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Photos of the Day: St. Barth

January 9 - St. Barth, FWI

When they talk of 'Caribbean blue', this is what they're talking about. This is the view from the cockpit of Profligate. With the water 83 degrees, how could you not start the morning by jumping in?

This is lovely Grand Saline Beach, one of the finest in the Caribbean. Every day or two, we motor 20 minutes here from our normal anchorage to charge our batteries and to do some boogie-boarding and swimming. The water is clearer than most vodka. Almost all the French girls go topless, which doesn't hurt the ambience at all. The cruising guides say this is a day anchorage only, but we stay overnight.
Photos Latitude/Richard

Profligate's Progress

January 7 - Gustavia, St. Barth

It's another spectacular Caribbean morning, with puffy tradewind clouds against soft blue skies, brilliant blue water, and a velvety breeze. The temperature is perfect. We can't think of any way the weather could be improved.

Two days ago we did our second circumnavigation of St. Barths of the season in 8 to 15 knots of breeze. The first half is always slow because it's to windward, and it's tough to point in relatively light air and a rolling sea. Plus, it gets really sloppy in the shallow waters off Le Toiny and the Grenadiers near the top of the island.

We brought along some single guys who brought along some single girls from the Manhattan financial industry they had met on the beach. With the going slow at the top of the island, we could tell the girls were disappointed that it wasn't the Vogue magazine sailing experience they had in mind. As such, it was unlikely any of the guys were going to 'get lucky' that night. Too bad. When the Wanderer goes sailing in the Caribbean, he does it for his sailing pleasure alone.

Once we passed the Grenadiers and set the asymmetrical chute, things changed rapidly. The ride smoothed out and the boatspeed quickly jumped to the low teens. While sailing past the beautiful homes on the jagged cliffs of Pt. Milou, we hit a top speed of 15.6 knots. Before we knew it, we'd rocketed past Lorient, and if we blew the jibe we were going to crash into the luxury accommodations and tapas bar at Eden Rock Hotel, one of the loveliest spots in the Caribbean.

It was a fine sail that only whetted our appetite for more. Tomorrow we're thinking about circumnavigating the dramatic volcanic island of Saba, which would be a 30-mile spinny run following a 30-mile beat back to St. Barth.

Speaking of appetites, after the circumnavigation of St. Barth we were hungry as animals - and were soon eating like them. We went to Picant in St. Jean for dinner. Like most of the restaurants on the island, it had a unique ambience, so unlike the cookie-cutter places in the States. The background music they play in French restaurants is bizarre. Picant featured Sammy Davis Jr. singing what had to be the world's longest and most souped up version of The Lady Is a Tramp. When is the last time anyone in the States played anything by SDJ?

Although our food was right off the menu from a zoo, it was delicious. Johnny ordered the tuna tartar, and the Wanderer ordered the boeuf tartar. We split them to create a raw version of 'surf & turf'. We might get mad cow or mad tuna disease, but the meal was so spectacular it would almost be worth it. De Mallorca was the only one who didn't eat 'in the raw'.

Unfortunately, given the drooping dollar, the bill was as spectacular as the meal. If you come to St. Barth on a budget - which you can do if you come on a bareboat - plan on eating aboard often. Even so, you have to shop carefully. We saw a package of 43 marginally ripe cherries in the store the other day for a little over 8 euros - or about $10.U.S.

When on St. Barth, you want to check prices before you buy. It takes more than 1.25 dollars to buy a euro now.

We're all on the Atkins Diet down here. The Pierre Atkins diet. That means a pain de chocolat and a crab sandwich for le petit-dejeuner, rarely any lunch, and something like a three-cheese pizza smothered in fresh cream with a couple of glasses of red wine for dinner. Still, the pounds are melting away. When you're on a boat full time, it's a physical life, no matter if you're pumping the head, getting in and out of the dinghy, resetting the anchor, or jumping in the water. Sore as we might be, we're loving it. But we're going to have to get back to fruits and veggies.

Confit de Canard, a heart-stopping staple of the Pierre Atkins Diet.

While on the Charles de Gaulle Quai the other day, we bumped into the Bridge family - Chris and Carolyn, and kids Tristan, 7, Ethan, 5, and Cheyenne, 2 - from Newport Beach. Early last year they'd gone to Europe and purchased a new Outremer 55 Light catamaran they christened Cheval, and proceeded to sail 3,000 miles around the Med in just four months. "We like to keep moving," says Chris, who carries a British passport. Starting in France, they visited Corsica, Sardinia, Naples, southern Italy and the Aeolian Islands - their favorite - Sicily, the Ionian Islands, the Corinth Canal, the Cyclades, the Peloponnese, then back to Sicily, the Aeolian Islands again, Sardinia, St. Tropez, and Grand Mott, France. As many may remember, it was a deadly hot summer in the Med, with tens of thousands of people dying because of the heat. The air was often over 100 degrees. Chris says the water was often over 90 degrees, and he swears he once swam in the Med when it was over 100!

"I loved the Med," says Chris. "But I wish there had been more wind."

The Bridge family of the Newport Beach-based Cheval: parents Chris and Carolyn, plus Tristan, 7, Ethan, 5, and Cheyenne, 2.

"We particularly liked the Aeolian Islands," says Carolyn, "because there weren't many tourists and because they are so different. Panarea was our favorite. The few homes on the island are owned by rich Italians, and no more can be built. Another of the Aeolian islands, Stromboli, has an active volcano. We got to within 100 meters of it before we were warned away."

The Bridges noted that it can be expensive in the Med. They have a friend who paid $500 to anchor his 60-footer in a marina at chic Capri for just one night. Their solution was to stay out of marinas, which proved to be no problem at all. "We even anchored in the middle of exclusive Puerto Cervo, Sardinia!"

Being one of the lightest catamarans, the Outremer 55 Cheval is also one of the fastest.

Following the fun in the Med, Carolyn and the kids returned to Corona del Mar while Chris and a couple of other crew sailed Cheval down to the Canaries and across the Atlantic. During one blow on the way to the Canaries, they hit 21.5 knots under Solent alone. As for the kids back home, they couldn't wait to rejoin the boat in the Caribbean, as they'd become complete water bugs, and the boat is like a giant jungle gym. They use the forward netting like a trampoline, and ricochet around the interior with incredible ease.

Ethan and Tristan giving the net on the Outremer 55 Cheval a workout. No wonder the kids love living aboard better than being on land.

After cruising the Carib until the end of February, Carolyn and the kids will return to Corona del Mar, while Chris will sail the boat back to California. After that, they'll head to the South Pacific or Alaska or anywhere they feel like going. More on the Bridges and their cat in the February issue of Latitude 38.

Carolyn and Chris monitor their three water bugs playing off the back of Cheval at the anchorage at Publics.

Did we mention that we're having the time of our lives? In addition to great weather, the snorkeling and boogie-boarding have been a lot of fun, and thanks to the local marine conservation program, we're seeing lots of big turtles, both right by our boat and inside the busy harbor. They say turtles are slow, but we've yet been able to get a good photo of one. We also love it that many of the great yachts of the world stop by. Just yesterday for example, the great 154-ft Mari-Cha III, former holder of the transatlantic record, set her hook nearby. No sign, however, of Mari-Cha IV, current holder of the monohull transatlantic record.

Robert Miller's great 146-ft ketch Mari-Cha III on the hook off Fort Oscar, Gustavia, St. Barth. Since Miller has a great new all out 144-ft racing schooner, MC III has been retired to cruising.

You think real estate prices are high in California? A guy renting a small villa here told us the going rate for a place with a view is "one million U.S. per bedroom." Ouch! We pay $10 a night to be on the hook at Gustavia, and that's twice what monohulls have to pay. And if we moved over to Shell Beach or Colombie, we wouldn't have to pay anything. As nice as the little Bartian villas are, they're stuck with the same view all the time. We get to move our place all about.

Actually, mooring on the Charles de Gaulle Quai isn't that expensive either. As Tim, captain of the 137-ft Sariyah told us, "It's $150/night for us on the quay, which is just a little more than $1/foot. The killer is what you have to pay divers. With all the mega yachts setting two anchors, you've got chains on top of chains. And the divers charge $150 to clear each chain. We came in for one night last week, and paid $150 for tying up to the quay, plus $750 more to get the anchor chains cleared so we could get out."

Did we mention that we're loving life out here in the anchorage? When we told the port captain we hadn't paid since December 31, he said that we should just remember to pay before we leave. Clearing, by the way, takes about 10 minutes, all in one convenient place. Did we mention that we're loving it here?

Zihua SailFest 2004

January 9 - Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Rick Carpenter checks in from Z-town on the southwest coast of Mexico: "Zihuatanejo is said to be one of the best cruising destinations. A special group of sailors show up in Zihuatanejo who have cut the dock lines long ago. One third will continue south, one third will puddle jump, and one third will continue or return north. The fun has already begun in Zihua with Thanksgiving at Rick's Bar. There will be regular volleyball, walking groups, cooking classes, events at Rick's, all kinds of tours including kayaking, hiking the jungle and zipping down a mountain on zip lines, viewing architecture and ruins, travel to the monarch butterflies, and the not-to-be-missed every Sunday night on the town square with great food and entertainment.

"Zihua SailFest is a celebration by and for cruisers that benefits a small school which teaches indigenous Indian children Spanish so that they can attend Mexican public schools. Otherwise they may never receive an education. This year promises to benefit some other programs as well. Events may include a pursuit race, poker run, games day, seminars including Northbounders (Sea of Cortez), Southbounders, Puddle Jumpers, Ham test, radio, presentations by members of the fleet on many subjects, parties, raffles (the community really contributes here!), charity cruises on special boats from the fleet, cocktail raftups, and a big awards banquet and party at the end with performances by the children from the school that receives the funds, which last year amounted to a whopping $23,000 with the Bellack Educational Foundation matching funds.

"Landlubbers, friends, relatives, land yachts, hobie cats, and virtual cruisers are just as welcome!"

Check out the Web page at www.zihua-ixtapa.com/zihua/sailfest/.

New Year's Eve in Ecuador

January 9 - Bahia, Ecuador

Bob Willmann of Viva spent New Year's Eve in Ecuador and explains the local customs: "In addition to wearing something yellow, which everybody does but nobody can explain why, the deal here is to burn an effigy representing somebody or something that brought you bad luck in the year just ending. 

"Bahia swells to twice or three times its normal population for the celebration. People come in from all the farms and little towns and just walk around all day and all evening, wearing everything from swimsuits to shorts and t-shirts to party dresses and spiked heels. A crude farm truck will pull into town carrying 40 people, all bug-eyed and excited and scrubbed clean for the big day.

"The people who can afford it build or buy effigies of soccer players that let them down or store owners that cheated them or political figures that, well, did what they all do (the local President Luis was slightly more popular than President Bush) or anyone imaginable. Then at midnight they fire them up in the street or on the sidewalk amid much yelling and cheering. This all happens in good fun, quite soberly (hardly anybody drinks), with lots of fireworks and laughing and hugging.

Effigies in soccer uniforms
Photo Bob Willmann

"Around midnight the town looks like a riot zone with the crowds and fires blazing everywhere, but in the morning it looks like a volcano erupted and covered it with ash. I'm told we were lucky this year in that the winds were southerly enough that most of the ashes went someplace other than on our boats. 

"Hope you had a sane celebration where you are, and that whatever bothered you in 2003 is burned and forgotten."

Rolex Yachtsman and Woman of the Year Announced

January 8 - Portsmouth, RI

Augie Diaz of Miami, FL, and Hannah Swett of New York, NY, today were named the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. A panel of sailing journalists selected the two accomplished sailors for the distinction from a
short list of seven nominees for the Rolex Yachtsman and five nominees for
the Rolex Yachtswoman (see www.ussailing.org/pressreleases/2003/Rolexyynominees.htm). The awards recognize outstanding on-the-water achievement in the calendar year just concluded. The winners will be honored and presented with specially engraved Rolex timepieces at a February 6 luncheon at the New York YC in Manhattan.

Augie Diaz (left) sails a Star at the 2003 Rolex Miami OCR with fellow Miami sailor Dmitry Yakovenko as crew.
Photo Rolex Miami OCR/Daniel Forster

Augie Diaz, age 49, was recognized for his achievements as a skipper in three different one-design classes: Laser, Snipe and Star. A string of successes culminated in the Snipe World Championship title. Diaz is the first U.S. sailor to win the Snipe World Championship since 1981.

Hannah Swett (left) sails an Yngling at the 2003 Rolex Miami OCR with crew Joan Touchette and Melissa Purdy (of Tiburon).
Photo Rolex Miami OCR/Daniel Forster

Hannah Swett, age 34, was cited by the panel for full-time dedication to her Olympic campaign in the very competitive Yngling class, which will make its debut at the 2004 Olympic Regatta in Athens, Greece. Swett's list of achievements in the Yngling is topped with victory at the Yngling World
Championship, where her team competed among a fleet of 40. The banner year includes an impressive string of first-place finishes at the Yngling Olympic Pre-Trials, Scandinavian Race Week and Danish Nationals, as well as a second out of 85 boats at the Yngling Open World Championship.

For more, see www.ussailing.org/pressreleases/2004/YYwinners.htm.


January 9 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? The YOTREPS daily yacht tracking page has moved to www.bitwrangler.com/psn.

Weather Links

January 9 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

Check out this guide to San Francisco Bay Navigational Aids: http://sfports.wr.usgs.gov/sfports.html.

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out http://sfports.wr.usgs.gov/wind.

The National Weather Service site for San Francisco Bay is at www.wrh.noaa.gov/Monterey.

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.: www.ndbc.noaa.gov/Maps/Southwest.shtml.

Pacific Winds and Pressure

The University of Hawaii Dept. of Meteorology page posts a daily map of the NE Pacific Ocean barometric pressure and winds.

Pacific Sea State

The site for the Pacific Ocean sea states has moved to http://www.mpc.ncep.noaa.gov/shtml/PacRegSSA.shtml.
For views of sea states anywhere in the world, see http://www.oceanweather.com/data.

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