Letters – by Our Readers


Dear Jillian,

My name is Joan* and I am the mother of a man named Gus*. My son is a veteran and served with distinction in both Iraq and Afghanistan for 4 tours. On his last tour, his convoy was ambushed and several of his friends were injured or killed. He finished out his tour, but he was never the same after this. He started drinking heavily, and basically lost interest in everything including his friends and family. He has tried traditional therapy, the VA, antidepressants etc., and nothing has really helped. He has isolated himself and pushed those of us who care about him away. Last week, a coworker who is a sailor brought me a copy of the August issue of Bay & Delta Yachtsman with Sea Valor on the cover. I read the article and could not keep from crying. It spoke to me and the struggles I’ve had not just with my son, but personally over the years. I showed it to Gus, and amazingly he said he would be interested in going sailing with them. I reached out to Sea Valor and eventually spoke directly with the founder Mr. Eric Jones. He made the arrangements for Gus to join them, and they welcomed him with open arms. Gus had never been to Angel Island, and the crew of Sea Valor not only paid for his admission, but they bought him lunch and took him on a hike to the top. Then they sailed out under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the ocean. They showed him how to use the lines, the winches, how to raise the sails and drive the boat. They also let him drive Valor’s inflatable chase boat which was a highlight for him. But the best part is, they invited him to take their class so that he can come back and crew with them. He took the class two days later, and is now extremely excited about sailing with them again this weekend. I have to tell you that Mr. Jones and his team have restored my faith in humanity. This is the most excited we have seen our son be about ANYTHING in YEARS!!!! He has said that he might get his own sailboat because he enjoyed it so much. My family and I cannot begin to express our gratitude to you for writing and publishing the story about Sea Valor and introducing us to this incredible organization. You and Sea Valor have done more to help our son and family than anyone else since he left the military and I just want you to know how much we appreciate you for what you have done. Last month he was drinking so much and so isolated that we feared every phone call because we thought it would be the police saying he was dead. Now he’s talking about sailing and new friends, and he seems healthier and happier. You might have saved his life, and for this there are no words to say thank you enough. 


*Note, I have changed the names to protect the privacy of the author and her family of this very personal and heartfelt letter.


I am so happy that you and Gus were able to experience the magical healing powers that being on the water has to offer. Thank you for sharing this story about your Son, an American solider that I personally want to express my gratitude towards. My grandfather is a Veteran and to this day, he still does not speak of what he witnessed. I am moved by you sharing this story, as it took a lot of courage, to write a complete stranger. Gus is someone I would love to meet while I am out on the Bay and with Valor. When I wrote the article, I thought to myself that if I could help one person with PTSD discover the healing effects the wind and sea have then I have succeeded, but your letter shows that I have helped your whole family. Thank you for your service Gus, and I hope to meet you soon. Joan, keep enjoying having Gus back, the Gus before the 4 tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Everyday spent on the water is added days to the end of your life!


Hello Pat,

I enjoyed your article on boating safety in the September issue. Many of the deaths you mentioned are due to not wearing a life jacket. On a recent cruise with our ACBS club members, many of them had their inflatable life jackets on. 

Perhaps you could do a column on the pros and cons of the inflatable life jackets? And maybe a buyer’s guide on some of the different models available?

Thank you, 
Doug Shone 
Grants Pass, OR 


Thank you for writing and glad that you enjoyed my piece.

As you noted, the accident statistics show that not wearing a personal floatation device leads to a higher risk of death during an accident. Of the total 767 deaths in 2020, 590 persons were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. Of the total number of deaths by drowning, 450 were not wearing a life jacket and 74 were. I think the evidence is clear.

An article I wrote regarding USCG approved life jackets appeared in the October 2015 issue. Perhaps it is time to take another look at the subject as there have been many changes in the industry, especially with respect to inflatable life jackets. For example, back in 2015 most all of the inflatable PFDs on the market were type V and had to be worn to be counted as a life jacket during a USCG safety inspection. That has changed and there are now several Type II, Type III and Type V inflatable life jackets on the market. The current federal rules permit inflatable life jackets to be worn only by persons over the age of 16. However, there are several companies marketing child size inflatable life jackets – be careful as they are not USCG approved.

Look for an updated article in the future.


Captain Pat,

This is Randy over in Hawaii. I enjoyed your article on the autopilot systems. I think classes with autopilots, RADAR and chartplotters should almost be required like IFR certifications.

My question has to do with what some folks seem to get quite passionate about in some forums. Is there a preferred setting on your autopilot to true or magnetic? I had always set mine to true as I saw some deviation going around some of our local bridges. I had a Raymarine system on At Last and also found that the Raymarine E-series chartplotter was at one time set to magnetic while the head was on true. Confusing, but probably trivial?

I thought I would share with you my one autopilot misadventure. When I was out with Stockton Yacht Club years ago at Weber Point Yacht Club for a cruise out and Sunday morning we were packing out. I took the lead on the flybridge and exited the dock into the small channel going back around Hog Island. All of a sudden, the boat took a dramatic turn to port and I had about three boat lengths in between my bow and the levee. No inputs to the helm made any difference to our course. I quickly looked back and several other boats from the club were close on my aft and now port. I quickly secured the engines from forward motion and declared a problem to the rest of the fleet to steer clear. I then quickly dropped anchor to eliminate another near disaster.

All I could think at the moment was that the hydraulic steering had a problem or something in the steering areas had jammed the linkage. So as the last of SYC cleared the area, I opened the lazarette hatch for a look. Everything was clear and free of obstructions and there were no signs of fluid leaks. I remember looking into the steering area puzzled in the dead silence of the morning. The boat was on the bow anchor only and began to swing with the incoming tide. All of a sudden, I heard the hydraulic actuator move the rudders! Then a few seconds later I saw them in action too. Autopilot, I said! I went into the main salon where the second A/P head was located and it said, tracking! I hit disengage and the problem was solved. But how did it come on? I found that crew down below were curious about all the pretty displays and had touched the track soft key. I had a plot to go to SF Bay in the system and the boat was trying to go back there. Lessons learned were to stress with crew not to touch any dual controls, especially while in motion and for me to clear plots and waypoints as I was showing some folks dockside the features of the new autopilot we had installed. I wish I had had the autopilot that you said that disengages when steering inputs are made. I usually only use autopilot on the Delta to test the system on clear open water, as in close quarters things happen fast as you know!

Also, another feature I like out on open water is the ability to set sensitivity to not overwork the hydraulics for no reason and also help make a more comfortable ride for all.



Thank you for writing and I appreciate the story. Unfortunate that that happened and it could have ended very badly.

With regards to setting true or magnetic, for most of the smaller vessels magnetic is fine. The advantage is that a high percent of recreational boaters utilize magnetic and the heading should correlate closely to the ship’s magnetic compass. The disadvantage is that there are localized magnetic variations that will give false data, but if you are not navigating long distances these localized anomalies do not create a big problem. Also, if you are communicating with a commercial vessel, they are most likely using true, and if discussing heading changes for collision avoidance, one of you will have to convert from true to magnetic. Not to worry, the navigator on that ship is well versed in making the conversion.

TVMDC is a mnemonic taught in our licensing classes for converting true, magnetic and compass headings. TVMDC is a mnemonic initialism for true heading, variation, magnetic heading, deviation, compass heading.

True heading + or – variation = magnetic heading. Then add or subtract deviation to get compass heading.

A great memory aide is:
T – true (true heading)
V – virgins (variation)
M – make (magnetic)
D – dull (deviation)
C – company (compass heading)
Add whiskey (add west magnetic variation)

Hope you guys are enjoying the tropical life in Hawaii.


Dear Ty, 

I just wanted to commend you on your choice of Jillian Humphreys for your Out and About the Bay column! 

Reading her column is a breath of fresh air! I knew there was so much more going on, in and about the Bay, and she is obviously in tune with the entire Bay and Delta! Her resume is quite impressive.

I have had the pleasure to talk and message her and it appears that our paths have crossed many times, but we just weren’t aware that we were traveling in the same circles. I just became aware of another connection. Jillian went to CSUS (Sacramento) and worked at the Aquatic Center. Back in the early 80’s when I was at Sacramento State, I was on the Board of the University Union and the Associated Students Inc. We formed a group that included the University, CA Department of Boating and Waterways, Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to establish the Aquatics Center. Looking back, I am not sure we could accomplish today what we did back then in getting all these organizations to come together for the community good. I should also mention that PG&E was instrumental in setting up the electrical and timing for the sculling course on the lake.

I look forward to her future columns as she has a good writing style that makes it all flow together!

Blair Hake 

P.S. Maybe this letter will get me invited over to Stockton Sailing Club for one of those fabulous rib dinners!

Hey Blair,

Thank you for taking time to reflect upon your appreciation for Jillian. I was kind of in the same boat when it came to Jillian in regard to the circles we ran in. It is apparent that on a personal level our paths have crossed many of the same areas of interest, but never in person. That all changed the evening of the July mixer at Windmill Cove as it was finally nice to meet her in person. What a small world in that you both had the connection you did at CSUS. I agree with you, in that I think Jillian is going to prove to be good for the all of our readership in what she brings to the table. I look forward to her future contributions. Thank you again Blair. However, I think you have plenty of connections already when it comes to the SSC dinners. Maybe I should be asking you to make sure I get in on one? See you on the water.


Dear Yachtsman staff and friends Bill and Ty,

Thanks so much for your coverage of how Pacific Coast Water Rescue (PCWR) captains and swimmers have been helping agencies from Benicia up the Sac River to Isleton, east to the Mokelumne/San Joaquin Rivers and all the way to Thornton and Woodbridge. We have trained over 100 firefighters in rescue boat ops and have helped place over eight rescue vessels in service in this vast Delta region since 2019!


In Dec 2017 the Rio Vista Area Fire agencies and Woodbridge Fire responded to a report of an overturned car at Terminous before Tower Park. Upon arrival, the fire agencies found three trapped victims under the water including a 2-year-old, a 6-year-old and an adult female. At that time, Stockton Fire requested their Advanced Rescue Dive Team, which is required to extricate victims in cars under the water. All efforts were made, but no one survived. It turns out that the driver had left a holiday party during this winter night.

I was on that call as Fire Chief. That call has CHANGED MY VIEW ON THE DELTA and continues to push PCWR staff to train all the firefighters they can in rescue boat operations, swimmer qualifications and large rescue boat cockswains. Also, we have helped place the following vessels into service between 2018 and 2021, along with all the described training:

  • Rio Vista Yamaha Jet Ski and USLA Lifeguard Swim test (2018)
  • River Delta Boston Whaler 16 and USLA Swim Test (2018) and Rescue Boat Ops Training on Achilles 14 (2019)
  • Suisun City Zodiac 14 and 470 vessels and Rescue Boat Ops Training (2019 and 2020)
  • Rio Vista Zodiac 470 and Open Water Rescue Training (2020 and 2021)
  • Thornton ACB 25 Vessel and Diesel Service by J & H Marine Stockton and Training Offered
  • Benicia Open Water and Rescue Boat Ops Training 2020 and drill is 2021
  • Isleton / Rio Vista SAFE Boat 25 Outfit and Large Rescue Boat Training 2021
  • Rio Vista /Isleton Open Water Rescue Boat Training 2021 for large and small vessels

The Christmas 2017 winter season tragedy was a wake up for me and PCWR Staff! Also in 2018, the Sac River claimed six more souls, along with multiple victims on the San Joaquin and Mokelumne Rivers. We must train all the fire agencies in this vast Delta Area, and State Fire Training has training programs that helped implement all the above programs.

Until I am no longer physically able, I am committed to the above programs. Also, I am working on passing my instructor and USCG captain’s skills on to the younger generation of firefighters who now run the above vessels.

During my ride along with the Isleton Fire & Rescue’s new SAFE Boat. Isleton Fire Fighter, Zach Hewett navigating while Rio Vista Marine Officer John Garza at the helm.

Finally, I have been a Discovery Bay and Delta resident since 1995, and helping our Delta boaters is a passion of PCWR!

John Garza
USCG MMC 100 Ton Master
State Fire Rescue Boat Instructor
Rio Vista Fire Marine Officer (Volunteer)


You are a great man. I am sure you have caused many lives to be saved with your programs and educating the public. I have seen your training in action and you have tremendous respect from your peers and the folks you train, as well as Ty and myself. Every year there are needless tragedies on our waterways; people not knowing how to swim, people not wearing flotation devices and operating vessels at unsafe speeds, all things that can be avoided. Keep up the good work and keep us in the loop. We will do anything we can to help spread the word.

Best regards,


Thank you for all you do with our much respected first responders of the waterways. I appreciated being invited out a few weeks ago on the Isleton Fire & Rescue’s newly acquired SAFE Boat. Watching you train the young men who have chosen the path to keep us safe was a treat. Your command of the vessel and the respect your crew gave you was a great experience to be a part of. I look forward to following the progress as you complete the training with the Isleton Fire & Rescue Dept. as well as your involvement in other local area departments. Thank you again for the day on the water. It was not only a great experience, but I walked away having learned quite a few things myself as well. You are a great friend and I am honored that you think of me as the same.

I look forward to another day on the water when possible, and until then stay safe and keep up the good work.


Hi Pat, 

I just read your article in this month’s Yachtsman. In the part on boater education you mentioned a “wildcard” to the California mandatory education that would exempt out-of-state boaters who have completed their own state’s education if any. Some time ago, I contacted Evan Becker at the California Division of Boating and Waterways, and this is the email I got from him.

“If your primary residence is in Nevada, you technically will have up to 60 days to use California waterways without needing your California Boater Card as long as you meet the Nevada boating education requirement. If you plan to be operating for more than 60 subsequent days, then you will need the California card. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.”

Since I keep Infidel in Alameda, I would definitely exceed those 60 days and be required to get the California Boaters Card by 2025. 

Just to get up on my soapbox a bit, I think since California made this mandatory, it should be mandatory for everyone. You can’t rent a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license, so why should they allow somebody to rent a watercraft without a boater card? Out of state boater cards should be honored just like out of state driver’s licenses.

Fair winds,
Candy Morganson
Infidel, Swan 44


Thank you for your letter and I like your soapbox. Personally, I never did like the phase in period, especially since it is so long. I understand the rationale in trying to make mandatory licensing more palatable to us old salts, but this phase in period has diluted the impact that licensing for everyone could have.

Looking a little deeper into the 2020 boating accident statistics there is data on the rental status of vessels involved in accidents, although it does not break down these numbers by residents of the reporting state vs non-residents or if the operator had passed a boater education course. Even still the numbers are quite interesting, however.

Of the total number of accidents (7248), 13.7% (995) of the vessels were known to be rented, but the rental status of 22.8% (1653) of the total accidents was unknown. Total deaths of rented boats were 10.5% of the total and the unknown status is 22.3%. So, rental boats account for somewhere between 13.7% and 36.5% of the accidents, between 10.5% and 32.8% of the deaths, and 15.3% and 33.5% of the injuries.

I have included the table so that everyone can parse the numbers themselves.

The California numbers are more encouraging with a total number of accidents in 2020 of 493 with 39 fatalities, 7.9%. The most common reported accident was collision with another vessel, 29.1%. However, we do not know the rental status of this data. Perhaps next year these statistics will have more detail for us to analyze.


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