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January 2014

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The Pacific Cup YC has focused on amping up the fun for the 2014 Pacific Cup, which starts July 6-12 from San Francisco and ends at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu by July 20. The result has been a big increase in entries — we already have 72, whereas in 2012 there were only 41 finishers.

When the yacht club reconfigured the training seminars in 2011-12, we discovered that the small roundtable breakout sessions had an unanticipated benefit — the skippers and crews got a chance to meet and share perspectives before the start of the race. As a result, the person in front of them in line at the Kaneohe YC bar later on was a friend. The remaining seminars are the Pacific Offshore Academy, January 26 and March 16 at Richmond YC, and Safety at Sea, May 18, at a location yet to be determined.

We also discovered, as many have long ago during events such as the Ha-Ha, that the social aspect of a shared challenge is a very powerful part of the event. So we've ramped that up. We think the Pacific Cup Village, open from June 30-July 5, will really start the social engagement and fun before the racing commences. Historically, about 40% of the Pacific Cup entries have come from outside the Bay Area, and another 10-20% from RYC. This year we are inviting boats from outside the Bay Area to berth at RYC. To support the out-of-area boats, RYC is developing a smartphone app that will link to race information and schedules, services and facilities at RYC, marine suppliers and trades, and local logistical support. A version will also be developed for the KYC to support the boats there. The Pacific Cup Village will feature speakers, and food and entertainment, culminating in the bon voyage party on July 5. Sonnen BMW and Alaska Airlines are already signed on as sponsors.

After the race, there will be parties at KYC July 21-25, including the Awards Ceremony on the last day. Anybody who has done a Pacific Cup knows how great the parties are!

In order to reduce the pressure and challenge of the crossing to Hawaii, we have created a cruising division for those who just want the bluewater experience. The same equipment, safety, training and inspection requirements apply to these entries, and they will compete for awards, not trophies. Interestingly, we’ve found that a number of boats have entered in the cruising division but later switched to the racing division.

The 2014 Pacific Cup is attracting birds of a feather. So far we have the following one-design classes: Santa Cruz 27s, four; Santa Cruz 50s, four (maybe a fifth); Hobie 33s, three; J/125s, three; and Cal 40s, three. For the first time, we’ll award trophies for all one-design groups (a one-design group being any three sisterships).

We've also worked hard on corporate engagement. Matson and Alaska Airlines are providing discounted shipping and airfares, and boatyards and sailmakers have provided gift certificates. Alaska Airlines will raffle four round-trip tickets anywhere they fly at Pacific Cup Village. West Marine has leaned in to support the Pacific Offshore Academy seminars with merchandise and gift certificates. Sonnen BMW will provide BMWs for shuttles and support at the PCV. Matson, Alaska, Sonnen, and Weems & Plath will all be recognized by renaming racing divisions, so the boats in the division will wear the corporate logos as bow stickers and the firms will make the trophy presentations.

Thanks to the ads we’ve run over the last year, primarily in Latitude 38, the Pacific Cup is no longer the best-kept secret in town. Each of the ads has also been produced as a poster, and 200 have been distributed with each new ad to yacht clubs, marinas, and marine vendors and suppliers on the West Coast and Hawaii. We’ve incorporated QR codes and launched a social media program to reach out to the sailing community. The results have been outstanding. We have a large contingent of boats from the Northwest, a wider range of geographic entries, a solid group of the high-performance sleds, and an almost-full entry list. But there is still room for a few more, so please visit for entry information.

Steve Chamberlin
Commodore, Pacific Cup YC

Readers — The 2014 Pacific Cup is indeed shaping up to be one of the biggest and best ever. Check out the entry list. And if you've got the urge, sign up before it's too late.


I also had to chuckle at the claim “participants in the Baja Ha-Ha routinely report never seeing another boat in the rally for days on end.” I was aboard Agave Azul for my first Ha-Ha in November, and I can't recall a moment when we didn't see another boat. In fact, most wee-hour VHF traffic centered around Ha-Ha boats communicating to make sure they avoided each other in the dark. We typically had at least four boats in sight, and obviously many more closer to the starts and finishes. I’ve read that about the greatest distance you can see another sailboat at sea is three miles, so perhaps that gives some idea of how close together boats were.

Byron Jacobs
'Ale Kai, Beneteau 393
Sequoia YC

Readers — In the December 13 'Lectronic, we reported that a contributor to a Practical Sailor blog made the following claim: "The big problem [with rallies] is the illusion of group security. With regular radio contact there is some of that, but participants in the Baja Ha-Ha routinely report never seeing another boat in the rally for days on end. It's a big ocean, folks, even with North America to port the whole way."

While we agree that, to a certain extent, some people might get an exaggerated sense of security from sailing in a group, we nonetheless burst out laughing at the ridiculous assertion that Ha-Ha boats "routinely" report never seeing another boat in the rally for days on end. That would be a little hard, given that the legs are usually less than 3½ days, 2½ days, and 1½ days respectively; that 125 boats are sailing downwind on pretty much the same course; and that boats naturally start together and converge at the end of each leg. The above letter and those that follow are responses to our inquiry of how often Ha-Ha boats saw other Ha-Ha boats.

By the way, having been the Grand Poobah of the Ha-Ha for 19 years, we know firsthand that there have been numerous instances where there has indeed been greater security in numbers. In addition to medical and mechanical emergencies being addressed over the years, there have been countless examples of fleet assistance once boats have reached one of the three stops. Just ask Dr. Electron, rigger Craig Shaw, sailmaker Chuck Skewes, and several of the doctors and nurses in the 2013 Ha-Ha.


I did the 2004 Ha-Ha. If we were out of sight of another boat, it would have only been for a short time. I don't think we were ever out of sight of another boat in the 2011 Ha-Ha.

Terry Emigh
Harmony, Tayana Vancouver 42
Anacortes, WA


We were occasionally alone on my first Ha-Ha two years ago, but more often had at least two or three boats in sight. And we always felt we had VHF radio communication with a neighboring sailor.

Regarding the idea that cruising rallies give a "false sense of security," it was both real and a comforting illusion to know we had a safety net of boats and sailors near us, ready to support us with medical or mechanical or miscellaneous information. The size and depth of the resource was impressive to us first-timers. However, we were not lulled into over-relying on it, and we fully realized that in the case of a storm, a fire, or a sinking, we were solely responsible for our outcome.

I think what every participant in a group sail needs is a realistic understanding of the nature and limits of group security — without ever letting it erode the sole responsibility a mariner should feel for his/her vessel and the lives of those aboard their boat.

Capt. Howard Edson
Seattle, WA

Howard — We agree that what counts "is a realistic understanding of the nature and limits of group security," not only in the case of security that may be afforded by participating in a rally, but by the existence of the Coast Guard. We say this because, on November 20, a federal appeals court rejected a North Carolina widow's lawsuit in which she blamed the Coast Guard for failing to save her husband's life. The court ruled that the Coast Guard does not have the legal obligation to launch life-saving rescues.

Bad weather had kicked up after Roger and Susan Turner left a friend's holiday party in their 20-ft motorboat and, as a result of the weather, they were both thrown overboard. Although both were experienced boaters, neither was wearing a PFD. Susan Turner survived by clinging to a crab trap. Roger Turner drowned. Roger's father reported the couple overdue after midnight, but the Coast Guard didn't launch a search boat for another eight hours. The Coast Guard cited a number of reasons that they didn't launch: all their rescue assets were on other missions, the Turners were experienced boaters with a well-equipped boat, the Turners were very good swimmers, and their four possible destinations were far apart.

We might add that if the Coast Guard responded to every report of a boat being just eight hours overdue, the agency would need to increase its assets and human resources by a significant factor.

While the Coast Guard often has gone to astonishing ends to rescue mariners, in one sense we think that it's been counterproductive because too many mariners — to say nothing of the general public — assume that if a mariner gets into trouble, the Coast Guard always can and will be able to save them. This is an erroneous belief, for there have been times when the Coast Guard has known mariners were in distress, but was unable to do anything about it. Assuming that the Coast Guard can always bail out mariners is perhaps the most common nautical 'illusion of security'. Only a fool goes to sea assuming s/he can depend on anybody else for safety.

By the way, had the Turners equipped their boat with an inexpensive battery-operated Spot Messenger, the Coast Guard would have known immediately they were in distress and their precise location. We think this would have increased Roger Turner's chances of survival by about 99%. An ounce of prevention really is better than a pound of cure. It's lawsuits such as the one brought by Susan Turner that get us thinking that maybe a Spot Messenger — or EPIRB — ought to be required on all boats that go more than a couple of miles from land.


We sometimes wished we didn't see other boats at night during the Ha-Ha because it made us a little nervous. But no, I don't believe there was ever a time when we weren't in sight of another Ha-Ha boat.

Susan Flieder
Compañera, Farr 44


We definitely did not go for "days on end" without seeing another boat in this year's Ha-Ha, but we did go a day in the middle of the first leg to Turtle Bay when we didn't see anyone, and we had plenty of stretches where we'd go six or so hours without seeing anybody. It seems as though we went farther offshore than 'the pack', but there were other Ha-Ha'ers out there, too. One of the things I enjoyed, after being mostly alone out there, was converging with other boats toward the end of each leg.

By the way, a big thanks to the Grand Poobah, Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin, and Doña 'Chief of Security' de Mallorca and the rest of the Latitude team for the Ha-Ha. You guys did an awesome job.

David & Elena Esser
Tigress, Prout 50

David and Elena — Thanks for the kind words. We could check the daily position reports, but we believe that you were a lot less "alone" out there than you think. As Byron Jacobs said a few letters earlier, the greatest distance one can see another sailboat at sea is only about three or four miles. If you'd checked your radar or your AIS, we believe you would have seen more than a few other Ha-Ha boats in your immediate ­— meaning 10 miles — area.


I did the most recent Ha-Ha aboard Harry Hazard's Distant Drum, and our crew of five routinely saw other vessels for almost the duration of the rally. We did have a period of time on the second leg where we were quite a bit offshore and didn't have any other boats in sight; however, we always had other vessels in radar contact, our radar being set at six miles. I had a wonderful time on the Ha-Ha, and hope to do another — whether there will be other boats in sight or not.

Katie Wohlstattar
Santa Cruz


We participated in the 2008 Ha-Ha and rarely saw other boats other than at the beginning and end of each leg. It's true we had a few sightings of other boats, but they were waaaay off in the distance, so we were pretty much alone. Maybe it's because we weren't with the fast boats in the front of the pack.

Still, the Ha-Ha was great, and one of my favorite boat sightings was just north of Turtle Bay when we were motoring because there was zero wind and the ocean was like glass. We saw a catamaran, I think it was Crystal Blue Persuasion, off in the distance. When we eventually passed them, they were just enjoying the day and BBQ-ing lunch.

Sandy (Smith) Edmonson
Faith, Morgan 41
Portland, OR

Sandy — Not to be repetitious, but any boat you can see is anything but "waaay off in the distance," as you can only see boats three or four miles away. If there is any kind of swell running, it can be a lot less than that. We know this sounds wrong, but give it a test the next time you're on the water.


Our Express 37 Mudshark did the 1998 and 2002 Ha-Ha's. There were times during the day when we didn't see another boat, but it was a couple of hours at the most. I remember seeing a lot of running lights at night, and can't remember when we didn't see a light somewhere on the horizon.

Dave Fullerton
Mudshark, Express 37
San Francisco

Readers — For what it's worth, most small-boat (under 20 meters) navigation lights are rated for two nautical miles.


I'm writing in response to Keith Fullenwider's December letter about the schooner Ramona. His memory serves him well, for the beautiful 109-ft gaff rigged Herreshoff schooner indeed used to ride on a mooring buoy off downtown Sausalito in the 1950s. I'm not exactly sure when she arrived in Sausalito, but I know that she was there several years prior to 1955. I also know that she sailed south in May 1955 to prepare for the start of that year's TransPac Race to Hawaii.

Ramona was owned by William [Bill] A. Pomeroy of the Pomeroy Construction Company. His boat's mooring buoy was located directly off the old Sausalito Fish Packing plant, which many years ago was turned into the Trident restaurant. Bill and his wife Peggy lived on San Carlos Avenue in Sausalito, just above the packing plant. Their home gave them a bird's-eye view of their schooner.

Ramona was the scratch boat in the 1955 TransPac, and set a new TransPac record by covering 306 miles in 24 hours. But she only did moderately well on corrected time.

The schooner remained in Hawaii after the race. In the spring of 1956, Pomeroy asked William [Bill] Dennick, part of the 1955 race crew, if he would bring Ramona back to San Francisco. The schooner left Honolulu early one morning in late July, heading north, which is clockwise, around Oahu. About seven hours later, while under full sail, the crew heard an ugly noise. It was the mainsail, which ripped parallel to the main boom near the clew. The rip was too large to repair at sea, and since it wasn't going to hold up across the Pacific, Ramona had to return to Honolulu.

Phone calls were made, a second main was located in San Francisco, and it was decided to have the sail sent to Hawaii as quickly as possible. But this was 1956, so there was no DHL or FedEx, and the sail was too large to fit into the cargo compartment of a DC-6. So, believe it or not, Pan American Airlines agreed to remove some seats from the passenger compartment of a plane so the sail could go as cabin cargo.

Once the huge sail got to Ramona in Hawaii, it took several crewmen a day to remove the torn old heavy canvas sail from the mast hoops and boom lashings. Two more long days of hard work were needed to bend the replacement sail back onto the spars. The days of delay looked as if they might cause scheduling problems for much of the crew, who had to get back to work. So the decision was made to carry an additional load of diesel in 55-gallon drums as deck cargo. That meant if Ramona ran into light air, she could motor to keep pace.

Once again Ramona left Honolulu, and 12 days and 20 hours later she passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Pomeroy had chartered a small fishing boat and met the schooner off Mile Rock. He stepped aboard, handed a copy of the daily newspaper to Capt. Dennick, and took the helm of his boat just before passing under the Bridge. Pomeroy brought his boat up to her Sausalito mooring, and Ramona was home. I know the story well, because I was 11 years old at the time, and the youngest member of the Ramona crew.

It was always an awesome experience to be on that magnificent schooner, no matter if I was on deck under sail or passing the time belowdecks. I'll never forget it. Ramona had a beautiful built-in fireplace, but we never did use it.

If I remember correctly, Ramona was sold about a year or two later and left San Francisco. I never saw verification in writing, but I heard that she later ran up on a reef in the Caribbean and was lost.

P.S. I have included a copy of the July 19, 1956 Honolulu Advertiser story about Ramona's second departure from Hawaii. Also included is a photo of Ramona taken from a Pan Am DC-6 during the 1955 TransPac. DC-6's flew at rather low altitudes, so if the locations of some TransPac boats were known, the planes would actually fly low enough for passengers to get a look.

Dave Dennick

Dave — Thank you for your great report.

We knew that Pan Am planes used fly over some TransPac boats because the airline used to advertise the fact in Sea magazine. They weren't so nice years later. One time we showed up first in line at San Francisco for a Pan Am flight to the Caribbean with 29 boxes of boat gear to refit Big O. The ticket agent had a hissy fit, and told us Pan Am wasn't a cargo carrier and there was no way he would put our boxes on the plane. Fortunately, we'd already paid $25 a box and permission had been noted on his computer. Take that!

A couple of years ago we were flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Southwest and, as we were boarding, we asked the pilot if he wouldn't mind flying low over the Cojo anchorage so we could have a nice view of Profligate on the hook. He looked at us as if we were crazy. So it wasn't just Pan Am — all airline customer service seems to have gone to hell.


Keith Fullenwider asked if anyone knew what had happened to the schooner Ramona that was anchored off Sausalito in the mid-'50s. She was a beautiful 109-ft Nathaniel Herreshoff gaff-rigged steel schooner, complete with fireplace. She was a near-sistership to the schooner Mariette, which Belvedere's Tom Perkins owned for many years before building the 289-ft Maltese Falcon. In December of 1967, Ramona, then under Canadian ownership, hit a reef off Bermuda and sank. Five lives were lost. Ramona ultimately was raised, but she was too far gone, and was ultimately scrapped. Mariette remains the finest example of this class of schooner, and is a stirring sight under sail.

Skip Allan

Readers — From time to time sailors ask us if we know what happened to Skip Allan, one of Northern California's most accomplished racers and cruisers. We recently bumped into him at the Puerto Vallarta airport, where he reported he'd been running a small hotel or B&B in Yelapa for three weeks. He's not quite as nimble as he was when he did the first Singlehanded TransPac in the late 1970s with his Wylie 28 Wildflower, but still looks pretty good.


I am trying to reach Jeannine Seely, who wrote Latitude asking if anybody knew what to become of her family's 74-ft schooner Rainbow. The family sold the yacht sometime in the 1950s and it was my family that purchased Rainbow. I have lots of information about her that I'd love to share. It's very exciting!

I was maybe 12 years old when my family — actually my father, William Barnett Spivak, who had a law practice in Beverly Hills — sold our first Elysian and bought Rainbow, which he rechristened Elysian. Now that my parents and my older brother have passed on, I have inherited many items from Rainbow that still cover the walls of our home in Camarillo: photographs, the clock and barometer, and many other reminders of the schooner.

Stewart Spivak

Stewart — We no longer have Jeannine Seely's address, and only know that she lived in Redding in 1997 — which is when she wrote the letter to us. We're curious how it is that you're responding to that letter 17 years later.


I saw the December issue Sightings about the Washington State Ferry hitting the 25-ft Fisher pilothouse Tasya in the San Juan Islands. Some of the local media reported that the lone man on the sailboat had gone below "to listen to music," apparently leaving the boat on autopilot. If that's true, he bears a fair portion of blame for the incident.

I've sailed in the San Juans, most recently in August/September of last year, and we always keep a sharp lookout for ferries. They try hard to meet the published schedules, and they are much faster than most of the boat traffic in the San Juans. And, as they are commercial traffic, they generally have right-of-way over recreational craft. And there are a lot of boats besides ferries to watch out for in the San Juans during the summer. So leaving the helm to go below to listen to music in that area at that time of year boggles my mind.

Local media also reported that it had been foggy, which is not unusual in the islands in September, but the fog had lifted to give visibility of, depending on which report you read, one mile to unlimited. While it does not excuse the mate of the ferry for a lack of "situational awareness," it might explain why she buried her face in the radar.

I listened to some of the Coast Guard hearings on the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. The mate on watch also was buried in the radar, looking for ice that had calved from one of the glaciers that empties into Prince William Sound. The mate ignored reports from the lookout that he was seeing a flashing light ahead, apparently because he was trying to plot a course through the ice. As an experienced watchstander on NOAA ships, I've observed the same thing with people who are new to the bridge. But one would think that anyone who has a mate's license would have sufficient experience not to rely on radar alone — and to listen to reports from lookouts and the helm.

It would be great if Latitude could publish some of the Coast Guard's findings about the ferry incident, once they are issued. Keep up the great work.

Cheryl Laufle
Seattle, WA

Cheryl — If the singlehander on the boat that was hit by the ferry had indeed gone below to "listen to music," he would bear some responsibility for the collision — assuming that he could have done anything to avoid being hit by the much faster 2,000-passenger ferry. But his actions or inactions were not cited by the state's investigating board as a cause of the collision. Similarly, the board didn't mention a lack of visibility's being a cause. If there had been restricted visibility, surely it would have been noted.

What we found most disturbing was that, after the initial blunder of not realizing she was about to hit the sailboat with the ferry in her command, the captain gave some sort of incomprehensible order, and the mate responded by turning the wrong rudder, apparently unable to distinguish port from starboard. We think a clown show like that represents gross incompetence on the parts of both the captain and the mate, and they both ought to be canned.

Of course, maybe we're just hard-asses, as we think the firefighters at the San Francisco Airport, who assumed from a distance of 10 feet that the still-alive 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan was dead, and who failed to report her presence to their supervisor, ought to be canned, too. If we taxpayers pay public employees great salaries and benefits commensurate with their supposedly great responsibilities, we think they should be held accountable. Alas, that almost never happens. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


I just realized that this is the 10th anniversary of 'our' Caribbean cruise. As the Wanderer probably remembers, he and I were drinking coffee in the mall next to Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta after yet another Banderas Bay Regatta, thinking maybe we should do something a little different. I can't remember who suggested it, but we agreed that we'd meet with our boats the following Christmas at St. Barth, despite the fact it was about 3,000 miles away. Vows to meet cruisers in distant places usually don't mean much, but come Christmas of 2004, both Profligate and my Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing were anchored off that island in the French West Indies.

Times change, and as of last year, I have a new catamaran. The impetus for my getting a new one was an early-December 2011 passage that we made from my old home of Cartagena, Colombia, to my new home in Miami. The weather forecasts indicated that a route through the Windward Passage, which is between eastern Cuba and Haiti, was our best option. Unfortunately, the weather window closed a half-day before we came abeam of Haiti, and we had 40 knots of wind on the nose. That reduced my interest in passagemaking for a while, so I sold Little Wing in Lauderdale last December. It was difficult to sell something that had been such a big part of a 13-year lifestyle, but I was tired of fixing systems. We decided to downsize, looking for a simple boat that was just plain fun to sail and didn't take too much effort to get off the dock.

The best bang for the buck I could find was the Melvin & Morrelli-designed Reynolds 33 catamaran. That design has a 53-ft mast and 14-ft beam, and weighs nothing — meaning that it would require one's undivided attention when sailing in a breeze. Wanting something with a touch less excitement, I contacted naval architect Bob Smith about increasing the beam of the Reynolds 33. He suggested an additional four feet of beam per decade of age. After measuring the launch ramp at the Miami YC, we realized that it would take a major modification to increase the width of the ramp to 28 feet. We eventually decided we'd increase my new cat's beam to 18 feet. Increasing the beam by four feet required new crossbeams and a new tramp, but was relatively easy. The new cushions are fantastic, as they allow me and a few friends to sail at double-digit speeds with the comfort of sitting on a sofa. It's perfect for somebody with back problems.

Our first adventure was to trailer the boat to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Finding the four bunks a little confining, we recently purchased a pop-up tent and queen-sized mattress for the tramp, which we'll use next season when cruising in the Bahamas. It's only 41 miles to Bimini from Florida.

Mark Sciaretta of San Diego — and Portland and the Lagoon 410 Younger Girl, and who was also with us at Christmas in St. Barth 10 years ago — is the one who forced me into making the final decision to purchase and modify the Reynolds. After he advised me that the high-performance cat was too much of a boat for an old guy like me, I remembered a line in Latitude's 'Wisdom' section that said one shouldn't show up at the grave with a perfectly preserved body.

If readers go to, they can see a clip of my new cat doing 18 knots in less than 12 knots of breeze. You can also see the accompanying photo to find out what happens to a daggerboard after two of my crew with local knowledge have a disagreement over the exact location of a sandbar. I need one of those America's Cup chartplotters mounted on my arm.

As I look back over the years, I have a lot of fond memories of doing Ha-Ha's, and of the fun wagers we had on races. Now that I'm armed with a new 'gun' that has 1/10th the weight and 1/3 the sail area of Little Wing — and is 1/10th as comfortable — we'll be looking for you and Profligate in the Atlantic. On the other hand, we could put my new cat in a container and ship her to wherever you are. More seriously, I want to thank the Wanderer for beginning our adventure of a lifetime, with the Ha-Ha's and other outstanding sailing events he organized, as well as the vow to meet in St. Barth.

For all our many friends in the Pacific, I'd like to report that our son Brandon, now five, is enrolled in elementary school in Miami, where we recently bought a home. Life is good.

John Haste
Little Wing, Reynolds 33 cat
ex-Little Wing, Perry 52 cat

John — Thanks for the very kind words and update. The funny thing is, we doubt that your new high-performance day cat will ever match the top speed of your cruising cat Little Wing. After all, we remember the photo you sent of Little Wing's speedo reading 29+ knots during a blast of wind near Cartagena. We can't recall any other cruising cats hitting such a speed.


Last summer my boyfriend and I raced aboard the Choate 48 Amante out of Newport Beach, and they flew a sail that I wasn't familiar with. It was a large, curved sail that was flown on the opposite side of the spinnaker on downwind legs. I was told it's called a blooper, and apparently it was a standard downwind sail on IOR (International Offshore Rule) boats for many years.

My boyfriend thinks he may have invented the sail during the 1965 TransPac when he was a sailing board the 66-ft cutter Nam Sang. Since I am sometimes skeptical of his sea stories, I'm wondering about the history of this sail. Are there other readers who know of an earlier use of it?

Judy Lang
Moontide, Lagoon 470
Newport Beach

Judy — We're not sure of the history of the blooper, but we're unclear how your boyfriend could have invented the sail during the TransPac unless Nam Sang carried a sewing machine and a lot of nylon. After all, bloopers, which vaguely look like a partially hoisted half-spinnaker, are very specialized sails that need to have their very unusual shape to count as a jib under the IOR rule. As you probably know, it's illegal to fly spinnakers from both sides of the boat, which is why bloopers have to qualify as jibs.

Bloopers are most commonly found on IOR (International Offshore Rule) boats, which have a proclivity to roll and become unmanageable when sailing deep. The idea behind the blooper was not to make a boat faster, but to keep her from rolling out of control.

The defining features of a blooper are a huge curve in the luff and the fact that you fly the foot just inches off the surface of the water on the leeward side. The vortexes that came off the foot of the blooper often mesmerized us. Some people never liked bloopers, but we always thought they were fanciful and cool-looking.


On a recent passage south — it might have been the Ha-Ha — we were blessed by not only the longest whale show we've ever seen, but also the closest at hand. And we've circumnavigated. I know it might sound crazy, but other longtime cruisers have told us of similar experiences where whales have come very close.

As one who tends to look for reasons for things happening, I have to ask myself why this is happening. Is it the increased number of whales or are the whales trying to communicate a message? I don't know, but after the last 'whale show', I've felt a haunting need to speak up for the cetaceans. I've repeatedly tried to pass on this duty, but to no avail.

There is no governing body to protect the world's oceans, so I think such an organization should be put in place by all concerned citizens of the world. All international waters should be placed in the protective custody of this governing body. The protection of this area should be enforced by the governing body, which would be composed of a navy formed by and controlled by this new nation.

It is my hope that some stronger, younger and more computer savvy minds will take up this cause. It is our duty as guardians of this planet to try to make the world a better place.

Citizen of Ocean Nation

Citizen — Based on our having sailed to Mexico most of the last 30 winters, it's our belief that there are just a whole lot more whales around now than there were in the past, and therefore there are more close encounters. We must have seen at least 20 during the Banderas Bay Blast a few weeks ago, and some of them not too far away.
You neglected to mention what 'message' you think the whales might be trying to communicate to us humans. Presumably it would be "give us some space" and "don't hit us." If that's the case, we have a lot more faith in technology than in any new 'world government' coming up with an effective solution. After all, have you thought about where this new world government would get its authority? And who would be in charge? It's not as if a bunch of people can just claim authority, assign titles, buy uniforms and start enforcing rules. Then, too, what if this new world government had beliefs that differed from yours? Such as the belief in Japan that whales should be an important food source for a world short of inexpensive protein.

Actually, the United Nations supposedly is already filling the role as the "international guardian of the world's oceans." According to the U.N.'s public relations team, "The United Nations has long been at the forefront of efforts to ensure the peaceful, cooperative, legally defined uses of the seas and oceans for the individual and common benefit of humankind. Its groundbreaking work in adopting the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention stands as a defining moment in the extension of international law to the vast, shared water resources of our planet. The United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, through its Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, plays a major role in supporting those efforts. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), particularly through its Regional Seas Programme, acts to protect oceans and seas and promote the environmentally sound use of marine resources. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, coordinates programmes in marine research, observation systems, hazard mitigation and better managing ocean and coastal areas."

While the United Nations has certainly had some successes over the years, it's probably better known for its impotence, corruption, accommodation of ruthless dictators, and egregious parking violations by diplomats in New York City.


Despite our doing regular maintenance, a while back our elderly Perkins engine started to run warmer than we liked, for no apparent reason. Our mechanic, like Wayne Hendryx's as mentioned in 'Lectronic, suggested pouring a couple of gallons of white vinegar into our system and leaving it for a few days. When we subsequently ran the engine, the initial water/vinegar mix came out a bit cloudy. Hmmm. As vinegar works for dissolving 'stuff' in our head hoses, we figured maybe there was something to this. When we told our mechanic what we saw, he recommended a second treatment to dissolve anything else that might still be there. After the two treatments our engine ran much cooler.

Candy Morganson
Infidel, Swan 44


It's true, flushing an engine's raw water cooling system with vinegar could help to remove some scaling and thus improve cooling. If there were heavy scaling, the flushing could result in lower engine operating temperatures. But just because the engine is operating at a lower temperature, this doesn't necessarily mean it will develop more power.

Vinegar, however, will destroy rubber. I had a friend who left vinegar in his Vacu-Flush for a couple of weeks while he was away on a trip, and ultimately had to replace the rubber seals. They'd been eaten away by the vinegar. Raw water pump impellers and some engine seals are made of rubber. 'Nuff said.

Tom Collins
Misty Sea, Bertram 46
Puerto Vallarta

Tom — Your warning is well-taken. If you bake a cake for 40 minutes it will turn out fine. If you cook it for eight hours, it's not going to taste very good. Both the level of acidity of the vinegar and how long it's in the engine are important considerations.


Vinegar, when diluted to a 5% acid concentration, is perfect for cleaning out the salt in a diesel's raw-water cooling system. No problems at all, because at that concentration it won't hurt anything — except for the zincs.

One pound of oxalic acid crystals — wood bleach — mixed in one gallon of water makes a 10% solution. This is plenty safe for the cooling system, and twice as fast as a 5% solution. Plus it's safe, and easy to carry and stow.

As Wayne Hendryx noted in the December 4 'Lectronic, the acid reacts with the salt and mineral deposits that form in the engine, and eats them away. But remember, it's equally effective at dissolving your zincs! So if you put the acid in your engine's system, you need to either pull the zincs first and put plugs in the holes, or plan on replacing the zincs immediately after you do this flush.

That said, diesels die from overheating far more frequently than they do from zincs dissolving. So even if you're clueless about the zincs, you're still better off flushing so you have a clean cooling system.

Tony Deluca
Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard


As was the case with Paul Goyke as reported in December's Letters, I also smelled the beginnings of fire from a meltdown of the shorepower receptacle on my very nice 1983 Piver Herald trimaran. Presumably the receptacle failed because of corrosion, although I couldn't see any on the outlet. Maybe I couldn't see it because it was so badly damaged. Looking at the receptacle, I saw there is no way I could have inspected it for corrosion — other than by periodically disassembling it. If I ever own another boat with a shorepower system like that, I will periodically take it apart for inspection.

I did not save the failed piece after I later moved into an apartment, but I got another chance to act with diligence in July 2010, when I discovered a plug meltdown of a "relocatable power tap device" in my apartment. The item, just like my failed former shorepower receptacle, was certified by the Underwriters Lab. This time I contacted them, and was asked to: 1) answer specific questions about the circumstances/consequences; 2) provide photos; 3) and, if possible, provide the power tap itself. And they offered to pay for the shipping. The investigator kept in touch via email, and months later, after I thought it was all over, I received a call from them thanking me for filing the report and cooperating with their investigation. It's my understanding that my report was instrumental in a company shakeup.

By the way, now that I may be sailing again, and am back to reading Latitude, I have to say it still impresses. The December cover photo, with cloud-filled sky, brought home one of the big reasons I desire to cruise: To get spiritual peace, which I find elusive on land. In addition, your Changes piece regarding the medical emergency on Profligate was so good in so many ways. Latitude and its readers and contributors are inspiring.

Peter Metcalf
Amazing Grace, Great Pelican

Peter — Your compliments are overboard, but thank you.


Oh lord, here we go again with the global warming “skeptics.” In the December issue, Latitude wondered, "What's with the 62% increase in Arctic ice over last year?”

True, you said that you “give the benefit of the doubt to the overwhelming majority of scientists who believe in climate change,” but that “we should know in 30 years or so.”

Wrong. We know now.

First of all, it took me all of 13.5 minutes to do a little research about the growth of "Arctic" ice. (You can do it, too, as there is this website called 'google dot com' that you can use for such information.) It turns out that it's in the Antarctic where sea ice (vs. land ice) has been increasing — despite the warming of the Southern Ocean. There are several reasons: Freshening of the ocean, changed wind patterns, decrease in the ozone layer. But not a cooler ocean!

Then there are all the other factors regarding global warming that leave absolutely no doubt that it's not a matter of 30 years from now; it is now: Increased ocean temperatures, increased wildfire season lengths and severity of fires, disappearance of major mountain ice caps from the Andes to Mt. Kilimanjaro, increased extreme weather patterns (storms, droughts, etc.). Plus the little detail that nine of the 10 warmest years on record have been in the last decade. Then there's the minor matter of increased acidification of the oceans. Since industrialization, the oceans have become 26% more acid and the rate of change is accelerating. (That took me all of 1.5 minutes to research.) Not only should sailors be concerned about this, but the vast majority of our oxygen is produced by the oceans' algae, which means we should all be concerned.

A year or so ago, I read a book called Merchants of Doubt. It describes how the tobacco industry purchased a gang of scientists to produce doubt over whether smoking tobacco caused lung cancer. The book documents the direct descent from these tobacco “merchants of doubt” to the global warming deniers. In part it's simple monetary greed on the part of these scientists. In part, because the solutions for these scientific facts didn't fit these scientists' world view, so the facts must change, not their world view. You might benefit from reading that book, too.

We all have to be really clear on what has already happened if we are to avoid the disaster that lies in wait. In the interest of responsible journalism, I hope you don't continue to give the slightest credence to these 'merchants of doubt'.

John Reimann
Y-Knot?, Catalina 36

John — We wouldn't classify ourselves as global warming skeptics by any stretch of the imagination. But as journalists, we're inherently skeptical of all claims. Plus, we have had firsthand knowledge of a progressive scientist's falsifying information to get more grant money.

But thank you for giving us the heads-up about the existence of What a neat thing. It only took us three minutes to discover that nearly 20 boats were unable to complete the Northwest Passage this year because of a 62% increase in the amount of sea ice. Guess what else we learned? The Northwest Passage isn't in the Antarctic, but the Arctic. So maybe you don't know as much as you think you do.

Then, curious about some of your other claims, we googled around for information about the increasing length of the fire season caused by global warming. After all, we know about the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona and the gigantic Rim Fire. Wanting to avoid any merchants of doubt, we went to the National Public Radio site. Well, tobacco merchants or their ilk have obviously hacked the NPR site because listen to the misinformation that's being put out: "With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade." What?! We have to take the NPR site back from the hackers.

The one thing everybody seems to agree on is that global warming means there are going to be a lot more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes. Unfortunately, the National Hurricane Center site apparently has been hacked, too, because they are reporting that this has been the longest time in recorded history that the United States hasn't been hit by a major hurricane. Furthermore, there were far fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic this year than the Hurricane Center folks had predicted. Think how many more people are being fooled.

And just last week some scientists — who are obviously deniers in the employ of the merchants — said they recorded the lowest temperature ever on earth. While it might have seemed as if it hit -135° in San Francisco Bay Area last month, these frauds claim it was actually in Antarctica.

But we know what you mean about the deniers being persistent. Why, on June 6 the
New York Times, which must now be owned by Fox News and the Koch brothers, reported the following: "The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace." According to the Times, "this is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists." Lies, lies and more right-wing lies!

If we can be serious for a moment, we know what Aristotle meant when he said that "one fine day does not spring make," so there can be lots of weather aberrations within a greater pattern. And we know that the overwhelming consensus of scientists say there is climate change. Not being climate scientists, who are we to doubt them? Still, there are so many weather variables that we still can't get accurate four-day forecasts, so we're not stone-cold convinced that the many-times-greater variables 30 years down the road can be forecast with absolute certainty.


Yesterday we had a big problem with our visas. As we checked in with Alaska Airlines to fly back to San Francisco from Puerto Vallarta, the person checking us in noticed that our visa cards had not been stamped 'Paid'. As a result, she would not give us a boarding pass until we showed that our visas were stamped. As a result, we had to get a cab to a bank to pay for the visas, and hopefully make it back to the airport in time to catch our flight.

It wasn't easy. Getting a cab took forever, as it was a short trip and all the airport taxis wanted full fares. Then the first bank we went to said our visa form was too old. When turned down by an official or institution in Mexico, you can often have success by asking another one. So we took off to another bank, which had no problem with our visa forms. We paid the $60 for the two tourist visas, and $60 for the cab. And we did make it back to the airport in time to catch our flight.

The problem was that we hadn't brought along the paid receipt that ship's agent Victor Barreda had given us when we used his services after the Ha-Ha in Cabo. Had we brought the receipt, it would have saved us a lot of time and trouble. Please pass this along to others.

Myron & Marina Enzinzimmer
Mykonos, Swan 44
San Anselmo


Both my crew and I had to pay for tourist visas a second time upon trying to leave Mexico by plane. We were told that the immigration law had changed in November 2012, and that we now needed a receipt showing that we had paid for the visa. It didn't matter that we had stamped valid visas, they wanted a bank receipt showing payment. The fact that we surrendered any receipt we would have had to the initial Immigration official didn't seem to matter. Furthermore, they would only take cash for the new visas and they refused to give us a receipt for them.

Joe Pfeifle
Set Me Free, Beneteau 42
Hermosa Beach

Joe — As ship's agent Victor Berra explains below, everyone needs to keep a receipt of payment for their tourist visa, as well as the visa itself. It's a new one on us, because we've come into and out of Mexico at least 100 times and never been asked for one. Besides, why don't they just mark the visas themselves as having been paid for?

It's not totally surprising to us that you were asked to pay in cash, but the fact that you were not given a receipt is totally bogus. Whenever you pay an official in Mexico — except when paying small fines for 'driving while gringo' — you should always demand a receipt.


Per my conversation with Andy Turpin of the Baja Ha-Ha yesterday, I wanted to follow up via email regarding the visa situation.

I read the complaint by the Enzinzimmers on Mykonos and, checking our files, that particular vessel had prepaid online for four tourist cards when they came to me to check their boat in at Cabo. The process is that you turn these receipts in to us and, at no extra charge, we give them to Immigration in return for the normal tourist visa you would get when you fly in on an airplane. The visas were stamped by Immigration officials at our office, along with the four passports.

The only stamping that should be on a Mexican visa is a green stamp on the lower right hand corner, which has the date of entry on it. There is no other stamp necessary. There is no stamp that says 'Paid' on the visa. In all the years we have been servicing vessels in Cabo that have come from other ports, we have never seen a visa that had a 'Paid' stamp on it. What is necessary, however, is to keep the receipt showing that you paid for your visa.

As for the vessel Set Me Free, they did not use our services, so they must have done the paperwork themselves at the Immigration office.

We had 70 vessels use our services this year and, of them, 47 prepaid for their visas online and had receipts for their payments when they arrived at our offices. We paid for the visas for the remaining 23 boats through Bancomer. We got receipts for these payments, and all 23 vessels were given a copy of the payment along with their check-in papers. The payments were done four boats at a time, and the bottom of the receipt has the names of the four vessels. On each tourist visa is a space for the name of the vessel, which is how another Immigration office would know that the visa holder was on the vessel stated on the payment.

I spoke with Doña de Mallorca about this situation a week ago, and it appears the vessels she spoke of had all done their paperwork themselves and had not gotten a receipt. As for boats that cleared in with us, we have copies of all the payments, and will be happy to get a copy of the receipt if anyone lost or misplaced their visas. These people should not hesitate to contact us, as we would be happy to assist them.

I hope this clarifies the issue. The thing all mariners need to remember, no matter if they do the paperwork themselves or have an agent such as myself do it, is always get a receipt for payment of tourist cards. Even though most people won't be asked for this receipt, some are at a few airports in Mexico.

Victor Barreda
Agencia Barreda
Mex Line 011-52 (624) 143-0207
USA Line (619) 209-7414
Cell 011-52 (624) 147-5019


It gives me great pleasure to greet Latitude 38 readers on behalf of Hemingway International YC of Cuba, as well as provide everyone with the good news regarding how long foreign yachts will now be able to stay in Cuba's marinas.

Decree 314 was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba on November 21 of last year, and establishes new rules and regulations for tourist marinas in Cuba. Article 47 says that foreign pleasure vessels now can remain in Cuban waters for up to five years, although the boats will have to be based out of a marina in Cuba. This new regulation eliminates the 5% fee on the value of the boat that owners previously had to pay if they were staying in Cuba for more than one year.

Resolution 442 of 2013 of the Ministry of Finance and Prices also was published in the Gazette, and established that the payment of tax for entry and clearing documents, and the Special Cruising Permit, will be 55 Cuban convertible pesos.

The Hemingway International YC of Cuba welcomes these new regulations, as they hopefully will encourage more U.S. boats to visit Cuba, which will help sailors and fishermen from the two countries establish even closer ties. I'd like everyone to know that Cuba has more than 3,000 islands and cays, most of them undeveloped and home to an abundance of sea life.

Commodore Jose Escrich
Hemingway International Yacht Club
Havana, Cuba

Readers — We always enjoy getting an email from Commodore Escrich, whom we met when we did a two-week cruise of Cuba with Big O back in about 1996. He periodically sends us Fourth of July greetings on behalf of the people of Cuba. Since his letter seemed a little unclear about whether boats had to stay in marinas all the time, or could kick around the 3,000 islands and cays, we wrote back asking for a clarification.

According to Escrich, foreign boats need to file a float plan from their base marina, "which contributes to the security of the craft and crew," after which they are free to visit the 3,000 islands and cays. However, unlike other islands in the Caribbean, if you leave the marina, you still have to pay, even if you anchor at one of the islands. You can change your boat's base in Cuba; you just have to have a base.

It's nice to get a clarification where you can and can't go with a boat in Cuba, because it was pretty confusing in 1996. For example, we were anchored pretty much out in the middle of nowhere along the north coast of Cuba, where we'd been studiously ignored for days by the Guardia Frontera, which is Cuba's Coast Guard. But then a modest-size patrol boat came along, and her short and morose captain came aboard and engaged us in a ridiculous conversation that went something like this:

"I am in charge of this area, and you are not permitted to anchor here. You must leave."

"Lo siento, we didn't know. But we'll leave right away."

"No, I cannot permit you to leave."

"Um, well, we guess we'll stay then."

"I told you that you can't stay here."

"Well, then, we'll leave."

"I told you that you can stay here!"

This silly conversation with the officer we nicknamed 'Captain No' went on and on. Finally, having achieved no clarity whatsoever, he and his boat took off. Not wanting to cause any trouble, we moved along down the coast to a remote place where there was an Italian version of a Club Med. It had a little dock with just enough depth so we could tie up. But son of a gun, we didn't have the lines secure for more than five minutes before a familiar figure in a uniform came running down the dock. It was Captain No.

"I told you that you can stay here," he shouted.

Oh lord, we thought, assuming that we were about to be given more orders to do the impossible. But before another ridiculous back-and-forth could pick up steam, a tall and glamorous middle-aged Italian woman, with regally styled hair piled on her head and wearing a bikini, see-through cover-up and high heels, appeared. Towering over the diminutive captain, she imperiously jabbed her beautifully manicured index finger into No's chest, saying, "You can't tell these people they can't tie up here. They are Americans. You are just a Cuban." Our jaw dropped, but the Italian woman just kept prodding Captain No in the chest, repeatedly informing him that, as a Cuban, he had no business telling us Americans what we could do, despite the fact that we were in Cuba.

Eventually Captain No disappeared, so we paid a day admission to the resort, where all the food we could eat was included. By Mexican standards, it was a very modest resort next to the mangroves, and featured a couple of equally modest swimming pools. There were about 100 guests lying in lounge chairs around the pool, when a couple of Cubans circled the pool area with a donkey-drawn cart spewing billows of white smoke. After a couple of coughs, we asked what they were doing.

"Spraying for mosquitoes," they said.

"It is poisonous?"

"Don't worry, it won't hurt you," the guy wearing a mask assured us.

With lots of guests fleeing the now-engulfed pool area, we decided it would be a good time to go indoors and load up on the 'all you can eat' food. It turns out all they had were hamburgers. The buns were about the size and shape of the least expensive burger from McDonalds, but the patty, well it was much thinner and about the diameter of a 50-cent piece. There was no lettuce, tomato, onion or anything else inside. We spotted some packets of ketchup and mustard against the back wall, and asked to have a few.

"What do you want them for?" asked the man at the counter. Cubans are used to living with nothing.

We returned to the pool area after our 'meal', just in time to see a biplane swoop down over the pool area like a crop duster and smother the place with DDT or whatever they use to kill mosquitoes in Cuba. It seemed like a good time to leave, so we did. We did not begrudge paying our day fee, for which we'd gotten so little in return, as it had been a very funny experience. As strange as Cuba is, we'd love to go back.

Anyone visiting Cuba, however, would do well to remember the basic tenet of the Communist country: Unless some behavior is specifically permitted, it's prohibited. In most of the world, it's just the opposite. Unless something is specifically prohibited, it's permitted.

SO-CAL TA-TA 2014?

I want to thank the Grand Poobah and all his helpers for working so very hard in order to put on another spectacular Ha-Ha. I'm wondering if you're planning on doing another SoCal Ta-Ta and, if so, what the dates would be. After doing so many Ha-Ha's on other peoples' boats, I would like to do the Ta-Ta on my boat.

Doctor Electron
Alan Katz
San Diego

Doctor — Thank you for the kind words, which are more meaningful than most because they come from a person who gave tirelessly of his time and skill to help out members of the Ha-Ha fleet with their various electrical problems. And at no charge.

For those who may not remember, the first Southern California Ta-Ta, aka the SoCal Ta-Ta, aka Reggae on the Ocean, was held in September 2012. We started with a little get-together on a Sunday night in Santa Barbara, sailed to Santa Cruz Island for two nights, sailed to Pt. Dume for a night, sailed to King Harbor for a night, and finished up with a sail to and a BBQ at Two Harbors, Catalina, on Saturday.

The Ta-Ta was not held in 2013 because of a scheduling conflict with a little event called the America's Cup. But we had a blast on the 2012 edition, so if there are between 30 and 50 boats that would like to do another Ta-Ta, we're game to put on another one. It would cost about $200 a boat, and we'd schedule it for the first half of September. If anyone is seriously interested, email


Following the many problems in this year's Salty Dawg Rally from Virginia to the Caribbean — two boats abandoned due to gear breakdowns, two boats dismasted, and four boats with rudder failures — Darrell Nicholson wrote the following in a Practical Sailor blog: "Hindsight is always 20/20, and I have no doubt that there are rally participants who attribute their safe and uneventful passages to the support that the rally framework provided. However, last week’s episode offers more evidence that the security of sailing in a big group may be more a matter of perception than reality."

Nicholson noted that in 2011, Jan Anderson, sailing with her husband Rob aboard their Island Packet 38 Triple Stars in the 22-boat North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, was lost after being washed overboard by a 30-ft wave. And in 2011, 46-year-old Laura Zekoll died while participating in the Caribbean 1500, another Chesapeake-to-Caribbean sailing event.

In the case of Triple Stars, the Andersons were getting independent (of the rally) weather advice from Herb Hilgenberg, and picked their own course. In our humble opinion, the loss of Jan Anderson's life was motivation for Hilgenberg’s decision, a short time later, to stop advising anyone participating in any rally. As many sailors already know, Hilgenberg retired this year, and stopped giving weather advice to anyone.

My wife Sue and I agree that rallies can give the inexperienced sailor a false sense of security. We once burned out in a Round Delmarva Rally, having sailed in weather to fit the organizer's schedule and timetable, weather that we would have been wiser to avoid. That experience has taught us to make sure we make all decisions independently of anyone, including the experts and organizers of events. We also only 'buddyboat' by going solo on our own schedule, and then meeting the other boat at destinations, and then only if the weather and route are safe.

There is tremendous joy cruising in company, but we make sure that we do not go onto the high seas on someone else’s schedule, even if we previously agreed to it. We like to change our mind on the drop of a hat. We do not like the thought of our influencing others, or others influencing us, as to when to undertake heading out on any voyage.

Ed & Sue Kelly
Angel Louise, Catalac 36
Iowa / Lying St. Katherine Docks, London

Ed and Sue — As you probably know, some people's perceptions often have little to do with reality. If, as Nicholson claims, any rally participants attributed their safe and uneventful passages to the support of the rally framework, they were idiots. But we have a hard time believing any of them were that stupid. A rally structure may help in some cases, but it's not going to be a necessary and sufficient condition of safety. Having put on rallies and written about them for more than three decades, we think rallies are sort of like the existence of the Coast Guard in that they can sometimes offer additional security to participants, but certainly don't offer any guarantee of safety.

That said, it seems to us that most cruising rallies have excellent safety records. Take the granddaddy of them all, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). According to our rough calculations, participants have sailed a total of nearly 17 million transoceanic miles. As best we can recall, there has been one casualty in the event's equivalent of 680 circumnavigations — a man who fell overboard and drowned because of his inability to get free of his safety harness. It was hardly a death caused by participation in a rally.

By the way, Laura Zekoll, whom Nicholson mentioned died as part of the NARC, drowned after the boat she was aboard ran onto a reef in the Bahamas. By that time, the boat had long dropped out of the rally because of seasickness on the part of the owner's wife and Ms. Zekoll. Unfortunately, the captain, who was not a particularly experienced offshore sailor, inadvisably attempted to enter the unlit and unmarked North Bar Channel at night, with tragic results. Zekoll's death was caused by the skipper's dreadful decision, not by the fact she participated in the rally. Indeed, her estate recently negotiated a reportedly generous settlement with the boat owner — or presumably his insurance company.

On the other hand, there have been any number of instances where ARC boats have come to the rescue of other ARC boats, and non-ARC boats, that were sinking, on fire, or otherwise in extreme distress. Jimmy Cornell and his World Cruising Ltd successors have hosted a number of other around-the-world and other sailing rallies for decades, and to the best of our recollection, there haven't been any rally-related fatalities despite the many millions of miles sailed.

We also believe it's a big mistake to assume that all cruising rallies are equally dangerous. For example, comparing any of the three cruising rallies from the Northeast to the Caribbean to the Ha-Ha is like comparing habanero chiles to oranges. Why? For one thing, there was far more damage to the Salty Dawg fleet in one day than there has been in the 20 years of the Ha-Ha, which has had one boat sunk by a whale, one boat dismasted, and one boat's breaking a rudder.

There are reasons for the difference. The course to the Caribbean is twice as long as the Ha-Ha course. Other than Bermuda, there are no places to take shelter in bad weather between the Northeast and the Caribbean, while there are many safe anchorages along the coast of Baja. Indeed, a few years ago when brisk weather — 25 to 30 knots from astern — was forecast for the first leg of the Ha-Ha, we decided to set an example of caution by taking Profligate into the San Quintin anchorage before the strong winds arrived. About half the Ha-Ha fleet followed our lead and stopped for the night. Mind you, half the fleet decided to keep going and had no problems — not even the folks on smaller boats such as a Catalina 27. And other than for very brief periods, we think those were the worst conditions in the 20 years of the Ha-Ha.

It's also important to note that in the 60 Ha-Ha legs to date, only three of them have been upwind, and we've never had strong winds on the nose. On the way to the Caribbean, you're frequently going to get much stronger winds, and will get wind from all directions, including on the nose. As for seas, we regularly see bigger seas during a single season in the Caribbean than we've ever seen during a Ha-Ha. In addition, the likelihood of both severe winter storms and late-season hurricanes is considerable on the Caribbean course, while it's historically very slight on the Ha-Ha. It's because of these differences that we've felt comfortable running the Ha-Ha for 20 years, but never would be interested in running a rally between the Northeast and the Caribbean.

By the way, both Triple Stars, which tragically lost Jan Anderson during the NARC, and David Peoples' Portland-based Catalina 42 Jammin', which had rudder problems in this year's Salty Dawg, had done the Ha-Ha without any problems.

That said, we have to agree with you, Ed and Sue, that some sailors, even experienced ones, seem to be of the mindset that signing up for an event means they no longer are responsible for what happens to them. In every sailing event we know of, it's clearly stated that it's the responsibility of the skipper to decide whether to start and/or continue an event. To us, that means it's the responsibility of the skipper — not the organizer, the weather router or anybody else — to decide whether to start and/or continue in an event.

About 10 years ago we were doing a Heineken Regatta in St. Martin with Profligate when the wind whipped up to the mid-30s and touched on 40 knots in the Anguilla Channel. As captain, it was our sole responsibility to decide whether to continue in that particular race. We decided that the risk of something's breaking and one of the 12 or so crew's possibly getting seriously hurt wasn't worth any possible reward. So we dropped out in the middle of the race. If anyone wanted to call us 'chicken', that was their business. But it's worth noting that five of the 19 multihulls in that race were dismasted. Nobody made them continue in those conditions, but it ended their Caribbean seasons and cost them big bucks. We, on the other hand, got to enjoy a full season of sailing in those lovely waters.

In the
December 11 'Lectronic Latitude, Rob Grant posted the following report from a winter race in Santa Barbara: "With the rapidly building waves that accompanied that breeze [to 30 knots], even the most intrepid sailors in the Harbor 20 fleet wisely decided to head back to the dock before the first race even started. They were followed by about half the boats from remaining fleets — J/70s, J/105s, Melges 24s, and two PHRF divisions." A tip of the Latitude 38 hat to all those who had the courage to decide the conditions were more than they were prepared to deal with that day. That's taking responsibility.

We sort of understand your position, Ed and Sue, on limited buddyboating, but we look at it a little differently. If we go buddyboating and decide that the conditions are such that we want to modify our plans, we're going to modify them. We're not going to continue, then later whine about being "influenced" by others if something goes wrong. Although it's contrary to contemporary mainstream belief in the United States, we hold that people are responsible for their decisions and actions, and the consequences. In the long run, we think it would be much better for individuals — and the country — if people were held responsible instead of always being assured their misfortune was the fault of someone else or society.


You've been saying that 2013's Baja Ha-Ha was the 20th running of the event because it started in 1994. But I sailed from Alameda to Acapulco in 1992-93 with Capt. Sam Burns aboard his green Irwin 30 Grasshopper, and knew about the Ha-Ha at that time. How is that possible? Did the Ha-Ha exist before 1994, and did Latitude only come on as a sponsor that year?

Don Martin
Crystal, Hunter 33
Glen Cove Marina, Vallejo

Don — It is confusing, so let us explain. In the early 1980s we founded an event called Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, which started in La Paz but spent an entire week at the Caleta Partida anchorage in the islands. In the early years, it was wildly successful, attracting as many as 150 boats per day, and drawing the support of the Mexican Navy, Mexican businesses, and even West Marine, which donated a pig one year. It was a free event, but one of the locals started seeing peso signs, and the event went into a long erratic phase and eventually died. For the first year or two, we had nicknamed the event the 'Baja Ha-Ha', and had that printed on the shirts. Alas, a few overly sensitive gringos started to give us a slush bucket of gas about the name being "disrespectful to Mexicans." Seriously. So we dropped it.

In the late 1980s and early '90s, Latitude conspired with a succession of small businesses in Cabo, such as the Broken Surfboard Restaurant, for a 'Some Like it Hot Rally', which debuted the now famous electric watermelon-colored T-shirts. There was no official starting time or place; if you sailed down to Cabo, you added your name to the list of other boats at the restaurant, got a free watermelon T-shirt, got your boat name listed in Latitude, and that was that.

In 1993 we did the Long Beach YC's race/cruise to Cabo via Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. We were one of about 13 participants with Latitude's Ocean 71 Big O. The event was fine, but it was a little bit formal, a little bit expensive, and seemed a little short on foolishness. Since it wasn't a yearly event for the Long Beach YC, and they weren't going to do it again anytime soon, we decided that we could put on a similar event for about a fifth the price and double the frivolity. We were still fond of the Baja Ha-Ha name, so that's what we called the event. We know that's the way it went down, because we were there for all if it, and because it's all documented in the archives of Latitude.

By the way, the Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers Rally we put on is not to be confused with the Baja Ha-Ha Race, which is the first half of the fourth episode of Wacky Races in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. During the race, Dick Dastardly buys a burro named Tamale from a Mexican farmer after being told that anyone stuck in the mud must wait for Tamale to pull the vehicle out. To Dastardly's chagrin, the farmer owns many burros, all of which are trained to pull vehicles out of the mud.


It's not a new thing for Aduana (customs) officials in Mexico to check the paperwork — including Temporary Import Permits — of all boats in all Mexican marinas. When I was in Marina Don Jose in La Paz last winter, government officials spent two full days, including staying overnight, to check everyone's paperwork. They even requested copies of tourist visas and passports. I was told that boatowners who were not in compliance were given five days to get their paperwork in order.

I never had a problem in the seven years that I cruised in Mexico because I carried multiple copies of everything — TIP, visa, passport, insurance, and so forth. And whenever I stayed in a marina, I gave them copies of each.

Chuck Losness
Hale Moana, Gulfstar 41
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Chuck — Such inspections and verifications are indeed nothing new, but for whatever reason, officials seem to be making a really big deal about it this year. What else could explain the armed Marines? And in some cases they are checking paperwork all through the night. Based on conversations we've had with many boatowners in Mexico, the officials have all been nice, and they have also given everyone a deadline by which to come into compliance. In many cases, this means/meant just getting the documents to the marina office. In some cases, where the owners are back home in the States, it's been a little more complicated, but seems to be going all right. But you're correct; as long as boatowners have all the necessary papers, and have them on file in the marina, all is well. As for reports that there have been "rogue" officials and that boats have been "seized," to the best of our knowledge this is complete rubbish. These officials are just doing their job, and owners of boats not in compliance have been told they can't leave the dock until their paperwork is in order.

Temporary Import Permits were created so that boatowners could leave Mexico without their boats. In theory, when the boatowner is gone, the marina is responsible for their boat. To our knowledge, nobody has been checking the paperwork of boats anchored out. Curious.


We don't have any experience burying a whole body at sea, but we have scattered the ashes of three important people in our lives, including our youngest son, Dusty, from aboard our previous boat, the Columbia 52 Legacy. Since your readers may be more likely to take someone's ashes to sea for burial, I'd like to share what we've learned.

We'd heard of disasters where the ashes were blown all over, as in the famous scene from The Big Lebowski, so we did some research to find the best way to do it: Get a large wicker basket and line it with paper towels. Place a heavy weight, like rocks or diving weights, in the basket. Fill the basket with the dearly departed's ashes. Cover to the top of the basket with flowers and flower petals. We cut off all the stems and used just the flowers.

When at sea, try to stop the boat completely, then lower the basket into the water. On our first burial, Legacy was ghosting along, no pun intended, at less than a knot, but that was just enough to capsize the basket as it was lowered over the leeward rail. Oops! Placed in still water, the weighted basket will quickly sink, taking the ashes with it. But the flowers will float to the surface, leaving a memorable and moving sight for those who gathered for the ceremony.

In the two years since selling Legacy and cruising aboard our new-to-us Deerfoot 2-62 Moonshadow, previously circumnavigated by George Backhus, we've taken several dear friends sailing, and we're happy to report that all have returned to the dock with us. We hope to keep it that way.

John & Deb Rogers
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 2-62
San Diego / Currently in Mexico after the Caribbean

John and Deb — While everyone will have their own preference, it's certainly easier, if one is careful, to commit a dearly beloved's ashes — as opposed to the entire body — to the sea. The problem with whole-body burials is that if they aren't done well, the casket and/or body floats to the surface, often leading to macabre results.

David Wegman tells us about the time Kenny, a deceased friend of his, had his whole body somewhat sloppily committed to the sea off Antigua. A few days later fishermen, discovered Kenny's corpse floating off Toiny Beach at St. Barth. The corpse was recovered, and Wegman then saw to it that Kenny was properly buried at the cemetery near the airport. After spending a couple of years on a circumnavigation, Wegman returned to St. Barth to discover that a hurricane had partially uncovered Kenny's bones. Feeling sorry for his friend, Wegman now keeps Kenny's bones in a box beneath his bed in his artist's loft above the Le Select Bar. If you ask, he'll be more than happy to show the skull and bones of 'The Known Sailor'.


In an editorial reply in a recent issue we wrote that a MacGregor 36 catamaran broke up during a Doublehanded Farallones Race many years ago, resulting in the death of one of the two crew. Our memory had failed us. The MacGregor 36 actually finished first, setting a new course record. It was a Stiletto 27 catamaran that flipped, resulting in the death of one of the two crew.

Stiletto 27s, described as a 'super-sized beach cat', were first built in 1979. They are 26' 10" long, have a beam of 13' 10", and displace a mere 1,100 lbs. Known to have hit over 20 knots, they proved to be very popular in Florida. We, however, would not race a 1,100-lb cat around the Farallones.



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