for the Vallejo Race!" The photo showed an infant not wearing a PFD. It was stupidity on the sailor's part as much as the caption was stupidity on 'Lectronic's part.
Notice the little girl on the far right is wearing a PFD, as is the man next to her. But the big galoot holding the infant isn't wearing one. It would just make it harder for the Coast Guard to find the bodies.
Or maybe it's my bad, because maybe there aren't any Coast Guard regulations that require cute babies to wear PFDs in the cockpits of sailboats on the Bay.
Chinook, Tiara 4000 Express Cruiser
Chris — The Coast Guard has regulations with regard to what type and how many PFDs must be on a vessel. To our knowledge, they leave the requirements for who must actually wear them up to the states.
California has the following requirement for wearing PFDs on boats: "If boating on a vessel that is 26 feet or less, every child 11 years of age or younger must wear a PFD, unless in an enclosed cabin or restrained by a harness tethered to a sailboat." If we're not mistaken, the boat in the photo in question is a J/105, in which case nobody — not even the little girl — was required to wear a PFD.
While we encourage sailors to wear PFDs, we don't feel they are the be-all and end-all of safety that some people seem to think they are. For instance, while our daughter was less than a year old, and therefore too small for any PFD, we took her sailing on the Bay, up the Delta, off Honolulu, and in Mexico. And we didn't think we were being the least bit reckless.
If the adult sailors in that photo are the experienced sailors we think they are, we don't think they were being reckless either. After all, being safe on a boat has a lot more to do with the experience of the skipper and crew than it does with who is or is not wearing a PFD. When the photo was taken, the sailing conditions were mild. Had it gotten rough or dicey, we're certain the responsible and caring adults on that boat would have overseen the kids even more closely, and if the conditions called for it, taken them below.
WOULDN'T WANT THE BEER TO DROWN
As I was preparing to go sailing earlier this week, it occurred to me that the public service campaign by Latitude 38 and others to promote the use of PFDs is sinking in. At least with me. After laying out all my gear, I realized that, not only had I provided for my own safety, but also that of the kitty, the doggy, the beer, and the baby.
By the way, I had two days of ideal sailing conditions on San Francisco Bay.
Kia Orana, Catalina 36
Gold Country YC / South Beach Harbor
HE'S ALIVE BECAUSE OF THREE LUCKY BREAKS
A year ago this past winter, I saved the life of a man who had fallen off his boat in the marina. My usual dock neighbor had gone to Mexico with his boat, so there was a temporary tenant in his slip. Coming home to his boat in what I believe was a state of inebriation, he fell in. He would have died were it not for three lucky breaks.
First, I can no longer hear, so had I not had company that night, nobody would have heard his cries for help.
Second, he happened to fall overboard in a slip between two liveaboards. Had he fallen in anywhere else, nobody would have heard his weak calls for help.
Third, I was able to yell loud enough so that the liveaboard on the other side of the dock heard me.
Initially I got hold of the man in the water and made a loop between his legs with a dockline. That kept him from going under, but he couldn't help himself out of the water and I couldn't pull him out by myself. Pulling hard on the rope and kind of rolling him up got him close to out of the water, but not quite. Perhaps we could have gotten the man out if he had been sober, but he didn't seem to be. Had I not been able to holler for additional help, that guy in the water would not have had a chance.
For many years I've had a plan in case I fell overboard. I would use my energy to try to get to a cleat, then make a loop out of the tail end of the dockline, then put my foot into it to stabilize myself. I would then use my remaining energy to call for help, hoping that someone would hear me. But I agree, the average sailor, with the extra weight of wet clothes, could not pull himself out of the water.
I also agree that the best solution is to not fall into the water in the first place.
Orient Star, Cheoy Lee Offshore 50
Alamitos Bay, Long Beach
Ernie — The big assumption, of course, is that the tail on the end of the dockline would be long enough for you to make a loop for your foot. Many aren't.
GETTING A FOOT UP ON SAVING ONESELF
I just read the May issue Letters, where I learned of the tragic death of Dave Gish, who apparently fell off the dock at his marina in Ventura late one night and was unable to get out of the water. There is a way to prevent such tragedies, and I'm surprised that it hasn't been mandated as part of the cradle-to-grave protection that the government in California seems to be obsessed with.
While on a delightful sail on Puget Sound and around the San Juan Islands a couple of weeks ago, we visited several marinas on different islands. I noticed that there were small ladders attached to the ends of several docks at every marina. Some of these ladders were of an ingenious design whereby the steps for the ladder were out of the water until they were needed.
I don't know if such ladders are required by the State of Washington, but they are a simple solution to what otherwise could be life-threatening situations.
P.S. After cruising in the Caribbean for many years, I discovered that spring cruising in the Pacific Northwest requires the use of a heater.
THEY'RE NOT CHEAP BUT ARE WORTH THE COST
I was saddened to read the May letter about the tragic death of sailor David Gish of Ventura, who apparently who drowned after falling into the water at Ventura West Marina.
I'm the Harbormaster of Fisherman's Wharf / Hyde Street Harbor, and I've been concerned about this issue for some time. As a result, I've just ordered 35 UpNOut safety ladders from Marina Accessories of Bellingham, Washington for our marina. The ladders are made of stainless steel and drop down from the stowed position when a person in the water grabs the bottom rung.
The ladders come in different sizes. The ones I've ordered cost $153 each.
Hedley Prince, Wharfinger
Port of San Francisco
Pier 1, Embarcadero
Hedley — When we were younger and considerably more spry, we thought ladders to help folks get out of the water were a joke. But no longer. Particularly not after those two deaths in Ventura County over such a short period of time.
CROSSING BARS IN A CAT
Bars at the entrance to lagoons or rivers don't have to be scary. In fact, based on my experience, they can be great fun! My 38-ft catamaran displaces about 5 tons, draws less than 3 feet, and has twin screws 22 feet apart. I keep her bows and sterns empty for maximum performance. All these things, combined with her slender 13:1 length-to-beam ratio, means she surfs easily and doesn't have any tendencies to broach.
Over the course of a week in April of '05, I crossed four river entrance bars on the New South Wales coast of Australia. In many ways that stretch of coast is similar to the coast of Oregon, particularly in that many of the ports are just up a river from the coast.
The bars that I crossed were at Camden, Port Macquarie, Iluka and Ballina, and all showed a narrow gap in the white surf crashing across the bar. In each case, I would just line up outside the gap, then idle slowly toward the bar until the sterns lifted — at which point we shot off at 12-14 knots. Once in a while a stern would fall off line as we dropped off the back of a wave, but a quick bit of reverse prop snatched her back on course for the next wave to carry us in. The last thing we would have wanted was someone in a launch in front of us — at surfing speeds, we would have overtaken him before he could have gotten out of the way.
Bobcat, Crowther 38
Bob — Based on the reports we've received so far, catamarans seem to run before breaking bar waves with much better control than monohulls. Nonetheless, if the conditions were bad enough, we don't think the cat has been built that couldn't be broached. Over-confidence in multihulls — as Stan Honey pointed out in last month's Sightings — is more dangerous than over-confidence in monohulls.
"HMM, I THINK I'LL HAVE THE CREOLE CROW"
Last month, with 16-year-old Aussie Jessica Watson and her S&S 34 Ella's Pink Lady fast approaching the completion of a non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation, the publisher of Latitude asked if anybody had any tasty recipes for crow, because it appeared that he was going to have to eat some.
I was also a big skeptic of Watson's chances, especially after the inauspicious start when she sailed Pink Lady into the side of a ship, dismasting her boat. But this young woman has subsequently shown a remarkable tenacity and a love of sailing, and deserves a standing ovation.
In any event, the folks at www.crowbusters.com have a lot of information that the publisher of Latitude might like, with regard to mental preparation, field preparation and recipes for eating crow. The authors say they understand there is a natural prejudice against dining on the 'black bandit', but say it's a shame because when properly prepared, crow and other members of the corvid family taste as good as, if not better than, most game birds. They note that historically crows and other non-songbird species have been common fare. Remember "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie?"
Our revulsion, crow experts believe, centers on the fact that the crow and its close relatives are scavengers and therefore unfit to eat. But you wouldn't believe what pigs and chickens stick in their mouths. As for seafood, you honestly don't want to know what goes into a blue crab before it ends up on that expensive crab cake platter. The same goes for lobsters. In short, it's just our cultural prejudice that limits our crow eating possibilities.
Realizing that even the biggest crow doesn't make much of a meal, experts say that you'll need three to four per person. Since there isn't much edible meat to a crow besides the breast, forget plucking the bird. You just put the crow on its back, cut the crow wing to wing just below the breast bone, then work a sharp knife from the breast bone outward. It shouldn't take more than two minutes to remove the breasts from each bird. Then cook it as you might chicken. Using the slang of the French, bon app!
Rhumbline, Islander 30
Bill — Thanks for the great information. We're checking out some curried crow recipes.
As for Watson, who finished her circumnavigation on May 15, we can't decide which has astonished us more, her grit and fortitude, or how well her boat and its critical systems held up. We would have bet 100-to-1 that she wouldn't make it.
There's an interesting historical perspective, too. Back in '77, when Survival & Safety sponsored the first ever Singlehanded Farallones Race, many of the most experienced sailors around the Bay castigated it as a completely reckless and foolish idea. And now a 16-year-old girl has now completed one of the most newsworthy circumnavigations ever. How times change.
As remarkable as Watson's achievement most certainly is, we're still dead set against the concept of youth sailing records, both on the grounds that such kids have no idea of what mental and physical risks they are exposing themselves to, and because there is such an opportunity for them to be the victims of parents seeking to bask in their reflected glory.
A BOAT WITH A PEDIGREE
Jessica Watson, who just completed her terrific non-stop solo circumnavigation, did it in a design with an already great record. Her Ella's Pink Lady is an S&S 34 that was originally Ted Heath's first Morning Cloud. In fact, it was the one he used to win a very stormy Sydney to Hobart Race.
Heath might not have been England's greatest prime minister, but he may well have been the most sporting one.
Conquest, Cal 40
Mike — As mentioned above, we're astonished at how well Watson's boat held up over the course of 21,600 miles. It's a testament to the design and construction of many of the boats of that era.
BEST WISHES FOR ABBY
It seems strange to me that Abby Sunderland is going to abandon her attempt to be the youngest person to non-stop solo circumnavigate because of an unreliable autopilot. Since the beginning of known circumnavigations, many an accomplished sailor has sailed the oceans without an autopilot. If all it takes is the loss of an autopilot to end such a circumnavigation, then perhaps the person in question is not the sailor she believes she is.
That said, I do wish Abby luck in her endeavors. Perhaps by the time she returns she'll be the accomplished sailor she propounds to be.
Grace, Traveller 32
Robert — Even if an unreliable autopilot was Abby's only reason for stopping, we think her pulling into Cape Town was an example of good judgment. While it's true that it's relatively easy to get some boats to steer themselves without an autopilot on some points of sail, we don't think this would apply to Abby's Open 40 Wild Eyes, which displaces only 7,500 lbs, particularly when faced with heading across the width of the treacherous southern Indian Ocean.
While we continue to believe that attempts at 'youngest ever' sailing records are reckless and in no better taste than beauty pageants for five-year-old girls, we don't think Abby ever presented herself as being the world's greatest sailor. While she's to be congratulated for having made it as far as she has, our only wish is that she makes it safely back to Southern California in good health to resume her youth.
ANCHORING AT ANGEL ISLAND'S CHINA COVE
I would suggest thinking twice if anyone wants to stop and anchor at China Cove. May 8 was a sunny and breezy Saturday, and it seemed as if a high percentage of the San Francisco Bay sailing community was enjoying it on the water. Lacking anywhere else to get away from the boating crowd, Julie, our crew and I anchored our Passport 40 at China Cove, on the east side of Angel Island, to enjoy a lunch stop.
After relaxing until late in the afternoon, we attempted to weigh anchor. But oops, the hook wouldn’t come up! No problem, we thought, we'll just motor forward to break the anchor free. When that didn't work, we tried motoring to the right, then the left. No and no.
After two hours of trying various crew suggestions on how to get the anchor up, we realized that we were stuck to the bottom. We placed calls to various local divers and BoatUS and learned that if we left the anchor on the bottom, it might cost in excess of $2,000 to recover it. Our temporary solution was to attach a small water bottle to the entirety of our ground tackle — including 300 feet of chain, rode and a really shiny stainless steel CQR anchor — and hope we could return later to retrieve some portion of it.
Julie then remembered that during the annual Passport Regatta the previous week, John and Laurel Baudendistal of the Passport 42 Dreamkeeper talked a lot about their diving experiences and therefore might have the requisite gear. Sure enough, when we called John, he jumped to the challenge and arranged to pick up scuba tanks on Sunday morning.
That afternoon, we fortunately found the little water bottle still bobbing quietly in the cove. John donned his scuba gear and, in James Bond fashion, plunged into the murky 58° water. He followed the recovered anchor line 25 feet down to the scene of the crime. In very limited visibility, his underwater light revealed an 8-ft vertical concrete relic of an old pier next to a similarly fallen Romanesque column, also on its side, with our chain trapped beneath it. It turned out that all our maneuvering with the boat had succeeded in doing was wrapping the chain around the length of the column several times.
It took John four dives, two tanks, and five hours of strenuous effort before he was able to find and cut our anchor free with bolt cutters. We’re eager to hear suggestions as to how we can properly thank a friend for such an incredible effort.
As for everyone else, please be aware of the remnants of the old pier. Extend what's left on the land to the intersection of a line extending from the chain link fence you can see just to the north — and then do not anchor in that area. Unless you've got dive gear aboard or have a great friend like John Baudendistal!
By the way, 'Capt Gary', one of the divers we spoke with, told us, "Oh yeah, there are a lot of anchors on the bottom at China Cove."
Drambuoy, Passport 40
Rick — A tip of the Latitude hat to John Baudendistal for going above and beyond to help a fellow sailor. Well done!
406LINK OFFERS SIMILAR COVERAGE
After J/World sank during last year's Ha-Ha as a result of a collision with a whale, Latitude ran down the list of ways mariners can call for help. One of them was via EPIRBs.
It's worth noting that ACR, a manufacturer of EPIRBs and other rescue and survival equipment, has a new service called 406Link. The basic level of service allows the owners of EPIRBs to know that their EPIRB is functioning properly by running a test using the same satellite system that would be used in a real emergency. This service costs $39.95 a year.
There is also the PLUS level of 406Link service that allows customers to use their ACR — or other brand — EPIRB to send pre-programmed messages such as, "Honey, I'm fine" via email or text to up to five people. All you need to do is press the self-test button on your EPIRB. It would also send your GPS position. This service costs $59.95 a year.
406Link PLUS allows mariners to do some — but certainly not all — of the things the SPOT GPS Messenger units can do. The difference is that 406Link covers the entire world, while — as pointed out in the May 10 'Lectronic — SPOT does not.
For what it's worth, we at West Marine sell both ACR and SPOT products and services.
A Friend From West Marine
A.F.F.W.M. — Thanks for the heads up.
As readers of the May 10 'Lectronic know, the Coast Guard asked Latitude to alert mariners to the fact that SPOT GPS Messengers do not cover the entire world. SPOT's website says it covers "virtually" the entire world, but "virtually" certainly doesn't include tens of thousands of miles of open ocean regularly crossed by readers of Latitude in their boats.
What prompted the Coast Guard request were calls from family and friends of Pacific Puddle Jumper Michael Rafferty aboard his Islander Freeport 36 Aquila, who was singlehanding from Mexico to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. Rafferty was using his SPOT to send pre-programmed messages to family and friends to let them know he was fine. But suddenly the messages stopped, as did the GPS positions from Aquila. It freaked people out. But the only problem was that Rafferty had sailed out of the SPOT coverage area part of the way into his 25-day crossing.
It seems to us that SPOT may offer a bigger bang for the buck than does the 406Link — except, of course, if you sail out of the SPOT coverage area. In that case it offers no bang at all.
THE BAY CAN'T COMPARE TO NEWPORT
Despite all the talk and rhetoric, I'm betting that the 34th America's Cup will be held off Newport, Rhode Island. The geographic limitations of San Francisco Bay simply do not permit the interaction of two America's Cup-sized boats in a match race without the requirement of forcing a maneuver to avoid an obstruction or to get sea room. Newport, on the other hand, offers a nearby ocean race course with a decent breeze. No West Coast sailing location offers such an environment. And Larry Ellison is too smart to hold the America's Cup outside of the United States.
Wianno, Mainship 34 Pilot
John — We wouldn't be surprised if there was an 'Act' or something in Newport in recognition of its place in America's Cup history, and in recognition of the fact that Ellison has a house there, too. But we don't think the Finals will be held there. After all, what passes for a "decent" breeze in Newport is so last century. After the last America's Cup, we can't imagine anyone wanting to see Cup boats sailing at less than 20 knots.
THE FAMILY 'ALLOWANCE'
I was one of many men who were supported — read 'allowed' — by their wives and family to participate in last year's Ha-Ha without them. In my case, the result was that Vinnie, my wife, was left at home to manage two very sick children in rainy Seattle while I was off sailing the warm breezes off the coast of Mexico.
Along the way, I was very touched to find three letters that had been sneaked into my duffel by Vinnie and our children, Maya, 11, and Dylan, 8. I saved the letters until well into the Ha-Ha, when I found that special moment to read their notes of love and support.
I thought my daughter's note was a tremendous artistic endeavour for an 11-year-old, and it really touched me. The drawing illustrated a sailboat surrounded by sharks, a tidal wave and hurricane, and included a touching poem. I know that Latitude draws the line at publishing poetry, but I would be honored if you would bend the rules and share Maya's poem with your readers. I think it represents the feelings of many of the families left behind by their wayward sailing fathers.
So when you go away to sail
I can't send you any mail
so here's a poem from me.
Don't get eaten by a shark
because that would leave a mark
and you miss your puppy
But don't forget brother
and don't forget mother
But (most importantly) don't forget me.
Much thanks to Latitude and the Baja Ha-Ha Rally Committee for such an awesome event. It was my first Ha-Ha, but hopefully not my last. I also want to thank the captain and crew of Blue Lightning for such a good time, and not making me walk the plank after jibing the poled-out asymmetrical chute as though it were a symmetrical chute. Lesson learned!
Mariah, Gulf 32 Pilothouse
Ken — It's really dirty pool of you to use the love of your family as a lever to get us to finally publish poetry, but it's our soft spot. Bless the whole bunch of you, and thanks for the kind words.
A NOT-SO-MODEST PROPOSAL
In the December issue, Webb Chiles wrote a Changes following his fifth circumnavigation. When I visited his website at www.inthepresentsea.com, I came across the following, and thought your readers might enjoy it. It's called Evanston: A Modest Proposal, and was written in February '07.
"Those of you who paid attention in English class will recognize A Modest Proposal as the title of an essay by Jonathan Swift, the famous Irish satirist in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Several recently reported events have caused me to propose my own modest proposal about people who choose to sail offshore, as well as about when singlehanded sailing isn't singlehanded sailing — which I'll get to in a moment. But before I do, I want to suggest that everyone re-read, or read for the first time, Swift’s original. Just type 'a modest proposal' on Google. The essay is short, won't take long to read, and almost certainly will be superior to anything else you read today.
"Briefly, the proposal, written in 1729, called for the children of the Irish poor to be sold as food at one year of age. Swift provides production cost analysis, as well as recipes, and concludes that those who think his proposal unreasonable ask the mothers of these children if they themselves would not have preferred to be sold as food than suffer the sustained miseries of a life of poverty. He concludes by declaring that there is no self-interest behind his proposal because his own children are grown and his wife past child-bearing. The essay is a work of savage genius.
"My own modest proposal is not so savage, but may also initially seem unreasonable.
"I propose that when people sail offshore alone — and I’m not sure that it shouldn’t be extended to all people who go offshore in private vessels — they must first sign an affidavit that they know no one is going to come rescue them if they get in trouble. Further, they should be required to carry less, not more, 'safety' equipment. Radio transmitters, EPIRBs, satellite telephones — all forms of calling for help beyond the range of their voice should be illegal. And so should insurance. The proposal would accomplish several desirable objectives:
"It will save public funds — although there is some phony bookkeeping here, because rescue services, such as fire departments, have fixed costs whether they are utilized or not.
"It will shut up some politicians. That's always desirable. And it might even cause them to focus on real problems.
"It will cause some reporters to return to their true calling — which is doing things like following Britney Spears to the barber.
"It will lower insurance costs.
"It will make it easier to find room in distant anchorages.
"And, it will separate the men from the boys, as well, of course, the women from the girls.
"If my proposal seems too absurd, I point out that it is exactly the way many experienced sailors from Joshua Slocum's day to the present day have gone to sea. Immodestly, I would like to include myself among them. Alas, I must confess that in recent years I carried a handheld VHF with a five-mile range in order to ask officials where the Quarantine Dock is when I enter an unfamiliar port. If my proposal is enacted into law, I will turn my radio in.
"On the subject of when solo sailing isn’t solo sailing, the answer is when you are accompanied by another boat. If I remember correctly, Naomi James, who was the first woman to sail alone around the world via Cape Horn, was met by her husband and Chay Blythe, who stood lookout for her from another boat so she could sleep in the English Channel. Indeed.
"Not long ago, a teenager reportedly became the first adolescent to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone. I have read that his father sailed a sistership within sight of him all the way across. If true, the boy wasn’t a solo sailor, he was part of a convoy.
"Solo sailing, adventure and risk only have meaning when they say something about the human spirit. Convoys don't."
The above according to Webb Chiles.
Debra, Tartan 37
John — Swift's essay was actually titled, A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick. The essay is effective because it begins with Swift accurately describing the plight of the poor. So the shock is powerful when he suggests a solution: "A young healthy child well-nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout."
A satire is only effective when the author uses irony, derision or wit to attack a human vice, foolishness or stupidity. Swift's satire was brilliant because it attacked the stupidity of British officials who had taken over Ireland and, thanks to heavy restrictions on trade, stifled its economy, dramatically increasing the poverty and hunger.
As for Chiles, we're not sure which vice, foolishness or stupidity, he's attacking. In the case of the 13-year-old boy who singlehanded across the Atlantic with his father in a sistership only a short distance away, we agree that it was foolishness to claim any sort of singlehanded record. After all, it was a closely supervised sail. And we suppose one could try to make the argument that participants in events like the Singlehanded TransPac, because they have radios and can call for encouragement or help, are in some vague sense part of a 'convoy'. But we're not buying such an argument, because even within the confines of the Singlehanded TransPac we think there is sufficient "adventure and risk." That being the case, we think Chiles' proposal comes off as a little holier than thou.
SAN BLAS STILL A GREAT PLACE FOR "SOME PEOPLE"
We're currently in a slip at the new Singlar Marina in San Blas, and we just read your 'Lectronic item regarding what appears to be a scam involving local Norm Goldie's email account. There has been some talk about the letter on the VHF recently, so I'm sure Norm is aware of it. As for cruisers letting him know about it, that's probably not going to happen because cruisers are pretty much ignoring him.
This is my fifth visit San Blas — the first was in '74 — and I'm pleased to say that I have never had the opportunity to talk/listen to Norm before. But this time Norm is really making a jerk of himself on the VHF radio throughout the day. He starts off asking if anyone needs help, but then goes into a long rant about how "some people" are taking food out of the mouths of poor Mexicans by working here instead of letting Mexicans help them. He also claims that "some people" are saying bad things about him, and that they need to stop or he is going to the Attorney General with his complaints.
One day Norm announced that he would be in the town plaza at 6 p.m. if anyone needed help, or if they just wanted to meet with him. Then he said that he wished "some people" would come to the plaza so that he could set them straight about what he was saying about them.
As I mentioned, the cruisers are dealing with this by just ignoring Norm. We still use our radios to hail one another, but no one replies to Norm — not even to make a smart remark!
But I want everyone to rest assured that San Blas is still a lovely town and well worth a visit. Mariners can contact the marina on VHF 74 and they will send a panga out to guide you in. On the day we arrived, there was about a one-foot swell over the bar, so we had an easy crossing.
Cheryl & Ron Roberts, with Jasmine the cat
Lazy Days, DeFever 49
PAUL GOT BITCH-SLAPPED BY HIS BOAT
I'd like to thank the liveaboard community in the 15th St. area of Newport Beach for their kindness recently when my husband Paul was hurt as the result of taking a tumble on our next cruising boat. Shame on us, she's not a sailboat like our Lancer 44 Bohemian that we sailed in the '06 Ha-Ha, but rather a DeFever 43 trawler in need of plenty of TLC.
But I digress. In the midst of some projects, Paul slipped badly on the teak floor he was stripping, and hit his head on the back of an icebox. Suddenly there was blood everywhere from a nasty head wound. After getting a cold compress on Paul's head, I tried to figure out how I was going to get him — if he was badly hurt — down a vertical stern ladder along with our 60-lb pitbull puppy and 13-lb chihuahua.
Fortunately, Paul didn't lose consciousness and remained clear-eyed and calm. Once I got the bleeding to slow down, I noticed that he had a deep gash three inches long. It was not good. We managed to get Paul and the dogs into the dinghy, then motored for the dock. Paul sat on the bench while I ran for the truck.
We got Paul to Hoag Hospital, just five minutes away, where a very cool Dr. Hunter put five staples in his head. He told me to bring Paul back if he started acting weird. We were in and out in 90 minutes.
The next day we were surprised to have so many of our neighbors come by in their dinghies to check on Paul. It really lifted our spirits and made us feel as though out little community of mariners is special. As a result of the accident, we now all have each others' phone numbers in case of emergencies.
And a reminder to all the self-strippers out there, don't slip on your stripper, because the stuff is like walking on grease. As it was, our new boat bitch slapped us into the realization that no matter how excited we get about a boat project, we have to slow down and take it easy. Maybe we would have had there been a beer involved. As for healing after the fall, Paul's head recuperated faster than his butt!
Blue Sky, DeFever 43
Meridee — Being "bitch slapped" by your boat? That's a new one on us.
The only thing that puzzles us is why you didn't call the Newport Beach Sheriff's Office on 16. They have one of the best staffed and equipped marine and EMT patrols on the coast, and are well known for racing up and down Newport Harbor on emergency missions. When it comes to head wounds, you don't want to take chances.
Thank you for publishing my letter on hull cleaners in the May issue, and for your editorial comments following it. It lends credence to our cause when someone with your credentials agrees in print that hull cleaners need to get on board the 'best management practices' (BMP) bandwagon.
But I do want to make an additional point regarding one of your comments. You mentioned that you put Micron Extra on Profligate and that Stan Susman — a California Professional Diver Association (CPDA) supporter, by the way — told you that, with hull cleaners using proper in-water hull cleaning techniques, your bottom should last three years. This is the heart of the CPDA’s BMP program. Hull cleaners should always use the least abrasive implement possible to clean a hull. This ensures both that the paint will last longer and that the least amount of copper is released into the water column. But it is a two-way street. The boatowner must authorize more frequent hull cleaning to make this possible — the hull cleaner can use a soft pad, carpet or diaper only if the bottom is cleaned frequently enough for these tools to be effective. Once the hull becomes even moderately fouled, a more abrasive tool is necessary to remove the growth.
This means that the typical quarterly hull cleaning regimen that is used here in the Bay Area is too infrequent for best management practices to be used. The CPDA, therefore, has to educate not only the hull cleaner about the benefit of cleaning frequently and gently, but the boatowner as well. Many boatowners do not realize that by increasing the service frequency to only six cleanings per year, as opposed to four, their substantial investment in a bottom job can be maximized and their impact on the environment minimized. Yes, it means an increase in the annual hull cleaning costs, but those costs will be offset by having to haul out less frequently, better fuel consumption when motoring, and more enjoyment when sailing.
FastBottoms Hull Diving
Matt — It reminds us of that old television commercial for motor oil or fan belts or something where the mechanic says, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later." The meaning being that, by paying a little for regular maintenance, the car owner could avoid paying for an expensive replacement engine later.
The bottom line on boat bottoms is that they should never be allowed to get too dirty, both for the environment and the owner's self interest — which in addition to saving money, also includes sailing pleasure. Is there anything more frustrating in sailing that trying to get performance out of a boat with a bottom like a shag carpet?
UNFATHOMABLE RUDENESS BY OFFICIALS
We just got back home to Hermosa Beach after a difficult winter season on our boat in the Caribbean, and read Latitude's very negative comments in Cruise Notes about some of the customs and immigration officials in the Caribbean. We couldn't agree more with such comments.
I, John, first sailed the eastern Caribbean in '76 aboard my first boat. As of today, I don't think the behavior of customs and immigration officials has changed at all. There are countries we will simply no longer visit because we just don't need the hassle of their officials. We're not alone, as a number of other boats we know skip Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. And the British Virgins deserve to be put on that list.
In the last two years, we have noticed a big change for the worse in the British Virgins. Since tourism is their major form of income, the way they treat visitors doesn't make sense. But most of the officials act as if they really don't want us to come to their country and support their economy.
What was difficult about our season? We blew the Volvo diesel on our Jeanneau 45 at the start of the season and had to replace it with a new Yanmar 55. In addition, the weather was cool, and very windy and rainy. With the Atlantic and Caribbean being warmer than normal, everyone is talking hurricanes. So we'll have to see.
On the other hand, the good news is that Mattie, our boat dog, turned 12 this year and is going strong.
John & Cynthia Tindle, with Mattie
Utopia, Jeanneau 45
John and Cynthia — That so many officials in Caribbean countries are permitted to treat cash-bearing visitors like crap is mystifying to us also. What makes the problem worse is that it only takes one or two of them to leave a horrible impression.
In early May, we showed up at Tortola to take our charter cat, 'ti Profligate, down-island. Everybody we met was wonderful, from the staff at the base to the taxi drivers to the folks in the grocery store. Then we went to Customs and Immigration. While none of those folks there were as welcoming or helpful as they might have been, it was left to the last person, the very overweight woman at the immigration desk, to really spoil the experience. When we knocked on her door, as requested by the sign on it, she gave us a sneering look that all but accused us of having taken a bowel movement on top of her lunch. Fortunately, folks who charter in the BVIs and aren't going to leave the country don't have to pass by this woman, but there was no excuse for her behavior.
As for the weather in the Eastern Caribbean this winter, we're a little puzzled. We spent the entire month of February at St. Barth, and in the 25 years we've been going there, have never experienced such mild winds and gentle seas. Nobody on the island could remember there ever being as sweet a February. So we suppose the rest of the winter must have been a real stinker.
HEARTS OF GOLD AND SUPER-SIZED COJONES
In the May 12 'Lectronic, you wrote: "We would love to acknowledge the names of the four heroic PJs (pararescuemen) who risked their lives to save Mike Kalahar's — parachuting into rough seas 1,400 miles offshore in the darkness. Unfortunately, we've had no luck obtaining their names from their Air National Guard unit at Moffett Field. But then, guys like that are obviously not in it for glory in the press. Theirs is a much higher calling."
After reading this I contacted my son, who is in the California Air National Guard assigned to the 130th Rescue Squadron at Moffett Field. His unit provided some of the hardware used in support of the 131st and the Coast Guard during the rescue of Michael Kalahar. I thought he might be able to help identify the PJs for you. He was able to get the information from their Commanding Officer, Major Jeffrey Borg. The PJs were: 1Lt Tristan Grell (Combat Rescue Officer); Chief Scott Simpson (Pararescueman); TSgt Sean Kirsch (Pararescueman); SSgt Chris Klaftenegger (Pararescueman).
Milagro, Catalina 42
Readers — Our heartfelt thanks to these four men, who, as was written in last month's Latitude caption, have "hearts of gold and super-sized cojones." In the next letter, the wife of WindChild's owner shares a similar sentiment. See Sightings for an update on Mike Kalahar's recovery.
The accident that took place onboard WindChild the morning of April 1, seriously injuring Michael Kalahar, has led to a renewed appreciation and an increased awareness of many things. It’s not that we take things ‘for granted’, but we do get used to a way of life — especially having support systems nearby. When boaters head out onto the ocean for those big crossings, they’ve prepared for a long time. They work to acquire experience, education and equipment. During those crossings, they are acutely aware that they are outside the range of coastal rescue. It’s 2,800 miles from Mexico to the Marquesas. It had taken WindChild about 10 days to get 1,400 miles and it would certainly be another 10 before they’d reach land. Sailors out there accept that they are on their own and they take many steps to be self-reliant. Sometimes that isn’t enough.
The extraordinary effort that took place between April 1 at 4:15 a.m. through April 4 at 9 p.m. shows what working together can accomplish — the saving of a life. But when one hears or reads words of the rescue, so much action collapses into the simple terms — "medevac," "transfer," "airlift." The timeframe disappears entirely; the distances shrink; the skills, numbers, people, equipment and agencies involved get lost.
Here’s a brief overview:
• Time: 13 hours of Ham radio relay-assisted communication, medical advice and care given on board WindChild before the four PJs arrived; another 15 hours before the transfer was made to the Cap Palmerston; 53 hours before Cap Palmerston would be within helicopter range; 5-hour helicopter ride. All together, more than a three-and-a-half-day effort.
• The agencies and manpower: Ham radio operators across the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard at Alameda, California, Air National Guard, 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Field, AMVER vessel Cap Palmerston, physicians on shore — so much training and so many highly skilled personnel. And all with such unfaltering determination to be successful.
Bill Sturridge, an Army veteran in Flagler County, FL, heard that faint ‘pan pan’ at 7:15 that morning from 3,300 miles away, took it seriously, and began this whole incredible process — one fraught with problems and dangerous challenges, but complete with problem solvers to match. He was not able to hear WindChild’s radio calls during subsequent radio nets for several days afterwards. He’s certain there were angels involved that morning. Indeed, there were many — in both civilian and military dress.
For days following the rescue, the Ham operators assisted us at home, too — keeping us informed of the Pacific Seafarer’s Net check-ins and relaying our updates about Michael’s condition. They sent us additional websites to follow the boat's progress, information regarding unusual propagation conditions and news reports about the rescue. They eased a difficult time — becoming a communication link to WindChild.
Michael is home healing. He is a loved, valued and respected member of our community — we are very happy we will continue to have him with us. WindChild is cruising the Marquesas right now, learning about the people and places there. Here at home, we’re finding we look at each vessel, airplane, USCG helicopter and emergency vehicle that passes nearby with greater respect and understanding. We never anticipated that a rescue of this magnitude was possible. We thank everyone involved in making it happen and we appreciate your commitment to helping others. We are simply grateful. Thank you.
WindChild, Beneteau First 36s7
I work on a dive boat out of San Diego named Horizon. Not long after the start of last year's Ha-Ha, I was awakened at three in the morning and asked to come up to the bridge. Upon my arrival, I was surprised to discover that we were steering a big donut around a sailboat — lighting her up with all our lights. The skipper was yelling, "Fuckin' blowboaters, they keep steering right at me!"
As I've owned sailboats for over 20 years and done the Ha-Ha a bunch of times, I quickly figured out that the sailboats were steering right at us to hit our three-ft wake at a good angle. "Oh, really?" the skipper said. "Oops."
So from everyone on the good ship Horizon, a sincere apology to the dozen or so boats in the Ha-Ha that encountered a powerboat that blasted you with a million-or-so-candlepower light in the middle of the night while running donuts around you. So sorry, our bad.
s/v Flotsam, Oceanside
m/v Horizon, San Diego
IT'S LIKELY AS OLD AS THE COASTIES THEMSELVES
Like Latitude, I'm also not sure who originally coined the term 'Coasties' for referring to members of the United States Coast Guard. But I do know that when I was in the Navy in the late '60s and early '70s, we always referred to the guys in the Donald Duck hats as 'Coasties'. So the term is at least 40 years old.
Siempre Sabado, Westsail 28
Steve — As we mentioned, given that it's such an obvious nickname, we were under no illusion that we coined it. In fact, the term is likely to be almost as old as the Coast Guard.
JEFF BRIDGES' CAREER AS A COASTIE
I'm glad you invented the internet because, unfortunately, the term 'Coasties' was being used way before Latitude 38 was conceived. I was in the Coast Guard from '67 to '73, and the term Coasties was regularly used by the Coast Guard personnel from before I got in. In fact, my company commander used the term when I was in boot camp.
Remembering that this was the Vietnam War era, other terms used were 'Draft Dodgers Yacht Club', 'Canoe Club' and 'Shallow Water Navy'.
I have lots of memories of those times, but the coolest involves Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges. He and I were in the same unit at Terminal Island in Los Angeles. He was about 20 then and also going to acting school. He pretty much kept to himself, and spent most of the time over in a corner reading a script.
We used to get inspected at the beginning of every meeting. The commanding officer was a real asshole, so if your hair was too long, you had to stay after and help clean up. Poor Jeff's hair was always too long and the CO made it a point of making him stay after almost every meeting to clean up.
Jeff's dad was Lloyd 'Mr. Sea Hunt' Bridges, and the CO didn't like the fact that he was somehow 'privileged'. But heck, all of us who were in the Coast Guard Reserves were 'privileged' because it kept us from having to go to 'Nam.
Tao, Excalibur 26
Alan — Just to be clear, as we said before, we were never under the illusion that we coined the term 'Coasties'.
"I TOLD HIM TO STICK HIS COURSE UP HIS . . ."
I was one of the unwitting customers of Boguslaw 'Bogus Bob' Norwid's Discovery Sailing Academy. My nightmare trip with him was in '04-'05. After the first week, I told him that I was firing him as an 'instructor', and that he could stick his course up his you-know-what. That took a lot of his controlling power away for the remainder of the trip. Many other unpleasant things happened onboard, but I'll spare you the details. There is a Facebook community where some of his victims claim to have received licenses — no doubt bogus ones — from this twit!
Considering that Bob has no captain's license and his trips are not registered as a commercial enterprise, I think it's a no-brainer that he shouldn't have been operating as anything but a pleasure vessel. He certainly shouldn't have been taking money to take students offshore.
Hopefully, Bob will get what he deserves — which would include losing his 45-ft cutter, having to reimburse the Coast Guard and others for search and rescue expenses, and having to face lawsuits from students he held as virtual prisoners. He should also rot in hell.
Carole — Our sentiments exactly.
THE FREEDOM TO BE FOOLS
Because Boguslaw Norwid's Discovery Sailing Academy was a commercial enterprise, Latitude asks whether it follows that the skipper was obligated to report the vessel's whereabouts after she became long overdue. 'Obligated?' Whatever happened to the freedom of the seas?
I believe the responsibility for what happened belongs to those who signed up to sail with the guy. They should have investigated his operation, then decided whether or not they wanted to get involved with him and his boat.
Was the skipper negligent for not allowing his clients to contact their anxious families? Yeah, he was negligent for that — and a lot of other things. Bob is obviously marching to the beat of a different drummer, so anyone who signed up with him as crew — indeed, who signs up on any boat — needs to perform due diligence before hauling their seabag down to the dock. If things get out of control — which they obviously did — the skipper can always be declared incompetent and the crew can take over. Yes, mutiny. It's a venerable option at sea. But the bottom line is that the responsibility lies with individuals who signed on as crew, because the last thing I want is more government regulation.
Should such a vessel be required to carry some type of long-range communications devices when operating offshore? I have personal issues with the word 'required'. I don't like the idea of having to wear a bike helmet or seat belts, so why would I think there should be a requirement about communication devices? Now, I totally believe that every vessel should have electronic communication devices — and a lot of other safety gear — onboard. My vessel has them. It takes a fool to not want them. But I believe in the freedom to be a fool if a person chooses to be one. And the freedom for the crew to be fools if they sign on with a skipper who is a fool.
Three Eagles, MacGregor 26
Richard — Sorry, but we think your position that Norwid's clients were responsible for the situation they found themselves in is preposterous. We don't believe in excessive government regulation either, but we sure as hell believe in full disclosure by all business. Would you not agree that food companies should have to list all the ingredients in their processed foods? Or should it be left to each customer to perform 'due diligence'? Should banks have to disclose what they charge for ATM withdrawals and late fees, or should customers have to search for that information themselves? Should car companies have to list the fuel efficiency of all the vehicles they sell? Of course they should.
Similarly, we absolutely believe there should be full disclosure — as there normally is — by individuals and companies offering offshore sailing instruction. These individuals and outfits should have to provide detailed descriptions of where they are going and how long they expect to take to get there, and disclose the qualifications of the skipper as well as the condition of the boat. In addition, all possible risks and hardships should be disclosed, as well as what safety and communications equipment will be onboard.
If Norwid had provided full disclosure for his latest offshore trip, his ad would have read as follows: Offshore sailing trip of unknown time, distance and destination, led by an uncertified instructor on an uncertified boat, during which students will not be permitted to contact relatives, even if more than a month overdue." Had there been full disclosure, nobody would have signed up and all the grief would have been avoided. Furthermore, there would be no need for mutinies — which history has shown tend to be bloody affairs.
See this month's Sightings to find out more about the investigation of 'Bogus Bob'.
STUDENTS SHOULD KNOW WHAT TO ASK
Latitude asked if the skipper of Columbia, because he was running a commercial enterprise, was obligated to report the boat's whereabouts once she became long overdue. I say absolutely. I'm not sure there is a specific regulation that requires this, but common sense would require a float plan and communications capability to update the plan if needed.
Was the skipper negligent for not attempting to contact the outside world, knowing his client's families would be anxious? I say 'no'. The clients/crew have to bear some responsibility for understanding what they were getting into, the capabilities of the boat, and what opportunities there would be for communications.
I have run dozens of coastal and ocean-crossing charters and, even when just running down the coast to Catalina, most folks thinking of signing up ask me if there will be a satphone aboard, and what other communication gear there will be. Despite the fact that I always list all the gear in the info package sent to potential crew, they ask anyway.
On the flip side, if Norwid claimed that he had communications capability but didn't, it would have been fraud and negligence. Or if the crew signed up for a five-day coastal cruise, and he took them straight offshore for five days, that would be another issue entirely.
Should such a vessel be required to carry some type of long-range communications device when operating offshore? I say 'no'. There are Coast Guard and SOLAS regulations in place, and they dictate the minimum safety gear required. If Norwid wanted to run a primitive charter boat, carrying only the bare minimum required, he should be allowed to. It should be advertised as such, and any potential crew/clients should know about what is onboard and what isn't. And they should know to ask about it, too, no matter what was in the advertising.
100-ton Coast Guard License
David — Your position on the responsibility of the person or organization offering offshore charters seems inconsistent with ours, and sometimes backward. We feel very strongly that it's the responsibility and obligation of the person offering the instruction and adventure to make sure potential customers clearly understand every aspect of what they might be getting into. How are students — in other words people who know little or nothing about offshore sailing — supposed to be able to realistically evaluate what is being proposed? Indeed, people offering offshore sailing instruction should provide answers to all the questions potential students don't know enough to ask. Or else it's a perfect opportunity for the unscrupulous to fleece and mistreat the innocent and unknowing. Full disclosure, not fleecing the unwitting, is the first rule of all honorable business transactions. And if your transaction isn't going to be honorable, why are you doing it?
After our doing some research and consulting with several professional mariners, it appears that Columbia probably was not obligated under international law to maintain radio communications due to its small size. But if we'd been on Columbia and Norwid wouldn't let us use communication equipment to let our family know that we were all right, we'd have knocked his block off. And if he didn't have the necessary communications equipment, we would have knocked his block off again.
If someone wanted to do an absolute bare bones primitive charter, we wouldn't have a problem with that — as long as that's made clear at the outset, and what exactly that entails in pounded into the brains of the potential customers.